Please call me Sam

March 18, 2004 at 9:35 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

And another thing. Perversely, I find comfort in Hubble’s view right now. It’s balancing to think that there is a vast universe out there that exists according to a much larger tic-toc clockwork than anything human spawn could muster. Thank you, cold full-empty all embracing carefully non-tactile hotly isolating universe for being there, because otherwise I might just go insane. For I had an unexpected whirlwind visit from one of my sisters today — we all live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart, and I was today again reminded that there is a reason for this. Does anyone remember the ancient 60s TV show Bewitched? Well, I feel as though I just had a visit from Endora (Agnes Moorehead) herself. It makes me feel quite like Darrin, and that’s such a drag.

Art class

March 18, 2004 at 9:16 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Art class

Sometime before passing him on to me, my high school art teacher told me that her lover (one of my fellow grade 12 students, an A-1 brat) needed “to have the shit kicked out of him.” Thirty years later I’m still quite foggy about what exactly she thought I might be able to do with him. But the other day it occured to me that the Hubble treatment, had it been available, would have been just the thing. Hubble’s view: be prepared to have the shit kicked out of you, to be scared witless, to be awed and amazed. Think you’re a big cheese? Think again, you insignificant speck of dust living on the equivalent of a planetary amoeba’s face. Prepare for the final frontier, prepare for contact. Prepare to meet the Art Teacher!

The Day After Tomorrow

March 16, 2004 at 10:07 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on The Day After Tomorrow

The Guardian has an interesting spin on a movie I hadn’t heard about at all until my friend in Florence, Betsy Burke, sent me the link: “Hollywood disaster film,” the headline reads, “set to turn heat on Bush“:

Here’s the pitch: a dullish candidate, outflanked by his opponent’s serious money, attacked for his liberal leanings, is swept to an unlikely victory thanks to a blockbuster movie that focuses on the effects of big business and the agro-industrial complex.

Audiences throw their popcorn aside, pick up their ballot papers and realise that they too can make a difference. The studio behind the movie: 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch. The director: Roland Emmerich; no Martin Sheen-style bleeding heart Democrat but the brawn behind Independence Day.

It sounds unlikely, but this summer might just see an alliance of commerce, populist entertainment and feel-good concern combine to weaken President George Bush and hand votes to his expected Democrat rival John Kerry.

I have to admit that I got quite excited by this introduction to the film, although I’ve tempered my enthusiasm a tad. I still want to see the film, though. The movie, which has a release date of May 28, 2004, has its own website, which in turn links to some incredible trailers. In fact, the entire website design is very slick, and I am eager to see the movie. Since movie-going has in the past decade slipped to my least favourite things to do, eagerness to go to any movie — and for this one I just might line up on opening day — is indicative of how deeply the promotional material got its hooks into me. I really want to see this film, the website is forcing me to believe that it’s going to be awesome. The other thing that’s exciting is what the Guardian article hints at: the movie might just marshall global anxiety over human intervention in world ecosystems into a force for political sea-change. There is widespread disgust that greed, rapaciousness, and stupidity, coupled with sheer excessive human numbers, has driven us to the brink of something potentially irreversible, and we want to see something done about it. Ok, so it’s a Hollywood disaster flick that might get something done, but grasping at straws has a fine historical legitimacy. At least seen from some angles. Wir haben keine Chance, aber wir nutzen sie. We don’t have a chance, but we’re going to use it. The movie’s premise is based at least in part on several very topical concerns that have been making the rounds in environmental and climate-change conversations. Clearly, the film explores the notion that climate change won’t be a matter of gradually increasing warming over decades, but rather a flipping of the switch so to speak, which will happen when the Great Conveyor Belt (the North Atlantic current) stops moving due to unmanageable masses of fresh water coming off melting glaciers. At this point, should the Great Conveyor Belt stop moving, a new ice age could be upon us within a matter of 2 or 3 years. In the movie, this event is compressed into a single disaster storm that plunges the earth into inhospitality for humans within, well, within a day. And the day after tomorrow is just the anti-climax, presumably the tedious long march into subsistence and survival. Oooooh. You have to see the trailer, it’s incredible. The bad news is that there is much more source material about the movie to digest, and much of it gives one indigestion. To whit, check out this enthusiastic fan or promotional site and its many interviews with director Roland Emmerich. I found it nearly as terrifying to hear Emmerich talk like a Valley girl (rarely have I heard the interjection “like” used so often by anyone) as to contemplate the movie’s spectacular depiction of disaster. This probably says too much about me, but man, you can only hear a person say “like” so many times without wanting to slap them. Another troubling aspect is that Emmerich says he based his movie on scientific research, yet the book he cites as his main inspiration, The Coming Global Superstorm, was written by two people, Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, described as “paranormal superstars” on Amazon’s blurb. Another review from Publishers Weekly notes:

The message is very scary and convincing: humankind has so polluted the environment that the world’s weather is about to react by taking a “ferocious” turn. But the messengers delivering this news seem a bit flaky: Strieber wrote of his own alien abduction episode in Communion; Bell, a late-night radio talk-show host, regularly covers such topics as UFOs, government conspiracies and near-death experiences. They present an imagined sequence for the catastrophic “superstorm,” threatening a possible “extinction event” for humans. It’s like Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds, only we’re fighting the weather instead of Martians. Interspersed with this alarmist scenario are many credible facts about the effects of trapped greenhouse gasses, as well as explanations of how quickly our ecosystem has deteriorated in this century. Reading, the authors are very grave indeed, lending an otherwise dry scientific topic a heightened sense of drama and making it play as a thriller on tape. Simultaneous release with the Pocket hardcover. (Dec.)

So there you have it, folks, Environmentalism American Style: big, showy, flashy, with potential alien abductions thrown in for good measure, and with a budget on steroids, but also perhaps capable of actually getting something done, mobilising the grass roots. It’s the American way. And if it helps get Bush out of office and helps more momentum to develop for environmental responsibleness, that’s, as someone might say, a good thing. Oh, and speaking of grass (and trees): Emmerich and crew & cast realised while making their film that they were using up huge resources of carbon fuels, which gave them a dose of bad conscience. So they decided to try to make their film “carbon neutral,” and they tell you on their website how you, too, can go carbon neutral: see FutureForests.

On the mambo of self-hatred

March 14, 2004 at 11:36 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I saw Mambo Italiano on dvd last weekend. It’s very funny and also quite sweet in a disarming, goofy sort of way. Angelo, the main character, is a true anti-hero hero. The movie has some interesting discussion about self-hatred (and conversely, pride) when Angelo’s first lover asserts his Italian pride by bashing Angelo’s supposed Italian self-hatred. Then there’s an interflashment (a sort of flash-back plus interruption and installment) of Angelo’s parents recounting their emigration to Canada — specifically Montreal, Province of Quebec:

Scene: deadpan view of Mr. & Mrs. Angelo’s Parents. The Mr. says, We go to America, only they don’t-a tell us that there’s two Americas: the real America and the fake one, Canada. (Of course, they went to Canada.) And then they don’t-a tell us that there’s two Canadas, the real one where they speak-a English and the fake one, where they speak-a French. (And of course, they go to Montreal.)

Mr. & Mrs. Angelo’s Parents actually have everything they could want for happiness, but it’s important to them to have this POV, which allows them to see everything in terms of self-bashing. It gives them the “right” to pass it on, and part of the movie’s magic is in how Angelo breaks that chain. Quite good. He is a determined asynchronous character.

As Venn diagrams

March 13, 2004 at 11:51 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

(PS added below) Lately I’ve been having a problem with citzenship. Blog citizenship, that is. The duties of posting entries here, reading other blogs, pointing to things of interest here, commenting on other blogs, not to mention checking back later to see how the conversation is going: the rewards of all this business — busy-ness — are shapeshifting in front of my eyes, and it’s difficult just now to feel right about them, so I’ve ignored them. In other words, I’m having a slight hiccup in the general area of being an aware citizen of the blogworld, regardless how one’s personal sphere is defined. My circles aren’t going to be your circles, but somehow they all overlap just a tad, and none of us, really, is Alexander with the right to cast bullying shadows on all those archimedian hinges in the spheres of world, thought, mind… Yet somehow, that bastard Alexander is standing just there, casting shadows with his huge pragmatic materiality.

I am left leverless, that stick in my hand is just about right for bashing myself on the head, but it’s nothing to unhinge a world with.

Through all this, it has been a breathtaking spring: we’ve had magnolia blooms the size of elephants’ ears, but coloured like a diner’s neon, and scents enough from all the stuff in bloom — early?, on time? — to last a thousand cubicle-aired noses for a lifetime of diminishing aesthetic returns.

The other day I ran into a friend whose Montreal apartment I had the good fortune to share decades ago. He sometimes gets annoyed with Victoria, and so he wanted to know whether I’m still glad I came back here. But I’m a simple-minded sucker for flowers, growing stuff, and temperate weather. And I live so much of my life online, vicariously, on various blogs and newsletters and sites and emails to people I know or don’t know, that it really doesn’t matter to me if I’m in some glam locale or if I’m wherever I am. For real life, all, I sometimes think, I care about is good weather. And we’ve got that here in spades.

The drawback is that nothing stops growing, even if it’s all regressive. The real world doesn’t grow into the virtual one without a fight, though. Bullying shadows develop a heft and substance worthy of a conqueror, and other spheres get neglected. PS: I have my Romans and Greeks mixed up. Alexander had nothing to do with Archimedes’s disturbed circles. That was wrong — Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier. Sorry. Kind of destroys the metaphor I had, except that Marcellus (the Roman general) was also conquering and bullying…. But while everyone has heard of Alexander, who knows from Marcellus?

Danse macabre at the restaurant

March 8, 2004 at 9:44 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

…And then again (in contradiction to what I just posted moments earlier), there are other links to bits of information that make me toss my cookies and proclaim that all is useless… There really are mean streets, and they’re paved with the bodies of those who couldn’t afford to be there. But the ones who on those streets survive, they walk on corpses. Reprise: Johnny, komm, wir fressen eine Leiche….

The Earth has many axes

March 8, 2004 at 9:07 pm | In yulelogStories | 6 Comments

Woo!, the internet is so cool…. To flesh out a comment to yesterday’s post on recycling, I was noodling around for a reference to February’s Harper’s Magazine article by Richard Manning, “The Oil We Eat; Following the Food Chain Back to Iraq,” a tremendously important article — really, all self-defacing acronyms (IMHO) aside. Although Harper’s isn’t online, I did find a comments thread on a site called Ish*Con, very interesting stuff (and here’s the link to that comments thread), from whence I came to the webpages of Derrick Jensen, who writes provocative environmental philosophy, apparently while situated in the depths of the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s what I stay in it for, the links to new places, even if they’re just new to me. And who cares if no one in Boston or San Francisco (the A-list neighbourhoods) has heard of them. We bloody well are nobody, and we hear. Sometimes we even bloody well talk. Go, decentralisation!

More garbage

March 7, 2004 at 11:01 pm | In yulelogStories | 8 Comments

My iBook, it still suffers the dah-mahge, as the inestimable Inspector Clousseau might say, and my blog-reading and blog-writing will be much sparser until the case is sol-ved. And anyway, I’ve been writing a lot of garbage lately these days, so it’s no great loss. But speaking of garbage (which, along with waste and drains, is much on my mind), the other day my husband announced that he had just observed our fair city’s contracted recycling crew toss all the glass, plastic, and metal into the same compartment in the recycling truck as the paper products. In Massachusetts, the recycling guys tossed the former into one compartment, and the latter into another. So how does it work when all the recycling is tossed into the same compartment on the truck? Am I supposed to believe that there are people at the other end who fish through all the scraps of paper, dislodging them from the wet tins and glass, separating out once again what the resident had so thoughtfully separated at the curb, bundled and binned? And if it’s not persons sorting out the mess, what other form of energy is used for the cleanup? I once shut up into stunned silence a friend who enthused about her brother-in-law’s persnickety recycling habits: “You should see him! He washes all the bottles and tins, cleans them right off, they’re immaculate, and then he puts them out on the curb.” I ended the enthusiasm when I asked if he had ever considered how much non-renewable resource (i.e., our drinking water supply) he was using and how much fossil-fuel to heat the water to its optimum soap-dissolving temperature he was burning to achieve this pinnacle of green but anal consciousness. Are my fair city’s recycling guys dumping a big mess somewhere and using non-renewable resources to separate once again what had already been separated? Or are they, as my husband claimed, the same outfit that in the US is under investigation for ties to the mob, and the “recycling” is merely fancy landfill? Possibly forewashed by some persnickety recycler, hence doubly cursed landfill? Is this another “to do” item on my already chaotic agenda: To Do: call The City and find out if the private recycling contracter they hired is connected to the mob and is just dumping, for a fat fee, the recycling into a landfill somewhere up Island? A month or so ago, Monday Magazine, a local somewhat alternative weekly, ran an article about “extreme green” purists, people who go the extra mile for the environment. I was struck by the story of one woman who uses scraps of cloth for toilet paper because it’s wasteful to use paper. For “number two” she does use paper, but for “number one” she uses cloth, ditto for when she menstruates. What I wanted to know was if anyone had done a calculation of the net saving to the environment. You have to use either bleach or really hot water to wash those rags, not to mention a good detergent, and at least one solid rinse cycle (extra water!). And you might do laundry more often, not with a full load, because you don’t want those rags festering in a bucket for over a week. So how much water is she using to achieve this non-paper purity? Wouldn’t it be better to use Monday Magazine, straight off the presses? Newspaper recycles well in the compost, you’d just have to rip those wet pieces into long strips…. When my kids were babies I used a cloth diaper service, never those throw-away store-bought diapers. It’s true, I didn’t want to clog up a landfill unnecessarily, but I had an ulterior motive, too. I felt that cloth gave the baby — especially the young toddler — a better idea of the natural connection between action (urination) and sensation (wetness), something the throw-away diapers never do because they stay “dry to the touch” even if you dump a gallon of urine into them. I figured it was part of mentally challenging them to experience the world, to gain as much sensory information as was safely possible, and that “stay dry diapers” were for retards or for those who wanted to make sure their kids would be sensually retarded. (I bet Uncle Sigmund will call me tomorrow and tell me that I stunted them for life or something, but it doesn’t look like it a decade later; their “zones” are fine.) One side-effect of doing this was that they were out of diapers quicker than other babies, which meant we could stop using Dydee Diaper Service sooner. The latter had a state-of-the-art washing facility that supposedly treated all its wastewater and tried to ensure other environmentally correct things. Whatever. I say this to underscore that I have nothing against recycling and avoiding throw-away products, but I’m always questioning whether I’m hitting a point where the energy expended to avoid the landfilling product does more damage than using the product. Just because you use hot water to rinse the tins before putting them into the recycling doesn’t mean you get green brownie points (??) or that you’ve actually saved any energy. Just because you use cloth on your bottom doesn’t mean it’s a free swipe.

I hate Apple — hello, are you guys at Apple listening??

March 3, 2004 at 7:08 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I can’t even bother to make the links to my previous woes with my iBook, but this is a quickie recap: sometime last summer, my iBook broke. It needed a new motherboard (to the tune of nearly $1K with Canadian taxes). …Ok, you bite the bullet, you get it fixed, not least because you don’t want to switch to Microsoft. Then you learn that Apple admits, “yes, the motherboards on iBooks are wonky, it’s our fault,” and you submit a claim to the company (which is filed, but not yet addressed) to get your money back (only, I’m wondering: do I get my 14.5% tax back, or is that just a bonus for the government?). Ok, I’m still waiting for my money, no sight of it yet. Fine, but meanwhile, I notice that I only have to tilt my screen ever so slightly toward me and the visual display goes black. I’ve been living with this condition for months now, avoiding any tilting of the lid/display once the iBook is on and running, because if I do, click!, black screen, and the cure is to close the lid completely, wait 10 seconds and then open it again. Sort of the high tech equivalent of kicking the appliance. For some as yet unexplainable reason, I was temporarily insane enough to be convinced to let the local computer store/ maintenance guy have a look at the iBook today. This very competent technician (and really, he is, this is not sarcasm on my part here) told me that the cable connecting to the display is stretched and worn from use (duh, that’s what you do with a laptop: open and close it, which I guess means using it!, EXCUSE ME if this was a mistake!!!!! ), and this is causing the problem. The cost to fix? Well, it appears some genius design dude made it so that you cannot replace the cable — a mere 25-cent component, no doubt — and that “the fix” requires installing a completely new display to the tune of $420 plus tax (14.5%, remember?) and labour. Oh goodie. I said no, of course, but guess what? When I got home, the cable decided that it had been stretched and used enough and now the display doesn’t work at all. So, I’m still out nearly $1K for the new motherboard, and if I ever want this stupid iBook to run properly again, I can shell out nearly 50% of that sum again. I’m not doing it. And I hope that someone — ANYONE — connected with Apple is reading this, because your people and my person need to talk. You need to know that you have a supremely shitty product here. It might be white and modern-looking, but underneath it’s a piece of badly-designed crap, and I am not happy. At all. On the plus front: I found out on Tuesday morning that I do have a city storm drain connection in place and won’t be required to spend $4070 to get one brought to my property. Having brought the topic up in that last post, I had intended to write something about money and property, not least because I’m relatively new to both these things, but that’s going to have to wait. My thoughts on money and property had something to do with sex (what doesn’t?), and how money circulates and is everywhere, just like sex, but that somehow certain generations never talked about it. Neither my parents nor my inlaws owned their own homes. Their parents however had, so it’s not a case of geezer Europeans not being hip to the North American Money Making Monster Machine Land Grabbing Co. But our parents didn’t, though: they never got into property ownership (well, my parents did for nearly one year in Winnipeg and for just over a year here in Victoria, before returning to the safety of renting). For them, home — or even condo — ownership was an impenetrable blob, not spoken of, incomprehensible, not to be encompassed. It was not “the new black,” ever. What I think was missing in their perspective was the notion of distributed self, which I really don’t have a problem with: I don’t mind if the mortgage company “owns” a part of me, or if my “assets” are tied up, or if the house is a portal of orifices that are entered at will. (Look, the alternative is paying rent, right? So, you want to make a landlord rich? Come on, who’s being kinky now?) What it takes is coming up with the down payment, after that you just let the money flow, in and out — too often out, if you ask me, so you have to learn to take it in, too. If you get fixated on downpayments, mortgage payments, and all that stuff, you’re in the realm of fuming over submission. It’s ok, submit. I could make a double-entendre remark now about getting slicked up enough, but I’m a nice girl. Ok, that’s it, end of post. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it ain’t. Say good night, Gracie. And say good bye iBook.

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