Saturday, December 31, 2005

Old Year's Night

That's what we Guyanese call New Year's Eve. I think our term is far more endearing.

I spend 2005's Old Year's Night in pretty much the same way I spent 2004's: in my Ottawa apartment, clacking away on my laptop. I've cleaned every square centimetre of this apartment, did laundry, went for a swim, and am now cooking daal while pondering the tax forms that have gone unperused for far too long. I'm not one for New Year's festivities, especially in one of the coldest cities in the world. I have far too many memories of waiting for a bus at 3:AM January 1st, freezing my ass off and catching a nasty cold. No more, my friends, no more.

This day last year I was brooding over the Asian tsunami and frantically writing op-ed on top of op-ed. I was also brooding over the completion of, quite literally, the worst year of my life, punctuated by deaths, heartbreak and disappointment. The end of 2005, however, sees me a lot more than a year older, and a little less sanguine about the world. This is in no small part to recent news that my beloved father must soon undergo heart surgery. I think I'd be more optimistic about a lot of things if I could just manage to get last year's taxes done!

But there are also many good things to ponder, many things about 2005 for which I am genuinely thankful. But tradition dictates that I list those in tomorrow's post, not today's. Instead, today we are allowed to wallow and drink heavily. Hmmm.... taxes or booze? The age-old question....

Friday, December 30, 2005

Lovable Curmudgeons

The wisdom of Charley Reese:

It's my observation that most of what people vociferously complain about are not things they are forced to do, but things that other people choose to do. A favorite phrase of my father — 'None of your business' — seems to have become obsolete in our busybody society. The government is a busybody, its supporters are busybodies, and its opponents are busybodies, making it a conflict among busybodies as to which aspects of people's private lives the government should regulate.

The government should not regulate people's private lives at all. It should protect them from force, fraud, usury, foreign attacks and the rape of our share of the planet. Other than those, if some people wish to self-destruct, it's nobody else's business, least of all the government's.

Reese's curmudgeonliness often makes me warm inside. His attitudes typically embody all that is best in conservatism: self-reliance, live and let live, take no guff from nobody, compassion without weakness, and honesty about one's agenda. It's because I'm attracted to these traits that I am hesitant to self-identify as a "liberal", though much of my politics swing far to the left.

The problem with Reese's analysis above (and in the entirety of his article) is that it fails to consider the nuances of usury and exploitation. A society can be convinced by a corporation, for example, that it needs a product or a lifestyle, either through sly suggestive marketing or outright falsification. Government needs to step in to protect society in such instances, and in other instances where our private lives are under attack from more subtle forces not identified in Reese's world. I suppose ultimately that is what defines the left-right divide.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Show Me Your Papers!

I should have known better than to tell a magic story on a blog known for science dogmatism. Sheesh. Meanwhile, here's the round-up:

Brother Hrab sends us this scary story of a bill proposed in Ohio that would allow police to arrest individuals if they fail to produce identification. "Show me your papers!" Police state, thine name is USA.

Brother Hrab also sends us this list of the people pardoned by Bush The Younger this Xmas season. It's an interesting list, heavy on people convicted of drug offences. Interesting for a Republican president, no?

Remember the Derek Walcott fiction awards in Trinidad a while back? The awards for which I served as a judge in the short fiction section? Indira R. sends us photos and news reports of the evening's events here and here. I wish I could have been there!

Nasty Nick B. sends us these creepy comics produced by the US government as propaganda during the invasion of Grenada.

To bring back an old trope, here of course is our regular bestiality link, suggesting yet again that something is up in the world.

The end of 2005 is fast approaching, which means I must soon gather my thoughts for my traditional end-of-year post about the things I am thankful for. Shmaltzy, yes, but ultimately useful. So stay tuned, droogs and droogettes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Snake Stone

Gather 'round, me droogies, and listen to a tale. This is the true story of my grandfather's magic snake stone. We don't know where he acquired it, but it seems likely that it was handed to him by his father, and to him by his father before him, back when my line still lived in old India.

My grandfather, who died when I was but a baby, was a rice farmer in rural Guyana, a place rife with wild, dangerous animals. And most lethal among them is a host of poisonous South American snakes.

My father tells many a tale of folks succumbing to fatal snake bites. Just today, he told me of an African gold digger in the jungle being carried for three days after stepping on a snake, only to die just as the village was in sight.

My grandfather's magic stone, however, could cure snake bites. I speak the truth. My father was himself bitten by venomous slitherers, and my grandfather would place the stone upon the wound and watch it change colour as the venom was sucked out.

When my grandfather died, his stones (there were two) vanished. Some relative or neighbour absconded with them. And tales of the stones descended into the fanciful, with we scientific children of the West assuming them to be overblown fireside superstitions.

But the snake stone is real. The American Journal of Emergency Medicine (vol 14, num 1, 1996) has a letter from a hospital worker in New York attesting to the power and existence of the "snake stone." And I have since learned that it exists yet in parts of India, tied in with religion and ritual. In Tamil, it is called "nagarathnam", literally "snake gem." Traditional snake charmers extract it from the sheddings of king cobras.

So what is it? I am told it is the solidified remnant of the king cobra's unused venom, spat out when the snake sheds its skin. The magic stone is real and enjoys an efficacy explainable by science, though almost completely unknown to the world. Does that make it less magical? You tell me.

Update: Please see part two of this post.

Friday, December 23, 2005

My Fascistic Side

Does anyone else notice a resemblance between the new Superman, Brandon Routh, and the Law & Order cop who just won't go away, Chris Noth?

Many thanks to ubiquitous columnist and emerging uber-blogger Rondi Adamson for plugging my book!

I had my body fat tested a couple of days ago with an electrical impedance device. Four years ago, I was at a trim 11%. Now.... 16.6%. Sigh. And my BMI of 26.5 makes me officially overweight, which is of course utter nonsense, given my so-called "athletic" build. Just goes to show that BMI is a very poor measure of obesity, so do take those national estimates of obesity prevalence with a huge grain of salt. (Not too huge, since too much salt can cause hypertension and water retension!)

I just had a chat with Nasty Nicky B. over at logbase2 on the topic of appopriate governmental models. While NNB is a self-described anarchist, it may surprise you to learn that I subscribe somewhat to the Platonic view of good government, specifically that we should seek rule by an enlightened elite who don't really want to rule. An exact description of this model will have to wait for a future blog post, since I really have no idea what I'm talking about.

However, I do want to bounce one idea off of you. One manifestation of the "enlightened elite" is to allow voting only by those who can prove that they are qualified to vote. At present, the only qualification for voting in most Western democracies is citizenship. But only naturalized citizens have ever had to prove some knowledge of the country (which is a strong argument that naturalized immigrants are better qualified to be citizens than are citizens by birth!) I suggest that voters should be compelled to prove their qualification to elect a new government by answering a set of basic questions, such as:

"Who is the incumbent?"
"Who are the leaders of [two foreign nations]?"
"What is the difference between debt and defecit?"
"Which countries are this nations three biggest trading partners?"
"What is this country's biggest export?"

These questions are similar to those asked of every immigrant before receiving citizenship. See where I'm going with this? I guess in some ways I ad suggesting that for everyone, not just immigrants, citizenship should be earned through demonstrated knowledge. By instituting such a filter, we:
  • guarantee a somewhat more informed voting population
  • demonstrate the importance of education in the functional world
  • make voting valuable again by associating with it a price (disincentive)
Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Grrrr!

Priya sends us this link about a tsunami relief initiative. Go forth and do good!

Okay, so why am I posting twice in one day? This story. It's about an underpaid single father --Guy Masse-- working at Zellers (a Walmart-like chain here in Canada, my American droogies.) The fellow found some chocolates in the store that had been marked for disposal (past the due date or something). So instead he took them home for his kids.... and was fired days before Xmas!

If you're mad like me, feel free to fire off an agry missive to HBC, the umbrella corporation that owns Zellers.

The story reminds us, not only of corporate heartlessless, but of the tendency for institutions within our society to waste valuable assets, like food, while so many go without. Food banks in Toronto (where the event occurred) are under more stress from overuse than ever before. Meanwhile, food that is a few hours past the due date is not permitted to be used. Of course, this is the result of litigious caution. But there is such a thing as being overly cautious. It's about time for our society to dial back the litigiousness in favour of reduced waste and increased nutrition. Grocery stores dump tons of unused foods every day. And McDonald's is known for tossing burgers in the trash after a few minutes under the heating lamp. Meanwhile, the food items in my fridge have been there for weeks! Hey, the mould the merrier.

The news of the fired Zellers employee also reminds us of the importance of organized labour. Sure, in many cases the union phenomenon has become bloated and counterproductive. (My mother, the proud president of the local chapter of her textile union before a disability forced her retirement, used to complain often of having to fight for the jobs of people who clearly didn't deserve her support: thieves, liars and slack-offs.) Despite these missteps, unions remain important to protect the basic rights of little workers like Guy Masse, whose interests would never be put on the agenda of the HBC board meeting. Do you think such cases are rare? A consulting company has documented the "most unbelievable" workplace events of 2005. Among them:
  • The U.S. National Labour Relations Board refused to strike down a security company's rule that prohibits employees from getting together away from work. The policy forbids workers from going to lunch together, attending each other's weddings, or doing anything else they might want to do with each other outside of work.
  • Two Spanish-speaking hair stylists in Chicago claimed in a federal lawsuit that the company they worked for strictly banned the use of Spanish — even when employees were on their breaks. A sign at the establishment read, “Speaking a language other than English is not only disrespectful, it's also prohibited.”
  • In the U.S., one woman was suspended from her job in a library for spending too much time trying to rescue a trapped squirrel.

A Filler Post

Brother Hrab sends us this article about the looting of historical artifacts in Iraq. The thrust? An American millionaire and oil magnate may be behind the re-selling of much of the stolen goods!

Jennifer M. sends us this very important website, courtesy of NORAD, which tracks the location of Santa and his enslaved animal labour force.

Thanks to Indira R. for pointing us to this video of the Monkey Prez singing about the year end.

And how about this pic? They look like a couple of bickering lovers, no?


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Madness

Office parties rule. I've attended six of them in the past 2 weeks. (One of the joys of working in a hospital is that every unit, wing, floor, department and profession has a separate party.) What kind of an e-host would I be if I didn't share some compromising images? Here's a pic of me tweaking the nipple of my former boss/client Dr. David M., one of the world leaders in evidence-based medicine and clinical trials methodology. (David is drinking water here; I'm the one who's drunk off his bean):





My present employer, the Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health, had a special game for its party: everyone voted to see which employees were "most likely to..." You know the drill. Click on the image to get a bigger one, so you can see which of these awards I won:





Monday, December 19, 2005

The Passion Of The Superman

Comic book geeks of the world unite. The teaser/trailer for the new Superman movie is out. You can view it here. I mention it here because --bear with me, now-- some comic books and comic book characters are important; Batman, Spiderman and Superman in particular. These are epic mythological characters in the same vain as the Greek heroes of yore, or of Biblical characters. In fact, when you watch the Superman Returns teaser, you will be hit over the head with the Christ imagery. Each of these iconic characters, when treated correctly, imparts insights into the human condition.

Spiderman, of course, is the misunderstood Everyman, the average Joe with a hero inside of him that no one can ever perceive or know about. Batman is the wounded, angst-filled man who rails against the darkness in a futile attempt to control it. And Superman... well, Supes is the king of heroes. He is the Messiah who, despite god-like abilities, is powerless to control the human mind and heart. As has often been said, Batman is about angst and Superman is about hope. And, more subtly --as was discussed briefly in Kill Bill Volume II-- Superman is unique among superheroes because he is his identity --Kal-El, last son of Krypton; Clark Kent is the ruse. In its extreme interpretation, this aspect of Superman tells us by example that the godly within us is the reality, while our outer identities are mere cloaks of deception.

It is for these reasons that these characters are so beloved and defended by we geeks. Yet their movie interpretations often fall flat. Director/writer Kevin Smith gives us some insight into why this is the case in this story.

I'm confident that the new Superman Returns movie will hit the correct notes. Based solely on the released teaser, it seems that the director, Bryan Singer, has strived for the Messiahnic themes of hope and redemption and purpose. As one on-line fanboy commented, perhaps they should rename the movie, The Passion Of The Superman.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that tonight is the awards ceremony of the Derek Walcott Memorial writing contest, to be held in Trinidad & Tobago. Yours truly, along with Annie Paul and Kenneth Jaikaransingh, was a judge in the short story category. With regrets, I am unable to attend tonight's festivities. But if any of you out there happens to be in Trinidad, do consider attending!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Der Schweigende Stern

In light of the necessary changes to the commenting protocol on this site (due, ironically, to the increased popularity of the blog, and thus its attraction of attention-seeking trolls and spammers), this blog has now been re-christened Deonandia, given its new policies and feel. These changes include comment moderation, increased advertising, and now the removal of the guest blogger profiles on the right.

(This does not mean that guest bloggers not welcome. By all means, if you have a serious topic you'd like to share with members of this community, feel free to approach me. The profiles were just taking up valuable advertising space!)

More aesthetic changes are forthcoming. But the content will remain the same: porn, leftist chest thumping, self-glorification, and more porn.

It's 2:AM Saturday morning and I, my friends, have slept. Yes, glorious, harmonious and all embracing slumber was finally mine for several uninterrupted hours. Sweet, sweet, soma. The little death that visits most nightly, yet is denied to we of the hectic schedules, was mine once more; and baby it was gooood. In celebration, I just allowed myself 90 minutes of poitnless gratification: the viewing of a DVD I bought at Staples for $1 a year ago. The movie is called First Spaceship On Venus or Der Schweigende Stern ("The Evening Star") in the original German.

It was made in 1959 by a joint East German/Polish production team and is based on an obscure story by Polish sci-fi master, Stanislaw Lem (he of Solaris fame). I expected a standard, cheesy sci-fi adventure of that era. Instead, I got a smart, creepy, well-acted and well-written little tale of classic high-brow science fiction. If you can get over the poor special effects and outdatedness (eg, by 1985 the world is seemingly united under a world government), then I highly recommend this rare little film. The aesthetic is classical East German, with sleek blacklines and shiny chrome. Say what you like about the East Germans, but they had good fashion sense.

More interesting is the political sensibility of Communist filmmaking. Unheard of in the West of that era, this SF "epic" featured an international multi-racial cast that went beyond mere tokenism. Indian, Chinese, Japanese and African scientists team up with German and Polish cosmonauts to explore the fallen civilization of Venus. The science is unbelievably tight, there is no pointless romance, and --most importantly-- there is a pacifist anti-nuclear theme throughout the entire film. It represents the best of the Communist ideal: racial and gender egalitarianism, and perfect peace and prosperity. Compare it to the equivalent American films of the same period, with gun-toting white space cowboys getting into fist-fights with alien soldiers while snogging green-skinned alien babes.

There's an important scene in the movie when the explorers discover that the Venusians had been plotting to irradiate and invade the Earth. There is some debate over whether this information should be broadcast to the people of the Earth, for fear of instigating planetary panic. But the leader of the expedition, egged on by the Chinese linguist, declares, "There will be no panic. We narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe by virtue of knowledge, not of secrecy. And it is knowledge that will save us this time, too."

Of course, the Communist governments who allowed this picture were no great champions of public knowledge or of anti-secrecy. But the sentiment is important, and reminds us that the philosophy of Marx was noble. It was the application of that philosophy, by men of ill will, that faltered.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Clash Of The Millennarians

As most of you know, I am a fan of Reality TV. The finale of the 4th installment of The Apprentice aired last night, and it was quite a surprise. Anyone who's watched enough TV was able to recognize that the producers were setting us up for a dual hiring, as neither Randal nor Rebecca were allowed to be portrayed in much of a negative light. Then Trump did a very stupid thing. He quite rightly hired Randal, who --as a Rhodes scholar and successful head of a multimillion dollar company-- is clearly the most qualified candidate; but then he asked Randal if he should also hire Rebecca, fully expecting Randal to say yes. But Randal said no, and essentially screwed himself on live TV. It would have cost him nothing to have shared the prize with Rebecca, as Trump and the producers clearly intended. But less qualified or not, Rebecca's exclusion now makes Randal look like a classless boor. And, really, I now suspect that he is one. Andy Denhart of MSN concurs.

Today's Charley Reese column is right on the money. It begins with the line, "When they finally hang Saddam Hussein, we'll probably miss him." Read it here.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at it again, running his mouth when he should just shut up and govern. This time, he has confirmed that he is indeed a holocaust denier. He has now lost all credibility with all but a handful of world powers. This is all quite a shame. Despite Ahmadinejad's zealotry, he had some good political ideas upon coming to office, all woven about the central theme of "putting petroleum dollars back on Iranians' tables". The problem is that power seems to have gone to his head, and he --unlike generations of Western teens raised on Marvel comics-- is unaware that with great power comes great responsibility. Trigger fingers in Israel grow understandably itchy.

The shame of it all is quite heart breaking. Ahmadinejad has, in minutes, accomplished what billions of dollars of US propaganda could not: paint all of Iran as a stinking bog of medieval values and thought. The truth is that, as a character in the movie Syriana put it, "Iranians are natural cultural allies of the US." Persians are modern, intelligent, engaged and beautiful people. There is a strong pro-Western, secular sentiment among educated Persians, yet this sector gets little media play in the West. As a diplomat friend who specializes in the Middle East tells me, there are essentially three layers of political Iran: the educated strata, which is decidedly secular; the merchant caste, which tends to have conservative and sometimes fundamentalist views; and the great sea of insulated agrarian workers, whose views on foreign policy matters are shaped by whoever has access to these people.

Complicating these strata is, of course, religion. We all know that Iran is mostly Shi'a Muslim. Within Shi'a there is a sect which is best described as Millennarial. Much like the Millennarians in the West --the Evangelical Christians-- this sect believes we are in the End Days. It is sometimes called Twelve Imam Shiism. Under Shi'a, imams have status and authority approaching that of Prophet Muhammed himself. The first imams are historical figures. The final imam is referred to as the "hidden imam" who, much like a returning Messiah, will come forth from hiding and usher in a new and final republic for Iran, initiating the End Days and the final war of Good against Evil. Sound familiar?

Not surprisingly, the Ayatollah Khomeini was thought by many to be the hidden imam, and the wave of revolution he rode in the late 1970s was thought to be the founding of the heavenly republic of the End Days.

What is unclear, at least to me, is the actual prevalence of Twelve Imam Shiism in Iran. Presently, that sect punches a lot of political weight, but how common is the actual belief among the citizenry? This, to me, is a critical question in judging the future of Persia-West relations.

President Ahmadinejad is a Twelve Imam Shiite. And President George Bush is an Evangelical Christian. Both are unafraid of a fight, and both see a clash of civilizations as a good thing which will lead the world into the hands of God. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bloggarino

Boy, I've been remiss in my blogging duties of late. Sorry, folks. Between endless office parties and a backlog of work, the time and energy has not been present to get the little, important things done.

And yes, blogging can be important. There is a perception among many that the phenomenon of blogging is little more than a narcisstic public display of self-love. To an extent, this is true. But it's also true of any activity done in the public eye. When an author writes a book, for example, it's more than a bit narcissistic; trust me. Yet some, primarily trolls, insist that the posting of commentary from a layman is a valueless activity. Would the same trolls similarly describe the output from newspaper columnists?

There are two factors at work. First is the perception that a newspaper columnist has somehow earned the authority to spout off on any topic by virtue of receiving the imprimatur of his employer, the newspaper. To anyone who knows anything about the modern newspaper business, this is of course utter nonsense. Columnists receive their space for any number of reasons --good writing skills, seniority, infamy or nepotism-- with knowledge of content matter being least among them. What then can you say about bloggers who are also columnists, like Antonia Zerbiasis or Arianna Huffington? More problematic are bloggers who may not be regular columnists, but who are nonetheless professional writers and experience freelance journalists, like yours truly and Rondi Adamson? (Hope Rondi doesn't mind that I've lumped my amateurish self in with her more experienced lot.)

Second is the fact that blogs are free. No one values something they didn't have to pay for. Thus, trolls feel justified in shitting on the hard work of others, when all they need do is "change the channel." It reminds me of one of the suggestions for controlling spam, as put forward by my friend Sonia Arrison of the Pacific Research Institute: charge 1 cent for every outgoing email for which the sender is not known to the recipient. This scenario compels every user to value email, thus reducing its abuse.

One of the questions on the Deonandan.com survey has to do with your perceptions about the importance of blogs. (And yes, I will be posting the survey results soon, possibly this weekend.) If I were to take the survey, I'd answer that blogs are an important new medium. Already, castes of bloggers are arising, with celebrity bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Atrios at the head of the herd. These individuals are as influential as network news anchors, and surely offer more content.

What is the value of a blog? Aside from being free to the consumer, a blog is a free from the hidden corporate bias of its writer's employer. Know what I'm saying? On this blog, for example, you are told exactly what I think about a given topic. Right or wrong, my opinion is not filtered through an advertising prism meant to maximize the position of my employer. Moreover, it's near-synchronous nature allows readers --genuine and troll alike-- to respond to my posts, and to each others' comments, in almost real time, thus creating a conversational forum that is impossible with a newspaper column.

Another value of blogs is that they are spaceless. On Monday I talked about the rioting in Australia. And one reader, Philip G. from Australia, responded to provide a Johnny-on-the-spot report of what he actually sees in Australia. In one sense, he is a foreign correspondent. In another sense, he is a contributor to a community of ideas and observations. In either sense, he is adding value to the blogging experience.

But Philip doesn't get paid to be a correspondent, and I sure don't make any money running this site. So, as payment for his useful perspective, let's all take a look at Philip's postings on the political blogsite larvatusprodeo.net and on his cycling website, spinopsys.com.

Monday, December 12, 2005

To Whore Or Not To Whore

The blogging revolution continues unabated. Friend and colleague Hope Senechal has launched PureHope.com, a site dedicated to parenting advice. Hope has clued me in to the possibilities of funding one's blog through advertising. As you've no doubt noticed, this site has long featured a tiny Google Adsense ad in the corner, from which I have earned a grand total of 12 cents. Well, you can now see that I've expanded the Google Adsense presence on this site and have added direct advertising for books on Amazon.ca. I don't think it detracts much from the aesthetics of this blog. And indeed, I have certainly purchased books through Amazon.ca before, so have no moral qualms about encouraging literacy among my readers. Before this day is up, I will also provide Amazon links for my own books, since God knows I need to make a buck.

In light of this development, I proudly announce the publication of Opposing Viewpoints: Popular Culture, an American educational text from the popular Opposing Viewpoints series. This issue features my essay on "Why I Love Professional Wrestling."



Yes, if you click on it and buy a copy, Deonandan.com gets some cash!

The Geezers Of Oz

Race riots in Australia continue for a second night. Unlike in Paris, this time it's the shirtless white guys going apeshit. Interesting how, also unlike in Paris, there are no calls to deport the transgressors. For those who haven't been keeping score, the riots are supposedly in response to the killing of white lifeguards allegedly by a Lebanese gang.

For the record: prosecute everyone --the Lebanese accused and the rioters. The law must be blind and fair or else there is no civilization.

I've always found it odd how North Americans have swallowed a simplistic image of Australia as a laid-back, surf-and-beer-obsessed and good-natured Oz, while the place has been known as a hotbed of racial intolerance for generations. A friend who grew up in Melbourne used to tell me about his public school days, of having the Principal of the school regularly separate the "Australian kids" from "the darkies" for sporting and social functions, using that exact same language. And, as I have already noted, there is a growing movement in that country to dial back the immigration policies to only accept those of white European extraction. Brother Hrab sends us this keen op-ed examining the pervasive racism in Aussie culture.

There is obvious and unsurprising conflation, as well, between "Muslim" and "Arab," as seen in the rioters' claim that the Bali bombing partly motivated their actions. The bombers in Bali were Muslim, of course, but were of Austronesian race, not Arab. But, due to the marketing tactics associated with the GWOT (Global War on Terror), embraced and propagated by Bush, Blair and Howard, there is a willful blurring of the racial lines between all Muslim cultures. Thus, the Lebanese are seen as being responsible for a crime committed by a handful of Indonesians.

Yes, right wing pundits, you are reading me correctly: I am looking at Aussie PM John Howard for a bit of culpability here. A nation learns its values from its leadership. It takes its behavioural cues from the policies and practices of its elected government. George Bush willfully and disingenuously blamed Iraqis for the crimes of a handful of Saudis, and thus empowered a nation to villify the entire Arab civilization. His xenophobic and anti-intellectual fervor further celebrated the lumping together of all Muslim peoples, so that Persians, Arabs and Pakistanis are all indistinguishable in the mainstream American eye. Howard has embraced that same path; in Howardland, it goes further to the point where all non-whites --or "wogs"-- are potential terrorists. His government fed national xenophobia for political reasons, and that xenophobia has born fruit this week in Sydney.

"The possibility of home-grown terrorism has emerged," Howard told Australian radio, regarding the GWOT. Just what was he talking about? Irish seperatists fomenting discord in Melbourne pubs? Right-wing Aussie militiamen plotting in the Outback? Spanish ex-pats sending money from Canberra to Basque fighters inEurope? Of course not. He was referring to the sea of brown immigrants filling Australia's working class, many of whom bear an uncomfortable physical resemblance to 18 dudes who flew planes into New York and Washington back in 2001. Dried tinder, meet match.

Racism has been dripping from Australia's pores for generations. John Howard didn't create it. But he fuelled it. And, despite the high prevelance of racist attitudes, Howard certainly has never done anything substantive to quell it. For that, he deserves a bit of scrutiny, don't you think?

Troll Central

It's a funny thing how some blogs seem to attract a lot of trolls. Increasingly, this seems to be one of those blogs. A troll, by the way, is someone who shows up with nothing to offer except personal attacks.

Interestingly, the trolls here all seem to say more or less the same thing:

"What qualifies you to say such and such"
"You're full of shit"
"You must be a fag"
"You're so full of yourself, why does anyone take you seriously?"

Etc, etc.

Of course, the irony is not lost on me. Hey, trolls, If I'm so full of shit, why do you keep coming back every day to read me? I can only conclude that it's a form of displaced sexual attraction. That would certainly explain why all the trolls have anonymous logins and no email addresses or websites of their own: the self-hatred born of identity confusion imparts a deep shame that must be hidden beneath the blanket of anonymity. They see my photo and feel those special stirrings south of the border --hey, who can blame them?-- then, in classic repressive behaviour, they must lash out at the focus of their attraction to re-solidify their crumbling identities.

So to my growing army of crazy batshit stalker trolls, thanks for the increased traffic. My Google Adsense revenues are up!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Oily Dudes

Today I saw Syriana, the George Clooney movie about the power and politics associated with the oil industry in the Middle East. At least one of my companions didn't enjoy it, but I thought it was brilliant, and I wish the filmmaking world would continue to give me experiences like this one, where nothing is dumbed down. Interestingly, one of the unexpectedly educational aspects of the film is its modern portrayal of key Arab and Persian nations. It would do a mainstream American audience well, for example, to see the nightclub scenes of Tehran, or to hear Beirut get its props as "the Paris of the Middle East." Too often, these places are portrayed as neolithic Talibanized cultures.

Back in real life, a most retarded circumstance has arisen. Reports have it that the Bush Administration has walked out of the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal after former President Clinton was allowed to speak. Further reports have it that Prime Minister Martin was warned beforehand by the US state department that such crap would happen if Clinton were allowed on the podium. So it is confirmed: the so-called "free world"is led by 6 year olds.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Baby Got Gun

Have I given you guys this yet? It's a link to a country/folk version of one of the great classical pieces of modern music, Baby Got Back.

According to Andrew Sullivan, Donald Rumsfeld is being handed his coat and Joe Lieberman is being considered to be his replacement as Secretary of Defence. (What's next, Al Gore as Secretary of State?) Personally, I want Rummy to last his tenure and still be centre-stage when this whole shitpile he created finally implodes.

According to some biologists in New York, high intellects and high fecundity are mutually exclusive attributes in males. To quote the lay article: "Because of the high-energy demands of both brains and sperm, scientists believe males cannot generate large amounts of both." This certainly explains why it's always the dumb-asses who have the most kids. Federline, anyone?

Prime Minister Paul Martin has laid out his "wedge issue" for the upcoming election: he plans to ban all handguns in Canada, including those owned by gun clubs, shooting ranges, war museums, etc. Personally, I think this is an inefficient and pointless gesture. I'm no fan of firearms, and could go my entire life without seeing or touching one. But I am driven by data, and thus far I have yet to see any data that suggest that legally owned handguns play a significant role in violent crime in Canada, even with respect to handguns stolen from legal owners. (If anyone has seen such data, please share it with me; I am more than open to changing my tune if presented with compelling evidence.) Rather, the declaration suggests one thing only, that the Liberals intend to win this election in urban Canada, with minimal appeal to the West and to the countryside.

If they were truly interested in governing, the money, time and effort spent on a gun ban would be spent on controlling imports of illegal handguns, on more anti-violence education programmes, and on socio-economic investments which have been shown to curb inner city violence. The gun violence issue is unique to specific neighbourhoods of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Its prevalence is not so great as to suggest an epidemic of violence in Canada. Rather, as the wonks like to say, this is all about "optics."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Iggy Goes Down

Anju G sends us a list of the 2005 Miss World contestants. Now that's time well spent! Any bets on the winner? Of course, I'll be rooting for Miss Guyana, Miss India and Miss Canada. 'Cause that's the generous guy that I am.

So Michael Ignatieff, supposed king in waiting, has officially joined the political ranks by declaring his candidacy in the upcoming federal election. Though I was initially forgiving of Iggy's stances, I'm less sanguine about him these days, as I am reminded of his many insipid and decidedly poorly thought-out declarations regarding American foreign policy and the politics of power in general. That great bastion of rational thought, Brother Margolis, sums Ignatieff up well:
"Michael Ignatieff, much ballyhooed Harvard professor of human rights, has been parachuted into a safe Liberal Party riding in Toronto, Canada, as the party’s new golden boy in upcoming elections. Having debated or appeared on TV panels with Ignatieff, I find his being touted as a future Canadian prime minister revolting. As a so-called human rights expert, Ignatieff is a disgrace. He opposed stopping Serbian ethnic cleansing, denigrated Ukrainian independence, eagerly supported the trumped-up war against Iraq, and now defends torture of anti-American suspects. He appears always ready and willing to preach whatever party line will advance his career, and kiss the establishment hand that feeds him. We have enough like him in the lap dog media."
Rick Salutin also has some excellent observations of Iggy's nature. Here's his conclusion:
"I think the moment a person enters politics, the realm of power proper, is an apt time to examine his attitudes to power. Michael Ignatieff has often presented himself as a gadfly and a leftist (I do have trouble with leftists who need to keep reminding you how left they are). Yet here he's managed to emerge on the right of a party that is famously, cravenly centrist. A neat party trick, you could say."
Well, my DNA analysis has finally returned from the National Geographic labs. If any of you out there is a close relative, listen closely because our DNA is very similar, indeed identical where the genographic study is concerned. It seems I am of Haplogroup H (M52), which means that I am... wait for it.... Indian. Yep, $100 and weeks of cutting edge 21st century technology confirm that I am a brown dude. Eh, bhagwan! Read the summary PDF here.

I leave you with this funny video: Dance, white boy, dance!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winkypedia

(Note: Before reading this post, please consult the very serious Deonandan.com disclaimer.)

Greetings, my droogies.

Cold fusion is now table-top "sound" fusion. More here.

Has the bell tolled for Wikipedia, the world's greatest encyclopaedia? Apparently, someone is finally whining about a misleading entry that was left uncorrected for more than a nanosecond. Wikipedia is the last desperate link to the glory days of the World Wide Web, back when everything was free of corporate and political tinkering, back when information was truly free, and back when Netizens were responsible, porn-obsessed geeks, and not just malicious virus-weilding , identity-hacking pervs.

My employer's website also features an experimental wiki. Yesterday at a scientific meeting, someone came up to me and asked, "I hear your website has a 'winky'. Is it true?" I'm sure you can imagine my reaction.

Dig this post-mortem of the 9/11 commission. Good reading.

Brother Bhash sends us this view of the Earth as seen from the Martian surface.

Brother Hrab sends us this (clearly satirical) blog of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Congratulations to Deonandan.com friend Tiffany P. for the successful opening of her Manhattan restaurant Pair of 8's on Amsterdam Ave in the Upper West Side. I look forward to dining there sometime soon.

Pierre C. sends us word that the World Health Organization is looking for a new name for the upcoming flu pandemic. Any suggestions, O Creative Types?

Lastly, my latest article is a book review of Stephen Marche's Raymond & Hannah, which appears in the current issue of Idea&s, the shi-shi intellectual magazine of the University of Toronto. It's quite an honour to have been asked to write for this particular, highly prestigious magazine (whose other contributors include Nobel prizewinners), though my contribution is barely five or six heavily edited paragraphs. But I takes 'em as I gets 'em, babies.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Professional Language

Greetings from a conference on social medical research, held at the Hellenic Banquet Hall in Ottawa. Sitting here listening to stuffed suit after stuffed suit give presentations, I am struck with a singular observation: professional language has once more devolved.

I remember back in the late 80s, when I was working part-time in the offices of a global head hunting company, noticing for the first time the banality and anti-intellectualism of business speak. As was pointed out in The Simpsons, words like "paradigm" and "inputs" are used by dumb corporate types to make themselves look smarter. Add to that list terms like "touch base" and the evolution of nouns into verbs (eg "party" and "network").

Lately, I've noticed a new entrant: the word "piece". I keep hearing mention of "the economics piece", "your piece", "my piece", "the political piece", "the budgetary piece", yadda yadda.

Cripes, people, find a new word already!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Escape From London

On the plane from London to Toronto now... thanks the gods! I lived here for 5 years almost 6 years ago, a time accounting for about 1/7th of my life, yet weirdly I have few memories of the place- mostly because the human brain has a way of protecting the psyche by burying bad memories beneath a mountain of denial.

Take note, kiddies. This is what misery in an unhappy graduate programme will do for you: deep emotional scars requiring tankards of alcohol, fatty carby foods, illicit sex and the occasional TV binge. so pick your PhD programmes well!

I have survived my return to the dreaded L-place, with my psychic core still mostly functional. Still, when I think of the place I get a case of what one internet columnist once called "the douche chills".

Sunday, December 04, 2005

People On Planes

Greetings from the Toronto airport where I am midway on a voyage to London.... Ontario, that is :-(

I just spent an hour crammed into the back row of a plane between, of course, two fat people who were both loud and annoying. Believe me: the obesity epidemic is real... which is neither here nor there, except it's really cramping my style on airplanes.

As I am about to board the flight to London, let me share with you some suggestions to make my flying more enjoyable:

1. if you're travelling with little kiddies, do take advantage of the early boarding and late de-boarding options. I don't care how mature you think your 6 year old is, he will slow everything down if he boards with everyone else.

2. Check your bags. Really.

3. if you're not strong enough to hoist your carry-on into the overhead bin, don't bring one.

4. if you do have a carry-on, and you can hoist it, dnt just through it into the first available space. Try to put it near your seat. You scrambling around to find your bloody bag when we disembark is why I might miss my flight.

Okay then?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Title Shmitle

Some blogs of note: Dogooder.ca (a collection of reports from Ottawa students doing development work abroad) and RockyNothernShepherd.Blogspot.com, the blog ot Peter Levesque, my coworker and one of Wednesday's generous art patrons.

Two teens commit a double murder, and days later snoopy types find their blogs. The best part is that the girlie murderer writes in her profile, "books are gay." Enter this comment from the DailyRotten.com forum:
From: janedoe [jane]
Date: 2-Dec-2005 02:20

Books ARE gay. You have no idea how many times a book has sodomized me. Fucking Do-me decimal system.
I nearly pissed myself.

Meanwhile, squirrels in Russia have swarmed and killed a stray dog. Next they'll be hanging out in malls and... and... and skateboarding!

I leave you with this: scientific evidence suggesting that crazy people tend to be nymphomanic. Finally, I now understand my dating patterns.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Yeah, Baby!

Once again..... I am soooo tired. I've been averaging 4 hours of sleep a night over the last couple of weeks. There's no time for anything, not even exercise! As a result, I am officially a solid 170 lbs, the heaviest I have ever been in my life.

But enough of that. The big news is that last night's fundraiser and art show was a raving success. From door charges, coat check fees and art sales, we raised over $2000 for both a local HIV/AIDS hospice and relief to victims of the South Asia earthquake.

Thanks to our artists --Lyndon Goveas, Richard von Erlac, Nandini Saxena, Juliette Rabussier, Apurv Shah, Monika Taylor-Schreiber, Adam Duncan and Kulpreet Badial-- for donating the skills and art. They were all genuine stars, and I'm quite proud of each one of them.

Thanks to our volunteers --Sabrina, Genvieve, Pratik and Mona. They freed up us organizers to trouble-shoot and shmooze. More importantly, their calmness kept me calm in the early going when I was about to pop from stress.

Thanks to our sponsors --East India Company, Jaipur Bistro, Dharma Developments and La Galerie St Laurent+Hill. It goes without saying that such events are physically impossible without such support.

Thanks to my fellow organizers. Mick (Manmohan) Panesar leveraged his media network to ensure a jampacked space. And our leader, John Joseph, is truly a wonder with his businesslike ability to get done what needs to get done.

And of course thanks to you, because I know that many attendees are reading this blog. This really was one of the more unique social events Ottawa has seen in a while. Due to your support, we will definitely host another event sometime in the new year. If you have any ideas for future events, do let me know.

Sleep deprived, giddy, exhausted but strangey happy, right now I am nonetheless manning a table at the University of Ottawa for World AIDS Day.

So happy World AIDS Day, everyone!