Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Business As Usual in the Imperium Americanum

How to Apply the "Harris Formula":

Famed Irish actor and raconteur Richard Harris loved to tell a story that illustrates how (as he put it) "the British take the best" out of those who hail from their imperial fringes and "throw the rest away".

Harris had appeared on the British stage and screen for over a decade when he won an award at the 1964 Cannes festival for his role in This Sporting Life. The British press announced the good news with the headline, "British Actor Wins Cannes Award". When, a few days later, Harris got into a bar fight, the same press announced, "Irish Actor Involved in Brawl". He tells the story here, from 2:12 to 3:15 (watch the rest of the clip if you want to hear Harris tell one of his famous tales involving Peter O'Toole, yet another Irish actor whom the British claimed as one of their own when it suited them).

I was reminded of Harris' wry observation when I read the Yahoo headline about this year's Razzie Awards on Sunday. The Razzies, a parodic anti-Oscars designed to "celebrate" the worst cinematic performances of the year, awarded Worst Picture to The Love Guru, ill-starring Mike Myers. By all accounts, the award was richly deserved. I was struck, though, by the Yahoo headline: bizarrely, it stated, "Canadian Movie Voted The Worst". A day later, Yahoo removed the story, leaving an "error" page in its wake.

Now Mike Myers, though Canadian-born, has lived and worked in America for over fifteen years and is about as Canadian as Peter Jennings. That is why the American press fastidiously avoided describing Myers' huge box-office hits like Wayne's World, Austin Powers or Shrek as "Canadian movies", just as it has never mistaken James Cameron's movies for "Canadian" products, just as it would never describe massively popular TV phenomena like 24 or Battlestar Galactica as "Canadian", even though both feature largely Canadian casts and though the latter show is filmed almost entirely in Canada.

Apparently, Hollywood productions featuring Canadian ex-pats are "American" when they are excellent and gross millions of dollars and are "Canadian" when they suck and lose millions of dollars. The Harris Formula, then, still applies: the empire takes the best out of us, and throws the rest away. It's a formula that has endless applications. To wit:

1) Canadian-made General Motors vehicles shall be considered "American" if they provide years of safe, reliable service and "Canadian" if they need frequent, significant or expensive repairs;

2) Joint U.S.-Canada NATO operations in Afghanistan shall be considered "American" if they succeed and "Canadian" if they fail;

3) American-made firearms smuggled into Canada shall be considered "Canadian" when used in the commission of criminal offences and "American" when used by little old ladies to fend off burglars and purse-snatchers;

4) North American weather patterns shall be considered "American" when they provide clement conditions and "Canadian" when they cause storms, tidal waves, hurricanes and other climatic nuisances.

Mind you, the Harris Formula can operate in reverse, as America seems all too ready to take our worst. Unbelievably, in an act either of selfless courage or of suicidal recklessness, they were willing to take custody even of Rachel Marsden. The application of that particular cultural laxative may be worth, alone, every bit of imperial insolence we take from them.

"Benz? Shmenz!":

Why do the media insist on reporting Barack Obama's stated belief that Americans invented the automobile as a "gaffe"? Sure, Benz and Daimler patented and produced German cars decades before an American equivalent appeared, but pointing that meaningless factoid out is precisely the kind of petty, pedantic, knee-jerk anti-Americanism that emboldens the terrorists and puts the West in serious jeopardy.

Clearly, too many over-educated, élitist journalists still don't get it: "reality" does not mean "stuff that actually happened, is happening or will happen"; it means "stuff that Americans make up in order to feel messianic, omnipotent and omniscient". If Americans had rooted their culture in a respect for facts and reason, they'd still be a Sabbath-honouring populist republic with a small citizen militia, an ethic of Puritan moderation and a loathing for unearned wealth, privilege and military interventionism--in other words, semi-socialist losers.

Obama's delusional grandstanding is moved by precisely the kind of Nietzschean self-glorification and ass-in, knees-up, balls-out fanaticism that has made America great. Facts are needed only by people who don't have the guts to believe in lies, which is why Obama's countrymen feel that Canadians and their history deserve each other.

Bonus American Superhumanity!:

On Tuesday, Bobby Jindal, thirty-seven-year-old governor of Louisiana, delivered the Republican response to Obama's address to the nation. This opportunity to rehabilitate the battle-scarred GOP with a young face and fresh voice turned into a poisoned chalice for Jindal, as he disgorged what even friendly critics have described as one of the worst speeches ever delivered by a major American political figure. Jindal's self-authored fiasco appears to have dealt blunt-force trauma to what were realistic chances of competing in the GOP's 2012 primaries and then strangled them with a length of piano wire for good measure.

That's a shame, because the speech is comic gold. The son of immigrants, Jindal relates how his parents were filled with the "immigrant's wonder at the greatness of America". He told his audience how his Indian father had seen "extreme poverty" and how the old man was awe-struck when he saw the "endless variety on [grocery store] shelves" without mentioning that his parents came to America as graduate students enrolled at Louisiana State University--rather than as illiterate peasants with but two dollars in their pockets between them--and that Baton Rouge could have shown his father plenty of poverty and hordes of people unable to afford the grocery-store cornucopia he so admired if he had dared to ever wander far enough beyond the safe, middle-class enclave he settled in.

Throughout his speech, Jindal's refrain was, literally, "Americans can do anything". Yes, perhaps the man is just a Jim Morrison enthusiast. More likely, though, he was carried away by that peculiarly American fashion of being a Christian--namely, by refusing to rely on faith in the (allegedly) All-Mighty and, cutting out the middle-man, acting as their own miracle-maker--their own God.

Hey, as long as that bloody "Buy American" clause doesn't prevent Canadian firms from bidding on the inevitable Tower of Babel and Golden Calf construction procurements, it's all good!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

"Laureen! Fetch the Knee Pads, Dear: The President's Here!"

Barack Obama begins his historic "Who's Your Daddy?" world tour with a six-hour stop in Ottawa--a sojourn which has been described as far too brief but which will, in fact, give the presidential couple plenty of time to achieve their three top objectives: scoring some cheap Manolo Blahniks at the Sparks Street Holt Renfrew, stopping by the nearest ByWard gift store to grab some plastic Mounties and faux-Inuit crap for the kids, and pretending to give a shit what Stephen Harper thinks (in roughly that order).

Even as I type, both leaders are doubtless glancing over last-minute memoranda in advance of the august event. For Obama's staff, the key question is whether Harper will spit or swallow. This is a crucial issue, since it has been bi-national protocol, at least since Pearson, to ensure that someone on the President's team has a handkerchief handy in the event that seminal residue needs to be wiped off the prime minister's chin before the joint press conference. Control freak that he is, Harper has likely already signalled his intentions in this regard. Let's face it: the man's waistline bears eloquent testimony to his utter inability to resist swallowing whatever comes within cake-hole range, and I trust he'll relish the clean-living, entrepreneurial, non-socialist outpourings of Obama's fine American manhood.

As for Harper's team, there is still much to do: someone must tactfully warn Rob Anders against referring to Obama as a "kaffir"; Laureen must be reminded not to ask Michelle to hang out the laundry; Harper must be talked out of his ill-advised plan to bridge the cultural divide by wrapping his arm around the president and hustling him into a Mulroneyesque duet of "Fuck Tha Police". And time is running out.

We all know that virtually nothing of substance will occur in Ottawa tomorrow, but I thought it might be useful to describe that nothingness in more detail. Here, then, are just two of the many important things that will not be discussed during Stevie and Obama's brief encounter:

1) Cross-Border Security:

This issue comes up only when American politicians feel the need to press upon their Canadian counterparts their chronically paranoid and hysterically bogus concerns about licentious, Commie Canada sending terrorists and cannabis across the "porous" border to cause grief for law-abiding Americans.

Meanwhile, we Canadians are forced to marinate in the humiliating certainty that the people we over-pay to guard our interests are far too polite to remind their American equivalents that the U.S. is virtually the Master of Ceremonies of Canadian street-level crime--being its de facto armoury as well as the inspiration and HQ for most of our branch-plant street gangs. The result, Americans get to belly-ache smugly and self-pityingly about non-existent terrorists sneaking across the border, while we get to witness daily killings, robberies and rapes committed with American guns by "thugs" driven by specifically American notions of prestige and power. Even American network television (which seems to become sicker and more debased with every passing year) has become deadly.

Rest assured that Harper and the entire Canadian Right would reflexively blame the inherent "illiberalism" and "primitivism" of radical Islam if a bunch of Arab-Canadian youths wearing T-shirts with the silk-printed image of Muqtada Al-Sadr were to engage in a beheading rampage tomorrow. But blame America simply because Canadian kids are forming local chapters of the Crips and the Bloods, carrying Tec-9 semi-automatics, and spending their weekends doing drive-bys just like their American heroes? Perish the thought! Lighten up, dude: it's all in good fun...

2) Omar Khadr:

Forget that the charges against him are considered ludicrous by virtually every responsible authority, that his American lawyer--a soldier--cannot believe the boy was ever imprisoned in the first place, that Khadr has rotted in a prison cell for over five years for most likely not killing someone when he was fifteen years old, whilst Bernard Madoff, an adult millionaire who has killed two people so far and who has ruined thousands of other lives, enjoys "house arrest" in his luxury penthouse amid an opulence totally beyond the dreams of people who actually work for their livings (exposing American "justice" in all its repugnant vileness as it has rarely been exposed before).

Think of this only: would Harper not, at least, want to hear Obama's explanation of why an FBI agent perjured himself during his testimony at Khadr's trial? The implications here are immense: the agent, an officer of the United States government, uttered a transparent falsehood designed to smear, not Khadr, but Maher Arar--a man who was cleared of any and all charges by a Canadian Parliamentary inquiry, the findings of which were accepted without reservation by Harper and his government.

What are we to make of the fact that Harper seems incurious about the anatomy of this outrage? Does he simply assume that FBI agents and other American security officials are inveterately corrupt and routinely lie, even under oath? If so, should we see in this assumption surprising and heart-warming evidence that Harper isn't quite as gullible and stupid as he seems, and should that realisation dampen the rage we naturally feel at the thought that Harper is willing to subordinate Canadian interests to the whims of a foreign national security bureaucracy he knows to be corrupt?

Perhaps some brave journalist will bring these matters up, after the press corps flunkies exhaust their probing questions about Obama's pectorals.

Obamamania Update!

Fascinating. The Canadian Press avers that "crowds [were] relatively sparse" immediately prior to Obama's arrival in Ottawa--with police and crowd-control elements apparently outnumbering spectators--while Reuters insists that over three thousand Obamamaniacs lined the streets in order to get a glance at His Most High Obamaness.

Whom to believe? Let's put it this way: the Reuters piece says that Obama's fans had to brave "freezing temperatures and snow" while waiting for him on Parliament Hill. Chaps, I live within hearing of the Peace Tower chimes, and I've just been out: for a late February day, today's high was balmy (hovering comfortably around 1 degree Celsius), and the only snow is on the ground--and it's melting fast.

Methinks the Reuters team is getting its information from a reliable source whose vantage point is a barstool at the Heart and Crown. Clearly, the intent is to turn this event into an American lullaby: "Everything's back to normal, folks. We really, really like you again". Please.