Posts Tagged “Canada”

08w16:1 Marni Soupcoff’s Provocation

by timothy. 0 Comments

Canada’s biggest mistake: The $7.5-billion that Canadian governments lavish on the arts every year | Marni Soupcoff

National Post says: Cut Government Arts Funding | View on Canadian Art
(Linked to for Comment thread)

Marni Soupcoff’s Provocation | Timothy Comeau

08w14:4 The Shameful Minimum Wage

by timothy. 3 Comments

Honestly, if a business can’t afford to pay all its employees a livable wage, than that business should be considered a fail. What are businesses for? (The wrong answer is to say the enrichment of the owners at the expense of the employees, because that’s like Marxism or something, and we’re supposed to be past all that).

I remember when I was working for a minimum wage in Halifax, feeling both totally exploited and humiliated into enforced poverty. Further, the business had like 6 people on the payroll when it only really needed three. That’s where I got the idea that mismanagement should never be an excuse to pay people peanuts. And why I have no sympathy for the business owners who claim raising the minimum wage would be too hard on them. They’re not paying themselves a minimum wage are they?

My greater concern for raising the minimum wage is this society’s capacity to maintain an unfair status quo. As is pointed out in this article, adjusted for inflation, today’s Ontario minimum wage is equivalent to what it was thirteen years ago. I’ve noticed in the past that whenever the minimum wage goes up, so do the prices at Tim Hortons, (which I consider to be an unofficial index of inflation). So the gains of the working poor are immediately offset to erase them. The article begins by pointing out that the Ontario minimum wage went up last week. This week Tim Hortons had signs at its counters saying the prices of some menu items would rise next week. Two weeks ago, the Go Train commuter system rose its ticket prices too.

So, in 2010, when the minimum wage rises to $10 and hour, count on 1.60 coffees (rather than the current 1.42 lg) at your national coffee chain, and corresponding ticket prices across our belle province and sun-shiny country. – Timothy

Wage Ain’t Nothing But A Number | Jaime Woo
“Last week, minimum wage was raised to $8.75 an hour in the first of three scheduled increases. According to the arguments provided in the media (and on Torontoist), an increased minimum wage is necessary to help people make ends meet, but could force businesses to cut jobs to accommodate the increased costs. From a numbers point of view, the raise was a necessary antidote to the minimum wage being frozen at $6.85 from 1995 to 2003. Using the Consumer Price Index for Toronto, $8.75 adjusted for inflation ends up being $6.85 in 1995 dollars. Businesses caught off-guard by this year’s minimum wage increase must be pretty naïve to not realize that, after eight years of locked minimum wage rates, a correction was coming. However, each increase (or decrease) of the minimum wage by the government must be justified as the costs come off the back of the employers.”

08w07:4 John Ralston Saul on Canadian Culture in 1986

by timothy. 1 Comment

Culture: A Mirror and a Weapon (Excerpt) | John Ralston Saul
From Culture: A Mirror and a Weapon by John Ralston Saul. Found in “You’ve Got Ten minutes to get that flag down…”: Proceedings of The Halifax Conference:A National Forum on Canadian Cultural Policy (Conference took place in September 1985, and the book was published in 1986;; partially browseable on Google Books). Occasional comments on content by me footnoted:

This is not to argue that Canadian culture cannot make money or that it is not produced by a group within the community. It can and it is. But that has nothing to do with the role and importance of culture. Financial profits are artistic communities are by-products of culture, not the reasons for it. Only a great dominant culture can afford to concentrate on by-products. We are obliged to be extremely careful in the ways we choose to build our own mythology and to protect it, not only against the force of America, but also of France and of England, all three of whom perceive us a being worthy of their cultural leadership.

Culture, in all places and at all times, is a mirror for the nation out of which it emerges. Those who create should not claim for themselves the reassuring status of a specialized community. Their role, after all, is to provide a reflection of all of the communities within the nation. This is not to say that writers must sit down with the hand of socialist realism upon their shoulders. We, as individuals, may produce thousands of images for thousands of reasons. Nevertheless, each of those images, each of our reasons, will reveal themselves as part of our society’s reflection of itself. The farmers, the garment makers, the teachers, each have their jobs and their lives; but their reflection of themselves in in our hands. Whether the CBC or McClelland and Stewart make money out of it, whether the creator is compensated by a pension plan is of interest to the individuals immediately concerned, but irrelevant to a people’s reflection of themselves.1 That is, irrelevant to culture.


The remarkable thing about Canada’s culture is that despite unprecedented pressures from the United States, England and France, despite a branch-plant class of Canadian citizens who work partially or entirely at cross purposes to the national interest, we continue to run our country in our own very peculiar way and to produce ever greater amounts of accurate cultural reflection.

While the American novel sinks into degenerate university methodology or verbose facility, and the English novel into provincial regret and the French novel into perfected navel gazing and paralyzed language, the Canadian novel, English and French, appears young and strong, charged with a tough clean language and an unforgiving eye. Much of the same could be said for our painting or our poetry or, for example, our theatre, if you were to compare the force of a Tremblay or a Murrell with the helpless self-indulgence of the West End or the endless droning on of revived Broadway musicals. But if all of this is true, if our culture is perfectly healthy, what then is our problem? Because we do indeed act as if we have a great problem.

Perhaps it lies with the curious psychological blanket which we seem determined to lay over our culture. Worse than constantly attempting to define our efforts, we also insist upon making those definitions in relationship to three other nations. And yet, as we are not ancient, self-indulgent, declining ex-colonial powers struggling through the last steps of European nationalism. Nor are we the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, brandishing riches and nuclear force on the one hand, while slipping into poverty on the other thanks to an inability to deal with 60 million ex-slaves and Hispanic immigrants. It is therefore somewhat lunatic to expect our reflection of ourselves to resemble theirs of themselves. We are, despite our standard of living and our democracy, more like a third world country than anything else. And if we are to find soul brothers beyond our borders, then we should be looking for energetic, lean, aggressive, self-criticizing language and thought patterns, almost free of self-indulgence, almost free of proselytizing mythology. Friends with those sorts of qualities we are far more likely to find among dissidents of Eastern Europe or of Central and South America; among the creators of Australia and New Zealand or other smaller democracies.

It makes no sense for us to chase after the indifferent shadows of ex and current super powers. Our own reflection is a complete and adequate picture. It is the portrait of an outsider. Of a third world. A provincial body. I use this word – provincial – with enthusiasm and pride. Provincialism has always been a strength for the creator. The great imperial urban centres have never been hot beds of creation. Their citizens have always been too satisfied with the fast and easy excitement of their environment. They mistake fashion and sophistication and knowing the right people for creation and culture.2 They are too carefully political, too basely ambitious. They specialize in salon art3 and closed conversations disguised as fiction. The best of those who wish to write and paint flee these places. Those who wish merely to succeed stay, and indeed arrive from all points. Even within the borders of the great powers the creative impulse comes not from New York or Paris, but from the provinces. It was no accident that Flaubert stayed in Rouen and Twain in the south; that Cezanne fled to Aix and Byron to Italy.

These very cities – which live off the creativity of the provinces and corrupt all who are drawn into their arms – are the places that Canadians seem obsessed by measuring themselves against. The imagined brilliance of New York, London and Paris is forever before our eyes while we remain indifferent to, for example, the Spanish world, which is alive with real ideas and questions and is, incidentally, the second world market for books.

On top of our search for false relationships, we have laid a second, even more suffocating blanket. The culture of this country – an accurate reflection of the people – is in constant production or is ready to be produced. But it is not allowed to reflect. It is not allowed access to the technical means of reflection; that is to say, to the systems of distribution.

The Americans, the English and the French, despite their vocabulary of cultural superiority, go to great pains to secure their international cultural power through a hearty concentration upon the structures of culture – or ‘entertainment’, as the Americans say. Through this control they sell their own cultural products and therefore their ideas; which in turn sells everything that is a part of their own reflection – everything from their cars to their foreign policy.

The Americans are quite right to perceive their ‘entertainment business’ as an assault force. Culture is the most powerful weapon of any nation. To reduce culture to some sort of arcane middle class activity for those who have the luxuries of high education and spare time is in fact to abdicate control over our entire destiny.


But if our culture is so vibrant, how is it that, despite massive governmental aid, Canadian efforts to make headway in the distribution of our own culture continue to fail and to lose money, while foreign efforts to sell us their cultures (plus a token amount of our own) seem to succeed relatively easily? Why are we so ineffective? So amateurish? The answer to a great extent is that we are struggling within a system created by foreigners and therefore designed to work in their interests. This bias is not apparent in any written rules which could be identified and therefore changed. This bias is endemic to the system itself and therefore invisible to a legislator. Our obsession with specific legislation and specific support programs leads us blindly into a maze where only those who laid out the paths can find their way. The existing system dictates by a thousand unidentifiable signs, by its very breath, by its cadence, exactly which cultural elements will be able to find their way through to the Canadian public. It is worth adding that we are the only democracy in the world to have entrusted its culture delivery systems in this way to outsiders.

The governmental support programs – legislative and financial – which are intended to change this situation, in fact confine us ever more narrowly within our own marginality within our own country. We are increasingly the special case. The delicate flower. The only way to change this is through sweeping – not specific – legislation, which in one radical step would place us and our interests at the centre of our own society, while removing the foreigners to the margins.

But even if it is true that no other democracy except Canada accepts cultural marginality within its own borders, why is it that we need such radical legislation to establish a normal situation? No other country has needed to deal with culture in this manner. The answer is that no other democracy is in our situation: twenty-five million people4 sitting on the border of the century’s most powerful nation and culture. Our situation cannot be compared to others when we search for solutions because no other democracy exists under the kind of cultural pressures which we experience every day. Our solution must be specific to the Canadian situation, but aimed at creating a system not unlike the kind which makes it possible for national cultures to exist in other medium-sized or small democracies.


If we believe that no governmental action will be taken to put Canadians at the centre of their own cultural structure, or if decisions are being taken which we feel will dangerously damage this country, then we are perfectly capable of action and must therefore act. If the bureaucratic mind is so attached to the concept of ‘cultural industries’, why are we, the employees of those industries, so loath to engage in industrial action? We are able, for example, to shit down all the communication systems. Cable systems. Film distribution systems. Book distribution systems. What’s more, we can shut down these systems selectively: blocking foreign interests while allowing Canadian interests to function. Furthermore, we are surrounded by politicians obsessed by image. We can deal with their images in many ways.

We must not be trapped into a bureaucratic frame of mind which makes us believe that our only avenue is the negotiating of ‘deals’ in a ‘professional’ manner with governments and civil servants. It is these deals, these little victories, which have convinced us that the only marginal success is possible. It is this desire to appear professional which makes us afraid to dirty our hands. Is it not remarkable that we are more concerned about our dignity than were the nationalists in the oil industry?

If we believe that our culture is vibrant, then we should not waste time discussing that culture. Instead we should be engaged in action which shows we do actually believe that vibrancy to be real. If we do our job as the reflection of the people, then the people must expect us to stand up and use, in their defence, the talents which make us the creators of their reflection – that is, the talents of public words and public images and public actions.

1. Consider that now (22 years later in 2008) the following Canadian television shows: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Corner Gas, and MVP, which offer some sort of reflection of Canadian life.
2. Susan Sontag and George Steiner come immediately to my mind.
3. The art of the Whitney and the Venice Biennials.
4. In the twenty three years since, the population of Canada has increased to 33 million.

08w07:1 'Jack who?'

by timothy. 2 Comments

I was at this panel discussion in 2005, and was glad to see its transcript on the CCCA site when I remembered the quote in bold below. My recent research has led me to find this at this time and it is for this reason that I am posting it on Goodreads at this relatively late date. – Timothy

Isaacs Seen | Panel Discussion: Make the Scene: Get Critical
University of Toronto Art Centre Thursday, June 23, 2005, 7 – 8:30 pm
Moderator: Sarah Milroy | Panelists: Harry Malcolmson, Barry Lord, Joyce Zemans
“[Barry Lord]: ‘And of course we know Av, with the kind of promise he gave to the work of Joyce and others, was part of that. But one of the really big changes, one of the big improvements certainly, is that nowadays that kind of article would not be written, because we all take it for granted that there are serious women artists. Just to add just a line to what I was driving at in referring to the need for biennials and retrospectives, the tragedy is to go into a young artist’s studio and see real talent and real passion and real commitment, real capability, and see a link with other Canadian artists. So one says ‘That’s really pushing farther than Jack Chambers did on that line’ … or whoever you happen to recognize. And he looks at you blankly and says ‘Jack Who?’ We laugh at that, but that’s terrible. That is an absolute tragedy because it means that we are losing the potential for a Canadian tradition. And if we want to talk about loss, I think that in that period we had a grasp, suddenly, that there was something that was ours and that you could build on it, you could run with it and go with it. Many fall by the wayside. It doesn’t mean that every artist who plugs into it is able therefore to become great. But the point is simply that it is a terrible thing when an artist is working in a vacuum, and of course we know the they are never working in a vacuum because we have an enormous power to the south of us which is always telling us about the Judds and the Warhols, and what have you. So that young artist doesn’t know about Jack Chambers, and he sees himself in relation to Warhol or whatever, and that’s what he sees as his tradition or her tradition. And that is a terrible shame bbecause it is a loss of the potential of a real tradition that we can build, we have the potential to build, if our private and public institutions will do the job of making everybody familiar with the tremendous accomplishment we have. Even just looking at this exhibition, you can see that Meredith is a pretty damn fine painting. That’s pretty major stuff. I want to see a retrospective of Meredith. I wrote about him at the time. I thought he was really major. We can’t judge it until we see that retrospective.'”

08w03:5 Life is better in Venezuela

by timothy. 0 Comments

Life After the Bubble Burst | Ken O. Burtch
“This is a strange economic time in Canada. While the unemployment rate is the lowest in many years (CTV), Statistics Canada reports that 2/3rds of aged 25-54 Canadians are underemployed or are working under substandard conditions (CTV). According Robert Wright (as discussed in my Linux Startup book), the post World War II generation has exploited both their parents and their children for material gain. During the time of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, Canadian families pumped over 1 trillion dollars into the next generation so they wouldn’t do without. The baby boomer generation, with its hedonistic world-view, retired on the money instead of reinvesting it in the future, leaving Generation X with high unemployment, unpaid education debt, lower income and higher cases of suicide. As more and more older people retire from the work force, the true damage to the Canadian economy is slowly being being unmasked. A friend of mine with a university degree who moved to Venezuela recently returned to Canada because he couldn’t find work in South America. After trying for two years to get a job which paid enough to support his family, he announced that things were worse in Canada than Venezuela. He return to Venezuela…the cost of living was cheaper there.”
// article date: 17 April 2006

07w49:4 22nd Century Architecture

by timothy. 3 Comments

Bridged City
Figure 1. A 22nd Century Bridged City

The above is from an episode of the Star Trek series Enterprise. It came to my attention the other day through a montage depicting history in another episode of the series. As fans of the show know, one of the running plots involved time travel, and the depiction of human history ‘resetting itself’ (after plot related meddling) was done through the use of images from various sources grouped together into thematically recognizable decades. So the 1980s were depicted by images of Ronald Regan, Margaret Thatcher, and Ruhollah Khomeini, the 1990s by images of the Clintons, George H Bush shaking the hand of Mikhail Gorbachev, etc. After the depictions of the first half the present decade (scenes of 9/11, Bush & Blair) it moves on into speculation. (The images from the stream are available here). The future was represented by a car and a robot and from then onto scenes of the show’s 22nd Century, marked by the opening shot of the series, the launch of the Enterprise spaceship, in the year 2151 (Figure 2).

Captain Archer in the Timestream
Figure 2. Cpt Archer in the Timestream

The 22nd Century is therefore marked by two cityscapes, one being that of Figure 1 the other being the following. These are meant to be Earth cities given the context of the time stream, but both shots are re-used production art from previous episodes. As I’ve mentioned, the cityscape below is from a Season 1 show (‘Dear Doctor’), while the bridge above is from an episode of Star Trek Voyager‘s last season (‘Workforce Part 1’).

Toronto 2110 AD
Figure 3. Toronto, 2110 AD

With regard to Figure 3, because it is otherwise unlabeled and supposed to depict an Earth city in the 22nd Century, I thought it might as well be Toronto. We can imagine this stretch of waterfront as being a bit to the East, or a bit to the West, of the CN Tower thus accounting for its absence (or, I could just invite anyone to Photoshop it in). We can imagine the bridges are subway extensions to the island, and we see that a similar subway/covered LRT path runs right along the water.

This being an image originally from s-f, it reflects the current architectural trends of the beginning of the 21st Century, the postmodernist appreciation of angles, glass and concrete.

But I present this image to you thus as a reflection of what kind of city we’ll get if this century is to be one of starchitects. This is what another hundred years of Frank Gehry and Daniel Leibskinds will result in.

Does this city look like a place you’d want to live? We can spy green-space but it seems very sparse. And don’t give me the old, ‘who cares I’ll be dead’ routine, so common from the likes of the Baby Boomers. It’s precisely that type of attitude which has gotten us our present shit world, and I don’t want to encourage more of that. Given the extension of our lifespans over the past century, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this could be the city of your elder years, so take the question seriously: is this where you want to hobble and feed pigeons? Further, are you so selfish as to be that uncaring about the type of environment our proverbial great-and-beyond-grandchildren will live in?

Caprica City, Caprica
Figure 4. Caprica City, from the Battlestar Galactica Miniseries (2003)

A much more dramatic depiction of the type of city we could end up with it that from Battlestar Galactica. Filmed in Vancouver, perhaps one could label this ‘Vancouver 2210 AD’ since it seems a bit more harsh than the aesthetic presented above, as if one needed another century to get both the flying cars and the brutal deadness of the civic space:

Caprica City, Detail
Figure 5. Caprica City Detail

The real nightmare of urban development is this uniform cityscape of similar buildings, all equally unadorned, apparently utilitarian, with a neglected use of green space.

As spaces designed on computers to provide semiotic scenes meant to convey an advanced technological civilization, these reflect in turn the imagined futures of our own civilization. This is what we could end up with. But, in all likelihood, my guess is that the 22nd Century will not look like any of these images.

When Martin Rees published his book Our Final Hour in 2003, he famously gave our ‘civilization as we know it only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century.’ (source) Now there’s some ambiguity there: others predict the potential extinction of humanity, which would certainly ruin our civilization, but it could also anticipate a sort of apocalyptic collapse into another form of Mad Max Dark Ages. But I have to point out the civilization known to the British in 1903 – and globally, that of every other nation and ethnic group on the planet (with the exception of those still living isolated tribal lifestyles) did not survive the 20th Century. The British Empire fell, the reliance on coal was replaced with that of processed crude oil, and the colonial projects of the era came to ignominious ends – the consequences of which we are still processing. Given how squanderous of natural resources our present civilization-as-we-know-it is, there’s no reason to want it to survive the 21st Century.King Charles III

Which brings me to Prince Charles, who by the times spoken of here will be thought of as King Charles III. In the early 1980s, Charles was mocked by the media for his interest in organic farming, and he’s currently thought of as daft for his architectural interests, including his sponsorship of the community of Poundbury. Poundbury is the result of Charles’ interest in the work of Leon Krier and Christopher Alexander. As the Poundbury website records:

Poundbury is a mixed urban development of Town Houses, Cottages, Shops & Light Industry, designed for the Prince of Wales by Architect Leon Krier on the outskirts of the Dorset County Town of Dorchester. Prince Charles, The Duke of Cornwall, decided it was time to show how Traditional Architecture and Modern Town Planning could be used in making a thriving new community that people could live & work in close proximity. Poundbury has now become World Famous as a model of urban planning, with regular visits from Councillors and MPs. Welcome to the Poundbury Community Website!

Given how Charles has already displayed some prescience when it came to organic agriculture, anticipating both its sense and its popularity, my expectation is that he’s once again onto something with his interest in such small-scale, community oriented architecture. The end result will be cityscapes of the 22nd Century which will not reflect the imagined exaggerations of the present shown to us through easy digital mock-ups.

I return now to the city of the bridge. When I saw this in the Timestream montage, the lines of it brought to mind the position just stated: that by the 22nd Century, technological advance combined with a rejection of explicit postmodernist, angular, and Leibskind-like egotism will brings us a meld of the traditional and the technological. The bridged city seemed a place inspired by Lord of the Rings, a technological version of Rivendell.

Figure 6. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 7. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Rivendell, a bridge
Figure 8. A bridge in Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Figure 9. Rivendell,
from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Given a choice between Caprica, or the Toronto of 2110 suggested here, I’d take a Rivendell of any season, of any weather condition. Of course, I expect to be able to continue to use a high speed internet connection, use a cell-phone, browse in an Apple Store, and be able to have sushi. The point here is we can take much more control over our built environment, and expect more from our architects than glass and concrete. Letting current architectural fashion guide the next several generations will only result in a Caprica like monstrosity.- Timothy


The Architectural Contributions of Prince Charles | Nikos Salingaros

Some Notes on Christopher Alexander | Nikos Salingaros

Restructuring 21st Century Architecture Through Human Intelligence | Nikos Salingaros and Kenneth Masden
Abstract: This paper introduces a compelling new way of thinking about, teaching, and practicing architecture. Founded on the basis of how the human mind
perceives and interacts with the built environment, we call this new design process “intelligent architecture”. Perhaps surprisingly, scientifically-conceived rules for architectural design and building can lead to a more human architecture, one with a renewed respect for traditional methods of architectural design. This new process can also be extended by implementing new technologies. By applying the most recent scientific advances to architectural thinking, we can better appreciate the architectural heritage of the past, giving scientific insight into its origins and manner of conception. This development also reverses an unfortunate misunderstanding that required the future to erase the past rather than to learn from it. […] How can anyone believe that a “Dutch Design Demigod” could know more about a place than the very people who were born and raised there? How can these starchitects espouse to know what is best for the rest of the world? More importantly, how do we combat the aesthetic authority that such individuals now exert over our place in the world?”

Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order | Nikos Salingaros

Jim Kalb’s review of Christopher Alexander’s Nature of Order
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Pattern Language | Christopher Alexander

The Nature of Order | Christopher Alexander
“‘. . . Five hundred years is a long time, and I don’t expect many of the people I interview will be known in the year 2500. Christopher Alexander may be an exception.’ David Creelman, author, Interviewer and Editor Knowledge Manager, HR magazine, Toronto”

// what gets me is that Christopher Alexander’s work does live up to that blurb by David Creelman, but his principles of design do not carry over to his shitty websites.

Christopher Alexander | Project for Public Spaces

Prince Charles honored with Scully Prize
//contains a brief account of Poundbury

Prince Charles On Being Relevant | CBS’60 Minutes
LINK (60 Minutes)
//If you can handle the clutter of advert garbage on this page, your welcome to it. It was from this 60 Minutes story that I learned about Poundbury.

The Future of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism | Nikos Salingaraos interviews Leon Krier
NS: Has humanity, as you claim in your writings and talks, made a fundamentally false step in building its cities, and if so, what can be done about it now?
LK: Humanity lives by trial and error, sometimes committing errors of monumental scale. Architectural and urbanist modernism belong — like communism — to a class of errors from which there is little or nothing to learn or gain. They are ideologies which literally blind even the most intelligent and sensitive people to unacceptable wastes, risks, and dangers. Modernism’s fundamental error, however, is to propose itself as a universal (i.e. unavoidable and necessary) phenomenon, legitimately replacing and excluding traditional solutions. Thank God there are, through the applications of New Urbanism in the last 20 years, enough positive experiences worldwide to see a massive return to common-sense solutions.”

Reforming the Suburbs | Conference Page, March 2007
// I wish the images here were better, but this link is pretty much just an FYI

Image sources and references:

The Time Stream Images | Star Trek Enterprise

Star Trek Voyager Workforce Part I Screencaps

Star Trek Enterprise Dear Doctor Screencaps
(Cityscape here)

Lord of the Rings Screencaps

07w49:3 Jeffrey Simpson on this morning's Current

by timothy. 0 Comments

Bali Conference – Canada’s Position | The Current
“Like most other governments around the world, Ottawa buys into the science of climate change — even if some of its members didn’t in the not-too-distant past. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister John Baird are adamant that for Canada to commit to tough targets in an international agreement, major emitters like the United States, China and India have to sign on to the same program.

John Baird’s office declined our request for an interview. But for his thoughts on Canada’s stance going into Bali, we were joined by Globe and Mail political columnist Jeffrey Simpson. He’s also the co-author of Hot Air: Meeting Canada’s Climate Change Challenge and he was in Ottawa.”

// skip ahead to about 9:30 for the part referenced in the blurb above. I’m posting this because I appreciated what Jeffrey Simpson had to say.

07w46:4 Public Interest

by timothy. 1 Comment

From today’s Mediascout, by Rishi Hargovan:

The Globe fronts and the Star goes inside with a court ruling that could substantially increase freedom of the press in Canada. In a unanimous, precedent-setting ruling, the Ontario Court of Appeal established “benefiting the public interest” as a defence against defamation charges. The ruling, which only applies in Ontario, introduces a principle that will help the media report controversial allegations when it is in the public interest to do so. Currently, journalists and media outlets often censor themselves, hesitating to publish material they honestly believe to be true solely because they fear a lawsuit. No matter how strong the story, litigation is costly and it is difficult to prove such facts to the standards of the courts—where there is zero room for error. Now the standard would be that journalists would have not have to prove that they were right, only that they were acting responsibly. The Globe quotes Justice Robert Sharpe: “…[W]here a media defendant can show that it acted in accordance with the standards of responsible journalism in publishing a story that the public was entitled to hear, it has a defence, even if it got some of its facts wrong.”

Adopted in other major common law countries around the world, the ruling marks the first time a Canadian court has taken this approach and increases the likelihood courts in other Canadian jurisdictions will follow suit. The impact will likely be a greater propensity to publish and air controversial stories of public import, the Globe’s lawyer Peter Jacobsen told the paper. In a peculiar twist, the Star reports, the paper involved in this specific case, the Citizen, cannot take advantage of the new defence. The legal system’s emphasis on finality in proceedings would make it unfair to re-open the trial and let the paper go back and use the defence. The court, however, did not go as far media organizations would have liked. The media had argued in court for defamation to require evidence of malice to be proven—a difficult element to prove.

Also, from the CNW Group:

Attention News Editors:
Another Prime Minister, The Hon. Stephen Harper is noted in default in a Libel action, as well as the Hon. Tony Clement, Governor General Michaelle Jean, Morris Rosenberg, the Deputy Minister of Health, three of his staff and others BELLEVILLE, ON, Nov. 14 /CNW Telbec/ – Trueman Tuck and his company, Freedom of Choice in Health Care Inc., sued the above noted parties November 15, 2006 for $1,050,000 and the Department of Justice lawyers handling the matter failed to file a defense.

Citizens of Canada are getting used to this type of above the Rule of Law arrogance by the Prime Ministers of Canada.

Trueman Tuck filed the lawsuit to stop what he alleges are false allegations of e-coli contamination of a product that Trueman Tuck and his company sell. Trueman Tuck alleges that the criminal investigative federal officials working in the Health Canada Inspectorate regularly create bogus allegations of harm that have no probable scientific cause.

Trueman Tuck also criticized the Conservative Government, including the Prime Minister for their total failure since taking office to investigate the well documented cases of malicious, unlawful and out of jurisdiction attacks on dietary food supplement small family businesses by the local officials of Health Canada and the total failure of the Managers, Director Generals, ADMs, DMs and responsible Ministers to investigate and intervene.

Complaints have been made to various federal oversight committees, the Cabinet, the Senate, the Governor-General and the Queen personally without any response.

The Defendants were noted in default and a requisition for default judgment has been filed with the Picton, Ontario Superior Court.

For further information: Trueman Tuck, (613) 771-1797,,

07w45:3 Dante's Heaven and Canadian November

by timothy. 6 Comments

November in Canada is a season of two contradictory impulses. The first is the Massey Lectures, a series of five one hour lectures delivered on CBC Ideas for a work-week sometime during this month. The Massey Lectures to me represent some of the better characteristics of our species: the desire to not only grow in knowledge, but to communicate it as well. This lecture series invites the so called expert to break down the professional linguistic barriers that too often separates them from a broad audience.

The Massey Lectures used to invite scholars and writers of international habitation, but since the mid-nineties have focused on Canadian speakers, highlighting how much excellent thinking is being done by Canadians. My own excessive fondness for the work of John Ralston Saul stems from his delivery of the 1995 Massey Lectures, and my support of Michael Ignatieff’s quest for the Liberal leadership (and the subsequent eventual likelihood of Prime Ministership) comes from his 2000 Lectures (and in that case, it wasn’t so much the content of his talks, which was on human rights, but the fact that Canada deserves to have a Prime Minster who’s intelligent enough to have delivered the talks in the first place). Other past notables of the Massey Lectures include Charles Taylor (who delivered the 1991 Lectures) and Northrop Frye (in 1962; the series The Educated Imagination I consider to be essential reading).

Prior to the can-con, Noam Chomsky taught us about the media-as-propaganda model in 1988, and Dorris Lessing taught us about ‘the prisons we live inside’ in 1985. Lessing’s lectures were re-published by the House of Anansi Press last year, just in time for this year’s Nobel win to spike sales, and I picked up my copy the other day.

This brings me to the other side of Canadian November, and that’s the poppy. This is the impulse which contradicts our desire for knowledge (that desire to grow as individuals and as a species) and that is the desire for barbaric violence. The poppy sentimentalizes what should be considered simply shameful. How can its motto of ‘lest we forget’ still be said after 90 years of more war after that ‘war to end all wars’? It’s shame should be apparent in this embarrassment.

This year I’ve decided to boycott this emblem of remembrance, because I’m tired of war, I’ve had an ear and eyeful from the news all year and I want nothing to do with it. I don’t support the troops, I think Western governance has gone on a patriarchal war-is-glory bender and whatever threats exist are only exaggerated to promote the real agenda, which is an ancient Roman ideal of glory in death, destruction, and the vanquishing of enemies. Fuck all of that.

In her first lecture twenty-two years ago, Lessing brought up the unspoken facet of violence and war which she had witnessed in her lifetime, and that was that war was for many people fun. She opens her talks with a tale of a farmer who’s expensively imported bull had killed the boy who took care of it, and that this farmer decided to kill the bull because in his mind it had done wrong. She also tells of the post-WW II symbolic trial and ‘execution’ of a tree that had been associated with General Petain. Lessing points out that the farmer’s actions, and the villagers who destroyed a tree, were irrational, acting out of symbolism but not sense. As she says, ‘I often think about these incidents: they represent those happenings that seem to give up more meaning as time goes on. Whenever things seem to be going along quite smoothly – and I am talking about human affairs in general – then it is as if suddenly some awful primitivism surges up and people revert to barbaric behavior.’ Later, she writes:

To return to the farmer and his bull. It may be argued that the farmer’s sudden regression to primitivism affected no one but himself and his family, and was a very small incident on the stage of human affairs. But exactly the same can be seen in large events, affecting hundreds or even millions of people. For instance, when British and Italian soccer fans recently rioted in Brussels, they became, as onlookers and commentators continually reiterated, nothing but animals. The British louts, it seems, were urinating on the corpses of people they had killed. To use the word ‘animal’ here seems to me unhelpful. This may be animal behavior, I don’t know, but it is certainly human behavior, when humans allow themselves to revert to barbarism. […] In times of war, as everyone knows who has lived through one, or talked to soldiers when they are allowing themselves to remember the truth, and not the sentimentalities with which we all shield ourselves from the horrors of which we are capable … in times of war we revert, as a species, to the past, and are permitted to be brutal and cruel. It is for this reason, and of course there are others, that a great many people enjoy war. But this is one of the facts about war that I think is not often talked about. (p.15-16)

It is my sense, as noted above, that the Western world has not grown out of the immaturity of its violent, Imperial and Roman past. It used to be the comparison between the United States and Rome was a metaphor, and it has now become an analogy. It can be argued that since the Renaissance the Western project has been the resurrection of the Roman political state.

There is a reason why Roman dramas are part of our televisiual schedules, and that the actors speak with English accents, and that reason is simply that to a contemporary audience at mid-20th Century, when these dramas began to be made, the English accent was associated with Empire, but we still have not shifted to Roman dramas of American accents. Perhaps that wouldn’t be ‘exotic’ enough. Perhaps because American Empire is Robert Duval saying he loves the smell of napalm in the morning, or a cowboy falling on a nuclear weapon, or Nicholson telling us we can’t handle the truth. A Roman drama with American accents wouldn’t work because we associate American Empire with a vulgar New World technological advantage and Ancient Rome still sounds better in an Old World voice.

Cue Dante. This is written as an introduction to the link below, a discussion on Dante’s Paradiso, a recent translation of which has just been published. I’ve tried to read the Paradiso more than once over the past few years and always find it extremely boring, and that’s part of my point. There is a reason why the dark, violent, Hell-Vision of Dante is more often translated, more often talked about, more often borrowed for a cinematic vision. Because we are still barbarians. Resurrecting Rome while still caught in a Dark Ages mind-set that likes all this violent shit. (Beowulf anyone?).

And yet, seven hundred years ago, in the midst of that Middle Age between the light of Empires, a man imagined Heaven. It has been said that this alone should be heralded, as a supreme accomplishment of the human imagination. And that is why I’ve tried to read and appreciate it. Because it represents something other than violence and darkness, and if we find it boring, it’s because we still allow ourselves to be thrilled by cruelty and brutality. We still pay money to see digital humans ripped apart by monsters, fake blood flying everywhere. The Romans had least had the balls to do it for real, they didn’t try to hide behind our ‘special effects’ which somehow is supposed to do two things: maintain a moral vision of human worth (which is continually contradicted by the cruelties in the news) and prevent us from seeing the dubious morality of being entertained by violence.

And so, a conversation on Dante during the season of Ideas and poppies. – Timothy

Dante’s Paradiso | CBC Tapestry
From CBC’s Tapestry website: “We’ll explore the vision of heaven in Dante’s Paradiso, the third and final part of The Divine Comedy with Dante scholars Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander. Their new translation of Paradiso is published by Doubleday.”