Bitter Grace

From The Lemon Trees by Eugenio Montale:

You realize that in silences
things yield and almost betray
their ultimate secrets.
At times, one half expects
to discover an error in Nature,
the still point of reality,
the missing link that will not hold,
the thread we cannot untangle
in order to get at the truth.

You look around. Your mind seeks,
makes harmonies, falls apart
in the perfume, expands
when the day wearies away.
There are silences in which one watches
in every fading human shadow
something divine let go.

Found at Bitter Grace Notes

The rest of the poem is here

cross-posted at ellusive …

LOL Your Stilted Agenda

[VI – Best post yet from friend of this blog mattt]

[UPDATE V- One more link]





On July 1st, Antonia Zerbisias wrote a piece for The Star noting four things for which she thought Canadians ought to be grateful.  Here’s one of them:

Freedom of Expression: Excuse me but since when did the interests of Zionist lobby groups determine who or what Canadians can see and hear?

In recent months, to list just three examples, there have been concerted campaigns against the staging of Caryl Churchill’s controversial Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza and an academic conference at York University where the so-called “one-state solution” was to be discussed. We also saw British MP George Galloway be denied entry to the country for a speaking tour, just because he brought aid to bombed-out Gaza.

Now comes word that the only way the respected Al-Jazeera English news service, currently applying for TV distribution in Canada, can win the support of these same Jewish groups is to have them become consultants.

Journalistically speaking, that is hardly kosher.

So then Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress wrote this letter which was published in The Star:

Antonia Zerbisias betrays her own rather stilted agenda by targeting “Zionists” (as though being a Zionist is a bad thing) as unworthy of constitutional protections.

According to Zerbisias, Zionists (that seems to be anyone who supports Israel and is concerned about anti-Semitism) should neither be seen nor heard. How dare we speak out here in Canada on issues that concern our community!

In Zerbisias’ society, only those with whom she agrees ought to be given a platform.

Thank goodness we live in Canada.

So then hysperia wrote this:

Dear Mr. Farber:

I’m writing to comment on your letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star with respect to a column written by Antonia Zerbisias on July 1st.

I respect the fact that Jewish people have the right to speak publicly about their views on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The dialogue between those who support the means that Israel currently uses to secure” peace” in the Middle East and those who don’t is becoming increasingly polarized, though, and sometimes I despair that we often end up arguing about what we’re “allowed” to say rather than the issues themselves. Perhaps this is just part of the journey, but still I would have thought that encouraging understanding between those who hold differing views would have been a goal that all of us could agree upon – so that in our dialogue with one another we are at least talking about the goals we want to reach instead of merely pouring out propaganda about why we think those with whom we disagree have no right to express an opinion. Often, accusations of anti-Semitism are just that. You didn’t quite accuse Ms Zerbesias of anti-Semitism but I thought you implied it.

After reading your letter I’m not sure on what grounds you found fault with Ms Zerbisias’ article. She wrote nothing that was untrue. In recent months there have been attempts to censor Caryl Churchill’s play, George Galloway was denied entry to Canada because of his political activities with respect to Gaza and there is still pressure to suppress a conference at York University in which a “one-state” solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict will be discussed.  I’ve followed each of these issues and I’ve certainly noted that some members of the Canadian Jewish community who are admitted “Zionists” have exerted pressure to suppress both art speech and political speech and, in one case, have expressed pride and happiness when they were successful (re: George Galloway).

Moreover, I still can’t find any evidence in Ms Zerbisias’ article that suggests she wants to deny “Zionists” their constitutional right to free speech. I thought she was protesting the desire of some in the Jewish community to suppress the speech of those who disagree with the Zionist agenda, such as it is.  Is that a “stilted agenda”?  If so, the discussion would be improved if we all had one.

I believe we have to stand up for journalists who aren’t afraid to take on powerful people like Bernie Farber when they think there are critically important issues at stake, like the ability to critisize Israeli policy without fear of repression or accusations of “anti-Semitism” and the rights of others, such as Caryl Churchill, George Galloway and those participating in the conference at York U. to express themselves in a society where free speech is supposedly not only protected but welcomed.  You GO Antonia!  Make sure you see Antonia’s follow-up to her Star column at her blog, Broadsides.


My letter to Mr. Farber was published at The Star, here.  Here’s Mr. Farber’s response, for what it’s worth – and that’s not much.  He simply repeats his charges against Ms Zerbisias in an even more nasty and truth-bending fashion:

Ms. _

Thank you for your letter.
In fact Ms. Zerbisias made a number of claims that are “untrue” the most egregious of which is that “Zionists” determine public policy. The government and those who apply the law determine public policy. “Zionists” who live in Canada have as much right as anyone else to speak out on issues of concern to them. However to suggest that a small cabal of “Zionists” somehow control the country is ugly and untoward.
Secondly, many of us found “Seven Jewish Children” offensive many others did not. One Jewish organization called for the city of Toronto to ban it from publically funded theatres others did not but still voiced their concerns. That’s what makes our democracy great, the right to speak out. In the case of “Seven Jewish Children”  Ms. Zerbisias’ “Zionists” determined nothing. The play went on as scheduled in Toronto and has been viewed in many other places across Canada.
Ms. Zerbisias creates a straw man with her gratuitous use of the term “Zionist” paints those who support the Jewish state of Israel as having powers they simply do not and thus stirs the pot of ethnic tension.
I hope this has been helpful.
Bernie M. Farber
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Jewish Congress
4600 Bathurst St.
Toronto Ont. M2R 3V2
416-635-2883 ext. 5186 PLEASE NOTE NEW EXTENSION

Well no BMF, not helpful at all.

For more nasty truth-bending, check out further comments on Zerbisias’ original article at Broadsides.  In fact, the word “truth” really shouldn’t be used in this context at all.  The “many of us” who found Caryl Churchill’s play “offensive” (without having seen it, mind you) pressed Mayor David Miller to stop the show.  That’s not merely expressing dislike when you have the power of a large part of the Jewish community behind you.


Well fans, check all this out:

First, there’s a WHOLE column by teh Star‘s public editor, Kathy English, about Antonia Zerbisias’ “gay” blog post.  Now who came up with THAT headline?  Here it is.

THEN, teh Star‘s moderators held up all comments but one, ALL DAY.  What’s up with that, as Kim Elliot of rabble finally gets to ask in comments.  Comments are now … closed.

Good comment on this nonsense at from rabble’s Andrew Brett, here.  (I ripped his headline!)

And from Dr. Dawg, although the trolls have come out in comments.

In one way, it’s about a tempest in a teapot, as Dawg says.  That is, if it’s really about whether Antonia Zerbisias called Bernie Farber “gay”.  On the other hand, it’s not, because it’s about trying to intimidate a journalist (believe me, it won’t work!) and access to media – that is, Bernie Farber’s got it and I don’t.  Someone “read” that comment, made by me at Dawg’s, to mean:  “The Jews control the press”.  Not.  What.  I.  Said.  Not.  What.  I.  Mean.

Have fun!

More on the blogs – this is first class coverage:

YayaCanada – Queer goings on

Stageleft – Political Correctness Rule #172

Creekside – Gay freakout at The Star

We Move to Canada – Support Antonia Zerbisias

POGGE? – Toronto Star publisher and public editor channel Joe McCarthy

A Creative Revolution: Supporting Mz Z

Even Mark Steyn is on Zerbisias’ side!


The Galloping Beaver – TorStar Public Editor fails to take Round-to-Round Disperson into Account


bastardlogic- Antonia Zerbisias: Under their Wheels

Canadian F-Word Blog Awards

This just received from A Creative Revolution:

Just in case you didn’t know, you’ve been nominated for Best Feminist Blog – Oh! Canada! English in the 2009 Canadian F-word Awards! First round voting is April 11 – 14 (extended!).  One vote per IP addy, please.   

What does being nominated for an F-word Award mean, besides glamour, prestige, and a pretty badge to display on your blog?  In the big scheme of things, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! More acutely though, it means that someone who is aware of the awards likes your blog enough to nominate it in our anti-sexist snark festival.  It means someone thinks you kick ass! AND YOU DO! W00t! 

Come on over and celebrate blogging women – we’re having a party and you’re the guest of honour!

Good luck, and thanks for participating.

– Dr. Prole and Pale @ A Creative Revolution

My friend mattt @bastardlogic nominated me for this – thanks mattt.  I’m not voting for myself but if you want to, go on over to Creative Revolution by April 14th and do it.  Or vote for someone else.  Just vote.

The “Obama-Vegetative State”

Darren Hutchinson tries to rouse the Liberal Left from its “Obama-Vegetative State” (oh dood I love that!):

First, an election is not a social movement. Although many diverse people united to support Obama and to oppose the GOP, this does not mean that they shared a leftist political ideology. The invalidation of same-sex marriage in California — where Obama won by more than 20% of the vote — demonstrates this patently obvious point.

Second, progressives were so unnerved by Bush and the Clintons that many of them projected radicalism upon a moderate (or undefined) Obama in order to frame voting for him as a dramatic break from the past. Although “change” supports many meanings, for progressives, it symbolized liberal transformation of U.S. political life and policy.

Third, many liberals wanted so desperately to believe in the myth of a post-racial America that they treated Obama’s electoral success as the ultimate triumph of progressive race politics. Despite the fact that strong racial cleavages shaped the vote for both Obama and McCain, many commentators, nevertheless, argued that Obama’s victory would allow the country to move beyond race altogether.

Fourth, many self-described liberals are actually political moderates. They passionately support a set of symbolic liberal causes, but they do not favor more substantive societal transformation. Beating up Don Imus or Republicans who sing about a “Magic Negro” is a lot easier to do than creating good public schools that do not deprive poor children and children of color of a quality education. And passing the much-needed Ledbetter legislation does not resolve the substantive legal difficulties that civil rights plaintiffs encounter if they manage to overcome tough procedural hurdles. Yet, liberals cheered loudly for Ledbetter without even discussing (minus a few exceptions) the need for more progressive measures.


Progressives cannot blame Obama for his effort to straddle the ideological center. Instead, they must look inward and discover why they chose to treat a politician (as skillful in that role as he might be) as someone who is mythological or larger than life.

They should also canvass history, as [John] Judis has done* to learn about the critical role of passionate collective activism in the evolution of U.S. politics and policy. Moderate presidents have presided over great changes in the U.S., but they did so with the backing and agitation of engaged social movements.  True social change does not result from effusive adoration and acquiescence; instead, it arises from criticism, collective activism, strategic compromise and political opportunity.

Read the whole thing (From the ‘Duh’ Files: Effusive Political Adoration Does Not Lead to Social Change) at Dissenting Justice

“Suicide Psalms”

Part of an interview with Tracy Hamon and Mari-Lou Rowley, author of Suicide Psalms:

I imagine Suicide Psalms was a difficult book to write, given the nature of the poems. The subject of suicide and its consequences are topics we tend to shy away from, or whisper about in quiet voices. I found that the poems challenge society’s perception of suicide through their written and audible prayer. How did you find yourself writing about suicide? Was it a healing process?

The book came very quickly, but the emotional aftermath lingered—is still lingering. At first I was concerned about “putting it out there,” partly because of the content, and also because it is so different from my previous book, Viral Suite. I was compelled to write the book because my father committed suicide when I was two months old, yet it was never talked about, and I didn’t even know how he died until my late 20s. The book is, in part, an empathetic homage to suicidal friends and strangers—those who succeeded and those who didn’t.
The reason I decided to submit and publish Suicide Psalms is that I believe suicide is the last taboo—the only topic we don’t openly discuss. Support groups aside, you won’t find a TV series on the subject, although we have shows about serial killers, sex addicts, gay morticians, mafia analysands, etc. Yet, in western society it has become an epidemic, particularly among the young and in Aboriginal communities. In Japan, the spectre of suicide clubs is particularly haunting. Young people link up online and then go out and collectively off themselves; and this happens with such frequency that it no longer makes the news. It is also a primarily a first world phenomenon. People in third world counties starve to death before they kill themselves.
And this rash of suicides is not motivated out of any kind of romantic notions of death, in the way that Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther had young men all over Europe wearing yellow waistcoats and killing themselves—ostensibly out of unrequited love. Today’s suicides are motivated by an utter despair and hopelessness with life per se. Existential, psychological, environmental angst. Mixed with some chemical imbalances, yes. But we have to ask, why are so many people on SSRIs? What’s wrong with this picture?
I believe our disconnectedness with nature and our environment is fuelling the disconnection with self and disaffection with others. And I believe the environmental crisis is a form of collective suicide. I hope that these poems help to pay homage to those who have suicided, and help those who have survived to talk about it.
So to the second part of your question: how I came to write the book? In the winter of 2006, while attending the Writers/Artists colony at St. Peters Abby in Muenster, Saskatchewan, I had an incredible and haunting experience. I was staying in a hermitage on the outskirts of the Abby grounds, which was rather daunting as the weather was in the minus twenties, and there was no running water in the cabin, so I had to haul it by sled. The trek back to the Abby for meals and showers was fifteen minutes on snowshoes each way. One night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, a coyote began to howl right outside the thin walls of the cabin. When it finally stopped, the silence was so complete and eerie that it took ages before I managed to fall asleep. And then I had the most horrific dream, which became the poem “God’s Dog Boy.”
A year later, Suicide Psalms began to emerge—a howl that had been building since my father’s suicide. The poems literally insinuated themselves—the first when I was in the middle of writing an article on binary pulsars. The rest of the book came with such speed and ferocity that the writing process was actually euphoric. So yes, writing Suicide Psalms was cathartic, exhilarating, and terrifying. And it took me to a new level of emotional resonance in my work that will be difficult to get back to, I think. Writing the cerebral, sensual, science-based work of Viral Suite felt much safer.

More here at Manageable Imaginations


Whatever utility the rhetoric of bipartisanship had for Barack Obama during the campaign, it’s now time for the president and the Democratic leadership to let it go. As political historian Allen Lichtman argued at TPM last week, the most effective presidents “don’t move to the middle; they move the middle to them.”

From Tom S at Rustbelt Intellectual


From We Who Are Left Behind … by Matthew Landis:

Celan refers to the poem as if it is a solitary organism in search of an ecology. “The poem”, writes Celan, “wants to reach the Other, it needs this Other, it needs a vis a vis. It searches it out and addresses it.”1 The poem pays great attention to and in fact lusts after this Other. Celan’s description of the poem’s “sense of detail, of outline, of structure”2 is reminiscent of the great care taken by a lover examining her partner’s body. The curves, textures, and totality of the body are subject to the gaze of the one who desires after it. It is a desire which is intensified in it’s repetition. But this repetition is not differential; for Celan the images in the poem are “perceived and to be perceived one time, one time over and over again, and only now and only here.”3

Each poem is the one path that seeks to send the voice to a receptive “thou”, it is a “sending oneself ahead of oneself […] A kind of homecoming”4 which is always already a striking out for one’s home at the moment of arrival. It is a homecoming deferred; the poem emerges as that which is not yet found, but is to be found. The poem seeks itself, seeks its own homecoming even as it embarks upon the journey which is the coming-home. This openness is sought by the poem so that its “tropes and metaphors” can be developed “ad absurdum.”5 The logic of the “ad absurdum” is the impossibility of the arrival of the poem because its images, its hidden thoughts are rehearsed for an audience only once, one time, in the here and now6. Celan acknowledges that such poems—the “absolute poem”7—do not exist, but also recognizes that this perfection, this utopia, is the demand of the poem the questioning or indetermination of this demand haunts it. The poem demands presence, that is, self-presence, it demands here and now and recognizes its own lack in its desire, and asks why it has been separated from its own voice—it seeks to know why it only speaks in silence and is only addressed in its absence.

Much more.  Read here

via wood s lot where it’s never dull

The Question Is The Problem

From Greg Downey at Neuranthropology:

In this week’s The Times Magazine of The NY Times, Daniel Bergner has a piece on women’s sexuality and research that’s already in preprint causing a bit of controversy as well as a convulsion of 1950s era humor in the online response. The title, ‘What do women want?’, that nugget of Freudian wonder, no doubt will raise the readership, as will the pictures of models simulating states of arousal (Greg Mitchell is in a bit of snit about them in, Coming Attraction: Preview of ‘NYT Magazine’ With Semi-Shocking Sex Images on Sunday. ‘Semi-Shocking’? I can imagine how that goes… ‘Are you SHOCKED by these photos?’ ‘Well, I’m at least SEMI-shocked, yes!’).

In particular, Bergner gives us thumbnail portraits of women engaged in sex research: Meredith Chivers of Queens University (Kingston, Ontario), Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah, and Marta Meana from UNLV, although there’s also commentary from Julia Heiman, the Director of the Kinsey Institute, and others. As with so much of contemporary science writing, we get researchers as characters, with quirky personal descriptions and accounts of meeting the author, each one standing in for a particular perspective in current scientific debates.

Chivers is portrayed as arguing that women are existentially divided ‘between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective,’ Diamond is made to stand in for the ‘female desire may be dictated… by intimacy, by emotional connection,’ and Meana stands in for the argument that women are narcissists desiring to submit. Whether or not these are accurate portrayals—and they might be—the model is prevalent in science writing: get characters to represent lines of thinking, even though many of us are not so clearly signed on with a single theoretical team. Here, we know the score: Diamond arguing women want intimacy, Meana that they want a real man to take them, and Chivers that women want it all, even if they don’t realize it and contradict themselves.

The irony is that, with such a tangle, the conclusion is foreordained: women will seem enigmatic, inconsistent, and irremediably opaque. As I’ll suggest in this, I think that the conclusion is built into the way the question is being asked. If a similar question were asked about nearly any group, in nearly any domain of complex human behaviour, and then a simple single answer were demanded, the questioner would face nearly identical frustration.


One can imagine an article with the title, ‘What do diners want?’, which bemoaned the fickleness and impenetrable complexity of culinary preferences: Sometimes they want steak, and sometimes just a salad. Sometimes they put extra salt on the meal, and sometimes they ask for ketchup. One orders fish, another chicken, another ham and eggs. One day a guy ordered tuna fish salad on rye, and the next, the same guy ordered a tandoori chicken wrap, hold the onions! My God, man, they’re insane! Who can ever come up with a unified theory of food preferences?! Food preferences are a giant forest, too complex for comprehension. What do diners want?!
You get my drift. The line of questioning is rhetorically time-tested (can we say clichéd even?) but objectively and empirically nonsensical …
Interesting post.  Read the rest here

UPDATE:  Check out Shorter NYT: Girl-parts are weird, girl-brains are weirder posted by Jill Filipovic at Yes Means Yes