Saturday, December 30, 2006

Rethinking Your Heroes

CD in Play: PJ Harvey, Uh-Huh Her

Just finished What's My Name, Fool? by Dave Zirin. Took me just over 9 hours to read its 293 pages and I was utterly engrossed. Not bad Mr. Zirin, considering my usual anti-organized sports stance. But then, if I am to be honest, some of that stance was born out of my disgust for pastors who are unable to preach without bringing it all back to sports and people whose calender revolves around a game schedule. Even I have my sports heroes. I have learned quite a bit from What's My Name, Fool? and some of it is quite new to me, so I beg pardon that some of what I am writing (with the exception of Muhammad Ali) here is a bit of sum up.
One of my childhood heroes was Muhammad Ali. Why? Not too sure why this came to be, after all I was four in 1974 when "The Rumble in the Jungle" was fought. My Dad let me watch some it and told me a bit about the trials and tribulations of Muhammad Ali. I guess I've always admired the underdog. Hard to think of Ali as an underdog if you ever had the chance see one of his fights while he was in his prime, but he was by virtue of being Black and radical at a time of immense social upheaval.
As a kid, after the "Rumble in the Jungle" I only ever saw Ali in his declining years. Not that it mattered, he had a cartoon where he went around the world solving mysteries. Ali did the voice and me and a couple of other Ali juvenile fans would watch it faithfully for the one year of its run. But that was just a fringe benefit of my childhood hero worship, the weight of his legacy was more than enough to shore him up against his slow, painful decline in my childhood eyes. I have always felt like an underdog and was bullied quite a lot throughout school. When I finally stood up for myself and fought back it was partly from what I saw in Ali. Ali had stood for something good, something different and I wanted to be like that as well.
But then the 80's rolled around and Ali started to schill for Jimmy Dean sausages; later on, his image was used to sell Apple computers. Zirin points out that Ali has been embraced by the establishment that once reviled him. President Bush Mk.II awarded Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It isn't the hallmark of a sellout, after all the likes of John Steinbeck, Antonia Pantojas, Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, Edward R. Murrow, Jackie Robinson, César Chávez, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks number among its recipients. But it is hard to see a younger Ali accepting an award from a corrupt president whose policies are completely unconcerned with the plight of the average American, let alone the average African-American. This is a President whose administration has been doing a hell of a lot to try and turn back the civil rights clock - a man completely at odds with very things that Ali had stood for, that had made him a man to be admired.
In an America where anything less than blind obedience is deemed by the establishment as unpatriotic, it would be impossible for the old Ali to even be considered for such an award. It is hard to associate the young Ali who tore up his draft card, was stripped of his title, kicked out of boxing and threatened with imprisonment if he didn't serve in Vietnam with the Ali who agreed to be in an advertising campaign aimed at explaining the "War on Terror" to the Arab world. Ali refused to serve in Vietnam because no Vietcong had ever called him "nigger": one has to wonder then what the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq called him? Discussing this with friends, it is tempting to make excuses for him since he has Pugilistic Parkinsons Syndrome and he has had a hole in the membrane of his brain. But still... I am not sure I buy it. Maybe it is best to let the Ali of the present to slip away from memory - to keep in mind what Ali had been, everything that had made him, in fact, The Greatest.
But looking at admirable people, it seems to me that Jackie Robinson is a much ignored figure in some ways. We hear about Jackie but what do we really know about him? Why is Jackie Robinson worth knowing about? Robinson, in my opinion, has certainly been glossed over in this day. Some people choose to ignore him because he was seen as "white man's negro". Robinson didn't storm onto the scene as angrily and as vocally as Ali did. Robinson was also a supporter of the Republican Party (keep in mind that for many blacks of particular generations they were the party of Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, while the Democrats were the pro-slavery and segregation party) and had testified at the US Congresses House Un-American Activities Committee, (HUAC) which led to the persecution of athlete/actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson. But Robinson deserves our respect and admiration, more so because he compromised who was because it was the easier, softer option.
I knew it was hard for Robinson in those early days as the lone black man in an all white and openly hostile league, but it wasn't until reading Zirin's book that I came to understand just what kind of hell Robinson was put through: the horrific name calling, black cats thrown onto the field, bad calls made deliberately against him, the intentional spiking, (done when someone drives the spikes of their cleats into a player's leg) the death threats against both him and his family. His own teammates didn't want him, even started a petition to get rid of him. The only one who believed in him was the GM and part-owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. When he went to play on Brooklyn's farm team, the Montreal Royals, (one of the most redundant names ever) the manager there was upset asking Rickey, "... do you really think this nigger's a human being?"
Which one of us could put up with the amount of pressure, hatred and abuse? How many of us would have been willing to fight off our natural instincts of fight or flight? Robinson was a fighter and he stuck it out. He won the respect and admiration of White America. At the point he started to assert who he was and there was a backlash. Robinson spoke out about the injustices and glaring inequalities in his society before there was an actual Civil Rights Movement in the US. After baseball as a columnist in the New York Post and speaker for the NAACP he regularly challenged the system. He marched with MLK and allowed his opinions and politics to be changed as the events of his time unfolded. If anything, Robinson's beliefs became more fervent and adamant. Robinson deserves to be remembered and his true legacy ought to be known,
Tommie Smith and John Carlos are two people that you have probably seen, but never heard of. Their actions at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City made one of the most enduring images of the Olympics and the Black Power movement. Perhaps if I were a sports fanatic I would have come across their names, but I have only recently learned about them. Smith and Carlos had been part of OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) which had been founded to confront US hypocrisy on the subject of race relations. At first the group had tried to organize an all Black athlete boycott of the Olympics, but that option did not prove popular. Eventually the group decided that each athlete should find their own way to protest.
In the 200m race, Smith won Gold, Australia's Peter Norman took the silver and John Carlos took the bronze. Carlos and Smith wore their OPHR and went to the podium shoeless (to protest immense poverty in the world's wealthiest nation) and wearing beads, (to commemorate those who had been lynched, tarred and feathered or tossed of the boats in the Middle Passage) But what was most provocative about their actions was that they wore black gloves on one hand which they raised high with their heads bowed while the "Star-Spangled Banner" was played. (yes, exactly was the picture shown) Peter Norman joined them in a show of solidarity by wearing and OPHR badge as well.
All three of those athletes were punished for this demonstration. Carlos and Smith were stripped of their medals and sent home.
Hard times ensued for all three men. Carlos was maybe hit the hardest had a short-lived career in both NFL and CFL football and struggled in menial jobs for years. His isolation grew so desperate that his wife eventually committed suicide as a result. Smith had more success playing in the NFL and became of sociology professor. Both men ultimately ended up as track coaches. Peter Norman was shunned and ostracized by the Australian Olympic authorities and the Press for his participation. He was shut out of the 1972 Aussie Olympic team and ignored by his country until his death this fall from a heart attack. Despite the hard times and the pain that their actions brought about, none of the men have ever shown regrets for their protest.
Zirin's book opened my eyes quite a bit. We can't allow ourselves to forget or remain ignorant to the potential power sports has an agent of social change. All these people made personal sacrifices to make their world a better place. I'm not Black, so their actions were never really directed at me - but the Civil Rights Movement and even the Black Power movement had reprocussions for all of us. They acheived much and we have reaped the benfits of their actions. We cannot allow thing to slip backwards. Loses for one segment of society will mean a loss for us all, regardless of colour or creed.

Friday, December 29, 2006


CD in Play: Fugazi, The Argument

So I am almost finished Dave Zirin's What's My Name, Fool?. Started Christmas Day and I have one chapter left. Completely engrossing. So I looked up The Edge of Sports, Zirin's site, to find more of his writings. I found this piece written by Kevin Tillman, the brother of Pat Tillman who had walked away from the NFL to join the US Army Rangers and serve in Afghanistan. It was originally published at Truthdig. He refused to play any role in recruitment and was later killed by friendly fire. Tillman's death was misrepresented to his family and the public and was used as a PR stunt by Washington.
Hopefully, Kevin Tillman and Truthdig don't mind me posting this without permission.

After Pat's Birthday
By Kevin Tillman

It is Pat's birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice... until we get out.
Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED (Improvised Explosive Device - M.S.) throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.
Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat's birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,
Kevin Tillman

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Three B's of Christmas

CD in Play: Fugazi, The Argument.

Bladder, Books and Booze

I am looking after my Dad's place right now, making sure his wife's cats are fed and the local thieves are discouraged. As I am working tomorrow morning and then proceeding to my Mother's place afterwards, I decided to open my presents now.
I am sipping on a Scotch whisky, The Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood. I am full having dined on haggis served with leeks, mashed potatoes, mushrooms and a vegetable gravy. Haggis is stuffed in a stomach, but bladder alliterates with books and booze, so I took the liberty. If you don't like haggis it might be for one of three reasons:

1. You have never had it.
2. You have had bad haggis.
3. You are a vegetarian/vegan.

Vegetarian haggis - let alone a vegan version - would be horrible. But haggis from the British Butcher Shoppe in North Vancouver is a work of art and a pleasure to consume.
As for the books, I received five from my father this year and am looking forward to delving into them. The books are as follow:

1. Journey to the Ice Age: Discovering an Ancient World by Peter Storck
2. Sahib, The British Soldier in India by Richard Holmes
3. Burmese Days by George Orwell
4. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
5. What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin

continued at 9:19 am on the 25, December 2006.
As I am planning to teach Art and History in High School, I decided I needed to start reading much more than I have been. The Rebus novels have been good at whetting my appetite. I asked for ...Ice Age as I believe anyone with an eye to becoming an historian needs to understand these critical events in human history. Since I am considering teaching in the UK I need to brush up on British history. Many of the books I want are not easily obtainable, thus I have Sahib. I know very little about England's colonization of India and need to remedy that. I have been trying get my hands on Burmese Days for a few years now, but no ever seems to have it in, whether it be a small, large or used bookstore.
Zinn's book is a apparently a socialist persepctive on US history, so it makes for an interesting contrast with most of the books availible on the subject. People need to be selective in the books they read, but they shouldn't discriminate based on ideology. What's My Name Fool? is a book along the same lines. I started reading it on my way to work and it is very interesting. Zirin's an intelligent writer, looking at the connection of sports and social change throughout history. I am on the chapters dealing with Jackie Robinson.
Anyhow, enjoy the day and have a Merry Christmas.

The Black Dog and The White Dog

CD in Play: Johnny Cash, American IV - The Man Comes Around.& Unearthed Disc 3, Redemption Songs.

I have been listening to a lot of Johnny Cash of late, the American Recordings releases. When I first bought them, they moved me deeply. Listening to them now they move me deeper still. It's been just over three years since Mr. Cash died but his music stands strong, vital and important. His music has reconnected me to my faith in a way.
I walked away from the Church (but not the Faith) in 1994, sick of institutionalized Christianity and tired of what I saw there. I had attended a church called Willingdon Mennonite Brethren. It was MB in name only, desperately trying to become just another generic "culturally relevant" Evangelical Church. Sunday mornings were being simplified and stripped down in order to make the "seeker services". But really, in all my time in church I rarely saw many non-believers come walking through the doors on their own.
Sermons were watered down, kept basic on the assumption it would please the uninitiated. As a result, Bible studies were where the flock were supposed to get into the deeper stuff. A fine theory, but it left a lot of lay people to their own devices. The Church isn't referred to a flock for nothing - sheep left alone apparently have a tendency to graze over a spot well beyond the point they should. One of the jobs of a shepherd is to keep the flock moving to new grounds: Willingdon's flock had become stagnant and the shepherds were too busy trying to be "culturally relevant" and "seeker" friendly to notice and much of the flock just kept grazing in familier territory. It seemed that the head pastor at that time felt the mark of his abilities as a pastor was was in the quantity of his flock, quality never seeming to enter the equation.
But this wasn't just a problem with Willingdon, it has been a persistent illness within Protestant/Evangelical circles. I went to a church some friends' of mine go to fairly recently. There was some perceptible disappointment on the faces of the people their when they learned I was "one of them". They wanted fresh meat not meat that was well-seasoned and, perhaps, slightly off.
The sermon was watered down, kept simple for the sake of the newer believers. It was on the the Poetic Books and Books of Wisdom: Song of Songs/Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes. (there are two others, Sirach and Wisdom, but Protestants don't accept them as canonical) As a gimmick they these large over-sized books (approx 7ft tall) which the pastor would pull out and open to show an outline of each books content. There were also a PowerPoint Presentation with lots of nature pictures, etc. to accompany the points the pastor was making.
So what does all this have to do with Johnny Cash, right? Another facet of the modern Church that I loathe is its music. Worship is an industry. Sure guys like Bach made a living at it, but the people making money to write worship music ain't Bach and, in my opinion, don't give a damn about craft or artistry. Like a lot of things in Western society, modern worship music is fast, easy, safe and (to my mind) disposable.
What I like about Cash's religious material, both his originals and covers, is that they are often songs written from a painful place. Songs like "Help Me" (a Larry Gatlin song) "I Came to Believe" are written from places that aren't easy to be, but places that become an integral part of who you are once you have been there. Cash once talked about the black dog and the white dog in an interview. He said that the black dog was in its cage and the white dog was sitting in the yard now, but he could still hear the black dog howling, hear it rattling the cage trying to get out. Sometimes it does.
Another way of looking at it would be through the Edgar Allan Poe story, The Tell-Tale Heart. The things we have done wrong weigh against us, maybe even killed portions of our soul. And there is a sound we hear that drives, but we can never get away from it: it is relentless. Coming clean helps, but we always hear at least an echo of things we had done wrong before,
Modern Christianity doesn't like to reflect on pain or sorrow, it has become too suburban and middle class for that sort of discomfort. Modern Christianity is about cocooning, setting up barriers and buffers to keep unpleasantness out. Once you're one of the anointed appointed you've earned the right to be one of the 24 hour party people sitting in the God's Grace Marathon Love-In of Hope, right? One pastor on television apparently stated that the Gospel is the Road to Wealth. God wants His people to be happy and blessed. right? Eventually, yes but not now and not here.
Life, in its totality, is not wholly suffering, but it is a significant and important part of it. Happiness and contentedness is very often illusory and lasts only when we stop thinking, get with the programme and conform. Often times our happiness is really just a state of denial. It is an empty vapid existence, is it any wonder that Sunday worship has been tailored to reflect said existence? People tell me hymns are too old or too complicated, they don't reach people. I also hear people say that they are hackneyed and worn out. Hymns are not too old: hell, name one hymn that even comes close to being as old as the Bible? Is the Bible worn out and hackneyed? Should we update it for the times? Does the Bible need to made culturally relevant? If you believe then the answer is no. Islam is anything but culturally relevant and it is the fastest growing religion in the world, so what does that tell you?
If we updated the Bible for our times what would we lose? Consider what Western culture really offers and think about it, the answer should scare you. If hymns are worn out and hackneyed than lazy or unadventurous music directors and congregations are to blame. So many churches trod over the same hymns again and again. The average hymnal is pretty big and I would guess that the average congregation sings, at most, 10% of it.
Are hymns too complicated or we just too lazy to try? They were good enough for the older generations so why not us? Isn't worship of one's Deity worth putting some effort into? Hymns are emotionally engaging when you get into them and read the lyrics. As I said about Cash's work, they are often written from a darker place. Hymns may magnify the glory of God, but they don't seem to shy away from acknowledging the human condition. One hymn moved me, almost to tears. I cannot remember the name and have only heard it once. The writer had written it after losing his family one after another to tragedy.
Johnny's music moves me to and reminds me of my faith in God and that I am not alone. A large portion of Christianity has lost touch with its soul, lives in fear of the world outside. The Bible says we are to live in the World but not be of the World. I think my friends' Gavin and Maria and Pete and Deanna church manages to that. The attend an Eastern Right Orthodox Church, St. Herman of Alaska. Eastern Orthodoxy (much like Islam) is culturally irrelevant, yet Orthodoxy has made significant gains in the past decade. Many Evangelicals seem to me to of the World but not really in it. They have removed themselves and set up a bizarre fun house reflection of Western Culture to follow. That is something I just can't be a part of.
I don't know if any of this makes sense, but it was something I finally had to unload onto the blog.

Johnny Cash - God's gonna cut you down

Posthumous video that's a fair bit of crap, but the song (an old traditional) is great so just close your eyes and listen.

Johnny Cash- Redemption

Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways

Just Rick Rubin talking about the latest release.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Strategic Product Placement

CD in Play: The Rolling Stones, Beggar's Banquet.

I own a Nokia cell phone. I like my cell. I like the fact that Nokia is attempting to make a "green phone" that uses less toxic components and gives off the least amount of radiation. That said, this week I have been thinking a lot about switiching out to a Sony Ericsson. Two of my co-workers use them and I like what I see. Greenpeace rates the Sony Ericsson phones just a bit behind Nokia interms of "green-ness". But I like my Nokia, so why am I thinking about abandoning the Finns and jumping onto the Sino-Swedish bandwagon?
They got me with Casino Royale. I am almost positive that that they were using Sony Ericsson phones/PDAs exclusively. (it is a Sony picture after all) Brosnan era Bond films suffered from extremely obvious product placement, so obvious as to turn me off the product. The new Bond film is very subtle and way and they almost got to me. Almost, but like I say - I like my cell phone.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


For Geosomin. Mmmmm.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


CD in Play: Johnny Cash, American V - A Hundred Highways.

No offence to Jesus, but Christmas has lost its lustre. Christmas has become a time of loneliness, isolation and neuroses. My parents split when I was eight so I have always spent separate Christmases since that time. This year I'll be spending Christmas with my Mum for the first time in eight or seven years, which will be nice. Having recently discovered that she actually reads this blog, I won't state what I got her, but I think she'll like it.
Last year I became acutely aware of how many Christmases I spent with friends' families, like the Fasts, the Goudswards and the Chattaways a couple of times. But most of my friends have spouses and/or kids of their own, and they go to larger family functions here or elsewhere. Christmas in Montreal was spent with a woman I really should have avoided for my own mental well being. Not that she was the sole cause of my mental disintegration, nor am I trying to lay any blame on her.
This year I have had a number of dreams about getting fired or layed-off. In fact this morning, I dreamed a realistic dream that I the head of HR called, woke me up and told me they were letting me go becuase I answered my phone. I woke up with such a jolt, it was like being a kid and having the dream about being consumed by a multi-tentacled, shadowy beast. Or the one where you are falling.
Tis the season for mass lay-offs, fa-la-la-la-la, la la LA la/ Sign this paper and don't shoot your mouth off, fa-la-la-la-la, la la LA la.
Since November I have had subconscious fears about losing my job. I can't see it happening as security is a growth industry and having guards who show up on time and speak English fluently is a bonus. That sounds bad, but it is an industry problem right now. But there is that constant niggling that just won't go away until sometime around the middle of January. Yes the modern corporate world has helped destroy the season and turned Christmas in Crapmas.

BTW, Message to Chrisco - Piss Off!

dydd Mawrth

CDs in Play: Super Furry Animals, Rings Around the World. JAMC, The Sound of Speed.

By a Wales Tale

Been doing some cultural background for a character I am working on. Decided to make him an combo of Finnish Irish and Welsh. I like the sound of those languages and find their histories to be interesting. I am neither Finnish nor exactly Welsh. My maternal Grandmother, Molly Crowe (nee. Corcoran), was born in a place called Unys Uchaf in Ystadgynlais, etc Wales to an Irish-Catholic family who I am guessing lived in a sort of Irish-R.C. ghetto in Dowlais. (near Merthyr Tydfyl if you look it up on a map)
Some interesting resources came up for Wales and the Welsh language. Often maligned by the English, the BBC seems to be making it up to Wales with an interesting website about the Welsh language and living in Wales. These are links to two recorded bits of people telling storries in Welsh. I wasn't able to find something similar for Finnish at this time.

- A woman speaks about a pet that only understands Welsh.
- A man speaks about the origins of Hereford castle.

"That Guy" No Longer

Just saw Casino Royale on sunday night. I am tempted to say the best Bond film ever, but that would be doing Sean Connery's efforts a disservice. when I spoke to Pete Chattaway about it I stated that I would probably say it was the best bond film since Thunderball. As a Bond buff, Pete pointed out that before Casino Royale the last film to follow Flemming's stories closely was, in fact, Thunderball.
No cheap gimmickery, no toys, nothing tasteless or overblown: Royale is stripped down and focused. In fact, the only real toys he has (aside froma gun) are for emergency first aid. Daniel Craig was an excellent choice for Bond. Pierce Brosnan didn't seem to know what to do with Bond. I am not that this was a limitation on Brosnan's abilities so much as poor scripts and a loss of ideas and direction. They had turned Bond from a spy to an action hero commando. But by "rebooting" the series they have freed themselves up considerably to do things differently and get a post-Cold War Bond right.
Up until Munich, Daniel Craig was "Oh... that guy..." to "Yeah, him. Craig something or other.. you know, he was in...". I am still surprised when I see him something that I haven't seen in a while and recognise him now as a name. (like Elizabeth or Sharpe's Eagle starring Bond alumnus Sean Bean) An solid actor who I do not think will be hampered by a series stigma in the least.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


CD Playing in My Head: The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.

A Moment of Silence...

... For the passing of the Chinese River Dolphin, the first large mammal to become extinct in decades. This sort of thing was expected as a result of China's Three Gorges Dam project, not even fully operation yet. If you fail to see why this is a big deal, then either start doing some reading on elementary ecology or just do us all a favour and top yourself now.

Surprise! The Canadian Government Screws The Nation All Over Again!

Read the story at the Ceeb.

For a Prime Minister who says he's devoted to Canada, Stephen Harper has had some difficulty proving it. Ottawa has decided it will not back a sophisticated Canadian made robotic rover for the ESA (European Space Agency) that could have been used for the planned 2015 Mars exploration. The kicker is that the Canadian space industries aren't asking for more money, just a reallocation of funds making the ESA rover a priority project.
The USA is apparently also interested in Canada pursuing its space robotics programme as Canada is further ahead in that field. The Conservatives say they don't wish to commit to the project as they are unsure of where Canada's future in space lies. This hesitation could jeopardize Canada's space industries as a whole. Similarities are being drawn between the current Conservative Government's apparent lack of enthusiam to Diefenbaker's Conservatives in the 1950's, how they axed the Avro Arrow programme and the subsequent "brain drain" as Canadian project managers, aerospace engineers and technicians left the country to go work for NASA.
Yet another brain drain in yet another industry - wouldn't that do Canada a world of good? Time for Harper to show his commitment to Canadian industies other than the ones that benefit his home province, i.e. the Oil and Gas Industry.

Tagged, I's Iz Its.

Listening to: Flaming Lips "Radio".

Geosomin has tagged me for a quiz thingy. Personally, I think you should tell me six weird things about myself, but...

Six Weird Things About Me:
Pacian inspired, geek powered...

1. I count in reverse. when estimating numbers I always state the highest number first and go low. 10 to 8, 25 maybe 20. "How old was she?" - "45, 44, maybe 41". Boggles my parents to no end.

2. I frequently dream "real days" that never happened but feel like they did. I once dreamed an entire week had went by. My finals all went off well, a woman I liked told me she wanted to be with me, I had some great prospects waiting, Hypernode was going to record a proper album and play shows. I woke up drove to what I had imagined would be my last final exam and then found it was the Sunday before the week I had just dreamed. The real week was not so kind.

3. Like Geosomin, I too sometimes have to check my identification so I can recall my name. Happened at the bank once - fun. This started before the use of a pseudonym, by the way.

4. I correct my Dad and certain friends on points of grammar and diction all the time. Around Elijah Bak and Peter Chattaway, the process is reversed and I become as ill-spoken as my Father can be.

5. I am one of those people who likes reading the last chapter just after reading the first chapter. It gets me interested in reading how the book comes to its ultimate conclusion.

6. I frequently pretend to be from Scotland or Ireland. I have even fooled people from Scotland with my accent. My accent can sound so strong as to be incomprehensible to non-Scots. Right now my accent is waffling between Glaswegian and Aberdonian, and my Irish is a bit weak and sounding more like a Robert Shaw impersonation.

An Assortment of Rodentia

CDs in Play: Super Furry Animals, Rings Around the World. David Bowie, Low.

The Freedom to Silence Others
Perhaps you have heard something about the controversy surrounding (if you want to see the site itself, Wikipedia has a link to it) The site was created as a means of "outing" informants and agents. Started by a guy named Sean Bucci, who has been in court on dealing charges, the site claims that it is not promoting violence against informants, just putting their info out there so people (I would assume people in the "alternative economies" specifically) would know who to avoid, etc. It seems an interesting way of using the First Amendment to shut people up.
Someone is going to end up dead because of this site. The site says that they want listings tied to non-violent crime, but come on... Bucci is fighting charges related to marijuana dealing - how many deaths have occurred in the US (and in Canada) related to dealing? Having met dealers in the past, they are not all bad guys - some are down right descent human beings actually. But they were small-time hippie types and violence is a fact even in the marijuana trade. Cross the Hells Angels and see how forgiving they will be. Shop someone connected in with the Angels, get your file and photo posted on and see how long it is before you get bumped off.
Dead Despots
And in what some will see as a hypocritical turn, Augusto Pinnochet is dead and the world is a richer place for it. Too bad it didn't happen back in the 1970's, thus preventing the loss of thousands of lives. There isn't much I can say about Pinnochet that hasn't been as eloquently, articulately or as succinctly put by others so I am not going to bother. My one regret in his dying is that he won't serve any time for his crimes - embezzlement and money laundering, allegations of chemical and biological weapons production and proliferation, allegations of cocaine trafficking and more importantly thousands of people murdered, kidnapped, tortured and disappeared. Margaret Thatcher and George W. H. Bush are both known supporters of Pinnochet, which shouldn't be so surprising. But are free market economies really worth so much in terms of the suffering, misery, bloodshed and loss of life? The moral answer is no.
Should God choose to show Augusto Pinnochet mercy, then so be it. But I cannot find it within me to feel anything but disgust and revulsion for monsters like Pinnochet, Jorge Rafael Videla, Alfredo Stroessner, Luis García Meza Tejada, Anastasio Somoza García, Efraín Ríos Montt and so many other.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Uisge Beatha

CD in Play: Super Furry Animals, Mwng.

Bloody hell I love whisky. It's terrible for me, the process of firing peat (or coal) to malt the barley is apparently carcenogenic - but bloody hell, I love whisky. I love the smells, the colour, reading the labels and most of all - the tastes. So many different types of whisky. Bourbon (some I like), Irish (most I like), Rye (never had one I liked) and Scotch. The differences between sidtilleries is so distinct and batches are striking too.
As I stated earlier in the blog, I went out drinking with the Old Man last Friday to Shebeen. Shebeen is a whisky house behind the Irish Heather and sits between Blood Alley and Gaoler's Mews in the Gastown neighbourhood of Vancouver. My Dad and I drank The Macallan 15 yrs Fine Oak, the Arran 15 yrs Port cask, one I can't quite remember and the The Balvenie 12yrs Doublewood. My Dad and I both fell in love with The Balvenie Doublewood, aged in both sherry and port casks. Basically, if silk were a liquid it would go down like The Balvenie: smoother than smooth. The Macallan and The Balvenie are both Speyside Highland malts and may just be my favourite distilleries so far.
My Dad's not good with names and when he went out to buy The Balvenie DW he got it confused with another distillery that begins with "b" - Bowmore. Radically different whiskys from different areas completely. The Bowmore is a peaty Islay malt and has hints of the seaside Atlantic. My Dad is also adverse to adding water to his whisky which, in Bowmore's case, really defines the flavour and cuts down the initial bite. His wife, a woman who likes her cups, hates it too. So, alas, it falls to me to drink the Bowmore. Just one of life's many hardships, I suppose.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Slavish Devotion to Entertainment

CD in Play: Wilco, A Ghost is Born.


I don't get to the theatre much these days. In fact the last film I can remember seeing was A Scanner Darkly in September. At the moment, the only film that interests me currently at the box office is Casino Royale, though I am somewhat curious about Blood Diamond and Apocalypto. I'll be seeing We Are Marshall on Monday with Pete Chattaway. but I am not holding out high hopes. Football films have never really been my kind of sports films. Baseball and boxing make for the best sports films. Other than that, I can't see much on the film horizon that interests me.


Canadian television doesn't get a lot of respect, especially from it own. But, then the Canadian television industry only has its own lazy selves to blame. CTV has rarely produced shows that are worthwhile and tends towards the safe and the banal. Corner Gas isn't my cuppa, but it is markedly better than what they have produced in the past. CBC improved greatly during the mid to late 90's with shows like Da Vinci's Inquest-City Hall, Made in Canada, Intelligence, etc but lacks the resources to do much more. Global and CityTV don't seem to have one iota of Canadian content television, other than their news programmes.
Television doesn't have to be a cultural wasteland and, unlike what some of the folks at Adbusters think, it need not be seen as the enemy. Canadians are busy trying to get a grip on their identity as a people and a nation - what does it say about us when we are too unmotivated to produce our own entertainment?
We can hold our own with the UK and America - shows like Da Vinci's Inquest, Intelligence and Corner Gas have shown that - but we need the people with the money to wake up and realise that. We also need people clutching tightly to their purse strings to realise that our tax dollars do need to go into cultural efforts as we cannot hope to compete with the American Industry on its own terms - too much money.
If you aren't a Canadian, try finding copies of the shows I mentioned online and nab them with BitTorrent. I know, should I encourage priacy? In this case, yes - Canadian efforts could use all the help they can get. Particularly Intelligence, I have really dug into that one. Americans might be shocked that Canadian television allows for realistic language in our cop shows.


So, I have finished Mortal Causes, Let it Bleed and The Hanging Garden and have moved on to Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. (Yes, there is a Gogol novel and a Joy Division song by the same name) If Rebus gets crapped on any further I think Rankin's final Rebus novel could lift its title from another classic work of the 19th Century: Bleak House. The books are gripping, but Rebus' slow descent is saddening. But then I can see a lot of myself in John Rebus...

Music Again

Really been on a Wilco kick of late. Back in 1996 and 1997 I was listening to Wilco's AM and Being There a lot when I was getting over a woman from Texas with whom I was in school with. It helped. I also saw them at the third Roadside Attraction and was suitably impressed. I stopped listening to Wilco almost completely after that and almost completely forgot about them until 2001 when I was living in Montreal.
Krista Muir's boyfriend, John, (I think they are still together) was/is a huge Wilco fan and reminded me that I like them. John was on about their 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, before I left for (and ultimately became trapped in) Vancouver that summer, but I didn't get a chance to really dig my teeth into it until Elijah played me his copy. And a Wilco fan was reborn.
If you get the chance, listen to Wilco's last to albums ...Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born. Similar albums in a way, but the mood, tone and textures are fairly different. I also reccomend seeing the docmentary I am Trying to Break Your Heart, about the trials and tribulations the band had trying to make and release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Music plays a definite role in my life and one area has been at those times where I have been heartbroken and depressed. As I stated above, Wilco had two albums that helped me through (particularly Being There) but there has been lots of heartache in my life and many other albums have helped pull through those drear nights and grey days. And so...

Albums to Numb the Heartbreak
*Note album content plays a role in selection, the titles for some are shear coincidence.

- Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones
- Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud, Miles Davis
- Loveless, My Bloody Valentine
- Terror Twilight, Pavement
- Dance Hall at Louse Point, John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey
- Is This Desire? PJ Harvey
- Portishead, Portishead
- Homogenic, Björk
- American III, Johnny Cash
- Aladdin Sane, David Bowie
- El Corazón, Steve Earle
- Times of Grace, Neurosis
- Millions Now Living Will Never Die, Tortoise
- Copper Blue and Beaster, Sugar
- Soundtrack to 2001, A Space Odyssey (I watched the film nine days in a row in 1997)
- Cure for Pain, Morphine

There are also a mix of songs that I would listen to to help out as well. stuff by Al Green, Sly and the Family Stone, The Police, Elvis Costello, instrumental stuff from the Beastie Boys, etc. I also listen to very heavy and aggro stuff by Ministry, Isis, etc. Most of it is stuff I listen to anyway, but it is the way in which I listen to it and the way it impacts me at that time that is distinct.

Bad Smells and Family Values

CD in Play: The Police, Ghost in the Machine.

The malodorous Mephitis mephitis

I swear North Delta is infested with skunks. Five blocks to the east in Surrey, I saw skunks but seldom smelled their passage. Since moving over to North Delta I have had to endure the smell of skunks at least once or twice a week. I can't sleep without an open window. but I also can't sleep when some nervous skunk with a hair trigger anus sprays the neighbour's dog. I need to talk to my landlord, perhaps she could contact the municipality to trap and relocate? One benefit of skunks is that they eat insects and rodents, so they keep their populations down. Then again, since there are so many in one area that means an abundant source of food...

And speaking of bad smells...

... I am always amazed at the idiocy of some "Family Values" types. They prattle or rage on about the sanctity of the family, deadbeat parents, permissive parents, about how film, televison and music are corrupting todays youth. Yet their politico-economic positions are never held to the sort of scrutiny that they should be.
Maybe if people were valued as workers doing jobs that need to be done, valued in spite of their level of education, paid a wage or a salary that they are able to feed, clothe and support a family on - maybe then we'd see an improvement in the "family situation" in North America. Maybe if people were paid decently enough they would only have to work 32 hours a week, maybe they would actually have the time to spend with their families? Maybe, I know it isn't a guarentee, but could it hurt to try?
Maybe higher wages aren't economically sound, but should that which is economically sound hold such sway over our society?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Point Me at the Sky

CDs in Play: Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Massive Attack, Mezzanine.

Just reading Wikipedia's entry on extrasolar planets. It is pictures like this one (couldn't upload it to the blog) that make me wish interstellar travel was possible. Sure, it is an artist's representation of what these planets might look like - but sometimes imagination is all we have. I do believe in God and in an afterlife and my sincere hope is that God doesn't have a problem with some life after death exploration. Interstellar Overdrive indeed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life on Mars

CDs in Play: David Bowie, Hunky Dory. György Ligeti, Assorted Works.


Back by somewhat popular demand. Well I do have one opinion of politics these days and that the federal Liberals will loose the next election. Not just because they elected Stephane Dion, they have clearly demonstrated to the country that they are still a party bankrupt of ideas or the will to take the party in a different direction. The Liberal Party is an Ouroboros, caught in a vicious of cycle of aimlessness and repetition. It is so focused in on itself it has hardly noticed the changes in the country it purports to want to rule... errr, serve. I believe that this leadership race shows just how far off the fingers of the Liberal Party are from the National pulse. Of course, I have stated before, I could never see myself voting for the Grits so my observations are strictly those of an outsider to that party.
Dion really just seems like an extension of the Chretien regime. I am not anti-Quebec by any means, but I am not sure that what the Liberals really needed to do was elect yet another Federalist Quebecois politician into the leadership position. Michael Ignatieff would have been a suicidal choice, no doubt about that in my mind. He is self-contradictory and his views on accepting "lesser evils" to combat terrorism are unacceptable. The "lesser evils are fine when confined to the world of "24" but are are far from what this country is about. I never thought he aquitted himself well in interviews and his attempts at clearing up his controversial statements on the war in Iraq and his postion on the "mission" to Afghanistan just showed him uselessly twisting and turning like a toothless snake caught firmly by the end of its tail.
I think Bob Rae might have been able to breathe new life iunto the moribund Grit machine, but he carries no insignificant amount of baggage with him. As an unpopular ex-NDP premier of Ontario he could have been seen as a huge liability. Still, Conservative James Moore and others of his party have taken to boasting about they helped to knock Rae out of the race. Apparently, they considered him to be the only real threat to them in the Liberal leadership race. Probably the truth as Rae would have been the only one to have a clear vision that depatred from the reign of Chretien, Martin and their croonies.
Many Canadians support an NDP type of agenda, (aspects of it at any rate) they just don't seem to like the idea of the NDP actually being the ones to push it through. The Liberals were successful because they always paid attention to trends in Candaian society, (rise of the Reform Party) what policies were popular with the people (Universal Health Care) and then adjusted their platforms accordingly.
The NDP were gaining support for their stand on health care so the Liberals co-opted it into their platform. Trudeau may have believed in universal health care himself, but many in his party did not and were historically adverse to it when it was being championed by the likes of Tommy Douglas and the CCF. It should be noted that the Liberals aren't adverse to hanging a sharp right when public sentiment seems to be veering the wa, as they did when they apparently co-opted much of the Reform Party's platform into the Red Book of 1993.
Who knows, that maybe the best way to drive the NDP's agenda through is for them to co-opt the Liberal Party? That the Conservatives to work hard to knock out Rae says to me that they understand fully how divided Canada is on a policy level - that an NDPer at the tiller of the Liberal ship might just be what it takes to stem the neo-conservative agenda of Stephen Harper and his hero's in the Fraser Institute. I just wonder if Jack Layton and his crew are astute enough to take note of this?


I picked up Bowie's Hunky Dory. At one point I didn't really like the album all that much with the obvious exception of its more popular songs. (Changes, Queen Bitch, Life on Mars) Of late, however, it has been on my mind as much of it was used for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (an odd but beautifully meditative filmon mid-life crisis) and is the title of series that I am currently enjoying called, Life on Mars. It's a beautiful album that has, as a whole, taken some time to grow on me.
I also signed out a CD of the works of György Ligeti, whose works are widely known as the strange, creepy music used once Dave Bowman abandons ship in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. (and also The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut) He actually died on the 12th of June of this year. The Wikipedia write-up can tell you more about the man than I can, but his works are spectacular.