Archive for January, 2006

06w05:1 Good Audio

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 05 number 1 (good audio)
I’ve been listening to my iPod at work for the past month, so I haven’t been able to spend as much time in front of the computer finding good reads. What I present here then is the result of finding good podcasts. – Timothy


Not Self (Week 1) | Gil Fronsdal 2006-01-16

John Ralston Saul speaking on the Collaspe of Globalism | SBS Radio (Jan 06)

and on ABC Radio (Aug 05):

The Leonard Lopate Show:

The Wal-Mart Effect 2006-01-23
“70 percent of Americans live within a fifteen-minute drive of a Wal-Mart. Charles Fishman looks at how Wal-Mart got so big, and how it’s changing America’s economy, in The Wal-Mart Effect.”

Covering 2006-01-20
“In Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, Kenji Yoshino explores the ways in which the law, civil liberties, and self-identification intersect. A Yale Law professor and a gay, Asian-American man, he describes the prejudices that he sees written in America’s civil rights legislation.”

Open Phones: Fact or Fiction? 2006-01-19
“We’ll take your calls on the recent revelation that James Frey made up some of the incidents he described in his best-selling memoir, A Million Little Pieces.”
Note: Personally I think this whole controversy about this book is a little pointless. Saturday night at my birthday dinner my Mother and Sister got into a discussion about it and I had to pipe up to say, “Imagine if you used all that brain power to think about better things; we’d have a beautiful world’. I mean, the book’s cover alone should be enough to clue you in it’s bullshit: all those tiny little coloured specks on the guy’s hand. Honestly, I always thought it was some book about viruses and illness, and noticed everyone reading it on the subway and train and thinking, ‘why would they want to read something so sad?’ Turns out its about drugs, debauchery, and the cheating ways of a trust fund brat. Perfect book for American society don’t you think? Ah well. At least America’s citizens aren’t paying attention to the war in Iraq. This episode of the Lopate show tried to equate the outrage of the book’s falsity with being lied to by the government, which I found crazy and thus fascinating.

Melville: His World and Work 2006-01-18
“Herman Melville wrote one of the most important American novels of all time: Moby-Dick. But he wasn’t recognized as a towering literary figure until 40 years after his death. Andrew Delbanco, the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, studies Melville’s life and works in a new biography.”

Fast Living 2006-01-12
“Renee Price is the curator of the current Egon Schiele exhibit at the Neue Galerie. She revisits the significance of the Viennese artist’s highly-sexualized work, and his very short life.”

Animal Insight 2006-01-10
“Last year, we interviewed animal scientist Temple Grandin about her latest book: Animals in Translation. In this book, she describes how her autism helps her decode animal behavior. She joins us now with an update on her work, and on new developments in autism research.”

This link on autism and it’s relationship to not only the way animals think, but to representative art, reminded me of Nicholas Humphrey’s paper Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind:

Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind | Nicholas Humphrey
“The emergence of cave art in Europe about 30,000 years ago is widely believed to be evidence that by this time human beings had developed sophisticated capacities for symbolization and communication. However, comparison of the cave art with the drawings made by a young autistic girl, Nadia, reveals surprising similarities in content and style. Nadia, despite her graphic skills, was mentally defective and had virtually no language. I argue in the light of this comparison that the existence of the cave art cannot be the proof which it is usually assumed to be that the humans of the Upper Palaeolithic had essentially ‘modern’ minds”.

From IT Conversations:

Laughter in a Time of War | Tim Zak talking with Zach Warren
“In the Fall of 2005, Zach Warren set the World’s Record for running the Philadelphia marathon–while juggling! […] In this second installment in his series on Play, Globeshakers host Tim Zak asks this World Record holder to describe what gives him the inspiration to pursue these feats of extreme endurance. What role does ‘play’ have in the health of the planet? And ultimately, what has he learned about what it takes to re-build an entire country? ‘One of the first casualties of war’ says Zach Warren, ‘is imagination.’ In one of the most war torn regions in the world, the Afghan Mini Mobile Children’s Circus (MMCC) serves as a child protection program to help Afghan children recover from the traumas of war. The MMCC, a Danish-registered NGO, is run by native Afghans. It helps children to be more self-directed in creating their own dreams for the future through theatre and the arts. So, what is the role of the jester in a time of extreme danger? ‘If we’re really serious about building a democracy in this country,’ says Warren ‘then we need to protect their imagination.'” Note: I found the questions asked in this interview to be really boneheaded, but Zach Warren was almost inspiring, making the case rather well that his admitedly silly contributions do in fact make a difference.

The Future of Blogging | Joichi Ito
“The internet is truly becoming an open network with the rise of amateur content and open source software. In this talk, Joi Ito takes us through the growth of the internet as an open network in layers to the point where the killer app is now user generated content. Earlier, it was the little guys around the edges of the internet who created the open standards which made the web work, and today it is those same people who fuel it with their creativity. He also shares with us his observations of the remix culture seen on the net.Joi notes that it is futile to make any attempts to change user behaviour. It is better to observe it and then make a business out of it. He also talks about how people on the internet do not want to be fed content from a handful of sources – they want to create their own content and have a conversation with others at the same time, and that is the revolution we are witnessing today.”

What Do We Know | Robert Trivers
“The capacity of humans to deceive each other is well documented by history and personal experience. Less well known, however, is the capacity of most living things to deceive each other – species deceiving other species, members of their own species and themselves. We are, it seems, not that different from parasites, insects and bacteria in this regard.Dr. Robert Trivers talks about the evolutionary basis of deception in this address from Pop!Tech 2005. The first half of this talk focuses on the biological examples of deception in the natural world, with explanations for the evolutionary advantages of deception and self-deception.Later in the talk, Dr. Trivers supplies easily recognizable examples of common human self-deception. He then delves into an overtly political criticism of human deception and self-deception, with an emphasis on current events.”Note: This was really good. I love how he expressed his anger with the Bush Administration. You know something’s worth listening to when it comes from a geek website and has a language warning at the beginning of it. (Because geeks of course never say the word fuck, especially when dealing with Windows software). And speaking of the Bush Administration:

State of the Union Address 2006 | James Adomian
“This year I’m submitting to congress a plan for a 400 billion dollar education plan. Because our children must be literalized. Children that don’t read will not grow up. I’m against hunger. I’m against that. For all our small businesses out there I want to make sure that they have clothings. For every old person out there dreamings, I want to make sure they have the pills to make those dreams happen. For every college student out there, I will make sure that they will be able to take the loans to go to college to be able to pay back those loans with interest. That’s why this year I’m proposing a 400 billion dollar tax cut on our upper income earners.”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 29 January 2006 @ 7:01 PM

06w02:1 Humour from the World's #1 Podcast

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 2 number 1 (humour from the world’s #1 podcast)

Considering this is the world’s # 1 podcast, listing it here might be a bit redundant, but it’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time, so I just had to share.
I began with yesterday’s episode 6 (of a future 12) which had me in tears the three times I listened to it today.The second link is an embedded quicktime from Conan O’Brien last spring, which also had me in stitches when I first saw it a month or two ago.– Timothy

The Ricky Gervais Show | Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, Karl Pilkington
“Exclusively available online from Guardian Unlimited A further 30 minutes, or thereabouts, of nonsense, courtesy of Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and an increasingly perplexed Karl Pilkington. Listen whenever and wherever you want as these weekly half-hour shows are offered as handy iPod friendly digital files for up to four weeks after they’re first posted.”

Spring Cleaning Walker Clip | Late Night with Conan O’Brien

New Link [2007-04-09]

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emailed by Timothy on Tuesday 10 January 2006 @ 10:52 PM

06w01:3 Political Vision

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 1 number 3 (political vision)

The Current had a discussion this morning on political vision, and why there doesn’t seem to be any during this election campaign, or for that matter, ever. Which just reminds me that the current crop of politicians in Ottawa are old men without ideas. The Current played clips of what are usually considered political visionaries – Martin Luther King, Trudeau, Kennedy, who are all comfortably dead with faults forgotten. Nevertheless they are voices from the 1960s, an over-idealized time to ‘the grown ups’ of my generation, and a time that means little to someone like me who came into the world in the midst of disco. Means little, except for seeming like a dream time when politicians had the balls to do stuff, like send men to the moon, and not whine about how much it’d cost. The only thing for which money seems to not be an obstacle nowadays is for pissing on our rights. But I digress.
Let’s consider what our options are:

The Liberals: they could have given us a guaranteed income thirty years ago but that didn’t happen. They’ve been promising to decriminalize marijuana for that long as well, but again, pigs will fly first. They’ve been letting Sea King helicopters fall out of the sky since 1993, buying second-rate submarines that catch fire, and talking about a National Child Care program for just as long. They don’t do shit but preen and stammer before the cameras and try to hold on to power. My time as a Board member here and there has given me insight both on how inaction happens, and how easy it can be to be overwhelmed by plans and papers and etcs. Anyway, the Liberals could use a dose of decisiveness. (Of course, if they were decisive, some people would protest).

The Conservatives: the wolf has bought a suit of sheep’s clothing at Moores. Suddenly they’re ahead in the polls and it doesn’t seem that scary. Maybe because the Liberals come across as so pathetic and tired. Maybe as well I’m dazzled by the fact that a political leader is actually laying out an agenda.

The NDP: what the hell is wrong with this country that Layton and the NDP don’t have a huge lead? The only party that makes any sense on anything, the only party made up of people who come across as human beings and not imagination-less managers (Liberals) and simply cold-hearted, mean and stupid (Conservatives), you’d think the NDP could win an election or two. But instead they’re stuck at 15%, which is to say only 15% of the electorate are worth having a beer with. Geesh.

Green Party: What a joke. They can’t even get on the news.

Of course, to be fair to both the Greens and the NDP, the news, (that is ‘the media’) displays clear bias in framing the choice as that between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The NDP are always talked about as if they were the underdog, and the media refuses to take them seriously. They look at the poll numbers as if their 15% wasn’t in fact, their creation, which it is. That fifteen percent (I’m sure it’s fair to say) reflect the citizens of this country who read and who may or may not have a television set, and thus are informed by a plurality of sources and are comfortable thinking about things themselves, rather than be spoon-fed ideas by punditry.

As for the Greens, they can’t even get included on the televised debates … why? Is it the politicians or the TV producers that think we’re too stupid to follow that many talking heads?

They debates themselves are anything but a debate. Speechifying and posturing and practiced mannerisms and phony, cued-up smiles. A debate is what we see the talk shows for christ’s sakes, and if that gets the ratings and get’s the livingroom agitated, why the hell can’t the politicians do that? Why can’t Paul Martin go all Dr. Phil on Stephen Harper and vice-versa?

Perhaps something like this:

Martin: Now listen Stephen, I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear. I think you’re wrong about a lot of issues. I think, for example, you still harping on about gay-marriage and your infatuation for tax cuts isn’t good for the country. In a world of hate, why should we persecute and pick on people who simply want to love one another? And taxes are just an indirect way of paying for things that would cost you much more if that service was in the hands of a corporation.

Harper: I respect that point of view, but I disagree, and in the case of gay-marriage, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. But he’s thinking about respecting his poor old grandma and infatuated with the old white-picket fence vision of the world, because he thinks Adam and Steve isn’t the way the story should be told. My view is that people work hard for their money and such a large percentage of it shouldn’t be taxed away just so that you can redistrubute it in what was clearly an entranched crony system. The episode with Mr. Goodale is simply the latest example. There has to be a better way of running the country than you have for the past 12 years.

Layton: [interjecting] Can I say something ….

Moderator: No, it’s not your turn yet. And thus earning extra pay for pissing on the NDP. Mr. Duceppe, do you have anything to add?

Duceppe: No, it’s become rather clear that Canada doesn’t work, and so our aim of a sovereignty seems to make sense doesn’t it?

Given that the Conservatives are the ‘official opposition’ (that is, they came in a clear 2nd in the last election) CBC and the like think that means they are the clear second choice. And yet, we re-elected Liberals time and time again because we all hated Mulroney so much. The ’93 election decimated the Conservatives, and they lingered on with reduced numbers while the angry Westerners kept sending the Reform party to Ottawa, and for a time, the Bloc Quebecois was the ‘official opposition’. So after the Reform renamed itself to the Aliance and incorporated the old Progressive Conservatives into its ranks, (thereby making the voter who wanted Senate reform and less Quebec-centrism politics a conservative) suddenly they win enough seats to come in second.

And they booed Belinda Stronach when she spoke up at their convention last spring in support of gay marriage. The woman who, it was said, orchestrated to the merger of the parties, and then ran for its leadership. And then she dumped her boyfriend Mr. McKay to go become a Minister of something or other (what again?) by switching sides.

Oy vey.

So the story of Canadian politics over the past decade and half is more of a soap opera than of any social progress and implementation of policy that makes all of our lives better, the type of thing they were fond of doing in the 19th Century, when they thought a railway across the continent was a good idea, as were public schools. It was a trend you know, once, to care about the citizens and to build a future, and so, we got ourselves Medicare, which is now talked about as being ‘the soul of the country’ (John Doyle wrote that in the Globe last month, critiquing the documentary which in turn was critiquing ‘the funding mechanism’).

Merry Old England was derided by Napoleon as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’. Perhaps our partial English heritage is one of the reasons we get so attached to economic structures like funding mechanisms for doctors and hospitals, and department stores like Eatons and a corporation called the NHL. But ok, in that vein, let’s propose some 21st Century visions:

renticare: we figured out a way to keep people from paying medical bills when they get shot in Toronto, except now days they have to pay for the ambulance and all this other shit that should be free as well. But whatever … it seems to me that they’d be able to pay for the other things if they weren’t wasting money paying rent. Where does rent go? On the landlords’ mortgage or in their pocket … is that not true? It seems to me it’s a lateral transaction that simply enriches a few and improvishes many, kind of like what paying for an operation is like in the US. Them doctors, so rich, so expensive, that the poor just don’t go. Renticare baby – that’s the future. Homelessness would vanish, that seems pretty clear. No more sad stories and excuses and appeals from charities. It’s not like Ottawa can’t afford it, with its record surpluses for years now.

Instead we get Harper saying he’d give $100 buck a month to new families, and Paul Martin saying they’d pay for half the tuition for post-secondary students in their first and last years. Tuition, of course, being the cheapest part of the package, the living expense part being the real killer. (Everybody knows that the student loan program is simply a disguised subsidy to the beer companies). Which brings me to my second vision for the future of Canada:

wipe out student debt: why the hell should I have to pay back all this money, spent supporting the Halifax economy, and enriching a rich landlord? I look back now and say, I helped keep Shoppers Drug Mart, various bars, fast food restaurants and coffee shops going, and in turn, employing that many people. Then there was the tuition, which was a small percentage of the total debt. On top of this, I’m supposed to pay back interest, because I need to be taught a lesson of fiscal responsibility and be ushered into the wonderful modern world of usery. How else is our economy supposed to grow? How else are we going to make money, the governments ask, forgetting about their taxes, which are supposed to pay for social services, like child care programs, or the bureaucratic management of the government’s own grow-ops, producing weak marijuana for those to whom it’s medically sanctioned. Because of course, it’s devastating for society and our ethics that anyone get high in Canada, especially if they have cancer.

Student debt is a severe problem for our society, and yet no politician is talking about it (well, Layton’s said some things, but I’m forgetting he doesn’t count). Why not pay people to go to school instead?

classify students as workers: As Warren Wagar wrote, when he introduced this idea in his 1999 book, A Short History of the Future,‘all adult students were workers, whether their studies were undertaken to satisfy a market demand or not. Work had come to include the enlargement of the self, on the premise that every increase in personal capacity achieved without exploitation of the labor of others represented a net gain for the whole society of associated selves.’

By classifying students as workers, they’d be eligible to receive a wage. Imagine going to school as a job, graduating with a healthy bank account and not burdened by debt. Student Loan programs should be replaced with Student Subsidy ones. I can’t imagine any harm being done to our society by having an educated populace.

Rather, it seems to me that the whole point of the system (the job, the house, the lifestyle idea) is to help us be fully human, to enable us to enjoy our lives. And that simply can’t be done within the status quo. Without getting into the usual capitalist critique, the status quo is set up to divide us into demographic markets and sell us the idea of happiness, while keeping us bat-shit miserable so that the next commercial and Caribbean vacation will seem appealing.

Currently, we’re dealing with a system (inherited from a less kind world), that sets up the winner-loser dynamic throughout our lives. In Bowling for Columbine, the fellow who makes South Park explained the Columbine Massacre as being a result of that dynamic. The current media sensation of gun-violence in Toronto is also a result of that dynamic. We all deserve better. There’s no reason to think some people are just born stupid and are hopeless. If we’re going to have a percentage of the population who will always be useless, they might as well spend their time in university libraries to make the money for their pot purchase, which should have been made legal thirty years ago.

Which brings me to the last vision, and the links:

the most educated citizens in the world: As Michael Ignatieff said last spring, ‘let’s get the federal governments, the provincial governments, the municipal governments working together to make Canadians the best educated, most literate, numerate, and skilled people on the face of the earth’. This plays into the article by Timothy Brown, which I’ve linked to before, and one of the oddest sources of anything visionary. Outlining the world of a role-playing game called 2300 AD, he wrote of Canada:

‘A national effort began in the 22nd century to make Canada the higher education center of the world. A tremendous effort was put into motion at that time to attract great thinkers to Canada to teach, to build facilities which would draw students from around the world, and to build a worldwide reputation for superb education and positive results. Canada correctly recognized the economic potential in being a leader in education. Other nations eventually began sending students, as a matter of national policy, to Canada, not wanting to be left behind in the thinking of the age. By the end of the century Canada had achieved its goal and remains the uncontested master of higher education on Earth.’

As an artist, this got me to thinking about what kind of culture such students would find, and helped me consider the cultural legacy we (and I as a cultural worker) were building. For Ignatieff to be articulating this makes it seem possible, but then again, his chances of actually getting elected seem slim (which is merely another example of Liberal incompetence).

However, the century is still young, and the ‘leadership’ isn’t getting any younger, so there’s still time to make such ideas a reality. Unfortunately, they are not a choices to consider on January 23rd.


We don’t have a vision? | The Current
“Above the western entrance to the Peace Tower on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, this proverb is inscribed: ‘Where there is no vision, the people shall perish.’ And over the next hour on The Current we put that maxim to the test. This year’s election campaign trail has been littered with promises of tax cuts, improved child care and tackling government corruption. But we discussed whether policy announcements can add up to a grand vision for Canada, or if we are, indeed, doomed to perish. And we started with a look back at some politicians upon whom historians have bestowed the honour of ‘visionary’.”with links to real audio files

Speech to the Liberal Convention | Michael Ignatieff
My stats went up in November because people were Googling this

Canada in the 24th Century | Timothy B. Brown
There is a future beyond our deaths, but what are we doing to shape it?

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emailed by Timothy on Thursday 05 January 2006 @ 11:26 AM

06w01:2 Irving Layton 1912-2006

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 1 number 2 (Irving Layton 1912-2006)

Irving Layton has died. And so to commemorate, a poem.
But first, in the world of cultural ignorance, this news (from today’s Globe and Mail):

no one knew who alice was
Kind of reminds me of the time I saw the Halifax Shakespeare by the Sea summer fest listing in 1999. It was in the MT&T brochure designed for tourists. For Titus Andronicus, they’d written, ‘Titus and Ronicus’.

The Cold Green Element (1940)
by Irving Layton

At the end of the garden walk
the wind and its satellite wait for me;
their meaning I will not know
until I go there,
but the black-hatted undertaker

who, passing, saw my heart beating in the grass,
is also going there. Hi, I tell him,
a great squall in the Pacific blew a dead poet
out of the water,
who now hangs from the city’s gates.

Crowds depart daily to see it, and return
with grimaces and incomprehension;
if its limbs twitched in the air
they would sit at its feet
peeling their oranges.

And turning over I embrace like a lover
the trunk of a tree, one of those
for whom the lightning was too much
and grew a brillant
hunchback with a crown of leaves.

The ailments escaped from the labels
of medicine bottles and all fled to the wind;
I’ve seen myself lately in the eyes of old women,
spent streams mourning my manhood,

in whose old pupils the sun became
a bloodsmear on broad catalpa leaves
and hanging from ancient twigs,
my murdered selves
sparked the air like muted collisions

of fruit. A black dog howls down my blood,
a black dog with yellow eyes;
he too by someone’s inadvertence
saw the bloodsmear
on the broad catalpa leaves.

But the furies clear a path for me to the worm
who sang for an hour in the throat of a robin,
and misled by the cries of young boys
I am again
a breathless swimmer in that cold green element.

-That’s all today, bye.


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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 04 January 2006 @ 10:42 PM

06w01:1 The Human Machine

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 01 number 1 (the human machine)

Happy New Year. – Timothy


DNA seen through the eyes of a coder | Bert Hubert
“This is just some rambling by a computer programmer about DNA. I’m not a molecular geneticist. […] I’m not trying to force my view unto the DNA – each observation here is quite ‘uncramped’. To see where I got all this from, head to the bibliography. […]DNA is not like C source but more like byte-compiled code for a virtual machine called ‘the nucleus’. It is very doubtful that there is a source to this byte compilation – what you see is all you get. The language of DNA is digital, but not binary. Where binary encoding has 0 and 1 to work with (2 – hence the ‘bi’nary), DNA has 4 positions, T, C, G and A. Whereas a digital byte is mostly 8 binary digits, a DNA ‘byte’ (called a ‘codon’) has three digits. Because each digit can have 4 values instead of 2, an DNA codon has 64 possible values, compared to a binary byte which has 256.”

Personal Identity, Neuroethics and the Human Brain | Michael S. Gazzaniga
Note: links to RAM file. Source page. A great and very illuminating presentation.

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 02 January 2006 @ 3:10 PM