Junk the junk

October 31, 2003 at 10:05 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I don’t diet but I have to weigh in here (excuse the bad pun). Never have dieted and never will; what I used to do is called anorexia, and I don’t do it anymore because somehow the idea of keeping my internal organs intact began to seem like a good idea. However. I realize that there are many people out there who are dieting, and some are even blogging it: Frank, and Shelley, and now Doug documented or ruminated dieting deeds and thoughts. These are just the sane rational people writing about this, but there are of course countless others who have picked up on a fad diet. And that is so uncool. Hence I feel compelled to put a plug in for The G.I. Diet by Rick Gallop, which he based on the work of Toronto dietician David Jenkins. As the website explains, the G.I. (stands for “glycemic index”) “measures the speed at which foods are broken down by the body to form glucose, the body’s source of energy. High G.I. foods break down quickly and leave you looking for the next food fix. Low G. I. foods break down more slowly and leave you feeling fuller, longer. It is these low G.I. foods that form the core of the diet.” What do I know about this if I don’t need it? Someone in my house has lost lots of pounds since starting this diet a while ago on the recommendation of his cardiologist. And he significantly dropped his blood pressure. And he did it nearly effortlessly because this isn’t even really a diet. Among diet fads, the one that gets the booby prize in my opinion is the Atkins diet; also, diets that launch their victims on a deprivation juggernaut (tell me in a year or 5 whether you’re still doing it, eh?) rouse my suspicions (remember, I’m an ex-anorexic, haha). Wouldn’t it be great to know about a plan you can actually adopt for life, without turning into a moonie or cultist? I’m convinced that Americans — the fattest people ever to have roamed the planet Earth — don’t know about the G.I. Diet because (1) it doesn’t support just a single aspect of industrial food production (as does Atkins with its emphasis on beef & animal products consumption); (2) it doesn’t come with a line of products that you’re supposed to buy along with the how-to book, i.e., there are no tie-ins, because this is based on common sense and on unprocessed, unrefined foods (unlike the Weight Watchers meals, eg., which undoubtedly burn a hole in your wallet); and (3) Gallop’s book suffers from the NIH syndrome. That stands for “not invented here” and speaks to the staggering insularity and provincialism that often mars American culture. Since it’s in many ways an anti-food industry “diet” (it has to be, since the food industry is actively making us sicker and fatter, and this diet instead has the backing of the medical community) you can kiss a lot of lower-end restaurant fare good-bye, and forget fast food forever. But this is a normal way of eating, and it works for vegetarians as well as omnivores. Once you adopt it, though, you’ll be amazed at how much junky stuff you’ve been relying on. And whose fault is that? The industrial food production industry. They need you to stay this way, and all those unhealthy fatties that grow out of that culture are made to keep running to every new fad that comes along, with the industry providing a new product to “help” them. Finally, I believe that there’s a class issue here, too, similar to one I see around smoking. Upper middle-class educated people typically have given up smoking: it’s some kind of status thing. But poor people still smoke a lot even though they can least afford it. Perhaps they do it because they like it or because they are impervious to the delusions of “self-improvement” pursued by the rich; they are only susceptible to the crappy opium of mass media which relentlessly tells them to kill themselves or try to imitate Barbie. I base this opinionated assertion on personal observation of various neighbourhoods, milieus, and especially entrances to shopping malls located in upscale vs downscale areas, and counting the butts on the ground there. Re. the crappy opium: who can blame anyone for falling for the shiny things? We’re all like crows swooping down in that regard. Back to class. Right now, obesity runs across the class spectrum, but perhaps one day fairly soon, the miniscule strata of middle-to-upper-middle class people left over after corporatist fascism’s raid on this culture — which will leave behind a broad swathe of impoverished folk — will emerge thinned not only in rank but also in bulk. Its members will mostly be nice ‘n slim, while the vast majority of people, who are poor, will continue to get fatter and fatter and more and more diseased. (Except for the New Agey dropouts who pursued “self-realization” because they couldn’t afford the rich man’s “self-improvement”: they’ll be thin, too, and that’s where the wealthy will meet the whacky. No offense, I generally like whacky.) The consequences are rolled over to the public as health care costs etc., and the public will largely consist of these same poor people desperately trying to scrape together enough money for the medical care they require because they got too fat and hence developed preventable diseases, while the corporations will rake in the profits from all the crap they’ve been selling. So here you have it: buy this book and eat according to its precepts, and you’ll help bring about the revolution: the death of industrial food production. It’s up to you.

Phallic woman war machine

October 30, 2003 at 10:54 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

With my apologies to the exceptions, this diatribe is for scary ladies everywhere. And I bet you know who you are, you iron fists in velvet gloves, you. You’re everywhere these days, and The Guess Who were right. It’s not only Barbara Bush with her “beautiful mind” who’s beyond the pale — meaning she’s dead in the centre of the current Amerikan dominant market-media-mindset — it’s the Barbies everywhere:

On March 18, two days before the U.S. invasion, Barbara Bush had an interview with ABC-TV’s Diane Sawyer.

”Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it’s gonna happen?” Mrs. Bush declared. ”It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” [Source: Helen Thomas, Who’s Counting the Dead in Iraq? (in Common Dreams on 9/5/03)

Barbara’s “beautiful” mind, which allows no rupture or failure, is like the other Barbie’s body. Cleaned up, rupture-free Secret Spells Barbie is part of the package, as is the whole marketing shtick: sanitised magic. Listening to American Woman on the radio the other day, I was again struck by what a brilliant song this is. It’s got the rock song formula down pat: there’s the pounding rhythm, like a sexual-hormonal involuntary drive, which is martial, too, already hinting at the song’s agenda; there’s the love lyric, this time from the hurt lover angle; there’s the generalization (not “Mandy” or “Michelle” or any sappy sentimentalism: the address is to The American Woman, plural, generic, and entire); there’s the manipulation of expectation (love song?, sexual conquest?, what?), and then there’s the detournement into anti-war protest:

American woman, I said get away
American women, listen what I say
Don’t come hangin’ around my door
I don’t wanna see your face no more
I don’t need your war machines
I don’t need your ghetto scenes
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyes
Now woman, get away from me
American woman, mama let me be.

What always impressed me about this song was its distrust of the pretty packaging, the glamour, the crap dressed up as credible, the seeming success of Canada’s big “sister” south of the border. The song seemed to suggest that when you take her clothes off, chances are that many a success-driven American Woman is just another American man. And so the pounding beat is not a sexual throbbing in overdrive, it’s the sound of jackboots marching in unison.

Self-regulating abattoirs

October 30, 2003 at 7:49 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Self-regulating abattoirs

[…wanted to post this last night, but couldn’t get to my blog:]
Dave Pollard has a gut-wrenching post about J.M. Coetzee’s novel, Elizabeth Costello, our seemingly fast-track path to increased cruelty, questions which the internet can’t answer, and related disturbing matters. I commented at length on his blog — probably dragging the topic off-course (sorry Dave!) — and recommend that you go right now to read his post as well as the other comments to it.
But just as I thought I wouldn’t post anything myself, I caught this article in Victoria’s Times-Colonist: Alert raised on slaughterhouses by Chad Skelton. The link will decay in a few weeks, so I’ll quote at length:

More than half the slaughterhouses in Canada have “major” deficiencies that could compromise the safety of their meat products, according to internal inspection reports obtained by CanWest News Service.
“It’s evidence of a huge problem,” said Michael McBane, national co-ordinator for the Canadian Health Coalition, a watchdog group.
“It is evidence of very poor sanitary standards (and it) should worry anybody who is eating meat.”
Among unsanitary conditions identified in the reports were fecal material on a carcass, flies entering a facility through an open door, carcasses stored on a floor, and mould on knife storage containers.
Of those reports [obtained by the Vancouver Sun under the Access to Information Act], 61 (57.5 per cent) list at least one “major deviation” from regulations — everything from the mistreatment of animals to fecal matter on carcasses. Another 39 (36.8 per cent) listed minor deviations. Only six (5.7 per cent) had no deviations at all.

Meanwhile, Robert Charlebois, national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency‘s meat program, insisted that “The public need not be … concerned with these facts. (…) Actions are taken immediately by CFIA staff when we are facing any food safety issues.” Pay close attention to the weaselly passive voice. Pfui.
More from the report, including details of some of the major problems identified:

– “Fecal material on carcass in cooler” at Superior Exports in Ontario;
– “Flies entering” an open door at Britco Pork in Langley;
– “Carcasses stored on the floor” at J&M Meats International in Alberta;
– “Mould present on knife storage containers” at Maple Leaf Poultry in Nova Scotia;
– Inadequate handling of birds in the kill room and unclean cages at Uniturkey in Quebec.

The newspaper reports the slaughterhouses’ reactions, and adds that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency “has been slowly phasing out independent inspections of slaughterhouses and been moving towards a self-regulated industry system.” There’s an editorial in the Vancouver Sun on this, too.
Dave’s post got me commenting about this fantasy space that I suspect we carry inside ourselves, in which we believe that it’s possible to get something for free. With that in mind, one can only choke at the notion of a self-regulated industry system. C’mon, that’s just money for nothin’ and chicks for free. Dream on, or rather: wake up.

Full spectrum mess

October 28, 2003 at 11:24 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Full spectrum mess

Heard part of a fascinating report on CBC Radio tonight, Anna Maria Tremonti interviewing Rahul Mahajan, author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Myths, Facts, and Lies, an analysis of U.S. military strategy abroad. The book has enthusiastic endorsements for the way it lays out the history surrounding 9/11, and positions the current Gulf War in the context of a larger US strategy. In the interview, Mahajan spoke of Iraqi civil protest now taking shape, directed against the American occupation as well as against accepting a lousy civilian status quo. As an example, he mentioned a group called the union of unemployed, and suggested (tongue in cheek) that something comparable might be a good development in the US. Sure enough, when I googled union of unemployed iraq, I found many links, all of them pointing to apparently volatile politics, populist grassroots communism, and just the sort of thing the State Department can work itself up over and dig a deeper trench about. Sort of like Vietnam.

Pulling bylines for freedom

October 28, 2003 at 10:25 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

A Quebec labour tribunal just handed down what’s being called a landmark decision: “‘journalists have the right to withhold their byline as they see fit’ because our names belong to us, not the company,” as the Toronto Star’s Antonia Zerbesias writes in Bylines more than just a name. This is good news in an age of not-at-all-good corporate media ownership. Here in Canada, most city dailies are owned by CanWest Global, which is controlled by Winnipeg’s philanthropically-minded Asper family. In December 2001, the journalists of the Montreal Gazette, another Asper-owned paper, went on a byline strike to protest the imposition of national editorials. The journalists saw that the Asper family uses the cross-country chain of newspapers they own to further their private agendas. These Asper-sponsored editorials — 3 per week — could furthermore not be contradicted by any other editorials in the papers. It was a kind of media Gleichschaltung of the sort happening with frightening regularity these days, and the Gazette’s reporters protested by collectively pulling their bylines. But two days later, they were ordered to reinstate them. And they were given a gag order, forbidden to talk to other journalists about what was going on. Democracy in Canada, eh? But now the Quebec tribunal has ruled that the reporters do own their names, …and can pull them, signalling protest. As Zerbesias puts it:

Now, before you start thinking this is fine for us keyboard-punching scribes but what does it have to do with you, consider that, sometimes, all that stands between you and the corporate media suits, is us.

If this ruling is applied to the rest of Canada, and it might well be if used as a precedent in other cases, then journalists will have a way of calling attention to what we feel is something that doesn’t belong in the paper. Like, say, a blatantly self-serving story about the company that owns the paper.

In a merged and converged media time and place like Canada, where there seems to be too much of that going around, that is not only in the reporters’ interest but also in the public’s.

3 rings, and an (inter)net

October 28, 2003 at 9:52 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Haven’t you ever wondered why 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Haven’t you wondered what the question is?

I know! I know the question! At the library tonight, I browsed around in the November 1956 issue of Encounter, the magazine funded by the CIA-controlled Congress for Cultural Freedom in a bid to win Western Europeans’ hearts and minds during the Cold War. Encounter was the kind of magazine in which Albert Camus frequently published, but which would never publish Jean-Paul Sartre. Lots of smart stuff in its pages, but lots of directing, too. When I flipped it open to Dwight Macdonald‘s article, Amateur Journalism; Notes of an American in London, I had to stop and read. Tomorrow I’ll blog about Macdonald’s theses, which are really pertinent to blogging in some ways, but first this: among other things, Macdonald describes letters to the editor (which incidentally seemed a lot like comments threads in blogs) that debate topics over the course of days and even weeks. Topics ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, and included a discussion of the reason that circus rings are 42 feet in diameter.

Get it? The answer is 42 because obviously the question is, “how big is the ring?” Monty Python’s Flying Circus — another clue? Douglas Adams was only 4 1/2 when Macdonald described that circus ring discussion, but maybe he knew, maybe he knew. Life’s a circus. That’s all you need to know. That, and how to walk a tightrope. Piece of cake.

What are the chances?

October 27, 2003 at 2:31 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on What are the chances?

In the past weeks and even months, I’ve often felt this creeping sense of dread. It hasn’t stayed around long enough to be disruptive, but now I feel as though it’s beginning to stake out a more permanent presence. I don’t think I’m feeling an ordinary Monday blues — and I did have a fabulous Sunday, in which case a bit of a letdown could almost be expected. No, it’s more than that. For example, when I first noticed it, I actually thought it was my house manifesting malevolent intent. I’m not kidding. I imagined the first owner, the Widow Gibson, who only lived here for a year, hanging around. Or perhaps the Rabbi’s family had a bad experience here, and he or one of his family members is spooking around. Or maybe the Anglicans, who owned it at some point and turned it into a duplex, are pissed that they didn’t make any money off it, and resent the fact that it’s once again a single family dwelling. Since I do get attached to my home as a kind of expression of what and who I am, I suppose it’s inevitable that I should transfer any psychological trepidation onto my physical environment and, if spooked enough, start looking for ghosts. That might be the rational explanation. And this house, since we bought it a year ago this September, has been a gigantic renovation headache and has therefore occupied a major piece of my mind. Every project we’ve started has run into delays or fubar states. Every other contractor in Victoria seems to be a major basket case, or else runs into major problems (such as death or illness or injury), preventing completion of whatever is going on here. There’s no money coming in, yet major expenses seem to come up all the same. Of course I’m going to project unease onto my house.

But reno-problems have not been the cause of this creeping dread. I love being here, and my house is very liveable despite loose ends in construction, and we’ve all been able to develop in ways that seemed impossible in Massachusetts. The dread seems truly external, which is why it’s so weird. Nothing appears to be threatening me, all disasters appear to be occuring elsewhere, but while I can’t identify an external cause, I also can’t explain this feeling psychologically. It feels like a delayed fin-de-siecle malaise, as though something absolutely immense somewhere is rolling over, is turning without any regard to puny beings such as we, and I’m feeling this as a destabilizing movement whose source is a shape I can’t comprehend.

It doesn’t help that economic factors are dicey at best. Or that bloggers all over the place report similar emotional states, related to the economy or to shifting states they can’t quite grasp. But what really did it for me — what pushed me to blog about this, too — was reading The Extinction of Hope by the usually so energetic, kick-ass, and upbeat Briony Penn. Even as she’s ready to skewer some enviro-criminal with her words, you can tell she’s having fun. But when Briony writes the following, I want to sit down and hang and my head, too: “I no longer hope that we will pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat (unendangered or not) to halt the rates of extinction on this earth. Now I believe that it is too late.” She knows what’s at stake psychically, and spells it out: “But what was even more alarming was the withdrawal of spirit. (…) Who wants to join a bunch of losers who are depressed most of the time?” And with the current crop of political “leadership” out there, it’s all anyone can do to not go and hang themselves. If I didn’t have kids, I’d say, apres moi le deluge and to hell with it. As Penn puts it,

The straws that broke the proverbial endangered bactrian camel’s twin humps on my birthday were the images that came down the international wires (of a dozing pope, a whining United States president and a preening Terminator) followed by a real-life interview with Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, on his exhilarating plans for B.C.’s crown lands. Everything incomprehensible in life was reduced to these figureheads of sickness in body, spirit and mind, all of them disconnected from the environment that supports them. Who appointed these people as leaders, and is this a reflection of our collective disease as a society?

Indeed. Who appointed these people? And can we get rid of them and turn things around before collective burn-out paralyses us completely? And would we feel so burned out and hopeless if these idiots weren’t running the show? That might be “all” it takes, but it’s a tall “all,” and everything is rigged against us. “Wir haben keine Chance, aber wir nutzen sie,” was the motto of the alternative-left Berlin newspaper TAZ when it started in 1979. Roughly translated: We don’t stand a chance, but we’ll use it. It worked for the TAZ; pray it works for us.

Julius and Yule surf the vodoo web

October 26, 2003 at 1:53 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

I’ve now come across references to the Kabalarian Philosophy site on two Canadian blogs, Dave Pollard’s and Perpetualkarma’s. I like both blogs tremendously, and since they’re apples and oranges, I was struck that both should mention the Kabalarian site. Both seemed to suggest a certain degree acknowlegement of the Kabalarian’s supposed ability to “assess” a personality based on the person’s name. Well, being of a sceptical and iconoclastic bent, I naturally had nothing better to do than to pay the site a visit and try to wreak some havoc. I typed in my name and checked the gender box, female. Yes, I am all woman, despite the fact that the Gender Genie has me pegged for a man, as Joel told me a while ago. I’ve never tried the Gender Genie, it seemed too stupid — it’s another so-called assessment site I’d like to take apart, but never got to. However, as you shall see, I was inspired by it when I visited the Kabalarians… Read on…

Here’s my result on the Kabalarians, if Yule is a girl:

The name of Yule has given you a strong desire for a high standard of living. From a very early age, your ambitions have been directed toward the accumulation of material wealth. However, you have a generous side to your nature as well, and like to share what you have with others. You have an empathy for the problems of others, particularly on social or economic issues, and you would gain satisfaction doing work of a humanitarian nature. You have a clever mind and must have an interest outside the home to be happy. Because of your interest in business and the affairs of the world, you find it easy to converse with all types of people. There is a tendency for you to possess and control those closest to you, and, as a result, you would suffer with shattered ideals and losses in the affections. Your feelings are very strong and you have difficulty in controlling your temper. You must fight to overcome an inclination to indulge in the pleasures of life. You appreciate good food and may even be considered a connoisseur of fine foods.

Naturally since I’m a bit of a bitch, I decided to try it again, this time as a guy. Here’s what came back if Yule is a boy:

Your name of Yule indicates that you have an analytical nature with an interest in political and economic issues. You desire a high standard of living and the best quality in material possessions. Creating an impression of affluence and prestige is important to you. From a very early age your ambitions have been directed towards the accumulation of material wealth. You can be generous and willing to share what you have with others. Your empathy for the problems of others in social or economic issues, could bring satisfaction from work of a humanitarian nature. You find it easy to converse with all types of people. Your desire to possess and direct those closest to you could result in shattered ideals and losses in the affections. Uncontrolled outbursts of temper could cause problems in close personal relationships.

Ok, class, let’s do some text analysis here and expose some pretty wild sexism. As a boy, I have an analytical nature with an interest in political and economic issues. My desire for the venal luxuries of life comes second, after the compliment on that fine mind of mine. As a girl, the grasping, acquisitive aspect of my nature is mentioned first, however. Now, is this because girls are naturally not as high-minded as boys, or because girls are naturally venal? Or is there nothing natural or supernatural here, and it’s all cultural? Hmmm? As a girl, I “must fight to overcome an inclination to indulge in the pleasures of life,” but as a boy, no mention is made of that. Captains of industry, “naturally”, deserve rewards.

Oh boy.

Oh girl.

Next, I tried my father’s favourite name for me, Julius. Ok, I was a 7th daughter, you can’t blame the guy for fantasizing that he had a son somewhere in there. This time the differences weren’t as glaring, but as a boy, the name “has made [me] serious-minded, responsible, and stable,” but as a girl, the name only “rather” made me so. As a Julius boy, I have “good business judgment,” but as a Julius girl, I’m only capable of “remember[ing] the thoughtful little expressions of affection and appreciation that mean so much to others, and [I] have the ability to create a warm and loving environment.” And so on and so forth.

My scientific conclusion: to hell with hocusy-pocusy so-called assessments of personality, whether done by tossed sticks, stars, cards, or computer generated gender genies or kabalarians-on-high-tech.

And girls, beware of sexism everywhere, even and especially in our brave new world as well as in the old one of superstition.

Take a break

October 23, 2003 at 10:56 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I think I need a break. Not enough fooling around, too much off-the-cuff pontificating on my part in entries & comments, I need a break. I’ve got blog overload. …I’m such a delicate little thing (kof kof); to quote Scarlett: “I’ll think about it …tomorrow.”

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