Saturday, May 27, 2006

Stephan Harper and the Media

Imagine going into a meeting with colleagues on Monday morning, where you work, and responding to a question about your work by ignoring the questioner and looking to someone else in the meeting, or worse yet, by getting up and walking out, declaring that your colleagues are out to get you. Imagine going into a meeting with clients on Monday morning, to discuss a new initiative your company is putting forward, but refusing to answer questions. Imagine addressing project stakeholders, but refusing to allow stakeholders to form their own agenda or questions. Can you imagine keeping your job, or the project, or whatever under these circumstances? In the real world, petulant displays like Harper put on the other day, walking out on the National Press, and no refusing to speak with them entirely, those sorts of displays get you fired.

This isn't the first time I've talked about this specific issue, or about Harper and the media in general, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. I'm certain it won't be the last time I give my friend Anitsirhc reason to say "I told you so." George ran an excellent bit on this on Thursday night's The Hour where he talked about this issue, and talked about the tradition of first-come-first-served questioning during Press Gallery conferences, and I loved the fact that he played Terry Milewski's questioning of the PM, and the non-answers regarding his claims. I'd also like to commend George on using the word 'crap' in description of all this … its never been appropriately applied than the way he used it in this report.

But this issue goes beyond the tradition of the Press Gallery. It speaks directly to control of information, and it speaks to vital questions of democracy. What Harper is looking for, essentially, is a media environment where his office controls who can ask questions of the PM, and when. Buried in several of the reports I've seen, George's included, are phrases that send chills down my spine. "Approved list of reporters" was one, when describing who would be able to ask question during Parliament Hill press conferences. When did we flashback into the era of Soviet-style media manipulation, where only government approved journalists get access to the Prime Minister?

The fact remains that Harper has forgotten who he works for. Regardless of their status as reporters, every single person in the Press Gallery is Harper's boss as a citizen of Canada. He serves at their pleasure, as he serves at my pleasure, and at all of yours, if you are citizens of Canada. He is obliged to answer to me, and it is not in his job description to appoint or approve the people who ask him questions for me … the function of a free press is to provide a free marketplace of ideas where I can choose to read the reporters from the Globe and Mail, the CBC, or The National Post, or any number of other specific viewpoints on the information. If Harper's office controls the list of people who ask him questions, then the 'marketplace of ideas' ends up skewed towards the whims of the PMO.

The irony is, in theory, I am Harper's poster-boy redneck. I was born and bred in Alberta and i believe fiercely in individual rights and responsibility, solid conservative values. I should be the sort of person Harper appeals to, and I'm here to say that he needs to talk to whatever reporters want to ask him questions. One of his jobs … perhaps his ONLY job in the grand scheme of things … is to tell his project stakeholders whats happening. Harper sees it as an intrusion to answer reporter's questions … it is, in fact, the reason for his existence in Canadian politics, IMO.

If he thinks the public supports him on this, I think he'll find he is badly mistaken. There's something about the notion of the PMO preparing lists of 'approved' reporters that turns my stomach. One of the key complaints western leaders had about the Communist threat was its control of information flow, and making lists of approved reporters and news agencies was one of the main ways communist governments controlled that information flow. If nothing else, borrowing the methods of Josef and Leonid is hardly good optics for a Prime Minister who is supposedly Conservative and right wing.

GenX - another old poem

This will probably be my last 'old' poem, at least for now. I think this is the last one I wrote in my poetry period in the late 90's, and I believe I've already posted all the others. So any of you here for the poetry will just have to wait for new inspiration after this one, lol. Though, I suspect if you're here for the poetry, you're not here anyway ;-) . Regardless, enjoy …

by Lyle Bateman

Worker bees, filing into the metal hive
necks tied with tinted silken experience
colours melding with fractal swirls
knowledge knotted against seepage.

Dung beetles, scurrying about for daily bread
the remains of the day clinging to legs that
carry mindlessly on through the concrete garden
to dinner at the next carcass.

Drone ants, plodding in glittering hills
providing supplies for unseen queens
in return for sustenance barely deficient
to flame to the light within.

Book worms, burrowing through libraries
for knowledge to grease future wheels
digesting books through the practical funnel
in search of a final design.

Lone spider, watching from above
in high-strung slumber for the silk shivers
that say tonight's dinner is ensnared
in the social safety web.

Copyright 1998

Thursday, May 25, 2006

WWdN: In Exile

WWdN: In Exile

Just wanted to give a shout out to something I stumbled across today. I must say, among other things, its thanx to Wil that I have a geek code. Go have a look at some of his stuff … he's an excellent actor, but he's also a pretty good writer and damn good geek in his own right.

What's a Geek Code you say? Well, if you've received an email from me, then its the cryptic looking stuff at the bottom, but for the record, my geek-ness is fairly weel described by the following:

Version: 3.1
GIT$/P/L d- s: a39 C+++(++++) UL++++S++++$A++I+++ P+ E— W++ N++ w—
V+++ PS+++ L++ t+++ 5++ X++ tv@ b+ DI+++ G e h+ r+ y**

Decode GeekCode at
Make your own GeekCode at

CBC News - The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulous

CBC News - The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulous

Just a quick shout out for the new web page. Its a cool design I think … lots more info. I gotta admit to being a tad disappointed that my link came down, but such is life, lol … was cool to get the traffic from there as long as I did.

Besides, with any luck, they are just linking up to my new address soon, lol … anyway, its a nice new design, and for the record there are two video interviews there worth checking out (well, more probably, but two for sure, lol) … Kevin Smith, and Harvey Pekar. Both are worth a few minutes of your day, both are linked off the new page. - Charles Adler - Code critics served up humble pie - Charles Adler - Code critics served up humble pie

This column appeared in yesterday's Sun newspapers, and it highlights one of the arguments about the da Vinci Code, and Jesus in general from 'mainstream' Christians, that has always mystified me. Adler details very articulately the traditional Christian view of Jesus as pure and non-sinner … it is this purity that allows Jesus' death on the cross to somehow release the rest of us sinners from our sin. As Adler puts it … "If Jesus was exclusively human, that would have made him a sinner like the rest of us. And his death would not have brought the hope of everlasting life to the rest of us sinners."

I've always struggled with the logic in play here. Adler goes on to try and explain it further … "Christians have talked in the past about loving the sinner while hating the sin. Could they still love Jesus if he was only human? Of course they could. But they could never have a personal relationship with a man who was merely mortal." And yet, part of Jesus' fundamental power is that He is made flesh.

The traditional church sees this … a divine Jesus who's only purpose in 'life' is to die on the cross for our sins, who does not sacrifice human flesh, cannot reverberate with us. God gave us his Son in flesh for a reason … so that flesh would die for our sins. But its vital in church philosophy that Jesus is flesh and blood, and not some divine being … on the one hand, it seems Jesus must be flesh to what he needs, but on the other he must be pure beyond flesh. Its a problem I've always run into when contemplating the traditional view of Jesus.

But if you accept Jesus as flesh, as just human being who had remarkable strength of courage, to me it all changes. Adler thinks Chrostians can't have a personal relationship with someone who was merely mortal, and perhaps that, in a nutshell, is why I am not 'Christian'… that he was merely mortal is, to me, what gives him his supreme power.

As with the Buddha, Jesus laid out an example to live by. Both in life and death, he chose to give of himself to others, rather than take from others for himself. In life, he chose to learn and teach, and to travel around ministering to those less fortunate. In death, he provides an example of honesty and courage in the face of unspeakeable evil. And ultimately, that's the irony … in my view of things, Jesus REALLY did die on the cross for all our sins, in a very real way, albeit a real symbolic way.

A human Jesus ended up on the cross through his own choices. At any one of dozens of points in the story, a human Jesus could have backtracked, softened his stance, changed his tune, laid low for awhile. He could have fomented revolution, or plotted assassination to try and stave off his ultimate demise. He did none of these things. In fact, many point to this as proof of his divinity … no mere mortal could act as selflessly as Jesus is portrayed in the stories. But that's part of my point too … If a mortal Jesus made these choices, he proves beyond a doubt that we are all capable of choosing right over self-interest. As a divine creature, Jesus can't be an 'example' for us in that sense, but viewed as just one of us, who still made the decisions he did, he tales on far greater power to me. He shows us we can all choose to be better than we are, and he reminds us that it always comes down to choosing how we act … we never control the actions of other, but Jesus reminds us that no matter how bad those actions get, we ALWAYS control our own response to them.

There are many people who agree with Alder here, and traditional Christianity, that Jesus' divinity and purity is somehow necessary for him to have died for our sins, that his mortality taints that in some fundamental way. I've never been able to wrap my head around that frankly. For me, Jesus provided an example to live by … a demonstration that mere flesh and blood can rise above the petty concerns of flesh of blood. He died for our sins, without a doubt … and it is because he so clearly demonstrates what a moral man can choose to do. Without his humanity, without starting as flesh like you and me, making that choice isn't so remarkable. But if Jesus was just like you and me, then its very remarkable to me … and it shows that we, as mere mortals, have the ability to choose to act rightly, regardless of outside pressure.

I guess that makes a pretty clear split between 'traditional Christianity' and me but the irony is we still end in the same place on the ground. Ultimately, to me its not so much about what you believe, its about what you do … if you "Love thy neighbour" then, in general, yer gonna be OK regardless of the specifics of what you believe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Closer by George … on Ticketmaster auctions …

Last night George closed off the show (and for the record George, I was one of your 2 viewers that wasn't watching Idol or hockey for the live broadcast, lol) with discussion of a new idea by Ticketmaster to auction off seats for concerts, regardless of the face value of the ticket. They say the extra proceeds will be split between the ands, the venues, and, of course, Ticketmaster themselves. In Ticketmaster's defence, they are reacting to a HUGE increas in ticket scalping facillitated by websites like eBay and Craigslist. Whether this is th correct repsnse remains to be seen, but it needs to be noted that the problem Ticketmaster is trying to address is a serious one.

That being said, I have to agree with most of George's 'rant' about it as well. My first question would be why, if its illegal for me to re-sell my ticket at higher than the face value, and if Ticketmaster's claim is that these online ticket auctions are, in fact, illegal, then why is their auction legal? If the issue is the face value of the ticket, then perhaps they address it by splitting the extra cash with the bands, but I HAVE to think bands have a say in this. I can't imagine that every band will be happy about the notion that the face value on the tickets is being ignored … certainly if I was in a band, I be asking Ticketmaster where they get the right to change the terms of conditions to see MY show.

But I think my biggest issue is that music has already priced itself out of most people's budgets. I shake my head when I hear of some of the ticket prices, and when the 'normal' price range is upwards of $200 for shows like the Stones or Madonna (I know her new one is even higher), I truly wonder how bands think they can form the relationships with young fans.

Probably my best musical memory is from October of 1982. Early in that month, the Who, along with Joe Jackson and the Clash, set up shop for the afternoon at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, and while I don't remember what the tickets cost, I know it was a very reasonable day that a 15 year old kid could afford without incident. And I know that day I formed a lifelong love of the Clash, an appreciation that I didn't have going into the show … I was there for Jackson and The Who.

I wonder if today I could have even gone to that show? Certainly, with a ticketmaster auction, even the stampede seats we bought might have been out of our price range (and for the record, yes, that was the concert that was just a week or so after the stampede in Bufflao's Rich Stadium killed a few fans). I wonder in today's climate, would I not only have missed an amazing afternoon of music from the Who and Jackson, but would I also have never discovered just what an amazing band the Clash really was? I worry about the 15 year old kid today who might have to come up with $400 to go to that same concert. For us, back in '82, it wa sa cheap afternoon of amazing entertainment, and a day that will stay with me my entire life. But today, I doubt I could even have afforded the ticket in the first place. And thats the real shame, IMO.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? - Newsweek Society -

Religion: Who Was Mary Magdalene? - Newsweek Society -
An Inconvenient Woman
She witnessed the resurrection, then vanished, leaving popes and painters and now 'The Da Vinci Code' to tell her story. In search of the real Mary Magdalene.

A friend posted this to one of my groups this morning, and I wanted to share some comments. Mary has always been one of the most interesting characters to me, and this article is one of the first ones I've seen that actually treats her as the fully mature character she deserves.

There are enough clues in the canon even to reach the conclusion that Mary of Magdala was an important figure in Jesus' life, improperly maligned by history. That she is the first witness to the risen Christ is certainly clear in the canon, as is the fact that she stayed for the crucifixion while all the disciples fled. Its odd, then, that the only person not related to Jesus with the courage of witness, should get practically no mention after his resurrection is complete.

That's a point the Bible makes clear, though it tends not try not to focus on it. All the male disciples fled, refusing to name themselves brothers of Jesus .. the women stayed at his side till the end and beyond. And yet, after the resurrection, when the Mission truly began, its all the male disciples we see back at the front.

Is the modern Christian church … be it Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant … so much a church of Jesus as it is a church of Peter? It was Peter who organized the new church, even though he wasn't around during the crucial period, as Mary was. Even more, we see Peter openly distrusting Mary, even though there's good evidence she was doing very solid missionary work. Its interesting that a modern Catholic Cardinal (can't recall his name) on the CNN documentary The Two Mary's called the notion that Mary might have been the first Pope "Truly bizarre." He even admitted that she was the first witness … though he neglected to mention why, lol … but his attitude shows a closed mindedness towards early church figures that I find distressing.

The reality is, the modern church can be called Peterian as much as Christian. There's no doubt Jesus was the guy at the centre, but it was Peter who set forth the tone of the early church. To paraphrase MLK Jr from my recent Gandhi post, Jesus was the message of the early church certainly, but Peter was the man with the method.

The fact is, though, Mary was more important than history has made her out to be, and as this Newsweek article points out, there is a lot of non-canonical texts that point to her being an equal disciple of all the others. Its clear that by describing her as Mary of Magdala, and never in reference to a man, she was an independent person in the eyes Jesus and those around him.

I think one of the early battles in the church was between Mary and Peter, over the form that future worship would take. Peter campaigned for, and essentially got, the church we see today, while Mary argued for a more introspective and individual faith. One of the key differences, I think, would have been than Peter's vision involved more organization … Peter's vision was always about control of the Christian flock, more than anything else, while Mary was about promoting control of ourselves.

In today's terms, We'd recognize Peter, I think. in the men in the Vatican for one. Mary would be a far more 'Pagan' worshipper … she might even be attracted to Buddhism. She'd be more interested in getting people to look inside themselves to find the meaning of Jesus' words, rather than to a book, or a Priest.

I think its worth asking ourselves what we might look like today if Mary HAD been the first Pope, instead of Peter. I know some people will find that preposterous, and that's fine … in a way, Newsweek is right and Da Vinci actually helps them by keeping Mary nothing more than a sexual body, transformed from prostitute to mother (hooker to MILF?), but still ignoring the person who Mary was. She was a single woman from Magdala, a harsh fishing village. She had means to minister unto Jesus' of her substance, and she was there through the end and beyond. That we know so little of her full role in the Ministry is our severe loss, IMO.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Satyagraha - Pacifism as military strategy …

Satyagraha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Over the weekend I caught a program I've seen many times before, on the Biography Channel, the biography of Mohandas K Gandhi. I've always admired Gandhi … the main reason for that is that he brought practical use to the philosophy of pacifism, or more precisely, of peaceful disobedience.

"Christ gave me the message. Gandhi gave me the method." Martin Luther King Jr described his own peaceful movement for human dignity in that way, and as he so often did, MLK Jr. expressed Gandhi's gift to the world in such clear and simple language. Gandhi gave us the method to apply the message that so many others have given over the years. Jesus wasn't the first or last 'prophet' to preach peace in response to intolerance and injustice … 500 years before him, Prince Siddartha was saying very much the same thing as the Buddha in India.

But Gandhi was the first person in history to put those ideas into practice, to actually deploy the weapon of peace on the battlefield. Before Mohandas, no one had the courage, or the wisdom, or the foresight, to actually put those pacifist principles into practice and in his early life, even Gandhi seemed an unlikely candidate for the Mahatma. His philosophy was really forged in South Africa, as he watched blacks, both the native Africans and his own imported Indians, brutally oppressed by the British minority. He returned to India from South Africa in 1916 determined to free his country, but determined to do it through his new idea of satyagraha.

Literally, this means struggle or endeavour (agraha) for the truth (satya). The three main principles of satyagraha are Satya, Ahimsa, and Tapasya … or, the truth, the refusal do harm to others, and willingness for self-sacrifice in the cause. These three principles, really, form the core of a weapon that Gandhi was determined to turn in the British Raj enslaving his country.

Most of us know the basic story … Gandhi and his followers stood up to British soldiers, suffereing jail, brutal beatings, slaughters, and more, before finally winning freedom from a Britain that had problems elsewhere as well at the time. And in many ways, history records that Gandhi eventually 'shamed' the British empire into 'doing the right thing.'

From my perspective, that's a load of crap, lol. For one thing, for all the supposed 'civilisation' of the British Raj, they were still happy to slaughter Indian civilians who got out of line. The reality is, Gandhi's main weapon wasn't an appeal to decency … he'd tried that route when he was a lawyer, trying to work within the laws to improve everyone's life in India. No, Gandhi struck at the economy through his civil disobedience.

Like the bombing of a rail line or a factory, what Gandhi did was a huge blow to the economy. Even if he didn't call it a strike, when 100's of thousands of people would turn out to hear him speak, or follow him on marches, the economy of entire cities might grind to a halt. And thats the key point of Gandhi's strategy … he hit the Raj where it hurt, in their pocket books.

That's the secret behind the idea of passive resistance. Its NOT about getting people to realize they are being nasty and brutish to you … that's NEVER going to happen. But in the case of a foreign invader, an occupying power of a few thousand in a country of millions, there's a reason for the occupiers to be there. India was an economic boom for the British Empire, the crown that essentially financed the rest of the Empire. That was possible ONLY through the complicity of the millions of Indians who served the foreign invaders, and Gandhi saw through all that.

Gandhi was the first person to realize that invaders NEED to frighten and terrify a population. The reason to conquer, to invade, to empire build, is all about resources, about economy. The British economy depended on Indian labour working for them, and when Gandhi took that away, he dealt a blow to the Empire that they never recovered from. But the British didn't leave because they suddenly felt bad for subjugating the Indians for a few hundred years … they left because with everything else going on in the Empire, they couldn't afford to have Indians refuse to work for them anymore.

It was an important realisation for Gandhi, and I think its one that anyone who weilds satyagraha as a weapon in the future will utilize. Gandhi knew that the revolution wasn't against the British … it's a revolution against ourselves. The principle of self-sacrifice is the hardest of all really. Its one thing to be prepared to kill for your beliefs, and history is littered with those people. Its a rare find for a person to step beyond that to be truly prepared to die for their beliefs. And its even rarer to find someone who can recognize that as a powerful tool to attack the economic interests of invaders.

Perhaps the final irony of satyagraha, and the thing that makes it that much more effective, is that nothing annoys the thoughtless, the intolerant, the ignorant more than quiet, calm piety. What Gandhi did was almost unfair, if you could say that war and cultural subjugation actually had any rules of fair play, in that he refused to play the game by the old rules. He refused to respond in the way the British troops expected him to respond, and in that way he presented the foreign invaders with a problem they were wholly unprepared to solve. If they couldn't scare the Indians into giving up their protests, through brutal, violent repression, they really had no other game plan. Gandhi's victory was that he called the military bluff, met them on their own playing field, and said, "Do your worse. We know you need us to do the work, and we're not going to take it anymore." Gandhi showed us that lack of fear, that willingness to sacrifice, is the sharpest sword of all.

One party democracy … the story of Alberta politics …

There's a columnist in the Calgary Sun that I read all the time, but rarely comment on. He tends to write on issues that don't fire me up with passion, but in some ways, its his calm, logical, matter-of-fact writing style that makes him easier to overlook. For me, I find I often read his stuff and go away thinking "Well, of course … that makes perfect sense."

Bill Kaufmann also usually covers issues of provincial politics, and I fear that in Alberta, that's a recipe for obscurity as well. The excitement generated around Alberta politics, in the general public I mean, couldn't be measured with the most sensitive of instrumentation. In today's column, he discusses the recent move by Klein to lock down government information even tighter with their recent law to keep ministerial briefings secret for 5 years. As Kaufmann pointed out "That sounds suspiciously like Lyle Oberg's closeted skeletons. Do tell."

Kaufmann talked to Duff Conacher from the group Democracy Watch, a frequent critic of Alberta 'democracy.' He was mainly concerned about the lack of a public harm clause in the new legislation, and while I agree in theory that ministerial briefings that contian utterances of public harm NEED to be exempt from any secrecy legislation, it occurs to me that the same people who will apply and grade that test are the people wjo will be affected by a result of public harm and disclosure of that. The problems, IMO, go a bit deeper than that.

No one seems to be talking about the 800-lb gorilla in the room, frankly. He's sitting in the corner waving at everyone with a big grin on his face (and remember, a grinning gorilla is NOT something you want to see in the wild, and especially not the corner of your kitchen, lol). Ralph Klein was elected to be Premiere of Alberta for the first time in 1992, but it wasn't really the general election that made him Premiere of Alberta. I suppose, technically, that was the rubber stamp, but as with the man he took over from, Don Getty, Ralph Klein's REAL election for power was winning the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives … the general election was a mere formality at that point.

In fact, Alberta has been a one party democracy for over 30 years, since 1972 when Peter Lougheed defeated the Social Credit governement of Harry Strom. Lougheed presided over 14 years of leadership in Alberta, and when Don Getty won the Leadership after Lougheed's retirement, it really was seen as a transfer of the crown from one natural ruler to the next.

That's why I say its an 800 pound gorilla, grinning at us. It goes WELL beyond the 35-odd year 'reign' of the Alberta Progressive Conservative's. It was 1944 when Earnest Manning's SoCred party first won an Alberta election. Manning won seven straight elections after that and handed power over to his successor, Harry Strom. Strom lost the next election, and there was a technical shift in the ruling party in Alberta, but that was more a reflection of Strom's move to the right and the APC party settling into the void he left behind. It wasn't that Albertan's changed parties in 1972 so much … we lifted up our ideology, drove the old, tired party out and drove a new party in underneath.

What makes all this so ironic is that we make so much noise about democracy in the outside world. We whine and complain about AdScam moneys being wasted, and crow for full disclosure of the details. All the while, no one mentions the MASSIVE Alberta Securities Commission scandal investigation that's been going for since Don Getty's regime largely because of government stonewalling. We whine about "12 years of Liberal one-party democracy in Ottawa" all the while ignoring the fact that the same political ideology has ruled Alberta for more than HALF A CENTURY. The irony is, no one even notices the irony.

I love Kaufmann's stuff, and I agree with what he says about the new legislation. Its another dangerous example of how tightly regulated the government of Alberta is. The fact is, we live in a one party state, and we have done so for many, may decades … even today, as Ralph contemplates retirement, the question isn't about who will win the next election. The question is, who will win the APC leadership race to replace Ralph. They are the hands on favorite to win the next election, even though I can't tell you who it will be. The 800 pound gorilla would like to point out it doesn't matter whether Oberg wins, or Dinning, or Morton … what matters is that whoever does will go on to be the premiere of Alberta. That's almost a fore-gone conclusion, despite what the other party leader's will say. The 800 pound gorilla is here to say that real election in Alberta never takes place amongst the general public, and he's happily sitting in the backbenches waving a big APC flag. He doesn't care who wins.

Sunday, May 21, 2006 - Program Guide - The Story of God - Program Guide - The Story of God
Sunday, May 21, 2006, 8:00 p.m. ET
Life, the Universe and Everything

I caught the first part of what looks to be an interesting new series on Newsworld tonight, The Story of God. Prof Robert Winston is exploring the history of religion in humans, over three parts, and part one tonight was an interesting look at 'polytheism.'

Well, sort of anyway, lol. In reality, it seemed like tonight talked about non-Judaic religions, as opposed to polytheistic ones. Certainly Hinduism qualifies as a polytheistic faith, but talk of Buddhism and Zarathustrianism make the notion of polytheism a little weak. Regardless of that, the actual analysis was very balanced, and the discussion of Buddhist ideas was fascinating. Its always fascinated me how both Buddhism and Christianity have the notion of suffering as central to the idea of enlightenment.

I'll be curious to see the next two installments of the series, as he examines the Judiac and modern religions. The whole arrangement of the series has a typically Judeo-Christian bias, but thats to be expected given where it was made here in Christian Canada. But I honestly can't help but wonder how Hindu's feel at being lumped in with the 'silly, ancient' polytheistic stuff. I'll be curious to see the rest of the shows …

Moxy Fruvous and The Present Tense Tureen …

There are many different things I look for when i listen to music. In some cases, songs or bands I like are for very specific reasons … ZZ Top is perhaps a good example here. If you're drinking beer with your on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and you need some high energy tunes to crank up on the stereo, you can do a lot worse than ZZ Top. Every song they recorded is hard fast-paced, tight, bluesy pap with enough variation to be mildly interesting, but enough sameness to be perfect background music. Listen closely to 3 or 4 ZZ Top hits and you'll quickly realize they recorded the same song a few dozen times with small changes to lyric and rhythm.

But occasionally, you find a band that appeals to all senses, as I like to say, and Moxy Fruvous is one such band. I bring this up today because I recently blogged on a current project of one of the former members, Jian Ghomeshi, and I wanted to comment a bit on a couple of the songs I like of theirs. First of all, there's no way you can say they recorded the same song over and over … the variation of theme, of genre, of instrumentation, of rhythm, across just the 2 albums I own (Bargainville and Wood) is remarkable for any group of musicians, and it shows a grasp of music and theory that goes well beyond the norm these days.

There is one specific song that I think has always been my favorite of theirs, though I suspect it may not be the one most people would pick. Its a rather strange little tune from the album Wood called The Present Tense Tureen. Musically, its a very folksy tune, light and fun, and at first glance the lyrics seem light and playful as well, but a close listen shows some extra layers, IMO. Catching a line in a song like "Not a fictional device, we sail ravines, and give advice" coming from a real live Elf standing in a boat leads you into a lovely fun house of recursive reference. When the song ends with the Elf making a tureen (go ahead and look it up … I had to the first time I heard the song, lol) of soup for answers, its equally wonderful.

Then he giggled in french - that's what he did
Like a kid at Christmas, as he opened the lid
"Help yourself" he beamed with pride
But there was no sweet soup inside.

The other song I wanted to highlight was "Horseshoes" also from Wood, oddly enough. I'm not gonna wax poetic much on this one, but the chorus represents an excellent way to view life and the world, IMO.

Look straight at the coming disaster
Realize what you've lost
You keep handing out horseshoes
Horseshoes have gotta be tossed.

Be careful who you hand out horseshoes too … they WILL be tossed.

Just wanted to share my thoughts with you … I hadn't thought much about them as a band until I saw Jian on The Hour awhile back with his new series, and I realized that although they likely didn't get the commercial success they deserved, they definitely deserve a place in music history, IMO.

Genesis vs the Big Bang … a blow by blow account …

Every so often, one or another of my groups gets into the discussion of science vs religion. And while history shows a great deal of conflict between the two schools of thought, its important to remember that both schools seek to answer the same questions. They do so from different angles … they frame the questions differently … but the essential questions asked are largely the same.

Take creation mythology. If you ask a Christian, Jew, or Muslim where we all came from, they will point "Then God said, "Let there be light"" as the fundamental starting point … Genesis forms the core story of creation from their religious perspective. Ask a scientist today, and you are still likely to get some version of the big bang theory as your answer, and while the specifics how it happens, and what happens when is constantly being updated and modified, the basic story text is roughly the same.

Below, I compare the two … Genesis vs the scientific theory. The fact is, they tell very much the same story … the story of order coming from chaos in an orderly series of events. They may differ in the fine details of how, and when, but the larger context is all the same. In the paragraphs below, I start with passages from Genesis, and then talk about the big bang science that corresponds. Human cognition comes in many forms, only some of which are rational. I think its worth looking at both sides of the question … see what you think below.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[ a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

that, in a nutshell, is how science describes the Big Bang. First there was nothingness, or "without form and void" and then in a blinding flash of light (the big bang) day and night come into existence … or in scientific terms, the beginnings of space-time start to form.

9 Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Over the next few billion years, the cosmos seethed with formless energy and mass, as it coalesced into the sort of universe we see around us today.

14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Over the next few billion years, the stars and galaxies began to form and take shape, literally putting lights on the firmament of heaven.

24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

In the last few billion years, life has evolved, at least on our planet, literally sprung forth from the ground to hear evolution talk.

I don't see the two as incompatible in any way … I see them as addressing the same issue using different language, but in fact, giving precisely the same answer. Probably no one read this far … but to me, its all a matter of perspective.

New Blog at WordPress

I am considering changing Blog hosts, from Blogger to WordPress. While I've enjoyed the Blogger platform a lot, and found it VERY easy to use in many ways, there have been some limitations that I've been using other tools to work around. One of the key tools that bloggers have are Technorati tags, or catagories, which associate your blog post with various searchable tags. For example, my default tags are "steeletech" and "View From the Edge" and when i posted my recent post on Jesus and da Vinci, I used the tags "jesus" "relgion" "philosophy" and a few others as well. What that means is that anyone wanting to search for blogs on Jesus would get a hit from my post on da Vinci code and the historical context of Jesus.

Blogger let me so that, in a round about way, and I've been adding technorati tags for a lot of my posts, but its not an easy or seamless process with Blogger, whereas with WordPress, it seems to be part of the default posting. That should increase my traffic, as people searching on Technorati (or many other tagged services) who may never have any other reason to hear of me will get hits to my posts.

I'm still learning WordPress. There are places where its not quite as functional as Blogger as well. In templates, for example, Blogger has an excellent facility that lets a user use pre-defined templates for a basic look and feel, but they also allow webmonkeys to get under the hood and tweak the HTML and javascript themselves, if they want. WordPress is more restrictive that way … so far it seems like I can't actually edit the underlying code for my sight. That has made adding my metrics code from a bit challenging … haven't managed to get it added yet, but WordPress has some built in metrics that may do what I want anyway.

In the end, I'm not sure which platform I will stay with … for the time being, I think I will update both. There are some logistical issues … The Hour, on the CBC website, has linked to my old address, and while I can send them an email to update, its a bit of a hassle for them. For that reason at least, I want to always leave my Blogger sight up to receive hits from The Hour, though I plan to add links to this page over there as well.

I think the two platforms are essentially transparent from the reader's perspective. I would be interested on reader comment though … if there is something about one platform or the other that readers like, I want to know that, but if theres anyone else out there with experience with these issues and these platforms, I'd love to hear your thoughts.