Sunday, December 30, 2007

CD in Play: Mojo Presents, Heavy Nuggets

Thoughts on Benazir Bhutto's Assassination

I have been trying to post on this for a few days now, but have been unable to figure out exactly what I want to say about former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto is not an easy person to account for. She was a controversial figure in many respects with allegations of classicism, possible aid and military support for the Taliban in its early days and unresolved charges of corruption against her and her husband. Yet she did try to modernize Pakistan and elevate (though unsuccessfully) the status of women in that country. She did manage to effectively end Feudalism in her country, putting her in conflict with Punjabi landlords directly affected by here policies.
Whatever can be said about the life of Benazir Bhutto, I believe her death is a disaster for Pakistan. Already tremendously unstable, Pakistan seems ready to implode into a civil war which will certainly have consequences felt the World over. Regardless of who actually assassinated Ms. Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf should be worried as this is one of the worst possible things that could have happened to him. In real world chess the white queen may be dead, but is the black king in any less jeopardy?

Winning Ideas

I plan to leave British Columbia, as most of you know, and move to Saskatchewan where I want to finish my education and get my Teaching degree. All I need is the money. Saskatchewan is also going through a bit of a boom right now, so there are opportunities for the those with the imagination. One thing a I gathered from Geosomin and here husband when they were out here in the February of this year, is that Saskatoon is dying for culinary hot spots.
My usual ideas centre around Asian style noodle shops, tempura stands - stuff that works in Vancouver with its heavy Asian influences, population and access to a great variety of produce and goods. Seafood is not a winner in Saskatchewan, something I learned from many of the Saskatchewanites I know who seem to mistrust any fish that wasn't caught in freshwater. (let alone a prawn or a clam) Stuff that I take for granted as normal is still completely alien to people in many parts of this country.
Geo and J were quite taken with my favourite downtown pub, The Irish Heather and a place called Salt. If I had the money I would try to start a first class Irish/English style gastro-pub in Saskatoon. A place for a pint and a wee dram and a hearty meal of shepherds pie, bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage or lamb shank stew. Serve food produced locally - quality, locally made sausages, local produce, dairy, etc. From what I have gathered, Saskatoon really has nothing like this, so maybe the time has come.
Saskatchewan is booming so the usual effects of a boom should go along with it, growth in all areas including culture and cuisine. I have my plans, but if I had the money... who knows? Maybe some entrepreneur with vision may want to pick up on this?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Meme of Currentiality

CD in Play: Mojo Presents - Heavy Nuggets

Current Wear: Judge Begbie hat, combat pants, Saffari shirt and moose slippers. Nah, just my standard black shirt and jeans.

Current beverage: Glenrothes Single Malt Whisky. My Dad prefers the Speyside malts because they aren't as peaty as what you get out of the Islands, Campbelltowns and West Highlands. Very smooth and around $85. Comes in the distiller's bottle. Not that this was supposed to be a sales pitch or anything, but it is an impressive malt.

Current song in head: Despite the fact that "My Life is Natural" by Slade is currently playing, (and a fine song it is) I have "Egyptian Tomb" by Mighty Baby (1969) in my head. Mojo magazine is the best magazine for obsessive music geeks like me. Great way to learn more about the bands that obsessed you growing up and the best outlet for hearing bands that we just never heard (or heard enough of) here in North America. I have more from Procol Harem and Slade than radio ever played and discovered bands and performers like the Move, Kevin Ayers and Kaleidoscope through Mojo. The magazine comes with a CD, so when you see Mojo Presents on my CDs in Play above...

Current Culinary Obsession: Vietnamese Phở places. Phở is Vietnamese noodle soup. Many of you know what I am taking about, but some will not. My favourite comes with rare sliced beef, tripe and tendon along with the traditional sides of bean sprouts, hot pepper and Thai basil.

Current Book: William Gibson's Count Zero, which I am about to finish. After that it is Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive and finish up the Sprawl Trilogy. I have read both before, but not in over ten years. after that I figure I will read The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, a classic of military strategy and the way of the Samurai.

Current Thing: Same as the last time I did this - get a better job, pay down some debt and move to Saskatchewan so I can get on with my education again, finish up with my Teaching degree and get out of Canada for a bit. I'd like to teach in either Wales, the South West Coast of England or Norfolk. Why? Well My Mum's families came from around those areas. It would be a good chance to learn something about my own history. The big push is teach in and around London as i understand it, but it just seems too crowded and too much bother. We'll see. I need to make $18+ and hour to get this going, but so far no takers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Nation of Scrooge

CD in Play: Nation of Ulysses, 13-Point Program to Destroy America

The People's Republic of Humbug

A conservative diatribe written to a radical album, the irony is not lost. Ever since I was a kid and a while before that, complaints have been rolling out year after year in the Western World about the commercialization of Christmas. Those complaints seem to be dying down, our society is one that has embraced consumption despite how much it has become aware of of the final costs we as a society will have to pay. Christmas is the perfect excuse for the shopaholic to cut loose and spend, so reminders about commercialization and the true meaning of Christmas have lost their way and are about as welcome as an STD.
People don't complain about the early, overly-persistent ad campaigns the way they once did. The true meaning of Christmas is willingly lost or dismissed in an increasingly secular society. The Politically Correct love to make a storm about how Merry Christmas is insensitive to recent immigrants and non-Christians. They point out that we should move to something more neutral and inclusive. Personally, I just want to tell them all to button it.
Funny how many of the Indian immigrants I have worked with over the years have made a point of asking people to wish them a Merry Christmas. I worked at one place where many were from Bombay and Goa, and they would meet "Season's Greetings" and "All the best for the Holidays" with "Please just wish us a Merry Christmas. We are here now, it is your holiday and we don't mind adjusting to that fact. You wouldn't get the same sort of consideration in India, so please stop worrying about offending us." And for those of you who don't believe it - believe it this really happened and that was a few of them said to everyone in the office. I have met many Sikhs over the past couple of years who have really made a point of stressing to Caucasians: Have a Merry Christmas. Hell, a Muslim at work wished me "Happy Christmas" yesterday - so really, who are we afraid of offending?
Let us put an end to all the humbuggery. Christmas is a great time of year and I think I know many more people who have fond memories of Christmas than people who don't. Think you have it hard on Christmas? You probably can't lay a finger on me and I am sitting pretty compared to a whole lot of people out there. Don't believe in Jesus Christ ot God? So what? Is it really a lot of skin off your nose? If Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims can get into some aspect of the Spirit of the Season - why can't you? No one is ordering you into church for services, so why be a Grinch about it?
Christmas reduced to it's basic elements is about hope. For Christians it marks the beginning of life of sacrifice that leads to Grace, Forgiveness and the hope of Ressurection. Maybe you just can't believe in that - don't it is your choice, right or wrong. But live in hope for something better. It is easy to wallow in the baser aspects of human nature. If you cannot believe, let Christmas be about being better than what we are. Let go of the pettiness and just celebrate. Water of a duck's back.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Look Upon Me! I Will Show You the Life of the Mind!"

CD in Play: Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

The title is a film quote. Name the film. Thoth and Peter are excluded from answering for a week.

Green Dreams for a New China

China is the emerging power of the 21st Century, this would seem the general consensus the world over. Good news if you happen to be tied into the ruling party, but really not so hot for anyone else. Not that it matters to a person on my level who is in charge, people on my level get screwed in a variety of manners no matter who holds the reigns. Some of the concern is fueled, let us face it, by racist and ethnocentristic sentiments. Some people cannot stand the idea of a non-Western, "non-White" country setting the course for the rest of the world to follow. Most worrying for most people (I would hope) is China's track record with its own people, relations with its neighbours, human rights abuses, lack of standards in the workplace and in agriculture and its overall lack of concern for the environment. And it is this last point that makes me believe that China's time in the Sun will very shot indeed.
China's population sits at an estimated 1,321,851,888 right now. As China grows into its power and rises to take its place at the top of the heap, I believe we are faced with an impending ecological collapse. I'm not a scientist and I don't have hard data to back this assumption up, but it makes sense to me. 1,321,851,888+ consumers, all wanting the things we have enjoyed here for years. 1,321,851,888+ people all wanting cars and truck and motorcycles. 1,321,851,888+ people fouling the air and water with pollution. 1,321,851,888+ people consuming even more resources transformed into trivial crap and distractions to make us feel well off, producing more garbage and creating more landfills.
We can't cope with the amount of garbage and pollution we create here in the West as it is. In fact, you could say we are choking ourselves with the waste and pollution we create - how can we possible cope with the waste that China will generate? To me, China's rise is the World's downfall. China's rise sounds the death knell for sustainability. The West has recognised China's ascension and is has been adjusting itself accordingly to fall in behind in the hopes for some of the reflected glory to shine upon them as well - that hope to become one of China's leading and indispensable allies in terms of trade and the marketplace. Where China leads everyone one else seems to be gearing up to follow.
It is in this area that I make my appeal to powers that be within China - be leaders. Don't simply saddle up to take your turn at the front of the posse just go over the same ground and territory that everyone else before you has trodden over: be leaders. Being a leader, a real leader, means to have the vision and the wherewithal to go places no one else has bothered to go, or has been reticent to tread. my prayer is that China sees what needs to be done and has the fortitude to do it - to become the Green Empire.
My hope (slim though it may be) is that China stops its rise by all means possible and embraces a rise be the best way for all concerned. China's longevity as a power will predicated on its acceptance and leadership in the environmental cause, whether China currently understands this or not. China needs to abandon energy sources like coal and embrace, if not pioneer out of necessity, alternative sources of energy. If China readjusts itself to follow a more environmentally responsible path, markets in the West will adjust themselves accordingly. Even Classic Liberals/Libertarians would make the effort to accommodate the Chinese market should it go Green.
Alternatively, should the West veer more sharply in a Green direction, China could find itself getting shut out of international markets. China may be forced to change its agricultural and manufacturing standards should public awareness swing against them in foreign markets. We can see the signs of this happening as more and more people are becoming aware of the continuing problems with Chinese made and grown products - lead, parasites, pollutants and toxins for instance. Mind you, that won't change as long as people keep thinking with their pocketbooks.
Perhaps economics is simply the best way to pressure China. With 1,321,851,888+ people, China is also looking at a health care crisis of immense proportions. One way to reduce those health problems would be to adopt a healthier way of doing things throughout the country. Less pollution, less health problems. In terms of garbage, less waste equals more space. Illness and infirmity costs money, a fact China is going to find hard to avoid.
In the end, I am not sure what can be done (if anything) to help China see a different way of doing things. But there is always hope.


I just re-read the "Bridge Trilogy" of William Gibson (Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties) and am about to re-read the "Sprawl Trilogy", starting with Neuromancer. I much prefer the the "Bridge Trilogy" overall, but it is hard to top Gibson's first novel for sheer imagination. As a would be writer, it is sometimes a bit hazardous to read and re-read Gibson. It is easy to becom over-awed by the insight and visionary nature of his work.
On that note, I have run into obstacles with the book I have been doing prep work and research for and have decided to write a series of character anecdotes instead. I am basing it losely on the place where I currently work and the tower and mall adjacent to it. Hopefully it will be worthwhile reading.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

J.P. Patches

Anyone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest between 1953 and 1981 should remember J.P. Patches, clown and children's television show host that aired on either KIRO 7 or KING 5 every weekday morning. The show was unscripted and could be the very best in chaotic, cacophonous entertainment. The other night KCPQ (the local PBS station) aired a Patches Marathon and had both J.P. - Mayor of the City Dump - and Gertrude (played by the talented Bob Newman who provided almost all the charaters in the supporting cast) on the air.
It was fun watching what segments they had to air - the show was live and seldom recorded - and it really brought back some of the better memories surrounding my childhood. (It has been the week for that it seems) Sadly, I discovered Chris Wedes (J.P.) has an inccurable blood cancer that is in remission. It seems that the fund raiser was actually for him. J.P. and Bob Newman are both quite old now, of course, but it hits home in a way that a fondly remembered sick family does.

Of course J.P. Patches isn't just a piece of Pacific North-West History, he's one of the inspirations Matt Groening (a Seattle native) had for Krusty the Klown. J.P. was never as crusty or as cynical as Krusty, though.