Sunday, July 31, 2005

When Will It End?

It has been said that politics make strange bedfellows, and the Israel-Palestine issue is a great case in point. A lot of Jews who are otherwise progressive have allied themselves with the Religious Right and the Neo-Cons for their support of Israel. (Neither the Religious Right nor the Neo-Cons are on their side out of concern for the Jewish people.) And many people, including a significant number of Jews, who have legitimate questions about the policies of the Israeli government march in lockstep with those who utilize the issue to further their anti-Semitic agenda. Any discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to be prefaced by saying that it is much more complicated than most people recognize, whichever side they are on.

The very existence of the State of Israel is fraught with peril. Israel stands as a very small island surrounded by a sea of Arab and Islamic nations, many of whom have anti-Jewish sentiment ingrained in their culture. A lot of it has been exacerbated since Israel came into being. This is not a justification, but a recognition that there was a time when Jews and Arabs could live as neighbours in the region. There might have been a bit of a bunker mentality when they were both under British rule in Palestine, but Jews were also able to live in relative peace elsewhere in the Middle East. However, the anti-Jewish culture of the region has become grotesque over the last half-century and is just another reason why Israelis feel they need to keep their guard up, and you can't really blame them for that. Then there is the Palestinian refugee problem, which isn't entirely of Israel's making, and not aided at all by the rest of the Arab world. Anyone who criticizes Israel without understanding its history and its obstacles to maintaining democracy need to familiarize themselves with these facts or there will never be any reconciliation of thought.

I wrote recently that the foreign policies and actions taken by the U.S. over the years have not always been benevolent. This idea is considered blasphemous by many on the Right, and condemns me to membership in the "hate America" crowd. But it took me a long time to figure out that the actions taken by governments are not necessarily refelctive of the values of its common citizens, because the corporte power elite doesn't have the citizens' interests in mind. This is not only true of the U.S. If France had thought they could have their interests served by fighting the war in Iraq, they'd have been first in the door. And supporters of Israel should not forget that Israel is not immune. Recall that Israel stood almost alone in the industrial world in their relations with apartheid South Africa in the 70's and 80's. Even now, Israel has seen fit to conduct arms sales with China, the next real menace in the world (and I'll write about China some time soon.) Dwight Eisenhower, upon leaving the office of President, warned of the dangers of too much influence by the Military-Industrial Complex. There is no doubt that plenty of powerful and influential people (and especially corporations) have a vested interest in the perpetuation of conflict. Make no mistake - this is the case in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well. There is a lot of money and power to be lost, on both sides, by a permanent resolution. People who take a black-and-white, hawkish stand in support of Israel have to take this into consideration, or else there will never be any reconciliation of thought.

Where do I stand? I guess you'd call me an extreme moderate. I support a safe and secure State of Israel, as well as a viable Palestinian state. I believe that Palestine's ascension to statehood would immediately make it more accountable to the international community for any terrorist acts perpetrated against Israel. But I also believe that a lot of the measures taken by the Israeli military have been excessive and counterproductive, and justly criticized. In answer to those who wonder why liberal groups criticize Israel but give the Palestinian terrorists and oppressive Arab regimes a "free ride", I can only answer this way: Israel is a democracy, a very important fact in that region. Liberals who value democracy and freedom believe that free nations should live up to a higher standard than those who are not, and demonstrate why our way is better. This is why torturous acts committed in Gitmo and Abu Grahib are abhorrent to any society that values the rule of law. Democracies are rightfully singled out for their transgressions because there is the hope that the people in these countries can hold their leaders accountable for such actions and straighten them out. This is not possible in dictatorships. You have to keep your own house in order before you chew out your neighbour. Saying "we're not as bad as the other guys" is not living up to the highest standards.

It is my hope that the moderate voices on both sides will win the day amid the slings and arrows of outrageous hatred. It is my fear that the powers that be will keep their own winning streak intact.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The "Liberal New York Times" - Whatever

There's an interesting Piece by Eric Alterman in The Nation. If you have not read his "What Liberal Media?", this article can be considered Liberal Media Myth-Busting 101. It is known among many people who study such matters, and even acknowledged by some on the Right, that the years of griping about the liberal media has been analogous to "working the refs" in a sporting event. The idea is that if you keep riding the referees, eventually the close calls will start going your way. I don't know if this strategy necessarily works in football or basketball, but it is clearly a winning strategy in the corporate media. If you want to talk about the media that the Right complains about most, you have to start with the New York Times. And Alterman's article points out how the Times has made a conscious editorial shift to the right.

(The latest salvo fired in the war against American democracy was fired by none other than Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. In his July 22 Column, Friedman advocates publishing a quarterly blacklist of "excuse makers" - the people who believe that terrorist attacks might be a reaction to certain acts of foreign policy. Aside from the ubiquitous straw man about precipitation equaling justification, it ignores the fact that polls indicate that this description actually applies to the majority of Americans. And who would have thought that the advocating of intimidation on free speech would be found in the pages of the Newspaper of Record?)

There are other examples of media being intimidated by the Right. MSNBC cancelled Phil Donohue's show, in spite of the fact that it was pulling in the highest ratings at that network. Apparently they were afraid to be labeled anti-war, even though Donohue was the only on-air personality at the network who was opposed to the war. Even before that, Donohue had noted that for every liberal guest he had on his show he was required to bring on two conservatives. But conservative guests frequently appear on cable news shows unchallenged, or opposed by weak or moderate opposition. That any expression of liberal thought at all has become pejorative is very sad, and an awful thing for a free-thinking society.

Now the battle is extending beyond the corporate media. There is an ongoing insurrection of the Right against public broadcasting. Ken Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has taken it upon himself to address the issue of liberal bias at PBS and NPR, and to establish more "balanced" programming. And I can't blame him for that, what with PBS having been the home to such liberal stalwarts as Tucker Carlson, Louis Rukeyser, John McLaughlin and William Buckley.

The best advice I can give my American friends is to keep your eyes open and realize what is going on around you. How long will it be before dissent itself becomes illegal? The message you get from the mainstream media is becoming increasingly homogeneous. If you want good information you have to rely on alternative sources in addition to the mainstream, then use your own judgment. Or just keep reading my blog, and let me tell you what to think.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Anyone? Anyone?

The Rove-Plame affair marches on, and gets curiouser and curiouser every day. As I mentioned previously, I see this issue only as ancillary to the greater scandal of the Bush Administration's lying about the need to go to war, but it appears to be the only scandal attached to Bush that has any traction in the mainstream media, so it's worth another mention. And every day another lackey comes out of the woodwork to offer a new nugget of stupidity in defense of Bush and his henchmen. The latest in the hit parade - Ben Stein.

Yes, THAT Ben Stein. Stein is incredibly intelligent, and has a wonderful sense of humour. He was terrific in Ferris Bueller, and his game show was must viewing. But in case you don't know his background, he is an economist and lawyer by trade, and was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon. He is extremely conservative in his economics, an anti-choice activist and a self-described friend of Dubya, but is perfectly comfortable hobnobbing with the Hollywood community. According to Wikipedia, "Stein eventually became a Hollywood consultant, helping liberal writers portray a conservative family on television."

Stein appeared this past weekend on CBS' "Sunday Morning" and offered his Commentary on the Plamegate scandal. To me it is very sad to see someone as bright as Stein present such a dumb message. But it is also scary that he seems to have learned nothing from his experience in the Nixon White House. After offering a lame defense for Rove's actions (based on information he can't possibly know and that has been refuted by people who would know), he advised Bush not to give in to the political pressure to fire Rove. On what does he base this advice?

...I worked for a president named Richard Nixon who was an extraordinary genius but who handled this kind of thing totally wrong, so maybe we can learn from him...

I saw this happen with Mr. Nixon when I worked for him decades ago. Whenever Mr. Nixon tossed an aide off the sled for the wolves to eat, the wolves just got hungrier. Nixon's enemies' target was Nixon, not his aides. Once they devoured his helpers, the enemies just got stronger and Nixon got weaker. There's a lesson there for you: Chuck Schumer's after you, Mr. President, not Karl Rove.

In other words, the biggest problem with Nixon and his aides wasn't that they committed crimes, but that they didn't "handle" the situation in the right way. So what is Stein trying to say? Does he truly believe that Nixon didn't do anything wrong and was brought down only because of unjust persecution by political enemies? I find that absolutely incredible. He is obviously trying to convey to the audience that this whole Rove affair was concocted by the Democrats, and they should not be appeased for political expediency. The trouble with that is it was the CIA who requested the investigation. But it goes along with the pattern of Right Wing leaders and their apologists - deny, deflect, demonize the whistlebolowers, and come up with a different story every day. (What is today's reason for the war? How many communists are working in the defense department today?) The Republicans should change their name to the Revisionist Party.

As for Stein, loyalty might be blind, but to deny reality over thirty years after the fact might require a thorough psychiatric examination. It's a good thing that he probably knows a lot of Hollywood shrinks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Jaymeister Diet

A couple of years ago, I lost a fair amount of weight. I don't know what my exact weight was at the beginning, but it was in the 205-210lb range. Within about four months I was down to 174, and I've been able to stay close to that weight ever since. I fluctuate a little bit here and there, especially as the seasons change, but last week I weighed myself at 175. I'm will now share the secret of my success. Although I'm not a nutritionist, I can safely advise you not to try this at home.

The funny thing about it was that at the beginning, I wasn't really looking to lose a lot of weight so quickly. I was concerned about my weight but didn't really have the discipline to stick to a formal diet plan. Fortunately I've always been fairly active, or else my weight would have been even worse than it was because I liked to eat in quantity. Then, one day, it was lunch time at work, but I didn't have a lot of time on that particular day. There's a Chinese restaurant across the street from where I work that I am a frequent patron of, and on that day I got a half portion of noodles and spicy chicken because I didn't have time to eat the full portion. Lo and behold, my appetite was quite satisfied with that smaller portion, and from that point on I have made a point of never getting overstuffed.

Once I got used to smaller portions, I was determined to cut bad foods out of my diet totally. I swore off fried foods. I elimintated fast food excepting salads and Subway. Hardest of all for me, I did not eat any sweets at all for a good four months, except for one soft ice cream at the company barbecue, one ice cream bar at SARS-stock, and the occasional Werther's candy from the reception desk at work. Soon after giving up these foods was when I started to press the boundaries. I became calorie-conscious. I counted the calories of practically everything I ate. I became a voracious reader of nutritional information labels, and didn't eat foods that I felt had lower-calorie alternatives. I wasn't on a low-carb diet by any means, but I did not eat any superfluous carbs - ie. no potatoes, minimal rice and almost no bread. I was too dumb to realize that you can subtract fibre from the carb count in whole wheat bread, so I didn't eat that either except in subs. I also limited the amount of fruit I ate.

I recently saw an article titled 14 Ways to Speed Up Your Metabloism. It is addressed to women, but most of the tips would apply to men as well (except maybe for step 12 which is "Sweat out your PMS"). Having read those tips, it really is a wonder that I lost any weight at all. For one thing, I've never been a breakfast eater. Looking back, that was a big mistake. Since your body's metabolism doesn't speed up from its sleeping rate until you eat, skipping breakfast is actually counterproductive if your aim is to lose weight. Skipping any meal is really a bad idea, because the body will act like you are starving and your metabolism will slow down as if you're in survival mode. I've recently made more of an effort to eat something in the morning, but it would have been helpful back then. Another tip was not to overdo calorie-cutting, because your body is accustomed to a certain calorie intake and you metabloism will slow down, again as if in survival mode, if you're not feeding it what it's used to. I estimate that when I was losing weight, I was consuming between 1000 and 1200 calories in a typical weekday, and probably about 2000 on weekend days.

So, what was I eating? On a typical workday I would usually have at mid-morning a light hot chocolate which I know is exactly 45 calories. (At that time I thought the 90 calories in the regular hot chocolate was grossly excessive.) For lunch I would have a frozen No-Name entree, either the spaghetti at 238 calories or, if I was really feeling decadent, the lasagna at 280 calories. In the summer I might supplement that with a cob of corn, which is about 100 calories according to For dessert I'd have a fruit. By the late afternoon I'd be pretty hungry, and obsessed with getting home for dinner. For dinner I would usually have bagged salad, with a bit of light dressing and sprinkled with sunflower seeds for protein. I still frequently have that as a meal, because it's actually quite filling, but back then it was practically every day. At first I wasn't even sprinkling on the seeds, and so on some occasions I would eat a whole bag of salad in one night. When I wasn't eating salad, I'd have frozen chicken filets. For a treat I would have 15 calorie sugar-free popsicles, and maybe indulge in another fruit. That was pretty much it. On weekends I allowed myself to have some chicken and, on extremely rare occasions, red meat. And each weekend I'd have a turkey sub or a Wendy's salad.

Looking back on it, it was an insane way to lose weight. I was hungry a lot of the time, I was distracted at work by obsession with food, my energy levels were often low, and I lost a lot of distance on my golf shots the rest of that year. But I realized at the time that I was riding an improbable wave of discipline that I'd likely never have again, so I needed to strike while the iron was hot. Indeed, I couldn't see myself being able to pull something like that off again. But because of that experience, I know I won't have to. After that ordeal in losing the weight, making the required lifestyle changes to keep the weight off are a piece of cake! (Mmmmmm. Cake.) I still don't eat fast food or fried foods (two servings of french fries in two years), and I still avoid superfluous carbs. I do eat more whole wheat bread now, and I do indulge in dessert more often than I care to admit - you can only suppress a sweet tooth for so long. I also eat a whole lot of fruit.

I don't advocate that anybody follow this method. The point of all this is to emphasize the fact that successful weight maintenance is about lifestyle change. Anybody can follow a fancy diet plan and lose a bunch of weight, but they tend to forget that reaching their weight goal is not the end of the process but just another beginning. At some point you come to the realization that your health is much more rewarding than a Quarter Pounder with cheese, and you can't forget that once you've posted an arbitrary number. And you can't always rely on others to remind you of that after they've already collected your money to follow their plan. My experience was that the inspiration to lose weight came from within, as did the means toward that end. The result is that I'm as healthy as ever, my energy levels are great, and the golf ball is flying again. If only there were a diet that could keep the ball straight.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Postcard From Noam

Noam Chomsky is one of the most intriguing figures from academia of the last half century. As a political and social commentator he is all at once inspirational, controversial, polarizing and, to most of the population, obscure. And he has also found time to be a giant in the field of linguistics - and no less controversial. (There is an excellent overview of everything Chomsky in Wikipedia.) I was first introduced to the works of Chomsky while studying Communications at Concordia. It was fashionable in that faculty to read the works of leftists like Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, and any number of others who the Right would describe as "self-loathing Jews." And at the time I dismissed most of the Chomsky I read as bunk. Little did I know then how much of it would seep into my worldview as time went on.

The thing about Chomsky is that you may vehemently disagree with his conclusions, but he certainly makes you re-evaluate the way you think about things. I'll give you an example. I recall the first time I read Chomsky opine on the obsession with Sports in society, myself being a big sports fan, I thought he was full of shit. It is his belief that the function of sports is to act as a diversion from the things that are important, so the huddled masses could devote their intellect and energy to something unimportant rather than toward upsetting the pillars of power and authority. My initial reaction was that it is ridiculous to think that the rise to prominence of sports had to do with anything other than market forces, and if people choose to devote their time as sports spectators rather than as political activists, that is their free will.

My perspective has changed somewhat since then. The thing you have to realize with Chomsky is that it is very easy to disagree with his conclusions regarding cause, but in this case there is no mistaking the effect. The heightened status of sports, light entertainment, fluff and the general culture of celebrity does have a damaging effect on democracy. It is a complicated issue in the big picture, but I'll try to be brief. The main principle is that a corporate media only serves corporate interests, and not the public. Why do CNN and Fox News devote so many hours a day to Michael Jackson trials and Tom Cruise ramblings and tabloid trash when, back in the old days, these things would be relegated to the gossip columns, People Magazine or the National Enquirer? They have a lot of hours to fill, and they are up against the Oprahs and Dr. Phils of the world and this is what the focus groups say people want to see. And because it's on the news networks, it must be important. The conventional network news programs, desperate to keep their decimated audiences and more bottom-line conscious than ever before, follow suit. The definition of news has changed. So now every celebrity blowup, or missing teenage girl (provided she's white and attractive) becomes the big story of the day. Which means there is less time and resources available to cover the real issues of the day and provide the oversight of power that should be expected from the fourth estate. That's when the parroting of propaganda that I wrote about in a previous post comes into play and, subsequently, Manufactured Consent. And let's not forget the sports industry which has grown exponentially, not coincidentally, since the advent of 24 hour a day sports television. No doubt about it, the people are getting what they want to see as consumers. But are they well served? Is democracy well served? If you consider that two of the issues that the U.S. Congress took up recently - with unquestioning media coverage - were Terry Schiavo (a tragic family story that would be tabloid fodder) and steroids in baseball, all while there is war and scandal going on, you might start to see the connections.

Once you step away from the model of "conspiracy" and objectively look at what the importance placed on circuses has done to the discourse in society, you realize that Chomsky has something valid to say, and that same critical thinking can be applied to his other areas of commentary. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with diversions, as I will continue to write about sports and music and the like in this space. But make no mistake - golf isn't a diversion. It is the only true reality.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No Sugar Tonight

It was bound to happen. Whether you're a concert virtuoso, a star athlete or a lowly amateur blogger, you're gonna have an off day once in a while. I have lots of topics on my mind, but just no mental energy to expound on them tonight. It's a good thing I came across something trivial to talk about.

I'm a Rogers High Speed internet subscriber, and the default home page when I open my web browser is, oddly enough, the Rogers Yahoo! Home Page. You have the option of setting up the page as you wish, but I've never bothered to take the time to do it. There is a lot of information on there, including weather, sports scores, Rogers Cable TV listings and news headlines of different categories. Then there is the most prominent section with news headlines, links to video clips, and other interactive stuff. More often than not, this section is full of fluff, and I've complained that this section should have more hard news. But an item came up on there tonight that I couldn't resist. It's titled "POLL: What's the best Canadian rock band ever?" I clicked on it, and a pop-up poll came up with the following selections: Rush, The Guess Who, The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo.

That was a very disappointing list, if you ask me. For the record, I was torn between Rush and The Guess Who but opted for the latter. As of this writing they are tied at the top with 32% each, the Hip are at 21%, BNL 8% and Blue Rodeo 7%. But I think to narrow down the list of great Canadian bands to a choice of five does not do this country's music industry justice. What about BTO? Nickelback? April Wine? Sum 41? Sloan? Max Webster? Glass Tiger - NOT! Certainly a case could be made for many bands. The five chosen for the poll are probably the most commercially successful bands in Canada, but does that equate greatness? Obviously that's in the ear of the beholder. And the choices seem generationally biased. I do believe that Rush and The Guess Who are truly great bands. The Guess Who are most well known for a string of hits in the late 60's and early 70's, but those hits alone don't paint the entire picture. They were an extremely talented bunch, who could perform just about any style of music from blues to psychedelia. And Rush was probably the pre-eminent progressive rock band in North America. I was fortunate enough to see both of them play in the summer of 2003, along with 400,000 of my closest friends, at the big "SARS-stock" concert in Toronto.

After sort of slagging Canadians yesterday, it's only fair that I give due props tonight. We rock better than Americans. The quality of music coming from Canadian rock musicians is at a higher level than what comes from the big marketing machine to the south. The British are at the top, but we're not too bad - we compare favourably with the Aussies. The discussion of greatest bands doesn't even cover the great individual talent produced in this country, which includes some true legends. Neil Young alone should be enough to give all our citizens free lifetime passes to the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame.

Interestingly, the poll seemed to be precipitated by an informal Poll in USA Today on the greatest American rock bands. The winner there was Pearl Jam, followed by Aerosmith and Van Halen. Not exactly The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but that's apparently the best the Yanks have to offer. Highly arguable results in that poll as well - The Beach Boys and Nirvana were just 17 and 18 respectively, and Journey(!) at number 5 - but at least it was a write-in and not limited to just five bands.

This is the kind of fluff I can sink my teeth into. I'm sorry for falling back on it tonight. Tomorrow I hope to be in better form. If I write anything about Bananarama tomorrow, call an ambulance.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

In Defense of Americans

Am I anti-American? The Right seems to think so. When President Bush was making his case for war in Iraq, he went out of his way to make it clear that this war was being waged on Saddam Hussein and his regime, and not on the people of Iraq or the Arab and Islamic world. It's funny how he and his noise machine are unable to make the same distinctions regarding their critics.

Polls have been done around the world, including the Islamic world, that indicate that the U.S.A. is the country that is admired most. People admire the freedoms and democratic ideals of America. It is recognized that the American people are among the most generous on the planet, and their inventiveness and enterprise are universally praised. However, the flip side is the "meddling" foreign policy, which most people feel has been destructive. Given the track record, it's hard to disagree. Virtually every villain the U.S. has had to wrestle with in recent years has been someone they were responsible for building up. Over the years they have overthrown democratically elected leaders and replaced them with business-friendly dictators. To be sure, there have been successes too, like the Marshall Plan and reconstruction of Japan and Germany, but any objective study of history would make it difficult to describe American foreign policy as exclusively benevolent. After all, the U.S. is a superpower. Power corrupts, and superpower corrupts, um, superly? This has been going on for a long time, and can't be totally pinned on the current administration. Ugly things were happening in the Carter administration too. But instead of learning the lessons of the past, Bush and his PNAC puppetmasters are all too eager to press forward. And they fill the airwaves and printing presses with propaganda that if you are not with them you are against freedom and democracy. Still, most people are smart enough to distinguish the ideals of America and the people of America from the misguided policies of the American power elite. So-called anti-Americanism is nothing more than anti-American-Imperialism and anti-Bushism.

Canada has a worldwide reputation for being home to the most friendly and polite people on the planet. That reputation is not lost upon Canadians themselves, nay it is a point of pride. Now, I might risk being sentenced to deportation and forty lashes with a wet beaver tail for saying this, but I happen to believe this reputation to be apocryphal. It has been my experience that Americans are far more polite and friendly, particularly in the service industries. Work-related contacts in the U.S. have been much easier to deal with than their Canadian counterparts. And the friendliest folks reside in the Red States. These are the most hospitable and charitable people you'll find anywhere. And many of them voted for George W. Bush. I have no doubt that these folks are good people, who truly believe they stand for what's best for their country and that their leaders share their values, but they haven't been receiving the right information. I think it's up to all of us to ensure that the information gets out and is allowed to be heard. I guess that makes me a terrorist.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

How Slippery Is Thy Slope?

I don't mean to get into too many serious issues on the weekend, but I have some unfinished business from earlier in the week. I promised in an earlier post to write about Canada's legalization of same sex marriage, and I guess now is as good a time as any.

Simply put, this is all about equal rights. If certain rights and benefits are going to be offered under the law to married couples, you can't exclude a statistically significant segment of the population from those rights. The problem seems to be that a lot of people, especially of the more religious persuasion, are all up in arms over the use of the word "marriage" as it pertains to same sex relationships. I am not insensitive to the concerns of these people, because who am I to tell them what their spiritual beliefs should be? But the state has no right to make such distinctions. So there would seem to be two solutions to this dilemma, one of which was the action that the Canadian Parliament has taken. The other alternative would have been for the state to get out of the marriage business altogether, leaving that to the clergy, and simply granting civil union status to all couples who so choose, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Then, if a couple wished to get "married", they could do so through their religious institution, and the religious institutions would be free to set their own policies over who to marry. While that would be equitable, there is something about the word "marriage" that seems to be sacred to a lot of people even in secular unions.

The arguments against same sex marriage are generally illogical. We're supposed to believe that if gays are allowed to marry, that somehow diminishes the significance of a heterosexual couple's marriage. It was never adequately explained how that is. If two gay guys across the street have gotten married, does that make you any less committed to or devoted to your spouse? It has also been argued that if you allow gays to marry, then you start down a slippery slope in which polygamy or marriage to a sibling or minor child will become possible at some time in the future. This is a load of bull. The issue is here is equality. If you prohibit these other things, you are applying the law equally to everybody. If you allow marriage of two consenting adults, but only if they are heterosexual, you are restricting rights to some people.

The ink on the new law has not yet dried, and Stephen Harper has already talked of revisiting the issue should his Conservative Party win the next election. It is very possible that gay marriage will become the wedge issue in Canada that abortion is in the U.S. (I highly recommend the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank. He writes about the rise of the Right in heartland America, and how the Right gets people worked up enough over wedge issues to vote against their own economic interests.) Of course, many on the religious Right genuinely belive that heterosexuality is deviant and a decadent lifestyle choice. But let's face it - who would choose to be gay, given what they have to put up with from society? I have no doubt that it's who they are, and not what they choose. I realized I wasn't gay the first time I had a rectal exam and didn't really enjoy it. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Friday, July 22, 2005

They Took My Advice!

The NHL is now officially back. The new CBA has been ratified. The draft lottery was held, with the number 1 pick going to Pittsburgh. And the Rule Changes were announced. Much to my delight, they adopted the rule change that I suggested in my July 14 blog entry - they eliminated the centre red line for offsides, and also brought the blue lines closer to the centre. I recommended moving each blue line five feet, but the NHL decided to move them two feet. As a result, the neutral zone has been reduced to fifty feet, and each offensive zone is seventy-five feet from end board to blue line. Let the free-wheeling begin.

The league also adopted a few other rules. They brought back the tag-up offside rule, which should never have left. They restricted the area in which a goaltender can handle the puck behind the goal line, and I'm not sure about that one. I guess the idea is that it will create more offence by diminishing the opportunities a goalie might have to come out of the net and clear the puck from his zone, but I think it penalizes goaltenders who have exceptional puck handling skills. They reduced the size of the goalie's pads, so there won't be any more Michelin men blocking the nets. And they kept "touch" icing, but gave linesmen more discretion to wave icing off if it came as a result of an attempted pass.

The biggest change, from the league's perspective, is the introduction of a shootout to decide games that are tied after a five minute overtime. As I mentioned in my previous post, I don't really see how this enhances the game. Yes, there will no longer be those tie games which seemed to bother some people. But because you give the losing team in overtime/shootout a point, there is no incentive for teams to play to win late in a close game. If there were no ties, and no points awarded for losses of any kind (and standings were kept just like in baseball, with a GBL column instead of points), that would be incentive to play to win. Three points for a regulation win would be incentive. Extending the game to a shootout and giving the losing team a point is just a gimmick.

Many people are curious to see how long it will take the fans to get back into hockey. It will be an interesting offseason, with hundreds of free agents out there that the teams will try to fit into their salary cap. Hopefully the game itself will be improved. I'm sure people in Canada will get back into it relatively soon, not so much in Phoenix and Nashville. Heck, I might even catch a game on TV some time this year. The only predictable thing is that Leafs won't win the Cup.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Yes, We Have No ________ (or What I Didn't Find at Loblaws)

I went grocery shopping this evening at The Real Canadian Superstore, which is basically a glorified Loblaws. I actually do most of my regular food shopping there, and I think it's great. It's a huge supermarket, with excellent prepared food and deli sections, but the bakery is kind of average. It also has a full pharmacy section, a photo lab and electronics store. They also sell clothes, consumer products and furniture. And they have a little enclave where you can sign up for President's Choice Financial Services. There are usually plenty of product samples being served up. It's kind of like a small Costco, but without the membership fee and a much smaller selection of bulk items. The prices are definitely lower than at the other Loblaws stores. It's actually a fun place to shop. Except when you go there at 9pm and it closes at 10.

I went for a few specific items, some of which were on sale. First, I looked for the 1lb containers of fresh Ontario cherries that are selling for $1.49 this week. The display was still half full, but the cherries they had looked awful. I was hoping to get two or three of them, but I ended up taking the only half-decent box I could find, because I didn't want to leave empty handed. Little did I know how close I would come to that.

Next on my list was blueberries for $1.99/pint. Only three boxes were left, open, all looking slightly decomposed.

Then, I wanted to get some corn that was selling at 12/$1.99. The stock person had just brought out a bunch of crates of corn to put into the bin, and a mob of people descended on it like black crows. God as my witness, I couldn't get within ten metres of that corn. By the time the crowd subsided, there was nothing left but a massive pile of husks. A few ambitious shoppers were scavenging through the carnage to see if there might be any salvageable pickings left, but I didn't bother. When informed by the store employee that the day's supply had been exhausted, I walked away dejected.

I normally pick up a couple of bags of salad, since I go through a bag every couple of days. But I couldn't find any that expired beyond July 25. I took one.

I couldn't find any whole wheat bagels - except the ones with raisins.

I wanted to buy some chocolate frozen yogurt. They had every flavour except chocolate.

But they did have the Kraft Calorie-Reuced Zesty Italian salad dressing I wanted. They also had some really good looking beef ribs for just $1.99/lb, but they only came in these massive slabs that I couldn't consume any time before Hale-Bopp's return and certainly couldn't fit in my freezer.

I ended up leaving the store with a bag of salad, a box of cherries, two green bananas and a bottle of salad dressing. Pathetic. I think I'll go back bright and early Saturday morning and be first in the store. Apparently the early crows get the corn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Da Plame! Da Plame!

Although I have many thoughts about political issues, I don't really consider this a political blog. But for some reason I've had politics on my mind this week. There has certainly been a lot of fodder out there to chew on including the legalization of gay marriage in Canada and the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice in the U.S. I'll definitely have something to say about these things, but tonight I want to address L'Affaire Rove.

Given my political leanings, my take on this situation might surprise you - I think this is really a misguided, red meat issue for Democrats. More specifically, I think this really is causing them to take their eye off the ball because this whole story is just burying the lead that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence (at the very least) to drum up support for their war. Don't get me wrong - I think that the investigation should go on, and if a crime was committed, the perpetrators should pay. Revealing a covert CIA agent's identity is tantamount to treason. I think that even if the outing of a covert CIA agent happened "inadvertently", as Rove's defenders claim, he should be fired for incompetence. And I think the way the White House has reacted to this whole situation is absolutely ridiculous. Two years ago they had no problem denying Karl Rove's involvement in the leak, and asserting that anybody involved in the leak would lose their job "at a minimum", as can be read Here. But now that the Matt Cooper revelations are public, they don't want to make any comments while the criminal investigation is going on. (Read Here.) The problem is that the investigation was going on at the time of the initial White House denials as well. The Republicans and their media whores have been coming forward with every lame defense like, "He never actually mentioned her (Valerie Plame's) name."

But let's not forget what precipitated all this. Joe Wilson was sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate if Iraq sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from that African nation and verify a document obtained by British intelligence. Wilson came back and reported that didn't feel there was enough evidence on that lead. In subsequent months, the original document was found to be a forgery, and the CIA determined that there was no evidence to support the claim. At the next State of the Union address in 2003, President Bush uttered the now infamous sixteen words, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," despite the objections of CIA Director George Tenet. Then in July of that year, Joe Wilson wrote his Op Ed piece in the New York Times in which he talked about his trip to Niger, and in which he asked, "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?" And then days later, his wife's identity was Outed by Robert Novak.

Even if you believe all the Right Wing spin that Wilson was lying or playing politics, or that it was his wife who suggested him for the trip, that does not excuse the revealing of her identity. However, I don't belive a word of it. A clear pattern has developed in which if you voice dissent against the current President and administration, you will be smeared. It happened to Richard Clarke. It happened to Paul O'Neill. It happened to Joe Wilson, and his wife and potentially many of her associates were collateral damage. So the scandal around the leak of Plame's identity basically buried the question of Bush's manipulation of intelligence to promote a war. And now that Karl Rove has been associated with the scandal, all discussion of the Downing Street Memo has dissipated. Things that make you go Hmmmmmmmmm.

Finally, I want to add a word about the other intriguing figure in all of this, Judith Miller. I believe that if any journalist is jailed for withholding the identity of a source, there must be a serious crime being investigated. I absolutely believe that journalists should be shielded from the threat of jail except in extreme circumstances. Judith Miller should not be in jail for not revealing her sources. Judith Miller should be in jail for impersonating a serious journalist. She is chiefly responsible for the press being on board with Bush for the war with her Irresponsible reporting on WMD in the New York Times. It's very ironic that she's now serving time for protecting the administration lowlife who outed Valerie Plame as a way to discredit a man who questioned their justification for attacking Iraq. She's doing her part for the war all over again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Welcome to My New Location

I've packed my bags and moved to As you can see, this page is a whole lot better than what I had before.

Yahoo! 3600 is still in beta testing, and it has a number of shortcomings. For one thing, it doesn't support a number of HTML functions. Whenever I link to an outside site, like Media Matters, I prefer to have it come up in a new window so that my page isn't interrupted. I couldn't do that on my old site. Another big problem was that Yahoo! wants to develop their own virtual community on that page, so ideally Yahoo! members would have their own 3600 page and link it to their e-mail and Messenger functions and create a communications system. This is all well and good, but it is exclusive to the point that only registered Yahoo! members can post comments on the blog. The blog is only a cursory element on the Yahoo! 3600 page as opposed to Blogger where the blog is the thing.

When I first saw Yahoo! 3600 BETA under "More Yahoo! Services" on the Yahoo! home page about a week ago, I clicked on it out of curiosity. I saw that it was a pre-formatted webpage, part of which was a blog. I had thought about starting my own blog for a while, but for some reason just seeing this new Yahoo! feature gave me the impetus to do it. So for that I am grateful. I've re-posted all of my previous entries from the old page with their original time stamps, and now that I'm here I still pledge to post daily, being as disciplined about that as I am about flossing my teeth. Hopefully it won't always be boring.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Crazy as a Fox

I get the Fox News Channel in my cable package. I never asked for it, I didn't particularly want it, but there it is on channel 181. And every once in a while I spend a few minutes watching it with the same fascination as rubberneckers at the scene of an accident. This evening was one such instance, and it was then that I remembered why I can't stand more than a few minutes of it. As I've mentioned before, I read right wing blogs and comments from right wingers in left wing blogs, and I accept the fact that they have overdosed on Kool-Aid and have a right to be heard and their opinions can be taken for what they are. But Fox News is in a league of its own for a number of reasons. I'll need a running serial to do that subject justice.

This evening's entertainment was The O'Reilly Factor. Bill O'Reilly, who is like a Right Wing Howard Cossell but less loveable and much less smart, had an "interview" with a former National Security official from the Clinton administration. His topic: debating whether the terrorist bombings in London were a reaction to UK involvement in the Iraq war. O'Reilly proceeded to employ a favourite tactic of the Right Wing spin machine - the Straw Man argument. O'Liely (as he's known in the liberal blogosphere) went on about how liberals claim that the war in Iraq is a "justification" for the terrorist attacks. I'm sure that a Harvard-educated man like O'Reilly knows the difference between "explanation" and "justification", but why let facts get in the way of a good rant? All he has to do is keep repeating the party line that liberals are pro-terrorist and anti-American, and the unthinking masses who watch and accept his every word will really believe that he's looking out for them. He could have used his program to have a legitimate discussion on the subject, using available data from the CIA and other sources who have monitored the rising levels of terrorism and recruiting since the beginning of the war. Instead, he resorted to talking points and straw men and yelling over his guest. And in typical Fox News fashion, the "liberal" guest who was on to debate O'Reilly was a lightweight marshmallow who never called O'Reilly on his straw man. I guess middle America calls that Fair & Balanced.

On the few times I've been unable to avert my eyes from Fox News, the message always seems to be the same: Liberals are ruining the United States. But last time I checked, the Republicans were in control of the White House, the Congress, the Judiciary and most of the Governorships. The weakness of the Democratic Party (through every fault of their own) has caused the U.S. to be pretty much a one party country. And yet, the majority of Right Wing commentators spend the bulk of their time bashing liberals and Democrats. People like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and many, many others make their living dumping on the people who have the least to do with the direction of the country. This is one of the reasons I believe I'm on the correct side of the spectrum - these clowns doth protest too much, methinks. (Righties are big on Projection too.) But that's their whole schtick, and deep down they are actually most thankful that we're not going anywhere. The disappearance of liberals would be as catastrophic for them as world peace would be for General Electric.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Le Tigre

Here's a newsflash: Tiger Woods is awesome. I'm not sure what else there is to say about this guy.

In 1997, after having won the Masters by 12 strokes and having won six tournaments in less than a year as a pro, Woods decided that he needed to change his swing in order to stay at the top. People questioned him. When he won only one tournament over the next year and a half, the golf and sports press thought his decision to change his swing was a grave mistake for his career and legacy. They laughed off his claims that he was getting close to where he wanted to be. He became yesterday's news - all hail David Duval. The press stopped laughing when Tiger won 32 tournaments between 1999 and 2003. In 2000 he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots and the (British) Open Championship by 8. He won the Canadian Open with a shot for the ages on the 72nd hole. He won the PGA, and then the 2001 Masters, and he held all four major titles simultaneously. By mid-2002 he had won 8 majors. Once again he was the toast of the sports press, perceived as unbeatable and Ruthian in stature. And in 2003, he decided he needed to change his swing again.

George Santayana once wrote, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." The sports writers should have heeded this warning. They thought Tiger had flipped. They said that his breaking away from longtime coach Butch Harmon and working with Hank Haney instead was a grave mistake for his career and legacy. Why change horses when you're leading the Derby? When he won no majors in 2003 and 2004, and only one tournament in 2004 (and match play at that), it was said that Tiger had lost his aura of invincibility. Vijay Singh surpassed him in the World Rankings. Phil Mickelson finally won a major and was seen as a threat to overtake Tiger both in rankings and popularity. There was talk of a "Big Four" or "Big Five", with Tiger only being a small part of this elite group of players. The press laughed off his claims that he was getting close to where he wanted to be. Some said that he could never be the same kind of player now that he had gotten married. There were even stories comparing Woods to other athletes whose careers pinnacled in their mid-20's and never approached greatness again.

Given what had happened in 1999, who would you be more likely to believe, Tiger or the press?

As recently as Doral this year, he went mano a mano with Phil Mickelson and wasn't considered the favourite. He won that battle, and Mickelson hasn't challenged him since. He then won the Masters without being at his best, another ominous sign for the competition. At the U.S. Open he was the best ballstriker in the field, with only a wonky putter getting in his way. And now he has won the 134th Open Championship for his 10th major and the completion of the career Grand Slam a second time over.

It was scary how much in control of his game he was today. If not for a few missed short putts, this would have been a monumental rout. But does anybody doubt he would have made those putts if he absolutely needed to? Colin Montgomerie seemed to take solace in the fact that he would have needed to shoot 66 to win. But does anybody doubt that even if Monty had shot 65, Tiger would have still dug deep enough to win? I think Tiger, Monty and every other player realize that to be true too. The swing is working, and the aura of invincibilty is back. But he's still no David Duval.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Absence of Outrage

Let's see. We have a government in Ottawa that paid big money to ad agencies to do not much more than launder some of it back into Liberal Party coffers. They have billions of dollars unaccounted for in various government programs. They made a budget deal with the NDP, compromising their own platform, in order to stay in power a few more months. They attempted to bribe several opposition MP's to vote for their confidence. And don't even get me started on Belinda Stronach. Surely the Canadian people are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore. Aren't we? Well, according to polls, apparently we're not. After having plummeted in public opinion polls when the worst details of Adscam came out in the Gomery Inquiry, the Liberal Party is back on top.

Why are we not more outraged and calling for scalps over this? I have a couple of theories. One has to do with our beloved media. Just like in the U.S., the Canadian media is largely corporate and is more concerned with the bottom line than serving the public with quality journalism. As a result, it is lazy, parroting what has been reported in other outlets and re-transmitting the party lines unfiltered rather than doing its own investigating because it's cheaper to operate that way. In Canada, we also have the CBC, whose budget is controlled by the government in power. Common sense says that it is in their best interest to report more favourably on the party in power, lest they lose some funding. Then the corporate media repeat what the CBC reported. It is a recipe to benefit the status quo.

But I think the bigger factor is simply that Canadians, particularly in the eastern half of the country, don't see a viable alternative right now. The NDP clearly isn't ready for prime time, and this impression was reinforced by how they sold their souls and propped up the corrupt Liberal government just to pass some budget spending. And we see the Harper Conservative Party as too far to the right. It would be nice if we could go back to the good old days of the 80's and 90's when there wasn't too big a difference between the major parties, and one could be there to keep the other one honest. Back then their policies were almost interchangeable - the Conservatives brought you the GST and the Liberals balanced the budget. Ideally the two parties could slug it out over a few dollars here and a few programs there, and if great moral issues were to come up there could be free votes where each MP could vote according to his/her conscience and constituents.

But the Progressive Conservatives have given way to the Neo-Conservatives, and they just aren't palatable to most Canadians. I don't even think they would be all that palatable to Western Canadians - by and large traditional conservatives - if they really stopped to think about it instead of leaning on the crutch of old animosity toward Pierre Trudeau, some of it rightly and some of it wrongly. I read some of the conservative blogs, and I give them credit for harping on the Liberal scandals because somebody has to be out there speaking truth to power. But it's obvious that some of those people have been overdosing on the Kool-Aid. They blame the East for the political fracture in Canada when, in fact, eastern Canadians have shown a willingness to vote for the Conservatives if that party smartens up. Westerners, on the other hand, are not likely to vote for Liberals under any circumstances for at least another generation or two. It is they who are the inflexible ones.

So I'm in a position in which I don't know who to vote for. It definitely won't be one of the big 2 1/2. I'll probably vote Green. In the end, we'll probably see another minority government after the next election one way or the other. The Liberals definitely need to clean house, and the Conservatives need to promote a platform for all Canadians. Sad to say, Adscam has caused Quebec to be lost to all federalist parties, and that is the costliest aspect to this whole sordid affair.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Is There a Label on that Vodka?

Yesterday at work I had the honour and privilege of taking WHMIS training. WHMIS stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. Every employee in selective departments got to take 90 minutes out of their productive days to sit and learn about the dangers of improperly labelled bottles. According to the training video, it is quite possible for someone to confuse industrial cleaner with hand soap. Maybe the problem is that most of the dangerous substances in the video are pink. We were reminded that everything from Windex to Liquid Paper is a potentially hazardous material. Needless to say, a few of the "real life case studies" presented in the video were laughable. For example, the lady who spills coffee (a hazardous substance in itself, at least where I work) on the carpet and uses two different substances to try to clean it. The chemical reaction of the two substances causes a vapour to form and the woman is overcome by the fumes, passes out (in a Razzie-worthy performance), and suffers permanent lung damage. Or the lady who carelessly drops her pen into a garbage can, puts her hand in to retrieve it, and gets stuck by a hypodermic needle that was carelessly disposed of. We had little quizzes after each module, and a final quiz at the end that we had to pass. We learned all about the little WHMIS and consumer product warning symbols, and had fun with the kindergarten-level test of connecting the symbol with its description. Everything covered in those 90 minutes can be summed up like this: If you don't know what it is or how to use it, read the label and follow directions. If it doesn't have a label or all the necessary information, stay away from it and call someone on the Health & Safety Committee to get the proper information. If you read the preceeding two sentences, I just saved you about 89 minutes and 50 seconds.

I don't know about you, but I don't think I've ever seen any kind of instructional or informational film that didn't make me laugh. Whether it's improbable situations, overmodulated narration, cheesy music and graphics or dated hairstyles, I usually find something about them to be entertaining. One of my co-workers, Dave, is conducting a forklift training session this weekend, and he has one such video, with a guy in a suit and tie introducing examples of forklift accidents. If you didn't know better, you'd think you were watching an ad for a personal injury lawyer. But then Dave came across Klaus the Forklifter. This is actually a German parody of a safety film. Even if you don't speak German, you will still appreciate it if you aren't queasy about its graphic nature. It's one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. Check it out.

Fortunately, I won't be taking the forklift training. I get to stay home and watch Tiger and Monty go at it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Back on Ice

No red-blooded Canadian blogger can let too much time pass before commenting on the end of the NHL lockout. I'll certainly admit that I'm not quite the hockey fan I used to be, but my decline in interest dates back to long before this most recent work stoppage. As a teenager and young adult I was really into all the major pro sports - I could tell you every player on each roster, have a reasonable idea of their statistics, quote the dimensions of each ballpark and tell you what everybody had for their pre-game meal. I still have more than a casual interest in sports, but I can go weeks without watching any events on TV and think nothing of it, especially during the regular season. The only exception to that is golf. I usually catch at least a little bit of the PGA Tour event each weekend, and I'm always glued to the TV when the majors are on.

It's no secret that the NHL needs to improve its on-ice product, and there has been much discussion on and experimentation with rule changes, some of which seem like nothing more than gimmicks. Examples of rule changes that won't work:

- Bigger nets: Yes, that will cause scoring to go up, but the overall quality of play will remain the same. Instead of boring 2-1 games there will be boring 3-2 games. This does nothing to address the flow of play and entertainment value of the game.

- Reducing the size of goalie pads: See above. I agree that the pads need to be reduced, but this can't be the only fix to the game.

- Shootouts: This doesn't do anything for the first 60 dull minutes of the game. Nobody will buy a ticket because of the possibility of a shootout.

Now, here are some of my ideas to help open up the game:

- Eliminate the red line BUT ALSO bring each blue line 5 feet closer to the centre. This will accomplish two things. First, it will allow for longer breakout passes without requiring the opposing defence to hang back as much since there will be less neutral ice to defend, encouraging a more balanced offensive philosophy. Secondly, it will allow teams on the attack (and powerplay) more room to operate in the offensive zone.

- Tag up offside should return. I didn't really understnd why it was eliminated in the first place.

- No touch icing. I don't believe that this in itself speeds up the game, because there are probably a dozen times a game that icings are waved off by an attacking forward getting to the puck first or forcing a goalie to play it. But I believe this is a good rule for safety reasons. However, if you want to cut down on the number of icing stoppages, combine this rule with:

- Give each team a minor penalty for every fifth icing call against them. One thing that drives me nuts in the modern game is incessant icing, which seems to be enormously more frequent than ten years ago and more. If you know you'll be penalized for every fifth icing, you'll think twice about doing it. As a result, there will be less "relieving the pressure" and more scoring opportunities will arise. It also could be fun towards the end of the game when the play-by-play guy says, "The Sharks have a one goal lead and two icings to give."

I hope the NHL and its players will see their new "partnership" as an opportunity to start fresh and use innovative thinking to bring back what once was, and could again be, a great league. They might even pique my interest along the way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Newspeak is Alive and Well

I'm not necessarily what you would call a political junkie, but I do take a great interest in the state of the world and machinations of power. I like to read news sites and blogs in both Canada and the U.S., both from the Right and the Left. And when you read opinions from different perspectives, it becomes quite clear that we are living in the same space but parallel universes where people are choosing either one reality or another, and the chasm is getting wider by the day.

I am very comfortable saying that I am firmly planted on the Left (and there will be plenty of time to elaborate on specific issues on this blog over time), although I show no reverence to any party or philosophy. I'm a practical, issue-by-issue thinker, and I happen to agree with the left side of the spectrum more often than not. I'm biased but not partisan.

As a lefty, I am quite disturbed about the state of the corporate media in the U.S. It is regarded as common knowledge that the news media has a "liberal bias", but that common knowledge is about as valid as that which says you should use butter to treat a burn. There is an excellent book on the subject called What Liberal Media? by Eric Alterman. I'll talk more about it over time, but it explains the mythology, and how the 24 hour cable news era is distinctly to the advantage of the Right. One of his key points is that news outlets often present a liberal truth countered by a conservative lie and call that balance. That is why we should all be concerned about the vetting of facts even more than perception of bias. Bias occurs everywhere, but there is only one set of facts. And it is said that the facts have a liberal bias.

One of my favourite websites is Media Matters for America. They are "a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." Please note the term misinformation as opposed to bias, because it's a crucial distinction. Sad to say, the American Right has excelled in practicing the propaganda theories of Joseph Goebbels, most notably, "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it," and, "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over" - the dreaded Right Wing Talking Points. In many cases, talking points are repeated so often that they become part of the common language of news commentators and journalists. This is particularly insidious because it leads to journalists parroting a Right Wing opinion without the viewers even realizing they are taking a position. See Here and Here for examples of this. Stay tuned for more gems.

Big Brother is well on the way to making Newspeak the official language of the United States. Are there examples of the Left employing the same techniques on the same scale? It's hard to incorporate nuance into neat little soundbites. But I'll leave that for someone else to present. This is my blog. I'm allowed to be biased.

Rough Greens & Black Socks

Last Friday I got to enjoy a real treat - getting off work early to play a twilight round of golf. It was also a treat to have RM dust me again on the course. Actually, this time we shot almost the same score but she looked good doing it. Now, that's really a redundant statement, because looking good comes to RM like breathing comes to the rest of us, but in this case I'm referring to her swing. She has beautiful form and tempo. I, on the other hand, have my fidgety, herky-jerky motion that sometimes lucks out into a good shot. Like when I made a great chip-in on the 9th hole - for a 7.

We played at Tam O'Shanter, one of the municipal courses in Toronto. I have to say that for a muni, it isn't too bad a track. There's a nice variety of holes and it has all the challenges you would want in a round of golf, but it's also playable for duffers like me. But because it's a muni, it isn't kept in the best of shape. On the 17th hole all four of us in the group hit beautiful drives in the middle of the fairway, and none of us found grass. It was just a giant patch of dirt. And a variety of droppings. The greens were in rough shape too - although I haven't found too many normal greens this year because it has been so dry.

RM and I were in a group with a couple of guys who came as singles and who shall not be identified except as "Black Sox" and "Mr. Know-It-All". Sox was far from a joy to play with. He didn't pay much attention to anyone else's game, he had a unique talent of smoking every time I was downwind of him, and he liked to adjust his bodily equipment with the shaft of his club. And those calf-length black socks with shorts and white shoes were very off-putting. As for Mr. K-I-A, I think he missed his calling as a drive-by golf and life counsellor. A dedicated student of the game like him should realize the first rule of etiquette in golf - don't give unsolicited advice. Also, don't stop me in mid-swing because you're spooked by someone walking about 250 yards away on the adjacent hole. And if you're going to tout your reservoir of quick fixes, at least bring some game to show you can also walk the walk.

Overall, it was really an enjoyable afternoon. I can't wait to get out playing again - this is more addictive and expensive than crack. I'm looking forward to watching The Open Championship this weekend.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Welcome to My Blog!

Thank you for joining me on a new journey into cyberspace. This site is purely for my personal expression, related to my experiences, observations or just general musings. The opinions expressed are strictly my own (unless otherwise stated), and I am in no way affiliated with any sites for which I provide links. But donations in the form of cookies are always appreciated.

This is my very first blog entry, and I thought it appropriate in this new beginning to talk about endings. More specifically, the things we lose. It is a very sad fact that life is all about losses. Nearly everything that we hold dear or important is something we will eventually lose. At first it is a beloved toy that wears out. Then it might be a family pet you had a special relationship with. Over time, childhood friendships drift apart. Childhood itself is fleeting, although not fully appreciated until its crutch is no longer there to lean on. We spend years of our lives being educated, yet forget most of what we were taught (and that point really hits home when trying to keep up with Jeopardy!) Over time, high school and university friendships drift apart. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and ultimately our parents are taken from us. Then friends and siblings. The enthusiasm we feel for a new career might wane. Romantic relationships come and go, and even if you're fortunate enough to find the true love of your life, 'til death do you part, the passion has a half-life. Physical strength diminishes over time, as do our five senses. Finally, there's no escaping the loss of life itself.

At the end of the day, all we have to show for our lives are our memories, and it is important to have a full and vibrant life in order to preserve full and vibrant memories. But memories are just an imperfect shadow of a previous reality, like Plato's Theory of Forms. Not even the fondest memories of a lost love will cure loneliness. And when our time is up, we will lose these memories too, which is really the biggest loss of all.

I've had enough philosophisizing for today. I'm not always this depressing. Next time I'll talk about golf.