Thursday, July 27, 2006

Federal debt: facts and figures...

I’m surprised to see, looking at the Ministry of Finance’s website, that we’re still paying down the federal debt.  I would have thought Harper’s GST cut and rising expenditures would have put the brakes on that.  It’s an interesting picture.  Most of the figures are projections, of course…

Revenues: $211.9B
Expenses: $210.5B
Debt reduction: $1.5B
Federal debt: $494.4B
GDP: $1,290B
Debt as % of GDP: 38.3

Revenues: $220.9B
Expenses: $212.9B
Debt reduction: $8B
Federal debt: $486.4B
GDP: $1,369B
Debt as % of GDP: 35.5

Revenues: $227.1B
Expenses: $223.6B
Debt reduction: $3B
Federal debt: $483.4B
GDP: $1,451B
Debt as % of GDP: 33.3

Revenues: $235.8B
Expenses: $231.4B
Debt reduction: $3B
Federal debt: $480.4B
GDP: $1,517B
Debt as % of GDP: 31.7

Some of this, like the annual GDP figures, may be wishful thinking.  But still, what’s important to me is that we keep chipping away at the federal debt.  Not to be smug, merely watchful, I have to remark that I find it a refreshing change from the Canada I knew growing up, and the alarming tendency in the United States right now; may Harper have the good sense not to jump on that bandwagon.


It’s interesting to read this morning that Harper has, after all, been flushed from cover, and is asking Israel for an explanation for the death of a Canadian major attached to the UN, rather than, as he has formerly, sweeping broken Canadian bones under the carpet.  The editor of The Globe and Mail has the temerity, however, to remind us to “Remember who is to blame” in today’s editorial.  Yes, let’s shall… with regard to this issue… who bombed the UN?  Hezbollah, or Israel?  Who, a fortnight ago, murdered a family of eight Canadian civilians nearly a hundred miles from the border where Hezbollah is operating — Hezbollah or Isreal?  For the editor of the Globe to state flatly that “Israel is doing its best not to kill civilians” is hogwash of the first order; clearly, at the moment, Israel could hardly care less who it bombs to burgers — one is forced to wonder if the editor of the Globe has even been reading his own paper lately.  We would do well not to take sides, but remain steadfast in our calls for a ceasefire.

I noticed this morning as well that the latest ship hired by Canada to haul our citizens our of Lebanon has left port with 49 Canadians aboard, out of a complement of several hundred people.  The balance?  Some Australians, but mostly, Americans.  Nothing wrong with this; I’m not complaining.  I simply make note of it for… shall we say… future reference.

Back to Harper.  Apparently he’s been opining in London on the glories of being a part of the British Empire.  While I’m proud of my personal and national heritage, I think it bodes ill for him to do this.  First of all, it doesn’t play well in Quebec… especially when he puts the survival of the French language and culture down to British largesse.  True, the British might easily have been more draconian about such things.  But the French culture survived first and foremost because French Canadians kept it alive, in spite of floating in an ever-growing continental sea of Anglo-Saxon voices and habits.  Secondly, not everyone in the Empire had the happy ride we had, and even though Harper acknowledges that, it’s still bound to rankle.  Finally, there’s the implication that Canada should abandon its own judgment and just go along with the happy gang of Anglosphere nations; just one more Merry Man in the band of some latter-day Robin Hood — completely ignoring that fact that such nations are, in fact, the rich who steal from the poor, and the Sheriff of Nottingham rolled into one — when evocations to “our traditional allies” (a phrase you will find glibly offered in the movie 1984) are steamed into the air.  Bluntly: we’re not part of an empire anymore.  We have our own choices to make.  They should be the right choices, not the expedient choices.  We should cooperate with the Anglosphere only insofar as it is right to do so, not to cynically maintain hegemony at the expense of the legitimate aspirations of others.    

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Selective remorse

So I see this morning that, to quote MSNBC, "Israel expresses 'deep regret' after U.N. strike". Four UN workers were killed by Israeli forces... and gosh darn it, they're sorry. Of course, they're not sorry at all for the hundreds of guiltless Lebanese civilians their army and air force have murdered. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Aw, who am I kidding? Clearly the policy of the government of Israel is "some people are more animals than others".

One of these UN workers was a Canadian. Yet again, Israel's so-called attempts to rein in Hezballah, really nothing more than opening up a can o' whoopass on yet another Arab population that can't defend itself, is so shabbily slipshod in its controls as to murder one of our citizens -- and this one an aid worker! But sure as God made little green idiots, Harper's bound to show up on TV and grunt out an absolution. Aw, shucks, Mr. Olmert... he was just a Canadian.

And speaking of Mr. Olmert, he expresses "deep sorrow" and is "awaiting the investigations." Hey, let me save you some money, Ehud. Here's your investigation in a nutshell: your armed forces are 'engaging Hezballah' with all the finesse of a Sardi's busboy clearing tables with a bazooka. That's why you're killing children, foreign visitors, and UN workers. Because really, you don't give a good goddamn. You're engaged in nothing but a colossal dick-swinging display, and you couldn't care less whose cheek gets smacked or how hard. Why do you pretend to be embarrassed to be 'caught' with your pants down?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Question to Mac enthusiasts...

I was just curious... have you seen the new Mac ads yet? You know, the ones where the Mac is represented by the skinny 20-something guy who needs a shave, and the PC by the chubby 30-something business drone? You know... "Hi, I'm a Mac, I do fun stuff like create websites and videos..." "Hi, I'm a PC, I do fun stuff like spreadsheets and print pie charts in greyscale..." Those ones.

So, tell me... do you feel at all insulted that Apple apparently believes you're so stupid you still think it's 1985? Just wonderin'...

Monday, July 24, 2006


I was watching the news last night. Two (more) Canadian soldiers have been killed, needlessly, in Afghanistan. That's bad enough, but it's not what I'm writing about right now.

In the course of the item, a soldier was interviewed, and he referred to the suicide bomber who killed our soldiers as "cowardly". I've had enough of this.

You know who some people have been touting as a Canadian hero lately? Some crack sniper in the Princess Pats. So Canada's supposed hero is a guy who hides in the rocks, or sits in a cave, or skulks in bushes in camo, looks down a telescopic sight at people upwards of a mile away — people who aren't even aware of their presence — and, with no risk to himself whatsoever, bravely squeezes the trigger. Tell me honestly... does that make you think of Superman? It makes me think of Charles Whitman.

Other "brave" people are the ones in body armour who roll into mud-brick villages in personnel carriers, brandishing automatic weapons. Or who sit in helicopters and fire at blobs of heat seen through night vision goggles. Or soar over a city at twice the speed of sound in radar-invisible jets and bomb apartment buildings before flying home to supper with their own well-scrubbed, pleasantly-plump families. Yes, these relative untouchables are our heroes. The brave ones.

The "cowards", on the other hand, say good-bye to their families, friends, homes, everything they love, knowing they will not come back; they strap on the instruments of their own demise and with the last act of will in this world, carry their struggle to the enemy by the only means available to them... a billionaire enemy who comes in planes, helicopters, armoured vehicles and armoured bodies, who have volunteered to bring murder and death to someone else's land, devastate someone else's home, rather than protecting their own, which is a soldier's real job.

I'm not asking anyone to love suicide bombers. But let's have done with throwing this "cowardly" shit around. More of it's sticking to our hands than their faces.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who Killed the Electric Car?

It's been that kind of a summer. A summer full of environmental movies. Recently I saw An Inconvenient Truth. Yesterday I saw Who Killed the Electric Car?. The story of the EV-1, the movie explains the history of the car, the motives behind it, and its eventual demise. The finger for its demise is pointed a number of suspects: consumers who want big cars with long ranges; oil companies who want to control access to the fuels we use in automobiles and hence the profits; carmakers who don't want to be told by governments what kind cars to build; and government agencies who don't have the courage to lead or are hand-in-glove with the big carmakers and the oil companies.

The movie points out that big advances have been made in the science of electricity storage. Meanwhile, the technology that I confess I had been so hopeful for for so long, hydrogen fuel cells, is demonstrated to still be a long way off. There are problems with making it economical, placing the infrastructure to deliver hydrogen fuel to automobiles, and then of course, there's the problem of getting people to adopt the technology in the first place, which as the EV-1 demonstrated, is no mean feat. It's easy to see why the automobile manufacturers would be backing hydrogen fuel technology: it's going to take years to realize, which is just that much longer for them not to have to make any real changes; and for the oil manufacturers, it represents a fuel that they can still hold over our heads, something not readily available to the average person... unlike electricity, which comes directly to our homes through the electrical grid that has existed for a century.

But then, is electricity such a bargain in the first place? The movie doesn't directly addresses this with facts and figures. But I have to suspect, at least is an unqualified layman, that all things considered, it must take less electricity to get an electable car from point A to point B, than it takes to bring the oil out of the ground, transport it to a refinery, refine the oil, and deliver the gasoline to gas stations. I think on the whole, we come out ahead just using electrical cars.

All things considered, I will be keeping an eye out for a viable electrical car in the future. The movie made the point that the average car travels 29 miles in a day. The range of the EV-1 is in the neighborhood of about 100 miles a day, which would suit the needs of most people. It's also capable of traveling at 90 miles an hour, which is more than adequate for most driving needs. I think we all owe it to posterity to consider this alternative... if only it will be presented to us. The big car manufacturers are wrong in saying that there's no demand for this. That they do not want there to be demand for such cars is not the same thing as there being no demand for these cars; they just need to listen, rather than tell.


Just as an aside, this is a very first entry in my blog that I've actually dictated with my voice, using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 8. I'm in love with the sound of my own voice. :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Attempts (at voice recognition or poetry or both)

I'm training a piece of voice recognition software. It surprises me just how adept it is... and yet how often it'll get really tricky passages right while occasionally tripping up on the mundane. Anyway, to help it get accustomed to how I speak, I've been reading from handwritten poems I wrote in high school or first year university, in 1986, 1987, and 1988. I still have reams of this stuff... two binders full. Probably a thousand poems, and most of them are pretentious and wincingly bad (though I think I knew that at the time; it was all just practice and I wrote down whatever occurred to me). But every now and then there's one that might not be a gem, but has a turn of phrase or illustration in it that pleases me, and those are the ones I've transcribed. Since I'm doing this anyway, I thought I'd share what I have so far. Make of 'em what you will. :)


Standing in the rain
In the tiny island's sand
Praying for rescue

Unfinished Business II

Things left unsaid
Things left undone
Propose an answer
I watch the sky at work
The sun sets
-----where were you when I needed you
-----burying my days with spite and loneliness
I look in your eyes...
I see unfinished business.

By Scent

girl walks by
-----heady sheet of sweet
-----perfumed air
-----pressed hard
-----against the windborne flakes
----------of snow

like a million
scented love letters


There’s a frost that stills the morning air
When the sky shakes hands with the dead
Remember that moon that stood pale in midmorning
And then disappeared when it thought no one was watching
The songs of the ages ring in the years
Against the background noise of autumn

I am hidden in the frost
It blinds me
I lie in the grass and no one sees me
The sun affords me no warmth
And the fields about me don't steam
The cars hum along the highway
People inside with places to go and things to do
While I walk the farms
And watch the moon
And sometimes shake hands with the sky.

The country air was sweet, perched on summer's edge
She would lie in bed, not really asleep
No naked wonders in December
But as June dies she mulls it over in her mind
By day those eyes were pale blue and lined with violent
Now the tiny openings have fallen into empty pits
-----that plunge forever, boring into her thoughts
The ivy that covers the moldy wood
Can make a house a home
With trees for walls
She stirs; dark and lithe against the moonlight,
-----she crosses the floor, tiptoe quiet
The cool evening air gently clothes her and
It’s down the stairs with quiet footfalls

As Seen Through Fear

The fear was locked in her eyes
Like a ghost trapped in a crystal
Haunting her every thought
She saw the sun come up
And dance six-pointed on the dewy leaves
But the fear made it ugly
And she hid behind a windowpane
With edges to cut her soul
Her mind lies bleeding on the sidewalk
And she cannot retrieve it.

Ode to Glory Days

Glory days
You greet the dawn
With no thought to the number left to see
There are no limits in those
Glory days

Glory days, they call them
Because that's how they remember them
But they're just days
They come and go, usually without remark

Glory days fall
And merge, indistinguishable, with the rest of time
Like rain drops in a puddle
Glory days are just the water that turns the dirt into mud

Glory days are snowflakes that fall into one's palm
And melt, with the heat of time, to nothing but bitter rain.
Rain that runs and falls away,
Laughing as it escapes
And all that remains is a memory of brief beauty
Now lost to a world of tedium, mediocrity, and ugliness.

Glory days.

In my mind I hold
A calm black pool
With a floor of smooth granite
And a beach of brown pine needles

Tall balsams
They are my brothers
As they lay down their shadows to blanket me
And stand in a mighty ring around me
Bodyguards who only ask a share of the sky


Kites above the field
There is a score to keep against the wind and trees
By running you keep it aloft
The problems of flight vanish into
The naïve clouds
Stop and it crashes
Only the broken bones are left

What pride we took
On the hill above the school
Such triumph over such torment
Friday afternoons were holy
Falls and spills
Crashes, tangles
So many lost kites and hill climbs

Rain pisses down on kites
Kites are afraid to soar at night
Conditions must be optimum
Skinned knees and broken dreams

8:16 a.m.

cold morning in late spring
mellow sunrise
cold building-shadows
glistening dewdrop harvest on a spider web.


Glow of sunrise
I hear the sea call me from the beach
Smell its perfume as it fans the breeze
Down the cliff stairs
To cool Atlantic joy

Blaze of afternoon
The sand bars are stranded for miles
Stains on the sand that were jellyfish
Burning footprints;
Longing for the feel
Of cool green grass
Climbing the cliff stairs
From stark Northumberland desert

Visions of Blindness

My dad used to smoke
While the Catholics held Mass
Because the incense irritated him

And while the clouds melted in the heat
The ice cubes talked through chattering teeth
Noble sentiments on the nature of God
And the freezer light went off and they slept

The moon howled at the dogs in the parking lot
But nobody noticed
They were too engrossed in the executions on TV
The condemned pleaded with the screens
But my dad just laughed
And lit in incense stick.

Summer Tragedy

he raises his hands to his eyes
and cries
lamenting the death
of a dropped ice cream cone.

Identity Crisis

I stepped out of the house without my wallet this morning
leaving my identity
on top of my dresser

Buttercup Doom

the buttercups lie
in fear of the cow
they cannot hide
when she comes grazing
the bees dance with them
with little time left:
the bees dance quickly
then kiss them good-bye

(This one reminds me of Jody, who died of cancer at 26 in June, 2004)

Running Wild (version 2)

In my mind are sunny days
Of empty streets
Where we do the most animal things
In store windows.

New Regimes

"There’s work to be done,"
he said
and I was
under a mushroom cloud
Perhaps I'll tan
if not:
are the perfect


just by saying
"shit disturber",
you showed what a
shit disturber
you are


Into the woods
Without a map
I went that day

Windbreaker flagging around my body
The floor clammy
Climbing over the sharp cold rocks
Lying on the soft wet boulders
Rubbing my toes aching in the chill

Then I saw it

Horror in the vision
Of a dead raccoon
Being eaten from within
The maggots crawling

And I spent the whole
Cold wet day
At the dead thing
Full of life

Watching the Tickle

He parks her
Against the lockers
She smiles
Squinting jealously,
I watch her hand go
To his chin

I see them in my
Casual mind
On the chesterfield
Watching everything they do
Chewing nails

They will
Make some beer
Drink some love
And be touched
And they discuss the pile of clothes:
-----What color?
-----I had a
-----pair like that

I watch them melt into one another
Without form
I will bite my lip and turn away
-----The bell rings --
-----dressed, they kiss and part.


I sat and watched the girl
Who stood, shouting to the chipmunks,
"Puff up your tails!"
(She wanted squirrels.)

On the Road

Headlights on the road
Have tired his eyes
Like boatmen pulling oars

The car needs gas
So he pulls into
A motel
Cheap little restaurant
Mousehole rooms
Indistinguishable from a thousand others

The waitress is keen to take his order
Her voice
Sweet and syrupy
Like flat Coke
He’d do anything
To talk longer

He sits in the dingy motel room
Thinks of the thousand or so occupants it's housed
The cheap affairs it's facilitated
Even though the Gideons
Took such care...

He picks up the phone
Then thinks better of it

Returns to the staleness of seclusion.


Regimental flavors
And colors
Are rolling past your window:
I stand outside
In the gray
And listen:
Do you sing while you work?
Do you hum to the things it to shove summarily
-----into the oven?

In the gray I stand shivering
The grass is cold and tickles my ankles
No covering is warming
I've sat here in the fall before
My skin damp, and damp inside
With my soul clammy as my seat
And I stared at the glow of your window
Not even seeing me, you
Closed the window
And shut the heat in.

Beyond the Forest Floor

High in the tree he observes away
The wind shakes hands with the leaves
And he talks to himself

The stellar metropolis
Stares down, full of pity
For the broken neck
And the timeless waiting

The Final Threshold

I'll really believe
Our attitude’s changed
When I see humans
In my animal crackers


Oh, he was alive
-----he lived!
But life made his tears flow
-----and then his spirit rusted

Relative Motion and Life's Choreography

Here is what you were talking about
When you laughed at him as the warm rain fell
And drenched our shoulders as we watched him slink away
Here is what you told me you dreamt of
As the puddles merged
And rivers of mud flowed beside the curbs
Here is what you were hoping to find
As the ground welled up water around our feet
As we stood beside a dead oak
That climbed living into the sky for centuries
And now cared nothing
For immortal suns
And mayflies that talked and dreamed and hoped.

The Wind, the Sky, and the Ceiling Gray

A cold agony kept pace with the breeze
Keeping the temper of the waves leashed
Nothing to take hold of
Hair spirals to the gray ceiling
The dew is sprayed across the shins
And the ground has whips
Towering with destination into the northeast
Beating the warm blood from
The heart's core

There are ships with sails
They’re white sails
They don't match the horizon
Darkness surrounds them
And the wind can keep the full
But not clean

Congealing stagnant lust in an inland marsh
Feet in the grass will seek solace in its warm water
There are no rainbows as the droplets fall
Rippling tidal pools in the rocks
There are no partners to share this with
As it all comes bounding out of the world.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Laura K.'s blog, We Move to Canada, is the reason I'm here in the blogosphere myself. I started reading it in May of 2005, and found it so compelling, I wanted to participate. In having a blog ID, I figured I might as well have a blog.

Laura and SO Allan moved to Canada in August last year. Not too long ago, they had a get-together at their home in Port Credit (central lakeshore of Mississauga, west of Toronto). I didn't attend because by nature, I'm not big on crowds of people I don't know. But Laura and Allan were kind enough to extend an invitation to me to visit them, and last night, I dropped in.

The end of Elmwood Avenue

The neighbourhood in which they now make their home is idyllic, to my mind. Their street is short, relatively free of traffic, and dead-ends in a pretty little treed parkette right at the water's edge, where the water slaps enthusiastically against the stonework retaining walls as if the lake itself were trying to jump up and have a look around.

The Lake jumps up to look around

Home in Port Credit

Their house is set on a large lot with a breathtaking backyard of generous depth, a wonderland of grass in summer and the promise of snowy romps in winter. When they showed me around their home, which I was informed was built in the 1950s, I was impressed by how different the building standards have become since then. Their home is cozy, compactly laid out without being cramped; its design is sensible, and gives one the glorious impression of being twice the size inside as it appears on the outside... a residential TARDIS at rest in suburban Toronto. Having spent most of my life in homes built on more "modern" sensibilities, it occurred to me that homes back then were built with human beings in mind, rather than abstract aesthetics. By this I mean, each home was an individual craftwork, a statement of need, practicality, and utility; designed according to the needs of a person, his/her family, and their human activities. You have three kids? You need this many rooms, this many wash spaces, this much storage, these places to sit, talk, eat, play. A house then was designed around a family, for a family, like a suit of clothes tailored to the man, rather than something loose and vaguely sloppy, the one-size-fits-all (and-then-some) of today's tract monsters. It had genuine, warm appeal, and had I been a child in the 1950s, it's the kind of place I would have liked to have grown up.

Port Credit back yard

I was made to feel immediately at my ease, which is rare for me. We slipped into conversation as easily as old friends picking up an acquaintance after a gap of a month or two. I suppose this is partly attributable to our interactions online, but a lot of it is due to the nature of Laura's and Allan's personalities. They were open, kind, and made me feel they genuinely pleased to see me. We sat in the back yard and chatted over wine, one interesting topic, one new intriguing fact or commonality after another, as easy and fun as rolling down a hillside. I was fed on corn on the cob, gazpacho, thick steak and sweet strawberries, and when at last the light faded, we continued in their sitting room. Photographs and maps were shown, atlases opened, the peculiarities of the border discussed. My stay lasted till after midnight, but never once was I made to feel I ought to leave; it's nice when a guest has the opportunity to relieve his hosts of their obligations while he still feels welcome.

I've always enjoyed sharing company with Laura and Allan (et al., of course) on WMTC. But I drove home convinced it's even better to share their company in person, and I hope I'll have the opportunity to do so again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Prime Minister: It's okay to kill Canadians

Can you believe it?

Stephen Harper is so gutless, he's utterly let Israel off the hook for the wanton state murder of a Canadian family, including four children, in Lebanon. Our prime minister has just stood up in front of the whole world and declared open season on Canadian citizens abroad. That's right. He has essentially told the world that any sovereign state can pursue any thoughtless, heinous, murderous military course it chooses in a third country and murder whatever Canadians happen to be there, the Canadian government will not lift a finger in protest. A shrug, a wink, and an "aw, shucks".

This man is a disgusting excuse for a national leader. Not only will he not defend innocent civilians in general, he will not even stand up for the rights, the very lives, of the citizens of his own country. My God, I have more respect for Brian Mulroney: I would not have believed it of him.

For God's sake, Harper, grow a pair! Just a small pair! Grow just ONE! Hell, strap on a fake pair, whatever it takes! Recall our ambassador from Tel Aviv. Get your face in front of the cameras and say "This reckless, inhumane disregard for civilian life must stop. Israel's right to defend itself does not extend to murdering innocent Lebanese civilians, much less foreign visitors from around the world. Until Israel rejoins the family of civilized nations, there can be no diplomatic or economic relations between it and Canada." Storm off in a hail of camera flashes. DO THE RIGHT THING.

Say what you want about George Bush. I have a hard time imagining him standing up in front of the world and saying, "You wanna kill families from Des Moines and Texarkana and Portland, you go right ahead!"

Do your goddamn duty, Harper, or get out of the way for someone willing to.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A few footprints on Passmore Avenue

I was at loose ends this weekend, and at one point decided just to drive out to Rouge Park at the far upper east end of Scarborough to see what I could see. I hadn't done anything with my infrared camera for several weeks, so I decided to bring it with me, along with my standard S80.

At one point, I passed a little stump of a street I remembered from the map. It was called Passmore Avenue. I decided to drive down it and see it if emptied onto one of the little streams. The ironic thing was, I didn't realize I was actually fulfilling an old goal of mine from pouring over my old maps, which show, at very stages of completion, Passmore Avenue's course. At one time, it ran almost completely across the entirety of Scarborough, about a half a kilometre south of Steeles Avenue, parallel to it. In fact, a map book produced by Metro Toronto in about 1970 shows Passmore as complete across the city, except for one gap where it does not cross the concession cut by the Little Rouge River. Otherwise, it spanned Scarborough... at least according to that map. It's my intention to check that with the aerial photos at the City Archives... stay tuned, if you care.

Today, Passmore Avenue is largely erased, from the maps, from the land. It still exists as a few discontinuous segments, and as part of other streets that have assumed parts of its course. Large stretches where it once was, at least on the map, are now empty. As I took these photos, I hadn't made the mental connection yet. It wasn't till I was on my way home, coming down Pharmacy Avenue and passing Gordon Baker Road and Glendinning Avenue, and a noticed a store with the name "Passmore Variety" (or some such) on the Glendinning side. That's when it struck me... Gordon Baker and Glendinning were once part of Passmore Avenue... the same street you'll see below, but at the other extreme of Scarborough.

But as I began my trip, still ignorant of what I was actually exploring, I parked just past a few rural homes, and stepped out onto a part of the road that is no longer really amenable to traffic...

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 03

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 04

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 06

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 07

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 09

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 11

Infrared vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 12

Vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 02

Vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 03

Vision, Passmore Avenue (abandoned), 04

City In the Cedar Trees

And so it has come to this. Israel, in its arrogance, has blindly cast a punitive net so wide, so inhumanely indiscriminate, as to murder a family of visiting Canadians who could not possibly have had the slightest connection to the struggle with Palestinian guerrillas. This is not to forget the attack on thousands and thousands of ordinary people in Lebanon who, whether there may or may not be love lost between them and Israel, have never themselves lifted a finger to do it harm. And yet, Israel takes a page from history, reads it backwards, and creates of Beirut its own Lidice and Ležáky, effectively elevating their own captured soldiers to the role of spiritual heirs of Nazi overlord Reinhard Heydrich, for whose death those two Czech villages were slaughtered. But isn’t this the sort of vicious, callous, arbitrary murder which reputedly characterizes “the terrorists” and marks them as “different” from “civilized” nations (24 Canadians died on 9/11, after all...)? If so, then why are seven innocent Canadian tourists (not to mention hundreds of Lebanese civilians) dead at the hands of a supposedly civilized nation, which they never did harm, and who had no control whatsoever over those who did?

Congratulations, Israel. Your transformation is complete. You have become what you beheld, and you are despicable.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Some (Dis)Enchanted Evening

Let me start off by saying: it's 2006, folks. Debit card payment has been facilitated in Canada for ten years now. If you're not on Interac yet, get on. If you take credit cards, you have no excuse not to take direct payments.

Every so often I end up in a bar or a restaurant that doesn't have Interac. It's not that common anymore, but it's still common enough to be a pain in the ass. I'm not in the habit of carrying cash around. Cash gets lost. Cash gets stolen. But if I lose my bank card, the odds that anyone's going to guess my pin number and clean me out before I can call my bank are slim to nil. I've lost $20 bills any number of times in my life, but I've never lost my bank card. It's how I pay for things.

This weekend, a buddy and I went to a great-looking bar in the east end. It's one he's wanted to go to for a while, and pointed out to me recently. I suggested going downtown to see The Road to Guantanamo and then patronizing the place afterwards. It's a five-storey building with roof access, and we were keen to hoist a brew or two in the sunset... a rare enough privilege in a country with this climate.

First of all, we couldn't get to the roof. It was full. But we were told there'd be a short wait. In the meantime, we sat on the patio and placed our order: a pitcher, and I decided to eat while I was there... they offered an inexpensive plate of curried chicken, so I opted for that. Before we'd finished half a pint, the seater came and told us something had opened up on the roof. But we'd have to pay our bill first. Okay, here's an aside. Folks, again, it's 2006. Moving people from a waiting area to a dining area is hardly the new style. If your table managing software is so DOS-era that it can't transfer a running tab from table A7 to table C23, then wiggle it on down to Radio Shack and spend $200 to get some that goddamn can.

But anyway, this is where the fun began. First of all, it took our waitress about 20 minutes and three requests by the seater to finally show up with the bill we shouldn't have had to pay yet in the first place, leaving us hostage and unable to move upstairs [note to the waitress: did the tip seem a little light? Yeah, now you know why]. Then when we did get it, since my friend wasn't planning on eating yet, but we were likely to order another pitcher, I said I'd take care of the bill. Brought it to the waitress. I said, "I'd like to use Interac to pay this."

"Oh, I don't have Interac."

"You don't?"

"No, but I do have an ATM just over there..."

"...Uh huh. And what does it charge for withdrawals?"

"Two dollars, I think."

"Uh huh. Two bucks, huh?"

Okay. This sticks in my craw. Big time. First of all, it's two bucks just to get your own fucking money. Secondly, my own bank looks at this and goes, "Ah ha, this is warrants a service charge! $1.50!" So in the end, I'm out $3.50 just to settle up. THAT'S FUCKING BULLSHIT. Folks, I'm doing YOU the favour when I walk into your bar (as opposed to his bar, her bar, that guy's bar). And you're going to charge me a fee for the privilege of paying my bill and giving your staff a tip?? Don't shit me; you and the ATM company split that $2, and then my bank bends me over the ATM and gets sloppy seconds on top of it. I don't know what it costs a bar per customer to have Interac on site, but I'm sure it's not three dollars and fifty cents! If it's more than a quarter, I'd be surprised. Fine, you want to add a quarter to my bill, I can live with that. Two bucks? Kiss my Royal Canadian ass. Besides, with Interac, you've got the money. Now. Instantly. You're earning interest on it before the door hits me in the fanny on the way out. You don't have to roll it, you don't have to count it, you don't have to pay Brinks to swing by and put it on a big truck. So what's the big problem with you luddites who won't install Interac?

Nice bar. Poor service. Insulting customer relations. Don't expect to see me back.

Pearl Harbor II: stupid ideas from clever people

The buzz is that Japan is considering a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. Pardon me, but isn't that what they did in 1941? At least this time they've had the courtesy to float the idea in public.

Kim Il-Jung is a whack job by just about anyone's estimation. But let's put things in perspective here. All North Korea's done is test the military capacity of some of its boosters. Yeah, they have a point to make, sure. But isn't that the idea whenever a country tests a new weapons system? It seems to me the idea is, universally, to tell everyone else "this is what I can do, don't mess with me". North Korea didn't attack Japan, didn't kill a single Japanese soldier or civilian. The response of the Japanese to do just that to Koreans is utterly indefensible — particularly considering their recent history (more on this in a moment). If demonstrating offensive military capacity is all the excuse you need to actually attack someone, then perhaps the Chinese ought to simply nuke the US carrier groups currently (or at least recently) on maneuvers just outside their territorial limits, and we can get the whole silly era of human stewardship of this planet over with and let the rats have their turn.

Facetious commentary aside, for Japan to attack North Korea would be a vastly stupid undertaking. South Korea is currently seeking reconciliation with the North — if not actual reunification, then at least the normalization of relations and the ability to move goods and maybe even people back and forth without too much trouble. This has already strained South Korea's relations with the United States. Moreover, South Koreans take an increasingly dim view of the ever-tightening relationship between the US and Japan. Given the suffering Koreans enduring under the Japanese within living memory, anything that smacks of the return of a militaristic Japan must be greeted with the most extreme froideur imaginable. And not just by Koreans. The Chinese, too, have horror stories of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Lest we forget (and clearly, the Chinese and Koreans never have), Japan has never apologized for those attrocities, or offered compensation, or even publically acknowledged they took place... to the point of ignoring them in the histories they teach their children. Little wonder young Japanese, with a clean, guilt-free past, can envision a militarily forward Japan in a way young Germans cannot of their own country. And so for Japan to attack North Korea would be the height of short-sighted stupidity, transferring at a stroke the role of Asia's pariah nation from North Korea to Japan. The military ramifications for a China and Korean peninsula given bloody demonstration of Japan's recidivism are frightening to contemplate.

One wonders if there will be "comfort women" this time.