May 15, 2003 at 9:53 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Betty Krawczyk was in court yesterday. My local paper reports that B.C. Supreme Court justice Dean Wilson agreed to let the case be heard as a criminal, vs. civil, contempt case. But he also hinted that any contempt trial will not be the place to argue political views. Krawczyk is trying to get a court hearing in the matter of provincial forestry legislation in order thereby to launch a constitutional challenge to the province’s plans. While Wilson said that a contempt case might not be heard before a jury, which would thwart Krawczyk’s plans, the Provincial Crown Prosecuter Carmen Rogers went so far as to say that the case might not even go to trial, prompting Krawczyk to conclude that, “The Crown would like us to just disappear into the woodwork.” For pictures of the arrest, go here. For additional blogs & links I’ve posted on this topic, see May 8, 7, and 3, as well as April 28, 24, 21, 12, 11, and 9.


May 15, 2003 at 2:35 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Fashion

Have I mentioned that some advertisements make me want to lash out and punch the walls? It’s typically the imagery that has this effect on me, not the words, which I’m much more likely to forgive or ignore. Must be the non-literate in me: “can be influenced by pictures.” For example, I could never figure out why a nice boy from the Bronx based the advertised image of his clothes on folks who look like they’ve stepped out of the personal photo album of the Fuehrer’s closest (and blondest) friends at Berchtesgaden. Why were Ralph Lauren’s models, until fairly recently, always tall and blonde? He seems to have begun including some women of colour in his ads lately, but just a few years ago Lauren’s ad campaigns painted a picture of America that looked like it was shot by Leni Riefenstahl in her Nueremberg rally phase. At some point he started getting a more “British-y” look, but the underlying Aryan theme always prevailed. Gave me hives. Did he feel that this is the America he needs to conquer, or did he feel that this is the America he needs to be? Whose America is this? Now a different ad campaign has me doing backflips, again featuring tall blondes. I’m 178 cm, almost 5ft.10 for those of you in Togo & America, so this isn’t the rant of a petite person; I just don’t understand why ideals are so terrifyingly banal — and tall, and blonde, to boot — in the merchandising of goods. Kasper, a clothing maker, has a series of five images that go under the heading of A Career in Living. I’m not sure yet which one I hate the most. It could be the one of the girl-woman who is loading a tricycle into the back of a station wagon. She is positioned outside an upscale home — note the wide solid wood entrance door, the wall-mounted lantern, the wrought-iron balcony railing displaying cascading plants, the expensive paving stones underfoot. Notice her feet. To my mind, Kasper’s clothing is hideous enough, but the shoes should be shredded and put into a landfill. If this is a career in living, will she still be able to walk normally after she retires? I’m also annoyed by the discrepancy of her extreme youth and the pomposity of the home: when I look at that picture, I think “au pair,” not “mistress of the house,” in which case her shoes bug me even more. How can she be running after that kid on the trike? In this ad campaign, it’s the words (“a career in living”) that annoy me, too. As in: now you don’t have to feel pressured to look professional and presentable only at your job, you can have that same no-excuses lifestyle at home. Your living is a career, your career is work, and work makes you free…., if you buy the right stuff? Yeah, cheers, thanks a lot.


May 14, 2003 at 10:35 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Borders

A wonderful friend from my old street, Columbus Avenue in Beverly, Mass., sent me a real (paper) letter. Among other things, he told me that my old house is now a deeper shade of lilac, which meant that the new owners haven’t abandoned the unorthodox colour scheme. (We had startled our street several years ago by changing the house’s colour from yellow to lilac — some said purple — with cream of celery soup green trim. Very pretty. Honestly. But for some reason, quite a few New Englanders didn’t approve of these tarted-up San Francisco painted ladies colours….)

But here’s the interesting part: with his real paper letter, he enclosed an old New Yorker article which I was able to retrieve on the web via another blogger’s (by web standards ancient) 2002 entry. I thought this was amazing: you find an older print article, and, putting the terms into a search engine, you find another blogger who has linked to an online version of said article.

It’s about a man named Grant Hadwin, who deliberately felled a biologically nearly unique (and anthropologically sacred) tree on one of the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1997. It’s worth reading for anyone concerned with environmental issues and with how individuals place themselves within a world of concern, action, and consequence. Sure, you can tune out, and at various points of the day and throughout our lives’s meeting points with real events, we all do to one degree or another, for otherwise we would surely explode. But what if you take caring and insight — the latter based on very real expertise, as was the case with Hadwin, who was a forestry expert — to a particular logical conclusion, …and explode into irrationality, hurting others along the way? Where is that tipping point that takes you from rationality (bound to consensus) to irrationality (which includes terror), and where exactly is the border?

Perhaps it begins by terrorizing your own body, by forcing yourself to live up to extremes that others deem intolerable. John Vaillant’s New Yorker article describes Hadwin as tortured in body by mental directives that started in boyhood, but which he made his own and turned into flesh. Theodore Kaczynski conjures up a similar spectre. Unlike stupid sheep, these people are highly intelligent and know that they could never succeed as followers in an army, even though they themselves have a spartan, militaristic turn of mind. Just how does individualism work, how do you keep from becoming fodder? In New England, painting your house purple is practically grounds for committal, but the border isn’t on some old street after all.


May 13, 2003 at 10:08 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Bodies

“Island of Sifnos” is one of nearly 30 brief stories by John Berger, collected in his book, Photocopies. “Sifnos” deals with how we perceptualize our bodies. Berger reminds us that it was here — in this geographic and climatic region called the Aegean — “that the first atomic theory of the universe was formulated. It fits. Every entity you look at is distinct, separate, and surrounded by limitless space.” From this observation, as well as Aeschylus’s remark that on the Greek islands there is “nothing but marble and goats and kings,” Berger ponders sensuality, asking, “What can flesh mean here?” He continues:

All over the world women and men picture their bodies to themselves differently, for this picturing is influenced by the local terrain, the climate, and the surrounding natural risks. Like local crops, mental images of the flesh are regional. What is the Aegean image? It has, I think, little to do with scuba diving.

Flesh here is the only soft thing, the only substance that can suggest a caress; everything else visible is sharp or mineral, shattered or gnarled. Flesh here is like the small exposed painted parts of those ikons which otherwise are entirely covered with unyielding and engraved metal. (You see them in every church.) Flesh is simultaneously wound and healing. (…)

Consequently the body is aware of a cruelty even before it is aware of pleasure, for its own existence is cruel. Thus for everybody, not just philosophers and theologians, the physical lurches constantly towards the metaphysical. The lurch doesn’t require words, a glance is sufficient. There’s nobody here who isn’t an expert in longing, in the long drawn-out desire for a life a fraction less cruel. And oddly, this co-exists with the beauty and is part of it.

All those sculptures, stolen from Greece and now in foreign museums, are strangely unsensual and that’s one reason why they don’t belong here. The sensual in art is somehow a celebration of a complicity, a continuity between body and nature. Here no such complicity exists. The famous ‘ideal’ which the classical sculptors sought was, in fact, a consolation for the body’s loneliness. All those sculptures, it seems to me now, were messengers of a very controlled longing without end.

I like this theory of place’s determining effect on our ability to be embodied, perhaps because I like being brought to my knees by the Greek islands, by how they smell, feel, look, taste, and sound. It also made me think about our media, which tosses bodies our way like so much confetti. But those are bodies without place or sense: boobs and bums, teeth and hair, abs and backs. Those body-images could be anywhere, unbound, not tied to my embodied senses. Perhaps some day we’ll be so determined by media that children won’t know how to have bodies, and their parents won’t know how to age. We’ll be like those characters in fairy tales that outwit the devil, but then are condemned to wander the earth, unable to die.

Possessed / Enthralled

May 12, 2003 at 10:02 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Possessed / Enthralled

I just finished reading Leonid Tsypkin’s Summer in Baden-Baden. Tsypkin’s novel focusses on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s season of gambling in Baden-Baden, a narrative thread interrupted by accounts of Tsypkin’s own life as he journeys by train from Moscow to Leningrad, a scholarly fan on the writer’s trail. Compared to his probing of the frenzied, impassioned, and disturbing life of Dostoyesky and his wife Anna Grigorievna, Tsypkin manages somehow to make his own bleakish and ordinary life in Soviet Russia seem almost normal. But the two lives frame each other: Tsypkin, who reveres Dostoyevsky completely, lives in 1970s Soviet Russia and, as a Jew, suffers real, objective persecution. Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, generates anti-Semitic ideology as part of his belief system and suffers persecutions that appear to be largely subjective. Although I’m unfamiliar with Dostoyevsky’s novels (that is, I’m not a Dostoyevsky fan), I continued reading Tsypkin because he employs such a brilliant technique. Peter Weiss, in The Aesthetics of Resistance, did something similar: Both writers use sentences that run on for an entire paragraph, and paragraphs that run on for entire pages, paradoxically to convey an emotional sense which their descriptions in turn play down. As Tsypkin’s reader, you’re pulled along by this torrent, which in its form — seemingly uncontrolled, run-on, endless — is highly emotional even as it lays out in very clinical and objective language the facts of the story, in this case Dostoyevsky’s psychic and economic and physical degradation. Tsypkin was certainly a brilliant writer. He succeeds, for example, in capturing simultaneously the possibility of freedom and of oppression in the act of sexual intercourse: imagine swimming as a metaphor for sex, and imagine all the things that can be liberating about being in the water, and, if the goal is that two people swim together, all the things that can go wrong.

Garden tour

May 11, 2003 at 7:01 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Garden tour

Wowie-zowie, perhaps she can be taught…. This post is basically fluff, I’m trying to learn how to use iPhoto on my iBook to put pictures into my blog. So far, I have only succeeded in putting in giant sized links that destroy the format of my pages, but I think I’ve got it now. Ok, these pictures are from a Garden Tour we did today, in particular of one spectacular estate on Beach Drive in the heart of Oak Bay, which is a separate municipality, but really part of Victoria, just on the east coast of our pretty peninsula. (The joke is that Oak Bay, generally very affluent, is “behind the Tweed curtain.” Very stiff upper lip, don’t you know. Sort of like Beverly Farms, without the Yankee flavour.) You would never know from looking at these pictures that Oak Bay is fairly urban and not at all, but really not at all rural. (Beverly Farms is suburban-rural, but Oak Bay isn’t.) But then, this estate is on 2 acres, right on the ocean, looking east toward Mount Baker in Washington State, and you can’t see the more urban density of apartment buildings, hotels, and marinas until you are on the beach itself, looking to the right. The garden was fabulous, but the niftiest thing was the tee-ing off platform that the owner had built in a corner of the garden, up high, with a view to the granite rock-face fronting the beach below: tee-ing off: In this picture, you can see the actual putting green at the beach below, which the golfer aimed for from his platform up high: And finally, a picture of the garden starting to reveal itself, as you enter it from the side: I’m leaving the still larger picture of the Gunnera, below, for comparison. I think the slightly larger size is better since the other three are now so tiny that it’s hard to make out details: another test picture


May 10, 2003 at 10:43 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Sentences

Update on Amina Lawal: Nearly a week ago (May 4) I pointed to a Spanish Amnesty International site’s online petition to save the life of Amina Lawal, who has been sentenced in Nigeria to death by stoning for the “crime” of having had adulterous sex. Michele Landsberg’s column in today’s Toronto Star emphasizes that the online petitions will in fact probably harm Lawal’s case, since they’ll only make the “Taliban-type local leaders” go into conniptions and mete out even stiffer sentences. So, make nice instead, pull out your cheque book, and send money to BAOBAB/WLUML-AME Legal Defence Fund, c/o BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, P.O. Box 73630, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria. They’re the people on the ground in Nigeria fighting to save Lawal’s life.

As I also mentioned in the previous post, the Canadian A-I site encourages writing a letter to the High Commissioner for Nigeria in Canada (if you’re not in Canada, find the High Commissioner for your country), albeit without mentioning Lawal by name (to avoid offending the local fundamentalist bullies). Perhaps the High Commissioner is from the more secular south, however, and won’t in any case have much control over the doings of the Islamist north. But maybe someone in power will be convinced to convince someone else in power in the right place that a legal loophole, currently non-existent, can exist for Lawal.


May 10, 2003 at 9:49 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Waffling

It appears that Canada is caving in to pressure from the US: Ottawa backs off pot law plans.

I am not your ordinary run of the mill transvestite! (- Clouseau)

May 10, 2003 at 9:19 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on I am not your ordinary run of the mill transvestite! (- Clouseau)

There’s nothing like Inspector Clouseau’s words of wisdom (favourite epithet: “swine”) to make one laugh. I’m watching The Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Clouseau has just caught fire while dressed up as a slightly crippled Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Now he’s trying to fight off a pre-emptive attack by his man-servant, Cato.

The question is, however, could Clouseau be convinced to wear a thong if it was part of Professor Balls’s bag of tricks? Presumably he didn’t play team sports, so he could get away with it.

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