Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

I'm home with the flu and a weird rash on my arm this new year's eve -- though we usually don't go out anyway, just have family and friends in and I cook chicken livers and bacon -- but not this year.  So we've been enjoying the photos of New Year around the world.
UPDATE: It's shingles so I am being treated for that]









New York

Couldn't find any Canadian photos yet...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Great line of the day

Sixth Estate on racist bullshit:
... the people presently braying that we get rid of the Indian Act and “make the Indians” modernize are doing exactly the same thing as the people who passed the Indian Act in the first place: saying that we know what’s best for aboriginal people in this country, and we’re going to provide it for them, whether they want it or not.
No. The way forward is through negotiation and compromise. It will be long, it will be painful, and there will have to be concessions on both sides.
It’s strange to find that the conservatives are my enemies in this. Usually, they insist that big government is never the answer, that people should be allowed to decide for themselves rather than having their choices dictated to them by the state, and that this country upholds the rule of law and the importance of tradition rather than strictly doing what seems expedient in the moment.
Except, apparently, when it comes to aboriginal affairs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Keeping Christmas Well

Mr. Fezziwig's Ball

One of the reasons I re-read A Christmas Carol every year is for the joy of Dickens' wonderful descriptions of Christmas in Victorian London:
The cold became intense. In the main street at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice.
The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed.
Poulterers' and grocers' trades became a splendid joke; a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do.
The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor's household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow's pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.
Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit's nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose.
Wouldn't this have been a party:
Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.
In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke.
In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress.
In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them.
When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, "Well done!" and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.
There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer.
But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind! The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up "Sir Roger de Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs Fezziwig. Top couple too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.
But if they had been twice as many -- ah, four times -- old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it.
A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut -- cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.
When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.
And wouldn't we all love these shops:
The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.
The Grocers'! oh the Grocers'! Nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.
I love the ending:
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
There's nothing better than the Alistair Sim version:

Monday, December 24, 2012


Does anybody in the world care anymore what a cranky old man in Rome has to say about anything, much less about gay marriage?

This is amazing

Bobby McFerrin leads an audience in singing Ave Maria:

I had no idea he was so talented, and he pulls the whole audience along with him.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flash mob for protest

Thousands take over Saskatoon mall for Idle No More protest:

Thousands take over Saskatoon mall for Idle No More protest

This was last night, at Midtown Plaza -- 2,000 people took over the mall in a flash mob for Idle No More.
There were periodic eruptions of cheers and yelps as a massive group of protesters shutdown parts of the Midtown Plaza. People held hands as they danced in an enormous circle to the beat of drums and a chorus of traditional First Nations' signing. There were no political speeches or organized chants, but the estimated 2,000 people who attended this flash mob on Thursday are all part of a national movement that is sweeping the country.
“People are walking up,” said Jenn Altenberg, who came downtown for Thursday’s Idle No More protest. “People showing up here is a powerful statement. Our young people are finding their voices.”...
“It’s not just First Nations or aboriginal people. I think it’s a culmination of a lot things,” said John Noon, one of the drummers who led the flash mob. “It’s like Occupy. It’s building on that. It’s going worldwide.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One of those things you wonder about

I always thought Bing Crosby's last Christmas Special was the oddest one ever made, and the Bing/Bowie song was the oddest pairing, in spite of how their voices actually blend well. So its great to finally find out how this happened.

They're not going to take it anymore

Idle No More born on the Web

The Idle No More movement is being noticed across Canada.
The Star Phoenix had a major story this morning about its founders Sylvia McAdams and Sheelah McLean (pictured above) who, with Jessica Gordon and Nina Wilson, started the whole movement.
Through social media, rallies were organized last week in Canadian cities, and more are coming on Friday including at Canadian consultates in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In the Toronto Star, Tim Harper sums up all of the reasons why First Nations leaders are really angry at Stephen Harper and his government:
[the government's] determination to economically exploit resources over the objections of environmentalists and aboriginals who believe this regime is running roughshod over its ancestral lands. . . .
movement leaders count 14 pieces of legislation — dealing with everything from education to water quality to financial accountability — that they believe are the laws of an adversary.. . .
Consultations with native representatives over education have broken down. The initiative is now largely a unilateral Ottawa move.
First Nations believe a bill forcing chiefs and bands to publicly release salaries and financial reports is a move meant to pit leaders against residents.
The omnibus bill amends the Navigable Waters Protection Act, a law dating to the days of Sir John A. Macdonald, meant to ensure development would not impede Canadians’ rights to freely pass through public waterways.
The government now has the right to approve projects on more than 160 lakes without consulting First Nations.
The Conservatives also amended the Indian Act, making it easier for aboriginal leaders to lease out land for economic development without consulting band residents and have proposed a bill that would give Ottawa more control over band elections.
There is ongoing frustration over the lack of an inquiry into the more than 600 aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing in this country over the past two decades and why 50 per cent of violent crimes against aboriginals go unprosecuted, twice the rate of the general population.
Even the program used to compile the data, Sister in Spirit, lost its funding under the Conservatives.
There is a spiritual aspect to this movement.
Friday's noon event in Saskatoon at the Vimy Memorial is billed as a day of "spiritual awakening" and will feature a community round dance, a water ceremony and several speakers. Organizers are expecting hundreds of people to participate.
The spiritual aspect of the movement is just as important as the political message, Gordon said.
"We can't just focus on one thing," she said. "Friday is based at the spiritual level to assert our indigenous nationhood with everybody beating their drums as one."
Central to the movement is the two-week hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation -- yes, the same reserve where awful housing conditions shocked all of Canada last year and which has proven to be a bellweather for the incompetent management and finger-pointing of the Harper Cons.
Chief Spence wants something very simple -- a meeting with Stephen Harper.
Will the kitten whisperer step up and show some leadership here?  Will the Governor-General?
Or are Harper and his PMO brain trust so small-minded that they will see this as just another political pissing contest which they can blithely ignore?   Personally, I'm not optimistic.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Unbearably stupid

Neil Macdonald has a slightly different take on the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre:
Yet another "national discussion" about guns is under way here, and it's so anti-rational, so politically cowardly, so …unbearably stupid that you have to wonder how a nation that has enlightened the world in so many other ways could wallow in this kind of delusion.
Twenty children are dead, and journalists and politicians have assumed those breathy, semi-hushed tones that have become so much the norm in covering tragedies.
Everywhere, there is talk about "the grieving process," with pious asides thrown in about the need to "go home and hug your children," or pray.
As if that is going to accomplish anything.
The American audience is a giant emotional sponge looking for distraction from its collective gun craziness, and the media obliges, broadcasting endless montages of victims, with sombre, hymnal piano music playing underneath.
After the state medical examiner had finished talking about multiple bullet wounds in each young victim, all inflicted by the same Bushmaster rifle, one reporter asked the man to talk about how much he'd cried — "personally" — while performing the autopsies.
To repeat: the 20-year-old shooter used a Bushmaster .223 assault rifle, a commercial model of the military M-16, and the reporter wanted to talk about crying.
He's fed up with the stupid, and the rest of the world agrees.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I'm no lawyer but it strikes me as somewhat stupid to start some complicated legal maneuvers so that maybe some judge will issue an order that will somehow force the NHL to abandon the lock-out. I expect the judges will say fuhgeddaboutdit, you're not going to emboil us in your power play here.
Why don't Bettman and Fehr just have a shootout, first one to make five goals wins?

Will anything be done?

I doubt it.
As the The Hartford Courant says:
The National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists can take great pride; they've brought gun ownership within reach of every psycho and wing nut with a crazed rage to kill.
But when the head of an organization called Gun Owners of America can tweet "Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands" and mean it, then we are all living in Bizarro World.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I just deleted more than 3,900 spam comments from the last several months -- I didn't realize I should have been doing this all along.
Anyway, I know its a pain, but I am going to try to use the word verification tool to prevent spammers from posting as much. Hope it will work.

Idle no more

First Nations say omnibus bill violates treaty rights
200 in Calgary
As part of the Idle No More, National Day of Solidarity, Saskatoon supporters united and marched from the Rainbow Center on 20th St. W. to Kelly Block's constituency office on 22nd St. W. They blocked off roadway on their way throughout the noon hour, continuing up Idylwyld Drive and briefly blockading that main artery.
500 in Saskatoon  Video here.

Hundreds of First Nations people across the country protested the latest omnibus bill yesterday. Yes, they knew it likely wasn't going to change the minds of any of the Harper Cons, but they did it anyway:
"There’s not a lot we can do about it other than raise our voices, raise our drums"
Yesterday was billed as a National Day of Action and Solidarity, the first of the Idle No More protests.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

They died because they were women.

Jonathan Kay, and dozens of his yahoo commenters, can whine to their heart's content about the unfairness of the Montreal Massacre, and they can complain about how Judy Rebick hurts their delicate fee-fees, and they can talk like men are the real victims here.
And they can compare us uppity, angry, ball-busting Canadian feminists to those quiet, well-behaved, non-confrontational, forgiving Amish who would never dream of upsetting nice Canadian men by demanding they do some soul-searching about sexism and misogyny and gun control.
But all their strum und dang will never change this one simple basic fact -- one cold December evening 23 years ago, madman Mark Lepine got himself some guns and killed 14 engineering students because they were women.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Call me maybe

I just got a new phone from Rogers -- a samsung galaxy Q with a little slide-out keyboard so I can finally send text messages and all that.
It's my first smart phone! hooray
And the instruction manual is 182 pages long! boooo
Maybe in a month or two I'll have figured out how to use it.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Stupid headline tricks

The winner of this week's Stupid Headline Tricks award is the Globe and Mail: "They love him. They really love him: Why Rob Ford can win again in Toronto".
I don't think so, Tim.
The story quote an Angus Reid poll showing that out of ten people who voted for Ford two years ago, only six would again. In total, 27 per cent would vote for Ford and two-thirds would not.
That's not enough love. G&M.
But at least those 27 per cent Ford voters show that Toronto qualifies for The Crazification Factor too.