Sunday, January 29, 2006

Slings and Arrows

I woke up this morning with a sore left shoulder; I could not raise my left arm.
In my standard oblivious manner I did some exercycling and other light exercise. During my bath, I started noticing severe mobility restrictions of my left arm, and growing pain. I finally decided to head for Emergency at my local hospital.
I was in at 10:30, X-Rayed by 11, and sitting in a waiting area for about an hour before being taken into an examination room. Over the next few hours, there were numerous visits and minor examinations done by a staff who were consistently good-humoured and informative. After a few of these visits, the real doctor arrived; again he managed tone perfectly. He risked some humour and that was the right thing to do or this patient.
After a while I was told I would be subjected to a procedure that often gets the humerus back where it belongs, but sometimes does not succeed. This went on for a while, with the junior resident getting some excellent apprenticeship. In the end, while this did go a way to getting the shoulder joint propoerly reestablished, it did not achieve the final 'pop'.
So on to promised stage 2,which involved some anaesthaesia. This was not to knock me out entirely, but rather to reduce pain sensitivity a lot; it must have worked - I recall almost nothing of what actually happened.
I sat around for another hour or two, with a sling strapped on me, that I am not permitted to remove! When the staff concluded that the anaesthaesia had worn off enough, I was allowed to walk home.
This is not over - in the next day or two, I must return to the Fracture Clinic.
Thanks very much to Jane, Andrea, Dorothy, Alissa, Dr. Kumar, and all the many others who took such fine care of me.
I suspect this will interfere with my golf plans for 2006.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Oxblog in the Middle East, continued.

Patrick Belton continues to be interesting.

I wish he could tell us it would all work out.

It's not just us humans and dogs ...

... enjoying the unseasonable weather (10 degrees centigrade at the end of January!). This is the neighbour's garage. Of course, the little creature may also be enjoying the Mozart from the CBC blasting out the open windows (final movement of the 41st symphony - what a fugue), or maybe also dreaming of peanuts.

Mozart-mania, II

The CBC is running a 'favourite Mozart bits' countdown, driven by mail-ins and comments from listeners. There is a wonderful memory being recounted now, from someone recalling the revelation he experienced when a key bit of Mozart (from the Requiem) came on his car radio. Cuter, he is a jazz musican and credits Mozart with getting him into jazz.
I grew up with Mozart LPs in the house, but I will still never forget the use John Schlesinger made of the Cosi Fan Tutte 'Soave' trio in 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday'. For me, that piece of music was the perfect expression of the very delicate and wonderful feelings that Schlesinger conveyed in that very precise and lovely movie.
The moment Peter Finch stares out into his garden and looks at the sculpture his lover has created and that music comes on is very special.

If This is What Global Warming Means to Us

What a gorgeous late January day! I am just back from shopping, sunroof open, a mere light jacket required! And if you think the humans are happy with this weather, you should see the dogs.
So why exactly are we FOR the Kyoto agreement?

Footnote: Yeah - I know.

Reader Challenge

I have posted before on the writing of Ken Wiwa in the Globe and Mail. He has presented a profound challenge in this morning's column.
The challenge to you readers. Find content in this column. Comments are open. Of course, unfortunately, you also have to PAY for this stuff, and I decidedly do NOT suggest you do.
Here is my favourite sentence (a generous assessment of its grammatical form):
When I put it to Mr. Kiernan that the business world might just be for turning, he advised caution, pointing out that for all the sweet talk about sustainability that trips off CEOs' tongues these days, the real tipping point will come when we can "reengineer the DNA of financial markets".
OK not all of this nonsense is Wiwa. "DNA of financial markets"? But he chooses to reproduce it, deflecting blame. What is "turning"? And "tipping point"? - man, don't we ache for cliche. I do admire the fact that the word "CEOs' " appears as I would have edited/proofread it.

What is stunning is that you are expected to pay for the privilege of reading something like that.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Comatosely Blogging the Australian Open Final

Since Amelie Mauresmo broke onto the world tennis scene at the Australian Open many years ago, I have been cheering for her first major win. The Austin-American Statesman had a picture in its sports pages this week showing her fully extended for a shot, and it is a glorious piece of sheer physicality. I continue to cheer her on. (UPDATE: I found the picture, from AP, and stole it and have added it. All I Can say is WOW! Assuming she won the point.)
I have seen both her and her opponent today, Justine Henin-Hardenne, playing live. Hardenne is an implausible combination of small and powerful. Amazingly, she seems to succeed when aggressive. And Mauresmo may have taken that from her with a 6-1 first set victory.

UPDATE: The roof is closed in Melbourne and the bird sounds are totally wonderful!

UPDATE: Whoo - Hardenne starting to go to net. On the other hand, Mauresmo has a break right at the start of the potentially winning set.

UPDATE: Hardenne is down 2-0 in the second set, and a trainer is on the scene, doctor called. This could end up a farce.

UPDATE: Mauresmo has her major!! Sad, in a way, that it is by retirement. But one could view that as a reflection of how dominating your play is. Congratulations - I have so long hoped for this!

UPDATE: Speech to come!

UPDATE: OK awards ceremony. Big KIA sign in the back - on a couple of my recent business trips Hertz has given me KIAs. I must say I love them.

OK back to the players.

Hardenne - apology. Back-handed congratulation to Mauresmo - "she waited so long time to get a grand slam"
But in the end. Hooray!!!!!!! Amelie Mauresmo is there!
Given how much awful nonsense we know she has had to face, imagine what she has really faced.
Nice nod to Hardenne.
A quick wit - she thanks her tream, some guy shouts from the crowd, and she thanks him too.
A mild nod to the nasties she has faced.
Nice balanced speech, not wallowing in the crap she has faced, but not ignoring it either. ESPN is being a bit bizarre - like, the fact that Hardenne quit means Mauresmo did not beat her? That is moronic.

In any case, it ended as I hoped! I look forward to seeing a lot more Mauresmo in the future.

LAST UPDATE: ESPN observes that the last eight Grand Slams for women have been won by eight different women. Man, I love competition!

Four Things

I could not deal earlier with the 7x7 meme making its way by tag and declined my designation. My Curling co-blogger's non-tag seems quite civilized and I will respond to it.

Four Things

Four Jobs:
a) Grocery boy at an IGA (Canadian grocery store)
b) Civil service job copying old data cards onto new cards so downstream keyboarders can type the values for an on-line database
(this was the most mind-bendingly tedious task I can recall)
c) Apple-picker (those fresh Ontario McIntoshes are lip-puckeringly wonderfully tart, and I get excited every year as their season comes)
d) Tutor (in California, to wealthy Argentinian scions, at state expense, because they have Spanish surnames)

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:

Swing Time
The Lady Eve

Four Places You Have Lived:
Berkeley, California
Oxford, England
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
(I have liked every place I have lived, despite the ....)

Four TV Shows You Like to Watch:
Law & Order
Politics (on CBC Newsworld hosted by the brilliant Don Newman)
Restaurant Makeover (competes with many sports)

Four Places You Have Been on Vacation:
Jasper and Lake Louise
Austin/San Antonio, TX
Middlesborough, England (to see Ella Fitzgerald live)
Sharbot Lake, Ontario, Canada
(this is hard - we don't do vacations - rather we travel near to business requirements)

Four Websites You Visit Daily:
My Yahoo
The Daily Ablution
My online banking page - sorry - no link

Four of My Favorite Foods
Blackened Catfish - learned about it in Austin, TX, and had some for lunch there yesterday!
Luebecker Marzipan (whoo)
Chicken with red pepper sauce (something my wife knows how to do)
Twice-Cooked Pork (as done by a restaurant I frequented in Berkeley 30 years ago)

Four Places I'd Rather Be
I love Toronto, but

London, Ontario, where my wife has her job
Walking along the Thames in London, England
Walking along the Seine (OK in Paris, France)
In the Vigeland Park in Oslo - what a stunningly wonderful life-affirming gathering of statues!

Four Albums I Can't Live Without
Well, there are not any.
My tastes are such that I can almost always find something that engages me on the radio or TV.

Landing Patterns

One of the great delights of living in the era I was born into is air travel; its effects are multiple, but one of the peripheral, and yet utterly delightful, effects is the unprecedented ability to get a different view of the world you live in day to day.
I have had delights on numerous flights, looking out from my window seat (I actually normally ask for an aisle seat, but fate has its ways); maybe top among them was a flight over Monument Valley (I am an enormous John Ford fan). (Later I might post on some stunning holding patterns over Manhattan and London, England.)
My flight home from Denver today was a superb opportunity to soak in a very familiar world from a very unfamiliar viewpoint. I started paying attention over Guelph (and it was easy to idnetify because of the Hwy 6 North junction with Hwy 401), and for the first time in all my many flights on similar routes, was later able to see the contour of the Niagara Escarpment all the way down into the Niagara Peninsula, and even better, the Milton Outlier.
Next we headed out over Mississauga and then over Lake Ontario and swung back around to the left so I got a lovely view of the CN Tower, Rogers Centre (quondam Skydome), downtown Toronto skyline, the neighbourhood where I live, my Ashbridge's bay jogging/walking turf, and the Bloor Viaduct (really a striking structure from above as well as below).
We were now looping northwest and soon I had the office complex where I work underneath me and at this point I had one great hope - might I get to see the new National Tennis Centre? And indeed I did!
And pretty much from there on in it is warehouses and hotel airports.
But what a great way to spend twenty minutes.
Does anyone else have favourite landing runs?

I think I know

...what just happened to grrlscientist!


Just saw a nice little report on the local CBC newscast, reporting on Angela Hewitt performing Mozart sonatas in London (I assume England because of what comes next here). Ian McEwan is interviewed, describing his pleasure in the music and one of his comments jumped out at me, "It's almost like people talking".
I have a Glenn Gould recording of several Mozart piano sonatas and the one thing that I loved about hearing them is that it made me feel as if I were sitting at a dinner table, with many voices darting in and out, with multiple moods, emotions, inflections, etc.
I don't know whether this says more about Mozart, or possibly the playing styles of Glenn Gould and Angela Hewitt, or perhaps about Ian McEwan and me.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen cites some interesting comments by Donald Tovey. He includes this quotation from Tovey:
“Mozart’s whole musical language is, and remains throughout, the language of comic opera.”
Maybe it is Mozart after all.

What a Dope

I am sitting in an airport lounge in Denver, wishing I had a slightly better view of the mountains, though I will admit it beats heck out of any view of the mountains I get from my home.
When I get to an airport lounge, one of the first things I do is try to get on-line. This usually involves dealing with T-Mobile.
This can be a very frustrating process - I usually sign up for their plan that costs $6.00 for the first login, and $0.10 per minute afterwards, figuring I really need only to clean up some mail and create a blog post, so should not need more than an hour. Now what I hate about this process is the constant reinvention of userids, re-entry of credit card information, and filling in of other information, which almost always has to be iterated several times because of key omissions and errors I make. I have also been noticing too that it is getting harder and harder to invent a reasonable userid that is not taken. Today I resorted to using my cat's full name!
And then it hit me, for the first time in oh these many business trips! If you don't already consider me an idiot, go back and read the description of the plan I use.
All those accounts are still there and available for my use in areas served by T-Mobile! This most loathed of repetitive processes need never have been repeated - all I had to do was remember ONE userid!
Now there is no guarantee I will manage that. We should know by the end of April.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Steve Levitt, Oprah redeem themselves somewhat

I have posted earlier on James Frey. He is not the issue. His publisher may be.

And those who defend his duplicity are.

Steve Levitt has done a nice report on some redemptive work going on.

P.S. Like Steve, I love Oprah. (Which is NOT to say I think everything she does is wonderful.)

You looked for That and got Me Instead?

One of the great things about a site meter is the joy of analyzing what
on Earth brought a visitor to your blog. Often they just
link from somewhere - my top provider there is still Oxblog, with
EclectEcon and Wonkitties closing as Oxblog falters. But it is the
searches that are the most fun.

Some of the recent searches that have led to my blog include the
following (starting with the most recent and going back in time, and leaving out cases where I simply KNOW who it is) :
1. Alan Adamson
5 minutes ago, creeps me out a bit, and done from near my old home town
2. Alan Adamson
an hour ago, from the same place, getting really creepy
3. Alan Adamson
two hours ago, from the same place, maybe I should not talk so much about where I am located at any given time
4. "slings and arrows" lear "paul gross"
From nowhere near any of my homes - someone with a shared enthusiasm - that feels better
5. Austin city
From someone in Austin - and I was the top hit! weird algorithms
6. Alan Adamson
Yup - same IP address, 4 hours ago
Also from my old home town - but what a weird thing to put in a search engine!
8. bracelet dominus ancillae
Oh that makes me a bit nostalgic - and from Clarksville, TN, of the last train
9. Underworld Evolution
Likely the Geoff Pevere type - but from Missouri
10. "hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" literary review analysis
From Bangkok! This got to me?
11. Kinky Friedman
From Austin, Texas! How timely
From Arlington, Va. I suspect some tool is creating these odd searches
13. Austin
From San Francisco. That got to me?

Number 8 is still touching me.

The Kate Beckinsale Mystery

I am watching the Jay Leno show awaiting Kinky Friedman's appearance. His first guest is Kate Beckinsale, who has been at the heart of one of the great mysteries of my life. As in all cases where I have seen her, here she stands out as attractive at the highest level. And yet, though my brain knows she is extremely attractive, nothing else in me responds to her all - in contrast, say, to Miranda Otto, or Lena Olin, just to name a couple of instances of actresses who can involve me totally when they are on screen.
What is even more interesting to me from this appearance is that she is clearly extremely bright, and disarmingly funny (talking about the pet rabbit that had to be evicted from the home because of its unnatural sexual connection to her husband). Or saying the 'vampire werewolf' movie she is in is based on her family back home. She seems wonderful. But this enjoyment of her presence on the show remains pretty abstract and I don't understand why.
But wow! She is clearly bright and gorgeous.
But now I shall go try to find a Helen Mirren movie.

UPDATE: Beckinsale describes her film costume as 'a latex condom with sleeves'.

On my flight down to Texas I recall reading Geoff Pevere's review (Toronto Star link - watch out for its evaporation!) of the film she is promoting.

Her phrase explains to a degree this excerpt:
While I must admit I had no idea what Kate Beckinsale's character was doing in Underworld: Evolution, holy smokin' mother of mercy did I love watching her work.It was the leather. Playing Selene, a whoop-ass vampire warrior in a centuries-old rumble between bloodsuckers and werewolves, the profoundly comely (and gifted!) Beckinsale wears a form-fitting leather ensemble so optically pleasing it single-handedly made any confusion or misgivings I had about Underworld: Evolution — which is an almost incomprehensibly overplotted sequel to 2003's Underworld, a movie I now feel duty-bound to see — dissolve like so much vampire flesh at high noon on a Cuban beach.
UPDATE2: Friedman is for prayers in the school and for gay marriage ("they have every right to be as miserable as the rest of us"). Beckinsale is quick - Friedman reviews his slogans, and she responds to "How Hard Could it Be", with the quip, "Something that is on my mind a lot", or the like. Hmmm. She deserves re-evaluation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Delicious Mischief

Go check that out.

The Impact of a Link from a Real Blog

Oxblog linked to me! Guess when, using this as a guide. And check out the month's record for the REAL effect! Thanks, Patrick!

An Election Campaign of Note

Texas is beginning a gubernatorial campaign; the current governor keeps appearing on my TV screen telling me what a great job he is doing; not everyone I talk to here agrees.
Now I was very surprised to realize I had forgotten that this race features a candidate who has long entertained me, Kinky Friedman, once of the band "Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys", later a mystery writer, and now with clear political ambitions.
You can read about Kinky Friedman's campaign at this site, volunteer to help his campaign, and maybe have your picture of Texas and its diversity broadened a bit.
I particularly like his campaign slogans, "How Hard Could it Be?" and "Why the Hell Not?"

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Watching "Austin City Limits" in Austin

Can anything be sadder? I am not down on Sixth Street. I suspect the exigencies of this business trip will not allow that excursion.
For those who do not know, this is one of the loveliest cities I know. It is, as many of my favourites are, built on a major University, and on government. It is a civil service town. But wow! It is not Ottawa!
And it is, as most people I know who have not been here just do not get, a "water" town; driving up the main north-south freeway, I see 'fly fishing' ads. And I recall the boat my family owned at our cottage was built in Austin.
Sixth Street here is one of those phenomena, like George Street in St. John's, that it is almost impossible to explain. Here almost every one of the bars is a blues bar, and the quality is stunning. But I will never forget the night 4 or 5 years ago a friend and I walked into one facility, and were treated to utterly amazing Klezmer music, followed after a break by the most stunning Sephardic performance, a quartet of wonderful female singers;.
We knew this was not what our Canadian colleagues pictured as Texas. Pity them.
This is a glorious city. I do hope I can get out of the hotel on this trip.
Failing that, I shall watch 'Austin City Limits' on the local Austin PBS station and feel slightly diminished.

More Dennis Miller

Advice to Levi's - "If you want to keep selling, you've got to learn not to print the size of your garments on the outside".

Dennis Miller makes me giggle

I am not sure what TV station I have on in my hotel. He comments, "Bush never said we would find nuclear weapons over there; he said we would find nucular weapons".
Do not infer from this if you regard Bush as the devil that you would like the act he is doing.
Smart and witty guy. Comedians have an entertaining brutality.

By the way, I did put this link in a comment on an earlier post, but it is valuable for those who claim they are defending the Afghans and Iraqis: Read this.

Religion and modernity

One of the richer threads of comments I have seen in a while belongs to this post of Alex Tabarrok.

I don't know the answers but the comments are posing the questions nicely.

Awareness of others

The Austin American-Statesman, a moderately parochial local (I am temporarily in Austin, Texas, one of my favourite cities) newspaper, had a front-page story on the Canadian election with a nice picture of Stephen Harper. I found this utterly remarkable - perhaps the smile of the spirit of George Bush infected their newsroom.
A question struck me. Texas has a population over 20 million, so as a political entity is not far off the significance of Canada. Would a diligent reader of The Globe and Mail have any idea who is the governor of Texas? Or have seen his picture on the front page? Of course, Canadians are far better-informed about the rest of the world than Americans.

(The real reason for this post is to test 'Performancing'. Thanks to Owen Barder for the link to this tool.)

I REALLY Hate Admitting This

UPDATE: In response to Benson Bear's comments.

Craig Oliver is discussing how nice it will be that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow will be working together in Ottawa. And to be honest, I have always found the stuff they say pretty sappy, and yet very appealing.
(As a side point my wife and I live most of our time in different cities because of the locations of our jobs.)
And I hate saying this even more, but when Layton and Chow have discussed their relationship, it has never sounded sleazy and political to me. While they have done lot of other dubious stuff (mindless rants about private provisioning of healthcare, while using it, whether knowingly or not) that pathetic sort of exploitation I do not assign to them.
By the way the City of Toronto has won a ton. Olivia Chow and Marilyn Churley are gone! And all the feds have to pay is Chow.

LATER UPDATE: Having followed up some more on Benson Bear's comments, I want to thank him/her very much and point readers to a discussion of the issue in this entry on Layton. I remain very pleased they can be together and are no longer wasting Toronto tax money on their pet projects.

A Profound Point from John Reynolds

Reynolds said, roughly, "That was a class speech. If only he had done more of them in the election campaign."

Last Thought the Night of the Election

He says now he will step aside as leader before any election. My guess he is not an egomaniac at the level of Trudeau who came back after retirement. So there will be a leadership struggle and it will be fascinating. Michael Ignatieff has won his seat, Belinda Stronach hers, and of course we have several others lurking around the world in various appointed positions. So much depends on one man, Stephen Harper, and whether he can leave open a major gap in the centre for the Liberals to unite and take their standard place there.

"He was elegant; he was graceful." (Craig Oliver of CTV). Sheila (Martin's wife) smiled. I wish them many years of enjoyment of any other sort of life!

We have so much fun ahead on the political front.

Thank you thank you thank you CTV for being able to let me be involved. Sure wish the highly subsidized CBC knew how to do what you guys are doing so stunningly.

Paul Martin's Farewell?

Sad to listen to this as I do not see how he can recover.
Heaven knows I had hopes for him once.
And he may fool us - as I said earlier, Harper seemed to have a hopeless case even a year ago.
And yet. And yet. Martin sounds so much happier and at ease than he has through the whole campaign. My guess - he plans to sit in opposition for a bit. He still splatters on about the bullshit of his policies and campaigns.
My guess is his wife is very happy. The way he is talking, he is heading elsewhere.
Interesting task for the Liberals to find the successor.
Martin now admits this is a concession. This is right. It will be very complicated. We need it.
I think the campaign was run very cleanly and well by everyone but Martin, and I do not think he will be back next time.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pork Barrel vs Total Grump

I knew my vote could make no difference in my riding.
It now appears the pork barrel candidate survived, and I far prefer her to the alternative.

Hilarious quotes

Belinda Stronach says "You can never lose when you follow your principles".

UPDATE: Whatever I think of her wish to follow flags of convenience, when she does discuss issues of late, she does not sound like a total fool (and that is a compliment).

More Pointless Thoughts

Seems Martin is about to concede - guess the boy's hunger for power made it hard for him to get here.
My sister makes a great point, and I wonder if Harper can use the constraints of his current position to teach this to his current team. It would be an enormous advance.


Olivia Chow is really out of Toronto!
Hmm maybe not for the five years I would have hoped for.....

Interestinger and interestinger

I am looking out the window of my hotel room; it looks vaguely down toward the Texas State Capitol, a very beautiful building. As my sister suggests, my guess is the spirit of Dubya there has at least a small smile on now, if he cares a wit about the sillinesses of current-day Canada.
Our election tonight has guaranteed a fascinating several months ahead. We have a new Prime Minister, almost surely, deservedly replacing the clown show that governed us over the last year, and pinned its survival strategy on demonizing Americans. On the other hand, our new prime minister, Stephen Harper, has won with a small plurality of votes and seats.
Wildly interesting times are ahead of us. Harper must produce a cabinet and government that can find a way to govern, when his party commands a minority of seats in our house, and he has a philosophy in many areas that flies in the face of that of all the other parties represented.
On the other hand, anyone who looked at the Canadian political scene two years ago and said that we could have this result tonight, at least among those I knew, would have been laughed at. Harper has proven to be far more adept than anyone could have imagined, and it will be fascinating trying to watch him try to extend those skills into this complex situation. (One should recall that he led a forced marriage of parties that seemed to me the equal in complexity here so I am willing to watch and see how real those apparent skills are.)
Some side points. Here in my hotel room I spent a half hour wasting my time trying to get conected to the CBC audio feed of the results; in the end, I found CTV to be providing a solid and entertaining TV feed I can get here. Even more curious, the CBC mere web feed seemed to collapse around 10:20 and it would not refresh here. Yet another great endorsement of this subsidized piece of nonsense (sarcasm for CBC fans who may not be able to recognize sarcasm).
Looking at the results I see that my strategic vote to help assure our Green Party may not have borne fruit. Oh well.
And a grander reflection, perhaps premature, as the CTV discussions are suggesting Paul Martin may engage yet in some delaying tactics, even to the point of getting the Governor-General he recently appointed (and elevated from her job as a TV interviewer) to somehow agree to allow him to become Prime Minister. I find his story of the last 10-15 years somewhat sad, and would consider it (Shakespearean) tragic, as I have written before, if he had actually ever reached any really high points in his career in a non-compromised way.
Harper's first job, assuming no silly monkey business from Martin, will be to appoint a cabinet, and this will be extremely interesting to watch. He has few team members who could claim to the skills of a governing party (after all he has been struggling to invent a party out of pieces), which is not to say he does not have intelligent players. His skills will be sorely tested.
He has surprised us once now, and maybe he can again.
The Liberals? Profoundly in debt, fractured.
The NDP? It will be fun to watch - Layton surprised me in this campaign, apparently minimizing his nonsense, in my view, and has had a small reward. But he has a tough position, which may depend almost totally on nonsense, so we have to wait.
But I do hope the Greens get funding as a party!
And another question - if a private TV network can provide far better service than one supported by confiscatory funding, what is the latter for?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Another Theatre Mini-Marathon

This one was offered fully by Canadian Stage, and consisted of an afternoon one-man show by Richard Greenblatt, Letters from Lehrer, based on his grappling with his memories of the influence on him of Tom Lehrer, followed by an evening performance of A Number by Caryl Churchill, whose name seemed familiar to me, but none of whose plays I had seen.
They shared a couple of delightful characteristics, both being simply staged (Greenblatt's play had one actor and two characters, and the evening play had only two actors, though four characters), and short in length (an hour and a half in the afternoon and an hour in the evening).
After that the contrasts could not have been greater.
Greenblatt's show begins with his fascination, for a variety of reasons, with the works of Tom Lehrer. The problem is that it does not get beyond that. Moreover, his fascination appears to be based on a profound misunderstanding; he mistakes Lehrer for a somewhat unthoughtful left-wing enthusiast, as he (Greenblatt) appears to be. This gives rise to all sorts of problems in the show - does he really think Lehrer's pre-EPA humour (and it IS humour first) about pollution describes today's North American reality as well as it did in the '50s? Does he really believe that Lehrer's paranoid humour about nuclear proliferation and the resulting threats are mirrored as well today (I do agree they are still mirrored to a degree today)? He appears to have failed to notice as well that the Soviet Union collapsed, and that world poverty has been of late on a pretty good trend of reduction. All this makes Greenblatt's political opinions more of a foil to Lehrer's sharp mind, revealed as Greenblatt shares his own notions with responses from Lehrer and with original lyrics from Lehrer.
The result is a very odd mix; naive and relatively uninteresting politics and dreams from Greenblatt, side by side with incisive and wonderfully terse material that Greenblatt performs in the show as Lehrer. I found it very odd - normally I try to choose my heroes from people I think I have some affinity with. Greenblatt presents himself as someone with great ambitions to serve 'the Struggle' and achieve great things, and along the way he quotes a telling assertion from Tom Lehrer that what he wanted to be was a 'graduate student for life' (where I was a grad student we called it 'TA with tenure'). Most of the show seemed to indicate that Lehrer achieved his goal, and Greenblatt just fails to see that. He dreams that Lehrer must have wanted more. But why should he have - it sounds as if he has led a very rewarding life.
There were also technical problems; Lehrer's songs have very witty lyrics, and as a result excellent performance of them depends profoundly on the singer's diction - Lehrer's was superb, and I found Greenblatt's problematic. I could not make out what whole sections of the lyrics of a song were.
There is a great danger in one-man shows based on the one man's enthusiasm for a hero and this show displays many of them. Ultimately they become just too self-indulgent (which a telling line in the show indicated that Greenblatt knew, and just chose not to work on fixing).
On the other hand I should say that many people in the audience were delighted to be exposed to Tom Lehrer's works, and it is fair to say that many people were profoundly sympathetic to Greenblatt's politics - this is the Canadian theatre community, after all.
The show disappointed me especially as I remember my sheer delight at a two-man show featuring Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra called "Two Pianos, Four Hands" (they do have a web page I cannot get to - the Yahoo cached page is here) - I do recommend it - there is a story, about two boys carrying their piano lessons through the years, and a theme, how these lessons (like life?) lead to ever greater challenges, and even a lovely reflection at the end. Someone needed to inject each of these features into this Lehrer show.

And then on to "A Number". The programme notes were terrifying - they cited Churchill as being like Pinter and Beckett and my heart sank. On the other hand I have seen the odd production of plays by them that were fun. And of course it was to last only an hour.
But WOW! What fun, what wit, and what a great mind! And a fine production too, directed by David Storch (one of Toronto's finest actors, a guarantee of some fine entertainment whenever he appears), and clearly a growing force in direction. Gary Reinike and Shawn Doyle (who played three clones, with slight costume and personality changes) were also terrific.
Though the plot has some indirection, the story is simple. Salter had a son, his wife dies, the son became a burden, so he shipped the son off but got some clinic to clone the child for him to bring up, because he really did want a son like that one. Along the way, the clinic actually spun off a few more clones ("A number!"), and dispersed them around the world. The play opens with the substitute son learning (by no means directly or honestly) from Salter that he is a cloned substitute. The next couple of scenes alternate him with the original son, pretty resentful and threatening, now having learned about all this and out of some institution, and the growing hostility between these two cloned characters, much of this presented in the text as based on issues of 'identity' and 'clone-ness', leads to disaster, though it becomes clearer and clearer it is the social situation that creates the nastiness. In the end Salter loses both these 'children' (though of course one is not REALLY his son). The play ends with him confronting one of the 'number' still out there. This final scene does a lovely job of stripping so much of what has been said of identity and cloning of the influence we had seen so far; in fact, this guy, never having faced any confrontation with his Doppelgaengers, has led a totally happy life, finds the whole idea of what is going on amusing and interesting, and cannot understand why Salter is so convinced that the whole idea of this "number" still being out there a problem. The last line of the play made me guffaw. And I must say this latter character expressed perfectly to my mind what I think I would feel about this whole issue.
The idea that clones ( I am assuming there are ways to actually generate these) are conceptually a lot different from twins seems bizarre to me (and for developmental reasons they are likely to be a lot less similar than twins). And Churchill starts beautifully filling the text with all the anxieties, about how there being a clone to me would affect my 'identity' (someone please tell me 'how?' - she teases with a clearly inadequate answer). She also gets nicely expressed in one place the main concern that strikes me about this potential technology, its instrumentality (in fact Salter applies it simply to make his life more convenient without feeling he really changed it). I would love to watch this a few more times - the text is dense and witty and surprising in places and just flat-out fun. And I read her finish as deflating much of the nonsensical discussion I have seen of this whole question beautifully.
I am now 100% eager to experience more of the work of Caryl Churchill - this is Pinter-Beckett with some actual content and thought.
And I am also eager to see more Richard Greenblatt - lad has his heart in the right place, and has done some really good stuff, and clearly can pick some artistic heroes correctly.
This was an easy mini-marathon to run. Thanks, Canadian Stage!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Andrew Coyne hits what I thought

...mind you I was falling asleep.

Oxblogger loose in the Middle East

Patrick Belton, one of the very interesting contributors to Oxblog, is loose in the Middle East. I recommend reading all his stuff (and everything on Oxblog, to be honest, even if it is just about MASH).

As an exercise for the reader, I recommend you go back and check out his experiences in the banlieu riots.

How to Tell a Canadian

Well, as Groucho would say, you cannot tell us much, since we know everything better than anyone.

But what I really mean is, are we detectable abroad.

Even in England, it seems , "house" and "about" betray us. At least, to foreigners. Some of them. Perhaps mostly from the US but there is no question the Brits are getting it.

My favourite marker, which has been used to spot my origins as well, is the Mountain Equipment Co-Op. I travel with a MEC bag and an MEC windbreaker, both excellent products. Now this marker is one that is not understood very well except by Canadians. But I have had so many Canadians figure me out this way in years that I regard it as a key tool. Of course it sorts for only a certain sort of Canadian.

I recall once walking in Paris behind two cool dudes wearing pants with a big 'MEC' logo and I wondered if they sensed the mischief of that logo. 'Mec' is French for 'guy' but they were wearing the utterly Canadian markers. I hope the French know about this.

More on Church Signs

Hat tip to R. A. for this somewhat entertaining site.

Unfortunately, what I want from a 'church sign generator' is that it generate the text on the sign! Here a human has to enter the text. Maybe I should put "I wish I knew how to quit you" and get that as a church sign on a fridge magnet. But I can handle only so many paroxysms of laughter hearing that line on the trailers for "Brokeback Mountain". And will people please get it right that they are shepherds, NOT cowboys. Like, this is the whole point of great movies like "Heaven's Gate". And Annie Proulx sure knew the difference.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Almost makes we want to fly Qantas

People have remarkably different experiences, it seems, with various forms of airport screening. I have never had a major problem, though I have had my various electronic things investigated at times; but then, I am part of no major likely suspect group, being a nerdy, past-middle-aged Norwegian-Canadian, with excellent cover stories for my travel and the array of devices with me (made even more excellent by their being true).
Now what if you are a woman carrying airplane seating plans and the like? And your cover story is that you are the chairman of an airline? Well, it seems that arouses suspicions at LAX. Margaret Jackson, chairman of Qantas, described her experience at a recent press conference in Beijing:
"And I said, 'I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas'. And this black guy, who was, like, eight foot tall, said, 'But you're a woman'."
After proving her identity, Mrs Jackson produced paper with her letterhead on it and wrote a note to the guard, whose name was Bill.

"And I wrote, 'Dear Bill, this is from the chairman of Qantas, who is a woman'."
Well, she has a sense of humour - that is sure great. Bill was working on probabilities, and ran afoul of them.

If you follow that link above, Margaret Jackson could be considered to look vaguely Norwegian, and Bill could have been concerned about the recent Norwegian law requiring all companies in Norway to have very significant representation of women on the board of directors, and worried that she was exporting this notion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How Do I Deserve to be Treated?

A Moral Relativism Quiz

Consider the following scenarios and think about how I ought to be treated.

a) I get up in the morning and go to work in the World Trade Center as a clerk in a (stock brokerage, bank)

b) I get up in the morning and go to work in the World Trade Center as a manager in a (stock brokerage, bank)

c) I get up in the morning and go to work in the World Trade Center as the CEO in a (stock brokerage, bank)

d) I go out to a nightclub in Israel to have fun with my friends.

e) I get up in the morning and mastermind the hijacking of several airplanes, killing all passengers, and hoping to fly the airplanes into the World Trade Center

f) I get up in the morning and organize a couple of young men in the neighbourhood into crossing the border into Israel and blowing away a whole bunch of people dancing and partying in a nightclub.

g) I repeatedly announce to the world my intention to replace the liberal West with a caliphate and proudly talk about the various murderous operations I have organized.

h) I invite the guy in g) to dinner. My neighbours report me to some people who know how to aim missiles and don't like the idea of suffering murderous operations intending to create the new caliphate.

OK which of us deserves some prophylactic action? The Ward Churchill view is a) - d). I am hoping there are other opinions. I think h) is tricky.

There is also the question of how we know any of these things - which is why I tried to make g) so clear.

I do feel that h) is a tricky one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Nasty nasty issues

UPDATE: Removed as ill-conceived.

This is the equivalent of Henman's troubles at Wimbledon?

I am watching the Australian Tennis Open and Lleyton Hewitt (yeah his parents are weird spellers) is in danger of losing in the opening round to a guy with surname Vik, who is playing quite entertainingly.

The announcers just said what I quoted in the subject line and I thought .... Whoaaa Noooooo!

Tim Henman always seemed likable to me. Is there anyone who understands how anyone (other than parents, and for a while confused girlfriends) could like or cheer for Lleyton Hewitt? Baffles me that the crowd is actually NOT cheering for the Czech (Vik).

Tim Henman is attractive, and seems a genuinely decent guy. He has engaged more than just the British audiences for years because he seems to be a delightful fellow. Are tennis fans entirely indiiferent to this sort of thing? Maybe I am from a different generation. But to suggest that Hewitt is worthy of the cheering he gets and is somehow comparable to Henman .... aaarrgghh

BTW - seems Hewitt will win this puppy .... :-(
One thing I *do* admire in him is he does not give up.

Holier than Whom?

I am still vibrating with laughter after finding this news item about a Norwegian 'celebrity' who is boycotting the Letterman show, because of the missile strike in Pakistan that apparently did not kill al-Qaeda's number 2 lovely, but now, despite early efforts to spin it as misconceived, does appear to have removed many of his aides.
"After Friday's (bombing), it's not of interest to contribute anything at all to a country like the USA," Rønningsbakken said.
Well, no doubt the talk show hosts in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia can make up for this.
Mind you, I am sure the USA will be devastated at the loss of his planned contribution.

I hope Letterman can find a way to survive this blow.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What is Not Seen

The problem with so many economic arguments is an old point - one raised by the brilliant Frederic Bastiat - What is Seen and not.

Russell Roberts pre-empts my reading of this weekend's NY Times Magazine cover article.

I am not quite prepared to sign up for his:
I am proud not to be a progressive.
But I believe he is fundamentally right and would say instead:
I am proud not to be a mindless progressive.
I continue to hope there is a difference.

The Risks of being a Dupe

... are greater than ever.
The wild network of expertise that is the Internet, and more spcifically the world of blogging, has so much power that fraudulent reports that could never have come under such scrutiny are destroyed now in a day. The American Thinker documents a beauty.
This missile strike looks like a possible error. But the paticular attempt that the New York Times was duped into supporting, the goal of which was clearly to turn public opinion against the attack, as one against a child and an old man, clearly innocent, is a sorry tale. But not THAT sorry - even the NY Times felt it had to back down once the duplicity was identified. This is a big advance over Dan Rather's non-backdown.

Something is in the Air

I do not recall receiving lots of political phone calls in previous elections.
So far, I have had three calls clearly checking my voting plans:
a) The Liberals called and hung up on me as I started to explain how appalled I was by their current political ads (I guess they could infer that I was not voting for them);
b) The NDP called, I explained I had voted, and they hung up politely, not inquiring regarding my vote (I hope they are not keying on their sign on my lawn);
c) The Conservatives called, I explained I had already voted, and a pregnant pause followed; so I told them what they wanted to know, which should have given them mixed feelings.
The Greens have not yet called. Perhaps they read blogs and can see the colour of a font.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Ruddigore - not quite hitting the wall in the Marathon

From a superbly-produced professional production of a British Alan Ayckbourn farce, my companion and I moved on in the evening to a local non-profit theatre group (London Musical Theatre) production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Ruddigore".
The delights of these productions are different; the audience will largely be relatives and friends of the performers and other participants. Now this is not bad. It creates exactly the right enthusiasm. I make it a fairly firm habit to try to attend all these productions and enjoy them. And did this one.
I had never seen "Ruddigore". It was too long. The plot was somewhat all over the place. My companion appeared to be baffled by the show, but I think I got what Gilbert was up to; it is important to recognize his radicalism. I think it was the most stylized and abstract (and heartless) of the Gilbert book/librettos I have seen. The lead woman, Rose Maybud, is a foundling, who has grown up with a Victorian etiquette book - this leaves her constantly checking the book for literal guidelines on how to behave, and a very cynical calculational style about how to decide on the next step in life (especially choosing a husband). Actually it leaves her as an economist - she calculates explicitly what is available to her at each turn in the plot against its potential return and always chooses the highest benefit to herself.
The 'hero' has ducked his life's responsibilities. His right-hand man, returned from being a perfect British tar at sea, returns and betrays him, to get the girl.
So the good guys are all pretty dubious.
The bad guys are some baronets - we learn the current one has worked like a fiend to be good, despite constraints - and the crazy woman, who turns out to be quite a good person.
In any case, Gilbert's world here is topsy-turvy, and he knows it - he undermines and the whole plot is doing that. It is, however, sadly sloppy and excessive in the process.
And sadly, compared to the rest of my G&S experiences, the conclusion just pops up from nowhere, in terms of previous action. I'd really like to know whether Gilbert committed himself to a show and some dates and just could not produce a reasonable finish and so took what he had.
Now as to the production. London is so lucky that Victoria Gydov has moved there - she was wonderful, pretty good diction (very rare in roles like this), great singing accuracy. She played Rose Maybud. Mad Margaret was played by Rebecca Surman - the program notes say, "For a woman like Rebecca, playing Mad Margaret isn't much of a stretch". For me, she stole the show. That comment about her was wonderful. My companion and I speculated on what her drama students at Strathroy High School thought of her performance - I have no doubt many were among us last night. Her mother was fine in the key role of Dame Hannah, and I would single out Hilary Greer as Zorah, and Laura Meren as another bridesmaid (one plot conceit is that the town has an underused crew of preofessional bridesmaids - heaven knows where Gilbert thought that up - perhaps an excuse to hire a chorus of women for the show). (And you guys in the cast - sorry - find a woman to do a review.)
There are some interesting postmodernist touches. Gilbert rails against his own art style a few times. But of course, there are many who think that sort of thought is some great innovation from the academic community in the last few years - they are wrong. And his plots almost always rely in mischievous ways on stupid fine distinctions that are almost legal. Hmm - he was a lawyer.
This is a show worth watching - it runs another week.

Moonset from Arva - January 15, 2006

I leave it to the reader to figure out where Arva is.

Theatre Marathon Continues

This weekend featured a Grand Theatre production of Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking.
It is a pure comedy, a British farce; most of the humour arises from the device of having two characters engaged in discussion, with each of them understanding entirely different things by the words being exchanged. And in this case, most of these discussions concern sexual relations among the characters, who are two young Londoners*, Ginny and Greg, and an older couple, Philip and Sheila, he a successful civil servant or the like. After a short setup with Greg and Ginny in Ginny's apartment, all characters are out at Philip and Sheila's country home, stepping all over one another's misunderstandings. Almost immediately from Greg's arrival at the country house, the laughs begin and they run almost completely uninterrupted to the end of the play. I wish it had gone on another half hour. The play finishes with a lovely little twist that is typical of Ayckbourn's craft, and turns your initial understanding of the ending slightly on its head.
In order to make the plot Ayckbourn used to work and generate hunour, the actor playing Greg has to come across as likable, slightly befuddled, and very eager to please, and Brendan Murray plays the role perfectly, even capturing for me a sense of the character's Englishness, though the English accent used grated on me for about 15 minutes before I got caught up happily in the play. A similar problem afflicted me with Ginny's accent; she has to come across as clearly somewhat duplicitous and manipulative, and yet one still has to sympathize with her. Newcomer Jenny Young was terrific; the character should also be fairly attractive, and the actress does a fine job there (and my new-found improved vision helped confirm that).
Barbara Worthy and Andrew Gillies seemed perfect to me as the older couple as well - she slightly dotty, and he living just past the edge of his ability to be relaxed, always scheming and pressing just a little more than he ought.
The ensemble performing was superb, and timing is vital here as well. No doubt a good deal of the credit here should go to director Gina Wilkinson, whom I failed to credit back in November for her great job playing the wife in 'Who is Sylvia'. Even the sets were the source of some pleasant amusement. The whole team involved made this sort of play seem easy to do, but I know it is NOT.
In the end it is nice to see really fine, tight and careful writing, weaving references back and forth. One thing I recall in 'Homechild' was an early reference to the daughter, who was coming to visit, not being willing to eat milk-based foods, a comment that got used to set up a joke about the home being on a dairy farm. That is the last I recall of it being mentioned in the play. In an Ayckbourn play, it would have come back a couple more times. Granted, they are different sorts of plays, but that density adds a pleasure all of its own.

*The Grand Theatre is in London, Ontario, but this reference is to the London in England.

Free Speech in Denmark - a good idea

At Geopolitical Review there is a great suggestion:
As a show of support for freedom of speech in Europe, Denmark, and the world in general, I urge all of you to send a quick note to your Danish embassy and let them know that you support their refusal to give into pressure from dictatorships and Western appeasers.
It seems to me that Louise Arbour's role in this is even more reason for Candians to do it.

Meanwhile over at Brussels Journal there is an update on Scandinavian items that includes this interesting passage:
Meanwhile, the Danish tabloid Extra Bladet got hold of a 43-page report that Danish Muslim leaders and imams, on a tour of the Islamic world are handing out to their contacts to “explain” how offensive the cartoons are. The report contains 15 pictures instead of 12. The first of the three additional pictures, which are of dismal quality, shows Muhammad as a pedophile deamon [see it here], the second shows the prophet with a pigsnout [here] and the third depicts a praying Muslim being raped by a dog [here]. Apparently, the 12 original pictures were not deemed bad enough to convince other Muslims that Muslims in Denmark are the victims of a campaign of religious hatred.

Akhmad Akkari, spokesman of the 21 Danish Muslim organizations which organized the tour, explained that the three drawings had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.” Akkari claimed he does not know the origin of the three pictures. He said they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. However, when Ekstra Bladet asked if it could talk to these Muslims, Akkari refused to reveal their identity.
It would seem they have learned some things from "Sixty Minutes". It is all too common everywhere to decide that insight into reality is given by fabrication. Depressing.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A new first! - a telemarketer hangs up on me

A couple of weeks ago my local Liberal candidate dropped by to do the usual hand-crunching; I found her quite charismatic, and was about to start talking about international affairs and my views on what Canada's role should in the war on Islamic terrorism, when she started enumerating the successful efforts of her government in funneling (quite likely useless to my mind) funding for various projects into our riding. It struck me we were on slightly different wavelengths - pork barreling into my riding had little interest to me. Oh well.
A bit revealingly, she asked if the Liberals could put a sign on my lawn. And I said 'Yeah!'. Today they are the only party without one on my lawn.Says something about the organization.
So tonight the phone rang and I picked it up. Someone calling from the office of my local Liberal candidate's campaign! So I explain - I have already voted (noonish today). Moreover, I started to try to explain, the main reason I found I could not vote for the Liberals was the appearance of those asinine scare ads. The poor girl at the other end of the line began to splutter. I asked. "Well don't you not want to know why I could not vote for your party?" And I got cut off.
This is a new and major first in my life! A telemarketer has hung up on me!
I feel proud.

UPDATE: The NDP have now called - they asked for me. I said I had already voted. They politely said good night.

Master of His Domain

Take note of the sense of ownership and command here.
Until a couple of months ago, at times when I had no human partner in town, I would sleep with my head on the pillow in the left of this picture (right side of the bed) and he would ocupy the spot he is occupying.
When my human partner appeared, she would move to the middle, and he would shift to the right side of this picture.
But no more! He has drawn the line. You have seen my battle scars.
Over the Christmas period we engaged in a major losing battle regarding this positioning. It was ugly, and it cost the humans hours of sleep, and this was not fair to a diurnal species.
I am working on strategies for the next major confrontations. Strategic suggestions are welcomed.

A Stunningly Untypical January 13 in Toronto, 2006

This is a small park a short walk from my house. It should not look like this today. In fact, this is the toboggan park for the locals. It may turn white tomorrow, which would be more appropriate.

Desperate Liberal Talking Points - Us and Them

That was a howler. A short spot on Don Newman's show today (he must be in heaven now) - the Liberal candidate prattled on about the Conservative' "us and them" orientation, while suggesting the Liberals all regard all of us as a major happy family.
This is clearly nonsense. The biggest 'us and them' in the campaign at this point is the anti-Americanism of the Liberal ads. But "us and them" has to be a feature of any campaign. Do you want crime controlled - well, then the criminals are a 'them'.
The Conservatives have their platofrm out - so far I have not seen the press implode in its normal hope to discredit it all? What is happening?
And if you think that when I voted today I voted Tory go look closely at my voting post.
Colour-blindness would be a problem.


My wish to watch the regular political newscast hosted by Don Newman is compromised by a speech being given by Paul Martin. It is just making me feel sad now.
My first recollections of him in any significant way are of seeing him on television chairing a gathering of economists in the early 1990s; he was great, he had developed a great rapport with the guys he had gathered, and this meeting led to the series of changes that radically addressed the Canadian deficit. Whatever the various adjustment costs, this was largely a good change.

As Chretien's lieutenant as Finance Minister, he carried out the discipline that came out of that gathering. Well that is how it looked. At this point all I can say is we miss Chretien and how he knew how to manage.

A year ago he ran a campaign and the press paved his path. Their support left him hanging on to government.

Now what are the questions? First, what about the crookedness in one of your ridings (Hamilton). No substantial answer. Another reporter - all you say about the infeasibility of the Conservative programme you said before and then did roughly what they proposed. Answer - mostly blather. Next question - Gomery - Liberal candidate bribing NDPer (Abbotsford) - answer - I repudiate that candidate. Next question seems to criticize Martin for taking that action.

Where did the free pass go? How come the press is actually asking questions? Is this really Canada?

Thank Heaven - Don Newman is back!

But back to main topic - and this has nagged me for a while. What were Martin's skills? - he surely had some. But it does not seem this job fits them.


My local television station startled me this morning during their 'local news' highlights. The screen suddenly filled with oldsquaws, and my ears perked up and I heard the announcer tell me were looking at pictures of "Arctic split-tailed ducks".

Various web searches later, I learned some things I did not know. 'Oldsquaw' is the name we use in North America for an arctic duck called the 'Long-Tailed Duck' in Europe (well in those parts that use English). Not the 'Split-Tailed Duck'. Curiously, though, one of its characteristic features is that the male has a two-feathered split pintail.

So where did CTV get this apparently completely original name? If anyone can help on this, I would appreciate it.

It is my plan in future posts to try to get pictures of the three main waterbird species paddling about down at the lake here. They cause many people great grief in the identification process as they are all a mix of black and white in colour. We now have buffleheads, oldsquaws, and (common) goldeneyes. Winter here is very interesting though the migratory seasons are a bit more exciting.

SIgns of the Times, January 13, 2006, Part 2

Recently the Ontario Government took it upon itself to regulate something called 'Chinese Medicine'. At the time my only response to this news was that it seemed to be a complete hand-in-glove fit to the meddling instincts of our current provincial government. Now, having seen this sign in my neighbourhood, I have become concerned that they have lost track of our national commitment to the Canada Health Act. Could there possibly be two-tier Chinese Medicine? It looks scarily possible! Is McGuinty trying to serve a secret Harper Agenda?

Signs of the Times, January 13, 2006

I would not want to read this were I a tuna.

Federal Election Voting is Done

My vote is in. Purely tactical as neither possible winner in my riding deserves my support.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I thought about the Perimeter Institute this morning

For a bunch of reasons, but triggered by Paul Martin's making a bunch of innovation-or-the-like-funding announcements today.
Some of the reasons:
a) I think the development of RIM is a really great story
b) I think what Lazarides of RIM has done in creating the Perimeter Institute is a really great thing
c) in a specific way, it meant that as I was doing some of my regular Toronto-London-Toronto drives this year, I got to see not merely signs advertising Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo, but also some Einstein Festival
d) it is nice to think that the University of Waterloo, one of my alma maters, and also a generous employer in my first career, has this prestigious component
e) it has meant that my human partner and I have been able to enjoy many very interesting lectures on Friday nights on our Rogers cable stations, covering cosmology, relativity, quantum computing, and what not.

So I thought, well, yes., I can see that the Perimeter Institute guys would be all signed up to the Liberal campaign activities, and it makes some sense for them to participate. After all, they surely want the money.

Little did I know, it seems. Doing my usual end of day reads of Paul Wells' blog, I was stunned to encounter this.

Fascinating. Standards. The Integrity not to compromise them. I so wish I saw that in any of our political parties.

Liberal attack ad #2 in my list

I can either spend a lot of time going to look at these ads on some web site, or just wait for them to flow by as I watch TV and report on them.

I have now seen a second. Now I think what the voice told me was that Stephen Harper gave a speech to some people in Montreal (I believe they were 'Americans'), and he apparently said that our unemployed got pretty good benefits. Now this apparently, as the voiceover continued, marks him as someone with too little compassion to be a Canadian Prime Minister.

So I would have to infer he had also proposed cutting back our Employment Insurance benefits. No evidence was provided that such is the case. But actually, the benefits have been cut back significantly, as I seem to recall, in the last dozen years, i.e. since Paul Martin became our Finance Minister.

Now it is true that this sort of misleading nonsense can work really well when almost the whole national press is signed up to ignore any critical thought or logic in commenting on the ads. I am curious to see how this plays with our standard media. Last year this as would have had many others pitching in helping out.

What is cute about the ads is that they are so poor on facts, and so high on implication, and constantly mention 'American' items. Apparently Harper talks to those devilish people!

I have until Monday to decide how to vote. I think I have four alternatives, each distasteful in some ways, and with its positive points in others. But the Liberal campaign has removed one of the options I was actually considering a couple of weeks ago. If this is all you can say to convince me to be on your side, you have convinced me there are no reasons.

Actually there is one way I could contemplate voting for this party. Andrew Coyne posts the question nicely - if my local candidate showed the courage to publicly repudiate this total nonsense being promulgated, I would even be impressed by her again (as I was when I met her face to face recently, until she started enumerating her pork barreling successes for my riding).

EclectEcon and 'Law and Order' - our opinion

Back in December my co-blogger at Curling publicly confessed that he did not know how to work a VCR. He pointed out:
There is no single thing that has disturbed my sleep pattern more than the television series, "Law and Order". Once they started showing re-runs at 11pm (Eastern time) on A&E and then switched to showing the re-runs at 11pm on Bravo, I have had trouble getting to bed at a decent hour.
We who live in this house share this enthusiasm - the photo shows the two of us watching an episode broadcast today. But we are watching it on videotape! So it could have been shown at 3am two nights ago. I would suggest he get a VCR and time-shift a little.

Now until he made this posting last month, we two in the picture were not even watching the current episodes; we were taping and watching the syndicated episodes only. But driven by his post, I have now started taping, and finding ways to watch, the various new episodes. I think he and the other contributor he cites are not on the mark for the episodes I have sampled.

There was always a large element of knee-jerk social conscience that could get inane; after all, many Canadians are involved in making the series. You could be guranteed that every serial killer had been abused as a child, as a simple example.

But what has surprised me is that some of the newest episodes even have signs of puckishness, something I ussually enjoy and that I have NEVER seen in the older episodes. I strongly recommend he watch out for the two episodes I have seen featuring Estella Warren (yet another Canadian, but in a delightfully non-Canadian role - well, to be fair, her character would be a natural in 'This is Wonderland'), and, I think, Lynda Carter, as her character's mother. (IMDB says they ran originally last fall, but I watched them in the last few weeks.) I'll be chatting with him face to face soon and will press this point on him.

I do think the stunning strength of the 'Law and Order' production team has been casting; for me, given the general ensemble of actors and actresses they pull together for a season or a show, I could probably tolerate near-gibberish, performed well. They have even been smart enough to steal almost whole casts of other expiring series at times.

For those who are worried about the cross-species relationship displayed in the photo (not recognized under Canadian law), I also have a human mate, but our careers keep us apart at times. And yes, there are serious problems when the three of us are forced to share a domicile; perhaps another posting sometime.

One reason to like my silly little city

The odd January sunrise.

No, please, not Wendy Crewson!

Oh dear. She has got time on CTV's Canada AM. The usual prattle about 'telling stories to ourselves' and 'telling our own stories' being pulled out purely for lobbying for your own industry. She wants it to be an election issue that more funding is needed for Canadian drama. Even worse, she is lobbying for Canadian 'drama' against the shows that I find so entertaining now - Canadian gardening and restaurant makeover shows.
It sickens me that she can get away with this when CTV would never grant time on Canada AM to a manufacturer of nails who came on to argue that we should ban the use of foreign nails, or set quotas for them, in the building of Canadian houses. Rent-seeking gone mad as usual.
Funnier yet, she talks about allowing us a choice - but presumes we would not want to watch other than our stories. Apparently it is unthinkable I might prefer reading Ian McEwan to Margaret Atwood. Or watching 'Law and Order' rather than 'Da Vinci's Inquest'. And to be honest, it seems to me I have lots of choice - there are several Canadian dramas I love, 'This is Wonderland' prime among them these days. Bring back more of 'The Newsroom'. We have so many channels it seems to me an audience could draw any show really wanted onto our airwaves.
Anyway you can go vote on this on CTV's web site (link above) and I am about to!
I think she should be ashamed of herself. (OK just voted - and it is running 77%-23% against her now.)
I may make a resolution now to watch her only in American dramas (to which she has devoted a good whack of her career, and she might object if Hollywood bought into her stupid ideas and permitted only Californian stories to be told there).

UPDATE: I have checked the CanadaAM poll and the results are now 64% in favour of Wendy's self-seeking views, and 36% against. This is quite a turnaround since the time I voted and it would be interesting to know what this means. Those supportive of her views are slower-moving, or just a lot more mellow?

James Frey's con job and Steve Levitt's odd reaction

The Smoking Gun has done a bravura piece of work here; while the author is backpedaling he continues to defend this farce. Steve Levitt dissects the quality of the response nicely.
This has made the Canadian media this morning, thanks to Larry King. There is much being muttered on the theme that while the facts are bogus, the story is accurate.
Is this what we have come to? Fake but accurate everywhere? This is not a world I wanted to grow into - I'd rather we focussed on getting facts as right as we can, and then building our feelings and posturing on top of those as best we can, rather than sorting out our facts to fit our attitudes.
Of course for me it is not really Frey who is the issue, and his back story makes this even clearer, as the expose incldes this key piece of the story:
Of course, if "A Million Little Pieces" was fictional, just some overheated stories of woe, heartache, and debauchery cooked up by a wannabe author, it probably would not get published. As it was, Frey's original manuscript was rejected by 17 publishers before being accepted by industry titan Nan Talese, who runs a respected boutique imprint at Doubleday (Talese reportedly paid Frey a $50,000 advance). According to a February 2003 New York Observer story by Joe Hagan, Frey originally tried to sell the book as a fictional work, but the Talese imprint "declined to publish it as such." A retooled manuscript, presumably with all the fake stuff excised, was published in April 2003 amid a major publicity campaign.
One wonders what value the publishers think they are adding here; if it is not that they sort out the fakery from what is true, then what do they offer, as other forms of free distribution become available? This is a problem not unlike what newspapers face right now.

I still find disconcerting Levitt's comment in his post linked above:
My suggestion is that the next printing should just call it fiction. It is a great book, it just isn’t non-fiction. I still will make my kids read it when they are 15.
Well, if at 15, I had my parents come to me recommending learning from a piece of fiction that was initially sold as reality, and only categorized as fiction after being exposed as largely fraudulent, I would distrust the text (and my parents) enormously. And I would like to think Levitt would want his children to be so data-oriented and focussed on truth. Moreover, there is no way my parents could have MADE me read anything at 15, nor would it have crossed their minds. What is he thinking? Or is he thinking? Does he really hope his 15-year-old children should be impressed by "just some overheated stories of woe, heartache, and debauchery cooked up by a wannabe author"?

It seems to me they would be better off learning something real.

a) Legal aspects
b) NancyRommelmann'stake (she seems to care).

We're not allowed to make things up?

Saw my first of the Liberal attack ads that the Liberals admit they are running (I had earlier seen the one about soldiers, which they claim to have pulled). While I could see the voiceover saying "We didn't make that up" as making some vague sense, the following sentence, "We're not allowed to make things up" should surely have us all in helpless giggles.
I am very curious to see how these ads work. The Liberals are decidedly not getting the free pass in this election that they got in the last, where it seemed to me most of our major media outlets joined in the fretting about a possible Harper secret agenda. I am not sure why this has happened, but surely stupidities like this bald assertion, "We're not allowed to make things up", is not going to buy them much loyalty from even fairly robotic reporters.
As an example of what our fearless leader shamelessly makes up, consider Andrew Coyne's very sensible comments on tying the notwithstanding clause to abortion rights.
This campaign has been fascinating; the Conservatives have managed to hold together and avoid exposing themselves to having idiotic statements by some of their more exotic members take over the debate. Meanwhile, the press has actually so far resisted the siren song of anti-Americanism, which is what the Liberals will now cover the country with. Whence this new resistance? Will it disappear shortly?
My main regret is that I will be in Texas on the day of our election; of course, if I am really lucky, I might get to see the great smile that the Liberals are telling us will be on George Bush's face should Martin get what he seems to deserve.

UPDATE: Bob Tarantino is as baffled as I am.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kevin Bacon Movies

I have been driven to commenting at one of the toniest of blogs - Oxblog. David Adesnik calls 'Wild Things' the trashiest movie ever (no, don't take him seriously, he is young, a few months ago I tried to explain to him what garbage the TV show "MASH" was compared to the movie, and he did some research - he agreed - if he wants trash - let him ask), and when I saw his comment, I could not believe he meant "trash" as an insult. I think with some reading between the lines I am right. Man, it featured Kevin Bacon and Theresa Russell! Is there any way to have a low opinion of any film featuring either of those stars? And then add Matt Dillon into the mix! Does he lack fundamental sense?
As a side point, I seem to recall that one of my sisters told me at Christmas that my Kevin Bacon degrees of separation number was now down to four or so. Maybe this blog comment can improve the situation even more!

Falcon Beach!!

At the end of all I have planned to watch on TV today there is a falling-asleep gap (if I can do it with my cat grief).
All the weekend newspaper TV Guides had cover pictures suggesting I should watch Falcon Beach. I am in my mid-to-late 50s - and these pictures convinced me. I shall tune in with certainty.
There is some chance it is these actors and actresses I will be enjoying on stage in my matinees in the years to come.

Nice wound, nicht wahr? Cat surgery

No that is not a consequence of my surgeries. Though it is my eye. Cataract surgery is localized to the eye - cat surgery is different. That arises from another whole problem.

We have a cat pushing 20 - as a cat, his habits are nocturnal. As a cat in the wild much of his prey would be running around in the night too, but unfortunately he is my pet, and an indoor cat, so his prey is the cat food I put before him. But he is pushing 20, and almost nothing I offer now has more than a few moment's cachet as a classy meal for him. I have tried all the tricks - shaking garlic on it, or other tasty things, but nothing much works (Garlic still really works for me, except perhaps in ice cream). What I see is an arbitrary cycling of temporary enthusiasm for one food or another, with the greatest short-term success coming from 'cat treats'. So he thinks that whenever he is hungry he needs freshly delivered food, somehow different from all the failed food I have put before him in the remembered past, which can be quite long. The Pet Valu chain loves me.

Last night his nocturnality kicked in around 3 am and he decided he needed to go hunt for cat treats and of course water. Now the way he hunts for cat treats is to ask me for them (since nothing that had been put out earlier for him could be right). And in the process, somewhat incompetently, but possibly with some vague purpose, he stepped on my head, in a pretty crucial spot (an inch to the right and my most recent cataract surgery could well have been compromised). As it was blood flowed in a way that overcame my normal diurnal behaviours at 3am. (In fact my original response was to try to go back to sleep until I felt a warm liquid flowing down my face.)

I am not sure what our protocol will be tonight. I am a lot more nervous about his company on the bed. But he has ways of taking revenge. And he is already negotiating with me now as we watch 'A Touch of Frost'.

Still overwhelmed but improving

I have started field testing my new toy.
It has now helped me identify which sorts of goldeneyes are down at the beach (Common). And I was thrilled to manage to stop MOST of the flitting about of one chickadee as we found ourselves surrounded by them this morning. I still have to work on my landscape shooting, and learn to stabilize and focus somewhat better.
More amazing, with the right diopter adjustment on the viewfinder, I will be able for the first time in my life to take pictures without wearing glasses. (Well, to take them with any confidence and competence.)

Canadian Stage's "Homechild"

This play had much to offer to make it likeable - a terrific cast, featuring Eric Peterson, in a role perfect for an actor at this stage of his career, playing a crotchety, angry, old man, who is clearly hiding a secret guilt, giving the actor the opportunity to melt the audience at the end as he confronts his past troubles, and along the way allows his character to rebuild thwarted relationships with his loved ones. You know the lights will go down at the end of his bravura speech reognizing the ways that he has wasted his life. And unfortunately, you know it and are right.
I usually feel merely manipulated by endings like this, unless there is some real meat in the story leading up to it that makes me feel strongly engaged. And I did not find the meat I normally like.
The plot was based on the history of the Barnardo emigrations - take note that the play does not reflect the rather positive spin that the Wikipedia entry I linked to puts on the effectively forced emigration of children to Canada, possibly for adoption, but also likely for what amounted to indenture, with all the obvious potential to tear families apart and blight lives.
Unfortunately the object of the lead character's guilt is incarnated on stage during the whole play, and I found this 'spirit' (no doubt representing the poor fellow's guilt, and memory), and the rather forced winsomeness of this figure drove me up the wall until about three-quarters of the way through the play.
It is too bad; there was much nice writing, replicating the feel of families and friends talking about family-and-friend things, and performed wonderfully by Brenda Robins, Randy Hughson, Tom Rooney, Patricia Hamilton, Barbara Gordon, and Joyce Campion, a wonderful cross-section of the vital performing community we do have here in Canada. Most of the scenes were a very enjoyable mix of humour and sentiment, and it was a pleasure to watch such skill applied, to fine effect. I felt a bit sorry for the newcomer, Lara Jean Chorostecki, who was surely directed to behave in ways that had my teeth grinding at her character.
There were many people giving a standing ovation at the end, so one should not take my reaction too seriously. In many ways this play was perfect for the audience I watch with - I am a matinee subscriber, and in the same way that I recall movie matinees teeming with uncontrollable loud children (when I still went to movies), theatre matinees here teem with those of us at the other end of the age spectrum (for the same reason - early bedtimes), and this audience lapped up Peterson's excellent portrayal of a reconciliation with elements of his past.
Once again I was stunned to be able to see the performers clearly; before my recent surgery I did not know this was even possible in the theatre.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Serious diseases

Chris Dillow identifies a psychological disorder. It is akin to the one of regarding that murderous slime Ernesto Guevara as vaguely admirable. This afflicts a much larger part of the Canadian population than makes me feel good.

UPDATE: Scott Burgess posts this beauty - it will help you understand the ailment mentioned above.

Oh those Canada Geese

Baron Bodissey gets himself into quite a bad mood about our national bird here.
Some interesting facts for people being colonized by these little monsters - I suggest they ought to get their parks people in touch with ours - in the last few years I have seen NO new generations of Canada Geese being raised in the areas I frequent - this is also true of mallards. Whatever measures are being applied are clearly not being meted out on swans, as you could infer from earlier posts. Two years ago, one bold mallard actually had a clutch of children, but she was a rare feature in these new times.
I do not know what our parks people are doing. I do not think I want to know. But your parks people should find out.
These creatures are impressive - I have yet to go anywhere in the world and NOT see a Canada Goose. They are arrogant and ill-tempered and I admire them mightily. Biology has not been kind to them (eating grass is pretty poor economics in some ways) but they have certainly adapted.


Around twenty years ago I was sitting in a software engineering class, and the instructor opined that software in general should have interfaces as simple as that of the telephone. Of course, what has happened in the last twenty years is that many devices that had simple interfaces now are full of software, and are as a result incomprehensible. Certainly true of all my telephones today.
And yesterday I got this (as a birthday gift to myself). I think I will come to love it but omigosh - this is really complex. Now I must confess I have taken a picture and reviewed it, so one can get up and go pretty readily, but there is one honking manual to read right now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who Should Decide?

Derek Lowe runs one of the most interesting blogs available, a useful antidote to the knee-jerk "drug companies are the fount of all evil" hysteria that is so easy, it seems, for people to fall into.

Today he addresses an item that has exploded into the blogosphere.

Please go read it. My own view is that we deserve the opportunity to make informed choices. This is vaguely a question in the ongoing Canadian election campaign as well, in slightly different forms. I have no taste for the sort of managerial meddling that Nader supports and it seems pretty clear he chose a bad target this time.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Where Are My Peanuts??

Monday, January 02, 2006

Cotton Bowl - Wow!

Now that was excellent football - I would guess partly because of the NY Times Magazine article on Texas Tech's offence.
Alabama did a great job of casting all the promises of Michael Lewis' article into question.
But ultimately, what a fine football game that was!

I Vote for Accident

The speed-dial point is vital here.

Look -it's a cat.

This story vaguely suggests a cat knowingly saved its master.

Mr Daugherty was saved as a result of a 911 call but note:

Daugherty said police received a 911 call from Rosheisen's apartment, but there was no one on the phone. Police called back to make sure everything was OK, and when no one answered, they decided to check things out.

Once I realized there was a speed-dial, the random step won over my theory creation.

UPDATE: Despite this, I remain skeptical.

In the NY Times Magazine?

I do subscribe to the physical Sunday New York Times - it took me until this morning to finally start working through the magazine in yesterday's issue. And what a shock - an article that articulated almost perfectly how I feel about what has been happening in the world the last decades; I do not know who Kwame Anthony Appiah is, but he is a congenial figure to my mind. The fundamental point comes early and I think it is very important:
The right approach, I think, starts by taking individuals - not nations, tribes, or "peoples" - as the proper object of moral concern.

I am very grateful that the world I grew up in respected this priority. Surrounded as a child by a 1950s Ontario Protestant, and pretty narrow in many ways, world, I remain infinitely grateful that my parents and their commitment to books, and my high school teachers, all were able to show that there was a much larger world 'out there' than I could otherwise have known. Ironically, as I fought to go out and find that world, it came to us in Canda, and the country changed gloriously.
Section 5 of Appiah's article is in many ways the most mischievous and insightful. It even taught me something about mathematics, my one field of deep expertise. A quotation I had never heard from von Neumann - "in mathematics you don't understand things, you just get used to them" - I find a perfect description of how the field deals with its counter-intuitive outcomes. And Appiah points out a key element of the last decades in the West - "People got used to lesbians and gay men". It has never been a matter of "Charter rights" etc., but always one of accomodation.
He writes
I am urging that we should learn about people in other places ... because it will help us to get used to one another

You should read the original as I have elided material that may make this seem glib and it is not. And he is entirely conscious of hte difficulty of tolerating intolerant cultures:
In Saudi Arabia, people can watch "Will and Grace" on satellite TV - officially proscribed, but available all the same - knowing that, under Saudi law, Will could be beheaded in a public square. In northern Nigeria, mullahs inveighed against polio vaccination while sentencing adulteresses to death by stoning. In India, thousands of wives are burned to death each year for failing to make their dowry payments. Vive la difference? Please.

Along the way he takes on the notion of 'cultural imperialism' and many other ideas raised to suppress individual freedom.
He argues for cosmopolitanism roughly characterizing it as follows:
It is not skepticism about the very idea of truth that guides us; it is realism about how hard the truth is to find. ... Everybody matters; that is our central idea. And again, it sharply limits the scope of our tolerance.

To say what, in principle, distinguishes the cosmopolitan from competing universalisms, we plainly need to go beyond talk of truth and tolerance. One distinctly cosmopolitan commitment is to pluralism. Cosmopolitans think that there are many values worth living by and that you cannot live by all of them.

Read it all. I plan to go find more of this fellow's writing!
Shortly - off to see the Cotton Bowl and apply what I learned in an earlier NY Times Magazine article!