Same-sex marriage

June 30, 2005 at 8:16 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Last summer I went to Saltspring Island for the wedding of a friend. She’s originally from Canada, but we met at Harvard in the late 80s. Now she lives in California. She and her partner came to BC to be married because same-sex marriage is legal here — was legal here last year, and is still legal today. BC has not gone down the drain because same-sex marriage was legalised. Heterosexual marriages still take place. Little children do not cower in fear that their right to marriage will be destroyed by same-sex unions.

To hear some of the critics of same-sex marriage, one would think the end of the world has arrived: The House of Parliament in Ottawa passed the same-sex marriage bill a couple of days ago, which makes those marriages legal in all of Canada (Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories were holding out against them — no more). Canada is now the third country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. See House passes same-sex marriage bill in the June 28 Toronto Star.

The article quotes Prime Minister Paul Martin:

“(This) is about the Charter of Rights,” Prime Minister Paul Martin said earlier Today.

“We are a nation of minorities. And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry-pick rights.

“A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about.” [More…]

He’s quite right. I just hope that principle is kept firmly in mind in Ontario and everywhere in Canada by legislators and politicians considering the privatisation of the Canadian legal system. See the excellent article, Sharia Law Controversy, by Tarek Fatah for a look at the political funding dilemma that shapes the 1991 Arbitration Act. Please, let’s show the pernicious idea of faith-based binding arbitration as a substitute for Family Law Courts the exit!

It is about rights, and it is important not to cherry-pick human rights, as Martin says.

In the same-sex marriage debate, opponents use the same lame excuses about “moral decay” to try and stem the implementation of equal rights. After the House of Commons passed the bill on Monday, opponents to legal same-sex marriage invoked “moral decay” and projected the danger into the lives of their children:

“It’s a sad day,” said Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College.

“The great institution of marriage that has built this civilization and the foundation of our society has been defiled by our Parliament.

“And that is sad. It’s sad for our children. It’s sad for our grandchildren. It’s sad for the young people.

“I have a 7-year-old daughter. When she comes of age to be married, will we still have marriage as we know it?” [More…]

The institution of marriage built our civilisation? Um, I think pulling out one thing like that as the driving force behind history is …cherry picking!

Mr. McVety, your daughter will still be able to get married: this is not about truncating her rights. My friend has three sons, incidentally. If they don’t have a problem with their mother marrying another woman, why should the children of straight (scared) people? Will those children have problems because of the same-sex couples, or because their parents are phobic? Perhaps Mr. McVety’s daughter and my friend’s sons can have a conversation about that one day. Heck, they can even get married. It might do Mr. McVety a lot of good if he broadened his range of in-laws…

More small (and bigger) solutions

June 28, 2005 at 10:49 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Way back at the beginning of the month, I went to an event at the Royal BC Museum that showcased sustainable energy. Highlight was without a doubt a presentation by Guy Dauncey, whom we were lucky enough to hear even though we didn’t know he was giving a talk. I’m glad we didn’t miss it — it was inspirational, very hopeful (all things considered), and full of useful information about how we can move toward sustainable energy consumption and production.

The following are some links and pointers to the energy innovators Dauncey mentioned during his talk. I tried to scribble down as many URLs as I could — I get the impression Dauncey has a million more up his sleeve:

For those who want to reduce the cost of heating hot water, there’s the GFX(TM) Heat-Xchanger & Water Heater Booster. It’s a brilliantly simple idea, and it saves money & energy.

Then there are those kooky Swiss: who would have thought that they’d figure out a way to extract heat energy from …sewage? RabTherm designs pipelines with heat-conducting elements in the underside, which conduct the heat in sewage back to where it’s useful. Hmmm…. In the summer, they can even use it to cool homes. Wastewater, including sewage waste, has an average temperature of a whopping 25 Celsius when it leaves the house via the waste pipe. (That’s …let me see, 25 times 1.8, that’s 45.0, plus 32, that’s 77 Fahrenheit. Nice and warm.) It’s energy (in the form of heat) that’s dissipated and not recycled. RabTherm changes that. This page explains the system (in simple terms), and note that the heat exchanger pipes are embedded in the concrete sewage/ waste pipe under the street, and have a life expectancy of 50 years.

Switzerland. The clocks work, and so does the sh….

They even had a conference in Vancouver recently:

Vancouver: Geo Exchange Konferenz vom 17. bis 18.März 2005
Vortrag Urs Studer: An alternative thermal energy source for cities
Hilton Hotel, Burnaby / Session 3B am 18.3. um 10.15 Uhr

If you never thought that solar energy could fulfill your hot water needs, Thermomax Industries will change your mind. If you go to their applications page, you’ll find a gazillion other applications/ devices already in use (and for sale).


* Over 2,000,000 Thermomax Solar Tubes are in daily use in over 40 countries worldwide.
*From a pollution perspective, installing a 30 tube Thermomax collector is equivalent to removing one car from service.
* Thermomax Collectors are the best you can buy.

On a much bigger scale, there’s WaveGen, which harnesses the power of the oceans to harness energy we can use. Dauncey especially pointed to WaveGen’s LIMPET, which stands for Land Installed Marine Powered Energy Transformer, and which really does seem to have tremendous potential for use without bureaucratic centralisation.

Can’t rely on your bicycle or on public transportation? Get a hybrid plug-in vehicle: there’s The California Cars Initiative (CalCars), “a non-profit startup formed by a group of California entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers to jump-start the market for plug-in hybrids. We’ve built a prototype PHEV and we are harnessing the collective vision and purchasing power of individuals and corporate and government fleets. CalCars aims to engage with a major car maker to produce plug-in versions of existing sedans and SUVs.” Lots of information there to get started on. Of course, you could go off-grid with your transportation, too, and get a Solar Vehicle. These look really cute, but they wouldn’t do for sweltering humid climates. This is definitely a Left Coast or desert vehicle…. (Did I mention that this website has instructions for how to build your own? Check it out here — this sounds like one heck of a science project for some high schoolers, too.

There are alternative vehicle fuels, too: see Wise Energy‘s webpages for more on biodiesel, which now powers a number of City of Victoria vehicles, including buses. Phew, no more stinky diesel. Now if only the stupid double-decker London buses which the tourist industry uses would get on board and switch to biodiesel. They really should stop polluting the air here.

Then there are the initiatives to turn garden compost into fuel. If it works for plants, why not for us and our machines? See KompoGas (another Swiss concern, I think) for their English-language site. The political will has to be there, of course: biogenous waste includes all the stuff you are already putting into the compost, but it adds animal waste (kitty litter, dog poop, etc.), meat scraps and pasta and bread waste (which you don’t put in your compost, unless you want to feed the rats), and anything and everything that’s biodegradable. Obviously, your municipality has to be involved in organising pick-up of this kind of material. But it can be done.

And finally but certainly not last, check out Guy Dauncey’s own website, Earth Future, as well as the BC Sustainable Energy Association‘s website.

Update: My thanks go to Doug for the link to this Tyee article that explains all about white light emitting diodes (WLEDs). The Tyee article (Lighting up BC’s Dark Interior) is terrific — really worth your time — in terms of how it doesn’t mince words that “the third world” really isn’t that far away for all of us urban “first worlders.” The Interior of BC, the desert of the Navajos: from the grid to no-grid isn’t a stretch at all. I especially like that something as technologically “cool” as a WLED is far superior in absolutely every single respect to old-time true and trusted technologies like kerosene-burning lamps (i.e., “fire”).

In the late 70s, I rented a room in winter from an old man who had a nineteenth-century apartment in Munich: there was no central heating, but the room I rented had an oil-burning stove for heat. I was sick all winter; my headaches were non-stop. The old man was an artist, the place was funky. But it was cold, miserable, and it made me sick.

So, that was for “heat,” which you can allay with sweaters. Imagine having to stink up your home with kerosene lamps just to get some light. I can imagine it. The Tyee article has some excellent links to other organisations that are working to bring clean, safe light to people who still rely on solutions likely to poison them in their own homes: there’s the Light Up the World Foundation affiliated with the University of Calgary in Alberta:

Then there’s the Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development, a lodestone of further links (, Life Cycle Value Assessment, and “tonnes” more…).

And don’t miss TIR, which is a “world leader in specialty lighting; designing, developing and marketing products for architectural and corporate identity applications.”

If all of this doesn’t light up your world, you’re stuck in the dark…

Wanted: small solutions

June 27, 2005 at 1:40 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Wanted: small solutions

Our neighbourhood has had two power outages in the last 2 days, each starting in the morning and lasting about 2 hours. I didn’t check BC Hydro‘s website after the first outage on Saturday, but when I looked just now, today’s outage was caused by “Bird contacting our wires.” Gee, downtown Victoria, on the ocean, has a power outage because of birds? What was it? A seagull convention? A couple of bald eagles having having a salmon fry? A murder of crows?

Maybe the utility is trying to make a point with consumers after too many of us opposed their plan to build a gas-fired plant in Nanaimo. This ill-conceived project would have required laying a gas pipeline underwater through the sensitive and valuable Gulf Islands marine ecosystem.

A better idea is on offer from Sea Breeze Power Corporation, which plans to promote wind energy and which backs the transmission project that will link, via cable, Vancouver Island with Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula:

On another business front, also with positive implications for Vancouver Island, Sea Breeze Pacific Juan de Fuca Cable, LP (“Sea Breeze Pacific” – a 49.75 % owned subsidiary of Sea Breeze Power Corp.), is moving into the Vancouver Island public consultation phase for its Juan de Fuca Transmission Cable.

The cable, a submarine 40 kilometre, 540-megawatt “High Voltage Direct Current” (“HVDC Light™”) line between Victoria, British Columbia and Port Angeles, Washington State, is designed to deliver power from “south to north” as well as “north to south”, providing critical reliability for Vancouver Island and strengthening the grids on both sides of the border.

Technical studies for the Juan de Fuca Cable, being conducted by utilities on both sides of the border, are expected to be completed Fall, 2005. The line is scheduled to be operational by Fall, 2007. [More…]

Dropping a power cable would seem to be much easier and less invasive than laying a gas pipeline, and Vancouver Island would be feeding its wind energy into the grid, too. On the downside, we’d be hooked into a regional grid which could go down (as did the Ohio-based snafu of 8/2003), leaving the entire region in the dark.

Back to power outages again…

When the power went off on Saturday, the major annoyance was finding the carbon monoxide detector plugged into an outlet under a heavy sideboard: its battery had run down, and now that the current was also off, it announced its distress with startling decibel capability. Otherwise, however, the day was warm, it was light, and it wasn’t so bad not having electricity. We could still light the range-top with a match, if not the oven (which has a brain that’s electronically wired). I found an old Italian-style express coffee maker and luckily had enough ground beans on hand (otherwise, I suppose I could have ground up some beans using a mortar and pestle — the handgrinder my parents had went out the door a long time ago). But no internet (the airport was down, my laptop battery is dead anyway), no computer, no vacuuming (yeah!), no laundry (yeah again!), no recorded music or radio (I guess we really should have some batteries on hand for the remaining functioning boombox). We at least still had phone service since we kept two corded phones, but otherwise the electronic-digital flow of information stopped flowing. Weird feeling…

It’s amazing and scary how hostage this particular house is held to electricity.

So I took myself on a virtual shopping trip to SPS Energy Solutions (formerly known as Soltek Powersource). SPS sells backup power systems (couldn’t find a price range, though); they sell home appliances and every kind of solar lighting system; even solar powered water pumps (for those with wells or ponds on their property). But the coup de grâce is of course their Green Power Grid Tie System, which allows you to collect your own solar energy, store it in battery for backup, and sell it back to the grid when/ if you’re producing an excess. This page seems to be the gateway page to more specific information about the system. The sticker shock sets in, however, when you read here that a complete system costs ~$25K (prior to whatever rebates are on offer by your province/ municipality or state). Yikes. That’s a lot of breakfast toast. But then again, if costs came down enough, wouldn’t it be cool if more new construction simply included this kind of set-up, and if it became easier for older homes to retrofit, too?

Small power outage: small solutions, please.

If you peel an onion, can you put it back together again?

June 26, 2005 at 10:48 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on If you peel an onion, can you put it back together again?

Brief observation on blogging: as though it were meant to turn a person into a reverse onion, writing off the top of your head in public (blogging) adds another sometimes tricky layer to the life. Let’s say you allow gaps in your blogging habits to grow, let’s say you don’t know if anyone even notices, but let’s also say you determine that simply by posting you will try to staunch the gaps and keep the blog-persona vivid. Maybe not every day, but you determine to try frequently enough. Meantime, you’ve made deep online friendships through your blog, and, since you’re a modern migrant, you also have (pleasant) obligations to keep in touch with precious friends from previous lives. You keep in touch typically with email, and as a result, you have richly invested your computer screen with your attention. And then there’s your family, regardless of any bumper-sticker wisdom which proclaims “I can’t relate to my relatives.” You owe them, too. Finally — though it doesn’t feel at all finitely — don’t forget your face-life or whatever you want to call it: your commitments to committees, your space, your friends and pets and immediate family, your job(s).

There’s the life of the mind, too, which has a pull all its own. It’s a pull that works intimately, in private, and that has a disciplining, even regimenting, aspect in public. It works its way into and compels your public and private discourse: you need to pay attention, but you’re distracted, too, downright pixillated.

In fact, you notice that you’ve started treating the many, by now openly separating, layers shoddily, and you start berating yourself, which merely increases the stress levels.

In a recent Open Democracy issue, Juliet Mitchell, a professor of psychoanalysis and gender studies at Jesus College, Cambridge University, comments on Jane Fonda’s ‘My Life So Far’. Quite interesting, in relation to this issue of spreading oneself too thin, or: separating the layers — and keeping them all moisturised and plump, even though they feel, individually, like they’re about to atrophy from neglect. Mitchell writes:

My Life So Far is a moving tribute to the importance of understanding and of being an activist around the gendering of humanity. Virginia Woolf, whose mother died, as did Fonda’s, at the high point of her daughter’s puberty, enjoined women to “think back through their mothers”.

Through most of history, womanhood has been defined in relation to motherhood. Woolf set out to find her dead mother through her autobiographical fiction, To the Lighthouse; Fonda has done the same through My Life So Far. But there has always been a neglected tradition of gendering: sisterhood. Jane Fonda has reached out to inhabit her gendered humanity through her sisters – Carol Gilligan, Eve Ensler, Gloria Steiner, Robin Morgan – to whom she pays tribute with the same generosity she shows towards her ex-husbands. (Generosity is the expression of “common humanity”, and surely the defining requirement of even the meanest great actor.)

Woolf’s mother would seem to have died from the lesser evil common to woman: emotional overwork. Abused in her gender, Fonda’s mother killed herself violently. These traumas probably made mothering (actual for Fonda, a much regretted absence for Woolf) unnerving for these loving artists.

Preoccupied with mothers, Woolf lived for and through her siblings; until Monster-in-Law Fonda had not acted mothers. Both women are testimony to the dialectic between these dimensions of femininity. In themselves, both mothers and sisters are potentially strong and positive places in which to find oneself; the rub comes in relation to the other gender. It is here that women so often have to play a part (as men do too).

For women, that part (at least in the west) is the dependent one of a sexy, childlike daughter while still carrying the heavy-duty, responsible work of mothers and heroic struggling sisters. Fonda’s film roles are not notorious sexpot icons; they reveal that such parts are parts. [emphasis added] More…]

Hmm, I never thought I’d want to read Jane Fonda’s autobiography, but Mitchell’s comments pique my curiousity. My mother was “absent” (severely clinically depressed, diagnosed far too late), unable to be present for any “coming of age” experiences I had: she was just not there. When I was very little, my sisters took mothering substitute roles in my life, but also “abandoned” me (when they married, when we moved away). Dealing with “emotional overwork” is certainly a …trope, to put it mildly, in my (de-)constitutive experiences. As for dealing with the other gender: Mitchell’s “playing parts” is a fine way of circumscribing the issue. Putting the parts all together is something else entirely.

Writing blog entries is playing a part, creating another layer. (Talk about “sexy, childlike daughter” vying with “heavy-duty, responsible work of mothers and heroic struggling sisters”!!) Sometimes it’s fun (and sometimes it isn’t) trying to keep those layers in form, keeping them in synchrony, and making sure one or the other doesn’t jump into the pan with the big fat ass hamming it up on centre stage. (And remember, the ass is played by different players all the time, too.) That’s when a layer gets hijacked, a piece goes missing, and you scramble to cover up the wound.

Salaries: corporate creep in the arts

June 25, 2005 at 9:38 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Salaries: corporate creep in the arts

Why I torture myself with reports like this is …due to couldas, shouldas, wouldas. A few days ago — and I can’t remember the context — I came across this little item: that the Tacoma, Washington Museum of Glass paid its founding director Josi Callan US$282,342 “in compensation, in addition to $33,934 in health, retirement and other benefits.” See Museum of Glass should cut inflated salary for director by Jen Graves (June 19, 2005). As a former academic teaching adjunct who was thrilled when she managed to snag a job that paid $10K per course, I was not heartened to read that museums appear to operate in another galaxy altogether:

For directors in the Western United States, the median salary is $188,000.

For directors at museums of MoG’s budget size: $164,227.

For directors at museums where the metro population is 500,000 to a million people: $130,000.

Tacoma Art Museum’s director makes $125,000.

Seattle Art Museum’s director makes $180,863.

The director at the Northwest’s leading contemporary art museum – the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle – makes $107,332. [More…]

Geez, I don’t know, but when salaries closing in on $200K are involved, I think people tend to get disconnected from reality — for example, the contemporary artists the museums are supposed to be representing — or they get mean. There is just too much at stake when you’re earning that much in the non-profit arts or humanities field. I.e., $10K, although considered brilliant for adjunct pay for one course (compared to the state universities’ range of c.$2.5 to 3K) is pretty pathetic and not enough to live on, but nearly $200K annually to run a non-profit organisation like a museum? …Well, that’s exactly the kind of thing that makes the museums so removed from average people, isn’t it? But what are museums for, then?

I tried to find out what the situation in Canada is like, but only managed to dredge up this CTV article from 2002: How Much? A SURVEY OF SALARIES. It covers Medicine, Boards, Technology, Public Transit, Banking, Academia, Real Estate, Media, Police, Advertising, Politics, Law, Teaching, Arts, Personal Trainers, Architects, Accounting, Restaurants, Fundraising, Retail, and Finance. Don’t miss the final section, Money Talks, which profiles some Canadian high salary flyers like Peter Jennings, Graydon Carter, Wayne Gretzky, et al.

Academia, at any rate, is a field where a previous successful career in merchant banking — or a family trust fund — can come in handy, because your salary alone won’t enable a comfortable middle class lifestyle replete with a gazillion toys. According to the article, “Approximately half of [Canadian]assistant professors earn between $26,704 and $45,522.” I know it’s no better in the US, and it’s getting worse everywhere, with universities relying ever more on adjuncts (or sessionals), who get paid peanuts. The incomes cited for people working in “the arts” are much worse, with the rare exceptions proving the rule.

So what’s the story with the upper-range six-figure salaries paid to a select cadre of directors at non-profit arts institutions or to some professors with senior standing and tenure at some universities? Maybe it’s corporatist-creep. You know, the ideology that basically updates the late 19th century robber baron mentality for today’s late 20th century/ early 21st century entrepreneurial types…? Of course you have to pay museum directors that much money, because it’s part of their job to hobnob with corporatist private sector moguls who make considerably more money than that — hobnob with them and try to pull some of their money out of their pockets and into the institution.

I believe it’s called trickle-down economics. I guess it’s believed by some that it really works.

Carrying a torch for the holidays

June 24, 2005 at 11:35 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Carrying a torch for the holidays

A neglect of holidays has become the norm in my life lately, and I can’t quite figure out whether there’s something else going on, or whether I’m just reverting to my old curmudgeonly self. The child-me was a sight to behold: I hated all holidays, never had a party for my birthday (how could I, given that it fell between xmas & new years?), and questioned the intelligence of people who stuck to collective ritual. Yet when my kids were younger, I developed a full-blown case of super-mom syndrome, learning as much as is possible to learn about civilised human behaviour from any book I could get my hands on. I confess here, dear solitary imaginary reader, that it began, when I was pregnant with the first-born, with a book called Having a Baby, co-authored by …Danielle Steel. Ok, I must protest (and add) that I didn’t know at the time who in heck Danielle Steel was, and I just happened to chance on the book in the Brookline Public Library. But it grabbed my attention almost immediately, alternately infuriating and beguiling me.

It was totally bizarre to read these first-person accounts of women who had normal-ish (albeit comfortably middle-class and upper-middle-class) lives, who told funny stories of the effect pregnancy-related foot swelling had on post-pedicure procedure, who argued that smoking a bit of pot wasn’t going to have an effect on their unborn kid, who professed natural childbirth, who proclaimed that epidurals were the only way to go, who would rather suck rocks than suckle babies, who planned to nurse until the kid was 3 or 4, and so on and so forth. Most of all, they weren’t embarassed that “having a baby” was a central and consuming event in their lives. This made them annoying at times, but it also brought things down from the lofty man-sphere of abstract thought and noble ideals — the one I thought I felt so comfortable in. (You know, as in “Having a baby isn’t going to change anything in my life. I will continue to go on changing and improving the world!” …because the world, not my kid, is what’s important. )

Well, addled as I was by pregnancy hormones, the book’s happy-happy, here-and-now ideology got its hooks in me, and before I knew it, I was celebrating Thanksgiving. It seemed innocuous enough to start with — a nice, non-religious holiday, a long weekend, the beginning of winter in New England. But then it got worse: in 1991, I bought a xmas tree. The next year I started making ornaments — from a Martha Stewart book. Augh. By the time my kids were in preschool, I carved pumpkins and decorated the porch with skeletons. I had a birthday party for both kids every single year, complete with entertainment. My house hosted giant anacondas, lizards, scorpions, and cadillac-sized cockroaches, all in the name of entertaining the tykes. I bought huge sugary cakes decorated with …purple dinosaurs. Eventually the parties moved to ever more elaborate off-site locales and involved roller blades or laser guns and professional animatrixes. I competed with my neighbours (incidentally Jewish) over who could do the best outdoor xmas lights and put on the most lovely Easter egg hunts. Seriously.

I loathe Easter.

Unless you live in Italy or California (or North Africa), it’s a terrible time of year, typically full of miserable rain and damp cold.

As for outdoor xmas lights in New England: how do you spell i-n-s-a-n-e? Without fail, the winter’s icy grip was at its worst in January or February when it was finally and indisputably time to take the damn lights off the house. Because of course Valentine’s Day was coming. There we’d be, hanging on to ladders for our lives, as we struggled in blizzard-style winds, to get the last of the frosticle lights off the eaves. The husband’s mantra has always been “I’m software, not hardware,” so guess who got to hang from the eaves? One year, again inspired by Martha, I wove white lights around all the main trunks of the six or seven huge rhododendrons, which I’d pruned floribunda style, that surrounded the wrap-around porch. Then I interlaced the top branches with coloured (mainly red) lights. It looked fabulous. Some of those light strings are no doubt still on the rhodies because I just gave up trying to get them off during the endless winter. Then summer came and the heat and humidity drove all thought from my brain.

As for Valentine’s Day: there was a reason the guy was shot through with arrows. (This has nothing to do with the fact that the son’s middle name is V., without the “e” at the end. I didn’t yet hate Valentine’s Day, nor think of Valentine’s-Day-the-holiday, when we named him.) Valentine’s Day will in my mind be forever linked to the nasty ritual of having to make or sign, on behalf of my kindergartner or first- or second- or third-grader, a gazillion cheap little cards because the director of my kids’s school had put it into her head that each child had to give a Valentine to every other child in the school. Luckily, this was a small school. But just try scrambling to put together 80+ cards at the last moment. Hand me my arrows, I want to shoot someone!

Then we moved back to Canada, back to the West Coast, back to The Island. I know Victorians celebrate holidays, but here I just don’t feel as much pressure to do so as I felt in the US. First, Canadian Thanksgiving is on a Monday in October (on what’s called Columbus Day in the States). This is a silly time for Thanksgiving. Mondays are not good days for major holidays, which should always fall at the beginning of a weekend, so you can sleep it off on Saturday & Sunday. It has therefore become very difficult to march to the beat as regards Thanksgiving. I suspect, in fact, that many Canadians have the big meal on Sunday, and eat leftovers on the holiday itself. Sad. American Thanksgiving, on a Thursday, is perfectly placed: the big meal is on Thursday, the leftovers are on Friday — no cooking. For those lucky enough not to have McJobs in 24-7 retail, it’s a wonderful long weekend. If you are really good, you DO NOT go shopping on the Friday following Thanksgiving. You instead savour the langour of a true long weekend. (Of course, Martha starts baking and making plum puddings….) The other major holidays also sneak by without much fanfare. Very few people in my neighbourhood put lights on their houses or balconies for xmas, and you could almost miss the holiday completely, even though the city does try to make a meal of it downtown, with choral events doubtlessly meant for the benefit of Victoria’s touristy image as “Victorian olde England.” Valentine’s Day? Easter? Non-events. Victoria Day? I’m told there’s a parade. Canada Day? No big deal.

There are major local festivals that draw huge crowds — Luminara comes to mind, as do other numerous outdoor concerts during festival weeks. But it’s easy to escape their pull of collectivity. Right now the streets are clogged with gawkers of tall ships, some examples of which are absolutely fantastic, but the streets are more like an orchestrated theme park than a holiday.

Today was a majorly spectacular holiday in Quebec, of course: St. Jean Baptiste Day, also known as La Fête Nationale. Montrealers will have climbed to the top of Mount Royal with torches, and they’ll have made a huge bonfire. Nearly thirty years ago I trudged up the hill with them, on the one hand enthralled by the spectacle, and on the other thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this? It’s so stupid!” Little did I know that I’d one day serve birthday cakes the size of a child’s crib mattress, or for no apparent reason get competitive about holiday decorating….

Or that, for equally evanescent reasons, the rituals would simply go away. There was something pleasurable woven into all the competitive collectivity, the permission to go overboard for some holiday preparation. Maybe permission was a by-product, but it’s a by-product I miss. Could be it’s what made all that silly ritual so fun, too.

File this one under “Eat My…”

June 18, 2005 at 11:03 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments


We all know that newspaper links in blogs can be iffy, since they tend to deteriorate or get locked up behind a user-fee wall. But here’s an item from the Globe and Mail, repeated more or less in the Hindustan Times “Health” section (and elsewhere), that made me wonder just what kind of animals we really are.

Or whether we are indeed animals at all. Perhaps humans are just machines, removed from the cycles of nature and not worthy of the designation animal or sentient being. It sure looks as if we’re out to make sure that other animals wish they weren’t sentient beings…

So, we’ve all heard about the second case of Mad Cow disease in the US by now.

Dig a little deeper. It turns out that the people who raise beef cattle feed chicken shit (you read that right) to cows:

Ground-up cattle remains can be fed to chicken, and chicken litter is fed back to cattle. Poultry feed that spills from cages mixes with chicken waste on the ground, then is swept up for use in cattle feed. Scientists believe the BSE protein will survive the feed-making process and may survive being digested in chickens.


Besides being fed to poultry, cattle protein is allowed in feed for pigs and household pets, creating the possibility it could mistakenly be fed to cattle. [More…]

More on this story in the Globe and Mail article, called Mad Cow Back on the Menu?.

Quoting John Stauber, the G&M’s Libby Quaid writes,

“Once the cameras were turned off and the media coverage dissipated, then it’s been business as usual, no real reform, just keep feeding slaughterhouse waste,” said John Stauber, an activist and co-author of Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?

He contended that “the entire U.S. policy is designed to protect the livestock industry’s access to slaughterhouse waste as cheap feed.”


…it is legal to put ground-up cattle remains in chicken feed. Feed that spills from cages mixes with chicken waste on the ground, then is swept up for use in cattle feed.

Scientists believe the BSE protein will survive the feed-making process and may even survive the trip through a chicken’s gut.

That amounts to the legal feeding of some cattle protein back to cattle, said Linda Detwiler, a former Agriculture Department veterinarian who led the department’s work on mad cow for several years.


Rendering companies contend that new restrictions would be costly and create hazards from leftover waste. They say changes are not justified.

“We process about 50 billion pounds of product annually — in visual terms, that is a convoy of semi trucks, four lanes wide, running from New York to L.A. every year,” said Jim Hodges, president of the meatpacking industry‘s American Meat Institute Foundation. [note: the meatpacking industry is a huge employer of illegal immigrant slave labour, so it’s a real double-plus good situation we have here…. Get your karmic hamburger, hold the bun.][More…]

If this link decays, try the Hindustan Times (Wide open gaps may cause Mad Cow to strike back) or the google results page cited above.

What does this have to do with my (theoretical) shit, as in “Eat my shit”? It’s a long story. It has to do with the Marquis de Sade and his renowned coprophilia (and coprophagia, painfully examined in Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini, which dared to compare the Sadean universe with fascism (which upset all the leftist French intellectuals intent on rehabilitating and defending Sade, but they completely misunderstood Pasolini’s critique), and it has to do with Adorno & Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, which examined Sade (and Nietzsche) and dared to compare the philosophy of the latter to outcomes under Nazism and totalitarianism.

It’s all of a cloth, and that cloth is an asswipe.

The point is, for modern consciousness, with its dead deities and moribund morals, nature cannot provide a barrier. Nature is something to be dominated and conquered, and nature furthermore provides no moral precepts whatsoever. Life or death: they seem to be irrelevant to nature. Nature, it appears, does not care, and it’s only the gloss of religion or New Age folderol that makes it look as though Nature does. Against that, it’s always possible to reason: rational people know that “god” (meaning) is dead. That’s what the infant Sade, powerless, unable even to crawl, knows in his darkest heart: nature doesn’t give a shit. The next step, therefore, is easy: if the archaic monsters (or gods) from the past are finally dead, and if nature doesn’t care, what is to stop the hubris of man? Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s why we can feed chicken shit to cows (who are ruminants and vegetarians) and call it progress and call it rationalisation. That’s why we can create self-sustaining machines (especially corporate machines) that will destroy us in the end — machines that literally and figuratively are 4 lanes deep, and stretch the width of a whole continent if not the circumference of the world, of which we are of course the sovereigns. And that’s why we (not just I) say, Eat My Shit.

Duke Point Power Plant a no-go

June 17, 2005 at 11:27 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Duke Point Power Plant a no-go

The Duke Point Power Plant in Nanaimo is finally nixed for good.

Nanaimo Mayor Gary Korpan also criticized Hydro’s handling of the project, which he said has cost tens of millions of dollars.

“It has been a total waste of everyone’s time, money and worry,” he said. “How B.C. Hydro management has any credibility in the business community or with the public now, eludes me. If there is any vestige of decency left at B.C. Hydro, those executives who did this need to apologize to the citizens of Vancouver Island and resign.” [More…]

It was a stupid idea to begin with, it cost a fortune to bring to this point, but at least it’s finally shelved.

Some (mechanical) balls

June 16, 2005 at 7:45 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Some (mechanical) balls

I see way too much work stock-piling on my plate, but just to make sure that there’s something happening on this blog:

…And now for something completely different (sort of, since I blogged another wrist-watch/ pocket-watch fetish item before):

Take a look at this beauty, the L’Esprit des Cabinotiers:

How would you like to have this delicious ball pop up to tell you your appointments, instead of your boring stupid flat Palm Pilot? This particular mechanical personal assistant “is an engraved 18 carat pink gold sphere composed of eight petals that symbolize the lotus flower and opens up via a highly sophisticated mechanism to reveal a cylinder and two sapphire crystal domes connected by a pink gold frame. The indications and functions are: a 12-hour display, minutes, deadbeat or independent seconds (seconde morte), hour on 24-hour display, power reserve, day, date, month, leap year, equation of time, moon phases, age of the moon, temperature, hours and quarters striking automatically ‘in passing’ and on request, with the possibility of preventing the automatic strike, astronomical calendar giving the position of the sun according to the Gregorian calendar based on the calculations of Charles Etienne Louis Camus (mathematician, 1699-1768) and Antide Janvier (watchmaking mechanical engineer, 1751-1835). The base on which the piece stands is in lapis lazuli, onyx, rock crystal and 18 carat pink gold.” Wow. Thanks (again) to the husband watch-aficionado for the link, which is here (scroll down a ways).

Wanna know what it sold for at auction in April? It sold for 2, 200,000 Swiss Francs (which is just over US$1.7million at today’s rate…). See this fascinating account of that auction…

There is a whole world of people out there who are geared toward objects. That’s so weird, and so compelling, too. Sort of like watching traffic…

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