340 meters per second

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Friday, September 30, 2005

Distant vistas.

Pacanukeha's got a great link up on his site. National Geographic has a 'wildcam' set up to stream a live feed of a Bostwanian watering hole to their website. How wickedly cool is that?

* * *

Our friends (and upstairs neighbours) decided to indulge in an end-of-summer jaunt around Turkey, timed to beat its possible induction into the EU (and concomitant rise in local prices). 'Mia more' is a trilingual travel blog that charts their trip and it's a great read. Treat yourself to a trip by proxy.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's a metaphor, see?

Story of my life.

* * *

Really, it's not much of an interview but then again, Boards of Canada don't do a lot of these things so I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hilarity ensues.

Never you mind what they say: there's always time to come up with a wacky plan.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

God... god eez zee beegest beetch of zem all.



Okay, sorry--schadenfreude is so unbecoming, I know. I'm really not that petty, but when a London Times article bears the headline "Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'," I can't help but feel a soupçon of pleasure; but please don't let my juvenile sense of irony dissauade you from reading the article. It's actually quite interesting and suggests some provocative conclusions:

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional

The original study, published in Creighton University's Journal of Religion and Society can be found here (will launch a new browser window). Scroll down about halfway to see the graphs Mr. Paul used to display his data; fascinating stuff.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Do you have a problem-solving method named after you?

Bold and nosy. I'm famous for that.
- MacGyver

So on the topic of TV, Steenblogen and I bought season one of MacGyver earlier this year and savoured all 22 episodes over the spring. Although the series jumped the shark sometime in the third or fourth season, the early episodes immediately reminded us why we loved the show in the first place: Anderson's got charisma out the yinyang and, while the show is mired in a simplified Cold War 'us v. them' mentality, it communicates a subtle distrust of institutions in general and governments in particular.

In fact, I think Angus MacGyver probably perfectly embodies everything I like about the archetypal American character: he's transparent and sincere (WYSIWYG), ingenious, unpretentious and, although he likes other people and enjoys socializing, harbours a fundamental distrust of social conventions and established organizational paradigms (be they corporations, governments or what have you).

Relax, I'm not gonna go all analytical on you. It is neat to watch a twenty-year-old show that highlights gadgetry and spycraft, though. Plus, with Stargate SG-1 still going strong, we can see an actor operating in two distinct phases of his career.

Plus, there's the wave of nostalgia that washes over us whenever the familiar opening strains start up: I clearly remember that Monday nights were the only time I was allowed to stay up past nine o'clock so I could watch Macgyver--it helped that my mom had a crush on Richard Dean Anderson, mind you...

Finally (and forgive me if I sound crotchety here), it's nice to watch a show about a smart guy who approaches problems rationally and comes with clever, inventive (and, believe it or not, scientifically sound) solutions to them instead of just reaching for the grenade launcher.

MacGyver: I'm going to need a nail.
Lisa Woodman: What for?
MacGyver: Well, if I can weld a good spark plug it'll replace the electrode.
Lisa Woodman: How are you going to weld it?
MacGyver: With wire, a battery, and jumper cables.
Lisa Woodman: How do you come up with this stuff?
MacGyver: Well, the stuff's already here. I just find a different way to use it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

That's entertainment.

Slowly but surely we're catching up on Battlestar Galactica. Episode four, "Resistance" is a real pressure cooker. With Commander Adama still recovering from his injuries, President Roslin under arrest and Colonel Tigh's imposition of martial law going over like a lead balloon, the public is getting restless. On top of that, Tigh's thrown Chief Tyrol in the brig on suspicion of being a Cylon.

I'm enjoying the way the series is portraying the burden of power, whether it's shown to weigh on Roslin, Adama or Tigh. These characters' internal conflicts are portrayed in a really compelling way and I feel for them, even when they crash and burn in slow motion, like Tigh seems to be.

* * *

Oh, and last week was the 20th anniversary of Super Mario Bros..

Saturday, September 24, 2005

[insert pithy title]

In my previous post, I tried to communicate why I like Nip/Tuck, but I left something out: its context. The show is the brainchild of Ryan Murphy: he created the series, is its chief writer and is listed as an executive producer of the show. Murphy also created, wrote and produced Popular, and this is where context and continuity come in to play.

Both shows demonstrate an ongoing interest in popularity (duh), social politics, beauty culture and are steeped in melodrama. Unfortunately, both shows tend to treat important issues in a fairly cavalier way (as Steenblogen so righteously pointed out in her comment yesterday). Both shows also treat their female characters unevenly, but again--Steeblogen said it better. Coincidentally, she's also the one who got me into both shows.

* * *

If you haven't been visiting Twisty's glorious domain recently, you've missed some quality venom. Do yourself a favour and check out "Hatred, Compulsion and Insanity" from the 15th and "Goon Squad Beep Beep" from the 21st. As incentive (and because it's beautiful), I present an excerpt from the latter post:
In the sense that clothes are used to classify women according to their sexual availability, the veil is the Muslim equivalent of the Western miniskirt. The veil says: "I am some motherfucker's property and unavailable for your sexual excitement." The skirt says: "Please contemplate fucking me." Both lovingly embrace the same principle, albeit from different sides, and that principle is this: women are dirt. Or: Fail to strive with every fiber of your being to master the art of the local feminine drag, and you will end up in the clink.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Something's rotten in the state of Florida.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

- William Shakespeare, "Macbeth" (IV, i, 44-45)

So Nip/Tuck is back and we're pumped. Like crystal meth, this show looks clean and sparkly but is made of some very, very dirty stuff.

When asked, I'm hard-pressed to identify exactly why I like this show so much. Mainly, it's the characters: while they're sketched a little broadly at times, they still come off as plausible. Even with all the melodrama and operatic dialogue, the McNamara family, Christian, Liz and even Kimber all come across as three-dimensional individuals with complex motivations. I admire a show that doesn't give the audience a single completely likable character: Sean has an admirable altruistic streak and seems to genuinely want to help his patients; he's also wildly narcissistic, an absentee father and a lousy husband. Christian may be a manipulative, philandering lech but the same keen eye for human nature which allows him to seduce women also gives him a particularly lucid kind of empathy. Julia possesses tremendous strength of character, yet often seems adrift and purposeless. Even Kimber, who seems at first to be vain and unimaginative, demonstrates a finely-tuned tactical sensibility and surprising emotional depth.

I enjoy watching these characters feint and parry their way through the sick little games they create for themselves. In fact, if you look purely at subject matter -- and ignore historical context -- Nip/Tuck is positively Shakespearean in tone and content: sex, blood, perversity and profoundly dysfunctional families tearing themselves apart. Bring it.

* * *

On Monday, Pacanukeha posted a bunch of links to cool shit. They're all worth your time, but yo -- mad whuffies to the guy who wrote this version of "The Aristocrats." It's brilliant on so many levels, I can't even begin to get into it.

The Color Code is also incredibly cool (even if it is misspelled).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Good fences make good neigbours, part II.

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.
- Bertrand Russell

The London Times has a piece about the town of Estherwood, Louisiana. A 95%-white hamlet located about 260 kilometers west of New Orleans, Estherwood has become known around the world for its callous refusal to take in any Katrina IDPs.

John Humble, a member of the Acadian Parish Police Jury (the board that oversees local affairs) argued that "we don’t have the teachers, we don’t have the classrooms, we don’t have law enforcement, the sheriff doesn’t have the resources [to handle it].” However, a colleague and a local official both call bullshit, citing FEMA's mandate to pay for any infrastucture required to support and sustain evacuees: "the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have paid to install water pipes, sewage lines and electricity on the site..."

Classy, Estherwood; real classy. The Times article is here (will launch a new window).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Iraq: the Destructioning.

The papers are all a-flutter with a curious story out of Iraq: seems that two British soldiers (presumed to be SAS) were arrested by Iraqi police. The two men were in plainclothes (traditional Arab dress, actually) and, according to witnesses, got into a shooting match with an Iraqi patrol. Both men were arrested and taken into custody. Now get this: the British military, after having some problems identifying exactly where the men were being held and then failing to negotiate their release, decided the sanest move was to smash through the jail wall with a tank. The Bruckheimer-esque rescue did succeed in freeing the two british soldiers... and about 150 other captives. Two Iraqis were killed in the subseqent rioting.

Now, I have to ask: if everything we're hearing from coalition spokespeople about the improvement in the Iraqi justice system is true, then why did the Brits have to flatten a jail wall? Isn't there, like, an appeals process? And if Iraqis are being routinely arrested and detained at checkpoints all across the country, aren't the optics of this whole incident exceptionally poor?

Finally, why is this story already slipping off the media's radar?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Next time: promptly, please.

The prompter the refusal, the less the disappointment.
- Publilius Syrus (Roman author, 1st century B.C.)

After watching Immortel (ad vitam), Steenblogen and I made our usual pitstop at IMDb to check up on trivia, get a look at the soundtrack, etc. I don't know how familiar you are with the IMDb format, but at the very bottom of a movie's front page, there's a section called 'recommendations' or something. It's a "if you liked this movie, you might also like this other movie" kinda thing.

Well, for Immortel (ad vitam), IMDb users recommended Code 46 and, since we both like Tim Robbins we decided to give it a go.

While initially promising, this speculative riff on the nature of a truly globalized world--with an increasingly small gene pool and indescribably vast gulf between the haves and have-nots--descends into the worst kind of puerile misogyny in the third act. Personally, I'm bitterly disappointed at the wasted potential: the film is beautifully shot, acted well enough and set out with some lofty thematic goals that really raised my hopes. A cerebral science-fiction film that combines an art-house aesthetic with true futurist speculation is a rare thing (name three, I dare you) and I really wanted to like this movie.

Oh, and while I'll admit that it can be annoyingly effective, I do hereby declare a moratorium on the use of Coldplay songs to connote pensive sentimentality and/or melancholy in visual media. I like the band too, but enough already.

* * *

As I'm writing this, Broken Social Scene's debut record, Feel Good Lost is weaving through its coda with the dreamy "Cranley's Gonna Make It" and it perfectly suits the closed, melancholy atmosphere of the office today.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I foresee massive ratings.

With everything going on this summer (my conference, her... everything), Steenblogen and I fell way behind on Battlestar Galactica. Generally, we're not real big TV watchers, but this is our absolute favourite show and considering we have every episode aired to date on my hard drive, it was inexcusable to have fallen, like, five episodes behind. We just watched episode three, "Fragged" and got completely sucked back into the story we'd left dangling a few weeks ago.

Doc Cottle finally got on to the Galactica and is working feverishly to save Commander Adama's life, while Colonel Tigh is beginning to realize that there's a lot more to being a leader than just barking orders. Meanwhile, the survivors on Cobol consider launching a kamikaze attack on a cylon encampment, even though Lt. Crashdown has demontrated zero leadership ability...

Hands down one of the best dramas on TV today: I'll gladly put it up against The West Wing, Law & Order, ER, whatever you want...

* * *

...which is why i'm so glad it's been renewed for a third season.

* * *

Speaking of TV, tonight was also the season premiere of Medium, a show that I've really started to enjoy. Patricia Arquette's always been underrated and I really like the way her character's portrayed in the series: she's plausible in all the right ways, with real depth and individualizing quirks deftly sketched in.

The supporting cast members work well as an ensemble and the writers are smart enough to keep the focus on the humanity of the characters instead of the weird paranormal shit. Props to Steenblogen for making me give it a chance.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


You know what I recommend? Working tremendously hard on a major project for half a year, successfully bringing it to fruition and basking in the praise of its beneficiaries. Really, the view from cloud nine is unparalleled.

Caution: side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness and an uncontrollable urge to collapse into an exhausted heap.

* * *

Steenblogen attended what was, by all accounts, the most uniquely beautiful, moving and powerful wedding ceremony ever. Sadly, the conference prevented me from attending but I was lucky enough to bask in the afterparty afterglow and derive some vicarious pleasure from this eloquent testimonial.

* * *

In case your nerd-cell count was running low, you can top up by checking out Katrina: the Gathering, courtesy of Pacanukeha.

* * *

And now, I sleep the sleep of the just.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Crest and recede.

It's the last day of the conference and, with fifteen hours sleep in the last three days, I'm coasting on optimism and caffeine. Cross your fingers for me and read about someone with real problems, like the people being "rescued" in New Orleans.

Choice quote: "Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost." (hosted on SocialistWorkerOnline -- thanks, Pac).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Canadian ingenuity.

First full day of the conference. Can't wait. Wish I could tell you all about it, but you'll just have to content yourself with this fascinating article from LiveScience.com--forwarded to me by Marduk--which has absolutely nothing at all to do with what's happening in Ottawa this weekend: "The World’s Smallest Robot."

Researchers have built an inchworm-like robot so small you need a microscope just to see it.

In fact about 200 hundred of them could line up and do the conga across a plain M&M.

The tiny bot measures about 60 micrometers wide (about the width of a human hair) by 250 micrometers long, making it the smallest untethered, controllable microrobot ever.

"It's tens of times smaller in length, and thousands of times smaller in mass than previous untethered microrobots that are controllable," said designer Bruce Donald of Dartmouth University. "When we say ‘controllable,' it means it's like a car; you can steer it anywhere on a flat surface, and drive it wherever you want to go."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Gods will be gods.

There's some debate as to which movie was the first to be shot entirely on blue screen (AKA a "digital backlot"): Casshern, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sin City or Immortel (ad vitam). What I find interesting is that even though all four of those movies are spoken of in the same breath because of their unique production process, they actually don't look anything alike.

Sin City's painstaking re-creation of Frank Miller's signature monochromatic style stands in stark contrast to Sky Captain's soft-lit flapper gothic; and neither prepares you for the strange (and sometimes jarring) layering of digital dreams over flesh-and-blood actors in Immortel (ad vitam).

Directed by Enki Bilal and based on a graphic novel he wrote, the story is set in a future NYC defined by muted social order and extensive body modification. It's 2095, and everyone's an Enigma. The story revolves around a young woman named Jill who appears to be undergoing some sort of slow physical transformation throughout the movie, gradually emerging from the chrysalis of her own body as the film closes. Apparently born with unique powers and a divine destiny, Jill ricochets through a post-cyberpunk landscape, pursued by both the mundane authorities and angry gods. It's kind of hard to explain.

Also hard to explain are the superfluous--and repetitive--sexual assaults on Jill. While possessing the body of a martyred political prisoner who's recently been accidentally freed from cryogenic stasis, the Egyptian god Horus rapes Jill in an attempt to impregnate her and thus guarantee his own rebirth.

Don't feel bad if you need to re-read that last sentence; I did.

I'm not sure if Bilal is trying to draw an ironic parallel to the Xian myth of immaculate conception or comment on the displacement of agency within patriarchal religion. Personally, I suspect he just saw an opportunity to undermine the female protagonist and took it. It's kinda fucked, but sadly not that unusual for the genre. While not strictly gratuitous (since the plot does hinge on this god seeding a mortal woman), it's still gross, maybe even more so as a result of its centrality to the plot. Really, this movie revolves around a forced impregnation. This fact, like most plot points in the story, is obfuscated by the dream-like pacing, poetic script and surreal imagery. In hindsight, I'm increasingly bothered by this MacGuffin.

Eager to sacrifice linearity (and, occasionally, comprehensibility) for the sake of aesthetic, Bilal presents the audience with a kaleidoscopic tour through his own personal mythology. In that way, it's kind of like walking through someone else's dream: you know that the images are symbolic but with insufficient context, the referent-referred relationship is blurred. Steenblogen and I enjoyed it, but it definitely isn't for everyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The shortest distance.

If you haven't heard of parkour, the Parisian sport/dance/martial art, you're really missing out on something extraordinary. Combining elements of skater culture, t'ai chi, capoeira, breakdancing and Situtionist philosophy, parkour features athletes moving through improvised urban obstacle courses in a smooth, free-flowing demonstration of acrobatic skill, daring and sublime strength. To get up to speed, check out the Wikipedia entry. The movement's ostensible founder, David Belle, also has his own site at davidbelle.com, but it's mostly pretty images with no real content. The Parkour Worldwide Association is a little better.

All of this serves as preamble to the following movies. I'd seen a little footage of some traceurs doing their thing a few years ago, but kind of lost track of the activity. These shorts reminded me of my fascination with the "sport" and now I really want to get my hands on Luc Besson's 2001 Yamakasi - Les samouraï des temps modernes, a movie made with (and about) three young traceurs.

First clip.

Second clip.

Notice how they're all dudes? Yeah, me too. Apparently, female traceurs are a small but growing group. Given the sport's infancy and iconoclastic philosophy, it might prove attractive to women turned off by the profoundly codified skater culture (to which parkour is often compared). Fingers crossed.

* * *

We leave for Ottawa in, umm... eight hours. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

You wish I was kidding.

Really interesting article over on GlobalSecurity.org ("Reliable Security Information") today. I first read about this story in the print media, but--with the exception of the National Post, who fronted the news--coverage was thin and superficial so I decided to follow up.

"Joint Publication 3-12: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" is a brief "prepared under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and represents an overhaul of the United States' nuclear weapons deployment program; this will be the first major revision of the program since the days of the Cold War.

This draft, if it eventually becomes approved by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, will permit the US to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against hostile nations, biological weapons facilities, terrorist groups, etc. The idea is to emphasize the role nuclear weapons play as a deterrent by actually using them.

Considering the American intelligence community's track record when it comes to finding WMDs and known terrorists, I think this falls under the broad category of Bad Idea™. I've got a better one: let's just round up a few thousand toddlers, give each of them a kerosene-soaked rag and a Zippo, and send them into the foothills of Afghanistan. The law of averages suggests that one of them might set a terrorist training camp alight.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Squeeze. Release. Squeeze. Release.

This is it: in a few hours, I'll be waking up for work and beginning the final countdown to the event I've been organizing since April. To say that I'm stress-free would be a lie--I wouldn't have just taken a long walk around the neighbourhood if that were true--but I'm really not freaking out. I'm nervous, running details over in my mind, but I feel like I'm pretty much on top of things. Confident or foolhardy? We'll find out in a few days...

* * *

By the way, if you happen to find yourself blowing off some steam by walking through a relatively quiet midtown residential area in the middle of the night, I recommend queuing up the following three songs:

Black Lab, "Keep Myself Awake"
Imogen Heap, "Missing You"
Brian Reitzell & Roger Manning, "Shibuya"

Worked for me.

* * *

Speaking of stress, Steenblogen has some great relief for you: The Arcade Fire and David Bowie together at last. Wat're you waiting for? Head on over.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Subliminal bugs.

Mindjack.com ("The Beat of Digital Culture") has a great article up on television "piracy" and the exponentially-growing success of Battlestar Galactica. Combining 'Filesharing 101' with a breakdown on viral marketing and dovetailing into some intelligent, insightful commentary on the nature of broadcast in the digital age, the essay is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. Excerpt:

Audiences are technically savvy these days; they can and will find a way to get any television programming they desire. They don't want to pay for it, they don't want it artificially crippled with any digital rights management technologies - they just want to watch it. Now. This is the way that half a century of television and a decade of the Web has conditioned them to behave. We can't really complain that audiences are simply doing as they've been told. It is pointless to try to get them to change their behavior, because, in essence, you're fighting against the nature of television programming itself, the behavioral narrative which grew out of our relationship to the technology. We all understand that this piracy is technically illegal, technically a violation of copyright; but we're in a hell of a bind if we're telling the audience to "sit down, shut up and do as you're told" when it comes to television viewing. The audience won't do as they're told: they'll do as they've been taught, and that is another story entirely.

The article raises some interesting questions about the evolution of advertising and the complex web that intertwines content, form and the exchange of capital (both cultural and economic).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Beautiful people get hurt too.

Still craving rewards for our hard work, Steenblogen and I went to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith a few weeks ago.

I'm not sure how to review a movie that's so accurately portrayed in the trailers: if you've seen one commercial for this film, you know pretty much exactly what you're going to get. They're beautiful, they're ninjas, the body count is high and the gadgets are nifty.

In the words of the bombastic Zack Werner, it is what it is. I can't really think of a better piece of summer fluff from this year, though I was disappointed by the ending. I'm also getting a bit tired of Brad & Ang; they're just too... well, too archetypal. Like I suggested in my review of Oceans' 12, there is such a thing as too charming.

* * *

Grad School Avenger spins a good yarn today, I suggest you check it out. I was lucky enough to hear the tale in person, but it doesn't lose anything in the transference to text. A new window will launch if you click here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ghost in the chatroom.

Pacanukeha links to this lighthearted riff on the nature of consciousness. You ever have one of those days where you feel like a hologram?

* * *

As long work remains this busy, my posting will remain sporadic. Sorries.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Good fences make good neighbours, part I.

Twisty's got a great rant up today, riffing on the evil of neighbourhood associations and the tyranny of majority medicority. As usual, it's good reading and great photographs. Dig in.

* * *

You should read this too. No, really. Thanks to Pacanukeha for the link.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Quick, Robin: to the bat-theatre!

Last month, steenblogen & I went to see Batman Begins at the 'lesser-of-two-evil' multiplexes. We'd been looking forward to it for a long time--ever since the project was first announced years ago, in fact--and decided that since we'd both been busting our butts lately, we deserved a treat. What a treat it was.

I've always dug Batman; in fact, with the exception of Checkmate, the bat-titles were the only DC comics I read consistently. I've always been drawn to tragic characters and Batman's deeply flawed persona resonated with me. Even Spider-Man, the perpetually-tormented, can't-get-a-break, always-broke struggling hero managed to pull through in his twenties: he married the woman of his dreams (a supermodel), got invited to join the Avengers and--as Peter Parker--published an internationally-renowned book of photographs. In the end, Spidey got his and Batman got put in a wheelchair by Bane.

Batman Begins draws heavily from Frank Miller's seminal Year One text and essentially reboots the movie franchise (a wise move). I think it's safe to say the series (like Battlestar Galactica) is renewing its life and the 'first' installment augurs well for its future. A combination of breathtaking vistas (both urban and natural), gorgeous cinematography and a vision of Gotham explicitly inspired by Blade Runner's mist-shrouded dystopia result in a visually enthralling film. Christian Bale is probably the best Batman yet, even if his Bruce Wayne falls short of Michael Keaton's smug, bitter, slightly cruel portrayal. The movie is well-paced and carefully plotted and even the occasional plot hole doesn't really tarnish the overall story.

Michael Caine lends Alfred Pennyworth the necessary gravitas and even brings an aura of sadness to the role while Gary Oldman's scrappy sketch of Jim Gordon pretty well nails Miller's vision of the character. Liam Neeson is excellent as the svengali Henri Ducard, Cillian Murphy struggles to get a handle on the Dr. Crane/Scarecrow villain and even Katie Holmes manages to avoid offending. Will wonders never cease?

The action sequences are great, even if the fight choreography left a lot to be desired (as a friend remarked: "I know someone's getting their ass kicked--I just wish I knew who."). All in all, probably the best superhero movie since The Hulk. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Stewing in our juices.

Last Friday, the Canadian Press ran an article on bizarre birth patterns on the Aamjiwaang First Nations reserve in southern Ontario. The 850-member reserve sits in Chemical Valley, an area in Sarnia which "is home to Canada's largest cluster of chemical, allied manufacturing and research and development facilities."

The article, entitled "Chemical Valley community with many girl births wants to know where the boys are," briefly summarizes the findings of Ada Lockbridge, a member of the band's environmental committee: she was tasked with going through local birth records after residents noticed in 2003 that the reserve had three all-girl softball teams and only one for boys. Lockbridge's findings were published in the American journal Environmental Health Perspectives and the entire article may be found here (will launch a new browser window).

In a nutshell, she discovered that 41% of babies born between 1994 and 2003 were male (the normal ratio is ~50%, of course), while "only about a third of babies born on the reserve between 1999 and 2003 were male" (quoted from the CP article).

As far as I know, the local chemical companies have yet to comment.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Back at work and things have ratcheted up another notch. The project I was hired on for is nearing completion and as a result, everyone's pace has accelerated dramatically. Personally, while I do feel a great deal of pressure, I don't feel all that stressed; or rather, I'm working hard to stay calm and level-headed despite the pressure. We'll see how successful that tactic is as our major deadline looms ever larger.

* * *

In the interim, I give you the words of Kanye West, uncensored. This is a Washington Post article that ran a couple of days ago; the original article will launch in a new window if you click right here.

Why We Love Live Television, Reason No. 137:

By Lisa de Moraes

NBC's levee broke and Kanye West flooded through with a tear about the federal response in New Orleans during the network's live concert fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina last night.

The rapper was among the celebs and singers participating in the one-hour special, produced by NBC News and run on the NBC broadcast network, as well as MSNBC and CNBC, because, hey, the numbers couldn't be any worse than usual on a Friday night and hopefully they'd raise a chunk of change for a good cause, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Among the performers, Faith Hill sang "There Will Come a Time," which included the lyrics, "The darkness will be gone, the weak shall be strong. Hold on to your faith." Aaron Neville performed Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" with its chorus: "They're trying to wash us away, they're trying to wash us away."

West was not scheduled to perform; he was one of the blah, blah, blahers, who would read from scripts prepared by the network about the impact of Katrina on southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

West and Mike Myers had been paired up to appear about halfway through the show. Their assignment: Take turns reading a script describing the breach in the levees around New Orleans.

Myers: The landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly. There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods.

(Myers throws to West, who looked extremely nervous in his super-preppy designer rugby shirt and white pants, which is not like the arrogant West and which, in retrospect, should have been a tip-off.)

West: I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help -- with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!

(West throws back to Myers, who is looking like a guy who stopped on the tarmac to tie his shoe and got hit in the back with the 8:30 to La Guardia.)

Myers: And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors' will to rebuild and remain in the area. The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all.

(And, because Myers is apparently as dumb as his Alfalfa hair, he throws it back to West.)

West: George Bush doesn't care about black people!

(Back to Myers, now looking like the 8:30 to La Guardia turned around and caught him square between the eyes.)

Myers: Please call . . .

At which point someone at NBC News finally regained control of the joystick and cut over to Chris Tucker, who started right in with more scripted blah, blah, blah.

"Tonight's telecast was a live television event wrought with emotion," parent company NBC Universal said in a statement issued to the Reporters Who Cover Television after the broadcast.

"Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks. It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

West's comments would be cut from the West Coast feed, an NBC spokeswoman told The TV Column. (The Associated Press later reported that only his comment about the president was edited out.) The show was live on the East Coast with a several-second delay; someone with his finger on a button was keeping an ear peeled in case someone uttered an obscenity but did not realize that West had gone off-script, the spokeswoman said.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Piloting big machines.

Whew! 1,500 km later, we're both home safe & sound. Exhausted and way, way over-caffeinated, but firmly esconced within our own four walls and lovin' it. Montréal-Barrie, Barrie-St. Catharines, St. Catharines-Montréal is a serious amount of road to cover in 48 hours.

Highlights include... aw, whom am I kidding? It's the 401: the only highlight was pulling into a certain driveway in Barrie at 01:00 and, after nine hours behind the wheel, waking up for the first time in over a week.

Actually, that's not fair. The drive down to St. Catharines was a lot of fun, with loud music, perfect weather and the beautiful Niagara valley rocking us in its berceau. We attended a small wedding held on a vineyard and between the wine sampling and an uncharacteristically loquacious groom, we both had a pretty good time.

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If you want to read about this awesome-looking beast, click here (will launch a new window). There are also two movies which can be viewed in the media player of your choice.

Sadly, the specs on it leave a lot to be desired and watching it maneuver is to experience a hundred tiny, incremental disappointments. It moves slowly and is top-heavy, the 'armour' is just sheet metal and the elite mechwarrior who helms it is wearing Dockers.

That having been said, I still want one. Anyone care to loan me $345,000 USD?

Saturday, September 03, 2005


So last night, fuelled by road food and an iPod bursting at the seams, I did the Drive again. Google's got yr visual aid right here.

You know how they say that getting there is half the fun? When the light of your life, she-who-defibrilates-with-a-glance, is waiting for you at the other end, that old saw goes out the window right quick; this journey was all about the destination.

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It's amazing how much Barrie looks like the South Shore.

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It's a beautiful day up here: blazing sun and crystal-clear skies. Good day to drive through wine country. Visual aid again courtesy of Google Maps.

Friday, September 02, 2005

`Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!'

Knocked off work early so I could get a head start on my drive... I'm heading back up to Barrie today to meet my baby. How excited am I? So excited that I can't help but feel acutely aware of how every moment spent writing this blog post is delayi--

Thursday, September 01, 2005

You think you got it bad?

According to Back to School and Back to Work, a study released August 23rd by Scotiabank (of all people), university students are almost twice as likely to 'work' (i.e. a job for pay) during the school year today than 30 years ago. In 1976, ~27% of full-time students aged 20-24 worked during the school year; in 2004 it was ~47%. Since these figures don't include "informal" jobs like babysitting and tutoring, the figures are probably substantially higher.

While the skyrocketing cost of tuition is an obvious factor here, the report also refers (somewhat obliquely) to "the desire to earn more discretionary income." In other words, the pressure to consume more and more useless junk has become more and more acute over time. Is capitalism snowballing? What happens when it hits the ski lodge at the foot of the hill?

Anyway, just a little something to throw in your elders' faces when they start lecturing you about how much harder it was 'back in the day.'

* * *

I've now been alone for a week. It blows. 'Nuff said.

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The last time my baby was away, I rented Assault on Precinct 13, expecting to be bored and vaguely annoyed with the whole thing, but I wasn't. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by a taut, well-paced, efficient action movie with some good stunts, visceral gunfights and a cast which did the best they could with a flat and lifeless script.

Ethan Hawke's gotten lean & hungry again and suddenly I'm interested in seeing what he does next. Between this and Training Day (another pleasant surprise), he may be etching out a new niche for himself. Laurence Fishburne may be an acquired taste, but I like him: he always carries himself with this charismatic mélange of hard-edged wisdom and cool, vaguely sinister detachment.

Much of the movie is driven by the relationship between Hawke's cop and Fishburne's gangster and while it's not as compelling as the De Niro/Pacino mirror dance in Heat or even the master/student tragedy Hawke plays out with Denzel Washington in Training Day, it's done well enough to be eminently watchable.

All in all, not disappointing--worth the four bucks.