Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Deeply Unhelpful Witlessness

Long ago I expressed my disappointment that Mark Steyn chose to cite some silly looking out the window argument to superficially (and without much thought) justify his creationism. More shocking to me, as a computer geek, is Scott Adams' apparently determined attachment to pretty much the same shallow arguments. P. Z. Myers has tried but it seems to no avail.
I can still laugh at Dilbert cartoons but now I know the guy is a fool.

Carole Laure and Miou-Miou

I had no idea until today they were both in one, however awful, movie. Oh my oh my.

UPDATE: This is the movie. Did not seem very good other than the feature described above.

Suddenly It All Made Sense

OK I confess I laughed through it all.

The Girlfriend Trainer - video powered by Metacafe

Maybe because it is so offensive. But I suspect mostly because none of these rules would work in my relationship. I did find the circle walk quite funny.

But the very end was even funnier.

Thanks to Grandinite.

The new UN Secretary-General

After the terrible disappointment associated with his predecessor, one has great hopes for the new guy. Meryl Yourish delights in some moral clarity from him.
I hope this is real, especially given the sleaze (from Fatah) surrounding this latest murderous assault.

Is the Culture of Liberty Lost?

I fear it is in Canada.

Chris Dillow looks at the UK situation, and I fear we are hopelessly past the bad thing happening in the UK.

I think his phrasing is crucial; I do not think the culture of liberty has significant defenders in Canada. We all want to be taken care of. God save us.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Australian Open Champions

Talk about justifying your wins with the performance in the final!

Serena Williams utterly dominated.

I watched the first couple of games in the second set of Gonzales-Federer and Gonzales showed what got him where he was. But what a stunning show Federer then put on!

Even more in the awards ceremony, as he congratulated Gonzales' team (I had never seen this done before), and also Ken Rosewall. This is a new era and I like it - Gonzales as well was modest and self-effacing. I despised the era of the brash Conners and McEnroe, and the young pseudo-rebel Agassi. The leaders in tennis today remind me of the '60s and it feels good. Decent humans knowing that what happens on the court is not what happens off it.

First Half of the Morris Panych Double Header

The other Canadian Stage play we attended this weekend was Morris Panych's "What Lies Before Us".
Reeling off 'Glorious', we felt so good very fast watching this very witty and competent piece of writing. Moreover, also enjoying the amazing performances - though 'Glorious' did not lack for those, it just needed a halfway intelligent script.
The performers, David Storch, who has played so many roles I have loved over the last several years in Toronto theatre, and Matthew MacFadzen, whom I recall really enjoying in "Take Me Out", simply confirmed my expectations and Wayne Sujo was terrific.
The dialogue touched nicely on human aspirations versus our hopeless situation in the universe, and as I think about those things to a degree, it was somewhat interesting.
This play featured something I had never experienced. It finished with about a two-minute monologue in Cantonese, which I do not understand, but could accept. As we left the theatre, we were offered a printed translation, and this affected quite a bit what we had seen.
Anyway - as for Morris Panych work, I loved 'The Overcoat' (so much I gave my tickets to a sister rather than see it twice), I really enjoyed 'The Vigil' (though maybe Brent Carver did that), and I thought this play was pretty good.

"Half-Life" at Canadian Stage

John Mighton's delicate and lovely play "Half-Life" is being revived in this subscription season of the Canadian Stage Company. For my wife and me, it is what will have redeemed the season, which has featured several OK plays and at least one awful one.
"Half-life" is the time for a radioactive material to lose half its radioactivity, so is a measure of decay and there is a way in which this is a play about decay. But seen from a point of view in which radioactivity is not something one wants, one could put the emphasis the other way. And the play brilliantly balances the two things. Two people fall in love in a senior citizens' home, and it is their children, in the middle of life, who have the greatest difficulty with it. Around this, Mighton tosses in wonderful dialogue to make one wonder about the virtues of forgetting (I have always thought forgetting was an enormous component of how I remain as happy as I do) - in fact his characters who remember have the worst problems.
The play portrays children as full of an immediate joy we can no longer have after a certain point in life (I agree), except perhaps as one becomes quite old (again portrayed in the play). But the point I thought put best was the one that the joy of those middle years is the notion of 'bittersweet'; and I had recent experience - the scenes I loved most in 'The Queen' had me simultaneously laughing and close to tears.
I got the feeling it is an utterly lovely play. The only reason I do not say this categorically is that it was in far too large a theatre for such an intimate play, and that it was a noisy audience night, characterized by ill-placed coughs covering key dialogue, and also that some people right behind us insisted on laughing like hyenas at gentle jokes, sighing unnecessarily, and yapping amongst themselves over dialogue far better than what they offered. This is not unrelated to the venue being too large. So in the end I did not hear the whole play.
The effect is that I will work very hard to find a suitable production some day. I hope soon.
The cast were utterly great across the board. And not unlike 'The Queen', this is a piece of art with compassion for everyone in it.
What amazed me is that there was no standing ovation. For Heaven's sake, "Hair" got one last year! What is this? And I do not mean there should have been one - I do not - but I have seen so many there should not have been, it makes me wonder how this play lost out.
I recommend it utterly. If you can see it go see it.

Bush did not know the price of a loaf of Bread

More on that fatuous Star editorial. It seem their editors do not go to grocery stores.
Grocery stores will lose business to competitors if they cut back on cashiers, and make customers wait in even longer lines.

Just wait for when we have a bevy of self-service lines in the grocery stores (we already have the stores learning today how to run them well - they have not yet got it - I hate using them - but they will). They will train us to like them (and when they work, I will, because the quality of the cashiers in stores is very variable). The human cashier will be the exception, and we customers will be checking ourselves out more efficiently than we did before with human cashiers. And an inflated bottom wage for the staff will accelerate this enormously.

Hmm not unlike banks. And to be honest, I used to feel dismay at having to deal with my bank - and now I just sit down for 20 minutes at my computer in the morning, and have no need of going to the branch.

Low-paid jobs vanishing, because labour is not cheap. Jobs for the people I am sure the proponents of these policies think they want to help.

'The Queen' on the Flight Home

It was even better than that going out. I did not notice the uses of 'God' that were bleeped in the original version. I did hear Mirren say 'bugger' so I am assuming Air canada has popped the new version in.

And incidentally, how was it on second viewing? Just as good - maybe better, as one starts to recognize the precognitions in the script. It remained a film of utterly brilliant bittersweet character. And I still think, compassionate to all, though I have now read reviews saying that it made Philip and Charles look like twits. Well, I think they are twits, and the film utterly did NOT do that.

Nor did it make Elizabeth seem one. There is an early scene, when Charles is frustrated that he cannot persuade the family of his need to fly to Paris in a Royal plane. Elizabeth is going to bed, passes his room, starts to reach out, and they don;t quite connect, but she concedes to him. I found it terribly moving, the failure to connect casually, and yet finding the right way. The film is full of this and it is what life can be like.

The Star's Morality

The Toronto Star today insists on a $10 minimum wage in Ontario, up from the current government's plan to raise it to $8. Personally I find even the existing number an unhelpful constraint on the ability of employers and employees to come to an accomodation beneficial to both.

Now pretty well all the arguments they offer minimizing the manifest damage such a raise of the minimum wage would do to exactly those they think are benefiting were already dealt with in a recent post from EclectEcon. In fact his comments directly refute some of the sillier things they say, like
Fast-food restaurants that do not have the staff to provide their customers with "fast" food won't stay in business very long.

They are determined NOT to see what is not immediately seen.

The line I found funniest, and equally fatuous was
Hotels are not going to satisfy their guests by cutting back on staff and providing dirty rooms.

Does the editorial staff or their presumed experts in economics travel and stay in hotels?

In fact hotels have been brilliant at something not even so subtle as capital-labour substitution (though that has been going and would be accelerated by rising labour costs - e.g. express checkouts, express checkins, bill reviews on the TV in your room - and note all of these throw work back on the customer, who actually also likes it in general). But as for the dirty room? and customer satisfaction! In the last many years every hotel chain I stay in now 'offers' me the option not to have my towels and sheets cleaned every night! And they sell it to me as a way to be an environmentalist, not wasting water and energy. Of course, the hotel also at the same time does not have to waste money on their laundry subcontractors, so many low-paid laundry workers can be tossed out of jobs. And I as the customer am profoundly satisfied as I feel I am now an environmentalist.

Really! Do people even think before they write these editorials? I don't expect better of the NDP but for this paper, supposedly a Liberal newspaper, to do anything as stupid as this, just amazes me. What education do these guys get?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bleeping the 'Queen'

H/T to Mark for this hilarious article.

So much for God and country, at least during some in-flight showings of the Oscar-nominated movie "The Queen." That's because all mentions of God were bleeped out in a version of the film given to some commercial airlines.

Even in these politically correct times, censoring references to God in the film was not a statement of some kind. Rather, it was the mistake of an overzealous and inexperienced employee for a California company that edits movies selected for onboard entertainment.

The censor was told to edit out all profanities -- including any blasphemy -- for the version of the movie distributed to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, Air New Zealand, and other carriers.

So the new censor mistakenly bleeped out each time a character said "God," instead of just when it was used as part of a profanity, said Jeff Klein, president of Jaguar Distribution, the company that distributed the movie to airlines this month.


Jaguar has been replacing all the cassettes it sent out -- in English and other languages -- to its airline clients with the original, unedited version of the movie.

I did notice mysterious silences in the version I watched on my flight last weekend.

I shall certainly watch it again today on my return flight if I have the ability; I shall be attentive to those previous silences.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

At least the room is Texas-size

... and has one of those Sleep Number beds with a control I think of as a gaming console (not that I would know).

Sadly the view from the balcony is just a Texas-sized mall - each of the two stores in the picture is of a scale I associate with a whole Toronto mall. And between them there is mall!

A Good Night to Sleep Through

Insomnia this week on the road has had the side benefit of exposing me to some very entertaining, if bizarre, tennis matches from the Australian Open.
I surprised myself last night by sleeping without interruption. Imagine my delight to find that all I had missed was Federer crushing Roddick (the highlights on ESPN made the level of dominance clear) and Serena Williams beating Vaidisova. (Well, to be honest, it would have been nice to see this continuation of Serena's excellent return.)
I am guessing that in my nervousness about making my flight home, I will miss the Haas-Gonzalez match, which I regret, as I have found the play of both of them very attractive in the past (Haas for years, and Gonzalez in the last year or so).
But I should be home for Williams-Sharapova, and that ought to be a delight!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What are they on About?

The Current is all exercised this morning about the new passport regulations - as of today, I understand, those who wish to enter the US from Canada by air need to carry a passport. So what is the problem?

Can any commentor explain why this has needed anything other than informative news coverage (which is useful to help us not waste time)? The attitudinal stuff just seems silly.

Jeff Healey Health Update

Not really a blog entry - I am copying a press release but it is of interest to his fans. And it relates to this earlier post.

Jeff Healey recovers from
latest round of cancer surgery

Toronto guitarist, singer, bandleader, musicologist and radio host Jeff Healey is recovering well from major surgery to remove cancerous tissue from both lungs, which he underwent last week at a Toronto hospital.
Healey is no stranger to the disease, having gone under the knife no less than four times for cancer - first in his eyes as a child, in his left leg twice in the past 18
months, and now in his lungs.
His doctors, however, report a successful operation, catching the disease early as a result of diligent and regular testing.
Healey is expected to make a full recovery and will be back on his feet hosting his radio show on Monday nights at 91.1 Jazz FM in Toronto again in February. He also plans on getting back on stage at his brand new live music club, Jeff Healey's Roadhouse, which relocated in mid-December larger, more accessible premises at 56 Blue Jays Way, in the heart of downtown's entertainment area.
The internationally known musician has surprised doctors with his tenacity and speed of recovery after previous operations and fully intends to do so this time. "I'm stretching the definition of the word indestructible," quipped Jeff from his hospital bed three days after the operation.


For more information, interviews, and high-res photographs, please contact Sarah French at Richard Flohil & Associates 416 351-1323, or at

Websites: Jeff Richard

Traffic at This Site

It's up a bit (absolutely) and a ton (relatively) lately.

I went and did some analysis. Jeff Healey drives some of it and more power to him! In fact I plan to post some releases from his press team about his current health battles - he is a tough cookie.

Meanwhile also - the Australian Open has started (and in fact I have used my normal business travel insomnia to allow me to watch some exciting matches - Federer-Robredo last night, with the expected outcome). As a result Maria Sharapova's breasts play a big role in hits to this site. Interest in her physique has a strong seasonal pattern. And I have not mentioned them in ages (though I just shamelessly did)!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Commuting to the Office in my Hotel Room

Business travel is a funny beast - this particular trip is for meetings that dominate my life for the week I am here so totally that no engagement with the local community simply can happen!
So sitting in the hotel room at the (slightly off your time zone) hours, awaiting heading for morning meetings, what does one do.
Well, I tune in to CBC Metro Morning on the Internet and it feels exactly as if I were driving up the Don Valley Parkway to the Office.
The levels of dislocation this involves are worth thinking about sometime.

(And a year ago I was in the same city and watched the same network just to keep up with the prospects in the then-coming Canadian election.)

Markets in Everything

Stealing a theme from Marginal Revolution, and via Norm, here is a lovely market niche.
But isn't it problematic if an organization decides to rent protestors instead of using their own, politically committed activists? "Each organization has to decide that for itself," the Erento spokesperson said, explaining that the new category was added to the Web site as a result of a series of enquiries by organizations seeking protestors.

However the free market has not entirely overcome political principle. The demonstrators say they are not available for just any kind of protest. Those involving neo-Nazis or promoting discrimination, for example, are out of the question. "The demonstrators have to decide for themselves what kind of protests they are willing to participate in," the spokesperson said. "One person might be in favor of health care reforms, while another might be against them."

Perhaps if you hired these 'attractive' people you could avoid having your cause associated with pictures like this one.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Wow - This Day has Worked Out!

I was so fearful - trapped in a conference, and having to give a paper, as the NFC and AFC Conference finals were played.
And the initial reports from the NFC Conference final did trouble me as I watched the scores via my wireless Internet connection. This would be a close match, and just as I desperately wanted to watch the showdown in the last quarter, I would be stuck having to give a presentation. But the Bears solved it - they turned the match, if late, into a blowout. So thanks guys!
Meanwhile, I had responsibilities after the presentation that kept me from a TV screen (or computer) for the first half of the Indianapolis-New England match. So when the first half ended with New England up 21-6, I figured who cares and went back to glad-hand and socialize at the conference.
In the end I get back to my hotel room just as Indianapolis scored the touchdown that allowed them to possibly tie, which they did! Could anyone feel more blessed? This is the fourth quarter to end many fourth quarters!
I have no idea how this will end! I am so lucky.

UPDATE: Woo-Hoo. Manning finally did it!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

'The Queen'

Air Canada did the kindness to me of using an Embraer 175 equipped with Personal TV for my flight to Denver, with the result that I could choose to watch 'The Queen' on my flight. Who would have thought that a movie about a constitution, an unwritten one to boot, could be so compelling? I am still struggling to decide whether I have seen a better movie.
It is right up there with 'The Third Man' and 'The Searchers'. And it is utterly different from any film I have ever seen.
A stunningly compassionate and beautiful portrayal of a surprising and difficult piece of British history. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, with a profound sympathy for all the characters (even Alastair Campbell!), it presents a convincing portrait of a weird week in the world.
It takes very special writing to have conflict and treat all the characters decently. And some very special performances. Of course everyone is raving rightly about Helen Mirren's work, but for me the actors portraying the Blairs stole the movie.
I wonder how I will react to the second watching; it won't be long before I do that one.
I have no idea how accurate the story in this film is. But it is convincing and what it says matters. Most of the civilized governments in today's world derive in some way from the British constitution, and it is the star of this film in the end.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kristin Chenoweth - wow!

Subscribing lately to the New York Times, I have seen her name all over the place.
Today my order of a DVD of 'Candide' in which she plays Cunegonde has arrived.
I have no idea what more to say than WOW!! I think I must make it to Manhattan to see this woman performing live.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Big Ideas and the Best Lecturer

'Big Ideas', referred to in an earlier post, is a series on TV Ontario, that uses a couple of hours each weekend day, to expose its viewers, or its willing ones, to lectures on a variety of topics. Over the last year or so I have enjoyed Charles Krauthammer, and suffered Terry Eagleton, for example, and seen Alan Dershowitz deal like a gentleman (i.e. try to debate) with ruffians from the University of Toronto.
It would appear that over the last year couple of years they are having difficulty finding cheap lectures (unencumbered with IP concerns?) locally, so they have started to fill the show with what they call the "Ontario's Best Lecturer" competition.
The top ten began their showdown last weekend, as Jacalyn Duffin gave an entertaining travelogue of Paris and other parts of France mingled with the medical career of Lannaeck and its implications, reaching to today, and Steve Joordens analyzed whether we should allow animal experimentation for research purposes. I learned a lot from both presentations and felt delighted to be able to watch them.
I think the show is a great idea but it certainly does not measure a lecturer's skills. The format that is used for judging the skills is important and limited - watching both lectures, I found it hard to believe that a 45-minute monologue was what they do in class (and actually the background materials on both showed that they decidedly do NOT do monologues in class). So what is the point - "Ontario's best monologuer" does not sound so good as "Ontario's best lecturer".
I lectured, and I think quite well, for ten years in another career, and the idea of going 2 minutes without trying to engage an audience direct response is alien to me. I am sure that is true of all these lecturers as well. I do not know how the format can be fixed, though; an audience with TV cameras will not respond like one in a classroom, and so the game is over from square one.
Still, this is yet another fine idea from TV Ontario, another that eludes the CBC.

P.S. You can go to my web page link above and see the lecturers in action. This is one of the great joys of the Internet!

Culture Clash - Don't Jaywalk in Atlanta

Again via my mother, I have learned about this controversy. The jaywalking principal in this story gave a very interesting talk at the University of Western Ontario last year, that was broadcast as part of the excellent 'Big Ideas' series on TVO here.
The comments are the most interesting part to read. I, as a frequent driver, do NOT consider jaywalking a casual offence. The only clear truth in this story is that the good professor was, perhaps unwittingly, crossing without the right. What is interesting is how hard it is to get any certain truth about the rest of it all.
I do admire Fernandez-Armesto's balance overall as he studies his sufferings but his notion that jaywalking is minor where he comes from hardly acquits him. After al, a Saudi can beat his wife up with somewhat more impunity than one can here in the right circumstances.
Anyway, I don't think I need ever spend time again in Atlanta so I shall sleep calmly tonight.

AFTERWORD re jaywalking. The definition is very local. I was a student for years in Berkeley in Northern California, and always found it interesting to watch other students who had come from Los Angeles utterly unwilling to walk across major streets with all the locals who were convinced they had the right of way. It did not work that way in L.A.

I always study the behaviour of locals in a new place and act far more conservatively!

Cable 'Mogul''s Good Sense

My mother drew my attention to this article.

What profoundly good sense!

Noting that "over the past 10 years, Shaw has contributed over $350 million in direct subsidies to the Canadian production industry," Mr. Shaw observes the fund "has become nothing more than a means of subsidizing broadcasters, pay and specialty services and independent producers to produce Canadian television programming that few watch and has no commercial or exportable value."

(Shaw claims that its Star Choice satellite television division now pays more to the fund than it returns to shareholders.)

The Canadian Television Fund was created in 1996 with a mandate to produce "high-quality culturally significant Canadian television programs in both official languages." It also has an annual budget of $250 million a year -- $100 million of which is provided by the federal government.

That fact leads directly to another of Mr. Shaw's beefs.

He is particularly rankled that a full 37 per cent of the fund's revenues are set aside annually for the CBC/SRC -- something he declares "should be ended immediately" in light of the fact that the "CBC already receives over $1.2 billion from Canadian taxpayers in the form of grants and mandatory subscriber fees."

This all comes out of the fatuous notion that we Canadians need bureaucratic entities to decide what television we should be permitted to watch. The real tragedy, of course, is that Canada has one of the freest media in the world. It is utterly appalling to go abroad and spend time in Austria, the UK, or France (and Germany).

Nonetheless we will now have major protests, and the staggeringly attractive Wendy Crewson will lead the Canadian acting community in its rent-seeking battle.

More power to Mr. Shaw!

NFL Next Weekend

On the AFC side I think I have to sign up with Doc's concerns about Manning looking very good but not dominating. On the other hand, that new-found defence has been stunning. Still, I am with Doc on the AFC outcome - you can perhaps detect an over-worshipful tone in my earlier post on Brady.
Just to be contrary, though I agree utterly with his logic, I will pick the Bears in the NFC Championship. (Also, I was not sold on his notion of Grossman's weaknesses - and moreover, on one of my recent trips, I sat in an airport bar next to a couple whose daughter named her kid after Rex Grossman (already!) - and no, I do not think it was because of any paternity).


What PooterGeek said.

The power of being a Geek (though I will bet he/she is a Nerd, as I found him/her off a Photography link).

Martin Amis on Life, the World, ...

Via Norm I encountered this excellent 'email interview' in the Independent with Martin Amis. It is insightful, sensible, and often quite humorous. For me the best lines were the insistence on answering a negative question at least somewhat positively (to see the full answer, which includes a concern I agree with 100%, go to Norm or the original) - but I truly liked his turning this question around at the end of his answer:

What is the most depressing thing about Britain you have observed since your return? And the best?...


The best thing has been to find myself living in what, despite its faults (despite a million ills), is an extraordinarily successful multi-racial society. This is a beautiful idea, with a good chance of becoming a beautiful reality, too.

Amen - and this is what I hope for us (as I walk by the 'Halal Pizza' shops)!

The whole interview is excellent.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Brutal History Repeats Itself, sort of

When did New England's Tom Brady really come to fame? Eliminating the Raiders in a post-season game via a controversial call. Having lived many years in Northern California, I was a somewhat intransigent Raiders fan, and spent much energy reading all the exegeses of the rules and what it appears the officials may have seen in that game (how many years ago was that?).
My reluctant conclusion, after a lot of study, is that the officials were right and it seems they have again has found the marginal and justified difference in a match. Yes, Oakland was wrong, the Patriots deserved their win.
How do they do it?
I don't know if I care; I do know that I like the potential for surprise it gives me watching this sport.
Unlike the world's most popular sport where you can sleep through the whole match and miss nothing. People sit for hours hoping something will happen!
Mind you, I also like Cricket, and am furious about some scheduling of some spring cricket action in Toronto.
Curling is generally more exciting than NFL Football but where is it on TV this winter?

The NFL Weekend - Could Doc be a Curmudgeon?

I just do not get what worries the author of this post. After all, Chicago is into the next round, so it will be seen what is achieved then.
As for me, I have found all the matches this weekend worth watching till quite late, which is very unusual, as I recall.
What infuriates me is that I am presenting a paper at a conference next Sunday, and not likely able to leave the room to know what is happening during the conference finals. It infuriates me because had I thought to look at a calendar I would never have submitted the paper! This is just very poor planning.
This weekend was interesting as well in the context of the recent debate on what to do on fourth downs - with some economists having analyzed the history and determining coaches punted or tried field goals too often on fourth downs. Several coaches seemed to take that to heart this weekend. And until just now the results were terrible.
New England has just done well off such an attempt, but via a San Diego fumble, so hardly something that, other than statistically, would encourage me to future risk.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Some First-Hand Reports

Maybe I don't search adequately for the like of reports like this in the newspapers I read, but both Michael Totten and Michael Yon are currently actively posting very interesting reports. I am linking directly to the latest report in each sequence, and would advise your finding your way back to the start, and reading in order. I might point out as well that the comments are interesting and excellent on these posts (something a newspaper provides in a terribly limited way).
Each of them also gives us the opportunity to keep them at their work by contributing financially, something I have certainly done, and I recommend you do it if you find the work interesting.
These are two guys using the information age in an interesting way as entrepreneurs - (maybe to make a fortune, but more likely to do what they love) - this is freelancing gone wild.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Don't Worry, Dear, I Can Cut That Off for You

Norm posts a wonderful story about his sudden acquisition of fashion sense.
It reminded me of a story my wife and I were told by a math/computer professor friend. He and his wife were vacationing and he realized he had not packed a baseball cap to protect his head from the sun. He went to a beach-side shop and saw a cap that was adequate, and was troubled only by the logo on the front of the cap. His wife promised that when they got home she could remove the logo, so he bought it, to the horror of the shopkeeper, who had listened to the discussion.
The logo was that of Dolce and Gabbana.
Now that is a real NoLogo attitude, not the more famous one.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

Seems the CBC are giving us many shots at this - the most-promoted new series I have heard about in years on the CBC. I thought I was missing out on it for the week by going to last night's entertainment but here it is on TV tonight!! Rondi has previewed this and I await her review.
For me it seems really dim in the first ten minutes. And worse - the lampooned arrest sequence seemed a perfectly reasonable behaviour on the part of the security team in the context (and I commend the other passengers who drew the security guys in), and the joke about "flying while Muslim" fell totally flat. I suppose the material on religious rules and prohibitions was somehow funny, but I also cannot make sense of Lent so I just don't know.
OK I am now ten minutes into it and it is far worse than I could ever have imagined. Typical CBC sitcom stuff.
Give me back the genius nutjobs like Ken Finkleman, not this crap.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jeff Healey's Roadhouse

I had the excellent fortune to be invited as a guest to the opening party for Jeff Healey's Roadhouse (the webpage is somewhat lacking at this point).
Now the name is a bit of a contradiction, in that Jeff Healey is best known for excellent jazz, and roadhouses are known for somewhat simpler music in general (forgetting the complication that Jeff Healey features in the movie 'Road House').
The gathering featured standard hors d'oeuvres and drinks, and some music. The opening act was a country performer I did not know, and I found it almost impossible to understand a single word she sang. Much of the audience were nonetheless entirely happy.

I do not like this - I am a diction fanatic, one of the reasons I think Karen Carpenter is one of the greatest singers I have ever heard. I thought it was the sound system, which seemed unlikely in a place with Jeff Healey's name on it, and I was able to ask one of the sound guys, standing right next to me, whether he could do anything with the amazing collection of controls in front of him,

that would make me able to make any sense of what the performer was doing. He shrugged, which I found discouraging. My belief in the technical source of the problem vanished when a guest artist was invited on stage and sang Ewan McColl's great 'Dirty Old Town', and every word he sang could be heard clearly.
In any case, there came a time finally in this gathering when Jeff Healey and the Jazz Wizards (was that their name) got up and started playing

and it was a magical change - what complete energetic and joyful music! I could listen for hours. (Well, I did not as I had to get to bed at a decent hour....)
Along the way our Mayorship had to make an appearance

- for some reason people from the stage referred to him as "our Mayor", with a bizarre emphasis on the "our". Well, he fooled me once but not twice and I certainly won't ever vote for him again, barring his undergoing a conversion like that of St. Paul. So the "our" goes only so far. But unlike Miller, Healey is a great ambassador for Toronto, and Richard Flohil,

a key player in this enterprise, looking thoughtful above, is a man I would cheer for!

UPDATE From Jeff Healey's Team:

Jeff Healey recovers from latest round of cancer surgery
Toronto guitarist, singer, bandleader, musicologist and radio host Jeff Healey is recovering well from major surgery to remove cancerous tissue from both lungs, which he underwent last week at a Toronto hospital.
Healey is no stranger to the disease, having gone under the knife no less than four times for cancer - first in his eyes as a child, in his left leg twice in the past 18
months, and now in his lungs.
His doctors, however, report a successful operation, catching the disease early as a result of diligent and regular testing.
Healey is expected to make a full recovery and will be back on his feet hosting his radio show on Monday nights at 91.1 Jazz FM in Toronto again in February. He also plans on getting back on stage at his brand new live music club, Jeff Healey's Roadhouse, which relocated in mid-December larger, more accessible premises at 56 Blue Jays Way, in the heart of downtown's entertainment area.
The internationally known musician has surprised doctors with his tenacity and speed of recovery after previous operations and fully intends to do so this time. "I'm stretching the definition of the word indestructible," quipped Jeff from his hospital bed three days after the operation.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Utterly Great Weekend of Football

And I So look forward to next weekend!

Much as I find the story of the Mannings romantic, I must say it is always great for us Canadians to see quarterbacks who exercised their skills in the CFL do well in the NFL - far and away Warren Moon was the dream performer in this area, but we will now happily take Jeff Garcia, who has had a very mottled career (some number of very mottled careers?), and all the more power to him!

Woo Hoo!!

Humphrey Carpenter's Auden Biography

Over on the sidebar you should see poor Amazon's attempt at offering Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Wystan Hugh Auden. I suspect I have had this hard-cover book for twenty years without contemplating what I am now doing, reading it!
And what a revelation. Before starting this thing I knew two things about W. H. Auden, that he had a 'friend' named Chester Kallman, and that he wrote a poem they taught us in high school, "The Unknown Citizen".
This poem has an appeal that I can see will get it into high school curricula - it does allow the teacher to separate his life path from that of the unknown citizen described, and for all of us to feel superior to the poor sap described.
In any case, this, as my sole experience of Auden, did not leave me highly motivated to read about his life. But now I recommend Carpenter's biography with great enthusiasm! Apparently Auden wrote other poems, and had a whole series of confusing views about life! He married Erika Mann to help her flee Nazi persectution. He lived flagrantly as a homosexual in an era when one could be hounded to death as Alan Turing was. University administrations helped him cover this up! (I am so impressed at the backbone they could find then that seems so elusive now.)
He was a fascinatingly confused man, who did in fact produce some truly great art - (this poem, an early work, still just stuns me)

Wild-Card Weekend Persists

I fell asleep during the Dallas-Seattle match. What a crazy outcome!
The Patriots-Jets match went roughly as I expected, but the Jets kept the question of the outcome alive longer than I had expected, so I was happy.
Giants and Eagles just starting.
My life is structured much better this year than in past years, when I had to go to see some play during a significant playoff match. I have since learned that there are two great weekends to clear the calendar for, that of the wild-card matches, and the next one. Four serious NFL battles, each of which matters fundamentally. I have managed to move next weekend's play date to the following weekend!

Pay for this TV Station or you go to Jail

Abiola Lapite says it very clearly and sensibly. Simply substitute CBC for BBC throughout and the case is the same.

Lest you make too many assumptions, I actually make quite a significant contribution to funding TV Ontario, another largely government-run effort. Regrettably it is also a case, as Abiola quotes the inflaming article:
The rich and the old are keener on it than the poor and the young, who in effect subsidise the viewing and listening of more prosperous households

Of course this is little different from most other major government programmes.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wild Card Playoff Number 1

The Colts' defence wins it?! Who would have guessed?
What a nice relationship between the head coaches, having dinner the night before the game, and a very professional and friendly congratulations at the end of the game.
Will the Colts' defence continue to function so well? It owuld make a big difference in their franchise's history/

Useful advice

I decided to try out the Olympus ME-1 eyepiece for my camera.

The product instructions include the following useful advice:

Do not leave the eyecup within reach of children. Should a child swallow it accidentally, take the child to a doctor immediately.

I thought it extraordinary that this advice was spelled out at all, but even more extraordinary that a child who intentionally swallows the eyecup apparently does not need the ministrations of a doctor.

Friday, January 05, 2007

a standing affront to the notion of disinterested inquiry.

Occasionally I am asked to go read Noam Chomsky on political topics. Oliver Kamm does yet another bravura job of describing exactly what I have found in the past, duplicitous quotation, hiding important context, speculation masquerading as fact. The subject line describes it perfectly. Another guy, Brad DeLong, whom I love to read, and with whom I do not largely agree, has also discovered this problem.
So advice to the Chomsky fans who want to engage - don't ask me to waste time on him.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Agenda Strikes Again

And I think Steve Paikin's show tonight is a repeat, but what a great idea - the living ex-Premiers of Ontario - David Peterson, Bob Rae, Mike Harris, Ernie Eves. Sadly, Bill Davis could not join in for health reasons.

What is stunning and delightful is how clearly decent all these guys are (which does not guarantee good policy). But it vaguely opens the option that they can learn from mistakes - as in fact Rae did, making him a sort of pariah for a while.

Paikin asks wonderful questions, and lets these guys show themselves. Much of what they leave behind I dislike but I am impressed by all these characters.

Small Update: Ernie Eves talks about sleep disruption - this just seems so sad.


Toronto Operetta Theatre has a production of Bernstein's 'musical' on in Toronto now. I had seen an earlier production in the last couple of years, but one lacking the wonderful musical interludes Bernstein wrote. Thie production featured them, and profitably.
While I believe that Richard Ouzounian';s review of the show (and he saw it the night I saw it) is pretty fair, I would disagree with a couple of points. I thought Carla Huhtanen's mugging as Cuneygunde was excellent, and while I agree with him about the high end of her range, I thought she did a wonderful job of selling her role. And there is NO question that James McLennan was simply superb as Candide - great diction and wonderful acting.
I have listened for years to Jean Stilwell singing, and it was a delightful revelation to see her take on a stage role with such delight and utter command. It was a privilege to watch.
My own view is - go see the show. This is a delightful company and I plan to go out of my way more in the future to enjoy their productions.
In this case they let me see the full range of a superb piece of work by Leonard Bernstein. This alone is a treat.

Honeysuckle follows Lilac

What is going on? (see comments on linked post).

Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam's Execution

I have a major reservation about the death penalty, and that is its irreversibility, and the catastrophe that ensues when one executes the wrong person. I don't have that concern in Saddam's case, but the whole story, and its whirlwind nature, left me very uncomfortable, though I could not quite put my finger on why.
I think P. Z. Myers may have hit my problem exactly - the analogy he makes is a good one.

The Amazing Weather Persists

11 degrees centigrade earlier today - utterly amazing for New Year's Day in Toronto. More amazing, a drive through Southern Ontario where the only visible snow was in the leftover melting piles of snow cleared into a parking lot in London during the blizzard of a few weeks ago, and the sad remnants of an attempt at snow-making on the ski hill on the Milton Outlier. Farmer's fields were often green, as crops were contemplating starting an early season.
This is a delight for me as a driver, and for my cat as a consumer of grass in the backyard - after all, there IS grass!
Like the crops I saw, my lilacs are perhaps making a decision they will regret, as this photo taken today witnesses: