340 meters per second

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

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Zen stability.

Last week, a-musings worked her first (I think) shift as a newly-trained bartender and I decided to drag my carcass downtown to cheerlead a bit; besides, we hadn't seen each other in ages. Oddly enough, I wound up renewing a couple more friendships along the way.

When I got to the bar, I walked in the top floor and found myself in the middle of a poker frenzy: a half-dozen tables, maybe 25 people, the click-clack of chips lazily ricocheting around and a steady murmur of noncommittal grunts. Even weirder, an old chum of mine was standing off to the side, watching the action. I haven't seen the guy in over a year, but he cuts through the crowd and we pick up our conversation like nothing happened; I find out these games've been held on the bar's top floor every Thursday night for months and he stops in whenever he can. No sooner have we caught up than another old friend, someone I also hadn't seen in many moons, peels himself away from an intense game and sidles over to join our conversation.

After trading updates and learning that friend #1 was now happily married and ensconced in a little house out in the 'burbs, I asked him how he felt: about peace, about safety, about sameness and stability. He grinned, "what do you think? It's fuckin' awesome."

I concur, padawan. I concur.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Out with a whimper.

Anarchy! To the barricades!

* * *

More importantly, I finished NOLF.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Iaa, iaa! Fhtagn!

From BoingBoing via Pacanukeha, the King Kong of ironic juxtapositions: The Cthulhu Circus...

* * *

...which, surprisingly enough, did not come up on the Cthuugle search engine.

* * *

Remember the Washington Post article I was talking about last month (hint: it was the post where I waxed nostalgic about childhood pursuits and drew a clumsy analogy to the geopolitical shell game the CIA is playing in Eastern Europe)? The story hasn't gone away (like I expected it to); in fact, it's heated up quite a bit. European governments are asking some sticky questions and now it seems a Canadian chapter has begun: The Globe & Mail and La Presse report that, according to Human Rights Watch, over the past four years 55 CIA-linked flights have landed in Canada. Marc Thibodeau's story can be found here.

Exactly what these planes (owned by shell companies linked to the American intelligence agency) are doing in Canada isn't clear. Perhaps they're simply refuelling, or perhaps they're secretly smuggling suspected terrorists back and forth across the border. Maybe they're shipping crack into Scarborough or tracking pot activists; the point is that if a foreign intelligence agency with a proven history of supporting seditious political movements, assassinating foreign leaders, creating and maintaining secret gulags and trafficking in narcotics (tell me you remember Iran-Contra) is operating in our country -- well then I wanna know about it. More importantly, I want the Opposition to go fucking rabid during Question Period in the Commons.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

100 windows.

10x10 is... well, here's how its creator describes it:

Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.

Totally disingenuous of course, but a cute idea. By parsing Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and the New York Times International News, it does manage to collate some interesting leads and the interface is shiny, but the project remains thin and unsatisfying. As a taste of the future, it's appealing; as a viable news sorter, it's definitely limited.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Just 'cause you're double-jointed doesn't mean you should wield a pen.

The Escapist ("covering gaming and gamer culture with a progressive editorial style") is a slick weekly professional-looking 'zine that's recently come up on my radar. Their November 1st issue, "Girl Power" takes a look at women and girls in the world of video games: as players, consumers and subjects.

I offer the link warily; the editorial was superficial and of the two articles I read, one was complete tripe. Nevertheless, there seems to be some interesting stuff there, so... could be peaches, could be dog food.

Friday, November 25, 2005


From the "begging for a monkeywrench" department:

Probing Galaxies of Data for Nuggets:

FBIS Is Overhauled and Rolled Out to Mine the Web's Open-Source Information Lode

By Susan B. Glasser, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 25, 2005; Page A35

The CIA now has its own bloggers.

In a bow to the rise of Internet-era secrets hidden in plain view, the agency has started hosting Web logs with the latest information on topics including North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's public visit to a military installation (his 38th this year) and the Burmese media's silence on a ministry reshuffling. It even has a blog on blogs, dedicated to cracking the code of what useful information can be gleaned from the rapidly expanding milieu of online journals and weird electronic memorabilia warehoused on the Net.

The blogs are posted on an unclassified, government-wide Web site, part of a rechristened CIA office for monitoring, translating and analyzing publicly available information called the DNI Open Source Center. The center, which officially debuted this month under the aegis of the new director for national intelligence, marks the latest wave of reorganization to come out of the recommendations of several commissions that analyzed the failures of intelligence collection related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

They pointed to decentralized and insufficient efforts to tap into the huge realm of public information in the Internet era, as well as a continuing climate of disdain for such information among spy agencies. "There are still people who believe if it's not top secret, it's not worth reading," said an outside expert who works with government intelligence agencies.

By adding the new center, "they've changed the strategic visibility," said Douglas J. Naquin, a CIA veteran named to direct the center. ". . . All of a sudden open source is at the table." But, in an interview last week at CIA headquarters, he added that "managing the world's unclassified knowledge . . . [is] much bigger than any one organization can do."

Today's Open Source Center began life as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service -- FBIS to insiders -- in 1941, when it was charged with monitoring publicly available media and translating it. Its pastel-hued booklets became a familiar presence throughout government. At the height of the Cold War, it was FBIS translators who pored through the latest issues of Izvestia and Pravda from the Soviet Union, providing the little hints such as a word change that might signal something broader for the CIA's Kremlinologists.

By the 1990s, the office had fallen on hard times. Some advocated abolishing FBIS, saying it was irrelevant in the age of 24-hour cable news. It survived, but had its personnel slashed 60 percent, according to Naquin. Sept. 11 gave it new purpose, as "open source" became an intelligence buzzword. Across government, policymakers began to debate how to find the nuggets of genuine information hidden in the Internet avalanche.

"We weren't going to be just a translation service anymore," Naquin recalled. Now, with the new name, FBIS is "repositioned," he said. "Our definition of open source is anything that can be legally obtained," whether how-to-build-a-bomb manuals or inflammatory T-shirts.

Even before the Open Source Center's debut, the office had retooled its Internet efforts earlier this year. It added a new video database that makes all its archives available online, and it rolled out an upgraded Web site with the blogs and homepages for key intelligence topics, such as Osama bin Laden, Iraq insurgency leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, China and even avian flu.

The center also sees itself as a repository of what Naquin calls "open-source tradecraft" in a self-conscious echo of his clandestine colleagues. It teaches courses to intelligence analysts across the community, with titles such as "Advanced Internet Exploitation."

Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's special bin Laden unit, said he had long believed that "90 percent of what you need to know comes from open-source intelligence." He considered FBIS to be "the crown jewel of the American intelligence community," though he said it was perpetually short of funds and personnel, and often focused on low-priority tasks such as extensive updates on Northern Ireland.

Several outside experts who have dealt with the center said it is still far from offering cutting-edge expertise in how to glean information from the Internet. This is especially so when it comes to a top priority of the moment -- the rapid proliferation of al Qaeda-affiliated Web sites and password-protected chat rooms, and the many creative uses to which the Internet is being put by those who utilize them.

"There's some really hard questions that need to be sorted out" about the role of the Open Source Center, said one outside expert who works with government intelligence agencies. This expert and others noted they often receive complaints from government officials who say they find out faster about new statements and video coming from Iraq insurgents such as Zarqawi through private services. "It's just hilarious how little these people know," said another outside expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions with the agency were confidential.

Naquin acknowledged the complexities of trying to monitor a fast-adapting enemy at a time when many government agencies are lurking about in jihadist chat rooms and may or may not even be aware of the presence of other U.S. officials. The center's piece of it, Naquin said, is "open Internet exploitation" as it monitors 150 to 300 jihadist Web sites it considers most significant. That means "we don't break into sites," he said. "We can sign up with password-protected sites but we don't post as somebody beside ourselves. . . . It's a fine line."

Perhaps the toughest challenge for the new Open Source Center is proving its mettle inside a skeptical intelligence community, in which the stolen secret has long been prized above the publicly available gem. Clearly there are skeptics. Although the center's Web site is unclassified and available across the government, at the moment it has just 6,500 users with active accounts, Naquin said.

"Rarely is there the 'aha!' The 'oh-you-solved-this or you-prevented-this' " moment, Naquin acknowledged.

"The reluctance to use it is astounding to me," Scheuer said. "Nobody wants to go back in response to an assignment and say 'oh, my Open Source Center found this on a server in Belgium.' "

The culture clash isn't likely to disappear anytime soon -- especially with an intelligence community that still takes steps to classify material found easily on the Internet. Not long ago, recalled a former senior government terrorism analyst, he was teaching a class to future CIA intelligence analysts that included a PowerPoint presentation on al Qaeda's post-Sept. 11 evolution, with various images taken from the Internet.

Two men in the back of the class came up to the instructor after the presentation. Where, they asked, did he get a particular image from Iraq? It's classified, they insisted. The former analyst laughed. He had taken it from a gruesome Web site that compiles terrorist atrocity videos along with pornography.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Apple pie-in-the-sky.

CanWest News is running coverage of the latest news on American troop withdrawal: apparently, even the Republican-controlled Senate is getting tired of the spit-and-bubblegum, ad-hoc approach to Iraq and is demanding quarterly updates on the war's progress.

(Quarterly updates? And this is supposed to be strict? I'd give my eyeteeth for a creditor who was that strict: "Yeah, I'm not going to pay you anything right now, but in about three months I'll give you a progress report on my savings plan -- okay? Cool.")

Plans include a significant reduction in troop strength by the end of next year and a scaling-up of the Iraqis' paramilitary policing duties. Get the NewSpeak version here:

U.S. Signals 2006 troop pullback
Iraq war criticism grows: Proposal calls for one-third drop by end of next year

Sheldon Alberts, CanWest News Service
Thursday, November 24, 2005

WASHINGTON - U.S. military officials are eyeing plans to withdraw more than 60,000 troops from Iraq by the end of 2006 amid growing pressure from Americans for an end to the war and rising anxiety among Republican lawmakers seeking re-election.

After spending weeks accusing war critics of advocating a "cut and run" policy in Iraq, senior Bush administration officials are now publicly setting the stage for a sharp drawdown of U.S. forces, beginning early next year.

"I do not think that American forces need to be there in the numbers that they are now for very much longer because Iraqis are stepping up," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Fox News Channel.

In separate remarks to CNN, Ms. Rice rejected an "arbitrary timetable" for bringing troops home, but said "the number of coalition forces is clearly going to come down because Iraqis are making it possible now to do those functions themselves."

Ms. Rice's comments signal an abrupt shift in tone by the Bush administration, which was upbraided by the Senate last week for not moving quickly enough on an exit strategy for Iraq.

In a bipartisan measure, senators voted to require quarterly updates from the Bush administration on the war's progress. The Senate also pressed for Iraqis to assume the lead military role in the country in 2006, "thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of the United States from Iraq."

With political tensions over the war and the strain of U.S. combat forces growing, senior U.S. military officials have quietly leaked details of preliminary troop withdrawal plans in the past week.

General George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, has submitted a plan to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that would see the number of U.S. forces drop by one-third, from 155,000 to between 90,000 and 100,000 by late 2006. One senior officer has described the plan as "moderately optimistic."

The plan hinges on the success of elections for a permanent Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15 and continuing improvement in the training and combat readiness of Iraqi security forces.

In a report yesterday quoting senior Pentagon officials, The Washington Post said the initial phase of troop redeployment would see the withdrawal of three of the current 18 combat brigades early next year. The proposal would reportedly see one of those brigades redeployed to neighbouring Kuwait, where it could quickly be sent back to Iraq if the situation deteriorates.

The United States has operated with a baseline of 138,000 troops for much of 2005, but the number of soldiers was increased to 155,000 to provide added security for the October referendum on a new constitution and the upcoming parliamentary vote.

There is growing speculation in Washington that President George W. Bush could announce the first withdrawals -- of perhaps a handful of army battalions, each of about 2,000 soldiers -- in his State of the Union address in late January.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he makes an announcement then, depending on what happens in December with the next round of the political liberalization in Iraq," said Lee Edwards, an expert in the U.S. presidency at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"He is going to have this enormous TV audience. He has an opportunity to state his case, to lay out what he wants to do in the next three years. It is probably the most important speech he will be making this term."

The plan for a troop withdrawal, which has to be approved by Mr. Rumsfeld, carries significant risk for both U.S. forces and Iraq's stability. Although Gen. Casey and other senior officers say Iraq's security forces are rapidly increasing their capabilities, only one of 96 battalions has been deemed ready to operate without help from American or other coalition forces.

The speed of U.S. troop withdrawal will depend on the ability of Iraqi forces to hold territory, Ms. Rice said.

"I think that's how the President will want to look at this," she said.

"We had some false starts in the training of security forces. Everybody knows that. But I do think there's a general agreement that the Iraqis are now capable of doing things, like holding on to cities, that they were simply not capable of doing even several months ago."

There is growing pressure, too, for a U.S. pullout by Iraqi politicians. Iraqi Shiites, Sunni and Kurdish politicians ended a reconciliation summit this week by calling for the "withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable."

Domestic politics in the United States may also play a significant role in dictating the pace of any U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. All members of the House of Representatives, and one-third of senators, will be up for re-election in November, 2006.

The pressure from voters has jumped sharply since the United States recorded its 2,000th military fatality in Iraq last month. The death toll of American troops stood at 2,097 yesterday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Carbon neturality... rroowwrrr.

The Tyee has a good article up today about the environmental movement's need to update their marketing strategies: "Sex up 'Sustainability' -- Because life and death issues can't afford to bore".

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

In case you missed reading it elsewhere.

Ugly little story circulating over the wires today: seems that this past summer a Peel Regional police officer e-mailed an audio file to several friends -- including fellow officers and Ontario government employees -- which was blatantly racist and downright nasty. The file made the rounds (indicating that a few of his friends found it worthy of further dissemination), eventually winding up in the hands of CBC News.

That racism pervades the ranks of our country's police forces is nothing new. This story is unique (and newsworthy) because of how wide this particular piece of hate spread: it eventually raeched the inboxes of RCMP officers and a member of the Assembly of First Nations.

Several police forces across the country are investigating after some officers circulated an e-mail containing a profanity-laced song that refers to native people drinking, sniffing gas and committing crimes.

It contains a song called the Native Rap that includes the lyrics, "The RCMP is always chasing me/'Cause I'm a smelly f***ing native and I can't even see."

It continues to talk about natives robbing liquor stores, punching old ladies, "curb-stomping Whities," slapping women and shaking babies.

The complete story can be read here.

* * *

This makes me positively purr: Jack Thompson, that reactionary homophobic fucktard, has been barred from practicing law in Alabama and is under review by the bar association in his home state of Florida.

Boing Boing has the abbreviated version of the story, Ars Technica goes into more depth and provides much greater context.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Santa, I've been good -- can I have a paper shredder?

Pacanukeha deserves credit for highlighting this story from Maclean's: Jonathon Gatehouse put together a pretty comprehensive -- and sobering -- look at privacy, professional "snooping" companies and the problems inherent in policing cross-border data trafficking. The article opens with a brilliant hook: Maclean's journos, using a combination of patience, minimal 'net-savvy and a few hundred dollars, acquired detailed lists of phone calls made by Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's Federal Privacy Commissioner.

Anyone familiar with these issues probably won't be as dumbstruck as some of Gatehouse's interview subjects were (David Elder, Bell Canada's vice-president of regulatory law, seemed particularly clueless), but the article still provides some juicy morsels to linger over, and it's a great 'oh yeah?' article you can forward to the stubbornly naive friend who refuses to take basic precautions regarding their private information.

It also touches on something that's been worrying me for a while now: the gutting of the Privacy Commissioner's office ever since that fucktard Radwanski decided to go all Caligula on his staff. I hadn't realized how badly the office's budget had been slashed, but I remember the conversations Pac, Steenblogen and I had at the time: we all watched the Radwanker dig himself deeper and deeper with every passing day and we all shuddered to think of how the blowback would affect his office and its resources. Seems our pessimism was well-founded.

Jennifer Stoddart is a dedicated public servant who has spent years -- first working for the province of Quebec, and since 2003 as the federal privacy commissioner -- trying to protect Canadians' personal information from prying governments and greedy businesses. A lawyer by trade, she has impeccable qualifications for the job, with a strong background in constitutional law and human rights.

But there's a point to be made about the type of highly confidential data that can be obtained by anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card, and Stoddart has the misfortune of being the perfect illustration. Not that she's pleased about it. Her eyes widen as she recognizes what has just been dropped on the conference table in her downtown Ottawa office -- detailed lists of the phone calls made from her Montreal home, Eastern Townships' chalet, and to and from her government-issued BlackBerry cellphone. Her mouth hangs open, and she appears near tears. "Oh my God," she says finally. "I didn't realize this was possible. This is really alarming."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Loose ends.

So after having finished Mercenaries and with GTA: San Andreas on loan to a neighbour, I decided to go take a look through our older games. Money's too tight to buy any of the newer titles we're interested in (God of War and X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, fr'instance), so now's as good a time as any to finish a couple of games that I sorta left hanging:

The Operative: No One Lives Forever was a tremendously huge hit when it first came out years ago and though the Half-Life engine looks way dated, the creative level builds, chuckle-worthy dialogue and high camp factor make this a fun, brainless romp. More importantly, Cate Archer is a strong, well-developed female protagonist -- a rare thing in the videogame pantheon, especially the FPS genre. Clever, witty and clearly the most competent agent UNITY has on staff, she's a real pleasure to play.

I'd gotten about 90% of the way through it last year, then got sidetracked and never finished the last couple of levels. Time to rectify that oversight.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is not witty, charming or remotely clever but it is an unfinished game gathering dust on a shelf, so what the hell.

While it's pretty repetitive and the plot plays out like a mediocre episode of the show, the graphics are alright and some of the characters' oneliners are smirk- worthy. One of our least- interesting games, but I'm anal enough to want to finish it regardless.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Are you the Keymaster?

Remember that scene in Ghostbusters when Ray gets seduced by a ghost? Belt gets undone, his eyes roll back in his head..? Well, apparently sex with the restless dead isn't always so much fun.

* * *

And if you happen to find yourself accosted by an amorous spirit, you might need a strong heart: if so, researchers at Johns Hopkins can hook you up.

Cells from lungs and heart muscle have been fused to create a biological pacemaker that can fire on its own and regulate the heart's rhythmic beat.

To create the pacemaker, researchers from Johns Hopkins fused common connective tissue cells from lungs with heart muscle cells.

"This work with fibroblasts could pave the way to an alternative to implanted electronic pacemakers," says researcher Eduardo Marbán. "Such a 'biopacemaker' is a potentially important option for patients at too high a risk for infection or who are physically too small to accommodate mechanical pacemakers."

Pretty cool stuff. The entire article can be read here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Canon to the left of me, canon to the right.

Leaving Las Vegas, cemented in pop culture as one of the premier tragedies of the last decade, has its own particular mythology attached to it: spoken of in the same breath as The Bad Lieutenant, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Requiem For A Dream, it's always been described to me as "beautiful, but incredibly depressing."

The critics agreed that year: Nicolas Cage won 'best actor' awards from the Motion Picture Academy, the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild; Elisabeth Shue was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and won 'best actress' at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, the Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. High praise indeed.

Still, C. and I had never gotten around to seeing it until tonight, when we happened to alight upon it while channel-surfing. The performances were riveting, but on the whole the movie left me a little cold; I just wasn't compelled to care that much about the characters. For some reason, I felt really detached from the whole story and disinclined to get emotionally involved with the doomed pair. I admired the actors' performances, and nodded approvingly at the meticulously-constructed tragedy, but when it was over I didn't feel like it had made much of an impact on me. Maybe if I'd seen it at the time, when it was fresh, it would have made a stronger impression.

* * *

In her inimitable style, Twisty waxes vituperative on the tendency to affix "women-" to given nouns in order to differentiate the new species from the larger (male) genus:

It is this assumption--that blogging (political blogging, apparently, in particular) is a natural consequence of having a dick-- that fans the icy purgatorial fires of the so-called authoritative male voice.

God, am I ever sick of that fucking authoritative male voice


Anyone can speak the truth. Anyone can do it in a blog. Anyone who does it is a blogger.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A party I can get behind.

Earlier this week, a unique commemorative celebration took place at Rideau Hall: six women were honoured with Governor-General's awards in an annual remembrance of the Persons Case.

The Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case honour women who, in the words of Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, "have made great contributions in moving us forward on our journey [toward women's equality]."

This year's recipients are:

Ruth Marion C.R. Bell, C.M., B.A., M.A., LL.D. (Hon. Causa), of Ottawa, has dedicated 50 years to improving the quality of life for women and children, in a variety of leadership roles, such as president of the Ottawa, Nepean and Canadian Federation of University Women.

Bonnie Diamond, of Gatineau, Quebec, among many other contributions, championed women's human rights by helping to secure Sections 15 and 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and advanced legal reform for women.

Aoua Bocar LY-Tall of Montréal has dedicated her life to women's rights, including staging a passionate fight against the practice of female genital mutilation in Africa.

Josephine Enero Pallard, of Edmonton, has for 30 years worked tirelessly on behalf of immigrant and refugee women, and in support of Changing Together… A Centre for Immigrant Women. She is also a leader in anti-racism work.

Youth Award recipient Erica Jamie (Samms) Hurley, of Mount Moriah, Newfoundland, is a youth director with the Native Women's Association of Canada, and winner of the Native Friendship Award and Corbière-Lavell/Mary Two Axe Early Student Scholarship. She is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal women.

Muriel Stanley Venne, of Edmonton, has dedicated herself for over 30 years to advancing the status of Aboriginal women, particularly Métis women. She has served on the boards of many organizations, and is a leader, counselor and founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.

This list is from Status of Women Canada's official news release.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Super-duper techie-wizzie!

From BoingBoing via Pacanukeha: "Barenaked Ladies release album on USB stick". Pretty cool, though perhaps not so cutting edge as butter-knife edge. Still, leaps and bounds ahead of the whiffleball-edge compact disc.

* * *

Battlestar Galactica's been renewed for a third season -- oh joy, oh rapture!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You are what you do.

Mindhunters struck us as a good rental for a lazy weekend: a by-the-numbers thriller featuring the cutie from ER, the voice of Cesar "where the holiness does his business, is his business" Vialpando, Angelina Jolie's least famous (but most charming) husband, a couple of slumming burnouts and (yay!) the Canadian lead from Cold Case.

While the first act is a little pedantic and the second unfolds according to the formula for these kind of "die individual grisly deaths" movies, the fight scene in the final act is worth the rental all by itself: three characters go at it in a knock-down, drag-out brawl across three rooms and two floors. It's a well-shot, visceral and creative skirmish that almost seems out of place, it's so good.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bodies of evidence.

If you haven't yet read the excellent Ex Machina series by Brian K. Vaughan, I really suggest you do. Taut writing, engaging characters and a really interesting concept propel a story that never meanders or bores. Set in a photorealistic post-9/11 New York City, Ex Machina deals with all the typical superheroic themes (power, responsibility, the human capacity for judgment, etc.) in a fresh and dynamic way: the main "superhero" shelves his powers and runs for office after becoming a local hero.

While not an entirely original concept (I think DC's Starman took a similar route back in the day), it's played out amidst the frenetic yet mundane backdrop of municipal politics and it's fascinating to watch a superhero -- a modern-day hero of myth, an archetype usually associated with godlike acts -- earnestly dealing with labour strikes, staffing problems, school vouchers and blizzards that strain the city's infrastructure.

One of my all-time favourite movies is Harold Becker's terrific City Hall (Al Pacino, John Cusack, Bridget Fonda, Danny Aiello) precisely because it, like Ex Machina adeptly mines municipal politics for rich drama and engaging issues.

From AlterNet:
"Local politics has always interested me deeply," Vaughan confides, "especially after living in New York for ten years. It's a lot sexier than politics at the national level. It is less that I have issues that I want to explore than the fact that politics carries so much good drama, and I love a good story. And there were so many of them to be told, when it came to New York's political scene. There are hundreds of superhero books on the markets, but few comics that are political thrillers."

* * *

CBC News is running a provocative news item about one Andrew Stmpson, a British twentysomething who seems to have been cured of AIDS:

A British man's claim to have cleared himself of the virus that causes AIDS has researchers clamouring to run more tests on him.

Andrew Stimpson, 25, tested negative for HIV 14 months after a confirmed positive test. If true, his would be the first documented case of a person purging the virus from the body.

"I think I'm probably one of the luckiest people alive," said Stimpson.

Frankly, the whole story sounds fishy as hell to me, but who knows -- it could turn out to be the beginning of something interesting.

* * *

While Washington tries its best to ignore that pesky Habeas Corpus thingy (hint: fundamental premises need to eroded for longer than four years before you can effectively disappear them), Ottawa is taking a (ever-so-small) step in the right direction by considering a change to the Pinochet-lite secret trials:

Ottawa ponders watchdog for terror trials

Sensitive to criticism of secret proceedings

CanWest News Service

Monday, November 14, 2005

The federal government may introduce legal watchdogs into closed court hearings involving suspected terrorists who are being held indefinitely without trial.

The Ottawa Citizen has learned the compromise move is being pushed by Public Security Minister Anne McLellan in an effort to soften criticism that the secret court process is unfair to defendants and contrary to the traditions of Canada as an open, liberal democracy.

The Martin government is reviewing the law at a time when several countries have expressed concern that security measures introduced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States are excessive.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair suffered the first parliamentary defeat of his tenure last week when MPs voted against his proposal to introduce stiffer anti-terrorist legislation that would have allowed authorities to hold suspects for 90 days without being charged. The legislation was drafted after the deadly terrorist attacks on the London transportation system in July.

Members of the U.S. Congress are voicing similar concern over the post-9/11 Patriotic Act.

In Canada, the introduction of amicus curiae (friend of the court) will be considered by the cabinet, along with other measures, including an appeal mechanism not available now to those held under security certificates.

"This is a recognition that the process isn't perfect," said a government insider familiar with the process. "Changes are coming soon but these hearings are never going to become open court proceedings. There is too much concern over security for that to happen."

The watchdog's role would be similar to that introduced last year by the inquiry into the arrest and deportation of Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar.

Defence lawyers and defendants will still not be allowed to see secret evidence, or be allowed to know its source, but the court watchdog will be able to give defence teams assurances the government is not simply acting on a whim when it asks for secrecy.

"It's an effort to make the process more fair," the insider said, "but it doesn't mean a backing down on the principle. Some of this information has to remain secret because it is coming from the CIA and other allied security agencies."

McLellan, who has vigorously defended the use of security certificates, is to appear today with Justice Minister Irwin Cotler at a special Senate committee on the Anti-Terrorism Act and at another House of Commons committee hearing on Wednesday.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Again and again and again and again...

After watching nine episodes in three days, we finally finished Firefly and I know C. summed it up best when she said: "AGAIN!"

* * *

Family Guy Presents: Stewie Griffin - The Untold Story feels like an especially long episode, which is an odd sensation. The rhythm of a 24-minute television show is stamped indelibly on my mind, so when the movie kept drawing out the second act, it put me little off balance. Each gag just kept seguing into the next without really advancing the story at all; it was like being caught in a comic limbo. It's not an unpleasant feeling, but an odd one.

Capsule review: if you like Family Guy, this is a must-see. A lot of the jokes fall flat, but there are some gems. If you dislike Family Guy, this won't change your mind.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Like dolphins in tuna nets.

And today it's beautiful: 9 degrees and climbing... Montréal in autumn: if you missed a season during the year, don't worry -- you'll get all four in the same week.

* * *

Local papers have been frothily debating the potential impact of the UNHCHR's most recent assessment of Canada's human rights record and our country's general compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For what I think is probably the first time, the Committee has singled out a Canadian city for special (dishonourable) mention in the report: Montréal.

The "Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee : Canada" devotes an entire bullet point to pointedly criticize the Montréal PD's tendency to engage in mass arrests, scooping up anyone and everyone within spitting distance of a "social disturbance":

20. The Committee is concerned about information that the police, in particular in Montreal, have resorted to large-scale arrests of demonstrators. It notes the State party's responses that none of the arrests in Montreal have been arbitrary since they were conducted on a legal basis. The Committee, however, recalls that arbitrary detention can also occur when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by the Covenant, in particular under articles 19 and 21. (articles 9, 19, 21, 26)

The State party should ensure that the right of persons to peacefully participate in social protests is respected, and ensure that only those committing criminal offences during demonstrations are arrested. The Committee also invites the State party to conduct an inquiry into the practices of the Montreal police forces during demonstrations, and wishes to receive more detailed about the practical implementation of article 63 of the Criminal code relating to unlawful assembly.

Although mass arrests might initially seem counterintuitive (aren't our jails overflowing as it is?), they're actually a remarkably effective tactic. By rounding up everyone who participates in a lawful demonstration and dragging them down to the precinct, the police impart a powerful lesson: if you want to stay out of trouble, stay away from demos. Otherwise, you could be facing days, weeks or even months of legal wrangling to clear your name.

That's exactly what happened at the anti-FTAA protests in Québec City in April 2001: although hundreds were arrested, many weren't charged and ultimately only a handful of cases were brought before a judge. Unfortunately, a lot of people languished in cells for days because they couldn't afford a lawyer and didn't have the werewithal to challenge the unlawful arrests.

In today's Gazette, Henry Aubin does a pretty good job of summarizing the recent history of mass arrests in this city:

Cops stifle protest:

Montreal police routinely use mass arrests to control peaceful demos

Henry Aubin - The Gazette

The United Nations Human Rights Committee assesses individual countries every five years. Its new report card on Canada, issued last week, expresses concern over the Montreal's police department's mass arrests at political demonstrations.

It's extraordinary for the UN to single out any Canadian city. Indeed, all the other problems that this report identifies are national - the treatment of aboriginal people, for example, or the wide definition of terrorism under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.

The committee, composed of 18 civil-liberties experts from as many countries, says it is "concerned about information that police, particularly in Montreal, have resorted to large-scale arrests at demonstrations." The panel fully supports the arrest of demonstrators who throw rocks, engage in vandalism or commit other criminal offences. It asks, however, that authorities "ensure that the right of persons to peacefully participate in social protests is respected."

The report mentions no individual incidents, but a glance at the accompanying box shows such mass arrests have become common since the late 1990s. Typically, a handful of protesters will engage in violence, but scores or hundreds of people who have been behaving peacefully will be charged with unlawful assembly for failing to heed police orders to depart. Police can stretch "unlawful assembly" to mean milling around with your hands in your pockets.

Police sometimes make generous use of pepper spray. Although it is against department policy, officers also often remove identifying name tags - which makes it difficult for demonstrators to later lodge complaints against individual officers.

Denis Poitras, lawyer for many of the 371 people arrested in a March 2002 demonstration, suggests this glaring difference between the number arrested for violence and those arrested for just being present is deliberate. He says plainclothes officers who mingle with demonstrators frequently let the violent ones get away. These officers and their colleagues in riot gear target instead the sheep-like masses.

By concentrating on them, Poitras theorizes, authorities can demoralize the ordinary rank and file of political movements and, thus, stifle broad dissent.

I haven't unscrewed the head of Michel Sarrazin, the recently retired police chief who oversaw these mass arrests during his tenure (1998-2005), and I have no way of knowing if that was his rationale. However, I do know three things.

First, police tend to be far less arrest-happy when confronting misbehaving blue-collar workers.

Second, mass arrests of political protesters are, indeed, demoralizing. The trial of many of the 112 charged in the March 2000 affair, for example, lasted 20 days over a two-year period - which meant much angst, many missed classes for students and steep legal bills. And most were lucky: They received conditional discharges, so they have no criminal record. Not all judges are so compassionate.

The final thing I'm sure of is the Tremblay administration likes the police approach. Its appointee as head of the public security committee, which oversees police, is Peter Yeomans, who stays in the job until Jan. 1. He told me, "Mass arrests are the way to go about it when you've got situation that is headed for a full-fledged riot. I personally don't have any problem with (the policy) at all."

Those who believe in free expression will disagree. And here's hoping the new chief, Yvan Delorme, who took over last spring, is among them.

Delorme has yet to be tested with a big demonstration. I hope this political stillness is not a sign authorities have successfully intimidated dissent.

A History of Mass Arrests by Montreal Police

Sept. 23, 1999: Police arrested 270 secondary-school students, some as young as 12, for disorderly conduct when they marched through east-end streets and disrupted traffic. The students were protesting against the absence of extra-curricular activities caused by teachers' pressure tactics.

Nov. 24, 1999: Police charged 70 people with unlawful assembly when they blocked traffic near the Universite de Montreal. They were protesting against a deal in which the university gave Coca-Cola exclusive rights to sell its products on campus.

March 15, 2000: Police arrested 112 people for illegal assembly after a candlelight vigil to mark International Day against Police Brutality turned into a window-breaking rampage. Ten people were charged with additional offences.

May 1, 2000: Police charged more than 100 people with mischief and/or unlawful assembly when they marched in upper Westmount. A handful spray-painted anarchist symbols on "ruling-class" properties.

March 15, 2002: Police arrested 371 people, including 107 minors, when they protested against police brutality and the new anti-terrorism law that increased the powers of police. It was biggest roundup in Montreal since the 450 arrests during the October Crisis of 1970.

April 26, 2002: Police charged 147 people for unlawful assembly and another 25 with assault or vandalism when they protested in Dorchester Square against a meeting of G8 labour ministers. Observers said police gave no prior order to disperse and removed their nametags.

July 28, 2003: Police arrested more than 230 people protesting against a meeting of the World Trade Organization at a downtown hotel. Some had broken windows of such businesses as the Gap and Burger King, which they associated with global capitalism and had sprayed anarchist symbols on banks and luxury cars.

Nov. 19, 2004: Police detained 191 people for unlawful assembly. They were part of a largely peaceful demonstration of 10,000 people outside the convention centre where the Quebec Liberal Party was meeting. Police also arrested one man for striking a police officer with a stick and another for mischief.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Never too old to throw a tantrum.

It's snowing today. I'm going back to bed.

* * *

C. and I watched Danny the Dog (AKA Unleashed) a few weeks ago an really, really liked it. Luc Besson developed the screenplay specifically for Jet Li, intending to present the actor with an opportunity to stretch his muscles a bit and move beyond the two-dimensional characters he's tended to play. It was a calculated risk but well worth it: Li delivers a more nuanced performance than we've ever seen from him and the films moves well beyond the typical martial-arts tropes.

Morgan Freeman is excellent (but when isn't he?) and Irish actor Kerry Condon is eminently watchable as the bubbly Victoria. Bob Hoskins, though... Bob Hoskins is an evil bastard, a really deliciously terrifying villain. Even if this wasn't a well-crafted, tightly-paced, engrossing character study with a couple of great fight scenes... it'd still be worth watching just for Hoskins.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Self-mutating bogus data.

Watched a couple more episodes of Firefly and, as was the case with Popular, House and Battlestar Galactica, I'm sort of kicking myself a bit for not having watched the series sooner: it really is excellent. Damned shame it got cancelled.

Maybe Whedon can make use of the downtime to come up with some new models for his love affairs, 'cause seriously -- the "tragically-doomed romance" thing is getting tired. Mal and Inara are interesting characters on their own, but their forced, laboriously predictable and unnecessarily convoluted courtship is a subplot I could totally do without.

Anyway, here's a brief videoclip of Nathan Fillion being all charismatically self-deprecating & shit (will launch a new Quicktime window).

* * *

Oooh! Ahhh! That's how it always starts. Then later there's running and screaming.
- Dr. Ian Malcolm, The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Canadians to recreate 1918 flu virus

Scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg plan to follow the lead of U.S. researchers and resurrect the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, a development that has led to calls for international oversight and control of the dreaded microbe.

The Canadian researchers plan to bring the virus to life using pieces of DNA that contain the genetic recipe for the virus.

The virus will be recreated inside living cells, then harvested and used to infect animals in an attempt to identify what made it so virulent, said Frank Plummer, scientific director of the lab.

Depending on how quickly the scientists work, Plummer said, they could have a live 1918 flu virus within six months.

The micro-organism killed as many as 50 million people when it swept around the world in 1918-19.

There are fears an accidental release of the recreated microbe could be catastrophic.

Catastrophic? Ya think? The entire dire prediction news story can be read here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ain't democracy grand?

The municipal election was this weekend and C. and I both voted at the high school right next door. Although we discussed the candidates beforehand, we didn't go in with any particular strategy so I was a little surpised to discover that we'd both voted exactly the same way: Tremblay for city mayor, Biddle for borough mayor and Itcush for councillor.

None of the three candidates for city mayor were any good, but I voted for Tremblay because his administration seems to be able to deal with the unions in an effective way. I also prefer to not turf leaders after one term unless they really screw up; it's hard to get anything done in one term.

Minor voting irregularities aside, Tremblay won handily... let's see if our "least of three evils" vote paid off.

* * *

Bush aide won't rule out presidential pardon for Libby

Cheney's former chief of staff faces up to 30 years in jail, $1.25-million fine

STEWART M. POWELL and JUDY HOLLAND -- Hearst Newspapers

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The White House yesterday refused to rule out a presidential pardon for Lewis Libby, the former vice-presidential aide indicted for allegedly obstructing a grand jury investigation into the White House unmasking of a secret CIA officer.

Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan left the door open for a possible pardon by U.S. President George W. Bush after Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, House Democratic leader, called for Bush to publicly rule out a step.

"No one is above the law - (not) Scooter Libby, Vice-President Cheney or President Bush," Reid declared.

Libby, 55, the former chief of staff and national security adviser to U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney who helped market the case for war in Iraq, faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines if convicted on all five felony charges stemming from alleged efforts to impede a grand jury investigation into the unmasking of secret CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Retired ambassador Joseph Wilson has accused the White House of leaking his wife's undercover identity to retaliate against his criticism of the Bush administration for using what he said was twisted intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in order to justify invading Iraq in 2003.

McClellan, asked twice if Bush would pledge not to pardon Libby, declined to discuss "an ongoing legal proceeding."

"I'm not going to speculate about any matters relating to it," McClellan said, adding: "There is a legal proceeding that is going on relating to that individual. Under our system, there is a presumption of innocence, and we're not going to comment on it while it is continuing. And I'm not going to - certainly not going to - speculate about it as well."

Reid later said "it speaks volumes" that McClellan refused to address the question, adding: "It would be very simple for the president to say, 'I am not going to pardon Scooter Libby or anyone else connected with the mess.' "

McClellan confronted the pardon issue as the first of 3,000 White House staffers began mandatory, hour-long training sessions on the legal handling of classified information.

Look, we all knew you were going to pardon the bastard, but do you have to be so crass about it? I mean, come on. Now you're just thumbing your nose at everybody.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The pitter-patter of little feet in combat boots.

Dr. Tran: he's a real doctor—I promise.

* * *

So a buddy of mine came over last night with the entire fourteen-episode run of Firefly tucked under his arm. We watched the pilot and the first couple of episodes together and after he left, C. and I watched one more.

Reviewing something like Firefly is tricky: if you're a fan, I don't need to say anything; if you're not, I'm not sure what I can add to the already-deafening chorus of those who would gift you with this amazing show. The characters are great, the universe is dense with meaning, layered plots buck and heave with ominous portents, the ships look cool... really, it's one of those shows which will hook you with episode #1.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Tonight I'm finally going to get to watch Firefly, after every single genre-knowledgeable person I know has lambasted me for waiting this long.

* * *

A week late for Hallowe'en, Pacanukeha links to the scariest story I've heard in a while. Doug Thompson's "An enemy of the state" is a mindbending ride through the twisted machinery of the contemporary American security apparatus. Orwell was an optimist.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

If I had a laptop, I'd be writing this from the park.

It's unseasonably mild again this weekend, with temperatures in the double digits and crisp, clean breezes. It's a good day to walk along Sherbrooke, doing errands.

* * *

Twisty was in fine form yesterday, with a rare glimpse into the architecture of her politics. Choice quote:

See here. The patriarchy I blame isn't people, it's a system. It is a hierarchical system of dominance at the gilded pinnacle of which pink-faced male captains of industry luxuriate, and at the rat-infested bottom of which poor brown women die screaming in filth and penury. In between are sub-hierarchies, but one constant obtains across all class, cultural and geographical lines: within any given hierarchy, women are consistently relegated to the lowest possible status.

And the rich white guy outranks everybody.

Bask in the brilliance.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ils sont fous, ces Américains!

I didn't really finish my point yesterday, so here's what I was trying to get at: the US is employing its Cold War-era connections and a potent combination of financial carrots and stealth bombing sticks to coerce other nation into doing its dirty work. This isn't shocking (go to WikiPedia and type in "COINTELPRO", "Allende" or "Rumsfeld and Hussein go yachting" -- it's hilarious). What's striking about Priest's article is that it highlights how the American government clearly believes that -- if they can just stay one step ahead of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the global community of investigative journalism -- they can "win" Iraq by locking up any Persian men between the ages of 14 and 60.

These people are being kidnapped and held in places where habeas corpus is a rumour and the only court is the paved area where the guards shoot hoops. This is Pinochet-type shit, is what this is: people being yanked out of their homes in the middle of the night by armed men, tied up, gagged and blindfolded then driven to a remote location where they're imprisoned and interrogated.

And when the shoe's on the other foot? Well, we all know what happens when the "good guys" get arrested.

* * *

Remember that scene in Les Douze Travaux d'Astérix when he has to get ahold of form A-38? Yeah, well -- after successfully grappling with Québec's byzantine bureaucracy for three days, I once again have a valid driver's license. Give me an invisible tightrope any day...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Don't shit where you live, I guess.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of fantasy novels: robed wizards, glistening barbarians and chainmail bikinis were my bag, baby. I devoured a lot of mediocre stories, but a pair of classics were my favourites: The Sword of Shannara and the original Dragonlance series. To this day, I can easily rattle off the names of the Heroes of the Lance and vividly recreate the battered book covers in my mind: a grizzed Tanthalas challenging the reader with a cynical glare, mischievous Tasslehoff poised to spring off a snow-covered rock and the frail yet menacing Raistlin Majere leaning on his staff, appraising me with his hourglass eyes.

The brothers Majere were always interesting to me, maybe 'cause I was an only child and I didn't really 'get' their relationship. To paraphrase River Tam, I understood fraternal loyalty, but I didn't comprehend it. Maybe it was the striking contrast between the massive, maniacally strong Caramon and his sickly, scheming little brother that appealed to me; I'm not sure. Anyway, this intro-by-way-of-anecdote is getting away from me a little, so:

The point is that in the books, Raistlin begins his path to power by learning slight of hand as a young boy. He's small and frail and he quickly learns that he can avoid getting beat up by the other kids if he entertains them with little tricks. A recurring image throughout the stories is of Raistlin sitting quietly, his knuckles gracefully rippling so that a copper coin fluidly dances across the back of his hand. Naturally, I took out several books on slight of hand and became enchanted with the idea of performing similar feats of prestidigitation. I bugged my parents until they bought me a magic set and I practiced every trick until I could do them with my eyes closed (which a few of them called for, if I remember correctly).

My favourite was the one where I played an involved shell game with three brightly-coloured cups and a series of small white balls: I could make the balls move from cup to cup, cluster up under one or vanish altogether. Even my parents, who'd seen me perform it a hundred times, seemed to enjoy that one. The trick to it, as with most stage magic, is misdirection: make the audience look at an obvious thing so you can get away with doing the subtle thing that needs doing. Trouble is, if you keep tricking people over and over again, they'll walk away from the table. If you shuffle something around often enough and expose one falsehiding place after another, eventually people stop looking--even if the hiding places are in plain sight. It's just too damn frustrating.

This is why the CIA's 'ghost prisons' in Eastern Europe are so troublesome. As Dana Priest reported in the Washington Times, the American Central Intelligence Agency has been detaining "combatants" in one-time Soviet bloc countries; countries which are currently members of the European Union. The National interviews a lawyer who draws the obvious parallel to the "disappearing" of political prisoners during the various wars and civil conflicts that raged across South America in the 70s and 80s. CBC's story is archived here.

The assorted dailies all report that the US has been using these so-called "ghost prisons" to hold suspected terrorists since 2001 and Human Rights Watch has said it's pretty sure that Poland and Romania are two of the countries whose prisons are being used by the CIA. They've denied the claims, natch.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Me am bizarro Justice Minister!

I see now that the phrase "Western alienation" refers not to a feeling of isolation experienced by the aggregate population of the Canadian prairies and Pacific coast, but rather to the more literal truth that elected officials in Alberta are, in fact, from another planet--perhaps Htrae?

On the other hand, it's entirely feasible that Ron Stevens is from the Alternate Universe. Has he been sporting a goatee recently?

From today's National Post:

The Alberta government will introduce legislation this month to allow children to sue their mothers for car crash injuries they suffer while still in the womb.

The legislation, a Canadian first, raises concerns it will open the door for mothers to be sued for other activities they pursue while pregnant, such as alcohol consumption or high-exertion sports.

However, Alberta Justice Minister Ron Stevens said the legislation will be written narrowly enough to avoid these worries. Legislation of this type exists in Britain and law academics say it has not undermined women's rights.

"I'm absolutely clear that this legislation is focused on a particular circumstance and it will comply with the direction of the Supreme Court ... and that it will not open the door to other cases," Mr. Stevens said yesterday. "I have no intention of going there."

The entire article may be found here.

No intention of going there? Disingenuous much? By implicitly elevating an "unborn child" to the status of personhood, this law doesn't just open the door, it pops the hinges and plops down a welcome mat.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Straight priorities.

One nice thing about being unemployed is it gave me a chance to get all caught up with season two of Lost.

Now I can finally start watching Firefly...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How many ways to say "suck"?

As of last Friday, I'm officially unemployed and loving hating it. I'll keep you updated on the job search.

* * *

The speech accent archive is a very cool archive of speech recordings. Drawn from all over the world, the database of voices reflects an incredible diversity of inflections, emphases and rhythms.

From the site:

Everyone who speaks a language, speaks it with an accent. A particular accent essentially reflects a person's linguistic background. When people listen to someone speak with a different accent from their own, they notice the difference, and they may even make certain biased social judgments about the speaker.

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded.1 The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different english speakers.

If you've an interest in language, vocalization and the changes wrought to both by geography and history (read: context), I'd suggest swinging by and checking it out.