Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

29 July 2005

Today



Music: "Killing Time" and "Fireworks" by the Tragically Hip (Damn they're good!)
Mood: Tired. You'd be too if you'd just wrapped up a work week of forty-five hours truck driving plus five hours of blogging.

I'm elated, though. I'm cautiously optimistic that another writing contract loometh. Oh sweet and happy day. I think if I get twenty-five hours per week for six months out of the deal, I'll pull the trucking plug hard enough to yank the socket out of the wall.

Lately, I've been considering things to do in my spare time. However, I realized a little while ago that I have, in fact, no spare time. It's all I can do to fit in sleep and the odd beer.

Let's see: Terrorism. The Brits have nabbed the four suspects they were seeking in the second wave of bombings. The Economist this week featured some interesting observations on what drives home-grown terrorism.

One of the more interesting thing is that young and disaffected Muslims often follow a pattern of falling out of their religion, only to return to it with a vengeance--to the extent that they will leave moderate mosques in order to hold living-room prayers with imams like the disgraceful Abu-Hamza Al-Mazri. Interestingly enough, I see a number of common traits between these radicals and the radical brand of, shall we call it "Christianism" in certain segments out West.

In the army we used to refer to people who "found Jesus in the glove compartment". Without exception they were converts to radical Christian philosophies. Most of them were raised in a moderate church, and left it when they discovered the Holy Trinity of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

But after a few years of ₤µ€λing up their lives, they "found Jesus in the glove compartment" and underwent their conversions to radicalism, which included--and this is vitally important--that no-one else should ever be allowed, by custom or law, to ₤µ€λ up their own lives.

But as their religions were formed in this part of the world, they don't tend to bomb people. Instead they exert political pressure with their votes. Of course, this usually means they're just ₤µ€λing up other people's lives. But it's hard to disagree with democracy, providing it's not too subverted by the political process. Sometimes this results in people getting bombed anyway.

But there is hope. The young radicals are a minority within a minority. If the great majority vocally and repeatedly denounce those who preach hatred and murder, many of the radicals may not even get started.

I close with a quote from someone who posted this to Doonesbury's "Blowback" section. The poster purports to be a US Marine Corps Sergeant, recently returned from Iraq, and believes that "Muslims really worship the Devil":

"You can blame Bush for everything, but that does not make this his fault. He (I believe) is in place by God's hand. That is because God is not ready yet to let the power of the Devil's army (Al Qaeda) go on the rampage. But that that will happen.


If this person is who he claims to be, just imagine the suffering that could have been eased had his peers and comrades in faith showed him how wrong he is.

I hesitate to paraphrase Alistair Crowley*, but it's so appropriate:

"Lord, defend me from your followers".



*From the flavour of the Wikipedia bio, please assume that the person writing it thought that Crowley walked on water. Ahem.







24 July 2005

Obviously, I Was Wrong


Perhaps I should give up trying to understand it all. More intriguing to me at the moment is the unfortunate death of the Brazillian electrician shot by London police. One is left to ponder:

a) Why was his house being watched in the first place?
b) Why, when challenged, did he run?

But the photos are out now, and it looks as though the Met will have things reasonably in hand.

I just wish I could understand the why of it. If these guys had recently arrived from Iraq or Iran I might find the bombings easier to "get". Instead, these people have thrown away all pretence at civilization. And why? What's the friggin' payoff here? Since the only thing that will satisfy these nutballs is the dismantling of the Western Democratic way of life (which has yet, as far as I can tell, to be bested by any other mode of living as a society), there can be no accomodation.

In my last post I intimated that the sole reason might be that the London bombers were Muslims. I have to stand by that question--just as I would if it had been the IRA, when I would have asked whether it was because the perpetrators were Irish or because they were Catholic.

But there is a flaw in terminology. I have failed to distinguish between the vast majority of people of faith and those who would use their "faith" as an excuse for horror.

In these circumstances I feel it best to refine my question by discussing Islamists--a militant political position unconcerned with religion in any real sense except as leverage for extreme positions--and Muslims: people faithful to the religion of Islam and interested in making proper accomodation with other faiths in a civilized society. I hope this will refine the discussion.

But enough of this. On to talk of terrorism in London.

You may recall that Spider-Man was released late due to some last-minute editing which was needed to remove a film landmark used for a similar good-bad confrontation some years earlier.

At the same time, development had started for one of my favourite graphic novels to be turned into a film. The novel is V for Vendetta, written by Alan Moore, who also wrote the graphic novel upon which the unfotunate League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was based.

I note that Moore seems to be disassociating himself from films of his work--understandable in view of "League"--where Tom Sawyer was installed into a movie populated with characters from British literature in order to make it more American. I just hope "V" turns out better.

But development was delayed for political reasons. It was felt that a film about a "terrorist" attacking government institutions might not sell in light of the World Trade Center attacks. Never mind that "Codename V" is fighting facism (perhaps it looks too close to the Patriot Act?)

Odd that the film's going ahead full steam in the face of the London bombings. But this betrays, to me, a difference in attitude between Londoners and Americans. Or perhaps it just means that Londoners aren't the target market?







20 July 2005

Strange Reassurance


That's what I draw from the fact that British police are now considering the fact that the underground bombers never intended to die in the act. Instead, speculation runs that they were duped by a "controller" who helped build the bombs and set the timers.

As N. pointed out in the comment on the post below, suicide is a sin in Islam too (thanks, N., I hadn't known that). It also throws the case firmly back into political territory.

I don't feel any sympathy for the bombers, but I do think new ones will be harder to find, especially if it turns out there's no honour among terrorists.

More pleasantly, my U7 putts nicely and could theoretically be on the road tomorrow, did I but have the papers for it. Sadly, this will take a minimum of a month. Meantime, here's a picture of one in much better shape.


U7 1974 Posted by Picasa


The SO is out tonight revelling in a literary event--sneak a look at the blog: Mastercowfish.

There is a ca t siing on the kebyoard and I hav something in y eye. 'Till later.







14 July 2005

Homegrown


So the British bombers have turned out to be natives of England.

That's unimaginably scary to me. Because it makes it less likely that the "war" thing we're having can be solved peacefully. And unfortunately, it also looks to me as though it moves the conflict from the political arena into the religious one.

Permit me to explain: at least three of these people were born and raised in Britain. We see phrases like "cricket-mad" and "lived here all his life". These boys were inculated in the culture of England and of the West. Yet someone, working within a period of only a few years, persuaded them to kill themselves and fifty other people.

I have no doubt I'd feel differently if they'd been Catholic. But Catholicism has a built-in safeguard against this sort of behaviour: Suicide is a sin for which you go to Hell (no need to mention murder). That won't stop everyone, but count up the number of IRA suicide bombers. You won't need more than one hand.

Not that it matters, the IRA are and were @$$#0₤3$ regardless.

So, for some reason, four Muslim youths were persuaded to commit mass murder and suicide. Now that reason might be cultural--there's a tendency for the first and third generation of immigrant families to feel as though they've lost something: Grandpa moves from Kulickistan to Canada because he has to get out before the rebels arrive, spends his life complaining how great it was and why'd he have to move? Mum and Dad ignore him, they know Kulickistan was a hole and they're much happier here. Kid listens.

But the fact that the bombers left home on the morning of July seventh armed to kill mass quantities of strangers undeniably points to people who had lost any sympathy that they might once have had with their co-citizens, despite having been immersed in Britishness. If culture wasn't the disconnecting factor, I can see only one reason that four good British lads would murder faceless strangers en masse.

To be cliché: some of my best friends are Muslim. And I don't for one minute think that any of them would consider boarding the transit system with a bomb in their backpack. But from now on, every time someone blows himself up, or "shoots 17, slays self", the first question on people's minds is unlikely to be "what'd he have for breakfast?"

Let me ask the questions that are going to upset some of my friends: Where does this come from? Is there something about Islam that makes it appear as though this is acceptable, rewardable conduct? I mean, how does "suicide bomber" begin to sound like a rational and positive career choice? Perhaps I need to read the Qur'an. But what would it tell me--and without the context of culture, how would I interpret it?

Because literal interpretationalists are also @$$#0₤3$. See here. And here.

Fundamentally (ahem) the problem is that all religion-based murder has as its root the idea that there's a big payoff in killing and ultimately dying for your faith. And what better way to justify it than supporting religious dictatorship? Since no democratic majority anywhere actually supports the idea (the US is just suffering another of those historic periods of mania), the futility of the political struggle is easily leveraged into violence.

Headline you'll never see: Atheist Kills Agnostic: Religious Differences Cited.

In slightly more amusing news, I am receiving mail from several travellers at one of my e-mail addressses. It seems they have the wrong guy, but I've rather enjoyed reading about their adventures:
"went to the disco that night and got free beers. on the way there scott got stopped by the cruz roja because Brian's toe exploded after he rammed it into the edge of the driveway and scott had to use his future doctor skills to patch him up. When a medic saw the toe he flipped out and started asking if we needed help, at which point scott told him he was going to med school, and the most important thing at the moment was that we continue drinking."

Sadly they're home now, according to their last message. But here's a picture. I mean hey, they shared it with me, so now I'll share it with you.


After the trip to Costa Rica Posted by Picasa

They look glad to be back, don't they?

Oh well, now that Scott and Zach are home, someone called Julie Schwartz is asking if I want to participate in the Austin Summer Musical for Children. I would, presumably, have to not mind being addressed as "Tiffany".

Oh, I don't know . . .

I'm off on holiday for the next four days or so. Behave yourselves until I get back.







11 July 2005

Mr Bush, You Need a New Staff


What a pack of rat bastards! First we have Karl Rove--"Turd Blossom" is what the Occupant calls him. It now turns out he's the bastard who outed Valerie Plame because of the nasty things her husband had to say about the Niger yellowcake uranium fairy tale.

Both President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney have been interviewed by investigators trying to pinpoint who in the administration leaked the CIA operative's name.

The story began in July 2003 when newspaper columnist Robert Novak revealed the identity of undercover operative Valerie Plame.

Cooper wrote an article about Plame three days later but Miller, who investigated the matter, didn't publish a story.

Plame is married to former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson. She was named just days after her husband sharply criticized Bush's reasons for invading Iraq.

Wilson had conducted a secret investigation into suggestions the African country Niger provided nuclear material to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and found no basis for them.

Outting an undercover intelligence officer can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the person knew of the officer's secret status.

--From CBC

Rove has a history of being a slimy rat, but outing an undercover agent is a criminal offence, and surely under the "tough-on-terrorism-and-its-allies" policies of the Bush League that rates some crowbar hotel time.

Then there's the morally compromised Dick "Go ₤µ€λ Yourself" Cheny. A man who was collecting dual pay cheques from Halliburton and the White House, right about the time the decision was taken to invade an oil-rich country with a nasty little ruler.

Hell, if it had been 1999 instead of '03, Halliburton could simply have knocked over Texas! Oil-rich, and a Governor no-one'd miss.

Of course, the current Occupant has a lousy track record of dismissing the incompetent, nasty, or just plain corrupt. Consider the fate of Donald "It'll all be over by Christmas" Rumsfeld. He's presided over the deaths of 1700-plus American soldiers and around 100,000 Iraqi civillians. Deaths for which no-one in the White House seems to accept responsibility, so as Defense Secretary it should fall to him. Oh--and does anyone recall a little affair called Abu Ghraib? How about Guantanamo Bay?

This is the man who, in the face of all evidence, said that the Iraq insurgency he helped to precipitate was on its last legs.

Why the hell have none of these horrid human beings (provisional) been $#!£-canned?

Well it could have something to do with the general nastiness and criminal history of the Occupant.

The main disadvantage to democracy is that regime change takes longer. But no matter. Next election this garbage will all be swept from the White House.

You may feel that I'm being a bit strident here. After all, didn't I lately say I'd try to evaluate the Occupant in a more balanced manner?

Yet what other emotion than rage is possible in the sickly green light of the deeds of this gang of thugs? If examined with the utmost undersatanding is it likley to turn out that Karl Rove--who orchestrated a campaign in the South (where the locals still worry about that sort of thing) suggesting that the near-saintly genuine war hero John McCain had a black love-child during the runoff to the Republican Leadership race--just "made a mistake" in outing someone whose name he was only allowed to see by virtue of his lofty position?

And what may be said of a man who defies all common sense and decency (not that CS&D's ever been his strong suit) to keep such people on his payroll?







08 July 2005

Nothing to Say Here


The recent bombing of London? No point in me commenting. I have family in that city and as far as I know, they're okay.

Do I think terrorism will strike in Canada? Absolutely yes. It is inevitable that an open society that wishes to remain so will have vulnerabilities (i.e. public transit). Terrorists will take advantage.

The alternative is to turn ourselves into an armed camp, or become belligerent, or become a police state; in other words, to give in to the fear terrorists seek to create.

But the terrorists will lose. No matter how many people they kill, there will always be a massive majority who favour living outside radicalism. In uncertain times, people cling to the certainties that can be had in dogma, hatred, and xenophobia.

But most of us are better than that, I think.

Today I heard an old, frightened woman say:
"I don't care if they hang 'em up by their thumbs--just so long as this doesn't come here."

Get your mind right honey--it's coming. Canada is on the list. And we'll be lucky if it isn't nuclear. So shake your neighbour's hand and get to know them. Acceptance will be a needed strength.

The prospect of my own death bemuses and frightens me. But I, I will ride the buses and subways. I will stand on the bridges and walk under the tall buildings. And one day when the last terror group lays down its arms and engages in an active dialogue then your descendants and mine will know that we are right.

Western Civilization must preserve that word "civilization".

Bravo London--you're showing us how it's done.

That said, I hope the police get their suspects soon.







Anyone Up For The Really Really Late Show?


It's past three A.M. and I can't sleep.

Since moving in with the SO I have become prey to the odd attack of wheezing. I have attributed this to several factors: the presence of cats, humidity, the smoking finally catching up to me, and the possibility that since we live in a "damp" (though not technically "wet") condo there may be something growing in the walls and shooting spores into my lungs (there to incubate until it bursts forth, see Alien).

More likely, it's some combination of the four, although the smoking doesn't seem to have any consistent impact by itself. Take this week for example: From last Monday to Thursday night I've had no smokes, but have had to take a hit off my inhaler every night. Tonight I had four or five, and awoke wheezing at two.

Still, no point in aggravating things. I've got to knock off the "sociables".

But the worst of tonight is the nose and throat. Stuffed and sore, respectively. In fact, my nose is causing such plumbing problems that I can't sleep. Hence the blog. {Later:I still can't sleep. But my nose is so aggravating I think I'll try for an all-night pharmacy. Wish me luck.}

My dad is into his sixties, and still very active. He is involved with a similarly-aged group of retirees who go hiking every so often. Last weekend he took me for a hike, six hours in duration with a 1500-foot gain. It felt really good--I haven't had a decent day-hike in ages.

Yesterday he went to the same mountain with his group, and his friend Larry, a retired dentist, keeled over and died of a heart attack.

I spoke with Mum first. She told me that Dad and another man, Mike, had worked on Larry, administering CPR for "a couple of hours". I didn't even know Dad knew CPR, and a couple of hours administering it would damn near kill even a seasoned professional. Once again I admire my father's quiet persistance.

They had a cellular phone, and someone phoned for medical assistance. But the medics apparently didn't have a helicopter (or knew more about Larry's condition than his hiking partners did) and took over an hour and a half to arrive.

Still, as one of the group observed: If Larry had had to choose a spot to die in, he likely would have picked the top of that particular mountain. Godspeed Larry, wherever you may be.







04 July 2005

It Had to Happen


If you live with someone who has cooties, you get cooties. If someone you live with shares space with cats (as I have learned) you get cats.

So it's no surprise that if one lives with someone who has a blog, one gets blogs. I invite you to the launch of the SO's blog.

Meantime; here's my latest vehicular acquisition. It's a 1973 Yamaha U7, possibly a U7E. I'm looking for bits, so if you have one of these odd beauties tucked away in your garage, why not contact me? Leave a remark in the comment section below.



There comes a time in one's life when one realizes one can no longer return to the things of youth. For me, that time was last weekend, where the crux of several intersecting events occurred:

Item one: about two weeks ago, one of my oldest friends, with whom I'd fallen out of touch, called me to say she was beginning her second divorce and could I help her move. Stupidly, I said yes. It's a three-hour trip one way.

The weekend I went, another old and dear phoned to tell me that she too was getting divorce #2 and would I like to put an offer on the house?

Upon arrival at the home of Divorcée(-ée) "A", a third friend whom I'd also fallen out of touch with informed me that she was considering dumping hubby number one-and-only.

The most important event, though, was the moving. I have reached the following conclusion: Once someone is A) over 35, or B) married, and especially if said someone is encumbered by children or animals; if you are asked to help them move . . .
SAY NO!

Once the above conditions are filled, the person has generally accumulated sufficient quantities of junk that professionals should be consulted. In this case, the amicably divorcing couple were splitting costs and paying $200 per day for a truck. The truck was out for two days.

As I rode home from an exhausting two days, my friend's ex said:

"Y'know, we should have hired movers. Then we could have sat in the living room drinking coffee and saying 'don't break that, eh?'"

I reluctantly let him live.

The moral is that at a given age, one has to knuckle under to the combination of consumerism and one's own instincts. If you are over the age of 25, get professional help.

If the move is precipitated by a parting of the ways, I will kick, scratch, gouge and bite to give her all my stuff. Then if a moving truck shows up I will pay the driver and swamper to go away.

After a day or two, the SO will let me have everything, I'm sure.