Hey- I've been sitting on some really cool news for the last ten days.

Law firm Kramer Levin has just filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of religious organizations.

The US Supreme Court will be hearing challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 on March 26th (Prop 8) and March 28th (DOMA). The DOMA case being appealed is United States v. Windsor, in which a lesbian couple who married in Toronto, lived in New York (which recognized their marriage), and then had to pay $363,000+ in federal estate taxes when one spouse died in 2009. If they had been a heterosexual couple, they would have paid no estate taxes.

At the gathering of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns this month, in Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, our group was asked if we might be added as friends of the court. We had received a letter from the law office just weeks earlier. A small group studied the draft filing (so amazingly well-written!) and recommended that we do add our name to the brief. Our Business Meeting then discerned this was part of our witness, and so we sent back our "yes" along with a few minor corrections- and additional URLs. ...And they cited our webpages! Our collection of Marriage Minutes are cited in a Supreme Court filing! The webpages which were put together by [livejournal.com profile] fyddlestyx and myself!
(Though I want to make clear that other Quaker bodies wrote these Minutes on the subject of same-sex marriage. We just collected and shared them.)

BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE

BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE STATE OF
CALIFORNIA; MANHATTAN CONFERENCE OF
THE METROPOLITAN NEW YORK SYNOD OF THE
EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA;
THE RABBINICAL ASSEMBLY; THE
RECONSTRUCTIONIST RABBINICAL
ASSOCIATION; RECONSTRUCTIONIST
RABBINICAL COLLEGE; RABBI AKIVA HERZFELD
OF SHAAREY TPHILOH; THE UNION FOR
REFORM JUDAISM; UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST
ASSOCIATION; UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST; THE
UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE
JUDAISM; AFFIRMATION; COVENANT NETWORK
OF PRESBYTERIANS; FRIENDS FOR LESBIAN,
GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER, AND QUEER
CONCERNS
; METHODIST FEDERATION FOR
SOCIAL ACTION; MORE LIGHT PRESBYTERIANS;
PRESBYTERIAN WELCOME; RECONCILING
MINISTRIES NETWORK; RECONCILINGWORKS:
LUTHERANS FOR FULL PARTICIPATION; AND
RELIGIOUS INSTITUTE, INC. IN SUPPORT OF
AFFIRMANCE IN FAVOR OF RESPONDENTS

Any information about the brief was to remain private until after it was filed; it's been tough to sit on this without telling anyone. The anti-DOMA brief is so very well written! How great is this...

"It appears that what those other amici want is not protection for their own free speech and free exercise rights, but rather immunity from disapproval they may face by those who affirm the rights and relationships of lesbian and gay people."

"[The preceding] belies the claim of certain amici favoring reversal that American religions speak uniformly or overwhelmingly in opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples. To the contrary, American religious thought and practice embrace a rich diversity. No one view speaks for “religion” – even if, contrary to the Establishment Clause, it were appropriate to give weight to religious views in evaluating and applying the Constitution’s secular promise of equal protection."

"Were the federal government to start recognizing the lawful civil marriages of same-sex couples– as it does interfaith marriages, interracial marriages, and re-marriages after divorce – religions that disapprove of such unions would remain free to define religious marriage however they wish. They could withhold spiritual blessing of such marriages and
indeed bar those entering into them from being congregants at all, just as they are now free to do so on grounds of faith, race, prior marital status, or any other characteristic deemed religiously significant. Amici urging reversal fail to explain how their religious practice would be burdened by the fact that
other people are afforded equal marriage rights by the state. For example, the brief of amici Liberty, Life
and Law Foundation and North Carolina Values Coalition scarcely even touches on the actual legal
consequences of recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Instead, it focuses on fears of having to
“endorse or facilitate” marriages of same-sex couples [...]"

And it keeps going.

---

It was a minor miracle of timing that the law office asked us to sign on just a few weeks before our gathering; and the deadline for our decision was three days after the gathering ended. A few weeks in either direction and we would have not been able to sign on as a friend of the court, since our group only meets twice a year.

And a final note: This law firm, Kramer Levin, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and cases for almost 20 years. [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball pointed out to me that one of the three founders, Arthur Kramer, was a character in his brother Larry's autobiographical play, The Normal Heart. The two brothers had an enormous falling out in the mid 80s when Arthur Kramer would not lend his name to Larry's anti-AIDS activist group, Gay Men's Health Crisis, only offering personal support of his gay brother. Larry saw this as a cop-out; in the play, they remain estranged until Larry's death (though it seems that in real life they had some limited rapprochement).

And so this is a small part in a long story. And it keeps going.
Acting Up Stage Toronto had a recent run of "Caroline, or Change," written by Tony Kushner. The Globe and Mail gave it 4 stars and a number of blurbs said it's the best theater of the last year. Last year New York Magazine called it one of the "greatest musicals of all time", the only so chosen of the 21st century to appear on every panelists' short list.

So, hm. I wish I thought it was that good.

The story follows a young boy (modeled on Kushner) who lives in Lousiana in 1963. His Jewish family employs an African-American maid, Caroline. The title refers to all sorts of change: the coins in the boy's pocket (which cause drama as his step-mother decides Caroline should keep them rather than give them back to the boy), the political seismic shifts washing across the United States (including the Southern Freedom marches, the assassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War), the changes in social status of Caroline's high-school friend Rose, and against all of these, how Caroline feels the same as ever.

It is a powerful show; and there are notes of genius- the music is beautiful; the players are spot-on (except for one thing I'll note below); the magic of playing the Washing Machine, Radio, and Dryer as soul-singers is wonderful; and the Moon, played by a woman in a diva-like hat, occasionally gave me shivers.

In the end, the biggest problem I had was that it feels exactly like there's only one three-dimensional character, the boy Noah (who grows up to be the playwright). I think with a bit of tweaking to the book, this could be the amazing show for me that other people seemed to find it.

I think the ONLY fault in the production was sort of funny: a song about the moon talks about how her light shone, and the song rhymes shone with alone; but the Canadian pronunciation of "shone" is the same as the name "Shawn", and sure enough that's how it was sung. Um, yeah.

But anyway, it reminds me how difficult it is to change, especially when not changing has lots of comfortable attractions.

What was I doing?

Friday, 24 June 2011 11:37 pm
Turns out I will remember what I was doing when New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill.

I was skyping with my parents; we had just said our good-byes, agreed it could take a while for them to get to the vote, even if it were a sure thing (but what if two senators fell and broke their noses and had to leave the chambers...) and mom made one last check on New York Times before hanging up, and there it was. And she got to read it from our Ithaca friend Diane M's facebook page as well. 33-29 votes in a Republican Senate. The bill will become law 30 days after Gov. Cuomo signs it.

This one, US State #6 for full marriage protection, is particularly noteworthy to me because I was born in New York State, lived there for my first 25 years; and so many friends in New York will now have legal marriage protection. In fact one friend (Vonn N.) is from the district of Steve Saland, the Republican senator who made a 10pm shift from undecided (without religious protections built in) to supporting it (with religious protections).

Congratulations, New York State! ...44 states to go, plus federal.

How's that go? Slow arc? Yeah, like that.
This morning I took my usual route to Quaker Meeting, the rail-to-trail from my house to downtown. It was looking like kids were playing with some heavy machinery on it- there are gashes in the pavement, sometimes the width of the trail, all perhaps an inch deep and wide. They were wavy, occasionally straight, sometimes parallel. Many going dozens of feet down the path. By the time I'd run over the 20th one I was fairly miffed. Who did they think they were, ruining the path?...

They certainly didn't get tired of doing it, since the gouges ran at random intervals all the way to the park. Augh!

...And then I realized who they thought they were. (Did you figure it out already?)

City pavement repairers. Who stopped part-way through repairing cracks. Cracks which I surmise require widening before they can be filled. I guess I'll find out in a few weeks, since I'll be gone the next two weekends.

--

I just received my birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball. It is a beautiful stained-glass panel, mostly in shades of white and clear, with a tree-branch motif. The artist came to install it yesterday. While we were admiring it, I realized... it has holes! There are three-dimensional aspects, which include some pointy bits of glass, and some shapes that are the absence of glass. I like it a lot. :)

--

So I was thinking about these both: holes that had to be made worse before they could be fixed, and holes that make something beautiful ("that's how the light gets in", thank you Mr. Cohen) and about a phrase I've been wrestling with, "standing in the tragic gap." I first heard the phrase in a book by Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. He is talking about living a nonviolent life, a life of integrity, when he defines the term:

a gap between the way things are and the way we know they might be. It is a gap that never has been and never will be closed. If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand in the tragic gap, faithfully holding the tension between reality and possibility.

I harbor no illusions about how hard it is to live that way. Though I aspire to be one of those life-giving people who keeps a grip on both reality and hope, I often find that tension too hard to hold--so I let go of one pole and collapse into the other. Sometimes I resign myself to things as they are, sinking into a life of cynical disengagement. Sometimes I embrace a dreamy idealism, living a life of cheerful irresponsibility that floats above the fray.
[1]

He talks about how examples of standing in this gap can be seen in the lives famous peacemakers like Gandhi and MLK Jr. And also in the everyday, the lives of any parent of a teenager; the parent sees their hopes for the child, as well as what is happening in the child's life. And if the parent fails to stand in the tragic gap, they can cling to an idealistic fantasy or fall to cynicism.

He continues:

Deep within me there is an instinct even more primitive than "fight or flight," and I do not think it is mine alone. As a species, we are profoundly impatient with tensions of any sort, and we want to resolve every one of them as quickly as we can. [...] Ultimately, what drives us to resolve tension as quickly as we can is the fear that if we hold it too long, it will break our hearts. [...]

The heart can be broken into a thousand shards, sharp-edged fragments that sometimes become shrapnel aimed at the source of our pain. Every day, untold numbers of people try without success to “pick up the pieces,” some of them taking grim satisfaction in the way the heart’s explosion has injured their enemies. Here the broken heart is an unresolved wound that we carry with us for a long time, sometimes tucking it away and feeding it as a hidden wound, sometimes trying to “resolve it” by inflicting the same wound on others.

But there is another way to visualize what a broken heart might mean. Imagine that small, clenched fist of a heart “broken open” into largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy. This, too, happens every day. We know that heartbreak can become a source of compassion and grace because we have seen it happen with our own eyes as people enlarge their capacity for empathy and their ability to attend to the suffering of others.
[2]

That sounds incredibly terrifying. And none of his examples are ones I can relate to. Being like Gandhi?

OK, some readers of this are parents, and some are (or have been) parents of teenagers, so maybe you've got a handle on this...

But while I was sitting in Quaker Meeting this morning, I had the realization that I have certainly been there. I started coming out, half my lifetime ago. Anyone who's done so will recognize the risk of a broken heart there. The closer the person to us, the greater the risk when coming out to them. While it was half my lifetime ago, I remember how terrifying it was. And yet how necessary. And coming out never ends- though, I am so thankful that at this point in my life, I have little risk to coming out to anyone at all, which is partly by my choices and partly circumstance. I know this is not the case for some reading this- either people in their lives who will not accept what they are told; or living in a much more conservative environment. I'm so grateful.

And I know that I have privilege that many do not- I can duck out of standing in the gap in a number of arenas. I'm relatively wealthy, I'm male, I am not visibly gender-variant, I'm not a visible minority.

I'm not sure where this goes. I am still working on it, just having made one connection. I wonder what you think?

Two Parker Palmer links:

[1] Hidden Wholeness on Google Books

[2] An essay by Palmer on living in the Tragic Gap

US gun control laws

Sunday, 18 April 2010 06:51 pm
Via [livejournal.com profile] sociolog_images:

"Regardless of the arguments you’ll hear so often that gun rights are being increasingly infringed upon, at least on this issue, it appears that gun-rights advocates have made significant progress at affecting the legislative process at the state level."

...that turns out to be an understatement. I was distressed to see how much the gun control laws have changed in the US since the mid-1980s concerning restrictions on concealed weapons. In 39 states, currently, if you pass a safety course and background check, you can carry concealed guns. (In three others, a gun license gives you the right to do so, without checks). Just two states don't allow concealed gun licenses; Wisconsin and Illinois (down from 15 in 1986).

This is of course not the same as how easy states make getting regular gun permits, which I would like to know as well but haven't looked up yet.
(the destination site is slammed so I can't review it myself, but it's sheer genius, so this is shamelessly copied right from [livejournal.com profile] thespian:

http://rescuemarriage.org/ a voter's initiative seeking to ban divorce in California in the 2010 election.

"Sometimes other people need to sacrifice in order to protect my ideas about traditional marriage. It's just a fact of life. It's not about their soul-sucking sham of a marriage, it's about what we value as a society. We live in a divorce-promiscuous society. It's on the television, it's in movies, the newspapers. It's even in our kids textbooks."

"I wish that I could force people that hate each other with the intensity of a thousand white suns back into a loveless marriage, but my attorneys tell me that getting that law passed would be unlikely in the current political climate."


(it's so dry you almost can't recognize it for the vicious satire it is. it's pretty brilliant.)

--
Thanks [livejournal.com profile] thespian!
Biking home today, on my regular commute.

Though, not really, because I didn't turn at the usual block.

So I'm biking a street off from the usual commute, and I wonder why I didn't turn.

And I come up and see a bicyclist on the left side of the street, biking against traffic. Wearing a helmet. In his mid-20s.

So I say, "Hey there."

He says, "Hey," in a friendly way. I slow down a bit to match him.

I say, "I hope you don't mind, and I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but did you know it's really dangerous biking on that side against traffic? Because the cars aren't looking for things moving at bike speeds on that side of the road. And that's really dangerous for you."

He stopped and looked confused. "But I thought we were supposed to go against traffic to see them better. For safety." He sounded betrayed.

I said, "It's safer if you're a pedestrian. On foot, you're moving slowly, it's fine to be on that side. But on a bike, according to law, you're a vehicle."

"Oh. Wow. Thanks."

"You're welcome. Yeah, I think a lot of people got told that in school a while ago, that they should bike against traffic, but it's really unsafe for you, and it's unsafe for bicyclists who are coming the other way. Nobody expects bikes to be there."

"Oh. OK."

"Take care."

"Yeah, have a good day."

And I biked on home, with a lump in my throat.


---

Today at lunch, [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I were talking about the condition of being a bicyclist or pedestrian in this town, or in many places in North America. And we agreed there is no reason, other than lack of public will, for car/bike/pedestrian interaction to be as fraught as it is (particularly car/bike, but also bike/pedestrian). d. mentioned a friend's post today considering his choice to bike on less trafficked roads and to back away from engaging motorists who are being dangerous. This is come up regarding a recent grisly Toronto road-rage altercation that left a bike courier dead, though it's mostly gotten press because the motorist is a former Attorney General of Ontario charged with vehicular homicide. That situation is sad, but the overall condition of culture around bicycles is pretty damn sad too.

I want to see a lot more public will toward educating both cyclists and motorists about the rules of the road. I want to see a police blitz ticketing cyclists without lights or bells or running red lights; I want to see a lot of blitzes. I want to see a lot more adult defensive-cycling classes. (A national program recently sent a trainer-instructor here, for companies or individuals who wanted to teach cycling classes; I have heard nothing about its success or failures. And only heard about the program in [livejournal.com profile] take_the_lane's blog.)

But the status quo is deeply frustrating.
So, I'm on Barack Obama's volunteer email list; and I'm getting a bit tired of their appeals for donations. If you visit www.barackobama.com and look around a bit, you'll see what I mean by appeals.

Now, I'm sensitive to the fact that Obama built his campaign on grassroots work, and continuing the grassroots work would presumably require funding through means other than the federal coffers. But I think they're making a critical error by not clearly linking the requests with a clear idea of what this money is going for, on an email-by-email basis. Or, proposing how people can organize for political change without dropping $25 to OFA, now part of the Democratic National Committee, which is starting to feel like a cash-grab.

And as well, for an administration built on openness and change, barackobama.com seems to miss the boat; you can't find any info about OFA cash-flow or budgets. And according to The Washington Post, their budget is totally merged with the DNCs, so there might not be any public information about OFC finances at all.

For such an image-conscious administration, I wonder what the story is here, other than losing track of how things change when you actually win a campaign?...
In the last week, I wrote three posts but didn't like how they came together, so I gave up and saved them as Private. I'm not feeling particularly anti-communicative; but non-technical things seem tougher to write about. Possibly that's because I'm switching off between programming and writing my talk for the University IT conference in 11 days.

I woke this morning with a sore throat, the second in a row, and I'm hoping it will be OK tomorrow, because I obviously don't want the cold du jour.

As I was waking up, I was obsessing about change.gov, whether I should bother sending feedback concerning justice concerns, suggestions on engaging citizen activism, or what. And what would transparency in government look like in practice, if the next US gov't goes anywhere with that promise. And probably I should just let it go. Hm.

I took the morning off work and slept, came in at lunch-time, and got a fair bit done by the afternoon. My to-do list for tomorrow feels like a bit much if I'm fighting a cold; I expect I'm not going to get to see Faust at the movies (aw). But there's a house-warming in the evening (yay!) And much tea in my future.

Busy week around here. d's been running ragged; he's at the U tomorrow for much of the day. I think they owe him a vacation.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008 12:00 am
Watching Obama's acceptance speech get underway right now.

A link from 538 pointed to an old photo of Obama, which pointed to his flickr page. guy's pretty organized. He (or maybe his staff) use tags and everything. And, apparently, iPhoto.

Their website which made volunteering so easy? Designed by Chris Hughes, one of the four creators of Facebook.

Mr. Hughes and other Obama aides say that their candidate gravitates naturally toward social networking, so much so that he even filled out his own Facebook profile two years ago. Mr. Obama has pledged that if he is elected, he will hire a chief technology officer; Mr. Hughes’s face lights up at the thought.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Heh. And Obama's kids get their dog.

Weekend Plans

Sunday, 2 November 2008 09:43 am
(As much fun as a road-trip to PA might be, I think I'm going with option b). Indeed I think there is a batch of phone-numbers this afternoon with my name on them.)

(I wonder what the Obama Campaign will do with this immense volunteer apparatus once the election's over.  ...Suggestions?)


From: Jon Carson, BarackObama.com
To: my gmail
Subject: Your Weekend Plans

Daniel --

Time is quickly running out, but you can still make a huge difference in how this election is decided.

It's going to take an unprecedented push by supporters like you to get us over the top -- and there are still plenty of ways you can take this campaign into your own hands.

Help make history. Please check out the activities below and fit as many as you can into your schedule.
Drive for Change -- Pennsylvania
Drive for Change
One of the most powerful ways to make a difference is talk to swing voters face-to-face or help out at the polls in a battleground state. If you can grab a couple of friends and head out of town for a day or two, Pennsylvania Campaign for Change staff will be there to greet you and provide everything you need to succeed. No experience is necessary.

Sign up today -- there's a volunteer shift in Pennsylvania with your name on it.
Call from Home
Call from Home
We need to make hundreds of thousands of calls to voters in battleground states today through Election Day. Right from your own home, on your own schedule, you can call voters in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state that is the McCain campaign's best path to victory. We'll give you the phone numbers and the talking points. It couldn't be easier.

Get your list of Pennsylvania voters to call right now.




The Obama campaign has the best volunteer-engagement machinery I've seen. From both a technical and a social standpoint, I'm impressed.

I just made some phone-calls for them.

It feels oddly addictive.

The email I received this evening:


[...]
In the crucial battleground state of Florida, Early Voting has begun. That means voters can cast their ballots for change right now -- and you can make sure they know about this opportunity.

We need to reach as many Florida supporters as possible before 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. The more people we can get to vote early, the easier our task will be on Election Day. And your phone calls could make the difference.

Below is a list of five identified supporter households in Pinellas County, Florida, along with each person's age and gender.

Call these five people and make sure you provide their early vote location and hours (see calling information below):

1. Call: (727) 781-xxxx. Ask for: Laurie
* Laurie xxxxx (43 F)

2. Call: (727) 735-xxxx. Ask for: Elsie
* Elsie xxxxx (69 F)



I'm not going to drive to Pennsylvania to help canvas, and I'm not going to donate more money, but I can make five phone-calls.

So I talked with with these five people (actually, I talked to three people and three machines- one woman said, "Are you from Chase? No? I'll give you his cellphone number." Another woman in her 80s had already voted; and a third didn't know she could vote early, and copied down the info.) Then I clicked the link in the email, checked the box for "I called them" and they offered me 8 campaigns, such as "Reach out to Jewish-American Voters in Colorado" or "Call a Battleground: Indiana". Which would pull up a list of names, and a full screen of talking points and checkboxes to record their answers.

I tried to call Jewish Coloradans, but there weren't any names available. And then it was after 9pm, the cutoff for calling all the available campaigns. Foo. Now I'm left with an urge to call strangers and tell them about Obama.

If any of you USian folk are at loose ends tomorrow, I can recommend this as a different way to spend an hour. (Link)

Wassup 2008

Saturday, 25 October 2008 03:40 pm


Wassup 2008. The same actors, 8 years later.

Even if you didn't like the original wassup ad, watch 'till the end.

What do you think?

I voted.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008 02:35 pm
I had meant to join Democrats Abroad. In fact, I thought, twice, that I already had. This was in error, but I was still able to vote today. (Democrats Abroad contribute 7 delegates to the US primary process. Republicans don't get to; too bad for them I suppose.)

The voting space was in the new UU Church at the south end of town. It wasn't really so awful driving down there for 5pm; less so than I expected.

Voting only took a few minutes- there were about 25 people in the process of voting. The volunteer organizers for the local Democrats Abroad were a retired university prof and his wife.
I think when I'm retired I could enjoy doing something like that.

One young guy who sat at the same table as me when I filled in my ballot asked out loud, "Huh- I thought John McCain was on the ballot." I exchanged an amused glance with the 50ish woman sitting near us and said to the guy, "No, and that's... because he's a Republican." Yeesh.

I talked with the UU minister after I voted. She said John Shelby Spong will be visiting the area to speak, probably in October! He's got useful things to say about broadening Christianity to be a living faith, rather than a historic rule-based one. I've seen him speak before, at a Quaker event in Blacksburg VA in 2005, and I'm hopeful for an interesting visit.
Chuck Norris has endorsed Mike Huckabee for president.

It's an awesome ad, but the guy's a Creationist Pro-War Death Penalty Advocate. I'd much rather see Mike Huckabee endorse Chuck Norris for president.

Conveniently, the video and audio to support that are right there.

I don't have the time or chops, but I bet someone out there does.

Waiting. :)

[ETA 3:30pm: R(TM)ark replied to my email to them with: "Sounds like a great idea! But we can't do it right now. Good luck!". damn.]
The author of Unlikely Utopia: the Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism spoke here last night.

[...and I'll fill in the details later.]

[and I suck. I didn't get to this until today, Sunday the 18th, and I barely remember any of the talk's details.]

Michael Adams is an engaging speaker (as well as a good writer, judging by Fire and Ice.

The point to the talk was that pluralism has been successful in Canada in the second half of the 20th century in a very different way from in the US or Europe; and it has been surprisingly successful at integrating immigrants in important ways. Case in point: you might judge first-generation Canadian integration by their civic involvement- as a measure of how strongly people feel connected to their new communities.

Measuring foreign-born members of Parliament is interesting- because not only do they need to *want* to run for office, they need to successfully *win* office, and the statistics usually describe highly mixed-ethnicity MP ridings, so they're not winning solely among their own ethnicity of voters. One example was a Toronto riding with a Chinese-Canadian MP, where the majority ethnicity is Italian.

Anyhow: 13% of MPs are foreign born; first-generation Canadian; versus roughly 20% of the population being first-generation Canadian.

Or in the United States, where 4% of the House of Representatives are foreign-born, versus something like 11% of the population are foreign-born.

This review covers a small wedge of the talk's topics. I might've taken more complete notes, but I didn't. I hope to eventually read the book, and I can review it properly then. But don't hold your breath.

Meh, and music.

Thursday, 11 October 2007 11:58 am
I couldn't get to sleep last night. My brain kept prodding, coming up with trivia to think about. So today's going to be a meh, low-energy low-brain day. ...Now available with more grumpy.

I'm frustrated about the election yesterday: voter turnout was a record low 52% beating the last record of 54% in 1923. The Liberals won by default. Apathy sucks.

There wasn't nearly enough in-depth media discussion of the referendum question in advance, and consequently MMP Representation failed like a lead balloon. The government's information about it was so basic as to almost be useless, which I think was their intent, so now they can say The People Have Spoken, and They Are Happy. Aren't they happy?




I'm not grumpy about much else, thankfully. Last night when I couldn't sleep I spent a while cozying up with iTunes and now I have a bunch of music I'd heard on Pandora but never bought. So I have a heap of new songs to prop me up today: including some VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berserk, David Bowie, Neuroticfish, and Tiiinnaaa, (What's Love Got to Do with It?)

I was amused to go from browsing David Bowie to Supertramp (The Logical Song) to Scooter (Ramp/Logical Song to (does he take himself as seriously as he appears to in that video?) to realizing Oh, that's what the heck that song's called. I decided Scooter's gone all the way around bad to being good again. I mean: that euro-jock posturing. Those lyrics. Wow. And here I thought there was a trend of club DJs shouting nonsense at their audience and recording it. Turns out it's all one person. Heh.

Also, Apoptygma Berserk has some catchy hooks, but it's awesome for making fun of too.
The recent UN report on climate change released in Paris last week seems to be affecting Canadian politics much more strongly than those in the US, though I was interested to see that the NYT article on that report is currently their most emailed and blogged story. But not so for a few other papers I just looked at, namely the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the LA Times. (Chosen somewhat unscientifically).

It's frustrating that this seems to be an "elitist issue" as much as ever in the US; and the Associated Press seems to be casting the report as a French statement, highlighting Chirac's statements, when the Canadian papers (Globe and Mail, Toronto Star) are casting it as an international coalition of scientists, as it seems to be from looking at the actual report.

Anyway, the environtment and advance notice about this report has been front-and-centre on the Globe and Mail for the last two weeks, and according to their reader polls, Canadians have plunked Climate Change at (or near) the top of their list of governmental priorities. This has made for an interesting political football, since the current minority government was elected on a platform of not particularly caring about the environment, including proposing to pull out of the Kyoto Agreement, and now Harper is scared of not looking green enough.

I liked an article I read in yesterday's Globe and Mail. It showed up in the Business section of all places. I think the author hit the essentials that politicians should consider, for the near and long term.

I would love to send something like the following to federal, provincial, and local representatives. (A major problem is that I can't vote here at all, so the first paragraph is disingenuous, at least for the time being).

---

Yesterday's Globe and Mail had an article by Eric Reguly with five suggestions for a Canadian response to climate change. These are great ideas, and I would sincerely like to be able to vote for whoever was able to make all of them happen.


  • The first point is essentially that increasing gas taxes would be political suicide. Instead, mandate increased product standards. We should be using the technology we have. Mandated standards would push development of better technologies.

    The remaining four points are excerpts from the article:

  • Rail, not roads: Canada was built on the railway. It's time to recreate it. Shipping by truck emits five to eight times as much greenhouse gas per tonne of freight than rail. Shifting the freight onto rail for medium- to long-haul routes would work wonders for the environment, for highway safety and for infrastructure maintenance budgets; it is trucks, not cars, that do the most damage to roads.

  • There isn't a road built on the planet that cured traffic congestion. They're highly skilled at achieving the opposite. Keep the maintenance budget and axe the capital budgets for construction. In the latest fiscal year alone, Ontario's construction budget was $1.4-billion, up from $1-billion in 2002. Imagine if that money were put into public transportation.

  • Insulate homes: Mr. Harper's Tories killed the EnerGuide program, which paid for home energy audits and reimbursed owners for the cost of better insulation, more efficient furnaces and the like. Realizing their mistake, they have just launched a program inspired by EnerGuide. But it's not ambitious. An ambitious program would retrofit all of Canada's 1.6 million or so low-income households. At, say, $5,000 a pop, the bill would come to about $8-billion.


  • Kill ethanol: In Canada and the United States, ethanol, the fuel additive made from corn, consumes vast amounts of taxpayer subsidies. If ethanol were the miracle cure for greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, the expense might be worthwhile. But, at best, the environmental benefits are inconclusive. It would be far better to divert Canada's hundreds of millions of dollars of ethanol subsidies to technologies of proven environmental benefit.

    ---

    I can't say I disagree with any of these, and I'm glad to see them appearing in the Business section of the more conservative national paper. [ETA: hm, not sure why I just thought the G&M was more conservative than the Post. Must've been thinking of the Star? Donno.]

    The complete article is behind the globe and mail's paid subscriber wall. The rest of the article is mostly lightweight. But give a shout if you want a copy.

    I wish I thought the Canadian government were sincere about making real change. But, even more, I wish that citizens in both the US and Canada had the political will to elect politicians to make real change. I don't think that's there yet really, in either country. (In a month, will climate change be replaced here by Quebec as the biggest issue facing the nation? Or US relations? Sigh.)

Artifice

Tuesday, 30 January 2007 10:00 pm
I really like the word artifice. Not only the word, but qualities behind it- cleverness, craftiness, subtle deception. My fascination with Almodóvar is at least in part a fascination with his statements on artifice.

I think I first decided this while reading Holy Fire by Bruce Sterling, some years back. This book shows the next 75 years' science being adopted by mass culture, such as mass-market "tincture sets" to make home-brew concoctions that are partly food, partly drug, partly art. Life is mostly recreational, in this world which has solved the problems of disease and overpopulation. But the cost is an elderly majority who have dispossessed the young. The main characters are a roving collective of young people, devoted to creating artifice and art, instead of subscribing to the mass-media-consumption culture. It's partly about hacking culture, one of those topics Bruce Sterling treats pretty well. It's also about taking what one needs, when society is unwilling to share.

To be honest, the book didn't come anywhere near "changing my life"; but it pointed me at a particular quality of the arts, and possibly of culture, that makes me happy. It's really hard to describe (and I've been sitting on writing this entry for... quite some time).

So, what does artifice mean to me? It's not "art," which is broader but includes much of what I mean. It's not lying, specifically; but it's telling truth through lies. It's the cleverest storytelling. It's "cool"'s egghead next-door neighbour. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. It's Almodóvar for certain. It's The Yes Men. And it's a pile of other things, which may or may not be important.

What say you?

Nationalism

Tuesday, 23 January 2007 12:12 am
Blame America... and oh yeah, the Jews is a review in this week's Globe and Mail Books section, of a new book, Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America by Andrei Markovits. The book sounds challenging: how opinion of the US in Europe has been prejudicially negative (giving a number of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" examples, such as broad public protests in France and Germany against both US globalization and US protectionism). Part of his thesis is that Europe resents America for the dependence Europe had on the US after WWII; and for the changes the US has wrought in Europe since.

But the most challenging part to the book is possibly the chapter on the connections between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, in part due to the US's support for Israel, and due to a belief that the US is run by Jews.
Markovits argues that "all the historical ingredients used to demonize Jews are simply transferred to the state of Israel, which -- in the standard diction of anti-Semitism -- behaves Jew-like by grasping for global power, exhibiting Old Testament-like (pre-Christian) vengefulness. It bamboozles the world, as cunning Jews are wont to do, extorts money from hapless victims who have been fooled into seeing the Jews as victims, exhibits capitalist greed and, of course, indulges in constant brutality toward the weak. Israel thus becomes a sort of new Jew, a collective Jew among the world's nations." And that reinforces anti-Americanism, and vice-versa. Ugh. Markovits points to recent and rising cases of anti-Semitism among the European Left, and I'm a bit worried he knows what he's talking about.

Ultimately, too, I don't understand nationalism terribly well; this was drilled into me some time ago by [livejournal.com profile] zubatac as he tried to explain the nature of Croatian nationalism as a small country within Europe. But since coming to Canada, I do feel a bit... I guess defensive is the right word, sometimes, when the conversation turns to US offences; which might be very similar conversations to the ones I'd be having back in the US, but the difference... I can see this as a bit of nationalism.

I guess I'd like to understand anti-X-ism better, where X isn't a personality trait or a religion, but rather an entire country, and possibly against the people who live there.

I hope to read this book, even if the cover looks totally stupid, and also the author has received laurels for writing a semi-scholarly book on Soccer and American Exceptionalism. Maybe I'll wait for the NYT to review it.

But also, I'm writing about the reviewer for the Globe and Mail, who sounds like a jerk. His end paragraph concerns anti-Americanism driving America further away from the rest of the West, because America cares too much what other countries think of it: "At stake here, however, is much more than mere vanity. The Americans don't really have much else besides that for which they stand." Ouch. That's not only a harsh blow, it has little to do with the book's thesis or his review before that throwaway line. Seems like sloppy writing and sloppy editing, and I'd have expected better from the Globe and Mail.

...Finally, on a related note, today I got a letter from Citizenship and Immigration. It came in a thick packet, so I was convinced they returned my Citizenship application for missing something. But no, it's a letter acknowledging my application, and a study guide for the test I'll take in 8 to 10 months. Yay!

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