Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Sweet Smell of City Crotch

Looks like Toronto's slated for its tri-annual garbage strike. It's been too long! Nothing like the perfect storm of a heatwave smogfest garbagestrike. Bring on the stench, baby. Chinatown's calculation shall be as follows: high population density + highest density of restaurants in town = whoa! I biked through Chinatown during the '02 strike and I still can't breathe properly.

Anyhoo, for a really fun story click
  • here

  • In case you're hesitating, here's an excerpt of what you're missing:

    "The problem with consultants is they answer more questions than they ask. The consultants would have got it right if they'd, instead of consulting their charts, graphs, theories and matrices, had only asked one Ashfad Mersk about the time he joked with his friend Sulwood Kalev, "Imagine if we never had to hunt again, if only the animals would stay calm in our presence and we could have them all together, take our pick for the slaughter." The two men had laughed heartily at the absurd notion, but within the year an invading nation had introduced full-scale agriculture and, their hunting skills considered obsolete, they found themselves slaving the fields for an overseer, dusk till dawn, until their merciful deaths."

    I was reminded of that passage this morning while reading from a book, 'The Myth of Wild Africa', about conservation in Africa. The chapter I'm reading now is about Gabon and its cooperation with the European Community (EC), which in a 4-year span spent more on Western consultants' advice on conservation in Gabon than Gabon spent on actual conservation. According to the authors, "the only problem with [the consultants'] approach is that he didn't talk with anyone - not the villagers, not the local officials, not the central government." Interesting approach. Moron.


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    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    When the Bad gets Badder

    Leonard Cohen said this (among other things) just right:

    Looked through the paper.
    Makes you want to cry.
    Nobody cares if the people
    Live or die.

    Goddamn newspapers.

    Read an article today about Witchita Kansas serial killer called BTK for what he did to his 10 victims - Bind Torture Kill - over a 17 year period (1974-1991).

    What do you do with a guy like that, once you catch him? The prosecutors in this case are recommending a 175 year sentence. That's retarded on 2 levels: 1) He won't live another 50 years, and 2) There's an astronomical cost involved in incarcerating someone that long.

    A bullet to the head is a lot cheaper, but carries monumental moral quagmires. The 'people' are all left with blood-stained hands.

    We could study him scrutinously, see if we can figure out what makes him tick, maybe prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future. I used to be naive enough to believe that was the best option available in these serial killer cases. I've come to believe that as long as people can live in isolation, we can't know when they're up to such things until it's too late. The (godddamn) newspapers always go on about the most shocking thing being how ordinary and nondescript the killer looks. What do they expect? Hellboy? It's the very fact that they're nondescript that allows them to go unnoticed so long. That and the fact that the 'community' they're surrounded by is usually sprawling concrete nothingness, with other wankers and wannabes trolling around unaccountably, and perhaps blogging in their spare time. If there's no community there can be no community policing, no community security.

    I'm pretty sure sadists with the capacity to kill en masse have always been a part of our species. But only recently have we created a system in which they can get away with it, where we can't, or just don't, prevent it. We can shoot every mass murderer we find but it won't bring the victims back, and it won't prevent the next BTK to come along shocking no one but the journalists. Nor will studying them or locking them up. The prosecutors at the highest courts in our lands are smart cookies, because at least this last option puts an end to one person's grusome reign of terror. But if anyone has any ideas on how to bring community, and thus true human security, back, I'm all ears.


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    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    GOD (Galvanizing Ontological Dichotomies)

    Don't you hate it when groups create their name for the sole purpose of having a cool acronym? Anyway, I think I'm gonna quit all the shit I do and start my own organization, GOD, which stands for Galvanizing Ontological Dichotomies. This title won out over Spurring Argumentative Divisions (SAD).

    Here's GOD's mission statement:

    GOD's mission is to work with our partners in government, business, academia, and the nonprofit sector to galvanize mutually synergistic efforts to categorize wax-philosophies, and publish the black and white results in contradictory pop culture books to spur mass hysteria and wide public debate, the product of which will be the status quo.

    Pretty good eh? I feel that the chances of achieving this mission are very, very high.


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    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Ishtar Got Nuthin on You, Babe

    middle river's no place for you
    and no place for me to ask
    what a mortal like me can offer
    the goddess of love and war

    though my pockets are empty
    of whatever you need
    and your strength outweighs me
    your love is not destruction

    only the exiles of paradise
    could equate these things
    and miss more ancient wisdom
    that outdates Christ

    it must go back even further
    to when god and space were born
    you were right there with them
    saying love does not envy

    and war faught in love's name
    is war faught in false idolatry
    when my heart starts raging
    it's Ishtar spoiling your fruit

    you take my hand in your hand
    take my eyes in your eyes
    take my lips in your lips
    and reconcile all fury

    I don't know what it is
    to love beyond myself
    except that I have something
    something that you need

    and when my rage and false glory
    punches itself into submission
    i'll submit myself to you in shame
    because you heal my broken wounds

    you mend the ravages
    you take my hand in your hand
    you take my eyes in your eyes
    you kiss my lips with your lips

    and we both become stronger
    not for power hungry struggles
    not even to save the world
    but to love and live together

    two companions can prevail
    we choose reconciliation
    perpetual shared truth-speaking
    let the gods bring what they may

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    Monday, June 13, 2005

    In Praise of Four-Letter Words

    In case you're wondering, Ellen Bass is a poet who has a new book out called Mules of Love, who wrote this great poem:

    In Praise of Four-Letter Words
    by Ellen Bass

    We tell shit
    when the egg carton slips
    and the ivory globes
    splatter on blue tile.
    And when someone leaves you
    bruised as a dropped pear, you spit
    that fucker, fucking bastard, motherfucker.
    And if you just got fired, the puppy
    swallowed a two-inch nail, or
    your daughter needs another surgery,
    you might walk around murmuring
    under your breath like reciting a rosary.

    Cock and cunt--we spew them out
    as though they were offal,
    as though that vulnerable
    bare skin of the penis, that swaying it does
    like a slender reed in a pond, the vulva
    with its delicate mauve or taupe
    or cinnamon fluted petals were the worst
    things we know. You'd think we despise
    the way they slide together,
    can't bear all those nerves
    bunched up close as angels
    seething on the head of a pin.

    And suck, our yes
    to the universe, first hunger, whole
    mammalian tribe of damp newborns
    held in contempt for the urgent rooting,
    the nubbly feel of the nipple in the mouth,
    fine spray on the soft palate.

    What does it mean
    to bring another's body
    into our body, whether through our mouth
    or that other mouth--to be taken in?
    When life cracks us
    like a broken tooth,
    when it wears us down
    like the tread of old tires,
    when it creeps over us
    like shower mold, isn't this
    what we cry for?

    Maybe all that shouting
    is shouting to God, to the universe,
    to anyone who can hear us.
    In lockdown within our own skins,
    we're banging on the bars with tin spoons,
    screaming in the only language strong
    enough to convey the shock
    of our shameful need. Fuck! --
    we look around us in terrified amazement--
    Goddamn! Goddamn! Holy shit!

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    I Gilgamesh, You Bitch

    "Now that I'm 30, will I ever have another
    change of heart?" he wondered
    Will I ever change my point of view again
    will ever again I see anew the same thing
    from another angle or way of understanding?
    Or will I stubbornly hold to my view
    of the elephant's toe or the lion's mane
    like the guy at
    who is right in his riteousness and funny
    for his cruelty and destined to miss the gods
    that foray through his feet through the hypocrasy
    that goes on all around him
    Will everything I read and each new thing I see
    Will every experience that gives me more experience
    Just remind me of what I already know and reinforce
    the limited things that I think I believe?"

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    Friday, June 10, 2005

    this is the best part of the trip!

    I almost forgot the best part. After the craptastic Bran Van chick we caught the last song in the venue below, by an 8-person band that seemed to really rock. What was better than the song was the fact that we were standing right next to none other than K-Os, who I blogged about just yesterday! He's kinda short, and he's older than I thought (guess he's been at hiphop from the early days). He seemed to really be enjoying the show.


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    north by northeast

    That's the name of the indy rock festival that hits Toronto every June. This is the first year I've gone, and I'm enjoying it immensely so far. Last night we hit the famous El Mocambo and took in an Icelandic band that was clearly influenced by Sigur Ros (it must be hard to be a rock band from Iceland and not be) - they were fun and easy to listen to. Next it was Joe's for a renegade from Bran Van 3000, who was really dull and butchered 'Boys Don't Cry' by the Cure. Lastly, at the Bovine Sex Club, was a San Fransisco band called Flut, led by a screaming woman in a red dress who played a mean bass. On backup was by far the best drummer of the evening, and Lurch from the Adams Family on keyboards and trumpet (though not at the same time). They were loud, had bizarre lyrics, and were my favourite act of the night. Unfortunately C closed the night by buying a round of Jagermeister, uck.

    Also, as a prequel, my basketball team claimed 5th place in our league by absolutely destroying Team Individual. It's a small feat, but it was the largest margin of victory we've ever had (38-22), so it was a good way to end the season.


    ps. Beck's new album, Guero, rocks.

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    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    flipflops n summertunes

    Though cars are destroying our cities and the very air we breathe, I can think of at least one benefit to the beast: it's the best place to listen to music.

    Driving back from a meeting in Stouffville (small town about a 45 min. drive from my Toronto office) in a company big old 'mini'van, I listened to the latest K-Os disc. Man it's good! I've listened to it a few times now and loved it from the start, but there's nothing better than listening to a kickass new disc while stuck in slowburn traffic with the window down (further reducing fuel efficiency) on a sunnyhot day. Did I mention I'm a professional environmentalist? It's the professional that sinks the ship (after a few too many drinks usually). As soon as you start paying someone to do something and they take it up full-time, they start taking shortcuts and lose their passion.

    Speaking of flipflops, I'm thinking of signing that petition after a lot of good debate over a listserv I'm on for 'Smart Growth', which refers to the crazy concept of good urban planning, crucial in Toronto where the population is skyrocketing with new arrivals. How to meet everyone's needs now without sacrificing the future?

    A lot of new information has surfaced (to my eyes) about those bike lanes and the pesky trees reducing their width. Essentially, according to most of these listserv luddites, City Council cooked the deal and threw up the trees like a red herring - you'd puke too. It seems there may indeed have been far fewer trees at risk than our local rag reported, and that such risk was more the product of a road widening. At the same time, the road width has to be a certain minimum in order to be safe for buses. But the crux and crucifix of it is that the bike lane could have been included without any additional risk to the trees, but the ratepayers didn't want any more width to the road for damn bikes. The leftist City Councillors conceded, probably (in my guess) because they didn't expect to win any more concessions from the more conservative peeps in power, they figured a 1.25 metre bike lane is better than none, and this way the more conservative councillors owe a favour or two. It's nothing new, and I still see these particular City Councillors as allies, but I now understand why all the cyclist groups are angry. Still, not sure what a petition will accomplish.

    Better perhaps to continue working with the leftwingnuts who have some legitimate power to change car culture and start investing more in public transit. That's long-term thinking. So fuck it, I'm still not signing.


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    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Revenge of the Tools

    So I finished the Ronald Wright book, 'A Short History of Progress'. He did indeed talk about reducing consumption, but it was a decent conclusion. He, like Daniel Quinn, is asking for a change in vision. In Wright's case, a change from short-term to long-term vision. But, it's better than that, here [at the risk of spoiling it]:

    "The reform that is needed is not anti-capitalist, anti-American, or even deep environmentalism; it is simply the transition from short-term to long-term thinking. From recklessness and excess to moderation and the precautionary principle.

    "The great advantage we have, our best chance for avoiding the fate of past societies, is that we know about those past societies. We can see how and why they went wrong. Homo sapiens has the information to know itself for what it is: an Ice Age hunter only half-evolved towards intelligence; clever but seldom wise.

    "We are now at the stage when the Easter Islanders could still have halted the senseless cutting and carving, could have gathered the last trees' seeds to plant out of reach of the rats. We have the tools and the means to share resources, clean up pollution, dispense basic health care and birth control, set economic limits in line with natural ones. If we don['t do these things now, while we prosper, we will never be able to do them when times get hard. Our fate will twist our of our hands. And this new century will not grow very old before we enter an age of chaos and collapse that will dwarf all the dark ages in our past.

    "Now is our last chance to get the future right."

    Pretty good eh?

    So good it makes me want to read all the books in the bibliography. Clive Ponting's 'Green History of the World' is already on my shelf, neglected at page 115. Less readable, but more in depth. Another oldie but goodie.



    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Bandwagon Bandit

    I think what will most amuse anthroplogists of the future is bandwagonism, our inability to think for ourselves.

    Once upon a time we had great myths that told us what to think and how to act. Sadly, with the death of religion, those days are gone for ohsomanyofus.

    Fortunately, we have marketing gurus and celebrity spokespersons standing in where priests once stood, telling us what to covet and how to buy it.

    Oh but my precious activist community is not immune to bandwagonism. We've never met a petition we could resist, no matter how vague or void of fact. Sign, click, forward it on, baby. Next thing you know you have a whole new kind of myth circulating the internet in perpetuity, no matter how many websites are created to debunk such urban legends.

    What's specifically bothering me right now is a group I've always supported, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC). They're on a rampage because a bike lane is being reduced by 10 inches. They have a petition going. They have almost 800 signatures. What the petition fails to mention is that the bike lane is, apparently, being reduced to prevent potential harm to mature trees in the area. One local paper said 227 of them - although that's in dispute.

    It has been rightly pointed out that no one ever talked about reducing the width of the car lanes to help the trees. Some also say that the lane width would not have impacted the trees. I don't know if that's true, to be honest. But I know the petition makes no mention of such things. Apparently they wanted to keep it simple. Or maybe they were afraid to slow down that bandwagon with too much thinking.


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    Anthropologists of the Future

    What do you think they'll find funnier:

    beer commercials, or our tendency to produce new flyers whenever we notice too many trees have been cut down?


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    Monday, June 06, 2005

    Truth is Outtastyle

    Spent the morning at a very interesting seminar on communications. The funniest thing is that after intensive coaching on how to create and spin news (for example, have 100 people gargle mouthwash at City Hall and collectively spit - it sets a new record for the most people gargling together, AND promotes Listerine!), they close with the sage advice, "always tell the truth." It reminds me of Lionel Hutt's advice on sales: "there's the truth, and then there's the TRUTH (wink wink)." Ahhh Phil Hartman, where are you now. The same place as truth I guess.


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    Saturday, June 04, 2005

    Post Birthday Blues

    All the insanity began on my 30th (ack!) birthday, just over a week ago. What I'd expected to be a low-key affair turned into a 3-day celebration, with many of my friends, many of whom don't know each other. Alcohol broke that ice.

    On the day itself, I took in Revenge of the Sith, which was surprisingly good despite the usual cornball antics and Lucasy cheesmification. Then my bball team, The Truth, lost a tight battle that cost us a playoff spot, and hit the local Firkin to chase our sorrows (and tequila) with beer.

    The biggest surprise of the whole affair happened when M took me for a nice dinner with our mutual friend L, who introduced us way back when. After a rare (in preparation and frequency with which I indulge) steak, we went over to Hugh's Room, where none other than the great Steve Forbert ( was playing. This guy is a bit obscure, but he had two hit records with Columbia in the late '70s that my dad played relentlessly through the youngest portion of my youth. I always thought nobody outside of my family remembered him. Turns out he's got about 25 albums out, mostly released independently since he had a falling out with Columbia (the record company, not the country). I didn't even know he still toured! And there I was in a room full of baby boomers, all singing his songs right along with him. M treated me to a fantastic show, and I met Steve afterward and got him to autograph the live disc I bought. What a treat!

    Lastly, we had a party the next day, schooled some neighbourhood kids in 3-on-3 bball (okay, we had an average height advatage of about a foot, but you gotta take your victories where you can find them, sometimes), then drank and ate and played spoons, yes, spoons on my 30th birthday. Age is a state of mind, and I'm proud to say I still have the mind of a 12-year-old!

    Since then, it's been a workathon with meetings galore, so much so that I've declared next Friday 'meeting-free day' at my office. I'll celebrate alone if I have to, seems appropriate anyway.


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