On Homos, The Homeless and Le Dernier Cri of Montreal
April 06 2009 6:47 AM EST
March 09 2016 2:45 AM EST
One of the best presentations I saw on men's studies was by a guy named Jeff Cohen from Worcester State College. His idea, a good one, was that the field would benefit from a trans-disciplinary approach both in terms of methodology and intercommunication. How might, he wondered, biologists and phenomenologists influence each other's work if they spoke? How could the work of a film studies scholar interact fruitfully with the work of a criminolologist? Cohen sees the need for increased cooperation and the development of a shared language to better germinate ideas across disciplines. That's fine and all but I think essentially the reason Cohen's Esperanto dreams are doomed is that the very structure of academia, of scholastic departments, of grants and stipends, discourage any sort of synthetic or integrated approach to the subject of study. Ph.D. candidates are actively encouraged to focus on minute slivers of slivers of phenomena or data sets. One presenter at the conference has spent a number of years studying Italo-Chinese Border Crossing and Male Vulnerability in Cinema: [in] Gianni Amellio's La Stella Che Non C'e. Another presenter spoke, for example, about how a now defunct department store in Sydney utilized ideas of the ideal man in an attempt to draw customers by a textual textile analysis of its advertisements. These presentations were interesting and brilliant examples of critical inquiry but seemed to be examples of critical thought for the sake of critical thought (and a Ph.D.). The underlying problem is that many scholars prefer to write big dissertations on small topics within a narrow field than attempt -- and most likely fail -- to create large theories in a monistic and trans-disciplinary way. Even if there existed the apparatus to communicate effectively across fields, most of the communication would be dross.
The real star of the conference -- besides me -- was smoked meat, a Montreal specialty. I was in the city for four days and during that time, ate at least six smoked meat sandwiches. (It's sort of like pastrami but less dense.) Among the best sandwiches I had were from the 1928 standby Schwartz's Delicatessen, its main rival The Main, and a far away but worth the trip place called Snowdon's Deli. But far and away, the best meal I had was at Liverpool House, run by the same dudes who run Joe Beef, Montreal's equivalent of Momofuku in terms of general superiority, foodie cachet and tortured neurotic but absolutely genius and food mad chefs.
Then there were the hotels. Last night I stayed at the Opus Hotel, which we wrote about last October. It's Montreal's version, I'd say, of the Gansevoort Hotel which, to me, was a turn off. But the service was much much nicer and the rooms were stunning and they have this fun house mirror, or they did in my room, which made my shoulders seem really big and my waist small but my dick bulge huge. Oops, sorry. I meant, it made the bulge of the dominant signifier of male genitalia huge. A few blocks away is the Hotel Gault, which we haven't written about yet. It's much quieter and, quite frankly, more relaxing. It's Spartan but luxurious and stylish too.
To conclude: The homeless men in Montreal all have impressive beards and are all white. Academia is kind of bullshit. The Montreal Canadians beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, this is ice hockey, and that that happened made everybody in Montreal very happy. As societies become more secular and move away from a male deity, gender roles for men become less defined. There is a silence around men in pain. Using words like problematize and relativise make you sound smart and at the same time dumb. Sexuality is carnal Israel. Thank you and good night.
--JOSHUA DAVID STEIN