No Floppys were harmed in the making of this entry

December 30, 2003 at 8:00 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

After my enviro-BSE-bad restaurants rant on the 27th, I felt the pain of overdoing the stitchery on the negativity blanket. But not for long, no, not for long. Yes, it’s true that (a) most Canadians mean well, (b) not all politicians or restaurants are bad, and (c) I really do think that in Canada we have a lesser chance of conformist indoctrination than in quite a few other countries, our big fat southern neighbour included, but it’s also a simple fact that while Canadians believe themselves to be somehow more “green” than their southern neighbours and believe that their impact on the planet is less than those very same neighbours, both beliefs are completely false. If there were as many Canadians as Americans, this continent would be hosed down the drain of NeverNeverLand, because we Canadians are in many ways the world’s worst wasters of water and the biggest energy pigs on the planet. (To get the full flavour of the statistics on this site, keep the population stats in mind: ten Americans for every one Canadian, and imagine if there were as many Canadians as Americans — ouch!) Canada ranks an embarassing 27th out of 29 OECD nations in terms of energy use per capita, consuming almost double the OECD average oil consumption per capita worldwide.

Furthermore, while the US has the EPA, Canada doesn’t have a comparable agency with the kind of “bite” that the EPA has. But this makes it all the more imperative to get Bush out of office, because he wants to turn all of America into the equivalent of the Canadian energy Peter Pan: the US has the EPA, but it’s also a sad and dangerous fact that the Bush administration is doing all it can to undermine that agency’s powers. If Americans re-elect Bush, there’s a danger that you’ll all turn into Canadians. Woe to us all if this happens.

Here are some other links for your edification:

Canadian water consumption

Canadian water safety and use of bottled water in Canada

The following is my current favourite story — this story will determine the EPA’s ability to be or not to be the knight in shining armour: Teck Cominco Ltd., another one of those giant Canadian mining companies without conscience, dumped lead and zinc waste into BC’s Columbia River for decades. The waste flowed south, and has polluted Roosevelt Lake in Washington State. The EPA is trying to make Teck Cominco pay for the clean-up, and the latter basically said, FU. (It’s the corporate way, dontcha know, regardless of Canadian or any other niceties.)

Teck Cominco Chief Executive Officer David A. Thompson wrote in a letter to the EPA that his company does not have to meet all requirements of U.S. environmental law because it operates entirely in Canada.More….

I hope the EPA manages to bring Teck Cominco to its knees. Everywhere these corporate criminals have been getting away with everything, and now this horrible administration in the US is trying to dismantle the only agencies we have that can fight against this.

Meanwhile, here in corporatist NeverNeverLand (aka British Columbia), the Neo-Liberal provincial government actually proposed that government should pay for studies of the feasibility of off-shore oil and gas exploration.

…Uh, lemme see: you want tax monies to pay for studies that will tell gas and oil companies whether it’s going to be a good bet to fook up the environment in a serious way by drilling for fossil fuels off-shore, so that same companies can decide whether their profit margin will potentially be big enough to offset the risk factor? Public funds are to pay for this private boondoggle? Yup, that’s what the neo-liberal corporatist government of British Columbia wants the Legislature and Parliament to do: approve approve approve, open wide and swallow, smile, it’s a beaver! (Canadian national animal… Another bad idea. Rodents with yellow teeth… Loggers… An astonishingly horrible idea…)

Look, if a Mafia don came to you and offered you “protection,” wouldn’t you be smart enough by now to yell for help? So why believe in the “protection” that corporate criminals appear to offer? Vote Them Out. Take Back The Means of Production. That was and still is what we’re fighting for: the means of production. The production of meaning, of wealth, of capital, of qualities, of quantities. Make your own if you have to. Don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meters….

Meat is Murder, and so is eating out in Victoria

December 27, 2003 at 10:15 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

If it turns out that the BSE infected cow that was recently diagnosed in Washington State originally came from Canada, I won’t be surprised (just look at Brian Evans’s face in this article and tell me he’s straight). This country has the most corrupt and lax system for overseeing environmental and health issues that I’ve ever come across in my (today) 47 years of living on two continents and 3 countries. Canada is a cesspool of pollution. The city of Victoria pumps raw sewage into the Juan de Fuca Strait. There are no air quality controls on cars for this city, nor are any in place federally. The restaurants in this fair tourist town are abominable, despite the abundance of fresh ingredients, and likely to give you food poisoning. There are no publically accessible health inspection reports of restaurants here or in Vancouver. The officials have been talking about it, but so far the consumer is left in the dark.

It’s all cronyism and corruption, left right and centre. When Werner and I lived here in the early 80s, we used to joke that Canada was “the Italy of the North.” I now feel that’s an insult to the Italians.

Driving home from my birthday lunch at McMorran’s in Cordova Bay (after which we all felt sick, even though we enjoyed the lovely view), we listened to The Smith’s “Meat is Murder.” I’m not a vegetarian (although I had the vegetarian dish at McMorran’s), but I am against industrial farming. I would kill an animal to eat it, I would buy meat from a local farmer who killed his/her own animals. But I’m getting sick of buying meat from the supermarket where I know it comes from industrial farms that rely on corrupt inspections and graft to increase profit — in addition to the inexcusably inhumane conditions the animals are kept in, along with the insane overproduction that results in “meat is murder.” When my parents and I still lived in Germany, before we emigrated to Canada in 1964/65 (in the wake of yet another massive financial failure and bankruptcy on my father’s part), we rented a farm near the Dutch border where my mother grew everything we ate, including the livestock. For dinner we had chickens we knew by name; we had lambs — they were all named “Floppy” — on special occasions.

What are we having for dinner today? Floppy? Oh, that’s nice. Floppy is bound to be good, he had such a great life and really loved feeding on that pasture with all the dandelions / nettles / grasses.

Before my parents died, they rented a farm for a few years on Vancouver’s outskirts, in the Fraser Valley in the Lower Mainland, and when I visited, we again had Floppy for dinner. I liked Floppy, and I didn’t consider Floppy a pet on the one hand or any less of a sentient being on the other just because I knew it before I ate it. but I sure don’t know the name of the stuff I buy in the supermarket, and my relationship to it is abominable and unspeakable and barbaric. The Smiths sing about these beautiful animals having to die — well, that’s sentimental rubbish. Of course they’re beautiful animals, but sentimentalising them into some stupid level of abstract beauty isn’t going to stop the barbarism of industrial farming. I have looked into Floppy’s eyes, and into the eyes of the chickens we ate at home. Almost every chicken we had we seemed to have named “Ille,” which is short for Ilse, which was my mother’s name. Don’t ask; I don’t know why we did that, except to laugh at my mother’s distractedness and to express — perversely — our affection at the fact that she fed us while my father managed to run consecutive financial ventures into the ground. All the chickens were generic — Ille das Huhn — a running family joke — but we knew the damned chickens, from the exciting moment they hatched, to how they grew and got their new feathers, and what colour eggs they laid, up to the occasional one ending in the Sunday fricassee. What sort of creatures am I buying in the supermarket to feed to my children? Animals “inspected” by corrupt bureaucrats, people more distracted than my mother ever was in her life? Or rather: people so single-mindedly bent on profit that they are distracted from every value worth having?

Canada acts so bloody civilised, and it uses its mantle of snow — “the Great White North, eh?” — to cover a multitude of sins. It’s all garbage and festering slime underneath.

My next task is to start a campaign to expose the rotten restaurants in this tourist town. We hardly ever go out to eat. Partly for financial reasons (too expensive), partly for dietary reasons, and partly because it’s becoming injurious to our health to do so. Take Ottavio’s in Oak Bay — please take Ottavio’s, as the shtick says. They specialise in Italian coffees and delicatessens, including handmade organic la-de-dah icecream that costs nearly $5 a scoop. When they moved this past summer to their new fancier location up the Avenue, we thought, Ok, nice place for a latte, at least it’s not Starbucks, even though it IS more expensive. But when I saw the moon-faced counterboy repeatedly doubledipping his little wooden paddle into the fancy icecream to have tastes of this and that flavour, licking the paddle in delight before dipping into the next flavour, I thought: FUCK OTTAVIO’s, I’m never going there again. I did go one more time, and my kids felt sick afterwards. That was that.

Or take the Marina Restaurant, another Oak Bay eatery with upscale pretensions. The last two times we went (last was in September, for wedding anniversary), we all felt sick. My husband says it’s because they use “bad fats” — he read an article by Margaret Atwood years ago about the recycled cooking oils industry in the restaurant business. But it can’t just be “bad fats” if you have a meal that’s simply grilled; it has to be bad hygiene. The Marina now takes on bus loads of tourists, which I don’t recall seeing in the summer of 2002. Well, there goes the neighbourhood. When you base your clientele on transients, there’s no one around at the end of the day to hold you to account. And the locals are so godawful British, they don’t complain: it’s like Fawlty Towers. Frankly, the food at the Marina stinks, and at the inflated prices, it should be vomited back onto the plates. It used to be good, but somehow in 2003 they went straight downhill. The busloads of tourists on whom they now base their bulk business go home with indigestion, but they don’t rock the boat and local diners can just piss off.

Hey, anyone reading this in Victoria: there are no health inspections worth the name of restaurant kitchens here. Hepatitis, bacterial infections, bad fats, greasy pans that don’t get cleaned properly, you name it: it’s all possible. But remember: we’re on an island, and so we get to pay extra, and we can’t get off that easily.

Ok, so is there anyplace worth going to for dinner? Yes, Zambri’s. No “bad fats” and you can see what they’re doing in the kitchen, and it’s so small that they can’t be lured into attracting the tourist busloads. If you see the masses — tourists, cattle, whatever — run away fast, ’cause there’s bound to be someone messing with the food supply and a greasy-palmed slimy mealy-mouthed Canadian bureaucrat standing in the Great White shadows waiting for the pay off.


December 27, 2003 at 8:53 am | In yulelogStories | 10 Comments

It’s The Blue Angel‘s birthday today. The Nazis eventually really hated her because she was a traitor to their pure cause. It’s also Noel‘s birthday. He’s a dedicated race traitor on the academic scene. His name is Noel, as in “No�l No�l, born is the king of Isra�l,” because his parents had also had the somewhat dreadful idea of using a holiday to find a name for their child. Noel didn’t seem to care, but I’m a somewhat shy old goat, even with a scorpion rising and another in my moon. I would have preferred to have some camouflage.

I haven’t seen Noel in ages, last time was when I gave him Kain’s The Blue Gorilla LP for a housewarming present. But it occured to me today on our common birthday date that blue is a good camouflage for us mongrels, race traitors, and assorted angels. We’re a mixed bag, big as the sky, uncontained, which is just fine. End of day update: Well gee whiz, turns out that it’s Frank Paynter‘s birthday today, too (you have to read his entry from the 26th to the end: he drops the hint then). Happy birthday to you, too, Frank. Horny old goats unite…! (And kick ass!) (Uhm, your name’s not short for frankincense, is it?)

Capitalist coffee, parasailing, and a day off

December 26, 2003 at 12:06 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Capitalist coffee, parasailing, and a day off

Checking out Anis Shivani’s other writings online, I found this article in Dissident Voice, Is It Time to Move to Canada? The Degeneration of the Liberals, from late January 2003. It’s not exactly comfort reading since Shivani’s assessment of the current American status quo is bleak, but I found myself cheering this criticism in particular:

The other side to the blindness of liberals is indiscriminate condemnation by so-called radicals, who don’t see any real distinction in the state of freedom in America before and after Bush. For these critics, America was just as much a hell before Bush as it is now: a Gore presidency for them would have made no difference. Some even take delight in watching the chaos unfold: for these prophets, it is all in the service of the final collapse of capitalism, which shall surely usher in the era of Marxist hunting, fishing, and–is it reading? And then there are the populists–like Ralph Nader–who also don’t claim to see a significant distinction between America before and after. I don’t see Nader, or the Canadian student of protest [Shivani refers to Naomi Klein] who is currently at LSE [London School of Economics], showing up at the INS office in Los Angeles to protest the mass arrest of hundreds of Iranians who voluntarily showed up to comply with a new law to have themselves registered, finger-printed, and interrogated. [More…]

Meanwhile, here in the Canada that some of us have already moved to, coming back from my dog-walk to the Dallas Road cliffs, I noticed that all the stores in Cook Street Village’s 3 or 4 block area were closed this afternoon: Caffe Fantastico, the Ethiopian place, the Thai restaurant, Food Country, Oxford Foods, the diner, the two second hand furniture stores, the dry cleaner, the greengrocer, the two hairdressers, the bank, the wine merchant, the fish ‘n chips restaurant, Pic-a-Flic video rental, Moka Cafe, the drug store, the post office, the pub, the do-it-yourself wine brewery, the health food store, the laundromat, the cobbler, and a bunch of others I forgot to mention. Only the convenience store was open (Mac’s), and — across the street from the closed Moka Cafe — Starbucks. They were doing a booming business, with people lining up through the door and onto the sidewalk. Given that Victoria has about 10 Starbucks just within spitting distance of one another, and that all competitors appeared to be closed, I wonder how much money they took in. There were definitely more people than usual just hanging out today. That’s because they had the day off from working in the service sector, unless they work for Starbucks, of course. Dallas Road was besieged by what seemed to be hundreds of dogs and their humans. The para-surfers were out, zipping across the ocean’s surface, exciting the spectators on the cliffs above. The para-guys always alternate: one day it’s the parasurfers, then the paragliders, and so on. They typically don’t come at the same time, and I always wonder whether they have some way of organising who has para-rights to the cliffs and beach on a particular day. It has to be windy of course, which it was today. It was dramatically sunny, too, with picturesque clouds setting off those blue skies which were getting photogenically sexed up by the addition of parasails and all the extreme paraphernalia the sport implies: those yummy black body suits, the muscles rippling beneath the rubber, the endless lengths of slippery rope, the silken sails… Have another latte, kid. As is typical, the sun only shone in our rain shadow on the southern tip of the island. I could see that Metchosin and Sooke to the west were socked in with really seriously menacing rain clouds, while the Olympic Mountain Range to the south had disappeared behind average dull gray clouds. I bet it rained in Seattle today. Vancouver might have been locked up, too. Not us, though: clear skies. [Bummer, it says posted on the 26th, which technically it is since it’s nearly quarter past midnight. But I’m talking about the day that just ended. The 26th as everyone knows is Boxing Day, and even here that means open stores and sales….]

Are we there yet?

December 24, 2003 at 12:22 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Are we there yet?

I used my blogging time today writing in comments to my Dec. 22 post, Michael Moore on AlterNet, and I don’t have energy left for anything else just now. There’s this article I refer to in the comments, but if you don’t want to check that thread out, take a look at the article here: Notes on totalitarianism: Are we there yet? by Anis Shivani (and I just noticed that the author’s name links to a Harvard alum email address…).

It’s got a flaming illustration, straight out of John Heartfield’s portfolio…

Individualism today: Feelings being exploited instead of addressed, or, how I learned to stop worrying and be Dagwood

December 22, 2003 at 8:54 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

While I’m at it, AlterNet has a bunch of great articles just now. There’s Noam Chomsky’s Dictators R Us, originally printed in the Toronto Star, and a terrific interview with Arlie Hochschild focussing on the blue-collar guy who’s likely to vote for Bush in 2004:

I think we all have feelings and they all can get appealed to. It doesn’t mean a person is stupid if their feelings are getting appealed to. But I do think that this is going on, and that there’s a kind of a dilemma here that the blue-collar guy, since the ’70s on, has been suffering a giant economic downward slide. His paycheck is worth less. His job has become less secure. His benefits have been carved down. And all of this is bad, bad news for him. His wife’s had to go to work, and now, 30 years later, the two of them earn what he alone would have earlier earned.

With this economic hit has come a cultural hit. Now I think it’s a worldwide story, a kind of economic undermining of patriarchal customs and expectations. And so, with this economic decline may come marital instability – a lot of hard things have hit this guy. And so how he feels psychologically becomes a really important question. And I think the story is that he believes – whether it’s true or not – that a lot of people have come up from behind him. Women have come from behind. Minorities have come from behind and gotten ahead; immigrants, new arrivals, have come from behind and have gotten ahead. Even the spotted owl – a lot of them are not environmentalists because they think somebody’s now putting animal rights over their human rights. As he’s sliding down, he imagines all these groups moving up.

And a very understandable thing to do is to look at them and want them to go back where they came from. The feeling is one of frustration, fear, anger. What he’s not doing is looking at Bush, the guy at the top, who’s rigging the whole economic game, and who’s not doing a thing to support him, and who’s actually deflecting blame away from the top. So it comes down to this: those feelings that come with a kind of loss of position, income and status among blue-collar males are being exploited instead of addressed.

And read the whole interview — what Hochschild has to say about Limbaugh, his hatred of Hilary Clinton, of Wellesley College, and his simultaneous blindness to Halliburton is enlightening. Arlie notes,

That is part of the emotional climate that stirs up the understandably hurt feelings of downwardly mobile blue-collar men. And there’s a whole hemorrhage in the economic sector which has provided them jobs. That is a structural reality. We really need a Marshall Plan response to it. The blue-collar guy’s upset; he has a right to be upset. We are with him on that. I’m upset too.

It’s not his fault that industrial jobs are going to China and Indonesia. We need a structural answer to a structural problem. But instead of that, the blue-collar guy feels privately bad. And the worst side of his bad feelings is being appealed to by Bush.

I think she puts her finger on certain parallels to 1930s Germany — I say that not for sensationalism, but because it’s sad.

C’mon people, vote this guy out. Put your vote where it counts, against Bush, for whoever gets Bush out. And, absolutely, read this interview with Arlie Hochschild.

Michael Moore on AlterNet

December 22, 2003 at 8:23 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

Michael Moore has a great article on AlterNet detailing the negative and desperate attitudes of American service personnel on the ground in Iraq. The article also includes much detailed information on how you can help the soldiers. It concludes with a rallying call by Moore:

I know it feels hopeless. That’s how they want us to feel. Don’t give up. We owe it to these kids, the troops we support, to get them the hell outta there and back home so they can help organize the drive to remove the war profiteers from office next November.

To all who serve in our armed forces, to their parents and spouses and loved ones, we offer to you the regrets of millions and the promise that we will right this wrong and do whatever we can to thank you for offering to risk your lives for us. That your life was put at risk for Bush’s greed is a disgrace and a travesty, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime.

Be safe, come home soon, and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you during this season when many of us celebrate the birth of the prince of “peace.”

Manual dexterity: the original Orgasmatron (accept no substitutes!)

December 22, 2003 at 7:40 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

I saw a reference to this in the local paper’s business section today (paper copy, in a cafe) and looked it up online on Google. Wow. It’s a special time for DIY, I guess. Maybe this is what happens when “home ec” is no longer taught in school? People (I mean girls of course) forget how to use their hands….?

Not if, but when do we get the big one

December 22, 2003 at 4:03 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

Ironically — and frighteningly — the Oakland Tribune ran this article, Monster quake could hit Pacific Northwest, about 8 hours before today’s severe 6.5 earthquake hit Central California. My husband was on a conference call to colleagues when it happened — suddenly they said, “We have to cut this call short since we have to evacuate the building quickly.” Up here in the Northwest we haven’t had anything big for a long time — in fact, I have no idea when we last had a real earthquake here — but this article in the Oakland Tribune is anything but reassuring regarding the consequences (especially for Seattle) if or when we do get one. I wonder how much solid granite is under my house? Lots, I hope: the thought of liquified earth gives me the creeps…

I hope all my friends in California are all right. Perhaps it’s a good thing if you’re getting these small-to-severe quakes that nonetheless still leave you standing. I gather it means the plates are releasing without building up pressure to the point where a release would get you a 9-point-something quake, which is why it’s sometimes a bit scary that things have been so steady around here. Well, we’ve all been warned, but we listen selectively because we really like it here and want to live in Lotusland, regardless.

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