Friday, July 27, 2007

A Return to Randomness

CD in Play: Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger/Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas

***This post has been revised and re-edited since 27 July, 2007. It is amazing how much one misses when one is in a rush.***

Blog Mods

I managed to add my friend Glen's blog to the side while deleting the long spent carcass of Doug's dead blog at the same time. I tried before but it wouldn't work. I also put in a link to "Phase Toys", a musical programme I like. (requires Shockwave)

Booker T and the Library

I finished The Children of Men and would recommend it to others. I know people who talked about the explicit religious content of the film, but that goes double for the book. Thankfully, it isn't the sort that Evangelicals will go all gooey for (like Frank Peretti's unbelievably horrid This Present Darkness) so we don't have to worry about campaigns to buy the books and shove it through people's mail boxes or endure endless tales of how Jameses book changed their prayer lives. The Children of Men handles the religious themes in a skillful and literate way. It isn't flawless, but I hold to what I said in the post below.
I have started on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I know, everyone has read these books except me. I read the first one around February 2006 and was shocked when my Dad's 14 year old step-daughter claimed that the films were better than the books. I asked her about the books and it became clear that her grandparents had been buying her the books, but she hadn't really read them through. I believe she has re-read the books, however, but that mostly seems to be an effect of peer pressure.

Addendum: I finished Chamber of Secrets last night (Saturday) and have now started on The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Fat Friends Make Friends Fat

So I am fat guy and have some fat friends. According to a recent study, one of us is to blame for making each other fat. Obesity is contagious : not only is knowing me putting you at risk - it puts your other friends and family at risk too! While I do not doubt the overall veracity of the study, as I had come to somewhat similar conclusions from my own casual observations, I do believe they are playing up a certain angle to achieve a certain effect.
Smoking has a stigma attached to it in a way that it hadn't for most of the 20th Century, except up until the end. Second hand smoke is just as lethal for the people around smokers as cigarettes are for the smokers themselves. Smoking has been stigmatised to the point that people either become more ardent and stubborn smokers, or they quit because it is socially acceptable to do so. Obesity already has a stigma attached and shaming fat people backfires more than it succeeds because of the psychological factors (such as depression) in play. You can drive smokers out of restaurants, the workplace, etc. into the rain and snow, but you really can't do the same fat people. (Unless you are a sociopathic asshole)
The drive behind the release of this study, I believe, is to give obesity its very own "second hand smoke" factor: one person's obesity isn't just their own problem anymore. I believe they are attempting to apply a subtle form social coercion to make obesity less acceptable. A laudable goal in the face of rising obesity trends, perhaps, but is it really the way to go in order to buck said trends? Will this tactic succeed in getting people to change their eating and dietary habits - to get them off the couch and out onto the field, into the pool and into the gym? I am not so sure. Inactive friends make friends inactive, but one of the best ways to start getting healthy is to do it as a group. Active friends can influence their friends as well.
My supervisor suggested a tax break for fit people, believing that a financial incentive would see the rise of a fitter nation. At a person's annual physical they score points for their overall controllable fitness level. Non-smokers, light drinkers, non-drug users, active people, etc would receive a document for Revenue Canada certifying a fitness tax break. An interesting idea, but I am not sure how you would make that work either.
The only way to truly tackle obesity is to tackle it early on. I think gym should be made mandatory throughout high school. Maybe gym classes could be split between those who really love athletics and those who just need to stay active - competitive and recreational classes. As I write this I have just learned that my Dad's oldest friend was nearly crucified while attending university in the 1960's for suggesting such an idea.
I also think mandatory Phys. Ed classes or activity groups should carry on into university, trade school and the workplace. I have said it before, but instead of watching sports we should be playing them. In Montreal, I was beginning to get into shape playing relatively non-competitive softball - with people of all conditions and skill levels - every weekend from late spring to early fall and by walking. There was no dramatic weight loss, but I could walk for a straight 45++ minutes a day and feel good afterwards. If you know Montreal, I could walk from Jean Talon Market down to Old Montreal and back with no complaints.
If society truly wants to tackle the rise in obesity and get people like me -who take stabs at getting healthy but lack the drive and the wherewithal to follow through - into shape, it will require something quite radical. We need to promote activity in a radical way and tackle the thorny issue of nutrition, food and the unhealthy choices many people are faced with. We need to look at the direction our society is headed: at the unhealthy positions we are put into through obligations to a demanding work life and the poor dietary choices available to people of limited means.
I could go on by I have to get going, if you want to debate this or get me to clarify, take it up the comments section.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Getting Along

CD in Play: Beck, Sea Change

Moving Along...

As indicated below, I am currently looking at my options elsewhere in the country because I really need to get away from BC. I have been aiming for a couple of better paying positions that would make staying here my best option, but nothing has come of it so far. My friend Thoth suggested Toronto - the big T.O. - but I am not interested in living there. Aside from my Western biases, Toronto poses the same problem for me that Vancouver poses right now - a high cost of living eating far to much of my earnings. So Thoth, get me a job there at $25.00-$28.00 and hour - and that I can shunt to part time after 6 months in order to return to school - and I will move to "the centre of the universe". Any Torontonian that wants this born and bred Lower Mainlander to eat his at least some of his words words about T.O. just needs to guarantee me a high paying job there. (and provide me with at least 2 fans or an A/C unit so I can survive summertime) I have to be able to pay down my student loans and return to school, otherwise I am just stuck at the same level I am at now. I need places with low costs of living places ( e.g. Saskatchewan and the Maritimes) where I can make my earnings go farther.
One thing my research has turned up is just how amazing a university the University of Saskatchewan is. I had heard it was good, but good is clearly an understatement. I am looked at their Art and History departments and I am well and truly impressed. The thing people don't get about Saskatchewan is it really is a "do it yourself" kind of place. While many cities have a lot of diversions for people, Saskatchewan is a place where you make your own fun happen. Not a bad thing in my opinion.

Reading Along...

I have not finished The Children of Men by P.D. James yet. I took it out of my work bag and have kept forgetting to stick it back in so I can read in transit. I remembered yesterday and must say that the book does pick up as it moves along. Some of my earlier criticisms fall flat as the book progresses. The film and the book are clearly different animals and there would have no way to do Jameses novel as a film. (James'? Which is correct?) Still, it is worth your while to pick them up if you are into that sort of story. (and no Mum, I dont think you would enjoy it)

Watching Along...

What would the me of high school think of the me of today. He'd be bloody horrified: fat, bald, single, working a crap job and no `69 Camero Super Sport. But, perhaps the most egregious fault the me of yesteryear would find with the present me is that I am watching Doctor Who and enjoying it. In high school Doctor Who had a small contingent of fans, three of whom would dress up in ways approximating the Doctor of their preference, one girl (who's life really went down the tubes, I regret to say) and the other who was a strange and slightly frightening hunchback. It was cheap, incomprehensibly weird and if you wanted something vaguely resembling a normal social life, you never watched it or admitted to watching it. Lord knows I had enough strikes against me as it was.
But then I made friends with Gavin Campbell while at university, a raging Doctor Who fanatic hell-bent on getting me into the show. Gavin's enthusiasm for the show was infectious and I became mildly curious. The rumours abounded in 2002 that they were going to do a new series starring Robert Carlyle as the Doctor. Carlyle is perhaps best known to North Americans as the lead in The Full Monty, 28 Weeks Later and as the psychotic Francis Begbie in Trainspotting. The rumour was false, but it did get me curious about a new series.
Ultimately, they cast Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and that really perked my interest. Eccleston is one of my favourite actors, you may have seen in him Shallow Grave, Jude, Heroes, Cracker, (where his character is killed off by Robert Carlyle) and Elizabeth. Ecclestone's involvment in the series really got me interested in checking the new series out. Now Eccleston is gone but David Tennent has been doing a great job, with the 3rd series/season standing as a big improvement over the 2nd. Rose worked well with Eccleston's Doctor, but just never really worked for me with Tennent's.
Interesting science fiction that deserves serious consideration from fans of the genre.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You Make Me Ill

CD in Play: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless

Dearest British Columbia: Since returning to you five years ago I have made an honest attempt to reconcile myself with you, the place of my birth where I have lived out the majority of my life. I know it's not you exactly, it's me and I know there is little you can do about it. But we must face facts, it's over between us. I just can't play nice with the others anymore and it is clear that you are no longer a place where I can thrive. In fact, you and the rest of the children are just making me ill. I have a few loose ends to tie up and then I'll be on my way. If could think of another way I'd try, but I think this move will be for the best and for all concerned. - Yours sincerely, Magnus Skallagrimsson.

Back in October 2000 I took a trip to Montreal to check it out. I stayed with friends, wandered around, was introduced to new people - I loved it. The attitudes toward life and living were quite close to my own. As Europeans have told me, living in Montreal is the closest to living in Europe that you can get in North America. On the flight there, I wasn't sure if I could really leave British Columbia to live anywhere else. BC is where I am from, it has always been my home. At least 20 minutes after landing, while riding in Trent and Colette's car sitting with Peter in the back seat, all the reasons for moving just hit me. I had come to hate the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

I was sick of it and tired of the direction the province was heading in. The Liberals were poised to decimate the NDP in the upcoming election, with the help of a very negative media environment keen on playing the king makers. Vancouver was and to some extent still is known as "The No Fun City". As my friend Spencer puts it, Vancouverites are uptight about being laid-back. The city was getting dirtier and panhandling and homelessness were increasing. Places I loved as kid were being knocked down, paved under and developed. So I left in 2001 and if I had had better sense I would still be in Montreal today.

I have been making due in BC, but is getting on my nerves. One thing that my time in Montreal (and if I reflect back to my time spent in Saskatchewan as well) made me realise is that I am geographically most at home here. From the mountains to the water to the wetlands and the rain forest - nowhere feels quite as right to me as here. But much of what makes home homely is disappearing as development, Olympic hype and real estate conspire to make "the most livable place on Earth" a difficult place to get by in.

The human environment has changed as well, though my perspective on this may be affected by the process of aging. Knuckleheads and the dispossessed are taking over this place. The Lower Mainland is not the place for a cultured individual to be, not one that is also low income. I understand that this is a Canada wide issue, but I don't here stories about people being attacked on their own property by swarms of drunk, high, narcissistic teens and twenty somethings just because they were asked to show some respect for the people living in the neighbourhood.

Last month the news was discussing how much the crime rate had dropped in Surrey, how Mayor Diane Watts was cleaning up the city that remains the butt of jokes about the Lower Mainland. This month the news has run responses from the citizenry of Surrey who haven't noticed a change at all. As someone who works out of the Central City area, I concur with the people stating they haven't noticed a difference. It's still bad out there and what's more, much of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is being to look quite similar.

Some people tell me I am exaggerating, but then those people have been driving around the city and have drastically reduced the amount of time they spend on public transit. I am sick of self-absorbed children who feel they can get away with anything, that bad behaviour is their birth right. I am sick of the drug culture that has asserted itself as the norm. I wish a blight would take out marijuana crops right across the province. The news media is responsible for this too over the years, playing up and exaggerating BC's reputation.

I need out. I need to be somewhere else - just about anywhere but here. I need to be someplace where I can significantly pay down my student loans for six months and then go back to school, get my teaching degree and go someplace else. I can get a UK Ancestry Entry Clearance Visa, so I am seriously considering teaching in the UK - Wales, West England, Norfolk, Isle of Man, etc. At one point I had kind of thought about teaching in Port Coquitlam, but that sort of sentimentality is dead. It is time to make the break and it is time to make that brake permanent.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"If you survive, please come again!"

CD in Play: DJ Cheb I Sabbah, Shri Durga

To hear a sound bite of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon click here.
As some readers will no doubt be aware, I have been to the Coquitlam "Kwik-E-Mart" with Pete Chattaway just this Wednesday. Pete has posted photos on his flickr account and has a video of me at his blog discussing why that particular 7-Eleven - of all the 7-Eleven's in this country - was selected to become Canada's only Kwik-E-Mart.
My friend Elijah Bak used to live within a ten minute (at most) walk from this store and he, like me, had also worked for 7-Eleven in his late teens and covered at least one shift there. I had said on the video that Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam do not have a Springfield vs. Shelbyville thing going on. This is true. Both cities work fairly co-operatively together and share services extensively. In a way both cities compliment each other to make the whole Springfield comparison valid. Coquitlam is the sprawling suburb with no city centre and Port Coquitlam is the small city with a downtown, town square, city hall, etc.
They were out of Buzz Cola and Krusty-O's (do they come with a sharp metal piece?) but had Homer doughnuts (should that be d'oh-nuts?) and "squishees". The doughnuts came with 1/4 inch thick pink frosting and sprinkles. My Mum reads my blog and attest to the fact that I was never that keen on doughnuts. My preference for doughnuts, if they are serving them, has always been plain. However, I have to say that these doughnuts were pretty good and by the many arms of Vishnu, may I never eat another one again. Eating one I couldn't help but make Homerish eating sounds, or resist the urge to talk with my mouth full of one.
It ws a fun experience, even if it makes us consumer whores, that would have been perfect had Trent Ernst, Geosomin, Pete's siblings (and yes, I admit, Darin Clisby) been there too.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ze Reading List

CD in Play: Mojo presents, Psych Out!

Taking a bit of a break from Ian Rankin's Rebus series. Just finished A Question of Blood so I have Fleshmarket Close (very happy that Canada gets the UK version of titles) and The Naming of the Dead left to go and I have caught up. One of the reasons for the break is that I have begun feeling that I need to be caught up, so the reading has taken on a task like quality. I think I may need to re-read A Question of Blood, just to read it with a fresh mind.
I have taken up P.D. James' The Children of Men, having seen the film and been quite keen on it. The book and the film are different in many respects, but so far I am can't say that the liberties that the director, Alfonso Cuarón, took with James' work are entirely unwarrented. Science Fiction is always in danger of dating itself, especially when its speculations delve into the immediate future. The film has the benefirt of time, however, and given time it may not seem so relevant as today. (the same cannot be said for Network, for instance, a film that just seems to be as relevant toay as it was in 1976) The film is its own animal and I think comparisson between the two is unwarrented, since both works are accomplished in their own ways. (though I am still reading the novel)
I was a bit put off by James' novel at first. Theo (whom is a year younger than myself) is an upper middle class individual, too casually divorced from others and the world he lives in. The last generation of Britons are a bit too... well, a bit too literary to be believable. The Theo of the film is much more believable and much easier to relate to. We'll see how it progresses and I will give my full opinion once I have finished.
I have also read the graphic novel for Batman: The Long Halloween, which concerns the person of Harvey Dent, the origins of Two-Face and the demise of organised crime in Gotham. (crime not related to freaks like Two-Face and The Joker) Not bad at all, and obviously it will have had some imact on the script for the upcoming Batman film by Chris Nolan. I also continue to read the excellent Ex-Machina series, which is worth your while if you appreciate the comic book medium. Not for the children, by the way.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart

CD soon to be in Play: Tortoise, Millions Now Living Will Never Die

Thanks to Pete Chattaway for the heads up on this one.
In the running for one the worst jobs I have ever done (and that is a loong list) was the time I was a 7-Eleven clerk at the store on Coast Meridian in Port Coquitlam. So I find it interesting that one of the 7-Eleven's in nearby Coquitlam is being converted into a Kwik-E-Mart to help promote the upcoming Simpson's movie. There will be 12 converted 7-Eleven's across North America and the one in Coquitlam will be the only one in Canada, apparently.From Wikipedia:
"In early July 2007, the convenience store chain 7-Eleven converted eleven of its US convenience stores and one in Canada into Kwik-E-Marts for promotion of The Simpsons Movie.The makeover includes products found in the Simpsons, such as Buzz Cola, Squishees (Slurpees served in re-labelled cups), and Krusty-O's cereal (custom-made by Malt-O-Meal). [2] The chain also will use pictures of Simpsons characters to promote 7-Eleven's line of fresh foods, such as placing the face of Homer and his classic "Mmmm . . . sandwich" quip on sandwich wrappers."
By the many arms of Vishnu, I may just have to go.

10,114 Hits Can't Be Wrong, Can They?

CD in Play: Tortoise, It's All Around You

So, my blog has been visitied 10,114 times since I installed my Cluster Maps counter last year. The blog was started in 2005, so there have been considerably more hits than that. Not that I am going to delude myself into believing that all 10,114 hits were from people reading my blog. I am sure there was a lot click through traffic checking blogs out on blogger, people doing research on the Maoist terrorist group the Shining Path in Peru and getting this non-related blog instead, numerous hits from friends, etc.