340 meters per second

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

&mdash Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Girls just wanna...

We're back! In a nutshell, holidays with family are where it's at: lots of love, chill times, enough food to feed an army and more card games than you can shake a stick at. Grand.

However, we are exhausted after a nine-hour drive, so just a coupla quick notes to close the year on:

* * *

Payback is a thing you gotta see.
- James Brown, "The Payback"

["Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis] testified Monday that Riley broke into his home, pulled a gun on him and videotaped him, on his bed with his pants down, making sexually humiliating comments about himself. He then threatened to distribute the video unless Francis paid him $300,000 to $500,000...

Karma in action; the complete AP story is here.

* * *

The Tyee is running a cool story about a pair of women who've achieved remarkable success drawing comics: Willow Dawson and Pia Guerra (of Levitation Girl in Good Afternoon America! and Y: The Last Man, respectively).

The article, which originally appeared in Shameless and manages to avoid the condescending tone I've come to expect from these kinds of stories. Fortunately, we're spared the "oh look: girls can draw funny pictures too!" foolishness and get straight to the profiles of two dynamic, creative women working at the forefront of their industry. Good reading.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Gone fishin'.

Here's hoping you all enjoy a chill holiday season filled with family, friends and fun. Give our best to your loved ones and save a little lovin' for yourselves. As in years past, we'll be in Ontario until the 30th or so, but some of our thoughts will be with each of you.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Plan your escape -- from stifling mediocrity.

This movie just pissed me off.

Why hire an actor as talented as Scarlett Johansson if you're just gonna use her for eye candy? I mean, really -- that's an insult to the audience, a slap to Johansson's face and an indication of the director Michael Bay's immaturity and lack of vision. Insult is added to injury every time the camera lingers on her for those superfluous seconds, taking time away from a narrative that desperately needed some extra TLC. I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked: this is the same smug, cryptofascist yahoo responsible for the cinematic skidmarks The Rock and Armageddon.

The Island is a slapdash yarn about corporate malfeasance, greed, "what price human life?" and the nature of identity. Or rather, it would have been about those things if it had been in better hands from the start. As it is, the themes are flattened, dispersed and diluted beyond relevance. The reductionist imperative of capitalism is just an excuse for a car chase.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I like a man who grins when he fights.
– Winston Churchill

Serenity's a curious creature: equal parts love letter and thank-you card to the legions of devoted Firefly fans who supported the franchise through thick and thin, it simultaneously aspires to and fears mainstream acceptance. While box-office success (which never materialized) would have rejuvenated the franchise's chances at a second life, the creative steps necessary to achieve that kind of success might have compromised the integrity of the project. Given that it was, in a very real way, the love and devotion of the fan community which held this project together, it's no surprise that Whedon & co. chose to remain 100% faithful to the source material.

Serenity is essentially a two-hour, high-octane episode of the show and functions as a rapid-fire summation of roughly a season-and-a-half of material. Whedon could be forgiven for glossing certain things over and omitting a few plot threads in his frantic attempt to tie the series up but it's a testament to his skill as a writer that the story not only coheres but unfolds in a precise, poetic way. The scenes are dense and layered with meaning, but never feel cluttered.

IMDb voters have ranked Serenity as #46 on the "Top 50 Sci-Fi movies" list, right behind E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Appropriate, since both movies are sheathed in a certain kind of magic and are myths unto themselves.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It could happen to you.

I'm indebted to Pacanukeha for providing this link: Andrew Mitrovica over at the Toronto Star wrote a scathing article on the Canadian government's ability to monitor the communications of citizens:

The vigorous and necessary debate presently being waged in the United States over the extent to which intelligence services may exercise their extraordinary resources and powers is not, regrettably, mirrored in Canada.

There was pathetically little attention paid among Members of Parliament, civil libertarians and journalists when the federal government moved unilaterally four years ago to lift the ban on the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) — our little-known cyberspace spy service — to intercept the e-mail and cellphone traffic of persons living in Canada.

Without so much as a scintilla of debate in the House of Commons, Ottawa granted an immensely powerful and largely unaccountable spy service the authority to spy on cyber communications in Canada without a court order.

With all the hullabaloo (here and elsewhere) about Bush's decision to override constitutional guarantees of privacy and security, it's easy to overlook similar actions taken by our own government. I mean, I'm someone who's actually interested in these issues and I was only dimly aware of how the CSE's powers had been extended and obfuscated; I can't imagine the average person being any better informed, especially with Canada's major media outlets giving the government a free ride on this.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Uuh... like, wow.

CBC News reports on a ridiculously successful pilot project in Alberta: in an effort to reduce waiting times for hip and knee surgeries, the provincial government kicked in $20 million -- a pittance, really -- to hire some extra staff while "a consortium of private doctors" associated with the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute worked out a streamlined triage system in order to better assess patients' needs. The results speak for themselves:

The numbers show patients waited just six weeks on average from the time they had a complaint to the time they saw a specialist. The normal wait time is nine months. And the time between seeing a surgeon to the operation was reduced to about seven weeks from 11 months.

The study concludes in April 2006, so I'll reserve judgment until then, but it certainly sounds promising. Granted, no individual costs are discussed in the article, so this may be prohibitively expensive for the average citizen. Regardless, I'm curious to see the final results of the project, as well as Health Canada's assessment of its viability.

The full story may be found here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

In case you didn't get the paper today.

Clicking the image will launch a larger, more legible version.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Wars don't have happy endings.

The decision to remake Wells' classic (read: foundational, genre-defining and timeless) novel was both long overdue and fraught with the potential for disaster. Spielberg's bag of tricks is limited, but he usually knows how to execute them with a flourish and while he's never been credited with much originality, he does tend to infuse classic forms with a certain vigour (Raiders, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, etc.).

His take on War Of The Worlds is ambitious: Spielberg wants to convey both the monstrous scale of the threat (and ensuing devastation), and the individual struggle of one particular family. Balancing the 'macro' and 'micro' stories is tricky and we thought Spielberg acquitted himself very well. I cared enough about the family to want to keep watching their exploits but I never lost sight of the massive scale of the destruction surrounding them.

Most surprising, though, was how frightening the movie was. As robustly muscular as the special effects are, it's the moments of powerful, visceral tension embedded in the film that provide the sinews. Good stuff.

Naturally, Speilberg fucks the dog in the last scene. In pretty much exactly the same spirit as A.I., War of the Worlds seems commit itself to a powerful, punishingly dramatic conclusion but then, right before going over the edge into the Canyon of Compelling Fiction, it pivots and jetées back to the safety of maudlin, implausibly optimistic sentimental claptrap. What a fucking letdown.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Encore de l'audace.

Knowing my audience, you've all been following this breaking story on your own, but in case you missed the article that started it all, here is the original Washington Post piece.

The money quotes:

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program...

The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

Most of the powers covered under that law are overseen by a secret court that meets at Justice Department headquarters and must approve applications for wiretaps, searches and other operations. The NSA's operation is outside that court's purview, and according to the Times report, the Justice Department may have sought to limit how much that court was made aware of NSA activities.

The fact that Bush and his cronies did this comes as no surprise to me whatsoever; however, by insisting he was not only exercising legitimate presidential discretion but actually engaging in "a necessary part of [his] job," Bush has given me pause: could there truly be two men with balls this big?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"I do not believe Australians are racist."

I had no idea that John Howard required quite such a large wheelbarrow to maneuver his testicles hither and thither.

Read the fact-based retorts from the Times UK and CBC's The National.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Scales and swords.

When I ranted about the execution of innocent electrician Jean-Charles de Menezes, I -- like all my friends -- presumed the assassins would get away with it. Not so, apparently.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Interesting times.

Macleans.ca is running the latest wire copy on the "European getaway" vacations the CIA was offering to a select group of individuals.

A swiss politician has been ordered to clarify the allegations surrounding the transfer and detention of American prisoners within Europe. Supposedly held indefinitely, with their right of habeas corpus ignored, these prisoners are shuffled from one country to another and held in rented oubliettes. Allegedly.

EU probe into secret CIA prisons finds people apparently transferred illegally


PARIS (AP) - An investigator looking into claims of secret CIA prisons in Europe said Tuesday that people apparently were abducted and transferred between countries illegally.

Swiss Senator Dick Marty told a news conference that he believed the United States was no longer holding prisoners clandestinely in Europe. He believes they were moved to North Africa in early November, when reports about the secret detention centres appeared in the Washington Post.

The rest of the article can be read here (will launch a new browser window). Deutsche Welle runs a similar story, with greater emphasis on Rice's intractability and the possible sanctions facing complicit nations.

Is anyone else surprised at how fast the EU bureaucracy is moving on this? Even in the context of their two-step with the Bush administration lately ("Condi is so rive gauche, with her debonair insouciance -- chérie, we love you. But we're still going to sell weapons to Iran."), this shows a certain, ah... shall we say zeal? Stay tuned.

* * *

Interesting piece in The Economist on a possible sea change in China: in the wake of the "worst shooting of protesters since Tiananmen Square in 1989," the government is actually planning to punish the officers involved:

Though protests are increasingly common in China, the violence in Dongzhou was uncommon. Rarer still was the reaction of the authorities. Rather than deny the police crackdown—though efforts were made to downplay it—the government of Guangdong province at the weekend criticised the “wrong actions” of the commander of the paramilitary forces responsible for the deaths. Civilian officials then detained him, an extraordinary response which suggests high-level concern that the incident was badly mishandled.

The Economist ties the growing number of protests to China's swelling middle class and a general increase in prosperity: as people have more stuff, suddenly property rights become more imortant and the state has a harder time justifying their heavy-handed policies regarding the taking of your stuff.

I'm tempted to take their analysis with a grain of salt, given that the magazine's line has always been "trade=good, human rights... eventually."

Monday, December 12, 2005

I've, like, totally checked out.

As you get ready to leave your office/campus for a little pine-scented break, why not situate yourself vis-à-vis the leaders of the four major parties in this CBC quiz? It's short , simple and straightforward: for each issue ("child care," "farm subsidies," etc.), four solutions are suggested and you're supposed to click "I agree" or "I disagree" next to each one.

Each suggested remedy is the official position of one of the four parties, though you're not told which is which. At the end, the degree of correlation is shown and you can see which leader's positions are most attractive to you. Not exactly scientific and no excuse for reading a good newspaper every day, but it's definitely a start. Thanks to Pac for carrying it first.

(For the record, I wound up agreeing with Layton on all twelve questions, while Duceppe and I saw eye-to-eye on eight points. No surprises there.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Blaine is the stool capital of the world.

Between a surprisingly busy autumn and an empty wallet, C & I haven't rented many movies lately, which is why we've been grateful for MPIX: the selection often leaves something to be desired, but one can find some real gems. Case in point: Waiting For Guffman was on the other night.

Although we're both fans of Christopher Guest, we'd never gotten around to see Guffman. After co-writing and co-starring in the greatest mockumentary ever, it's only natural that he'd want to try his hand at one and although Guffman lacks the polish of Best In Show, it has the same traits that made that movie great: Olympian feats of deadpannery, a devotion to detail and a genuine love of the characters that balances the merciless skewering of their archetypes.

If This Is Spinal Tap and Best In Show are your thing, then Waiting For Guffman is a must-see.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


As much as I appreciate the new streamlined EI site, I'm getting seriously tired of being unemployed -- it's totally passé and I want none of it.

Fortunately, I've gotten a couple of good bites on my CV, so relief may be imminent. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I tried to balance my criticism of Lapis, Heather Kelley's pedantic experiment with virtual sex play, with an endorsement of her overall goal: to "handle [sex] meaningfully and tastefully in games." The folks over at MMORGY are way ahead of me. From their site:

MMOs are becoming quite the rage these days. From the humble beginnings of MUDs in the late 70's to the 3+ million subscriber levels of games like World of Warcraft today, we've seen online interactive gaming come a long, long way. With that progress has come new social paradigms that can only be found in the virtual worlds we have created.


People are turned on by different things. Men like to play as women. Women like to play as men. Both of them like to play as vampires, furries, masters, slaves, doctors, patients, and a multitude of other roles. If you have software that will allow you to get deeper into those roles, why not use it?

Their site is a rabbit hole into the world of sex-themed games, with links, essays and a forum for discussion. Go nuts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holiday reading.

Aside from the title ("shenanigans"? This is the CIA, not the l'il rascals), this article in The Economist serves as a good summary of the whole "secret prisons" + "legitimized torture" = "Europe's collective knickers in a knot" thing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Big time sensuality.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.
~Henry David Thoreau

You know what makes me happy? Printemps Gourmet's Red-Hot Jalapeno Pepper Jelly. Delicately textured, with a how's-your-uncle afterbite that lingers on the back of the tongue long after the sweet foretaste has faded, it's best when paired with an aged cheddar or a peppercorn-goat cheese tartinade.

Their Caramelized Onion Confit is so decadent it kinda hurts, but it would be vastly improved by removing the raisins; wholly superfluous, they only detract from the taste anyway.

They also have a Hot Pepper Wine Dijon Mustard that I'm curious about, so if anyone's looking for a good stocking-stuffer...

* * *

From the "sounded like a good idea" department: a videogame centered around the infinite variety of female sexual responses. Sound kinky? It ain't. The story below goes into more detail and if you want, you can download a demo from the designer's site (the link is in the article).

While I applaud the intention and I'd definitely like to see this genre explored as an alternative to another entry in the embarrassingly sophmoric Leisure Suit Larry series of "sex" (and I use the term broadly) videogames, I couldn't help but be tremendously disappointed in the result.

Kelley makes some solid points, insisting that "there has to be a way to handle [sex] meaningfully and tastefully in games" and looking at "feminist science fiction such as Ursula K LeGuin, Joanna Russ, and Octavia Butler" (quoted from her web site). Those authors are some of my favourites and they've all produced powerful, nuanced and highly critical texts which could form the basis for a dynamic and truly progressive game. Instead we get a primer on female sexual response aimed at women. Ummm, ms. Kelley? Yeah, guess what -- women aren't the problem and they don't need to be "taught techniques of female sexual gratification."

(Oh, and FYI: that's pretty fucking condescending.)

For this kind of game -- definitely innovative in some ways -- to be successful as a pedagogical tool, it needs to be targeted at the people who need educating. I'll give you a hint: it ain't wimmin.

Furthermore (this is quoted from her site), she intended to:
  • Draw on play patterns already popular with females: Caretaking, such as in Tamagotchi, Nintendogs, Catz, Dogz;
  • Draw on play patterns and visual styles already popular with females: Adventure, exploration, such as in Myst, Animal Crossing, etc.
WTF? Holy stereotyping, Batman! Chicks dig stroking VR dogs and wandering leisurely through still-frame puzzle games so, y'know... let's do that. Is that how it is? Every woman I know who plays games has her own personal favourite FPS; for some, it's Quake, for others it's Counter-Strike or maybe even Tribes. Point is, they all like blowing their opponents into chum as much as any dude -- maybe more. Reducing their tastes to inoffensive sandbox wankery like Dogz is dumb and I expect more from someone like Heather Kelley, who's got wicked good credentials in game design and clearly knows her gaming shit.

And another thing -- what's up with Kelley's presentation? On her site, there's a summary of her presentation to the audience of the "Montreal Game Summit 2005" conference wherein she states: "The hope is that the game would entertain females - without them ever needing to understand the sex metaphor." Just how stupid do you think your audience is, exactly? There's a really condescending tone to the whole presentation that I find really, really worrisome. While I don't doubt that her knowledge of and experience with game design is substantial, she clearly has a really problematic approach to sex and pedagogy and the nebulous comingling of the two.

Video game offers primer on female orgasm

Older gamers targeted. Sultry adult theme meant to start conversations

SARAH STAPLES, CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, December 05, 2005

He may look like an innocent cartoon bunny, but the star of a new award-winning video game by a Montreal-based designer has sultry intentions.

Lapis, the blue-hued main character of a prototype video game by Heather Kelley, an award-winning designer with Ubisoft, wants to help women take a "magical pet adventure" to their "happy place."

The prototype teaches how to reach orgasm by simulating the affect of pleasurable sensation on the cartoon. Players tickle, touch, tap, and stroke Lapis using the touch screen of the Nintendo DS, a hand-held video game device. They can also talk, sing and blow on the bunny's fur using the device's built-in microphone.

The more they stimulate the bunny, the happier he becomes until eventually he begins flying through the air. But Lapis is also an unpredictable creature who needs a variety of sensations. Sometimes, no amount of stimulation is going to work.

"Sex is a perfectly natural part of the human experience and there has to be a way to handle it meaningfully and tastefully in games," Kelley said.

Kelley, 36, has helped design blockbuster titles ranging from Splinter Cell to Thief, and serves as chair of the "Women in game development" committee of the International Game Developers Association.

Her game, downloadable for free [here] offers "a stealthy primer" on female sexuality, and is meant primarily as a conversation piece to stimulate debate around the prevalence of sex in video games today, she said.

"It's not like (sex is) going away, either in the virtual or the real world."

With record numbers of women and older men becoming avid video gamers, and developers who make the games themselves maturing, sexuality in video games is slowly evolving from the days when the industry catered to an audience overwhelmingly made up of teenage boys.

While impossibly busty heroines wearing slinky outfits a la Lara Croft continue to dominate, the industry is showing signs of incorporating sexual depictions that are more complex and nuanced, and reflect "the full range of the human condition," said Jason Della Rocca, a games designer and the executive director of the International Game Developers Association.

"To date, we've explored more the violence, fear, conflict aspects, and we've not really engaged on stuff like social relationships, sex or love (in video games)," Della Rocca said. "What we're seeing now is a maturing of the industry."

The sex-themed game development competition that Kelley won was inspired by public outcry over the so-called "Hot Coffee Mod," a downloadable patch created by hackers and released online this summer that unlocked pornographic scenes hidden in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The scenes were supposedly "extras" that were never meant to be revealed. But the ensuing controversy caused the game to be re-rated "adult only," prompting an expensive recall by the manufacturer.

The International Game Developers Association this fall created a committee on sex in gaming. And in future, the public should expect to see games that depict the full range from raunchiness to romance, Della Rocca said.

"Games are really a medium of artistic expression (that should be treated) like other forms of entertainment, literature, film or art."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


As Steenblogen reminds us, take a minute and remember:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21
Hélène Colgan, 23
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maud Haviernick, 29
Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31
Maryse Leclair, 23
Annie St.-Arneault, 23
Michèle Richard, 21
Maryse Laganière, 25
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22
Sonia Pelletier, 28
Annie Turcotte, 21

Monday, December 05, 2005

Left out in the cold.

To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised this took so long to get started:

Girls! Girls! Girls! for Jesus Christ

Ex-strippers converting sex dancers

CATHERINE ELSWORTH, London Daily Telegraph
Published: Monday, December 05, 2005

A Christian mission that was founded by a former stripper is helping lap dancers, porn addicts and actors to find God.

Members of JC's Girls are touring strip clubs in California, where they pay for private dances and use their time alone with the performers to try to convert them.

So far, the 6-month-old enterprise has encouraged several strippers to start going to church.

Porn stars and men addicted to pornography are also contacting the group via its website and crediting the women with helping them to discover Christianity and change their lives.

JC's Girls, described as "a biblically based Christian ministry," was formed by Heather Veitch, a former stripper and nude dancer at clubs in Las Vegas and several Californian cities.

The difference between the hamfisted seduction playing itself out in (most) strip clubs and the browbeating salvation delivered in (most) churches is one of degree, not of type. In fact, the esthetic employed on their website is identical to what you'd find on a late-night adult chat line. Check it out if you're feeling flagellant; after all, "Heather, Lori, and Tanya are waiting to hear from you…"

* * *

At 340mps we don't just do non sequiturs, we do 'em sassy:

Green Party wants seat at debate

CanWest News Service; CP
Published: Monday, December 05, 2005

Green Party leader Jim Harris is calling for control of the federal leader's debate to be shifted to a non-partisan group like Elections Canada. Harris is angry that his party has been excluded from participating in the four televised debates agreed to last week by five major TV networks and four main parties. Harris says his party will be launching an online petition and is urging Canadians to flood debate organizers with emails and phone calls ahead of first debate scheduled for Dec. 15 in Vancouver.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Disposing of the Old Ones can be tricky.

Last weekend, sistah!(tm) careened in from T'ranna and ricocheted around town for a coupla days. It was great to see her again, especially on such short notice (gave us an excuse to dust). Plus, her travelling companion was kind enough to help me haul our old, dilapidated, uncomfortable, cat-scratched, weevil-infested, dust-collecting couch down to the curb. We'd been meaning to dispose of it for months and I gotta say we're breathing easier with it gone.

Funny thing though: the couch was a hide-a-bed, so I unscrewed and pulled out the metal frame of the folding cot first, then we carried the two pieces down separately (which is the only sane way to move a hide-a-bed). During the night, someone came and took the metal frame -- just the frame, mind you -- and left the actual 'couch' part. Isn't that odd?

* * *

When it rains, it pours mindbending horror: on the heels of my last Cthulhu-related post come two more links from the nether regions:

If Cthulhu drove a KIA;

CthuLEGO (requires Quicktime).

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Fluff stuff.

Couple of cool images, courtesy of Pacanukeha:

World's 10 tallest buildings;

The earth viewed from space (with the lights of human development accentuated).

* * *

Innerspace was playing on Space and C. & I hadn't watched it since... well, since 1987. We'd forgotten most of the details, like how good Martin Short used to be when he was firing on all cylinders or that Robert Picardo apparently struck the casting director as a good pick for a suave tex-mex villain.

Meg Ryan had perfected her plucky, stubborn, perky-nosed, all-American girl-next-door persona by this point and seeing them together, it's easy to understand why she and Dennis Quaid were married for ten years: they're each other's doppelgängers.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Full circle.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hook 'em young.

Funny, just yesterday Steenblogen and I were talking about how Microsoft probably prices their consoles as loss-leaders and recoups the money on games, given how cheap platforms are and how pricey the games are -- and it seems we were correct.

* * *

Meanwhile, the body count in Iraq and the astronomical price tag are both revealed to be loss-leaders as well: the real money's in newspapers, apparently.

The LA Times broke an elaborate plot orchestarted by the US military to seed Iraqi papers with pro-US articles and editorials. Doesn't heavy-handed propaganda kinda undermine their stated mission to bring democracy to the region? The LA Times ain't free, so read the Toronto Star's version here.