"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Canada's little ray of SUNshine

Canada's ethical snake-oil salesman and Glenn Beck wannabe Ezra Levant continues to keep it classy.  As far as I can tell, Ezra's objection isn't that Chiquita Banana keep paying right-wing death squads to murder labour activists in South America, but that they are denying that they are boycotting tarsand products as a PR dodge. How dare they obey free market principles, eh Ezra? I don't know how the mother of the Chiquita Banana exec feels about you suggesting her son should have carnal knowledge of her, but your mother must be so very proud of you.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

a project

My plan for this year is to read at least 50 books - just about one a week, which for me shouldn't really be a stretch provided I don't get too bogged down on something long and challenging - so naturally I hope to read lots of challenging material this year without too much rereading of stuff with which I"m already familiar. I'll try to post at least once a week telling you what I'm reading and what I thought of it. I welcome your suggestions in comments.
Admittedly, the first two books of the year are not exactly "A La Recherche du Temps Perdu" but  I'm sure they won't be the trashiest thing I read this year.

#1 - The Life of Python
By George Perry
Written just after the release of  "The Meaning of Life" as a biography of the Monty Python gang, it does offer some insight into the way they worked, but is dry as the sahara. Go watch them in action instead of reading this now largely irrelevant career chronology.

#2 -  Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra
By  Richard L. Boyer
Part of a 1970's Holmes revival, recently reprinted. Reasonably workman-like prose, a few plot holes, but mostly a solid genre read. Apparently,  rewrites of this particular title, mentioned in one of the original Conan Doyle stories, has been essayed at least three times by three different authors.


Monday, January 02, 2012

Making people stupider

(JimDandy Goodness, with his sponsored argument between atheists and agnostics, and annoyance at dimwits who discount meteorology because it isn't 100% accurate 100% of the time got me thinking about this, so blame him.)

Not to kick off the new year by sounding like the opening of a Seinfeld  episode, but what is the deal with horoscopes?
Does anyone with an IQ above room temperature really put any stock in these things any more? Seriously, does anyone you know that you would trust with anything more dangerous than a crayon or a soft plastic spork consider the phrase "what's your sign?" anything other than a cheap pickup line or punchline? (the answer depends on who's asking the question: Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter and You Must Be This Tall to Ride being among the best answers) 
I ask, because amid all the arguments I see everyday in the newspaper about how we must be steely-eyed realists and put our faith in neither in socialist dreamers with their notions of the universal goodness of man nor in laissez-faire ideologues and their invisible hand of the marketplace, I notice that virtually every newspaper I see still devotes a quarter page a day to "What the Stars Reveal."
Truly, this is the oldest con-game in the history of mankind, even older than monotheism or patriotism.The numb-brained belief that the position of the stars and planets determine the content of your personality and the events that occur in your day-to-day life has been with humankind since we started looking up. It was the quest for more accurate star-charts for our soothsayers that drove us to develop astronomy in the first place.
As a newspaper copy editor, I have to read and edit this crap almost every day and have done so at several papers over the years and for the life of me I cannot ever recall seeing even one entry on a single day that wasn't so vague as to be totally meaningless.
Today's example for those whose birthday is Jan. 1: "This year waves of surprises keep hitting, forcing you to at least think. What you have taken for granted will be up for questioning. Curb becoming controlling when faced with instability."
Wow, pretty darned insightful, eh?
I'm pretty sure most of the drivel printed in the horoscope columns these days is either written by a not-very-sophisticated computer program, or somebody who has been drunk off their ass and recycling the same column since 1974. Either way, someone is making a living off of this shit and that money and effort would be better spent on almost anything else, even Ezra Levant's column. (though the intellectual rigor is of about the same level, Levant's columns are occasionally funny, at least accidently.)
I know this is shooting fish in a barrel and about as worthwhile as bitching about the weather, but really, shouldn't the news media be trying to encourage a little more intellectual rigor?
I appeal to my fellow working editors Could we not make better use of the shrinking amount of space in all of our publications to run more news about something that really matters - like whether Brittany Spears can make a comeback or the Royal Wedding or whether Rick Santorum can get elected president?


RIP and en garde

Swordmaster Bob Anderson has laid down his blade at last.