Metroblog

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

29 September 2007

For All Those Who Had To Sit Through Those Blasted "Herbal Essences" Shampoo Commercials

I suspect that by now the obnoxious Herbal Essences shampoo commercials have actually pentrated to darkest Africa, where it has doubtless infiltrated local art and culture to the point where it has been recreated as a rythmic dance used in fertility rites.

But there is hope. Finally, from my friend J.D.--a man so primitive and unreconstructed that he's positively Victorian--comes this:



Finally, equality for men.

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28 September 2007

LAPES? More Like L'oops

The first procedure seen here is a LAPES, or Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System drop. It's used to bring heavy equipment and vehicles onto the battlefield.

Typically, the vehicles are strapped to special pallets. Upon (bumpy) arrival they are immdiately inspected and all the busted bits changed. And there are always busted bits.

Sometimes, however, there are more busted bits than others ...



Parachute extractions are a dodgy business anyway. I was once priveleged to watch as an airborne regiment dropped into Wainwright Alberta. A droning, staticy bullhorn announced each drop, punctuated with long silences as the nylon canopies fluttured earthward.

The men of the Blankety-blank Airborne Regiment ...
Long pause.
The officers and administrative staff ...
Long pause.

Etc. Until finally:
The Commanding Officer's jeep ...
Very--very--brief pause.

(Faintly)Well £µ©λ me ... didja see that? ... No, the 'chute didn't open I think ...







At One Time, I Used to Be a Snoo Salesman

Avid Fan:Snoo? What's snoo?

Metro: Not much, what's snoo with you?

I got a dozen of 'em. Eleven, now.

As Avid Fans know, I'm involved in three plays at once right now. I'd like to mention here that I finally think the first one, coming into production next week, is going to be great.

The cast features two very pretty and talented ladies, whom I shall call Morta and Pru for now, and an older gentleman I shall ever think of as Victor. But the star of the show is Horatio Kos.

I was a little worried. Rehearsals up until now had felt lackluster, and I couldn't tap into the red-hot supply of grudge my character has to lug around onstage. The character is a man who, in the words of Terry Pratchett, "lived his life on the line people cross just before they haul off and hit somebody."

I acted, as some Fans may know, with Horatio and his sister, Mandela. Divine miss M. is gone lo these many moons to acting school--(akin to the lily going to gilding school, IMHO). Metro only hopes she can earn enough money through acting to purchase the enormous mantel she will need to display her future Oscar collection.

Personally, I sometimes felt that Horatio should have been the star of our last show. He was more age-appropriate. He's also funnier, I think. But since this would have involved him having to smooch his sister--the leading lady could have been no-one else--I got lucky. Besides, the teacher is the Straight Man for that show, so I worked out pretty well.

Horatio was given an important but small role as the background-of-main-character-filling-in-guy. He played the local shepherd in a very funny performance. But it didn't occupy him sufficiently. Backstage he tended to be bored and to clown around, rather.

He next appeared in a hospital drama with a bout with life-threatening illness, running concurrently with a play authored by Mandy. Since the play was a transcendent farce, he devoted all his comic energies to making the role funny and convincing beyond sense.

But I always wanted to see him take on a serious role. And finally I have the chance, and he's every bit as accomplished and talented as I might have expected. I wasn't sure whether he could do serious--oh me of little faith. But I really felt he'd be great if someone would just take a chance and cast him for drama.

And he's very professional. The clowning seems to be nearly gone, though it'd be a sad day if it disappeared altogether. Finally I feel truly confident that this will be a good show.

I'm extroverted. I get my energy through interaction with people outside myself. Audiences, other actors, juries, parole boards ... So as Horatio becomes more comfortable in his character, I begin to find mine.

Yesterday I really began to believe in his character, which in turn fed mine, and I broke through into my necessary rage--that volcanic anger I usually reserve for people doing forty on a road designed for sixty.

My lines, which had refused to stick in my Very Little Brain (crowded out by a wealth of song lyrics and useless trivia, doubtless) suddenly rose spontaneously from whatever dusty protein data bank they had been encoded on. I began to develop a more solid narrative of the character.

So I am gaining confidence, and I think and hope that Horatio is gaining something as well. I also believe that he'll get more respect from now on. He's sure earned it.

More as I feel the urge.







Settle Down, Metro. Have Some Pie

I really appreciate the fact that some of you (at least three, I think) take time from your lives to come and read this stuff.

Let's face it. I'm not the most insightful, nor the most interesting, nor even the most squidly blogger on the planet. There are lots of other sites to see and read.

But what I really appreciate is the comments. In particular the well-worded, respectful ones that tell me when I've perhaps, crossed the line.

M. G. EagLE's note that, like Neo, Metro should perhaps settle down and have some apple pie was a wonderfully coded message letting me know I'm being too crabby. True. Politics gets me that way sometimes, and politics of late has been ... uninspiring, to say the least.

I have to defend my outrage, I suppose. It seems like the only appropriate reaction. However, I realize the outrage has once again ballooned on this blog, as it does. It didn't help that I was over on Cliff Schecter's blog censuring a troll for incivility today.

So I'm going to try to ratchet it down again. At least until Bush does something equally mmmph mmph mmph.

Pauses. Removes hand from mouth.

Sorry ... almost lost it again there.

Let's talk about something else for a while, shall we?







26 September 2007

Oh By the Way: A Mood Note

I don't deal well with being sick or injured. Last night, practicing for a moment in a play where I must fling myself upon a man some 60 pounds lighter than myself and make the struggle look convincing, I hurt my back.

And it's amazing what a foul mood that's put me in. Not that I'm not outraged by Bushco, but those eledery Keystone Kops probably deserved more credit that I gave them this morning.

After all, they're out there, involved. However silly I think they may be they should get some recognition for trying.

Bush deserves no credit. He'd used up any moral capital he might have had by 2002. What he deserves is prohibited under international law. Of course we all know he considers himself beyond international law ...







Impeachment Will Be Insufficient

But it might be all we can hope for.

I consider myself humane. I would not willingly wish suffering on anyone. Which is why I'm specifically not overtly hoping the Bush cabinet, including Cheney and Rice, are accidentally electrocuted during a screening of a video from Guantanamo Bay.

Assuming they are not arrested and turned over to the appropriate authorities.

For Rick Wilson and Muneer Ahmad, [the] nasty truth led to an unnerving conclusion: After the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration effectively kidnapped hundreds of innocent people because they looked like Arabs and shipped them to a detention facility designed to torture them nonstop and in perpetuity. If the president were tried in the Hague, the prosecution would have an easy case.


Read the Rolling Stone article. This is how they treat a fifteen-year-old boy whose legal status is at best uncertain.

No. Stop. Go back and actually read the damn article.

If there were any justice in this world, Bush and Co. would be thrown from office like the refuse they are, kidnapped, and shipped immediately to some convenient hellhole to begin an instructional five-year sentence under the same conditions that their victims have experienced.

Why are Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad such bitter foes? After all: torture, unaccountability, the conviction they were sent by god ... they have so much in common!







The Impotent Guardians of Virtue

Last week, due to a bungled dispatch call, a local woman watched two 18-year-old vandals trash a local landmark and a business ... for a couple of hours. She attempted to follow the perpetrators in her car, but gave up when the dispatcher told her she could be fined for speeding.

Police took four hours to respond, eventually popping by to notify the business owner that his establishment had had all its windows busted. Apparently because one of the lads was pissed that his skateboard had gone missing.

One reason for the sluggish response is that we have no police force in town. This is ridiculous for a town the size of ours, but apparently it's more effective to have an empty police station on the main street than to actually have cops inside it? Instead, we piggy-back off the RCMP in a larger hamlet some forty minutes by highway from here.

That's one extreme. Then there's this morning.

As Mme and I drove to work (I have an excuse for not wanting to walk 1.8 km--my back's out) a pair of elderly men in yellow jackets with clipboards were standing by the local school zone. A big sign read "You have just been clocked at 37 km/h by City Speed Watch."

I am the first to complain about speeders on our street. In my reckless youth I liked to whizz down suburban streets at 60 km/h. Now that I'm a property co-owner, I feel cars should be banned, as should the construction of the 200-unit condo hell they're putting in up the road (though that's another blog post).

But my response to these people is "£µ©λ off".

I despise prodnoses and curtain twitchers. I distrust people who call the cops on their neighbours. And I loathe nannies who peep through the fence to see what you're up to in your own back yard.

And these well-meaning clowns with their fancy radar sign and their high-visibility clothing are just as bad. If they were serious, they'd have a police car there and people would be getting ticket$. Or better yet, rather than wasting time and money waving at motorists like my noble self, they could install the speed bumps the place clearly desperately needs.

Which of course would leave the prodnoses and curtain-twitchers with nothing to do on weekday mornings. Except maybe raise a petition to get a serious police force into town.







24 September 2007

Marcel Marceau is Dead

Helas, quel dommage. Let us have a moment of noise.


Video via Raincoaster

The world of the arts just became a little noisier.My favourite Marcel Marceau fact is that he was the person who spoke the only word in Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie".

Bonus video (fan AMV) here.







21 September 2007

Final Post of the Day, I Promise

It's just there's so bloggably much out there.

An Alberta 18-year old pleaded guilty to charges of distributing child porn, thus avoiding jail time. His 17-year-old girlfriend had sent him several nude shots of herself, and the idiot was showing them around. The argument is that by turning those private pictures into public ones, he was distributing porn featuring an underage girl.

But it's him I sympathize with. I mean, she sent these images via the internet, for the FSM's sake! Internet privacy is a thorny issue, but generally the rule is pretty much that if you wouldn't do it on the street in front of your friends, neighbours, or parents, you shouldn't do it online. Not under your own name or identifiably, at any rate.

Hell, if her server's in the States I personally guarantee you that those pics are on the hard drive of someone over in the offices of the Effa-Bee-Eye; or possibly the Republican congressional caucus. All US servers must allow the FBI to monitor all traffic at their request and discretion, under the current Orwellian apparatus they're using instead of the rule of law these days.

For example, depending on what you wish to say on it, it's worth considering using a psuedonym on your blog, and perhaps confining yourself to a small but loyal group of Avid Fans (you are all loyal Avid Fans, right?) rather than the indiscriminate but appreciative hordes of readers who would surely overwhelm your server if you allowed it. Yeah, my anonymity and the failure of this blog to crack the Technorati top ten million isn't going to stop the CIA, but it allows me a certain freedom to say the things I feel need saying.

Such as: If you're going to e-mail naked pictures of yourself around, then accept that you lose control of the material as soon as you hit the "send" button. Just as surely and irrevocably as if you'd dropped them into H.M. Mail.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some ex-girlfriends to wheedle. I also need to phone my parents and explain to them what will happen if they ever again show that picture of me in the tub to the bridge group. Though it may not qualify as porn--there's a strategically-placed plastic fish, you see.







Number One Productivity Killer!

This may rank higher than Facebook, YouTube, or even the all-time champeen, Desktop Tower Defence for many in the workforce.

UC-Santa Cruz to put novelist Robert Heinlein's archive online
By Lisa M. Krieger
Mercury News
Article Launched: 09/20/2007 01:33:30 AM PDT

The complete archive of renowned American science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein will be made available online, thanks to an unusual partnership of the University of California-Santa Cruz and the Heinlein Prize Trust.

Heinlein, who lived in Santa Cruz for two decades, was one of the grand masters of science fiction. He became a pop icon in the 1960s with the publication of "Stranger In A Strange Land," one of the most successful science-fiction novels ever published. He died in 1988.
--Via the San Jose Mercury News

'Cos Metro loves him some Heinlein, yes he does, O Avid Fan.







Clearly the Writer's Dental Work Was Picking up the Ambulance Dispatch System

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. has apologized over a comedy show that apparently mocks the ecstasy-related death of a teenager.

Update: Aerchie of the Archive notes in the comments that filming on this series was in fact finished a week prior to the sad death of Annabel Catt. As he observes, clearly, "this is one of 'those' co-incidences."

I find myself relieved.


The show, "Summer Heights High" is running five episodes which apparently find humour in the drug death of a teenager named "Annabel Dickinson".

But it's not getting any yuks out of the parents of Annabel Catt. From their statement:
“We and many others immediately drew the conclusion the episode was making a comparison to our beloved daughter,” they told the Manly Daily newspaper.

“This was done by naming the deceased in the show Annabel Dickson, describing her as blonde and beautiful and showing a picture that had a resemblance to our daughter.”
--Via thewest.com.au

ABC Managing director Mark Scott described the co-incidence as "a horrible co-incidence". I am not buying it.

For starters, just out of pure curiosity: How common is the name "Annabel"?







20 September 2007

Blackwater Keeps Rollin' on Past, Just the Same

The Economist headlines today with an article entitled "Iraq's Hired Guns--Privateers Under Fire". That headline is a shocking departure from the paper's usual accuracy in copyediting.

I would like to inform the editorial board of The Economist that:

  • "Guns" is spelt with a double o.


  • The word "Privateers" should actually contain an "ofi" where the "iva" is currently located.


  • And finally, the word spelt "Iraq" in this headline should be spelt "America".


  • Mercenaries have no place in a just war. Blackwater, with only about 1% of all American civillian personnel in Iraq, is merely the rust-flaked tip of the bayonet.







    19 September 2007

    Keelhaul Me Yardarm an' Deck the Spinnaker!

    Avast ye sons of mothers and daughters o' fathers! D'ye not know this here be National Talk Like a Pirate Day?

    So buckle ye some swash and try t'order yeself a "non-fat-double-hot-cappucino-with-whipped-non-dairy-topping" in the manner o' the likes of Long John Silver, or:



    My pirate name is:


    Iron Jack Kidd




    A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you're a tough person. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

    Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
    part of the fidius.org network

    In honour o' the which:

    Where do pirates like to spend days off?
    At the arrrt gallery.


    No-one ever asked the Captain's daughter on dates. She had a sunken chest and no booty.


    What do blondes and pirates have in common?
    A little black patch.





    Not sophisticamated enow fer the loikes of 'ee? Well then. Via McSweeny's Internet Tendency:

    Of the ghosts that appear to Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," which do pirates prefer?
    Jacob MARRRley.

    Whom did the pirate vote for in the Haitian election?
    ARRRistide.

    Wait. Why did they let a pirate vote in the Haitian election?
    Remember, the nation was taking its first halting steps toward democracy, and balloting procedures were rather chaotic. The pirate just slipped in somehow. Arrr.

    I don't buy it. Pirates care nothing for participating in the electoral process.
    Look, can we finish this up soon? I'm having those phantom pains in my wooden leg.



    Just remember, bein' a pirate isn't something you choose--it's just something you arrr.



    Update: Which of ye crab-gutted landlubberly mongrels made off wi' me images outa that quiz, now?







    17 September 2007

    I Could be a Star, Maybe, Somewhere Else

    One day, if I get the urge to name our house, it will not be "The Elms", or "Dunroamin'" or some such silliness. It will be "Esos Ciervos Sangrientos."

    Just a thought for Monday as I peruse the garden ...

    Among the things that I find amazing about modern travel is the ease of communication. In 2000 I travelled Australia, sending long missives from internet cafés and waiting up until 2 am to phone my parents and an Avid Fan or two back in God's other country.

    Mme Metro and I are hosting a visitor from Japan. This woman, let's call her Tyushu, chats with her mother about every second night via cell phone, texting back and forth and sending pictures of the experience fresh as they happen.

    A day or two ago I was lounging on the sofa when she approached me, clutching a small stuffed Ogopogo (Cryptozooic Mega-Fauna of the nearby vales). I was made to understand that she wished to take a picture of me with said CMF. I assented.

    Approximately half-an-hour later I was munting about the internet when she came into the room and informed me that she had sent the pic to her mother, and that her mother said I looked like "er ... firm actor." It took me a minute to realize that a Japanese woman about my own age was saying I looked like a movie star.

    It seems an appropriate time for this:



    Lyrics:
    Tom Waits: Big in Japan

    I got the style but not the grace
    I got the clothes but not the face
    I got the bread but not the butter
    I got the winda but not the shutter

    But I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan But heh I'm big in Japan

    I got the house but not the deed
    I got the horn but not the reed
    I got the cards but not the luck
    I got the wheel but not the truck

    But heh I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan

    I got the moon I got the cheese I got the whole damn nation
    On its knees I got the rooster I got the crow
    I got the ebb I got the flow

    I got the powder but not the gun
    I got the dog but not the bun
    I got the clouds but not the sky
    I got the stripes but not the tie

    But heh I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan

    Heh ho they love the way I do it
    Heh ho there's really nothing to it

    I got the moon I got the cheese
    I got the whole damn nation on their knees
    I got the rooster I got the crow
    I got the ebb I got the flow

    I got the sizzle but not the steak
    I got the boat but not the lake
    I got the sheets but not the bed
    I got the jam but not the bread

    But heh I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan I'm big in Japan
    I'm big in Japan, I'm big in Japan







    14 September 2007

    Quiz for Bloggers

    You Are a Pundit Blogger!

    Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
    Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.

    Unless you're that bloody Metro, trying to game the quiz again.
    Don't you ever £µ¢λing give up?



    Clearly, I have been anticipated.

    Update: I am ashamed to note that I failed to point out where I stole this from. Unethical of me. It originated at the home of Azahar, who has been kind enough not berate me about it.







    Thinkblogging the Democracy: Of Veiled Voters, Part II

    I've been stewing on this for a couple of days. One of the reasons I blog is to interact with folks with a different point of view. In my earlier post on the veiled voter issue, a couple of people got my mental wheels spinning, and I think I have changed my mind on the issue.

    I'm also suddenly embarrassed that I, and my country, are making such a damn big deal out of this.

    I'm vaguely embarrassed by my statements made in ignorance. Norlinda commented below that a Muslim man may not exercise dominion over a woman in her choice of vote. I'm not sure this is true for all cultures that happen to be predominantly Islamic. But I'm willing to accept that it's about interpretation and culture rather than faith.

    Hell, as recently as five years ago my own mother urged her daughter (on her wedding day) to include the phrase "love, honour, and obey" in her wedding vows (I tried to get Mme Metro to use that form of the vows, but she refused to obey me, since she hadn't vowed to do so. There's always a technicality). I actually knew someone once whose now-ex told her that she had to vote his way, and have seen discussions of this foolish bloody idea ere now on the netosphere.

    So trying to make this a part of the issue only expands the debate (a-hem) beyond the veil and into religion and dogma, which are beyond the scope of this dicussion.

    Norlinda also points out that minorities should be encouraged to vote. Hell, I can't figure out why they wouldn't--after all, it's the reason many of them came here, no? But it is true that immigrants are not voting in even the miserable proportions of the general public, which is why stiff, rich old white men are still very much the political power elite around here. Why stack the deck even further?

    I was, and am, uncomfortable with the idea that a woman wearing a niqab should not be required to identify herself. But this is not the issue, really. What does the law say?

    It seems acceptable for a veiled woman to show her face to another woman. But that's not at issue either. For reasons I will state below.

    It behooves us to examine our motives carefully and be extraordinarily clear when we suggest that a section of the population must be disenfranchised or forced to violate the strictures of their faith. This is most surely the issue.

    So I had some serious questions, some of which I phrased exceedingly badly, in that earlier post.

    1) How many people are we really talking about here?
    A: It doesn't matter.
    If we make a conscious choice to discriminate, no matter what the reasons, then it doesn't matter if we're talking about ten, or ten million.

    Everyone has the right to vote. So we say, and so it must ever be if we are to wear the name "democratic socialist monarchy" proudly.

    2) What are current identification requirements?
    A:It has been speculated that Harper passed the law without making rules on niqabs in order to scotch opposition to the bill. It also gives him a handy issue on which to strike a clear position many Canadians will instinctually agree with.

    But personally I think it's just sloppy lawmaking. And the issue is a straw man.

    Bill C-31, passed by the Conservative minority government with a little help from their good friends, states in summary:
    "Before voting, electors must prove their identity and residential address by providing one piece of government-issued photo identification showing their name and residential address, or two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, each of which establishes their name and at least one of which establishes their residential address.

    To vote, an elector may instead take an oath and be vouched for by another elector whose name is on the list of electors for the same polling division, and who has the necessary piece(s) of identification to establish his or her identity and residential address."
    The law clearly states that a voter may vote without ID provided they are vouched for by someone who is themselves a verified voter in good standing.

    3) Would it require any great change to ensure that a female officer of Elections Canada would be present at each polling station to vet veiled voters?
    A: Since Canadians come in all sizes, shapes and colours, it seems to me that having one male and one female staffer at each station would be a smart thing. But the least we could do is assign one polling station per district to be "niqab-friendly", perhaps. And ensure that there is a woman there to check IDs as required. After all, if a cop has to search a woman, the cop had better be a woman too.

    But since the law states that a voter need only be vouched for, it's really irrelevant, see #2
    .

    4) How do countries where the niqab is a common sight handle such questions?
    A: Alas, many of them don't have the pleasant fantasy we call "democratic government." Others appear to rely on variants of the Canadian method.

    So the law is on the side of veiled voting. End o' story.

    Personally, I dislike veils. And in this, I think, I am like most "westerners". I see them primarily as a symbol of oppression (doubly so because I am a nontheist). They make the wearer seem distrustful and secretive in a society that claims to value openness, they remove the cues of facial expression from our conversations and render the wearer ever strange.

    I also worry a bit that siding with a religious tradition that seems oppressive is edging into uncomfortable territory for a democracy that is supposed to be secular.

    But as a former Catholic, I am also aware of the outward symbolism of one's submission to the will of God, be he whomever you choose. And freedom to worship is important.

    There may be sound reasons to change the law, but as it stands, a veiled woman has the right to vote, just as does any other Canadian. And one should certainly be careful in making rules respecting (or disrespecting) religion.

    But, with all the above thrown into the mix, this still boils down to a very simple issue:

    If a veiled citizen wishes to vote in a general election, then we owe that person the opportunity to do so, or else risk losing everything this country stands for and has achieved.

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    13 September 2007

    Quickie Post

    Tired of the wet beavers, shaving, prison girls, and the like that fill the tubes of the internets?

    How about some good old-fashioned flying stuff:



    Via FlyingThingz.com







    11 September 2007

    US Health Care Makes Me Feel Ill

    Over at Omnibrain, Steve Higgins has started something of an uproar with a post containing this statemtent:
    I can't think of one legitimate reason why people shouldn't be charged more for living an unhealthy life style. After all, the inflated health care costs are in large part due to peoples unhealthy life choices like smoking, drug use (drinking mainly) and obesity.
    I had intended to speak to this in the comments, but it's really a post on its own.

    You see, Steve lives in the US, where health is a commodity, measured and sold. It results in some ghastly gaps in health care, and means that politicians play football with people's lives.

    Consider Bush's refusal to expand free health care for kids--despite the fact that it is his financial policies have resulted in more struggling families skimping on spending to get by as US debt skyrockets, the dollar sinks, and inflation drags at the paycheque.*

    What Steve proposes, I feel, would result in a sharp decline in the number of poor people who carry insurance. As it is, some forty million--over ten percent of Americans--don't. If you raise the payments, a lot of them are going to decide that they can't afford it. Even if it's as low as ten percent, there would suddenly be 43 million uninsured people. And uninsured people cost the system more. Assuming they get treatment, although some hospitals will turn people away (and don't get me started on that merde).

    But that doesn't tell the entire story. By far the greater problem, morally, ethically, and socially, is the vast number of people who cannot or do not carry sufficient insurance for all eventualities. The underinsured actually get a worse deal than the uninsured, since they pay into a system that may deny them treatment anyway (a polite way of saying "allow them to live or die"), based exclusively on whether they paid for the Gold Coverage or the Platinum Coverage.

    Steve has a point. And what his point illustrates is the great failure of market-based health care. In all such systems, insurers cherry-pick the healthy, the wealthy, and the young to fill their vaults. And on the other end they pick and choose the drug brands, doctors, and treatments they will generously allow you to use. While their profit profile takes on Nepalese proportions. Let's face it, the companies in the health-care sector aren't in this for the good of their fellow human beings (assuming they themselves can be classified as such).

    Against this sort of corporate profiteering, the consumer is helpless to do anything but bend over (Oh--but your plan doesn't cover the lube. You'd better brace yourself ... ). This is why the US must instead turn to the Canadian-type single-payer system of universal coverage.

    Sure, not everyone gets the best of care. And waiting times for nonessentials are pretty steep. But generally, everyone (and by this I mean a far, far greater proportion of the population) gets what they actually need.

    If you prefer to have unhealthy people paying more--the mechanism is in place, more or less: Smokers, for example, pay a minimum (in Ontario) of five dollars per pack in federal and provincial taxes. Tobacco tax revenue is 1.45 billion, and the government claims health care costs of 1.7. We could easily close that gap.

    Except that that doesn't account for federal taxes in that five dollar cost, which go into transfer payments from the feds to the provinces, particularly for health care. In other words, smokers are pretty much financing their own health care costs. If I'm obese and I consume loads of junk food, well I cover some of that cost too.

    An added benefit: No-one need worry about poor people. Since they're more likely to be smoking and eating piss-poor food anyway, they're funding the system as a result of the choices that force them to lean more heavily on that system.

    Now one could argue that there are other costs. $2.6 billion in lost economic productivity alone in Ontario. But I'm looking at this the way a US "Health Maintenance Organization" would. In terms of the bottom line to health care.

    So why do US politicians fight to let her kids stay uninsured? Beat$ $even kind$a hell outta me. Ask all those legislators who are taking bribes ... sorry, I mean "donations" from Big Pharma.

    Canada's system has its problems, including rising costs, aging population, drive-by consumers, and the failure to allocate a proper place for private health care within the framework. But we have almost no uninsured people. If my life is at risk, they don't need to check my Blue Cross coverage to see whether I get the cheap drug or the expensive one.

    And we barely need discuss whether to tax the fat, smokers, or drug users.

    *(Side question: why is it that it's all Republicans who accumulate this debt? Aren't they supposed to be, like, all fiscally responsible or something? Yet Reagan was the first to break one trillion in debt, and HW put the country about $3tr in the hole. Finally--one thing Dubya's better at than his daddy! The US has accumulated nine trillion in debt: $9,000,000,000,000, and is on course to hit $11tr by the time the clown leaves office. Clinton, by the way, managed to leave the biggest surplus the US has ever had.)

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    10 September 2007

    Am I Entirely Nucking Futz?

    The blogging may get a bit sparse for a while.

    Why? Well because basically I need to be committed, possibly in both major senses of the word.

    I haven't started eating my soup with chopsticks, and I'm not dancing bare-assed down 42nd St. yelling that the Kaiser will steal my string, or that Dubya is a great president or anything.

    Instead, I've taken on roles in three plays. Three.

    Play number one, whose title I can't remember enough to pseudonymize, has a 140-page script. I'm apparently supposed to be a male lead of some description.

    Play two is a musical Christmas production, in which I will appear as at least four different characters, possibly five.

    Play three is a traditional, Britisihonal, Christmas Pantomime. I've always wanted to do one. I am apparently supposed to be a clueless king. Mme Metro remarked drily that 'twas casting for type.

    Am I mad? My rehearsal schedule is likely to look like this: Play one--MTuThFr, evenings. Play two, W, evenings. Play three, Su 9-5.

    Mme is putting my portrait up by the door so she can make sure it's me when I get home.

    But forgive me my hubris in taking this on--I love it!. If I could quit my job and do this for a living, I would, without hesitation. Where the hell has this been in my life? Why didn't I strike out on my own and try my hand at acting when I was eighteen? Well partly because the Coliseum was a really tough crowd, but lack of confidence was a factor.

    Now I feel like Tarzan in that freefall moment between convenient vines. I hope the next vine turns out to be there--and that it's not a snake. In that spirit:







    Christian Science Monitor: Canadians Have Cold Feet

    The Christian Science Monitor carries an editorial today that I take some exception to.

    It basically accuses the Nato countries who are currently supposed to be holding back the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan of wanting to fold their tents and steal quietly home, leaving the shattered-and-as-yet-un-rebuilt nation to a "likely resurgence of the Taliban and a return to state-supported terrorism."

    Ex-£µ©λing-cuse me?

    I'd like to point out to the editor of that usually very sound publication that Canada, in particular, didn't sign up for the American Great Patriotic War on Terror (See also: "War Without End").

    We have a military that's not a tenth the size, and no infrastructure to support that war effort, to the extent that we have to contract other armies' air forces to fly us there.

    And we're losing troops. Not so many as the US has lost in Iraq, but a blood price is being paid; Not because our hearts aren't in the effort, but because our under-equipped troops are fighting a war in a country that sees them as an extension of US hegemony, and because our biggest ally isn't there.

    Why are NATO nations so reluctant to stick it out in a land where they aren't particularly wanted or valued by the locals?... Well I guess that answers that question. Afghanistan, like Iraq, is clearly not ready to be the type of democracy the US tried to install. The government remains corrupt and the police forces a mistrusted shambles.

    We went to help fight, and stayed to help rebuild. But something happened that has sapped that effort, and with it went that will.

    The editorial goes on to say that "Perhaps some of them believe the Yanks alone could prevent the Taliban from retaking power."

    No. We know they can't. But why not? They have a million-soldier all-volunteer army, bloody enormous logistics capacity, and the best war tech on the planet. Why couldn't they pacify Afghanistan?

    Because Bush chose to engage in a war he could have chosen to avoid. A war that has sucked out America's troops and her fighting spirit. A war that has distracted from the Afghanistan war and rebuilding effort, which remains indistinguishable from an ongoing war.

    America's heart is no longer in the Iraq war, maybe it never was. But except for the briefest of moments in 2001, it's heart was never in Afghanistan. Because one man had to prove an entirely different organ was bigger than his daddy's. And there was never for a moment any reasonable chance that the country could rebuild itself from the 14th century to the 21st without heavy US commitment; which simply isn't there while the blood is spilling in Iraq.

    So before the editors of the CSM accuse America's allies of not being willing to commit to Afghanistan, perhaps they'd better qualify that statement.

    Perhaps such qualification might start with reminding the Bush administration where and what Afghanistan is, and why the US should have stayed there.







    09 September 2007

    Getting Beyond the Veil, and the Hysteria

    Well first off there's the fact that I finally found something on which I am in agreement with our Prime Minister.

    That worthy has stated that the Elections Canada decision on allowing veiled women to vote without proving their identity violates the law passed by Parliament last year. And I deeply regret being forced to concur. Curse you, EC, for placing me in such a position!

    At issue is the question of whether veiled women must un-veil to prove their identity at the polling station. My response is generally "Well DUH." In order to vote I must typically prove my identity. I can do this using a driver's license and usually a secondary piece of ID. But the picture should match the face. And there lies the rub.

    Leaders in the Islamic community say that it should be fine for a woman to unveil to a female elections officer. But that's not the point, really.

    I see the real issue here as two-sided. On one side, we promise people freedom of religion, thus implicity saying that we will make reasonable accomodation for people's quirks of faith.

    If we were to state firmly that a woman must unveil or lose her right to vote, we would have to betray that freedom to worship in the manner she sees fit. Not to mention the undermining of the fundamental right that defines a democratic constitutional monarchy.

    Yet, assuming for one moment we could hire a female officer to verify the identities of every veiled person showing up, wouldn't that be caving in to the demands of fundamentalists? And particularly a thin sliver of a sect which follows traditions which are often at variance with those of democracies--including the right of women to vote, drive, or form governments?

    Unlike the crop of morons on the Globe and Mail's discussion board I'm not such a fool as to envision hordes of conveniently-veiled men women and children swarming polling places to elect Osama Bin Laden prime minister (Though many of Harper's supporters might find his thinking refreshingly familiar and homey).

    But it occurs to me: how many women would we actually be excluding if we said "No. Unveil or don't bother"?

    Assuming that the man of the house lets them vote (forgive me if I misunderstand that that is in fact his decision), and assuming he is powerless to direct that vote, how many women will actually make their way to their polling place and strike their franchise chisel into the malleable marble that is Canadian society?

    It would be a first. We don't even exclude criminals in jail from voting--and I'll bet that most of them do--it kills a couple of hours. Whereas only 40 percent of the population in total actually votes.

    In which case, what is society giving up by allowing or not allowing veiled women the vote, and which is the greater risk to our democratic tradition?

    I think we should say "No."

    I dislike my stance on this. But at heart it is the only democratic position. Free and equal, with our faces revealed to whatever god we believe in, and to one another.







    06 September 2007

    If Canada Ruled the World

    Canadians are apparently wonderful folks--only we steal stuff from the Fark Forums.

    Here's a neat little combination beaver shot and meme all in one, 'cos we're efficient like that, yo.




    You know, I don't think much more needs to be said. Or at least, given the possible proximity of the words "beaver", "fur", and "burger" I feel strongly that I should quit now.



    But my personal fave? Looky here:









    05 September 2007

    Fool Me Once?

    I find it disturbing that the Bush administration seems to be trotting out the same old pig with a different shade of lipstick.

    Lessee:
    2002-6, Bush sez:
    We have to attack Iraq because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.

    Well, not really, but he's developing them--look! Over there! Yellowcake!

    Okay, so that turned out to be a lie too, but you just know he's helping Al-Qaeda, so it's kind of like he hit us first.

    What? He's on the Al-Q kill list too? Well, we're bringing democracy and stability to a corrupt dictatorship. We're gonna make life better for all Iraqis. Whether they want us to or not.

    Oh, and it'll coinciedentally enrich a whole crop of war profiteers and contract murderers, and lead our nation to a point where we can stand proudly beside China, Libya, and Cuba on human rights and war crimes issues.

    Oh, and some people will be killed. But only a few ... hundred ... thousand. And some American soldiers.

    But you have to make sacrifices in wartime ... I mean, not anyone in this Administration personally, but you have to make them. By the way, have you done your bit for the war effort by shopping at Wal-Mart this week?

    2007, Bush sez:
    Look--over there! It's that Iran guy whose name I can't pronounce--and he's got nukyular weapons!

    Well ... not yet, but he's working on them ... I'm sure we'll be able to show you a memo saying he's buying yellowcake uranium from Sudan by November. You know he's working with Al-Qaeda, dontcha?

    Hey! Hey! ... come back!

    Wolf, I cried! WOLF, dammit!







    04 September 2007

    Kid For Sale! Fine, Healthy Kid For Sale!

    Would you sign your kid up for child labour?

    Okay, so there's a chance for your kid to appear on TV--Yay!
    If the kid gets on TV, there'll be a $5,000 stipend--Yay, too!
    If your kid wins the "contest" then there will be $20,000 extra--Triple Yay!

    Right? Well, not exactly.

    Parents signing their kids up for the CBS show "Kid Nation" signed a contract that specified that the show was dangerous, and that they were not allowed to sue for anything that happened to their kids.

    Up to and including death.

    Oh, and just for the final $#!7s-and-giggles: Parents were told that they would forfeit a $5 million fine for violating the confidentiality clause included in this deal-with-the-devil contract if they told anyone about it. Worked pretty well, didn't it? Given that CBS executives are not, in fact being properly burned in effigy or hauled into OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) hearings.

    Reports say that the kids worked up to 14 hours a day for as many as 40 days.

    "Well," said one satisfied parent "It's training him for a life in the Wal-Mart world." (*)

    (*) Okay--I made that quote up. I'm just trying to imagine how these parents think.







    Done Like Dinner

    I would like to humbly notify my Avid Fans that I am 269 kb, 26,500 words, 104 double-spaced pages, and one complete 3-Day Novel Contest's worth of DONE!

    This one was a bit of a bugger to write. At noon on day two I had about sixty pages, but I had no idea where the story would lead, nor how it would end. Then I stopped worrying about it and let the narrative flow carry me.

    It seems to be a recurring thing that my stories lead me to their conclusions, rather than the other way around.

    It happened in my first story, where I started wondering about what would happen if three people chose to rob the same bank on the same day. I needed to get everyone together for the climactic confrontation scene and they just would not go. Finally I let the characters tell me where they needed to be, and how they needed to get there.

    My second book, about the murder of a garbage man, some stolen diamonds, and a vanished baby, went much the same way. I tried to separate the characters into two or three confrontation scenes, but they all wanted to get together and have a big party on page 102.

    This time the story was about a man who loses his wife to a random act of violence ... or is it? I had to write until the end to figure out who the murderer was.

    The butler, it turned out, had nothing to do with it.

    I'll send it in to the contest tomorrow. Wish me luck!







    01 September 2007

    The Great Metro-Canuckian Novel, Version III, I Hope

    Some of you may have been Avid Fans from 'way back. So you may be aware that I have twice participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest from Anvil Press.

    It's a big event these days, to the point that there's even a reality show following the efforts of some of the participants.

    That is what I'm doing this weekend, and it's partly because of this there's been such a paucity of posts lately. (Ab)normal service will return shortly. Probably.

    Meantime:
    This video turned up as part of Cliff Schecter's comment on Karl Rove's asessment of the Bush presidency, which includes this statement:
    President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century.
    In response, Schecter posted this video, featuring a greater song & dance man than Rove will ever be: Donald O'Connor.