Saturday, July 31, 2004

And I think to myself

Between Bowling for Columbine and this, I think it's safe to say Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" has been permanently ruined for me. Damn you, post-modern ironicists... (Via Ghost of a Flea.)

Friday, July 30, 2004

Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong

Celebs at the DNC speak: [...] Amber Tamblyn of Joan of Arcadia, talking to CBS News, ties it all together by explaining why celebrities incline to the Democratic Party: "It's just that we're artists, we're progressive and nothing's going to change that. Therefore you can never stick with someone who is going to keep their mind with security, because security of the mind is decay, you're not advancing." Yes, I suppose it does show a real lack of imagination to be concerned with preventing terrorists from killing as many of us as they can. You say you're concerned about decay of the mind? Help prevent the spread of fundamentalist Islamofascism. Condemn an ideology that demands unthinking, unwavering and above all unchanging adherence to a violent and misogynistic 6th-century social contract. Condemn an ideology that considers art an abomination and heresy, and destroys priceless historical works because of it. Condemn an ideology that would, given the chance, be that boot that's stamping on a human face forever. But, no; it's a sign of a decaying mind to worry about any of those things. I'm reluctant to automatically think, lacking any compelling evidence to the contrary, that any particular class or occupation of people have mostly-worthless and genuinely idiotic opinions; I really want to think that most people, no matter what their job or social status, are basically reasonable. But Hollywood glitterati like Ms. Tamblyn make me wonder if that judgment was a bit hasty.

Well, the bells out in the church tower chime

Taken at Gloucester and Metcalfe, facing northwest. I love a good forced perspective shot.

Communists, terrorists, and tyrants the world over can't be wrong

First it was China and Hezbollah, now Fahrenheit 9/11 is being officially endorsed by Cuba - do we need any more proof that the film is anti-American than who exactly jumps on the opportunity to show it? (Via Right Thinking.)

One always picks the easy fight

I watched Kerry's speech last night, but felt no real need to liveblog it - too many others were doing the same. However, comments from the transcript: Now, I'm not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in? I'm not making this up. I was born in the West Wing! ...Perhaps also known as the "Left Wing." (Oooh, I'm so terribly witty. Ahah.) Bravo, Senator. By all logic, it was at worst a 1:4 chance, and more likely 1:3 or 1:2. That joke fell flat; it just wasn't particularly funny. Ditto the smarmy intro gimmick of "Reporting for Duty." Could anyone have imagined a Democratic nominee's acceptance speech at any point in the last thirty years attempting to be so positive about the military? And when did Democrats decide Vietnam was a just war of necessity in which all served with honour? The standard line from 1970 to early this year was that it was an imperialistic land grab, fought by baby-killing grunts, communism good, etc etc etc. This is a party that successfully convinced the electorate (or at least a plurality thereof) in 1992 that military service didn't matter in a candidate, nor that a strong military is a worthwhile goal. It all seems a bit disingenuous, especially considering Kerry's personal history - condemning his former comrades as murderers, throwing away his medals, and consistently voting against funding the modern weapons he now promises to hand out like candy. He talks about "finally making peace with Vietnam" - but that's a peace that comes from losing. Surrender, retreat, strategic withdrawal, whatever you want to call it - that should neither be the goal of a soldier nor a commander-in-chief. You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good. When Republicans visibly wrap themselves in the flag, it's derided as jingoistic, bloodthirsty and cynical; why do Democrats get a free pass? Mealy-mouthed platitudes about Old Glory mean very little coming from a man who spent much of his adult life profoundly uncomfortable with the principles for which it stands, nor from a political base that spent the weeks and months after 9/11 anxiously chafing at public displays thereof as being possibly offensive. I am proud that after September 11th all our people rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way. How we wish we were no more than weeks past an attack with 3,000 victims at any point, you mean? It shouldn't take massive tragedy to stay united against an enemy presenting a clear danger. It should be common sense. As president, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower. Because we all know how well economic sanctions worked on Iraq. And goodness knows, no nation in the world has anything but the greatest respect for the notions of representative democracy, equality, and freedom of expression. It's a PR problem! We just need to promote our principles more, and they'll stop calling us the Great Satan! Brilliant! What bothers me most about this is that it's just about a note-for-note duplication of Lloyd Axworthy's idiotic "soft power" theory, which implies that Canada is a "moral superpower." The problem with that is that principles, no matter how honourable, just don't seem as threatening to mad nuke-wielding tyrants as boots on the ground. I wonder why? You don't value families by kicking kids out of after school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break. I'm at a loss to even understand the rhetorical logic behind this statement. Is there a direct connection between municipal police funding and corporate tax policies? Or is this another smoke-and-mirrors trick where the listener is meant to infer causality, but the speaker can plausibly claim he meant only coincidence? As president, I will not privatize Social Security. If Republicans have made any noise about this, I must have missed it. It's also a damned foolish thing to bring up, for anyone, at any time. We believe in the value of doing what's right for everyone in the American family. To extend the metaphor, wouldn't that also mean not demanding to sponge off your rich uncle because you think it's just so wrong he's successful and wealthy? Wouldn't that also mean not condescending to emulate the faith of your Midwestern cousins as a cynical act of triangulation? We value an America that exports products, not jobs -- and we believe American workers should never have to subsidize the loss of their own job. A return to protectionism? Erg. And theoretically, this statement also means American workers should never be replaced by more efficient practices or technology, which makes his whole economic platform seem dangerously Luddite overall. And I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals who make over $200,000 a year, so we can invest in job creation, health care and education. As someone with a net worth something like $3.5 billion, it's a bit rich, as it were, to hear him deride those making $200,000 as greedy, wicked aristocrats. When I was a prosecutor, I met young kids who were in trouble, abandoned by adults. And as president, I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life -- when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life. Let's send murderers and rapists to college, rather than prison? (Yeah, I'm being facetious, but it's not a very well reasoned paragraph.) You'll get to pick your own doctor -- and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Incorrect. Government bureaucrats will make medical decisions, if an American socialized health care system would be anything like a Canadian one. I call that much worse. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada. I would love to see that become official policy, because it'll cause a chain reaction of unintended results for the left on both sides of the border. Drug companies will either close up shop in Canada entirely, or massively raise prices to subsidize lost American sales; they'll have to, to continue research. Should that happen, I predict the same thing will happen here as did with Cipro, back in 2002 - the government will allow the putatively-illegal production of generics without paying licensing fees to the pharmaceutical companies. Canada will become a pariah in the research world; no company would want to conduct drug research here (or even import new medications) if there's a possibility their work would be expropriated without compensation. Net result: Canadians suffer, foolish Democrats learn that you can't just decide market forces don't apply; everyone gets what they deserve. I like it. We value an America that controls its own destiny because it's finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have three percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for 53 percent of what we consume? To be fair, a large part of that comes from Canada, which isn't exactly controlled by Saudi princes. Yet. Drilling for oil in the Alaska reserves would also fulfill quite a bit of that demand domestically, but Democrats apparently consider the caribou and polar bears a more important constituency. (And everyone knows polar bears are staunch Republicans, anyway.) I've told you about our plans for the economy, for education, for health care, for energy independence. I want you to know more about them. So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: Go to johnkerry.com. Perhaps because his name wasn't John Kerry? I want to address these next words directly to President George W. Bush: In the weeks ahead, let's be optimists, not just opponents. Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division. Let's honor this nation's diversity; let's respect one another; and let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States. This is stunningly and appallingly cynical, coming from a man who's spent the past six months doing nothing but making disrespectful, divisive, and almost slanderous speeches in aid of reaching this point. (Though I'll admit Kerry has a point about the Constitution and the FMA, if that is in fact his point.) But it can't possibly hurt him, anyway; the media is predisposed to think of Republicans as "mean," no matter what, and this helps their beloved narrative. What if we find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson's, diabetes, Alzheimer's and AIDS? What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives? What if we try to win the damn war we're currently in, as the first priority? How'sabout that? All in all, I'm not particularly impressed. (But that was probably a given.) As a speech, it's a skillful piece of triangulation, I suppose, but it comes off as supremely disingenuous. The specifics given, like sob stories about those claimed to be in need of a socialist health care plan, are unnecessary, while the plan to "do better" than Bush on the war and security in general is incredibly vague. I'll give it a B-; okay, but I doubt it'll be particularly inspiring to anyone not already planning to vote Kerry.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Run, Freedom, Run

This 1976 "Classic" from The Straight Dope intrigues me. It's not the kind of question that requires the research skills of a full-time syndicated columnist (or even a well-stocked library) any more; anyone can look up Joe Twerp on the IMDB. It's easy to take that kind of thing for granted, but just stop and think about the difficulty of such a task thirty years ago. There'd be contacting the studio itself, dealing with secondary or tertiary sources such as film histories or critiques, all to find out a sliver of information about the career of one amusingly-named bit player from the mid-'30s. (The Cecil Adams of yore seems also to have missed that Joe Twerp was born Joseph Boyes.) If I have a point here, I guess it's something about the democratization of information; no longer does looking up an obscure fact require the services of a gatekeeper such as a scholar or reference librarian (or even a newspaper carrying a random Q&A column), necessarily. That's by no means news. But every so often it just hits me - this used to be really hard to do. I use Opera, and have an IMDB search field above the windowtab pane at all times. I can and do use it frequently; the research of Joe Twerp, such as it is, takes thirty seconds at most. How many hours went into giving an incomplete answer in 1976?

Where the rubber meets the road

A right to sexual privacy is arguable. But it's not explicitly written into the Constitution. The glib joke made here overlooks the way positive law works; there is no constitutional right to own a vibrator, while there is one to bear arms. You may dislike the way that works out, but it's disingenuous (and not a bit frivolous) to compare the two as equal. It's without question a silly law; I cannot believe the existence or possession of dildos could harm anyone or anything, in Alabama or anywhere else. Courts have ruled that there is a general expectation of a right to privacy, but it's nebulously defined. I would expect invoking the 2nd Amendment in defense of a not explicitly constiutional "right" is a loser both judicially and politically.

I have every word that you've said, every lie, every grudge

Oy. Does the Adult Swim block - the finest and most clever animation currently available on televion - really need to be contaminated with the vile rhetoric of this? I mean, CN cancels The Brak Show, dribbles out new Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Harvey Birdman at a rate of only single digits per year, can't sufficiently finance on their own new runs of Futurama or Family Guy, and yet still finds the cash to subsidize Aaron McGruder's idiocy? That's just a cruel joke. (Via TV Tattle.)

Only a fool, like fools before me; I always think with my heart

One of the stars of The West Wing thinks the show has become too conservative. ...Yeah. That's the ticket. Admittedly, there are people who think the New York Times is a conservative paper. When you're far enough out on the end of the spectrum, even the centre looks like the enemy, I guess. I wonder if it's ever occurred to Schiff that his show was out of step with the national mood, or that the vapid concerns of hyper-partisan Hollywood politicos are alien to much of their audience? Even worse, he's only gone off the deep end recently: Did you vote in 2000? I did. You know, I play a very smart and impassioned character on television, but I was fairly stupid and placid back then. It's great how some people can resist personal change no matter what happens. (Via TV Tattle.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Timesteps

Shunning the overly obvious Centre Block and Peace Tower, this shot of Parliament Hill - taken from a courtyard on Sparks Street - comprises three distinct ages of local building styles: The ornately Gothic 1866 West Block, the sharply commercial Beaux-Arts 1927 Wellington Building (originally built as the Ottawa offices of the Met Life Co.), and the modernist 1972 Bank of Canada office tower. Words can't describe how much I loathe the last one by comparison; it's just so soulless - especially compared to the stolid neoclassical maturity of the neoclassical original wing of the building, around the corner on the north face. (Though I do approve of how the two have been connected - the newer tower actually envelops the older building on the south side, putting what used to be the south portico inside the main lobby.) This plaza is also a reasonably recent re-addition to the Bank Street landscape; it was hidden by construction barriers for several years. It adds a bit more life to the area, but it still doesn't really help - Sparks Street gets more and more tenuous as a credible pedestrian mall, the further west of Bank it gets.

Pity the child, but not forever; not if he stays that way

Brian Tiemann has a spectacularly good (and Den Beste-ishly long) rant on the nature of politics and expectations. Short version: Personal freedom and responsibility are the antidotes to a political culture of victimhood. It's all golden, but the key graf: [...] It's got something to do with giving the people around me the benefit of the doubt, acknowledging that all people have their own lives and their own valid opinions, and believing firmly that very few people are as stupid as we might like to call them. It's about trusting your fellow man to do the right thing. It's about believing that every person is entitled to exactly the same opportunities, regardless of how they might act upon them—nobody should have any externally-imposed handicaps OR advantages over anyone else. It's a conviction that people are fundamentally competent, and that furthermore we all ought to be held to a higher standard of conduct and conscience that is within the reach of all of us if only we commit to stretching ourselves upward to take it. It has to do with respecting others' beliefs and opinions, spiritual and political, even if I disagree with them—and not fantasizing about visiting violence upon them or banning their thoughts because I don't find them agreeable. It's about the belief that equality, fairness, and opportunity arise from the natural evolution of society left to its own devices, rather than from undemocratic rulemaking that seeks to restrict the way in which we conduct our lives. It's about understanding that increased wealth is a boon to all people, and technical innovation and the value it creates reduces the divide between rich and poor, especially in the public's estimation of the value of a person's character. It's about realizing that self-determination is the key to the uplift of a downtrodden stratum of society, and alms and pity are no way to dispense self-determination. It's about a belief in earning your claim to freedom and wealth and happiness, not blaming others for withholding those things from you, and it's about taking personal responsibility for failure and recognizing it as a risk that's fundamentally inseparable from the freedom to succeed. It's about the realization of a world where success is and remains the touchstone of a life well lived, for a successful person will inspire, encourage, and invest in those around him, out of self-interest, civic responsibility, friendship, and because human beings are, I believe, good at heart. ...In other words, yes: I'm a Republican. Now that's a platform to run with. I don't have anything to add, really, beyond that I've come to much the same conclusions and arrived at much the same place, politically. I may not agree 100% with my party (be it the CPC here, or the GOP vicariously) on every particular issue - there are a number which I'm somewhere between indifferent to outright negative towards their stance - but at least my party acknowledges this, more or less: You can do and be whatever you want. We're not going to subsidize your dream, but hey, go for it! That's the key. That's what's important, first of all; all further discussion of the social contract is coloured by one's stance on what can best be summed up as liberty, tempered by responsibility. That's what's precious about America. If the artist/poet/author on the other end of Brian's conversation wants to live in a welfare state where freedom of expression is limited for his opponents, to be praised for trite and vacuous hatred of those he blames for the failures of his life, to be treated as a victim - well, Canada isn't that far away. The Liberals thrive on this kind of baseless angst, and I'm sure they'd be happy to rescue him from all that terrible personal responsibility.

For God's sake, John, sit down

Ted Kennedy is comparing Kerry to John Adams. Don't you dare, Senator. You will not disgrace one of my heroes by intimating similarities between the second president and John Kerry. The two both come from Massachusetts, but that's it. There's no substance to such a comparison, not in the slightest. John Adams was an acerbic and conservative Federalist, with a zeal for liberty and disdain for those lacking true conviction. Though related to the commonwealth's elites, he was for the most part a self-made man, not a multibillionaire by way of marriage. He was demonized by his enemies with flimsy arguments. He was a pious man with devotion to doing what was best for the nation - the rebuke to George III "I must avow to your Majesty that I have no attachment but to my own country" springs to mind - rather than seeking out worthless alliances. If anything, I'd say he's far more like George W. Bush. However, he did have some failings - ludicrous vanity (Congress snickered at his choice of wigs), a slightly unpleasant tendency towards elitism, and a yearning for a homegrown aristocracy. Heyyyy - maybe Kennedy has a point, after all...

I'm on the case, can't be fooled, any objection is overruled

Andrew Sullivan's convention coverage is bothering me. He's claiming that the Democrats are finally presenting themselves as credible on terrorism, as responsible adults, as conservatives. That's an interesting thing to say. Why is no other media outlet following this kind of narrative, of the serious and conservative Democrats? To be sure, that's the theme they're trying to project for themselves, but I don't see any media treating it as anything but anti-Bush opportunistic centrism. So, how does Andrew Sullivan reach such a conclusion? I see two potential reasons. 1. The media, at large, has suddenly decided not to frantically spin positives for Kerry any way they can. (Unlikely, but not impossible.) 2. Sullivan is engaging in willful self-delusion to rationalize a not-particularly-credible platform as reasonable, despite occasional moments of doubtful realism. (Bingo.) A few posts later, summarizing the Kennedy/Dean/Heinz-Kerry speeches (even he has to admit all were pretty lousy): [...] Dean was dreadful (what was I ever thinking when I thought he was a good candidate?) [...] The same thing he's thinking now: That there's a magically perfect amalgam candidate that could be a no-brainer choice. But there isn't. It wasn't Dean, and it's not Kerry. This is self-delusion, just the same as during the primaries, and a few months down the road (or perhaps after the election), that'll be evident to Sullivan. Bush may not be ideal on his pet issue - gay rights - but Kerry is far from ideal on a great deal of things, and dangerously unserious on terrorism.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Yes, you can put your mind at ease

...With classic suburban gourmanderie such as Beef Porcupines and Fried Spam. I don't even know how I found it, now, but behold: the Official USN recipe database, complete with PDF datasheets of vital nutritional and logistical statistics for the discerning Navy chef. Kinda neat, I suppose, if you're cooking for a party of 100 or more, though I do have to imagine the recipes are fairly bland in the manner of all institutional food. But what a comfort to the young enlistee; dinner just like Mom used to make, only in very large quantities!

I deride your truth-handling abilities

At the end of an otherwise not terribly noteworthy analysis of electronic voting machines at the WSJ (short version: paranoid crazies are never going to trust them, although they have their advantages, but there are admittedly some legitimate problems to work out), I noticed this: In Snohomish County, Wash., 50 protested at a rally this month against electronic machines. County Auditor Bob Terwilliger accepted their petition of 20,000 names. But he said he couldn't help chuckling as he perused it. The "signatures" were electronic and on a computer printout he couldn't verify. Bob Terwilliger? Really? Jeebus. If ever there was a perfectly apropos person and situation to make a "Sideshow Bob Roberts" joke about... (Wow, it's been a Simpsons-heavy day.)

What makes the flag on the mast to wave

Interesting forced perspective on the roof of the Supreme Court, accentuated by a strangely imperial flagpole, seen in closeup here. (It's not authentically imitative of a Roman signum, but it certainly looks close to the casual observer without a zoom lens.)

I'm looking for that lonely street

I've started archiving some photos over at Flickr, Blogspot's new recommended image host. Quality of the free accounts seem a bit iffy - only the last 100 images are publicly viewable, and there's some silly limits on bandwidth - but for free, I can't complain too much. Up first: This past Sunday's wanderings around Sparks, Wellington and Queen Streets. Centretown (except for Parliament Hill and Sparks west of Bank) is awfully quiet on weekends. The filenames are appallingly misdated, the product of a camera lacking an internal clock battery (!); they are, in fact, from two days ago.

Shall a feud not begin for me

Let the burnination commence! Is it my imagination, or could Karl Rove's wildest dreams not supply a bigger liability for the Democrats and a Kerry candidacy than Teresa Heinz-Kerry? (Via Drudge.)

A maid mad to marry

Raising the question of gay marriage on The Simpsons? That's not news. The upcoming episode information page at SNPP.com has had the summary of the unknown-production-number episode in question for several months now; at one point, it might have been part of last season's run. I can't remember this information ever being substantially inaccurate, which makes the "Ooooh, you'll never guess" act the producers are pulling now (and subsequent media attention) somewhat curious. But, then, I suppose that's the point of niche information sources; everyone who actually cares about what next week's or next month's episode is about would have known already. I'm not sure what my point is, exactly. Something about the distributed journalistic capacity of a knowledgeable populace? Idunno. (Via Damian Penny.)

Can't you tell the universe revolves around me? Don't you know you suckers owe me everything?

You know, I only half-believed the "The more voters actually see of Kerry, the less they like him" idea pushed by Mark Steyn and others. I was hoping for it to be a possibility, certainly. But it seems actually to be true. Just to pick one (incredibly important) number out of the thicket, Bush leads Kerry on "trust[ed] more to handle terrorism" (general population) 55-37, ompared to 48-47 a month ago. He's now also leading Kerry on the same issue with "moderates," "independents" and women, after trailing substantially a month ago - though, admittedly, winning on the latter only within the margin of error. Better yet, Kerry is now deemed "consistent" by only 24% of those polled. I mean, ouch. The waffle campaign is doing wonders; keep it up, VRWC! Overall, this has to be devastating news for the Kerry campaign. Maybe they'll wise up, and realize that there has to be some sort of coherent platform on the most pressing issue of the day rather than "If the French and Germans like us again, it'll...um...get better! Yeah, that's the ticket!" if they want to be convincing enough to win. Maybe.

I poured some onions inside my trousers

In order to be credibly upset at JibJab.com's version of "This Land," wouldn't the publisher also have to have sued 20th Century Fox for "This Log is Your Log?" Just for consistency's sake in protecting their intellectual property, y'know? That particular episode of The Simpsons surely reached more people than a Flash animation, no matter how popular, ever could. Moreover, speaking about Guthrie's "unifying message" is a bit rich, considering he was a lifelong angry socialist, and even a genuine communist for a while. "This Land" doesn't have a unifying message, as written - or at least, not as originally written; it's a class warfare message. That subsequent versions were softened to become what's generally thought of as nonpartisan Americana is particularly telling. And that's not even to bring up the sheer Grinchiness of coming down hard on truly funny and bipartisan political satire. What is Ludlow Music thinking? There's no way to come out of this looking good. (Via Fark.)

And now, doggone, this dog is gone

Democrats: Now exactly as whiny and humourless as the Quebecois! I swear, it's like they're not even trying...

Monday, July 26, 2004

History's Greatest Monster

I accidentally flipped to CNN instead of rerun Simpsons, and caught some convention coverage. Jimmy Carterage, actually. Some very random and unconsidered thoughts: - I know he's 81, and all, but when exactly did he become a shambling corpse? Really, this isn't partisan sniping (much); the poor guy looks genuinely terrible. - He condemns Bush for not trying to wade into the "Middle East Peace Process" swamp. Pfff. Mr. Final Solution himself? There's no point in trying to discourage terrorists from murder with kind words. Kudos to the current president for having more sense than this former one in realizing that. - "We cannot lead if our leaders mislead." Being a reasonably well-educated kind of guy, I would have expected a former president to be up on the latest news about the BUSH LIED!!!1 meme. But why bother, if there's political hay to be made? - And finally, on that note: I try to pay attention to political convention coverage when I can. I managed to watch just about all the CPAC coverage of the last federal PC and NDP leadership conventions here, and the difference is a bit unnerving. There, the crowds were excited, but not overly so. Here, they appear to be having a secular spiritual experience. Not even the NDP delegates were in the grip of the same kind of evangelical fervour that attendees of the DNC convention are displaying. I almost expected to hear interjections of "Hallelujah!" and "You tell 'em!" during the pauses in Carter's speech. But, then, I guess I'll have to see the RNC convention to properly compare. Democrats seem to be awfully demanding, ideologically speaking, at the moment; I guess if you don't buy the whole anybody-but-Bush argument, there's no real place for you in the discourse this year. There's been talk about keeping the Bush-bashing to a minimum, but if Carter's speech (and Gore's, from the sound of that article) is any indication, the speakers have merely decided to try circumspectly alluding to the Obvious and Profound Evil that is The Enemy of Everything Americans Hold Dear, rather than just saying "I hate George Bush." I fear a compliant media will let them get away with it.

Please stop the 'pretending you are scared' game, please

Or what? What Canadian diplomats seem to keep forgetting is that you can get a lot further with a kind word and a dozen infantry divisions than with a kind word alone. Iran's mad theocrats are probably less concerned with Canadian opinion (and threats based thereupon) than those of any ten states' governors. By comparison, at least the governors have some influence. If and when any eventual liberation of Iran occurs, will Canada have the spine to join in, and back up Pettigrew's blustering?

And I'm better'n that smart aleck cowboy, who thinks he is better'n me

Via BoingBoing, criticism of a plan for volunteer security adjuncts for the thousands of acres of parkland surrounding George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston: Sounds like a great opportunity for unemployed idiots who drool at the prospect of harassing people but failed the test to become a cop. On the contrary, it seems like a rather elegant solution. Houston's airport is apparently surrounded by undeveloped scrubland criss-crossed by trails; in this respect it certainly sounds similar to Macdonald-Cartier International, here in Ottawa. There's an awful lot of land surrounding it, and relatively finite security resources for the facility as a whole. Why not allow average people, after suitable background checks, to go horseback riding there? If nothing else, it would seem to be a nice chunk of parkland for such a purpose. As to the notion that this would decrease security - well, what are the security measures in this area now? Does this plan put X number of amateur eyes in place, where no police or security presence was previously? Does it relieve pressure on a finite airport security force, allowing them to redirect resources to more vulnerable targets? What's the difference between this, and asking those who live or work near potential urban terrorist targets (bridges, federal buildings, massive skyscrapers symbolizing the superiority of capitalist democracy over medieval theocracy) to report suspicious activity? You don't have to be a trained police officer to keep a watchful eye. I also like the fact that this scheme highlights the need for a vigilant citizenry, not one willing to sit back in a self-obsessed daze and let The Proper Authorities deal with security. No one is on the sidelines, now, and it can't hurt to promote a greater awareness of possible threats. Moreover, I'll also impugn Mark Frauenfelder's angle. Does he seriously think that the average cop is merely "an idiot who [drools] at the prospect of harassing people?" Does he consider this a primary motivation for many or most who want to become an officer of the law? What is the solution to security in this particular wooded area at this particular airport, in that case? Offer an alternative, if you like, but condemning such a plan point-blank (with a free side of Red-state contempt) isn't in aid of anything. Bruce Schneier, author of the original article at The Register, is a bit more cogent, but not by much. The first is the lack of training. The program encourages "licensed law enforcement officers" to participate, but that's not a requirement- anyone can be a Ranger? As best I can glean from the Web page, the training consists of a "short video" on suspicious activities. Is there any mention of civil rights and constitutional protections? Is there any attempt to prevent racial profiling? Profiling has been a problem even for major law enforcement agencies; how will a group of untrained civilians perform? And what are the liabilities to the airport when there are problems? Put this in another context to realize how silly it is. I see a man carrying an envelope leaking white powder, or a box with wires sticking out, or some other obviously suspicious-looking aspect to his appearance. Am I required to have reasonable cause before reporting this information to police? Do I need to build an air-tight case for his arrest to hand over to them? Of course I don't. As I see it, that's a prime benefit to such a scheme; airport security has wider-ranging eyes and ears, but (except for law enforcement officers, as noted in the program details, who are requested to carry their service weapons) that's all they are. As for profiling, well - what's more important: preventing death by terrorism, or preventing offensiveness? As I've said before - if preventing terrorism requires offending anyone (or everyone), I don't care. The second is the new security vulnerability that this program creates. The perimeter around the airport used to be a no-man's land; anyone on the property was immediately suspicious. Now there is a group of people allowed around the airport perimeter. How do you tell the difference between someone who is allowed and someone who isn't? A photo ID, one you might glance at from ten feet away, is easily forgeable. And since all Rangers are on horseback, if you have a horse and your Western looking, you probably going to be automatically trusted. Is the airport safer, or more at risk, because of this program? The answer isn't obvious. Somehow I suspect that the ability to look at-ease on horseback, wearing typically Texan leisurewear, isn't one easily assimilated by the sort of person with such a raving hatred for America they become a terrorist. I would also imagine it likely that regular volunteers would be generally suspicious of any non-regulars - and that also works, more or less. [...] In order to participate in the program, you have to waive all sorts of rights. You waive the right to challenge the arbitrary denial of one of these permits. That may be compensation for another glaring risk of this scheme: are the background checks good enough to exclude potential terrorists? Is the intent that the agency will do its own profiling, and exclude, for example, Muslims? A more charitable explanation is that they want to be able to rely on intelligence reports without having to disclose them. Is this really any more of a problem than for any other circumstance or position requiring a background check? How about a job at the airport itself? When I worked at the Ottawa airport, I had to go through a lengthy security pass application. I don't recall language on any of the forms specifically requiring me to waive the right to sue Transport Canada for denying an application, but it was made clear that the pass was granted at the ministry's discretion. No, it's not a perfect system, but it's the best we can do. If these volunteers are being screened at least as competently as the guy working at the Cinnabon stand (and I realize that's a very low standard, but what can you do?), that's tolerable. Finally, applicants must certify that they're not a member of any group that "advocates violence against ... any other nation." A year and a half ago, that would have excluded all members of both the Democratic and Republican party, as well as any other political party that favored invading Iraq. This ever-so-witty obfuscation (the full line is a laundry list, and one of quite transparently obvious intent, too: "...that advocates violence against the government of the United States or any political subdivision thereof, or against the citizens or residents of the United States or any other nation or any sector of the citizens or residents of the United States or of any other nation.") pretty much sums up everything you need about this self-proclaimed security expert, even if you didn't read the summary bio following the article: Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security, Inc. [...] Ah. An Internet Security Technician. So he's just talking through his pants on physical security measures, just like anyone else? Well, spiffy.

My head is wandering, so knock me out

John Kerry's Hollywood: I will stand up and struggle, as others have, to try to get that right balance between violence, and sex, and things. Others may flip-flop about the precise combination of sex and violence a presidential candidate should endorse, but not Tall John, oh no. He knows that America wants a balance. Not too smutty for the sake of observant Catholics, but filthy enough for Mapplethorpe-displaying bohemians; just violent enough for blue-collar union members, but pacifistic to a degree appealing to fuzzy-thinking vegan hippies. John Kerry: Truly a man with his priorities straight! (Via Best of the Web Today.) UPDATE: The Monger calls me on my shameful omission of mentioning the Things in question. If I had to choose, Thing 1 and Thing 2 seem most appropriate...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Nothing can be done to stop the shouting

Now that's some interesting political calculus Terry McAuliffe has to perform. Just how much Bush-bashing will pump up the base without being wildly offensive to swing voters? Will it even be possible to put a lid on the angriest and most vocal wing of the party, after nearly four years of increasing reliance on their support? The temptation will be too much to resist - and that can only be good news for Republicans. All Bush has to do is stand back and look like an adult.

The evil that men do lives on and on

But, remember, Abu Ghraib was metaphorically so much worse, right? I eagerly await the snarky cultural assimilation of these images by the peace-loving and compassionate left, to remind any and all just how monstrous a regime Saddam's Iraq truly was. I think I'll be waiting a while...

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Now I don't like to spoil a wonderful story

Those all-too-familiar with specious leftist propaganda know it when they see it. Hee. I wonder how Michael Moore would fare in a real oppressively totalitarian regime such as in any of the former Soviet satellite states, rather than the elaborate wish-fulfillment fantasy he's constructed. Being vociferously anti-Republican doesn't take a lot of courage. Being vociferously anti-communist did, back in the day. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

You dirty rat, you bureaucrat, you made us what we are today

Communally building and maintaining a public facility without government assistance or sanction? Why, that's positively un-Canadian. No wonder the North Vancouver municipal government wants to tear it down and sue everyone involved. Statist bureaucracy 1, rugged individualism 0. (Via Fark.)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Why do the white gulls call

A friend had an extra ticket, so I ended up seeing this tonight, more or less by accident. The orchestra was magnificent, the score transcendent, and the singers almost uniformly excellent (especially the solo female vocalist, one Hayley Westenra) - the major exception being the young choral soloist at the end of the second movement of The Fellowship's score, who was warbling so awfully on- and off-key that the conductor actually had to direct an emergency crescendo for the orchestra to cover it up. It was a minimalist presentation, to be sure, but it worked; spotlights with coloured gels effectively set the scene for each segment, aided by gobos of foliage patterns for the Lórien segments and flames for "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm." There was also a rather silly slideshow component on an overhead screen, slowly panning over concept art à la innumerable lazy documentarians. It didn't quite work. A bit bigger of a screen, maybe, or more dynamic images, perhaps; it just needed something. (Maybe even the staging of the story as a full-scale play, for that matter.) I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the series - films or books. That makes me a heretic in the geek world, I know, but I've just never been able to get into them that much. I can appreciate an excellent score when I hear it, though. (And I still say "Into the West" sounds, in places, remarkably like "Endless Night.)

Documentary

Since this AP article is dated 36 minutes ago, I won't jump to any conclusions yet, but it would seem if there were anything truly damning in George Bush's just-discovered full National Guard records, it'd be front and centre in the headline. However, the choice of timing - a Friday afternoon record dump - isn't terribly encouraging. (Unless it's a backwards reverse psychology Jedi mind trick, where an abject lack of dirt would therefore dominate the weekend news.) As is said, Developing... (Via Drudge.)

Big Shot

Best. Photoshop. Ever: Heh. No Throttlebottom, he. (Also look out for Dennis Kucinich as The Tick. Beware, Evildoers! He is mighty!)

You better pay attention, build your comprehension

Interesting. [...] the United States, although it continues to attract hundreds of thousands of immigrants yearly from all over the world and allows them to preserve their Old World cultures, does not assist them financially because its government has never formally proclaimed the country to be multicultural. Ethnic groups in the United States have preserved, and continue to preserve, their Old World cultures through their own efforts. The real difference, as in many other matters, is that the majority of Canadians look upon their government as an institution that exists to help them. In the United States the government is regarded by many, if not most, with suspicion as an institution that intrudes into the "rugged individualism" of the nation. Therein lies the real difference between us. M. Mark Stolarik, Ottawa, Professor of History, University of Ottawa I'd been frightened off doing so by horror stories about his nitpickiness, but combine the above with what seem at a glance to be the fiercely anti-communist tendencies of a Slovakian nationalist, and I think it all means I need to take at least one course from this man.

I'm what you face, when you face in the mirror

Linda Ronstadt constinues to enrage erstwhile fans. That's not news, I suppose, but check out the counterpoint from one audience member: "There are too many Republicans in Vegas," Mike Donnelly of Clayton said before the show. Excuse me? The casual hatred aside - remember, it's all right to be brittle and intolerant, as long as it's intolerance of conservatives and/or Republicans - what would this man say in response to, oh, the phrase "There are too many Democrats in Dallas?" I'm guessing he'd be more than a little indignant. The country is not segregated by politics, nor should it be. (Via Drudge.)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

If we prove that they're wrong, they'll come round before long

It's been a long summer, and not nearly over, but this is why I probably shouldn't start worrying (about, well, everything election-related) quite yet. This too, for that matter. Enough truth and good news, presented strategically, and this might not end badly after all. I needed that. I really did. (Via Instapundit and Brian Tiemann.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

He's a music man (He's a what? He's a what?)

Well. That's a relief. From NRO, it turns out the Syrian musicians from last week's widely-circulated piece on oddly-lame airline security measures actually are Syrian musicians. It still doesn't excuse how the security establishment reacted, or failed to - it just means that this time, we got lucky, and what seemed like a possible threat wasn't.

Fighting vainly the old ennui

With the benefit of half an hour of hindsight, I feel I should probably clarify a few things about the previous post. First, continued unemployment has made me, not unexpectedly, more susceptible to melancholic stewing; what I think now is, without a doubt, heavily coloured by circumstance. Second, if I did have to make a choice on election day, I'd still vote for Bush; I know the dangers of three-party races all too well. It might not be with the same enthusiasm, I suppose; but just as I could never in good conscience vote Liberal, I doubt I'd be able to vote Democratic without feeling depressingly dirty. Third, this is still a loser of a message. George Bush is a war president. That's what his record is. By no means does he have to promise to invade another three countries by 2008 to keep that credibility - but, conversely, running as a peacetime candidate is a) untrue b) unconvincing and c) irresponsible. (Not to mention, as Andrew Sullivan does, incoherent.) I just hope it's not the message that stays in the stump speech all the way to the convention. So...Idunno. I'm just suffering from mid-campaign malaise on top of unemployment depression, I guess. Back tomorrow, maybe.

Everything's alright, yes, everything's fine, and we want you to sleep well tonight

Via Andrew Sullivan: Oh crud. He's going all wobbly. From the NYT: But Mr. Bush noted: "The enemy declared war on us. Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president. The next four years will be peaceful years." He repeated the words 'peace' or 'peaceful' many times, as he has done increasingly in his recent appearances. Sullivan thinks this is a tactic to capture more of the female vote, who don't like a "hard-edged" candidate. If so, it's a very, very dangerous strategy to play with. Of course, my opinions and preferences in the presidential campaign are all hypothetical, since I'm not an American citizen, but...this is the kind of thing that would make me - generally hawkish on foreign policy, generally libertarian on social issues, not at all religious, distrusting of bureaucracy and still just plain angry about 9/11 - consider staying home on election day. This sounds like a promise that a second Bush administration will undertake no major war. Then what the bloody hell is the point? That Republicans seem to be capable of taking foreign policy seriously, and do not think of it primarily as a parlour game for diplomats like Joe Wilson, is the main reason I support them. I have confidence in the Bush administration to prosecute the necessary campaigns of the war on terror; I do not have that same confidence in John Kerry. His rhetoric so far suggests, at best, something of a Clinton-lite style: an obsession with multilateralism and the UN at the cost of effective strategy, but shackled to a rabidly anti-war base that would more likely than not be reluctant to even strike back at a nation responsible for a future 9/11-scale terror attack. That worries me. I've paid somewhat less attention to his domestic policies, because frankly, they don't affect me much. What I have seen only clocks in as a minor tilt to the "You Freaking Loon" side of the scale. But if Bush is explicitly promising, right now, that a second term would see no willingness to strike back against an attacker such as a suddenly-nuclear Iran or a suddenly-twitchy-on-the-trigger-finger North Korea, let alone expansion of the war to topple any of the remaining regimes of various threatening capacities - then I have little reason to continue my support for the administration. I'm a fan of tax cuts; I like the starve-the-beast approach to cutting government spending. But spending has increased. I don't pretend to understand economics well, or at all, but isn't continued deficit spending sort of a bad thing? Likewise his promised support (well, admission he wouldn't exercise veto power, actually; it's not as if he directly has anything to do with it until it reaches his desk) for some form of FMA. I understand the need to energize the socon base, but I appreciate such an amendment attempt as a moral declaration that has no hope of winning, rather than something that might plausibly pass the ratification process. But was that support firing up the base to gain support for a second term where it might come up again? Or stem-cell research, or cloning, or any of the other socio-scientific issues that really don't need federal interference. As mentioned, I'm not religious at all, and I do have to admit I find the overtly pious just a wee bit creepy. But if they're good people, I can ignore that. I believe that being a good person is something that happens independently of having faith, though the two are often present at once in the same person. I can put up with a lot of things in a candidate that might make me mildly uncomfortable, as long as their priorities are straight: Promising to take the fight to the enemy, rather than waiting for them to strike first. If in a second term Bush will be doing his best to pretend that we aren't actually at war, making the debating of frivolities again seem like a legitimate use of legislative attention, I'll be worrying even more than under a Kerry administration. I'm reminded of a Churchill quote that had a bit more currency in 2001 and 2002: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." Are we in such a rush to get back to "normalcy," to, as some theorize, to "take a break" from the war? Are we so blind that the RNC thinks this is a viable strategy to follow now? The bottom line is that I instinctively support the red-state approach to policy - but largely because, for the past three years, it's seemed profoundly more serious an attitude concerning the realpolitik of terrorism. Moreover, it seems like a wrong-headed move. Bush has credibility as a war president; if the promise is that there'll be unbreakable peace for four years regardless of who wins, it puts him back to a level playing field with Kerry, losing the incumbent advantage. But, more importantly, if he's claiming that he'll start treating terrorism as an issue of policing rather than war, just like Kerry...well, for the first time I think I can genuinely understand why so many voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Retreat

Oy. This is not good. Is it time to evacuate Michigan yet? (Now, will the more paranoid conspiracy freaks on the left stop mumbling about secret concentration camps, and the like? If the country was really as repressive and brutal as they like to whine, would this even have come to a vote?) (Via LGF.)

First of all, when you've a gun, everybody pays attention

What keeps Israel from being destroyed ten times over on any given day? These. Israeli scientists and engineers have sadly had a lifetime and the utmost necessity to develop the best weapons systems possible, and their efforts look fantastic. Anyone familiar with the average realistic-setting FPS video game loves a Desert Eagle, but there's more. Check out the interestingly low-profile yet high-bodied RAM APC, or the Tavor assault rifle, which looks like something Lt. Ripley should be carrying. Now that's just...neat. (Via The Shotgun.)

There is no team like the best team, which is our team, right here

Meet the new cabinet, same as the old cabinet. More or less, anyway. Next election can't come fast enough... Most irritating: Tory turncoat Scott Brison got a seat. As minister of public works, no less. That might not be a big portfolio, but it's more than a traitor such as he deserves. (Yes, I'm still bitter.)

Another brick in the wall

So, now, just for comparison...which party's convention isn't allowed to enact proper security measures in order to protect attendees from "peaceful protestors," and which party's is? But, of course, it's the FASCIST RETHUGLICANS of BUSH'S AMERIKKKA who come off as the bad guys either way, isn't it? Charming how that works, huh? Jeebus, I hope we make it to Election Day without a catastrophe. Dice are rolling, and the board's being altered in mid-throw.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

None so blind

I think Democrats are going to regret this, when the lack of bag searches at the RNC convention allows (it all but invites, for that matter) shenanigans up to and including genuine terrorism by "protestors." (To say nothing of garden-variety international terrorists.) They have to be hoping against hope that this isn't 1968 all over again; this time, the Democratic Party is so close to the loud and violent left, they won't be able to help but be tarred with the same brush if anything catastrophic occurs. (Via LGF.)

I've heard there was a secret chord

LGF has been following the story of Hamtramck, Michigan for a while now. A local mosque has irritated many by insisting on playing calls to prayer over loudspeakers, and it's finally come to a municipal vote. I'll be interested to see how this turns out, if only because of the flimsy, smoke-and-mirrors reasoning of cultural importance on the side of the proponents. In the Islamic faith, there are five calls to prayer, but in Hamtramck, only those at 1:35 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:05 p.m. will be broadcast, according to the station's reports. The 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. prayers will be withheld. So, sanctity is divisible? If any calls to prayer are holy and necessary, then the logical conclusion is that they all are. Compromising on the most obviously obnoxious times of day to broadcast skin-crawlingly loud atonal ululating would seem to imply that the entire enterprise is not technically necessary for devout Muslims, but is rather, at best, a frippery. (And at worst, a form of non-military psy-ops.) Motlib said the call to prayer will help Muslims to remember to take time out of their schedule to pay tribute to nearly 1,400 years of worship. Why is it that only Islam requires of its followers to give up such incredible amounts of personal responsibility? Devout Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and adherents of every other major religion seem to be, in this day and age, capable of remembering to pray without an aural reminder from a central authority. In fact, I hear some of those are even older as instutional religions than Islam (amazing!), and yet don't make the same demands to the community or of their faithful. Yes, there's the bells of Christian churches, but I've never heard one of those tolling that lasted longer than ten seconds, or were loud enough to even notice when more than two blocks away. I live four blocks away from Parliament Hill, where the Peace Tower carillon sounds regularly, and I consciously hear it maybe once a week. The sound of a bell fades away in seconds; it's not a several-minutes-long speech. Moreover, it's a solution to a problem that no longer exists. We have these amazingly neat things called digital wristwatches nowadays, many costing only dollars, which can (strangely enough) be set to chime an alarm several times during the day - but quietly enough not to disturb entire neighbourhoods. Imagine that! The mosque is located across the street from St. Ladislaus Catholic Church. The city's former mayor, Gary Zych, said that on some days, the church bells may sound off at the same time as the mosque's call to prayer. He added, "That's what you call harmony." Okay. Let's say I start my own church based on the Most Holy Teachings of the Great Bird of the Galaxy. I declare that the faithful must be called to prayer by an ancient, special, culturally-significant auditory signal - oh, how about, ten times a day. Starting at 0300h, every two hours, until 2300h. Do I get my way? If not, why not? By the same standard, it would appear to be about as legitimate a demand, and just as enabling of warm, fuzzy feelings of multiculturalism and inclusiveness. My biggest problem: What kind of religion demands in the year 2004 that its devout loudly disturb the entire community on a daily basis, merely for the sake of not having to wear a watch? I know that saying this is the kind of thing that could get someone lynched here in the multiculti paradise that is Trudeaupia, but it seems to me to sum up everything medieval and uncompromising about the the Religion of Peace™.

Don't want no dissension, just dynamic tension

As if the story couldn't get any better: California Log Cabin Republicans, re: the Schwarzenegger "Girlie Men" non-scandal, are telling the Democrat-dominated legislature to grow the hell up. Of course, without a culture of political victimhood, where it's imperative that someone be outraged-by-proxy for even the tamest of "offensive" speech, there wouldn't be a problem in the first place, would there?

Nothing like the city

Now that's just...weird. Following a trackback in my referrer logs to a Technorati search for "Ottawa," I find this guy - whose bio has a strange confluence of the terms Ottawa and Carleton.* Plus Chapel Hill, which, though not particularly unique as a name, is a neighbourhood here as well. Bizarre. *Ottawa, Ontario was formerly in Carleton County. In 1968 it became the Regional Muncipality of Ottawa-Carleton. Since 2001 it's become just the expanded City of Ottawa, though the Ottawa-Carleton moniker remains in many institutional titles, such as school boards. The two are closely associated around here, which means the juxtaposition of another town and a college with the same names in two different states is no doubt far more interesting to me than it probably is to non-Ottawans. (Non-Ontarian Ottawans, I should say.)

You never listened anyway, and that's the hell of it

National Review's Rich Lowry writes on the perpetual moving of goalposts which seem to excuse the Bush-bashers from ever having to admit being wrong. It's all gold, but the punchline is best of the entire piece's blackly humourous vein: If he loses in November, the voice of the American people has spoken a devastating verdict on his presidency. If he wins, he stole the election. There's no pleasing some people. But if those people can't be placated by reason and logic - things like pointing out that No, in fact, the United States is not suffering from a crippling depression or that the Patriot Act isn't in the slightest what you think it is - what'll happen next? Yes, I still think I'm going to be getting increasingly nervous as campaign season moves on.

Hambergler

In the course of being kicked to the curb by the Kerry campaign, Sandy Berger had this to say: "Mr. Berger does not want any issue surrounding the 9/11 commission to be used for partisan purposes." [...] said Lanny Breuer, Berger's attorney. I see. Why was he filching sensitive documents, then? Is he just an avid collector of government-issue heavy bond paper stock? However, some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of al-Qaida terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration are still missing, officials and lawyers told The Associated Press. I'll be interested to see if this gets pushed over the side of the memory hole in the future. "Oh, yes, the Clinton administration did everything it could to prevent Al-Qaida threats. You don't have any evidence otherwise, do you? Excellent."

He must have a vault that's grand by any standards, floor to lid

Recent years have seen rapid growth in redeveloping the area of downtown Ottawa between the Rideau Centre and University of Ottawa, a great deal of which can be credited to improvements of nearby road and public transit infrastructure. A few years ago, a luxury high-rise condo tower sitting on the slim lot there between high-volume bus lanes and a busy parkway would have been unthinkable; now, as evident, it's there. (And went up surprisingly quickly, too. It's very close to the university residence complex; while living there last year, it certainly seemed to me that they started very, very loud work every day, in all weather and seasons, by 7 or 8 in the morning.) The Rideau Centre, a high-traffic hub for pedestrians and transit users since its building in 1982, only received a full bus station a couple years ago. Lots in the no-man's-land between Rideau and Laurier east of Nicholas formed by the Rideau Centre's construction are just now being seriously redeveloped. So, this is capital investment by U of O whose time has come, admittedly. The parking lot in question is the first sign of the university seen, arriving via the Mackenzie King Bridge. It wasn't out of place when the entire area was just one low-density semi-industrial cloverleaf connecting the various promenades, highways and transit lanes, but now it's downright ugly. But where will the money eventually come from? The $55.3-million project will receive $15.5 million in government grants. The remainder will be financed by the university through a $150-million credit line. Which will have to be repaid when, exactly? How? I smell higher student fees ahead, for little perceptible added value from the student point of view. On the other hand, it probably will cut operating costs once the investment is made. Half of the Arts faculties currently operate out of repurposed houses along what have become, through institutional growth, campus side streets. (Some professors in the History department seem to find working in a heritage building appealing. I can't imagine many in other departments do.) It's all very quaint, I guess, but must be a terrible headache for infrastructure planning and maintenance. And I certainly would appreciate not having to hike up the improbably cramped spiral staircase and corridors to reach the undergrad professors'-and-TAs-offices floor, though it's not as if I need to do that very often. I suppose this new facility is a good thing, then - but I'm still somewhat suspicious of the costs involved.

Someone once lied to us

Hmmm. First Joe Wilson, and now Sandy Berger. Is it me, or does John Kerry seem to have a knack for hiring embarassingly unethical campaign advisers? How does one "inadvertently" stuff documents down one's pants, exactly? And how paranoid am I in thinking that if either had been connected to Republicans rather than Democrats, they'd have been crucified in the press before a single day passed, rather than nervously pushed to the back pages? It's looking less so with every news cycle...

Monday, July 19, 2004

Let us hope this lunacy's just a trend

Jeebus. How is it that your average medium-to-big-name entertainer has so much trouble understanding the concept of "Don't piss off the fans?" Especially those with fans more likely than not to lean conservative and Republican? Does Linda Ronstadt actually understand that half the country thinks differently than she, and probably a bit more than half - regardless of politics - just think Michael Moore is an ass? Really, I don't care what politics an actor or singer may have. But I don't particularly want to hear them if I haven't asked, and particularly wouldn't want to hear such vapid, airheaded ramblings after paying a substantial amount for a ticket. That said, there's some absolutely delectable schadenfreude in seeing another idiot celeb getting not only booed off stage, but banned from a venue. (Via LGF via Brian Tiemann.)

And this is my beloved

Fair enough. The 20 gig iPod is now $429 Canadian; I bought my 15 gig ("John Quincy iPod") a couple months ago for $389. That's certainly a reasonable price drop, while not so much so as to insult recent customers of 3G models. I can live without the ever-so-neat rocker dial, I suppose, but I certainly hope there'll be a firmware upgrade, if only for the newly-convenient shuffle toggle. Also interesting is that The Almighty Jobs' press release claims the new advertised 12-hour battery life isn't due to a larger battery, but better power conservation. Considering how much of the power consumption isn't dependent upon hardware components - I recall stories of battery life improvements, a few firmware releases ago - would a modest boost to 3Gs, as well, be too much to hope for?

You at the barricade listen to this

An incipient two-front strike on Iran? Faster, please. From what does get out of the country, it seems a good push from outside (or two outsides, at opposite ends!) would topple the barbaric theocracy in short order. The problem, of course, is popular support. Now, as Instapundit points out, there are a few on the left brimming with outrage that attacking Iran wasn't first on the agenda. I find it hard to imagine they wouldn't do an immediate about-face if Bush ordered such a strike tomorrow. Taking a contrarian position out of sheer spite may not make much sense, true, but that's never stopped the most vocal critics of the Iraq campaign.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

It isn't just my right, even my left will be divine

Add Elton John to the list of nattering celebrities who fundamentally misunderstand the nature of freedom of speech. Look, dumbass: It's not the Bush administration who shot down the Dixie Chicks. It was their (former) fans, a great number of which didn't particularly feel comfortable paying to subsidize opinions they disagreed with. They had every right to say whatever they wanted to. But they also failed to understand that actions have consequences - and that being a successful musician is directly related to not enraging the audience. Why is this elementary logic so hard for multimillionaire entertainers to understand?

Now I'm telling the truth, I'm finished with lies

Pfff. Substantially cheaper iPods than the current line? We've heard that before. I'll believe it when I see it. (Via Gizmodo.)

To the late-night, double feature picture show

There's a certain mystique to movie theatres. Or at least, there used to be, before the grand old movie palaces were pushed aside for mall shoebox-sized multiplexes. Recent developments in theatre design are an improvement over the dark days of the 70s and 80s, but only just. I still miss - if that can be the right word - those great old theatres shuttered or even demolished long before I was born. A few months ago, I ran across this site - lists of theatres and their locations across North America, in some cases complete with photos, addresses, and dates of closure. The page for downtown Ottawa fascinated me. I knew of some of the theatres, certainly; the Elgin's hollowed-out husk is hard to miss, the dance club Barrymore's is quite transparently the old Imperial, and I was vaguely aware of the Capitol. But there are forty-odd entries on that list, and only five are still open. I was stunned. There used to be about a dozen theatres within walking distance of my front door; now there are two. (Or three, perhaps, though the Bytowne is admittedly a bit further away than the others.) I was also intrigued. Here was the basic information I could use to find out much more. Urban geography is one of my peculiar historical interests. Few people consciously think of a random store or school or theatre as historically significant; it's just visual background noise. But it doesn't take very much digging to find out just how much can change in a short period of time. Fifty years ago, the entire block across the street from my window was a business college, complete with grounds and dormitories; now it's office buildings. My apartment building wasn't constructed until 1985; before that, this block was mostly two and three-story pre-war apartments. The one historical constant I've been able to observe is that as time passes, the change inflicted on an area by civilization happens quicker and more often - which is why it's fascinating to be able to observe it so close to home, and so comparatively recently. The first theatre I thought I'd research was the closest one. It'd be my dream to have a beautiful old movie palace sitting a couple blocks away; alas, all I have are photographs, microfiche, and longing for what might have been, if not for an unfortunate accident. Just for fun, take a look over at the Ottawa list again, and look for the Odeon Theatre. There isn't much information, just the slightly-incorrect location of Bank & Laurier (it was actually at 142 Bank, halfway up the block between Laurier and Slater) and the innocuous-sounding phrase "Opened 1949 and closed 1958." Why was it closed, pray tell? That's why. A gas leak in the basement of Addressograph-Multigraph of Canada Ltd.'s offices at 348 Slater on the morning of October 25, 1958 leveled half the block. It also caused serious structural damage in other nearby surrounding buildings - the effects of which are still being felt. The explosion also demolished a government office complex, the Jackson Building - which was replaced several years later by another tower of the same name, across the street. The era of replacement compared to the year of destruction evident from the entrance of the "new" Jackson Building tells a story all by itself. But to digress: Though only the rear third of the theatre itself was destroyed, it was apparently not felt worthwhile to restore the building for use. On a more nerve-wrenching note, only a scheduling quirk prevented the death toll from being much worse: This is interesting for two reasons. First, that number would seem to exceed the seat capacity listed on the above site; though I haven't sourced the number myself, it seems too precise not to be at least suggestively useful. Second, what exactly what was playing at the Odeon during the period in question...? ...I see. Those filthy-minded little kids. (Haw haw. No, it was actually a Disney live-action feature they were scheduled to see that morning.) Today, the lot is occupied by an open plaza, which on weekdays houses the Ugly Iguana Cantina & Grill. Several summers ago it also hosted Centretown Movies, an outdoor film festival. I suppose that's thematically appropriate, if indeed something of a sad, zombie-like existence for such a place. Visible on the rear wall of the next building are the Odeon's preserved decorative arches - the only remnants of a theatre I never knew, but wish I'd had the chance to. This post marks what I plan to be a recurring feature, as I make my way around town and to the library to perform the appropriate research. There are so many theatres in this town too long forgotten; I just hope I can find enough to write about with the scant resources available.

When it's feeding time for the animals, and they howl and growl like the cannibals

I love the true randomness afforded by smart playlists on the iPod. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes there's a laugh-out-loud funny juxtaposition of tracks. Heard today, track 1 on this disc, a snippet of dialogue from Kill Bill: "...I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I have only one more. The last one. The one I'm driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am going to Kill Bill." ...Immediately followed, with exactly the right beat of timing, to the bouncy Tin Pan Alley rhythm of track 25 on this album. It's a good thing it's Saturday and thus not terribly busy at the Y, or the following minute-and-a-half of uncontrollable snickering might have caused people to look at me strangely.

Embassy Lament

Somehow I missed it yesterday, but Ghost of a Flea opined on the American Embassy here in Ottawa. To add my two cents, I thought I'd throw in this shot of the rather less classically-inspired Mackenzie Avenue side of the building. This was taken shortly after the death of President Reagan, as one might infer from the flag flying at half-mast. The National Gallery is visible in the background; while it's unfortunate that this angle requires viewing the building from the less-traveled side, the embassy does in fact blend with its surroundings much better than most pedestrians will notice. I like the gestalt; I've never understood those who continually bitch about it being a postmodern eyesore ruining the view on Sussex. (Well, that's not true. I know what their more likely motivations for architectural criticism are.) Although, granted, it's not quite as nice as the perfectly Georgian Neoclassical of the old embassy (now the Portrait Gallery of Canada). A slightly more legitimate complaint, one which City Council and the usual local rabble-rousers occasionally raise, is the presence of concrete barriers along the front; they do cause a bit of a bottleneck for traffic on one of Lowertown's main corridors. I wouldn't care even if I did regularly drive, and on Sussex; as we've seen, it doesn't take getting very close with a truck bomb to do a lot of damage. Said whiners would do well to remember the primary global guarantors of their right to rouse rabble. Another security precaution - neatly hidden - explains the rather strange mansard roof of the central cupola. Look closely at the shadow cast by the overhang in the blowup photo. That's not just a decorative roof; it's a 360-degree-view watchtower, with convenient glare protection for the observer. I have no doubt there are armed marines up there, same as in the guardhouse at the street entrance. They're certainly earning their pay; I can think of at least three or four dozen hidey-holes in a two-block radius where a sniper might conceal himself, or where improvised explosives might be hidden. Half of those involve the back side of the Château Laurier. It's a dense block. But, admittedly, the location of the old embassy was probably worse, in addition to being incredibly tiny. I suppose the risk assessment was strategically calculated to be acceptable for this location and design, which only makes the fact of fairly attractive architecture even more pleasing; it's a win-win situation.

Friday, July 16, 2004

That clinking clanking sound

I've been "temporarily, just for maybe a week or two, you know" laid off from the data entry job I got at the start of the summer for a month now. This morning, I got a pay stub in the mail saying I'd been paid $58 in the most recent two weeks' pay period...in the vacation pay column. So, despite not working for the two weeks before or two weeks after, it seems some accounting glitch has decided to give me the same paid vacation hours for Canada Day anyway. I call shenanigans on that. Or I would, if I didn't need the money somewhat badly.

It's kind of a mythical place, you understand

Why is it that so many airheaded celebrities are so confused about the notion of freedom of speech? You have the right to say whatever you want, within the accepted no-yelling-fire-in-a-crowded-theatre limits. You do not have the right to be a popular entertainer. If you say things that insult and enrage half the country - and thus half your potential customers - well, you've made a choice between money and conscience, haven't you. This is the Dixie Chicks and Danny Glover all over again; like them, Whoopi Goldberg fails to understand that the audience also has the right to express their opinion, in the form of boycotts. If she wanted to keep the Slim-Fast endorsement contract, she could have at least consciously made an effort to not be juvenile and inflammatory in her performance at the Democratic fundraiser. She didn't, and thus became a liability for the company's ad campaign. Sucks to be her, I guess, but I don't care. Maybe if this sort of thing keeps happening, the glitterati might eventually realize that "flyover country" pays their wages - and that insulting that half of the country has a very real price. (Via Betsy's Page.)

But I follow you like a man possessed

And the WB execs couldn't have changed their minds by May why, exactly...? Network television needs to stop spiting me with random gratuitous cancellation in favour of terrible reality shows, now. (Via TV Tattle.)

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Why begin, if we cannot win; And if we cannot win, why bother to begin

Hey, remember when Paul Martin pledged he'd actually try and get something done with a minority government, rather than just waiting for an opportune time to drop the writ again? Me neither. Maybe it was in some sort of alternate universe, where Liberals really aren't as cynically scummy as they seem... (Via The Shotgun.)

Watch now as our rockets race here from afar

Teletoon recently rejiggered its evening schedule, replacing the increasingly stale and ever-butchered Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show with episodes of Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood. Though I originally spurned both as horrendously-bad Cancon (both produced by Toronto-based Krantz Films), I've come to appreciate them - Rocket Robin Hood in particular - as not merely bad, but loveably, charmingly bad. The most evident problems with the show are technical ones: The animation just plain sucks. It's only partial animation (cf. bad Flash animation), with quite a few instances of reuse even from scene to scene, not even to mention between episodes. (Plus, though I haven't seen those in question myself yet, apparently entire episodes were recycled between Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood.) The characters somehow manage to be off-model in nearly every scene; sometimes they're very Siegel-and-Schuster Supermanesque comic-looking, and sometimes they're flat, deformed, and seem to be optically enlarged to the point of fuzziness. It's also badly written. (Well, globviously, but even worse than should be possible.) The basic premise seems fine - Robin Hood, but updated in space opera costume - but it's done inconsistently. The setting is the "National Outer-Space Terrestrial Territories." As a friend pointed out: Every word in that phrase contradicts another word. But as an acronym, it's somewhat close to "Nottingham," so...yeah, whatever. "Space Prince" John is still the villain (I'm curious: Where's the equivalent of Richard Coeur-de-Leon, and who exactly is he off crusading against in the Astounding Years to Come?), and Robin supposedly "steals from the cosmic rich to give to the astral poor," though he only actually seems to have done that in one episode of the dozen or so I've seen so far. It's also posited that the entire band of merry men are direct descendants of their "historic" counterparts. (Which, over a 2000-odd year period, is actually pretty reasonable, in the same way that just about everyone with the slightest European heritage can legitimately claim to be descended from Charlemagne. Granting the assumption of giving fictional characters however many descendants the story calls for, obviously.) But my biggest problem with the basic premise is that not enough is done with the space opera setting; it's just used as an excuse to write a grab-bag of themes and characters in the Adventure Town manner. It may as well not be in space or the future, for how much either actually affect the show - except, admittedly, for language. Everything is "astral" or "cosmic" or "space." That villain isn't Ancient Egyptian; he's a Space Ancient Egyptian, with Space Mummies. That leprechaun isn't just a leprechaun; he's a Space Leprechaun. How weak is the setting as a central conceit if every other line of dialogue has to remind the audience of it? Ah, but that's only part of what makes it a delight for the ironic connoisseur. I don't know if it was done on purpose or not - the presence of Ralph Bakshi and the year of release makes me inclined to suspect that most of the production staff may have been high at the time - but most every episode is snicker-provokingly full of suspiciously suggestive imagery. Oh yes, ye of the tending towards uncontrollably sophomoric giggling, Rocket Robin Hood has it all. Jousting on streamlined phallic "rocket-horses" that would make Slim Pickens jealous? Check. Curious poses that put Little John and Robin closer than Ace and Gary? Check. Strangely blunt lightsabers with improbably bulging hilts? Check. Dialogue like "Don't cook up any schemes where I have to bend over?" Check. It's a veritable feast of the silly, strange and bizarre. Which is to say, it's much better than anything else on in primetime during the summer. I wouldn't miss new...well, there's not much left on at 8-9 during the regular season except Enterprise, and I'd consider missing a bad episode of that for Rocket Robin Hood. The moral, I suppose, is that very rarely bad Cancon can sink to the depths of so-bad-it's-good jackassery. But that's not reason enough to federally subsidize it.

Used to be different, now you're the same

Via Instapundit, a chilling reminder: Just because we've largely stopped paying attention to airline terrorism doesn't mean the problem's gone away. Another attack is bound to happen, eventually; it's just a matter of when and how. Self-consciously avoiding close examination of the carry-on baggage and travel intents of large groups of young Arab men for fear of being labeled racist is bloody well going to be the cause of the next 9/11. I hope, obviously, that there's never another terrorist attack of the same calibre. But I know there will be. When it does, can we finally stop pretending that offending minorities is the worst evil there is? If preventing terrorism requires offending anyone (or everyone), so be it.

It buggers up his very taxing schedule, pushing peace and understanding

Yeah, I think Iran is next. (Y'know, next.) When even Canadian diplomats - those who charmingly posit the needs to cosy up to Cuba and give billions in foreign aid to China - start to get disgusted with a corrupt and maniacal dictatorship, it's not a good omen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

They tell me to quit, they say to give up the fight

If Disney had directly distributed Fahrenheit 9/11 after declaring they wouldn't, I find it hard to suppose those like Doctorow wouldn't instead be condemning the company anyway - for doing it purely for the profit motive, despite not wholeheartedly believing in its "important message." On a somewhat related note, it's also important to remember that $80 million is something of a pitiful failure, for Moore's stated aims of tilting the election.

We'll see it through, it's what we're always here to do

Going over the various arguments against postponing or delaying the election, or even individual polling stations, I've come to the conclusion that I was wrong. I still don't think the notion of a delay in itself is heretical - the product of coming from a political culture largely without fixed election dates, I suppose. While I've always favoured them as a means of removing possible abuse of custom from the incumbent in a Westminster-derived parliamentary tradition, I didn't quite realize how important many feel it is for election dates to be absolutely set in stone. I also think calling this evidence of incipient totalitarianism is still slightly overblown - but only slightly. Acknowledging the possibility of having to postpone even a single poll is, after a fashion, negotiating with the terrorists; it's challenging them to assert what power they can with the promise that it'll have an effect. That can't be allowed, under any circumstance. It would show far more strength and resolve to promise an unchanged election procedure (with, of course, beefed-up security) no matter what. (Via Right Thinking.)

I'm laughing at clouds, so dark up above

I find I enjoy rainy days much more while unemployed. When it's dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, I feel much less like I haven't accomplished anything all day.

When Democrats Attack!

It's so nice to see petty squabbling on the other side for a change. I can't say as I ever approved of how activist Hillary Clinton was as First Lady - shades of Eva Peron, to my mind. But while I don't particularly like her, I can respect her as representative of the rapidly-weakening hawkish wing of the Democratic Party. (Though she'll always be second in my mind to Joe Lieberman.) A President Hillary Clinton might grate on my nerves, but I believe she'd be more competent and less appeasement-minded than Kerry, at the very least. (Plus, electing a butch woman would really piss off the Islamofascists.) If the Democrats lose this year, will there be a Night of the Long Knives for the increasingly lunatic fringe that managed to take over the party? I hope so; the Canadian example has shown what happens when voters fall into the rut of electing a "natural governing party." It's just not healthy.

Would you believe it; a wedding, in the last reel

Well, that was anti-climactic. Now, will the Senate get back to genuinely important issues, or continue to waste time on needlessly divisive moralism? I think it's already too late for Socons to regroup and push for any kind of variant on the FMA in the future. I appreciate the need to appeal to the base, but the appeal has now been made; move on, already, and let individual states deal with it.