I hope nomen est omen not

April 17, 2003 at 8:41 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

In the holiday spirit, I thought I’d share something that has left me feeling rather puzzled and with a bit of an odd sense of discomfort. Some months ago I searched the web to find information about the origin of my surname. I always found it funny that it’s a Dutch word that means “trouble,” and that taken together with the Dutch “macher,” it means “troublemaker.” But in my websearch, I came across a Stanford site, Hebrew Words in Dutch (via Yiddish), that gave “heibel” a new spin. If the research on this site is correct, my name apparently does indeed mean “trouble, commotion,” but it derives from the Hebrew word “hewel,” which means … “a vain cause.” A vain cause? What am I supposed to do, shoot myself? Are there people out there called Meschugge or Toges (tachat) or Treife (terefa)? There’s a shoemaker called Seibel, which according to this site comes from “sebel” which means …dung. How do you cope with such a moniker? What do people with weird names do to compensate? Should I have taken my husband’s last name? Nah, that would have made my initials YB, which begs the question, “why not?” Talk about vain cause. I’m stuck. Prior to the internet, I wouldn’t have discovered this unflattering tidbit, but that’s where information overload gets you: looking over your shoulder, wondering about vain causes.

“Bucks? Bucks? What is he talking about?”

April 16, 2003 at 11:19 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on “Bucks? Bucks? What is he talking about?”

Thus spoke Mrs. Bullock in My Man Godfrey. Godfrey, a “forgotten man,” had been brought to a fancy dress scavenger hunt as a trophy find by Mrs. Bullock’s daughter Irene, even as her sister Cornelia brought a rival “forgotten man” who was demanding to be paid, in bucks. Godfrey becomes the Bullocks’ butler, then leaves their employ to help the other forgotten men attain prosperity by turning the city dump they lived on into “The Dump,” an exclusive night club for the rich and famous. Mrs. Bullock, a flighty Park Avenue matron, probably never understood “bucks,” and neither do I, after reading this choice bit of news. Starbucks is suing a tiny little cafe on the Haida Gwaii Islands (also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) because it won’t cease and desist in calling itself HaidaBucks. Graciously, Starbucks’s lawyers are allowing that the restaurant can use the word Haida — it’s only the tribal name of the people on the island — but they claim that “bucks” is practically trademarked. Too funny, right? Not. They’re serious. Never mind that the First Nations call their young guys “bucks,” or that the cafe owners, in their early 30s, all played on a baseball team called the Bucks. Bucks is bucks is bucks is Starbucks, I guess. Oooh, we’re so scared in Canada of US commercial and patent might. Lucky thing we call our dollars “loonies” and “two-nies,” not “bucks,” or those big powerful lawyers with such important things to do (such as represent ridiculous corporate claims) might come up here and really kick our bucks, er, butts, eh? That loonie, by the way, was at 65 cents US when we moved back to BC last June, but it’s gone up to over $0.69 US now. Watch your domestic economy, America.

Funkadelia for the huis clos blues

April 15, 2003 at 7:51 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Funkadelia for the huis clos blues

I am so happy as I sit here and listen to Shuggie Otis for the 2nd or 3rd time in a row. I don’t quite know why his music makes me feel so good, but it does. It brings back to me all the best aspects of the 70s (if you can imagine that!), of being really young, of getting high in the park, of being out and about in great weather — all of which of course is reinforced by day-to-day living here. It’s been simply fabulous: gorgeous weather, nature bursting at the seams with every imaginable kind of green growing thing, a totally groovy kind of world. And that was winter. Now it’s sp-rrring! I love being here.

On the other hand, I’ve started writing this blog. Beats me what started me on it. I suppose it’s a way to vent all the fury I feel over the vandalizing things being done to nature, being done in politics, being done in society. I wouldn’t mind writing a blog about how happy I am, but I’m sidetracked because there are so many things that stupid people are getting away with. I’m so sick and tired of stupid people ruling the earth. They’re not even evil, they’re just stupid. Well, banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt already pointed out, apropos of Eichmann and the Nazis. They were evil. But stupid, too, stupid in the sense of banal. Today’s stupid people, as ever, live in an architecture of systems (epistemological, political-ideological, economic, technological, theological) that tell them where the walls are, and where the windows, exits, and entrances are. Barrier or orifice, those are the parameters. One or zero. Yes or no. For or against. No ambiguity, no differentiation. Purity, no mongrels.

I’ll see where and how far I’ll go with this blog, what the heck they’re suppposed to be. I read randomly in other people’s blogs sometimes, and have to admit that I don’t necessarily always get it. The style, I mean. I suspect their authors are much younger than I am, and that the generational divide is causing me eyestrain. When I want style, I pull a disc from my relatively recently acquired DVD collection of The Avengers with Emma Peel and John Steed. (I have their autographed pictures, which I sent away for in early 1966 when I was a little girl newly arrived in Canada. They now sit in MY Emma’s room.) My sense of style is irrevocably rooted to a sense of modern, nearly sci-fi clothing, particularly very short skirts, and a later ideal, inspired by teenaged immortality, of lots and lots of free sex — none of which I currently necessarily still associate with in the first person. Today, my clothing is mostly functional, my sex …well, never you mind. As for pop cult: I think that, co-opted, it’s impoverishing us sensually, bricking us into systems that shut down our development as individuals with a body — as embodied individuals. I haven’t decided whether blogs are a part of pop culture or a part of something else, but I suspect that they’re not something else. Perhaps I’m just clueless because I spend too little time in front of a computer screen and too much time outside in the fresh air. Which is another thing I like about old pop cult funkadelia master, Shuggie Otis. As system dwellers get a collective hard-on because armies have “penetrated deeply into Iraq” (a news quote from earlier this month), Shuggie’s music captures the inimitable sense of being outside, being groovy in a park, with the birds and the bees still having lots and lots and lots of free sex.

What’s wrong with Bush’s “dissing” of Canada?

April 15, 2003 at 12:09 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on What’s wrong with Bush’s “dissing” of Canada?

Read this article in today’s Globe & Mail (Toronto) to learn why “in cancelling his [scheduled for May 5 to Ottawa] visit, Mr. Bush is not just dissing Canada. He’s also implicitly negating the importance of his own economy. He’s once again telling the world — as he did by imposing tariffs on European steel, by allowing the Canada-U.S. lumber dispute to fester, by condoning the protectionist U.S. Farm Bill and by setting the stage for $1-trillion in U.S. deficits over the next few years — that sound economic policy is not terribly important to him.”

Michael Moore debunks the “Oscar backlash”

April 14, 2003 at 6:45 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Michael Moore debunks the “Oscar backlash”

If you read only one more thing today, make it this article by Michael Moore (click on title to link).

What would Flipper do? Fish Stories

April 14, 2003 at 1:55 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on What would Flipper do? Fish Stories

I came across an article the other day in AlterNet, A Dolphin Disses War, about Atlantic bottlenose dolphins trained to clear mines from the waters off Umm Qasr and other areas. The article’s voice is that of Flipper O’Reilly, also known as K-Dog, who spills the beans on the dirty tricks he and his fellow sea mammals have engaged in, including being weaponized and being used in experiments to test the Navy’s low-frequency active sonar’s effect on sea creatures. K-Dog tells us he had some temporary hearing loss (unlike the whales that ended up dead), and that the Navy now wants Congress to grant it exemptions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act. K-Dog wonders when he’s going to be released from the supposedly all-volunteer fighting forces: “I’m not denying I’m good at my job hunting mines. We’ve found a bunch. But you know, so are a new generation of AUVs, autonomous underwater vehicles, or robot subs. The Navy says they need a full range of options but I don’t see the Air Force supplementing their predator drones with camera-toting bald eagles, or the army employing tigers to guard their tanks. Still the Navy plans to hang on to us for what they call ‘the foreseeable future.’ I mean I hate to say this, but this isn’ really our war. This is a human thing. So while I keep my fixed grin for the man, inside I keep wondering, when does our tour of duty end?”

Perhaps the dolphins could revolt and shut down some fish farms.

My provincial government here in BC has gone out of its way to encourage fish farming, particularly in the protected waters of the Broughton Archipelago, an area of islands and fjords located between the mainland, the Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Vancouver Island. Approximately 20 fish farms are clustered there, and the fish are routinely infested with millions of sea lice. Scientists generally agree that the lice from the fish farms, which are located at the entry points of rivers and streams leading to wild salmon spawning grounds, prey on the young wild smolts that make their way downstream to the open ocean. The smolts cannot survive the massive infestation and die, breaking the chain that ensures a return of spawning salmon in the following year. BC has already experienced a huge drop in the number of wild pink salmon that returned to spawn in the area last year: while 3.6 million returned in 2000, only 147,000 returned last year. Pinks are literally facing extinction at this rate, and other wild salmon species are also affected. Indigenous species have already crashed in other fish farm impacted countries, such as Scotland and Norway, and they are doing so here.

But if that isn’t enough, consider this bit of news from VESO, the National Centre for Veterinary Contract Research and Commercial Services, Cataracts in farmed fish (April 13, 2003): farmed fish are commonly plagued by cataracts that blind them. Now, this wouldn’t be a big deal for the industry if it weren’t the case that blind fish can’t eat, and therefore die off before they reach full harvesting maturity, thereby cutting into the profit margin. But consider it the next time you’re in the supermarket or restaurant, about to purchase salmon. Ask if it was farmed. If it was, buy something else. Picture in your mind’s eye the fact that the pens have up to 40,000 fish in them, and that in some cases the entire population is blind. You are what you eat.

And then consider this: Europe has banned the use of ground up BSE infected cows as feed for farmed fish, in part because scientists worried that the toxins in the feed were causing the cataracts (they weren’t, and the scientists still don’t know what causes them). It’s a fairly recent regulation, though, and I don’t know that North America has banned ground up animals as fish food. German scientists did discover prions in farmed fish brains that were similar in shape to the ones found in infected cows, although they declared the fish safe for human consumption.

These are all symptoms, though. The main problem is the disease, which, as Flipper can vouch, has to do with our apparent need to instrumentalize everything. Homo faber: hey, it’s a good thing, it got us out of caves and into condos. But there’s this incredible trick that humans are also capable of: stepping back and assessing. Do we need armed Flippers, do we need fish farms, do we need industrial-scale meat farms, do we need to feed animals to animals, do we need strawberries in January,….

Do you need it?

B.C. Team Cracks SARS Riddle

April 13, 2003 at 10:20 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on B.C. Team Cracks SARS Riddle

My local paper reports today that scientists with the B.C.Cancer Agency have cracked the SARS genetic code. Dick Thompson of the World Health Organization called it “an extraordinary step” since doctors will be able to diagnose people more quickly and researchers will need the code to develop a vaccine. The Vancouver team, working at the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, typically investigates the cancer genome, but Dr. Caroline Astell (the project leader) and Dr. Marco Marra (centre director) took SARS on as a challenge. The work involved about 30 researchers at the Centre. The genetic sequence is posted on the web so that other researchers can use it to beat SARS.

Symmetries of Destruction

April 12, 2003 at 12:15 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Symmetries of Destruction

There is an awful symmetry between cultural iconoclasts and destroyers of nature. Briony Penn asserts that wilderness is the basis of evolution, that it provides a blueprint for the species, and that the loss of wilderness threatens our physical survival. But large-scale loss of human historical artifacts threatens the survival of cultural memory. At points, the artifact and the natural might even enter a symbiotic relationship: pyramids, or the giant Buddhas recently destroyed by the Taliban. Massive looting, left to run out of control by the US invading army, has destroyed the Iraqi National Museum. The looters took away a priceless heritage, and American troops, aside from one half-hour lunchtime intervention, did nothing to stop them. As the museum’s archaeologist noted, “A country’s identity, its value and civilization resides in its history. If a country’s civilization is looted, as ours has been, its history ends. Please tell this to President Bush. Please remind him that he promised to liberate the Iraqi people, but that this is not a liberation, this is a humiliation.”

As endangered habitats are razed and replaced by garbage and concrete, and as human historical artifacts are destroyed, we have to wonder what manufactured Mickey Mouse fantasy will overwrite their message. We’re not supposed to feel deeply anymore — it’s not rational. Not in the midst of forests hundreds of years old, nor in the midst of human artifacts with meanings that extend past the most recent phenomena of consumer culture. If we felt deeply, we’d stop functioning like cogs in a machine, or bits in the flow of “information.” If we felt deeply we might feel differently, and that, multiplied by millions, would be an unmanageable situation indeed.

Eric Blumrich has a new animation out. The strongest aspect of it is Martin Luther King’s message: I ain’t gonna study war no more. It’s very hard to feel peaceful sometimes, but it’s the last bulwark against barbarism.

Will Betty Bring in the Judge?

April 11, 2003 at 9:24 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Will Betty Bring in the Judge?

I got to hear Betty Krawczyk at a local tree sit at the University of Victoria today, and she made my day. She is an amazing, gifted woman with an intellect that matches her boundless vitality. The British Columbia government plans to pass a law (working forest initiative) that will allow private logging operations to own lands formerly designated as ‘crown’ or *public* lands. It’s a law that will change the BC landscape forever, and not for the better. It’s a law that, if passed, won’t be easily repealed, because once the multinational corporations get their hooks in, any repeal will involve obligations to NAFTA. It’s a law that’s a classic case of what’s wrong with multinational trade agreements which end up giving multinational corporations more rights and power than any elected government — meaning more power than any representation of the citizenry. And still Betty Krawczyk was inspiring, because she keeps fighting for nature.

Guess what? She is again putting herself on the line: she needs to get herself arrested once more so that she can go before the courts. Arguing the case before the courts is our last hope, according to Betty, because the government refuses to listen to the people.

The government has taken plenty of money from the lumber industry (click on title article), and NAFTA is making it too easy for the raping and pillaging of land to pass as *rational* economic policy. If government turns irresponsible — literally not responsive to the people — turn to the courts for help and pray that it works. But time is really short: the public input period on the working forest initiative ends on April 30, and the government is hell-bent on pushing these changes through. Betty needs to get to a judge well before then.

All you Harvard law people out there: any ideas?

Betty and the Women in the Woods plan a peaceful resistance to the government’s privatization of BC’s public forests on April 21/22 in the Walbran Valley. If you’re in the area, email  cmcp at islandnet.com or call Marya at 250-592-6484 or Brooke at 250-382-7109 or Betty at 250-388-5739 to arrange transportation and participation.

Incidentally, the UVic protesters might be successful after all with their tree sitting, proving Betty’s emphatically stated point that individuals can make a difference. That makes my Friday, all weekend long!

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