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

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Videos du jour

Couple of funny videos I saw today:

Nearly every guy has been here before.

Funny video about Google Maps that's funnier than it sounds.

I'm off to Carlton in a few hours to see Peter Balakian.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Old Kids on the Block/Blast from the Past

Jumping on the "old washed up bands reuniting" bandwagon, there is talk that New Kids on the Block (NKB) may be reuniting.

The success of the recent Spice Girls reunion was no doubt an impetus, but the two groups are totally different, and I think an NKB reunion, as charming and nostalgic as it may seem, would be disastrous. Here's why:

-The Spice Girls were popular less than a decade ago. NKB disappeared nearly 20 years ago! To put it into perspective, NKB was popular when I was in Grade 4!

-The Spice Girls consist of four (semi)-attractive women, and can therefore still appeal to a large audience. A boy band consisting of washed up forty year olds is nothing short of creepy! The Backstreet Boys attempted a reunion about 2-3 years ago. If memory serves, they released a single and disappeared, but unlike NKB they had time on their side.

Still, this piece of news very much qualifies as a blast from the past. Makes on feel old.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Looks like Starshmucks, I mean Starbucks, is in trouble

In a not unrelated story, in an effort to curb off incipient insanity as much as possible, I've been watching a movie almost every night (thanks to the Internet). This will sound funny, but I saw You've Got Mail for the first time the other night. The film first came out in 1998 (damn, I was in high school!), and it seems charmingly nostalgic ten years later. Here are a few of the quintessentially 90s elements in the film that made me feel old:

-Dial up modems! Remember those? As my friend says, that's back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
-AOL. Who the heck still uses AOL? Really.
-Chatrooms/email. Back in 1998, the internet/email was still new to most people, and I remember going to random chatrooms was the thing to do. Do those still exist? I think Instant Messaging software took over that role.
-Starbucks is featured prominently in the film. This is before they became ubiquitous but right around the time they started becoming so.
-Last but not least, the story involves a mom n pop bookstore in NYC closing its doors owing to the arrival of a "Fox Books" giant. Something very similar occurred in Toronto at about that time: Chapters and Indigo, back before they merged, were pretty much making smaller independent shops close their doors back in the lat 90s and early 2000s. Something similar probably happened in the states, most likely with Barnes and Noble.

The film was half decent, but I noticed something odd. First, one could argue that the film is nothing but an allegory for big business' usurpation of smaller ones, in which case, it paints the message that it's inevitable and ok. I'm not even a Marxist and I can easily write a Marxist critique of the film.
Apart from that, it was ironic that there was such heavy product placement in a film that is seemingly anti-corporate. Starbucks, IBM, and AOL get prominent product placement. I also found it ironic that Meg Ryan's character, the owner of the threatened small business who complains of the evils of big corporate stores ruining America, gets her coffee at Starbucks.

One of the few movies I will ever recommend is the little known Cashback. Very briefly, imagine a less dark, funnier version of American Beauty, whose attempt at profundity actually makes sense, and it doesn't try too hard. The film has its flaws and rough spots, but this can be forgiven since the director is a rookie (Sean Ellis). The camerawork, by the way, is stunning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TGIF? More like IFHM

Imagine a place like this actually existed. Note: a tad NSFW

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Ratings Game

I just watched the 2006 documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated on Google video (bless online video sites!). The doc is an expose of the MPAA's (Motion Picture Association of America, hereafter referred to as film fascists) arbitrary ratings "system". In sum, the film demonstrates that a shadowy body of unknown American citizens determines the ratings of films, and that anything deemed objectionable to these people will be slapped with an NC-17 rating, which effectively restricts the film's audience, exposure, revenue, etc.

I was reminded of this by, of all things, a student essay I graded just before the holidays. In an otherwise fairly mediocre essay, the student had a very interesting section on the V-chip. If you haven't heard of it, it is a device parents can install on their televisions to block out, say, all R-rated programming. Seems harmless, right? Despite its apparently innocuous intentions, the V-chip, as well as the MPAA, perpetuates the dominant ideology.

How does it do this? Think about it for a moment: a very violent war movie in which people are graphically decapitated (or, think Sin City) receives an R-rating, but a film discussing homosexuality, even if it is devoid of any explicit sexual content, gets slapped with an NC-17. Thus, though even if one were to admit that both films are objectionable, the rating tells us that something is more objectionable than something else.

Incidentally, the Europeans have a sensibility opposite that of North Americans: many European films display overt sexual acts, etc, but it is only the violent movies that receive the most restricted ratings, whereas in this part of the world, it is the complete opposite (Note: I'm not making this up, but the MPAA considers any sexual position other than missionary and woman-on-top aberrant!)

I wonder what Roland Barthes would have to say about all this.

I just received word today that Neophilologus, a Dutch journal, received my article today, so fingers crossed on that one. Now, I must get back to Tome Jones (no typo).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Well, after a long, two week stint in TO, I'm back in O town (a friend of mine suggested calling it "The Big Maple," which I like very much).
Visiting parents/back home is nice, but two weeks was a bit much. I think from now on I will stay for a week max, but I knew that I couldn't stay for very long next Christmas owing to the conference I now must attend in January 2009.

I wanted to write a post about just why I hate the holidays so much, but these same holidays took a chunk out of me, so I have lost that negative energy. Maybe one day I will write on it.

Funny story: I had been back in Ottawa for less than 24 hours when I was offered fellatio for the second time in a month, which is odd since for eight months, I never saw anything like that. This time the offer came from a less than attractive woman sitting down with her friend. She asked me my name and what my background was, to which I of course gave misleading answers (I used to tell people I was Phrygian for kicks; maybe I should do that again). Why I stopped in the first place is beyond me: perhaps because I'm an amateur anthropologist and am curious about these things. In any case, when I told her I was Italian (which I'm not), she then proceeded to remark on the peculiarities of Italian male genitalia, undoubtedly in an effort to arouse me (generally, she was talking dirty). The whole thing was kinda sad because I've never been more turned off in my life.

After repeatedly assuring her that I was flatted but not interested, she appeared to become a little incensed, and then I went away on my business. On my way back home about 30 minutes later, I saw her and her friend walking, and the woman who had tried to seduce me said "there he is" in a not unfriendly manner. To this I waved, and then she said "thank you." I'm fairly certain she was a crackwhore, but she was corpulent, a rare combination indeed.

Let's just say I'm looking forward to moving out in May. In the meantime, I have to worry about my major comprehensive exam in the 18th century. So far I'm off to a decent start.

That's all for now.