For ten years I’ve kept track of my random thoughts and reflections in two slim Moleskine notebooks.
Next year, I’ll be releasing a short book containing the best bits.
I’m posting an example of what you can expect, a snippet penned on my back deck a few days ago.
I’m not a big fan of the so-called “cancel culture” and reject any attempt to limit free speech or stifle debate. And so:
“Dialectics taught me that societies emerge out of a clash of ideas. By ignoring or suppressing dissenting views we rob ourselves of that special friction and, thus, are consigned to echo chambers that endlessly reproduce our tiresome certainty.”
Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with me is aware that I despise mealy-mouthed liberals in general and Justin Trudeau in particular.
For nearly two decades I have regarded Trudeau, Jr. as a prime example of the kind of vapid, insufferable personality that has made a home on the centre-Left of the political spectrum. The sheer hypocrisy of these people is something to behold. They’re in favor of all the grand social causes of the day, any issue that doesn’t endanger their personal interests or cause them to lose their privileged status. They call themselves “progressives” because it makes them feel better, but their political activism comes to a screeching halt when their bank accounts and vacation homes are threatened or if their kids can no longer attend elite private schools that help prep them for life among the one-percenters.
J.T. is the embodiment of a “on one hand this, on the other hand that” breed of people that can utter contradictory positions without realizing (or caring about) the intellectual and ideological cowardice of their stance. Look at the way he championed the notion of proportional representation before the last federal election, abandoning it as soon as he had secured a comfortable majority in the House of Commons. He can bemoan the poor state of the environment, offer his support to the Kyoto Protocol and other climate accords, yet spend billions of taxpayer $$$ on new pipelines that, if Canada aggressively pursued alternative energy strategies and technologies, will be obsolete in a decade. He and his office personally intervened on behalf of SNC-Lavalin, trying to ensure that corruption-plagued company would receive special treatment from our judicial system, a lenient slap on the wrist for consorting with despicable regimes, bribing their way into the good books of the likes of Muammar Gaddafi.
Yet instead of being continually raked over the coals for these cynical ploys, today J.T. finds himself vilified for photos and video from the distant past, the politically correct posse baying for blood. Remember, apologizing and showing remorse isn’t enough for these arbiters of decency and morality, they want your existence permanently expunged from the record, the very mention of your name subject to boos and hisses from the peanut gallery.
Some of the wisest words ever uttered are: “Let those without sin be the first to cast stones”. How many of us have something to hide, some indiscretion, ill-advised joke, stupid quip we’re ashamed of? Have you never behaved badly or caused distress to someone else, deliberately or inadvertently? Well, then, you’re among a very tiny minority and good for you. And, by the way, you’re also a big, fat liar, liar, pants on fire.
Folks, the reason our politicians suck these days, why we have difficulty convincing thoughtful individuals to run for public office, is because of the ridiculous standards we impose on them, insisting that everything they’ve done in their lives either be above reproach or so well concealed they never have a chance of seeing the light of day. If you happened to fart in church back in 2003 and wish to run for mayor, town dogcatcher or, God help you, member of Parliament, well, someone is bound to bring it up and use it against you. Never mind your genuine desire to serve others—less fortunate people who have (rightfully) become disenchanted with the candidates they’ve been offered and would like to see a politician possessing new, exciting ideas and the mettle to carry them through.
How many of our best leaders and statesmen, men and women who made their mark on history, could bear the kind of scrutiny they’d be subjected to today? How many would be denied the opportunity to contribute their unique gifts and visions to the world? Mackenzie King talked to ghosts, JFK was a serial philanderer, Lincoln famously stated that if given a choice between preserving the union and outlawing slavery, he would choose the former option.
And Jesus Christ, we’re told, regularly hung around with whores and tax-collectors (shame on him!).
We get the kind of government we deserve and if the self-appointed poobahs of righteousness and virtue have their way democracy will suffer grievously…and we will continue to be represented by officials unstained by scandal, but lacking any of the passion and fire required to enact real change in our unequal, superficial, broken society.
Getting caught with your pants down is one thing—being exposed for lack of conviction, duplicity, a paucity of empathy and compassion, wanton disregard for democratic institutions and values is something quite different.
It’s perfectly okay to be a Justin Trudeau hater…just make sure you’re hating him for all the right reasons.
Mouth: Rants and Routines is now available in a couple of digital formats, which should make it easy for you to download and read the book on just about any phone, tablet or computer.
You’ll find the Kindle version over at Amazon (click here), and for those who don’t wish to give that multinational behemoth any of your hard-earned money, you can also zip over to Smashwords and find the ePub version there (click here).
I’ve priced the book at $2.99 (U.S.) which, I think, is fair, certainly a helluva a lot cheaper than what traditional publishers charge for their offerings (any e-book going for over seven or eight bucks is a rip-off as far as I’m concerned).
Read the excerpts I’ve made available or listen to the recording I made of some of the material (more are forthcoming) and then decide for yourself if this is your cup of poison. Fans of Ricky Gervais, Bill Hicks or George Carlin will love my book. On the other hand, if those dudes hold no appeal to you…er…
If you do enjoy Mouth, for God’s sake make sure you leave positive feedback on Amazon or wherever you downloaded it, help spread the word and create some buzz for a unique project (and a tiny, independent press).
And, of course, drop me a line here, telling me how the book affected you and if it was an enjoyable (or not) reading experience.
I look forward to hearing from you, one way or the other.
I’m posting the Table of Contents below, just to illustrate the breadth and diversity of the subject matter.
In the meantime, I urge you to pop over to a site that has recently posted one of the most personal essays from Mouth, a warts-and-all overview of my three-decade long writing career, with the promising title “Man of Constant Failure”. Click here to read it.
I also posted one of my favorite bits, a takedown of stupid comic book movies and the critics who laud them, over at my film site, Cinema Arete. Click here to read it.
And don’t forget the live performance of some of the essays from Mouth I recorded in my living room before a very appreciative audience. I loaded it on to Bandcamp for free listening. Click here to tune in.
And now, the aforementioned Table of Contents. The roll call of infamy:
The Attractions of Misanthropy
This movie sucks (and so do you)
Paris is Burning
Coming Soon to Your Hometown
I’ve Seen the Future, Baby, and It’s Boring
God, A Concept
Bad At Sex
Agents of Control
Who are you? (I)
Good, Honest Hatred
Man to Man
Christians & Taliban
Foot in Mouth Disease
Who are you? (II)
Stupid People: A Case For Eugenics?
I Don’t Care
Get Out Your Hankies
Who are you? (III)
Man of Constant Failure
People Who Take Signs to Public Events
Between the Idea and the Reality
In Praise of Book Burning
I Hate White People
* * * * *
Mouth: Rants & Routines is currently being prepped for publication as an e-book/Kindle and will be available for sale and downloading by the last week of May.
Check back here in the coming days for further updates.
I confess to feeling nervous—how would people, even enlightened, progressive types, react to my rants on subjects that would strike many as too close to home?
As the clock wound down and the reading date we’d chosen inched closer and closer, I felt my nerves twanging like guitar strings. On the day in question, I set up chairs in our living room, cleaned the house from top to bottom and wondered if I’d be a few friends shyer once the evening was over.
My latest book, Mouth: Rants and Routines, is a no-holds-barred attack on political correctness and its dim-witted minions, except this time, the criticism is coming from the far Left. This will be considered unconscionable by some, a betrayal of my roots.
PC and its accompanying trendy social causes have diverted the attention of progressives and advanced the agenda of people only interested in narrow, single issues, rather than trying to build a giant tent that would encompass all those who struggle in the crushing grip of capitalism, men, women and children who lack food and health and shelter security. I’m talking about folks working two or three part-time jobs in a precarious economic climate; single mothers, people living on fixed incomes that amount to no incomes at all, once the rent and bills are paid.
And then there is the existential threat presented by climate change: while some of us fuss about, wondering where we fit on the sexual spectrum or fret over what bathroom is most appropriate or which personal pronoun to use when referring to ourselves, half the world is burning.
Mouth is a bitter pill to swallow, no question, and will offend a lot of individuals who like to wear their beliefs on their sleeves, visible to everyone, a display of righteousness and piety and sanctimoniousness that would make a medieval Pope blush.
As my Introduction to the book warns:
“If you’re a wishy-washy liberal, someone who sits on the fence until their ass is black and blue, this probably isn’t the book for you. Likewise if you recently enrolled in a Gender Studies program and/or believe that one day, God willing, Caitlyn Jenner will win a Nobel Prize for…something. If you frequently use the words ‘men’ and ‘rape culture’ in the same sentence, if you self-identify according to a particular animal clan, or consider your pets surrogate children, well, there’s the door, please use it.”
The folks in attendance that night were surprisingly receptive to my heresy and in the recording we made you’ll hear lots of laughter and noises of agreement. I was thrilled and very, very relieved.
I know I’ll take some stick for daring poke at some Lefty/liberal causes that many people hold as sacred, inviolable, untouchable. But I also know there is a strong undercurrent among political progressives and contrarians who agree with me and cheer my decision to slay these sacred cows with as much invective and sarcasm as I possibly can.
Here’s a link to that reading, recorded in our home earlier this week. I have quite a bit of spoken word material and ambient music posted over at Bandcamp, all of it available for free listening and downloading. Please, tuck in.
I welcome your responses, whether you agree with me or not.
We need to have this discussion. The Left has no hope of defeating the entrenched interests opposing us unless we act in a unified, cohesive manner, refusing to allow ourselves to be hijacked by special interest groups and a tiny, vocal minority who eschew Big Ticket issues (income inequality, poverty, hunger) in favor of identity, gender politics, etc.
Stop the atomization and division and come together in one massive plurality of those who demand fairness and equality for ALL.
It really is our only hope of slowing down or, at least, humanizing the capitalist juggernaut bearing down on us, the horrible future it portends.
- Special thanks to my pal, Laird Brittin, who bravely agreed to open the evening with some of his new, original songs. He set the tone early, warmed up the crowd and, oh, yeah, played a helluva set. A true and valued friend…
I’ve been promising a preview of the cover of my collection of political and personal rants and here it is.
My wife Sherron provided the original cover art and also handled the design.
Mouth will be released initially as an ebook and we’ll see what happens from there.
It is a harsh, unrelenting depiction of our narcissistic, superficial culture, a breath of fresh air for those who are fed up with a society narrow-focussed on the trivial, while the rest of the world burns.
Anticipating a publication date of April 30th, but I will be posting excerpts between now and then, a few teasers to whet your appetite.
Completing the final draft of my latest book, experiencing giddiness, a strong sense of anticipation, as well as a certain amount of anxiety—I mean, how are folks going to react to 40+ “routines”, satiric snippets, many of which are devoted to controversial or touchy subjects? We’ve become so thin-skinned and defensive these days that the most innocuous remark can be misread as bigoted or insensitive, topical humor regarded with suspicion and those holding dissenting views treated like latter day heretics and pariahs.
A guy on the far Left putting down political correctness, attacking the notion that our society should focus on social issues, at the expense of much more pressing concerns like poverty, food and health security, the looming threats posed by climate change and global warming? Not advisable, one runs the risk of being accused of apostasy or, even worse, labeled a “hater”, which, these days, is akin to being called a pedophile.
At various points during the conception and writing of this book I’ve paused, questioning my motivation, my aims…even my sanity. It would be far easier keeping my head down and mouth shut, not responding to the threat to freedom of expression and personal liberty presented by mushy-headed liberals trying to socially engineer their brave new world. Except…all my life I have been a progressive and I don’t want to see that agenda hijacked by a small, vocal group of people who wish to control what we talk about and the words we’re allowed to use in conversation and debate.
I also have a very strong hunch that we are being deliberately distracted with social causes (like identity politics) because the Powers That Be don’t want to be forced to make the massive, systemic changes necessary to confront the hegemony of the wealthy, the rampant consumerism threatening the future viability of the planet, the dark underbelly of capitalism.
All my adult life I have spoken out against censorship and will not, as an artist and human being, have my ideas, my imagination and themes, controlled by anyone else, regardless of how fine and honorable their intentions might seem.
I know my book, once it’s released, will cause offense, will annoy and alarm people, maybe a lot of people, but that’s kind of the point. We can’t be weak-kneed when we are defending something as fundamental as freedom of speech.
In about two weeks I’m going to be hosting an informal reading in our home, inviting a few friends and acquaintances over to hear excerpts from the book. A public workshop of the material. I’m curious to see what their reaction will be; it will be an excellent gauge as to how its contents will be received by people who don’t know me or my body of work.
Gonna be an interesting evening…
Further: hope to have a mockup of the cover ready to show you in the next week or ten days…I will be posting excerpts from the book around mid-April, releasing electronic versions of the complete text by the end of that month…there might also be an audio recording of my wee “house concert”, which (if it’s of sufficient quality) I’ll post either here or on my Bandcamp page.
Another long interval between blog posts and, once again, I have a writing project to blame.
My collection of rants and essays, as yet untitled, moves closer toward publication. I have been writing and editing this book since November, 2018 and have been very pleasantly surprised by how quickly it’s come together.
How would I describe the general mood and content of the book? I would represent it as a kind of purging—I confront inner and outer demons, situations and subjects that infuriate me and, in my view, trivialize our society. Some of the pieces are intensely personal, others take a broader view. Most of the “routines” are satirical and drip with venom; no sensibilities are spared, no quarter given. I guarantee there will be folks, even among my own small circle of acquaintances, who will be offended by my take on hot button issues. Religion, identity politics, the climate crisis, the rise of the “idiocracy”, are among the topics I address and, you can imagine, there’s plenty of invective to go around.
I’m pondering publishing this collection first as a free PDF on this blog and, eventually, as a very cheap e-book (Kindle and ePub versions).
The release date is still somewhat up in the air but I hope to have the aforementioned PDF posted on my blog in the next two months or so.
Sigh…yet another Black Dog Press release that is nothing like the 12 previous books. Satirical, sharp-toothed, non-fiction essays…is there a market for such things? I guess we’ll find out.
No excerpts or teasers yet…but I will say that right from the beginning I wanted to attack political correctness from the hard Left. Many conservatives and Right-wingers have taken their shots but few people on the other side of the ideological spectrum are willing to confront PC and point out how intolerant and anti-democratic it can be. Freedom of expression is a longtime obsession with me: anyone who seeks to limit or control the terms of a debate is my ENEMY, regardless of their politics or rationale.
This latest book absolutely demands reader feedback and I encourage you, once it’s posted, to download it (free), dive in and let me know what you think: which parts work, which parts make you scratch your head…or want to sever mine. Are there places where I’m unfair or go too far? Drop me some lines with your thoughts, we’ll have a sober, mature dialogue, see if we can attain a meaningful meeting of minds.
I’d better get back to work, I’m anxious to finish this brute then sit back and watch what happens.
Once the dust settles, there won’t be a single sacred cow left standing.
Hand me that bolt gun, will you, and let’s get down it it…
Recently, a collective cringe went through the Canadian arts community when the braintrust at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) announced a major shortfall in their budget.
Now, we can debate how a publicly financed, (supposedly) world class organization can end up $171 million lighter in the pocket than expected another day…what I want to talk about this time around is the importance of the CBC to individual artists in this country.
I have my complaints with the Mother Corp. and I often take exception to their namby-panby, politically correct stance, their absolute abhorrence of the notion of offering offense to the smallest segment of the general public (and slanting their supposedly objective point of view accordingly). But for many of us working in the performing and literary arts in Canada, the CBC is, quite honestly, the only game in town.
My very first sale was to CBC Radio here in Saskatchewan. This was back in 1985, youngsters, when Wayne Schmalz was the arts and culture czar down in Regina. I’m teasing: Wayne is actually one of the nicest and most unassuming guys you’ll ever meet. He was also a superb producer with eclectic tastes and an infallible ear. He aired selected material on “Gallery”, which, at the time, was a literary arts program, and took a number of my early stories, raising my profile and putting some much needed cash into the pocket of a young scribbler.
After Wayne left, Dave Redel took over the big chair and did well enough to earn himself a promotion to the regional office in Edmonton.
And then along came Kelley Jo Burke. Kelley Jo loves the arts and is a huge booster of the cultural scene here in Saskatchewan. She knows everybody and is respected throughout the province, not just for producing fine radio shows, but also for her own highly accomplished literary and dramatic efforts. Along with her colleagues Shauna Powers and Bonnie Austring-Winter, Kelley Jo helped transform the weekly CBC Saskatchewan arts spot into SoundXChange, a celebration of all aspects of the performing arts here in “living sky country”.
But the looming cuts do not bode well for local shows like “SoundXChange”. Despite its much-touted mandate to represent all regions of Canada, CBC will be closing bureaus and cutting staff in some of the far-flung places that help provide Canada with its true, diverse identity. This will mean that more programming will originate in “central Canada” (God, I hate that term) and the perspective at the Ceeb will be come even more Toronto-centric than it already is.
Over the past week, I’ve heard rumbles within the tightknit arts community here in Saskatchewan, whispers that “SoundXChange” will be drastically scaled back, if not scrapped completely. What does that mean for folks like Kelley Jo and others down there in Regina, who have worked so hard to give new and established artists a valuable venue for their work, one that won’t ever be replaced? Shows like “SoundXChange” and “OutFront” (another favorite that was dropped) give voice to people in remote places (geographically, politically, emotionally), living in unique and fascinating circumstances. Without those voices being heard, we become a poorer, less representative society; homogenous and one-dimensional.
During tough economic times, there is a temptation to view the arts as “fat” and trim, shave, hack it away. Never mind all the studies that reveal what an economic stimulus a healthy arts industry represents and the amount of spin-off dollars it creates. Nah, just cut the arts and be content with the thin, tepid gruel that’s left over: talk radio, commercial jingles and vacuous pop.
It is my hope, my expectation, that organizations, guilds and entities that support the arts and artists in this country will speak out collectively and demand that public broadcasting in this country be funded at least at a level that’s comparable to similar counterparts around the developed world.
An enhanced, secure source of funding would ensure the continuing existence of programming that shows the true face(s) of Canada; we are a complex, multi-faceted society, well-schooled and highly literate.
Why in God’s name should we settle for anything less?
Postscript: My colleague Dale Estey contacted me through my Redroom page and sent along this link to a petition protesting the cutbacks at CBC.
Drop by and add your name to the honour roll. Let’s see if we can turn the tide. And while you’re at it, check out the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting site. They’ve been advocating and lobbying on behalf of homegrown, made-in-Canada programming for many a moon…
I am scornful of this notion of “Can Lit”, a national literature that embodies Canada by reflecting its many cultures and locales, its history and unique character. I recall the comments of a visiting Irish film-maker who opined that Canada was the only country he could think of that puts a “points system” on its arts. You can bet that didn’t go over well with the gate-keepers and poobahs of Canadian culture.
That dingbat editor (now senior editor, God help us) who told me “it’s too bad you’re not an East Indian writer” also said, in relation to the same manuscript, “it seemed awfully American to me”, without ever clearly articulating what she meant. I suppose she took issue with the fact that I didn’t use Canadian place names or employ characters with obvious ethnic backgrounds (academia and the arts are the last stubborn bastions of the discredited ideologies of affirmative action and political correctness). My manuscript was too encumbered by, y’know, an actual story, a plot that moved along at a good clip. It went against the tradition of Canadian writing where nothing ever happens, whole forests denuded for narratives where passive verbs and even more passive characters are the norm, people moving about in a fuddled daze, not doing anything or saying anything of interest, two hundred and fifty pages of navel-gazing. Sounds like great beach reading, eh?
I recently finished Julian Symonds’ The Tell-Tale Heart: The Life & Works of Edgar Allan Poe and was delighted to learn that Poe thought the notion of a national literature to be complete humbug too. Keep in mind these words were written 150 years ago (and feel free to substitute “Canadian” for “American” in the last line):
“We get up a hue and cry about the necessity of encouraging native writers of merit–we blindly fancy we can accomplish this by indiscriminate puffing of good, bad and indifferent, without taking the trouble to consider that what we choose to denominate encouragement is thus, by its general application, rendered precisely the reverse. In a word, so far from being ashamed of the many disgraceful literary failures to which our own inordinate vanities and misapplied patriotism have lately given birth, and so far from deeply lamenting that these daily puerilities are of home manufacture, we adhere pertinaciously to our original blindly conceived idea, and thus often find ourselves involved in the gross paradox of liking a stupid book the better, because, sure enough, its stupidity is American.”