Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Lighter Side...with Beethoven

I cannot not enter a contest, especially CBC's and especially when the first prize is an all expense paid trip to my favourite Canadian city, La Grande Dame, Montreal! The network's excellent well-balanced classical request show, Tempo is the perpetrator of the latest way for me to waste my time. They have called on listeners to pen limericks about Ludwig Van Beethoven's whose 9th Symphony, comprising the ubiquitous "Ode to Joy" highlights opening night for the new home of the L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. That's more or less concurrent to my own immortal beloved and me marking 18 years of marriage. So who can resist? Not me for sure.

Here then 10 entries for your possible amusement

Ludwig B___, a musician from Bonn
Would practice piano ‘til dawn
“To get the tune right
I insist on moon light!”
He declared as he stifled a yawn.

Young Ludwig composed very well
Yet when flattered by his clientele
He would often exclaim
“I deserve no great fame --
For this piece is a mere bagatelle.”

Napoleon to Ludwig once said
“Though most of great Europe I’ve led
When I sit down to play
Josephine will not stay
Sometimes even my valet has fled.”

While at work on his latest great opus
Bee-tho-ven shouted out “This is hopeless”
My “beautiful” waltz
is nothing but schmaltz
Proving I’m just a musical mopus*

*(Note: “Mopus” is an archaic expression for simpleton or ineffectual perso – see Oxford English Dictionary and usage by Johnathan Swift)

Van Beethoven’s brand new serenade
the young orchestra so badly played
But a more seasoned trio
covered it with such brio
That he said: “t’is for you gents, it’s made.”

Beethoven once said to his chef
“Great torte ! - but your viola clef
Sounds so misbegotten
Like a pate turned rotten
Looks like you, pal, not me, who’s gone deaf!”

Ludwig for his girl named Therese
Wrote a beautiful score, her to please
But she turned down his hand
For a far richer man
So he lied and said “T’was Fur Elise!”

While at work on his famous sonata
Ludwig B. polished off the dolmathas
Then that piggish ‘composa “*
Ate all the samosas
to become a persona non grata.

* to be read with an English or New England dropping of the r from composer.

Immortal beloved – how romantic!
Ludwig B. wrote some woman, so frantic.
But just who “beloved” was
Still has scholars a-buzz
as they argue their viewpoints pedantic.

Old Ludwig woke up in a sweat
‘Bout a project he’d not started yet.
Had he been far too rash
to accept advance cash?
This would truly be a Late Quartet!*

[There being a set of such quartets that the man composed in his old age and which are collectively known as the “Late Quartets”]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm Sorry - Nobody Truly Rioted

I'll keep this short because it's just an extrapolation on the immediately previous screed. I need to express bemusement bordering on amusement at the massive and ubiquitous denial about the ugly activity last week when Vancouver went down to the Bruins. I've already mentioned that the next day Lotusland bystanders, politicians, the media etc. reacted to the rioting with comments to the effect that this is not really Vancouver. That has been dealt with (see the final words of my column, "Victorious Boston...")

Many radio talk-shows later, I continued to hear similar clap-trap but then learned from no less authority than the vanquished Canuck team itself that the hooligans were not "true Canuck fans". They may have worn the blue and green and been seen doing rather fan-like things -- booing Boston's surprising finesse and unsurprising roughness, cheering the Canucks at least until the 3rd Boston goal, and then turning sullen en masse -- but, no, they weren't really fans, not "true" ones whatever that means in the luminary lingo of Luongo, manager Mike Gillis etc.

To ice the cake, now one of the do-badders, a well-heeled young fellow from Maple Ridge, has fessed up to having attempted to incinerate a cop car. Nathan Kotylak bravely came forward -- well, after photos of his deed went viral on the internet. He turns out to have been a high-achiever academically and in water polo, though, one must surmise, not actually a "true fan." But, after his very public tearful admission of his very public crime, along comes his dad, Greg, a general surgeon, and - echoes of all this massively accreting denial - asserts: "that night does not reflect his true character."

In conclusion the whole schmozzle has taken us into the far reaches of postmodernism where what is true is no longer what is true. We seem to be sliding down into a muck of Orwellian public discourse where slogans proclaim the exact opposite of reality.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Victorious Boston, Riotous Vancouver

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup! I think I need to say this because, thanks to the "exuberance" of innumerable poor losers in downtown Vancouver, That hard-earned triumph had to play second fiddle to riot trash talk. In fact, the hooligans accomplished, albeit incidentally to their purposes, the feat of distracting Canadians from the real and durable story Wednesday night - towering Chara hoisting the cup and, giving credit where due, the BC fans inside, staying on and showing genuine appreciation for the guys that had just tromped their idols. But in the media hype the next day this stunning win just didn't compete with burning cop cars in the heart of the world's most self-admiring city.

So I will make a modest correction of this and devote my opening paragraphs to that Bruins' win, commenting as I did to an embittered friend who called this a victory for "thuggery", that, no, it was heart beating ego. It wasn't quite the miracle on ice as when the U.S. Olympics squad upset Russia. But, especially if you lived and listened in British Columbia these past two months of playoff hockey, you would end up almost as dumbfounded as that fabled story way back in 1980. The Cup finals were supposed to be a coronation, a royal ceremony acknowledging that the Canucks like the city they play home games in, are best in every way. Indeed, the faithful frothing fans could not have been more surprised if - say - back in April, Kate Middleton had suddenly dumped Willy at the altar and leapt into the waiting arms of Tim "The Tank" Thomas.

In fact the Bruins earned the victory the old fashioned way. They were not thugs and though they are rough-and-tumble, nothing they did in the whole series to the purportedly faster, more sophisticated Canucks, compares to the vicious high hit, away from the play, that ended both perp Canuck Aaron Rome and victim Bruin Nathan Horton's 2011 finals.It had been a homey's series 'til then - indeed the Canucks' flop at the hostile Boston Garden was one of the battery of excuses that their supporters yanked out to explain the non-sweep. Ah, but back in GM Place, the Crown Princes of Lotusland would have their day. But, by mid way through the second period, badly outplayed and out-coached, Vancouver was a wind-bag with the air leaking out fast.

And, truth be told, how could that surprise very many partisan or not? Even going into the last game, the Bruins had outscored Vancouver 19-8; had the Canucks won, they would have set, by a country kilometre, the record for the worst goals' deficit by any Stanley Cup chumpion (did I misspell that?) ever. Boston, however, kidnly spared them that ignominy.

That's when the real civic ignominy took over by the milling mob outside. Already before the glass and debris was even cleaned up Thursday, Vancouver's spin doctors were predictably spewing out the "bad apple" theory story with many an indignant local adding to this over and over ad nauseum, to the effect that these aren't real Canucks fans, they were just a few bad and heavily marinaded twits; hell, they were probably mostly from Surrey!

Well, yes, in most any show of public violence whether by sports fans or pro-democracy demonstrators from Bangkok to Tunis, it is always a minority who go the furthest and start burning or throwing stuff. But let's not kid ourselves: there a lot of hoodlums on the loose.Of course, they had been stirred up to a fever pitch and milling about for days loudly insisting "it's our turn." The media had been trumpeting this for weeks; being a CBC listener I got a daily overdose locally, provincially and even nationally, as citizens were enjoined to support "Canada's team!" Rather presciently, the owner of the Canucks, Francesco Aquilini, even issued "a call to arms" in cajoling nationwide support for his team before Wednesday's match.

Like spoiled children who really thought it was "their turn", but who got queue-jumped, a rage of denied entitlement swept through that mob, a gigantic throng that had been encouraged to come on down for the party, while fore-notice was also trumpeted that the liquor stores would be closing early - like saying "Hey, stock up ahead!". Many injuries, arrests and millions of property damage resulted as did the predictable indignant proclamations "This is not the real Vancouver!",

And, sure, it was laudable that many locals turned out to help clean up and give with assistance to the police and business owners who got caught in whirlwinds of drink-stupefied disbelief and sore loser-ship.

But please: let's not pretend that this ugliness was just a few drunken idiots some of whom even came prepared to do damage. This, folks, was just as much the real Vancouver as all those mountains and early blossoms its inhabitants are so fond of condescendingly pointing out to the rest of us.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Smart is as Smart Does - Rex, Iggy & the Other Guys

As usual our revered Newfie broadcaster Rex Murphy has started out the current Canadian federal election, by clearing away every worthy, possible discussion topic so he and other at least temporarily parochial commentators can have the venerable Cross Country Check-Up all to themselves for their latest fix of Can-Pol junk. For those who may not know this program airs every Sunday, live across Canada. The topics range from the good fun of summer book selections to the most serious and deadly of world issues. And Rex, who uniquely combines a homey squid-jiggin' dialect with Rhodes scholar intellectual agility, is never at a loss for words or facts. Definitely worth a listen for anyone not yet familiar.

Well, usually worth a listen except for these periodic Canadian federal elections when his addiction to the small talk and smaller issues of our frozen Dominion swamp his good judgment. I refer primarily to the obsessive, repetitive insistence on covering the election despite ample more important issues. This week for example, it might have been rather important to consider the future of Western aid and presence in Afghanistan where mobs murdered selfless UN workers in response - get this! - in protest of a wing-nut Florida preacher burning a copy of the Koran. A lot of Canadians, including yours truly, might have wished to discuss these atrocities and what it says about putting our youth's lives on the line and our economy in debt to spend so thankless a decade among the Afghans. But no, we had to suffer through 2 hours of hearing about Elizabeth May being shut out of a televised debate or, the pros and cons of Harper's unfounded rants about hidden agendas and coalitions. (For podcast of this, the April 3 episode of Cross Country Check-up, click here)

And as if the choice of topic was not bad enough, Rex Murphy somehow got himself into saying some very strange things about Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader. Kicking off the program with a discussion with Rob Russo, Ottawa Bureau Chief of the Canadian Press, these two luminaries hastily reached concurrence that "Stephen Harper is very very smart" and that, on the other hand, (I directly quote from the podcast) for Michael Ignatieff,

Russo" "...the expectations are so low that if he'd put subject and predicate together, put one foot in front of the other he would have exceeded those expectations."

Rex:"Very true...I subscribe to the analysis that you've just laid out, I have no dissension on it all"

Now let me get this straight: Stephen Harper, Master's in Economics from the University of Calgary whose pre-political work experience was following the well-oiled (pun intentional!) path of his Dad at Exxon's Canadian branch plant, Imperial Oil -- is the "very, very smart" one of our principal combatants for Prime Minister.

And the inarticulate bumbling one to be facetiously congratulated, as Rex would later put "because he put two words together that had a sequence that is allowed by logic" - that's Ignatieff?
You know, the guy who holds a doctorate in history from Harvard and held teaching posts over the years at the University of British Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics. Yup, that Ignatieff, the former student and biographer of Isaiah Berlin, author of 17 fiction and non-fiction books, one of which, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond, won the George Orwell Prize while another, Scar Tissue, got shortlisted for the Mann-Booker. Poor tongue-tied Iggy was also a BBC broadcaster for a while, writing and hosting the award-winning series Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, which probably helped land him on Prospect Magazine's list of the world's top 100 public intellectuals (Very, very smart Harper has yet to appear, nor have Murphy and Russo). Oh, I almost forgot: he also somehow managed to handle a few subjects and predicates in a logical-enough order to be Massey Lecture laureate on Rex's own home network, CBC, in 2000.

Mind you, Rex ain't no slouch either on the brain side. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Ignatieff's Oxford - never completing a degree, mind you, but that hasn't impeded his stringing together those circumlocutory sentences that we all so love, has it?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Endorsement of Sorts: Anyone But Harper!

I want to get ahead of competing media sources like the Sun and the Globe and file my endorsement only 3 days into the Canadian election campaign.

Here it is and it couldn't be simpler. I endorse the candidate in your riding with the best chance of defeating whatever contemptuous, climate change-denying, trash-advertising, closet-tea-bagger, Harper has running there.

Have a hard keen look at polls in your area and make sure you are on the right side for not splitting the anti-NeoCon vote and allowing the Conservative snake to slither up the middle towards Ottawa.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Dredging Up the Other Guy's Past

So here we are, Canada, into yet another federal election. Prime Minister Harper is predictably dividing his attention in these earliest campaign days between implying that the election was not something Canadians want and trying to arouse fears that the three other main political parties are surreptitiously planning a coalition coup d'etat. I predict that neither theme will get far: having someone whose government has just been historically held in contempt of parliament, sounding off about what average Canadians want sounds, well, a little but like listening to Qaddafi claim that his now squelched military actions against Libyans were launched because he loved them so much.

As to the coalition bogey, no one is all that interested and any trace of authenticity to Harper's fear-mongering have been gloriously detonated by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe's incontrovertible evidence that the PM was pussyfooting about in 2004 cobbling together precisely the kind of alliance he now pontificates against. Frankly, I think Canada and Quebec would be very well served by an experiment in collaborative governance wherein patriotic Canadians and avowed separatistes were obliged to explore innovations in our fragile federalism.

But mentioning patriotism brings me around to the real thrust of what I have to say about the rhetoric of the incipient election campaign. For many weeks now, Harper's party has been running malicious ads about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. The thrust of these is that Ignatieff abandoned Canada, coming back only to claim a patrician's due right of governance. Intimations of a longstanding Canadian phobia for absentee rule abound in this unsubtle, mean-minded screed. Weirder yet, coming from George W.'s once-favourite hand puppet is the evidence trumpeted in the ad that Ignatieff - sit down please - admires the USA! What a sin to feel affection for our closest friend, ally and most significant trading partner.

The curiously counter-intuitive message is that an internationally respected public intellectual who has the merit to obtain senior academic posts at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard, and who has won acclaim and significant international awards for his writing, should be ashamed of having lived outside Canada. He has, in the Harper claque's estimation, the wrong pedigree not to mention divided allegiances.

The problem with probing into one's opponent's background - quite aside from the daft attempt to re-cast incredible achievement as a source of shame - is that it prompts a similar inquiry into one's own background. While Ignatieff was triumphing in noble, world-renowned institutions, Stephen Harper was also putting mind and heart into service for another immediately recognizable global entity - Imperial Oil. Analogous to Ignatieff's following in the footsteps of his famed diplomat father, George, Stevie also was making his dad proud. Papa Joe worked as a star computer expert and accountant for years for the oil giant and no doubt nudged and winked his baby boy into early summer jobs and later a start down a similar vocational pathway, doing financial programming for ExxonMobil's Canadian subsidiary.

The lad's strong identification with oil company interests drove him out of an early involvement in Young Liberal politics and into the welcoming arms of Alberta political crazies who eventually became the Reform Party, Canadian Alliance and now the Conservatives. Trudeau's National Energy Program which only slightly and temporarily constrained the financial free play and mega-growth of the oil patch, was the Darth Vader forcing Harper's youthful rightward conversion.

This, then, is the personal past that Harper invites us to stack up against the skeletons, such as they be in Michael Ignatieff's closet. Perhaps, my fellow Canadians as you ponder the choice you should ask this: if Micheal's heart really and secretly resides with the institution of Harvard University while Stephen's belongs to the corporate headquarters of Imperial AKA Exxon, which covert fealty should concern us more?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gaddafi's "Luck"

Definitive disclaimer: I am deeply concerned for the noble people of Japan who have in the past five days faced three interconnected cataclysms of unimaginable duress. We should help in any way we can as individuals, communities and nations. This said, I was stupefied when this morning's flagship CBC newscast, World Report covered nothing, zilch, nada - not 10 seconds about the continuing free hand Qaddafi is having rolling over the Libyan citizenry, using advanced weapons he bought from the west and Russia and China with profits gained from selling us all oil, developed with the expertise of our corporations.

The result is that the public here - and I fully imagine the same is true in Europe and the USA - is having its always deficient attention riveted on the quake, the tsunami, and the failing nuclear power plants while losing any zeal it had to urge our feckless leaders to do something tough in Libya. Qaddafi's henchmen are rolling east, behind air-power that ought to have been knocked out weeks ago. The noose is closing on Libyan citizens who are soon going to wish they lived in the stricken prefectures of northeastern Japan.

When the smoke clears from all this tumult there are going to be millions of traumatized Japanese who we will help and smugly feel good about ourselves for doing so; and there are going to be no fewer Libyans, murdered or reincarcerated in a brutal state and by a lucky madman whom we could have helped them get rid of.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Yes We Cant" or 6 Million Kitty Genoveses

I wonder as I write this what dwindling percentage of the population knows the name of Kitty Genovese. For we graying boomers who were just teens when she was murdered in 1964, the story and the somewhat embroidered myths of neighbourly indifference are never to be forgotten. As it was told back then, Ms. Genovese, a late shift bartender was attacked close to her New York City apartment and allegedly within the earshot of a famous 38 uncaring neighbours. As the story goes, they could hear her screams but simply closed their windows and pretended nothing was happening.

Also iconic when one is speaking of violent death is the number, 6 million. But I am not referring to the victims of the Holocaust except that many of them too could have been saved had indifference and prejudice not kept their refugee vessels offshore. No, I am building an analogy based on, Kitty lying bleeding and dying on the street, her assailant initially scared off but, emboldened by neighbourhood apathy, coming back to finish her off. And the analogue is the vast majority of Libyans (2010 pop. est. at 6.42 million) who have been willing to struggle against horrid odds and actions, while the richest most militarily capable nations on earth - ones who've partnered shamelessly with the Libyan madman, stand by and wring their hands. Like Kitty's attacker, Winston Moseley, Qaddafi seemed initially hesitant to mount a full deadly force assault. What would all these countries, recently chummed up by well-paid Western PR consultants, do if there was a counter-revolutionary slaughter? But he soon realized how toothless were these tigers, that the West would pontificate but be secretly relived in having to do nothing knowing that, inevitably, the far greater tyrannies of China and Russia would nix forthright UN Security Council action. These pompous bloviators are like one of Kitty's neighbours who, it is said, raised his window on that March night 47 years ago, and said "Hey, stop that!" then closed the window and probably went back to the TV wrestling matches.
Each day hundreds of brave freedom fighters die and Qaddafi's henchmen, using the modern materiel that our western development and markets for Libya's oil have financed, draw closer to a major massacre. And now we get limp "hey-stop-thats" from, among others, a Nobel Peace laureate who used to proclaim "Yes, we can!"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Deserting the Desert, or Who We Should Be Worrying About

Perhaps it is simply the inevitable occlusion of media that we are now hearing more from and about the political leadership of Canada on getting our nationals out of Libya than any other of the many urgent matters. Likewise there's been a flood of the almost automatic inevitable bitching from stranded Canadians and media hype pejorative of the undoubtedly overwhelmed Canadian embassy staff in Tripoli. No one can ever be doing enough for these benighted souls somehow stranded in North Africa. Somehow?

As this scramble for means of evacuation so publicly continues, almost no one is asking the obvious companion question: why are there so many Canadians in Libya who suddenly need our government and our tax dollars for their salvation? Why are they there? Why - I'll ask with feigned momentary naivete - are they so plentiful in a bleak desert country in North Africa that there is such massive demand for rapid egress? Or, equally rhetorically, why so much Canuck ingress in the first place?

Of course the one word answer is oil as it is the massive Libyan petro fields that brought in foreign nationals and, more to the point, foreign development in the first place. If we allow ourselves one more rhetorical, to what extent has it been the presence of western money, western oil companies and all those now anxious to desert the so lucrative desert who have been the willing and well recompensed bulwarks of the Brotherly Leader and his henchmen. Where would Qaddafi have been in the 42 years of his tyranny without the steady support of major firms like Shell, Conoco, Husky and the Italian giant Eni. But even more pervasive are the countless small to medium sized oil and gas supporting cast whose ancillary services range from catering to heavy equipment repair to helicopter transport to the secondary and tertiary thriving nationalized businesses whose existence, to repeat, is all about oil.

Canadians have been prominent in blithely joining this workforce and thereby taking strong supporting roles in maintaining Qaddafi's primary source of money and might. At the same time, Europe, followed by the USA fell for Qaddafi's newfound, strategic, but shallow "reasonability" by buying more of his oil, investing in his regime, and generally welcoming Libya back into the fold of respectability needed for ever-widening globalization. "Complicity" is way too passive and gentle a word for all that was done since the early 2000s to suck up to Qaddafi's propaganda and his petroleum.

So as the real victims in this sordid situation - the innocent and courageous native Libyan men, women and children - cower in their unlit and unprovisioned hell-holes, while Qaddafi's oil-funded goon squads roam the streets, should we not be asking more critically who is deserving of ours and other western government's primary attention? Should we be preoccupied with rescuing our "own," most of whom gladly and for their own enrichment, went to Libya, thereby rather obviously propping up Qaddafi all these years? Or should, we instead be focused, with other NATO allies, on firm intervention to put an immediate stop to audacious slaughter? We need to save people who are not only Qaddafi's but our victims, those who have endured a tyranny partially of the making of foreign nationals now scrambling for cover. Is it just too hard to admit that the "mercenaries" in this tragic situation, are not just the paid thugs roaming Tripoli's bloodied streets? Many are standing around airports and seaports, suitcases in hand, waiting to desert Qaddafi's sinking ship.

Qaddafi, seems to be holed up in Bab al-Azizia, the same compound that NATO blasted in 1986 with far less justification than freeing an entire long-suffering populous. You do the math.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


How time flies! Here we are a year since the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (the province's richest region) got a two week party thrown for it by the rest of BC and Canada. Apparently the CBC is revving up a television special with all the tedious hoopla replayed while the City of Vancouver, which got the lion's share of any the debatable long term benefits, ramps up for an anniversary celebration

But to their credit, the CBC, through The Fifth Estate and news coverage this week, has also been instrumental in unearthing the fatal incompetence of the Olympiad's luge track and the disgraceful story of how one company purged its surplus inventory, to wit, healthy huskies, once the party was over and the anticipated tourism dropped off.

Here then, that Olympic legacy that us doubters never anticipated...

IN MEMORIAM 1: The 100 or so huskies butchered by an outdoor adventure company that ramped up sled dog numbers for the Olympic bubble and, then, when the inevitable drop-off in demand followed, executed them. These victims should become the logos for the preposterous ill-founded claims that the Olympiad perpetrators and their lap-dogs continue to make for its economic and "psychic" benefits for Canada.

Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili whose deadly practice run was quickly hushed up by the Vancouver Organizing Committee whose head honcho denied any conceivable inklings of the track being too fast. Now CBC's The Fifth Estate has unearthed emails from Furlong which, to the contrary, show that there were warnings and, further, that he well understood the liability this could have created long before the Nodar was killed.

I guess all you can say to the Olympic organizers and the countless Canadians who swallowed all the patriotic blather that continues to be pumped out about this costly, but trivial pursuit, is bloody Happy Anniversary to ya!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Come-Uppance on CBC about Cell Use While Driving

The sheer annoyance factor of seeing drivers on cell phones was captured satisfyingly in the earliest day's of the device in the 1990 comedy, Crazy People. Allegedly going crazy, ad-man, Emory Leeson (Dudley Moore) manifests his breakdown by jumping out of his car, wrenching a nearby driver's clunky old fashioned car phone from his grip and tossing it off the Brooklyn Bridge (you can see this most gratifying scene at the beginning of the movie's trailer). Seemed very sane to me even at the time and today, should merit some kind of good citizen commendation.

Indeed, jurisdictions all over the world have recognized the incompatibility of cell phone use and safe driving, lessons derived from countless tragedies. Stunningly,with the advent of texting, ubiquitous half-wits have added this activity to their repertoire of pastimes done while behind the wheel. In British Columbia, where I live, a law prohibiting all of this came into effect a year ago but it has been widely observed that while there may have been a brief period of abiding by the new rules, recidivism is high. And so it is estimated that in the vicinity of 50 deaths and who knows how many injuries have been caused by the now illegal activity here in BC alone. The world figure of course is in the the 1000's with texting having dramatically increased fatalities.

BC Alamanac CBC's once-excellent noon call-in show observed the one-year anniversary of the law on Tuesday (Feb 1) by bringing in RCMP Superintendant Norm Gaumont, who has been a lead spokesman on this issue in BC's Lower Mainland. . Clips were played from a riveting documentary prepared, interestingly enough, by AT & T; Mark urged listeners to call in with ideas on "what more could be done to stop" this. He then turned to Supt. Gaumont to expound more knowledgeably on the dire consequences of this incomprehensibly dumb and now illegal activity.

There followed several calls confirming full agreement among the guest, the host and the callers of this increasingly frequent and often tragic scofflawing. You could hear the veritable hand-wringing!

But what to do about it? There were mutterings of raising the fine from its current $167 although no one seemed to have much expectation that that would have a measurable positive effect on seemingly incurable and often terminal driver stupidity. Well, as unusual I held some strong opinions not only on this practice but what could be done to stop it: I called in and suggested that anyone caught in the act should have her or his phone forfeited. What with the rising infatuation for high cost iPhones and the like, this seemed not only a fitting measure to me but one likely to give even the most asinine compulsive texter, pause for thought as their stupidly-used smart phone vanished forever.

To my surprise Supt. Gaumont dismissed the idea out of hand with the incisive explanation that people including politicians wouldn't like it. Golly gee. You know just like if you caught an armed mugger and took his gun away, he wouldn't like it. Yet cell phone drivers kill roughly the same number of innocent victims annually in our province as do those with firearms.

At that point Mark hit the button for the next call without giving me a moment's opportunity to engage the good policeman on the possible logical and moral errors of his blithe and presumptuous rebuff.

So I am left only repeat here the point that it is an entirely fair consequence when one perilously misuses a device, breaking a law and mortally endangering others, to forfeit the offending item. I would further argue that laws and regulations be enacted so we could ban repeat offenders from even owning a phone for some substantial period. Lives would be saved but, oh my goodness, Supt.Gaumont doesn't think think that the moronic scofflaws would like that.

As long as the primary enforcers like Supt. Gaumont, who know all too intimately the blood-stained impacts of cell-crazy drivers, maintain such craven and occluded views, closing their minds knee-jerk to alternatives, this problem will simply grow.

By way of addendum, may I also grouse -- as is my entitlement -- about the way that Mark Forsythe, the long time and, in my view, once-excellent host is now handling calls. As mentioned, when I advanced my view and Supt. Gaumont so cavalierly tossed it aside, Mark had already cut me off which meant no chance to challenge the guest's feckless, knee-jerk reaction. This is utterly inadequate and disrespectful of authentic public discussion. It privileges the so-called expert while reducing anyone who goes to the trouble of dialing, to the short shrift of studio guests' one-liners.

Back when BC Almanac was two hours long, you usually had a chance to make at least one rebuttal point and not be left sounding like some know-nothing whose hare-brain thought is unworthy of further talk. That's the way dialogue still goes on on the national call-in show, Cross Country Check up on Sundays. To pretend that what Almanac is doing now is real public deliberation is delusional. Mark and his producers should either fight to get back the full time period - I'll help! --or altogether drop this phony phone discourse. We, the great unwashed could then just sit up straight with hands meekly folded, listening to our betters, just like the literally dumb little creatures we are being treated as.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Puzzled about YouTube Blockers

Recently I heard again, "Beachcombing" a song by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris which had just breezed by me when it was released in 2006 on their album, "All the Roadrunning." This time, no doubt because some of the lyrics presciently connote the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I was more deeply affected. It opens...

They say there’s wreckage washing up
all along the coast
No one seems to know too much
Or who got hit the most
Nothing has been spoken
There’s not a lot to see
But something has been broken
that’s how it feels to me

We had a harmony
I never meant to spoil
Now it's lying in the water
Like a slick of oil
The tide is running out to sea
Under a darkening sky...

I went to YouTube (where else?) and was surprised to find very limited entries. It's become pretty common when one gets a penchant to hear some favourite song, to find videos with the music. Often these are pretty rudimentary, maybe just a still picture or two of the artist sitting there throughout. For "Beachcombing" there was a little more but if anything it would have been better to have stuck with the stills. Thus, for example, one YouTuber nicknamed McDaidUSA, chose to have this haunting anthem as back up to her or his reunion with relatives in Ireland's west country. This includes spots of barely comprehensible voice-over narration of McDaidUSA's big trip.

My sister searched about at my request and found another non-YouTube posting -- a Spanish language one. It was far worse than the travelogue of Eire, mainly consisting of panoramic shots of white-sanded tourist-y tropical resorts, punctuated by the occasional young lady in bikini. Indeed, the finale is of one such woman beaming with delight, captured in the accompanying screen-shot. It seemed to me that the melancholy tone and pensive lyrics were entirely missed by whomever assembled and posted this.

Idled for a morning (i.e. not wanting to work) I decided to rise to the challenge and splice together a slide show which was exquisitely (or so I think) timed so that the images synched with and were appropriate to the lyrics. Once done, I uploaded to YouTube and sent the URL to my sister who discovered minutes later that it had been blocked. Even though I'd credited and indeed promoted the album, a surly and chagrined little red face appeared with an unconvincing apology, ""This video contains content from WMG and UMG, one or more of whom have blocked it on copyright grounds. Sorry about that."

So have I got this straight? -- it's okay to rip off the artists and production company as back up for your so fascinating Irish vacation or to switch to Spanish and show tourist scenes and nubile beach girls? But, for heaven's sake don't give direct credit and try, at least, to jibe with the creator's seeming intent! Well, not to be stymied, here's the ouevre for your enjoyment whilst I figure out a way around the YouTube enforcers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Miss "Entitled Opinions"

I seldom promo anything on this hitherto commercial-free hub of the North. But as today marks the return of my absolute favourite podcast, an exception is made. "Entitled Opinions" flows out from a basement studio at one of the world's finest universities, Stanford. The head honcho is Robert Harrison, a professor of Italian and romance literature there. The format for the show is that he kibitzes for about an hour with a leading luminary on subjects whose variety will astound. If I read the list correctly, it all began with a couple of shows about Freud almost 6 years ago, and then traversed terra creativa from conversations about Kurt Weill's music and life, through several excursions with Harrison's esteemed Dante to sessions on the Jesuits, tennis, the Blues, Emily Dickinson and Jimi Hendrix...and a whole lot more. What is striking for me is just how passionate and knowledgeable Harrison is on so eclectic an array of topics.

On top of this, as of last year, the opening switched from an old Enigma cut, to a haunting and voluptuous song which I could not track down for quite a while. Then, I learned that it was the Entitled Opinions team comprising several academics including Harrison and his brother, Tom. Harrison is a damn fine guitarist, adding to his intellectual and broadcasting abilities, the kind of Renaissance man that you are glad exists somewhere but are also happy that your high school rival didn't grow up to be! . The music group which he's formed, Glass Wave, has cut a fascinating literary excursion which, in contrast to other high-concept academically inspired offerings, is also just a real good listen. Eclectic as ever, Harrison's group with vocals by Entitled Opinions producer and Stanford doctoral candidate, Christy Wampole, travels broadly through canonical literature - Narcissus, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Virginia Woolf, Poe's "Annabel Lee," etc. - not only making good music but also providing original and critical insights into the story-lines and characters of these classics. The cut, "Ophelia", for example, broadened my longstanding perspective on Hamlet, disabusing me of the belief that I had heard everything and much more that I ever needed about the play.

Well, the wait is over and another season of Entitled Opinions is now underway, alas with Christy departing so as to finish her dissertation. The opener is on Moby Dick. Listen, friends! Subscribe!