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

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Remember to forget
The on-going battle to keep the media monoliths from screwing with fair use in copyright and extending their ownership of creative work to include just about everything made me think of this great short story by Spider Robinson, which naturally is protected by a Creative Commons copyright.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Headlines we are inordinately proud of - Part 73

Today's Daily Yomiuri - I didn't edit this one, but I did suggest the headline

SDF ready for Godzilla, but not for aliens

and the day before, I insisted on:

Supreme Court rules 'Shane' copyright won't come back

Thank you, thank you -- we'll be here all week, tip your waitress. Try the veal.

Hello U.N.? I'd like to report a crime against humanity

The horror, the horror.

From the article:

Among the dishes, Manaka especially recommends akaza shrimp and foie gras cooked in savoy cabbage and served in sauce americaine as well as char-grilled Iberico pork shoulder served with Madeira wine sauce. They will be served with Glenlivet Nadurra and 18-year-old whisky, respectively. "We recommend that you enjoy Nadurra with just one rock and the 18-year-old straight or with a little water."

Ma Chambre also will serve a cocktail prepared with 12-year-old Glenlivet, orange juice and grenadine syrup as an appetizer for the 12,000 yen set menu.

Glenlivet master distiller Jim Cryle said what makes the whisky special is that it is an original malt that became the "benchmark" for whisky in the Speyside region of Scotland.

First of all what kind of lunatic serves whisky with a main course, especially French or Italian food. These culinary styles evolved along side the best wines in the world, why would you serve them with something like whisky that would numb the taste buds? Why would you do that? Why?

As to the gross blasphemy of the so called "cocktail" I'm absolutely speechless. Glenlivet is hardly the be all and end all of the whisky world, but I'd rather see good 12-year-old single malt scotch used to water the garden than see it insulted. How do you think the French chef would feel if some Scot decided that the perfect accompaniment for his haggis, neeps and tatties or deep-fried Mars bar was a nice late '80s to mid '90 Chateau Latour burgundy, mixed with Diet Sprite and a dash of triple sec. France would invade Glasgow and bomb Edinburgh back to the stone age in retaliation. And they'd be right.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No nailfiles, no liquids, no pulling of fingers
And lay off the chili and beer the day before a flight too. Holy unintended consquences Batman! If you think this woman was embarrassed when she cut the cheese in economy class, imagine how she feels now.

From the BBC:

Flatulence leads US jet to divert
An American Airlines plane made an emergency landing in Nashville after passengers reported the smell of sulphur from burning matches.
The matches were found on the seat of a woman who had attempted to conceal the odour of flatulence with the matches, Nashville airport authorities said.

We await the inevitable lawsuits.

And the winner is.....
Not me. But just the same, I'd like to thank the members of the academy, my producers, the writers, my parents, and of course a shout out to he who makes all things possible. And it really was an honor to be nominated. (scroll down, scroll waaaaaay down) Meanwhile, Me and my fellow ink-stained wretches led by heavy-hitter Cap'n Dave over at the Galloping Beaver came fourth. If only I haven't used the c-word back a few months ago, I'm sure we could have overtake the Canadian Cynic juggernaut. Congratulations to Lefty blog of the year POGGE and silver medalist April Reign. Just wait until next year!
Speaking of awards, the nominations are now open for the annual Canadian Blog Awards (hint, hint) and those of you who know your way around the Canadian blogosphere may smile at one of the early nominees for best humour blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, except for you bastards in the back, you're lucky to be getting coal in your stocking

This being the season of brotherly love and peace on earth and all that, let me say to the Santa cynics and soldiers in the Christmas War out there, with all due respect, shut your festering fruitcakeholes!

First, lets get one thing straight -- There is no war on Christmas. No one cares if you want to to go to mass, put up a nativity scene or put little crucified Jesuses (Jesui?) on your tree, but the government can't play favorites when it comes to religious images. Christmas is not just a religious holiday and hasn't been since before Bing Crosby and Jimmy Stewart started making 'holiday movies'. If you think there needs to be a war to save Christmas, you are dumber than Jonn Gibson and Bill O'Rielly in a bag of hammers. To steal a line from John Lennon, fighting for Christmas is like fucking for virginity. Stop spoiling the holidays by inventing something for people to get pissed off about or you are getting coal in your stocking.

Second, there is too a Santa Claus, (the Marx Brothers bit notwithstanding). Don't give me any of your pet theories about how he was created by Coca-Cola or any of that malarky. If Santa didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Santa exists.

He exists in all those people who give anonymous gifts to the food bank, in all those who put a up a tree and lights and try to make the world a little brighter, even if only for a few days. He exists in those people making the effort to bake treats for the potluck office party instead of picking up a box of timbits, in those people stand on the corner ringing bells in subzero weather to raise money to help people in need, and, indeed Virginia (and the rest of you doubters, in the hearts of little children everywhere.

As one of the blogosphere's most ambivilent agnostic fake clergymen, I'm not big on the notion of there being an all-powerful sky wizard or even a not-so-intelligent designer cum watchmaker in the clouds. I'm okay with the whole Jesus thing - he had some good words to say - I'm just not too keen on a lot of the shit done in his name. Christmas would be one major exception to that.

Christmas deserves to be celebrated just as much as Martin Luther King Day and even from a strictly secular point of view is unquestionably an Objectively Good Thing(TM - pat. pending). How can setting aside a day or a few days to spend with family, give gifts and be nice to each other be a bad thing? What's so funny about peace on earth and goodwill to men. Santa is a big part of that, as he is the embodiment of the secular side of Christmas.

I live in a non-Christian country that loves the secular side of Christmas. Most of the 30 or so kids and a least half the adults at the community Christmas party I attended wouldn't know who Jesus was if he walked across Tokyo Bay and started pushing loaves and fishes on them, but you can bet they knew who Santa was when he arrived.

If you have any doubt that unconditional love exists or that Santa lives in the hearts of small children, get yourself a red suit and cheesy fake beard and go hand out candy canes at a kindergarten some time. It is the most fun you can have doing anything and the most satisfying exeperiece you'll ever have with your clothes on.

Santa is the best and most successful international conspiracy ever, with millions of willing co-conspirators. Resistance is futile, even Scrooge got Santified. Leave the shortbreads and milk/beer/single malt scotch out near the tree on Christmas Eve, or suffer the consequences!

And these evil shits who sent hateful letters to innocent kids? They are going on the naughty list. If I had my way they'd be worked over with a stocking full of coal and tied to four reindeer heading for four different points on the compass. But Christmas is the season of forgiveness, so I guess I'd settle for JJ's suggestion of a peppering with high velocity dogshit.

I am Spartacus Santa Claus!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lucky for all you folks in the Excited States that your government has its priorities in order. In this time of war and economic turmoil, with White House shenanigans aplenty to be investigated, and an election in the offing -- not to mention global warming and the various crises in health care, education, civil rights, race relations, mall shootings and the writers' strike --- it is good to know that your Congress has its eyes on the prize.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) saying that Christmas and Christians are important. The House passed this bill Dec 10. The vote, surprisingly, was 372-9, with 10 members also voting "Present," meaning they took no position on the legislation, and 40 not voting. One of the "Present" votes was cast by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). More Democrats -195 - voted for the bill than Republicans, 177.

Just wait until the new year when the Republicans bring in their controversial bill declaring "Water is Wet" or the all important "America loves ice cream" omnibus bill with clauses declaring puppies, kittens and bunnies "cute" and cockroaches "icky"

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Fish
Let's hope his lardship looks good in stripes. Ex-Canadian and media baron Conrad "Lord Tubby" Black has been sentenced to six and a half years in a low security Florida prison, proving that no one is above the law. Of course, it is the minimum possible sentence he could have received and he will be serving it in a low security prison, where he is more likely to get tennis elbow than be shanked in the yard, so William Zanzinger Conrad Black is being dealt with in the way we have come to expect from the justice system in "class free" America. Thank Jebus he didn't do anything really bad like get a consensual drunken blow job from a fellow teenager or get caught with drugs while brown.
No confirmation yet on when Lady Barbarella Amiel is buying him cartons of cigarettes or soap on a rope for Christmas.

"Hi, I'm Scarlett and I'll be your waitress this evening..."

the flip side of "dollar draft" night

Now, admittedly this beverage includes an 11-caret diamond ring, but still for $70,000 I'd be expecting a half gallon of 100-year old single malt sipped out of a solid platinum, gem-encrusted shot glass nestled in Scarlett Johansen's cleavage (or Brad Pitt's navel for the ladies) and I better get to keep both the shot glass and the bearer.

Violence, while understandably tempting, is not the answer
No matter how often one is seized by an urge to literally slap some sense into a politician, acting on that urge is understandably frowned upon, especially when the victim is someone as comparatively inoffensive as Joe Clark. Having said that, I will not rule out giving Brian Mulroney an atomic wedgie if we are ever alone in an elevator together. I'm saying it would be the right thing to do, I'm just saying I'm not sure I could resist. And I still think there is a certain deterrent value in my suggestion that every pre-Katrina resident of New Orleans should be given a seat at the Superdome and be called, in alphabetical order, down onto the field and given the option of kicking George W. Bush in the nuts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Musical Interlude

Blogging is likely to be light this week, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments - I'll give you a topic: Would moving to Anarctica make Kelly Joe Phelps any cooler?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Stupid du jour
While daytime chat shows have never been a beacon of intellectual elitism or fancy book-learnin' one wonders just how stupid one has to be to be on "The View"

From the Huffington Post

For whatever reason, the ladies on "The View" were discussing ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus this morning. Naturally, talk soon migrated to the topic of religion, and Sherri "I don't know if the world is flat" Shepherd came out to play. More specifically, to spew ignorance and a complete lack of understanding of basic
world history! Discussing whether Christians were around during Epicurus' time (Epicurus lived from 341-270 B.C.), Sherri chimed in, "[The Greeks] had Christians 'cause they threw them to the lions."
When Whoopi tried to cautiously navigate her through the timeline of basic world events, saying, "I think this might predate that," Sherri responded, "I don't think anything predated Christians." Joy's attempt to explain the Greek-Roman-Christian chronology was futile, as Sherri insisted, "Jesus came first before them." Sherri's argument was all the more powerful due to her convincing "use your finger to write on the table" trick, but she can't fight the facts. Perhaps if Barbara were on today she would have explained THAT WHOLE B.C. THING (you know, as in, Before Christ).

This story raises two questions: How long before Whoopi Goldberg snaps and hits Sherri Shepherd over the head with a chair and would hitting her in the head have any effect at all?

Sometimes, snark fails me. This is one of those times.

"And believe me, no one suffers more than their president" - Laura Bush

President Bush looks at a t-shirt with Lance Cpl. Isaac Gallegos, left, during the President's visit to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. On the right is Captain Revi Venkataramani. Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Trent's Lott
Hmmmm, radical right-wing social conservative and close personal friend of definitely-not-gay-because-he-persecutes-gays Larry "tap dance" Craig Trent Lott is resigning to spend more time with his family or some other obviously bullshit reason.
Would it be irresponsible to speculate? No, it would be irresponsible NOT to speculate.

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's Hammer Time

December in Japan means much more than just overpriced kitchy Christmas themes at the hotel dining room, skanky hostesses standing on streetcorners in skimpy Santa dresses and drunken salarymen puking and passing out in the train stations after the end-of-the-year bonus party. December is time to make every Japanese's favorite traditional New Year's treat -- mochi.

First, you need a bunch of old people. This is vital as no one under the age of 60 is likely to have the patience to get up at five in the morning to start cooking 100 kilos of rice over a wood fire. Besides, none of us young whippersnappers know how to do it right.

After the rice is cooked, huge pots of it are tossed into a large wooden mortar and then the squashing commences. This is where us energetic young fellas come in. It takes three men to work the rice with large wooden mallets, typically weighing about three or four kilos. You don't hammer the soft rice, you just sort of knead it down into a sticky mess through direct pressure, occasionally dipping the mallet in water so it doesn't get trapped in the rice blob.
Once the rice is a solid mass, it's Japanese John Henry time! A solid wooden mallet swung with enough force for about ten minutes turns the sticky rice blob into a gooey mass that looks like bread dough that has already risen. And no, I am not trying to hit the nice lady on the head with a mallet. She turns the blob between strokes while I pound it into its component atoms.

My stroke, vigour and my ability not to wallop oba-chan on the hand or noggin, despite the old guys pouring several beers into my before noon early hour, earned me several more beers and shot of sake from the peanut gallerythe respect of the elders in my community
Ta-da, the sticky, gooey mess whose taste means New Year's is just around the corner. Interestingly, a number of old people choke to death on mochi every year at New Year's and the reccommended precaution is to keep your vaccuum cleaner handy. If Grandma starts to choke, jam the hose down her throat and switch on the machine. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Indiana Jonesing
It's been a while since I've had a fix of Friday Archeology blogging, but now that Bazz is back in business, that won't be a problem.
And there is much rejoicing in blogsylvania!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Caught in the Crossfire?
Good news on the mass media front: The situation for Tucker Carlson is not looking good.
In an attempt to cash in on the resurgence of liberalism in the U.S. (mainly as a backlash to the last seven years of abject stupidity on parade in Washington) MSNBC is moving gradually to the left in an attempt to be to the rising liberal tide what Fox "news" has been to the right. They started with Keith Olbermann declarations that the emperor has no clothes and slowly but surely are creeping to the left. Chris Matthews - who has been a notorious right-wing mouthpiece - is now trying to convince us he's always disliked Bush and been against the war.
The one fly in the ointment is Tucker, who they are never going to be able to pass off as anything but a rightist.
Ever since Jon Stewart ate his lunch on CNN, things have been in a bit of downhill slide for Tucker. I guess smarmy just isn't selling these days as well as it used to.
While the bitch-slapping Jon Stewart gave him was one of the great moments in media of the last ten years, one of my favorite bits of Tuckerness is this little gem:
Tucker Carlson's exchange with ESPN radio host Max Kellerman on MSNBC's The Situation Dec. 15, 2005

CARLSON: All right, first up, a war of words gets heated, and it sounds like our neighbors to the north are mad. That, of course, would be Canada, for those of you following along at home. The prime minister of that country, Paul Martin, says he will—quote—“not be dictated to” by the U.S. over, of all things, lumber tariffs, which are a big deal in Canada.
It‘s the latest salvo in an increasingly pitched battle that had David Wilkins, our ambassador to that country, strategy—quote—“It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your number-one trading partner constantly, but it‘s a slippery slope. And all of us should hope it doesn‘t have a long-term impact on the relationship.”
Here‘s the problem, Max. Here‘s the problem with telling Canada to stop criticizing the United States. It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right?
CARLSON: Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right? Canada spends all of its time thinking about the United States, obsessing over the United States. 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.
CARLSON: Canada thinks we‘re married; we don‘t know it exists. Every time we tell Canada to knock it off, it just feeds the fire.
KELLERMAN: Well, yes. I very much like your “Canada, the adults are talking” stance. I—I like that.
KELLERMAN: However, we really do have to engage them on this.
And this is—this is the devil‘s-advocate position, but I may actually believe this.
CARLSON: All right.
KELLERMAN: They make us look bad internationally. And it‘s really not fair.
We have the—the longest, friendliest border, you know, for the—for the longest time in the history—in recorded history, really, with Canada. And they get to sit on their moral perch, you know, take the moral high ground, say, oh, United States, shame on you about Iraq.
They—they had—they must take no—virtually no responsibility, certainly in terms of their military, around the world. We have to do all the heavy lifting. And then to have them, our—one of our really strongest allies, when you think about it, internationally...
KELLERMAN: ... to the north, constantly criticizing us and making us look bad internationally, it needs to be addressed.
CARLSON: First of all, anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York.
Second, anybody who sides with Canada internationally in a debate between the U.S. and Canada, say, Belgium, is somebody whose opinion we shouldn‘t care about in the first place.
Third, 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 is Canada.
KELLERMAN: No, you don‘t. You don‘t. But what if the rest of the family does? In other words, yes, the United States can rely on...
CARLSON: That‘s their problem.
KELLERMAN: ... England, Australia, Israel, a few staunch, important allies internationally. But we have lost a lot of international support.
And Canada, by others in the global family, is, for some reason, taken seriously. They have about 30 million people. They have some natural resources.
CARLSON: Oh. They have dogsleds and trees, and that‘s it.
KELLERMAN: And comedians.
CARLSON: Look, I like Canada.
KELLERMAN: Tucker, they have comedians.
CARLSON: Every single comedian in Canada is now living in the United States.
KELLERMAN: Well, that‘s true.
CARLSON: Every one of them. They sneak over the border and live among us unseen. It‘s actually kind of scary.

Big talk for a man who stole his sartorial splendor from Pierre Burton. A word to the wise Tuck, you need to be pretty butch to pull off a bowtie. You look a lot more like mama's boy George Will than you probably want to. To paraphrase Jack Palance, Pierre Burton crapped bigger than you, you sad pathetic frat boy poseur. Get off the airwaves and get yourself preppie talk show on the campus station at Andover or Choate. Maybe there's an opportunity to start your own Frat TV network.

Because nothing says "delicious" like an intelligent endangered species
Coming soon to a dinner plate near me, the latest bit of Japanese "research" on whales. They really are conducting whaling as research. They are killing humpbacks to determine if they taste better baked, fried, stewed in a curry or done up as "whale nuggets" -- all in the name of science.
Click here for more on how you can enjoy tasty endangered species! Coming soon, Panda sushi with California Condor eggs fried on a fire of teak harvested from the rainforest.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The corner of Bedlam and Squalor
More like the corner of Genius Ave and Frickin' Genius Blvd. While I think of something useful to say watch Tom Waits on Fernwood 2Night

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Torch song for my ge-ge-generation

(This started out as a comment on Dana's lament for a nation the other day and as any good comment, it kind pof got out of control, so I thought I might as well turn it into a post of its own. Go get a drink, this may take a while)

Dana, one my fellow inkstained wretches over at the Galloping Beaver, appears to have the blues lately about the direction Canada is headed.

Not without reason-- Dana is not some green-as-grass kid who hasn't seen hard times. He's 60 years old, of my dad's generation more or less, so he's been around a while and hardly seems prone to alarmism. If he's worried, he's got his reasons. Admittedly, things have been a bit crappy of late, what with Steve Harper and Conservatives trying to turn the clocks back to what they think 1955 looked like, our troops involved in a quagmire of a war overseas, our neighbour to the south is sliding more rapidly toward fascism, the environment suffering, the mounties murdering immigrants in the Vancouver airport. Hell - its been 15 years since the Habs- or any other Canadian team- won the cup. In short, things are looking like that Loudon Wainwright song.

Dana seems convinced that Canada is headed back to its pre 1967 greyness.

"Once again we becoming a parochial, timid, repressed, subservient, narrow minded people subtly suppressed by both church and state into a kind of numbing grey fog of judgemental apathy."

Nope, not gonna happen Dana.

Not on my generation's watch.

I know I throw a lot of negativity around on this blog, and I'm not always a "glass half full" kinda guy, but I'm happy to shed sunshine on your parade for a change.

Not to be glib, but don' t let the bastards get you down. And by bastards I mean the people of your generation that spent the '60s in doors bitching about hippies and not having any fun. The offspring of the very "ruling elites" you speak of in your eloquent post. Those people are heading into the sunset as we speak.

Those people who think we need to drag Canada back to the 1950's are the people who grew up then -- your generation. For me and mine, who grew up in the 60's and 70's with multiculturalism, a burgeoning non-white immigrant population, no church on Sunday and daily French classes, that notion of a lily-white, monolingual (except or the "frogs") Christian conservative nation in thrall to England or the United States just ain't gonna fly any more.

Despite what the fundamentalist whackjobs would have you believe, the churches are largely finished as a political force in Canada. Nearly 20% of us are non-believers now.
Just look what happened to John Tory in the Ontario election if you want to see how Canadians feel these days about mixing religion and politics. Twenty years from now, I think we will have gotten rid of public funding for Catholic schools.

We are now a mostly urban, cosmopolitan society. Politically, we are just waiting for the distribution of seats in the House of Commons to catch up with reality - right now rural voters wield disproportionate power, but that can't, and won't last.

International globalization, increased global mobility and cultural diversity have taken their toll on the notion that everything those people do overseas is weird and inferior. More Canadians have traveled to or are from other parts of the world now than ever before. When you were growing up, the idea that you or your peers would just jump on jet and go to Thailand on a week-long vacation, or go to live in Japan or China or Hungary or Peru for a few years, just for the hell of it, was largely beyond the pale. Not anymore.

Social mobility and education are at an all time high, racism and xenophobia at a historic low, despite the best efforts of Global and FOX news and the SUN newspapers to keep us parochial and provincial, Canadians like to play in the big sandbox and we like to invite others in to play in our sandbox. The last two censuses have shown that just over half the population of Toronto were born outside Canada. That was probably true in your parents day too, but now most of those people aren't from the British Isles any more. Can you imagine the impact that has for diversifying our national culture? Toronto is now one of the most international cities in the world, with Vancouver - once a hive of British expatriate remittance men - a close second and a thriving center of Asian-Western cultural crossover. The stuffy old reactionaries and the young fogies decry this, but most people my age and younger celebrate it or accept it as established fact. The day of the WASP ruling class is over.

For your parents generation a racially mixed marriage would have been unthinkable, even a religiously mixed one would have been scandalous. For your generation, Catholic and Protestants intermarrying was acceptable, but miscegenation was still very, very rare. Today, it barely rates a raised eyebrow among my generation, and is commonplace among those younger. Third and fourth generation immigrants don't feel limited to their own ethnic or racial group any more.

Sure there are the cultural dead-enders, the Reform Party dinosaurs, the rednecks and the racists - but they are the minority and most of them are aging fast. I look at the changes in society that have occurred since my childhood and fully expect that progress to continue.

In your lifetime, marijuana has gone from "reefer madness" to being grown by the government as medicine. Social mores have undergone tectonic shifts: Homosexuality has gone from being a jailable offence to legal gay marriage. We've had a Chinese immigrant and now a Haitian immigrant, both women, as Governor-General. Try convincing your 16 year-old self back in 1960 that would ever happen.

Where once things like police brutality, domestic violence, institutionalized racism and sexism, even drunk driving were accepted as normal, a broad swath of the population now decry them to the extent that they have gradually have become recognized as the criminal behaviours they are.

I'm 40 and when I think of the changes in society since I was a kid, I'm amazed. When I was kid, it wasn't unusually to hear the word "nigger" - otherwise respectable people told "paki" jokes - and women like my mom were just starting to enter the work force in large numbers for the first time since WW2.

Yes, there are conservatives my age and even younger. Not all the people that voted for Harper and listen to Michael Coren are cranky old reactionaries, some of them are young enough to know better. But they are vocal minority, especially in blogosphere. They gather in their little gangs and tell each other it will be all right, that white men still run the country and that their tiny little island of ignorance will not be swamped by the rising tide of cosmopolitanism. They blog and they rant on the radio and even run for office, but they have lost the culture war in Canada and it is just a rear-guard action.

I listen to what people in their 20s say today and realize to my delight that in terms of social justice, human rights and equality the things that progressives fought for in my childhood are now taken for granted. A woman working, even in senior management is normal. Yes, there is still something of a glass ceiling and there is no equal pay for equal work yet, but thirty years ago who even expected such things would be an issue? Things like racist jokes and epithets are no longer tolerated by society at large. A few curmudgeons moan about "political correctness" and how "manholes are manholes not personholes" but they carry no weight with anyone any more. No one thinks twice about saying letter carrier instead of mailman, or police officer instead of policeman. No one under 50 is surprised by a female doctor, lawyer or judge or a male nurse.

Don't let the FOX news - SUN newspaper extremists get you down. They are a dying breed. They've lost the culture war in Canada and they know it, that's why they're so vicious. The old tools of control - the churches, the schools, social pressure - are lost to them. How successful has the "wear red on Fridays to show support for the war" campaign been? Compare that to the number of people now willing to sort their trash for recycling.

Look at the situation on native issues - 40 years ago the Mohawks at Caledonia would have been thrown in jail, if they were lucky, 60 years ago they likely would have gotten off with a severe beating, 100 years ago they'd be dead. Look how many people sided with the natives over the Meech Lake Accord. There is obviously still a lot of progress to be made, but we are making baby steps toward it.

Humans are an impatient species and progress never comes fast enough for those that really need it now, but it does come over time. We should not let our guard down. We must continue to fight to make Canada the country it can be, and keep striving to make the world a better place. Eternal vigilance and all that rah rah crap is true to a degree, but in Canada, we are past the tipping point. The bell can't be unrung. We will never go back to the year of my birth, grey old 1966.

We won. And we will keep on winning.

My generation is now moving filling the middle rungs of the corporate and political ladder, in 15 years we will be the old fogies and those 20 year olds I mentioned will be next in line to run the show. And they think we are too uptight, conservative and traditional. Onward and upward.

(Unless Harper wins a majority government, then we're all off kicking and screaming to the reeducation camps to get our minds right...so lets not let that happen by bickering about who should lead the opposition or who is more ideologically pure, let's just send Steverio back the basement apartment in Calgary where he belongs.)

Cheers, Dana. Go get yourself a glass half full of something aged a sufficient number of years and toast the future.

Can I get an "amen"?

"Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Welcome to friendly Japan you filthy foreigner criminal terrorists

Maybe it's just as well that we aren't going to be spending Christmas in Canada this year. I don' t need to worry about my wife and kids getting tasered in the airport if they get stroppy and I won't have to explain to my children why daddy has to get in a separate line and be photographed and fingerprinted and prove he isn't a terrorist or dealer of fake telephone cards after arriving back home in Japan.

As of yesterday all non-Japanese arriving in Japan must be photographed and fingerprinted. The only exception are those with special permanent resident status (People of Korean descent who were born usually to parents who were born here. Anywhere else they would be citizens, but the Japanese citizenship of Koreans, who were considered part of the empire before 1945, was revoked no matter where they were born and they cannot become citizens) One of my co-workers has lived in Japan since 1968, now everytime he returns from vacation he has to be fingerprinted and photographed.

Are visitors and foreign residents upset? Depends which "newspaper" you read.

Some papers say there was a large protest outside the Justice ministry, information strangely absent from other publications.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlor...er...protectors
John Rogers has another enlightening lunchtime conversation - although what makes both John and Tyrone so sure that Dick Cheney isn't a cyborg is a mystery to me.

Dear Santa...
In a lighter vein, there is the list of the 25 most baffling toys

あなたの taser の氏警官との私を撃ってはいけない
(Please,don't taze me, honorable Policeman)

While I don't travel as much as I'd like to, the new requirement that I be separated from my family, photographed and fingerprinted everytime I enter Japan, despite having lived here for a decade is a bit of a pisser.

While Japan is a much more authoritarian society than Canada - I get asked to show my foreign residents registration card to the cops every so often and arrestees do not have a right to a lawyer here - and much less welcoming to foreigners, I don't think that if I pitched a fit about it in the airport I would get tasered to death within 30 seconds of the cops arriving on the scene.
While the Japanese police are well known for their distaste for foreigners, the RCMP, despite a number of scandals, have always been a police force that has set an international standard for excellence.

While the RCMP is urging people not to jump to conclusions, the video of the death of Robert Dziekanski is a pretty convincing smoking gun. I'm sure the officers involved did not intend to kill Mr. Dziekanski, but they don't seem to be too concerned with preserving his life either-- no attempt appears to have been made to perform CPR or artificial respiration on Dziekanski. Four burly cops armed with pepper spray and batons should not have to use a potentially lethal weapon to subdue a man who was unarmed and not attacking them. My impression, given the speed with which the decision to use the taser was made, is that they just didn't want to get their hands dirty or bother spending time trying to calm the irate foriegner down.

These officers deserve to face manslaughter charges in court. If it turns out the RCMP has armed their officers with tasers without proper training and protocols being laid down, then whoever made that decision should be considered an accessory in this unlawful death. A taser is a useful weapon in the police arsenal, but should be a second-to-last resort, not just a convenient way to dispatch troublesome suspects.

Why the hell was this man allowed to hang around the luggage collection area for TEN HOURS without someone trying to guide him toward the arrivals exit? I know Canadian standards are not usually ranked as the pinnacle of customer service, but ten hours without someone finding a translator or simply guiding him toward the exit? Shit, I'd have been furious too, but I not expect to be tasered simply because I had had a temper tantrum.

If a group of mall security guards had done this to some school teacher or stockbroker angry that he couldn't get a refund on defective a set of Pings at the Golf Shoppe, they'd be in jail before the body was cold, not "reassigned" after a month.

If an angry man with a pair of submachine guns can be taken into custody by an unarmed former soldier, why was it necessary to subject Mr. Dziekanski to potentially lethal force less than a minute after confronting him?

Sam Steele would have the four officers involved in cuffs by now. Their conduct was disgraceful and they do not deserve the protection of their fellow officers.

For more, see the Galloping Beaver and Dr. Dawg

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Possibly the funniest thing I 've ever seen

I remember seeing this when it first aired back in 1992. Cherry, for all his rampant fear and loathing of teh gay, was a reasonably good sport about being ambushed by the Kids in the Hall's Scott Thompson.
Sadly the goodby kiss between Scott Thompson and Don Cherry is not included here, it came after the commercial break - Don was a good sport about it, but you could tell he'd rather coach the Swedish national team.

Words fail me

A new meaning for the phrase "On yer bike"

Bike sex man placed on probation

Cleaners caught Mr Stewart simulating sex with a

A man caught trying to have sex with his bicycle has been sentenced to three years on probation.
Robert Stewart, 51, admitted a sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex.
Sheriff Colin Miller also placed Stewart on the Sex Offenders Register for three years.

Dedicated with love (but not quite that much love) to Rick and Katy and the gang at the Bloomfield Bicycle Company

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Crappy News Network
I try to avoid CNN, really I do- we even switched cable providers at home a few weeks ago so I could watch BBC - but working in the media it is kind of an occupational hazard, especially over here where senior management are so technophobic they can't read the New York Times online and allow it to set the news agenda like every other newspaper in North America does. Nope, we have CNN, and the BBC along with a slew of Japanese TV news on the TV sets in our office 24/7 and believe you me, if something is the top story on CNN, it is gonna be on our front page more often than not.

Which is not always a bad thing since Japanese news tends to be insular and sometimes ignore big foreign stories, or at least those that don't occur in the United States, a trait we sometimes share with CNN, but that's a different post.

We had a slow morning in the office the other day, so I actually got to watch CNN Japan, almost uninterrupted for a couple of hours. But without sound, which means I had to rely on who was on the screen and what the annoying little on screen graphics said.

First, there was the perfect storm of irrelevancy that was Larry King. King used to be a respectable media personality, verging on a journalist when he was on late night radio inLos Angeles,
but his long-running show on CNN has long been a forum for softball questions, celebrity confessionals and general crapola. The show I saw was by any measure the epitome of uselessness. Larry King 'interviewing' professional loudmouth "Judge Judy" and the subtitle really said it all: " Judge Judy discusses Dog the Bounty Hunter, Oprah's School Scandal, Brittany and More" -- now excessive needless capitalization aside, is this not a laundry list of what is wrong with public discourse in America? We have a walking corpse interviewing a loudmouthed middle-aged professional scold about the most meaningless issues of the day. Believe me the "and more" was not a nuanced discussion of U.S. policy in the middle east or a discourse on the philosophical nature of truth.

In fact, it was a lengthy discussion about the death of the mother of hip hop pop star Kanye West following cosmetic surgery.

Now before you chastise me for criticizing CNN for the content of the Larry King show, which despite its journalistic pretensions is acknowledged to be mainly a venue for celebrity gossip, confessionals and stupidity (the rest of the week's schedule includes interviews with Donnie and Marie Osmond, soap opera star Hunter Tylo on the drowning death of her son last month, and fraudulent psychics John Edwards and James Van Praagh on
how they talk to the dead- anyone else smell Pulitzer?) let me hasten to point out that following Larry King, viewers were treated to a headline news update that lasted all of 2 minutes and was presented as far I could tell, by a supermodel.

Not to worry, in an effort to balance the lighter-than-helium nature of Larry King's PR fest, CNN then presented hard-hitting journalism from none other than Gloria "Poor Little Rich Girl" Vanderbilt's offspring andspokesmodel Anderson Cooper. Anderson has carved out a name for himself as a newsman -- he went to New Orleans
during the aftermath of Katrina, he's been to Iraq -- and so I was not at all surprised that the first 20 minutes of his program was devoted to the most important issue of the day: The death of Kanye West's mother following cosmetic surgery. And before all you cynics go bad mouthing a respected international journalist like Anderson Cooper, let me point out that the report also discussed the popularity of plastic surgery in the United States with polls showing how many people found it acceptable and interview with plastic surgeons about how simple and safe it was to have your nose fixed, your tummy tucked or your face lifted. Take that you naysayers!

This was followed by 2o minutes on how both DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL DennisKucinich and
FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENT Jimmy Carter both claim to have seen UFOs at some point in their life. While discussing how these two politicians are willing to talk about how they once saw something in the sky that they could not identify, no mention was made of the three Republican presidential candidates who deny evolution or the fact that the current serving president claims that a magic sky-wizard talks to him and chose him to be president. Clearly its thesemoonbat Democrats who can't be sure what they saw in the night sky that are crazy.

I know, it sounds like maybe this was just a slow news week and Anderson had to fill time with something. The next segment was AC 360 Raw Politics with political expert Tom Foreman, who must be a plugged-in expert on everything that is happening on the American Political Scene since he gives his reports with a slightly bug-eyed exhausted/exasperated demeanor ("darn those politicians, can you believe what they've done now?") and with his necktie at half-mast. It's news US voters can use, despite the fact that not a single segment in the 2 minute feature runs over 20 seconds and that the segments tend to focus on such burning issues as who was and was not wearing a flag pin this week and whether or not Hillary's assistant is good-looking enough or "too" good-looking if you know what I mean.

Oh but finally Anderson make up for the fluff with a hard hitting segment about a case that many Americans may not be aware of: The confusing and controversial - gosh darn it we just don' know what to think - case of brown person and "alleged torture victim"Mahar Arar
, who was flying to his native Canada through the United States when he was detained and deported to his native the country his family comes from, Syria, for being suspected of links to terrorism or something -- we don't know what since the U.S. refuses to disclose why he was sent to Syria, which promised, really, they crossed their hearts and hoped to die, that they wouldn't torture him (nudge, nudge, wink wink, say no more) for whatever it was he might have done. A few years and several million in compensation later, the Canadian government has apologized to Mr. Arar for erroneously suggesting that he might have had connections to terrorists, but the US still has him on their no fly list and will not apologize for sending him to be tortured in Syria. (No , I'm not going to provide links to support my statements here, there is so much out there you can google it yourself) Anyways, the gist of the story seemed to be that this alleged torture victim and foreign brown person wants an apology from the United States for the way they treated him. I mean, really how wacky are these brown-skinned foreigners? Does he really think that the United States of America is going to apologize to someone who had the nerve to fly through theUS enroute to another country they were a citizen of, just because the United States of America -land of the free and home of the brave- had them sent to a third world hell hole to be tortured for no apparent reason and still claim, despite mea culpas from the people who accused him, that he is a terrorist? Please, the administration has other people to needlessly torture for information they don't have priorities.

I'm sure that Anderson would have gotten to the bottom of the "alleged" injustices done to Mr. Arar, but there just wasn't time, because
before the end of the hour he had to get to "the Shot" the regular feature that celebrates the best piece of photo journalism available to CNN that day. The day I watched, "The Shot" consisted of footage of a wild kangaroo loose in the Melbourne suburbs and a polar bear swimming in a tank at a zoo. Thank God that America was able to see these vital images before the final 30 minutes of AC 360, in which we revisited the story of Kanye West's dead mother and more "Raw Politics" campaign gossip.

And that is not even mentioningLou Dobbs or
Glen Beck, both of whose crimes against the truth, humanity and simple decency are dealt with elsewhere in abundance .

Screw Richard Dawkins, the continuing existence of Atlanta
and lack of a meteor strike on CNN HQ is really all the proof you need that there is no God.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gunpowder, treason and plot - hurrah!
Okay, so I'm a couple of days late with it, but here's a thought provoking look at Guy Fawkes Day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The envelope please

Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly has been running a poll to determine the wingnuttiest blog post of the last few years. 22,000 votes later the winner by a comfortable margin is the man who calls himself AssHindrocket who on July 28, 2005, achieved immortality in the annals of stupid with the following:

"It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and
brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile."

Speaking of awards, the Galloping Beaver is a finalist for best blog in our traffic class in the 2007 Weblog awards put together by Wizbang. Votes continues until Nov. 8. We are currently losing to a Brooklyn College professor who is obsessed with the Duke University lacrosse team rape case. You can vote once a day until then, so click the link and do the right thing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stephen Harper: If he bleeds us, is he not a prick?
Nice column by Susan Riley in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen that pretty much nails the mindset of the Conservatives. They are bullies, plain and simple

Big Boys don't cry...much
Damn you, Stuart Mclean.

Since reaching adulthood, I am not easily moved to tears - I don't cry at weddings, or even at funerals usually. I'm not one of those people who gets misty eyed at graduations or retirement speeches or that weeps at television dramas or movies (except Old Yeller - Anyone who doesn't get choked up at the end of Old Yeller is a soulless frickin' android as far as I'm concerned). I don't cry when I get stressed out, tired, depressed, disappointed or angry. I am not generally a crier.

Don't get me wrong, I am not some sort of emotional cripple without feelings. I am often very emotional, I just don't shed tears. And I am not necessarily condemning those who do cry often and publically, whether at weddings or Julia Roberts movies or where ever (except those who still cry about the "tragedy" of Princess Diana - get a grip). I don't think it's wrong for men to cry or anything like that, I just don't do it much.

I'm fairly cynical when it comes to the media and twenty year of newspaper work has left me a bit of a thick skin. You do enough stories about children with cancer or people dying too young and you get a little less emotional about it over time I'm also a little uncomfortable with public displays of grief or other strong emotion-- I come from solid WASP stock, stiff upper lip and all that. My people just aren't that demonstrative in public. Growing up I sometimes thought most of my family would sooner lose a limb than make a public scene.

It isn't that my buttons can't be pushed -- See my earlier comment on Old Yeller. My kids know better than to ask me to read "Hachiko" or The Velveteen Rabbit (or as my daughter calls it: "Dad's crying book") to them at bedtime. Movies don't usually get me as I can usually see the emotional manipulation coming and avoid any tawdry attempt to tug the heartstrings. I've occasionally teared up at TV news reports about children killed or wounded in Iraq.

But lately, I've been bawling like a baby once a week.Which brings me back to Stuart Mclean.

For those who don't know his radio show and books about the world's smallest record store - the Vinyl Cafe - its proprieter Dave, his wife Morley and their children Stephanie and Sam, the closest comparision I can think of is Garrison Keillor's tales of Lake Wobegon. Both are great radio: audio situation comedies of error that delve into the characters inner lives as only radio and print media can, delivered in a dry deadpan, and both occupy a similar cultural niche. Where Keillor focuses on the doings of a small town and his own personal reminiscences and is often larded with nostalgia, McLean tends to focus on family dynamics, neighbors and the characters' personal stories. I enjoy Keillor a great deal and listen to the news from Lake Wobegon "Where the women are strong, the men are good-looking and all the children are above average" on podcast every week.

I listen to the Vinyl Cafe too, but I am going to have to stop listening to it on the train because of goddamn Stuart Mclean.

He makes me cry.

Every single goddamned week.

And it isn't like he cleverly sneaks in some crafty emotional manipulation or touchy-feely device or sets up some lachrymose maudlin scene. There no trite Paul Harvey moment ("And that little boy who liked to drop water balloons from the church steeple grew up to be Curtis LeMay...and now you know the rest of the story") I can see it coming a mile away. I know where the story is going - I know Dave is going to give Stephanie's old stuffed velor bunny to the little neighbour girl to help her get rid of her nightmares. I know Sam is going to kiss the Quebecois girl he meets on the grade eight class trip. I know Stephanie is going to suddenly become attached to the elderly great aunt she spends a holiday with in London. I know Dave and Morely's anniversary canoe trip will be a disaster they will cherish.

I'm not sure how the rotten bastard does, but he does it to me every single time I listen.

Maybe it's the commonplace, slice-of-life nature of the stories. You can identify with the characters because they are so mundane. They are the people next door. They are just like you and me - they aren't rock stars or astronauts or billionaires. They aren't trying to save the world, they are just trying to deal with everyday concerns like missing the little girl who's gone off to college or trying to catch up with the rest of the class after getting left behind by the bus on a trip to Quebec city or learning about the family history or celebrating an anniversary.
All I know is that about two minutes into most of Mclean's stories I say to myself, "shit, he's gonna do it to me again" and sure enough about 15 minutes later the waterworks start andI'm like Ed Norton in the first part of Fight Club.

But they are big, manly, macho tears. Honest.

As for Stuart Mclean, go buy his stuff or download the podcasts

Bring it on Steverino!
Shorter Stephen Harper: Don't ask about our dirty laundry and we won't ask about yours.
Shorter Liberals: We have nothing left to hide, bring it on.
Could Dion finally have grown a pair?

Ethnic cleansing
Pathetic, not-so-stealthy separatism - that is what Quebec's bill 195 amounts to. While it is unlikely to be passed into law, the bill the PQ have introduced is clearly aimed at quashing "money and the ethnic vote" the next time there is provincial election, ensuring only pure laine Quebecois get to vote. The assumption being that they will vote for the PQ agenda of whatever form of sovereignty-freeloading association they come up with the next time. This is pure and simple racism and completely unconstitutional, and anyone in Canadian politics that says different is either a separatist, or a scumbag who is trying to win the votes of separatists by siding with them.
Quebec is a province of Canada, it is not a separate republic and has no need for it own constitution or citizenship requirements. Thanks a lot Stephen Harper.
More here here here

Friday, November 02, 2007

Even the paranoid have enemies

Dave already has a post on this up at the Galloping Beaver but I thought I might as well put it up here too, as this is a story that really deserves a lot more attention than it has been getting.

Remember back at the end of August when a bunch of nukes were "mistakenly" put on a B-52 and flown from one air base to another. Well, the USAF has now explained it was all a big whoops and punished a few people involved. So, there's nothing to see here, move along folks. Look, Britney Spears has a new album out!

Read this piece over at the Smirking Chimp and start demanding some answers.

The problem with this explanation for the first reported case of nukes being removed from a weapons bunker without authorization in 50 years of nuclear weapons, is that those warheads, and all nuclear warheads in the US stockpile, are supposedly protected against unauthorized transport or removal from bunkers by electronic antitheft systems--automated alarms similar to those used by department stores to prevent theft, and even anti-motion sensors that go off if a weapon is touched or approached without authorization.

While the Air Force report doesn't mention any of this, what it means is that if weapons in a storage bunker are protected against unauthorized removal, someone--and actually at least two people, since it's long been a basic part of nuclear security that every action involving a nuclear weapon has to be done by two people working in tandem--had to deliberately and consciously disable those alarms.

Now, I'm not a conspiracy freak or anything of the sort. I believe we did land on the moon, that the World Trade Center was brought down by crashing jets, that the Bilderberg group is just a high level coffee klatch and that the Freemasons are just a social club that does some nice charity work. This bit definitely raises some eyebrows though:

* Why hasn't the Air Force or the FBI investigated the 6-8 untimely deaths including three alleged suicides, one of a Minot weapons guard, one of an assistant defense secretary, and one of a captain in the super-secret Air Force Special Commando Group, as well as alleged fatal vehicle "accidents" involving four ground crew and B-52 pilots and crewmembers at Minot and Barksdale? Could any of this strange cluster of deaths have been related to the incident? The Air Force "investigation" didn't even mention these incidents, and as I disclosed in my article, none of the police investigators or medical examiners in those incidents had even been contacted by Air Force or other federal investigators.

Now I'm not willing to go the whole nine yard the author of the article does and attribute the whole thing to Dick Cheney planning to use the nukes to stage a false flag strike on the US to start a war with Iran, but if it wasn't him it had to be someone that has some pull, because you don't just check out nuclear warheads like they were the latest new release at Blockbuster Video. The whole thing is a little too Seven Days in May for my liking

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Human Tetris
This one goes out to Dave from Jim Dandy Goodness, who loves to see the goofy side of Japan

For Post-Halloween Withdrawal
Oooooooh! scary stuff kids. Betcha didn't know Bergman made horror films, well neither did Count Floyd. All that existential angst and depression, wow, that's really scary!

Weekend blues
See that guy on the left doing the singing - that's "my caucasian" Mike Daley. Sure he's a big rock star now, but I knew him back in Burlington when his nickname was Beatle. Oh, and the guy sitting down? Jeff 'Freakin'' Healy, who obviously rocks, despite that whole "Roadhouse" thing.
Whipping Post!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Regrets, he's had a few
I missed this one last week as I was busy blowing out birthday candles before the kitchen caught fire, but apparently Conrad Black regrets giving up his Canadian citizenship.

Black, who might have faced a lighter sentence if he'd been tried in Canada, admitted to Men's Vogue that he wished he hadn't surrendered his Canadian citizenship -- after a public battle of wills with former prime minister Jean Chretien -- to take up a seat in the House of Lords.
"I do regret giving up my Canadian citizenship," he said, "but I always said I would
take it back."

Well, boo-frickin'-hoo yer lordship, I guess the House of Lords kind of regrets it too. I mean, really, when you get turfed from the Conservative side of the House of Lords for being an arrogant, autocratic robber baron and crook maybe its time to rein in the hubris just a smidgen. As for your Canadian citizenship, which you happily tossed aside to become a titled foreign aristocrat, you might be willing to "take it back" but I don't see the line forming to sign the petition to make you an offer.

Black is to be sentenced on Nov. 30. for obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud. He faces a maximum of 35 years in federal prison. Start chilling the champagne.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You can't tell the truth about me, I'll sue!

Many thanks to Zorpheous of the Wingnutterer for the graphic and to Impolitical for the story. What a bunch of pathetic crybabies.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


From Crackle: Mr. Deity and the Intel - Season 2, Ep 1

If you missed season on of this great Web series, you can find them on Youtube and on itunes

Things you should read

S,N!: Members of the not-insane community tell us that it really has been astonishing to see Oshry, Johnson and their assorted venal hangers-on attack each other with the rapacity they normally reserve for rational people.
DA: Well, it’s sort of like watching piranhas being ripped to shreds by locusts as they skeletonize a pack of hyenas who are polishing off the last few crumbs of the Manson Family. Terrifying, yet one can’t look away.

Dave Neiwert at Orcinus is one of those blogs everyone should read every day and send money to regularly. Lately, he's been slapping TV and radio muttonhead Glen Beck around over his comments on the fires in California. He's on the blogroll, check him out.

Meanwhile, back in The County

Apparently things have changed in Picton since I lived there. I can't believe these folks managed to get a business licence out of the greybeards that used to run The County. Not that there weren't plenty of uh..."hemp" fans around. As I recall it was a major local cash crop...I wonder how much of the product they source locally? Operation County indeed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ding, Dong the Wicked Witch Pink Bunny is Dead

Well, it has finally happened - the crooked, exploitive, madhouse I spent my first four years in Japan working at has finally come crashing down.

The place has been run like a mob-owned whorehouse pretty much since day one, but karma finally caught up with them this spring when a bunch of students complained to the government that the company was not living up to its promise that they could book lesson "anytime" and that when they tried to get a refund for their prepaid lessons, the company refused to give them a full refund. The trade ministry made them offer full refunds and forbid them to sell certain types of lesson contracts for a period. Since the company - the McDonalds of the language school industry in Japan - has been trying to triple its number of school over the last couple of years and has been spending money as fast as it came in the door on a variety of ill-advised projects and company jets for the president, this basically buggered the company's cash flow. Salaries were late in July, August and September for teachers and there was no pay in October. Many of the Japanese staff haven't been paid since mid summer.

The founder has been involved in a number of very dodgy stock deals to try to drum up enough cash to keep the wheels turning and aside from a bunch of really stupid faxes, has dropped out of sight since August. As more and more teachers stopped coming to work since they weren't getting paid, it became harder for students to book lessons and more and more asked for refunds.

Not that most of them have seen a single yen in refunds yet. Nova quit paying its bills months ago. Many of the teachers rent apartments from Nova, which sublets the units from landlords. The company has been deducting the rent from teachers paycheques, but hasn't been paying the landlords and as a result several hundred teachers have been turfed out of their homes in the last two months.

Nova employees glad to be off hot seat

In the wake of Nova Corp.'s filing for court protection Friday, employees said that although they were anxious over their livelihoods, they were relieved to no longer have to cope with a barrage of complaints from students and teachers.

Nova, the nation's largest English-language school chain, applied for protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law with the Osaka District Court with debt of about 50 billion yen and suspended operations of all its schools.

Employees, mainly in their 20s, remained at their workplaces until the last moment, while many teachers had already stopped reporting to work over delays in salary payments. Lesson fees were also refunded to students who canceled their contracts with Nova. An employee in her 20s, who was manager of a branch in an office district in the Tokyo metropolitan area, said she began working for Nova after graduating from university as she wished to help people who wanted to learn English.

But she soon became dissatisfied with her position when she was instructed by the headquarters to try to get prospective students to sign lesson contracts.

As the number of branches increased around 2004 to 2005, more emphasis was placed on getting prospective students to sign contracts. In one case, one of the woman's colleagues was reprimanded for opposing a superior over the policy.

In June, when Nova was punished by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry over lesson contracts and cancellation problems, she believed that Nova would recover.

She heard that the police had to be called to another branch because a student had become angry to the point of violence, apparently over a lesson contract dispute, but the headquarters offered no assistance in the matter. "I still told myself that I should hang on as long as I was getting paid," she said.

Foreign teachers started not showing up for lessons in mid-September when their salary payments were delayed. Consequently, dozens of complaints poured in, creating chaos for the company's inexperienced receptionists. One staff member complained of not being able to afford food, while another had been reduced to tears every day before she finally collapsed and stopped coming to the office.


Stock speculators involved

OSAKA--A group of stock speculators charged by the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Securities and Exchange Law, had been involved in a Nova capital expansion plan, the Yomiuri has learned.

The plan had been promoted by former Nova President Nozomu Sahashi, who was dismissed Thursday. Sahashi's financial problems may have led him to contact the group, as such groups control stock prices to gain illegal profits. Nova's court-appointed administrators stated that the move was grounds for Sahashi's dismissal.

According to sources, Sahashi had contacted the group led by Haruo Nishida, 57, an investment adviser who was arrested by the prosecutors on Oct. 12 on suspicion of manipulating the price of a construction company stock.

Nova announced on Oct. 9 it would issue stock warrants facilitating the purchase of 200 million new stocks, nearly three times the stock that had been issued, to two investment funds, with a view to securing about 6.4 billion yen. The funds are located in the Virgin Islands.

Nishida is said to have known people related to the investment funds and invited investors to Nova's plan before it was announced.

(Oct. 28, 2007)

The story above is very much the sanitized version of NOVA's flat out evil nature. Imagine the Bush administration running a chain of language schools in which people like Mike "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown were the branch managers and Dick Cheney was in charge of the education department. Only with more evil, incompetence and general skullduggery and staffed by a lot of semi-literate Australians on working holidays.

For the real skinny on the whole sordid tale, the best "teachers gone wild" and "Freaky Student Stories" the best place to look is the forums at Lets Japan. Which is where I found all this art.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ten steps
Yeah, its been posted elsewhere and its been around for six months but to paraphrase Atrios: Naomi speak, you listen

Thursday, October 18, 2007

John Cleese gets political

A bit dated and UK specific toward the end, but I like his bit on extremism

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Zealand's gift to the world

If I had to choose between Flight of the ConChords,the All-Blacks and Steinlager, it would be a close race. Do yourself a favor and check out their other videos on YouTube.

I am no longer the whitest guitar player in the known universe
There's nothing wrong with this lesson, but I have to wonder how useful Hendrix chords are to someone who seems like he should be providing backing licks to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

But would he meet with the new Premier of French Columbia, Heywood Jablomi?

So Fred Thompson finally took part in a Republican Canadiates debate and it didn't make much a difference It was all very ho-hum, though Mitt Romney and Rudy Gulliani took a few shots at each other. But what caught my eye was this bit from the CNN story on the debate:

"The former Tennessee senator survived a gotcha question, correctly identifying the prime minister of Canada as Stephen Harper."

A gotcha question? He wants to be president and asking him the name of the leader of one of the G-8 nations, the U.S. partner in Norad and NATO, the country's northern neighbour is a gotcha question? Talk about lowering the bar. What's next? Will they ask John McCain to name the three branches of government? or Gulliani how many states there are? May they'll ask Mitt Romney if he can find Utah on a map.

And another thing: This is typical of the double standard of the So-Called Liberal Media. Hillary Clinton is expected to put forth a universal health care system that will ensure absolute and total coverage for any and all ailments for every single American without it costing more than a couple of Big Macs a year and the plan must be handed in to the media in triplicate, double spaced and footnoted or she's failed to live up to expectations and is considered unworthy to lead. Barrack Obama, by virtue of the fact that he is half-African, is expected to solve or at least explain any and all issues connected to race in the United States or he is dodging the issue - oh and he has to be "black enough" to win over African-American voters without being "too black" and scaring off white suburbanites. John Edwards has mentioned poverty, but he's a wealthy self made man, so unless he has a ironclad plan approved by a panel of Republican economists to make everyone millionaires by the Thursday after election day, he's just a pretty boy who pays too much for haircuts. And since they all oppose the war in Iraq, they better all have a surefire plan to win the war, bring peace and prosperity to Baghdad and release terrorist-eating unicorns that shit gold bars throughout the Middle East otherwise they are siding with Osama Bin Laden.

Fred Thompson on the other hand drives a shiny red truck, can talk tough as a crime-fightin' lawyer on TV, knows the name of the country's next door neighbor and looks like every Middle American's dad. Now that's presidential!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On the other hand...life is good

Given the tenor of the previous post, you might think I'm depressed, pissed off, and annoyed with life in general. Nothing could be further from the truth, because I have finally realized my life-long goals of:

A) playing hockey (at least fictionally) for Team Canada

B)Being immortalized as a superhero in a comic book.

One of teachers at my son's after-school day care center has created a series of short comics featuring my kids and their friends. My son Nicholas has been portrayed as every hero from Spiderman to Zorro, but the latest edition features me.

More as soon as I get a chance to scan the whole thing in and get it translated, but the main title reads: "Nicholas's Family Battle" (sic) with the smaller text panels reading : "Canadian Ice Hockey" and "Whoops!!!"

Stay tuned!