Sunday, December 30, 2007

Zig Zag Man

My friend G was one of the biggest guys in our school and yet displayed much speed and agility on the playing fields. His talents didn't go unnoticed and he was given a football scholarship to an American university. I went off to University in Toronto and enrolled in classes in philosophy, psychology and linguistics while he went south to play football and enrolled in classes in bowling and archery.

When I saw him again over the Christmas holidays that year I couldn't believe how much he had changed. He looked like he had packed on about 50 pounds of muscle. He wasn't shy or secretive about it, he told me that the team medical staff had put him on a course of anabolic steroids. This was just what every school did and every professional football player as far as he knew also injected himself with the stuff.

Ricky Williams has been twice suspended from NFL football for testing positive for marijuana use. This is somewhat bizarre since nobody is claiming that it has given him any advantage while working as a professional running back (unless it's actually what suppresses his fear while running full speed into 350 pound linemen). Meanwhile it is pretty likely that almost all of the larger players in the NFL and Major League Baseball have used or still continue to use performance enhancing drugs.

Unlike alcohol or anabolic steroids; marijuana is not known to make the user violent or aggressive. So it's use is quite irrelevant for a football player. It also does not make one particularly quick, either mentally or physically. This is why the Olympic people rightly reversed Ross Rebagliati's initial disqualification of his gold medal win in the snowboarding event after he tested positive for THC.

The video below could be made into a very useful public service announcement.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa Claus, Faith and Fascism

By the time I had reached grade two I had already decided that I didn't believe in Santa Claus. My ethnic immigrant parents didn't really know anything about Santa and my three older sisters made it clear by their words and deeds that it was just a fairy tale which was not to be taken seriously. On the last day of school before the holidays someone put up their hand in class and asked if there really was a Santa Claus. My grade two teacher laughed with incredulity and said "Of course dear. Santa Claus has been working hard all year and he'll be delivering your gifts on Christmas Eve".

This took me by surprise so I entered the fray and asked a series of questions "but how could he have the time to make the gifts for every boy and girl on the planet? Reindeer can't fly, can they? What about this chimney thing? I live in an apartment building, we don't have a chimney." The teacher proceeded to give a strained explanation for each of my objections while some of the more smarmy kids gave me the stink-eye, laughed at me and questioned my intelligence. Apparently this immortal being could work magically fast, had magical reindeer and seemed to be some kind of shape-shifting creature that could fit not only through chimneys but also through apartment ventilation systems or even door cracks if you didn't have a working HVAC system in your shack.

I loved and trusted my teacher and couldn't imagine that she would deceive me so I began to question my skepticism, especially when she said that it would only work if I truly and honestly believed in him. So as I walked home I tried to truly and honestly believe in Santa Claus. When I got home I told my family about what I had learned and my sisters laughed at me and my parents didn't show much support but I resisted the efforts of these unbelievers who were testing my faith. I insisted on leaving out cookies and milk for Santa. My mother reluctantly agreed to humour me but refused to remove the covering over the heating vent citing that if he was so magically gifted he could figure out a way around it. As the evening drew to a close I was doing all kinds of mental contortions to make myself truly and honestly believe in him. One part of me had serious doubts but the other side tried to douse them because I wanted it so much to be true. I really wanted to get those Rock'em Sock'em Robots and there was no way I was going to find them in my living room the next day unless I could somehow manage to truly believe.

I fell asleep squinting with the intensity of belief, struggling to throw aside any aberrant thoughts of doubt. In the morning I awoke and rushed out to our living room only to find that the cookies and milk were still where I left them and no presents were anywhere to be found. At first I was crushed by my inability to truly and honestly believe in him but soon decided that I had been duped. I don't think I have ever felt so foolish in my entire life and I immediately began to question the motives of my beloved teacher. If she lied about this, she might been lying about everything she's been teaching us. How could I ever trust her again?

I don't have children of my own but I was once a child. I would strongly suggest that if you do have children to not to extend the deception and let them know that there is a rational order to the Universe and that such magical powers are not possible. I'm not suggesting that you crush a child who willingly believes in Santa Claus but if they already have doubts then for the sake of their intellectual and emotional growth please don't try and convince them with faulty logic and science. What purpose does it serve? Children rely on us to tell them the truth. All you're doing is training them to force themselves to believe what is reasonably unbelievable. All that will do is create a generation of people who are perfectly suited to be swayed by political and religious extremists because forcing one's self to believe something just because you'd like it to be true is exactly how these groups operate, propagate and survive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let's Put our Heads Together

Who's more likely to accurately guess the weight of a large ox; a livestock expert or a large group of amateurs? Francis Galton was surprised to discover that the average of the guesses of the crowd of amateurs was more accurate than the estimate of any single member of the crowd including experts. James Surowiecki has written a book called The Wisdom of the Crowds. The subtitle of the book is Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations.

Western societies have an inherently dichotomous approach to authority. We believe fiercely in the ability of the individual to make decisions for one's self but we willingly acquiesce to the wisdom of the crowds that control the outcome of electoral democratic elections. We elect leaders by giving every single person the opportunity to choose not just professors of Political Science. So it's not difficult for us to accept that a very large group of citizens can arrive at a better decision than a group of oligarchs just like a small group of jurors can arrive at a better decision than a judge (or not).

The world of business has always at been at peace with this approach as it is just plainly true that whatever price a crowd of investors is willing to pay for a share is what accurately determines the price of that share. The futures markets essentially makes bets on what people believe will be the price of a commodity at a certain time in the future. These markets have been shown to be uncannily prescient in these matters as they tend to be incredibly accurate. Even futures markets that bet on who they believe will be the winners of elections have been shown to be more accurate than most polling results. But this seems to work well only when there is something to win or lose by the result of your prediction. People could respond to pollsters' questions in any number of ways but they become much more focused and accurate when there's something immediately at stake.

Businesses are now starting to apply this approach internally by giving away prizes like iPods to employees who can predict something like the date of completion of a particular project. The results they collect from the entries are much more accurate than the time-lines they find in the reports given to them by their subordinates.

Recent technological developments are giving rise to similar innovations in social and political realms. A mass of text-messaging teenagers are given the task of choosing the next American Idol over the expert opinions of that really mean Englishman panelist. A Wikipedia entry is not written by a single expert but is now the source most trusted to supply accurate information. The impressive adoption rate of Facebook gives us an unprecedented opportunity to apply this wisdom of the crowds in myriad ways to our everyday lives. The potential of a large network of individual peers to help us make decisions has not yet even been touched.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Future By Design

I just went to a screening of Future By Design by William Gazecki. It features the thought and works of an extraordinary 91 year old inventor name Jacque Fresco. This man still spends his days thinking about ways to redesign cities in a way he wants to resist calling utopian but I can't think of a better description.

When Sir Thomas Moore wrote 500 years ago of an island he called Utopia he was making a play on words: The Greek ou-topos, meaning "no place", and eu-topos, meaning "good place". It is an imagined place of perfection that does not exist and some would say cannot exist. The ideas brought forth by Jacque Fresco are all within the realm of possibility but so many factors stand in the way of them ever coming to pass. I admire the determination of such a person but can't help but feel sad for his quixotic quest.

I know we will need to make some radical changes to the way we build, consume, govern, and do business to save this world but I'm afraid we probably won't really want to do these things until we're on the brink or past the brink of disaster. Unfortunately that is probably the worst time to make reasoned and rational choices. In such instances immediate survival will be chosen over long term benefits which consequently could make it worse.

Another reason I'm saddened is that even if we could all agree that we needed to redesign our entire world the unintended consequences of such radical overhauls are bound to be disastrous in their own right. You simply cannot remake a world with a single blueprint. There are millions of competing blueprints from which we're all simultaneously building our world. Whenever a single design is chosen it is bound to succeed on many fronts but fail on countless others.

Some of the city designs which Fresco advocates are marvels of rational, mathematically rigid design. All the cities in his world would be nearly identical and their efficiencies would be vastly superior. But what would we also lose? The architecture of a city influences and inspires it's inhabitants. Such a rationally pre-structured design doesn't allow room for a natural cultural growth. In such surroundings one could imagine that the very innovation required to continue improving the world and to grow culture would be diminished or lost.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This Week in Political Elections

Russian President Putin seems to have played every trick in the book to get a mandate from the people to remain as de facto dictator. Some complained that even elections under the old Soviets weren't this corrupt. Did anybody really think that someone like Putin was going to give up that much power that easily?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez didn't seem to cheat nearly as much as Putin did and consequently didn't win his bid to remain as dictator. He was holding a referendum to attain the power to remain as President for life, take control of the Central Bank and enact legislation at his discretion without parliamentary assent. He lost the vote 49% to 51% but remains in power until 2013.

Peter Garrett was the lead singer for Australian rock band Midnight Oil. The fiercely political singer was frighteningly energetic on stage when I saw them in concert about 20 years ago. He has apparently been in parliament for the past three years and was this week appointed as the Environment Minister after his Labour Party ousted the global warming denying and Bush ally John Howard.

Another pop star politician Gilberto Gil of Brazil is resigning as Culture Minister to attend to an illness.

Enjoy the videos below.

Vladimir Putin: Russia's New Dictatorship

Hugo Chavez vs Bush

Midnight Oil - Beds are Burning

Gilberto Gil - Turn Your Lights Down Low

Friday, November 30, 2007

Writer's Block II

Video in support of the striking writers.

Writer's Block

During the last 30 days I've blogged everyday and managed to write a novel while participating in NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo. The novel has already gotten a very emotional response from its first reader.

To be honest I'm actually surprised how easy it all was.

I'll be sure to come back to the previous sentence whenever I think I'm suffering from writer's block.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't Make a Big Production Out of It!

I went to see a staged reading tonight. What is that exactly? You ask. It's the performance of a play without any stage design, props, extras, music etc. This particular reading had just three people on stage; two actors reading from a script and the seated director who read out the stage directions.

The play was Espresso by Lucia Frangione at Theatre Best/Before. It was a little confusing at first and one had to pay close attention because each of the two actors had to speak the parts of several characters and sometimes even switched between characters. Once I got the hang of it I was no longer confused and the actors began to win me over.

The story is about a thirty year old Italian/English Canadian girl who rushes back home after her father is seriously hurt in a car accident. The characterizations of Italian Canadian culture were spot on and very funny at times. Domenic Calla who played most of the Male voices through the avatar character of Amante was most charming when he spoke in the exaggerated voices of the various Italian family members. Laura Duralija started slowly but came into her own as the tension increased and more emotion was required of her.

Other than the occasional David Mamet play I haven't been to see much theatre mainly because I really don't like all of the excessive production of most of the popular plays. The focus on the text of a play without the distraction of over production is an interesting approach to theatre and I will probably go to other staged readings in the future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Filler' Up - Coal or Nuclear?

If I decide to ever buy another car I thought it might be an electric one like the Zenn (Zero Emission Zero Noise) vehicle. They don't spew any exhaust, take up less space and are completely silent. Switching to vehicles like these would have profound effects on life in a city like Toronto. But wide scale adoption of these could lead to some unintended results. Remember the massive blackout during the summer of 2003? It was possible because every summer our air conditioners overextend the capacity of our electricity suppliers. Population growth coupled with a booming economy means that electricity supply problems will get worse not better.

So what would happen if a significant number of drivers switched to electric cars? Our current power delivery systems would become swamped. Whenever we need to buy more electric power on the open market our suppliers tend to purchase it from US sources which are almost all derived from burning coal. These cars would in effect be be powered by coal. One way around this would be to do as the French do and invest in new nuclear plants but then these cars would ultimately run on nuclear energy and a lot of people can't come around to supporting Nuclear energy.

No matter how you slice it there will need to be massive reductions in everyday power consumption if innovations like the Zenn car are going to be effectively adopted. So maybe hybrid is still a better choice. It's too bad because I had my eye on this electric car below which is made by Tesla Motors.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Checkmate Knockout

I started a Facebook group over 6 months ago called Intellectuals Who Enjoy Boxing. We peaked at 3 members and have been sitting at 2 members since one of my so-called good friends left the group inexplicably a few months ago.

Chessboxing is a sport that is tailor made for intellectuals who enjoy boxing. Competitors in this sport alternate between playing chess and pounding on each other in a regulation boxing ring.

The best chess players in the world have recently been surpassed by computer chess machines and it's just a matter of time until robot boxers start beating the crap out of us flesh-based pugilists so I'm starting to promote the ultimate chessboxing match of the future.

Live at the MGM Grand II in Las Vegas, June 7, 2019.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

We learned long ago that an atom was comprised mostly of nothing. Inside the electron shell there is a vast area of nothing until you get to the nucleus where you'll find the Neutrons and Protons. The amount of stuff in there is almost negligible in size but significant in it's force since it's this stuff that makes it what it is.

In order for much of modern cosmological theories to work theorists have postulated the existence of Dark Matter. It is another type of matter than the stuff that we can see and from which we're all made. It doesn't react with our regular baryonic type of matter so we can't observe it directly but is thought to comprise the vast majority of the mass off the matter of the Universe anyway, about fifty times more Dark Matter than regular matter.

But wait, that's not all. As much Dark Matter as there is, it's only about a third of the theorized amount of Dark Energy. Even though it is just energy and not matter, there is so much of this Dark Energy that it nevertheless makes up about three quarters of the mass of the Universe.

According to these theories the stuff of planets, stars and galaxies only comprise about less than one half of one percent of the stuff of existence. We're more special than you might think.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Body By Jake

I don't believe in all of those fad weight loss diets. It shouldn't be about the weight. If you adopt a healthy lifestyle then the weight loss will be a bonus side-effect. My friend has developed a diet that's very simple and effective. It's called the Shut Your Cake Hole and Start Moving Your Ass Diet.

I'm one of those people who others say can eat anything and not get fat. It's true that I often eat ice cream and cookies before going to bed and regularly spoon Nutella directly from the jar but I don't think that I've won the genetic lottery. I've got a couple of secrets to add to the diet above.

1. Chew your food - I mean really chew it well. It tastes better this way, you're more satisfied, you'll have fewer tummy troubles and you'll eat less.

2. Small portions - The first five bites always tastes better than the last five bites, so just eliminate the last five bites and have another first five bites later.

3. No Sugar - Just don't add sugar to anything. After your body kicks the habit you won't even miss it, your cravings for sweets will diminish and you'll start to notice that a lot of cake is just too sweet to eat.

That's it. If you take this advice to heart then you'll have success. I guarantee it or your money back.* But you must heed all of the above because I haven't been moving my ass that much lately and I'm starting to feel a little soft. Boxing lessons start again next week.

*offer not valid in GPEG (Greater Planet Earth Region)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ride'em Cowboy

“We call this a 'Brokeback Mountain' game, because there's so much penetration and kickouts,” Jackson said. “It was one of those games.”

Sports personalities aren't known for their original observations or verbal acuity. Phil Jackson is one of the more enlightened people in sports. The multiple championship winning NBA coach of the LA Lakers threw off one of the funnier quips I've heard from a sports guy in some time. During a game this week the San Antonio opposition was repeatedly able to penetrate into the scoring zone then kick the ball out to a shooter who easily made the long 3-point shot. When asked about it he delivered the quote above.

I thought it was hilarious. It showed a knowledge of sports, cinema and comedy as well as a hip ease with referencing gay culture. Most of the reporters also thought it was funny as it generated a round of laughter within the scrum. The NBA however reprimanded Jackson this week for his comments. I'm not exactly sure why but I'm not surprised it would happen within a nation that embarrassed themselves to the world by freaking out over the momentary exposure of a single breast during a half-time show.

Phil came out to make the obligatory apology but he did so again with an hilarious flourish.

“If I've offended any horses, Texans, cowboys or gays, I apologize,” Jackson said.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Persistence of Memory

The amounts of data being created on the Internet is staggering and we've got to find a way to store all of it somehow. Rich media Internet applications like YouTube, Myspace and Facebook are accelerating the rate at which the amount of data is being added to the pool. Below is a pretty funny graph produced just ten years ago in 1997. It estimates the amount of data on the Internet at that time to be just under 2 Terabytes (2 million megabytes).

Here's what you can do with 2 TB worth of data. You can store it on this Lacie 2TB hard drive which anyone can put on their desk for about $600.
When the Large Hadron Collider becomes operational next year some of the most important physics experiments ever devised will be carried out. Some really interesting data will be produced there at the annual rate of about 15 Petabytes (15 million million megabytes). This is just from one source. Now imagine all of the ways we will continue to create data. If we extrapolate into the future the growth we've seen thus far it quickly becomes mind boggling to consider where to store it all and how to maintain it so that it doesn't disintegrate and disappear into the ether.

La desintegración de la persistencia de la memoria
Salvador Dali (1954)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Making Green Lemonade

Some people have a knack for making the best of a bad situation. I'm not talking about Mary Tyler Moore whose character "can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worth while." For some people calamities, catastrophes and disasters aren't always so bad.

Disaster Capitalism - The new book by Naomi Klein is a follow up to her huge hit No Logo. In the new work she claims that political powers exploit disasters of many kinds to push through legislation that would otherwise be met with much resistance in safe and peaceful settings. The implication is that there is actually a disincentive for some to seek peace and incentives for them to sustain disaster scenarios so that they can enact legislation like The Patriot Act after 911 or bring forth the privatization of the school system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Military Industrial Complex - More than just the simple opportunism of disaster capitalism, the Military Industrial Complex is a much wider construct that is said to be more or less designed to encourage war in order to profit from it's ability to destroy capital which then needs to be recapitalized or replaced.

Measuring Wealth with GDP - Gross Domestic Product measures the value of all products that are produced within an economy. This positively counts product growth without taking into consideration the possibly more costly side effects of the events that created the demand. This is why such a terrible thing as an oil spill will increase the GDP of an economy because many costly products will be produced to nominally clean up the environmental mess and to replace the oil liner.

Blood for Oil - This seems to creatively mix all of the above. It's a fact that war in the Middle East has greatly benefited the petroleum sector as well as companies that sell their services to the US Government. It might be more than coincidental that many of these companies have close ties to the offices of the US Executive and many of the people in their cabinet.

Disaster Fundraising - Lobbyists are known to exaggerate their causes in order to get the money flowing. It seems that those in non-profit, charitable or humanitarian organizations are not beyond this approach. The UN has just had to restate their AIDS numbers for Africa. It seems that the incidence of the disease has been over reported for quite some time now. Stephen Lewis is disappointed but puts it into perspective by explaining that even these new lower numbers are so staggeringly large that it shouldn't discourage us from further investment in his efforts to eradicate the disease.

The Upside of Down - This is the title of a book by Thomas Homer Dixon who writes that not only can catastrophes lead to positive change, they sometimes are necessary for such change. When it comes to Global Warming it seems that this has not registered with most people as a catastrophe yet and therefore not much is being done. Because such shifts happen so gradually it is hard for the human imagination to put it in the same category as a catastrophe that occurs over a holiday weekend. Some are trying to make this link by pointing out that many of these more immediate disasters may intensify and become more common as a result of Global Warming.

Making Green from Green - Despite what Ayn Rand has so poorly written, I don't think greed should be the only primary motive for economic activity. But someone trying to convince people who are swayed by greed could use this motivation to their benefit. I have been trying to convince people of the benefits of green initiatives using the language and practices of a business case. It is not hard to make a compelling case that accepting the challenges of adhering to initiatives like the Kyoto Accord will create massive opportunities for those jurisdictions who lead the way. The innovations required to succeed can and will be sold to those who lag behind. That's why the levers of incentives and disincentives which are held by our governments should be pulled now before we get left behind.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We'll Fix it in the Edit

This month I've made the dual commitments to blog everyday and to write a full novel from start to finish in thirty days. So far so good as I'm on track to succeed with ten days to go. I had started on another novel last year which began with a quick flourish and then had stalled. After about eleven months of thinking and writing I was stuck at about fifty pages of a novel that was in danger of never being completed.

I was happy with the quality of the writing within that first novel but that's the problem. I only allowed myself to write what I considered to be quality writing. During this month's NaNoWriMo the approach was to write whatever comes to mind, never look back and never second guess. The result is that I have now written over a hundred pages of a novel that may turn out in the end to be even better than the first one. I've found that you need to jump in, let yourself go and allow yourself to make mistakes.

Before this month it was like I was trying to make an epic movie by planning every shot and directing every scene in advance. The approach to writing a novel this month has been more like the process of documentary film making in that you point your camera at something interesting, let the events unfold and then worry about tying it all together in the editing. A good documentary film will in the end take on the drama of a good epic film anyway, without the need for all of that obsessive planning in advance.

As it happens I've also started work on a feature length documentary film tentatively called Dunk: The Art and Science of the Jam. I'm collaborating on this with a friend who is a Juno award winning documentary film maker. I've also started planning a documentary film festival with another friend who teaches at OCAD. When it rains, it pours. But that's OK because I've discovered that I can swim.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What if We're not Responsible for Global Warming?

Soon it will be even more difficult for those who deny the human responsibility for Global Warming to keep a straight face while making their arguments. A report is about to be published by an exceedingly impressive list of respected scientists outlining the state of the globe and prospects for the future with regard to climate change (as the deniers prefer to call it). The report comes just in advance of the meeting of industrial nations to follow up on the Kyoto accord. USA, the most important signatory of that treaty has of course abandoned it and justified doing so with some very poorly done, lobbyist sponsored science.

Canada has actually dramatically increased it's greenhouse emissions since signing the accord and the Conservative government tried initially to minimize or debate the truth of global warming, but even they have had to come around and might even surprise some people in the next wave of treaties. They are probably doing this more as a reaction to recent polls that suggest Canadians are becoming more green every day and are even willing to vote for the Green Party. Research also shows that we are willing to pay more for green products and services and would even pay higher taxes if it went toward cleaner environmental policies. Elizabeth May is well positioned here with her party, the Liberal party is making changes to their policies, while the NDP need to find a way to balance their commitments to labour and heavy manufacturing to become greener or they will be left in the dust.

I have always been amused by those who deny that we humans are having a dangerous effect on the climactic shifts of our planet. I understand science is always open to debate and I would always encourage it. The evidence in this case is so dramatically shifted towards one set of theories over another that anyone who argues the weaker case would need to be seen as a maverick in the best case, a quack in a middling case or a fraud in the worst case. I don't mind that some middling science is poorly done and can create false conclusions. I accept that this happens but these instances are easily shown to be faulty and soon discarded. The worst cases are those that take money from lobbyists and then fraudulently produce custom results. These people are the scourge not only of science but of all things dear to humanity and they should be vigorously exposed.

As for the best case scenario in which a scientist authentically engages in science and insists on findings that go contrary to commonly accepted understanding. These people often point to the examples of Galileo or Copernicus as their models. For every Galileo or Copernicus there have been thousands upon thousands of people who also went against commonly accepted notions of science and were never in the end proven to be right simply because they were wrong. Just because you're a maverick and everyone thinks you're too extreme doesn't automatically make you right. There's the distinct and more likely possibility that you might just be an idiot.

Let's take the extremely unlikely possibility that one of these deniers of Global Warming is not a middling and incompetent scientist but is rather a maverick, does science authentically without skewing his results to suit lobbyist or political masters and arrives at the conclusion that Global Warming is not caused by Humans. If this remotely unlikely possibility which I am in principle willing to entertain is true then what? Even if this were the case how could anyone deny the benefits of removing millions and millions of tonnes of pollutants from the atmosphere, making the air fresher to breathe, reducing toxin originating cancers, birth defects and other ailments? How could anyone deny the benefits of conducting business more efficiently and the creation of new innovative technologies that would result from these reductions? Even if we're wrong about the real cause of Global Warming which is really not in debate, then we still need to go full steam ahead in reducing emissions for all of the other benefits that would result.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Florida Shines a Light on Toronto

I recently bid on a nearly condemned property that would have needed over $100k in renovations to make it a viable rental property or a nice house for someone. It was priced a little low so I bid $37k above asking price. The winning bid was $87k above the asking price. This scenario is playing out in every category of real estate and in almost every neighbourhood in Toronto. People are being paid $2,000 to stand in line so their benefactors could be the first to buy $10M condos.

Despite all of this many experts will tell you that Toronto is still a bargain on a world scale. We used to have a bit of an inferiority complex and dreamt of being compared to other world class cities. People around the globe are finally starting to see Toronto in precisely those terms. The ultra rich of the world, especially those from less politically stable environments are finding that they will not find a more open, safe and tolerant city anywhere else in the world and they're buying property here to hedge their bets in case they need to relocate.

Several ultra luxury condos are being built in town and they're selling for record prices. But when you put it in the category of so-called world class cities then there is still a lot of room to go up in value. So despite all the market turmoil in the US, New York City is not suffering price declines. While Florida properties are selling at deep discounts in the US another kind of Florida is moving to Toronto.

Richard Florida is the world authority on how the Creative Class help make a successful and livable city. His books have sold in the millions while he taught at Carnegie Mellon. But now Richard Florida has relocated here to teach at the University of Toronto. Florida will be heading The Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management as well as working with the MaRS Discovery District which is another group that will have a hand in bringing global attention to the innovations going on in this city.

I know a lot of people who used to dream about moving to New York that no longer do so. They are starting to see that we've got something cooking right here at home. It's no accident that Toronto has the highest Facebook penetration of any city in the world. The people here are the most socially integrated people on Earth and this collaborative approach will be priceless in the future. Real estate trends are just the tip of the iceberg. People will pay more to live where everybody else wants to live. What this means for affordable housing is another matter altogether.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bringing Up Baby

During my undergraduate specialization in Philosophy I also completed a minor in Cinema Studies. I remember one professor of some renown who taught the introductory Film101 course telling our class that the finest example of a Hollywood movie ever made was Bringing Up Baby (1938). He screened it for us and most of us scratched our heads.

The first thing going against it was that it was a black& white film; my generation had made the switch to colour TV and had come to consider B&W movies to be just filler for stations that couldn't afford the newer stuff. The film also seemed to be just like any other old movie and not that different from most screwball comedies. In fact, Streisand's What's up Doc? (1972) and Madonna's Who's That Girl? (1987) are both based on this film.

I got a chance to see the original recently during one of my insomniac hazes and now have a new found respect for the film. The content may not be that original but the execution is nearly flawless. Howard Hawks' pacing and tone of the film is masterfully integrated with the perfect timing of the repartee dialogue of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Their chemistry is sparkling as she gets the hapless paleontologist in one ill conceived situation after another and eventually charms him, keeps him from getting married and eventually wins him over.

It's also interesting to note how "gay" Cary Grant is during the film. He was suspected of being bisexual and his character in the film appears in drag, appears to be the bottom to Hepburn's top and even uses the word "gay" for the first time in a Hollywood film which up until then had only been used by insiders of the gay community. Hawksian women in this director's films were also gender-bending by virtue of their aggressive verbal and sexual behaviours

You will find hundreds of examples of more recent movies in which lovable female leads like Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock play similarly constructed roles only to come across like irritating and precocious children. Hepburn somehow makes the zany airhead charming and sexy without trying too hard to be cute. The film was a terrible flop and nearly ended Hawks' career. Only much later did the film gain the respect and admiration of filmmakers and critics. Add me to that list.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Scam By Any Other Name

"Poetry is like fish: If it's fresh, it's good; if it's stale, it's bad; and if you're not certain, try it on the cat."

-Osbert Sitwell

Here is a poetry site for people without cats.
Here is what some people are saying about it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What's in a Name?

I came across this very useful site that analyzes the significance of your name for your life. Here are some of the insightful analyses you will find.


While you could do well in certain positions of authority, you have a certain lack of initiative and a tendency to procrastinate.
[No kidding. We've only been waiting 2000 years for you to return.]

If you are in sales work, you could do well because of your friendly personality, interest in people, and desire to please.
[If vinyl siding sales doesn't work out, you could try being Vice-President]

You are deep, philosophical, and refined, but your extremely sensitive nature causes you to become depressed over any real or imagined slight.
[Huh? ]

If you don't believe the veracity of this powerful tool check out what it says about you if your name is God.

Your First Name of: God

Click here for a report on the impact your first and last names combined have on your life.
You will be amazed at our accuracy!
  • Although the name God creates the urge to be reliable and responsible, it can cause an unscrupulous, materialistic approach that frustrates higher humanitarian qualities.
  • This name, when combined with the last name, can frustrate happiness, contentment, and success, as well as cause health weaknesses in the reproductive system, worry, and mental tension.
  • Your name God gives you a strong sense of responsibility in business and material affairs, and the practicality and determination to make a success of anything you undertake.
  • Your ability to organize and direct the efforts of others enables you to excel in any managerial position because you have the ability to grasp the concept of a goal complete with an understanding of the steps to be taken.
  • This name has allowed you to develop depth and breadth of mind.
  • You are able to retain facts, to grasp new information to your existing store of knowledge.

Your full name creates the overall conditions in your life as well as your destiny. It is a very important factor. Click here for a report on the impact your first and last names combined have on your life. You will be amazed at the accuracy of this report!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Welcome to Canada

This is wrong on so many levels but is yet another example where Little Brother is at work keeping an eye on the system. The video footage above was confiscated by the RCMP from the person who shot it and attempts were made to keep it from him and the public until a legal challenge was successfully made.

This poor guy Dziekanski on his first ever flight, after 10 hours of waiting in a terminal with no food or water and clearly distressed meets his end at the hands of some pretty unprofessional police work. All of this could have so easily been avoided:

If someone had noticed that a man had been walking around the luggage area for over 6 hours.

If the airport had a PA system in the luggage area his mother would have been able to contact him.

If one of the staff just walked fifty feet into the area they could have found him waiting for his mother.

If the police just slowed down to assess the situation before acting and unnecessarily tasering him.

This last point is really disappointing. Does it have to be that the type of person who works in law enforcement needs necessarily to be of a thuggish nature? It's as if some of these guys are just looking for any excuse to engage in some ass-kicking. This is an exceptional situation in which the incident was caught on camera. There are countless such incidents that never see the light of day. Clearly these men are either very poorly trained or not following their training.

On a lighter note:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fuck Death

Here is an organization that we could all get behind. The Fuck Death Foundation's mission statement outlines that they are "dedicated to the elimination of death through the generation and distribution of funds to strategically selected causes and initiatives worldwide." They plan on seeking official charitable organization status.

I've been saying for some time that we need to start debating the issues around the likelihood that technologies will arrive within our lifetimes to extend life much beyond the averages we decry today. Stem cell research and nanotechnology alone could offer therapies for many diseases as well as ways to slow down if not stop or reverse aging. The upheavals that could result from such a possibility would make the industrial revolution look like a tiny blip in sociopolitical development. Like most new desirable technologies the wealthy will have primary access to them. Can you think of a more motivating reason to revolt than the chance to attain immortality?

Ray Kurzweil believes we will have technologies that will allow human immortality to be possible in about 20 years. So I think the Fuck Death Foundation's birth might be well timed to serve a goal that will soon come to be taken more seriously.