Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010.11.23 — Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf

My friend RT asked me to watch the Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf interview clip from the CBC Archives:

Germaine Greer vs. Larry Zolf

Medium: Television
Program: Midweek
Broadcast Date: Oct. 28, 1971
Guest(s): Joe Borowski, Germaine Greer
Interviewer: Larry Zolf

And she also asked for my reaction. I wound up leaving a comment on the CBC's archive page (or at least I tried to — it was a confused and poorly functioning forum). But here is what I wrote:
GG handled herself with remarkable control and restraint even as it was becoming evident that LZ was not just playing a sexist devil's advocate but was genuinely condescending in his facile effort to undermine GG's credibility. It was a truly pathetic effort, on LZ's part, to use red herring class arguments to try to belligerently shut up GG. (And, weirdly enough, it reminds me of the condescending criticism Naomi Klein faced for her book No-Logo when, instead of arguing the merits or weaknesses of her book's argument, critic after critic tried to to shame her for being a hypocrite for having had the book published with an interesting cover.) On the one hand I was a little saddened to see that Canadian journalism has had its own arrogant, ignorant, condescending Bill O'Reilly's in their so-called 'hallowed' halls. On the other hand, this interview was a nice touch stone, for me, that re-affirmed just how big a gulf existed between male and female equality forty years ago, and how far it has come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010.11.22 — Economics Circling the Trade Floor — a Crafty Fushigi

This morning my wife our friend AG and I visited the

at the 
We walked in the door of the show room floor. We checked our watches — 10:30a.m. — and set ourselves to meet up in one hour. Then my wife and AG went one way, and I another, as we to begin wade our ways through the 275 exhibitors (per the programme guide, which, for completeness, I've listed below).

Without consulting the floor plan I found the food area where I bought myself a piece of pretty good carrot cake for my breakfast. Once I'd chomped that down I allowed my nose to lead me around the giant space, still without any plan. And it was big:

At about 10:40, almost immediately after starting to meander, I walked by a booth that caught my eye because it was a craft show anomaly. I have been to about seven of these Circle Craft trade shows, and perhaps a dozen others of one sort or another, and do not remember having seen a booth quite like this one. It was tiny, which isn't unusual, but it had books — which is a bit unusual. But what made it truly unique in my experience is that unlike the few book displays I've seen in the past, this one was not for children, nor was it 'art' books, or gussied-up re-covers of classics old or modern. Instead the display appeared to be of several copies of only two, or maybe three books. (Later I learned that two books were the prominent display, and that there was an advertisement for one other that was in the process of going to press.)

So I paused to look — I always at least stop to look at books on display — while the vendor was talking with a customer. Somehow, before I could walk away from what looked like a peculiar gardening book, the vendor grabbed one and waved it out in my direction and said something. I forget what it was, but I answered 'Is this a book about seeding a garden, or something?'

'No,' he said, 'it is about the failure of economics to feed the poor.' 

'Oh,' I said. 'What do you mean?'

Paraphrased, Hugo Bonjean told me that he became awake to what the corporate world was doing to the poor and third world countries while he was a VP for Merriott Hotels. When I asked him what he did after he hat that realization, he said he that changed his life. When I asked him how, he said that he quit his job as a VP in the Merriott Hotel chain because 'When I was told that the only thing that mattered was the bottom line, I realized that my bottom line was different than theirs.' And so he quit the corporate world and wrote his first book, In the Eyes of Anahita.

We talked about a few other related items, and then I told him that by chance I had spent several hours last night working on the 'anti-economics' economics course I am writing for my local continuing education programme. I told him that, specifically, I was looking for an old videotape I'd made of a NFB documentary of Marilyn Waring who found in her research on how economic measures are made that the official international books of account deliberately exclude so-called 'women's work' from any measure of economic well being (GDP/GNP). [The documentary, Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics, is excellent. It is a synopsis of her book If Women Counted. The entire 94 minute film can be seen on her facebook page.

Hugo and I talked about a few other things, specifically media misrepresentation of economic events. I told him about my article 'Death by Freezing,' which arose after reading Linda McQuaig. I told him that in one of her books a prominent Canadian TV journalist admitted to her that he had lied in his news story on the New Zealand financial crisis of the eighties in order to persuade Canadians through fear curtail social programs and move the economy towards a pro-corporate/business agenda. This is one of the most exposed examples of Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent in a so-called democracy.

I told Hugo about my perception and reaction to my official university economics schooling. And, lastly, I told him, very badly, about my having written a letter to a local television journalist that challenged him for his highly hypocritical misrepresentation of a local banking 'failure.' [The perpetrators of the failure were recently convicted of fraud that resulted in prison time for them but no financial compensation for the victims]. He called me about a month to thank me for my letter. A few months after that I stopped seeing him on the TV news station. I called the station to learn that he'd quit. And he has never said that my letter influenced him, but I have often wondered if it did, especially when I stumbled across his freelance piece on the corporate profitability of hand gun sales in third world countries.

I haven't published that letter on this blog yet, but now is a good time. I've made it a separate entry, which you can link to from here.

Oh! I bought Bonjean's 2nd book. I haven't started the book yet, bit will write a review when I do. You can read the first couple of chapters from his web page on this link.

Q: Does this encounter count as a fushigi? Well, I'm not sure, but it certainly suggests that life has a peculiar sense of humour. And that in turn infers that intelligence and perception are in Life extant.

Now for a sigh! For completeness of this fushigi I have included below the list of vendors, in order to give a better sense of how small was the statistical chance I'd have the experience I did, a chance made smaller by the layout of this show — different than previous shows — in that the small block configuration instead of long aisles allowed for maze-like zig-zagging that made missing booths very easy.

2010.11.22 — A Challenge to Hypocritical Journalism — A Letter

In 1998 I watched a news report on a local banking bankruptcy which wiped out the life savings of hundreds of people. I was outraged out the degree of hypocrisy I heard as the journalist blamed the government for a debacle that sounded like, and turned out to be, the criminal behaviour of now convicted frauds. Here's a piece of a 2005 CBCNews item on the Eron Mortgage story:

Beginning in 1993, Eron Mortgage raised more than $200 million from 3,350 investors, mainly from British Columbia. The company fell apart on Oct. 3, 1997 when the B.C. Registrar of Mortgage Brokers pulled Eron's licence.
... [E]vidence at the commission hearing found that most of the money went to pay for high interest payments on earlier investments, and the rest was siphoned off for other uses.
... Investors lost an estimated $182 million in what a securities commission panel called "a massive fraud" before the broker's licence of Eron and its principals was eventually lifted. 
 The full 2005 article can be found at CBCNews.

Anyway, in 1998 I wrote the following:

April 21, 1998

[Address information]

[Mr. N., News Reporter]
7850 Enterprise Street Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1V7

Mr. [N.]

During your report last week on the Eron bankruptcy I heard you say "The one thing we can learn from this is not to trust the government."

What exactly did you mean by that? Did you mean that the government — or more precisely a particular government agency — which was suppose to protect us from poor, if not unscrupulous, business practices was inadequate to the job? But if that is what you meant, then have you not contradicted CTV's and the other corporate media's efforts at undermining and/or eliminating government's role in the business community? In fact does not this government "failure" actually indicate the degree that the government cut backs have been successful as desired by the corporate media, in that there is no longer adequate staffing and/or resources to do the "red-tape" job of protecting the public from just such shoddy or unethical business practices, or like those we have seen in the building trades? This lack of government presence has been exactly what has been incessantly flying out of the mouths of the Michael Campbell's who prate on about that reduction of government as some kind of economic panacea which will save the world from the evil of government inefficiencies. Should you not have said, instead, "The one lesson we can learn from this, is that we can't trust big business?"

Or, instead, did you mean that you did, in fact, trust the government to protect us and are now disappointed that that trust has been broken? But if that is what you meant, then it was a highly hypocritical statement, in that the one thing that the corporate media has made absolutely clear in the last twenty years, is that the government is the enemy of the people and that big business is the friend of the people.

Or was your statement meant to preserve the illusion of the trust worthiness of big business, despite the owner socking away $1.8 million so as to avoid culpability, by casting out your vacuous anti-government jibe as some kind of red herring? But then, if that is the case, are you not implying that big government is, in fact, culpable and big business is not — of which the example of the building trades also implies? But again, that contradicts the overwhelming amount of press which has flown out of the mouths of the Eric Mallings of the corporate media about the lack of culpability of government — such as senators — and the eminent responsibility of business, despite such things as numbered companies, golden parachutes, etc.

All in all, your statement was empty and misleading, and suggestive of something Noam Chomsky has said of the educational apparatus:
The more articulate elements of those groups, the ones who have access to the educational apparatus, they should properly be referred to as a class of "commissars." That's their essential function: to design, propagate and create a system of doctrines and beliefs which will undermine independent thought and prevent understanding and analysis of institutional structures and their functions. That's their social role. I don't mean to say that they're conscious of it. In fact, they're not. In a really effective system of indoctrination the commissars are quite unaware of it and believe that they themselves are independent, critical minds. If you investigate the actual productions of the media, the journals of opinion, etc., you find exactly that. It's a very narrow, very tightly constrained and grotesquely inaccurate account of the world in which we live.
Chomsky, Noam. Chronicles of Dissent: Interviewed by David Barsamian. Vancouver, BC: New Star Books, 1992, pp. 5-6.


P.S.: Mr. [N.], please feel no obligation to reply or even acknowledge my letter, as I have come to expect, by experience, the lack of responsiveness to letters such as this from the corporate media, despite its hard sell at being "for the people." My public representatives have always at least acknowledged my queries or comments, which contradicts the image the corporate media have projected about the government being cold and distant and insensitive.
May 27,1998
[N.] called my home number @ about 12:15p in response to this letter. I left a message with CTV thanking him for replying.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010.11.16 — Not Far from the Madding Pole — a fushigi

I got to work several hours late this morning. It was a surprisingly beautiful — cool, almost cold — day with clean air and brilliant colour on the trees and in the sky making it a perfect day to be getting to work late. I was late because I had taken my wife and I to a medical lab for blood works. That was extended because, after that, I waited in the car reading Made in America by Bill Bryson while my wife visited her medical specialist.

But, once at work, the perverse fushigi gods got together to mess with me. This very weird work one began in the year 2004. As such, unfortunately, a bit of boring background is needed in order for the fushigi to mean anything. The following events, while real, have been paraphrased and shortened to minimize the reader's pain.

Back in CW, a very green tech, was directed by our mutual and also relatively green, design manager, to fix a 'discovered-while-doing-something-else' — not reported — aerial utility trespass. Once the design manager was out of earshot, I looked at the job as her trainer/mentor and recommended that she not do the work. 'This is an extremely difficult trespass to fix,' I said. 'And given that the utility trespass is in an industrial area and that no one is complaining about it, I recommend that you don't fix it at this time. Wait until there is an actual complaint.'

CW, wanting to accommodate her directive, consulted another tech who, unfortunately for her, concurred with my recommendation.

'But,' CW argued, 'my manager has told me that I have to fix it.'

'Okay. Just put it into the 'work-to-done-when-I've-got-nothing-else-to-do pile. Since you will always have work to do that is more pressing, you will be able to not do the work without saying you won't do the work.'

CW refused to do that because it was a bit too underhanded for her comfort.

So, abiding her manager's directive she proceeded to begin the design by first creating the work order.

She struggled to get the job designed, as well as co-ordinating the different companies required to fix the non-problem problem. I helped her for a while, and then, as time passed, I forgot about it. Eventually the entire department was re-organized and we reported to different managers. More time passed during which there was another re-organization, a lockout, and a return to work in 2006. Once again we reported to the same manager, although not the one we did in 2004.

In 2006 CW had been put on a special assignment before the now old trespass job rose up from the nearly dead jobs with a phone call I got from the city engineers. GB asked me when the work on this job would be completed. He was concerned because the 'new' pole hole that had been dug by the other utility company in 2004 was still a hole and the pole that was supposed to be in it was laying on the ground. Both constituted a public safety hazard.

When I looked at the job, parts of it had been done, but parts needed redesigning before it would be ready to recommence.
(The reason the pole wasn't in the hole was because doing that without the construction crews present would 'trap' the cables on the wrong side of the pole.) I finished the changes, (see clip from construction drawing showing date), and then arranged for the various parties to co-ordinate their efforts and gave it to logistics to book the various groups needed to get the work completed.

Since then I have received about two calls per year from either the city or my logistics people about getting the work completed. Each time I received a call arranged with the various parties and their crew chiefs to get themselves together on the job site. When in 2009 I received yet another call that the work was still outstanding I threw up my hands, blew a gasket, and gave responsibility for its completion to the design manager for the area. He agreed to take it on and subsequently I was notified by him that the work had been done shortly before he retired. Oddly enough, I learned on February 2nd, 2010 (I checked my work notes) that once again, I was told that the work was not completed. (I passed off the work to the retired manages tech to deal with and, more less, forgot about it.)

Now for the fushigi. This morning, CW, OS and myself were talking about challenging pole designs. The discussion got started because OS was in the middle of a somewhat difficult one, made more difficult by the city's odd demands about the guying. So, of course, CW's now notorious challenge became a topic of discussion. 'Is that job completed yet?' CW asked me. 'Perhaps," I said, 'but I doubt. I seem to remember taking a call about it this spring.'

After a bit more discussion about how his job haunts me, it was time to get back to work. We all turned to our computers. When I looked at my e.mail I could not believe my eyes.
By its time stamp, there had been dropped into my e.mail in-box during our discussion a notification that this job had been once again re-approved (financially) to proceed. I was incredulous, and so called CW and OS to show them how weird life is.

So, just coincidence? Or a synchronicity-petite?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010.11.11 — From 'Seven Rings' — A Poem

I was blog-surfing the other day, and came across the delightful a handful of stones, a blog 'celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary.'

From the blog:

about a handful of stones
a small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention. A shiny new stone will be published here every day.

The metaphor is to poetry: a stone is short poem, or poem-like observation of life. It is an expression of the practice of being absolutely alive, in this moment of being alive life. The selection of poems is exceptionally fine, and I recommend this blog highly.

I here thank Fiona Robyn, the blog's owner, for rekindling my love of the small poem. There was a time when I wrote them regularly, but life's busy-ness has kept me from the practice for many years. Today, on this Remembrance Day, with Fiona's blog-prod, I re-visited my small small poem collection. It was a pleasure to see my successes and failures, and to discover that I was even less prolific than I'd remembered. And it was an even greater pleasure to revision/revise some of them, now that decades have drifted by.

But in so doing have I not failed to respect the intent of 'being absolutely alive in this moment of life' by remembering past moments?! Sigh! More philosophical puffery! How can I be in the moment reading poems of yesterday? Well, how can I not be alive in the moment of writing what I am writing? Answer me that! In re-writing them, I felt completely alive in the moment. 

Of course, I was doing this instead of what I was supposed to be doing — which was writing course material for the continuing education course that, I learned yesterday, had been accepted by the school district for their winter calendar. I will be teaching 'Economics Demystified' — assuming I get enough students to take the class, of course.

I began this blog to publish, publicly, one of my 'polished stones,' in order to break my fushigi bender — although another one popped up last night, that I will be blogging anon. But, in this moment:

                   From seven rings
                   With practiced fingers
                   Carefully, gracefully
                   She extricates
                        the white

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010.11.08 — Can You Cut the Ketchup? Condiment Fushigi

On Sunday, I watched 'Transformation,' which is Episode 4 (of Season 3's) 'Next Iron Chef.'
From the Food Network (Ca)'s web page, here's the description:
Airing: Sunday, November 7, 2010

In this episode, the remaining 7 chefs undertake the Chairman's charge of TRANSFORMATION. In the Secret Ingredient challenge, the secret ingredients are American condiments and sauces like ketchup, ranch dressing and mayonnaise. The chefs have 30 minutes to transform these condiments into a dish of their choosing.

This morning at work I heard my friend NR talking with his daughter via the phone. From hearing his side of the conversation he was being taken to task for having taken with him to work the left over pizza from the previous night's supper. M had expected to have it for her lunch. In his humorous way, he told her that she could improvise a pizza by taking 'a bagel, cut it in half, pour ketchup onto the halves and then cover that with cream cheese. Voila — instant pizza.' From NR's laughter and comments, this completely grossed M out.

Later I asked N if he watches 'The Next Iron Chef.' 'No,' he said. 'Ever?' 'No.' So I explained to him that the reason I asked him was because their challenge on Sunday was to  transform everyday condiments into unrecognizable food, with one of those condiments being, of course, ketchup.

But what makes this funnier, is that I do not recall what the ketchup chef did with the ketchup!

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010.11.06 — What's in a Number? Football fushigi

For us Canadians, the big Grey Cup football game is fast approaching. There is excitement in the air, as the local Lions were all but eliminated from the play offs before today's game. Their fate was dependent on Saskatchewan winning their game. And, they in fact have managed to live on for another play off, with Edmonton's loss to the Riders. [I am btw, a Roughriders fan by birth.]

But, this fushigi started with GD selling a Grey Cup game pool ticket, as he does every year, to me yesterday. I gave him my money in exchange for a sealed envelope. When I opened it, the very official looking ticket had the initially dismaying numbers East 6 || West 16.

'Oh,' I said, 'these are not very good numbers [for football scores.]'

'Nah,' he countered, 'the 6 isn't great, but the 16 isn't bad.'

'You think so?'

'Of course. There was a 16 at some point in last year's Grey Cup,' he said.

I went away with my ticket, not fully convinced of his argument. But after watching the Edmonton Saskatchewan game — see below — I looked it up and he was right. And, furthermore, it turns out there was also a 6! And the only reason I looked that up in the first place was because, in yet another example of the humorous perversity of life, today's game contained a quarter in which 6 points were scored and the half finished with Edmonton having 16 points.

I know, I know, just a coincidence! But I repeat: at what point does a long series of improbable coincidences stop being just coincidences?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2010.11.01 — Where's the Cheese? In Agassiz — a Fushigi

The blog that can't help but be made irrelevant extends that into inane cheesiness.

This morning at work, BV asked me to check out the main-frame application she was using. 'Have you seen this before?' she asked. BV asked not just because we sit in the same pod, but because I am far far more experienced with this application than is BV. As it turned out, I hadn't seen this particular problem before. After poking and prodding the application, it became clear that shutting it down and restarting was at the very least needed and which would hopefully re-align the electrons in their clouds to improve the weird output we were seeing. And in fact, that turned out to fix the problem, which was to check for what are called 'binder' comments on the record for a cable in the Agassiz exchange area of BC.

In typical fushigi fashion, nothing special in this — except, perhaps, for my not having seen this trouble before despite having more than fifteen years of experience with the application. Otherwise I would not have seen on BV's computer that the trouble happened to have occurred in one of BC's small exchanges.

As you can see it is a farming community.

And so it came to pass that later that night, while flipping through the TV stations, I stopped when I heard the host of 'Pitchin' In,' chef Lynn Crawford, comment about being in Agassiz, in the beautiful Fraser Valley, looking to learn about everything that goes into artisan goat cheese. But you might want to say that this is not a fushigi because I watch 'Ptichin' In' regularly. Well, that's just not the thing, because I've at best watched it occasionally, perhaps even rarely — in its one and half seasons, Agassiz's cheese was the 4th episode I've seen — the other three being Lobster, Oranges, and Pigs. Also, this was the first time I've watched it on a Monday, my previously exposures to it having been on weekends. And the only reason I stumbled into it this time was because my 'normal' Monday night viewing was disrupted by the World Series and repeats.