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

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Taken out of Context"

That string of words infuriates me, especially since I've been hearing it a lot owing to the Reverend Wright fiasco (for those who don't know, he's Barack Obama's former minister, and has been shown uttering incendiary and offensive language and sentiments).

Apologists of the Reverend, like some Islamic apologists who try to defend what is really untenable, repeat this phrase mechanically and peremptorily. The phrase has pretty much become a "get yourself out of anything" card.

Given my linguistic and theoretical training, as well as my interest in linguistics/deconstruction (Derrida and Fish come to mind), I acknolwedge that context is an often overlooked part of the chain of signification. Even when we do not think there is a context, there is, as Fish reminds us in his (in)famous "Is there a text in this class?".

However, I have yet to see a single apologist for Reverend Wright or other causes actually back up their statements and enlighten us as to just what the words mean in context, or at least what that context is. A recent example where the context argument was valid was a speech Pope Benedict made in Germany about a year ago. The Pope was accused, by people who never read or heard the speech, of being anti-Islamic because he said something about the lack of logic in Islam. In this case, his words were definitely taken out of context: the Pope opened his speech by quoting from (I believe) a medieval theologian, who was quoting a (supposed) debate that took place between the Byzantine emperor and a Muslim leader on the question of logic and faith. The Pope was asked to apologize for something he never said.

The context argument would work for Reverend Wright only if something similar happened. If he was being ironic or humorous, for instance, the context argument would apply. If he prefaced his remarks by saying something like "Some people say 'God Damn America,'" and someone removed the first part, then the context argument would apply.

The phrase has always been used in irritating ways, but it seems you can't turn the news on now without hearing it. I don't know what I'll do if I hear it one more time.

By the way, for those who recall the Don Imus fiasco: was what he said really that bad? I sure don't think so, even though it was foolish of him to say something like that. Nevertheless, I'm sure Imus's relative lack of skin pigmentation has something to do with him getting fired.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

TV Time

As I don't have cable, it is a little difficult to follow what is going on in the world of television (usually not much, anyway, and I refused to pay for cable when 99% of it is absolute garbagio!). However, one of my favourite comedians, Lewis Black, was recently given his own show, The Root of All Evil, which has so far only seen two episodes.

Most will recognized the irate comedian from his "Back in Black" segment on John Stewart's The Daily Show. If you like politically incorrect, irreverent, irate humour/rants, Black is your man. The show airs Wedesdays @ 10:30 (PST, I believe) on Comedy Central.

So far I've seen two episodes, and although the show elicits laughter and is amusing, its one major flaw is that there simply isn't enough Lewis Black. Another reviewer said he would prefer to see thirty minutes of "Back in Black," and I'm apt to agree with him. Until then, I will watch the program, until it probably gets pulled after six episodes because twenty billion people didn't tune in (that reminds me: most good shows of the past wouldn't last half a season in this age of unabated and unparalleled greed).

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Friday, March 21, 2008

A collection of unintentionally sexual images from the comics of the past. The first one had me rolling in the aisles.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

mmm, Good Rant

This is Foamy's best rant in quite some time

Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Sins?

That's right.

On Sunday, the Vatican updated its 1,500 year old list of the seven deadly sins, though I do not know how official they are (as far as I know, Pope Benedict has in no way given his sanction to it).

The list differs slightly depending on the source, but here it is:

  1. Genetic Modification
  2. Experiments on Humans
  3. Drug abuse/Taking Drugs
  4. Polluting the environment
  5. Contributing to widening the divide between rich and poor/Social Injustice
  6. Excessive/Obscene wealth
  7. Creating poverty
Of course, being secular, I disgree with the first two new sins, and I think many will agree that the Church itself is guilty of #6 (why wealth itself should be a sin boggles the mind, unless it is indicative of another sin).

I'm no hippie, but I do my best to protect the environment (I take reusable bags with me when I go grocery shopping, and I use energy efficient light bulbs), so I think #4 is perhaps the best one there.

#3 reads "Drug Abuse," though another list simply said "Taking Drugs." I think it's pretty safe to say that the latter was intended. Otherwise, about 99% of the population of the industrialized world, including most of the Catholic Church, are condemned to hell.

I read one funny comment on a message board somewhere: (paraphrase) "Why didn't God mention any of these the first time around? Oh wait, the list is written by a bunch of celibate weirdos. "

I'm no fan of the Catholic Church, but at the very least, I applaud the impetus behind this new list. This is a step in the right direction, and demonstrates that there are at least some in the outdated Church who wish to address the needs of a changing world.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

(A post only soccer fans will get)

This just in: Ibrahimovic and especially Cruz are the biggest wankers in the soccer world.

Update: Mancini doesn't know what he's doing. How Inter are doing so well in Serie A boggles the mind. Why he never plays Recoba, who scores every time he's on the pitch, I'll never know.

Old Guys Scrap, and other noteworthy items

Every few years, there comes a video that is not only funny, but make your saw drop in disbelief. This is the newest of those videos.

(Hint: It's funny when old white guys scrap) Rated G.

In other news, I'm going to watch the 2nd leg of the matchup between FC Internazionale and Liverpool either on my illegal chinese desktop TV or on a chinese stream online (commentary is in chinese, but it's free). Inter's going to have a tough time getting the 2-0 result they need just to tie things up.

I'm also this close (holds thumb and index finger barely apart) to getting a new place outside of cracktown. It's not the ideal place, but very respectable, especially compared to what else I saw. The price is also very reasonable considering the area. Will give updates on that as and when they happen.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Snow again

Someone up there really loves torturing me.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I Hate Snow!

That's right.

I know most people out there dislike the cold but don't mind (or even like) snow. I, however, am the complete opposite: I prefer cold (within reason) to god awful annoying snow. Here's why:

-Cold doesn't prevent you from doing much apart from having picnics. Snow, on the other hand, ruins everything. When you wake up in the morning, you rarely say "oh gee, it's -20 outside; it's gonna be a bad day." Rather, you probably think "oh great, 15 cm of snow."

-Cold simply doesn't get in the way. On other hand, snow causes accidents, slows everything down, needs to be cleared, and ruins one's mood (especially mine).

You may be asking, "hey assclown: if you hate snow so much, why don't you move somehwere warmer?"
First, I am in no position to move financially, economically, spiritually, mentally, or physically. Second, despite what I have said above, I actually need cold. I absolutely hate snow, but I need to live in a part of the world that gets cold sometimes. It is for this reason that I could not live in, say, LA (oh yeah, that and also the crass consumerism, pollution, and crime). Unfortunately for me, a jesting God has placed cold and snow together.

I must qualify my rant above: I don't absolutely hate snow. I kinda like it when there is some snow off to the side. When it's out of the way and within reason, it can be nice, but under no other circumstances.

Sings that you are too drunk

Funny list, some items of which apply to me

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Moses, maaaan

Interesting and funny, but steers conspicuously clear of the religious implications.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

(Embarrasingly) New Link

I've mentioned to this site before, but I can't believe it took me over two years to realize that I had not linked to it in the sidebar. (Home of Foamy the Squirrel)

For those of you who like rants but don't like to read, or, prefer them with the addition of voices and animation.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Happy 297th

On this day in 1711, Joseph Addison, along with his friend Richard Steele, launched The Spectator, the first periodical in Britain to be published daily. Though the paper itself is forgotten by all but 18th century scholars and geeks, the name has lived on to our time: there are at least two papers in the Anglophone world that I know of with the same name, one of which is based in Hamilton, Ontario.

Apart from its publishing landmark, Addison's contributions to the periodical, which comprises the bulk of what was published, set the standard for polite, refined, middle-class observation and writing. If for nothing else, Addison was remembered by posterity for his style, which was considered ideal. To paraphrase Doctor Johnson's judgment, Addison's style was refined yet not ostentatious, and common yet not vulgar.

Though Addison is remembered for little else, he also wrote the highly successful drama Cato, which was performed in 1710, but was partially completed at the age of 16. The play was so popular that George Washington kept a copy with him during the Revolutionary War and read it out loud to his soldiers before battle.

Unfortunately, Addison died at the age of 47, fairly early even by 18th century standards. For much of his life he was an MP, and thus did not spend much time on literature. He had a gift for poetry but rarely exhibited it. Perhaps his best work was yet to come.

On an entirely different note, I'm pleased that it's finally March: though this winter is not the coldest I can remember, it has been the snowiest and most annoying. I'm also pleased because I'm about 5 weeks away from finishing this onerous ordeal, otherwise known as comprehensives, and just under 2 months away from moving away from crack central, so things are looking up.