Sep. 7th, 2006

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2004's Saved! is a film satire of the environment of a Christian high school as experienced by student Mary (Jena Malone), who finds herself an outcast after she becomes pregnant through a failed attempt to convert her gay boyfriend back to heterosexuality. (Visions are convincing, it seems.) Mary's struggles to build a new life for herself, outside f blind faith and with her new friends among the school's outcasts, were quite funny besides being authentically moving. Mandy Moore does an excellent job portraying her character of Hilary Faye, an enjoyably intense and conflicted character who tries to reconcile her position as the American Eagle Christian School's queen bee with her faith ("I am filled with Christ love!", she screams as she throws a Bible at Mary's back). It's always a joy to see Mary-Louise Parker in any role, here as Mary's mother. All said, this film worked for me.

That's not to say that this film left me a bit uneasy. Perhaps it's because both the conservative orthodoxy and its liberal critiques reminded me of the contentions of Asia Times' Spengler (1, 2, 3) that American Christianity was degenerating into mawkish sentiment without structure. Perhaps it's because I'm not personally familiar with American Christian subcultures and can't claim personal knowledge of the environments and personalities that this film describes, or because I'm not sure that the shots that Saved! takes are that fair. It might even be that Saved!'s subplot, of the romance of Mary's friends Roland, Hilary's wheelchair-bound cynical brother, and Jewish juvenile delinquent Cassandra might have made for a more interesting A plot than Mary's pregnancy. These are all serious caveats, none of them serious enough to keep me from recommending the film, granted, but all issues that viewers will have lurking in the backs of their minds.
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The idiosyncratic vision Canadian journalist John D. Harbron's 1977 Canada Without Québec (General Publishing: Don Mills, Ontario) impressed me when I first read it as a teenager. It still does, with its contention that a Québec fortified by the success of its Quiet Revolution is inevitably going to become a nation. An independent Québec would not only be economically viable but a major force in the Francophone world and in the Americas, following the path of its sister republics in Latin America. If Harbron is too ready to embrace the state-led protectionist economic policies of Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela in the 1970s as models for independent Québec and the rump Canadian state, these were errors typical of the times. Canada Without Québec is generally a smart critical look at the future of the northern North America by a smart man. If only Canada Without Québec hadn't included chapter 6, it would have been a classic in its own right.

What is in chapter 6? "Canada without Quebec" begins intelligently enough, noting that while independent Québec will have a strong sense of nationhood, the rest of Canada will be left at a loss. It won't be at risk of collapsing entirely, since most of Canada will remain part of the Canadian function, but Harbron wonders if Canadian institutions and the Canadian imagination will be up to the task of confronting new challenges. With the contemporary vision of Trudeau's bilingual Canada gone, what will happen to Canada? Harbron's suggests "[a] deterministic plan for development and growth in the North and Arctic," comparable to those "being used by the Brazilians in their huge Amazon territory, and by the Venezuelans in their Guyana industrial complex" (136).

Harbron, most unfortunately, was inspired by Canada's notoriously bad pulp fiction writer Richard Rohmer and his plan for "Mid Canada Development." Rohmer's Mid Canada was a region roughly corresponding to Canada's boreal forest, a region of a couple of million square kilometres covering parts of Labrador and northern Québec, Ontario north of Lake Superior, most of the northern Prairies and British Columbia, and even large chunks of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Rohmer believed that this territory was potentially wealthy and ready for massive development, with new cities and ports connected by new roads and communications technologies to the rest of Canada.

If Canada is going to define long-range plans to serve her domestic needs, she will have an excellent model in Brazil--another huge western nation which, like Canada, is searching for new directions, although admittedly under the unsavory rule of its army and conservastive technocrats. The recent spectacular growth of Brazil as an export nation demonstrates the effectiveness of a strong economic strategy.

The Soviet Union's successful development of its north is another example positively cited by Harbron, who clearly had no idea of the factors involved in The Siberian Curse. I raised the subject of Rohmer's absurdly developmentalist plans on soc.history.what-if a while back. The general consensus was that, if ever implemented, it would bankrupt Canada. This isn't all.

A dynamic western Canada, which has chafed under the pre-secessionist division of power in favor of the east (Ontario and Québec), will demand parity in the post-Québec Canadian nation. I visualize Alberta and not Ontario as the new seat of the federal government.

I propose that Edmonton be considered for the new federal capital. Edmonton is a Brasilia of the north, a city symbolically located between the southern industrial sector and the Arctic frontier. It is alreayd the jumping-off point for the Arctic, and would be a logical site for the Canadian equivalent to the Soviet GLAVSEVMORPUT, if such an agency should be established. It was originally laid out as a large frontier community, and already has the administrative machinery of a provincial capital (150-151).

"Brasilia of the north." Gaia wept.

Canada Without Québec is a worthwhile product of its times, but it's still definitely a product of its times. Harbron's analysis of the Canadian situation is still worth reading, but the recommendations that Harbron draws from his analysis are so catastrophically flawed, so visibly the product of times less cognizant of basic environmental and economic constraints, as to provoke hilarity.
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Continuing the theme of yesterday's post on Alberta's attraction of migrants from across Canada, my hometown paper, The Guardian of Charlottetown in Atlantic Canada, is today carrying a supplement promoting out-migration to western Canada.

A glossy recruiting magazine carried in Wednesday’s edition of The Guardian offers 52 pages of evidence about the eagerness of western Canadian employers to attract workers from the east.

MoveWest, a publication originating with the CanWest MediaWorks website, appeared in daily newspapers across the region, carrying 83 ads from operations hoping to recruit workers for the labour-hungry economies of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

[. . .]

Alberta Human Resources and Employment Minister Mike Cardinal is quoted in the magazine as predicting his province will need 86,000 new workers over the next decade. Meanwhile, P.E.I. struggles to bring its unemployment rate below 10 per cent.

One economist interviewed by The Guardian suggests that "skilled workers and tradespeople" will be particularly likely to respond.
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The only Ultravox I'd heard until recently was their powerful song "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes".

It's five and I'm driving home again
It's hard to believe that it's my last time
The man on the wireless cries again
It's over, it's over

I'm rather fond of British New Wave, but it's never a good thing when a particular genre of popular music has so many songs about nuclear war. It's also never a good thing when the output of an important and prolific group gets reduced to a single song, as I've found out recently thanks to [ profile] feorag's advice and help. I think that I rather like Ultravox. Thanks, and happy birthday, [ profile] feorag!
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