On the road

April 24, 2003 at 9:10 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on On the road

Betty Krawczyk and the Women in the Woods began blockading a Walbran Valley logging road on Earth Day, April 22. Posting on Victoria Indymedia, one of the protesters, Justine Starke, reports that “Five Weyerhaeuser representatives tried to drive through the human blockade in the Walbran Valley” this morning. The logging corporations are looking to a future where they can extend their reach into every hectare of public land in BC, with NAFTA protecting their interests against democratic intervention. Their reps today used intimidation tactics to stop public protest, they roughly shoved one of the women, and tried to use vehicles to break up a blockade. They are obviously trying to frighten the protesters into leaving, but one hopes that by refusing to run, Betty Krawczyk will achieve her goal of being arrested.

Should I go there?

April 23, 2003 at 8:54 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

I haven’t written often about my personal world, but today’s experience was so surreal that I’m going to go in character by being, blogwise, out of character. I live in Victoria — it’s on Vancouver Island. An island, that’s a determining fact. It’s difficult to find doctors here. Canada has a nationalized health plan, which is really great, but GPs typically don’t make that much money, and Victoria is experiencing a shortage of doctors, with older GPs retiring and not enough new young MDs coming down the pike to replace them. But I finally did get an appointment with one of the few doctors in the city who’s taking new patients: she works in a team praxis, and there’s a lot of emphasis on acupuncture, physiotherapy, chiropraxis, and wellness. Goodness, I thought, sounds good, although she did warn us right away that she only works 20 hours per week because she has some other passions in her life. Rewind: about 6 weeks ago I decided that I needed to get my midlife life under control. It was in Victoria that I had started, about a million years ago at the age of 14, to practice yoga, and wouldn’t you know that I can still put my foot in my mouth almost as well today as I could back then when I was a carefree teenager with a mission to stimulate the chakras — mine or somebody else’s. I am still incredibly flexible. But since having had children, the time to focus on that ocean-breath and “yoke” myself to the practice has been about as attainable as …well, as a career in academia that requires nun-like devotion (and a wife at home). However, my return to these shores inspired in me a desire to get fit again. Dammit, I thought, all these pencils out there jogging (they run past my house every single day of every single month, in packs), these vegans, these fitness buffs, let’s just see if I, wine-drinking, beef-eating, ex-car-bound ex-New Englander can’t compete in the sublime, transcendental health department. Never mind that I’m a nightowl who likes to stay up till all hours, gets killed when she has to get up before 8 am, and needs 5 cups of coffee to get going in the mornings. No, never mind, for I had sighted the holy grail: Within a 2-minute walk from my house, a new yoga center had opened up, and when they added an early morning class (6:30 a.m.), I decided to try them. I had this insane idea that I would suddenly become capable of springing out of bed at 6, toss on my duds and truck my yoga mat to Bikram’s HOT YOGA. I alighted on the 6:30 class because I thought that I could be done with yoga & personal grooming by 8:30 and still start my workaday routine at 9, thereby not losing any time while still benefitting from this enlightening change in my life. Ooh, I was going to be so goo–ood! Now, one of the reasons I wanted to get out of Massachusetts — away from the East Coast — was the weather. I can’t take the extremes: the winters were awful, and the summers with their heat & humidity were worse. So why did I think “HOT YOGA” was going to be my salvation? Bikram Yoga is done in rooms heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit — no kidding. You have to bring two towels to class to sop up the mess. Men wear shorts only, women wear shorts & bra-style tops. By the time you get out of there, you’re cooked, and all the toxins (from the beef, coffee, and wine) are whooping up a storm, trying to kill you for trying to sweat them out. You’re lobster-coloured (post-cuisine intervention) and sweating like hell. And you have a load of laundry to do (which is the sort of thing a mom would notice). I began by going on a Sunday — a morning class, but a weekend, so I could ease into it, I thought. And then I went again the next day, to the dreaded 6:30 class. By Tuesday I couldn’t walk: it was the awkward pose — sitting in an invisible chair while balancing on your tippy-toes, for about 10 minutes — that killed me. It took me until Thursday before I could go down any stairs or any kind of incline without wincing. But worst of all, this extreme physical activity somehow dammed up my metabolism instead of freeing it, and I gained 2 kilos (that’s about 5 pounds). I couldn’t believe it! I suppose if I had continued to go on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I would have, by the next weekend, achieved some of that goddess-like status I so coveted (the Pentel or Bic Goddess: like a little stick). But I couldn’t bring myself to continue. First, the pain was intense. Second, the laundry was no small problem; I couldn’t believe how blithe these yogi instructors were about the costs to the environment of creating a pile of stuff (2 towels, underwear, bra & shorts) that needs washing daily, plus the costs of heating the two studios to these Amazonian temperatures. And finally: the standing postures involve a lot of standing on your hands (which I can do since I’m so charmingly flexible), but I actually bruised the flesh under my thumbnails because we were putting our hands palmside down under our feet from behind, not from in front or the side; and the ocean breathing in that heated room BURNED the skin on the inside of my nose!! The burn developed a scab and I picked at it, and now the inside of my nose is cratered. I think I might have exposed a nerve in my upper canine. Ouch. And what, you ask breathlessly, does all this have to do with family doctors? After I told our new doctor about my attempt to develop an exercise regime, she revealed that she is one of the two owners of Victoria’s Bikram Yoga…. Suddenly, an image flashed across my mind: an ad in the local Lifestyles Organic Market flyer showing Divi and Steve, my new doctor and her Bikram partner, in an alarmingly dramatic partner-yoga pose. I just hope my new doctor can’t look up all my chakras when I’m having my next gynecological exam. And while I don’t like a cold speculum, I do hope it’s not HOT, either.

The bad feng shui of monumental clutter

April 22, 2003 at 10:39 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on The bad feng shui of monumental clutter

It’s the weirdest thing: images seem to disappear off the web, or perhaps are never posted in the first place. Yet I do know that there exist pictures — which I couldn’t find — that clinch the argument that Friedrich St. Florian’s design for the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC uncannily resembles Albert Speer’s proposal for Germania, his World War II era redesign of Berlin.

The National Coalition to Save Our Mall appeared on the scene early, in the Spring of 2000, to attempt to avert the approval of St. Florian’s proposed design. Unfortunately, it was approved, but Save Our Mall continues to fight other battles: the mall appears up for grabs, ready to be cluttered up with more and more unnecessary stuff, rather like a shopping mall. The other day, Judy Scott Feldman of Save Our Mall sent around a link to Christopher Knight’s LA Times article, America’s Maul, which presents a lucid argument for preserving the mall’s intended meaning. Read it in its entirety; here is an excerpt:

“The openness of the Mall is a central symbolic feature of Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s renowned 1791 plan for the new nation’s seat of government. In fact, disgust with 19th century clutter is responsible for the Mall we see today. After a disfiguring period of rapacious commercial development, the L’Enfant scheme was revived and modified in 1901 at the direction of a Senate committee, led by Michigan’s James McMillan. A brilliant team of artists that included landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens and architects Charles F. McKim and Daniel H. Burnham devised the McMillan Plan.
Their inventive ground plan embodies the rational order of Enlightenment thought. Shaped roughly like a kite, its long axis is anchored at one end by the Capitol, seat of the people’s representative government, and at the other by the Lincoln Memorial, shrine to the unbreakable union of the states. The short axis reaches from the White House, home of the nation’s civilian leader, to the Jefferson Memorial, which remembers the founding document — the Declaration of Independence.
Next to the point where the long and short axes cross, the great obelisk of the Washington Monument anchors the design. It’s the spindle around which the capital city turns. These individual components form a clear network of structures that, taken together, outline the late-18th century principles on which our social contract as a nation was written. The Mall is a physical emblem of democracy, constructed from buildings, memorials and sculptures.
And, not least of all, from open landscape. The glue for its five distinct structures is empty space — an open, unencumbered park. There, the citizenry is invited to gather.”

Perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps because this sort of thing is on the march, Speer’s son, Albert Jr., submitted a grand design to develop China’s capital Beijing in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. It’s a project, however, that begs to be compared to his father’s plans for Germania.

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And on the enviro-front in BC, finally some good news: The Sierra Legal Defense Fund is taking the Canadian federal government to court over the disaster wreaked on BC native salmon species by fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, arguing that the government is breaching its constitutional duty to protect aboriginal fisheries. I’m delighted that this issue is going before the courts, since all public protest and scientific evidence hasn’t brought about much of a change in government and industry promulgation of these harmful policies. Native Pacific salmon, in BC, is a lynchpin species that connects to the environmental health of an entire ecosystem: ruin the salmon and you ruin First Nations’ way of life along with the food chain upon which bears, wolves (yes, wolves: they fish salmon here), and even birds depend. Mess up the bears and the wolves and you mess up the deer and the cougar, and so on down the line.

For Earth Day: Don’t Panic (maybe)

April 21, 2003 at 10:12 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on For Earth Day: Don’t Panic (maybe)

’If you would care,’ said the girl with the strident voice, ‘to examine the agenda sheet…’ ‘Agenda rock,’ trilled the hairdresser happily. ‘Thank you, I’ve made that point,’ muttered Ford. ‘…you ….will …see …’ continued the girl firmly, ‘that we are having a report from the hairdressers’ Fire Development Sub-Committee today.’ (…) ‘Alright,’ said Ford, (…). ‘What have you done? What are you going to do? What are your thoughts on fire development?’ (….) ‘Well, you’re obviously being totally naive of course,’ said the girl, ‘When you’ve been in marketing as long as I have you’ll know that before any new product can be developed it has to be properly researched. We’ve got to find out what people want from fire, how they relate to it, what sort of image it has for them.’ The crowd were tense. They were expecting something wonderful from Ford. ‘Stick it up your nose,’ he said. ‘Which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know,’ insisted the girl, ‘Do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?’ (…) ‘And the wheel,’ said the Captain, ‘What about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project.’ ‘Ah,’ said the marketing girl, ‘Well, we’re having a little difficulty there.’ ‘Difficulty?’ exclaimed Ford? ‘Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It’s the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!’ The marketing girl soured on him with a look. ‘Alright, Mr. Wiseguy,’ she said, ‘you’re so clever, you tell us what colour it should be.’ — The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (circa December 1978) by Douglas Adams, chapter 32: Ford Prefect trying to talk sense with a group of B-Ark Golgafrinchams composed of telephone sanitizers, hairdressers, and marketing folk, who have crashlanded into a prehistoric Earth and are starting civilization over from scratch. In their marketing, hairdressing sort of way. Fast-forward a quarter century to 2003: “Far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves, athletic shoes or feature films.” – Hubertus Bigend, marketing exec at Blue Ant agency, speaking to Cayce Pollard, a cool-hunter, in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, p.67. For Douglas Adams, marketing was still funny enough to make it the butt of his B-Ark population joke, and the carrier of the butt was a “girl” about whose silly talk we could have a great laugh. Twenty-five years later, the seriousness of marketing is conveyed by Hubertus (“Hub”) Bigend — possibly also a big-butted person, but resolutely male, eminently powerful, likely malevolent, and certainly deadly serious. Marketing really does threaten to crowd out everything else, a proposition I find rather frightening. Call it spin, call it PR, call it marketing: it would appear to be replacing whatever it was that in the past we called reality — consensus, dialogue, dissent, materiality, resistance, democracy. Examples abound. Take my BC Government, whose “neo” label precedes the word Liberal, but whose true colours are more closely matched by “neo” or “new” movements all over the western world: neo-conservatives, new labour, neo-liberal. The “neos” have co-opted, colonized, and bought the rights to marketing: it’s what they do best, because that way it’s less apparent how badly they do other things, or how bad their other things are. It makes them look modern, of course, because it makes them look in tune with corporate market forces which seem to roll over our cultural and natural landscapes like so much force of nature, like so much “it goes without saying,” like so much inevitability. The BC Government, for example, is going to build a CAD$12 million “dream home” http://www.canada.com/vancouver/vancouve… community on the outskirts of Shanghai, to serve as a showcase for BC lumber. The government’s hope is that it will entice the 700,000 Mainland Chinese families currently rich enough to build their own single family homes into building them with Canadian wood, abandoning their more traditional use of brick and cement (which incidentally are better suited to the damp climate). Obviously, there must also be thoughts of the remaining population’s eventual need to move into that consumer niche, so it’s a huge potential market. Let’s see: according to the CIA World Factbook, China’s population in July 2002 was estimated to be at one billion two hundred eighty-four million three hundred three thousand seven hundred five people. Silly me, here I was worrying about a measly 280,562,489 American potential buyers of raw Canadian lumber, but Gordon Campbell, BC’s ever indefatigable neo-Liberal premier, hopes to have found about a billion more. What I find so disturbing is that the Premier and his team rely on marketing for economic vision & policy. He wants to “create a demand for wood-framed homes in China.” He acknowledges that the “Dream Home China program is a marketing plan and comes with no guarantees.” He claims that “eco-groups” opposed to current clear-cut logging practices are “targeting jobs” and are trying “to shrink the number of jobs in British Columbia.,” but the fact is that the BC logging industry has been in “steep decline”  http://www.canada.com/victoria/timescolo… for the past decade and that over 13,000 jobs were lost along with 27 permanent mill closures in those years. The “eco groups” http://www.raincoast.org/ are just trying to put the brakes on a new scheme that seems based on marketing, but not on sustainable economic and environmental policies. Too much of what’s proposed by the government relies on creating demands that weren’t there in the first place. This strategy has made some of us in the First World very rich in some ways, but is it sustainable, especially when these “attacks” http://www.coastweekly.com/article.asp?s… on the environment are happening globally, typically under a “neo” banner? Unfortunately, no one is going to come along and put all the marketing people into a B-Ark programmed to crash-land on some remote planet, but maybe we should be thinking about how our focus on marketing is determining both our environment as well as our creativity.

Pretty to look at, pretty stupid

April 20, 2003 at 10:52 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

A while ago, I wrote a piece comparing Eric Blumrich’s animations to Gericault’s 19th century painting, The Raft of the Medusa. But if there’s a modern-day Gericault, there has to be a modern day Bouguereau: he was one of mid-19th century Paris’s el painters supremo, extremely talented and much revered and hyped by the ruling class, and a real first class one-man schlock-mobile who manipulated sentiment to the point of seemingly forever giving it a bad name. In fact, with today’s simulacra and our fabulous reproduction capabilities, there must be hundreds of Bouguereaus. But the artist who probably deserves the Numero Uno Bouguoh award of the month has got to be Madonna. Her reign of schlock coupled with her ability to retain her status as media darling make her the winner, as does her ability, so lucidly explored by Bouguereau himself, to sanitize reality and meaning out of existence.

HaidaBucks in Seattle newspaper

April 19, 2003 at 10:13 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on HaidaBucks in Seattle newspaper

Quick update on the scuffle that Starbucks is instigating against HaidaBucks. Click on title article for a link to an April 16 Seattle Post Intelligencer article. The Vancouver Sun had noted that HaidaBucks serves Seattle’s Best Coffee, a Starbucks rival, but the Post Intelligencer reports that on the 16th Starbucks bought that company. It kind of makes Starbucks’s suit even more ridiculous; see the PI article for more quotes from the owners. Oh, and correction: they played basketball together, not baseball. If you want to help HaidaBucks, you could send your thoughts via an email to Starbucks by visiting this link:

Spinning a democratized Middle East

April 18, 2003 at 11:28 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Spinning a democratized Middle East

David Olive has a great column in the April 13 Toronto Star that explains how “Not since Vietnam has mendacity so thoroughly characterized both the goals and methods of U.S. foreign policy.” He covers a lot of ground, including a comparison of administration rhetoric to reality. Colin Powell, for example, recently asserted that the US would not abandon post-war Iraq by leaving it to its own devices. On German TV, Powell asked, “And guess who will be the major contributor, who will pay the most money to help the Iraqi people to get back on their feet?” (…) “It will be the United States, as always.” Olive incredulously asks, as always?, before reviewing the facts: “As chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the Gulf War, Powell would very well know that America’s allies paid $53 billion of the $63 billion cost of that war. That about two-thirds of humanitarian and reconstruction work in the developing world is paid for by Europeans. That European and Canadian forces, among others, cleaned up after the Americans in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Of the U.S. record in post-war Afghanistan, already in chaos as insurgent Taliban gangs terrorize civilians and aid workers, Powell said: ‘We are helping them to rebuild and reconstruct their society. That pattern is the American pattern. We’re very proud of it. It’s been repeated many times over, and it will be repeated again and again.’ That claim is preposterous. After the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. returned Kuwait to its despotic emirs and left Saddam to murder thousands of dissidents. In the aftermath of 1990s U.S. interventions in Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan, local autocrats and warlords lost no time re-imposing their violent rule. In a must-read analysis of Bush war strategy in the current Washington Monthly, Joshua Micah Marshall writes that the administration’s ‘preferred method has been to use deceit to create faits accomplis, facts on the ground that then make the administration’s broader agenda impossible not to pursue …. Strip away the presidential seal and the fancy titles, and it’s just a straight-up con.'” And here’s Olive’s succinct conclusion: “The neo-con theory behind the Iraq campaign is that a democratized Middle East will be a safer place, because democracies don’t make unprovoked attacks on other countries. It’s an attractive idea. But when the world’s most powerful democracy launched its invasion of Iraq last month, that theory failed its first test.” In Baghdad, meanwhile, tens of thousands protested in the streets against American occupation.

Abundant Play Dates: Can the Games Begin?

April 18, 2003 at 8:57 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Abundant Play Dates: Can the Games Begin?

Walking at the beach today, a frisky, playful dog I mistook for a puppy jumped all over Jigger, my Cairn terrier, and the two spontaneously struck up a playdate. This happens all the time in the mile-long stretch of Dallas Road that is Victoria’s official off-leash area (there are many unofficial ones). It turned out, though, that this dog was already 11 years old, hardly a puppy. Her owner said, “I’m very proud of her, to me she’s still a puppy.” That idea of taking pride in the dog’s personality struck me as curious, yet somehow right. These two — owner and pet, not just pet and pet — were playing together, too, and she articulated that we are somehow proud not just of our dogs — such great animals! — but also of our own ability to play. And she was implicitly adding: it’s good to be proud of being able to play. The ability to play is so abundant in human makeup. It is NOT a scarce commodity. But that’s easy to forget, especially when you train your gaze on all the things that are wrong with the world. Suddenly, abundance disappears and scarcity rules, simply because good things get squeezed out by all the crap. (I know all about that — my mother’s favourite maxim still resonates: “Life is like a chicken coop ladder, full of shit from top to bottom.” It was a guidebook for scarcity. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I would stay calm during these onslaughts, and I bet she thought I was retarded.) But if you want to feel abundant and playful, you have to be able to feel that your life is not determined by scarcity. It gets harder and harder to do when you realize that part of the agenda of the status quo is to increase scarcity, partly by letting those at the top squeeze out everybody else’s abundance. I suppose they’re ruled by scarcity-thinking, too, because they think that by squeezing their hands real tight around something, they’ll hold it. Try that with water some time. An open hand works better. So, how can we play longer, better? How can you write a blog that points to all the stupid stuff going on, without letting scarcity spread all over it? How do you make it abundant and playful, and still manage to critique? Could play be a strategy? I really think there’s a strong possibility that we are heading toward global-corporate fascism, and that embedded in our very cognition of what’s subject and what’s object is a flaw that might prove to be fatal, yet I put children into this world …who play all the time because that’s their work. I hope they remember to play forever, and that a child’s sense of abundance-in-play, not some old men’s sense of scarcity, will lead us.

Free (unpaid) labour – free speech = new economy

April 18, 2003 at 12:06 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Free (unpaid) labour – free speech = new economy

AlterNet has a transcript of the speech Tom Robbins gave a couple of days ago (April 15th) to the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Robbins’s emphasis is on the loss of civil liberties within the US, the dumbing down of the political stakes and rhetoric, the climate of fear this has created amongst the people, and the role of the press in defending free speech. A friend of mine in the greater Boston area — a mere 20 miles beyond the Republic of Cambridge city limits — is afraid to put a pro-peace sticker on her car’s bumper, which seems right in line with Robbins’s assessment.

But it’s about the money, too, as the Toronto Star notes:
“Earlier this month, Republican Senator Ted Stevens (Alaska), chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations committee, said New York City’s police and firefighters should show their patriotism by forsaking pay for overtime work. ‘I really feel strongly that we ought to find some way to convince the people that there ought to be some volunteerism at home,’ said Stevens. ‘These people overseas in the desert — they’re not getting overtime…. I don’t know why the people working for the cities and counties ought to be paid overtime when they’re responding to matters of national security.'”
Meanwhile, the tax breaks proposed by the Administration would enable George Bush to save over $44K in taxes, Dick Cheney about $107K. The Toronto Star columnist I’m pointing to adds: “This is not an hour of patriotic glory for CEOs who continue to push for pay hikes after years of abysmal corporate performance. And press for a dividend-tax cut windfall, happily abetting the debauchery of the country’s finances at a time of budget crises. And, yes, of widespread sacrifice by low-income Americans at home, and by modestly paid men and women putting their lives on the line abroad.”

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