Julescosby's Blog

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Just Gimme Some Tooth

Posted by julescosby on November 4, 2011

Friends: I need your help.

You see, in a few days one of John Lennon’s teeth will be up for auction in London.  And I want it.  No I need it.

I need it because I lead an incredibly pathetic, empty life.  Over the years I’ve tried many things to mask the colossal void that lurks within: sex, drugs, religion all were non-starters.   In my darkest hours, I’ve resorted to blogging, but even this rather narcissistic form of mass communication (yes, by “mass” I mean 10 of my closest friends – 9 if you count Tim’s accidental refreshing of the page) isn’t enough to make up for my sorry shell of an existence.  I thought that nothing could lift me from the bowels of mediocrity: until now.

You see, I will never write “A Day in the Life” or “Happiness is a Warm Gun”.  I will never receive an Order of the British Empire, only to give it back in protest of policies of Empire.  I will never collaborate with David Bowie, or fight the US Immigration Department (and win).  I will never possess the gift of turning righteous anger toward social injustice into beautiful art. 

No, possessing the molar that once chewed on Mean Mr. Mustard and Strawberry Fields Forever is the only thing that will bring any sort of meaning to this utter waste of carbon standing before you.

You may say I’m a dreamer.  Yes, it’s true.  Only, my dream consists of owning a small 40 year-old piece of a dead man’s body.  And though John once called for “no possessions”, I’m sure this is the type of possession that he would gladly endorse.

So please, send your donation to me via Paypal, and help bring clarity and purpose to my pitiable, wretched existence. 

Wait, what’s this? You say that Yoko has kept some of John’s stool in the freezer all these years?

Friends, I need your help…

(With special thanks to Thesaurus.com)

Can't buy me tooth...oh wait.


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All Giller, No Filler

Posted by julescosby on November 13, 2010

Hey there folks, long time.

Let’s not dwell too much on the peculiar correlation between paycheques in one’s pocket and their lack of blog activity.  Rather, let’s focus on something of interest to those of us in who find ourselves part of the book world.  As many of you know, The Giller Prize was announced this week, and it’s proven to be an interesting few days for bibliophiles.

The Giller Prize is named for former Toronto Star literary editor Doris Giller.  In its 17-year history, it has been criticized for essentially being a Toronto club, with a revolving door of Hogtown judges and contenders.  This year, however, the committee looked east, far past the DVP to Nova Scotia.  The $50,000 prize went to Johanna Skibsrud for her Vietnam-themed The Sentimentalists.

On a side note, let’s all just accept that we’re going to struggle with her name.  It’s just so comical when stuffy, serious literary types try to ram it through so fast so you don’t know that they don’t know how to say it.  It’s okay, guys.  Just like it’s okay that you can’t say Roibos (seriously though, you haven’t Googled this yet? “ROY-BOSS”).

Menacing monikers and poor pronunciation aside, what followed in the aftermath of the Giller is something that might not a very Merry Christmas for Ms. Skibsrud make.

The gist of the problem is that the publisher of The Sentimentalists, Gaspereau Press, doesn’t fit particularly well into the mold of the modern book industry.  They have a unique system of production, one that emphasizes artisanal quality over industrial quantity.  And it is because of that lack of capacity for mass-runs that this book is in demand.  DE-mand.  Canada’s large retailers – one of which, it should be known, puts food on my table – are scrambling to find a way to convince Gaspereau to ramp up production so that Skibsrud’s name appears under every book-lover’s Christmas tree this year – and, of course, that the receipts appear in their bank accounts.

To be clear, however, it’s not that Gaspereau is outright refusing to publish more books, as some people have been lamenting.  It’s that they are trying to find a way to produce more books without cashing in on their principles, without bowing before the Leviathan that is the status quo of book publishing.

It’s easy to see the problem from the point of view of the retailer.  Our jobs depend not on a steady stream of titles throughout the year, but through massive tsunamis (aren’t you glad that word has entrenched itself in the English language?) like The Girl Who Yadda’d the Yadda Yadda or anything with Dan Brown’s name on it.  That The Sentimentalists will probably not make it to shelves in any sort of meaningfully quantifiable way before 25 December means that it is relegated to the trickle, and could very well be soon forgotten by the terribly impatient book-buying public.

I had intended to go into greater depth about art under capitalism, but that’s another story for another time.  For now, it’s a question of a publisher sticking to a principle, one that flies against the face of the way books are typically produced and sold in our society.  For Gaspereau’s view, I strongly suggest that you listen to their interview with Q’s Jian Gomeshi on CBC Radio from a few days back.  But there are those that still believe that they are unfairly treating Skibsrud, damming the stream of money that should rightfully flow to her by damning the system that would provide the moola.  But that’s not entirely fair, because despite this being a less-than-ideal situation, this is not their fault.

To illustrate my point, imagine a situation where every day on your way to work you buy a bag of peanuts and a lottery ticket with the numbers 1-2-3-4-5.  One day, however, you realize that you only have enough money to purchase one of the two, so you must choose.  You feel a slight rumbling in your tummy, so you opt for the peanuts.  The next day you realize that the winning numbers were 1-2-3-4-5.  You would have won hands down, but you didn’t buy a ticket.  No one would expect that you deserved the winnings from that ticket, and no one would fault the convenience store for not providing the award.

Please understand that I am not denigrating this woman’s accolades, or trying too hard to compare what was doubtless hours upon hours of grueling work to the chance of a lottery ticket.  My point is merely that this is not the fault of a publisher with an axe to grind.  And though I don’t believe we should venerate him, he has a very good point when he reminds naysayers that he published her in the first place.

The opportunity cost for Johanna Skibsrud will be enormous.  But she made that choice.  As a consolation, she gets the afformentioned $50,000.  And she will still sell a tonne of books, just maybe not a shit-tonne.

Still, kudos to Gaspereau for sticking to their guns, despite the wads of cash that have doubtless been waved in their faces over the past week.

There is a silver lining in all of this: The Sentimentalists is available in e-book form.  If you really want to read it, and you probably should if it’s as good as the Giller panel has made it out to be, you can do so electronically.  This means basically that nothing will be produced but 1s and 0s, and everyone from author to publisher to retailer will pocket some of the sticker price. Otherwise, sit back, chill out and wait for your copy.

Besides, you’ll still need to buy Christmas presents next year, right?

Famed Printing Press-inventor and perennial time-traveller Johannes Gutenberg, upon hearing of the Giller contoversy on his most recent arrival in the 21st century was quoted as saying: "Oh Mann, das ist ja mal Scheiße!, roughly "Oh man, that is shit times!"

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Blow Overblown

Posted by julescosby on May 17, 2010

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Children’s author snorts coke!”

I can’t stand news is made over drug-use by creative people.  Recently, Robert Munsch, author of such perennial favourites as Mortimer, A Promise is a Promise, and the tear-jerking Love You Forever, has found his name splattered all across the news, unfavourably placed beside the word ‘cocaine’.

Art, whether it’s to be found in the form of an oil painting or in a children’s book, is fundamentally what it always has been: a poēsis, a bringing-forward of something new into the world.  The individual – or in some cases the group – is the carrier of that novelty.  Some people can do this effortlessly; most people cannot.  To force a new artistic truth is to do just that, to force something, and it can take an awful lot of exertion and a terrible toll on the individual psyche in the process.

For this reason, we shouldn’t be surprised that some of the most creative people that this big ol’ dysfunctional family we call humanity has ever produced have used drugs in the creative process.

To elaborate: take as an example another member of the creative class, Aldous Huxley.  On the one hand, Huxley warns us about overmedicating ourselves, as we can see in Brave New World, but he was also an advocate of drug-use as a means to overcome the given state of perception.

From a scientific point of view, perception is strictly a quality of the individual.  But does anyone serious doubt that the social-historical framework in which the individual perceives has nothing to do with perception? The sun has always risen in the East, and set in the West.  It has always appeared roughly the same size as the moon.  But today, the words ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ are mere metaphors, and we know that the moon is a grain of salt to the Sun.

In any given society, there is an order of the sensible that precedes the individual.  It’s not rational; it’s not necessary; it just is. Creative people can see past the given state of affairs and they can force new truths despite of it.

Of course, there are people – creative and not – who take drugs too far, just as there are people who drink too much, or those who eat too much.  There are problems in the world, but the problems aren’t caused by the drugs themselves.

Often in the drug debate the Harm Principle is appealed to.  If someone’s drug use is seriously causing harm to others, then there is a problem.  However, the reverse rarely applies: if someone’s drug use is benefiting people, then there is a net benefit and hardly a problem at all.

So Robert Munsch and Steven Page snort coke,
So John Lennon shot smack,
So Bill Clinton smoked weed (but naturally didn’t inhale),
So Freud partook of the morphine,
So Socrates was taking something wacky at Delphi,


I’m not saying drugs are the answer: For most of society, they aren’t.  In a perfect world, we would see drugs not as a problem, nor as a solution.  Until that world arrives, when it comes to the drug-use of the creative class, let’s try to keep our noses out of their noses.

"If you don't inhale, how the hell you gonna get HIGH?"

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