8.31.2007

what i'm listening to

For many years, I've complained about being music-starved.

We have an abundance of music in our home, but I felt I had no solid time to listen. I can't have music on while I write, even while I write an email. The only decent music time I could find was if and when I cooked dinner - and that is not a regular occurrence. Between baseball and movies, gone are the days when we used to just listen to music all evening.

Living in the suburbs has helped this problem. In New York (or walking around any city), I don't like to use a Walkman, or iPod once they existed. But in the car, it's essential. Recently I've been doing errands with Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil, one of my favourites.

Now on my current weekend job, the problem has been eradicated. I'm in a small, shared space, with a group of non-stop talkers. It would be unbearable, except that the non-chatterers all put on headphones. I've been listening to music all day Saturday and all day Sunday, every weekend. I hope not to keep the job too much longer, but right now this is a great plus.

* * * *

The other side of this music-starved condition was that for many years I've been losing my interest in new rock.

This isn't "there's no good music anymore... all the good music ended in [insert year of most carefree, party life]". I kept up with new rock long past most of my peers. But for whatever reason, I increasingly found that the music didn't do anything for me. It all felt too derivative - and I was already attached to the older music, and the new felt like a pale imitation - or it just bored me.

I still have all the bands I love, plus my musical mainstays - blues, swing, Cajun and other rootsy forms. But new rock of almost any type was just putting me to sleep.

While that was happening, my interest in blues and swing was pulling me closer and closer to jazz, but I was too intimidated to dive in. Jazz! It's so big. It means so many things. I didn't know where to start.

But slowly, through friends' recommendations and an excellent jazz station, I started to find my way. The path was no different than how I originally explored blues: find something you like, get to know it, find what's related to it, get to know that. I'll never be an expert or anything close, and there are huge avenues of jazz I'll never walk down, but my list of what I like and what I'd like to hear more of is growing.

So far my short hot-list is mostly from the late 1950s and early 1960s. (I find that interesting, since the blues I love most is from the late 1940s and early 1950s.) Topping the list are Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, all only from a certain period. I'm also going farther back, to Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and farther back still, to some core music I've always loved, like Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and of course Mr Louis Armstrong.

It's exciting to be discovering new - that is, new to me - music that completely absorbs and thrills me. It doesn't happen to me very often, and this is like an avalanche of new and exciting sounds.

8.30.2007

hilly kristal

Another important New Yorker has died. The New York Times reports:
Hilly Kristal, who founded CBGB, the Bowery bar that became the cradle of punk and art-rock in New York in the 1970s and served as the inspiration for musician-friendly rock dives throughout the world, died in Manhattan on Tuesday. He was 75.

His son, Mark Dana Kristal, told The Associated Press that the cause was complications from lung cancer.

From its opening in late 1973, when Mr. Kristal, a lover of acoustic music, gave the club its name, an abbreviation of the kinds of music he originally intended to feature there — country, bluegrass and blues — until a dispute with its landlord forced the club to close last October, CBGB presented thousands of bands within its eternally crumbling, flyer-encrusted walls.

Most famously, it served as the incubator for the diverse underground scene of New York in the 1970s and early ’80s, with acts like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads and Sonic Youth playing some of their earliest and most important concerts there, at a time when there were few outlets in the city for innovative rock music.

I blogged about CBGB's impending demise here, here and here. When Kristal was asked about the gentrification of The Bowery, the historic neighbourhood where CBGB lived, he surprised many people with his attitude: "You want old stuff? Go to Europe."

In that sense (and many others), Kristal truly understood New York. Everything is always changing, and nothing lasts forever.

the ex

As I mentioned, we went to The Ex yesterday, the Canadian National Exposition, which has been running annually for for 128 years.

That's a long time, and indeed, the most impressive thing about it. It's a fair. As Ferdzy said yesterday, a county fair on steroids. Mister Anchovy mentioned that the crowds are not what they used to be, and it's no wonder. Once upon a time, expositions - World's Fairs, National Exhibitions, call them whatever you will - were people's only glimpse of the larger - and presumably exotic - world. (I've read a lot about this, and blogged about it here.) Now it's just one entry on a long menu of entertainment options.

Yesterday was very warm, and we were all kind of tired. We did the usual: ate some junk food, unloaded some of our money on silly games, wandered through a few exhibits, and C&C went on some rides. The highlight of the day was definitely Superdogs, which course I've wanted to see since I first heard of it years ago. The show is corny and not even very extensive, but who cares, it's dogs! I love that most of the dogs are rescues, and the organization promotes animal rescue. We fell in love with several pooches and brought home a Superdogs bandana for Tala. (We're not neglecting Cody, but she wouldn't go near such a thing.)

For some reader comments and memories of The Ex, see yesterday's post, and feel free to leave your thoughts here.

8.29.2007

two years

Two years ago today, we moved to Canada.

I looked back to see what I wrote on our first anniversary. I'm not surprised to see that post was tinged with sadness, as we moved to Canada as a family of four, and celebrated that anniversary as three.

That's definitely the biggest difference as we celebrate this year: we are four again. We love Tala so much, and we are so happy she's in our lives.

We had to move, which sucked, and we love our new place, which doesn't.

We went to the Ice Hotel, something we had dreamed about for so many years.

I lost my job, found another, hated it and quit, and since then have gone through what feels like a hundred permutations and possibilities as I try to straighten out my working life. It has sometimes been tedious and tiring, and sometimes exciting and interesting. It certainly has not been boring.

I met lots of people, and made some good friends.

And towards the end of this second year, I added activism back to my life. For me, that completes the picture.

The biggest and truest thing I can say about this year is that now I feel completely at home. Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: this is my home.

For all our friends who are still waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting to get here, I can't say it often enough: hang in there, it is so worth it.

going to the ex today

We're going to the Canadian National Exhibition - The Ex - today with C&C. We already have (discounted) tickets, and we're planning on leaving our car at the Port Credit GO station and taking the train, as I've heard parking and traffic can be nightmarish. The kids might stay later while we have to get back for our game tonight.

It's our first time at the Ex. Tips, tricks, advice? Favourites not to miss?

"canada is just a better country"

As I mentioned, one of my nieces (C1) and her boyfriend (C2) are spending a week here before C1 begins university next month.

C2 lived in Canada for 7 months last year, playing hockey in one of the higher-level junior leagues. He has hockey friends throughout Ontario and was hoping to get together with some. I was skeptical. C&C don't have a car here, and I was assuming hockey buddies wouldn't be driving great distances to see each other. Shows you what I know, as our home has become reunion central for guys from Barrie, Newmarket, Orangeville and wherever else. This also means C&C can go enjoy themselves while we are glued to the Red Sox-Yankees series. Very nice.

[Hockey fans may be interested in knowing that Ron Ellis's nephew had dinner with us last night. Just a random factoid for anyone who cares.]

While Allan and C1 went to the beer store and the LCBO for reinforcements, C2 and I had a very interesting chat. Smart guy, this C2. We had a wide ranging conversation - initiated by him, I swear - about the differences between Canada and the US. War was a major topic, as was health care, the environment, government lies, treatment of veterans, same-sex marriage, abortion rights... you name it. C1's conclusion: "Canada is just a better country". To paraphrase, it cares about people more. It isn't the bully of the planet. It's more accepting of difference. And if there's a draft, I'm coming here, to stay.

I was heartened by this 19-year-old, white, heterosexual, beer-drinking hockey player having such an open mind and a progressive view of the world. It made me feel hopeful.

job update # 367,830

Yesterday was quite a day. The three-hour orientation for the notetaking program was absolutely packed with information, but I had no time to let it settle in, as C&C (niece and boyfriend) arrived immediately afterwards.

On the job front, I feel frustrated and a bit confused. It seems that every time I get more information about this work, it changes, and not in minor ways.

When I first heard about the notetaking work, I was so excited. Then I spoke to someone - not just someone, the manager of the entire Deaf Services program - and I became extremely disappointed. She told me there were large breaks where notetakers aren't used - so that the work, while well-paid, is sporadic. On the other hand, she indicated that the potential for higher earning was fairly quick.

I decided to try it anyway. I was willing to see if I could make notetaking work by combining it with other freelance work, such as ESL tutoring and copyediting.

So I went through a very lengthy (grueling!) application and testing process, and I passed.

Then yesterday, at the orientation - at the very last moment of the question period - I asked how many weeks of work there are, when the term runs, just to double-check the manager's information. And guess what? It's not the sporadic work the manager indicated, it's what I originally thought. You're not guaranteed hours - I've known that all along - but but there are many more potential working weeks than this manager said.

Now, why would she have told me such blatantly wrong information? I don't think it was a misunderstanding, as we repeated and clarified more than once. Confusing!

The upshot, however, is positive. If I like the notetaking work, I should be able to make it work. I'll still be looking for ESL tutoring - and paid writing work, of course! - but I do think I'll be able to leave legal doc-pro, maybe for a year, maybe for several years. (I dare not say forever.)

My immediate problem is when to remove the training wheels: when will I be able to drop my current weekend doc-pro contract job. Until I actually try notetaking and see that I'm getting hours, I should hold on to the weekend gig. That means I'll be doing both at once... which scares me.

The downside is there's no way we can go to the cottage at the end of the month.

The false information I had also made the job sound much more flexible than it is. If I get hours, there's absolutely no way I can leave my student for four days in September. It would greatly disrupt too many people's lives - especially the scheduler, an extremely kind, but overworked, no-nonsense person on whom my job depends. I'll cancel our reservation and we'll be able to apply the deposit to another visit. Oh well. The cottage will be there when we're ready.

8.28.2007

company

This morning I have a three-hour orientation for the notetaking program, then I'm off to the airport.

Our niece C and her boyfriend, also C, are coming in for the week. C1, my sister's daughter, is very dear to me (as are all my nieces and nephews) and I hardly ever see her. I haven't met C2 yet, but I hear he's great. We're all really looking forward to the visit.

They are teenagers, so I'll have plenty of time to blog in the morning before they get up. See you later!

8.27.2007

elvis, big foot and hillary clinton

As I'm sure you know, the checkout line - that's "cash" in Canada, because Canadians like to use as many monosyllabic words as possible - in your grocery store just got a little duller. The venerable Weekly World News, always good for a chuckle as you wait, is no longer publishing a print edition. (Final issue on sale now!)

When Allan and I were a long-distance relationship, he often sent me his favourite WWN headlines. This was around the time of Talking Heads' True Stories, which we had a thing for. My favourite headline, which adorned my bulletin board for years, was "Head Transplants Now Possible - How Do You Know You're Really You?" (It's a tough question!) I also had a great "photo" of Hillary Clinton and her space-alien lover. You should've seen the tongue on that thing.

In all those years, though, I never thought much about who wrote those terrific stories. Truth be told, I never actually read any of the stories, I just enjoyed the headlines.

Woti-woti has answered the question I forgot to ask. Woti, who is both a friend of wmtc and a citizen of Joy Nation, sent me this story from Salon, written by Stan Sinberg. Sinberg wrote for WWN, and I was not surprised to learn he also writes for MAD magazine.

I really enjoyed it, perhaps you will, too.

fifty-four forty or fight revisited

You may have heard that the Resident has been comparing the US occupation of Iraq to the war in Vietnam - as a reason to stay.

Yes, it's true. In other news, up is down, black is white, and hell has frozen over, here in Bizarro World.

For a more complete explanation, see the always-excellent uggabugga, who tells us:
Bush is right on the principle, but wrong on the history. The U.S. lost credibility in 1846:
Expansionists after the 1844 election shouted "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" This slogan [was] the position of [those] who wanted Polk to be as uncompromising in acquiring the Oregon territory as he had been in annexing Texas. Polk ... compromised with the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Aberdeen. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 divided the Oregon Country along the 49th parallel ...

The rest, as they say, is history. According to Bush-logic, Polk's compromising of U.S. credibility directly led to 9/11. Who can disagree with that? Only traitors and evil radical Islamo-fascist demons.

Bush can talk a good game about Vietnam, but clearly the United States has to undo the damage to its credibility in the order in which it took place. The solution to preventing another 9/11 is this:

- Take back all of the Oregon Territory, up to 54°40', from single-payer Canada. (That'll teach 'em to waste money on health care!)

- Push back the North Koreans all the way to the Yalu River. Vindicate MacArthur in the process. ("Old soldiers never die, they just reappear in different forms - like Bill Kristol.")

- Take back Vietnam (South and North)

Then credibility will be restored and Bin Laden will be defeated, even if uncaptured and still at large.

Excellent work from TPM and uggabugga, and thanks to my researcher-in-chief.

our magnetic north

If you are an American who has chosen to move to Canada, MSEH would like to hear your story. MSEH, of Two Moms To Canada and a stalwart of our moving-to-Canada blog community, is collecting our stories for her project Magnetic North.

She says:
As both a sociologist and the proud recipient of a my own new Canadian PR card, I've begun a book project documenting the experiences of those in the US who have recently moved, or are in the process of moving, to Canada.

I am looking for people who are willing to be interviewed - ideally in person, but phone is also possible - about their decision, process, etc. If you don't want to be interviewed, but you'd be willing to share your story via email, blog, etc., that's fine, too.

If you want to know more, please visit Magnetic North More information is available there. Feel free to contact me at us2canada@gmail.com with any questions!

If you know someone who fits this bill who doesn't read wmtc (oh, the horror!), please send them this post. Thanks!

our melting north

The lead article in the new issue of Harper's is "Cold Rush: The Coming Fight for the Melting North," by McKenzie Funk.

I haven't read it yet, but I will. You might want to pick it up. As I skim it, it appears that every third word is Canada.

8.26.2007

invasion of the brain snatchers

I've been trying to write about this for days, for weeks, forever. But where to begin? How can I articulate something that permeates my brain so completely, that is always with me, that hounds me so constantly in my daily life?

It's not the US occupation of Iraq. It's not restrictive abortion laws. It's not even the Red Sox.

It's advertising.

It's corporate advertising's near-total takeover of our world.

Many people appear to be inured to it. Some people are adept at blocking it out. But I feel advertising closing in around me, crowding out the world. I am choked by it, suffocated by it. It's a constant, loud buzzing that drowns out even my own thoughts.

On the bus on the way to work this morning, when I looked up from my book, the view was a steady stream of corporate logos and taglines.

As I walked from the bus to work, the entire floor of the Union Station subway stop, and all adjacent walls, were covered in gigantic ads. That is, the main plaza of a public transit hub doubles as a horizontal billboard.

Once at my workplace, I look out the window, and the Toronto skyline is peppered with corporate logos on the tops of office buildings. Urban architecture is now incomplete without a corporate identifier.

As I drive around doing errands, I see the signs of fast-food chains - many of which where I've eaten - and involuntarily, the company's audio logo plays in my mind! I resent this deeply. These sounds have invaded my mind. These companies have snatched my brain and I want it back.

* * * *

On an average day in my home, the highlight of the day is often our nightly ritual: we stop whatever we're doing, we take care of the dogs and make our dinner, we have dinner together, timed to be finished and cleaned up by game time, and then we settle in for a baseball game. Baseball is the highlight of my day and one of the greatest pleasures of my life. And baseball is being ruined by advertising.

It's common in baseball media to complain about the length of games. Baseball does not run on a clock, it has an internal time system, and games have grown much longer over the decades. But are the usual suspects - batters stepping out to adjust their gloves, the time between pitches - to blame? Those times must be a fraction compared to the increased time spent on advertising. The time between innings has gotten longer, and continues to grow.

Well, I say, that's what my remote is for, to hit the mute button between innings. I don't like those ads, but I can avoid them. But what of the advertising during the game? Every pitching change, every stolen base, every home-team home run, every player highlight, every in-game interview - and on and on and on - is "brought to you" by some corporation. Some of the in-game ads are disguised as donations, as if major corporations could not make these paltry, tax-deductible donations without an exchange of air time.

It's not enough that I buy tickets. It's not enough that I turn on my TV every day there's a game. That's what fans do. But to the sponsors, I'm not a fan. I'm a market.

Because of a kind of advertising euphemistically called "naming rights," the names of baseball parks now change on a regular basis. San Francisco's new park has had three names since it opened in 2000. (Perhaps more, I might have missed a name.) Its predecessor, the famed, windswept Candlestick, was renamed twice before its demise. It does no good to point out that Chicago's Wrigley Field was named for the chewing-gum magnate. Wrigley was named for a person, and it has borne that person's name for more than 80 years.

My examples are from baseball, but all popular sports have been infected by corporate advertising. Venerable US college football tournaments are named for junk food, golf tournaments for cars, tennis for telecom companies, and on and on. European footballers wear their sponsorships on their jerseys, auto racers all over their vehicles. Those of us who don't like auto racing used to ridicule those silly cars plastered with dozens of logos. But if you counted up the number of corporate sponsorships during an average baseball game, I'd bet they'd be higher than the number of stickers on a NASCAR racer.

But my examples are from baseball because that's where I feel the encroachment of advertising most acutely. The sport is my refuge, my relaxation, the only time I can truly count on being taken out of my day, out of myself, out of the world around me, and brought into something wholly relaxing and absorbing. But the ever-increasing intrusion of advertising is ruining this singular experience. The ads are pushing out the sport.

* * * *

Of course it's not only sports. The arts couldn't survive without corporate sponsorship, but in the past those donors were content with a mention in the program. Those days are gone, as corporations seize the opportunity on already-broken ground. Broadway shows have above-the-title sponsorship, music and opera halls are named and renamed for their current sponsors, and the trend, we can be sure, will only increase.

If you don't watch sports and you don't attend the arts, perhaps you go to the movies. I almost never see mainstream, commercial movies, but when I do, I'm horrified by the commercials embedded in them. "Product placement" is a euphemism; it's an ad. And commercial movies are often just extended commercials for products anyway. Must every movie have a fast-food tie-in, a game, a mobile phone ad, an automobile "edition"?

Is it any wonder I feel advertising closing in around me, when seemingly every inch of space is sponsored? I remember in New York City, turning over my electronic subway pass and being greeted by a tiny corporate ad. The subway platforms and the subway cars are plastered with ads, of course. Once off the subway, as I walk into Yankee Stadium, there's an ad on the turnstile bar. And in the Stadium itself, it's not enough to line the outfield and stands with ads. That's typical. But fans at Yankee Stadiums are forced to watch commercials between innings at the ballpark. Looking away does no good. The ads are broadcast at ear-splitting volume.

* * * *

About ten years ago, we spent time in Alaska. Roaming the tundra in Denali National Park, wearing our bear bells, I had a revelation. I realized that one of the main reasons I love to visit national parks - one of the reasons I love to be in the woods, even for a few hours - is the absence of advertising. For some people, it's the quiet - the sounds of nature instead of traffic and crowds. I love that, of course, but what I crave is the visual quiet. Without the billboards, the signs, the logos, the jingles, the sponsors - without all that noise - I can relax. I can just be.

That revelation came in 1996. It's gotten so much worse since then.

I know there has always been advertising. I understand the function it serves. I even appreciate that creating advertising is a skill and an art form. Like most people, I sometimes enjoy creative advertising.

I'm not much of an idealist. I'm not dreaming of a world without advertising. My problem is the amount of advertising, the extent to which it now so thoroughly pervades our lives.

* * * *

Often when I complain about something, a reader will tell me his or her personal solution, which boils down to: don't go there. For example, if you're having problems with your cable company, don't get cable TV. But we each like what we like. I almost never see mainstream movies because I have no interest in them. I don't read popular fiction for the same reason. I don't disdain it, I just don't care for it. Like you, I like what I like. Giving up baseball to lessen my exposure to advertising is not an option, any more than living in the woods to avoid billboards is.

And why should any of us give up something we love and enjoy because of corporate intrusion? We are not the problem.

8.25.2007

stand up for free speech: register your complaint



If you want to register your disapproval of - or demand an inquiry into - what happened at the Montebello protests last week, Right On, Canada is here to help. Click and write.

all i want for christmas

Many wmtc readers may not realize how much time and energy I spend thinking about baseball. Or maybe you do.

As we head into the final month of the baseball season - and on the eve of a huge series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees - I want to repeat something I've been saying nearly as long as I've been blogging.

Ever since my religious conversion (some would say exorcism) in the summer of 2003, I have wanted only two things.

One, for the Red Sox to win the division. The Yankees have ended their season on top of the American League East for the past 9 years (and 10 of the last 11 years). Even in 2004, when the Red Sox made the greatest comeback in baseball history - and the Yankees the greatest collapse - and the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series championship in 86 years, the Red Sox got to the playoffs through the wild card. That's fine with me, and with all of us. (Except one ancient New York sportswriter, but never mind him.)

But every citizen of Red Sox nation burns with the desire for the Red Sox to best their historical archrival to the top of the division. I am no different.

And two, I want the Yankees to not make the playoffs. No wild card. No nothing. They stay home. It would be the first postseason without the New York Yankees since 1995.

If you don't follow a sport and don't have a team, there's no way I can describe to you how badly I want these things to happen. One is much more important than the other, surely. But they both matter. A lot.

Right now, the Red Sox are all but a lock to win the division. I say "all but" because until we clinch, we can't really say. But as the days tick by, and our lead remains, it is increasingly likely. (The numbers are here - and now they're even better! - but I suspect any wmtc readers who are interested have probably already read this.)

The Yankees may yet still win the wild card. I don't think it's going to happen, but it could. I won't be crushed if they do. It's important, but secondary.

This is all I want. This is ALL I want. This is all I want.

Once we win the division, anything can happen. Of course I'll want the Red Sox to make it to the World Series, and of course I'll want them to win. But if they win the AL East, I'll have gotten my wish.

* * * *

A note to those friends of wmtc who don't care about this. That's fine. We don't have to all enjoy the same things. I don't read science fiction, I don't collect recipes, I don't scour YouTube for funny videos. There's no need to denigrate my interests merely because you don't care for baseball. (And it's baseball, by the way, not "sports"!)

"religious canadians, be careful what you wish for"

One of the things about Canada that I've had trouble understanding is why Catholic schools receive government funding. People have explained it to me, but I didn't really grasp the idea until I read this op-ed in the Globe and Mail last week.

The writer draws an constitutional analogy to slavery, and he makes a good point. (Please read before condemning!) In the present, the analogy I would make is to the US's Second Amendment, a once-necessary, but now anachronistic vestige that needs to be retired, or at least severely restricted.
Why seven wrongs don't make a right

A liberal society casts religion as a private matter rather than a public one

Clifford Orwin

Politics doesn't just make strange bedfellows; it drives obvious ones apart. So I'll be sleeping alone tonight, estranged from Ontario Conservative leader John Tory, whom I admire, and the Canadian Jewish community, to which I belong. They both think that liberal democratic principles permit or even require the public funding of religious education. They're dead wrong.

Public funding of Catholic education has been an albatross around our collective neck dating from the terms of Confederation. Some provinces provide some funding to schools of other denominations; others, like Ontario, do not. Since Catholic schools receive full funding and others partial funding or none, provinces discriminate in favour of Catholics and against parents of other faiths.

This situation is clearly unfair. The question is what to do about it. Withdraw funding from Catholic schools? Extend that same funding to other religious schools? Grin and bear the status quo, flawed as it is? Preferring the first, I'll settle for the third. The second is a very bad idea.

The Fathers of Confederation had to guarantee public funding of Catholic education in 1867 because otherwise there would have been no deal. Similarly (you'll choke on this but please hear me out), the American Founders had to compromise with the existence of slavery in the Constitution of 1787 because otherwise there'd have been no deal there either. As even the slaveholders grasped (this was the age of Enlightenment, after all), slavery was a gross injustice, a terrible evil, and incompatible with the principles on which the new republic was founded. (Famously, Thomas Jefferson trembled when he reflected that God was just.) So they inserted an article forbidding the importation of slaves after 1807, hoping thereby to set the peculiar institution on the path of extinction.

Am I really claiming that the funding of Catholic schools in Canada is an evil comparable to slavery? Of course not. But it is an evil parallel to it. In both cases a liberal society was compelled to make its peace with an illiberal practice as the price of its coming into being. Which means that just as Americans eventually abolished slavery, so, too, Canadians should end public funding of Catholic education. Will we? Probably not. The injustice isn't glaring enough, the obstacles daunting. Politicians won't address the issue; it would be suicidal.

So we will have to live with this inequity, while remaining conscious of it as such. (It was wrong for an Ontario Conservative government to expand funding for Catholic education, as one did not long ago.) The last thing Ontarians should do is to aggravate the offence under the pretense of redressing it by extending funding to other religious schools as well.

Seven wrongs don't make a right. (So far, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Copts, and Protestants have indicated their intention of applying for the funding that Mr. Tory has promised if elected.) Don't get me wrong. Jewish education is a good thing - especially for Jews. That's why we Jews should pay for it. Religious independence is a fundamental virtue of a free society. You stand on your own two feet (or kneel on your own two knees) before God, not with your hand in the public till. It's a truism that religion in the United States, long inured to self-reliance, is more robust than religion in other Western nations - including Canada.

Liberal society is by definition of no religion. It casts religion as a private matter rather than a public one. While recognizing it as salutary, it doesn't privilege it among practices that are salutary. It shouldn't offer any benefits to religious organizations that are not available to non-religious ones as well. It should treat religious schools as it does other private schools, granting them the benefits available to all non-profit organizations. A voucher system promoting parental choice in education would be a policy worth considering (not that we collectivist Canadians will consider it.) But that wouldn't be a policy that privileged religious education.

We hear that public funding for religious education would entail higher levels of accountability and more rigorous requirements of tolerance. Fine, but the provinces already possess the means to insist on these. They accredit private education, which should suffice to hold it to whatever standard.

Religious Canadians, be careful what you wish for. When parents foot the bill for schools, they will demand excellence. Where others are footing it, they won't. Mediocrity will prevail, in religious education as elsewhere. Many of my students at the University of Toronto are graduates of the Ontario Catholic public school system, and what they know about Catholicism could join that fabled legion of angels in fitting on the head of a pin.

Clifford Orwin is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

what i'm reading

Several years ago, I read and fell in love with Pat Barker's "Regeneration Trilogy": Regeneration, The Eye in The Door, and The Ghost Road. Set in England during The Great War (WWI), the three books explore the horrors of war, both immediate and lasting, physical and psychological. The books also reveal a piece of queer history, as gay people were persecuted in WWI England, homosexuality linked to the supposedly baby-eating, nun-raping Huns.

I had finished all three novels before learning that the first book was based on memoirs, or at least slightly fictionalized memoirs. Barker's jumping off point for Regeneration was the novel-memoirs of Siegfried_Sassoon, best known for his World War I poetry. I had never heard of Sassoon, but I was very interested in learning more.

So as part of a birthday present, in his typically and amazingly thoughtful way, Allan presented me with a boxed, hardcover edition of the Sassoon trilogy, an edition reprinted in 1971. (They were originally published in 1928.) Using a fictional stand-in named George Sherston, Sassoon wrote Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer and Sherston's Progress.

The box has been sitting on the shelf for several years, but this morning I started reading the first one. It's wonderful. Sassoon evokes a place and time soon to be completely shattered, its people utterly insensible to the coming apocalypse. He also evokes childhood - its loneliness, its terrors, its joys and consolations - with beautiful precision. I'm looking forward to the journey.

8.24.2007

protesters gave me the rocks! why don't you believe me?

Following up on our recent discussion of the police attempting to incite violence among the peaceful demonstrations at Montebello, here's a CBC story, and some in-game commentary. All emphasis mine.
Quebec provincial police are standing behind three officers who went undercover during protests at the recent Montebello summit, saying the men weren't there to provoke demonstrators.

"At no time did the officers in question engage in provocation or incite anyone to commit violent acts," Insp. Marcel Savard told a news conference in Montreal on Friday.

The police admitted Thursday afternoon that three masked men caught on video Monday afternoon pushing toward a line of riot police, despite protesters' efforts to stop them, were the force's officers.

The protesters were demonstrating against an agreement called the Security and Prosperity Partnership that was being discussed by U.S. President George Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Montebello Monday and Tuesday.

Savard acknowledged that one of the officers was given a rock by protesters but did not use it. [Was given a rock by protesters??? Say wha?]

"One of the extremists gave the rock to one of our police officers and he had a choice to make," Savard said. "He was asked by extremists to throw the rock at the police, but never had any intention of using it."

Protester Dave Coles on Friday refuted Savard's allegations.

"I would testify in a court of law that these guys were lying. They were pushing me around. They had rocks," said Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.

"They were trying to incite violence. They were trying to get others to throw rocks at the store. It's just a fabrication."

The police admission came after several days of accusations from the protesters and denials from police that the three men were agents trying to provoke a confrontation between protesters and police.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day continued to dismiss calls for a public inquiry on Friday, saying the RCMP has a formal complaints process.

"The thing that was interesting in this particular incident, three people in question were spotted by protesters because were not engaging in violence," Day said.

"They were being encouraged to throw rocks and they were not throwing rocks, it was the protesters who were throwing the rocks. That's the irony of this."
[Can somebody please give Mr Day a dictionary, so he can look up the meaning of irony?? The protesters were throwing rocks? What protesters were throwing rocks? If they were, why weren't they arrested? Why did the huge phalanx of police in full riot gear just allow protesters to throw rocks? Why is there no mention of rock-throwing in any media account, Mr Day? Knowing how the media jumps on the slightest bit of agitation at any demonstration, why did not one media report on this rock throwing? What's that? BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN?]

On Friday, politicians and protesters alike were still demanding answers about the incident.

Quebec Opposition public security critic Sylvie Roy, ADQ MNA for Lotbinière, said in an interview that the province's Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis has to answer for the police actions.

Coles, who tried to hold the masked men back, said he is considering pressing charges against the undercover officer who pushed him.

"Criminal acts were committed. They were shoving me and others," he said Friday. "We want an arm's-length independent inquiry of what's going on here."

A video posted on YouTube Tuesday showed three burly men dressed in black with bandanas over their faces pushing past Coles and other protesters in a designated protest area. One man was carrying a rock.

In the video, the protesters told the men to leave and put down the rock, and accused them of being agents provocateurs. The men broke through the police line and were handcuffed by police.

The video has been viewed 190,000 times since it was posted online on Tuesday.

The police later admitted the men were its officers, but said they were there to maintain order and were not trying to incite violence. [Did you see the video? Did it look like the men were maintaining order???]

After the police denied that the three men were indeed undercover cops, why should we believe anything they say? Especially when the whole incident was recorded on videotape?

But from the Taking Solace Where You Find It Department, I will add that it's heartening what a big story this is in the mainstream Canadian media. It would be nothing in the US. Not a small story - a non-story.

job update: hooray!

I got the job! Yay!

grace paley, rest in peace

The inimitable Grace Paley has died. She was 84.

I saw Paley read and speak many times. She was a wonderful thinker, writer and activist, and from all accounts, a wonderful person. Her New York Times obit is here, and here's an interview with her in Salon from about ten years ago.

jon stewart: three generations of america to the rescue



Thanks to James, Allan, and anyone else who sent me this.

memo to police: try a different shoe store

I heard the Montebello protests were very good - well-attended, high-spirited and, of course, peaceful. Peaceful, that is, despite the police's bungled efforts at inciting violence.

Here's what I heard at the War Resisters Support Campaign meeting, from people who were there.

Union leader Dave Coles, of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, saw three men wearing bandanas over their faces, carrying rocks, shouting things like, "Stone the cops! Let's get the cops!" He confronted them, telling them to put down the stones, that this was a peaceful protest. They refused, and started pushing and shoving Coles. Coles told the crowd that the three were cops, and tried to unmask them.

As peaceful protesters shouted at them, the three "protesters" retreated into a line of riot police, where they were "arrested". (There were no arrests at the protests, and no record of these supposed arrests in any released information.) When the faux protesters lay down to get cuffed, the soles of their boots were exposed. And when their fellow officers in riot gear kneeled next to them to apply the cuffs, their boots were exposed, too. And guess what? Same shoes.

Everyone always says you can tell the undercover cops by their shoes. Activists have passed this lore down through the generations, but never have I seen it for myself with such hilarious clarity.

Don't take my word for it; watch it on CTV, and on the CPE video.


Here's a shorter CTV video with a good view of the boots.


So we see some things are the same on both sides of the Canada-US border.

Something different, and much better, in Canada was the media coverage of the protests.

In the US, when close to 1,000,000 protesters jammed the streets of New York City on February 15, 2003 to protest the impending Iraq War (and millions of people in cities around the world did the same), CNN didn't even put it on TV. How could they, since their job was to justify and raise support for the war?

I watched CBC coverage of Montebello, and it was excellent. There was a strong focus on the protests, and a spokesperson spoke at length on the broadcast. (Whoever heard of such a thing?)

When the CBC anchor asked the spokesperson about violence, security and arrests, he replied, "The police have an excellent opportunity to bring the world more security and less violence by arresting the war criminal George Bush." Can't say fairer than that.

bush out, resisters in


Iraq War resister Phil McDowell addresses demonstrators at Montebello. Other resisters applying for status in Canada are on the stage behind him.

8.22.2007

ehrenreich: the low, strangled, cry of pain of the american working class

Some terrific satire from Barbara Ehrenreich, on her blog, and in today's Globe and Mail.
Smashing Capitalism

Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.

First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were "NINJA" loans, for example, awarded to people with "no income, no job or assets." Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of "economic literacy" that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn't these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don't they have personal financial advisors anyway?

Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor – a category which now roughly coincides with the working class – stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that "it's no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month."

I wish I could report that the current attack on capitalism represents a deliberate strategy on the part of the poor, that there have been secret meetings in break rooms and parking lots around the country, where cell leaders issued instructions like, "You, Vinny – don't make any mortgage payment this month. And Caroline, forget that back-to-school shopping, OK?" But all the evidence suggests that the current crisis is something the high-rollers brought down on themselves.

When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company's famously discounted prices.

The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart's other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.

It gets worse though. While with one hand the high-rollers, H. Lee Scott among them, squeezed the American worker's wages, the other hand was reaching out with the tempting offer of credit. In fact, easy credit became the American substitute for decent wages. Once you worked for your money, but now you were supposed to pay for it. Once you could count on earning enough to save for a home. Now you'll never earn that much, but, as the lenders were saying – heh, heh—do we have a mortgage for you!

Pay day loans, rent-to-buy furniture and exorbitant credit card interest rates for the poor were just the beginning. In its May 21st cover story on "The Poverty Business," Business Week documented the stampede, in the just the last few years, to lend money to the people who could least afford to pay the interest: Buy your dream home! Refinance your house! Take on a car loan even if your credit rating sucks! Financiamos a Todos! Somehow, no one bothered to figure out where the poor were going to get the money to pay for all the money they were being offered.

Personally, I prefer my revolutions to be a little more pro-active. There should be marches and rallies, banners and sit-ins, possibly a nice color theme like red or orange. Certainly, there should be a vision of what you intend to replace the bad old system with—European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?

Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.

meet christine daniels

As I'm reading a book by a cross-gendered person, about her experience crossing from manhood to womanhood, this column by an L.A. Times sportswriter makes the news.
Old Mike, new Christine
By Mike Penner, Times Staff Writer

During my 23 years with The Times' sports department, I have held a wide variety of roles and titles. Tennis writer. Angels beat reporter. Olympics writer. Essayist. Sports media critic. NFL columnist. Recent keeper of the Morning Briefing flame.

Today I leave for a few weeks' vacation, and when I return, I will come back in yet another incarnation.

As Christine.

I am a transsexual sportswriter. It has taken more than 40 years, a million tears and hundreds of hours of soul-wrenching therapy for me to work up the courage to type those words. I realize many readers and colleagues and friends will be shocked to read them.

That's OK. I understand that I am not the only one in transition as I move from Mike to Christine. Everyone who knows me and my work will be transitioning as well. That will take time. And that's all right. To borrow a piece of well-worn sports parlance, we will take it one day at a time.

Transsexualism is a complicated and widely misunderstood medical condition. It is a natural occurrence — unusual, no question, but natural.

Recent studies have shown that such physiological factors as genetics and hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can significantly affect how our brains are "wired" at birth.

As extensive therapy and testing have confirmed, my brain was wired female.

A transgender friend provided the best and simplest explanation I have heard: We are born with this, we fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins.

I gave it as good a fight as I possibly could. I went more than 40 hard rounds with it. Eventually, though, you realize you are only fighting yourself and your happiness and your mental health — a no-win situation any way you look at it.

When you reach the point when one gender causes heartache and unbearable discomfort, and the other brings more joy and fulfillment than you ever imagined possible, it shouldn't take two tons of bricks to fall in order to know what to do.

It didn't with me.

With me, all it took was 1.99 tons.

For more years than I care to count, I was scared to death over the prospect of writing a story such as this one. It was the most frightening of all the towering mountains of fear I somehow had to confront and struggle to scale.

How do you go about sharing your most important truth, one you spent a lifetime trying to keep deeply buried, to a world that has grown familiar and comfortable with your façade?

To a world whose knowledge of transsexuals usually begins and ends with Jerry Springer's exploitation circus?

Painfully and reluctantly, I began the coming-out process a few months ago. To my everlasting amazement, friends and colleagues almost universally have been supportive and encouraging, often breaking the tension with good-natured doses of humor.

When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, "Well, no one can ever say we don't have diversity on this staff."

When I told Robert, the soccer-loving lad from Wales who cuts my hair, why I wanted to start growing my hair out, he had to take a seat, blink hard a few times and ask, "Does this mean you don't like football anymore, Mike?"

No, I had to assure him, I still love soccer. I will continue to watch it. I hope to continue to coach it.

My days of playing in men's over-30 rec leagues, however, could be numbered.

When I told Eric, who has played sweeper behind my plodding stopper for more than a decade, he brightly suggested, "Well, you're still good for co-ed!"

I broke the news to Tim by beginning, "Are you familiar with the movie 'Transamerica'?" Tim nodded. "Well, welcome to my life," I said.

Tim seemed more perplexed than most as I nervously launched into my story.

Finally, he had to explain, "I thought you said 'Trainspotting.' I thought you were going to tell me you're a heroin addict."

People have asked if transitioning will affect my writing. And if so, how?

All I can say at this point is that I am now happier, more focused and more energized when I sit behind a keyboard. The wicked writer's block that used to reach up and torture me at some of the worst possible times imaginable has disappeared.

My therapist says this is what happens when a transsexual finally "integrates" and the ever-present white noise in the background dissipates.

That should come as good news to my editors: far fewer blown deadlines.

So now we all will take a short break between bylines. "Mike Penner" is out, "Christine Daniels" soon will be taking its place.

From here, it feels like a big improvement. I hope with time you will agree.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

What an amazing thing to read in the sports pages! What courage this must have taken.

I cringed as I clicked on comments, fearing that they would be ignorant and hate-filled. To my surprise and relief, the overwhelming majority of comments were extremely supportive. Most readers praised Penner's courage, wished him luck on his journey, and looked forward to reading Christine Daniels' columns. I was really impressed. The few non-supportive columns quoted scripture (what is up with those people?), and other readers slammed those as judgemental and intolerant.

Of course I know there's tremendous hate and phobia against transgendered people in this world. But signs of progress are always worth noting.

An AP wire-service story reports:
"Mike Penner has been an exemplary contributor to the Los Angeles Times sports pages for over two decades and today's column is no exception," Randy Harvey, the newspaper's sports editor, said in a statement. "The decision to go public cannot have been an easy one and, while we do not make a habit of commenting on the personal and private lives of our journalists, we do look forward to continuing our relationship into the future."

Penner uses the word "transsexualism," rather than crossgendered or transgendered, and refers to his state as a "medical condition," an attitude many transgendered people reject. I wonder if he's partly using those expressions to help his readership and employers come to terms, or perhaps he best understands his own gender confusion as medical.

I also noticed that the AP writer went to three people for comments on Penner's column: his employer, John Amaeche, and the leader of a gay/lesbian activist group.
John Amaechi, the first NBA player to publicly come out of the closet as being gay, said he read Penner's column Thursday after returning from a speaking engagement in Berkeley at the University of California.

"It's incredibly bold and far more courageous than anything I could have done," said Amaechi, who spent five seasons in the NBA. "I commend him."

Gay and lesbian activists praised Penner and the Los Angeles Times.

"Christine's still-unfolding story sends a powerful message about the importance of living openly and honestly as does the Times' public support of her transition," said Neil Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

John Amaeche makes some sense, as both Penner and Amaeche share the world of professional sports. But in tapping Neil Giuliano, the writer is a little confused: Penner didn't say he was gay. Transgendered people can be any sexual orientation. There's some merit to getting that quote, but speaking to an out transgendered person, or someone from a transgender activist group, would have been more to the point.

I join the chorus of people commending the new Christine Daniels for her courage and honesty. Every person who comes out - of any closet, there are thousands of them - to live his or her most authentic life helps each of us, helps the world.

8.21.2007

relieved: i thought it would be higher

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job update: one step closer

Whew. I just took a lengthy, challenging interview and test for the college notetaking program.

I was not the most nervous person there, by far, and that helped me relax. (Is that awful?) I felt pretty good, but I won't know if I passed until Friday.

This work, if I get it, will be well paid, but extremely challenging. It will be certainly be more stimulating and demanding than my usual day-job work, and for some reason that appeals to me right now. After 17 years in the legal doc-pro biz, I could do with a change.

Both the interviewer and the tester impressed upon us candidates how important this work is to deaf students. Deaf services are provided through a government grant, and students don't get a second chance. If they fail classes, their services are cut off. They shouldn't fail because their services failed them.

I'm not sure we'll be able to go to a cottage after all. I really shouldn't (although we might anyway). We're not feeling burned out and in dire need of a vacation, it was just for fun. It would be my fourth week of work and perhaps the wrong time to be unavailable. We'll see.

8.20.2007

what i'm reading

I'm still reading Crossing, the memoir of Deirdre McCloskey, who started out in life as Donald McCloskey. In addition to the personal journey of a person who has lived as both male and female, it is a meditation on the concept of gender, and what makes us the gender we are. (Hint: it's not what's hidden in our pants.)

At first, I found myself uncomfortable with some of McCloskey's observations about female-ness, because many of them don't apply to me, and about male-ness, because many of them don't apply to the men who have been important in my life. But once I understood that she views these generalizations as culturally based, and mostly learned, I felt better. And I can't deny her experience as both a man and a woman in this divided world. I'm sure the gender gulf would seem infinitely more vast to me if I had ever tried to cross it.

From Crossing I've also learned something about Dutch society, and the differences between it and US society, most of which I could not have guessed.

Here's an insight about being female that I appreciated.
Deirdre knew from being a woman on trains late at night in Holland or walking by Dutch cafes in the summertime or living later in the less demonstrative but more dangerous environment of America that women have daily experiences of men in fact being up to something, often something sexual, often enough something dangerous. At first it was flattering, the knocking on the windows of the [cafe] as she went by, the propositions to come into the jazz club and have a drink. Then it was tedious or frightening. Women experience dangerous men all day long and are on the alert. The alertness is not male-bashing, merely prudence in the company of people with greater upper-body strength and the inclination to use it, intoxicated by lethal fantasies about What She Really Wants.

Even McCloskey's initial feelings of being flattered may be familiar to many women, if they recall when they first began to attract male sexual attention (assuming this did not happen before adolescence). McCloskey is flattered because she is being "read" as a woman, instead of as a man. Girls begin to be read as young women - sexual beings - instead of little girls. It's enjoyable, at first.

the queen of mean

After posting the obits of four great New Yorkers, I'll post one of a not-so-great. Leona Helmsely is dead at age 87.

Helmsely, the self-described queen of her hotel empire, was dubbed The Queen of Mean by the New York tabloids, and for a time was the New Yorker we most loved to hate. She was the perfect target: rich, arrogant, corrupt and female. Although I was no fan of Leona Helmsely's, I have no doubt that the special venom she drew was at least partially fueled by sexism.

Her most celebrated moment, which I'm sure you'll read about everywhere, came during her 1989 tabloid-rich trial for tax fraud: a former employee testified that Helmsely said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

Much like the "Ford to City: Drop Dead," it may never have been said (Helmsely always denied it), but it came to define the would-be speaker.

Boy does her death bring back memories. New York in the 80s, a crazy city in a crazy time.

New York Times obit here.

8.19.2007

toon wisdom

I got home from work tonight and turned on the Sunday night cartoons, as I always do. We missed a bunch of "Family Guy"s and "American Dad"s last season, so many of the re-runs are new to me.

I just saw such a great clip, I had to run to Google to find the exact quote. I'll set the scene, which I'm sure most Family Guy aficionados will remember.

Peter has gone back in time and somehow altered the past. Lois is married to Quagmire and Peter is married to Molly Ringwald.

Peter is walking around with Brian, wondering how they can go back in time and put things back the way they were. For that, they need a visit from Death, a recurring character.

Here's the dialogue:
Peter: I don't care what it takes, Brian. I gotta get Lois back somehow.

Brian: Well, the only one who can help us is Death, and he only shows up when somebody dies.

Peter: Ah, that's gonna be tough. With President Gore's Universal Health Care, people are living much longer these days.

Brian: And with Zero Tolerance gun control and a strong, well-funded educational system, there's no street crime. Face it, Peter, you not marrying Lois was the best thing that ever happened to the world.

Peter: I don't care! We gotta find a way to summon Death, and quick!

(Jane Jetson falls out of the sky to the pavement, dead) [you're set up earlier for that]

Peter: Well, that might do it.

(Death appears)

Peter: Death, oh thank God you're here! Listen, you gotta send me back in time again, so I can marry Lois!

Death: Man, it's been a busy day. Dick Cheney, the chairman of Haliburton, shot Supreme Court Justice Scalia in a hunting accident, and the bullet went right through him and killed Karl Rove and Tucker Carlson.

Brian: Oh my God, Peter, you can't marry Lois!

[pause]

Peter: I don't know who any of those people are

I love this show!

alberta vs canada

In the early days of this blog, and continuing through our move to Canada, the wmtc community included a guy named RobfromAlberta, who I called our "resident conservative". (Rob has since left the blogosphere, at least under that name.)

Rob used to spar with a guy named Kyle_from_Ottawa (who may have been my first non-related reader), and later got into it big-time with Lone Primate, Wrye and G. I learned a lot from their debates, and I learned a lot from Rob, especially about what it means to be conservative in Canada, as opposed to the US.

In many respects, RobfromAlberta was what I consider a "true conservative". He opposed censorship of any kind, opposed laws restricting abortion and supported same-sex marriage. Any real conservative should, in my opinion, hold those truths to be self-evident, as they all fall under the general category of government interference in citizen's lives, which they are supposedly against. He hated Fox News almost as much as he hated the Liberal government. He loved and admired the US, but not what it had (in his eyes) become under the Resident.

From Rob I also learned something about the civility of Canadians, as I noticed he was much more virulently right-wing on his own blog than he was on mine. Indeed, on wmtc he was never anything but respectful.

(RobfromAlberta left wmtc right around the time the Conservatives were elected. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.)

One area of Canadian culture in which RobfromAlberta schooled me was his province's prickly relationship to the rest of the country. Although Rob had lived all over Canada (his wife, I believe, was from Montreal), he was a hard-core Albertan. It often seemed to me that he was more Albertan than Canadian. Indeed, he preached secession. Or at least the threat of secession, claiming that the threat had "worked" for Quebec, as Canada was forced to meet that province's demands - or at least give weight and credence - for the sake of national unity.

I recalled that extreme position as I read this article.
A war is looming between Alberta and the federal government over pollution caused by oil-sands development that will far surpass any previous federal-provincial battle in its political and economic stakes, former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed predicted yesterday.

He told the Canadian Bar Association convention that a ferocious constitutional clash is all but inevitable, pitting the federal right to protect the environment against the provincial right to develop natural resources.

Mr. Lougheed - who was at the epicentre of disputes in the 1980s involving the national energy program and the patriation of Canada's Constitution - said that the clash will be "10 times greater" than federal-provincial conflicts of the past.

"The issue is there front and centre, and coming to a head," he said. "I think the issues we saw before - and I was involved in many of them - were important. I don't minimize them. But they aren't even close to the issue I have just described."

Mr. Lougheed predicted that the dispute will very likely go before the Supreme Court as a constitutional reference, forcing the court to decide whether the British North America Act gives the province the right to develop its energy resources as it sees fit.

"My surmise is that we're into this constitutional legal conflict soon," he said. "And my surmise is that - and this is strong stuff - national unity will be threatened if the court upholds federal environmental legislation and it causes major damage to the Alberta oil sands and our economy."

He said that Alberta's desire to bypass toughened federal environmental laws will cause considerable dispute within the province, and will "cause significant stress to Canadian unity."

"The government of Alberta, with its acceleration of oil-sands operations, will, in my judgment, be seen as the major villain in all of this in the eyes of the public across Canada," he said.

A major source of greenhouse gas and water pollution, the oil sands project is expected to double in size within the next few years.

Mr. Lougheed said he is convinced that public concern for the environment is no passing fad and will only increase pressure on future minority governments in Ottawa to apply strict pollution guidelines. [Full story here.]

This editorial in the Globe and Mail calls Lougheed's speech "prescient" and calls on both federal and provincial governments to take steps to avert a constitutional crisis.
Mr. Lougheed, who survived his own constitutional battles over resource control, is right to see danger ahead. Despite the provinces' control over natural resources - a clause that Mr. Lougheed effectively inserted into the Constitution Act, 1982 - the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized Ottawa's wide-ranging ability to regulate emissions. "The feds have a long-standing power to regulate environmental emissions and, in the event of a conflict between a validly enacted federal law and a validly enacted provincial law, the federal law prevails," says University of Toronto constitutional-law expert Sujit Choudhry. This is constitutional dynamite.

Before a potentially destructive constitutional reference to the Supreme Court occurs, cooler heads should prevail. Alberta should strengthen its existing laws to control greenhouse-gas emissions. In turn, federal opposition politicians should realize they could win their battle for Kyoto and lose the war for national unity. Political compromises should be struck. Mr. Lougheed deserves gratitude for his timely intervention.

Political compromises are necessary and important, but are they more important than clean air and fresh water? Are they more important than the melting polar ice cap? Until pollution from the oil-sands is reduced, Canada will continue to contribute grossly to climate change, despite the best efforts of individual Canadians.

This blog still has at least several readers from Alberta, although the ones I know of are all progressive. I welcome all of your comments, but I especially look forward to hearing from that part of the country.

bloggers against puppy mills

Following a link to wmtc, I found Mocking the Right Wing Fringe and Other Fun Things, where Mainecatwoman, a sometime citizen of Joy Nation, holds forth. MCW's bastion of progressive thought has a "Stop Puppy Mills" badge, and I realized I should have one, too.

Perhaps you would like one? The Humane Society's Stop Puppy Mills website has a page full of blogads and banners to choose from. Check them out.

I last blogged about puppy mills here. There are some other links in that earlier post, but I think the best resource for puppy mill facts and activism is Stop Puppy Mills.

8.18.2007

do i regret moving to canada? is the earth flat?

Several people have emailed to ask if I regret moving to Canada. Potential reasons include the death of our beloved dog Buster ten weeks after arriving, having to move, and my place of employment closing.

I'm so taken aback by the question, I hardly know where to begin. That is, apart from a resounding "NO".

The reasons we wanted to leave the US still exist there, and have only gotten worse, as all problems, unrepaired, will do over time. The reasons I strongly believed I'd be happier in Canada still exist. I'm happy to be here, and so grateful I had the option.

I didn't move to Canada expecting my life to be perfect and trouble-free once I got here. We've had sadness, we've had loss. We've had challenges. We've had happiness, and joy, and growth, and adventure, and love. We're living our lives. This means there's good and bad.

Buster would have died no matter where we were. I was grateful beyond measure that we pulled him through those last months in New York, so he was able to make the move with us. Would I miss him any less if I were still in the US?

I had a great job in New York. I willingly left it, I chose to leave it, knowing it would be irreplaceable in Toronto. But the New York job wouldn't have lasted forever. Nothing does. What's more, it was just a job - a way to enable more important things in my life, but not important in itself.

Most people we know who moved to Canada from other countries had to move again within the first year or two of arrival. What are the odds of finding the ideal place to live on the first go? We knew the little house by the Lake came with a risk. It was exactly the right place at the right time, and we accepted the risk. Then we had to move. Moving is dreadful, and then it's over.

We love our current house, the neighbourhood, the big, fenced-in yard. Cody is still doing well, and Tala is the light of our lives. We're working, writing, watching baseball, hanging out with friends, traveling when we can.

My life isn't perfect. Whose is? But I have inner peace. Everything else I can work with.

carolyn goodman, rest in peace

Dr Carolyn Goodman has died in New York City at age 91. Goodman was a strong woman of courage and determination, who channeled her own incalcuable loss into a lifelong cause, who sought justice, and never succumbed to revenge. Although I never met her, she was someone I admired and have tried to emulate in my own life.
Carolyn Goodman, a Manhattan clinical psychologist who became a nationally prominent civil rights advocate after her son Andrew and two other civil rights workers were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964, died yesterday at her home on the Upper West Side. She was 91.

Dr. Goodman, who had suffered a series of strokes and seizures in recent weeks, died of natural causes, her son David said. At her death, she was assistant clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx.

Politically active until she was 90, Dr. Goodman came to wide public attention again two years ago. Traveling to Philadelphia, Miss., she testified at the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, a former Klan leader recently indicted in the case. On June 21, 2005, the 41st anniversary of the killings, a jury acquitted Mr. Killen of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

In the summer of 1964, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Schwerner, two white Northerners, and Mr. Chaney, a black Mississippian, converged in Neshoba County, Miss. They were there to take part in Freedom Summer, a campaign to register black Mississippians to vote. On June 21, they disappeared.

From the moment the disappearance was made public, Dr. Goodman was in the spotlight, facing batteries of television cameras outside her apartment on West 86th Street as she pleaded for Mississippians, and all Americans, to help in the search. On Aug. 4, the bodies of the three men were found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia. All had been shot.

The fate of the three young men — Mr. Goodman was 20, Mr. Chaney 21, Mr. Schwerner 24 — was widely seen as helping inspire the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act the same year.

A slender, elegant woman with sleek short hair, Dr. Goodman remained for decades a highly visible political presence. As she repeatedly made plain, she was not seeking revenge. (To the end of her life, she publicly opposed capital punishment.) She was, rather, agitating to see justice done — not only for her son and his colleagues, but on a wide range of issues.

In 1966, Dr. Goodman and her husband, Robert Goodman, started the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which supports a variety of social causes. Over the years, she took a prominent part in antiwar demonstrations, lectured often to student and religious groups and marched in civil rights rallies of all kinds.

In a telephone interview yesterday, her son David recounted a characteristic incident, which happened in 1999, during the public protest over the death of Amadou Diallo, the Guinean immigrant shot and killed by New York police officers. A colleague came into Mr. Goodman's office to tell him that his mother had just been seen on television, being taken off to jail.

"I said, 'Well, that happens from time to time,'" Mr. Goodman recalled.

I blogged about Carolyn Goodman when Killen was indicted for the three murders in January, 2005, and again briefly on the anniversary of the murder.

I've posted a lot of obituaries lately! They were all New Yorkers, and the city is diminished without them. But I'm glad they were all old, and they lived wonderfully full lives.

job update

I have a monster week coming up, with highlights including a trip to the dentist to have some fillings replaced, and even worse, the final testing for the George Brown College notetaking program. (The office of Disability Services at George Brown runs the program, but it serves 20 colleges in the GTA.)

I'm nervous about the test. I know I can do the work; in fact, I know I'd be very good at it. But I have to be able to show them that, and I'm not confident that I can. I often don't test well. I get nervous and freeze up. On typing tests in agencies, I routinely test 15-20 words per minute slower than I actually type. The final test is pretty rigorous, and I'm hoping I can do it.

Also this week, I'm meeting with a woman who runs a private agency that provides all kinds of services to the deaf community. She has hired me as a notetaker on the strength of my resumes, a few email conversations and a phone call alone. We're meeting in person for the first time this week, and she's ready to give me work immediately.

Private Agency uses notetakers not only for college and university classes, but business meetings as well. Deaf and hearing-impaired people who might mainly do business within the deaf community, but occasionally need to meet, for example, at a bank or with a hearing lawyer, call Private Agency to hire a notetaker.

I get a great feeling about Private Agency. I think I'd really enjoy working for her. Unfortunately, she pays much less than the GBC program. Not a little less - a lot less. I can't see doing the same exact work for one-third less money just to work with a nice person. (And the GBC contact may be nice, too!)

However, I don't have the GBC work yet, and Private Agency is already in hand. I feel I have to pursue it, even though I may end up not working for her. Private Agency knows this and is willing to see what happens.

On the legal document-production front, Weekend Firm (the contract position) has allowed me to drop Friday nights, which I really needed in order to make this thing work. Now I'm working 10-hour shifts Saturdays and Sundays. (In New York this would have been all the work I needed. Grumble grumble.)

* * * *

There are so many variables in play, I have no idea how this will all shake down. (Moving-to-Canada bloggers still in process may especially relate to that sentence!) The uncertainty is not wonderful, but that's what comes from change. I know I have to live with it, so I can.

What I'd like to see happen - eventually, ideally - is: (1) get the GBC notetaking work, (2) give myself some time to get accustomed to the new work and working lifestyle, see how many hours I can get, and so forth, (3) then see if I can add ESL tutoring to the mix, then maybe (4) drop doc-pro work altogether.

That last part may be unrealistic. Dropping the law-firm work would leave a big chunk of income to be made up through copyediting, writing and tutoring. The notetaking pays enough, but there isn't enough of it: it only exists during class terms. So I don't know if I'll be able to drop the law-firm work.

It's possible I'll end up alternating between notetaking plus doc-pro, and doc-pro alone. That might be all right.

You'll notice there's no mention of writing in all this. That's partly because I have to focus on the income-earning work right now. It's also partly because the War Resisters activism may take up the writing "slot" in my life for a time, until, with any luck, those two avenues come together.

Like I said, a lot of variables.

8.17.2007

please retire this expression

"And so it begins..."

Whatever you're writing about has already begun.

Can we please add this to the list of phrases to be retired, along with "But I digress," "That said," "Wait for it," and "'Nuff said"?

Thank you.

spp

Massive protests are expected in Ottawa this weekend and early next week, as the Resident and Mexican president Felipe Calderon join Stephen Harper for the Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting at Château Montebello.

When we attended our first meeting of the War Resisters Support Campaign, organizers were putting the final touches on the group's bus trip to Ottawa, to table, sell t-shirts and other do awareness-raising activities. For the support campaign, this is more an opportunity to reach a large group of potential supporters than to protest SPP itself (although I would imagine for many individual members, it is both).

As you know, I don't worry about Deep Integration or North American Union. I'm not opposed to globalization, only to disregard for labour conditions, the environment and health and safety standards. I also don't worry about these three leaders turning Canada into the 51st state. This has supposedly been on the verge of happening for years, even decades. I tend to agree with this news story that sees integration as a political lost cause, at least for now.

I wish the protesters lots of luck, though. The more people shouting at these guys, the better.

max roach

Jazz musician Max Roach - ground-breaker, master, visionary - has died at age 83. For many years, Roach lived quietly on New York's Upper West Side, the last of a generation of jazz innovators. He is thought to be one of the greatest drummers ever to have played.
Mr. Roach's death closes a chapter in American musical history. He was the last surviving member of a small circle of adventurous musicians — among them Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and a handful of others — whose innovations brought about wholesale changes in jazz during World War II and immediately afterward.

Although Roach helped usher in an era that would change jazz music forever, he didn't live for, or rest on, those past achievements. He was always a working artist, and always an innovator.
He led a "double quartet," consisting of his working group of trumpet, saxophone, bass and drums plus a string quartet. He led an ensemble consisting entirely of percussionists. He played duets with avant-gardists like the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Anthony Braxton. He performed unaccompanied. He wrote music for plays by Sam Shepard and dance pieces by Alvin Ailey. He collaborated with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop performers.

Mr. Roach explained his philosophy to The New York Times in 1990: "You can't write the same book twice. Though I've been in historic musical situations, I can't go back and do that again. And though I run into artistic crises, they keep my life interesting."

You can read Max Roach's New York Times obit here. It's fascinating.

* * * *

Allan posted a video in comments: see what Roach could do with nothing but two sticks and a hi-hat. Simply amazing. If this piques your curiosity, there are lots of good videos making the YouTube rounds.

8.16.2007

up north, part 2

I asked about renting a cottage for a few days, where we could take the dogs, go for hikes, let them play in the water. I was only thinking of one night, not too far from home... but you know how these things grow.

James posted a link to the Lake Edge Cottages, in the Kawarthas, which he heard about through Toronto's Urban Dog. The place looked terrific, and super dog-friendly, and then we saw - drum roll - "all cottages are equipped with free wireless internet". This means we could watch baseball at night! Which means we can go away for several days. We didn't want to miss a game in the final week of the season, and now we don't have to.

The Red Umbrella - mentioned a few times in comments - looked fabulous. Check out the "For The Dogs link on their website:
* Our spacious lawns are free from any fertilizers or insecticides.

* We have a protected bay with warm shallow waters, where dogs enjoy there own "Doggie Beach"

* There are lots of doggie sheets available on request so dogs can enjoy all the comforts of the couches and soft beds.

* There are no children under the age of sixteen so an accident between an over exited child and a dog will never occur.

We loved that last bit about the over-excited child. Those are true dog lovers. But as much as we'd love to stay at a child-free establishment, the internet capability clinched it for Lake Edge.

So we're booking a cottage with a fireplace, right on the lake, for three nights in late September. Our first (Canadian) cottage experience - I'm excited!

Right now I'm in the thick of it with the notetaking work, trying to get the position. More on that as it develops.

8.15.2007

i (finally) visit the rom

When my mom was here in early July, we were supposed to see "Ancient Peru Unearthed" at the ROM, but she had (and still has) an injured ankle, and we couldn't go. I went by myself yesterday, which is actually my favourite way to take in a museum.

As you know, I loved the design of the new addition to the ROM, and felt Torontonian attitudes towards it were closed-minded and provincial - although less so than I thought. It wasn't that people didn't like it. It's that they seemed unwilling to consider it on its own terms. All I was hearing was a kind of "ewwww... it's different," a rejection of anything unusual, only because it's unusual. At that time, I hadn't yet seen the completed work in person, only in photographs. So here's my take.

I love the way new building explodes out of the old one. I love the way the old and new are completely different, and don't appear to "go together," which is apparently a source of discomfort for many people. I love the way the new structure enlivens the mostly drab, poured-concrete of Bloor Street, the way it bursts out between the original ROM building and the Royal Conservatory of Music next door. I love the crystal shape, the way it appears to be growing.

I dislike the paneled metal skin. Many people have already said this, and I agree. The cut-outs of transparent glass show what the whole building, or at least most of it, could have looked like. The effect would have been dazzling. Instead, it looks like the crystal is clad in aluminum siding.

That's a real disappointment. It greatly detracts from what could have been a spectacular building.

* * * *

The ROM itself is a wonderful museum, light and airy, and beautifully curated. "Ancient Peru Unearthed" was small, but good. It brought back a flood of memories of our trip last spring.

The exhibit is about the North Coast culture of Sican. We didn't go to Sican, but we spent a remarkable day exploring a very similar, nearby culture called Sipan. The exhibit also referred to the other North Coast cultures we explored, precursors of Sican and Sipan, the Moche, the Chimu. But even without this connection I feel, the gold work and what it reveals are fascinating.

I wandered through some Egyptian and Greek galleries which seemed very good. I love hieroglyphics and there were plenty to look at. Also on the writing theme, I saw a small exhibit on early typewriters. I love old machines, especially the ornate Victorian kind. I've been writing on a keyboard since I'm 12, and have been earning my living through a keyboard most of my adult life, so that was a natural for me.

The ROM has a wonderful market cafe. Taking in a museum by myself, and having lunch there, is one of my favourite little pleasures. I see there's also a more upscale restaurant, designed for the interior of the crystal. I think we'll have to go there one day, as I can't resist such an elegant setting.

* * * *

Here are two terrific photos of the ROM crystal, showing it to great effect, courtesy of Daily Dose of Imagery.

something must be done! the city is out of control! (or not)

It seems that every time something bad happens in Toronto - a shooting, a pedestrian killed by a speeding car, or now, a murder by a group of people labelled "panhandlers" - there's an outcry about how the city is "out of control" and demands that "something be done".

It's good that any death is taken seriously, and not brushed off with a "these things happen". However... these things do happen. In a reasonably free society, it's not possible to eliminate every negative social behaviour. If you want Toronto to resemble Singapore or post-revolution Iran - I've never been to either of those places, I'm basing this on writings by people who've lived there - you can cut way down on all kinds of anti-social behaviour. But if you want to live in a city where adults are mostly left on their own and expected to follow the law, things are going to happen. The more people, the greater the odds that it will.

Based on the published descriptions of the recent stabbing death on Queen West, I think the attack would be better described as a mugging. Those often begin with a request for money that escalates aggressively. Is mugging out of control in Toronto? Has there been a rash of attacks lately? There was a similar incident recently in Vancouver, and one in Toronto in May. That doesn't sound out of control to me.

Similarly, "panhandling" - a quaint word for begging - is not out of control in Toronto. Travel to any similarly sized city, and that will be plain.

Newsflash. The problem with begging isn't that it inconveniences us more fortunate passers-by as we go to work or out to dinner. The problem is the need to beg. Poverty. Homelessness. People who live on the street or in temporary shelters are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. Describing this incident as a stabbing by a "panhandler" further marginalizes people who are already despised, or at best strenuously ignored.

I'm sorry for the man who was killed, and the people who mourn him. And I'm sorry for the people who survived the attack, as I'm sure it was extremely traumatic, something that will haunt them for a long time.

But it's still safe to go outside.