Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just because my blog isn't updated doesn't mean I haven't been writing

Well, it looks like I've completely ignored my own blog for many months. The reason partly is that, in a not-so-selfless bid to get more readers, I started writing for a friend's website, a sort of multi-person blog, at

So, check out that site to see my latest stuff, along with some other people's writing. And if you feel so inclined, join the site and contribute, or just comment on what you see. The web is sooo interactive, eh? It's like true democracy (not really).

To go straight to my articles, since, if you came to my blog you must be looking for my writing, click here.

Also, to check out the new issue of Memewar Magazine, in which I have a featured short story (a very dirty short story) and an essay about the story, click here to see the pdf. of the issue. The theme was "obscenity". Intrigued?

Well, that felt good. I missed my blog. And I hereby solemly swear to update it more often.

Your humble servant,
Matthew William Hogan

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lazy Post

If you're interested in a story and a (sort of) poem of mine, check out The Liar blog. I didn't even realize a piece of my fiction and (not-really-a) poem were on the web. Turns out, they were (I should Google myself more often).

Enjoy, yo.

Friday, May 2, 2008

MAWO, Ivan Drury, and Me

In case you don't know, Ivan Drury is the guy who defected from the hardcore anti-war group FTT (Fire This Time), an organization that includes the perhaps more recognizable Vancouver anti-war group MAWO (Mobilization Against War and Occupation). You might know MAWO from its regularly scheduled protests at the Vancuver Art Gallery, and its posters displaying fill-in-the-blank headings like "All Troops Out of (insert country's name here)" and "Self-determination for the People of (insert country's name here)", etc. The interchangeable regions include Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Darfur, and Palestine.

I personally know MAWO from my days at Capilano College, where CSAW (Capilano Students Against War), another FTT sub-group, had a strong (and annoying) campus presence, not to mention near majority control of the Capilano Student Union. However, the CSU voted this term to officially sever its intimate ties with MAWO. They can still organize on campus, but it means no more privileged treatment for the group.

As far as MAWO's members went, to me they seemed robotic and frightened. Given their rigidly ideological and simplistic world-view they made no distinctions between the oppression of Indigenous people in Canada, the Western opposition to communist Cuba, the Israel/Palestine conflict, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and possible one in Iran), and all international interventions, say, anywhere in Africa. In other words, all the problems in the world are due to Western Imperialist Aggression. And the solutions? Keep the West from intervening anywhere for any reason.

And so MAWO holds its apparently-just-for-show rallies each month, complete with placard-waving, slogan-chanting, and rhetoric-drenched speeches. The fact that such anti-establishment protests are tolerated simply means that they're not really anti-establishment at all. The establishment tolerates it just fine. They are absolutely no threat to "the system". Two of these protesters' biggest enemies - George Bush and Stephen Harper - would be the first to applaud them for demonstrating their "right to public protest" and their "freedom of speech". Bush and Harper can feel secure knowing that the people who oppose them most are wasting their time screaming in the streets - annoying other citizens and turning them off of more moderate, sensible activism - instead of engaging in mainstream politics, which is where the power to change things actually is.

I had written my first article for my college paper - The Capilano Courier - criticizing MAWO for all the above reasons, but I had no idea how truly messed up things are in the group until recently. Ivan Drury confirmed my worst suspicions.

Ivan started a blog titled "Against Exceptionalism" in February of this year detailing the brutal cult-like practices of MAWO and FTT (headed by the group's alpha-tyrant, Ali Yerevani), and Ivan's own four-year long complicity in them.

Rather than re-explain myself here, I'll just make this link to a comment I left on his blog, to which he responded in a email. I responded to that email and subsequently gave him the okay to post our exchange on the blog as well. The ball's in his court at the moment, and he's promised to reply again soon.

Our minimal exchange has left me even more disillusioned about extreme Leftist activists, particular those who call themselves Marxists. You'll understand why if you read my comments on Ivan's blog.

By total coincidence, and to my surprise, Ivan and I both read at the Memewar Magazine's Shortline Reading series at the Railway Club last Tuesday, and so I got to meet him in person. Unfortunately, Ivan missed my reading early in the evening, but I did catch his not-so-subtle Marxist poetry, which employed the even-less-subtle device of having a partner-in-poetry yell out a portion of the poem from the audience. Going with my most cynical interpretation of this tactic I'd say that he was trying to match the radicalism of his politics with an equally "unconventional" (or gimmicky) reading stunt. I'll show those petty-bourgeois what the real hardcore is.

But I'm being a bit harsh. I'm also somewhat pretentious on stage. At this particular reading I couldn't help but quote Northrop Frye, who, as I told the crowd, is an important Canadian literary critic that nobody cares about anymore. He's a bit of an intellectual obsession for me, as most people who know me already know. Anyway, the quote was this: "The pursuit of beauty is much more dangerous nonsense than the pursuit of truth or goodness, because it affords a stronger temptation to the ego."

My point was that in our ultra po-mo (post-modern) times, truth and goodness are quite unfashionable. Anyone who dares to assert what is either "true" or "good" are often handled with relativist disdain. "Who are you to say what's good or true?", etc. Beauty, on the other hand, is all we have left, precisely because, as the easy cliché goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." That's pretty much the relativist's slogan. No wonder in our overly skeptical, po-mo value vacuum we're so comfortable with poetry being removed from from truth and goodness, and so focused on contentless beauty, and on personal sorrow and cleverness. Style seems to have triumphed over substance.

Obviously, though, Ivan's poetry was not devoid of political content, and it did have a message rooted in social(ist) values. So what am I getting at? I touch on it in my comments on Ivan's blog, but I'll put it another way here.

Besides the obvious aesthetic problems of basing a poem on any particular ideology (although some may argue - a Marxist certainly - that no poetry escapes such an ideological basis, and so maybe Ivan was ironically calling the bluff by going with a blatant Marxist source for his poem...maybe), Ivan's particular ideology - Marxism - is one that I have trouble associating with "values" of any kind.

That is, I'm not sure how anyone can call themselves a Marxist and at the same time speak of "social justice" or the "evils" of capitalism. Unless you're a watered-down Marxist you should want capitalism to get worse so it can finally flip around, collapse, and turn into socialism. But "want" isn't the right word. It would be odd to say you "want" water to boil at 100 degrees celsius, because that's just what it does. If dialectical materialism leads inevitably to communism, then what role does "wanting", or for that matter "social justice", have to do with it?

Ivan writes in his blog that he believes capitalism cannot be reformed - it must be overthrown by socialist revolution - and that he believes in social justice. I've asked Ivan, and I'll put it out there now: What kind of Marxism is this?

MAWO is at least slightly more consistent with orthodox Marxism, but only in that, like the communists who opposed Bismarck's reforms and worker unionization, they oppose all Western governments' interventions anywhere in the world. In their call for "self-determination for all oppressed peoples" perhaps they are merely hoping that the class-stuggle will be hastened, and that socialism will appear around the corner if only the "natural", "scientific" process of Marx's historical dialectic is allowed to unfold without being slowed. But they, too, make the mistake of attaching the moral values of "peace", "justice" and oppressed people's "autonomy" to a Marxist analysis of world conflicts. As Theodor Adorno put it, Marx wanted to turn the whole world into a giant workhouse.

Well, I'll just stop here and remind anyone who has read this far to check out Ivan's blog (especially his initial confession/exposé post about FTT's vicious inner-politics) and my comments on it, particulartly if you want to post a comment here.

Oh, and Ivan, if you read this, I did enjoy your poem, like I told you. But Tuesday wasn't the time to go into all this other stuff. If you'd have been there for my reading, you'd have the opportunity to critique me as well. I'd be more than happy to send you what I read, if you like. And, of course, I'm curious to see your pending response to my old comments. No pressure, I'm just an impatient and self-absorded guy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What "Words" Reveal About Facebook

I recently used a Facebook application called Lexicon, although, for some reason I can't find it anymore. As far as Facebook applications go, this one was truly educational. Sort of sociological.

What it lets you do is see exactly when and how frequently certain words (one or two at a time) are used on "wall" posts. [NOTE: I mistakenly wrote that it searched the words used in the captions on photos; that was before I found the application again.] The results go back everyday to last September and are displayed on a horizontal line graph.

Here's what I found out in my brief study:

Going with typical Facebook vernacular, I searched the term "sooo cute" and was at first surprised when I saw a big spike on November 1st. I remained puzzled until I realized that that's the day after Halloween, the day most people of the Facebook generation do their sexiest dressing. Subsequent searches for similarly slangy compliments revealed the same consistent post-Halloween spike.

The word "hammered" had its big spike on January 1st and 2nd, and you can guess why. Less exciting, and just as obvious, were the December and April spikes for "exam".

Besides specific words, though, there were also some general patterns.

No matter what word I searched (i.e.: idiosyncrasy, book, bitch) there was always a lull at Christmas time, except, of course, for the word "Christmas". The reason is obvious enough: people are actually spending time with other people in the flesh, instead on the screen.

Also, no matter what word I searched the line graph always showed the same exact wave shape with the exact same set of equally spaced dips. When I zoomed it I saw that the dips fell consistently and precisely on the weekends, and that the line on the graph always rose again on the Monday and Tuesday. So, like with Christmas, on weekends people spend time together in the flesh, take lots of pictures and then upload them and add captions after the weekend. It didn't matter what the word was, the pattern was always the same.

So what does this teach us about "social networking"? Well, what we already knew: that when people are actually socializing they're NOT on Facebook, and when people ARE on Facebook, they're not socializing.

I'm still not convinced that the Internet, for all its potential, "brings people together", as most people claim it does. The real strength of the web is as a commercial tool, that is, to divide people up, let them withdraw into their familiar, narrow set of specific personal interests, desires and fetishes, and away from the world of flesh and dirt where you have to confront the unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Facebook's Lexicon application shows that, as usual, words reveal more than what they merely say.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Matt Hogan: As seen on The Internet

Here are all my articles that have so far appeared on the web. The good, the bad, and the easily refutable:

From "The Republic of East Vancouver":

A piece about Science and Religion in which I unfortunately refer to economics as a science. Not because I think it is an exact science, but because some people treat it as though it were.

Here's a review of David Cayley's book, where he interviews Ivan Illich, the ex-communicated priest who believed that Western Civilization is fundamentally a perversion of the New Testament.

This article is still, probably, what I consider my best work. It's about how corporations are not, will not, and should not become "ethical" and/or "creative". They're meant to make money, and they should do just that, within reason (that is, regulation).

Here's my plug for Canadian writer Brian Fawcett, and his book Virtual Clearcut: Or, The Way Things Are In My Hometown.

I got the idea for this piece about Democracy and Education while riding the bus to school. See why.

And I got the idea for this article about Remembrance Day while taking a leak in a urinal. Curious?

Here's my most counterintuitive piece yet, in which I argue that apathy is a natural and noble political stance, given the state of today's politics (and activism).

For my college paper, "The Capilano Courier":

Since their website only went back up recently, all I have are these two article from the Spring 2008 term. One is about the NGO Brain Drain (a term I proudly coined), and the other is about my experience with SFU's Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue, about which I'll post a follow-up blog.

However, the University of Manitoba's student paper, The Manitoban, and the University of Lethbridge picked up an article of mine on the College-University Press (CUP) wire, about wartime rhetoric and governmental Orwellian Newspeak.

And for the Simon Fraser University paper, "The Peak":

My first article for a university paper, and it was a diss of student journalism. It elicited this response from someone who felt they needed to come to the defense of the idea of political revolution, which I had discounted as a sensible option in the initial article. So I responded with this article, explaining in more detail my distaste for the romantic and currently appealing, anti-establishment fad of revolution.

Here's a piece comparing John Ralston Saul and Brian Fawcett, two of my favorite (and two of Canada's most important) writers.

This is my rant about students not talking enough in class, and about classroom dynamics in general.

And here's my polemic against the assumption that art is mostly about self-expression.

Well, I think that's it. Please send thoughts, threats and refutations my way.

Your humble servant,
Matthew William Hogan

Baby's first Blog

Hey Friends,

Despite my snobbish reluctance, laziness, and e-igonorance, I've started a blog.

My plan here is to put up all the stuff that won't get publised elsewhere. But that makes it sound as though I'm a rebel writer, thinking and writing stuff that's too extreme for The Man. This isn't the case. This blog is the stuff that I simply can't (and probably shouldn't) get published elsewhere. But we'll see.

I'll be talking about everything from politics to reality TV, and from books to what happened to me that day on the street. I said "On Everything", and I meant it.

I'll also try to make the entries short, sweet, and, hopefully, entertaining. And your feedback, kind blog-reader, will be more than appreciated.

Your humble servant,
Matthew William Hogan