Sunday, February 24, 2008

Geography of Hope

I was at the Gladstone a few days ago to see Chris Turner's slide show about his book The Geography of Hope. This was part of the This is not a Reading Series.

The standing room only crowd indicates to me that people are thirsty for his kind of message. It's too easy to feel hopeless when those in power either don't get it, don't care, or strategically ignore the climate and pollution crisis. Too many of us just feel overwhelmed and as if we're just reorganizing the deck chairs on the Titanic but Turner wants to stress that the science and the technology required to solve or significantly mitigate our problems already exist. What's lacking is the will to do something about it.

Another point he made is one with which I agree: that we have to stop preaching to the converted and start speaking to corporations in their own language. I believe that there are strong business cases to be made for environmentally responsible approaches to business. The short form of the argument is to say that The Environment is the Economy.

Some governments are catching on and they come in all political stripes. Governator Schwarzenegger of California has surprised everyone by becoming one of the greenest leaders in America. The government in BC made their province the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce a carbon tax. They are shaming their next door neighbours in Alberta who are turning their province into an environmental disaster zone with the hyper-developed Tar Sands projects which are under way.

Left to their own devices both corporations and governments can do a good job of messing things up. But corporations are very skilled at bringing about rapid and efficient change. Governments need to use the levers at their disposal to create the incentives and disincentives for business and let them do what they do best. The Conservative Party in Canada seems unwilling to even treat the Environment as a serious issue. The Liberal Party talks a good game but does not seem to have the will to carry out important changes. The NDP seems to distrust business and ironically will often support dirty industries to mollify their labour constituents. The only reasonable choice for responsible action seems to lie with The Green Party.

I've been voicing my support for the Green Party for some time here in this forum and amongst friends. A federal election is just around the corner and this time around I will be volunteering to help the Green Party.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment II

I interviewed Chris of as my part in The Great Interview Experiment.

You share a birthday with a famous man from Nazareth. How's that going for you?

When I was a child it wasn't the most spectacular thing (either nobody could come to my birthday party due to being out town or else I'd get combo presents from relatives). Typically when people ask me nowadays if I'm a Christmas baby I just reply so far, but then I have a rather dry sense of humor. As for the guy from Nazareth, it's a shame that his standard bearers are so very unlike him.

How a long haired hippie who hung out with the dregs of society and copious amounts of THC (turns out the anointing oil was 70% Cannabis according to the Smithsonian) could be similar in any way shape or form to the right wing neo-con movement is almost as confusing as Ann Coulter (off topic I still think she's secretly a very good performance artist that we just don't "get") being a sane person.

You've written how wonderful it was to hold your baby for the first time and you've got another one on the way. Would you consider yourself a daddyblogger? And what's with the funny spelling of Alexandr's name?

Holding my son is and was one of the greatest things ever! As for being a daddyblogger I split my blogging topics evenly enough to say I'm an all around blogger not just a daddyblogger. Besides, the term daddyblogger makes me think they should make a live action movie based on the comic strip "Adam" with Michael Keaton in the lead role.

As for the spelling of his name it's the spelling used for a long dead ancestor. His full name is Alexandr Phelan O'Rourke so he's got a healthy mix of easily pronounceable yet unique names. If he wants to spell it differently when he's older, no problem by me.

What is a Nerd and are you a Nerd? If not, then why are you a fan of XKCD and write at length about CSS?

I am a firm believer in the hierarchy of status (not really) and think that a nerd is a very smart person with negligible social skills. The lowest rung is dork (smart with zero social skills). Geeks are the penultimate state of the really smart (almost too smart but with decent to good social skills). xkcd is a hilarious geek comic with some very profound ideas (the chinese proverb strip is amongst my favorite).

CSS is a geek designers wet dream. Combing the best of semantics with the structure of art is something that is astounding to see. Even more so when it's accepted by all (for the most part) yet not being the intellectual property of some greedy corporation.

Mac or Windows?

It depends. I like to mix the two but am leaning more and more towards Apple in the workplace. Lesser cost of deployment for server infrastructure ($999 for an unlimited client license copy of Leopard Server) than a windows environment plus a greater amount of functionality out of the box. I hope that Microsoft can clue into that.

Of course, on the other hand Mac is still playing catchup in the gaming world but happily that's changing (dear Valve, plz give us an osx steam client soon). My overall preference is about 60% mac / 40% windows. (No offense to the Linux crew but I work on broken computers all day long. The last thing I want to do when I get home is tinker with an OS).

Drum and Bugle corps? Do you do it for all the ladies?

Drum & Bugle corps is the coolest thing ever. Like marching band without all the woodwinds. Good brass blowing your face off plus huge meaty drum licks equals an awesome way to spend the summer. I miss being able to march since it's only for 14-21 year olds (at least the competitive side of the activity) but hope my sons will follow in my footsteps.

I do it all for the great feeling of playing an intricate multi-metered exercise spotlessly clean with no ticks. There is nothing like that feeling. If you've never experienced it there are tons of videos on youtube as well as multiple events in most parts of the country all summer long.

You've started a film-related site called Seen any good movies lately?

I did start dreamflicks although it was originally purchased for a vastly different reason than it ended up being. A friend of mine and I thought it would be neat to have a site where people could suggest ideas for movie casting for properties the studios hadn't done anything with. Implementing that proved to be something we both lost interest in, so after owning the domain for 4+ years I started a wordpress multiuser blogging site.

Good movies? I watch tons of them. My recent favorites were Juno (phenomenal cast, script, music, everything. I hope Ellen Page gets the Oscar) and Across the Universe (everything I liked about Juno plus Eddie Izzard & Bono add just the right touch of hilarity).

iPhone user eh? Do you remember the Apple Newton?

I am an iPhone user (and love nearly everything about it although there are a few things I'd fix/change:

1. either make notes sync to my mac or else get rid of them
2. hard disk mode
3. copy and paste
4. unlock for tmobile to use).

As for the Newton I do remember it quite fondly. I knew they'd eventually bring it back in fact when the iPod was originally released I predicted something like the iPhone because the name iPod was too generalist to just be a media player.

I was in Portland many years ago to entice Intel into a buyout. Have those bastards started spending again? What else is going on in Portland?

Nope, Intel are still the cheap disorganized un-streamlined companies they've always been. I think their success is in spite of their organization rather than because of it.

Portland is a hugely tech-friendly place. It's sort of become the Berlin between the East (Microsoft/Seattle) and the West (Yahoo/Apple/Bay Area)

How has your thoughts on the war in Iraq been shaped by the loss of your friend Mike?

I'll support our troops through thick and thin but I have yet to see a valid reason why our troops are in Iraq. Afghanistan makes sense since our fight with the Soviets 25+ years ago helped the Taliban rise to power but Iraq was and is a quagmire that we need to either find humility and ask the rest of the world to help or risk losing forever what little respect we have left.

Mike is a perfect example of why we've lost sight of things. He was a devoted caring father who didn't ever want to hurt anyone. He joined for his daughter and she'll never get to know him because we needed more cheap oil. I really wonder how anyone in government sleeps at night. In their shoes I don't think I could.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

I've been interviewed by blogger Matthew of Childs Play x 2. You can read his posting with my answers to his questions here.

This is part of something started by Neil at Citizen of the Month which will have me interviewing another blogger in kind. Look for the results of that very soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Still Ill

During my morose teenage years The Smiths played their one and only Canadian concert at Canada's Wonderland in the summer of 1985 and I was there. I had to open the Kiwk-E-Mart in the morning that day on Hamilton Mountain and worked there until mid-afternoon. After work we piled into my blue Renault and headed up to the Kingswood Concert theatre north of Toronto. We got there well before the concert but too late to see Morrissey and the opening act Billy Bragg galavant through the park. They had apparently taken advantage of their free park passes and tried nearly every ride and rollercoaster on the premises. They were followed by a posse of young fans, some of whom got a little too much celebrity intimacy when both singers apparently puked during one of the rides. About midway through the concert Morrissey introduced a song by laughing and saying "this is a song about our favourite subject, 'Still Ill'". By then the story about their misadventures had made it around to everyone in the crowd and we all laughed at the inside joke.

There is a question posed within this song:

Does the body rule the mind

Or does the mind rule the body?

Descartes couldn't even be sure that he had a body. The only thing that he could be certain of was that he thought and therefore he was. So the mind was primary and the body followed. Plato before him considered the realm of ideas to be the true reality and the realm of experience to be merely shadows of that more basic truth. Sometime between them Budhha, Jesus and countless other holy men spoke of the body as merely a husk that housed the kernel of the soul. Throughout most of western and eastern thought the body is relegated as a secondary and profane adjunct to the true reality that is somehow separate and distinct from the mind. The so-called mind/body problem arises when we have to consider how two totally different modes can affect each other.

It is not really until the previous century that the mind comes to be seriously considered within the realm of the physical. Materialist thinking reduces the mind to the brain and thus psychiatry and biology intersect to understand the mind/body problem. This approach is still dominant today and is responsible for the pharmacological approach to mental illness. If you are depressed or manic or violent or can't sleep then a pill or injection will be administered to alter your physical chemistry to achieve desired changes within your brain to therefore alter your mind. The physical is now understood to be the primary basis that can affect the mental.

But what about the Placebo Effect? This seems to be a process that goes in reverse. If you give someone a regimen of non-medicated sugar pills but tell them that they contain powerful medicine then in many cases these people will undergo physical changes similar to the people who are given the actual medicated pills. The power of positive thinking has also been well and widely documented to affect the speed and extent of recovery from illness. As much as the body alters the mind it seems clear that the mind can alter the body. This points to the possibility that things are not so clear cut. It is reasonable to consider that everything around us is comprised of physical matter and therefore subject to physical laws but that does not preclude the possibility that the mental could be understood as another mode of reality.

The study of Emergence considers the circumstances when certain properties arise out of more fundamental properties but is irreducible to them. The process is uncomfortably similar to magic but nevertheless employs a useful language in which to frame our understanding of exceptional things like mental events. When Morrissey poses the question he wisely and immediately answers "I dunno... " because there isn't a black and white answer to that question. Each rules the other and they can spiral upward or down. When I'm down I don't feel like going to the gym which brings me down further and I'm even less likely to exercise. This positive feedback loop can be altered and stopped dead in its tracks simply through the act of making a decision. I can decide to break the loop and start a new one. If I'm busy doing productive and enjoyable things then my spirits are lifted and I'm capable of doing even more.

I'm going to go to a yoga class tomorrow.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Modeselektor - 2000007 (Feat Ttc)

French Electronic Rap

Let it play through. It really grows on you.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fuck Earth

The feminine is associated with the Earth while the masculine is associated with the higher realms. The results of this simple rule of thumb has had disastrous consequences for both the Earth and the female souls that inhabit her. The earthly bits of our being are all around us and because of their abundance are debased and rendered to a lower rank than the ethereal bits.

First, with respect to women: Desires of the flesh are so outside of the realm of reason that they are described as a form of ecstatic madness. The men who wrote about these matters had an unhealthy view of sex it seems and so began to debase not only these sexual desires but also came to resent the objects of their desires. Women were thought to be incapable of higher purposes and their roles relegated to that of executors of worldly functions like birthing, feeding, and sexual gratification. The injustices of this world view became glaringly obvious with the advent of a more industrial and technological age. We have been slow in rectifying it in the West while it seems to have stalled completely in much of the Islamic world.

Secondly, this separation of the profane and divine along the lines of the physical and spiritual have lead to an inherent disrespect for the environment. Religions and cultures that don't make the delineation in this way almost always have a comportment to the Earth that is not one of seeing it simply as exploitable material. These cultures have a more sensible sense of the divine which considers it to reside in the world around us. In fact it is often this very Nature and Earth within which we live that is considered divine and such divinity is achieved through accepting and living with this revelation.

Descriptions of the sexual act are sometimes used in hurtful and derogatory ways such that to "fuck something" means to damage it; as in "Capitalism has really fucked the Earth". But Capitalism doesn't have to be rapacious. Both rape and lovemaking can be described as fucking. I advocate fucking the Earth but in the attentive caring and gentle ways that one would make love to a woman, considering her joy as much as your own.