Achtung, baby

June 29, 2003 at 5:18 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

Despite the silence that my query of yesterday elicited, which could mean that hate mail hasn’t plagued the bloggers who read this, or they don’t want to say, or no one is reading this blog, here is the tale that prompted my question. If you’re not a Nazi, please comment. If you are a Nazi, get therapy: you need it. June 26, 2003: Have you ever stepped in a really disgusting dog turd and just wanted to swear your head off? Now imagine that you stepped in one, and that the garden hose was nowhere in sight, and that you had to let the crap dry on your shoe so that you could scrape it off later. Meanwhile, the whiff is making you retch. On May 22, I wrote about Gregory Hartnell, a friend of mine here in Victoria, BC. After he had spoken out publicly in favour of the deportation back to Germany of a notorious hate-monger and Holocaust-denier, he received anonymous, threatening Nazi hate mail. That was my prompt to post a blog in support of Gregory’s position. The Nazis have been busy since. They found my blog and decided to produce another letter — anonymous, of course — in some enormous typeface (one always has to compensate with brute force if one’s content is crap). It insulted and threatened me, included another rant against Gregory, and repeated the Nazi claim that the Holocaust never happened. The letter is in flawless German, with key words that betray the virulent language of the 1930/40s. It includes a quote from my blog in the English original, I suppose to indicate that they also know where to find me virtually. The letter warns me that I cannot hope to crawl away to hide at the end of the world with my “lies” (meaning my insistence on the truth of the Holocaust as an historical fact) and escape the wrath of Nazi “justice,” because “we are at the end of the world also.” At first I thought this was meant eschatologically — i.e., that the threat to my life was meant generally, in the sense of Messianic doom — but then I realized the letter-writer meant it specifically: Victoria as the end of the world, a literal Land’s End. The postmark on the letter was from the 24th, it was delivered to my home on the 25th; the sender was local, right here. I actually didn’t crawl here. I live here. In fact, I grew up here. And I’m a Canadian citizen (as well as an American one), unlike anonymous Nazi cowards still hanging on to outdated German passports, icons of a country that no longer wants them, unless it’s to lock them up for hate crimes. I don’t need to crawl. I don’t need to hide. I am angry that Nazis think they can spread their dung in Victoria, and I am angry that the city appears not to be doing more to expose these people: they’re the ones who have crawled here. I am angry that I stepped in that pile of dog-doo at a time when I was already, for different reasons, feeling alienated from (blogging) community, and that this letter expanded that sense of alienation into yet another direction. When I went for a walk with my dog today, I wondered about every older, “Germanic-looking” person I saw: was this a Nazi, I wondered? Should I let that kindly-looking lady pet my dog, or should I poke her in the eye? Was this the person who sent me that missive? I felt alienated from every person who looked to be northern European. I was now judging by appearances, which an earlier comment had accused me of, at the time without grounds. But today I was doing it. How did Pynchon put it in Gravity’s Rainbow? Paranoia, paranoia, even Goya couldn’t draw ya. It felt deep and ugly, and I didn’t like it. I got a sense of what so-called minorities (they’re actually the majority on this planet) often must feel like, and how difficult it must be to feel charitable about (white) strangers. If you’re black or brown or yellow or red, why should you trust any white person after what white people have done to you & yours? By the same token, if you’re a Jew, how comfortable could you feel amongst Germans? If you’re white & “nordic” looking — imagine this, it’s true: I had one sexist (and pro-white) socials teacher who made me stand up as an “example” in his 7th grade class when he was expounding on different European “racial” types; I was unfortunately too embarassed and much too cowed at 11 years old (the youngest in the class) to report him — if you’re white, a fraction of the world smugly thinks you (and they) have it made, while the other majority can’t stand you (but knows you have it made because you have the advantage of colour). If you’re lucky and you belong to some kind of community — a church, a temple — you can get some feel-good feelings back, replenish your sense of trust, and sally forth another day full of good faith. Maybe. Unless you continue to walk around angry and alienated. It’s funny how the onus is on the aggrieved, though: one person sends hate mail, the poison spreads through my mind to affect my perceptions of an entire group, and the onus is on me to change that perception through a leap of faith. It’s been a strange fortnight in which I’ve gone from feeling alienated from a virtual space where it’s difficult to sort out what’s real and what isn’t, to feeling it in my own neighbourhood: two such extremely different contexts, and two such extremely different matters, linked only by an actual body (mine) that still experiences the world as a sensory construct. Your body triggers fight or flight reactions to both contexts, and your mind has to sort these things out. My reactive patterns took hold long ago, according to option A or option B: in classrooms where teachers made an example of you or, alternately, nurtured you; in homes where abuse was the daily, unrelenting norm or, alternately, support was a given; in peer situations where you never fit, or, alternately, the good old boys (or girls) made you one of theirs. I know which side I want to cast my lot with, but I also can’t help standing at the edge sometimes, perhaps a little green with envy and also a little too jaundiced by too much option A and not enough option B. And yet I also know that reactive patterns are just that: patterns that are abstract unless I act on them, which I can refuse to do. I typically don’t stay alienated for long, I know I’m lucky, and, because I’m not 11 years old anymore, I know I can stand up to bullies. But I am taking the letter to the police, as well as to the city’s Jewish community. I would like a great big huge light to shine on every Nazi hiding here. I want the light of day to dry the crap out so I can scrape if off my shoe.


June 28, 2003 at 2:21 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Swamp

I was wondering if any bloggers reading this have ever had anonymous and threatening hate mail delivered to their house because of something they posted, and if so, how, aside from notifying the police, they dealt with it.

Been there, done that

June 25, 2003 at 8:34 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

If you’re an urban planner for gypsies or something like that, consider this article in the Vancouver Sun today: Planners who figure out the best way to blend housing, workplaces, shopping and transportation keep blowing it because they don’t understand the frantic lives of modern families, a British study says. The big problem: People won’t live the way planners tell them to. Working couples live in the wrong areas, work in the wrong places and spend hours driving to two jobs and then ferrying the kids to sports and lessons after school. Their lives are so frenetic, says researcher Helen Jarvis, that many families need oversized wall calendars with five colours to keep everyone’s schedule straight. (…) “I’m not knocking planners for their intentions. I’m just arguing that in this very competitive climate that the U.K., like the U.S. is experiencing, families are having to cope with whatever resources they have at hand. They often live very sub-optimal lives.” Sub-optimal lives? I say, jolly well-put, old bean! Only, it’s not funny when you’re living it, which is one major reason this family got off the hamster wheel and moved to an island. If you’re lucky enough not to have been there yet — because you didn’t have kids “in the right schools” (i.e., schools you had to drive them to in ungodly congestion at ungodly hours of the morning), or you didn’t have the two-career thing going on because you could afford to avoid it, or because you weren’t, for whatever unpatriotic reasons, getting squeezed by the live-this-way dicta of succeeding on the hamster wheel — don’t worry: it’ll probably catch you up. Just remember not to run counter-clockwise.

The pockets of others: eco rant

June 25, 2003 at 10:29 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on The pockets of others: eco rant

I’ve written before (May 3, 7, & 8, eg.) about Betty Krawczyk, the Women in the Woods, and their attempts to engage the law in such a fashion as to have criminal contempt charges brought against Krawczyk. Her goal is to challenge the government’s forestry policies in the BC courts. Krawczyk and Jen Bradley, grandmothers both, were arrested while blockading a logging road in the Walbran Forest here on Vancouver Island. They were arrested in early May, it was very briefly reported, and then they promptly disappeared from the media. They were charged, but not with criminal contempt. They were released. Nothing was reported. Yesterday I heard a very brief CBC Radio report that Krawczyk was arrested again. She had returned to the Walbran to take up her blockade once more. I believe Jen Bradley was also re-arrested.

But just try to find out anything at all about these events in the local newspapers or via the web. Victoria Indymedia was posting stories about the blockade, but even that source has practically dried up, to the point where a frustrated reader, “Clueless,” posted a comment asking where he/ she could get more information. Another reader and activist, “David,” had filmed the most recent confrontation and arrest, and wrote that local media simply weren’t interested in his footage or in the story. In mid-April, when the Walbran blockade was still being planned, I wrote to our local newspaper to suggest that the event deserved some coverage. I was informed (via email) that the blockade might be “a very important matter to [Betty Krawczyk], but less important in the day-to-day work of a newsroom.” This might as well be called censorship. Many people on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia care deeply about the issues that Betty Krawczyk raises. As it stands now, you have to visit the Women in the Woods website to gather more information. Check in also on BC Pathways. Beyond that, it’s just a non-issue: away from our bodies, away from our minds, and into the pockets of others.

Common wealth

June 23, 2003 at 4:24 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Common wealth

Is anyone else thinking about how the royals really are different from you and me? We’ve heard about self-styled comedy terrorist Aaron Barschak, who breached security at Windsor Castle to gate-crash Prince William’s 21st birthday party last Saturday. But did everyone read to the final paragraphs and learn that the royals were having an “Africa-themed fancy dress party”? My son sarcastically wondered what the Queen came dressed as. Shaka Zulu perhaps? Ah, royals amongst themselves, play-acting memories of Empire and Commonwealth. Until “Osama bin Laden” gate-crashed even their party. What’s that aphorism about history repeating itself as comedy the second time around?

Count down

June 23, 2003 at 4:21 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Count down

The BBC reports on a recent study predicting that men might soon outlive women. For illustration, BBC used a photo of Joanna Lumley as the AbFab character Patsy Stone. Patsy chainsmokes and drinks “Stoly” straight from the bottle; in this photo she is atop a Manhattan skyscraper, about to be rescued via helicopter by her friend Edina Monsoon. (Smoking and drinking look very glamourous here; why did BBC have to use this picture?) Stress at work, however, is the third factor in the triumvirate riding roughshod on female life expectancy. And could I just add that not having a wife will no doubt accelerate women’s earlier demise even more? Women are supposed to live longer, as Ashley Montagu in The Natural Superiority of Women already pointed out decades ago. They are biologically suited for it. But if they smoke, drink, and get stressed out like men, they’ll die like men, to paraphrase Martin Jarvis of Cancer Research UK, a critic of the new life-expectancy data.

The Reading Order of the Phoenix

June 22, 2003 at 2:29 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

There is a clear reading order at our house for the new Order of the Phoenix. We picked up our pre-ordered copy yesterday around midday at Munro’s Bookstore, whose entire staff was in costume. (Owner Jim Munro appropriately appeared as Dumbledore. Would his marriage to Alice Munro have ended had the wizarding side of his personality emerged sooner? Who can say.) After lunch Emma (our 9-year-old) disappeared with the book, emerging only long enough in the afternoon for her usual bike ride and the usual brief spot of evening dvd-ing. And yet she had finished the entire book (766pgs., British edition) before lunch today. (Crikey, don’t mess with her; she makes speed reading look like a drive in the country.) Adam (our 12-year-old) next grabbed the book. A few hundred pages into the book, he’s happy that Rowling has started to flesh out some economic and political aspects of the wizarding world. Werner will read it next, and eventually I’ll get around to it. Maybe. Then the German translation will come out in November, and we’ll have to slog through that. It’s typically 3million pages longer, as that language has never heard of Elements of Style. Here is a quote from the 3rd ed., 1979, p.72: Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. If the sickly sweet word, the overblown phrase are a writer’s natural form of expression, as is sometimes the case, he will have to compensate for it by a show of vigor, and by writing something as meritorious as the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

On that note, I’d like to re-post (is this allowed?) William Gibson’s recent blog entry (June 19):


1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

“If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs.”

Uh, maybe I should re-read Strunk & White, and some Orwell, before bothering with Harry. I prune the shrubs in my garden quite vigorously. Time to prune the brain, too.

Gay Marriage, con’td.:

June 20, 2003 at 3:07 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Gay Marriage, con’td.:

The radio commentary on the legalization of gay marriage here in Canada has me going crazy. There’s Pat O’Brien, a Liberal Party Member of Parliament, who yesterday told CBC Radio in most authoritative terms that marriage’s primary role is in ensuring procreation. People have gotten married for always, it seems, because of the need/ desire/ directive to have children. So, if your marriage can’t produce children, is it moot? That at least is the question, in rhetorical terms, that O’Brien’s stance prompts. O’Brien would insist that lack of children doesn’t constrain a heterosexual marriage, but since children are the primary reason for marriage, the point of departure if you will, it negates gay marriage.

This is a ridiculous position. First, homosexuals are already having having children, whether through adoption, or from prior hetero-marriages, or from artificial insemination. Second, the child issue in marriage has a rather barbaric history that we don’t necessarily want to perpetuate: marriage was the institution that allowed a man to have some kind of certainty — however illusional — over paternity. That’s all. Beyond that, it was a way of cementing a family’s power, making alliances, and building dynasties. Women — or let’s call them girls, since that’s all they often were, bartered off to comparatively middle-aged men — had little autonomy here. It was the introduction of love into the equation — good old chaos — that eventually changed marriage from its utilitarian and tribal-based purposes into the modern institution we now recognize.

Marriage is about love. Homosexual people love each other. Why not get married? In a world of consumerism and hype, anthing that gives a heads-up to love deserves support.

Then there is the position of the REAL Women of Canada, who amplify some of O’Brien’s dire worries. The latter tells us that we’ll be legalizing polygamy next (why? we’ve already legalized serial marriage), while the former warn us that pedophiles, who claim that their sexuality is a legit “orientation,” will next be allowed to get married to young children. (Wait, didn’t we already do that in ancient Rome when 12-year old girls got married to men one-and-one-half decades older?) O’Brien asked, “If you’re going to throw open the definition of marriage so you destroy it in essence, how do you know you can ever draw the line any place?” Like the pedophilia argument, this is a typical strategy used to intimidate people who are already used to thinking like sheep, grazing over the same patch of meadow year in, year out. It’s a strategy that leaves out history, that presumes untenable definitions or points of departure (O’Brien’s definition of marriage, if analyzed historically, turns out to be bogus), and that reduces the object in question (marriage) to an expression of sex. Oh yeah, those pedophiles who want to bugger young boys or girls are going to want to get married and see those boys and girls grow old, right. If marriage were just about sex, we wouldn’t need marriage. Sex, as our consumer world has abundantly shown, is available everywhere. Those protectors of the sanctity of marriage reduce it to the very thing they abhor, a simple exchange of bodily fluids, and that shows that their thinking is still back in ancient Rome. With pro-marriage warriors like that, watch out for the lions, little sheep.

Read this

June 19, 2003 at 8:18 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Read this

I did what Betsy Devine suggested, and I think you should, too: read this piece by Halley Suitt. She is right on.

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