Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Boing Boing on Venezuela

Boing Boing do try to be quite fair. They have another post on Venezuela. And I Did point in my previos post to a lively comments discussion about the merits of the various positions.

I have had what I would call amusing e-mails from Chavez supporters apologists - the notes generally include some silly contrafactual about what TV stations would be shut down in the US. All I can say is they are simply silly. Hmm - how many have been in the US for political reasons?

Venezuela is a messy place and the Boing Boing guys try to show this. Pre-Chavez it was not a nice society and was a very fragile democracy, and certainly by no means a fully functioning liberal democracy. Of course it is even less so now. I think those who do not worry a bit about the Mugabe precedent, one Chavez has made it clear he understands well, are fooling themselves. Of course they have fooled themselves many times before and will surely fool themselves again. In fact, among those who have sent me notes, their track record is signing up to totalitarians everywhere.

ORU Architecture

Oral Roberts University has my grudging admiration on a number of fronts. It hosted the great show I saw in March.
Another point - both its men's and women's basketball teams made the initial round of March Madness.
But even more impressive is the very original architecture. Among universities I have visited, I must confess ORU seems to have eye-catching buildings in ways most other campuses I go to do not.

For example you might be arriving on campus to find this greeting:

I agree completely with the sign in this picture (click to enlarge and read that red sign)!

But these are also interesting buildings.

And also, reminiscent of The Day the Earth Stood Still:

In the end make no mistake - it is an attractive campus. I have no idea what sort of education its students get.

More on the Twittiness of the Doris Day Review

It took me a couple of days but it finally nagged and I realized what was profoundly and ludicrously wrong!

In this post I quoted some ill-considered comments about Doris Day's career. One of the quotes included this passage.

Santopietro is also devastatingly witty, as when he describes how I'm Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight is the "first musical number in history to start off with the conjugating of French verbs to the accompaniment of celery sticks," or when he mocks the Warner Bros. fantasy version of early-20th-century America, where "women happily tend house all day, the men seem to work at banking jobs that are never actually glimpsed, and there is nary a trace of poverty." Day was, of course, part of this invidious, false nostalgia, but her warm, sincere personality shone through even dross to make her the type of optimistic, idealized woman Americans wished they knew.

Here is what finally nagged at me. Doris Day starred in the only musical I know about a union battle, "The Pajama Game", and she played the union organizer.

Is there no requirement that people even do a small bit of homework to pronounce on such subjects? I think I give up. I have cancelled my subscription to the Times (not just over this).

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Leopard's Spots become Clearer

It walks like a dictator, and talks like one - it is surprising how little coverage this seems to get on the news here this morning.

Several bloggers have pointed to it - this post from Boing Boing is perhaps the saddest in a way.

Sadly it will take years for things to get so bad in Venezuela that much will be done about this clown. After all, look at Zimbabwe.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Human Rights, deconstructed by EclectEcon and friends

My Curling co-poster hits on a good number of themes today, on a subject I care a lot about. I find it frustrating how happily people I once considered my allies on the left now sign up on the side of Islamism, and wrap themselves in a cloak of anti-Zionism (which, when one looks closely at their positions, is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism).
The great line in EclectEcon's post:
The day when those regimes become predominantly Jewish is the day that these people will start criticizing them, regardless of whether their human-rights records get better or worse.

Yup. Too true.
EclectEcon quite rightly asks the following question:
Anyone who says,
This is not against Israel, it's for Palestine,... I think the Palestinians are living in a prison.
has not been paying attention to Middle Eastern events for the past five years and what it means to be pro-Palestinian. The suicide bombings, the kidnappings, the rockets, the promises to drive Israel into the sea... these count for nothing?

I know from some of the commenters I used to have (who seemed to have lost the courage to make comments), that the answer is "No - killing Israeli civilians is meritorious - killing Hamas murderers is a violation of human rights."

Another Great 100th Birthday

And in an utterly different domain. Rachel Carson did so much to change the world I lived in, in good ways. (There is a stupid theme in the right-wing blogosphere somehow suggesting she has kept malaria rates high - follow the link above to Tim Lambert's posts for more discussion of this if you buy into the twits' arguments.)

What? Doris Day's career needs reconsideration?

I am still working my way through the Globe and Mail's book reviews. Keith Garebian, who writes as if he was too young to be around for either Doris Day or Grace Kelly movies, reviews biographies of these two actresses.
This stunning sentence appears in his review:

Santopietro helps us understand why Doris Day deserves reconsideration

More department of Huh? for me. Doris Day was a brilliant performer in a whole series of very entertaining and well-written and performed films through the 50s and 60s. Her range was enormous. (Actually, writing this, I begin to wonder why she is even included in the same review as the much less illustrious Grace Kelly.) What consideration needs to be reconsidered?

My guess - Garebian just does not have much experience of her work.

Listen to this:

Biographer Tom Santopietro probably exaggerates her excellence (ranking her above Streisand and Garland, and only below Ella Fitzgerald)

Seems to me Santopietro has it just right. Of course Garebian dos not argue the position.

Oddly later he makes this concession:

Her diehard fans included the great singer Sarah Vaughan, writer John Updike and film critic Molly Haskell.

More power to them!

And then there is this very odd passage:

Santopietro is also devastatingly witty, as when he describes how I'm Gonna Ring the Bell Tonight is the "first musical number in history to start off with the conjugating of French verbs to the accompaniment of celery sticks," or when he mocks the Warner Bros. fantasy version of early-20th-century America, where "women happily tend house all day, the men seem to work at banking jobs that are never actually glimpsed, and there is nary a trace of poverty." Day was, of course, part of this invidious, false nostalgia, but her warm, sincere personality shone through even dross to make her the type of optimistic, idealized woman Americans wished they knew.

Man this bespeaks at least dullness. Anyone who watched Doris Day films, which on the surface displayed exactly what is being described here, with no sense of the satire they all embodied (think about who was making them!) is a person with only one level of ability to interpret. Was not Rock Hudson (also a magnificent actor) her major co-star.? Can someone at least try to look a level down?

Doris Day is one of the great performers and people of the last 50 years. (Do not even mention Grace Kelly beside her name.)

I was drunk the day my Momma got out of prison

The Globe and Mail has shocked me with some attention paid to the utterly wonderful Steve Goodman.
All of us enjoy his superb "City of New Orleans" but there is also the perfect country song he helped formulate.
The review in the Globe makes me feel very sad I never saw him perform. Especially Michael Smith's magnificent "The Dutchman".
It also includes gratuitous stupidities - "He got his recording contract, improbably, thanks to Paul Anka, who spotted Goodman in a Chicago folk club." What does that "improbsbly" mean? Is the reviewer, Peter Feniak, simply expressing infantile and uninformed prejudices against the judgments and good sense of Paul Anka, and, if so, why? Paul Anka (an Ottawa boy) is one of the true geniuses of the music industry of the last 50 years, and his championing of Steve Goodman seems entirely consistent with all his other good calls. I wonder what similar calls Peter Feniak has made.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

John Wayne - 100 years

My sister gets it.

It is no trivial thing to get. I was impressed about haw hard Germany's die Welt worked on getting it - they had this largely sensible profile.

And so much should settle on 'The Searchers'. As Rondi said, it is a disturbing film, and John Ford meant it to be, and surely so did Wayne.

The article in die Welt cites Jean-Luc Godard (yeah, he made movies, few as interesting as those of John Ford).

"Wie Jean-Luc Godard in einem legendären Bonmot sagte: „Wie kann ich John Wayne hassen, wenn er Goldwater [einen rechten Politiker] unterstützt und ihn zärtlich lieben, wenn er im vorletzten Akt von ,The Searchers’ Natalie Wood plötzlich in seine Arme nimmt?“"

My translation : As Jean-Luc Godard in a legendary bonmot said : "How can I hate John Wayne, even as he supported Goldwater (a right-wing politician - ED: even die Welt has to do this stupidity) and was kindly disposed to him, when in the early denouement of 'The Searchers' he took Natalie Wood into his arms?".

Godard proved he could at least watch a John Ford movie and get the point but this man is pathetic. Something I think Godard never got, there are actors and there are roles. It is *Ethan* who picks up the Natalie Wood character, not John Wayne. And what Rondi finds disturbing, I will bet, is that there is no clear hero, nobody in the movie who seems to be right, and most particularly Ethan, who is an utter racist in many ways, a total outsider (look at what Ford does with doors), and who is largely driven by hate. In the end he does not act on this hate, but he also cannot fit in.
It *is* a very sad movie; that Ethan has to leave fits themes Ford confronted in many other films - "The Searchers" is the most out there but only a moron who watches all his films thinks these are what those who do not watch these movies closely are the cowboy movies they claim. But there is much stupidity in the world.
And I am so thankful John Wayne, one of the most implausible actors ever, was there to make those movies.

A happy 100th! (Well, as you know, I do not think he is there to enjoy it, bit *I* am!)

Don Giovanni in London

Two years ago London, Ontario cultural life was improved enormously when Orchestra London decided to find a way to produce a major opera production each year and perform it at the Grand Theatre, a lovely small theatre in London.
The first production was Tosca, which we saw and loved, especially the intimacy that came from being so close to the orchestra and stage.
Schedules did not allow us to make last year's "Rigoletto". But this year we did make "Don Giovanni" (and to be honest I will work harder to make a Mozart than a Verdi, no real disrespect intended to Verdi.) Moreover, we made it on its premiere night.
We were in the balcony and so farther from the orchestra and stage than for 'Tosca'. But still pretty close.
The staging chosen for this production was very interesting - the whole stage became somewhat of a court with people judging the onstage action bordering the stage; this also meant there could be interesting action on stage, previewing what was to come, during the overture. Very ingenious and quite sensible. It also allowed players to change roles from time to time, observer to participant, and back. Very nice.
At the end of the performance, around 90% of the people rose in a standing ovation; I thought maybe I should have. It was a witty and very intelligent production with few weak points (orchestra was a bit out of tune at the start but they fixed it very fast!).
For me the highlight was Zerlina, followed closely by Leporello. This is probably unfair as these are the buffa roles, but really, Michele Bogdanowicz gave me what I thought was the perfect conflicted Zerlina, a minx at heart but torn among her calculations of how badly things could go (hey Zerlina! - really badly - the guy is a jerk!). Bogdanowicz's acting skills were superb, and worked well with her great singing voice. Best Zerlina I have ever seen!
Terry Hodges' Leporello was an utter delight and carried many key scenes. Again he made the buffa role work wonderfully.
The seria roles were well staffed too - Monica Huisman was a very beautiful (appearance and singing) Donna Ana, and Frederique Vezina presented a wonderfully troubled Donna Elvira, again with great singing; and I hope Benjamin Butterfield's students back at UVic get to see how wonderfully he represented poor Don Ottavio.
Of course in the end Don Giovanni depends utterly on Don Giovanni. Gregory Dahl made me believe in this completely amoral, not-getting-it-at-all nature. He could sing the high-power stuff from Giovanni, and also the delicate 'La Ci Darem la Mano' as well as the serenade to Donna Elvira's maid.
He got a standing ovation. And I say 'Hooray!'.
The demographics were a bit discouraging; I fear my presence brought the average age in the audience down. I really hope London's community finds a way to get the younger folk in to enjoy some opera (price COULD be an issue); but it was interesting, that as we left the opera and walked down Richmond street, there was so much young life doing other things, and bemusedly walking past all us old coots leaving the opera. Not the best way for things to be.

Oooppss - a King Lear with too many Lears!

Today's Star has another one of those nice profiles by Richard Ouzounian, this one of Brian Bedford, as he heads into this year's Stratford festival directing this year's production of King Lear and starring in it. I have generally enjoyed Brian Bedford over the years, but have had no major enthusiasm about him. On the other hand, I was also looking forward to seeing him today in this role as I went with friends to see one of the preview performances.
So imagine our surprise to find when we arrived to pick up our tickets at the Box Office, learning that he would not be performing; instead it would be John Innes, who is booked normally to play The Old Man, a fairly minor role in the play. I was not especially distressed but did wonder how this would go, as I had no idea what work the understudies had had.
Well, let me just say that the near sell-out crowd seemed pretty happy at the end, judging from the applause at the end, the most amazing being the immediate standing ovation for the substitute John Innes when he appeared after the end of the play.
This is of course partly a measure of the team nature of these productions; the show itself was performed with a wonderful rhythm, and a very delicate balance between the grim nature of much of the story and the profound humour and humanity of it as well. Shakespeare loves making one hang on this edge, and I felt we got a full taste of it, laughing sometimes in what seemed the worst places (and I think as intended).
Much of this is certainly Bedford's direction. I enjoyed the production completely. The roles of Edgar and Edmund were played with wonderful physicality by Gareth Potter and Dion Johnstone, and Wenna Shaw and Wendy Robie as the bad daughters were wonderfully bad, while Scott Wentworth broke one's heart as the initially deluded and sadly later comprehending Gloucester.
And I agree in the end with those in the audience who stood in their final ovation that Innes was a wonderful Lear.
Which leaves Brian Bedford and Stratford an interesting problem if word gets out. Does Innes get more shots at it? I am glad I do not have to make that decision. But it is fun to see the play outside the play, where the understudy went on and was a bombshell - now what?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Justification for State Intervention in the Entertainment Industry

I grew up able to watch logdrivers; I suspect it is unlikely they play the role they once did. Wade Hemsworth wrote a great and mischievous (listen to the narrator explain how she has to dance with lawyers etc.) song and the McGarrigles applied their lovely voices beautifully to this fading tradition.


Michael Totten on the Front Lines

It is nice to get believeable reports, and not just the usual attitudes, on the subject of life on the edge of the Gaza mess.

Michael Totten provides a superb report.

Follow the link and send him some money.



It's a Leonard Cohen song I came to learn of only in the last couple of years. And in a nice contrast to the previous post, and in preparation for seeing Rufus Wainwright in concert in two weeks, I commend this to you (it is truly wonderful):


What Kind of Atheist?

This Kind! :

You scored as Scientific Atheist, These guys rule. I'm not one of them myself, although I play one online. They know the rules of debate, the Laws of Thermodynamics, and can explain evolution in fifty words or less. More concerned with how things ARE than how they should be, these are the people who will bring us into the future.

Scientific Atheist


Apathetic Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Angry Atheist






Militant Atheist


What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The King and I

Late last week one of my sisters sent me a note saying her son, my nephew, would be appearing in a production of "The King and I". (It would be a better link on IBDB but it does not show up there today.)
I initially ignored the note but then my wife and I decided, as neither of us had ever seen the show, that this would be a great chance to experience yet more Rodgers and Hammerstein. So we drove the hundreds of miles to Sudbury, Ontario, to see the Theatre Cambrian production.
The ambiance at the theatre and in the show's programme made me worry a bit about amateurism, but from the moment the show started, I realized that, while this may be an amateur effort, the level of the performance was utterly professional.
This is an enormously complicated production, carried off brilliantly by the company that did it. A very large cast got its blocking and singing wonderfully. The lead performers were spectacular. I had never heard before of Rebecca Chevrier, who played Anna, but I sure hope I do in the future! She was superb.
She was not alone; the whole cast sang, with wonderful diction (yes, I am a bigot about that - and so I salute the singing coach - K. C. Rautiaienen). It is a very rare experience for me watching a musical and understanding every word sung on stage - I experienced that in this show! Thank you!
Keith Crigger was a superb King - he conveyed the conflicts of the poor guy wonderfully. Dawn-Luv McNaughton sang Tuptim, and performed her excellently. And Patricia Park, clearly the driver in many ways of this show, sang Lady Tiang delightfully; the 'Wonderful' song broke my heart each time she sang it. What a privilege to be able to see this show!
The whole supporting cast were solid and on the spot. It was a delight to watch, especially my nephew Robert.
Thanks to my sister and nephew for making this possible for us.
For those who know Sudbury, I will report that I bought two arms'lengths of 50/50s and missed winning by 150 numbers. Grr.
Let me plug also the bed and breakfast we stayed at - should you need to go to Sudbury try these hosts out : Sudbury South Suites and B&B.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


I have views on this and I generally avoid expressing them because it just causes nutballs to send comments that are not usable.

But I am entirely willing to point to Brad DeLong (no 'fascist like me' :-) ), who puts it all too dreadfully well right now:

His gist:

I would not have thought that the Palestinians could have worse "leadership" than Yasser Arafat. Yet that is the case today.

I feel * so* sorry for the Palestinians who want to lead a half-sensible life, and there must be many. Their leadership continues the historical betrayal of its people. And those in the West who support that leadership have dirty hands too.


Monarchs - Thank you, NBC

This is lovely, if not utterly accurate.

Take a look.

About ten days ago, I think I saw a Monarch in the neighbourhood. My milkweed is up and ready for them.


Monday, May 14, 2007

A Battlefield Walk

On a business trip last week, I found myself in a hotel within walking distance of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, and with a little time on my hands. The park is the site of the first and second battles of Bull Run in the US Civil War. I am no Civil War buff, but certainly knew a little about the first battle of Bull Run, as it was the first major encounter between Union and Confederate armies, so it shows up early in any documentary on the Civil War. It was the first actual experience of real battle for most of the participants. An example of the naivete this led to is that many civilians took an outing from their homes around Washington DC to go and watch the event.
The park had a very informative interpretive hike around the major points of interest of the first battle, and it made it clear that the onlookers would not have had a pretty sight to see.
I was almost the youngest person visiting the site, which may say something about Civil War buffs; on the other hand, it was a workday afternoon.
A major feature of the battle was the use of cannon, and the educational materials documented very nicely to an ignoramus like me how intricate setting up cannon, and moving it around, and maintaining fire, were. The skills involved needed to be quite impressive. The cannon shown above sits on the location that was the middle of Thomas Jackson's "stone wall", that may have been key to keeping the battle from being an overwhelming victory for the Union. What is daunting is to imagine his line of 13 similar cannon, and a line of Union cannon three hundred yards in the distance, exchanging mutual destruction.
Perhaps the most interesting observations along the way concerned some collateral damage. There were two houses along the trail I walked. The first was owned by an 85-year-old woman, who was too ill to get up during the battle, but wound up perishing as snipers used the upper floor of the house and provoked artillery strikes on it. The other was one owned by a freed slave; apparently it survived this battle (amazingly as the Confederate front line retreated en masse around it), but was sacked in the second battle by the Union soldiers. (He did receive compensation from Congress after the war.)
War is not a pretty thing. In the end, the Confederacy 'won' this battle, with around 800 dead on both sides combined, all in one day. These numbers are particularly shocking, when you look at in light of what is controversial to us today. Even worse, of course, many more years of similar costly battles ensued.
Next trip, I guess I will do the interpretive tour of the second battle.


Sarkozy in his mid-20s

He leaps right off the screen and is just as articulate way back then. But supporting Chirac?

h/t The Volokh Conspiracy


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Of Two Minds

I returned home this week from a business trip to be simultaneously delighted and disappointed by developments in my tiny garden. Where only hints of blooms existed when I left, I returned to find:

Apple blossoms!

Lilac flowers (those little things that have not opened look threatening - click to enlarge)::

Even our favourite weeds, the violets, were in on the action:

The delight is easy to understand. The disappointment lies in missing the three days during which these flowers all opened; it is usually one of my favourite experiences in a year.


Luna TV-Movie Update

As I do not plan to watch the movie, I keep reading the reviews in the local TV Weeklies. This morning "SUN Television" reports on Jason Priestley's role in the movie. It seems either the Star or Sun reviewer has not seen the film, or they were sent difference copies.
From the Sun:

Jeffries [ed. Jason Priestley's character] wants to trap the orca and sell it to Marineland, ...

Well, this certainly transforms the story substantially, and is a symptom of an almost complete inability of these shows to get past stupid stereotypes and confront the reality of the situation as it occurred. Worse, it demonizes our own bureaucrats with a flat-out lie. No doubt another justification of 'fake, but accurate' will come along.

And I cannot even blame this nonsense on the CBC!


Other People's Business

Johan Norberg has a nice short post on an anti-Islamist conference in Sweden. A nice excerpt with a pithy and to the point comment from Irshad Manji:

When Western intellectuals say that all cultures and societes are equal, even though they don´t respect freedom, and that we must not interfere in other people´s business, she responds:

"It´s only other people´s business if you don´t think that human rights are universal."


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Department of 'Huh'?

This week's "Star Week", the Toronto Star's television weekly, has a review of an upcoming show on CTV about the Orca, male but named Luna, that became separated from its pod, and wound up trapped in Nootka Sound. See also here.
As the link above shows, there were plans to reunite the Orca with its pod but along the way, a local native group 'adopted' the Orca, claiming it a reincarnation of their past chief, paddled about the sound with it in tow, in the process training it to approach humans, and boats, and completely undermined the plans being made to try to return it to its fold. After some years trapped in the sound, it was killed when it got too close to a tugboat.
CTV is running a TV movie "Luna : Spirit of the Whale" Sunday night.
The Star Week review of the movie contains this remarkable sentence.
Other co-stars include Jason Priestley as the villain - the Fisheries official who wants to transport Luna back to his pod ..."

Hence my 'huh?'.
It is not clear to me whether the villainy is part of the movie or just in the mind of the reviewer, but you can be sure I will never find out directly.

It's interesting that the CTV page linked to above includes several of CTV's past news reports on the actual story. One of the articles ends with:

In any event, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht elders say now that Luna has passed, their former chief will next come back as a wolf.

I pity any poor wolf who gots lost in the neighbourhood in the future.

I also imagine this is one instance of religion gone nuts, doing massive damage, that Christopher Hitchens does not mention in his current book.


Friday, May 11, 2007

US vs UK English

I once heard an amusing lecture from a Brit describing one funny experience: he was on an airplane descending into Heathrow and the pilot came on the intercom and said, "We will be landing at Heathrow momentarily". His natural reaction was to think, "I hope they stay on the ground long enough for me to get off".

Last night I was sitting in an airplane at Dulles airport, awaiting permission to take off, when the pilot came on the intercom and said, "We have good news; we are in position 3 for takeoff, and should be in the air momentarily". I remembered this earlier observation, and thought the reaction in this case might be a bit more alarmed.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Dan Gardner shoots fish in a barrel

And in my hometown newspaper.
Thanks P.Z. Myers, again.
The basic theme:
When the Pope says that a few words and some hand-waving causes a cracker to transform into the flesh of a 2,000-year-old man, Dawkins and his fellow travellers say, well, prove it. It should be simple. Swab the Host and do a DNA analysis. If you don't, we will give your claim no more respect than we give to those who say they see the future in crystal balls or bend spoons with their minds or become werewolves at each full moon.

And for this, it is Dawkins, not the Pope, who is labelled the unreasonable fanatic on par with faith-saturated madmen who sacrifice children to an invisible spirit.

Sarko 4

Very sensible commentary, as ever, from Paul Wells, too, with a view to next month:

France has one more chance to display cold feet, in next month's legislative elections. The prime minister, who will be a product of that election, has more control over the domestic economy than the president does, and it would not be the first time if the French decide to hand their conservative president a socialist prime minister.

But they had all kinds of chances to stand down from electing Sarkozy and they elected him anyway. It was a bold choice. Recognizing that it was is the first choice toward understanding if they choose to be bold again next month.

Sarko 3 - Andrew Coyne asks a Question

He asks and gets quite a few excellent answers in the comments.

Sarko 2

Jean Veronis is a French linguist with a great blog. He has a very nice analysis of last night's speeches.

In re Sego:

Le discours de Ségolène Royal est évidemment beaucoup plus court, mais je note la phrase suivante : «quelque chose s’est levé qui ne s’arrêtera pas». On dirait du Bayrou. «La nouvelle politique est en train de naître, cette espérance est grande et juste, et personne, vraiment personne ne l’arrêtera», disait-il au soir du premier tour. Et Ségo ajoute : «Vous pouvez compter sur moi pour approfondir la rénovation de la gauche et la recherche de nouvelles convergences au-delà de ses frontières actuelles.» On ne peut être plus clair. Elle confirme la position qu'elle a commencé à afficher au soir du premier tour. Un peu tard.

And Sarko:

En gros, je lui ai dit que ce qui me frappe tout d'abord chez Nicolas Sarkozy, le retour de la rupture qui avait disparu depuis longtemps (les Français ont choisi de rompre). Je note également qu'alors que son discours avait fluctué de gauche à droite au long de la campagne, on a ici un positionnement clair : Je veux réhabiliter le travail, l'autorité, la morale, le respect, le mérite. Je veux remettre à l'honneur la nation et l'identité nationale. Voilà : la droite est «décomplexée».

France is going to become a more interesting country.


The French did the right thing, and chose not to entrust power to the twit who ran against Sarko; I had such hopes for her in May 2006, when I was in France, but the campaign exposed her, as they so often do (think John Kerry and Paul Martin).
Abiola Lapite had what I thought were the best comments in the various blogs I scan in the morning. He addresses one key issue nicely, that those most likely to riot are most likely to benefit from Sarkozy's plans, and he discusses what will be standard self-styled leftie spin for a while:

The rioters currently battling it out with the police over Sarkozy's victory may not see things clearly, but the fact is that the man they hate so much is about as close to a "friend" as they've had in the last 40 years or so, a man who recognizes that worthwhile jobs aplenty cannot be created by government fiat, that there is a limit to how much the state can take in taxes before the urge to work is completely blunted, that unions represent only the selfish interests of their members rather than those of the public at large, and that the rule of law is fundamental to the functioning of a civilized society. If Sarkozy is even halfway successful at carrying out his proposed reforms, the day will surely come when these very rioters and their spoilt offspring will look back in comfortable, ungrateful ignorance on the "bad" [sic] old days of Sarko just like stupid, complacent, Islington-dwelling, chianti-swilling British lefties who like to bash the very Thatcher who laid the foundations for their sanctimonious prosperity.

PS: Der Spiegel wastes no time in putting out a predictably dishonest smear job on France's new President elect, tarring Sarkozy with the failures of Chirac's presidency as if Sarkozy were in any position to call all the shots over the last five years, and reaching for the meaningless "neoconservative" shibboleth just in case the first rhetorical sleight-of-hand falls through. If ever proof were required of Sarkozy's superior fitness for the job over his opponent, Der Spiegel's article provides it: like Britain's Grauniad, this is a magazine which has a record of amazing consistency in always choosing the wrong side on matters of economic policy ...

Thanks, Abiola. There is NO way I could put this all so well.

Rufus Wainright tired of America

Norm points this morning to a number of versions of "Going to a Town" on YouTube and an analysis of the music and lyrics that is a little contentious. The analysis rightly points out that his apparent targeting of Christianity as a problem:
Do you really think you go to hell for having love?

shows a lack of perspective in the broader world. But to be fair to him, HIS world is North America, and there is a stark contrast between current Canadian orthodoxy on what matters to him, and the struggle going on regarding this same subject in the US. And he is surely somewhat divided with one parent from each of the countries, and also surely dependent on the US market for his commercial (relative) success..

I recall the minute I first heard his song "Oh What a World". I was driving and it was one of those dangerous moments when the driver busts out laughing helplessly. A song that starts "Men reading fashion magazines ..." to that strangely grinding bass line. And it had almost my favourite short lyric from any song, which is both very specific to his world, and so wonderfully universal:
Oh what a world my parents gave me.

For those sharing concerns about homophobia in America, they might observe that the cut below was surely done in the US. I just love his outfit, and those of the backup singers. I suspect it would be a lot of fun to attend one of his concerts.

My favourite YouTube comment was:

Ravel must have been thinking: "A gay man in a blue leisure suit smoking a cigarette while wearing a cape and a witches hat... and I'll call it... 'Bolero'"!

Hmm, after my recent experiences, must go find his "Tulsa" to listen to.

UPDATE: I think I will get to find out about how much fun one of his shows is. Just bought a ticket for June 12 at the Danforth Music Hall down the street from me. I suspect this will be very memorable.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What is Great about France

Is that a short Hungarian-Jewish immigrant child can become the President! This is NO small thing.
Congratulations to Sarko. And to France.
I wish both the best in the next years.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Man, What a GoofBall

So I am driving around shopping this afternoon, and pop on to the car radio CBC Radio 2's Metropolitan Opera Broadcast, and I am thinking, "Hmm, sounds like Mozart, but this is no Mozart opera I know, and it seems quite familiar".

Familiar!! I hope so. It was the Met's Orfeo ed Eurydice. Which I had recently seen, in a variant version.

Now what really impressed me was that the Met is engaging in activities at least as puckish as some of the things that attract me in other theatre companies. Go try this out!

I don't think I will win the contest and I do feel an idiot for not recognizing music I had so liked only a week or so ago.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cultures Clash

Kevin Padian's testimony in Kitzmiller vs. Dover is now available in a lovely form and oh what a culture clash it reveals. May I also say it is a stunning tutorial on aspects of macro-evolution and the field of paleontology and makes most of what you may have heard from creationists (whoops, advocates of intelligent deisgn) just look flat out as dumb as it should.

So much is telling but this piece of the cross-examination is revealing of what I consider the idiotic nature of those who wish to promote crap like intelligent design.

Q. So you would agree that our understanding of the data are incomplete with regard to the details of human evolution?

A. They're incomplete with regard to virtually everything in evolution, as with everything else in science.

Q. That would include human evolution as those standards identify?

A. I would think so, judging by my understanding of the human fossil record, sure, we've got lots more to learn.

Q. Would you agree that the leap from non-life to life is the greatest gap in scientific hypotheses of earth's early history?

A. I'm not sure, because I'm not an expert on earth's early history before life. There may be lots of other big problems we don't know about.

Q. Do you disagree with that statement or you just don't know?

A. I don't know that I would agree with it because I'm just not that familiar with protozoic earth evolution.

It is my guess the lawyer asking the questions thought he was making points.


I missed the debate broadcast live but have enjoyed YouTube's offerings. Since watching parts of it I have struggled with my feelings about it. Oliver Kamm has managed to find exactly a large part of what bothered me.

I'm a Europhile left-winger prepared to be well disposed to Mme Royal, and I'm fairly certain I know how any responsible politician of the democratic Left would have answered this interviewer. The exchange is extraordinary. To found your electoral claim on stoking fears of violent opposition should your opponent win surely crosses the line dividing prediction from incitement. It's beyond negative campaigning: it's actively inflammatory, and I hope Mme Royal's standing suffers appropriately.

What bothers me is the things that what I would like to have thought of as my left will do today. And maybe they always did it. Certainly they sign up to support totalitarian creeps at the drop of a hat.

But the debate was an interesting thing to watch, to evaluate strategies and messages. Sarkozy had clearly been brilliantly prepared, not to erupt, to stick to facts, to engage the audience, always to speak calmly about issues, and to fight the image Royal has been pushing that he is a brutal maniac.

Royal clearly thought her role was to attack him personally as well as politically and play the role of the morally outraged. The trick was to find something causing moral outrage, and there she seemed to me to fail badly.

The sequence around the policewomen raped on their ways home was extremely enlightening. Royal had the stupidest possible policy suggestion to address the larger problem, which was to have all functionaries (civil servants in Anglo-speak, I think) escorted home form their jobs (by whom?). Sarkozy scored on this by suggesting that maybe there were French people who were not functionaries, who needed protection as well. (Maybe my French is not right, but that seems to be what I got.) And maybe the problem was the rapists.

When Sego goes bonkers over handicapped education she loses it completely and looks like an idiot. Sarkozy carefully tries to address the issue and what policies might help.

I noticed it right after the run-off, when Sarkozy asked for a respectful campaign. Royal has chosen not to engage in one and made that clear in her speech later in the day and this seems so typical of the current Western self-appointed 'left'. It is a great disappointment but when you have run out of arguments all that is left is demonizing your opponent (in Canada it is the 'hidden agenda', in France, the 'brutality').

I hope she loses badly and France can help the Western left start to re-examine their premises.

UPDATE: Roger Simon sees more of the lack of any reasonable morality in campaigning.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Dark Horse

Fred Thompson is ostentatiously not running for the Republican nomination in 2008. But he sure keeps turning up in interesting places. This short essay packs a lot of sense in a small space.
The sorry credulity of supporters of Fidel is sad to see.

Ridiculous Little Country, not just Silly

People have asked where the blog title comes from. The London Fog describes very well what is so often wrong with this country.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Self-Satisfaction Keeps Feeding Itself

Yann Martel has not figured out what a pompous idiot he looks like and so it goes on. His next offering to our Prime Minister (who is not likely to need guidance in this area) is George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Animal Farm is a perfect exemplar of one of the things that literature can be: portable history. A reader who knows nothing about 20th-century history? Who has never heard of Joseph Stalin or Leon Trotsky or the October Revolution? Not a problem: Animal Farm will convey to that reader the essence of what happened to our neighbours across the Arctic. The perversion of an ideal, the corruption of power, the abuse of language, the wreckage of a nation—it’s all there, in a scant 120 pages. And having read those pages, the reader is made wise of the ways of the politically wicked. That too is what literature can be: an inoculation.

There is something goofy about a guy looking for state subsidies to his activities selecting this book, but this is clearly a man who lacks any major sense of irony.