Dead On; Clunt and Shart; Speaking Up; Sensitive Subject; Work-in-Progress; Extra Credit

Illustration by Jessica Fortner
Illustration by Jessica Fortner
Dead On

Kudos to your magazine for taking a potentially nauseating topic (“Dissolving the Dead”, March) and, by writing about it clearly and logically, making it seem actually quite reasonable—not yucky at all. I’m now reconsidering my devotion to cremation: it appears that there is a better way.

Frederick Sweet
Toronto, ON

@walrusmagazine @gdbayliss @roumieu Dissolving the Dead is the creepiest article for pre-bedtime reading. Thanks for giving me nightmares.—@pjenmississauga

I’m having a hard time accepting that the process of dissolving bodies is saving the Earth, though I appreciate that it’s much greener than cremation and avoids the pollution that results from embalming.

Tibetans leave bodies out on the mountains until the bones are picked clean. Some Indigenous peoples once put their dead on platforms in trees. Mennonites I know eschew embalming, wrap corpses in cloth, and bury them in simple graves. Surely any of these options is greener than a process involving pipes, timers, chemicals, heat, and pressure.

Donna Stewart
Vancouver, BC

Reading Graeme Bayliss’s shudder-inducing article on disposing of the dead, I was reminded of Hamlet : “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt.” I do hope potential serial killers aren’t taking notes.

Geoff Rytell
Toronto, ON

I loved the @walrusmagazine’s piece on bio-cremation. Wouldn’t recommend reading it with breakfast.—@e_emurphy

Clunt and Shart

I suspect Professor Chris Westbury’s computer might well have been consorting with the Oxford English Dictionary when it generated 5,928 “made-up” words (“Snunkoople”, March). Of those listed, two appear in my copy of the OED: to clunt is to walk heavily, and shart can be a variation of heart or a contraction of the exclamation God’s heart. Perhaps a peer review of the professor’s study would be timely?

Peter A. Murphy
Brampton, ON

I don’t understand this part of the article: “words that sounded rude shot straight to the top of the scale . . . whong, dongl, shart, focky, and clunt. Clearly, those had to go.” The professor changed the results of his second study by removing the non-words that he assumed had sexual or scatological connotations. But why do this? He might have ignored the most interesting finding of his first study: some non-words are funny because of their taboo connotations rather than because they violate phonological rules.

Wayne Hall
Halifax, NS

Snunkoople. Hablump. Jumemo. Finglysiv? Dr. Seuss was clearly far better at this than their computer.—@spoonologist

Speaking Up

The point about government funding for French-immersion schools is salient (“In Their Own Words”, March). Yearly funding for Nunavut’s francophone minority totalled $4,000 per person, while Inuit-language programs work out to $44 per person. At best, this money helps francophones outside Quebec protect their language (although for many people west of Ontario, it is simply a means of obtaining cultural capital for non-francophone children). At worst, it hampers Indigenous language and cultural revitalization efforts. It troubles me that we continue to privilege the two colonizing settler-cultures above all others under the guise of political bilingualism. In a primarily anglophone country, it is absurd that Cree children can find more and better-resourced French-immersion schools than schools that teach in their own language.

Anson Ching
Vancouver, BC

@walrusmagazine This is a great article. It made me want to learn Cree.—@Lauchlin

Sensitive Subject

In the same issue in which Michael LaPointe tears into Yann Martel for his inability to face unpleasant truths (“One-Trick Tiger”, March), Don Gillmor writes about his friend Murdoch Burnett, a tortured poet who took his own life. Tracing the long roots of Burnett’s angst, Gillmor references a study that says writers are more prone to self-harm, and he hints at the source of this vulnerability: the close identification an artist has with their art. Although I am not suggesting Martel is vulnerable in this way, I think reviewers and fellow writers such as LaPointe should be more considerate. I hope that, in the future, LaPointe remembers there is power—creative and destructive—in the pen.

Jennie Aikman
Vancouver, BC

If all we read was so-called great fiction, we would all die in misery by jumping off Martel’s boat—tiger or not. Sometimes it’s pleasant to relax and read “meat-and-potatoes escapism,” you stuffy prig.

Susan McLeod
Toronto, ON


Reading Kamal Al-Solaylee’s essay (“Suffering’s Second Act,” March), I was dismayed but not entirely surprised by Canada’s poor rating in the placement of highly qualified immigrants in jobs that match their skills.

I don’t pretend to have great pull in my company, but I’m enjoying the benefits of my strong support for the hiring of a qualified structural engineer who is a new immigrant to Canada. She is an asset to our engineering firm, and I wish I had more connections to the talent that is arriving every day as our organization grows.

Immigrants built our country. We are all immigrants. Please put me in touch with other qualified engineers, and I will do my small part to close our gap with the rest of the world in integrating skilled newcomers.

Dan Kovacek
Vancouver, BC

You can’t unthrow a rock. There will always be psychological problems for refugees to deal with, from survivor’s guilt to the discomfort of new cultural norms. But they are alive and in a place that offers greater personal freedom than do most countries. They have a chance to begin again. Most of them will—as others have before them—contribute positively to their new home.

Leo Nelson
Toronto, ON

Extra Credit

My article (“Pass, Fail”, April) makes some problematic claims that were overlooked in the editing process. On reflection, the critique of MEds as scholars is too narrow—my concern is not with one particular degree but with the fact that the university is filling up with many types of unqualified instructors. As well, my criticism of the University of Toronto vice-president’s remarks on The Sunday Report about “just-in-time” learning fails to indicate how questionable her appropriation of such business-speak is for institutions of higher learning. These matters are addressed in the online version.

Ron Srigley
Charlottetown, PE

This appeared in the May 2016 issue.

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on this website. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

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