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

Friday, December 30, 2005

In the immortal words of Max Webster
forget that fear of gravity

russian climbing - Google Video

Rubber Chicken Radio
The Blues, the Beats, Mongolian throat singing, sound poetry and peach brandy!
Look way down at the bottom of the link list for Rubber Chicken Radio and tune in now for a four hour broadcast as I guest star along with neighbour and poet Jesse Glass on magician, comedian and clown-prince of Tokyo Steve Marshall's internet radio program.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"I love a man in uniform"
Sez armchair general Stephen Harper, who is getting all gooey about the military in the current election. I agree that Canada should spend a little more money equiping our armed forces -- they need new helicopters and some icebreakers and more money in general, especially in the pay packets of the ranks. Harper, however wants to turn the Canadian Armed Forces into an occupying army in their own country for some reason

Monday, December 26, 2005

Vigilantes and vigilance

From the Times, December 22, 2005

Rail 'groper' chased to his

From Leo Lewis in Tokyo
"A commuter who allegedly groped a
college girl on a crowded train collapsed and died after being chased along a
platform by fellow passengers.
The 40-year-old office worker fled the train
when it pulled into a station after the student screamed and accused him of
groping her bottom and legs.
Four male passengers, including two off-duty
policemen, gave chase, bringing him to the ground as he tried to escape. He died
later in hospital from a heart attack."

This story was all over the Japanese press and made the BBC and the Times of London. I can only speculate as to why it didn't appear in certain publications. Can anyone tell me why this was not on a certain front page?

Christmas photo blogging
A brief sketch by my lovely and talented wife used to sign a Christmas card. Believe me, there is more than a passing resemblance.

We were very lucky that Kentaro recovered from the mumps in time for Christmas. He isn't fat, he just is just swollen in this shot. We called him "hampster cheeks" for about a week.

the wife and kiddies on Xmas day, 2005, outside the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, following a Xmas day performance of "The Little Match Girl" and "The Three Little Pigs"

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.....

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A little nightmare for Christmas

A truly scary example of the President spying on citizens without a warrant

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jon Stewart was right, he is a dick

Regular readers know that while I live in Tokyo, I am Canadian right down to my Stanfields. I like my hockey, my Molson's, my maple syrup and Stompin' Tom Conners. Like many Canadians, I have mixed feelings about our neighbours to the South. Lately I'm starting to agree more and more with the Carolyn Parrish crowd, mainly because of the reaction south of the border to our Prime Minister's very reasonable comments on the state of affairs between Canada and the United States. The U.S. Ambassador felt compelled to shoot his mouth off and interfere with our election (not the first time this has happened, Paul Celluci did the same thing last time around) and now the rightwing pundits are starting in.

Tucker Carlson -- who incidently dresses like Pierre Berton without being anywhere near as cool as the late popular historian and author -- has apparently been taking way too much of whatever the hell it is that John Gibson is on. I'd like to extend a personal invitation to him to come up and visit the Great White North, where he will be very happy to learn we have low cost socialized health care, because if he gets anywhere near anyone who has read this pile of insulting crap, he's going to need it. I just ask my fellow citizens to save me a piece of him when they go all Dave Schultz on his preppy hide.

From Canadian Press

Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants.

''Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York,'' he said.

''Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada.''

Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States.

''It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?''

''It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all,'' he said.

Clearly the man needs a swift mukluk in the hindquarters, the question is who to sic on him? Don Cherry? Stompin' Tom Conners? Rick Mercer? Rex Murphy? Post your suggestions and we'll have a contest.

I think the thing that drives these guys nuts when it come to the True North Strong and Free is that Canada is the country that U.S. liberals would like to see the U.S. resemble - clean, polite, free and safe with a strong economy, a falling public debt, a government that tries to help those that need it and unquestionably liberal social policies. Canada works and that drives guys like Neil Cavuto and Tucker Carlson crazy.

By all means drop the ignorant sissy-boy a line at Tucker@msnbc.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Matt Drudge is full of it

Think Progress deflates Drudge's balloon of BS -- that both Clinton and Carter authorized no-warrant wiretaps and searches of Americans -- with the pinprick of truth.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Wheels come off Liberal campaign and the return of the mongoose
I guess it's only fair to include a 'gotcha' picture from the Liberal campaign to balance yesterday's shot of a terrified child with Stephen Harper. Note the flat rear tire. The accompanying story of Paul Martin's prarie sojourn leads me to believe things will not be happy on the campaign plane tonight.
In other election news, our favorite cousin is once again a candidate. Back in the olden days, when we were both students for the first time, I was his campaign manager when he ran unsuccessfully for student union president under the slogan "Brent Wood - He's a mongoose, not a wombat." It is a sterling tribute to Brent's personal loyalty that he didn't beat me to death with a stratocaster and drop my body in the Elora Gorge for that slogan alone. If you are in his riding (Peterborough) be sure to vote early and vote often for him.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Most deaths in war since WWII

but since they aren't Americans I guess it doesn't matter, so go back to your cheetos and Bill O'Rielly

responsible speech
First Stephen Harper chides Paul Martin for saying mean things about the United States and how they need to listen to the rest of the world on global warming and live up their word on trade agreements - notably softwood lumber. "Bad PM" said Harper, "naughty PM, grandstanding by saying bad things about the United States screwing us and the rest of the planet." Then he saw some poll numbers or something and now we get this: "Harper considers cutting trade with U.S."

Canadian blogs, eh!

I've been looking around for the Canadian equivilent of Eschaton, Kos etc. etc. and found these fine progressive mass appeal blogs

Peace Order and Good Government, eh

Canadian Cynic

The Green Knight

The Canadian Lemming

Headaches and coffee

more later

Be afraid, be very afraid

More election new from the Great White North. Apparently the Liberals are trying to make it all about what an intolerant, Yankee-kowtowing, feeble minded git Stephen Harper is and so are the Tories. Meanwhile Jack Layton is proudly annoucing that he would throw straight into the crapper any and all ethics and values his party may have ever stood for if it means a chance to get hold of the one of the reins in a minority government. He claims the NDP and the Tories could work together. Kind of like the mouse proclaiming he can work with the cat if it means getting rid of the dog. For more see this and this and this

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Today's quiz - What's your world view?

And I always thought I was a romantic idealist


You scored as Materialist. Materialism stresses the essence of fundamental particles. Everything that exists is purely physical matter and there is no special force that holds life together. You believe that anything can be explained by breaking it up into its pieces. i.e. the big picture can be understood by its smaller elements.











Cultural Creative






What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What if Ernest Hemmingway had been Clement Clarke Moore?

(stolen without permission from the New Yorker)

A Visit from Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)
by James Thurber
Issue of 1927-12-24
Posted 2003-12-15

This classic New Yorker holiday story, from 1927, appears in the anthology “Christmas at The New Yorker,” which was published by Random House. (And I stole it.)

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof. “Shut the window,” said mamma. I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

Merry Fitzmas Conrad Black!

All I want for Christmas is Conrad Black's head on a pike outside the U.S. Justice Department. I love Patrick Fitzgerald. I want to bear his children.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The dumbest thing I've heard anyone say all week
President George W. Bush on Monday:
"I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again," Bush said. "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."

So, knowing that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, had no ties to Al-Qaida or 9/11, posed no threat to his neighbors or the United States, that U.S. troops would face a hostile populace and dedicated and deadly guerrilla resistance, that he would completely divide the American public, destroy his nation's reputation abroad, ruin the country's finances, inspire a generation of terrorists and that accomplishing all this would cost more than 30,000 civilian lives and 2,200 U.S. soldiers lives George W. Bush would still invade Iraq.

Someone please explain to me how this doesn't make him the stupidest or evilest (or maybe both) man on the planet.

Meddlesome Yankees

Aren't ambassadors supposed to stay out of domestic politics in the countries they are stationed in? And is it just me or does U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins look like Monty Burns? The Liberals ought to send the White House a cheque for all this help in the election, because by bashing Martin for his remarks at the Montreal conference on global warming, Wilkins has probably assured his re-election.

Government vs. Press
This guy is teaching journalism? Let me guess, he hold the Heritage Foundation chair in bending over and taking it.

He briefly bemoans the fact that the Bush regime is bribing journalists to spin stories and paying Iraqi newspapers to print propaganda and then says:

"But the government is not acting in a vacuum. It is reacting to a media environment marked by enormous hostility. Skepticism is healthy, but too many journalists practice reporting informed by a pessimistic cynicism. This corrosive attitude is damaging the news industry; newspaper circulation and TV news viewership continue to decline."

Athenae at First Draft rightfully tears the "professor of journamalism" a new one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Which historical general are you?
I apparently think like

Julius Caesar
You scored 50 Wisdom, 69 Tactics, 46 Guts, and 43 Ruthlessness!
Roman military and political leader. He was instrumental in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. His conquest of Gallia Comata extended the Roman world all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, introducing Roman influence into what has become modern France, an accomplishment of which direct consequences are visible to this day. In 55 BC Caesar launched the first Roman invasion of Britain. Caesar fought and won a civil war which left him undisputed master of the Roman world, and began extensive reforms of Roman society and government. He was proclaimed dictator for life, and heavily centralized the already faltering government of the weak Republic. Caesar's friend Marcus Brutus conspired with others to assassinate Caesar in hopes of saving the Republic. The dramatic assassination on the Ides of March was the catalyst for a second set of civil wars, which marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire under Caesar's grand-nephew and adopted son Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus. Caesar's military campaigns are known in detail from his own written Commentaries (Commentarii), and many details of his life are recorded by later historians such as Suetonius, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio.

take the test!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Glasnost is so 1980's
Apparently the U.S. Government is now resorting to Soviet-style tactics to suppress dissent

"Just a goddamn piece of paper"
Capitol Hill Blue has an interesting report on President Bush's views on the Constitution.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Partytime

This is what I expect to look like by about midnight tonite. The family and I are throwing a holiday wingding here in Tokyo for 100 people. Thank god its mostly potluck - last year I cooked for everyone and it damn near killed me. This year people have the option of bringing food or singing for their supper, so I will be emceeing a cavalcade of traditonal Japanese dance, magic tricks, a small gospel choir, a quiz and haysus knows what else.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The blogging of the election

The main political parties in Canada are all running official blogs. The Liberal party blog is by far the most interesting as it has nothing to do with policy or anything else political. It is written by comedy writer Scott Feschuk and is more about life on the campaign trail with the Prime Minister. Since most of the Woodshed readers are American, let me point out that the Liberals in Canada would be moderate Democrats in the U.S. not screaming Dennis Kucinich liberals.

The Conservative Party of Canada's blog is anonymously written, humorless and like the party itself, full of contraditions. The first post about how the Liberals have turned Canada into a drug oasis and the second accuses the Liberals of fear-mongering and exaggeration. Yeah, right. In the U.S. these guys would not be the Republican neo-conservatives, though that is what they aspire to - they would be the party of grumpy old people who wear their pants up to their armpits and complain endlessly about the "Gumminit" After all these are people who think Stephen 'I am not a pod person' Harper is a dynamic intellectual leader.

The New Democratic Party, while it has moved to the right in recent years is still far enough to the left that in certain red states in the U.S. you would be allow, if not encouraged, to hunt them with dogs. They don't seem to have a central blog but their web site is here

I haven't included any information on the Bloc Quebecois, since this is an English language blog and they are really only of interest to Francophone Quebecois.

Of the smaller parties, I like the Greens, who are poised to make a breakthrough in this election if things go well and may even get a seat on Vancouver Island. My cousin ran for them in the last election.

Info on other major parties and the election may be found at the excellent Politics Canada site

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Rules

Rule No. 7 "Wow" is not a verb.
Rule No. 8 Sitcom character watching porn always tilt their heads
Rule No.9 In movies Italianss can play Jews and Jews can play Italians but neither Jews nor Italians can play Lutherans

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The war on Christmas
Why do Protestants and Americans hate Christmas so much?

The Erotic Bible

You knew it had to happen - a German Church has released a nudie calender with "erotic scenes from the bible"

Erotic moments from Bible..
BERLIN (Reuters) - A German Protestant youth group has put together a 2006 calendar with 12 staged photos depicting erotic scenes from the Bible, including a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson's hair and a nude Eve offering an apple.
"There's a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism," said Stefan Wiest, the 32-year-old photographer who took the titillating pictures.
Anne Rohmer, 21, poses on a doorstep in garters and stockings as the prostitute Rahab, who is mentioned in both New and Old Testaments. "We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people," she told Reuters.
"Anyway, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude."
Bernd Grasser, pastor of the church in Nuremberg where the calendar is being sold, was enthusiastic about the project

Note: the link up top to the actual calender seem to have been overwhelmed - I'm far from the only one to have linked to it today - but the BBC has a story about it and a photo from the cover.

If you wait a few days and paste http://www.bibelkalender.de./ into your browser, it should work, but be warned the site is all in German.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Maybe they're thinking of a different Stephen Harper

Maybe it's the influence of Conrad Black in the UK or maybe it's hypnosis or maybe, just maybe the following writers don't know what the hell they are talking about.

Anne McIlroy in the Guardian

"However, voters don't seem quite ready to trust Mr Harper, a brainy Conservative who is battling an image problem. He can come across as angry and intense, and is working hard to appear more likeable."

The Economist (which has a whole series of stories about Canada)

"Stephen Harper, the Conservatives' leader, is an aloof, cerebral figure, disparaged well beyond Liberal circles as a neo-conservative importing dangerous ideas from the United States. Though hardly radical by most of the world's standards, Mr Harper has alienated many Canadians by his opposition to gay marriage and his reservations about abortion. "

"Brainy" "Aloof, cerebral" -- Who the hell are they talking about? Because it sure as hell isn't the doofus that is head of the Conservative Party of Canada -- I mean, just look at the guy. Maybe he is a secret genius at quantum physics or a brilliant scholar of ancient Norse or something, and his "head of the Moose Jaw junior chamber of commerce" routine is a clever disguise, but I'm inclined to doubt it.

Note to The Economist - the patronizing tone of this cover story is unlikely to make you many friends in the Great White North

"Since it is a peaceful, prosperous—dare one say provincial?—sort of place, it rarely makes much of a splash in the world."

No, one dare not say "provincial" - not when, as indicated by your own surveys, Canada has a far more consmopolitian attitude to immigrants, minorities and damn near everything else than our former colonial masters. So "take off, eh!"

And while I'm at it, the fact that Canada is having its second federal election in 17 months does not mean the country is unstable or that democracy is in trouble or that national unity is on the rock or any other such thing. Most of the coverage I've seen in the U.S. and British press seems to hint at this (see The Economist stories) Canadians are used to this. We often have minority governments and some people prefer them to ruled by a bunch of ideologues with a death grip on the reins of power.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

'Coffee' a real eye-opener
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Coffee: A Dark History
By Antony Wild
W.W. Norton, 308 pp, 25.95 dollars

Java junkies, beware. Antony Wild's Coffee: A Dark History is bound to make you think twice about your morning cup, and with good reason.

Wild traces the origin and 500-year history of the spread of the beverage and the crop, their past and present social and economic effects and recent major changes in the industry. In the main, he writes with wry good humor, following his narrative thread down digressive, but informative side alleys. However, his examination of the modern history of coffee is incandescent with moral and aesthetic outrage over exploitative practices that keep many in poverty while ensuring low prices for Western consumers and high profits for multinational corporations engaged in a race to the bottom in terms of taste and quality.

A historian and former coffee buyer widely credited with introducing specialty coffees to Britain, Wild, like the fictional hero of the 19th century Dutch classic Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, is a bitter man, and for much the same reason. While Max Havelaar was a polemic against the injustices of the Dutch colonial system in Java in the 1850s, Wild's book is an indictment of the practices that drive today's multibillion-dollar global coffee industry.

While Wild speculates briefly that it may have been the coffee cherry and not the apple that Eve picked from the Tree of Knowledge, the first recorded consumption of coffee coffee as we know it took place in the 15th century in Yemen by Sufi mystics, who used the drink in rituals. The drink quickly spread throughout the Islamic world, so welcome as an alternative to forbidden alcohol that it became known as "the wine of Araby."

Diplomats from the Ottoman empire brought coffee to the court of Louis XIV in 1669 and the soldiers of the Sultan drank coffee while besieging Vienna in 1683. Coffee and coffeehouses soon swept the continent.

Once the Yemeni port of Mocha's virtual monopoly on the trade was broken, coffee cultivation soon spread to Europe's colonies in Asia and the Americas, where slaves were used in the labor-intensive process, a practice that continued in Brazil until the 1880s. By the 18th century, coffee along with sugar and cotton was the backbone of the colonial slavery-driven export economy.

Wild makes much of the role of coffeehouses in the formation of various groups ranging from the Freemasons to Britain's Royal Society as well as financial institutions including the venerable Lloyds of London, which began as a coffeehouse. In fact, he suggests the Enlightenment may have been nudged along a considerable amount by the caffeination of Europe.

Antipathy toward taxes on tea in Britain's American colonies made coffee a patriotic drink for those seeking independence from the mother country, and the Green Dragon coffee house in Boston, where the Boston Tea Party was planned, was the first headquarters of the American Revolution.

Lengthy digressions on the role of coffee in the empire and exile of Napoleon--one of the deposed emperor's last requests was for coffee--and poet Arthur Rimbaud's later career as a coffee merchant add interest but distract from the punch of Wild's condemnation of the coffee industry.

The United States consumes about a quarter of the world's coffee, importing 75 percent of it from its southern neighbors, a situation Wild contends contributed greatly to the corporate neocolonialism of the 20th century as successive U.S. administrations backed repressive regimes in Latin America as a bulwark against communism and as a source of cheap, labor-intensive agricultural products including sugar, fruit, rubber and, of course, coffee.

Fluctuations in coffee prices resulting from oversupply and occasional crop failures in Brazil, the world's largest producer, were once largely controlled by the International Coffee Organization. It had long been in the interests of the United States to support the ICO to mitigate the poverty and social unrest that could lead to revolution, but with the end of the Cold War the United States embraced a more laissez-faire approach and withdrew from the ICO in the early '90s. At the same time, the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund extended massive loans to Vietnam to develop its coffee industry, which went from being the world's 42nd largest coffee producer in the 1980s to being number two today.

Wild tracks the consequences of these moves: "In 1991 the global coffee market was worth around 30 billion dollars, of which producing countries received 12 billion dollars, or 40 percent. Current figures suggest that the global revenues from coffee sales are in the region of 55 billion dollars, of which only 7 billion dollars (13 percent) goes to the exporting nations."

He further notes that the spread of coffee cultivation in Vietnam, which grows mainly low-grade robusta coffee used in coffee-blend beverages such as packaged espresso-milk drinks and instant coffees, has followed the same pattern seen in Latin America as indigenous subsistence farmers are driven off their land to make way for coffee-growing sharecroppers.

Wild also mentions the recurring, but unconfirmable rumor that Vietnamese coffee may be contaminated with dioxins from the thousands of tons of Agent Orange chemical defoliant sprayed on the country during the Vietnam War. Another chapter details the hazards of caffeine and the industry's drive to increase the levels of the addictive stimulant in their products while compromising the scientific information available to the public on the world's most popular drug.
Such chilling thoughts, along with Wild's smooth, bold and acidic prose style, make Coffee a book that is sure to keep the reader up at night.
(Dec. 4, 2005)

Beer - is there anything it isn't good for?
Study indicates beer may help prevent cancer
Studies strongly suggest that a compound found only in hops and the main product they're used in - beer - is effective in preventing many types of cancer. And the darker the brew the higher the concentration of the active ingredient, Fred Stevens, professor of medicinal chemistry and researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University, said Tuesday.

? CanWest News Service 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

One more pissed off soldier
A letter to the editor in Stars and Stripes puts it fairly well. We salute Capt. Jeff Pirozzi for this:

War based on a lie
Weapons of mass destruction? I"m still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'lll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom"touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces?belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire"society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonalds', but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans ?eel good?about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

The Rules

Rule No. 2: Old people always have exact change

Rule No. 3: Never trust a man who calls the bathroom "the little boys room"

Rule No. 4: When someone says he is "pumped" about something, it usually means he's about to do something stupid.

Rule No. 5: Women who sound sexy on the radio weigh 377 pounds

Rule No. 6: For every Tom Hanks, there's a Peter Scolari

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

As they say in Japan "Conglatulations on your erection"

Election time in Canada again, just a year and a half after the last one with the results likely to be more or less the same unless either Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin or Conservative leader Stephen Harper really screw up on the campaign trail - something Harper may have already done by promising a free vote on gay marriage. Stephen doesn't seem to understand that aside from the redneck fringe and the gay community most Canadians don't really care about gay marriage and are much more inclined to live and let live on the issue than their neighbours in the Excited States.

This election could actually bring about some good by either pushing the Liberals' agenda back to the left of centre or by giving them a majority government with the NDP as the main opposition.

This election is mostly about NDP leader Jack Layton calling Paul Martin's bluff and trying to show that he has the stones to force an election if he doesn't get what he wants. If Canadians are shifting to the left, this will work for Layton and the NDP may make some gains in Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario - hurting the Liberals. If Canadians are moving to the left though, the tories will lose a few seats to the Liberals that they won on protest votes last time.

If the NDP picks up more seats from the Liberals, watch Martin move left on social spending and stay there as he tries to keep Layton happy and ensure NDP support.

Jack Layton was a showboat and loudmouth as a Toronto city coucillor and hasn't really impressed anyone much as NDP leader. If Ed Broadbent were still leader, the NDP would probably win 50 seats

If the country has not moved left, and the Liberals get in as a minority again but with more seats, Layton will be pushed more to the sidelines. Any Liberal minority will have to rely on the NDP, but the fewer seats they are from a majority (currently 20) the less weight the NDP carries in policy considerations.

Voters may also look harder at the Conservatives in this election - which given the ineptitude, ignorance and reactionary neo-con dimwittery on display there, can only be a good thing for the Liberals.

The sponsorship scandal will be a factor in taking support from the Liberals and the tories will hammer on it all they can, but I think people still remember the Mulroney years well enough that those leaving the Liberals will be unlikely to vote for the Conservatives.

The Regressive Conservatives are led by an inept doofus who would make a fine head of the Canmore, Alberta Chamber of Commerce and could even go as high as President of the Rotary Club of Calgary, but just isn't smart or charismatic enough to be elected Prime Minister. Not that Paul Martin is exactly Pierre Trudeau in the charisma and vision departments either, but he has a well-earned image as a smart, competent, fiscally careful leader. Today's tories are essentially Reform party western separatists, old line right-wing extremists, fundementalist Christian activists and and neo-con protoAmericans who think David Frum is a genius and should be our president.

Not only is Harper not Prime Ministerial, his party is not capable of governing as anyone they have left with any experience in government is tainted by association with Mulroney. For the most part, they are a gang of braying, paranoid reactionaries who are very unlikely to form a government. I think most people realize that if Harper had been elected in the last election, the Vandoos would be dying by inches in Falujah and Mosul, the nation would be blowing billions to join up with the U.S.'s unworkable missile shield and we would still be getting bitch-slapped by the Americans over softwoods.

If people are a lot more pissed off by the Sponsorship scandal than I think they are, or if Harper saves Avril Lavinge, Wayne Gretzky and a crippled puppy from a burning building (or the CIA spends a lot of money on advertising for the Tories) and the Conservatives somehow eke out a minority government with the support of the Bloc Quebecois, the country is pretty much doomed. The Bloc will demand total decentralization and devolution of federal powers to the provinces, something the old western separtists of the Reform Party still lurking among the Conservatives would welcome.

Now, keeping in mind that I haven't lived in Canada for eight years now and get all my information from the Canadian media via the internet and from chatrooms and blogs, obviously these predictions will have to be taken with a grain of salt. But as long as reason prevails and Martin manages to credibly dismiss the strawman issues that Harper raises -- just watch the shrill, bowl-cut sporting ninny try to jump on the anti-multiculturalism "Stop the PC war on Christmas" bandwagon originating at FOX news as well as continuing to pound the anti-gay marriage drum--the Liberals will continue as the nation's natural governing party.

See Bloomburg for the raw data and this posting at the blogging of the president for a similar anaysis

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You can always tell an engineer - you can't tell'em much, but you can always tell one
I went to school at a university famed or perhaps that should be notorius for its engineering school. That meant it was very tough to get in for engineering. Which meant that the people entering the engineering program all graduated high school with an average in the high 90's, especially in maths and sciences. Now don't get me wrong, I admire engineers. Some of my best friends are engineers, in fact my brother is an engineer. But stop and think for a minute about the people in your high school who graduated with the top marks in maths and sciences. You are not picturing the cool kids or the athletes or party types are you? There are a lot of uh...Star Trek fans in your mental picture aren't there? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but we're not talking about the kids with the best social skills, are we? So maybe, this billboard should be put up outside the University of Waterloo campus so that the engineers can at least claim that their celibacy is a matter of choice, not a matter of good taste on the part of the rest of the student body.
-Yours truly,
a proud "Artsie"

I'll take nefarious bastard for $600 Alex

Colin Powell's former chief of staff speaks:

"Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. He said Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard.""

Monday, November 28, 2005

And I want the the f---king murderous bigot in jail

Interesting news out of Ontari-ari-ari-o. Seems Mike Harris, one of several reasons I left the country in the first place, is just as big a dick as I always said he was. From the Toronto Star

Harris wanted 'Indians out'
Former attorney general recalls premier's order
Nov. 28, 2005. 02:23 PM

FOREST, Ont. ? Only hours before native activist Anthony (Dudley) George was shot dead, a government meeting was stunned silent when former premier Mike Harris angrily told senior Cabinet Ministers and two police officers, "I want the f------ Indians out of the park," a public inquiry heard today.

Bush's other victims
Those who oppose, speak out or even question the decisions of the fourth reich are regularly shafted. Over at Tom's Dispatch they have put together a handy list of the people screwed over, used and abused by the president and his henchmen

Harry Potter and the onset of puberty

Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Three and a half stars out of five
Dir: Mike Newell
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

The fourth installment in the Harry Potter series may be the most action-packed yet, with J.K. Rowling's eponymous boy wizard attending the quidditch world cup, participating in a dangerous magic competition, going toe-to-toe with his archenemy and, most frightening of all, making his first foray into the dating world.

Taking the helm of the Potter franchise for the first time, director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) does a credible job of chronicling the adolescent crises of the three teenage protagonists at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but has discarded all the novel's other subplots in an effort to turn Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire into a streamlined suspense thriller.

For purists, the excising of Hermione's crusade to free the house elves and the Weasly twins' attempts at entrepreneurship will smack of heresy, as will the drastic reduction of the role of gossip columnist Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson). But in adapting a 700-page book for the screen, obviously something had to go.

What remains is a series of well-done set pieces strung together by scenes explaining what we are about to see or have just seen.

Also gone is the usual comic opening sequence with Harry's dreadful (but now totally unseen) relatives, the Dursleys. In its place is a brief trip to the world cup of quidditch--a sort of soccer-basketball hybrid played on flying brooms--that focuses mainly on the camping accommodations, with only enough of the event itself to introduce one of the main supporting characters, quidditch star Viktor Krum (Stanislav Ivanevski). The campground is attacked in the middle of the night by henchmen of Potter's archfoe, Lord Voldemort, and the story is off and running.

The now extensive backstory is explained during the standard train trip to the British magic academy, during which Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) meets his romantic interest, Cho Chang (Katie Leung) and in typical teen fashion is tongue-tied at first sight.

There are three main storylines interwoven in Goblet of Fire. In the foreground is the Triwizard tournament--a dangerous competition between Hogwarts, the fetching Frenchwomen of Beauxbatons Academy and the men of Eastern Europe's Durmstang Institute. Harry is too young to submit his name to the competitor-selecting Triwizards cup, but the flaming chalice spits out his name along with champions for each of the three schools nonetheless.

Between the three challenges of the tournament, Harry, Ron and Hermione have to deal with something equally scary and difficult--the usual teen drama and trauma of young romance. Emma Watson has a great scene playing Hermione at the formal Yule ball, cursing thick-headed boys and nursing feet sore from her first high heels, while Ron (Rupert Grint) and Harry prove to be as utterly feckless as most 14-year-old boys when it comes to figuring out girls.

Arching over all this is the continuing saga of the battle between Lord Voldemort and the forces of good. Goblet of Fire gives the audience the longest look yet at the villain and how he became the scourge of humanity. An almost unrecognizable, noseless Ralph Fiennes slithers through the role with elegance and venom as Voldemort takes on physical form at last.

The first two hours of Goblet of Fire pass quickly, alternating for the most part between Harry's preparation for and participation in the various tournament challenges, with a few scenes of lovelorn teen angst and the classroom antics of the new professor of defense against the dark arts, Mad-Eye Moody (the hilariously gruff Brendan Gleeson) thrown in for good measure. The last 40 minutes are taken up with Harry's thrilling face-to-face fight with Voldemort and plenty of hard-to-follow dialogue explaining what has really been happening and setting up the next film in the series.

With the young stars of the film ageing faster than their screen counterparts, it is occasionally a bit difficult to buy the idea that the characters are only 14 years old. Of the three, Watson turns in the most credible performance. Radcliffe needs to learn to loosen up and do something other than project grim resolve, and while Grint shows some signs of talent for broad comedy, his endless over-the-top mugging can be a bit much at times.

While considerably darker and less bland than the first two entries in the Potter series, Goblet of Fire resembles them more than it does the excellent third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The movie opens Nov. 26.
(Nov. 28, 2005)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Not so fast, Tubby
If he had killed his parents, he would beg for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan. If they give this feculent, theiving pompous pimple back his Canadian citizenship, I'll be sorely tempted to renounce my own.

Black plays Canadian card to ease possible jail term
Edward Helmore in New York
Sunday November 27, 2005
The Observer
Four years ago Conrad Black renounced his Canadian citizenship as 'an impediment to his progress in a more amenable jurisdiction' - the United Kingdom. Now the beleaguered former newspaper tycoon is desperate to ditch his British citizenship for rather the same reasons.
Then it was to take up a seat in the House of Lords, which was being blocked by the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. Now Black, facing trial in the United States on charges of defrauding the Hollinger newspaper group of more than $50 million, wants his old citizenship back. His former countrymen assume it is so that, if he is convicted, he can serve his time more pleasantly in a Canadian jail.

No Caption Necessary

Thanks to the photographer, who shall remain nameless in order to keep him from having an "accident," and to Shakespeare's Sister, A Socialite's Life and Lady Bunny

Saturday, November 26, 2005

the weakest (missing) links
well, there should have been a posting of my review of "Harry Potter and the Onset of Puberty" -- thanks to Watertiger of Dependable Renegade for the headline -- and my book review of Thomas Beller's new book of essays How to be a Man but things are stretched a bit tight at the orfice in terms of staff so I guess they forgot to post them on the website. Stay tuned and I'll see what I can do. In the meantime enjoy the photo, brought to us courtesy of the office's resident kiwi.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gobble Gobble
It's Thanksgiving in the United States and I for one am thankful that Thanksgiving in Canada was weeks ago and that the man pictured getting a beak job above is not the leader of my country. To my American friends, enjoy the day and do what you can to help those in your own nation and abroad who can't afford to sit down to a huge meal today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Luc Robatille returns to the LA Kings after being on the injured list with a fractured ankle, an ankle he played eight games on after cracking it in a game in October. Hockey is not a game for sissies.

"In the begining, God made the light. shortly thereafter, God made three big mistakes. The first mistake was called "man." the second mistake was called "Woo-man." The third great mistake was the invention of the poodle. Now the reason the Poodle was such a big mistake, is that God wanted to build a schnauzer, but he fucked up"
-Frank Zappa

"The present day composer refuses to die"
-Edgar Varese

The Rules
A new feature here at the woodshed. I will be featuring installments on an irregular basis from Esquire magazine's regular feature "the rules" subject of course to my own discrection.
to start at the begining :

Rule No. 1:
When alens talk they never use contradictions

Sunday, November 20, 2005

No exit strategy

A short series of photo showing Bush can't get off the stage, much less out of Iraq (via Atrios)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Journalistic privilege
Arthur Sibler has a great piece on just what journalistic privilege is and is not. Once Upon a Time...: The Privilege to Destroy: The Priesthood of Journalism

"As we've seen in the sorry saga of Saint Judy of the Times, this turns the idea of protecting confidential sources on its head, and completely reverses its intended aim. The idea had once been to protect a person who revealed wrongdoing by the powerful and who might be retaliated against, possibly severely, by those same powerful people or their powerful friends. It was critical to this idea, although almost everyone now seems to have forgotten it, that the person who revealed wrongdoing was telling the truth. That was a crucial part of the original context in which this idea arose. It has now been dropped entirely. Journalists can peddle the lies told by the false confessors with impunity, and the liar goes scot free. The lies can cause great damage, and the liar is never called to account."

'A Long, Long Way': Harrowing but elegant tale of World War I
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
A Long, Long Way
By Sebastian Barry
Faber and Faber
292 pp, 12.99 pounds

Given the poetic quality of his prose, it is hardly surprising that Sebastian Barry's A Long, Long Way was short-listed for the 2005 Man Booker prize.

In the end Britain's best-known literary award went to Barry's fellow Dubliner John Banville for The Sea, but that in no way diminishes Barry's considerable literary accomplishment.
The novel, Barry's third, tells the story of Willie Dunne, who leaves his home in Dublin in 1914 to fight for the king of England in Belgium.

Raised with his three younger sisters by his widowed Catholic father, Willie joins the Royal Dublin Fusiliers at 18 because he is too small to follow his towering father into the police force. As Willie suffers the horrors of trench warfare in Europe, his heart is torn between loyalty to his father, England's strong arm of the law as the chief superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and his growing sympathy for the Irish nationalist cause embraced by so many of his fellow soldiers.

His first brush with "The Troubles" comes a year before the war begins, when he delivers a gift from his father to a man injured by the police in a street demonstration and falls in love with the man's daughter, Gretta.

Throughout the book, Willie's relationships with Gretta and his father mirror the political developments in Ireland.

Shipped off to war, Willie and his comrades are treated as cannon fodder by the condescending British staff officers. Barry's harrowing, yet elegant, description of a gas attack against soldiers unaware of the deadly power of such modern weapons is chilling and visceral.

While Barry's descriptions of the battlefield are rich with poetry, they are the harsh music of jagged shrapnel tearing flesh, of liquid mud swallowing men whole and the frenzied, scrabbling brutality of hand-to-hand combat. There is no glory in war where the brave and cowardly alike are exterminated like vermin in their holes--Willie regularly wets himself in fear, and the dead lucky enough to be buried have their stiffened limbs broken with spades so the grave diggers can fit them into their shallow plots.

Images of death and destruction run through most passages. Even when the soldiers get a well-earned rest and a joyous bath, Willie pictures God as a fisherman and his fellow soldiers in their tubs as salmon in pools to be hooked and eaten.

Barry captures well the minutiae of a soldier's life: the rough camaraderie; the stench of the makeshift latrines; the pleasure taken in a rare hot meal, no matter how meager, and most especially the treasuring of letters from home. Gretta can't or won't write to Willie and he is forced to watch the declining state of affairs at home through the keyhole of short notes from his father and younger sisters.

About to return to France after his first furlough, Willie and a group of raw Irish recruits are called back into Dublin to quell the Easter Rising of 1916, and the young soldier's sympathy for the nationalists is stirred when a young rebel dies in his arms outside Dublin's General Post Office.

A letter home questioning the execution of the leaders in the uprising causes a rift between Willie and his father. As the nationalist movement gathers strength in Ireland, those Irish fighting in Europe for England are seen as traitors by their countrymen, while the rebellion leads the British to doubt the loyalty of the Irish troops.

Barry skillfully spins an extended metaphor from a bare-knuckle boxing match between fighters drawn from two Irish regiments, a hulking Ulsterman and a wiry Dubliner who beat each other to a bloody pulp while the British staff officers in their fancy dress uniforms cheer them on.

As the political and family situation at home deteriorates, Willie slowly sinks into the mud of Flanders, losing all the things that motivated him to go to war and finally all the things that gave him hope for life after the war.

The catastrophic effect on the Donne family of the Irish rebellion and then the country's partitioning into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in the early 1920s has been the mainstay of Barry's fiction-writing career, starting with his award-winning play The Steward of Christendom. In that drama, Willie's ghost haunts his father as his world comes apart with Irish independence. And Willie is briefly mentioned as the departed brother dimly remembered in Barry's acclaimed 2002 novel Annie Dunne.

A Long, Long Way is a powerful account of the destruction of youth in the no-man's-land of Europe's Great War and Ireland's revolution.
(Nov. 20, 2005)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

His Lordship, Prisoner 543647
I think Christmas may have come early this year
And all I wanted was an ipod -- a sweet, sweet kiss on the lip from blind lady Justice is so much nicer, what comes around goes around.

And he cheated on his prep school exams too!

"After a series of vicious canings, I became completely and perniciously insubordinate and undermined the school in various ways, culminating in stealing the final examinations and selling them to the boys in the school. It's not something to be proud of, but I'm not ashamed of it either...The school threw me out at age 14. I bear UCC no ill will. I think it's a good school and I wish it well. But I do not seek any acts, symbolic or otherwise, of reacceptance by them."

Conrad Black (UCC 1951-1959), media baron, evildoer

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The legacy of Negroponte
When the U.S. finally does leave Iraq, we can be sure it will leave a rich legacy worthy of former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

He really ought to run for office
John Cusack has always been one of my favorite actors, but he is on his way to becoming a great pundit too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Liberal critics analyze tragedy and farce of U.S. media
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Tragedy and Farce:
How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy
By John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney
New Press, 211 pp, 23.95 dollars
Unless media magnate Rupert Murdoch subscribes to the old adage about knowing one's enemies, you are unlikely to find this book in his home library. Nor is it likely to turn up anywhere in the White House. This is unfortunate because, while they might not find its progressive political spin to their taste, Tragedy and Farce would provide the occupants of either abode with the harsh dose of reality and constructive criticism they so desperately need.

Make no mistake, coauthors John Nichols (Dick: the Man Who Is President), Washington correspondent for liberal newsmagazine The Nation, and Robert W. McChesney (Rich Media, Poor Democracy), a communications professor at the University of Illinois, wear their progressive credentials on their sleeves and are unapologetic opponents of the current U.S. administration. Their political affiliations, however, in no way weaken their argument that the mass media in the United States are in severe decline and are dragging democracy down in the process.

The book's title comes from a comment by U.S. President and Founding Father James Madison: "A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both."

Nichols and McChesney contend that the combination of overreliance on official sources, corporate concentration of media ownership and pressure to maximize profits--along with the constant, forceful accusations of massive liberal bias by the right--have combined to produce a mass media establishment in the United States that is no longer interested in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, but rather strives to maintain the status quo, protect the powerful and exercise its own power for the sake of corporate profit rather than serving the public interest.

In proving their their argument, the authors present two main case studies, the first one a tragedy, the other a farce: the lead-up to and early part of the Iraq war and the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

In the case of the war, the book is harsh in its criticism of the failure of the press to investigate White House claims about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and its willingness to allow the Bush administration to set the media agenda.

The authors' parsing of a comment New York Times scribe Judith Miller made to Jonathan Mermin for an article in World Policy Journal is typical: "Miller herself was unapologetic about her approach to journalism. 'My job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself...My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal.' There, in two stunning sentences, Miller presents the formula for government propaganda, for the news values of authoritarian regimes everywhere including Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and ultimately, for today's anti-journalism."

In examining the shortcomings in the media coverage of the 2004 presidential election, Nichols and McChesney deride the mainstream press for playing along with Republican political guru Karl Rove's campaign strategy. In one example of the right-wing spin machine working the media referees, considerable airtime was given to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against candidate John Kerry despite the group's fairly clear lack of credibility. Another example is the spin that was put on CBS news' use of questionable sources of information in its investigation of the president's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, shifting the story's focus from whether Bush had done his duty to whether Dan Rather's "scoop" of a story extensively covered in an earlier book was properly documented.

Tragedy and Farce is built on secondary sources as opposed to primary research, but the sources are reliable and carefully documented. A wealth of sharp cartoons by Tom Tomorrow give the book a lighter touch. Finally, Nichols and McChesney's closing chapter, on media reform activism, contains carefully considered nonpartisan recommendations on how to solve the current media crisis. It's a finish that provides the spin-weary, outFOXed, CNNicized, overTimesed and Washington Posted with some hope for the future.
(Nov. 13, 2005/The Daily Yomiuri)

Friday, November 11, 2005

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go
Everyone grab a bowl of popcorn and pop a fresh beverage and watch a master at work this week on Orcinus as Dave Neiwert examines Michelle Malkin's new book on how extremist and crazy liberals are and reduces her to her component atoms. I've become a big fan of Neiwert's in the last six months or so. He is an old school newspaper guy who does his legwork, thinks and writes very well and doesn't descend into name-calling or invective. So if you're expecting Asian hooker jokes, forget it, Dave will be kneecapping Malkin with the iron bar of factual correction, so get comfy and enjoy the smackdown.

President in free fall
No really, Bush in Freefallliterally.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Macabre, but silly fun
check out the bunny suicides

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What about the children?
Dear God, won't somebody think of the children! Atta J. Turk of Rising Hegemon and Watertiger of Dependable Renegade - characters familiar to anyone who has ever spent five minutes at Eschaton - have launched a risque new blog Rising Hegemon -- After Dark!! ---be afraid, be very afraid.

Dick Cheney - now less popular than child abuse and infidelity

With the latest approval polls showing Bush at 35 percent and Cheney at 19 percent, Bob Harris compares some numbers from other polls

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Attaturk tees up "Libertarians" and in the process outlines the details on "National Security Letters" issued by the FBI without judicial oversight. These letters are essentially warrents to check your phone records, bank accounts, library records - you name it. Refusal to comply with them is a criminal offense.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A couple of things today:

First, I finally got my copy of cooking liberally in the mail from the divine SallyH - it is a collection of recipies submitted by the fine folks at Echaton and contains my famous recipie for "Sausage au Rev. Paperboy" formerly known as "Sausage au Kevin" or "Sausage a la Bernice" -- If you're nice and leave a comment, I'll post the recipie.

Second, Todd Snider rules for many reasons, one of them is that he wrote this song:

"Conservative Christian right-wing Republican
straight white American males,
Gay-bashing, black-fearing, war-fighting, tree-killing
regional leaders of sales,
Frat-housing, keg-tapping, shirt-tucking, backslapping
haters of hippies like me
Tree-hugging, peace-loving, pot-smoking, porn-watching
lazy-ass hippies like me

Tree-hugging, love-making, pro-choice and gay-wedding,
widespread digging hippies like me
Skin-color-blinded, conspiracy-minded
protestors of corporate greed
We who have nothing and probably will
until we all end up locked up in jail
by conservative Christian right-wing republican
straight white American males

Diamonds and dog, boys and girls
living together in two separate worlds
following leaders of mountains of shame
looking for someone to blame --I know who I like to blame

Conservative Christian right wing Republican
straight white Amurikin males
Soul-saving, flag-waving, Rush-loving, land-paving
personal friends of the Quayles

Quite dilligently, working so hard to keep the free
reins of this democracy
from tree-hugging, peace-loving, pot-smoking
folk-singing hippies like me"

for the musically minded - its in waltz time (3/4) and I think its in "G" (the people's key)

And finally, I'm going to see the new Harry Potter movie this afternoon. Yep, its hard work being a critic - hard, hard work.

The smackdown
Dave Neiwert goes up one side of Michelle Malkin and down the other with a barbed-wire wrapped rod of correction and it couldn't happen to a nicer pathological liar.

Monday, October 31, 2005

GOP to workers: Go Cheney yourselves
This from the comments at Eschaton, the smartest, funniest and sexist bunch of moonbats in the blogosphere,( well except for Toby and Ruprect)

GOP Senate votes to keep wages below Depression era standards

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tricks are the treat in Tokyo

Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

With Halloween drawing near, thoughts turn to witches, sorcery, ghosts, and unexplained phenomena. What better way to put oneself in the mood for the holiday than with a little magic? Japan has its share of ghost stories, and fortune-tellers can be found on any corner. But tricks are the latest treat in Tokyo, home to a thriving community of illusionists, conjurors, prestidigitators and sleight-of-hand artists.

The nation is experiencing a magic boom with an increasing number of stage magicians appearing on television, and more and more tricks for amateurs appearing on department store and specialty shop shelves.
One such shop is Magic Land, near Hatchobori Station in Tokyo, an overflowing third-floor treasure trove of tricks, apparatuses and books that hosts lectures by visiting magicians and performances of close-up magic. Magic Land and its proprietor, Ton Onosaka, are the hub around which Tokyo's magic scene turns.

Onosaka, 72, has been practicing magic for about 60 years and opened the shop 25 years ago, around the time he retired from his day job with the Tokyo metropolitan government. Ton's wife, Setsuko, herself a formidable magician, and his son, Satoshi, take care of day-to-day operations while Ton applies his considerable talents to creating new tricks and keeping in touch with his far-flung network of magic practitioners.

The Onosakas attend magic conventions around the world. Ton was instrumental in helping produce the biggest international gatherings of magicians in Japan and is often called upon for advice on the production of television and stage shows. A gifted artist with a pencil as well as a wand, Onosaka has illustrated so many magic instruction books in Japan and abroad that he has lost count of the number.

With his gray beard and full, long, flowing hair, Onosaka looks like a Japanese version of Harry Potter's headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
Speaking with The Daily Yomiuri days after returning from the inaugural conference of the Asia Magicians Association in Thailand, Onosaka brims with enthusiasm about the Tokyo magic scene.

"Magic is starting to sprout in Japan, it is really starting to grow," Onosaka says, pointing to the rising number of young hobbyists taking up the art, the proliferation of paraphernalia in non-specialty stores and the burgeoning magic bar and restaurant scene, with more than 20 such establishments in the greater Tokyo area.

Among the top venues in Tokyo is Usagiya. A traditional three-story structure tucked away next to Jodoji temple off busy Hitotsugi street in Akasaka, Usagiya features close-up magic shows in the first floor bar and restaurant at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. for a relatively inexpensive 2,000 yen seating charge, and table magic in its second floor hostess club for an additional charge, with stage magic performed on Saturday nights.

Usagiya has a stable of about 12 professional magicians working in rotation, with two performers producing selected cards from unlikely places and lighting cigarettes with flaming wallets at tableside, but all the staff are ready and able to perform a few simple tricks of their own.
Ninja, next to the nearby Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu, offers table magic with dinner, as does Trattoria Gioia, one of several places in Ginza featuring magic entertainment.

Shingo, the in-house magician at Magic Bar Issey near Roppongi Crossing, says he prefers the younger crowds in Roppongi because they have a better sense of humor. Like Onosaka, he was bitten by the magic bug as boy when he saw a magician demonstrating tricks for sale in a department store. Now 22, he has been a working pro for three years.
One of the few resident foreign magicians in Tokyo, 40-year-old Steve Marshall, "The Ambassador of Magic from the USA," has been performing in Tokyo and across the country for seven years, including three years at Tokyo Disneyland and previous stints at Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Disney World in Orlando, Fla. While he now most often performs at corporate events and VIP parties, he also enjoys doing occasional bar work.

"I love that bar environment. I love that close-up one-on-one because I get to see the amazement in their eyes, that moment of astonishment," said Marshall, a 20-year stage veteran.

Like Shingo, Marshall injects humor into his act, a product of his five years as a clown with the Ringling Bros. Circus in the United States and Japan. He often performs at the Tokyo Comedy Store (www.tokyocomedy.com) in both Japanese and English.

Marshall said he polishes his skills "anytime, anywhere," regularly drawing surprised smiles from shop clerks by making his change vanish. "I always have a deck of cards with me and usually a half dollar or some other coins and I'll practice moves sitting on the train," said Marshall, adding he often gets so focused on his rehearsals that he will suddenly look up to find all the other passengers staring at him in amazement.

Rising star Cyril is now working on his eighth two-hour TV special in Tokyo, to be aired in January, and plans to tour major hotels in Japan with a dinner show in December. Raised in Hollywood by his French-Moroccan mother and Okinawan father, Cyril got his first taste of magic at 7 when friends of his parents snuck him into a Las Vegas revue. He claims to remember only two things--the cavalcade of topless showgirls and the "sorcerer."

"I use the word 'sorcerer' because at the time, I knew nothing about tricks or secrets. Everything I witnessed that night was pure and true magic...The magic was such a real experience for me that I remember months of sleepless nights trying to stay up in bed trying to figure out how to move, vanish or transform a random object in my bedroom," Cyril said. "I didn't care about finding out Santa was not real, but when they told me that magic wasn't real, I just couldn't believe it. I was devastated."

Cyril says the resurgence of magic in Japan is good for performers artistically as well as commercially. "The [Japanese] audience is much more educated and knowledgeable in magic. This, of course, makes it more challenging to stimulate them. We, as magicians, must find new themes, techniques, methods, effects and magical approaches to keep our Nihonjin viewers in awe," he said.

Tokyo's professional prestidigitators are backed by a formidable crowd of dedicated part-timers and amateurs. Shigeru Tashiro is president of the Japan Close-Up Magicians Association (www.jcma.net) and one of the founders of Magic Circle Japan (MCJ), a loose affiliation of conjurors of all skill levels who meet monthly in Ikebukuro to swap illusions, show off their technique and teach younger hobbyists the tricks of the trade. Shigeru says the meetings draw between 40 and 60 people a month who pay a nominal fee to cover costs. To encourage younger attendees, meetings are free for those under 18.

Onosaka endorses MCJ's efforts, saying it's important for kids to find good teachers. More important is the sense of community such groups provide. Onosaka has spent most of his life in the brotherhood of magicians and has friends scattered across the globe. He says his specialty isn't card tricks or pulling rabbits from hats--it's making "magic friends."
(The Daily Yomiuri Oct. 29, 2005)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fun and games

While Dubya fumbles with his SCOTUS nomination, and we wait to see who the special counsel indicts (Libby for sure, Rove is 50/50 and lots of small fish including Judy Miller for perjury) we might as well while away the hours trying to give President Bush a brain and enjoying some of his wit and wisdom.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

That sound you hear is Joe Pulitzer spinning in his grave
Via Ripley's Zen Cabin from Associated Press, we learn that Pravda has moved to New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – Call it pay for praise, greenbacks for good news, bucks for beneficial publicity. The Newark City Council has awarded the Newark Weekly News a $100,000 no-bid contract to publish positive news about the city.

Check the links for the full story. I don't care if this is just the local freebie shopper - it is just SO wrong on so many levels to have the word "news" in the name of this publication after a deal like this has been made should have anyone who has ever worked in the media, hell, anyone who has ever read a newspaper, headed to Newark with pitchforks and torches in hand.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dave Neiwert interview

A long posting, but since the Strawberry Days review had to be limited in length, I couldn't include all the great comments I got from Dave in our e-mail exchange. With that in mind here is some raw journalism (Yes, here in The Woodshed, we report and you decide) - my email Q&A with the proprieter of the blog Orcinus (see blogroll) and most recently, the author of Strawberry Days.

What made you want to turn your earlier newspaper work on the internment into a book, and why now?

David Neiwert: Actually, I had worked steadily, if intermittently, on this project as a book ever since I finished up the newspaper series back in 1992. I thought then that it was worthy of a book, and it was actually the first full manuscript I ever produced. I had it peer-reviewed by historians, though, and the results sent me back to the drawing board, with good cause. So, in between other book projects that seemed more current and thus more pressing time-wise, I kept conducting interviews and performing research on it up through last year, even as I was applying finishing touches. But there's no doubt that 9/11 gave the subject fresh urgency, and let me put things into sharper focus.

You discuss the racist anti-Asian and specifically anti-Japanese movements that arose in the 1920's and 1930's, how mainstream were these groups and to what extent was the internment a continuation of those movements?

These groups were really as mainstream as could be. White supremacism was part of the cultural air that Americans breathed back then. The campaigns emanated from the core of power politics, i.e., both the moneyed and the working classes. And there was a clear connection between those campaigns [which, incidentally, were mostly between 1910 and 1924] and the internment; many of the same figures emerged to promote internment (Miller Freeman being a classic case), and nearly identical arguments were heard throughout, especially those that painted a portrait of Japanese Americans as likely traitors.

Did internees from places other than the Bellevue area face similar problems returning to their former lives when the internment ended?

Yes; I discuss this in Chapter 6. Essentially, the Bellevue experience was replicated in small Nikkei farming communities up and down the coast -- the farmers had great difficulty owning their property, and the large portion of their reclaimed and largely leased lands had, during the war, become much more valuable for their white owners as potential developments for suburban neighborhoods. Something in excess of 60 percent of the internees were involved in farming before the war; after the war, less than 20 percent were able to return to those occupations. Most found work in urban manufacturing and services.

Was the evacuation and internment of Japanese done across the country or was it limited to the West Coast?

Strictly the West Coast, which comprised the entirety of Gen. DeWitt's "exclusion zones."

In Strawberry Days you write at some length about the role of Japanese truck farmers in the 1930s and 1940s in larger national agricultural picture. To what extent did the internment and effective confiscation of their farms push Japanese-Americans out of agriculture and into a more white collar or at least urban socioeconomic strata?

To a very large extent. (See the answer to the above question about internees from other places.) Though I would describe it more as "forced abandonment" than "effective confiscation," because it was rare that anyone took over their farms for agricultural uses. Mostly they went fallow. But this was part of the historical pattern of transiency that had been forced on Japanese Americans, which meant that they always remained flexible.

Most of the Issei came from rural prefectures and initially took up railroad and cannery work upon arrival, and then found ways to get back to farming, which they knew best. But even then, they moved constantly, forced (through the alien land laws, mostly) into a pattern of short residency on small tracts that they cleared and, typically, turned from marginal lands to productive and habitable properties.

Another important factor in all this was the respective ages of the Issei and the Nisei during the internment years. Most of the Issei were becoming elderly by 1942; nearly all of them, after all, had arrived before 1924, when all Japanese immigration was cut off. Most of the Nisei were in their teens and early 20s, so that by the time the war was over, many of them had taken over as chief breadwinners for their families. Most were better educated than their parents, and with a return to their former farms largely foreclosed as a possibility, they rather readily adapted to moving into an urban lifestyle.

Is the internment still a sore spot for Americans outside the Japanese-American community? Is it still a sore point in Bellevue? Should it be?

Only for those who are actually aware of it. In the readings I've done, and my subsequent interactions with the audiences, I've been kind of astonished by just how astonished everyone else is about all this, especially a lot of the history regarding the racist treatment of the Japanese immigrants (some people can't believe we denied them the right to naturalize prior to 1952).

Of course, I had something of an advantage: My parents grew up in Twin Falls, the "big town" nearest to the Minidoka camp, and I had gone pheasant hunting at the camp site when I was a boy; so I knew about this episode early on; and later, I had a Japanese American classmate with whom I was close whose father had been an internee. But I realized much later that we were taught nothing about the episode in our public-school history classes.

What kind of education about the internment is provided in the U.S. school system and do you think it is sufficient?

Well, I understand that discussion of the internment is included in some public-school curricula, but I don't think it's terribly widespread. It's often viewed, I think, as a minor incident in the war. But its significant long-term ramifications have become crystal clear in the past four years, I think, and because of that, I think some information about the internment should be a standard part of high-school history teaching on World War II. In our currently conservative and jingoistic environment, I don't know if that's going to take place.

What attracted you to this issue initially?

Well, it kind of started when I was working as the news editor for the little paper in Kent, WA, in 1990, and wandered into the White River Historical Museum in neighboring Auburn one rainy afternoon. They had a wall there of photos from the Minidoka camp, which set off all kinds of memories for me, since I knew that landscape well. I realized we were coming up on the 50th anniversary of the internment, and thought it would be a good project for the paper to write about.

So I started digging around into the local story there. A little while later I was transferred up to the Bellevue paper, where I was also news editor, and I decided to keep digging, but from the Bellevue angle. The story of the Bellevue community was, I realized, in some important ways more interesting and more telling in several regards, not least of which was the presence of Miller Freeman and his major role in the history of the community.

So I took off from there and produced a nice series for the paper that ran in May 1992. But when I was done, I wanted to do more with the story ... and eventually, I did.

What makes the issue of internment a timely one today?

Well, a lot of things. First is the overarching lesson of the internment: That Americans, in times of great national stress, were willing to completely discard the rights of our fellow citizens -- so long as it wasn't us. We also were willing to assume that race or ethnicity itself was cause to suspect others of treason.

I don't think these propensities have gone away; in fact, they've been resurfacing a lot since 9/11.Structurally speaking, the most important lesson of the internment is that the entire episode was sanctioned within the halls of power for one primary reason: it gave the military the precedent it sought to enable it to arrest and detain civilians in a non-battlefield situation without any recourse to the courts. That precedent has come back to us in the form of military tribunals and "enemy combatant status" instituted by the Bush administration since 9/11.

I like to remind my audiences of Justice Jackson's famous dissent in Korematsu (the infamous Supreme Court ruling that placed an official seal of approval on the evacuation), in which he described the precedent set by the internment as "a loaded gun" that could be turned on the rest of the populace at any given time. That warning, I say, has now come home to roost.

Could this sort of thing - the United States government imprisoning an entire class of its own citizens on the basis of race, religion or ancestry - be repeated or did the combination of accepted notions about race at the time, the hysteria after the sudden attack on Pearl Harbour, the depression and the push for internment from long-existing fringe groups produce a sort of "perfect storm", an ideal environment for the internment?

Oh, I think it could be easily repeated, given that the fear levels in America become high enough. More terrorist attacks would definitely make it possible.

In your previous books you've written a lot about hate groups and the militant right-wing fringe, what attracted you to these issues?

Well, what I really like to write about is the Pacific Northwest, and I am attracted to social-justice issues. And you know, I have some deep background in dealing with the matter of white supremacism, which includes some knowledge of its history, and that certainly was useful in giving the book a special edge. (A concomitant familiarity with conspiracy theories was especially useeful.)

But there is a thread running through all of my work so far, including my last book, which was about hate crimes: they all deal, in one shape or another, with eliminationism.I've studied fascism a great deal and have come to the conclusion that eliminationism is a signal marker of that particular pathology, since it encompasses so much of its core traits. It's been present in American history throughout: the Indian genocide, the Klan, lynching, the internment. And it's still with us today in the form of hate crimes -- not to mention, of course, the growing tide of eiliminationist rhetoric directed at liberals and war dissenters by the mainstream right, which so far has largely remained in the realm of words and not action. So far.

In the end, though, what really attracted me to this was that I see storytelling as a writer's greatest calling, and this was a great story.

Tell me a bit about your thoughts on blogs. Your website is a popular one, especially among progressive bloggers, what the appeal of doing a regular blog? Do you think they have much impact on politics and public in general or are they largely an echo chamber?

I write a blog for a couple of reasons:-- I'm a stay-at-home father now and don't have the constant buzz of a newsroom to keep me writing as well as tied in to the flow of information, so a blog gives me a reason to keep up my writing disciplne, work out writing ideas, and keep myself in the flow of current events.-- I'm an old editorialist without a mainstream outlet. A blog gives me one. And they are a terrific way of doing so and still finding an audience.

I do think that mainstream media has allowed its traditional role as a filter of bad information to become a bottleneck instead, so that information that should be getting disseminated isn't. Editors have too many preset agendas now and operate on the basis of their own preconceptions too much.So blogs kind of represent a market-of-ideas response to this bottleneck: they're a way of getting information disseminated that bypasses those filters. In fact, I think the function that bloggers most closely replicate (and thus eventually may supersede) is not that of the journalist but that of the editor.This can be good and bad, obviously; the removal of the filters has meant that a lot of bad information is now being disseminated as well. And I think the much-touted "self-correcting nature of the blogosphere" is mostly a sham. But there's little doubt that the fresh flow of information created by blogs has affected the political world in important ways.

So it's a wild and woolly media world we face now, and I really have no idea how it will all shake out. But it's definitely fun being involved.

What is your latest project on orcas all about?

Well, as I said, I like to write about the Northwest, and the orcas are perhaps the most fascinating of all the many creatures were cohabitate with here. But we are at real risk of losing them, for reasons that are closely connected to the environmental degradation of Puget Sound. There is a political component to that issue which I intend to explore in depth, though I also want to write in depth about the nature of the killer whale as well.

And finally - not that I want to start a slanging match or anything but is Michelle Malkin nuts, brain-damaged, just plain deluded or what?

She is a crass opportunist peddling a fraud, that's all.