On: Grouphome work.

I left the grouphome for the last time this morning. The staff (most of whom I had never had the privilege to meet) pitched in and got me $40 in Tim Horton’s gift certificates (which was sweet, if not random). This gesture just makes me feel even guiltier about leaving (seeing as how they have yet to find a replacement for me). The tricky part is that most of my co-workers are immigrants with young families; filling in sleep shifts (when they are already working 70+ hours a week just to cover a skeleton crew) is impossible.

In Calgary, you can make more money working at Tim Horton’s than you can working in a grouphome. The result is that these homes are often dangerously understaffed. Who wants to deal with that shit (literally)? Who wants to deal with the low pay, the long hours, and never knowing how your day is going to go?

I’ve been doing this kind of work now for nine years, and probably 98% of that time has been incident free (the 2% occurring in the last year). I wrote my MA thesis while working in a grouphome. I have lasting friendships, with both staff and clients from working in grouphomes. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of tv. Though I have mostly posted my horror stories, the truth is that most of the nights I spent there were fine. Sometimes uncomfortable, but it gave me a homebase, complete with a shower, Internet connection and a nice bed.

I leave feeling conflicted and guilty about my privelege.

Western Ontario Gazette are Pro-Rape

I leave that as a statement.

This is from my friend Melanie Thomas‘s blog, and is directed at all of you who claim to be feminists,  but with the qualifier that “you know, not the kind that hate men.” AKA: being part of the problem.

From Anita:

The IDIOTS at the Gazette at the University of Western Ontario think that they are smart enough to come up with political satire on their own … yet, like spineless and unintellegent fools, this year their spoof has gone WAY to fucking far. Their spoof “Labia Majora Carnage” (a disgusting title in itself) make light of rape, women and challenges the idea that University’s might actually be centres of higher learning …

There has been outrage across Universities in Canada. Yet, these assholes’ (at the UWO Gazette) response was a not-so-articulate “get over yourselves” – because they actually think that this is good satire.

I have attached the original text, their response and a very well written facebook comment in response…

Labia Majora Carnage
by “Xavier”
Gazette Staff

Last night, local women hit the streets for the first ever Take Back the Nightie march.
The march was led by members of Western’s Women’s Issues Network, who, for the first time all year, left their circle in the University Community Centre, where witnesses claim they perform tribal dances and yell alienating slurs about pussies and cunts.
The march was organized because women were sick of wearing uncomfortable, soul-crushing lingerie for their boyfriends, lesbian lovers and partners whose gender aren’t identifiable.
“My vagina told me she hates thongs… they’re far too restrictive,” said Jennifer Ostrich, a vocal WIN member. “And what my vagina wants, my vagina gets. Nighties are far more comfortable and practical. They let my vagina be free to the world so she can speak out and say whatever she wants.”
Katie Conservative, another WIN member, said the march also aims to reclaim nighties from cross-dressing men who have bogarted white, crocheted, old-fashioned nighties for far too long.
“My vagina told me that for too long, men have taken things that are rightfully ours,” Conservative said. “Tonight we take back nighties just like we took back hairy armpits and stilettos, even though trannies are still trying to steal them too.”
Near the end of the march, chaos broke out when Ostrich’s vagina crawled from under flowing white nightie, stole a loudspeaker and went on a rampage.
“How dare you act like you know what I have to say,” the vagina screamed down Richmond Row.
“You don’t know me, bee-otch,” it squealed. “You can’t even see me through all this hair you’ve let over-grow. Think of me. I can’t even breathe down here!”
Upon seeing the chaos, London Police Chief Murray Faulkner stopped greasing his nightstick and intervened.
He grabbed the loudspeaker from Ostrich’s wild vagina and took it into a dark alley to teach it a lesson.
To Ostrich’s dismay, the vagina followed, giggling as it said, “I love it when a man in uniform takes control.”
Women were delighted to see groups of men standing on the sidewalks in support.
“It was so great to see men supporting us in our nighties and helping us to spread vagina peace and love,” Conservative said.
One man held a sign that read, “Yeah baby, I’ll take back your nightie anytime!”
What the marchers couldn’t see was that the men were using their penises as the beat off to the women in their long, flowing garbs.
“It takes a little imagination, but once you picture them without the nasty dreadlocks, the hideous piercings, the hairy pits and the beards, some of them are actually kinda hot,” said Cocky McFratboy, while taking a break from masturbating.
The event ended when a man sent WIN into a screaming, tribal frenzy by yelling, “You want an opinion! With a push-up bra, you could actually have a nice rack of lamb going on there!”

Talkin’ satire and the spoof issue

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It has come to our attention that some of the Western community is disappointed or even furious with last Friday’s Spoof Issue. Debate is occurring on some campus message boards and a protest is supposedly happening Thursday in the University Community Centre atrium at 1:30 p.m.

Some of these students, who belong to campus minority groups, feel they were negatively portrayed or were outright attacked in the Spoof Issue. Our response? Get over yourself.

Ninety per cent of satire will offend somebody. For the most part, jokes inherently involve making fun of something. Indeed, there’s a time and place for jokes. We believe The Gazette Spoof Issue is one of them.

The only thing more absurd than the Spoof Issue itself is the notion it was some convoluted scheme to indoctrinate Western with our heterosexual, misogynist, homophobic, racist, zombie-hating ideology.

Were we homophobic when publishing a story documenting different students’ sexual orientations and the stigmas they face in the university environment (Feb. 14, 2007)? Were we racist when covering Black History Month (Feb. 9, 2007)? Did we impede religious freedom when reporting on Islam Awareness Day (Feb. 7, 2007)? Were we sexist when tackling female professors’ struggles to shatter the glass ceiling (March 8, 2007)?

As is often the case in this extremely PC era, there’s a knee-jerk reaction to the first sign of something “negative.” It doesn’t matter how out of context the supposedly detrimental pieces are from the paper’s mission; it’s easier to strike quickly while charged with emotion than to thoughtfully consider the circumstances. Who cares what The Gazette publishes in 99 of its issues — it’s the one that looks like it should be sold in grocery store checkout lines that really matters, right?

Of course, even if our work is entirely in jest, critics say, we’re promoting a negative message for Western to blindly gobble up. But please don’t insult our readers’ intelligence.

Our readers will notice, for example, that there were social commentaries or criticisms of Western culture beneath some of the barbs tossed on Friday’s pages. Conversely, they’re smart enough to realize that, in many cases, there’s simply no point besides the absolute absurdity of the situation (if the zombie gracing the front page didn’t tip you off, perhaps the swarm of bees exploding from former University Students’ Council presidential candidate Josh Safer’s mouth did).

We’ve yet to receive a single letter to the editor bashing Friday’s Spoof Issue. Maybe, as it’s been written on a message board, most Western students “have become so jaded in terms of both The Gazette and the administration’s lack of action that few students are willing to even come forward to speak up against this any longer.”

Or maybe it’s just that most of Western’s religions, women, homosexuals, babies, god-like dictators, cyclists, student politicians, police, librarians, help groups, administration, squirrels, geese and zombies know a joke when they see one.


I should, for the sake of academic self-preservation, be working furiously on an essay of still-uncertain argument or getting a decent night’s sleep so I’ll be fresh for tomorrow’s slog, but Facebook procrastination has led me here and now I’m too angry to think about anything but the stupidity and callousness and cowardice of the UWO Gazette’s anonymous rape satirist and his defenders on the paper’s editorial board. I haven’t come close to reading everything that’s been written about the article in question or the editors’ response to the outcry against it, here or elsewhere. Excuse me if I repeat what others have already said. I apologize, also, if this reads a too much like a stuffy English paper: I’ve been working on stuffy English papers all day, every day for so long that I find myself using formal prose to order pizza and writing love letters in MLA style.

Let’s set aside “Labia Majora Carnage” (I feel gross just typing that title) itself for a moment and consider the paper’s response to its detractors. The Gazette’s editors, in their letter of April 4, try to have it both ways. On one hand, they defend their offensiveness by stating, more or less accurately, that “ninety per cent of satire will offend somebody” as it “inherently involve[s] making fun of something”, and puff themselves up as serious social commentators in noting the “criticisms of Western culture beneath some of the barbs tossed” in the April Fools’ issue. On the other hand, they suggest that everybody knows the issue is a silly romp and claim that “Labia Majora” is so obviously a playful exercise in pure “absurdity” that the “PC” killjoys who take their “joke” seriously “insult [their] readers’ intelligence”. How disingenuous. How slimy. Any halfway attentive reader sees that the article is intended as social commentary. Ugly, idiotic, utterly wrongheaded social commentary. I might find the paper’s reluctance to stand by it as such a little bit encouraging if I thought for a moment that they were feeling ashamed of what “Xavier” was saying about Western culture in their pages, rather than just scrambling to do damage control.

The editors do get one thing right: satire is about making fun of things. It is a form of discourse, a way of saying something. That it uses irony and humour is no reason not to take what it says seriously.

So what, then, does the author of “Labia Majora Carnage” seem to be saying?

1. That “Take Back the Night” (and, presumably, similar events that aim to raise awareness of sexual assault and violence against women) are silly and, by implication, that the problems they address aren’t as big a deal as feminists and others make them out to be.

2. That feminists (or, at the very least, feminist groups on the UWO campus) are cultish, contemptuous of men, and obsessed with their genitalia. Also, that their frank talk about their reproductive systems is “alienating”.

3. That women form irrational commitments because they’re women (“My vagina told me that…”, “What my vagina wants, my vagina gets”, etc.) Note–if it’s humanly possible to miss it–the author’s fixation on, and apparent revulsion at, the vagina.

4. That feminism (or, to give the author the benefit of the doubt, some form of radical feminism prevalent enough to be represented by a substantial campus group) aims to entrench a definite gender role (involving, in an unconventional mix of stereotypes, lacy nighties and stiletto heels as well as hairy armpits and pudenda) at the expense of gay and transsexual play with gender.

5. That the crazy, rampaging man-haters “Xavier” associates with anti-rape protests are in some sense out of control. (The editors’ complaints about excessively “PC” “minority groups” spoiling their fun make the same suggestion more subtly than the author’s personification of a protester’s vagina as a terrorist does.)

6. That male violence or the sexual domination of women or assertive masculinity–or anything that could conceivably be represented satirically as rape by an authority figure–is a desirable or at least satisfyingly amusing response to the above ‘problem’.

7. That jokes at the expense of rape victims are potentially funny. (This flippancy is related to the implication of 1. that the seriousness of rape, as a social problem if not as a crime, is overstated.)

8. That, much as women complain about rape, deep down some of them (most of them? all of them?) like it.

9. That men advocating feminist causes (or, anyway, male university students doing so) are mainly out to get laid. (Admittedly, this isn’t unheard of.)

10. That frat boys objectify women, masturbate lots, and can be really disgusting. (As a generalization, this seems fair enough.)

11. That deep down, women, even bushy-armpitted feminist activist types, not only appreciate but are sexually excited by displays of fratboyish objectification. (A less baldly misogynistic, but still pretty baldly misogynistic, echo of 8.)

With the exception of 10. and maybe 9., all of the above points are patently wrong, to varying degrees hateful of women, and for the most part inflammatory to victims of sexual assault. That they are made in series of (badly written, painfully unfunny) jokes makes them no less worthy of protest.

It’s not that I don’t get the joke. I get it all too well.

It’s not that I think rape or anything else ought to be off limits for satire. The failure of men in and out of power to recognize the enormity of rape as a social problem, for instance, and the effect that their routine trivialization of it as a mere “woman’s issue” or, worse, a punch line, likely plays in perpetuating the problem is a ripe and worthy target for satirists. I only reserve the right to call out boors or bigots when they use satire to say something contemptible.

It’s not that I take “Xavier” or the Gazette editorial board for cowards because they couch their views in satire. That’s fine. Rather, I’m convinced of their cowardice by the author’s decision to publish “Labia Majora” anonymously and the editors’ unwillingness to defend the article’s “criticisms of Western culture”, though they saw fit to publish it.

Serious people sign their names and say what they mean.

James Phelan
Procrastinator, feminist, guy who’s mad as hell and loath to take it anymore
Liberal Arts College, Concordia University

Vonnegut, RIP *

Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84 “His death was reported by Morgan Entrekin, a longtime family friend, who said Mr. Vonnegut suffered brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago. Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.”

Pouring my watercolours into the ocean…

Is there anything more demoralizing than “Heavy Snowfall Warning” in mid-April?

I quit my group-home job. After next week, I no longer need to spend time in what was turning into an increasingly putrid sleeping environment. One of the newer clients has this thing where he dips towels/face cloths/clothing/stolen baby diapers etc. in urine, then stretches it over his heating vent (after sneakily turning the heat as far as it will go).
His reason for doing this? He likes the smell.

I don’t like the smell.

I came on my shift last night and immediately threw up in my mouth a little, and ended up sleeping in the unfinished basement on an old couch they have down there to avoid the smell. I have four more shifts of that. I’m hoping to be gone before they release one of the other clients (the one that tried to punch a cop) from the asylum, as that adjustment is not going to go well.

Live Blogging: Seminar in Sociological Theory #13 – FIN

Last class of the semester!

Positive and critical program in Sociology.


Sociology is often uncomfortably seated between two poles of self awareness. One pole is consious self awareness that gives rise to a sense of control (“I am seeing the world”). Consiousness is the determining factor. “Master of the Ship” – “Seize your own fate!” The other pole is being determined by outside factors. You really don’t have a lot of control, and are acting out a shadowplay. Free Will / Self Determination vs. Outside determination.

Darwin, Marx and Freud are our masters of deception. Darwin: uniqueness of human species. Freud: Uncionsiousness – you think you know what you want, but you really don’t. Marx and false consiousness, what we know is infiltrated and we don’t see things correctly.

One of the constant themes in human culture are the gods that are always messing with gods, and then the humans who are able to transgress this boundaries (Demi-gods etc). In the 19th Century.

The conflict between the structure of minds (Levi-Strauss) that is re-enacted in the world vs. Sartre who believed in extistential freedom. We are finally free, at the cost of extistential lonliness. We are cast into the world. Found in the writings of Homans, and his conflict with Marx and coming up with the first in a series of attempts of seeing the human being as a rational character, social action being the product of economic calculations that people make as they weight costs and benefits. Consiousness being able to note. Surface theory because consciousness is not, in fact, false. Homans sees Marx as being smoke in mirrors. Some people want more than others, so lets divide it up like honest men. Homans – self determination. The version of Marx he is reacting against is the determined individual .

Parsons: we are acting out roles, as we are to fill the functions of society. The whole problem (to Durkheim): how do you get people to do the things that society needs to get done, and convince them that they want to do it (“motivated compliance”). Foucault – governmentality – how do you get people to want to be conducted this way.

Finally, we get to Bourdieu’s “Unchosen choices” – yes we are choosing (Bloomer is right!), but many of their choices are unchosen because they can’t choose them. Few of us are able to put into place principles of vision and dividsion. We inherit those principles.

For Foucault, these things are historically contingent. On the other hand, they go both ways; good and evil. At the end of his life, you get truth of the truth teller (“Fearless speach”). There is no problematic of the truth tellers perspective. It is holy untroubled.


Other way of summarizing:

(p.197) Latour: “if there is one social theory mistake, it would be to ask if baboons would be able to find roles within a structure.”

Its not our fault we were born into a dysfunctional family!


Lets spend the rest of the time talking about Tolstoy.

Foucauldian moment: the mob rule before Napoleon gets there : “All the horrors of the reign of terror in France were based on a need to keep the peace”

Predicts Bourdieu: Prince Vasselay “but influence in society is capital ” _those who get ahead, will be because their fathers advanced someone else. Not a sure thing.

Habitus: Prince Andre, riding his horse onto Hillside, playing toy soldiers with his army: thinking of it like a chess game: “This was his way of thinking” – while we, the readers were caught up in thinking along, we were also thinking that way. Important in not what we were not seeing. Habitus: each of us has or ways of thinking. As sociologists, we have a responsible to see how this excludes other ways of seeing. If there is a vocation for Sociology with an awareness of what you are not doing, and what the cost is, and are willing to pay the full cost, and therefore, the only way of seein

Anatole: What am I doing wrong? Its the way I have always been doing things. The embodyment of habitus – “every fiber of his being” – and how can what I need be wrong? Napoleon – extrodinary achievement/horrible destruction.

Pierre: absorbed in what lay ahead. The thing is impossible, not in an intrinsic difficulty, but because they have to work out of character, working out of habitus. It is agonizing,

Vasselay: Not planning ahead. Man of the world, turned success into habit (“Feel for the game”).

Rostov: “Couldn’t have said how or why he did it” – he “knew” that this would be their moment. This is feel for the game.

Illusio: the “good commander” needs to be narrow minded. Otherwise he would never have enought staying power, only then would he become a great commander. Knowing the stakes of the game: no one is as dangerous or productive.
Latour: Habitus is fine once we liberate it from Social Theory.


How is Tolstoy an ANT?

Descriptions of causes….explanations require that things have causes.

“Incalcuable multiplicity of causes…”

This is like Elias – the civilizing process. All of these causes come together with no single cause – they are bound to happen because… they are bound to happen. The human mind cannot grasp the full number of causes.

What do we do? One approach is reductionism.

There are some laws that we can comprehend, and others that are beyond our grasp. TO stop believing in the earth as a fixed entity. It means we understand anything as multiple, depending on how they are enacted.

Events that are always over-determined for Tolstoy, what kind of science can there be, that no-one can know in advance. Whatever happens depends on a range of conditions that no one can know… Hinterland? So many possibilities. You don’t know what is going to carry forward.

Each man gets what he wants; feels with every fibre of his being that he is free to do what he feels.

There are two sides of life for every individual: A personal life… and an “elemental life within the swarm of humanity” –

For Tolstoy, there is a balance: Neither is more important. Out of all this, we get emergence. No one ever predicted Napoleon, and no one worked it out ahead of time. It came about step by step (emergence), moment by moment. Emerging from unimaginably difference circumstances.

What sociology likes to do is postulate ideal types of actors, and attribute them to finite sets of possibilities. Instead of seeing them emerge moment by moment. Only then does it come to be what it was. Tolstoy renders much Sociology impossible, because you can’t know in advance. Follow entities, see how they come together. Go in, see what emerges.

The strongest case for emergence is the truth: the world wasn’t invented so sociologists can get their papers out on time. Pretend like the world was designed for us.

It is only when the army got there that people had convinced themselves as this is what they wanted all along. If we have to re-jig our notions, we understand it Its only looking back at Naziism, and say “it had to happen that way” – which is neither true nor false.

There is also a strong notion of leadership in W&P.

Neither experiences anything like the begining of event. General is always in the midst of events as they unfold… contemplate the significance as they take place. At any point in the carving out of events, the CEO FIND themselves in the midst of a complex interplay if intrigue and worry…. threats and trickery…. endless flow of contradictory commands…. the problem is that the stakes are high (life depends on it), you know the events are carving their own significance….

P.46 in Latour – moving target… swarming towards it. Gives us the courage to actually be able to see the entities swarming towards us at any moment…. the illusion of stabalization is the feeling that we have risen above, suggest there is some platform that can take us up there… What we should be doing is not reinforcing this notion of rising above, but to give people the courage to LIVE IN IT!!

Time and events will not wait.

Infestesimle elements. ..

Not yet covered….

Sociological Imagination: denial of the astronomical size of life. Wants to put up walls…

Even though Tolstoy insists there are knowable things… thousands of minor causes….colluding and coinciding with each other. What can you do?

Tolstoy treats War and Peace as a historical edifice….   If you read it as an ANT Study of the invasion of Napoleon in Russia… he is keeping it “flat” – refusing to posit any shortcuts which would be  explanations. Exploring all of the rest of London in all of this.

We decided what the interest is in advance, and that is all we see. We don’t see the personal concerns; No one who takes part in his