Saturday, May 20, 2006

The End of ...

Tonight's episode was "The End of Print" ... last week he did "The End of TV" ... you get the idea. When I first heard about this idea, I thought "Great, another series predicting the end of stuff." As someone whose spent his life in IT, I've been hearing about the paperless office for 3 decades now and while computers are more integrated into office life than ever before, we are as far from the paperless office as we've ever been ... paper still rules the business world.

But this particular series, running on CBC Newsworld on Saturdays at 12ET and again at 9:30ET, is a bit more than your usual "The end is nigh" stuff. The first point to make is that the host of the show, Jian Ghomeshi, is a very talented fellow. He's actually a former member of one of my all-time favorite bands, the somewhat obscure (sorry Jian), but VERY intelligent, Moxy Fruvous. From humour like the King of Spain, through solid philosophy like Horseshoes, all the way to the wonderfully absurdist and surreal Present Tense Turine, Moxy Fruvous laid down some seriously worthwhile music.

Nice to see Jian moving on and doing more good work, lol. "The End of ..." series is very though provoking, and the End of Print episode that was on tonight explored some very interesting themes. I loved Margaret Atwood's adamant defense of the book, and I do see her point ... there isn't another more versatile, mobile, and non-technical for of entertainment. If you have light, you have everything you need to get pleasure from a book.

But technology will take over. One of the other counter-points to Atwood was that with one E-book, we can take dozens, or hundreds, or perhaps millions of novels on vacation with us, like we now carry thousands of songs around. That's already happening to a degree, and as the wireless web and handheld devices increase in prevalence, I think we'll see more and more E-book style arrangements. The rise in books-on-tape, especially now with mp3 and media players, is a prelude to e-delivery, I think.

Newspapers are another story. As an old man of 40, I can't live without my newspapers, but I am even an anomaly in my own generation. I am a child of the TV age, a time when newspapers were fretting about losing readership to TV news and the immediacy of live, on-the-scene video. Now its the internet, and even a few new challenges with the loss of classified markets online as well.

I think there's an analog to magazines and newspapers online, one that works VERY well. is one excellent example of this ... Wired is another, and one that has a foot in both worlds. Newspapers and magazines that have existed exclusively in the print world will HAVE to adapt to the new reality of online information. As with ALL other forms of content controlled distribution (TV, radio, newspapers ... where info is fed to you), newspapers will have to come to terms with an interactive world. While old forms of content distribution favoured content control, it will be extremely difficult to put that genie back in the bottle now ... with the interactivity of the internet, any new information medium that comes along will need to deal with people's desire for an interactive experience.

And that's really the theme through all of the "End of ..." series ... its not about the End, but about transformations, about new ways of getting the same kinds of information. In the end, its likely that someone like The New York Times can leverage their print name in the online world, but only for so long ... at a certain point they'll need to provide content that people want.

Check out the series ... its actually posted on the website, so head over to and you can see the last two episodes. I expect the End of Print should be posted shortly as well ... but both episodes posted are well worth the time. They are defiantly 22 minutes well spent.

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On Jesus and fact vs fiction ...

With the release of the Da Vinci Code movie last night, we've been talking about the Da Vinci Code 'controversy' for what seems like forever, lol. It seems a pretty logical bet that this current movie, based on the book by Dan Brown, will do well at the box office ... given the sales of the book, movie ticket sales seem to be little more than a formality. I suppose time will tell the real story on that but honestly, I can't really speak to how well it will do, or even do much in the way of a review as I haven't seen the movie, nor even read the book.

In fact, I haven't even read the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book, upon which many of the fictional plot points for Da Vinci are based. So I am probably the least qualified person on the planet to write a review of the movie, or the book, or to discuss any of the specific theories that Brown brings up in da Vinci, and Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln bring up in HBHG. That's not what this blog article is about, though I may very well review the movie later if I decide to see it.

Instead, I want to explore the nature of fact and fiction in the modern world of writing, especially as it deals with religious figures. Da Vinci has been decried as blasphemous by many people because it challenges the account of Jesus' life as told by traditional Christianity through the Bible and specifically through the 4 Gospels. Usually, these charges of blasphemy seem centred on the notion that the 4 Gospels in the New Testament of the Bible represent a complete and historically accurate account of Jesus' life.

The fact is, the 4 Gospels of the New Testament don't even represent a complete religious account of Jesus' life, never mind a historical account. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are 4 specific versions of the Jesus story, but they are only 4 of literally dozens of Gnostic Gospels that speak directly of Jesus life, His mission, and His Ministry. The 4 stories that modern Christianity regard as Gospels, as well as all of the rest of what is known as the 'New Testament' was codified in late 4th century, finally accepted at the Third Council of Carthage in 396.

But the list of texts and discussion about Jesus and his life goes well beyond simply what's in the New Testament, even in a religious context. When you speak historically, however, you also have to ask questions of anthropology and archaeology ... to find out who Jesus REALLY was, you have to look honestly and accurately at the world he lived in. Any attempt to look at the historic life of Jesus, even in a fictional sense, would have to start with a firm understanding of the world Jesus walked in ... of what he smelled, of what he saw, of what his bare feet felt as he crossed Judea.

If you are one of the three people on the planet who don't know the main premise of Da Vinci, and HBGB, and who want to be surprised at the movie, the is a SPOILER alert. For the rest of the planet, its important to note that the idea that Jesus and Mary were intimate and potentially produced children is hardly new to Dan Brown. Even Baigent and Leigh were late to the game with HBGB ... Gnosticism has been discussing the life and sexuality of Jesus for 2000 odd years in all sorts of forms.

The real question of 'blasphemy' comes down to a question of who gets to define what is sacred. Blasphemy is the intentional ridicule of something sacred, and the ultimate question is whether Brown, or Baigent and Leigh, or in fact any of the thousands of Gnostics who simply worship Jesus in a different, are intentionally ridiculing anything by exploring their own questions of history, of fiction, of faith.

I think instead its important to realize that 'traditional Christianity' represents but one view of the life of Jesus. Even in the religious world, there is widespread dissention about who Jesus was and what his impact was (most Christians don't realize that Jesus is revered in the Muslim faith as one of the most enlightened Prophets in history). In secular history and literature, there are bound to be competing theories about Jesus, and there's really nothing wrong with it. There IS such a thing as blasphemy, but I really don't see how the Da Vinci Code meets the standard. Its just a fresh look a someone who clearly has had an impact in the world, and in the end, its hard for me to see that as a bad thing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Nigerian power outlet ...

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Molea.
I was a bit taken aback with these at first, lol. They worked pretty well with a grounded plug, but I quickly realized that many things came with non-grounded plugs. When you tried to plug in a non-grounded plug, the two horizontal sockets were blocked ... with a grounded plug, the ground pillar pushes a mechanism that slides back protective covers on the active power sockets below.

It's actually an ingenious design for safety, at least up to a point. It's hard for a kid, or anyone, to accidentally stick something into an active power socket, which is a fair sight more dangerous with 220V power. However, the practical result in a place with a mix of grounded plugs and not ... is that when you try to plug a non-grounded plug into a wall socket, you need to insert something into the ground socket to open it up. Absurdly, the 'safety' mechanism caused me stick foreign objects into ground sockets throughout my time in Lagos ... Just one of the MANY situations that gave rise to a familliar and favorite saying from my years there .......

Thank you for turning an everyday transaction into a bizzarre ritual.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Airbus A380 to Land at London's Heathrow Airport for First Time Europe:
Airbus A380 to Land at London's Heathrow Airport for First Time
The picture to the right isn't from today, but from an earlier landing in France. Today was the first time I have seen live video of a landing, and take off, and I have to say it looks horribly bulky and off balance. It looks like an amazing plane though ... I still think I like the new airship designs a bit more though, lol.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - The Hour - Polygamy - The Hour

I'm usually pretty fond of The Hour, and I usually have praise for the way George handles sides on the stories they run. But tonight, the story on Warren Jeffs and 'polygamy' kinda got under my skin, lol.

In general, Warren Jeffs gets under my skin, and especially so when he, or his ilk in Bountiful, start a discussion on the legality of 'polygamy.' The first point to make is that religious sects who supposedly practice polygamy, such as certain renegade Mormons, as well as Islam and others, almost invariably practice POLYGYNY in the specific sense.

Polygamy is the term that refers to general plural marriages ... where people have more than one spouse. In a religious context, its important to note that this almost never manifests as polyandry, the practice of women having more than one husband. It almost always manifests in a religious context as the opposite form, one man with multiple wives. Its also worth pointing out that in the religious context, polygyny is often a specific religious directive, opening issues of coercion that are hard to address without stepping on toes of 'faith.'

But regardless of all that, the reason it bugs me when Jeffs and his ilk dominate discussion of the legality of polygamy is that they practice a tiny, perverted version of polygamy, or the even more general form polyamory (the desire and ability to love more than one person at a time, roughly). There are groups of people who are so completely removed from the Warren Jeffs' of the world, but who still practice polyamory. Our relationships are never discussed when the legality is brought up, and no one points out the defining difference between religious polygyny and the more secular variety is coercion and consent.

George's guest for the segment was Angela Campbell, and while she wasn't as specifically negative about polygamy as some people he might have picked, I thought it was interesting that neither Geroge nor Angela looked beyond the religious forms of polygamy for their report. It was really her final comment that prompted me to write. She said that while in theory, polygamy is gender-neutral, in real life it is always male-centred. She is right, ofc, in the narrowly defined world of religious polygyny and life of Warren Jeffs.

But in the REAL world, she hasn't got a clue what she's talking about. I am a polyamorous man who happily has relationships with women who also have multiple partners. I discuss issues with other people like myself on a regular basis ... there are some very active communities that have nothing to do with a gender-specific definition of polygamy, or religious coercion to to be wife #14 at age 14.

I wish she or George would have looked, just a little bit, for that world before doing a story like that on national TV. I think communities like Bountiful tend to have some dangerous practices, but to me, they are only tangentially about polygamy. No, Warren Jeffs isn't really a wanted criminal because he has multiple wives ... the reason he is on the FBI list is because of coercion, and allegations of underage wives. NEITHER of those has anything to do with polygamy really ... the unfortunate abuse of children occurs in the world of monogamy, as do coercion and ownership issues. The issues in communities like Jeffs aren't about the multiple partners at all, but instead about the coercion to the lifestyle, and child abuse ... both crimes in their own right.

I have 3 'girlfriends' who all know about each other and who I am. One is married, with a husband and kids ... she and her husband are involved with others as well. Another lady is actively seeking both a female friend, and another male friend. In none of these situations do you find dishonesty, coercion, or abuse ... instead, its honest love between people, nothing more or less.

There are many others like me. I talk to them daily ... George, if you are reading this, you should have a look for them, IMO. Its worth another story.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 : Tories black out details of Dingwall resignation : Tories black out details of Dingwall resignation

There's a friend of mine in Ontario who's been saying "I told you so" ever since I started whining about Stephen Harper's appointments of unelected Senators, and his acceptance of floor crossers in the name of political expediency. Since that time, she's had occasion to say it a few times, not least over the recent Tory announcement of the promised Accountability when Harper walked out on reporters who refused to follow his pre-arranged script for the event.

None of this really surprised me when it happened. I whine and complain because I know its wrong, but the fact that Harper and the Conservatives are capable of such certainly comes as no surprise to me, lol. But this Dingwall affair seems to go beyond even the typical penchant for political lies.

Anyone who watched the last election campaign in Canada saw and heard Harper drone on and on about the Dingwall Affair, about how it was essential that we get the details of what happened when he left his job at the Mint, and why someone who supposedly quit his job was given a huge severance package. One of the campaign ads Harper ran even featured Dingwalls quote "I am entitled to my entitlements" to drive home the point about how the Liberal Govt at the time was hiding the key details of what transpired.

Now, the conservative govt has released some info on the affair, a 487 page report on the reasons why the Dingwall affair was handled as it was. By most accounts, the report is blacked out and censored through giant swath's of it.

In the end, its nothing that is illegal. But for a government who campaigned on, in part, the corruption insinuated by paying $400000+ severance pay to someone who voluntarily leaves their job to then release a report that has most of the relevant details blacked out is beyond hypocritical. It shows that the ads run, at least in this specific instance, in the campaign were lies, plain and simple. Again, this doesn't surprise me ... the Canadian government is famous for broken promises (ofc, the 1992 Liberal Redbook promised to kill the GST when elected ... and of course we still have GST).

Someday, however, the Canadian people will decide that politicians need to tell the truth. Until then, sadly, we will have to deal with reports like this one on the Dingwall affair, reports that tell us nothing of use. Wouldn't it be nice though, someday, to be able to force politicians to address their lies? I know ... I won't hold my breath ... after all, it would be Parliament that would have to pass the laws. Fat chance there, having them pass laws to make themselves accountable. Shame that ... not surprising, but definitely a shame.

ABC report: Government is tracking reporters' calls

War Room -

For people who don't understand why the NSA database is such an issue, this presents a classic example. Its now suggested that the government is tracking the calls of reporters in order to identify confidential sources in leak investigations. No matter how you define the terms, that use does NOT fall under 'detecting patterns of behaviour among terrorists' nor does it meet the standard that the administration is no 'trolling through the personal lives ... of Americans.'

This report may be totally unfounded. In a system where the proper checks and balances were in place, it would be easy to determine if these reporters claims are true or not. But in the current situation, its nearly impossible for the administration to point to any concrete proof that these things aren't happening. Essentially, the only answer to critics who say that the program isn't being used for political purposes, or for purposes other than the narrowly defined war on terror, is for the administration to say "We aren't ... trust us." Problem is, trust isn't what governments are built on ... they are built in verifiability.

Ronald Reagan once said "Trust ... but verify." Of course, he was talking about Soviet Arms reductions, but it applies just as well here. I'm happy to trust, but I also need to verify. If its good enough for Ronnie, surely its good enough for us today.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jazz 38 - Lagos, Nigeria

I scanned in some pictures form one of my favorite places while I was in Lagos a few days ago, posted on my flickr account. To the right is a scan of my original ticket, from my first visit to the club. Jazz 38 became a regular and common refuge from the insanity of trying to run a 24/7 computer room in Lagos, Nigeria. The N50 price was less than $1US, and once inside the club, local beer could also be had for even less.

After my first time there, I wrote down some thoughts in my journal, and I thought I'd transcribe them here, now.

Jazz 38, Awolowo Road
Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria
July 31, 1993

I finally got out to see some of the 'real' Lagos. I was itching to go out and have a few beer; not at the Eko, but someplace new and different. I asked around, and Jazz 38 was suggested.

Physically, the place is a hole. A ramshackle tin roof is held up by makeshift bamboo poles - It looks as though is could collapse at any moment. The tables are a standard wooden card table covered in yellow plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are simply plastic lawn chairs. It all sits on a bare concrete floor.

Like most everywhere else in Lagos, the club has no walls. A gentle breeze flows through, aided by several ceiling fans, to cool the customers and performers. The stage is little more than a hastily thrown together set of wooden planks.

But as bad as the place might be in the physical sense, its atmosphere is beyond compare, in a spiritual and musical sense. The staff is very friendly, and the beer is cheap (N30 for Star compared to N50 at the Eko). Three dogs roam the club at will, more part of the family than pets or protectors.

The house band, Fran and Tunde Kuboye and the Extended Family Band are, in a word, superb. Fran's voice is a masterful instrument, as comfortable with the softest ballad as that hardest blues. Her husband Tunde is an equally versatile bass player, and the whole band seemed very fine musicians, comfortable with a range of African tunes, through their own versions of rock classics. Fran does a haunting version of Moondance, only to belt out a version of Respect that would likely draw it from Aretha herself.

In short, it was an amazing experience, one that I intend to repeat.
It was an experience I repeated throughout my years in Lagos. I own a copy of their album Jisting, a full 10 original tunes, purchased at a VERY reasonable N500 on CD. I even recall a wonderful night spent socializing with the family after the club closed.

Sadly, Fran died suddenly in 1997, bringing to an end her singing. More than that, though, she was a well known youth leader in the area and a Dentist. From what I have heard, Tunde still runs the club ... and operates it partly as a youth centre. I also know he opened another youth centre in Fran's honour after her death.

I do know they represent one of the true highlights of m time in Lagos. More than just one night, Fran and Tunde, and their club, gave me hours of fun, of wonderful music to escape an insane work environment, especially in my early years in Lagos. I still find myself loving their music ... its currently on my iPod, and likely always will be. Definitely a highlight from Lagos, but one that, sadly, will never be the same. You truly can't go home again.