A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2011

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On Prince Edward Island’s identity deconstruction by its willing globalization

The previously announced news that I reported last month, claiming that William and Kate might visit Prince Edward Island as part of their visit to Canada, (perhaps because of the Duchess of Cambridge’s reported fondness for Anne of Green Gables) has been fulfilled. According to this news source, they will be spending time visiting Charlottetown and Summerside, flying over Green Gables House (putative site of Anne Shirley’s homestead), and spending considerable time at Dalvay by the Sea, an inn on the fringes of the Prince Edward Island National Park. Hello! Magazine has the Dalvay-by-the-Sea segment down.

Their private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, has revealed that, as part of their official North American tour, the royal couple will be taking part in a race against each other across a lake on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.

“Their Royal Highnesses will team up with Dragonboat racers, taking a boat each – although I hasten to add, not themselves paddling, though probably steering – and they will race across the lake to the opposite bank where crowds will be gathered,” he said.

“After congratulating the winning team, the couple will be welcomed by First Nations people with a traditional “smudging” ceremony.”

The royals will then sample some local delicacies, which are said to include raspberry cordial, chocolate covered potato crisps and Prince Edward Island’s famous lobster.

From there, the pair will head to the beach, where “young people will be engaged in a range of beach sports, and the couple will start one of the games and present prizes to the winners of various competitions”.

I’m intimately familiar with that inn–some of my favourite beaches are just a couple of minutes to the west–but non-Islanders are most likely familiar with Dalvay-by-the-Sea as the stand-in for the White Sands Inn described in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous work. (The raspberry cordial that Hello! mentions, incidentally, is a locally-produced carbonated raspberry juice)

All this highlights an interesting sort of paradox. Prince Edward Island is a province that has promoted itself as a tourist destination on the grounds of its traditionalism, its vibrant folk culture and its well-tended rural landscapes and its scenic fishing villages and its continued sustained difference from the rest of Canada and the Island’s other tourist-sending countries. That’s fine; that’s a not-inaccurate reflection of the past and even the current reality.

Prince Edward Island is also a province that has plugged itself thoroughly into global popular culture and global economic trends and global everything. Premier Robert Ghiz is quite right to note that the visit of William and Kate will be “Prince Edward Island’s shining moment on the international stage” and that it will be the “largest media event in our province’s history.” Extensive global media coverage is only a mild exaggeration of previous trends, with Anne’s exceptional popularity in Japan (along with the use of Prince Edward Island tuna for sushi) connecting Prince Edward Island with Japan in an unexpected but rather lucrative fashion. Closer to home, Prince Edward Island has taken in very large numbers of tourists not only from North America and Japan, but globally. At tourism’s peak pre-9/11, a million or so tourists visited Prince Edward Island; the province’s total population at the time was in the area of 140 thousand. The sheer intensity of this flow belies any notion of the Island as being fundamentally aloof from the rest of the world. Increasingly, it’s a mere pretense.

Ironic, isn’t it? The anti-globalized identity that Prince Edward Island claims helps connect the Island quite intimately to the outside world, making its nominal cultural traditionalism and economic future subordinate to the whims of global popular culture. Prince Edward Island globalizes its ideal self, and in engaging in globalization changes its actual nature.

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Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm

[REVIEW] Thomas Eccardt, Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe

I was reminded of Thomas M. Eccardt’s 2005 Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe by a post that Hans Connor made over at Nissology, linking to an essay by UPEI professor Henry Srebrnik describing microstates and their ascent to viability.

In the past considered too tiny to be full partners in the international community, these countries were viewed as anomalies, merely the leftover quirks of history.

When the League of Nations was founded after the First World War, none of them joined. And when the successor United Nations was formed in 1945, again none were among the original 51 signatories to its charter.

However, post-war global decolonization resulted in a wave of sovereign microstates, most of them small islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and South Pacific. Today’s Commonwealth (of which Malta is a member) is largely a collection of such countries.

This paradigm shift allowed the European microstates to take their rightful place as full members of the international community.

[. . .]

No longer is size an impediment for countries wishing to make their mark in the world.

The limits of sovereignty in the modern world are amply demonstrate by these polities’ survival and relatively improved position; microstates are cool. As the sovereign microstates of western Europe pioneered this category of statehood, undertaking a comparative study would make sense.

Eccardt argues that despite the widely differing particulars of the history of the seven microstates of Europehe chose for his study–Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican City, and, giant of the category, Luxembourg–they share certain characteristics in common. They have recently evolved into fully sovereign states as determined by the international state system, for intance, moving out just far enough from under the shadow of a patron, but their development of such and even their survival is almost entirely as a fluke, a consequence of great power rivalries allowing very small polities a chance, and frequently not complete (few have their own militaries). Their economies, Eccardt points out, are driven by their ability to exploit their sovereignty, frequently offering financial services including both above-the-board banking and tax sheltering. They’ve frequently had traditional, pre-democratic systems of government survive long into the modern age, with Liechstenstein’s prince having so much power to cause some to question the country’s status as a democracy and the Vatican City–of course–being run by the Roman Catholic Church. Each microstate has tried to preserve its cultural heritage to varying degrees, most arguably being at least more successful than comparable nearby regions, but the economic development driven by their exploitation of their sovereignty certainly plugs them into the international system (Luxembourg and Malta are European Union member-states in their own right, and the others are closely associated with the EU) and incidentally attracts relatively very large numbers of immigrants.

The utility of Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe lies in its detailed exploration of the similarities shared by the oldest microstates in the world, answering the question “What is a microstate?” quite well. The parallels brought forward by Eccardt can easily be used to study other, non-western European microstates, highlighting their similarities and perhaps making predictions about their future development. In a world marked by the changing nature of sovereignty generally, illustrated by the continued development of new microstates may continue to develop (the Faroes, perhaps?) and compromises over sovereignty that other microstates must make (post-crash Iceland’s European Union bid is an example), makes the study of the microstate more universally relevant that one might think. If you’ve ever been interested in very small countries–hey, even if the only thing you know about the microstate is the Grand Fenwick was a great background for funny stories–you wouldn’t do at all badly to read Eccardt’s tome. “Everything counts/in small amounts.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm

[FORUM] What divisions bother one of your communities?

The passage of legislation authorizing same-sex marriage in New York City came just a day before the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that, mythologized to whatever degree, helped catalyze the gay rights movement that eventually led to same-sex marriage. WNYC’s news blog had a great photo of a crowd of celebrants proud of their identity taken outside the Stonewall Inn itself that was hosted the riots.

stonewall-gay-marriage-9

There’s a nice circularity to the above paragraph: two circles, in fact, processes coming to their completion. (Symbolic, at least, if not quite actual. Much remains to be done, even if much has been done.)

The problem with these circularities?

I’ve no experience of the first half of the circle. It’s not just that Stonewall is removed from me geographically and I’m more familiar with the local Bathhouse Riots of 1981. (Good article, by the way.) I’ve recently written a [FORUM] post about what I feel to be my grace of late birth in having come to age just in time to not worry about being imprisoned or dying in an epidemic or not having access to legally sanctioned relationship. Even two decades ago, I find it difficult to imagine everything working out as very positively as it have. (Seriously, it was a good thing; had I been straight, all things plausibly being equal, I’d probably have the physique of the Comic Book Guy and be living in my parents’ basement. Things worked out so much better.) I imagine that I could be a binge-drinker who eventually had a fatal car accident on a confusingly linear road, or maybe someone who died of pneumonia compounded by “cancer” with family who never liked talking about the whole thing, or just someone repressed who’d never try to disturb the universe and would never been disturbed in return. A life fragmented and shortened by the compartmentalization and stigma forced on me would seem inevitable; the best I could do would be to limit the fragmentation by cauterizing uncomfortable extremities. I’ve no relevant experience. (I think. I hope?)

Partly because of Jim Parsons’ starring role (I like Big Bang Theory), I’ve been paying some attention to the success Broadway appearance of seeing playwright/activist Larry Kramer‘s 1985 AIDS-themed play “The Normal Heart”. In an interesting New York Times article the unexpected similarities and surprises that a young gay audience felt, recognizing some cultural elements that survived from 1985 to 2011 despite all the changes (20-somethings being interviewed as out, with photographs, even). And for me, yes, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been something I have experienced at a remove, time and law and medicine and the rest ensuring that. The restaging of The Normal Heart, and Kramer’s anti-AIDS activism, did us all much good.

Just last month, one writer’s asked Kramer to “shut the fuck up”. I kind of get that impulse, actually: in the Salon interview that inspired the previous writer to anger, Kramer doesn’t seem to think much of my generation for having gone through Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres instead of horrific epidemics and imprisonment on the grounds of sexual orientation. Leaving aside the cross-generational gap that I’ve seen bridged fairly regularly, is that attitude actually going to encourage people to engage with an uncomfortable history that detracts from an increasingly comfortable present? I read his speech/text from 2005, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays, and I don’t get it. Things aren’t perfect and the younger generation isn’t perfect so we are all doomed, doomed, doomed, despite whatever progress has been made or is continuing to be made because we’re all aparthetic and insensitive to our elders and barebacking on tina and … ? Thanks a lot, Larry, for all that respect.

There is a gap between the two perspectives, of Kramer and his sort against his critics: real, emotional, operating in multiple dimensions, solvable only in part. There may be others in my life, but this is likely the most important gap applying to a community (aggregate?) of which I am a member. There will not, I repeat, be a general solution; too much separates us for everyone to come together. The community will remain divided.

That’s one of my divided communities? And yours?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

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[LINK] “Homo Nest Raided: Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad”

Thanks to Joe. My. God I’m reproducing here the New York Daily News‘s coverage, by Jerry Lisker and more than a week later on the 6th of July, of the Stonewall Riots. The homophobic bastard (paper, city).

She sat there with her legs crossed, the lashes of her mascara-coated eyes beating like the wings of a hummingbird. She was angry. She was so upset she hadn’t bothered to shave. A day old stubble was beginning to push through the pancake makeup. She was a he. A queen of Christopher Street.

Last weekend the queens had turned commandos and stood bra strap to bra strap against an invasion of the helmeted Tactical Patrol Force. The elite police squad had shut down one of their private gay clubs, the Stonewall Inn at 57 Christopher St., in the heart of a three-block homosexual community in Greenwich Village. Queen Power reared its bleached blonde head in revolt. New York City experienced its first homosexual riot. “We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

The thick glass shut out the outside world of the street. Inside, the Stonewall bathed in wild, bright psychedelic lights, while the patrons writhed to the sounds of a juke box on a square dance floor surrounded by booths and tables. The bar did a good business and the waiters, or waitresses, were always kept busy, as they snaked their way around the dancing customers to the booths and tables. For nearly two years, peace and tranquility reigned supreme for the Alice in Wonderland clientele.

The Raid Last Friday

Last Friday the privacy of the Stonewall was invaded by police from the First Division. It was a raid. They had a warrant. After two years, police said they had been informed that liquor was being served on the premises. Since the Stonewall was without a license, the place was being closed. It was the law.

All hell broke loose when the police entered the Stonewall. The girls instinctively reached for each other. Others stood frozen, locked in an embrace of fear.

Only a handful of police were on hand for the initial landing in the homosexual beachhead. They ushered the patrons out onto Christopher Street, just off Sheridan Square. A crowd had formed in front of the Stonewall and the customers were greeted with cheers of encouragement from the gallery.

The whole proceeding took on the aura of a homosexual Academy Awards Night. The Queens pranced out to the street blowing kisses and waving to the crowd. A beauty of a specimen named Stella wailed uncontrollably while being led to the sidewalk in front of the Stonewall by a cop. She later confessed that she didn’t protest the manhandling by the officer, it was just that her hair was in curlers and she was afraid her new beau might be in the crowd and spot her. She didn’t want him to see her this way, she wept.

Queen Power

The crowd began to get out of hand, eye witnesses said. Then, without warning, Queen Power exploded with all the fury of a gay atomic bomb. Queens, princesses and ladies-in-waiting began hurling anything they could get their polished, manicured fingernails on. Bobby pins, compacts, curlers, lipstick tubes and other femme fatale missiles were flying in the direction of the cops. The war was on. The lilies of the valley had become carnivorous jungle plants.

Urged on by cries of “C’mon girls, lets go get’em,” the defenders of Stonewall launched an attack. The cops called for assistance. To the rescue came the Tactical Patrol Force.

Flushed with the excitement of battle, a fellow called Gloria pranced around like Wonder Woman, while several Florence Nightingales administered first aid to the fallen warriors. There were some assorted scratches and bruises, but nothing serious was suffered by the honeys turned Madwoman of Chaillot.

Official reports listed four injured policemen with 13 arrests. The War of the Roses lasted about 2 hours from about midnight to 2 a.m. There was a return bout Wednesday night.

Two veterans recently recalled the battle and issued a warning to the cops. “If they close up all the gay joints in this area, there is going to be all out war.”

Bruce and Nan

Both said they were refugees from Indiana and had come to New York where they could live together happily ever after. They were in their early 20’s. They preferred to be called by their married names, Bruce and Nan.

“I don’t like your paper,” Nan lisped matter-of-factly. “It’s anti-fag and pro-cop.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t see what they did to the Stonewall. Did the pigs tell you that they smashed everything in sight? Did you ask them why they stole money out of the cash register and then smashed it with a sledge hammer? Did you ask them why it took them two years to discover that the Stonewall didn’t have a liquor license.”

Bruce nodded in agreement and reached over for Nan’s trembling hands.

“Calm down, doll,” he said. “Your face is getting all flushed.”

Nan wiped her face with a tissue.

“This would have to happen right before the wedding. The reception was going to be held at the Stonewall, too,” Nan said, tossing her ashen-tinted hair over her shoulder.

“What wedding?,” the bystander asked.

Nan frowned with a how-could-anybody-be-so-stupid look. “Eric and Jack’s wedding, of course. They’re finally tying the knot. I thought they’d never get together.”

Meet Shirley

“We’ll have to find another place, that’s all there is to it,” Bruce sighed. “But every time we start a place, the cops break it up sooner or later.”

“They let us operate just as long as the payoff is regular,” Nan said bitterly. “I believe they closed up the Stonewall because there was some trouble with the payoff to the cops. I think that’s the real reason. It’s a shame. It was such a lovely place. We never bothered anybody. Why couldn’t they leave us alone?”

Shirley Evans, a neighbor with two children, agrees that the Stonewall was not a rowdy place and the persons who frequented the club were never troublesome. She lives at 45 Christopher St.

“Up until the night of the police raid there was never any trouble there,” she said. “The homosexuals minded their own business and never bothered a soul. There were never any fights or hollering, or anything like that. They just wanted to be left alone. I don’t know what they did inside, but that’s their business. I was never in there myself. It was just awful when the police came. It was like a swarm of hornets attacking a bunch of butterflies.”

A reporter visited the now closed Stonewall and it indeed looked like a cyclone had struck the premises.

Police said there were over 200 people in the Stonewall when they entered with a warrant. The crowd outside was estimated at 500 to 1,000. According to police, the Stonewall had been under observation for some time. Being a private club, plain clothesmen were refused entrance to the inside when they periodically tried to check the place. “They had the tightest security in the Village,” a First Division officer said, “We could never get near the place without a warrant.”

Police Talk

The men of the First Division were unable to find any humor in the situation, despite the comical overtones of the raid.

“They were throwing more than lace hankies,” one inspector said. “I was almost decapitated by a slab of thick glass. It was thrown like a discus and just missed my throat by inches. The beer can didn’t miss, though, “it hit me right above the temple.”

Police also believe the club was operated by Mafia connected owners. The police did confiscate the Stonewall’s cash register as proceeds from an illegal operation. The receipts were counted and are on file at the division headquarters. The warrant was served and the establishment closed on the grounds it was an illegal membership club with no license, and no license to serve liquor.

The police are sure of one thing. They haven’t heard the last from the Girls of Christopher Street.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm

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[META] Future directions for A Bit More Detail

A chat with a friend last night reminded me that I’m lacking in original content. [LINK] posts are all well and good, but where’s the commentary, the essay-like writing, the arguments I’ve made?

No more. From now on, there’s going to be a lot more original content. A [LINK] or two, sure, but also [BRIEF NOTE]s, [URBAN NOTE]s with actual commentary, even [BLOG-LIKE POSTING]. Other blog, Demography Matters and History and Futility, will also benefit from this.

Tradition can be problematic, but it can be good. Time to go back to basics.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

[LINK] “What can Game of Thrones tell us about our world’s politics?”

Known for his analysis of zombies in international relations, it was probably only a short time before Daniel Drezner turned his attention to Game of Thrones.

Set in a fictional medieval-type world (that looks juuuuust a bit like England) with a wisp of fantasy, there’s a lot for culture vultures and international relations geeks to like. Based on a series of novels by George R.R. Martin, the first season on HBO just ended on a ratings high. Essentially, Game of Thrones consists of a lot of palace intrigue, a healthy dollop of transgressive sex, and a whiff of zombies. So you can see the attraction to your humble blogger.

Having finally caught up with the entire first season, however, I’m still puzzling out the show’s applicability to current world politics. I think there are a few, but there’s a bias in the show that does suggest some serious constraints [WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD].

On the one hand, Game of Thrones’ best feature has been demonstrating the importance of strategic acumen in politics. The first season’s protagonist, Ned Stark, is a stalwart friend, accomplished soldier, and dogged bureaucrat. He was also a strategic moron of the first order, which was why I didn’t bewail his beheading in the season’s climactic moment. Yes, it’s a shame that the good man died. The thing is, he had so many, many opportunities to avoid that end, had he only demonstrated a bit more ability to think about how his rivals would react to his actions. Important survival trip: don’t reveal all of your plans and information to your rival until you have engaged in some rudimentary contingency planning. Or, to put it more plainly:

On the other hand, I’m just not sure how much the world of Westeros translates into modern world politics. Realists would disagree, of course. Cersei Lannister makes the show’s motto clear enough: “in the game of thrones, you win or you die.” That’s about as zero-sum a calculation as one can offer. In this kind of harsh relative gains world, realpolitik should be the expected pattern of behavior.

Which is also part of the problem with Game of Thrones. World politics is about the pursuit of power, yes, but it’s not only about that. What do people want to do with the power they obtain? Social purpose matters in international affairs as well, and there’s precious little of that in Game of Thrones. Sure, there are debates about dynastic succession, but there are no fundamental differences in regime type, rule of law, or economic organization among the myriad power centers in this world. I hope this changes in Season Two.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2011 at 3:23 pm

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[URBAN NOTE] “Why won’t Rob Ford go to gay events?”

Mayor Rob Ford is continuing to face criticism for his refusal to take part in Toronto’s pride festivities.

Why the mayor seems to be shunning occasions involving homosexuals is being debated in many corners of Toronto’s gay community as the huge signature Pride festival gets underway.

Rob Ford’s office flatly denies that’s the case. But his decision to head to his cottage rather than the July 3 Pride parade — with no explanation for the festival’s nine other days — coupled with years of brow-raising comments and council votes, has many jumping to conclusions.

“He’s the mayor of a huge metropolis with a big gay community,” said Casey Oraa, chair of the Political Action Committee of Queer Ontario.

“His campaign was all about respect for taxpayers. Where’s his respect for us?”

[. . .]

Asked if he will attend any Pride events, the mayor said: “I’ll take it one day at a time. My family comes first.” Asked if he is homophobic, Ford looked away and mumbled something unintelligible under his breath.

Ford’s Pride decision follows his rebuffing of a half-dozen other similar overtures since last fall. His singular engagement with the gay community — signing the Pride Week proclamation — was done privately, with nobody from Pride present.

“Clearly it’s an ideological position,” Oraa said. “I’d respect him more if he would own up to his homophobia — say ‘This is what I believe.’”

Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, called that accusation insulting “nonsense.”

[. . .]

Mel Lastman was once in Ford’s shoes. The former mayor at first resisted going to Pride, afraid of news footage of leather and nudity and the prospect of being jeered, but relented in 1998.

“I didn’t know how I’d be treated. But everybody was so receptive, everybody was having a good time and here were people proud of what you are,” Lastman said. “I told a kid: ‘Who’s better than you? No-o-o-body! You’ve got to feel that way about yourself. That’s what Canada’s about.’ That’s pride.”

He urged Ford to get past his gut and go, saying he was convinced by his son Dale telling him: “You’re the mayor of all the people.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm

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