Autonomous Source

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August 31, 2004

Liz Dole, please STFU...

I am suddenly reminded why I disliked Republicans so much when I was younger. This woman is so santimonious and condescending -- lecturing on abortion and gay marriage -- that she's no doubt reversing much of the momentum Bush has been building for the last few months. I'm sure she'll be the lead on tomorrow's news.

UPDATE: Well, what do I know? For all I've heard on the news, it's like she wasn't there. If she made that speech in Canada, we'd never hear the end of it.

Arnold and Laura Bush were a perfect antidote to her narrow views. While Dole preached that the most important thing for Republicans was to shove their morals down other people throats, Arnold made it clear he considered the Republicans to be the party of freedom and opportunity. It's lucky for W that he's a lot more memorable a figure.

Impressions of Iqaluit

In the days before smoking became the ultimate social faux pas, hotels would have large ashtrays filled with sand by the doors and elevators. Walking the roads of Iqaluit, I've come to believe that all that unneeded sand has now wound up here. Everywhere you go, the ground is covered by sand filled with cigarette butts.

The first thing you'll notice in Iqaluit is how filthy and run-down it is. Garbage rolls through the streets and the houses are in poor repair. The city has a dingy grey feel, despite some brightly coloured, newer buildings that have been built.

(continue for photos)

Iqaluit is also the place where old shipping containers go to die. You can see them all around town, sometimes incorporated into peoples' houses.

The beach has a number of abandoned boats scattered around. This one had all the windows smashed and had anything of value taken out, but seemed not to be that old.

Construction is a big industry up here. The population is growing fast and the federal government does not appear to be too concerned with costs. Here's the new hospital that's going up. It looks like they got Frank Gehry to design it.

Here's a shot from a hill that overlooks the town. I wanted to get one nice shot, because the place isn't a total disaster. The Inuit are very friendly, and Iqaluit is a place where you say 'hello' to people you pass on the road. And outside of town is very beautiful, hopefully I'll get a chance to make it out there.

August 30, 2004

Stuff & Things VI

  • Samizdata has a good discussion on the libertarian merits for the liberation of Iraq.
  • Bush futures have recently taken a big jump. Interesting.
  • I don't know how I managed to use the internet before I got my high-speed connection. This dial up surfing is like swimming through molasses.
  • I've been watching (far too much) CNN to see what's happening with the Republican Convention. They seem to be following the CBC strategy from the last Canadian election to help their guy win. They're grilling each Republican they interview about gay rights and abortion and slyly suggesting that the 'moderate' speakers headlining are the false face of the party.
  • Luckily, I'm not limited to them. CPAC is forwarding the C-SPAN coverage, and it's just the raw feed, no spin, no ads. Right now I'm listening to all the delegate representatives tell how great their states are and how they pledge their votes for Bush. TV has a powerful ability to bring you to another place, but it's so seldom used. It's refreshing.
  • I've been unable to find tonic water in Iqaluit, so I've been forced to experiment to find something to drink my gin with. Gin and ginger ale is pretty good; I was surprised.
  • The WSJ is also very disappointed with Jimmy Carter's performance in Venezuela.
  • I've got a bunch of photos of Iqaluit to put up, but I think it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Chavez puts the pedal to the floor

Chavez is clearly aiming to be the next deity in the Ché, Castro and Mao pantheon:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the country's economy must move away from capitalism and eliminate "large" land holdings.

Chavez, who won a recall vote against him on Aug. 15, said the country's businessmen should help the government change the world's fifth-largest oil supplier into a "humanist" economy from a "neo-liberal" one.

"I call on private businessmen to work together with us to build the new economy, transforming the capitalist economic model into a social, humanist and equality economy," Chavez said during a televised speech in Caracas. "The time has come to accelerate the transformation. The revolution has just begun."

Meanwhile, Argentina is also moving to the batty end of the economic spectrum by raising the minimum wage by 29%, supposedly to "spark domestic consumption and power economic growth." Good luck, guys. You might want to consider what this will do to your already high unemployment rate first...

August 28, 2004

High school photos update

Flea's triple-dog dare to post high school photos has gathered a bit of momentum. Chris Taylor has a good rundown on those who've taken up the challenge. I don't think anyone has a picture worse than mine though, but maybe I'm overly self-critical.

Flea has also put up his grade nine photo to satisfy the terms of the dare.

August 27, 2004

Marvel Team-up: Polarman and the Autonomous Source!

The condemned townhouse we're staying in is reserved for the transient medical personal who come up to Iqaluit. They're the people needed to keep services available up here, because maintaining permanent staff is pretty much impossible. When they leave, they usually leave what's left of their non-perishable groceries, but when we arrived in our new home we found little we could use to make a meal. There was a half-used bag of dried lentils though, which we figured we left on our last visit to Iqaluit a year ago. I guess not too many people eat lentils...

So we needed some groceries. We loaded up the kids in the stroller and headed to the supermarket. Along the way we approached a playground, where it looked like a man was trying to fix a swing. As we walked past, he called out to us and asked for some help. I came over and saw that the man was wearing a mask and some sort of costume. I paid this no mind because I feel that a person's poor fashion sense is not something they have a choice in. They were born that way, and treating them differently for the way they are is just not right. The swing was knotted, he said, but he had managed to drive a 2X4 into the knot. All he needed was someone to help pull down on the other side to loosen the knot.

But that didn't work. Knots in chains grip pretty hard, and just pulling them open doesn't work. But I had another idea. I shook the chain from the bottom as he pushed down with the lumber. And voila! It started to loosen! Now we had a bigger opening in the knot, and if I could slide the swing through, the knot would be finished. I did it!

As I was doing this, I noticed some faint music coming from somewhere. It was the man's bag, there was some classical music coming out of it. It was muffled and distorted as if the tape was very old. I recognised the tune, but what was it? And then it hit me -- The Superman soundtrack. Hmm.

Mission accomplished. As if to emphasize the importance of our victory, one of the kids that had been standing around watching jumped on the swing we had liberated. There were other swings free, but this one was special, I guess. I said farewell to my partner in the battle and my family and I continued our walk to the store.

As we walked, my wife told me that that was Polarman, Iqaluit's superhero. When he's not actively fighting crime, he cleans the playgrounds, shovels the walks of the elderly, acts as a guide for visitors, and just generally helps everyone he meets that needs help. He's been doing this for years and actually maintains a secret identity. (It's been noted that a certain local millionaire playboy has never been seen at the same time and place with Polarman.)

Can this kind of do-gooding really make a difference in this messed up world? Isn't he just trying to shovel back the tide? I don't think so. I think his attitude could catch on. Just this morning as I walked my wife to work, we saw a large rock someone had rolled onto a road. The cars were swerving to avoid it and we asked ourselves, WWPD? We rolled the rock off to the side.

Technical difficulties overcome

Well, we're here. The last time we arrived in Iqaluit, the cable was out. This time, the phone was out -- much worse for me because I was cut off from the internet. How was I supposed to find out what was going on in the world without all my blogs? I've been suffering through withdrawal, but finally, at 4:00 today, my connection to the world was restored. It's hard to believe some people actually get their window to the world from such sources as CNN or CBC Newsworld. They trickle out information at such a slow rate and with this constant tease to what they'll tell you later -- it's unbearably frustrating. Without the the random access of the internet I'd go mad. More so, I mean.

Travelling with toddlers is not easy. We were lucky though, the last row of the plane (both sides) had just one passenger and he offered to trade with us. We had all of six seats just for the four of us -- and a bit of space so they could move around. Max and Talia were very good for most of the flight; we kept them occupied by feeding them things they love and by pulling surprise toys out when they were getting a little rangy. They didn't sleep like we had planned, but they were cheery, so it was okay. But in the last half hour they lost it. We were descending and they were having problems popping their ears. They'd been trapped in the same place for three hours and they'd decided they'd had enough. They cried and screamed the whole way down. When the plane finally stopped moving, Talia conked out and couldn't be woken for a half hour.

We're staying in a cluster of townhouses known as White Row. It's pretty old, and is considered a bit of an eyesore -- even for Iqaluit. But now it seems there's plans in store for this site. So I guess we're living in a condemned building.

Once we settled in we went out shopping. And we ran into Canada's only real super-hero. I'll write about that tonight.

We're here

But the phone doesn't work at our townhouse. So I'm posting this at my wife's office while trying to control the kids. Hopefully the phone will be fixed soon and I put some more news up.

August 25, 2004

Off to Iqaluit

Tomorrow morning we all set off to Iqaluit, for two weeks of sun, sand, surf, and adventure!

Well. Sand at least. Nothing really grows all too well up there, so there's lots of sand around for the vicious winds to drive into your eyes. I think I'll need to find some goggles for the kids.

Mama's going to be working at the hospital, and I'll be minding the kids in our government-supplied luxury townhouse. We all went last year around this time, but back then the kids were a little easier to manage. This time should be more interesting. I'll try to put up lots of pictures and blog some colourful descriptions of life in the North.

Okay, I've got more packing to do. The next post will be from the soon-to-be-frozen North.

Oh, to be a citizen of 'The World'

A company called Al Nakheel Properties is working on building 'The World', a archipelago of artificial islands off the coast of Dubai in the Persian Gulf. There's going to be over 200 separate islands and if you have tens of millions of dollars sitting around that you're not using, you can buy one. The picture doesn't really do this place justice. You have to look at the video (links at the bottom of this page) to see just how outlandishly extravagant these places will be. And to keep out the riff-raff that seem to be a little too common in the Gulf, there'll be a security force the size of a small army.

I'm astonished to see the money that flows to the Gulf is being put to such crass uses. Think of how this money could help build a... ah, who cares. It looks really cool. I wish I was a billionaire and could hang out with all the other billionaires and play golf on own our private golf course on an island shaped like Honshu...

August 24, 2004

Making a bad situation worse

Ottawa has had a 'homeless protest' in front of city hall for two months now (sympathetic CBC coverage here). No one in the municipal government or the police has had courage to shut it down, so of course it's grown and taken on a carnival atmosphere. So what is the Mayor's solution to deal with this? Well, how about we invite some of the 'protesters' in, explain things to them and ask them to see reason, and maybe toss in a couple of small bribes? A fat lot of good that did...

Appeasement never works. It just feeds the appetite of the recipients and gives them more power and confidence. It's a very simple fact; but for so many like Ottawa's dopey Mayor Chiarelli, it's impossible to understand. These guys are extortionists, plain and simple. It's a shakedown -- and even though they've made no clear demands, they all feel they're going to get a nice payoff at the end. The law is on the city's side and they should have moved in and evicted them a long time ago. But now these campers have made a large investment in this project, and they're not going to go without a big score or a violent confrontation.

Portrait of the blogger as a young nerd

The Flea has dared bloggers to post their early high school pictures. I have bravely decided to take up the challenge. Here I am, in all my glory, sometime around 1980:

I looked even worse in junior high...

Luckily, I don't have a scanner and was forced to use my digital camera to bring this stunning image to you. The bluriness has eliminated my acne and pubescent upper lip fuzz, and somehow some colour was added to my creepily pale skin tone. I think I was aiming for that stylish Adam Rich look.

I hope I'm not the only person who dares to do this.

Of course I look pretty cool now...

August 23, 2004

Think twice...

Paul Jan� has found a site that catalogs the horrors of bad celebrity plastic surgery. (The example he highlights will be giving me nightmares for some time.) I just spent some time paging through its archives and was shocked and amazed. I especially appreciate how they highlight an awful, but all too common tragedy, grapefruit sized fake breasts on twiggy women. Brrr!

And hey! Isn't that John Kerry? What's he doing here?

Just Imagine

Bush in the debates, as envisioned by Will Collier:

"Senator, you say we need to repair relations with our allies, but you've spent your own campaign insulting America’s best friends in the world. You may think we really need the help of people who wouldn’t join us when we asked them to, but I'll take allies like Australia and Italy and Great Britain any day of the week. You seem to think we ought to throw our truest friends overboard in favor of governments and organizations that'd rather pursue pacifism and appeasement, or who've made corrupt deals with our adversaries. I think that's a poor choice.

"I also think you owe our real allies, the ones who've fought and bled right alongside our own troops, an apology. It does not befit a United States Senator, much less a president, to refer to the British and Poles and Australians and Japanese and South Koreans and all our other truest friends as 'fraudulent' or 'coerced.' They are free people who have honorably fought at our side, and they deserve our deepest thanks, not your insults."

The only unlikely thing about that statement is that I can't imagine Bush making even that mild of an indirect attack on the French.

So: fraud or not?

(I'm talking about the Venezuelan referendum, of course.)

I dunno. I live in Canada, nowhere near Venezuela. I wasn't there, and have no feeling for what the people in the country really think. (I'm pretty bad at figuring out my own country's thoughts too, come to think of it.) I just have a few blogs I read from the country, the news, and the belief that people don't want to live in a tyranny. But, like Kevin Jaeger says, maybe they do. One of the blogs I've followed, Caracas Chronicles, has grudgingly admitted that Chavez probably won. The other, The Devil's Excrement, is still trying to figure it out. But he does note that the promised peace that the referendum was supposed to bring has not appeared. And for that tragedy, I blame the vote's international monitors.

But I really don't think anything can be done about it now. Venezuela's opposition should concentrate on trying to preserve as many democatic institutions as they can against the escalating 'Bolivarian Revolution'. I wish them luck.

August 22, 2004

Ow! Ow!

Talia calls water 'ow', which is pretty cute. Less cute is her charging madly towards any puddle, river, lake or stream. She has to be held back of she'll rush right in. Here's some photos of her (and her brother) interacting with her favourite element.

I managed to keep her from sitting down in this puddle. Usually she's too fast for me. And the reason Max is wearing the pink boots instead of Talia is that the pink boots are bigger, like Max's feet. I hope one day he'll find it in his heart to forgive me. I hope he'll forgive me for the hat too.

This is up at Meech Lake. It was pretty cold (it's been a cold summer!) but Talia insisted on staying in the water. You can see her skin was actually taking on a purplish tinge here before we pulled her out against her will.

What is news... and what isn't

¡No Pasarán! displays some of the photos that will be shown at the French Photojournalism Festival. He also displays some that will not be displayed...

(Note for easier surfing: if you are reading this relatively soon after it was posted, the best way to view these photos is to go directly to their homepage and scroll down.)

Stuff and Things V

  • The War Nerd has another column up, on someplace you've never heard of where Russia is acting as the good guy. Check this guy out, he's sort of a cross between Robert Kaplan and P.J. O'Rourke -- but more cynical.
  • Lots of things are happening in John Kerry's extended Vietnam flashback, though you wouldn't know it by reading the papers. Check out the Captains Quarter's for the latest developments.
  • Patrick McClarty gets mad mad mad at the 'champagne socialists' for ruining Vancouver Island and encouraging head-in-the-sand thinking on complex issues. They infest Chelsea too, Patrick, but I've managed to make peace with them. I just wish the local grocery stores weren't crowded with all this 'organic' food...
  • Mark Steyn also takes a few shots at them (the ones in Hollywood that is), and he never misses.
  • Bob Tarantino lacks the finesse of Steyn and instead goes postal in the editorial offices of the Star and Globe. Whatever gets the job done.
  • Hey! I got a mini Instalanche the other day! One tiny, insignificant link (that's me in the brackets), and still hundreds of people followed it. I am honoured, I really am.
  • Thanks to those who added me to their blogrolls last week. More people reading my page gives me the incentive to keep writing -- and if I keep writing, someday I might create something worth reading.
  • I've writen about what a strange show the Teletubbies is. Well, it's nothing compared to BoohBah, by the same creators. It's a wonderful, revolutionary show for kids but would no doubt be eagerly appreciated by the guests at your next pot party.
  • Being a Bush supporter in Canada is a little bit uncomfortable. Hugh Segal feels my pain.
  • Mama, Papa, Max and Talia will be heading off to adventure later this week. And the adventure will be blogged -- stay tuned.

August 21, 2004

Jimmy Carter sees no evil

There are some jobs that require a suspicious mind. Police detectives, judges, reporters, business investors -- they all take in information about a situation, but also take into account that each fact they hear may be only one part of a story, or exaggerated, or even completely made up. People who are good at these careers are able to piece together the truth from pieces of data that don't always fit together. They don't accept hand-waving explanations for inconsistancies, they aren't afraid at ruffling feathers by suggesting that something is wrong, and don't take a final position before they are completely satisfied.

An election observer should have a similarly suspicious mind. There's a chain of cause and effect from the voter marking the ballot to the final tabulation and an election observer should be suspicious of each link. The Carter Center was seriously lacking in suspicion during Venezuela's referendum. They failed at their job:

The problem was that the "observers" hadn't actually observed the election results. Messrs. Carter and Gaviria were only allowed to make a "quick count"--that is, look at the tally sheets spat out by a sample of voting machines. They were not allowed to check this against ballots the machines issued to voters as confirmation that their votes were properly registered.
Rather than making demands on what they must be allowed to see in order to validate the election -- as someone with a suspicious mind would do -- they instead negotiated with the National Electoral Council for limited access. Crucial links in the chain were unmonitored. And with only a partial picture of what happened, they still declared the election fair. It's a farce, and a betrayal of a nation.

Unfortunately, I don't think it can be reversed. Unless the Carter Center recants, only the tin-foil hat brigade (member since 1998) will be able to dispute the results. Carter has a long history of giving authoritarian states the benefit of the doubt so I'm not really surprised by all this. But in this instance at least, he had the moral authority and leverage to really look at what was going on and find out the truth. But instead he just looked the other way. Jimmy Carter sees only what he wants to see.

August 20, 2004

A fish in a barrel

That's what John Kerry seems like now. The latest Swift Vets ad is something no amount of spin will protect him from. It's a powerful blow to Kerry. It's tough to reach the Swift Vet site right now so I'll summarize it. It simply juxtaposes the extremely vile and untruthful testimony Kerry gave to the Senate after he got back from Vietnam, with vets' stories of their own experience and how much those lies hurt them. Simple and effective.

Kerry is the rebound candidate. By that I don't mean that he'll come back from this setback, but that he was hastily picked when the Democrats decided to dump Howard Dean. They needed someone who wasn't as insanely anti-war, could keep his cool, and who had a pulse. But because he was propelled to the front-runner position so quickly, he didn't get the thorough checking out that the primary process usually ensures. Twenty years in the Senate is enough time to say and do a lot of stupid things; and those stupid things were mostly overlooked. But it turns out Kerry started before he even got there...

August 19, 2004

Back to Venezuela

I often have a slightly paranoid perspective on things, so I felt I shouldn't get too involved in reading the complaints of the Si forces in Venezuela. I presumed the election inspectors knew what they were doing and that the vote was fair, even if I didn't want to believe it. But I couldn't resist finding out what's was being said, and now I've become a believer that a huge fraud has occured.

First, there was the news that an independent exit poll predicted a huge victory for Si. Over 20,000 people were polled and the results were 59% to 41% for Si. The official result was 58% to 42% for No -- quite a statistically unlikely swing.

Second, we have this International Herald Tribune story saying that in at least one polling station the workers took the initiative to compare the computer tabulated result with the paper ballots and found a huge discrepancy.

Third, there is the bizarre 'coincidence' that so many of the polls had the exact same number of Si votes -- 133. Even polls in areas hostile to Chavez had this number and a greater No vote. Very suspicious.

Is this information enough to get the vote overturned? I doubt it. Chavez won't give in, and the international crowd seems willing to look the other way. Is it enough to ensure that Venezuela remains in a state of chaos? Quite likely...

UPDATE: Best of the Web Today has a nice swipe at the hypocrisy of some of the western media towards Chavez. He singles out the New York Times, which simultaneously tells the opposition in Venezuela to 'get over it, you lost' while continuing -- after more than three years! -- to whine about the circumstances of George W. Bush's win in 2000.

August 18, 2004

It's all a matter of 'tude, dude

Now that I'm a parent, I find myself at the toy store every now and then. Since my toddlers can derive equal amounts of fun from a used yogurt tub as they would from a hand-carved clockwork wooden pull-toy, the toy store I go to is not the all-educational, all-organic, expensive boutique in the trendy part of town. I go to the place with a giant parking lot outside and where everything is made in China. Once I've picked out my $12.99 surprise for my sweeties, I often go take a look around at the stuff for the older kids, so I can see what pointy plastic things I can look forward to stepping on in my bare feet. I'm not really all that happy with what I see.

Toys seem to have a tone these days that I don't remember as a child. A sour and somewhat even nasty tone. This doesn't really bother me (much) in toys designed for kids around eleven or twelve, but in toys for seven-year-olds it troubles me.

Take lego. The old lego minifigs had cheery smiles on their faces, no matter what horrible things you were doing to them. They looked a little blank and empty, but that allowed you to project yourself into them. In Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, he talks about how faces drawn in a simpler style allow the reader to more closely identify and empathize with the characters. This principle is the same in toys. The peacefully smiling minifig could be anything you wanted him to be. But I don't think you could say the same about the modern minifigs. They just look like some bad dudes, and no doubt affect how the child plays with them.

Barbie hasn't changed in the way lego has, but she's been largely replaced for seven-year-old girls by Bratz. Barbie was always pretty saccharine and goody-goody, but for kids under ten, there's nothing wrong with that. She often had a family and a career and -- despite her sexy outfits and excessive materialism -- seemed like a respectable part of the community. Not so the Bratz. The dolls are pouty, sour-faced girls and boys, and the accessories are nightclub gear and limosines. The seem to exist only to consume, and they don't even take any pleasure in it. It preaches the culture of nihilism to adolescents.

Video games, of course, are filled with characters with this same 'tude. Most are for older kids, so this is expected. But even the games for the little ones are given this irritating attitude adjustment. Kirby for example, an extremely inoffensive Japanese character who stars in many Nintendo games, has gone from a goofy, cheery pink blob to a goofy pink blob... with attitude. I expect the next Mario game to feature him dressed as a gangsta rapper with a permanent scowl.

Innocence is a beautiful thing, but it seems there's a pressure felt by kids today to lose it as soon as possible. Even if parents manage to shield their kids from the slouchy sourness of adolescent culture, they'll encounter it in school. There's no avoiding it. But I'm going to try.

The CBC is such a tease

Last night, after an exhausting day with two demanding little people, Mama and I did what we rarely do: slump in front of the TV. We watched the Olympics. After a half an hour of commercials, interviews, 'profiles', and travelogues (oh, and about five minutes of sports), we were about to turn it off. But then we saw a message on the side of the screen: 'Next: Team Gymnastics'. We like watching gymnastics, so we held in there. Another hour went by. We saw volleyball, swimming, rowing, and plenty of cringe-inducing ads. But no gymnastics. They lied to us! How will I ever be able to trust the CBC again?

August 16, 2004

Let freedom wane!

It appears Jimmy has endorsed Chavez's victory, and that the Si vote has lost in Venezuela. There are still some troubling issues being brought up by the opposition -- such as the fact that the official results show only a 60% turnout (poorly translated link) -- but there doesn't seem to be much hope that anything will happen. The international observers and the press are leaving -- it's all over, nothing more to see here. I'm leaving this story too, but I want to ask some questions first: How would this have played out if Chavez was a right-wing thug rather than a left-wing one? If he wore a peaked officer's hat rather than a beret? Would the murders on the streets by his goons be reported in the Western media? Would the intimidation and violence against his opponents be met with outraged editorials?

My friend the Latin American correspondent was in Caracas last year and told me about Chavez having the city boulevards turned into farmland to 'feed the poor'. Socialist theatre is all that is, and that's all his 'Bolivarian Revolution' is too. He's just another thug, the last thing South America needs. Pity most of the world's press can't see it.

9/11 Art

After I saw the Blue Man Group show in Vegas, I thought it was the best show I'd ever seen. A year later, I saw it again, and it was still the best show I'd ever seen. It mixed comedy, strange theatre, and amazing music into an incredible package. That was a few years ago, and I haven't been back to Vegas since. In their shows today, they apparently include a video relating to the September 11th attacks. It's available on the web, and is quite moving: Exhibit 13.

(Via the Truth Laid Bear.)

Quote of the day

From Jackie D of Samizdata:

The real question is this: How many innocent people have to die after spending six years on the sofa, eating unhealthy food, defecating and sitting in a mound of their own filth before we put big business in its place and tell these fast food and junk food companies that they cannot continue to run roughshod over the public?

It's all up to Jimmy Carter

Scary words, to be sure. But Chavez has claimed victory in Venezuela under suspicious circumstances and the vote needs to be validated. The opposition claims fraud. The country is on the verge of civil war and everyone is looking to Jimmy. What's he going to say?

No outrage here

When I read the other day about Paul Martin personally intervening to allow Muslim women special treatment when being photographed as they entered this country, I was outraged. I assumed he supported allowing them to not have to remove their veil (and that's what the poorly written piece in the Post on Saturday implied). However, in looking deeper, I found that he was only talking about the headgear, not the veil. Here's what he said in his letter to CAIR Canada:

Please be assured that your concerns regarding Permanent Resident (PR) Card photographs have been given careful and appropriate considerations...CIC policy is that allowances be made for practitioners of religious faiths that prohibit the removal of head coverings. CIC does not require the head covering to be completely removed, but for security purposes, all facial features must be visible for the photographs.
I don't consider this caving to a shrill minority, but just a bit of common sense. I've seen an angry letter to the editor today and an outraged post on LGF about it. No doubt there is more gnashing of teeth that I haven't seen yet. Much as I dislike having to defend PM Paul, this time I have to. There's no source of outrage here.

August 15, 2004

Stuff and Things IV

  • This week's semi-amusing tagline provided by Samizdata.
  • This has got to be the coolest background gif I've ever seen. I'd redesign my site around it, but then everyone would be too mesmerized to read anything I wrote.
  • I'm writing these S&T entries because some stuff is so trivial it doesn't require a full post. Plus I like using roman numerals.
  • Having trouble understanding all those corporate scandals? Then you need a handy chart.
  • The really creepy ignoring by the mainstream press of John Kerry's Cambodian fibs is only going to hurt them in the long run, argues this essay in the American Thinker.
  • The Dissident Frogman has another hard-hitting propaganda animation on his site. Very much worth seeing.
  • Mama and Papa are out to a formal event at the Chateau Laurier this evening. If I get three requests in the comments for it, I'll post a picture of me in my monkey suit and her in her slinky dress.

A big day in Venezuela

Today's the day of the referendum on Chavez in Venezuela. It's going to be close. Some of the press like to paint the contest as one between the 'well-heeled' upper and middle-class who oppose Chavez, against the poor and downtrodden who are championed by him. But in reality it's a clear choice between democracy and dictatorship. Chavez has used his power to loot the wealth-generating portions of the economy and has parcelled them out to buy support; but in the process he's done tremendous damage to Venezuela's future prospects. I don't consider that helping the poor. In preparation for today's decision, his goons have been out harassing TV stations and roughing up Si campaigners. Chavez will turn Venezuela into another Cuba if he gets he chance.

Jimmy Carter and the Organisation of American States are there to monitor the election, but that doesn't fill me with much confidence in a fair vote. There will be intimidation and harrassment of Si voters, and may even be outright fraud. And who knows what will happen when the results are announced? The Devil's Excrement and Caracas Chronicles are the blogs to read today.

Photo by Miguel Octavio of The Devil's Excrement.

UPDATE: Some more photos and personal stories at Vascaíno@Venezuela.

UPDATE II: The WSJ has more on what's at stake.

August 14, 2004

Speaking of the CBC...

Was anyone able to sit through the opening ceremonies to the Olympics yesterday? The show was a little slow, a little pretentious, but worth watching. But unfortunately the CBC decided it wasn't complete without Brian Williams and Peter Mansbridge yammering away in the background. It was like watching a movie with two film students sitting behind you, trying to impress each other with how clever they were -- when they weren't very clever.

"Greece is the home of democracy. The word 'democracy' is formed by the Greek words..."

"The lights represent the stars of the milky way, which is the galaxy that contains our solar system..."

"Greek history has been greatly influenced by its proximity to water..."

And so on. Painful. Can the rest of the coverage be any better?

Maude Barlow writing for the CBC?

I've never understood Canadian suspicions about trading water with the United States. We trade oil, gas, electrical power, wood, and a huge variety of manufactured and agricultural goods, and actually get upset when the Americans try to impose restrictions to this trade. But mention trading water, a renewable resource we have in tremendous abundance, and we suddenly want to keep it all for ourselves.

The CBC has a new series this fall based on our unique cultural psychosis. It's called H2O and supposedly 'combines ripped-from-the-headlines verisimilitude with the burning issues of the day to create a cautionary tale of Canada’s future.' Sounds more like it takes our water obsession and mixes it with some good old-fashioned anti-American paranoia:

On the eve of testy discussions with the U.S. Secretary of State about the integration of internal borders and the possibility of continental union, Prime Minister Matthew McLaughlin is killed in an accident. An investigation is immediately launched into his death, triggering a series of events and uncovering a shocking plot to sell one of Canada’s most valuable resources – water.

Returning to Canada from abroad to attend his father’s funeral, Tom McLaughlin attracts the attention of the ruling party when his eulogy to his father galvanizes public sentiment. Tom accepts the invitation to run for political office and enters the party leadership race. He is victorious, and goes on to become prime minister when the public embraces his populist maverick approach. However, the investigation into his father’s death reveals that it was no accident, raising the possibility that he was assassinated. The trail of evidence leads to a dark conspiracy that could lead Canada into oblivion.

The good thing is that because it's on CBC, no one will see it. The bad thing is that it'll still have to be paid for.

August 11, 2004

Stuff and Things III

  • Paul at Wizbang sums up the latest developments in the blogosphere's continuing efforts to figure out what John Kerry was up to in Vietnam. I'm linking to this because I'm seriously creeped out by the mainstream media's efforts to look the other way on this story.
  • New webpage clutter of the week -- a guestmap! All the cool blogs are getting them. Let me know where you're visiting from.
  • A photo journey through my hometown, Winnipeg. What? That doesn't excite you?
  • Mama and Papa are heading to Montreal for a couple of days, so there will be no blogging 'til Saturday. Max and Talia will be in the kennel looked after by their uncle and his girlfriend.

What's driving the chaos in Sudan?

Jay Currie dropped a comment in my post about the Sudan:

In a funny sort of way it really is about the oil. The government, and I use the term loosely, in Khartoum, wants the oil bearing regions cleared of dusky natives so as to get on with selling the oil concessions. The militias are in the business of clearing the regions. Without the oil it is very unlikely Khartoum would care less about the South - other than as a source of merchandise for the lucrative slave trade which has been flourishing in the Sudan for decades.
Yep, oil is definitely behind it. A blogger in Venezuela calls it 'the Devil's excrement' because of all the chaos it creates. Certainly the civil wars the Sudan has been tormented by have their roots in it. But what about this latest batch of atrocities?

This very detailed map of Sudan (pdf), showing how the oil fields have been parcelled out, should give some hints. Good maps have a way of making complex information clear, and this is a great one. Most of the developed oil fields are in the south, where there has been so much fighting for so long. But the undeveloped fields in the west of the country, in Darfur where this tragedy is unfolding, have all been sold to the China National Petroleum Corporation. And these are the only fields the Chinese have the rights to.

I've recently mentioned China's insatiable thirst for oil. China is the Sudan's largest trading partner and has sold them most of their military hardware. Could they be provoking this genocide in some way? I read on a couple of unreliable sites that there are Chinese troops in Sudan. I really don't think that China is encouraging mass slaughter, but by offering great wealth to those that control the territory, they might as well be.

Flower Power

The kids are absolutely bonkers this morning. They're pushing, biting, and screaming at each other. They're also extremely clingy and demanding of me, wanting to be picked up, have bouncy rides, and be given treats -- or "teets" as Talia says. And when they found some distraction could be had by destroying Mama's flowers, I had to make a choice: save the flowers or face escalated crankiness. It was not a difficult decision.

August 10, 2004

Some cracks in the monolith?

It probably would have poured for the CHOI Liberté rally on the Hill today, but I brought my coat and an umbrella, so the skies cleared and we actually got a bit of sun. I left early though, so unfortunately the rain came back. By 4:30 there was a thunderstorm raging complete with hail, at least up at my place. Sorry about that guys.

The crowd was large, well-behaved, and young. My french is quite poor, despite living over a third of my life in Québec, so I felt a bit out of place. The speakers had a strong connection with the crowd, but unfortunately I didn't get a lot out of it. I contented myself to move around the crowd and take pictures. Still, even with the language barrier, I felt this event was a hammerblow to the cultural monolith that dominates the thinking in this country. Not a shattering blow by any means, but a couple of small chips came loose, some dust was shaken free, and maybe even a fine crack appeared. But it'll take quite a bit more work to knock the whole thing down.

I am not Cuban

On the way home though, the monolith struck back. CFRA, usually a sensible talk radio station was parroting the establishment's opinion that the government should have the right to spank those that don't toe the line. And from what I heard, most of the listeners agreed. The host made the bogus point that if the government doesn't shut down this station, others will get more and more 'outrageous' in a race to the lowest depths of depravity. The unspoken reasoning behind this sentiment is that the public are morons and must be protected from themselves. It's surprising how many people believe that.

UPDATE: Jaeger at Trudeaupia has a long thoughtful post about the protest that's very much worth your time.

UPDATE II: More on the monolith striking back. Here's how the CBC prevents anyone from sympathizing with the plight of CHOI:

Fillion is known for his attacks on a variety of Quebec's public figures, as well as ethnic students and the mentally ill.

Nice day for a protest

Well, no. We've had thunderstorms all morning. But it's starting to clear; maybe we'll even get a spot of sun. The protest is the rally for CHOI on Parliament this afternoon. Jay Jardine has the Hill-cam on his site, so you can check out how many people turn up, even if you're not located near Sucking Central.

I'll be there. Not only do I get an opportunity to oppose the evil culture tyrants, I can be toddler-free for a few hours, get a haircut, eat some sort of beef-cheese-bread food combo, and try to resist buying Doom III (which is apparently pretty good, who'd have thought?). A hurricane couldn't keep me away.

August 09, 2004

It's raining blogs

I've been adding some new sites to my blogroll lately. It's been quite some time since I did it and things were starting to get stale. Since the blogroll pretty much serves as my bookmarks, now I have some new people to read. Today was a big one: nineteen new pages.

The best way to find blogs worthy of reading is to look through the links of another writer. You want to pick someone who's very intelligent, has a deep understanding of a wide range of topics, and has their finger on the pulse of the internet's greatest thinkers. But I picked Gnotalex of the Blog Québécois instead.

Looking through someone's blogroll is like sifting through their junk drawer. There are some treasures that are obviously worth saving, but also some stuff that you can't imagine why anyone would keep. I'm sure mine is no different. I looked at every link he had, and inconsistently applied an imprecise formula to them. No Michael Moore cheering or mindless Bush-bashing. But no Ann Coulter shrines or tirades against gay marriage either. Using the word 'rant' in the blog description is an immediate disqualification. Good design and frequent updates are a plus. Once-a-weekers and reporting only on the same-old-same-old are minuses. And I came out with nineteen.

So now I'm going to hit the new links on my page, magically summoning some of them here (through the magic of referrer link tracking) to find out who linked to them. Who will be first? Who's the most desperate blogger of the nineteen?

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the winner could not be determined. I was away for most of the afternoon yesterday and my tracker only stores the last 20 hits. Normally this would not be a problem, but Google has been sending me visitors by the truckload interested in spoilers for The Village. Next time...

August 08, 2004

Stuff and Things II

  • Wretchard at Belmont Club has written a great summary on the latest developments in the War on Terror and gets a little philosophical about the meaning of it all.
  • Victor Davis Hanson psychoanalyses the Europeans. Maybe a little unfair, but a fun read.
  • David Janes actually goes to see The Manchurean Candidate (unlike me) and gets whiplash from his eyes rolling back:
    The US in the Manchurian Candidate in a perpetual state of fear and military clampdown due to constant terror attacks; Muslims are regularly lynched by mobs US citizens, just like after 9/11. Still with me? You get the idea. Hillary constantly spouts Republican-style rhetoric about security, strength, and foreign folks shouldn't be killing us and other related nonsense, but it's quickly revealed just to be a scam so that Halliburton can make more money.
    Greg Buete at TCS adds more thoughts.
  • Captain Ed gives a detailed update on the Swift Boat Vets vs John Kerry. CNN has studiously ignored this story -- but you can find out what's happening in the blogosphere.

A day in the life, part IV

Okay, it's been three months since the last day in the life, so here's an update. I do these mostly for myself so I'll remember what being with these guys was like, but I've made a concession to readers of this blog this time and decided not to give a description of each poopie diaper I change. Previous days in the life are here: part I, part II and part III.

4:30 Talia wakes up crying. She's been doing this quite a bit lately and it's frustrating. Nightmares we think, and they're common at this age so we're not worried about it, but it is a bother. Mama gets up to pat her head and calm her down and she goes back to sleep. We don't take her out of her crib. Max never even moves during all this.

6:00 The alarm goes off. Mama gets up about ten minutes later, but I greedily stay in bed to try to snag a bit more sleep.

6:40 I get out of bed and grab a shower while Mama makes breakfast:

Morning Meusli

3 large handfuls regular oats
2 bananas
2 Granny Smith apples
yogurt (the real stuff), orange juice, optional extra fruit

Moisten the oats with a bit of water in a large bowl. Microwave on high for about 90 seconds. Peel the apples and grate them. Peel and mash bananas in bowl with oats, add grated apples, and mix in yogurt and orange juice until desired consistency is reached. Add chopped fruit such as peaches, strawberries or mangoes for variety. Serve!

KA-KAK!KA-KAK!  KA-KAK!7:00 The kids wake up. They're laughing and chattering together as they usually are in the morning. I get them out of their cribs and let them run around upstairs for a bit. Lately they've taken great interest in a couple of ancient wooden duck decoys that we used to use as doorstops. As soon as they're free in the morning, they run to Mama and Papa's room to get the ducks from their hiding place in the closet. They walk around with them, put them on top of things, and speak for them. The sound the ducks make is, "ka-kak!"

7:20 Downstairs, dressed and eating their meusli. Letting them eat with a spoon takes way too long, and makes them frustrated. They're hungry! I feed them myself.

7:35 After they're free from the high-chairs, I try to look at couple of blogs in the newspaper in the kitchen. Talia won't allow that, and leads me by the hand to the living room floor to sit down. Max brings over a book and the three of us read it together. He's been very cute with books lately. He'll just walk over with a book, hand it to me, then turn around and plop into my lap.


7:45 Mama leaves.

8:00 The book-reading is over. I've taken out the bin full of tupperware for them to play with.

8:15 In the day's first episode toddler-on-toddler violence, Talia pokes Max in corner of eye with a book. He bawls for a couple of minutes. Time to take them downstairs for their daily dose of programming from the insidious brain-washing machine. The basement is toddler-proof (I think) so I leave them there so I can eat my meusli and read some blogs.

8:45 I come downstairs with the laptop and monitor what the kids are watching while I try to write a bit. We're watching TVO, which is okay in its programming, but has the most hair-pullingly annoying 'host' fill the time between shows. Her name is Giselle, and she adopts a strange Transylvanian accent for everything she says. It's tiresome after 30 seconds. We watch Zoboomafoo, Peep in the Big Wide World, and Boo!, a new british show. Boo! is a wonderful show, with a smooth and simple 3D animation, great music, a fun format and no lecturing. It's at the perfect level for them. Boo and his friends Laughing Duck, Growling Tiger, and Sleeping Bear might even rival Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po in my children's affections if it was on more often.

9:30 Time to go upstairs. I let them climb the stairs by themselves and usually there's no problems, but today Talia slipped on a step with her hand and whacked her head. Poor sweety!

9:40 I give them a cookie and some milk for a snack.

10:00 Nap time. I get a chance to clean up a bit and read some blogs.

11:30 They're up. I notice Max has a small red dot in the whites of one of his eyes. Possibly a result of the T-on-T violence earlier.

11:45 Two young girls from down the street come over to play with Max and Talia. They're about eight or nine and they're here to learn some babysitting skills (and have fun). I let them occupy the kids as I prepare lunch. They're a little smothering, picking them up, moving them around and pushing toys in their hands, but it's okay.

12:00 Lunch time. The girls help feed Max and Talia. Again, a little too forcefully -- Max and Talia are capable of feeding themselves for the most part -- but it all goes well.

12:40 The girls take the kids for a walk in the stroller. I get a bit of time to myself.

12:50 That was quick. They have to go home. Wave bye-bye, guys!

1:00 The kids are out in the yard playing in the lab. It's quite chilly outside for August -- only 15 degrees.

They work there for about fifteen minutes, then decide to find out what else there is to do in this world. They make a break for it. I don't let them get too far.


2:00 Da train! Da train! The Wakefield Steam Train travels pretty much through our back yard. It's passing is the most anticipated moment of the day. Talia stamps her feet and says, "Teen! Teen!", and Max imitates the whistle, "OOOooooOOO! OOOOOoooooOOO!".

Okay, it's gone. Time for another nap.

3:30 Up again. Max is not in a good mood. He's crying and clingy and can't be consoled. I've put some Cheerios on a shelf as a snack for the kids, but only Talia is interested. Max is slumped in my arms, sobbing. Talia takes a few Cheerios and tries to stuff them in Max's mouth. It's not that simple, little girl. She bends over him and looks at him curiously. "Happy! Happy!", she says to him. No effect.

5:00 Mama gets home. Max is a little better, but still is not a fun toddler. Mama suggests that perhaps he's teething and needs some pain killers? D'oh.

5:30 Time for supper. Some frozen pasta sauce with baby pasta and some blueberries for dessert. Mama has noted that the kids have been eating all the nice seasonal fruit and we've hardly had any. Max is already much better.

6:45 Bath and bedtime. Bedtime has because a much more raucous event. The plan is that we take them in their room with cups of milk and spend time with them reading until they get sleepy. What happens is that they run around madly and occasionally come to us for sips of milk. It's fun, and they don't really complain when it's time to get in the cribs.


7:10 Dinner for Mama and Papa, and unlike the other Days in the Life, this time I made a decent meal.

Blue Cheese Pasta

blue cheese, about 100g per serving (use the cheap stuff)
olive oil
whipping creme
garlic
nutmeg
red grapes
walnuts
pasta

Crush the garlic and sauté in a small amount of olive oil. Crumble and drop in the cheese and heat on low until it's melted. Add a couple of pinches of nutmeg and a little creme. The sauce will be an unappetizing grey colour but will still taste good. Toss with the pasta and serve with toasted chopped walnuts and split grapes on top.

Okay, that's it for today...

August 07, 2004

Poetry minute

I was listening to Stereolab as I did the dishes this evening and it got me thinking about the 70s. The 70s were a grim time for the most part, and I spent my formative years in it wearing shirts with huge collars and watching bad TV while sitting on olive green and orange polyester furniture. One of my hippy teachers during this time read a poem in class one day that really stuck with me, but which I'd never been able to find again. But now, with the miracle of Google, I have unearthed it and brought it to the surface, disoriented and blinking in the harsh light of the 21st century. It hasn't aged very well, but that's what makes it so interesting:

Little Boxes
by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
And there's doctors and there's lawyers
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf-course,
And drink their Martini dry,
And they all have pretty children,
And the children go to school.
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes
And they all come out the same.

And the boys go into business,
And marry, and raise a family,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

Huh. Not quite as good as I remembered it. Just a little bit too snobbish for my taste. And a bit simplistic. I think after she read it my teacher said, "Doesn't that just make you... THINK? Y'know? I mean... WOW..."

August 06, 2004

P.J. and Powell

P.J. O'Rourke has a long, frank discussion with Secretary of State Powell. Very, very interesting reading.

(via the Campblog)

Whole lotta smackin' goin' on...

A bit more on Sheila. She used the phrase 'smacks of McCartyism' when referring to the allegations against poor selfless André (roll eyes). I don't think there's one tired phrase that annoys me more than 'smacks of'. Just for fun, I went to Google to find out what things were smacking of these days:

compromise, selective prosecution, intimidation, desperation, intolerance, commissar politics, 1984 and Big Brother, Orwell's 1984, cyber-McCarthyism, dishonesty, hypocrisy, impropriety, controversy, the nanny state, being disingenuous, stupidity and ignorance, censorship, unfair policies, CBC bias, ANC Electioneering, the bad old days, déjà vu, double standards, false morals, xenophobia, emotional lip gloss, elegance, style, Chicago-style political cronyism, a Roman power game, Reagan's Grenada stunt, Clintonian mendacity, 'Pax Americana', Fianna Fáil interference, favoritism, racism, sexism, colonialism, fascism, communism, abuse, piñata politics, a new imperialism, a whitewash, a witch hunt, a shady deal, politics, wrongness, out-dated logic, alchemy, class, success, revenge, Andrew Jackson all over again, some weird California woo-woo thing, and the worst excesses of the Scandinavian eugenics movement.
Well. Now you know.

Someone shut that woman up!

One good thing about the recent election was that Sheila is longer in Parliament and I won't have to be exposed to her stoopid opinions and forced to live under her stoopid policies. But some joker at the National Post, knowing I was a subscriber, arranged to have the latest half-baked, batty thoughts that flitted through her vacant head typed up and delivered to my door once a week. And I'm forced to look, in the same way that you'd take a glance at a gruesome car wreck on the side of the road. Her prose is equally sickening.

This week she gushes on and on about how wonderful big spender André Ouellet really is and how unfair it is that he's being targeted by an auditors report. This from the woman who broke records with her own uncontrolled personal spending. It's a good look into how the top tier of the elite political class justify to themselves the extravagant lifestyle they enjoy. They're 'serving' the country, you see. Sure.

August 05, 2004

Intervene in the Sudan

The Economist had a good piece last week (unavailable online except to subscribers) on the growing horror in Sudan.

How bad are things in Darfur? Ask the villagers who saw their neighbours trussed with chains and burned alive. Ask the 1.2m people who have been terrorised into fleeing the embers of their huts. Ask the aid workers who estimate that 1,000 people are dying each day in this remote region of western Sudan, mostly of hunger-related diseases, and that hundreds of thousands will die if not helped.
There are some signs that people are starting to take this seriously and there is even the talk of a possible intervention. The US government has declared what is happening a 'genocide' and the British have prepared troops to be dispatched immediately if the political will is found. But of course this is the problem, there is faint political will. Especially in the UN Security Council:
An arms embargo would be a start, but Russia, which is selling fighter jets to Khartoum, is likely to oppose it. The threat of an oil embargo would be more potent. Unless the Sudanese government makes a serious and immediate effort to rein in its killers, its main source of hard currency should be shut off. The French and Chinese governments may not like this idea, however, as their oil firms have interests in Sudan.
Meanwhile, there are other forces gearing up to oppose a rescue -- those of the left who are rallying to claim that any military intervention is all about the oil:
The absence of anti-war scepticism about the prospect of sending troops into Sudan is especially odd in view of the fact that Darfur has oil. For two years, campaigners have chanted that there should be "no blood for oil" in Iraq, yet they seem not to have noticed that there are huge untapped reserves in both southern Sudan and southern Darfur. As oil pipelines continue to be blown up in Iraq, the west not only has a clear motive for establishing control over alternative sources of energy, it has also officially adopted the policy that our armies should be used to do precisely this. Oddly enough, the oil concession in southern Darfur is currently in the hands of the China National Petroleum Company. China is Sudan's biggest foreign investor.

We ought, therefore, to treat with scepticism the US Congress declaration of genocide in the region.

Yes, the writer asks us to believe that US wants to steal the Chinese oil. Expect more conspiracy theories of a similar nature to be constructed if a 'coalition of the willing' moves in to provide security in Darfur. But they were wrong about Iraq and Afghanistan, and they're wrong here too. There's a lot of risk in moving into Sudan, but the risk in ignoring it is far worse. Unfortunately, it's much easier in politics to regret something you haven't done, than something you have.

Essential Lileks today

Not only does he patiently explain the trials of the stay-at-home parent, he deftly fisks some pretentious pseudo-anarchist drivel. Not that that's such a hard thing to do, but it's fun to read.

August 04, 2004

Maybe running on that Vietnam record wasn't the best idea...

This is going to hit Kerry hard. It seems the only thing Kerry is selling himself on is that he is a decorated Vietnam veteran. When it becomes widely known that most of his fellow officers from that time consider him a liar and a fraud, what's left? Check out this photo that shows the extent of his support among other Swift boat commanders from Coastal Division 11. And I'm sure those that declare him 'unfit' are willing to appear on talk shows to back up their stand...

I think this is going to be a major campaign issue.

Fight the Power!

Jaeger at Trudeaupia has alerted me to a protest scheduled for 2:00 on Tuesday, August 10th on Parliament Hill to support CHOI in Québec. The closing of this radio station is a perfect example of the petty, paternalistic, "we know what's best for you" attitude of the self-imagined intellectual 'elites' in this country. They have to be fought. I'll be there.

Supply and demand

That's the reason oil has been hitting all time high prices:

According to an analytical estimation by Ministry of Commerce, China's crude oil import will for the first time break through 100 million tons this year to hit a record of 110 million tons, a year-on-year increase of 21 percent. The import of refined oil is to reach 40 million tons, a rise of some 40 percent.
This kind of growth can't last though, sales of cars are slowing down:
Car sales in China are expected to grow by just 20 percent this year after nearly doubling in 2003 to two million units.

August 03, 2004

I'm going to die

Someday. And it's not going to be an easy death either:

I will be stung by a swarm of killer bees



How will you die? Take the Exotic Cause of Death Test

I always figured I'd spontaneously combust. I guess I was wrong.

(via the Stupid Angry Canajun)

Thanks for telling me...

Since I installed my spam fix a week ago, I've received absolutely no comments. I figured it was because no one liked me and I had a crappy blog. Well, that's part of the problem, but it's also been due to a bug I introduced when I tried to get rid of the old spam protection. Finally someone had the courage to tell me about the problem, and it has been corrected. I'm sorry for the potential posts that have been lost, it won't happen again.

Readers are invited to shower me with the love that the technological glich had blocked. Better late than never.

The Great Can Con

The Canadian Cultural establishment works like the mafia -- a closely knit hierarchy of groups that collectively determine what type of entertainment and edification the citizens of this country can safely be exposed to. They work mostly in the background, visible only in half-glimpsed logos seen at the end of TV programs, or in the fine print in the program to a play. But they're there, and are very influential. Just like the mafia, they use money to get power -- by corrupting the creative community with grants and paid positions -- and use their power to get more money. And occasionally they're forced to whack some troublemakers -- like CHOI-FM in Québec City -- to make an example of them.

The Federal government funds groups, which fund other groups, which fund still other groups, creating an almost unbelievably vast network of dependents. Dependents like the Conseil Culturel Fransaskois which 'helps create in Saskatchewan a vibrant cultural and artistic Fransaskois community and favorable circumstances for Francophone artists' or Studio XX, 'Montreal's Web Art and Media Resource Centre for Women'. Or how about Collective Echoes, which was given $20,000 to put up this oh-so-amusing billboard in Vancouver. (I'm glad the caption explained the word-play. I never would have figured it out!) I could go on and on with this (the government websites are so proud of all these clients that I could mine them for days and never run out of material) but that's not my point. I've got nothing against Francophone artists in Saskatchewan or women web designers in Montreal, and if the government is handing out cash-money to people who want to indulge themselves and do what they love, they'd be foolish to turn it down.

The waste of money is an issue. Canadian taxpayers don't deserve to have their money spent on someone else's particular passion. Some may say these projects benefit all Canadians, but forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical about that. But even that isn't the worst part. What I worry about is what having only one significant patron of the Arts does to the creative energy of this country.

I like to think of artistic expression as a fundamental component of human nature. We want to express ourselves; we want to attract attention and be thought of as profound, witty and talented. We also want to get rich. Art flourishes in a competitive environment. The boring, the derivative and the pretentious are washed away by ambitious newcomers in a continual cycle of renewal. Any media that has feedback from its consumers will see this process. Fashions, styles, and themes will be brought to the forefront, twisted, changed, and discarded, only to be rediscovered again by a new generation. It's good, this change -- and it's vital to art.

But Canada has moved away from this. Slowly, government money and government promotion has stepped between the artists and their customers (because that's what the public really are) and altered the incentives to create art. Gatekeepers have taken up positions of power and imposed warped constraints on creativity. Instead of working to please a fickle and unpredictable public, artists start thinking about how they can please some functionary in a bureaucracy -- how they can achieve some quota or meet some qualification in order to get a grant or funding and promotion for a project. It's poisoning our country's creative resources.

Art isn't going to go away if the government stops funding it. But some people will have a hard time making a living as artists. Like everyone else, they'll have to temper their dreams with reality, and the public will be better off for it.

Are they serious?

Sometimes it's hard to tell. Bjørn Stærk analyses an anti-American screed and makes a good case that they're not.

August 02, 2004

Calling all weekend anarchists

Allah has the goods on the loonies' plans for the Republican convention at the end of this month. It sounds like all the other brick-thrower conventions have just been trial runs for this one. It'll be interesting to see what the cops come up with to counter them and how big a boost Bush support will get from people who want to disassociate themselves with this madness.

As I was saying...

What was I saying? That Hollywood can't address terrorism? I guess I was wrong -- take a look at this: Team America. Apparently, the White House is not amused. But it kinda looks like fun. The trailer made me laugh...

The bad guy is ... (yawn) ... a corporation

For the latest in my continuing series of providing movie spoilers (two is a series, right?) I look at the Manchurian Candidate, which also opened this weekend. No hidden text this time, because I don't think there's really any secret here -- the evil force trying to gain control of the White House is a corporation, Manchurian Global, instead of the Reds.

It's very strange that in these days when the Western world is threatened by Islamic terrorism, Hollywood is unable to make a movie that implicates Islamic terrorists as the villains. The idea probably came up as the screenwriters worked on updating the plot of the old Manchurian Candidate to modern times, but they rejected it. To un-PC, I guess. Too dangerous a subject. Better to keep their heads buried in the sand.

But a corporation! Really, could there be any more of a clichéd enemy in movies? White guys in suits, smoking cigars and holding meetings in wood-paneled offices. But that's Hollywood shorthand for evil these days. Not a scarred face and bad teeth, but a cell phone and shiny black shoes. As part of the promo for the movie, they created a website for Manchurian Global. It's pretty well done -- at first I thought it was a real company that had the same name. But when you look a bit, you find the standard friendly business-babble twisted in with the paranoid fantasies of the wackier fringes of the left:

"Imagine a world beyond borders, where global commerce is free to flourish, where resources are available to those who are willing to work hardest. Imagine the future of Manchurian Global. Be part of it."
-- Jonathan Bai, Senior Advisor

"Skill, intellect, and a keen eye for the unexplored will propel Manchurian Global beyond all others in the quest for the world's finite economic resources."
-- Marcus Bollen, Senior Counselor

Clever.

Mistrust of corporations has always been around, but it seems more widespead and acceptable nowadays. Significant portions of the population believe the war in Iraq was cooked up by a secret cabal of oil companies and defence contractors. All you have to do is say the name, 'Haliburton' to some people to set them off ranting about their latest conspiracy theory. I really wonder what it'll take to wake people up to who the real enemy is.

August 01, 2004

Baby's first dueling scar

Max was taught a lesson yesterday by Heidelberg fencing instructor Squeak about showing proper respect. You'd think it would be a lesson he wouldn't soon forget, but you'd be wrong. After a five minute crying and sobbing interlude, he was right back at it, pulling the poor cat's whiskers and giggling madly.

Mama said the scar will fade in about a week.