Raining in Victoria

August 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm | In arts | 1 Comment

Went to see It’s Raining in Barcelona and came away wishing for something better. Not funny enough for comedy, but not deep or rich enough for tragedy.

Really made me wonder why this theater company chose to produce this particular play: what was in it for them? The acting didn’t carry, I’m sorry to say, whatever the message was/is.

Continuing with blogging ‘lite’

August 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm | In arts | Comments Off on Continuing with blogging ‘lite’

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m currently smitten by the idea of blogging ‘lite’ – sort of like using tumblr or simply collaging various bits and pieces.

To that end, tonight’s post falls into the “what I had for breakfast” category, except that it’s “what Fringe Festival play I saw tonight”: The History of The Lost and Found. It’s written by Scot Augustson and stars Keira McDonald (“Emily”) and Evan Mosher (“Erik”) as two frustrated workers in a big city transit department’s “lost and found.” Their sanity, depending on your point of view, is further attenuated or saved by intense dives into fantasy land. I liked the show – lots of great lines, and McDonald and Mosher were excellent.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

August 29, 2010 at 2:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Nation of know-nothings: “intervention, now” time

August 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm | In politics | 5 Comments

Sometimes I think it would be great to have just a tumblr, a sort of Walter Benjamin 2.0 version of blogging (see Benjamin’s Arcades Project).

But I can repurpose my blog to the same ends, I guess (quasi-surrealistically), and just post this one paragraph from Timothy Egan’s excellent column, Building a Nation of Know-Nothings:

It would be nice to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless, the price of having such a large, messy democracy. Plenty of hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic and Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew. So what if one-in-five believe the sun revolves around the earth, or aren’t sure from which country the United States gained its independence? (source)

Yes, that would be nice, “to dismiss the stupid things that Americans believe as harmless,” if only they were harmelss. I’m sick of how Americans’ belief in nonsense continues to wreck the country – and the world. A laconic tumblr post would be just the thing, so I wouldn’t actually have to think about the moronic stupidity of what I’m posting about. Props, Timothy Egan, for doing it for us – here’s hoping that enough people get a clue that laissez-faire has serious drawbacks, especially when it’s manipulated by evil geniuses like Limbaugh and his ilk.

Paul Klee's Angelus Novus, a work Benjamin theorized on: this angel faces the past, he is being blown into the future and he gazes, horror-struck, at the wreckage piling up before him (our past and present). The gusts that propel him, backwards, into the future emanate from history.


August 26, 2010 at 11:24 pm | In arts, victoria | Comments Off on Smalltown

The Victoria Fringe Festival is now underway and promises to deliver some fun theater. Early this evening I attended Theatre SKAM‘s production of Smalltown: A Pickup Musical, which was performed (as per the advert) out of the back of a pickup truck in a small pocket park on Caledonia Avenue.

It’s a good piece, although I found that the ending left me slightly wanting – wanting what, though? I suppose that, from where I’m sitting, I found it hard to buy into the idea that condo developers in Smalltown are supposed to be the bad guys. It doesn’t jive with my urbanist background, which sees density (versus sprawl: think strip malls) as good. And of course I wondered if the play proposed that going back to the status quo (of Smalltown) was the “solution” – it’s not one that works in the real world, and although this is theater, you have to wonder whether the ideal proposed by the play has enough lift to carry the audience’s imagination into the future.

The actors were without a doubt terrific. For me, the stand-out character in this play (which featured so many very good actors) is Wes Borg, who plays Jakey (spelling?). Jakey is your archetypal Canadian hoser, and Borg plays the part so convincingly that you can’t imagine he could possibly ever be anything other than a hoser. A hoser who has reached the border of paranoia due to his British Columbian habit of marijuana farming, no less…

But Borg is clearly “just” (ha!) a good actor, as you can see if you watch this older Youtube clip of his live performance of Internet Help Desk. His solution to dealing with the adult imbecile flummoxed by Windows and Outlook is pure gold. See also his 2005 Las Vegas solo performance of The System Administrator Song.

The other players were Clayton Baraniuk, Rielle Braid, Sarah Carle, Michael Delamont, Izad Etemadi, Rebecca Hass, and Brad L’Écuyer. (I hyperlinked only those actors who have websites: please, people, in this day and age, don’t make me look for your bio and assorted news about you in snippets spread across the web – get your own domain, please!)

The park setting under gigantic Garry Oaks was interesting: Matthew Payne took care to hand out blankets before the performance started, but it did get cold (as expected). I hadn’t grabbed a blanket and regretted it 40 minutes in. Two natural elements that competed with the performance (and which were beyond the troupe’s control) were 1) sunlight slanting right into the eyes and 2) wind churning through the oak leaves, which swallowed some of the dialogue.

…And of course, since this is Victoria (which is crowded with people who are mentally ill and/or drug addicted), there was the obligatory social problem incident: a man who was clearly either drugged or psychotic (or both) came into the park to dance along in his own quixotic way with the performance. While he was silent (and not observed by most of the audience since he was behind us), he kept moving in, and a few times was on the verge of stripping off his pants. The organizers, who had an eye on him, flagged a police cruiser, and soon two cruisers were in attendance, with four officers talking the man down (typical evening social work for the police – major problem here). The man hadn’t (visibly) broken any laws, and after arguing with the officers for a while, he exited stage left. The cops did the same on stage right – no doubt to deal with a similar situation nearby.

Confused immune system?

August 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm | In health | 4 Comments

I’m still reading Ray Strand‘s fascinating book, Bionutrition, and just came across Chapter 8’s closing paragraphs about diseases related to oxidative stress. I was really struck by Strand’s ideas about self and non-self in relation to our immune system.

Let me elaborate:  Chapter 8’s final section addresses autoimmune diseases like MS, IBD, Crohn’s, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. In closing, Strand writes, “I was taught in medical school that autoimmune diseases were the result of an overactive immune system, since the body was essentially attacking itself. …Consistent with my training, almost all of the medical therapies that physicians offer patients with an autoimmune disease are based on this premise.” [p.74] Consequently, patients are usually put on chemotherapeutic medications (Methotrexate, Plaquinil, Immuran, and various corticosteroids like Prednisone) – and these medications work to suppress the immune system further, to make it lie down and “behave.”

Strand notes, however, that he has seen great positive results in his patients when he treats them with “an aggressive nutritional supplementation program,” and that all his observations lead him to conclude that his patients aren’t dealing with an over-active immune system (as is traditionally taught in medical school), “but rather a confused immune system.”

It’s a subtle shift in perspective, a bit like Aikido. You can meet your enemy with brute force and pound him into submission, or you can redirect your “enemy” so that “his” energies work to your advantage. In a more traditional and mechanistic view, the immune system has become your “enemy,” and if it’s misbehaving, you have to “make it” behave, perhaps through brute chemotherapeutical force. Of course, you have to wonder how that’s supposed to work in the long term. I guess it doesn’t!

What I call Strand’s “Aikido” approach leads him to the following insights:

The immune system is intended to be our reliable protector. It is always checking for self (one’s own body) while it is looking for non-self (any foreign substance or abnormal cell). When the immune system finds a virus, bacteria, or foreign body it destroys and eliminates it from the body. However, in autoimmune diseases, the immune system actually attacks itself rather than a foreign substance. (…)

In the case of autoimmune diseases, I believe one’s immune system is not able to distinguish self from non-self [emphasis added]. Being confused, the body is essentially destroying itself. In addition to treating my patients who are usually already taking traditional medicine with attempts to suppress and shut down the immune system, I administer potent nutritional supplements. In doing so, I am not only building up their natural antioxidant defense systems, but also I am building up their own natural immune system. I find this helps my patients on both sides of the disease.

I believe their immune system becomes less confused and begins to recognize “self” again [emphasis added]. This means the immune system more readily identifies outside invaders – not attacking “self” as much. [p.75]

The next chapter is all about antioxidants and the immune system. Looking forward to reading it!

When will Victoria get it?

August 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm | In victoria | 2 Comments

Keith Norbury’s in-depth article on Victoria’s Inner Harbour ran in last Sunday’s paper (see Seeking a new vision for Victoria’s harbour), and I have the honor of being quoted in same:

“I think the key word for the harbour is land use,” says Yule Heibel, an art historian who has a keen interest in urban issues. “We’re certainly underutilizing it in significant ways. I mean we have parking lots on the water. That’s pretty unimaginative.”

Like Hobbis, she grew up in Victoria but was away for decades, in her case to earn a PhD at Harvard and to teach at MIT. When she moved back in 2002, “I thought nothing has changed,” says Heibel, who recently helped organize the counter-petition campaign against the City of Victoria’s plan to replace the Johnson Street Bridge.

It’s a slightly off-set quote, since I was talking about driving down Highway 17 into Victoria in 2002, through Saanich, and noticing the many changes in Victoria’s suburbs – but then landing in downtown, where, in 2002, it looked like nothing had changed: it still looked like the 1970s.

Of course there were some changes, but the point was that all the big visible changes were out in Saanich and other suburbs, while the downtown lay rotting, er, preserved for the fucking [don’t swear, Yule, it shows your powerlessness] heritage-according-to-the-Gospel-of-NIMBY crowd (a crowd led by a specific City of Victoria councilor who subsequently exposed her heritage cred to be about as authentic as styrofoam: see my Johnson Street Bridge related posts).

Meanwhile, the downtown rots still, and in fact does so more today than back in 2002, when the economy still had a pulse that went a smidgen beyond the “let’s extract as much fleece as we can from the tourists and retirees” mantra to encompass a wide-eyed “oh my gawd, maybe we can grow an ecosystem here!” enthusiasm. Of course that councilor is still sitting, eight years on (can you believe it?) because that’s just how we do things around here – that is, we don’t. We have terminal atherosclerosis, and dead weight gets to clog the arteries. Of course, the irony about NIMBYism in downtown Victoria is that there are no “backyards” there, so I’m never quite sure where the damn NIMBYs come from.

But come they do.

And today I was reminded just how difficult it is to talk to them. Someone I know (and like) remarked on seeing my name in the paper, and she then mentioned another person quoted in the article, Gwyn Symmons of CitySpaces Consulting. In turn, the mention of CitySpaces Consulting reminded me that I was very much opposed to a 2007 plan to remove the MV Coho from the Inner Harbour – an absolutely idiotic idea, in my opinion.

I wrote two articles about the flaccid “Belleville Plan” proposed by the City of Victoria-initiated “task force” (both published in FOCUS Magazine: see The Belleville Plan: It’s all wrong [Oct. 2007] and Victoria’s genius locus: perspectives from the water [Nov. 2007]). CitySpaces Consulting was, iirc, associated with the City’s Belleville Terminal Task Force.

This is how we came to discuss the magnificent motor vessel ferry Coho, running for 50 years straight. To my mind, the Coho is a symbol of our working harbor: it’s how trucks from the US reach BC’s capital city; it’s a vestige of all the major ferry traffic that used to navigate our harbor. It runs just twice a day and is a marvel to watch, as its huge bulk gracefully maneuvers in and out of the harbor. Flawlessly.

I’m quite certain that my acquaintance moved to Victoria decades after the Coho started its runs, yet in her view that vessel disrupts the kayaks paddling around the harbor, and she thought that we don’t really need all that automotive traffic coming into town anyway. According to her, the ferry should be removed from the harbor. (I’m not targeting my acquaintance specifically, nothing personal: she simply articulated what is an all-too-common point of view here. But it’s uninformed.)

I really want to tear my hair out when I hear stuff like this.

Just how is Victoria supposed to have an economy if we gear everything to the pretty-pretty tourist-and-recreational-user set? Oh, the kayaks might be disturbed by an MV-class ferry! Too bad – because guess what?, the recreational kayaks came way after the ferry. As for the cars and trucks off-loaded by the ferry? They create …um, what, exactly? Congestion? Nope, hardly. There’s never any congestion. They create pollution? Yes, but those American trucks arriving are polluting a whole lot less than the goddamn Canadian tourist buses that ply our neighborhood streets during the summer. If automobile traffic pollutes, control it at the source (the tailpipe – hello, City of Victoria, this is your cue to do something about those inexcusable rat-traps you license as tourist city tour buses: my god, how deceptive the website photos are!). But you don’t banish a perfectly good ferry from a working harbor, dammit.

And so it goes in Victoria: person moves here, often close to or at retirement, and loves the lifestyle. What’s not to love? It is gorgeous here.

Then, person says, I shall remake the world in my image. And bang, there goes the working harbor, there goes the economic development, there goes growth – because person doesn’t need that in his/her life anymore. At the same time, person banks on younger persons to drive the city’s economy.

Well, guess what? Younger persons get sick and tired of living in a luxury town where it costs a small fortune to expel gas but is nigh impossible to make a decent living. Younger persons leave in droves for Vancouver or beyond.

And so we’re back to square one, with a fantasy economy and a fantasy island, trying to make sense of a fantasy harbor.

I really don’t know what to say anymore. The problem is so entrenched – and we do not have the right people at City Hall to show a way forward. The suburban mentality is just too damn strong, it seems – even our City Manager lives way out in the ‘burbs. You can’t run a city this way.


August 23, 2010 at 10:30 pm | In health | Comments Off on Bio-nutrition

I’m reading Ray Strand‘s book, Bionutrition (first published in 1998, revised edition 2009). I’m finding it to be a compelling read, even though I can hear cynical voices piping up to deride nutritional supplementation as unnecessary. The skeptics say you can get all the nutrients you need through your diet.

But is that really true, given all the new research on how our bodies work at the cellular level and how free radicals and oxidization destroy healthy cells? A while ago I learned that Vancouver Island soil is very selenium-poor, which means that animals raised and produce grown here will be selenium-poor also. Selenium is a trace mineral that combines with proteins to form selenoproteins, which in turn are antioxidant enzymes. There’s a long list of literature on selenium and its (possible) role in preventing cancer; see this BC Cancer Agency page for an overview. Meanwhile, on the topic of cancer, this Canadian Cancer Society page, British Columbia and Yukon cancer statistics, has some distressing statistics (albeit with some overall good news for us in BC: it seems we’re doing better than the rest of Canada), even though phrases like “Since 1988, overall death rates …have declined slightly” are probably meant to ameliorate all the bad news (and there’s a lot of it).

And while the phrase “Increases in the number of new cancer cases are due mainly to a growing and aging population” might assuage fears about a growing threat of cancer, it also points to the very real and interesting problem around aging and quality of life. We’ve got a shot at growing quite old now, but who wants to be old and in really bad shape, whether it’s through rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, or cancer?

That’s where the burgeoning interest in nutritional supplementation comes in.

I’m definitely interested – both in learning more about smart supplementing, and in staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

August 22, 2010 at 2:33 am | In links | 2 Comments
  • Bedbugs! (Note: I’m not posting a picture; google images for the critters, ’nuff said!)
    “I find all bugs mysterious, wonderful. These ones I tend to find a little bit despicable. But they’re fascinating in their own regard.

    “This business of feeding on other people — the ectoparasitic life — I think we all know some people that do that, don’t we now? And maybe bedbugs aren’t so awfully different than somebody we know,” he says. “So, there’s a little bit of us in them, perhaps.”
    Interesting to think they used to be ubiquitous.

    tags: bedbugs npr pests

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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