The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, May 27, 2006

One man's trash...

As I was running an errand for someone else yesterday at Deja Vu Discs (a second hand CD/DVD shop), I found what I'd been looking for for quite some time: a used copy of the Blackadder DVD set, which retails for $100 CDN (before tax), which I bought for 69$. I used to watch the show religiously, and I believe the last time was nearly two years ago. My close and not-so-close friends will be surprised at me since I never buy DVDs or that type of thing, but this is an exception.

My particular favourite era is the Prince George one (18th century). Can you tell why? :) Actually, I like all of them, but that one takes the cookie. My admiration of and reverence for Samuel Johnson actually stems from the episode on his dictionary, where he is played by a delightful Robbie Coltrane (I believe his most recent, and most famous, role was in the Harry Potter films; an unmistakably corpulent fellow). Whether or not Sam Johnson acted or sounded anything like him I can't say, but anytime I read his works, I can never get that voice out of my head.

When I say I like British comedy, I'm probably using that as a metonym, i.e., Blackadder stands for British comedy, which isn't the case because it is very funny and perhaps the wittiest show I can think of (come to think of it, most British comedy is either too silly or simply not funny. Even Monty Python, at times hilarious, deviates into tasteless silliness).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This just in...

Just a few thoughts and observations:

-For those who cannot get enough of our favourite off the wall preacher (see previous post), check these out: and

I haven't ranted in quite some time, but there are two things that really grind my gears.

First, Starbucks: I will rant on Starbucks some other time, but my Roman friend John made the following observation, when we accidentally stumbled in there and saw a woman ordering coffee (or whatever the hell it is that people buy there):

"Women who go to starbucks should have a sign that reads 'undatable'".

Now, this does not apply to every woman who has ever been to a Starbucks, but to ones who go there habitually. I think "starbucks woman" is a synonym of "high maintenance."

My friend made another witty and perspicacious observation in the same establishment: as we walked by the table with all the necessities of coffee (lids, creams, etc), we noticed various pamphlets about saving the rainforest or other such themes, to which my friend said

"this is the 'we pretend to give a shit' section of the store,"

to which I nodded in assent. He went on to further observe that these are the same people who don't even use fair trade coffee!

Second rant: Clothing

This could easily turn into a protracted essay, so I will make a few points. I hate clothing and clothing companies for the following reasons:

-Clothes are far, far too expensive, even though they use cheap slave labour whereby the employees make about 0.3 cents a month making 600 shirts. People complain about the profit margins of other products and services, but clothing is by far the worst.

-The shoddy QUALITY of clothing is something I have noticed, and it has made me indignant lately. Were I to spend 80 dollars (no mean sum) on a pair of pants, there would still be plenty wrong with it; either the material would be no good, or the cut, etc, etc.

-If I lived in a warmer climate, I would do ask Gandhi did: make my own robe everyday

And people wonder why terrorists exist.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sunday Skewl

This video is simply hilarious; I watched it with my Roman friend (John) and we couldn't get enough of it.
I think the Catholic church should seriously consider hiring this guy.
If Church were actually like this, I'd be there every Sunday!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Jocular strap, and other sundry matters

-This is the funniest, cleanest and smartest joke I have read in some time, which I will now impart with you. Fortunately it is not seven hundred lines long:

Saturday Morning, 2:00 am

Early Saturday morning a policeman waited across the street from a popular bar, hoping to nail a drunken driver, possibly preventing a tragic accident.
At closing time the patrons came out and the officer spotted his potential quarry. One man was so obviously inebriated that he could barely walk. He stumbled around the parking lot for a few minutes, looking for his car.

After trying his keys on five other cars, he finally found his own vehicle. He sat in the car a good ten minutes, as the other patrons left. He turned his lights on, then off, wipers on, then off. He started to pull forward into the grass, then stopped.

Finally, when he was the last car, he pulled out onto the road and started to drive away.
The patrolman, waiting for this, turned on his lights and pulled the man over. He administered the breathalyzer test, and to his great surprise, the man blew a 0.00.
The patrolman was dumbfounded. "This equipment must be broken!" he exclaimed.
"I doubt it," said the man, "Tonight I am the designated decoy!"

-I am following along with a course at my soon-to-be home, University of Ottawa, on the inestimable Samuel Johnson, whom I haven't read in years (I think Dr. J shares the same problem: not reading whom we want to read for so long). I just finished his life of Richard Savage. If you haven't heard of him, don't worry, because no one has. In fact, if it weren't for Samuel Johnson, no one would ever have heard of him. If you wake up one morning and wish to read the life of an extremely obscure semi-hack poet who had a very rough life, read this.
I still contend that Samuel Johnson wrote the best non-fictional prose in the English language, especially his "Preface to the Dictionary" and "Preface to Shakespeare," the latter being one of the sanest pieces of criticism in the English language, and one which certainly got be back on to Shakespeare after the damage high school had done (I'm convinced high schools now do more harm than good by "teaching" Shakespeare). As for periodical prose, I've come to the realization that his predecessor, Joseph Addison, was better.

-Wrote an indignant letter to a newspaper in Nova Scotia (the something "Herald") after I had read a very offensive piece wherein the writer essentially said that the Armenian Genocide never took place, and that Stephen Harper was wrong to acknowledge it as such (he even impeaches the wisdom of Motion 380 passed 2 years ago). I have seen Turkish propaganda that is less biased than what this man wrote, which makes me wonder just how big his cheque from the Turkish government was. I find it ridiculous that this man (a nobody, as far as I know) is somehow more sagacious than an entire community of scholars and historians. This is tantamount to me saying the Holocaust never happened on a hunch. Simply Nauseating.

Monday, May 08, 2006

On the Standard of Taste

I was recently thinking of what constitutes poetic greatness, along with the popularity of hack writers and critics/theorists (see my previous post). I've been reading some Bloom lately (The Western Canon), but more interestingly, I came across Hume's thoughts on the subject in his On the Standard of Taste, which are as true today as they were 250 years ago:

"The same HOMER, who pleased at ATHENS and ROME two thousand years ago, is still admired at PARIS and at LONDON. All the changes of climate, government, religion, and language, have not been able to obscure his glory. Authority or prejudice may give a temporary vogue to a bad poet or orator, but his reputation will never be durable or general."

My point exactly: history has shown us that writers and even critics who are artificially popular (i.e., not because of any inherent greatness) disappear after enjoying a brief vogue.

Hume goes on to make another interesting observation, that Poetry (or literature) outlasts philosophy, and it is for this reasonthat literature afford a good standard of taste:

But in reality the difficulty of finding, even in particulars, the standard of taste, is not so great as it is represented. Though in speculation [philosophy], we may readily avow a certain criterion in science and deny it in sentiment, the matter is found in practice to be much more hard to ascertain in the former case than in the latter. Theories of abstract philosophy, systems of profound theology, have prevailed during one age: In a successive period, these have been universally exploded: Their absurdity has been detected: Other theories and systems have supplied their place, which again gave place to their successors: And nothing has been experienced more liable to the revolutions of chance and fashion than these pretended decisions of science. The case is not the same with the beauties of eloquence and poetry. Just expressions of passion and nature are sure, after a little time, to gain public applause, which they maintain for ever. ARISTOTLE, and PLATO, and EPICURUS, and DESCARTES, may successively yield to each other: But TERENCE and VIRGIL maintain an universal, undisputed empire over the minds of men. The abstract philosophy of CICERO has lost its credit: The vehemence of his oratory is still the object of our admiration."

If I'm not mistaken, Plath says as much in the Bell Jar (though it is by no means the focus of the work).

Friday, May 05, 2006


I can't say I'm surprised, but a new report suggests that most young Americans (18-24) don't know their basic geography. This is something I hear educated Americans complain about all the time. You can read another report here.
Similarly, I remember one day about two or three years ago when I worked at Chindigo: somehow the name Baghdad came up, and the female employee I was working with at the time (who was by no means a blockhead, but no genius either) didn't know it was the capital of Iraq. Keep in mind that Iraq and Baghdad had been in the news unceasingly even then.
What's the most alarming about the report is that half of those surveyed couldn't locate New York State on a map, and the survey was conducted in New York! My U.S. geography isn't the best, but it's better than that.
I don't think I've ever said this on this blog, but America has the curious distinction of being the one country in the world where you can find the smartest and dumbest person standing side by side. Canadians aren't geniuses, but the average Canadian is, upon the whole, better off.