Friday, July 29, 2005

Today's Toronto Police Report

It was a hard call today but this one is worthy of a report:

Robbery (Swarming) - 42 Division

A 27 year old male reports that on July 26, 2005 at about 0120 hours, he was at a TTC bus stop in the area of Markham Road and Greenholm Circuit when he was approached by three male suspects. One of the suspects produced a knife, threatened the victim and removed a quantity of cash from his person. The suspect then swiped the knife towards the victim’s chest but missed. The suspects fled the scene northbound on Markham Road. Police are requesting the assistance of the public in identifying the following described persons in connection with this offence. Description of Suspect #1: Male, white, 16 years, 5’7”, 169 to 180 pounds, medium build, short blonde brush cut hair, blue eyes. Suspect #2: and #3: Male. NO FURTHER DESCRIPTIONS AVAILABLE.


This raises ineresting questions. One is whether three guys can be a swarming. Looks like a basic mugging to me.

Another is the right strategy for the police to pursue chasing the suspects. We would not want any 'racial profiling'. So I hope it is recommended they pull over some young black males in order to catch suspect #1.

Moreover, ' "racial" profiling' and its objectionable character, are surely objectionable not merely because of race. Today news reports were full of difficulty with a focus on Muslims, and they cannot be defined racially - in fact surely this is one of the great things about a world religion. Sex should be fair game too. So I hope the police are apprehending women as well in looking for suspect #1.

More Friday Bird-Blogging

This major hunk also came from the Great Yorkshire Show. It is a Golden Eagle, who did do some modest flying, unlike the owl reported on in an earlier post. His strut was exactly what you would expect from this majestic look.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kennedy speech and The Life of Brian

I cannot let this one go.
Partway in he makes reference to the 'proudest claim' one could make in the past - 'civis Romanus sum'.
The modern left, transposed into that time, would no doubt scoff. A reaction documented brilliantly in 'The Life of Brian', leading to the wonderful 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' sequence, climaxing here:
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Attendee: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace - shut up!
Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
Dissenter: Uh, well, one.
Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there's one. But otherwise, we're solid.
Humour can have such value.

Don't Blog while watching TV

I love 'Law and Order' (I watch the syndicated shows in odd hours, like now.)
Here I was posting on European issues (Kennedy's Berlin Wall speech) and one of the characters appears to me to be saying "He could be a Europhiliac". Hmm, I wonder, what could that be. The next sentence said something about urine.
OK I guess it is not the same as 'Europhile'.
Languages are tricky ( atheme of that earlier post, too).

Language Courses and 'ein Berliner'

German is a tricky language (like all the ones I know) and there is a major difference between 'Ich bin Berliner' ('I am someone from Berlin') and 'Ich bin ein Berliner' ('I am the donut called the Berliner donut').
Asymmetrical Information has long been one of my favourite blogs and tonight a link was posted to the fanous Kennedy speech in which he made that slip. The poster asked whether you can hear his audience, German speakers, laughing at the mistake. I don't hear that. By then, Germans had been living with Americans in the community nearly twenty years, and so must surely have known how to deal with somewhat incompetent American German (I know my in-laws in Austria have learned to live with similar grief and find their way to understanding what I mean, rather than what I say)
I agree with the poster and I do not hear any derision. But, heavens, listen to the speech! - what is there to deride? Especially if you live in Berlin under such a threat, surrounded by East Germany, and almost having been throttled out of existence in the late 1940s. This particular speech should remind us that Kennedy in the 1960 campaign was the hard-liner, the one who went on forever about the 'missile gap', and this speech sounds almost like the Reagan of the 1980s.
To my shame, I recall finding this speech silly in my all-knowing teens, and Reagan's call to tear down the wall pompous bluster in my 30s (where I thought I had matured).

On another point, I mentioned an excellent NPR debate a few posts ago; part of the discussion there was an analogy of the current struggle with extremist Islam with the Cold War. The great advantage the West had in the Cold War was that there were many states carrying out the Communist experiment; this provided the clearest proof of the emptiness of that project. The extreme Islamists have only Iran as an approximate state now - perhaps we will need to see them dominate some states for a generation or two before the emptiness of the promise becomes manifest. Perhaps we should have left them Afghanistan., but what a cruel idea for Afghans.
Back to Kennedy - so interesting - so uncompromising. He confronts all the apologies for the Communist state. And of course he was standing in front of the clearest proof of how nonsensical apologies for that world were - the Berlin Wall. How could we have been so blind? I wish I knew. I certainly was blind.

Ominous Police Report

This one caught my attention too:

Break & Enter (Business) - 31 Division

Designer Fragrance Depot, 2625 Weston Road, reports that on July 26, 2005 at approximately 2330 hours, entry was gained into the premises by forcing a door. Removed was a quantity of perfume and cologne.


I recall reports in the British media after the London bombings that their homebrew bombs used perfume as an ingredient. This is addressed somewhat in this article from the Guardian:

It is very unlikely. "The common base for perfumes is ethanol and not many known explosives are based on this chemical," says Hans Michels, an explosives expert at Imperial College.

One of the London bombers, 19-year-old Jermaine Lindsay, spent some £900 on dozens of bottles of designer perfumes just days before he blew himself up on an underground train near King's Cross. Reports earlier this week claimed that the perfumes were meant to make the home-made explosives worse because the ethanol in perfumes would, like napalm, catch fire and cause more burn injuries.

But if, as the police suspect, the explosive used by the bombers is shown to be acetone peroxide, adding some alcohol from perfume bottles would have little extra effect.
Still, I wonder why anyone wanted so much perfume.

Toronto Police Report of the Week

I am not sure this is the best one in the week but I think it good to transmit good news, and this report is exceptionally good news, except for the very start of the story.

Arrest - 22 Division

Male suspect, 21

Charge(s): July 26, 2005 – Robbery While Armed With a Firearm, Carry Concealed Weapon, Weapons Dangerous, Possession Property Obtained By Crime (Over), Possession of Ammunition Contrary to Prohibition Order (two counts), Careless Use of Ammunition, Fail to Comply With Probation (three counts)

Investigated and arrested by Members of No. 22 Division.

July 25, 2005, a male suspect and a male victim were engaged in conversation in the area of Lakeshore Boulevard West and Thirty-Seventh Street. The suspect revealed a handgun and made a demand for the victim’s vehicle. The victim complied. Through investigations, the suspect was arrested on July 26, 2005 in possession of the stolen vehicle. Further investigation revealed that the suspect was in possession of ammunition that had been stored in an insecure area of his home. It was also revealed that the suspect was on a prohibition order not to possess firearms or ammunition and had also breached conditions of his probation. Charged accordingly.


What I regret is that the web pages that deliver this excellent raw material (ignore the wrong date) seem to provide no obvious way to follow the fate of the suspect over time. I am curious to know how soon he will be back in action, showing such repect for the rest of us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

National Yogurt Crisis Update - Nevermind

Seems PepsiCo was not really interested - too bad for Danone consumers.

Crypto-Zoological Tourism

My wife pointed out to me a CBC report on the Sasquatch. The radio report used the lovely phrase 'crypto-zoological tourism'.

Last week we were in Scotland and devoted one of our days to the classic piece of crypto-zoological tourism in the Western world by driving to and around Loch Ness and trying to suss out the state of Nessie. It was a windy day, and so not a Nessie day, and so we made no sighting ourselves.

We did inadvertently stumble into an excellent exhibit on the details of the 'monster' sightings - I recommend it to anyone who goes there. I was shocked to learn that there may not be an actual lake creature. But the show was an education.

Consumerism Survey

Mr Eclectic exposed me to this and it seems interesting to me.

  1. How many books have you bought but not read? Current backlog of bought books is likely 20 or so. But I also get hand-me-downs from my mother. But I do chip away and would likely get to all of them were I immortal.
  2. How many unopened CDs do you have? 1 - But it is a gift from a great group, Likewater, and I have their songs on some other media (and in my brain). So it is not a purchased unopened CD and it will be opened in due course.
  3. How many times have you bought a book or CD, only to discover you already own it? Two or three.
  4. How many unopened DVDs do you have? None, though I wish I had left some unopened.
  5. How many tools or appliances have you bought in case you might "need" them and not used yet? None, though some had a burst of early use, and are now lying fallow to a degree. It was wonderful to be visiting friends in the UK last month who were still using their breadmaker almost daily.

Missing some key points

Normally (not a pun - see later), I prefer not simply to point to someone else's post, but this one is so good, and so the point, I cannot leave it unremarked. The estimable Norm Geras takes note of the meaning of classical liberalism - read it here.

An Excellent Debate

While I could use the Internet to listen to NPR more often, my only experiences of doing so of late occur while I am driving near the US border. Today I was.
I tuned in somewhat inadvertently to the last 20 minutes of a very intelligent discussion of the current round of bombings, involving Bruce Hoffman, Robert Pape, and Fareed Zakaria. These gentlemen have all spent a good deal of their intelligences studying 'terrorism', and draw from current events somewhat different lessons, especially about what might be done to avoid future attacks, and the causes of the current ones. The discussion can be found and heard here.
It is refreshing to hear three quite intelligent close observers of the current conflict debating about their differences, and the callers in to the show and responses to them were excellent. Everyone sees the same facts, but also sees different overall meanings.
As I have noted in earlier posts it is poignant and relevant to hear Muslims who call in not recognizing their own religion as any justification for violent extremism; this is a key element in defining the internal battle going on in that religion, and it is commented on well by the interlocutors.
For me Zakaria has the broadest and fullest vision of the battle the West is in, but everyone in the discussion has much to say that is useful and reasonably persuasive. Zakaria is one of the delights I have discovered on US news television, and I only wish that a Canadian network had someone who is his match in intelligence and breadth.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What can we laugh at freely?

I don't know what it is about Islam. It was born in the 7th Century, so from a Christian historical equivalent, we are in about 1400. This was not a GREAT time for Christian freedom of thought. In fact Europe was about to descend into a series of bloody wars, easily the match for anything the current Islamic civil war is offering us, and let's hope it does not come to match that bit of history.
In any case, we are at a point in the Christian west where The Life of Brian is amusing fare.
Boris Johnson in The Telegraph does a nice job of telling us how we will know when our multiculturalism is working - the key lines:
When is Little Britain going to do a sketch, starring Matt Lucas as one of the virgins? Islam will only be truly acculturated to our way of life when you could expect a Bradford audience to roll in the aisles at Monty Python's Life of Mohammed; and when an unintentionally offensive newspaper article about Islam is requited not with death threats but with the exasperated but essentially kindly letters one might expect from Christians.
I fear I will not live to see this day.

UPDATE: I am an atheist. My memory is that I was somewhat mistreated for this by Christians in my relatively defenceless youth; but I was not blown up. In fact I thrived.

And for one other point, that may invite or defend me from calumny, I do know that the history of the first few hundred years of each of these religiions was different. One spread by stealth, the other by the sword. Not really sure what that all means.

Further non-Canadian Silliness Claims

OK I tried to have a rule not to even to mention France as a competitor; even Canada is badly handicapped trying to match that silliness.

But they are topping themselves.

Tour de France

What a pleasure to watch the finish of this magnificent sporting event this year! Unique in the nature of the grind it imposes on its participants, and in the complexity of the economics of success (there are many different goals one can pursue, there is subtle team play, there are trade-offs that can be fascinating), it is one of the great spectacles in sport, especially with the climax of finishing with repeated laps around the Arc de Triomphe and la Place de la Concorde.
And this year we saw the culmination of one of the great sporting careers with Lance Armstrong winning an unprecedented seventh straight title. We saw Jan Ullrich, surely one of the unluckiest great sportsmen ever to compete, finishing third this time; someone who might well have had a record like Armstrongs, if only Armstrong had not been around! Great drama, and a delight to watch them acknowledging one another, and to know the closeness of the second-place finisher Ivan Basso and Armstrong, because of the cancer illness of Basso's mother (Armstrong having mixed himself in trying to help).
Curious editorial policies struck the Globe and Mail Saturday. Reporter Michael Grange writes an article that is churlish at best. You get a quick feel from the start:
Barring accident, illness or sudden death, Lance Armstrong will cruise the Champs-Elysées in Paris and cross the finish line as the champion of the Tour de France for the seventh time -- a stretch of dominance that will likely never be equalled or extended, as Armstrong swears this is his last race.
"or sudden death"? Wow.

Where does this go?

It goes through a meandering series of claims about possible drug use and the evidence for it (largely based on the efforts of one British sportswriter, with no original news from Grange). Grange seems rather upset as well about Armstrong's divorce, and particularly peeved that he has taken up with Sheryl Crow, viz:
His highly publicized divorce from Kristen Armstrong, 14 months after she gave birth to their twin daughters and nearly concurrent with the start of his very public romance with singer Sheryl Crow, doubtless lost him some fans.
Now Grange never manages to say flatly that he thinks Armstrong is a doper, and discusses at length the legal hazard of getting yourself into that position, but he finishes with quite a flourish, quoting the British sportswriter again:
"Even when you have a doping culture you will always have people who play by the rules because they have respect for the rules. They're the guys who need our help, who deserve it."
Well, I leave it to the reader of the column to deicde whether that is meant to suggest that Lance Armstrong beat Basso and Ullrich because he took drugs and they did not.

At the moment I subject myself to The Globe and Mail only once a week, largely for the TV Guide, but my last two posts are documenting reasons zero might be the right number of times. I would not mind a column that took seriously addressing doping charges, but this evasion is not something I need to pay to read.

Wiwa - where are the Globe's grammarians?

The July 23 Ken Wiwa column (you can go here - and don't need to register as I have no wish to go past the first couple of sentences.) in the Globe and Mail starts with an interesting sentence.
Like everyone who hasn't decided to bury their heads in the quicksand of multiculturalism, the question that this week's second bombing in London raised is this: Cui bono?
OK - I cannot parse it quite. What is like everyone who cannot bury his head...? "The question" is like everyone of that sort? This makes no sense at all.

It gets worse - what follows this is:
Who benefits? Before we get into that, let's examine the simplest but apparently most controversial question: Why?
OK good. Just in case your Latin is not up to Ken's, he translates the "Cui bono". But now look at the Why? What could it mean? Why does who benefit? I am baffled.

I gave up there. If anyone continued and found anything of value later in the column, please comment. I am of a generation where my second-grade teacher would have marked such text up so that there would be more red correction than original text.

When I tried to read this column, I was partway through Ian McEwan's "Amsterdam"; one of its key characters is a pedantic editor (such as the Globe and Mail no longer seems to employ) who corrected grammatical errors. McEwan is writing a comedy (well, that is how I read it), but one in which I find myself laughing at myself, and the editor's pedantry was one of the things i found funny and recognized in me. Even that was not enough to cause me to believe there could be much coherent that followed the effort quoted above.

Austrian Silliness Claim - Nipples OK, Navels dubious at best

I flew to Austria last month, arriving on June 25. For a number of reasons, I usually fly there via Heathrow, and one nice thing about that is that on London-Vienna flights you can get copies of the main Austrian newspapers, and become educated in what is exercising the populace, well, more precisely, the Austrian media, before you arrive.
The paper I usually like to focus on is der Standard, one of the two reasonably intellectual ones in the country. What caught my attention on the front page was a photograph labelled with the headline "Bauchfrei-Falle" (roughly, "Bare midriff trap"). The picture is above. It is of Eva Glawischnig, an important Green Party politician in Austria, and it was taken at her civil wedding (there was a later church wedding with more modest attire).
Now I need to establish some context. Every second television ad (maybe a slight exaggeration) in Austria features a naked woman. The weekly newsmagazines feature health articles, apparently largely for the purpose of including pictures of naked women. Go back to a previous post on globalization and read about the Mazda ad that played multiple times each evening on Austrian and German TV. A North American would need at least a day to adjust to that cultural difference in a first exposure (though cable television is changing this gap somewhat).
To my astonishment, page 2 of the newspaper was completely filled with long purportedly serious discussions of the appropriateness of this attire - a good part of that discussion is here. I read this page in full detail, and I remain baffled at the intensity of the discussion. It appears that a female politician should not expose her midriff, as this makes her seriousness suspect. This viewpoint defeats me.
The articles included references to an apparently embarrassing picture of the finance minister - if someone sees this and can elucidate this reference for me it would be lovely.
It may be I am missing some irony, though devoting a full page, and especially page 2, to this issue still strikes me as odd.
Is there an Austrian who can explain to me why this is not silly?
OK maybe the Globe and Mail would devote a whole page to it if Belinda Stronach bared her midriff for a civil wedding, but I just do not see it at the moment.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Scottish Accents

Sometimes I am just baffled. The report this morning on the death of James Doohan (apparently a superstar to some, but I never had a taste for Star Trek, so don't really know how to place him historically) had a bit that confused me no end.

From CBC Television News this morning - "He was not Scottish, but Canadian. He chose the accent because it made him sound more like an engineer."

Hmm - it has NEVER been my first reaction to a Scottish accent to think, "Wow - there is an engineer."

Maybe this would have been my view in the late 18th century. At that point the hot engineers were all Scottish (and in my view all the sensible philosophers).

Does this say something about Canada?

The cat caught wind of the bird-blogging

He wants his moment of fame so here he is.

Want to Lose some Sleep?

The Telegraph made the mistake of going out and asking. The bottom line:

If these findings are accurate, and they probably are, well over 100,000 British Muslims feel no loyalty whatsoever towards this country.

You can read more here.

I wonder what the result of a similar poll in Canada would be.

UPDATE: It is worse. I did not notice this paragraph.

However, nearly a third of British Muslims, 32 per cent, are far more censorious, believing that "Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end".

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Very Interesting Cold War Analogy

Victor Davis Hanson strikes again.

The Pot and the Kettle

BBC is reporting Musharraf pointing out that two assassination plots against him were brewed in the UK. A very good point. Curious to see where all this goes, in both countries.

I suspect I am a sorry soul

I found this a source of joyful laughter.

I suspect a failed education.


From normblog, see the whole discussion:

The key observation:

The heights to which humanity can ascend are not just a matter of individual genius, they also result from the actions of quite ordinary people, whether day in and day out or in exceptional circumstances - and from collective human effort. The genius of humanity is not only the 'spark' demonstrated by extraordinarily able individuals; it is the shared possession of us all.

What he does not say it is that it is occasionally the geniuses who stand in the way of building the civil society he praises so rightly.

Others cat-blog, I will bird-blog

This handsome creature visited a picnic we were at in Kew Gardens on July 9. Moments later, he sprinted off (another running bird!) after the little train that runs through the gardens and managed to keep pace with it, no doubt hopeful someone would toss him a piece of a sandwich.

London Bombings and the Iraq Question

One of the disheartening things to observe in the wake of the London bombings was the suite of interviews run by all networks in the UK with young Muslims from Leeds. Two things stood out for me. One was their self-identification as Muslims; while they said the words that they were British, their laments marked their view of the world as Muslims versus the rest of us. That this was pretty deep and emotional was made clear by the exceptionally poor quality of their arguments.
One example "You don't see anyone mentioning Iraqi civilians being killed on the news" Well, in fact, you do, nightly on the news, and the civilians are being killed primarily by 'insurgents'. No reporter bothered to follow up with this observation.
In any case, it seemed to me there is no question the Iraq war likely serves usefully to Islamofascist recruiters. But so what? The commentators who like to claim this seem to think that if we agree with this notion, then it is automatic that the coalition should leave Iraq forthwith (the Spanish 'solution'). I am grateful to Gerard Baker for addressing this question in the Times.

His key observation:

It is true in an obvious sense that Iraq has increased our vulnerability; al-Qaeda and its allies play the game of international politics quite well. Their aim is to divide countries between and within themselves, to prise the timorous away from the struggle. Of course that makes London a target; they know full well that many in Britain’s elites are only too willing — wittingly or otherwise — to respond positively to their demands But Iraq has, I concede, made us more vulnerable in another sense. Invading Iraq has undoubtedly created in the minds of many millions of Muslims the idea that their people, their faith is under attack.

The right way to tackle that view is not to indulge it, sympathise with it or nurse it, but to correct it. The right way to deal with anti-American and anti-British sentiment in the Muslim world is not to pull out our troops from Iraq and beg forgiveness, but to continue to fight there on behalf of the majority of good Muslims for the kind of country they need and deserve.

His last sentence is key. Also all over the place on British TV after the bombings were exactly those good Muslims who want to live in a civilized world, and looked particularly vulnerable and confused. They had certainly been betrayed by their co-religionists.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Swans

One of our regular morning rituals is a jog or walk at Ashbridge's Bay, a small park on the eastern Toronto waterfront (I promise to post on some more details later).
Before our late June departure to Europe, we had been tracking a nesting swan couple. My wife flew off June 24, and during the following week, before I left, the nest was left behind.
Two years ago we had the heartbreaking experience of spending a large part of one morning delighting with (probably) the same swan couple and four cygnets, only to find them a couple of days later with a single child (who did make it to adulthood).
In the taxi from the airport Tuesday, we noticed as we looked out the window that a swan couple was shepherding 4 or 5 cygnets about the bay. It seems something was learned.
I look forward to the next morning jog/walk down at the bay.

UPDATE (in September) see this post

Favourite movies over time

Hmmm - I am inspired by Mr Eclectic.

My answer is pretty bad compared to his:

OK here goes:

1964: My Fair Lady

1964: Mary Poppins

1969; Citizen Kane (wow! finally saw that! wild film)

1970: MASH (do NOT confuse this with the crappy TV series)

1971: Les Enfants du Paradis (magnificent - no idea what to say about it! just flat out great - superb acting, wonderful script)

1980: The Searchers

Sadly, I have nothing since then that changes my mind. This film features a delightful and young Natalie Wood, and a very subtle role from Jeffrey Hunter (who died so sadly young), and a performance of profound subtlety from John Wayne. (Yeah, yeah, some will be skeptical, but this is a great performance.) John Ford also exploits the other usual suspects to make a wonderfully complex film, not what facile critics like to think about Westerns.

Only once in the last 25 years have I considered changing the rankings - this for You can Count on Me. But The Searchers wins stil for me because of the surprise elements in it (John Wayne as the bad guy>?...)

What? No Virgins?

Current BBC coverage of the possibly failed bombings today is centred on the fact that some people were running off from the failed explosions. Poor guys never got to enjoy the virgins. Though, go here for some perspective and a sense of the disappointment that could strike.
It will be very interesting to see who was behind today's mischief.

A Glorious Answer

At a press conference this morning related to the confusing sort-of-explosions on the London Undergroud, from Blair, responding to the insidious apologetic prodding from a reporter asking if he felt he was to be blamed:
The people responsible for doing these things are the people who do them
Why is it so hard to get this? John Howard spent a few minutes trying to explain this answer but it is clear what it means, and he is dead right.

I am exceptionally curious to know who the appalling reporter was.

More Silliness Vindication

I have been back to my silly little country only two days and some catching up is needed.
I am delighted to see Australians are getting this news about my city of residence, regarding our willingness to accept nonsensical proscriptions.
If this seems ridiculous to you, go check out the Wikipedia entry on the great Toronto band The Bare Naked Ladies and search for 'Rowlands'.
Sales of the tape were jumpstarted when BNL were taken off the bill of a concert at Toronto City Hall because a staffer for then-mayor June Rowlands saw the band's name and felt it objectified women, which catapulted BNL into a media frenzy.
I am starting to feel much more justified, and much more confident in the triumphant silliness of my home.

At Last - true Silliness

Top media items on the morning news
1) a tunnel has been found leading from a city in British Columbia under the border, with the purpose being to smuggle drugs. Supposedly, according to the broadcast on CTV, 'residents are amazed'. These residents don't seem to have a very firm grasp of incentives; Canada has been wrestling for years trying to find ways to make marijuana easily available to its citizens. The US government maintains its war on drugs. (The silliness is the claim of amazement.)
Amusingly, it seems the US has been on top of this one for months. And I am happy, as this seems a nice way to export more sinister products.
2) there is major national hand-wringing going on because of a US initiative to extend Daylight Saving Time. The hand-wringing is of course a proof of our independence. (And the hand-wringing is the silliness here.) But to be honest, we had better step in line quickly if this happens, as I don't see anyone's independence as worth the pain of having different transition dates.

Ian McEwan

I owe to the blogosphere, and specifically to Norm Geras, my reading of 'Saturday'. Norm again points to an excellent interview with McEwan in the online der Spiegel.
'Saturday' is a marvellous portrait of a generation, with a lead character who is a successful neurosurgeon, a man of science, truly secular, confronting the fact that the wonderful world that London as a city represents is under threat. It contrasts the multiple delights of his daily life with his sense that the whole structure is quite vulnerable. The interview in der Spiegel pursues his feelings after the London bombings, which the novel clearly presages (and McEwan points out rightly that 'everyone' had been expecting such an attack).
In one part of the interview, McEwan addresses the apparent stoicism of the London public in response to the bombings:
I don't think Great Britain should go too far in promoting itself as a nation of emotionally stunted people who can't, you know, feel emotion. I see that the Spanish press said in Britain the term emotional is a word of abuse. But there has been a lot of emotion in the air, especially during the two minutes of silence at Tavistock Square last week. People also seem to be holding their breath. They don't know quite where this is leading.
My impression on the weekend following the bombing was not that people were emotionally restrained. Interviews with commuters on television consistently identified defiance as a key feeling, and an obvious anger, and frustration that things had gone so far. My own personal response was not unlike what I was seeing - a determination to continue daily life, including riding the underground, and not to yield to the obvious attempt to disrupt a social world that truly works, and is so hated by the bombers. Interestingly, many tourists were responding to intervewers the same way.
So I find the apparent need of the Spanish press to make a feature of the British spirit a bug a rather sad fact, a necessry rationalization.
For fear that the link to the interview may expire, let me point to another excellent part of the interview, by pointing to a normblog post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, maybe Tourists, but not the performing Birds

I mentioned earlier a visit to the Great Yorkshire Show, which I have attended in several of the past years, as I have occasion to be spending time around Leeds for several days most years in July. One of my favourite features of the show each year is the birds of prey exhibit.
Essentially, an entertainer (who is pretty bird savvy) shows off the flying skills of a collection of his owls, eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures.
The highlight of the mid-afternoon bird show on the day I attended - and recall that this was a very warm (hot!) day - was a strike by the owl, who was expected to fly rather more than walk, but confined his activities to hopping about on the grass, and flying up and down to a rather modest perch, steadfastly refusing to fly to any point above six feet off the ground. As the bird failed to follow orders, it squawked back merrily at its trainer, the entertainer, who integrated this beautifully into his act. At one point, the owl squawked while looking straight up into the sky, and the patter was something like "You see, he's telling me, look up, can you not see there are no birds up there, it is too darned hot."
And when I looked up, I realized it was true - there were, unusually, no birds up there.
Now I do not know a lot about bird energy economics, but I would guess that owl was making a very sensible point.

The UK and the Bombings

My last post on the subject had us going into London on July 8. After that, we went to Leeds for a few days, during which the intelligence services initiated searches of several houses there, and found a lot! For me, what was interesting was the media coverage, and it left me very much of two minds.
It seems the murderers were West Yorkshiremen (of Pakistani descent) (and a Jamaican immigrant to Buckinghamshire), and the initial coverage repeated the meme from the neighbours, "We cannot believe it - they showed no signs". Of course, later reporting with more detail showed this to be nonsense - the youngest of the bunch was a wild kid, who went to Pakistan and returned a changed man, newly religious and very well-behaved. The eldest of the bunch had a long reputation locally as a fanatic. So this theme seemed pretty hollow, however much the press liked to play it.
Muslim leaders spoke out against the bombings, saying they were not good things to do. Pretty easy call.
The standard story was "Islam does not sanction the killing of innocents". What was interesting was that nobody in the media followed up on these formulaic comments by asking how the Islam in question defined innocence. I am pretty sure the murderers did not regard even the Muslims around them, co-operating in the social world that had humiliated the Caliphate, as innocents.
Some highlights - occasional moments where even BBC reporters suggested to the usual suspects representing British Islam that, just possibly, Islam played some role in the murderous behaviour of the killers. Of course, this was more than matched by the litany about how young men were feeling alienated. (When I hear the world 'alienated', I want to reach for my ...).
To my pedantic annoyance, numerous reporters wrung their hands asking "What could have driven these young men to want to blow themselves up?" Now my view is that that particular question is uninteresting - had the four of them gone out into a field and blown themselves up, the way the reporter made it sound, I would be fine with that - I might feel sad for them, but that would clearly be their problem. The real issue is not their blowing themselves up, rather blowing up the other hundreds of people who had set off that day unaware that the young man next to them was a vessel of almost pure malice.
A real highlight - Blair. I have never been able to stand his English schoolboy bearing, but in the last few years, when he speaks on the world situation, he is worth hearing. Consider the care and intelligence here. And also consider the analysis here, which I find fascinating.
Another highlight - Irshad Manji popping up all over British television for a few days. She was excellent at making all the various Muslim leaders the BBC and ITV pitted her against seem rather dull and churlish at best, always on the defensive.
Where will this all go? It is an opportunity for the UK, which has provided a seat for the fanning of the flames on this front for years now; the list of Brits who have led the Islamofascist side of the war on terror is impressive; the UK now has a chance not to go down in history as the core of the offensive that conquered Western values and snuffed out the Enlightenment.
I am on my first day back in Canada and waiting to try to read what has happened here. We have done much to try to help export terror to the US over the last couple of decades. I fear we will need to be hit hard at home to come to care.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Stranger in a strange land

My gosh, why would someone in a lovely old town like York in Yorkshire go to a Starbucks's?
Air-conditioning on yet another tropical Yorkshire day, quick efficient service, coffee to taste, Ella Fitzgerald on the sound system, and a TMobile HotSpot. The latter is a draw, though I hope the Europeans start to figure out that free wireless is a bigger draw - we just need one company to get this to fix the current problem. Of course, its competitive advantage from free wireless may suffer until it gets the rest of the above right.
And now the worst - there is no signal here! Appeals to the staff seem not very fruitful; they seem to think it is all masterfully controlled from TMobile HQ. Well, clearly not so masterfully. No signal here.

UPDATE: I complained, as it turned out, to Katie. She spent ten minutes calling tmobile to sort it out and rebooted the local box. Finally she found a nearby Starbuck's for me to go to, refunding my coffee in the process. Now I am connected, and sitting in a sumptuous chair, and listening to John Fogerty singing 'Centerfield'. Not a bad trade.

I know why I look for these places rather than the local places that serve bad coffee and have no amenities.

UPDATE: Hmmm. Maybe not. Connection was flaky. I am not a fan of t-mobile at the moment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Never far from the action

I spent today out in the tropical (28 degrees Centigrade) Yorkshire countryside at a country fair (not a small one), and what do I get on the local radio driving back into Leeds! West Yorkshire Police are sweeping large parts of Leeds as part of the London bombing investigations. Details and confirmation are to come later, but this sounds like much more than the recent controlled explosions of packages that have occurred over the last couple of days in Leeds and Bradford (old textile town nearby) - more than the newly found routine zeal with which citizens are identifying unaccompanied packages and police are blowing them up..
This is not wildly surprising. Leeds/Bradford has an enormous Asian population, and our past visits to the area (almost annual for some years now) have at least a couple of times been timed near to major riots in one or the other town.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Globalization? of what?

I rmeain unconvinced that all our separate cultures (whatever you take the word to mean) are on a path to merging in one pudding.
Mazda is advertising cars in both Austria and the UK.
The Austrian/German ad we saw repeated to near distraction runs something like this. A young guy has his Mazda, which he is using to transport mannequins to some fashion show. He loads them into the back of the car, in sitting positions. Then he drives off - on the way, he accelerates, shifting gears and hitting the gas, in a way to make any male viewer feel like a race car driver. As he does this, one of the mannequins' arms drops and pulls her skirt up (they are semi-dressed). He arrives, and lifts her out of the car, and as he turns to start carrying her to her destination he notices that her nipples have significantly tumesced.
The UK ad, which I saw last night, features a dog sniffing attentively around the wheels of a parked Mazda. When the dog arrives at the front driver's side wheel, he lifts his leg and pees on it. Immediately a small outlet opens at the side of the car by the headlights and sprays a liquid on the dog, which jumps back startled. That's it.
I do not even want to speculate on what German/Austrian focus groups reveal men in that culture want from their cars. But is is clear Mazda thinks Brits want a cheeky little vehicle.
For more on nipples and culture, check out this post from The Eclectic Econoclast.

In Tropical Yorkshire

It is not normally my experience up here that it is too hot for comfort, but we are almost there.
The trip up involved a side trip to Heathrow, where a significant security presence was visible (including arrests of three people, now released). But cars driving in to the terminals were under significant scrutiny and we saw some being searched.
Everyone is a little more attentive now - central Birmingham was evacuated on the weekend for a night.
And we nearly leapt out of our seats when a car backfired last night near the hotel.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Trip into London

Other than seeing far fewer people than normal on a rush-hour Friday, the trip in by train and underground seemed quite normal. Even the signs describing disruptions on the various lines seemed similar to past routine signing. Of course my trip did not depend on any of the closed underground lines, and that makes a difference.
There was also quite a significantly increased police presence - not sure whether that was largely symbolic, or also practical, but it was highly visible.
Pcnicing in Kew Gardens today, and then to Greenwich for a play in the evening.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Likely going silent for a while

It's been a busy two days - I am about to head for some down time in London and not likely to post again before early next week. Nobody should worry about the silence.

Blimpish comments

...and all his passing thoughts are worthy of a read.


Terminal 2 looks completely normal. The announcements about leaving bags unattended, and a specific one about an abandoned stroller, obviously have more than the normal bite but the place is buzzing with the usual amazing mix of humanity.
One of the chauffeurs is awaiting "Ted Nugent + 1". Perhaps he was a few days late for Live8, or needs to come to reprimand our Prime Minister.

Zacht Ei - We are all Brits now

I cannot figure out how to get it in my template so I will put it here for now.

Many blogs have provoked me to post a flag but I finally succumbed to Zacht Ei. And he provides music too.

Two Narratives

Insightful readers will have observed that I have generally not subjected myself to the BBC this morning, but have been watching ITV's GMTV.
For balance (hah!) I have recently switched back to the BBC. The result is fascinating.
There is a major focus on the bus that was attacked in Tavistock Square. (This is an area of London I once knew quite well, as I once regularly visited friends in Bloomsbury, though that is neither here not there, except for making it so much more real to me.)
The GMTV scenario seems roughly the following. A nervous young person with a backpack got on the bus - first thoughts from GMTV are that he had intended to get into the tube, but security forces had closed the stations before he could get in, so he took the bus instead. This narrative includes the possibility that the bomb went off at the wrong time and the bus was never a real target.
The BBC scenario is that this was a brilliant ploy by the attackers - first hit the tube and then hit the buses when people have been diverted to them
It is utterly fascinating what different pictures these narratives paint of the competence of the murderers.
I cannot think of further comment. Nobody really knows right now but the form of speculation may be revealing.

By the way, further interviews on both channels feature constant re-iteration of the theme that we must not change anything we do, as that would let them win. I like and admire these people.

Oopss - Charles and Camilla are heading into a hospital to visit the wounded. OK I don't care much for them but it is a good thing they are doing.


GMTV is interviewing morning commuters riding the buses and trains; it is impressive how many seem to be doing this almost because of the bombings yesterday. Friday is a great day to work from home, but some people are choosing defiantly not to do so.
This cannot be the outcome the bombers wanted, though it is hard to see what they expected. They seem locked in the notion that all Western countries are like Spain, and, maybe, Canada (we have yet to be tested).
There is no election coming as there was in Spain, and nothing going on at the G8 was likely to matter much, despite Bono. If anything, Blair surely came through yesterday looking awfully good (as he ages, the English schoolboy part of him that I cannot stand, and must always try to ignore to listen to what he actually says, is fading).
There are minimal indications, actively being speculated on, that the bus bomb may have been set off by a suicide bomber (who was thwarted in his attempt to get into the tube - a very encouraging thought in some ways). This would be a very interesting development, and could lead to a whole new view in the softer West about what Israel has faced for years.


I saw him on the news last night but had not realized he was in London yesterday - and near the first bomb explosion, as apparently was Benjamin Netanyahu.
Wonderfully, Giuliani has a letter this morning in the Times - you can read it here.
One comment had me wondering:
Of course, Great Britain lost many people in the September 11 attacks as well, which reminds us that the citizens of free nations are linked in the modern world.
This is a point I can often easily forget, but I imagine more UK citizens were murdered in the World Trade Center than were yesterday. One can perhaps try to take some sense of consolation in the apparent growing impotence of the attacks we are facing. Unfortunately this is likely to ratchet the level of desperation and extremity upwards.

UPDATE: Giuliani just appeared on GMTV. He said "Come to London, ride the underground,...". Yes yes yes.

Really glad I left Austria

I arrived here in the UK Monday from Austria. A couple of posts ago I said I was happy not to be in Canada to suffer the reporting of the London bombings there. I am even happier I left Austria.

Poignant moments on GMTV

The last few minutes have featured a couple of interviews with survivors of yesterday's bombings - one of them a young Muslim named Mustafa, and watching the discussion made me understand how hard the next decades will be for perfectly reasonable people like him. Let me characterize him clearly as a very nice guy, who did a great deal yesterday to help victims of the bombing.
Needless to say, and not completely unfairly, the interviewer pushed some questions about Islamofascist violence at him. Tthe defensiveness they generated in this surely entirely innocent young man was interesting. They certainly produced some very bad arguments. At one point he asked whether we should blame atheists for Stalin's slaughters. Now I am pretty sure that the kulaks were not killed because they were not atheists. While the religion of peace has some difficulties with those of us who have no wish to embrace Islam.
We have some tough times ahead for the reasonable humans who want to be Muslims. To a degree my heart goes out to them.
As a measure of what a nice guy this Mustafa was, he had taken a picture yesterday of a young woman who was injured but not too badly and wanted news of her fate to go back to her family, and provided the picture for GMTV to put on the screen for her family to see. I hope there are growing numbers of people like him.

Grateful to have been here now

I have been reflecting that it has been a sort of privilege to be in the UK right now and to experience this directly. I am working my way through my morning Times in the hotel (I am now back on vacation so happily lazy) and stumbled on this wonderful column by Mick Hume. I particularly like and endorse his last paragraph:
The BBC reported yesterday that, on major roads leading into the capital, signs were displayed warning motorists: “Avoid London. Area closed. Turn on radio.” Perhaps that seemed sensible as an immediate response to the scenes of death and destruction in the city centre. But as a message to the world, it would be disastrous. Do not avoid London. Our city is open. It is open to the peoples of the world, the most vibrant and tolerant of European capitals. Of course, this means that it may also be open to a few nihilistic murderers. That is a fact of life in a city such as London today. And while we would far rather not have to live alongside the madmen, many of us still would not want to live anywhere else.

Another reason I am happy to be here is that I can only imagine some of what would be appearing in the Canadian media, and I suspect it would turn my stomach. A small hint that I may be right appeared on the Shotgun - read this. Howard Moscoe is by no means untypical of a certain set, particularly in Ontario. It is attitudes like those being referred to that go far to explain why, despite much self-aggrandizing Toronto media claims about the city's great multiculturalism, it looks like a silly narrow little small town compared to London.

UPDATE: Kate McMillan confirms my fears.

Google Ad Update

They are getting the idea.

UPDATE: I will not change the picture but London2012 has worked its way to the top.

Further Rambling on the Bombings

Patrick Belton has some wonderful thoughts, capturing exactly how my time in the UK has made me as well feel about this country. Nested in his post is a link to a fine insight from Andrew Sullivan. People here who knew my plans asked if I was still going to spend the weekend in London, and nobody expressed surprise that I intended no change of plan.
The breakfast news reports are getting several first-hand descriptions of experiences on the tube and bus, all emphasizing the calm and common sense of the victims, as well as, to quote a doctor speaking right now, their resilience. Reports also feature stories of non-victims rushing to help (though there were also reports of some panic, not widely featured this morning). The behaviour and character exhibited in the stories stand in stark contrast to that of the presumed perpetrators, documented wonderfully in a post by Norm Geras.
It is amusing to watch the occasional excerpts here from American networks - the reporting seems so breathless and accented compared to the matter-of-fact style of the local news reports.
GMTV has some curious speculations that this was the work of a known cell from the Midlands, and they assert that many of its members were not reachable yesterday. Did the reporters try to phone them up? Or is this simply some leaked speculation? Certainly a key question is how home-grown this attack was.
I am disappointed at the morning Times, which has included the compulsory page on how Islam is a religion of peace (when what we are going through is the sorting out of the question whether it can become such a religion), though one finds across the fold a chilling portrayal of some of the dysfunctional edges of London's generally amazing multiculturalism.
I remain puzzled by the timing. The G8? Who cares? Surely not al-Qaeda, who have had a much better sense of theatre. The only thing that makes some possible sense to me is that the meeting in Scotland diverted a large number of security forces out of London. Perhaps we will know some day.

The Morning After

The British are nothing if not plucky. The major focus of the BBC News, besides the obvious repetition of reports on yesterday's bombing, is detailed reporting of the available commuting services for the day. GMTV summarizes it as well - "the mood here is defiant and stoic".
This is of concern to me as I am working my way into London during the day, meeting a flight at Heathrow on the way. At first I thought I would have to educate myself on some new methods of making my trip, especially since my normal route goes through one of the tube stations that was hit, but as of ten minutres ago, the newsreader promised that essentially all services would be back up and going.
This is completely appropriate and excellent news.
It is clear the forensic work is underway seriously, though no information has been forthcoming so far. GMTV has quite a bit more speculation on details than the BBC, but it is clear there is nothing solid known publicly.
Christopher Hitchens has some first thoughts (and further thoughts here)!- and portrays well the pluck I mention above, and describes nicely the fundamental social and demographic problems here. (Hat tip - my sister).

UPDATE: Added second Hitchens link upon finding it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The evil ones strike again

I was just out of one meeting today at the office I am visiting in England, and one of my colleagues asked if I had heard about the bombings. It is still the case that not a lot is known publicly, other than that a number of soft targets were hit by bombings in London, in an attack certainly reminiscent of other Islamofascist assaults.
Many lives were ended today, and related ones disrupted terribly.
Sadly, the perpetrators are getting part of what they want, wide media coverage. It will be interesting as the days go by to see how the apologists for terrorists deal with it. Norm Geras has already seen some initial responses from the usual suspects and his characterization of them as contemptible is mild.
The mood of the country, especially after the Olympic bid win yesterday, is quite changed for the moment. Colleagues around me spent much of the day assuring themselves of the safety of their loved ones.
However long we have expected this, it is appalling and a great shock.

Yikes! And I grew up in the British Empire, er Commonwealth

The British influence was very strong still in my Canadian youth. I continue to rejoice at its passing.

I am yet again subjecting myself to the BBC Breakfast broadcasts in my hotel today. A theme today is still Kenya, and the reports seem slanted to the Blair/Bono/Geldof axis view (I am sure there are distinctions among these guys, but the BBC is setting up the BBG axis against the rest of the uncaring G8 as a theme).

In any case, the first eager sentence I heard was that I would soon hear the amazing story of "The princess who went up the tree and came down a queen". My first response was, "Huh? Surely all that has to happen is that the king/queen dies while she is up in the tree." Why the eagerness and excitement?

Shame on me! It is a story about the Windsors. Documented nicely here. No wonder this is so exciting (yawn...). How could I have forgotten this amazing story?

Words of Praise from Bono

Bono is reported by Yahoo News this morning to have said something about our Prime Minister Paul Martin that raises Martin enormously in my view.
"He's very difficult to deal with because he won't agree to things that he doesn't believe he can deliver, although that is very frustrating and annoying and infuriating," Bono told reporters while standing next to Martin.
What Bono does not realize is that to get results he needs to hold Martin's job as Prime Minister in his hands. If he did, he could become a Cabinet Minister overnight, or generate several billion dollars of new spending at the same lightning speed.

On the other hand, this quotation says a lot about Bono. The man is clearly very much in show business, and let the substance be damned.

The Timeliness of Google Ads

After publishing my last post, I checked the blog out and found the above in my Google ads. Though perhaps it is an ad for those who are now planning to avoid London in 2012. It makes me wonder what the 2005 Games are, as well.

Non-Olympic news in the UK today!

This story from the Times has an interesting sting at the end (unfortunately only in the print version):
HE IS a rottweiler-owning rock singer from Leeds, she is the daughter of the Ukrainian Prime Minister: they seem a mismatched couple whose unlikely romance would succeed only in fiction.

But Sean Carr, a cobbler and key cutter, is to wed Evgenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of the billionaire Ukrainian Prime Minister.

We learn in the article that Ms Tymoshenko saw Mr Carr while both were vacationing in Egypt, got his phone number from a friend of his, and when back in the UK (she is a student at LSE) got his attention via an SMS message.

In a quotation in the print version of the article and not on-line, the prospective mother-in-law discusses her views of her new son-in-law:
"He is an excellent person," she said. "He has a beautiful name. I know he writes music, sings very wonderfully and writes good poetry. He is an artistic person and I like that very much. I like it that he is not a businessman."
Ms Tymoshenko has a wicked sense of humour, or is a loving mother stretching for the positive, or I worry for the Ukraine.

UPDATE: It is worth looking at this post by the Eclectic Econoclast.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Shows what I know

Well, I am in England, and the broadcast of the Olympic decision was popped up on a computer screen near me for the 2012 Olympic decision announcement. There seems little question everyone around me was thrilled that their capital city won selection.
Like some others, I am willing to confess that the sight of Chirac on my TV screen arriving for the G8 conference is the one reason I find the decision delightful.

British Blathercasting Corporation

Maybe I am just unlucky, and it is that one day of the year.

Here in my hotel in Winchester, I have subjected myself to the BBC Breakfast show. It is a purely promotional presentation of the London Olympic 2012 bid. There is no pretense of reporting news. One of the reporters (James pearce (sp?)) shared with us his profound nervousness waiting for the IOC decision.

There is no sense of irony at all. Much energy has been spent on making fun of the French press' coverage of the British promotional efforts of the last few days (it is hard to imagine a British sports celebrity who has not been assigned to schmoozing in Singapore - even Becks was there). Meanwhile, the BBC has been gloating all morning that the French presentation to the IOC today was rather flat, failing to pull the heartstrings of the London presentation. All the French said was that they had a great city fully capable of doing the job - what fools.

Curiously, a show host occasionally reads e-mail from viewers, several of whom have minimal enthusiasm for the idea of imposing the 2012 Olympics on London. But those folk get no further voice; the whole orientation of this coverage is that the UK needs to win this bid.

Is there any other news? Yes, indeed. There have been several promotional pieces on the 'free' Kenyan schools, highly orchestrated and arranged. No resemblance there to news reporting either. See here for a discussion.

Oh right - also, there is a G8 meeting, so the usual textbook anarchist/anti-globalization demonstrations are going on and being mentioned.

When I am in Canada too long I get infuriated at the misallocation of resources that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation represents. When I sit here watching the BBC I almost feel lucky to be a Canadian. Maybe I will have to rename this blog to 'Mildly Silly Little Country, and maybe not so silly as others'.

Earth has not anything to show more fair

I took a Vienna-London flight Monday, and it fulfilled the hopes I always have for such a trip. As we descended and broke through the clouds, I found myself staring down at the London Eye and Westminster; always a beautiful sight. What struck me particularly was that Hyde Park had clearly not yet been fully cleaned up after London's piece of Live8, and it got me thinking I should try to express what I thought of that effort, however well-meaning it was.

I have been saved the effort. Mark Steyn hits the spot again with his usual superbly targeted humour.