Monday, December 31, 2007

Greetings from Sunny Vernon, BC

If you wondered why my blogging has sucked as of late, the reason is (partially) that I'm in BC visiting my family in the Okanagan.

We are staying here:

 

In Vernon, BC. Elevation, 350m. I wonder if that's why my migraines have been killing me. Also ears popping. Fun fun fun.

My grandparents live nearby in Armstrong, BC. It looks like this:

But not right now because hello, it's December.

At any rate, I'm glad to be back in the Okanagan, because even if I didn't grow up here, it's between Vancouver and 100 Mile House/the Cariboo where I spent a lot of time growing up, so it feels homey. It helps I'm sure that its breathtakingly gorgeous.

By the by, this is where my fascination with Canadian dialects and Chinook Jargon comes from. We all speak West/Central Canadian, but out here it's also Pacific Northwest English, with the unquestionably awesome addition of Chinook Jargon. My aunt said skookum yesterday and I nearly squealed in delight.

Anyhoo, I have better pictures from my brand new digital camera, but I've yet to load the software onto my laptop, so I'll post those later. Now I'm going to go study. Oh, me on vacation...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Liveblogging the ICCTC...Okay, maybe not

Hallo from Den Haag.

I arrived in the city at around noon on Sunday. Cabbed it to my hotel, the Parkhotel. Wobbled over to the front desk, only to be told there was no reservation under my name. Or either of the other delegates' names. Or any of the three professors' names.

So we got ridiculously lush exec suites. Me-OW.

More later.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Liveblogging the ICCTC...This time, I mean it.

I'm drafting this in the last 45 minutes of KLM flight 692 to Schipol Airport, Amsterdam. For some reason my mother insisted it was an 8 hour flight (maybe the last time she came here?) but it was only 6. I was hoping to get some work done on my arguments, but of course, that was not to be. You'd think I'd figure out that air travel is a sucking black hole of productivity and just take enough sleeping pills to ensure I sleep through, but that never happens. I got maybe an hour at the very beginning, but that's it, and I won't get another chance until tonight unless I can check into my hotel room early-ish.

SIDENOTE: there's a kid across the aisles from me who's been crying on and off since the departures lounge. Yo, kid, we're not descending yet. Save the waterworks till your ears are depressurizing.

So let's see: agonizing headache? Check. Gross coffee? Check. Grimy airplane feel? Check.

On the upside, KLM appears to be a relatively kickass airline. The meals were small but good, and they have been relentless with the free non-alcoholic drinks. Another plus, I'm on a real airplane, i.e. one with two aisles in the cabin and a 3-4-3 seating arrangement and a mid-cabin lav. Possibly because I'd flown cross-Canada a dozen-plus times by the time I was five, I got used to the real planes, like this one, a Boeing 747. It has an upper deck, people. Now all I ever travel on are airbuses, which drive me crazy for some reason. Like, they're too big to be fun, like a Dash, but too small to feel like you're anything but commuting. GO trains irk me in the same way.

What can I say; I'm a bundle of quirks.

Anyhoo, I've decided I sincerely need to fly first class or business class at some point, just to see what it's like. Soon.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Everything You Know About Drugs Is Wrong

Skinner_box

Read an interesting article in the Walrus yesterday....

So, okay, every article I read in the Walrus is interesting. I devour it cover to cover. ANYWAY...

There was an article which I'm going to have to carry around with me and thrust upon unsuspecting friends and relatives. It seems to be online for free at the moment, and you can find it here.

The article is about a SFU psych prof named Bruce Alexander who debunked the Skinner Box theory in the 1970s--only to be promptly ignored.

Skinner Box Theory: Put a rat in a box. Give the rat drugs every time it pushes a lever. The rat will push the lever constantly, so as to be constantly high. Conclusion: access to drugs equals drug addiction.

Alexander had a suspicion that this was not the whole story, based on his work with Downtown Eastside opiate addicts. (Sidenote: I always refer to this as the "Lower East Side", because I watch too much Law & Order.) His observations suggested that addicts could kick the habit, but in the context of their lives, there was no point. He conjectured that the fact that a rat stuck alone in a box (rats are pack animals) with no recreation, company, etc. etc., would of course become a junkie, but that a happy rat with other options might not. So he built a happy rat palace for a whole rat colony, and then gave them the option of drinking regular water to morphine-laced water.

Results: rats prefer drinking regular water and doing happy rat activities to being stoned. This was true even when the water was sweetened to make it more attractive. In fact, even when Alexander forced the rats to become addicted (chemically) by restricting them to the morphine-water, and then gave them the option, they would put themselves through withdrawal in order to go back to their clean, happy-rat lives.

This article is fascinating stuff people. Read it, read it now!

Law, Schmaw, says US on extradition

Via BoingBoing: US gov't to British court: We can kidnap Brits, it's legal

My exact reaction was "Ha ha ha ha wait wtf?"

The Brit representing the US at a meeting with UK jurists stated:

He said that if a person was kidnapped by the US authorities in another country and was brought back to face charges in America, no US court could rule that the abduction was illegal and free him: “If you kidnap a person outside the United States and you bring him there, the court has no jurisdiction to refuse — it goes back to bounty hunting days in the 1860s.”

I don't think it's a "no jurisdiction" issue so much as a "won't bother as he'll be over-ruled" issue. (On the other hand, Canada has gotten at least one guy back, and had the bounty hunters extradited back north to face criminal charges, so go us!)

This, however, is the undeniably hilarious money quote:

“The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses" from Cracked.com

This might, might, be the most hilarious thing I have ever read.

The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses | Cracked.com

On Waterboarding

Via Joe. My. God., Via - Dan Savage.

"[If] the Bush administration didn’t think [waterboarding] was torture, they ought to do some personal investigation. Someone in the Bush family should actually be waterboarded so they could report on it to George. I said, I didn’t think he would do it, but I suggested Jenna be waterboarded and then she could talk about whether or not she thought it was torture." - Stephen King to Time Magazine.

 

Judge jailed entire courtroom over ringing mobile phone - Boing Boing

 

Judge jailed entire courtroom over ringing mobile phone - Boing Boing

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rummy dodges the bullet

Rumsfeld1The always interesting, often depressing Opinio Juris blawg is reporting that a suit against former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been halted due to Rumsfeld's supposed immunity.

Claim Against Rumsfeld Dismissed... Because of Immunity?

Make no mistake, folks, this is Bad News. One of the biggest advances in international law has been the erosion of immunity against prosecution for very serious crimes against human rights or humanitarian law. To quote the meat of Kevin Jon Heller's post:

That said, there is no question that Rumsfeld is not entitled to immunity from prosecution for acts of torture. However unsettled the law of immunity might be, it is at least clear that functional immunity — immunity ratione materiae — does not preclude a government official from being prosecuted for serious international crimes. The House of Lords specifically held in Pinochet #3 that Pinochet was not immune from prosecution for acts of torture, and Robert Cryer, Hakan Friman, and Daryl Robinson have pointed out — in their excellent new book An Introduction to International Criminal Law and Procedure — that "out of all the international crimes cases that have been conducted to date, most of the defendants were acting on behalf of a State and yet not one has successfully pleaded functional immunity for international crimes."

Unknown

A commenter points to the Yerodia case as an ICJ ruling upholding immunity, but my reading of that case (which admittedly may be faulty) was that they were upholding the immunity of currently-serving public officials whose immunity was important to functioning government (in that case, a Foreign Minister). Since Runsfeld left office in 2006, he would appear to be a legitimate target.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More bad news: ON NOTICE: Saudi Arabia

This story has been circulating for a while now:

Saudi gang rape sentence 'unjust'

The short version: girl meets boy. Girl gets into boy's car. Girl and boy are both attacked, and girl is raped 14 times. Attackers are punished for rape, but girl is sentenced to 90 lashes for being in boy's car. On appeal, girl is sentenced to an additional 110 lashes (now 200 in total) and six months in prison for "using the media to try and influence the court". Oh, and girl's lawyer is disbarred for the same.

As a final injustice, the rapists' sentences were also doubled, but are nowhere near the maximum penalty for rape, i.e. death. Not that I am a big supporter of the death penalty, but as anyone who knows me knows, nothing raises my hackles like hypocrisy. You want to be all lex talionis, Saudi Arabia? Well, who am I to stop you? However, discrimination in application destroys whatever vestiges of justices are to be found in such laws.

As the girl's lawyer stated (and I say girl because her name is unknown and she is under 20 years old), the punishment is not even in line with Sharia. Clearly, the supposed basis is Surah 24 An-Nur/An-Noor,* verse 2:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. (trans. Yusuf Ali)

Okay, so the initial 90-lash punishment seems fair...except, hold on a second...adultery isn't applicable since neither boy nor girl were married, and there's been no mention of any evidence of fornication. And since we're following the Sharia here, let's take a gander at the same Surah, verse 4:

And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations),- flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after: for such men are wicked transgressors;-**

Four witnesses, eh? I'm just going to assume that no legitimate, honest Ālim is going to suggest that the rapists can be used as witnesses.

The Surah continues:

24:12 Why did not the believers - men and women - when ye heard of the affair,- put the best construction on it in their own minds and say, "This (charge) is an obvious lie"?

24:13 Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of Allah, (stand forth) themselves as liars! ...

24:15 Behold, ye received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.

24:16 And why did ye not, when ye heard it, say? - "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Allah! this is a most serious slander!"

24:17 Allah doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers.

But I find the most pertinent verse to be this one:

24:23 Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous Penalty,-

In other words, if a girl is not doing anything wrong except getting into a boy's car, which in 2007 Saudi Arabia is certainly not smart but is certainly a far cry from criminal, it is those who slander her who have committed the real crime.

Now, if only the flip Quranic scholorship of an Anglican/Universalist, non-Arabic-speaking, white chick from Toronto held sway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we'd be good to go.

---------------------------------------------

* and yes, I know that technically it's not the Quran if it's translated, but since I don't know any Arabic, you'll have to bear with me.

** the next verse continues:

Unless they repent thereafter and mend (their conduct); for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I can has religious affiliation?

600px-Religious_symbols

Every few years I take this quiz called the Belief-O-Matic on the wonderful pan-denominational religion site Beliefnet. Just to see if I should be attending church again, or something.

Anyway, my results never change much. Neo-Pagan is always at the top, and I think my top 5 are always the same. I think it's interesting, given my religious upbringing, or rather, the ways in which my upbringing was and was not religious. I was christened Anglican and went to Sunday School until I was about 10, but I also went to an alternative school where there was a Goddess Club until about the same age. Then the only parent (of four) who had a continued interest in religion was Catholic, so I went to Catholic masses at Christmas and the occasional Easter.

I have one major stumbling-block when it comes to Christianity and religion in general, and I think that it is also the reason I come up as "Neo-Pagan" on so many of these types of tests. I cannot accept any religion taking primacy over another. I cannot imagine the universe any other way but as a plurality, a dharma-wheel of multiple paths all leading to the same end, be it enlightenment or salvation. At 13 I refused to be confirmed because the ritual involved swearing to monotheism, which I could not in good conscience do. And yet, I like both Catholicism and Anglicanism, warts and all. I just wish I could accept them for myself, without a concomitant obligation to deny the faiths of others.

1. Neo-Pagan (100%)

2. Liberal Quakers (93%)

3. Unitarian Universalism (92%)

4. Reform Judaism (90%)

5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (89%)

6. Mahayana Buddhism (86%)

7. New Age (82%)

8. Orthodox Quaker (76%)

9. Bahá'í Faith (76%)

10. Theravada Buddhism (75%)

11. Sikhism (74%)

12. Jainism (73%)

13. Islam (65%)

14. Orthodox Judaism (65%)

15. Secular Humanism (63%)

16. Scientology (61%)

17. Taoism (58%)

18. Hinduism (57%)

19. New Thought (54%)

20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (52%)

21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (48%)

22. Eastern Orthodox (44%)

23. Roman Catholic (44%)

24. Seventh Day Adventist (41%)

25. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (39%)

26. Nontheist (32%)

27. Jehovah's Witness (29%)

Purely FYI, and c/o Wikipedia:

Worldwide_percentage_of_Adherants_by_Religion

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Word for the Day: Crepuscular

As in: primarily active around twilight.

As in: what I am, apparently, since left to my own devices I sleep in until noon and stay up until 3pm. Not that I'm productive at these times, but I am more productive.

As in: this adorable creature...

Ailurus_fulgens_RoterPanda_LesserPanda

I am only going to bed now because my eyes and legs hurt. (le sigh)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Procrastination Recap

Things I have done in the last 3 hours that are not work:

  • wish a friend Happy Diwali
  • play Bejeweled 2
  • read my RSS feeds--obsessively
  • listen to CBC Radio 1
  • make toast
  • make coffee
  • eat toast
  • drink coffee
  • play Jewel Quest
  • answer an Ipsos-Reid survey
  • answer another survey

Why is it I can only work after 11pm?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I know Many Countries, But Not Enough

Courtesy of this heart-pounding quiz:

http://andys.org.uk/countryquiz/

GO TAKE IT BEFORE YOU READ MY RESULTS

 

In the 10 minutes, I named:

Named so far:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe

I typed in but could not spell: Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan

There were 72 Countries I "missed":

You forgot:Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cyprus, Djibouti, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The Bahamas, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Yemen,

In other "I'm procrastinating" news:

At this site: http://www.lizardpoint.com/fun/geoquiz/index.html

I got 119/138 on the Europe Quiz, an abysmal 76/162 on the Africa quiz, a much better 82/96 on the Asia quiz (the -istans got me), and 31/39 on the South America quiz.

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Backwards Forwards, Episode 1

I was passed this forward today:

Bruce Allan is on the 2010 Olympic Committee and new Canadians want him fired for his recent comments.

It's time we all get behind Bruce Allen, and scrap this Political Correctness crap.  His comments were anything but racist, but there are far too many overly sensitive 'New Canadians' that are trying to change everything we hold dear.

Subject: Our National Anthem

Don't know what your opinions are, but I certainly agree. ---

I am sorry, but after hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Hindi - enough is enough. No where or at no other time in our nation's history, did they sing it in Italian, Japanese, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German, Portuguese, Greek, or any other language because of immigration. It was written in English, adapted into co-founding French, and should be sung word for word the way it was written.

The news broadcasts even gave the translation -- not even close.

I am not sorry if this offends anyone, this is MY COUNTRY - IF IT IS YOUR COUNTRY SPEAK UP ---- please pass this along.

I am not against immigration -- just come through like everyone else. Get a sponsor; have a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your taxes, live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past -- and LONG LIVE CANADA!

PART OF THE PROBLEM. Think about this: If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone-----YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM !!!!

Will we still be the Country of Choice and still be CANADA if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries who have come to live in CANADA because it is the Country of Choice??????

Think about it!

IMMIGRANTS, NOT CANADIAN'S, MUST ADAPT.

It is Time for CANADA to Speak up. If you agree -- pass

This along; if you don't agree -- delete it!

Um...yeah. *hits DEL*

My response to the sender (who solicited my input, I swear!):

I don’t agree, not because I think that we should translate the anthem but because the writer is so angry, and draws that xenophobic us/them line that is at the heart of racism, even while claiming not to be racist. What was the context of the translation? That matters. If the point was, say, to have a Mandarin version so that at the 2008 Olympics that majority of spectators could hear the message of the Canadian anthem, and not just melodic gibberish, then I would support that. Is the anthem some type of sacred relic that cannot be altered without depreciating our common values? Or is it an expression of those value, whose message is only partly contained in its medium?

I also find it suspicious that the forward does not give any details about the events that brought this on. The “good ol’ Canadian boy” is cast as the common-sense hero, and the capricious “New Canadians” as the whiny villains who don’t know how good they’ve got. The writers says “It was written in English, adapted into co-founding French, and should be sung word for word the way it was written.” This is not the case, precisely. It was written in French in 1880 for a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebration---a fairly nationalist holiday in Quebec. The current English lyrics were not solidified until 1908, and it did not become our anthem until 1980. The original French lyrics, by the way, are these:

O Canada! Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.
Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Not exactly the same, are they?

An what about translating the lyrics in Aboriginal languages, as has been done? Is that more problematic? Less so?

The forward asks more questions that it answers.

-- Sarah

PS: I guess I’m “part of the problem.”

I've actually noticed a few more sketchy things since, namely the repetitive insistence that new Canadians are "trying to change everything." It may be a fair criticism that some immigrant individuals or communities make no effort to integrate, but the idea that they're trying to change us is sort of preposterous. Which brings my to one of my favorite xkdc comics:

 

Retiring me some John Mayer lyrics


- John Mayer Lyrics

Sorry John. I love ya, but I'm feeling Kansas right now.

I am Princess-Leia-analogous

Which Female Action Hero Are You?

You are Princess Leia. You are down-to-earth and stick to a rigid sense of ethics. Nerds may lust over you, but everyone looks to you for your grounded logic and intellect.
Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Story of my life...

funny cat pictures & lolcats - 5 more minutes.

5 more minutes?

Louise Arbour lays the smack down

 TheStar.com | News | Canada's human rights stance questioned

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a huge admirer of Ms. Arbour. Not only is she the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, but she has been a Canadian Supreme Court Justice and a Prosecutor at ICTY, and a law professor. So when she says Canada is falling down on the job, human-rights wise, I believe her (notwithstanding that I was already of the same opinion). On the other hand, will the government believe her? Doubtful. She'll get written off by the current administration as another bleeding-heart crackpot.

Arbour

And OMG, this just occurred to me: Arbour should run for PM.

Security Certificate Redux

 

TheStar.com | Canada | Ottawa tackles terror laws

It looks like Canada is adopting the British system. I suppose its an improvement, if you ignore the whole "depriving people of their basic civil rights" thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Something you never knew about swearing...

 

I guarantee it. Care of this Language Log post from 12 June 2004.

 

Money quote, from Matthew 5:12-22 (KJV):

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Or as UPenn Linguistics Prof Mark Liberman explains, the olde timmey prohibition against calling someone stupid (including classifying it as a "swear word", which always scandalized me as a child) has a scriptural basis. Liberman indicates that "Raca" is the equivalent of a good-for-nothing; so insulting someone's reputation might have social consequences, but insulting someone's intelligence would have spiritual consequences. Interesting, since my gut feeling is that it should be the other way around (assuming the Powers That Be care when you cuss, which I doubt...)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I love these far far far too much...

Which Office Character Are You?

You are Ryan. You are extremely smart and perceptive, and it irritates you to no end when inferior people try to tell you what to do. Sometimes, though, your critical eye makes you come off as aloof and bitter to others, and it may take awhile for people to get to know you.
Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

I get told on Constitutional amendment

If you follow The Court (link at right), you'll note (in the comments) that I recently forgot the exception to the Byzantine constitutional amendment procedures for amendments which only apply to one province. As another commenter pointed out, only the permission of the provincial parliament is needed for certain amendments, including the religious schools provision. I blogged about this recently as well. Oops? In my defence, it's been two years since I took constitutional law...no, nevermind, I'm just terrible.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bitch Ph.D. lays out the pro-choice POV

The always-interesting Bitch Ph.D. has laid out the POV of pro-choice advocates in clear concise language, and with the same "come ON people" attitude I approach the issue.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Dear Green Party: You have READ the Constitution, right?

UPDATE: see http://thinkingoutloudblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/i-get-told-on-constitutional-amendment.html

Feeling: ow my head
Hearing: my parents' CPU is loud

So I'm flipping through the EYE on the bus home, and I come across this:

FAITH IN EDUCATION
The 2007 provincial election will forever be known as the one that put the government funding of faith-based schools in the spotlight. John Tory was smart to put this idea in the minds of the media and voters early on in his campaign – with so much debate around funding religious schools, there's less opportunity to reflect on the grave damage the previous conservative government under Mike Harris did to our schools. Our education system is still recovering from those dark days and, so far in this election, the question of how we should move forward hasn't received the attention it deserves.
...
...
And the Greens? On top of their plan to eliminate all funding for religious education in Ontario (Catholic schools included), they would also, among other
things, end standardized testing and increase environmental education.

Uhm, what? Don't get me wrong...I'd like to see that happen...but a little thing called the Constitution prevents it. According to the Constitution Act, 1867:

93. In and for each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Education, subject and according to the following Provisions:
(1) Nothing in any such Law shall prejudicially affect any Right or Privilege with respect to Denominational Schools which any Class of Persons have by Law in the Province at the Union:
(2) All the Powers, Privileges, and Duties at the Union by Law conferred and imposed in Upper Canada on the Separate Schools and School Trustees of the Queen's Roman Catholic Subjects shall be and the same are hereby extended to the Dissentient Schools of the Queen's Protestant and Roman Catholic Subjects in Quebec:
(3) Where in any Province a System of Separate or Dissentient Schools exists by Law at the Union or is thereafter established by the Legislature of the Province, an Appeal shall lie to the Governor General in Council from any Act or Decision of any Provincial Authority affecting any Right or Privilege of the Protestant or Roman Catholic Minority of the Queen's Subjects in relation to Education:
(4) In case any such Provincial Law as from Time to Time seems to the Governor General in Council requisite for the due Execution of the Provisions of this Section is not made, or in case any Decision of the Governor General in Council on any Appeal
under this Section is not duly executed by the proper Provincial Authority in that Behalf, then and in every such Case, and as far only as the Circumstances of each Case require, the Parliament of Canada may make remedial Laws for the due Execution of the Provisions of this Section and of any Decision of the Governor General in Council under this Section.
And yes, GPO, the UN Human Rights body has criticised this, but then, it has never, ever, understood federalism. You should. YOU'RE CANADIAN!

Read more about the Green Party's well-meaning but bug-shit crazy education poicy here (it's a pdf): http://www.gpo.ca/sites/greenparty.on.ca/files/GPO%20on%20Education%202007.pdf

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CCR Release: Refugee system made vulnerable

 

Release: Refugee system made vulnerable

Well, this is patently ridiculous. By not appointing new Members as others' terms lapse, the government has managed to reduce the number of adjudicators by almost 40% through sheer attrition. Apparently it would take two and a half years to get through the backlog. About a year and a half ago, we were well on our way to eliminating the backlog and achieving a one-year processing period. All this does is encourage more people to file sketchy claims because even if they fail it will have bought them 2 to 5 years in Canada. Not to mention keeping legitimate refugees in uncertain situations for 2 to 5 years.

BBC: "Couple stand by forbidden [incestuous] love"

I know I've posted about this before, but it was revived this week due to Slate's sex and sexuality special, and I can't help being fascinated by it. The story is here.

The thing that attracts/repulses me about this how it tests my small-l liberal impulses. They're not exactly hurting anyone by having the relationship, except the kids (two of the four have special needs, and apparently there's a 50% chance of that with siblings). But what if you and your non-related partners were both carriers of a genetic disease, and there was a 50% chance your children would inherit? Should the state prevent you from having kids, much less getting married?

 

On a related note, I was looking up autosomal recessive disorders  for the purpose of understanding the above, and I came across this nugget of trivia: heterozygote advantage: certain pathological genetic disorders can help protect you from other diseases! Apparently being a sickle-cell anemia carrier brings enhanced protection against malaria, and being a cystic fibrosis carrier may help protect against cholera (not the infection, but the damage it does) and tuberculosis.

And in case you doubt how helpful an extra protection against malaria would be, the July 2007 issue of National Geographic has this to say:

It's endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world's population. In recent years, the parasite has grown so entrenched and has developed resistance to so many drugs that the most potent strains can scarcely be controlled. This year malaria will strike up to a half billion people. At least a million will die, most of them under age five, the vast majority living in Africa. That's more than twice the annual toll a generation ago.

Compare that to the WHO 2006 data on HIV/AIDS:

...an estimated 39.5 million people are living with HIV. There were 4.3 million new infections in 2006 with 2.8 million (65%) of these occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and important increases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where there are some indications that infection rates have risen by more than 50% since 2004. In 2006, 2.9 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

HIV/AIDS = 4.3 million infections   Malaria = 500 million infections

HIV/AIDS = 2.9 million deaths   Malaria = 1 million deaths

And bear in mind, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, whereas there are plenty of cheap malaria drugs. It can become a lifelong, chronic condition, but it can also be fought off by the immune system alone. So all in all, as horrifying as the HIV/AIDS epidemic is, malaria is worse.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I coulda been a shepherd

According to this Medieval vocational test, a millenium ago, I would have been a shepherd:

Your distinct personality, The Shepherd is to tend to your human flock. You understand the needs of those for whom you are responsible. Shepherds are vigilant and reliable. You realize your obligation and commitment to the well being of those entrusted to your care. Shepherds are very dependable. You engender a feeling of comfort and stability to those within your charge. On the positive side, Shepherds can be empathic, caring, understanding, practical and realistic. On the negative side, you may be manipulative, close-minded and sentimentally rigid. Interestingly, your preference is just as applicable in today's corporate kingdoms.

The ubiquity of my profanity

I decided to take a cue from Language Log, wherein Google is often used to take straw polls of usage, and see how common my occasionally odd turns of profane phrase are. Here are the stats:

  • "Oh my gentle Jesus": 1,610 hits, and notably featured on That 70's Show, episode 6X07:  "CHRISTMAS" (December 11, 2003)
  • "Sweet merciful motherf**k": unique! Woot!
  • "Green and gracious God": also unique. But possibly a bastardization of "great and gracious God," for which there are over 3,000 hits
  • "F**k f**k f**kity-f**k": only 888 hits, but also has an entry on UrbanDictionary.com
  • "Mom-effing": 65 hits
  • "Mom-effer": 3 hits
  • "Mom-effing mom-effer" (my preferred usage): unique!

This is excellent news. I'd hate for my swearing to be common. I didn't bother searching for "Jiminy Cricket" on the assumption that many cites would be referring to this fella:

jiminy1 than would be referring to the euphemism.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Testing, testing, 4, 5, 6...

Feeling: productive
Hearing: the Dog Whisperer

Now I miss the LJ-style headers. Must find a way to include those...

One thing I miss about LJ

Is the friends page!

Mind you, everyone but me seems to have curtailed their bloggery by a huge amount.

Nevertheless, how will I monitor the minutiae of the lives of my friends/acquaintances?

And I need to find a way to inflict my icons on you people...bwahahaha

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good news for a change: WaPo says bin Laden "Sinking in the Polls"

According to yesterday's column in the Washington Post:

  • Currently, bin Laden is unpopular with over 90% of Afghanistan and Iraq
  • "... polling in Turkey two years ago found that 90% of citizens believe the al-Qaeda bombings in London, Istanbul, Madrid and Egypt were unjust and unfair; 86% thought that there was no excuse for condoning the Sept. 11 attacks; and 75% said bin Laden does not represent Muslims."
  • Support for "justifiable" suicide bombings has fallen from 74% to 34% in Lebanon, with similar declines in other Muslim-majority countries
  • Majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, and Morocco agree: "Groups that use violence against civilians, such as Al Qaida, are violating the principles of Islam. Islam opposes the use of such violence."

Now, perhaps this should be taken with something of a grain of salt, since the author is undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She also conflates one problem--popular support for terrorism--with an unrelated issue--the lack of popular support for the US.

While it is good that many Muslims are recognizing that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are a common threat, many polls show that much remains to be done to improve foreign perceptions of the United States. The drop in support for violent extremists presents an opportunity to expand our efforts to nurture common interests with people overseas and work with them to counter al-Qaeda's attempts to radicalize young people.

Al-Qaeda's growing Internet propaganda activities glorify violence and seek to exploit local grievances, from political oppression to a lack of economic opportunities. In contrast, America's public diplomacy programs are engaging young people constructively, through English-language teaching, educational exchanges, music and sports diplomacy.

While I truly feel Ms. Hughes's heart is in the right place, two years of critical theory being pounded into me at Oz definitely makes my scrunch up my nose at some of these statements. I find the first statement (underlined, above) more than a little patronizing. ("While it is good that Susie has learned to use her words, she must be more patient and wait for her turn to speak in class.") I'm also amused/perturbed by the unexamined promotion of cultural hegemony contained in the last statement. And she states that al-Qaeda is exploiting "local grievances" without acknowledging that these "grievances" are sometimes as severe as crimes against humanity, and are often perpetuated by the US or its erstwhile allies.

 

...oh dear. I do believe law school has made me cynical.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on the veil controversy

An editorial in Tuesdays Globe & Mail deconstructs the to-do over women voting with veils. It is not a policy change or an accommodation--leaving aside the issue if such an accommodation should be made. As the editorial states:

...the rules designed by Parliament for that purpose do not require photo identification. ... Voters don't have to show a photo identification card for the simple reason that many - those without drivers' licenses, for instance - do not have such a card. That is why the Elections Act offers alternatives. Those without government-issued photo ID may show two pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, as long as one shows their address. Or they may have another voter vouch for them (no more than one person per "voucher"), if each swears an oath.

But much more concerning is this:

Mr. Harper surely knows what that law says. His government passed it with opposition support earlier this year. He also knows that eligible voters living temporarily abroad may vote by mail; they do not show their face, except to a mailbox. Yet on the weekend in Sydney, he accused Mr. Mayrand of defying the will of Parliament. "The role of Elections Canada is not to make its own laws." This false accusation against an independent Officer of Parliament smacks of intimidation.

Well, goodness gracious. There's the resolution of the whole thing right there. Yet, of course, the blathering continues. Many articles every day on the subject.

But worse...so much worse it makes me gnash my teeth in anguished rage...is this ridiculous editorial from Sheila Copps in the Edmonton Sun. Now, full disclosure, the snarky Torontonian academic in me can't even say "Edmonton Sun" without smirking, but she is kind of an elitist bitch. Nevertheless, Copps misses the boat alluded to in the G&M piece:

The law states that the voter is required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and address. How can identity be verified if electoral authorities cannot validate photo identification?

...

The PM was right to slam Mayrand's harebrained interpretation of election law. All political parties should be wary of someone who exhibits so little understanding of the obvious potential for voter abuse.

No, no, no, Ms. Copps. What happened was, Parliament passed a woefully incomplete law, and now Mayrand is being slammed for interpreting it. It's just like when they flip out at judges for imposing the democratically-imposed Charter. Sure, he could have been more creative with his interpretation, but he might have gotten into just as much trouble for being "activist." He interpreted it (a) according to common sense, and (b) in a way that would allow the most people to vote. As always, it's open to Parliament to change the laws, and as almost always, it's easier for them to blame those forced to interpret and apply those laws for doing it wrong, rather than admit that the laws themselves have loopholes. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that jazz.

The Globe had it right:

Mr. Harper and the other leaders should take their own advice. They should respect the voting law, and not single out veiled women for special treatment.

As they say in politics: Oh, snap.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Canada hates on the UN...or does it?

Care of the CBC:

Canada to vote against UN declaration on native rights

Un-flag-square

Okay so, somewhat hysterically, we are joining forces with "New Zealand, the United States and Australia" in dissenting on the non-binding declaration.

As an aside, I'm not sure why we'd be so up-in-arms about a non-binding declaration, considering that we don't even consider binding agreements to be binding: see Suresh v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2002 SCC 1 (CanLII).

Anyway, the government's stated reason is that the declaration "lacks clear guidance for implementation and conflicts with the existing Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the government believes already protects the rights of aboriginals."

I can see where this provision would cause problems:

Article 26 of the UN declaration states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired."

Could they vague that up a little? Don't get me wrong, I am all about aboriginal rights, but I think the focus on land is a little ridiculous for 2007. Especially since history has shown that land isn't a panacea if it doesn't include jobs, healthcare, safe water, and so on. Land itself can provide these things, but not necessarily.

So I can see how the government might have sincere concerns here.

...I don't think they do...but I can see how the could...

You know you've got a problem when even the neo-Cons back away...

Care of the NYT:

Magazine

Conscience of a Conservative

By JEFFREY ROSEN

Published: September 9, 2007

When Jack Goldsmith took over as the key constitutional
adviser for the Bush administration, he soon found himself at odds with the White House.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3?

So, theoretically, I can post from Windows Live Writer to my Blogger blog. But will it succeed (in transposing titles) where Google Docs failed?

 

UPDATE: Holy heck, it works!

If you ever doubted that terrorist Muslims were bad Muslims:

The BBC, among others, is reporting: "S Koreans told 'convert or die'", and that the South Korean hostages were beaten and threatened with having their heads blown off if they did not convert.

Of course, their captors seem to have forgotten the general rule that forced conversion is not legitimate, based on the Qur'anic statement:

Let there be no compulsion in religion: (Surah 2:226)

Which is not to say that forced conversion has never taken place; like all proselytizing religions, like all religions that have held great political power, Islam is not immune to corruption and thus has been forced upon people in the past. Nevertheless, conversion requires that one state and believe the Islamic creed (the shahadah), and as such merely saying it is not sufficient. Good thing, too, or countless World Religion profs would have inadvertently converted over the years.

Long story short: being a good Muslim and a terrorist are incompatible, mutually exclusive, even. While Muslims, like Christians, may fight for certain causes, neither religion gives carte blanche for this kind of perversion, and Muslims the world over are done a disservice by these crackpots misusing their faith.

Best legal paper topic EVER

Via this BoingBoing post: "Magicians innovate without IP law" and availible via the SSRN here: "Secrets Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property without Law"

Abstract:

Intellectual property scholars have begun to explore the curious dynamics of IP's negative spaces, areas in which IP law offers scant protection for innovators, but where innovation nevertheless seems to thrive. Such negative spaces pose a puzzle for the traditional theory of IP, which holds that IP law is necessary to create incentives for innovation.

This paper presents a study of one such negative space which has so far garnered some curiosity but little sustained attention - the world of performing magicians. This paper argues that idiosyncratic dynamics among magicians make traditional copyright, patent, and trade secret law ill-suited to protecting magicians' most valuable intellectual property. Yet, the paper further argues that the magic community has developed its own set of unique IP norms which effectively operate in law's absence. The paper details the structure of these informal norms that protect the creation, dissemination, and performance of magic tricks. The paper also discusses broader implications for IP theory, suggesting that a norm-based approach may offer a promising explanation for the puzzling persistence of some of IP's negative spaces.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mel Gibson builds a $37m church

Mel Gibson builds a $37m church in the Malibu hills NEWS.com.au Entertainment

Okay so, we know Gibson is an old-school Catholic. And not in the Italian Grandmother sense, but the Breakaway Sect sense.

Gibson's secretive sect is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church because it does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope or the Vatican and rejects the universally accepted teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The church - which offers a daily morning mass in Latin - follows an antiquated ideology of Catholicism dating back to the 16th century.

Okay, let's play spot the oxymoron...

"...rejects the universally accepted teachings of the Second Vatican Council." Yes, um, see how that's not possible? I mean, I love JP2, and most people love the 2VC, but come on...obviously there are going to be some hardcore conservatives who don't like it. Witness Benny16's revival of the Tridentine Mass.

But really, I think the media is going out of its way to make this seem cultish. I find Christians are weird that way--a lot of the more conservative sects would throw an apoplectic fit if someone diverged from a strict but unwritten code of dress and behavior, but if that code is explicit, like here or with conservative Jews/Mulims, they freak right out.

Also, stop making Gibson out to be the next David Koresh. I've never seen a lick of evidence that he's any more than a lay patron of the Church, the way all rich people used to be, and the way most Protestant churchgoers strive to be.

Of course, he's anti-semitic, so that makes him a) brainwashed, or b) a jerk, but that doesn't necessarily correlate with being active in your chosen spiritual community.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Again with the veils?

Apparently there's another dust-up brewing in Quebec about a decision to allow women to vote while wearing a niqab or a burka/burqa, as long as they have two pieces of ID and another voter to vouch for them.

Visual aids:

Totally random aside...why are burkas always such screamingly bright colours?
ANYWAYS: I find it interesting that no one responded to Mohamed Elmasry's straight-forward solution:
Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress said that Muslims aren't asking to be allowed to vote with their faces covered, and that niqabs are a rarity. He said veiled women would have no problem removing a niqab before a female voting official for identification purposes.
I guess that's too simple, eh? The thing is, voting takes place in a public forum, which means if a woman removed her veil it would not only be seen by the elections official, but probably also by a dozen or more other voters waiting for their turn.
Another thing not mentioned is the whole how-important-are-ID-checks-really angle. As anyone who had underage kids in college knows, visual ID checks are sketchy (interesting article on eyewitness unreliability here ). And the elections officials are generally volunteers...trained, competent, but not experts, n'est pas?
Previous to-dos about veiled drivers being pulled over are, I think, a different issue. That's time sensitive, and there's no way to effectively get past the need for immediate identification in those circumstances.
The BBC has an interesting breakdown of the pros and cons--not of veils as a practical matter, but whether or not they are required:
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof…

Qur'an 24:30-31

As many have pointed out, if women are totally covered, why should men lower their eyes? and so on. Basically, my reading of the doctrine is that modestly is required, hijab is usually considered a part of modesty, but burkas and niqabs are not called for in scripture or Hadith and can theoretically be done away with. To me, this indicates that if a woman chooses to wear a niqab or burka, she may, and the fact that it makes people uncomfortable is not a good reason for banning it or making it functionally impossible. However, there will be circumstances in Western life where there are no work-arounds, and no woman should be (or could be, according to scripture) considered immodest for cooperating with police at those times.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rewriting History

The Globe & Mail reports: "Fighting words rile historians: Museum's decision to adapt text sets dangerous precedent"

Might this actually be the most idiotic thing I've ever heard? Well no, of course not... but it is seriously obnoxious.

According to the article:


The fight over the 67-word panel, titled An Enduring Controversy, erupted shortly after the Canadian War Museum opened in May, 2005. A group of veterans objected to its saying that "the value and morality of the strategic bomber offensive against Germany remains bitterly contested," and to its contrasting 600,000 dead with the statement that "the raids resulted in only small reductions of German war production until late in the war."
So the museum is in negotiations with veterans to re-word the panel, to be "more respectful" to those who died during the campaign.

Nothing I've seen mentioned about the controversy claims personal responsibility on the part of the RAF pilots and crew who took part in the bombings. What is controversial is the Allies' decision to firebomb Dresden, resulting in 25,000 dead, and arguable claims of a war crime. The point was not to belittle those who served in WWII, but to demonstrate that the Allies were also guilty of the deaths of civilians, of misjudgment, of disregard for humanity. To simply add information pointing out the casualties on the side of the Allied bombers would be one thing, but to reword the whole exhibit to de-emphasize the controversial and historically significant slaughter is more than irresponsible, it is unacceptable.
The article adds that another controversy is brewing:

One, the National Association of Japanese Canadians, says that the war museum's version of the internment of Japanese Canadians underplays the racist and economic forces behind the internment; the NAJC also wants the museum to recognize that despite the treatment of Japanese Canadians, 150 volunteered to don uniforms and fight for Canada. NAJC president Grace Eiko Thomson met with Mr. Guerts four weeks before his departure.

Yesterday, Mr. Eaton said that the museum had been in touch with the Japanese Canadians (Not recently, according to Ms. Thomson). "Everyone's knocking on the door," Mr. Eaton said.

Frankly, I think this is a slightly different issue. As I said, I don't mind adding details; its when history gets edited out that my inner History major raises an eyebrow. Nevertheless, no museum should be constantly adjusting itself to political pressure.

On an unrelated note, the fact that I can't properly publish from GoogleDocs to Blogger is driving me crazy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Long time no blog...300 spoiler alert

So last Saturday I watched 300, the much-hyped, much-criticized film version of Frank Miller's graphic novel (full disclosure, I ♥ Frank Miller). Wikipedia has a good summary of the criticisms, which were many, ranging from the political implications to the historical inaccuracies. I think people who expect historical perfection from action movies need a roundhouse kick to the head, but it's always nice when they make an effort.

One thing which did amuse me was the throw-away comment about Athenians being "boy lovers," since Sparta was, I believe, downright famous for pederasty. The Guardian featured an article quoting a historian, Paul Cartledge, stating:

Few cultures have celebrated the naked male body in the way the Greeks did. But the Spartan king Leonidas refers to the Greeks as "boy lovers", suggesting they are decadent. The irony is that the Spartans were literally boy lovers: they incorporated a form of pederasty into their educational system, as a way of turning a boy into a warrior.

Zephyrus and Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo

was a patron hero of pederasty in Sparta.

Attic red-figure cup from Tarquinia,

c. 490-480 BCE.

Another comment often echoed:

But the most controversial aspect of the film is the portrayal of the Persians. They look a bit like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The real emperor Xerxes was not a 10ft-tall god-king with multiple piercings. I can understand why the Iranians are upset about this. However, I think they're wrong to assume that the film-makers are making a comment on the Middle East, simply because it takes a very long time to develop a movie.

This is exceptionally true. For one thing, the Greeks and the Persians? Arch enemies for centuries. And the story is a fairly central one to Western culture. So to link the current supposed "Clash of Civilizations" to the Battle of Thermopylae is pretty ridiculous. For one thing, the 4th century BCE Persians were extremely different from Middle Easterners in general and Iranians in particular today. For one thing, they wouldn't be Muslim for another millennium. Which sort of involved a paradigm shift. Also, the graphic design was done when Miller published the graphic novel in 1999, before the current conflict.

Xerxes version Frank Miller, left

version Zack Snyder, right

I suppose there might be a better argument to be made that the reaction to the film was influenced by the current "clash of civilizations," which is concerning. But that's a symptom of our time, not attributable to Miller or Snyder. In short, I can't agree with this comment from Slate reviewer Dana Stevens :

If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war.

Stevens missed some key points of the film. For one, she says that the law is "whatever Leonidas wants", and "if Spartan law is defined by 'whatever Leonidas wants,' what are the 300 fighting for, anyway?" As evidence, she relates this tidbit:

When a messenger from Xerxes arrives bearing news Leonidas doesn't like, he hurls the man, against all protocol, down a convenient bottomless well in the center of town. "This is blasphemy! This is madness!" says the messenger, pleading for his life.

Which raises the question: did she watch the movie? Not that it's incredibly strong on plot, but there is more to the story. First of all, the set-up to throwing the messenger in the pit is a consequence of Leonidas's belief that one should not use the cloak of "messenger" to throw threats at his people and insult his wife. Was the pit an over-reaction? Well, duh. But Leonidas is clearly a Punisher-style whackjob-maverick. Over-reaction is his forte. And as for the "there's no law" thing...uhm, a major plot-point of the movie is the fact that Sparta's "law" (as interpreted by venal, pseudo-religious perverts who have been bribed) is that Leonidas cannot defend his land and people, and so he has to try fending off the Persians with a tiny group pf volunteers.

Look, the movie is visually stunning and ideologically suspect. But if your getting you ideologies from movies based on Frank Miller graphic novels...there's a bigger problem.


Monday, August 06, 2007

So, I realize that I am, in fact, not an American voter. However, out of interest...and a solid history of watching the Daily Show, which means I am ever-so-slightly familiar with the candidates, I decided to take this quiz (care of this post on BoingBoing ). My results:

Kucinich 63
(you have no disagreements with this candidate)

Gravel 49
(you have no disagreements with this candidate)

Richardson 35
Death Penalty, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Same-Sex Marriage

Clinton 35
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Same-Sex Marriage

Dodd 34
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence

Edwards 32
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Same-Sex Marriage

Obama 29
Patriot Act, Border Fence, Same-Sex Marriage

Biden 24
Death Penalty, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Same-Sex Marriage

Paul -10
McCain -18
Huckabee -28
Giuliani -29
Cox -31
Thompson -32
Brownback -44
Romney -50
Tancredo -54
Hunter -55

So, apparently if I were an American voter, both/either Dennis Kucinich and/or Mike Gravel would currently have my support. I'm pretty sure I'd be a Democrat, for the same reason I'm usually a Liberal in Canada--because they have a chance of winning. (Also, fringe parties that encourage vote-splitting on "principle" make me stabby.) VISUAL AID!

Smiley Kucinich

Serious Kucinich

(with bad hair)


While I've heard of Kucinich more than Gravel, I must say, this photo makes me want to vote for the guy...

...not for President, though. Maybe for like, "Best Coach" or "Favourite Career-Day Guest." Although I have no problem with leaders with teen-aged or University-aged kids, something about being a grandparent and a head of the executive seems odd to me. Grandparents are supposed to be relaxed, dang it, not having one finger on the nuke-launching button.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Suspension of disbelief

On Friday evening, D. came over and we watched Kate & Leopold, grâce au my parents' sweet sweet PVR. Totally non-spoiler-y synopsis: Liev Schreiber, a struggling, um...physicist goes back in time, and when he returns he accidentally brings forward Leopold, the Duke of Albany.

Liev Schreiber, a.k.a. Stuart

Of course, there's a week until the next portal opens up, and the Duke ends up meeting Stuart's ex-girlfriend (who lives in the apartment below him--how awkward yet convenient!), played by Meg Ryan, and yadda yadda, you can figure out the rest.

Hollywood Leopold, Duke of Albany

a.k.a. Hugh Jackman

Real, and much more tragic,

Leopold, Duke of Albany


Anyway, at one point in the movie, Leo makes Meg Ryan a formal meal. I blurted out: "Oh right, like a Duke from the 19th century could cook."
D. just looked at me and cracked up. I got the joke and continued to deadpan "Because that is where this movie diverges from reality."*
But it's true that we will suspend our disbelief to a certain--possibly quite distant--point, and then no farther. I think it has a lot to do with internal consistency.
Another perfect example: CSI. This Wikipedia article has a summary of some of the criticisms, including, hilariously, that it isn't realistic. This Australian article also takes it to task. The number one complaint I get from friends and acquaintances who don't like it is that it's illogical, because:
  • it's always dark
  • the criminalists seem to carry out the whole investigation, including interrogations
  • the science is improbably fast and perfect

But seriously, folks, it's a TV show. I enjoy CSI; that doesn't mean I think criminalistics works like that. They need to have the core characters doing everything because otherwise they'd have a cast of thousands. They need the visuals to be flashy and compelling 'cause otherwise their rating would tank. And, they need the science to work quickly because otherwise every episode would last hours if not days.

And let's be fair about that, too. They use the time-honoured TV traditional montage to show the passage of time (i.e., they make an effort to convey how long things like this take). They also include what I suspect are realistic flaws in the science: detectives harassing criminalists to prioritize their results, random unexpected effects from experiments, scientists mis-designing experiments because of their own assumptions, the tension between what the forensic evidence says and what everything else says. Mistakes are made. Hell, when the lab blew up (dramatic as that was), it was (a) really only one room, and (b) the result of human error and incomplete safety precautions.

The bottom line, however, is probably this: who looks for realism in RomComs or on Prime Time? No one--well, no one sane. Nevertheless, I think we all have a border to our imaginations where we will not cross.


* Actually, they went out of their way to establish that the Duke was eccentric in the period sequences. They could easily have dropped something in there about cooking...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I refuse to believe there were six seasons...

I can't believe this referenced this.

And in case you don't remember it, here's a clip of the theme song.

Charles DAR-win
He's our HE-ro
Bagging those with an IQ of ZE-ro