January 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ah, what the hell, this is my blog, if I can’t flog my media appearances and other publications and whatnot here, where can I?  I’ve been rather silent around here for the past 8 months or so, though that will change in the coming weeks.

First, I have submitted the manuscript for my book, The House of the Irish: History, Memory & Diaspora in Griffintown, Montreal, to the publisher.  It is out for review now, and with any luck, it will appear on bookshelves and on-line stores around this time next year. Academic publishing moves rather slow at times.  As long as The House of the Irish appears before 2014, we’re good.   I published an article on the Montreal Shamrocks Hockey Club at the turn of the last century in a book edited by John Chi-Kit Wong of Washington State University, entitled Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada to the Second World War. I wrote the article in 2005-6, it was published in 2009.

I have a raft of ideas for the next projects, but two I am pursuing, or will be once I get the chance later this semester are:
1) I wrote my MA thesis on the Corrigan Affair, which involved the fatal beating of a neighbourhood bully, Robert Corrigan, by a gang of his neighbours in Saint-Sylvestre, Québec, in October 1855.  Corrigan was an Irish Protestant, and his attackers, Irish Catholics. What’s more, the Orange Order and an Irish Catholic secret society, the Ribbonmen, got involved. This led Corrigan’s death to become a cause célèbre in the era of heavy sectarian tensions in 1850s Canada.  Right now, this looks like it will become a book.

2) Boston as the cultural centre of the Irish diaspora. I am fascinated by the Irishification of Boston in recent years in pop culture. Sure, Boston’s always been a major centre of the Irish diaspora, but as the city itself has become less and less Irish over the years, it has become more and more green in pop culture.  Aside from the obvious, a basketball team called the Celtics, you’ve also got the Affleck brothers who play up that Southie culture in film, the novels of Dennis Lehane, and, of course, the music of the Dropkick Murphys.  I’m not sure how this will proceed, whether as an article, a book, or a documentary film, but time will tell.

In the meantime, last month’s controversy surrounding the Habs and the firing of Jacques Martin and his replacement by a unilingually Anglo coach in Randy Cunneyworth found me doing a bit of punditry in the national media here in the Great White North.  First, an article that appeared on Canoe.ca and then I was on Global National news later that week. And way back in September, I welcomed the Winnipeg Jets back to the NHL on the National Council on Public History’s Off the Wall blog.

At any rate, as I move forward with these projects and begin to think about history, memory, and the public in coming months, there will be a lot more here. As they say, “Watch this space!”

On Hatred and Continuums: DeSean Jackson and GK Chesterton

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Apparently Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, said something stupid on satellite radio last week, using homophobic slurs to shut down a caller. He later apologised on Twitter, but followed that up with a stupid comment about himself being the victim of people trying to take him down, though he has since deleted that tweet and replaced it with more apologies.  Big deal, right? Well, sort of. See, Jackson has done a lot of good work in the world on behalf of bullied children, and bullying a belligerent caller makes him, well, a bully and therefore a hypocrite.

But the larger issue is the gay slur. Dan Graziano of ESPN comments that this hardly makes Jackson a homophobe, it just makes him stupid. “Gay” is a multi-faceted term, and is often used as a putdown or a dismissal in much the same way “sucks” is. That doesn’t make it right, however. In fact, it makes it offensive. For sure, Jackson wasn’t thinking of the deeper significance of the slur when he used it, but the very fact that “gay” is used in a negative connotation to note something sucks is problematic. “Gay” is a negative term in this sense, and that, I would argue, connects it to homophobia, even though it might not actually be homophobic. Either way, there is a continuum here.

I read all of this this morning after having read the most recent issue of the Times Literary Supplement I have received, due to the Canada Post strike.  It’s dated 10 June.  Anyway, the feature review is a discussion of two recent works on G.K. Chesterton (it’s behind the Times’ paywall, so I haven’t linked it here). I am no expert on Chesterton, in fact, I have never read him, nor am I all that likely to do so in the future, so take this for what it’s worth.

In discussing Ian Ker’s new biography of Chesterton, G.K. Chesterton: A Biography, reviewer Bernard Manzo discusses the charges of anti-Semitism against Chesterton.  First, let it be clear that Chesterton lived during a time when anti-Semitism was fashionable in the European and North American world. Second, anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.  Both Ker and Manzo attempt to downplay Chesterton’s anti-Semitism, to qualify it. I’m not so sure.

Both Manzo and Ker point out that Chesterton did not believe Jews to be capable of being Italian, English, French, etc., due to the simple fact that they were Jews, and that “Jews should be represented by Jews and ruled by Jews” and that they should have their own homeland. Indeed, Chesterton argued that all Christians should be Zionist, though, ironically, he also argued that no Christian should be an anti-Semite. Ironic because he was one.

Chesterton also argued that those Jews who lived in other countries should be sent to homelands, not unlike that imagined by Michael Chabon in his novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Or perhaps, more to the point, not unlike the “homelands” for black South Africans during the Apartheid era, or reserves for aboriginals in Canada, or, ghettos for Jews in Nazi Europe. But Ker (and Manzo) think that this could not have been the logical outcome for Chesterton, who was “perfectly sincere” in his suggestion that Jews be excluded from mainstream society.

Both Ker and Manzo play down this anti-Semitism, arguing that it needs to be cast in light of Chesterton’s deep abhorrence of Nazism and its vicious anti-Semitism in the years before his death in 1936. I remain unconvinced. Certainly, Chesterton’s anti-Semitism did not advocate the extreme ends of Hitler and the Nazis. But that doesn’t make it ok. It doesn’t mean that Chesterton was not an anti-Semite. Qualifications such as that made by Ker and Manzo are problematic, in that they simply point to complications  of character.

Certainly, we are complicated creatures, we have internal contradictions and ambiguities, that’s what makes us human. But it should not let Chesterton off the hook anymore than noting that he lived in an era when anti-Semitism was fashionable.  Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has argued that Nazism was the logical outcome of this pan-Atlantic world anti-Semitism (he is less successful in arguing Germans were complicit in the Holocaust). If this is indeed the case, then Chesterton belongs on the continuum of Atlantic world anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And attempts to discount it like those of Ker and Manzo are simply intellectual gymnastics and reek of intellectual dishonesty.

Les Expos, Nos Amours: Gone, but not Forgotten

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last October, as the Expos should have been winning the World Series, I wrote a piece at the National Council on Public History‘s blog, Off the Wall, about the strange marketing after life of Nos Amours. This provoked a steady stream of comments, both on that site and into my inbox, as well, to a lesser degree, here at Spatialities. One of my readers, Sarah, pointed out Montréal rapper Magnum .357′s track “Expos Fitted.

It seems that rap has emerged as a key component to remembering our long gone baseball team here in Montréal. Aside from Mag .357, Anakkin Slayd, who is more famous right now for his viral hit, “MTL Stand UP”, also wrote a song about the Expos, “Remember”.

Mon pays

February 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

My erstwhile colleague, Matthew Hayday, has written an interesting critique of John Furlong and VANOC’s attempts to use the Québécois singer Gilles Vigneault’s song, “Mon Pays” for the 2010 Olympic opening ceremony. Except that VANOC made no attempt to contact Vigneault for permission before planning the festivities and they were left holding the bag when Vigneault refused permission.  As Matthew notes, quelle surprise, Vigneault is a well-known separatist and “Mon Pays” was the song people cried in their beer to after the 1980 Referendum loss for the “Oui” side.

Matthew goes on to note that Furlong demonstrated a total lack of understanding of Québec here. I have a few things to note in response.

First, Matthew is bang on, deciding to use a Vigneault song for Canada’s Winter Olympics is missing the entire point of Vigneault’s long career. Second, choosing a song that was recorded in 1966 shows a devastatingly pathetic grasp on pop culture in Québec.

But more to the point, the lack of understanding about Québec from some in the ROC is not all that shocking to me. I have been told many times that I speak “very good English” for a Quebecer. The most recent time being last summer when I was in Vancouver. Indeed, it is impressive an Anglo-Montrealer would speak English well.

Nos Amours

October 18, 2010 § 1 Comment

I have a post up at the National Counil on Public History’s (NCPH) sponsored blog, Off the Wall, looking at the difference between marketing and nostalgia when it comes to the ill-fated Montréal Expos.

Montreal Mosaic

March 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have an article published on the Montreal Mosaic website on the Montréal Shamrocks Hockey Club, based on the article I published.  You can read it here.

Positive Feedback

March 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

A few months ago, I published an article in a book edited by John Chi-Kit Wong of the University of Western Washington in Bellingham.  The book was entitled, Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada to the Second World War (University of Toronto Press, 2009), and my article was entitled “‘Scientific Aggression’: Class, Manliness, Class, and Commercialisation in the Shamrock Hockey Club, Montreal.”

Today, John forwarded the authors a review of the book from the H-Arete listserv, which deals with sport history, written by Jason Blake, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Blake had this to say about my article:

A few chapters show a keen interest in narrative, examining individual newspaper reports and trends in sports reporting. In “‘Scientific Aggression’: Irishness, Manliness, Class, and Commercialization in the Shamrock Hockey Club of Montreal, 1894-1901,” John Matthew Barlow argues that reporters in Montreal “became less concerned with the idea of fair play” and “more interested with winning and losing” (37) long before the amateur debate died. In a special subsection, Barlow provides cogent Ð almost literary Ð readings of individual press accounts. Important, too, is his highlighting of how self-consciously the journalists created stories of games. Consider this 1900 pronouncement: “Narrative in the superlative can only convey an imperfect sense of the paragon of perfection and sensation detail of this, the last and premier exhibition of a week’s great hockey” (64). It’s a shame Aethlon was not around then.

Very nice to get such good feedback on my first publication.

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