Swim with the tide

March 6, 2005 at 11:35 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I never thought that watching a video of tidal current could be interesting, but this one is. It’s on the Race Rocks website. The Race Rocks Ecological Preserve is off the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, and it’s under the stewardship of Pearson College. The latter just announced that they have worked out a sizeable funding package (or joint project etc.) with a couple of private firms to build a free-stream tidal power generator — hence the fascinating tidal current video. It’s sort of like watching money being made, or energy coming into being, or something like that. At ~6 knots per hour at its peak, it’s an impressive powerstream, giving “go with the flow” a whole new meaning…

A test for Mandarin Meg

March 5, 2005 at 5:45 pm | In yulelogStories | 7 Comments

hack this code
hack this code

Wowie! Meg at Mandarin Design posted a code the other day which had several other bloggers testing it out. I tried it, too, and it didn’t work, but then Gary at TFS Reluctant did some customising, and lo!, it works here, too.

I’ve never linked to Meg’s fantastic design blog before, mainly because I admire from a distance but feel unable to use her glorious combination of style and geekishness in my little prefab space. It’s sort of like putting a Louis XVI chaise or a real Eames chair in a dinky little stucco bungalow! But this was fun. Check out Mandarin Design for dozens of other stylish ideas…

Market intervention

March 4, 2005 at 5:11 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments


As part of his research into the links between the New Age and the same-old-age, The CBO has a useful installment on a phenom within a phenom: the Left Behind series and Christian Fiction. As it happens, I recently read a chapter on Christian novels as a specific genre, as well as an interview with Jerry B. Jenkins of the LaHaye-Jenkins team, in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. Pulp fiction is pretty big business, with individual genres that grow a fan base and carve out market share. The chapter on the Christian market is by Penelope Stokes (pp.303-309), and explains to would-be writers what that market wants. (It’s probably not a bad idea to remember, at this point, that pandering to a market needn’t be influenced by what you actually believe, either….) According to Stokes, the following are the golden rules for success in the Christian book market:

A clearly articulated Christian worldview. A Christian worldview is based on the assumption that God is in control of the universe, and that true meaning and fulfillment in life are based on a relationship with the Almighty. (…)

A familiar but intriguing setting and/or time frame. [self-explanatory] (…)

Universal themes and subject matter. Novels usually work best in the CBA [Christian Booksellers Association] market when they connect with some issue of current interest or universal appeal: love, suffering, injustice, moral challenges, or family relationships. [In other words, could we say that if the contemporary political climate punches up a general tendency toward paranoia and panic, those themes will find their way into Christian literature, and assure the popularity of those books?] (…)

Action orientation. [focus on action, suspense, etc. Paranoia, anyone?] (…) This general principle does not eliminate the value of character-oriented books, but it’s a good idea to steer clear of psychological novels comprised mostly of self-awareness, internal insights, or relationships. [emphasis added]

Viable Christian characters. (…) …have a clearly identifiable evangelical faith, along with some kind of memorable “conversion” in their history. Most Christian readers are looking for a conflict of good versus evil… [Action! Forget introspection.] (…)

Series plans or potential. [self-explanatory: franchisable characters, the cash registers are happy.] (…)

Strong evangelical perspectives. (…) Most CBA publishers expect their authors to refrain from writing scenes that include gratuitous sex or overt sensuality, obscenity and profanity, humanistic philosophy, or excessive violence (particularly toward women [sic!]). [emphasis added] [So, systemic-implied violence in the form of authoritarian relationships wherein the man is the master and the woman is subservient are ok, because they’re not excessive? Hmmm…] From The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, pp. 305-07.]

As for the Jenkins-LaHaye team, it’s clear that LaHaye is the more ideological, while Jenkins appears to be the crank-it-out-on-demand writer. Here’s what he answers to interviewer Chantelle Bentley’s question, What kind of research do you do for the books that make up the Left Behind series?

The idea for fictionalizing [emph. added] an account of the Rapture and the Tribulation was Dr. LaHaye’s, and he has been studying prophecy and theology since before I was born. I have become, in essence, his protégé and now own everything he has written or read on these subjects. He provides a chronology of biblical events, and I get the fun part of making up the stories and writing the novels. [From The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, pp. 410-11.]

I read Jenkins’s answer to Bentley’s question as “None whatsoever.” How quaint. (And how utterly cheesy.)

And just in case you sinners had any doubt as to what it all comes down to (at least for hacks), it’s this: when asked if Christian writers are at a disadvantage in publishing, Jenkins replies,

The general market seems to be thrilled with anything that entertains and sells [emph. added], so where there might have seemed to be a prejudice against Christian themes, that has been dispelled by several best-sellers (not just our own).


You have to love how rational all this insanity really is: it’s beauty, eh, as they say up here. As long as something makes sense in the market place, it gets survivor cred, and no one messes with a survivor-winner, or succeeds in tearing down his (or her) junk. If it’s popular, fills a niche, and survives economically, it works.


[*]: I thought I posted this when I wrote it on March 2, but in a continuing string of software mysteries, the entry got — ahem — left behind and never actually hit the page. Chalk it up to divine intervention, perhaps?

The new Canadian Car

March 3, 2005 at 10:55 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

For the past several weeks, I have been seeing, on average, one-point-something Smart Cars zipping about on Victoria’s streets. They’re different cars every time — all colours: orange, cranberry red, brown, black, grey, black, you name it. I have found this puzzling, and have wondered whether there’s some kind of blitz underway. “Saturate with Smart Cars,” or something like that. It’s certainly the case that you can’t miss seeing the thing, if you see it — I mean, you won’t mistake it for some other brand of car, or just think you saw it. As Eddie said (via AbFab), they’re a licorice allsorts on wheels.

Today I see that General Motors Canada plans to invest CDN$2.5 billion in its Canadian operations, prompting speculation that perhaps we will see the emergence of a true Canuck-mobile.

According to the Toronto Star‘s article, Ken Okuyama, creative director of Italy’s Pininfarina and designer of the CDN$1 million Enzo Ferrari, is thinking about it. (See this link for a “graphic” [pdf] of a possible “Canadian car” by Okuyama.]

And yet: …. one really has to hand it to the Smart Car. The new Canadian Car, should it materialise, will have to be the kind of automobile that, if it wants to beat the cute-looking Licorice-Allsorts-mobile, eats squirrels for breakfast while simultaneously assuaging our pluralistic live-and-let-live Canadian mentality. This could be fun!

What about the tourists?

March 1, 2005 at 12:04 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

Now that Joseph Heath’s and Andrew Potter’s book, Nation of Rebels : Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, is readily available in the US (it was originally published by HarperCollins Canada as The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed), and now that many folks are planning their upcoming summer holidays, I thought I’d quote from Heath & Potter on the subject of tourism:

…the modern traveler is left with a serious dilemma. On the one hand, the exotic urge that creates travel as a provisional good and causes serious travelers to constantly strive to keep ahead of the waves of mass tourism is something that is shot through with self-deception, power imbalances and exploitation. On the other hand, as the tourist wave passes through a previously untouched area, the local economy is completely reshaped in anticipation of the visitors to come. The very antimaterialist attitude that leads people to seek out exotic places in the first place draws more and more regions into the global economy.

It might seem that there is no way to avoid either of the horns of this dilemma. Mass tourism is disgusting, shallow and exploitative. The pleasures of apparently exotic travel are sullied by the realization that the ongoing search for authentic connection by escaping modernity is not a solution to the problem, but its cause. Even just staying at home reneges on an implicit intercultural economic bargain. Whatever is the well-intentioned traveler to do?

One form of travel that is rarely, if ever, mentioned by sociologists and other students of tourism is the business trip. Yet there is something to be said for the business trip as the only truly authentic and nonexploitative form of travel. For many travelers, expecially those concerned (even unwittingly) with the exotic, the problem is that they are too focussed on the social psychology of the travel experience, and not on the experience itself. That is, instead of choosing a destination based on relatively objective criteria such as comforts, amenities, cost, friendliness of the locals and so on, they choose their destinations based on how “authentic” or “exotic” they are and on how much social capital will be conferred in the ongoing quest for distinction. The value of a destination hinges on how many “moderns” have been there already and on how unprepared the locals are for their arrival. This concern for the symbolic aspect of tourism transforms potential destinations into positional goods.

None of these problems apply to business travel. Unlike the exotic traveler, who spends as little money as possible while commodifying the natives’ difference, the business traveler is there at the express invitation of the locals. The business traveler’s trip represents a declination from the symbolic to the material. He or she goes not in search of spiritual meaning, or positional goods, not even to “see the sights,” but in search of trade — trade that, in principle, need not be exploitative or voyeristic. There may be competition involved, such as that between foreign firms competing for market share in a foreign market. But unlike the leapfrogging waves of tourists generated by those who travel to earn social capital, this is the sort of competition that works in favor of the locals, since they will then be able to negotiate for a better deal. In the end, it may be that the only “authentic” form of travel is business travel. Everyone else is just a tourist. [from the Canadian edition, pp.277-78.]

If you think of the early adopter travelers who, searching for the distinctively cool and the “authentic,” started what turned into a flood of tourism to Thailand, creating in their wake an industry that left huge numbers of Thai people dependent on tourism as well as ultra-exposed to the December 04 tsunami, you really should stop yourself next time you’re thinking of how to shore up your social capital, and what bragging rights it would give you, if you could snoop out the next and latest recherché elephant experience in Bali or the coolest “wilderness experience” in an Ellesmere Island-like environment.

Well, back to reading Nation of Rebels : Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture. The travel brochures will have to wait….

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