Friday, March 30, 2007

"Hanes" is Welsh for History

CD in Play: John Parish and Polly Jean Harvey, Dance Hall ay Louse Point

So if you were ever curious about my family history, and I don't know why you wouldn't be, I have posted up some relevant links. When certain Irish ancestors left Ireland (Ballynallahassery - around Cork - and Waterford respectively) in the early 19th century, they went to Dowlais, Wales(near Merthyr Tyfil) to steal all the jobs at the local colliey, iron works and steel mills. One Welshman told me that Dowlais is pretty depressed now that the industry has left and is the suicide capital of Wales. Whoo-Hoo! The family left Wales for Canada around 1910. Anyhow, here are some links of the palce where a part of my family lived, worked and died in (and because of):

Alan George's photo site.
The Rhymney Brewery in Dowlais.
About the Iron and Steel Industry in the area.
Wikipedia article on the Dowlais Ironworks.
Dowlais might also be fairly close to Penderyn, site of the first whisky distillery in Wales for over 100 years.

And in this week in Hell...

CD in Play: Isis, In the Absense of Truth

This week has been hell. Where to begin? My landlady is a natterer and her nattering has been grinding on my nerves. Nice lady, but she needs to relax. A lot of first aid this week, mainly sick people or people with a pre-existing condition. One of my co-workers and I got into a heated exchange on Tuesday and misunderstandings happened afterwards that threatened to escalate further. We settled it. Then there are some of the rich, pampered little pukes we have to look after - people who feel they have the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. We also have the weird antisocial behaviours, such as the "phantom crapper" who likes to take a dump in the middle of the mens' washroom floors. (a different one each time) There was the guy who pulled the handicap washroom alarm (first aid alert) and when I arrive I discover a washroom littered with toilet paper and that someone has urinated all over the toilet. And the list goes on and on.
The capper for me, so far, has to be the end result of doing my laundry last night. I forgot to check all my pockets so I ended up washing the vitamin B complex I had placed in my change pocket so I could take it when I arrived at work yesterday. I didn't notice untill I reached work, but my shirt and jeans have yellow stains all over it. I also smell like a an open bottle of vitamin B.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Getting it Right, Quebec 2007

CD in Play: Isis, Oceanic Remixes

Quebec went to the polls on Tuesday for its provincial elections and voted in the second minority government in that province's significant span of our national history. The last minority government in Quebec was formed 130 years ago. The Liberals won by the narrowest of margins with 48 seats with the province's right wing party Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) winning 41 seats and the separatist Parti Québécois winning 36. The two provincial mainstays, The Liberals and the PQ, lost a lot of ground to the ADQ, prompting ADG leader - 36 year old Mario Dumont - to attribute this to a shift to the Right in Quebec politics.
I think M. Dumont is astute enough to realise that his party's gains have little to do with an ideological shift within Quebec. If not, then M. Dumont should do himself and the electorate a favour by spending a little more time working in the real world before going back into the political world. The ADQ made significant gains because Stephan Harper hasn't been able to act like a Ralph Klien, Mike Harris or even a Gordon Campbell while at the head of his own minority government. Harper has been behaving like a Liberal of late and has been good at spinning out certain things that Canadians want to hear. Back in 2002 it looked at though the ADQ might win a seat in a bielection. The press released stories about Dumont meeting with Right Wing Anglophones in the Harper camp and the ADQ lost all the ground it seemed to have been gaining.
Harper has been pretty mild overall and spending money - and he's been pretty chummy with Quebec, which is a surprise given his rhetoric in the past. Of course, minority leaders have to be mild and likable, it is when they have majorities like Jean Chretien's that they can lord around like policy monsters. If the Stephan Harper with a minority is Bruce Banner, I am quite positive that the Stephan Harper with a majority will be quite like the Hulk. And Hulk like to smash things good.
With Harper's monster firmly in the box, Dumont gets an easier ride. Of course the larger reason for Dumont's success is that the people of Quebec are just tired of the Liberals and the PQ. Jean Charest (Liberal Premier, former cabinet minister and leader for the old Progressive Conservative Party) has never been entirely popular with Quebec voters and support for him could always have been seen to be lacklustre at best. Charest is also suffering from the backlash against the Federal Liberal Party scandals that took place during Jean Chretien's terms as Prime Minister and came to light while Paul Martin held the reigns.
The Parti Québécois, aside from electing André Boisclair as its leader and his les yeux bridés gaff, shot itself in the foot by calling for another referendum on sovereignty. One young sovereigntist I met in Quebec called it the "neverendum" and I heard similar complaints from other young sovereigntists. It wasn't that they had given up on their dreams of sovereignty, they just wanted a changing of the guard - a fresh approach not tainted by the likes of Landry and Parizeau. However, for these people, voting for the Liberals would be more like a betrayal rather than a protest - and I have no doubt that what propelled the ADQ forward so strongly was a sense of protest rather than a change in political conviction. Now that is something all Canadians can identify with.

Monday, March 26, 2007


CD in Play: David Bowie, Hunky Dory

Turn and face the strange, and excuse me while I pull out my Op./Ed. soapbox. According to an article up on the Ceeb's website, McDonalds wants to change the definition of "McJob" in the UK. The definition of "McJob", according to the Oxford English Dictionary is, "An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector". First known usage was in the Washington Post in 1986. The term was popularised in Douglas Coupland's Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, a book that also popularised the term "Generation X". McDonalds contests that the term is unfair, demeaning and out of date.
Taking a line from an old McD's ad campaign, we deserve a break today. Today and every other day from McCorporate shenanigans. McDonalds has no right to contest the meaning of "McJob" or how the slang term is used. It is abhorrent to think a company could think that it has the power to change the way we perceive language, all in an effort to save public face. Control the language, control the thought.

"Dictionaries are supposed to be paragons of accuracy. And in this case, they got it completely wrong," said Walt Riker, a McDonald's spokesman. "It's a complete disservice and incredibly demeaning to a terrific work force and a company that's been a jobs and opportunity machine for 50 years." - from the CBC article.

Do the dictionaries have it wrong? As a man who has worked (some may say still works) in the McWorkforce, I would have to say no. The term does not explicitly refer to McDonalds, at least not since Coupland used it in Gen. X. The term is accurate in how it used in the popular culture. The McMisfortune of McDonalds is that name of their corporate empire is McMemorable and easy to make a McMockery of. Funny, I don't seem to recall Bill gates and Microsoft getting upset and complaining when Coupland's book Microserfs hit the shelves. (I couldn't find anything on a search just now either) Maybe if McDonalds buys out Microsoft and relaunches it as McMicrosoft we'll see some action?
As for the term being demeaning to its workers, get real. Service industry jobs are looked down upon by everyone, especially those of us who have had to work them. If McD's really wants to change the way McJobs are perceived then maybe they should take a page out of Costco's book - an enormously profitable company who pay their employees a living wage and offer a whole array of benefits to work jobs that would be considered to be crap jobs anywhere else. Most of the people I knew who worked at McDonalds while I was in high school were laid off as soon as they turned 18, so McD's wouldn't have to pay them a higher wage. how much are the retirees and recent immigrants being paid? What benefits and perks are available to the employees? Read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation if you care to learn more.
Meanwhile, I have some other suggestions for the dictionary: McWhiners, McSuck-holes, McWeasles.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

June 27

CD in Play: Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
So Geosomin tagged me for this meme and I am finally responding. The rules are listed below.

1. Go to wikipedia and type in your birthday, month and day only.
2. List 3 events that occurred on that day.
3. List 2 important birthdays.
4. List 1 death.
5. List a holiday or observance. (if any)
6. Tag 5 other bloggers.
I have chosen to list a few more in certain categories. as for tagging others - tag thyself if ye feel so inclined. But I do specifically tag Pete, who avoids these things like the plague.

On June 27th the following 3 events occured:

1. 1844 - Joseph Smith, Jr., (founder of Mormonism) murdered along with his brother, Hyrum, at the Carthage, Illinois jail.
2. 1979 - Muhammad Ali announces his retirement from boxing.
3. 1986 - The International Court of Justice finds against the United States in its judgement in Nicaragua v. United States.

The following Birthdays fall on June 27:

1. 1846 - Charles Stewart Parnell, Irish independence fighter (d. 1891)
2. 1869 - Emma Goldman, Lithuanian-born anarchist and feminist (d. 1940)
3. 1880 - Helen Keller, American spokeswoman for the deaf and blind (d. 1968)
I also share a birthday with Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) Toby Maguire, Ross Perot, Paul von Mauser and Krzysztof Kieślowski.

The following people died on June 27:

1. 1844, Josheph and Hyrum Smith.
2. 1957, Malcolm Lowry.
3. 1996, Cubby Broccoli.
4. 2001, Jack Lemmon.
5. 2004, John Entwistle.

The following Holdays, observances and Liturgical feasts fall on June 27:

1. National HIV Testing Day in United States.
2. National Veterans' Day in the United Kingdom.
3. Saint Cyril of Alexandria
4. Saint Deodatus
5. Saint Ferdinand of Aragon
6. Saint Ladislas
In Shirley Jackson's novel, The Lottery, the annual lottery is held on this date each year. Hooraaay! Who's next to die?
This is me btw.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


CD in Play: Wilco, Sky Blue Sky

St. Patrick's Day is here again and everyone gets to be Irish for a day. Except here where they call it "Celtic Fest" so all the local area Celtic descendants can feel involved and important. It's not a bad idea, really, and there are a lot of people around Canada descended from the Scots, Irish and Welsh: I even know a Manxman or four. And Lord knows that Vancouver needs to grow up and get festive. The festival posters are also targeting people who's heritage comes from Cornwall, Breton/Brittany and Galatia.
Here is one problem I have with the festival, and I don't claim to be an expert, but I don't believe there are any Galatians left. Galatia is in Turkey and its inhabitants harried Asia Minor and Greece, many of them moving westward becoming Gauls. The ones that remained in Galatia were just absorbed by the Greeks and, eventually, the Turks. So what is the deal with Galatians? Then again, I am probably not being sensitive enough and am not accounting for those Celts who have fallen forward through the fabric of space and time to arrive here. To any legitimately Celtic Galatians, I make my apologies here. However, it should be noted that the Galicia , Asturias, Cantabria regions in the Northwest of Spain and Portugal acknowledge a Celtic past and cultural traditions.
But truth be told, I am not overly fond of the North American perceptions of what it is to be a "Celt". To some Celtic is all about fiddle music, gigs and reels. To others it is about alcoholism and excess, shedding the lace curtains and being "shanty Irish" through and through. Prior to the 20th century Celts were often depicted as noble savages, ignoring their cultural contributions to the modern world. In the late 20th century Celts might as well have been called magical sages in some circles, where their barbarism and savagery were conveniently ignored (ritual sacrifice, head-hunting, etc) and Celts became stoic, heroic and thoroughly New Age.
Being "Celtic" at this festival has nothing to do with remembering or celebrating the achievements of the assorted Scots, Irish, Welsh, etc. people past and present who have made an impact on world over the centuries. "Celtic" gives a false sense of hegemony between the Celtic peoples. "Celtic" is a vaguely warm and fuzzy term that tourism boards like to use to draw people in.
Vancouver has a large number of people born in Canada with Irish blood in them, but there is no Irish-Canadian community to speak of. St. Patty's Day means tourism dollars in places with a significant Irish population like Boston, New York, London and - of course - Dublin and the rest of Ireland. Celtic Fest is an attempt to cash in on a little bit of that trade at least, and the sense of "Celtic" cultural pride that makes Maritime Canada such a draw. Robbie Burn's Day is beginning to draw more people in, (and a Scottish community we do have) but no one over here is going to get excited about St. David's Day or Tynwald Day.
Perhaps I am being too big of a prick? Maybe I am getting all wound up over nothing? Perhaps. But this St. Patrick's Day I commit myself to civic curmmudgeonry and will trip down to the pub to tip a toast to my Irish forerunners like John, Molly and Declan Corcoran, Johanna Walsh, the Browns, The Foleys, etc. Sláinte.

A final note, the upcoming Wilco album is brilliant. They streamed it on their website back on the 11th and I know someone who got a copy. I'll be picking it up upon its release. Wilco continues to rule.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Spiders On Drugs

Growing up, there were these shorts presentations on creatures that inhabit the woods and wetlands of Canada. The voice over is spot on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


CD in Play: Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

I saw 300 with Pete on Monday night. 300, if you are unaware, is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller. (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, Martha Washington Goes to War) I had only skimmed Miller's work back in 2001, but am told the film is faithful to Miller's account of the Battle of Thermopylae: were that Miller's work was as faithful to history.
300 will be popular, I have a hard time seeing it being a flop. It is not, after all, a presentation of an historically significant and epic battle, but a fantastical bloodfest inspired by an actual event. If you care about historicity, do not see 300. If you just want a blood filled slaughterfest, by all means... But I will dream that someone will get the idea to do an historical series along the lines of Rome, maybe calling it Peloponnesia and having it span from the Greco-Persian war to the Peloponnesian War. One can dream anyway...
I know I am in the minority on this, as I am about sexual content and storytelling, but history matters to me. The Spartans wore skirts and breast plates into war. Spartans buggered boys same as the Athenians. The Thespians stood with the Spartans in battle, though some tried to surrender as the Persian Immortals closed ranks. The Spartans and Thespians were acting to cover the retreat of the larger Greek army. Spartans were concerned about the freedom to be Spartans - they did a good job latter on at suppressing all the rest of Greece. The Persians did not have vapiric looking creatures in their service. Xerxes looks like some sort of Stargate version of an effeminate Egyptian Pharaoh. The Persians of the film seem more like the hoardes of Mordor.
But hey... if you like escapism, this is your film. Ignore me.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Ar Hap" is Welsh for at Random

CD in Play:Pelican, Australasia.

"Sbwriel" is Welsh for Rubbish

Okay, perhaps rubbish is too harsh a word to apply to this situation, but I am not enthralled by what I see. After all, I have only watched two and a half episodes of the BBC's Doctor Who spin-off series, Torchwood, to really have a solid opinion. My problem with Torchwood is the obsession with sex, a result perhaps of having a prudish mother who's chief concern about me growing up was me not having sex and a very un-prudish father whose chief concern was that I actually have it. (or least what he considered to be healthy attitude towards it) As a result of my upbringing I am not comfortable with sex, except in the safer confidences of friends. When it comes to making art, I am decidedly asexual about it. (though I would say my paintings and some poems have a sensual quality)
Russell T. Davies, the shows creator and producer, is a gay male and is obviously concerned with getting his issues and agenda out there. But from what I have seen so far, I think he has done so to the detriment of his show. For me, it just isn't that engaging as a sci-fi series and for other reasons other than sex. I dunno, you can tell me your opinions if you have seen it in the UK or via bit torrent. (or when the series airs here in Canada and down in the U.S.) I would hold to my opinion if all the characters were straight, by the way.
Aside from STD's and teen pregnancies, I just don't see the issues surrounding sex and sexual preferences as ones the deserve as much focus as they get. It is a diversion from other more serious issues such as unemployment, quality of employment, making a a living wage, the environment, water rights, medical care, etc. Those issues would drive people like Pete Chattaway from the show, however.

"Cerddoriaeth" is Welsh for Music

So, it looks as though Red Silo will be a go again this year. The last time I did music with Elijah was two years ago as a band called Meat, though Elijah prefers to spell it as M.E.A.T. I came up with Red Silo, but still prefer Meat. We will be doing an alt-country thing, kind of like Wilco via Radiohead. I might push for a cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Lazy Day". I'd love to do "It Happens Each Day" by The Byrds, but none of us have the vocal chops to carry the harmonies except for Elijah's wife, Miriam. I will probably trade in my Godin six string to haggle for a new bass - which I should bought in the first place. I'd like to get an American made Fender p-bass, ultimately.
After a run through on Friday night, I would really like to record Elijah's song "Life out of range" with Blair Jewers and Merwan Hassan before Blair and family pack up for BC's interior.

There is No Welsh Word for Meme

Current clothes: Jeans, Ché Guevara t-shirt.

Current Mood: Neither here nor there, though slightly annoyed at not having set the VCR to tape BSG.

Current music: Just switching the CD and putting on PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love.

Current annoyance: Some guy at work who nods at me like he knows me, but I cannot recall ever having met the guy. I thought he might be a scammer of some sort, but it seems that he is a TA or a tutor of some sort.

Current Thing: A lot of writing at home. Have quite a few book ideas at the moment.

Current DVD in the player: Michael Mann's Manhunter. Picked it up for $5.99. Wanted to see it again after seeing Zodiac. Robert Harris' stuff falls into the sensationalist vein, but Mann does a very good job at keeping his movie planted on Terra firma. Also caught a bit of Silence of the Lambs on TCM: I find the film revolting.

Current song in head: "Lazy Day", by The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Current book: Gunpowder by Jack Kelly. A history of gunpowder. Interesting and engaging, though one has to wonder if Kelly doesn't grant gunpowder a bit too much credit in shaping European history. I am amused by the names the Chinese had for their powder based weaponry:
Dropping from Heaven Bomb
Heaven-Shaking Thunder Cash Bomb
Match for Ten Thousand Enemies Bomb
Bandit-Burning and Vision-Confusing Magic Fire-Ball
Bone-Burning and Bruising Fire Oil Magic Bomb
Bandit-Striking Penetrating Lance
Nine-Arrow Heart-Piercing Magic-Poison Thunderous Fire Erupter
Long-Range Awe-Inspiring Cannon

Current Culinary Obsession: Garlic. The landlady is away so the garlic can come out to play. She claims she is allergic to the smell.

Current refreshment: Cafferey's, but having learned that the Irish Caffrey's is now owned by Coors I think I should have bought Boddingtons or Kilkenny instead. Cwrw is the Welsh word for beer. (pronounced something like KURroo with a slight trilling of the r's) There is no Welsh beer for sale in Canada.

Current worry: I have to loose my gut. Suppose the beer was bad idea...

Current thought: The clock really does run too fast and I am working, it seems, only to pass the time until I can take my days off. My days off pass too quickly and the cycle repeats.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


CD in Play: Isis, In the Absence of Truth. Pelican, Pelican EP.

I saw Zodiac last night, but cannot say too much as it comes out tomorrow. I liked it, and given my position on serial killer films that may say something. With a couple of exceptions, I hate films that sensationalise or glamorise serial killers. Oddly, these films usually focus in on the horror and the grotesque, rather than the actual element of crime. Zodiac is a straight up and well done crime film in so many ways.
The violence of the film is straight up and visceral. The murders are not pornographic, not put up on screen in a sensational matter. The Zodiac's victims die painfully and horribly. (or survive to live with a terrible memory) I am a big believer in an honest portrayal of violence and the film offers it up: no frills, no thrills and it made me squirm the way such a horrific act should.
David Fincher's film is based on the books Robert Graysmith wrote about the investigation of the Zodiac Killer. The film has Jake Gyllenhaal playing Graysmith) Fincher deserves high praise for this one. He avoids the nostalgia and kitsch elements that so many period pieces seem to suffer from these days. Perhaps the late 60's and `70's are so stylistically distinctive and brash that it is hard to avoid slipping into kitsch, but Fincher deftly navigates the period. Zodiac often doesn't just feel like a period piece, it actually feels like the period.
Peter Chattaway stated it may be the first truly great film of the year and he may be right. (though I still really like Breach from earlier this year) Mark Ruffalo is great as Detective Dave Toschi and I epect to see a continuation of great things from him in the future.