Sunday, February 21, 2016

Montreal Reading Report and some notes on satire, censorship and the freedom to read

Rachel and I had a great reading last night at the Atwater Poetry Project. Unfortunately, some technical issues prevented them from recording it as they usually do, but, graciously hosted by Atwater curator Deanna Radford, we read to an attentive audience of approximately thirty and, on the eve of Freedom to Read Week, a very thoughtful post-reading discussion followed, in which we addressed some of the stickier issues that writers face.

It's no small irony that this Canada Council-funded reading came very close to being cancelled because of pressure being placed on Deanna to do so. This pressure came not from secret police, not from government censors, not from fundamentalists or fringe terrorists, not even from Quebec's office de la langue fran├žaise, but from, of all things, a writer and scholar. Rachel and I were already en route to Montreal by train when this person decided to publicly shame Deanna and past curator Symon Jory Stevens-Guille for extending hospitality to the likes of yours truly. Vastly overestimating his capacity to inspire a boycott or ban, this fellow boldly predicted, on the Atwater series' Facebook page, that if the event was not cancelled, it wouldn't matter because only four people would be there. When one woman raised a thoughtful and nuanced objection to his rhetorical fusillade, he proceeded to mansplain to her that she was complicit in endorsing rape culture. Yes, he did. Another poet made a plea for more temperate discourse, as in days of yore before the advent of social media. It was strongly implied by a spoken word performer that perhaps this poet was also feeling nostalgic for slave ownership and legal marital rape. Yes indeed. Clearly, there is a terminological vacuum to be filled: we have Godwin's Law for the invocation of Nazism, but there is as yet, to the best of my knowledge, no equivalent for spurious non-sequiturs about slavery and spousal abuse.

The reason that this scholar and this orator were so exercised about my presence in Montreal (a city I stealthily visit on an almost weekly basis in the course of my duties on the railroad) is a rather stale, old one. You see, he felt it incumbent on himself to remind the unsuspecting public that, some seven years ago, yours truly had authored and self-published, on this very blog, an horrifically offensive lipogram, and that, on the strength of such a Kilimanjaro of overwhelming evidence, its author must be the vilest sort of misogynist creep.

Said lipogram has been no stranger to controversy, although it lay dormant and undisturbed in the digital dust of the CLM archives for four years before any ire was raised against it. Its author, I can assure you, attached no great value to the piece, seeing it very much as a product of a specific point in the spacetime continuum with little to no relevance outside of its immediate contexts, and I therefore never attempted to publish it elsewhere or otherwise disseminate it more widely. Its author also acknowledges the blindingly obvious observation made by its detractors that the sentiments contained within its univocalic text are extraordinarily odious. Fortunately, I do not and never did identify with the speaker in the poem, who was consciously constructed as a strawman reification of certain caricatured assessments of my person and of my arguments, made by certain other persons affronted by said arguments' substance and tone. The idea was to give voice to the imaginary critic who hates women and will aggressively try to shut them up. The decision to write the poem using only one vowel, "i," was further intended as a challenge: the poem dares the reader to identify the source of such a stiltedly awkward speech--the "I" of the poem--with the "I" of the author. The use of the lipogram as form was further intended to send up the oft-heard notion that certain forms of avant-garde "experimental" writing are more intrinsically progressive than other, more traditional and supposedly conservative, forms. The author of the poem finds it wickedly ironic that a piece intended to satirize inflated rhetorical poses and the hypocrisy of self-identified progressives has managed to generate so much overheated rhetoric and so many reactionary gestures in turn. The poem has certainly enjoyed its private gotcha moments in recent years.

Once sufficiently untethered from the context in which it was originally composed, the lipogram was dredged up three years ago as part of the pretext for an op-ed about sexism in the “literary community.” Attempts were made to shame the poem's author into renouncing and deleting it and apologizing to the person supposedly assaulted in its lines. Since I never intended the poem as a sincere expression of my feelings about another person, but as a sendup of that person's slurs about my writing and my person, I could do no such thing. To delete the poem under such pressure would be a tacit admission that it was something I never believed it to be and that I was someone far viler than I, for all my manifest flaws, have ever been. (I also have considerable contempt for the practice of many bloggers and social media pundits of deleting posts to save face once their flaws have been pointed out.) Several individuals contacted me privately and to anyone so courteous, I was pleased to provide my account of the poem's origins, contexts and intentions. Some people seemed more or less satisfied with my explanations, others clearly were not. Which is fine. Some said they could no longer associate with me. So it goes. If the affection and loyalty of an individual are so easily alienated by a single ambiguous text, then they can't have been worth much in the first place, say I. The poem has, if nothing else, proven an effective litmus test for fairweather friends. As for providing the same explanations publicly, I have till now declined to do so because I am reluctant to police readers' interpretations of a text. I am only modifying my policy now out of respect for friends and colleagues who have implored me to do so.

I trust I am not alone in being alarmed by certain writers' eagerness to see another writer banned, censured, censored and shunned for the sin of creating a character with a hideous worldview. This is precisely the sort of well-intentioned wrongdoing we should be talking about during Freedom to Read Week in a country in which there is little to no official censorship or mortal danger for writers. I have made no public mention of it heretofore, but I feel that I should now let it be known that at least one reading venue, Montreal's Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, has made it known to my publisher that they will host no readings by me, because of my authorship of The Poem in Question. It has been claimed that my poem constituted an attempt to silence the person lampooned in its lines. Even if that had been the case, which it was not, I certainly never judged said person to be so easily quelled. (Many of the assumptions about my motives for writing and posting the poem seem to be based on the fundamental notion that I am a singularly unintelligent and unselfconscious person--as if I could have ever thought that this might be an effective way of winning allies to my supposed cause or of shutting up my mortal foe for perpetuity!) If you are truly opposed to the suppression of one writer's voice, I cannot for the life of me see how you could endorse a speaking ban of another. (One detractor has gone so far as to tell a reading host that the series he curates should only host feminists. One wonders if this is assured by having readers swear on a copy of The Second Sex.) Freedom of expression is not worth defending if it only protects approved sentiments.

I am on my way to Ottawa, another erstwhile hometown, tomorrow for a reading on Tuesday and then on to Toronto, where my venue host has been slammed for inviting me in the first place and for failing to take me off the roster once reminded of my sins. Another writer scheduled to read there has decided to withdraw, which is her prerogative, but unfortunate. It was telling, I think, that none of the people so vocal on social media showed up at the Montreal event, where civil discourse prevailed. It is far easier to demonize an other if you are able to avoid actual contact with his or her person. I suppose I owe a debt of gratitude to my detractors, because they may have actually succeeded in increasing the number and commitment of last night's audience. One friend of mine from my non-writing life attended the reading--the first time in his life he had been to one--with his nine-year-old daughter, precisely because of the controversy. Other writers said that they had been on the fence about coming because of scheduling conflicts, but felt that, once I'd been targeted in this way, attendance became mandatory. Several others, unable to make it, wrote to make it clear that their non-attendance had nothing to do with the controversy. I expect that things will be much the same in Toronto because the writing scene is, for the most part, populated by thoughtful, intelligent people who understand that disagreement is not grounds for dismissal.


Jacob McArthur Mooney said...

" The idea was to give voice to the imaginary critic who hates women and will aggressively try to shut them up." Okay. But why did you then set that imaginary not-Zach persona off to do the bidding of attacking someone your actual real-life self took issue with? This is where the "it's just a persona" argument in favour of the poem breaks down. It's not some academic exercise in transgressiveness, it's you actually launching an attack against someone you dislike and using the facade of an invented "persona" as a way of deflecting any disapproval of it. So now when you're being called out for what's essentially schoolyard bullying on sexist and homophobic grounds, you have this convenient persona to allay the blame. But the persona exists to do the bidding you wouldn't want to get caught doing yourself. This is why people are mad at you (and me) Zach. They didn't all mass-fail Close Readings 101. They understand the persona and see through it because all of its targets happen to be people and ideas you hold in contempt.

Jacob McArthur Mooney (Contd) said...

The precepts of a dramatic poem include an appeal to the value of employed empathy. The dramatic character you've invented here is a continuation (albeit in a heightened, more violent, tone) of an ongoing argument you had been having with Sina at the time. It's not that people don't recognize the poem as dramatic or don't see the persona, it's just that they can see you've cast a shadow version of yourself in the Zach Wells Show.

This disinvests you of all the best-case suppositions of the form. You don't get to call it "just a persona" when the persona has been let loose into a fantasy land where you can call your enemies a bitch and insist they blow you. You are still as responsible for that as you'd have been if you had played it straight, in prose of verse. Because the persona isn't real, not only in the sense of being an invention, but in the sense of being a tool: you made it up to be your stand-in to service a real-world argument you had been having with an actual, living person.

When Dante put Filippo Argenti in the fifth circle of hell, he did it to humiliate him from within the light cloak of a dramatic poem. Dante gets a pass because he's Dante and, you know, the rest of the poem is pretty good. You did the same thing, used a poetic version of yourself to humiliate an enemy, but that's *all* you did, you didn't write Inferno in the process.

That's why people are mad. They aren't mad because they don't understand you. They are mad because they do.

Patrick Warner said...

If I remember correctly, Jake, Dante's Inferno is a catalogue of hits and take-down of the author's enemies, real and perceived. Much of it is satirical in intent. Well's poem is satire. "Satire is a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society by using humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule. It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foibles." Note humour and exaggeration. The satirist exaggerates not only the flaws of his target but also his own reaction to them, i.e. persona, to make a point. It's supposed to be sharp. It's supposed to sting. Saying Mickey Sabbath was and is Philip Roth is wrong. Saying that Patrick Bateman was and is Brett Easton Ellis is wrong. To misunderstand that point is to undermine imaginative literature. To make that point is to side with those who wish to censor literature. Furthermore, saying that it's OK for Dante to use satire because he was Dante is no argument. It's like saying that none of us are poets because, well, Shakespeare.

Unknown said...

Hi Zach, this is Michael Nardone.

I am not going to speak to your description of the hateful poem and the events in response to it, but to say: If this is the way that you need to construct the situation so as to continue the things that you are doing, well… the various fables you are building to hold up some image of yourself will soon implode. This will especially be the case as news of your hateful poem, the demeaning messages you've sent to other both in the past in regard to this situation, and the ways you are enforcing your "freedom" over others in these situations continues to circulate.

I will, though, speak to two points that are worth addressing here:

The "orator" you for some reason attempt to demean in this statement is a professor of sociology, and an activist who was done exceptional work on issues concerning women and women's health for over 15 years in Halifax. You know this, and to attempt to demean her by not noting this in your statement is awful.

Secondly, Deanna Radford is a friend. We have been involved in various communities together for several years in Montreal – and share a deep mutual comradeship around issues of poetry and poetics, activisms, and a common interest in sound and sound arts. Deanna and I were in regular dialogue in the days leading up to this event, during all of the discussions online. We will continue to be friends and engage on these issues and others in the time ahead. I admire her so much, and by no means hid my admiration for her throughout these events.

I am not going to speak on Deanna behalf here. Perhaps you would like to take up the issue with her – after she has had time and space to recover from your visit to Montreal – the degree to which your presence in the reading series was a great discomfort for her, and the degree of effort she went to so as to ensure your co-reader that evening was welcomed to Montreal despite your actions.

Michael Nardone

Jacob McArthur Mooney said...

Michael is raising his own points above and identifies them as being separate from the talk of the poem itself, so I'll leave them alone and speak to Patrick's argument instead.

Your standard satire definition, which I have no issue with, ends " It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foible." I do not think Citric Bitch is doing that, certainly not in result and, based on conversations with Zach and the notes here given, intent.

I don't know how much you're looped into the rhetorical context the poem came out of (I'm not either, a result of both lost memories, lost digital sources, and lost friendships with people who might know more) but I know enough to know that the point of the poem isn't to attack an institution for its corruption. It's an attack on an individual, and uses that person's gender and sexuality as a means of doing so. This isn't Voltaire. This is Donald Trump on a bad day.

Is the language heightened to absurdity? Sure. Insults always are. Heightening your language to insult your enemies isn't excusable by literature alone. You are still responsible for the language. And either way, this dramatic persona Zach is claiming as a vehicle for satire is a lie, because it's been set out to do the dirty work of humiliating his own real-world intellectual enemy and he's using it now as a shield to try and deflect blame on the grounds of literary practice. While also dampening the literary merit and importance of the poem. He's trying to have it all ways.

Again, I want to try and impress on you both: People can be legitimately, righteously, & correctly offended by this even if they know what a dramatic persona is. In fact, knowing what a dramatic persona is makes the moral dimension of their anger clearer and easier to locate. Smart people who don't have a pre-existing grudge against you can very much read the poem, see your result and your intent, and be really powerfully angry about it. They can have lots of legitimate questions for you about how you came to write it and why you think publishing it and standing behind it is a good idea. You should answer those questions as if they weren't bait to make you out to be a monster.

James said...

Pat and Jacob,

I'm not sure Zach's poem is a satire. I'd be more inclined to call it a comedy (which, admittedly, includes the use of some satire). So it's humour (though it fails to get laughs). And in the old sense of humour, it's choleric--black bile. It's a stuffed owl filled with said black bile. And, Pat, if it is meant to criticize humanity's foibles,then the real irony here is that the poem is far greater in its stupidity than anything it purports to damn. The poem itself is gleefully unaware of this irony, of where the "satire" actually lands. Just saying.

Whether this is persona or not hardly matters. That's a simple deflection argument, tried and failed a thousand times. Ultimately, the whole notion of authorship, from a word meaning 'father' no less, is about where to place praise and blame. Authors are fair game. There's no back door to slip through whenever it's convenient (beg the lyric I, the dramatic persona all you want). The author has zero say in how the work is interpreted within the public realm, but she/he still has to own it. As a critic, no one knows more about the doling out of praise and blame than Zach.

But censorship is another thing altogether. It's fine to boycott a reading. It's fine to suggest others boycott a reading. It's fine to sleep through a reading. It is not fine to physically prevent others from attending a reading. And I don't know if it's wrong for the organizers of other reading series to exclude authors, to silence them, by not letting them read due to certain content, but it does sound pretty stupid to me. A real can of worms. One that could very likely degrade into the most abusive forms of intolerance (and don't think for a minute that the reported intelligence of the literary community bars pettiness, exclusivity, racism, sexism, ageism, form-ism, all the other isms, or any other silly animosity you can dream up). One intelligent response would be to attend the reading, sit peacefully through the proceedings, and then ask the hard questions. Don't silence the author. Hold the author responsible. Zach should indeed have to answer for his work, but the operative word there is "answer." Zach is no stranger to confrontation. I don't see him backing down from an opportunity to publicly address these things. Other people shouldn't back down from that opportunity either. And that's what silencing and withdrawal are, the refusal to engage, the weakest and lamest side of political activity.

Always dialogue. Even about dramatic monologue.

J. Langer

Chris Hutchinson said...

When I say, "The next time I run into Zach Wells I'm going to bash his fucking skull in" it's not really me speaking, it's just a "strawman reification of certain caricatured assessments of my person and of my arguments." In fact, I dare you to identify the "I" above with 'me' the author. If you don't get this, I guess you don't understand the context, which I'm now making up in retrospect. And oh yeah, and it's all about freedom of speech. I'm such a champion.

Patrick Warner said...

A piece of writing does not necessarily have to meet all of the criteria for satire in order for it to be satire. Literature is highly malleable and open to innovation. Deflating spurious poetics and gender/race/identity politics masked as poetics does indeed go some way towards improving humanity. In fact, the response to Zach's piece is indicative of its effectiveness as satire, albeit a crude example. One annoying thing about this whole conversation is the fact that Nardone and others, and now you, are basing your response to the poem on private conversations and interactions you and others reportedly had with the author. This in polite society is called unfair fighting. If you or others have evidence to present that will make your case, then you should present it. Otherwise we have the poem. We also have the author's prose defence of it, above--a rather generous move on Well's part. Most writers would simply let the poem speak for itself. And it is a poem, a satirical poem, an argument made using a range of literary devices. No masterpiece, but certainly of literary merit. Better than Trump. Closer to Stephen Colbert after a few beers. As such, it should be read as a work of literature: figuratively not literally. The "I" in the poem is not Zach Wells. You say the persona is a lie. In a sense you are right. All personas are lies, fabrications, fictions.They lie to tell a truth. You say the satirist wants it all ways. Right again. But all literature wants it all ways. Literature is the space carved out over thousands of years by other writers, the space that allows us to raise uncomfortable, difficult, offensive, controversial and sometimes disgusting aspects of human nature without getting socially silenced, physically harmed or even killed for doing so. It is absolutely necessary that we have this public space where the full range of private humanity can be explored and discussed. Others have paid the price to create this space, the ultimate "safe space." The willingness of a younger generation of writers to undermine it for ideological reasons is disturbing. I am in fact powerfully angry with those writers who have called for the removal of Mr Well's from the public sphere. Shame on them. I wonder what kind of safe space they are trying to create: a Victorian tea party where the most PC person that week gets to pour. Looking forward to discussing this with you in person.

Jacob McArthur Mooney said...

Hi Patrick,

I think you're right that it's a good idea to discuss this in person. Part of it is a values-alignment thing and part of it is semantics and part of it, maybe, can be hammered out in discussions.

But I don't think we should **only** talk about it in person. I think we should also talk about it here, in this more-public forum, where people who find Zach's defense of his poem repugnant and people who find it heroic can talk about it and everyone else can watch it play out or join in. It's too easy to shrug at a problem and then treat it to the pitched battle of a collegial conversation over drinks among people who all share the same skin tone and gender.

I think you are overstating the censorious element in all this. Since Michael put Citric Bitch on everyone's radar, Zach's experienced a social media agitation (with no real-world component, it would appear) in Montreal, nothing at all in Ottawa (yet, I guess), and something in the middle in Toronto. This isn't a conspiracy to silence. It's not organized enough and it doesn't come downhill from a power centre. It's just the summed reaction of forty-odd (quickly counting the number of shares on Michael's initial call) people seeing the poem, reacting to it, and stating their reactions. Let's assume that not all forty are doing it for spite. Zach will be fine. Zach will read in Ottawa and again at Pivot on Wednesday. When there, he might deduce that I don't much care for him or especially his rhetorical con-job above, and he'd be right, but we've hosted people who've said and done worse things before. Pivot is for its audience, and he'll survive having a host who thinks the capitulation and circus act to which this comment is attached is two-faced. Zach's not oppressed. I'm not oppressed. You're not oppressed. Let's drop that whole part of the conversation.

I have been alive for thirty-odd years and I have never once heard someone appeal to a retreat from political correctness except in the circumstance of their just having said or done something irredeemable. Have you had a different experience?

As for the meat of your defense, I don't think Zach's explanation post is generous. I also don't think it's an explanation post. For reasons mostly spelled out above and not worth re-engineering, I think it's an attempt to muddle the message of his poem with appeals to dramatic traditions that don't apply to it. I think it's an attempt to hide the social context in which it was written. I think he's trying to tell a bunch of very-legitimately pissed-off people that they're just reading it wrong. They aren't.

But, he'll read at Pivot. It'll be fun. And you will too. And poor, poor, Jeff Blackman. And we can talk it over if you'd like, I'd enjoy it.

James said...

Michael Nardone, I have no idea why I am writing because it seems like no matter what is put in front of you, you continue to simply demonize and throw invective towards Zach Wells.

All I want to say as an observer who doesn't know either you or Zach (who somehow got drawn into reading about this because my partner was invited to the event on Facebook) who has spent 4 years of my life studying feminism at University, is that you Michael, are the one who comes off as completely crazy and unhinged.

You are painting Zach as a kind of monster who's identity is comprised of "various fables" he is building and who's web of lies will soon "implode". You seem to be encouraging people and venues to no longer allow this person to read poetry in public, (a person who is after all, a poet by vocation).

You keep hinting on a whole number of shadowy misdeeds beyond the poem he has written. But you haven't been precise. This is defamatory and deeply unfair and you should stop it. If you have clear events or actions which have occurred which back up your version of Zach's character as a man who supports rape culture, encourages violence against women, peddles hate, who is somehow beyond the pale, and deserves to be "banned" from ever reading poetry again in a public place, you should set these out.

The poem he wrote is a poem. It is not what you are painting it to be. I have read better poems, I have read much more edgy poems and poems which are much more transgressive or offensive whether to women or men or prudes or anyone. Your idea that only self declared feminists should ever be invited to read poetry in Canada is simply embarrassing. (I am not Canadian, but sorry it is embarrassing). The only thing that doesn't make it completely laughable is that Drawn and Quarterly seems to have been influenced by what you or someone else has told them about Zach. Would you have Leonard Cohen banned from reading poetry in public in Canada? Would you have had Charles Bukowski banned from reading poetry in his lifetime? Do you simply want to eradicate from your view anything you find uncomfortable and don't agree with. That is an undergraduate attitude. My partner is female, a thoughtful articulate and sensitive artist, and she loves those writers. The idea that they should be banned (and on your assessment of Zach's poems I am pretty sure if you scan their works you will find poems much less "feminist" than Zach's relatively tame poem. Bukowski is an easy one, look at Cohen's first novel...).

I don't know the person who Zach is talking about in the poem. I don't know what happened to you to make you continue to behave the way you are behaving, in the face of numerous people who have raised concerns about what you are writing. I do think you need to examine your actions and stop demonizing anyone who disagrees with you as somehow part of some conspiracy or lost in an apolitical naivety.

There are so many debates within feminism and so many feminisms that make your certainty, your marshalling of a mob, and your constant attacks in the name of "Feminism" read as very strange. What is it about Zach that really seems to have you so angry? As I have said did he do something that is criminal that should be brought out into the open? Because if he didn't, and it is just this poem (and maybe his manner and refusal to apologize), you honestly owe him an apology and a public one at that. Not for your opposition to the poem, that is fine, but for the other insinuations. Because from what you have written, if I believed you, I would have inferred that Zach was a genuine Gomeshi-like monster.

Jim said...


If he is in fact not like that, or has not behaved in a way which justifies this characterization, then Michael, I am sorry to say but you are coming across as some kind of piece of work.

That's it from me. I don't have a facebook account. I don't want to get drawn in on this. What a tragedy Michael, if you just did continue with your attacks and didn't pause, or somehow included me in your attacks, because I am a person who is sympathetic to feminism and if you have lost people like me, then that's a pity for the version of feminism you have running around in your head. At the very least, just pause and consider. Self reflect.

James Pickersgill said...

Truly amazing thread. Holy smokes! some smart, smart people are weighing in and doing so in an impressive manner.

I value reading the thoughts presented here. I place highly the fact that there are very different points of view. Most of all, I embrace the fact that this discussion occurs.

Isn't this so very much better than one side declaring the other side is of zero value, should be shut down and that no one should ever see the point of view of "the other"?

James said...

The hard part of defending free speech is that one usually only has to do it when someone abuses that right by saying something offensive. If this poem were offending a corrupt government or lampooning the tenets of a popular ideology, I'd feel a lot better about my stance. I do not.

But there have been public calls to ban a writer from certain venues. Pressures placed on organizers that trap them between two moral decisions. That's tough and I sympathize with their position.

Hypothetical: If Frederick Seidel--perhaps the most lauded American poet of the past ten years, who has written poems some would determine to be misogynistic, and who also openly declares to stand behind a persona--were to actually get off his high horse of patrician, upper-class, white-male privilege and actually do a reading where he might be questioned or held accountable by us plebeians in attendance, would we ban him from reading? Yes, yes, Wells is no Seidel, but that's not the question I asked.

I like to think I live in a civilized society. Sometimes I doubt it. When the whole Griffin fiasco went down a while back, out came the torches and pitchforks and moral certainty. I remember Wells being one of the dumb mob. Quick to judge. Personal insults and unfounded speculation. And zero patience for those few who asked for dialogue, considerate thought, and time. Deja vu.

As someone who occasionally sits down and types a poem, I believe in the right to free speech. Start setting precedents that erode that core value, and you cut off your nose to spite your face. Even if I wish someone would just shut up, I would never try to impose that will. Because what I see is not what everyone sees. And because I will not impede their rights.

Beyond our rights, there are social mores. There are norms of acceptable social behaviour. If I say something that offends my partner, for example, no matter what my intention was, I'll probably say, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way." Yes. I will apologize. And I will mean it. Because I am as responsible for my words as I am for the car I steer on the highway. And because I recognize that people actually exist outside my own thick skull. When someone takes offence to something, that is an actual legitimate response. One of my responsibilities as a human being is to empathize. If I unintentionally do harm, I have still done harm. The refusal to abide by social mores, the failure to recognize the feelings of others, and the unwillingness to express remorse are all qualities of certain personality disorders which are unhealthy.

The life of a hermit huddled around a small fire, sheltered from the wind in his culvert, looks pretty attractive to me today. Some events are wonderful adverts for stoicism and isolation. What I see here is a confrontation where both sides will obstinately refuse to recognize the flaws in their own arguments. They'll just charge forward with no sense of compromise. And you know what? That's nothing more than a game of chicken, and you lot can have it.

J. Langer