Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You can't choose what you're famous for in life.

I don't know who the hell Dave Kellett is, but he said that.

Apparently, this is his work.

Lisa Marie Presley recently released an album.  I've heard one track, and I liked it.  And what I've heard about the album is positive.  Jakob Dylan was and is in a band called the Wallflowers.  Back in the 90s, they released Bringing Down the Horse which contained "One Headlight" and "6th Avenue Heartache", and they contributed a pretty bitchin' cover of a David Bowie tune to the Godzilla soundtrack.  Ziggy and Damien Marley are fairly accomplished musicians in their own right; Damian has three Grammys under his belt, and contributed to the "supergroup" SuperHeavy last year, and Ziggy has released around 20 albums.  Julian Lennon has released six albums to date, and has had at least one major hit with "Too Late for Goodbyes".

These are extreme examples, to be sure.  The success of their parents can't help but eclipse the success of these children, unless they go into another field (one of Bob's sons, Rohan, played pro football), or change the game completely (thus far I can think of no examples).  The phenomenon seems largely limited to music, though.  I can't think of any famous writers whose kid(s) tried their hand and succeeded less.  Actors often succeed as much or more than their parents (Kate Hudson's done all right.  And I'm sure that Lon Chaney Sr. was quite proud of Lon Jr.)  Politics is also fond of heredity, even in democracy (I still can't believe the success of the Bushes.)  And athletics actually seems to foster (usually) father-son relationships.  Particularly baseball (see Griffeys and Ripkens).

A notable (possible) exception to this rule is Norah Jones.  Ravi Shankar is a legend, and it looks like Norah's on track to be as well.

I'm not planning on weeping for the offspring of musical legends.  I suspect their childhoods are hard, certainly harder than mine was, for several reasons: familial instability, travel, drug abuse, and the media spotlight.  But there are compensations.  Being shockingly wealthy, for instance.  Or, if you choose to pursue music, you already know producers and musicians and writers and journalists and executives and other people who are likely willing to give you a chance.

But it's interesting to note the parallels between the children of legends and their careers and the careers of legends after the legend is over.  Damian Marley is a successful musician, by any measure.  He has had commercial and critical success, and he has the respect of other legendary musicians.  But he will never be his father.  Wings is a successful band by any measure.  They have had critical and commercial success (as well as an Academy Award nomination).  But Wings will never be the Beatles.

Having famous parents is clearly a double-edged sword.  Breaking into the arts is easier, but the comparisons will not favour you.

Politics is the only safe place to follow in you parents' footsteps.  But even that's not a sure thing.  Look at the Skywalkers.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A cult is a religion with no political power.

That's Thomas Wolfe.

Michael Coren and Christina Blizzard may not quite be liars, but their columns this week wouldn't recognise accuracy if they passed it on the street. This is not exactly new.  They thrive more on indignation than accuracy.

They do get one or two things right.  First, homosexuality is not the leading cause of bullying in schools.  It's body image.  This would be more important if the Minister of Education were claiming anything different.  I don't think many are bullied for their religion.  If they are, Catholics would be way down on the list.  Particularly middle aged Catholic converts.  Second, the Ontario government has no business telling the Catholic Church what it can and can't believe.  If the government were telling the church to stop preaching hate against the LGBT community, I'd stand beside Michael Coren in condemning this.

So even the things they do get right, they manage to get wrong.

It's true that the government has introduced legislation dictating that Gay Straight Alliances be allowed.  But that's the end of it.  The government has no control over the pulpit, and the church ought to have no control over Queen's Park.

This is a symptom of a much larger problem in Canada (though not uniformly).  The BNA guaranteed Christian religious minorities a provincial-run religious school system.  In what is now Ontario, Catholics were given schools.  In Quebec, Protestants were protected.  I'm sure this seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn't.  It's an especially bad idea now.

I have no problem with the Catholic church saying whatever it wants about gay kids (although any claims to a moral high ground when it comes to sex seem disingenuous at best).  It can say that God hates them and they're going to hell.  It can say that they are abominations.  It  can say that they are choosing to be bullied and persecuted.  It's nonsense, but so is the rest of their doctrine.

Publicly funded schools, however, can't say that.  I don't think that private schools should be able to, either, but I understand that they can.  Publicly funded schools are accountable to the public.  The public has decided that gay is okay.  Our schools should reflect that.  Catholic educators in Ontario need to decide which is more important: the catechism or the money.  They can't have both.

This is not a question of religious freedom.  When Coren and Blizzard say so, they are lying.  This is a question of funding, and of gay rights (read: human rights).

The solution is obvious.  The only question is whether Ontario's politicians or bishops will be brave enough to implement it.

Friday, June 1, 2012


You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

The world is a scary place.  It's dirty, loud, sexy, overwhelming and violent.  It has always been violent.  It will always be violent.  Nature is violent, and as much as we'd like to separate ourselves from it, and kill it off around us, we are part of nature, and are ourselves violent.

We are not, however, getting more violent.  In fact, in the West, the stats would argue that we are getting less violent.

Despite internet videos showing a dude killing and dismembering another dude, and then mailing pieces of this dude about the nation, despite a couple kidnapping and killing a little girl, despite a guy eating bath salts and then a human face, the world is not getting any more scary.  And I think we need to keep calm and carry on.

I agree that this Magnotta thing is gross, gruesome, gory and ghastly.  I agree that the Tori Stafford thing was horrible, horrifying, harrowing and hideous. (I've got my alliteration hat on today.)  But, to quote the Barenaked Ladies, Everything Old is New Again.  There is nothing new under the sun.

We need to get a grip.  Horrible killings are not that uncommon.  City squares in Saudi Arabia have drains in the centre to assist in cleanup after public beheadings.  Drug dealers have given us the Columbian necktie.  Landmines are designed not to kill troops, but to maim them, because caring for injured troops drains military resources.  The US, who are ostensibly supposed to be the Good Guys, gave us Gitmo and used waterboarding liberally.

Horrible killings are not new.  We've worked hard to come up with really great ways to kill each other.  Creative, innovative ways, to make dying take a long time, and be really painful while it's happening.  And while the internet is fairly new, finding ways to share how nasty we are is not.  We've all seen medieval woodcuts depicting the Inquisition, or hell.  If they had had google images during the Dark Ages, they'd have passed these scenes around:
Look, I'm not saying these events aren't horrible.  I'm not saying they're not scary.  I'm not saying don't be offended.  But we really nead to dial this public hysteria back a little bit.  Most of us are grownups.  We can handle this.  And panicky horror is not the way forward.  I doubt we'll ever be rid of the lizard brain that makes us violent.  I don't think we'll evolve past being horrible to each other.  At root, we are primates.  Smart, hairless, languange- and tool-using, but primates still.  And primates are animals.  But we can be better to each other.  We can be humane, as well as human.  "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" as Browning put it.

At root, I have faith in us.  Sure, we invented Zyklon B, jeggings and lolcats.  But we also came up with sonnets, calculus, pecan pie, soccer and The Blues.  We have found amazing ways to be horrible to each other, and amazing ways to justify it, but we also have humanism, justified with or without faith.

Magnotta is a monster.  But he's not that exceptional.  He's sick.  I don't even think he's evil.  And even if he is, evil is banal.  It's common.  And it's natural.