The Style Guide: On Whoopi Goldberg [Episode 36]

16 May 2016

Did you know that Dave’s favourite movie, in possibly the whole world, is Sister Act? I have decided that, by extension, that makes Whoopi Goldberg his favourite actor. Accordingly, he convinced me that it was a good idea to do an entire episode on her career. Profiling Whoopi Goldberg led us into the weird recesses of Dave’s mind as we discovered just what makes her [“The Billy Crystal of Acting”].

The Style Guide: On Zombie Movies [Episode 35]

09 May 2016

This week, Dave and I try to figure out what makes zombie movies work so well. We determine it has something to do with a fear of death, World War 2, or the overwhelming trend in the Western world towards consumerism. As always, it is hard to cover the entire genre in a brief podcast – and we missed talking about Pontypool altogether – but we give it the ol’ college try. Give a listen to this week’s episode, “The Zombie is the Working Class Vampire”.

Step Two

07 May 2016

Maciej Cegłowski:

If you’ve ever wondered why Facebook is such a joyless place, even though we’ve theoretically surrounded ourselves with friends and loved ones, it’s because of this need to constantly be wearing our public face.

I spend a great deal of time connected to thinkers and texts from centuries ago, trying to eke out meaning and insight – preferably of my own, but I often settle for glimpses of the same from the original authors. While I would like to think of myself as a philosopher, I am likely still just an academic who studies philosophy.1 In a lot of ways, I am rooted in the past.

But I have also long been interested in technology, both it as a theoretical construct and as a series of devices that loom over all the entirety of my life. It used to be that I considered these interests as wholly distinct from each other: one was my intellectual pursuit and the other was a casual hobby. That was, of course, a mistake, although it is an easy one to make, because all of my academic training has reinforced it. The rise of facile pop philosophy hasn’t exactly helped legitimize thoughtfulness when it comes to the Internet or smart phones.2 There are particular forms that philosophy, in order to be considered sufficiently philosophical, has to adhere to and topics that are legitimate. Everything else might be interesting, novel, and even worthwhile, but it can never be elevated to the status of philosophy.

There are any number of problems with this way of thinking, but lately I have been acutely aware of how it turns our attention away from the immediate in favor of some mythical and universal experience of being in the world. We ignore the problems of the now because they are only fleeting and unworthy of “serious attention”; to philosophize about the iPhone is beneath any true philosopher. Recognizing this is only the first step towards correcting the error. The second step involves finding and reading the people who have gotten out way ahead of us, so that we can try to bridge that gap between the world that we, as philosophers, live in, and the world that we, as human beings, live in.

This is not to suggest that A: people like Maciej are struggling to articulate themselves without traditional philosophy; or B: people are not already looking into technology and how the radically changed context we find ourselves in today has radical effects on the human being and our interactions with each other. The former, if it were a problem (it is not, especially in the case of Maciej), is not mine to solve. But the camp of folks in the latter category is not as big as it could be – and I think that philosophy, as a subject of academic study and a discipline itself, could learn a lot from them.

  1. I am still working on that.

  2. This is a point that I will get in trouble for at some point in the future. Let it be noted that I am both acknowledging that far in advance and that I don’t really care.

The Style Guide: On the Academy Awards [Episode 34]

02 May 2016

In an episode out of time (unless you think that we are absolutely terrible with timing things), Dave and I try to understand just what makes an Oscar contender good, and what makes an Oscar winner better than the contenders. In what is probably the least rigorous investigation that has ever been done on the subject, Dave and I cover maybe half a dozen movies. We also answer a much more important question: “What Is The Best Colour In The Universe?”

The Style Guide: On Movie Adaptations [Episode 33]

25 Apr 2016

Guess who’s back, back again.

It’s me. I’m the one who’s back. Wanting to bridge the gap between film and literature, Dave and I take on movies based on books – including graphic novels. We cover a pretty wide variety and still we don’t cover enough. In fact, we miss almost all the important adaptations. But at least we covered some graphic novels and talked about that one time where “Everyone Had All This Superman Baggage”.

The Style Guide: On Castaway-likes [Episode 32]

11 Apr 2016

Rounding out his all-star guest host cast with Theodore Sherman, Dave decided to pick a very strange topic for this week’s episode: movies that contain isolated castaways. So Lost doesn’t count, because it’s a group; and neither does Lost in Space, because it’s a family. One would think that it’s a very limited genre and one would be right. And, yet despite that limitation, Theo and Dave manage to knock this episode out of the park. Plus, we all get to hear the line “Oh No. His Potatoes Got Blown Up.” and I think the world is richer for it.

On Losing and Leadership

05 Apr 2016

The New Democrats lost the last election in a resounding fashion. Talk to organizers or campaign managers across the country and they will tell you about soft support and the moment they felt that they lost control of their campaign. The exact moment and the degree will differ, and there are even a few notable success stories – Saskatchewan and fortress Vancouver Island come to mind – but the overall story for the NDP is that 2015 was the party’s most devastating federal defeat. No amount of spin or rhetoric can change that reality. The question is then how they should react to that. This is not just a matter of electoral strategy, but also an existential one: what does it mean to be a New Democrat and why does the party exist?

Tom Mulcair offered a version that was to be the natural successor of the Liberal dynasty and, while it was somewhat unpalatable to the progressive wings of the party, it seemed to have a broader appeal to Canadians unsatisfied with Stephen Harper, but who were leery of trusting the Liberals to unseat his government. The New Democrats would be a middle way: close enough to the centre to expand their voter base, but left enough to remain connected to their roots. It was a difficult balancing act that was impressive to watch while it was working – and, of course, devastating to watch the stumble and fall. “Stop Harper,” indeed.

Now the party finds itself on unsteady ground in a very different political landscape. Where are they to go from here and how we they to get there should be the first questions that New Democrats should ask themselves. With the upcoming convention and leadership review in Edmonton there has been a lot of focus on Mulcair and whether he should stay on, but that presents the party with a simple binary when there needs to be a much broader debate about the NDP as a whole. With everything that has changed over the last year, the convention has to be more than a cathartic opportunity to vent frustrations. While it is certainly the case that Mulcair should offer his (presumably) new roadmap for the party and why it should be him that leads, it does New Democrats no favors for Mulcair to defend himself in a vacuum. There needs to be a convention where different visions of the party are presented, discussed, and contested. This is not something that I believe can happen effectively when the party is focused on a leadership review. Rather I think that there needs to be a leadership election – and one in which Mulcair stays on as one of the candidates.

As it stands, I do not know whether the party can find a viable leadership alternative to Mulcair – or if there is a better voice of opposition against the Trudeau Liberals – but regardless, even if the result was for him to stay on as leader, the debate would help (re)discover what New Democrats want the party to be. Granted it would be a show of weakness for Mulcair to have to defend himself in such a fashion and any number of think pieces would be written about the disarray of the weakened New Democrats, but the truth is that the party is weak right now. Instead of trying to save face and hide it they should embrace the opportunity that a stable, majority government provides and take that time to build into a stronger, unified, and coherent party.

The Style Guide: On Director's Commentaries [Episode 31]

04 Apr 2016

Still in absentia, Dave found yet another fantastic guest host for the show. This week, he and Missie Peters discuss their love for getting meta when directors, actors, and random strangers provide their commentary on films. We all want to see how the sausage gets made now, but Dave and Missie don’t eat meat so rather than calling their episode The Sausage Generation they decided to go with the “The Matrix Generation”.

One day, I will provide my own commentary on that episode to tell them all the things that I disagreed with. That episode will be called “The Sausage Generation”.

The Style Guide: On Bad Movies [Episode 30]

28 Mar 2016

I dropped off the face off the Internet with almost no warning whatsoever. As a result, Dave replaced me on the podcast with the charming Scott Thompson. Together they talked about why Scott likes bad movies and hates good ones. Check it out in “The World Progressed and the Movie Can’t”.

There is no Green revolt

07 Mar 2016

In April, Elizabeth May will be facing a leadership review that will assess whether she has enough support to continue serving as leader of the Green Party. This is a mandatory process that is initiated after a Federal election regardless of the results much like what is going on with the Tom Mulcair and the New Democrats. Unlike the NDP, there is almost no indication that the Greens have any interest in ousting their leader.

Green supporters have long had a complicated relationship with electoral results and so it is not altogether clear how they will respond to May’s performance last October. The Greens invested a great deal of effort in trying to elect strong candidates in both BC and Ontario, only to see a drop in their overall share of the popular vote. While it would be convenient to blame the Liberal wave, that hardly explains why Jo-Ann Roberts lost to Murray Rankin in Victoria or why seemingly strong candidate Gord Miller’s support in Guelph was so soft. These are precisely the kinds of questions that the Green Party will be asking themselves over the coming months and years as they plan for the next federal election. But before that, 20,000 party members will have to decide if Elizabeth May should be involved in that process at all.

May’s popularity is undeniable. Her debate performances were widely praised and she increased her share of the vote in her home riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands. Regardless of the party’s failings it seems unlikely that the membership will oust her, especially without any reasonable successor. This is a similar position that the New Democrats have put themselves, but, while there have been quiet murmurs of dissent regarding Mulcair, May has largely remained unopposed.

The only notable exception seems to be Colin Griffiths who resigned when a proposal of his was rejected by the very Green Party committee that he chaired. His plan was advocating for “a mechanism of wider discussion”. In itself, that sounds laudable enough, but what he is really asking for is an on the fly change to the Green leadership process to accomodate a perspective that appears to be overwhelmingly without support. It is popular to make vague appeals to the Internet as a magical forum for discourse and discussion. Especially in the wake of Trudeau’s leadership campaign. But the Green Party’s future is not going to be determined through ad hoc changes to a party constitution nor by hastily tossing a wide digital net. And this is a good thing.

Why? Because it is the approach that the Green Party itself decided on long prior to the recent federal election. Regardless of how one feels about the Greens or even Elizabeth May herself, it is hard to argue with allowing the membership to make its own decisions. Particularly in the case of the Greens who champion free votes and open debates in almost all of their affairs.

Perhaps there truly is a mutiny occurring in the Green Party, but if so it entirely soft-spoken and in the shadows because there is nothing to suggest that there is a widespread and growing opposition to the way that May and the Green leadership are handling the upcoming review. One might point to that very silence as troubling because it might be hiding all manners of discontent.

That, of course, would be absurd.