Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Physical Media in a Downloading Age

Scarecrow Video, Seattle USA
Curating a library of hard-to-find fare keeps alive the renting and selling of physical media. There is still a need for places that celebrate cinema’s unsung genres by offering a range of independent, foreign, cult, and documentary films not ever likely to be available on Netflix, Cinema Now, Shomi, Cravetv and their ilk. “The thing that made VHS catch on in the ’80s was this great sense of emancipation; prior to that, the only way you were seeing a movie was just by going to a theatre. With streaming we are regressing a little bit, because the sacrifice we are making to have the ease of streaming is we are putting that decision-making process in the hands of Netflix, Amazon, or whatever service” says Kate Barr of Seattle's Scarecrow Video.

For the many residents of largely rural municipalities such as the one where I live who cannot access sufficiently high-speed internet to make online downloading services an option, video and used record stores are often still the only source for the mainstream films that were missed or never even shown at our few local movie theatres. This isn't about to change any time soon, plus every digital option lacks a key component, the human connection at sites where people collect together to explore films or music.

I personally accord physical media a major place in my home library where ownership has its pleasures! Rent or own retains the physicality of connection that is lost in download-on-demand, whether video, books or music.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"There's Something Happening Here But What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear"

"Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
There is an alarming level of paranoia developing in Israeli media that it is hard to see as being in Israel's best interest. We hold Israel to a higher standard of governance than their never-democratic and often barbaric Arab neighbours, so including those of us who see its treatment of Palestinians as disenfranchising and a modern form of old-fashioned colonialism in their count of global anti-Semites seems offensively naive.
For What It's Worth
by the Buffalo Springfield
There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking' their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It's time we stop
Hey, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Preferential Rights for 'First Peoples'

"...the Jews are the indigenous people of Israel. It is not I who says it but your own Bible. Read the New Testament and try and find mention of a single Arab resident of ancient Israel. The Jews were the land’s inhabitants and they were displaced by a European colonial occupier called Rome. They were forcibly removed from their land and displaced for 2,000 years, while a small remnant always remained. The Jews prayed thrice daily to return to their land. And when finally granted the political opportunity, they came and drained the swamps, irrigated the sands and made the land so much more inhabitable for Arab brethren that had migrated there in the interim." Shmuley Boteach, Opinion, Jerusalem Post 11/10/2014

Here in North America we find ourselves faced with the same outrage expressed by our own 'First Nations' when anyone else so much as hints that using historical precedence as a basis for establishing a special 'right' is illogical. The argument goes something like: "we were here before the rest of you and so it's our right to be again as we once were".

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Tartan Pandora Squirms Way Out of the Box:

Just in case anyone who has a British connection thinks that much was solved by the significant NO vote in last month's Scottish referendum, this blog post is a salutary read. As it's in English it is easier for us to see just how the independantistes over in Alba have now got a tiger firmly by the tail than it has been for their equivalents in Quebec, buried as their comments are in out-of-province newspapers largely in French.

The Modi Anglais in Britain are framed with the same general categories of sins that they are here in Canada. They become the "other" and are no-longer Chez Nous.  ROC (Rest of Canada ) equates to rUK. Moreover our blogger, a civil servant, is for declaring UDI (a Unilateral Declaration of Independence) if that is the only option. Last time the Commonwealth saw one of those was way back in 1965 when white Rhodesians objected to HM Government's plans to give what is now Zimbabwe its independence. A recipe for civil pandemonium of the worst kind. Ask the Irish who remember 1922/23 just how angry constitutionalists and revolutionaries can get with each other!

How Some Canadians View Our Aboriginals

An Illustration on how some Canadians view the First Nations: 
This kerfuffle from out in BC (http://www.electriccanadian.com/history/first/attitude.htm) featuring printed rantings around aboriginal entitlement is intriguing. 

One wonders why the newspaper felt it had to 'apologize'. Although not particularly factually accurate or always fair, the rant does nevertheless contain several useful points of push back against the heavy guilt that First Nations and their apologists too often try to impose on all non-aboriginal residents for the state many natives find themselves living in today, whether or not our personal ancestors got here in time to inflict any remembered historic injustices.

It is unfortunate that attempting to counter the idea that pre-contact  Canadian society was supplanted by an evil culture is so difficult to do in the public space. There are few debates more politically correct than the one on indigenous peoples' entitlement. http://goo.gl/uv05t5 This kerfuffle from Vancouver Island featuring printed rantings around aboriginal entitlement is intriguing.

One wonders why the local newspaper felt it had to 'apologize'. Although not particularly factually accurate or always fair, the rant does nevertheless contain several useful points of push back against the heavy guilt that First Nations and their apologists too often try to impose on all non-aboriginal residents for the state many natives find themselves living in today, whether or not our personal ancestors got here in time to inflict any remembered historic injustices.

It is unfortunate that attempting to counter the idea that pre-contact Canadian society was supplanted by an evil culture is so difficult to do in the public space. There are few debates more politically correct than the one on indigenous peoples' entitlement.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Increasingly Pressing Need for Israel to Behave Better

On Monday the British House of Commons endorsed a Labour MP's motion supporting diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state. Though non-binding this follows hard on the heels of the new Swedish Government announcing it will recognize Palestine. Both parliaments have been up till now supporters of Israel's right to a peaceful existence.

'Richard Ottaway, a Conservative lawmaker and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who said he “stood by Israel through thick and thin, through the good years and the bad,” and “under normal circumstances, I would oppose the motion tonight; but such is my anger over Israel’s behaviour in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people”'

'Advocates of the measure rejected the idea that recognition would harm the peace process: "There is no peace, and there is no process.."'

'The most recent American-mediated talks collapsed in April. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build new settlements or expand existing ones, thus shrinking the territory available for a Palestinian state and ignoring an international community that considers such construction illegal. The recent war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, has increased the sense that violence will keep recurring while peace remains elusive'.

We have travelled a long way from how we felt when we sat in front of our TVs and cheered on Israeli troops as they were winning the Six Days War.  Now, at the very same time as militant Islam gets more ghastly by the month, the Israeli government grows uglier in its determination to behave like some sort of throwback imperial power. Their military is not yet a mirror of the British Black and Tans in early C20th in Ireland, but it is trending in that direction as the intransigent Israeli settlers grabbing land from Arabs look more and more like Edward Carson's Ulster Unionist thugs in pursuing what they claim to be their right.

Nothing changes - might is still right.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Business Women Doing Sexy

Long ago we became used to seeing pretty woman featured front and centre in ads for everything sleek and desirable, from fast cars to high-end condos. These adverts were and are created by professionals.  Lately though the habit is spreading to more homely communications. A recent news picture of a law firm's partners had the male lawyers hardly visible hidden out of the way behind a row of chairs in which sat an undoubtedly attractive set of their female colleagues, each in fashionably short skirts with their elegant legs arranged decoratively from left to right as the viewer's eye travels along the row.

Below is the online version of a picture accompanying a newspaper article on small business.

Fiona Lake Waslander is the general manager at Vicinity, a Toronto-based provider of rewards programs. (Mark Blinch For The Globe and Mail) 

In it we can see that the lady general manager of Vicinity (a small business rewards provider) is clearly wearing a skirt, but the focus is on her upper body and open countenance. In the larger version in print however, we see a pair of impressively long legs pushed forward and sideways as she balances rather precariously on a chest of drawers in her office. Hardly her everyday office posture one assumes! The fact that Ms Waslander is a tall, wholesome and healthy young woman is tangential to the purpose of her business. 

In this age of real concern about women still not being taken seriously enough in commerce, I am puzzled why such successful and intelligent women let themselves be photographed in even mildly provocative postures that have little or no relevance to the objectives of their company.

Hey, I like looking at elegant girls just like any red-blooded boy, but let's return to the real point of promotion - getting the company recognized for its management's business talents rather than its slate of attractive females.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Defining Acts 'Intended to Outrage Feelings'

Humour and Hindu gods don't mix (Reuters/Mukesh Gupta)
A promising publishing house in India, the Aleph Book Company, has been targeted by a Hindu bigot as it attempts to reprint and sell a scholarly book on Hinduism, one already withdrawn from that market by a Penguin India concerned about the uncertain wording in Indian defamation law. "Mr Batra, who is a member of a conservative Hindu cultural group, said he would take legal action against Aleph unless it withdrew 'On Hinduism', which he said had several 'objectionable passages that offended the sensitivities of the Hindu community."

"The problem is that Wendy Doniger is maverick and brilliant. Her wit bubbles up and escapes her, almost in spite of herself. Consider this line about the representation of Shiva through a phallus, known as a linga: 'The linga in this physical sense is well known throughout India, a signifier that is understood across barriers of caste and language, a lingua franca, if you will'.  I think it is a clever appropriate line, but I know that my uncle Chetan, who makes yearly pilgrimages to Mount Kailash would take umbrage at it. Joking about his favourite god is blasphemy, as far as he is concerned, never mind that Doniger knows her Sanskrit and Upanishads better than he does.." Shoba Narayan on qz.com.

Not that long ago our Christian ancestors used to burn and/or disembowel anyone whose religious opinions they really didn't want to hear. The  modern wannabee Islamic 'Caliphate' in Syria/Iraq simply rapes and/or beheads to avoid being offended. But, although it is probably less fun, it is much cheaper just to file an intimidating lawsuit. You don't even have to enrol your fellow fundamentalists. 

Even in established democracies there is quite an opportunity for legal harassment - just a few examples are lawsuits to force the teaching of Creationism in school biology classes; to force schools to cancel Christmas, but also to force employers to accord professed believers in the likes of Wiccanism time off work to celebrate; and those to break valid patents owned by inventors who have not the funds to contest in court.

Beyond the courts is the plague of extralegal government-mandated tribunals that seek out, punish and publicize our individual but politically-incorrect expressed views on race, gender or social proclivities. Above all this is the free-rein and one-sided Court of Public Opinion managed by the gutter press and social media.

Language as a Insult

Back in  the early 1970s when I left the land of my birth to travel 'out' to Canada, the language of Empire still ruled our thought processes. While Britain was handing off its colonies as fast as it decently could, the mindset of POSH - port out, starboard home - remained ingrained in the way we spoke about the world. Indeed during my seven years in the 1980s running the Canadian subsidiary for an old-established English firm, my UK colleagues with international responsibilities referred to any trip offshore, including to the old Dominions, as "going out to territory".  By then I had developed some sensitivity to local attitudes, and, try as I might, I could never persuade a single one of our frequent visitors from HQ to consider how condescending use of the 'out' phrase sounded to their offshore-born colleagues.

My American counterpart, British like me, had an even more frustrating time reigning in the terminology of his head office visitors. Our main office down there was in Concord, the birthplace of the Revolution. This colleague and I had periodic meetings with Joe, our worldwide Chairman. At these discussions in a local Massachusetts hotel bar, as the brandies consumed increased in number, Joe would loudly defame the locals' manners and mores using his rich Yorkshire vocabulary. Joe's two great national dislikes were Yankees and Germans. Germans after all had started two terrible wars, and Americans only came in on the right side after the real work had already been done. Unlike his American counterpart, our CEO in Germany could not claim to be British to dodge our Joe's contempt.

British postage stamps still do not carry the name of their country of origin, presumably on the basis that Britain invented this method of paying for mail. US businesses (as the 'World's Only Superpower') rarely put 'USA' at the end of their address nor their country code in their telephone number.

Such little slights are the things that can antagonize foreigners; unfortunately they don't teach you that in school where you are (or were) a Top Dog country.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Snake Oil Sales in Scotland

Many of us in the 4.7 million Scots Diaspora in Canada are anxious at the real possibility of Alex Salmond (memorably characterised in a recent newspaper spread as the ‘ultimate snake-oil salesman’) persuading a majority of voting residents to throw off the UK and the nefarious ‘English’, and so consign our long and world-changing shared history to the dustbin.

As one whose heritage reflects both of the founding cultures of modern Scotland, the Gaelic on my Anderson/MacDonald/McKeddie side and the Lowland Scots/Northumbrian Anglian on my Watson-Weatherburn side, I find the “Kilticisation” and “Braveheartism” of the SNP campaign both deceptive and hypocritical. Unlike Ireland, Scotland was never oppressed by the ‘British’ after the Union of the Crowns and many of the regiments that fought for the Hanoverian dynasty during the Jacobite rebellions were Lowland Scottish or Highland clans. There can be little doubt that firstly Tony Blair, with his cynical belief that a Scots Parliament would support Labour, and then Cameron by allowing himself to be thoroughly outfoxed by Salmond, bear a great deal of blame for the coming debacle. Whichever way the vote goes, the hornet’s nest has been stirred up.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Being Ian Anderson

Not long ago a fellow boomer recalled for me that I share a name with a now-legendary rock singer. As he happens to be about my height and age, and we share an accent, I have in the past been asked for my autograph. On several occasions when he and his band were in Town, male store clerks handling my credit card jumped to their own conclusion. Rather than demur, I usually decided to make a fan's day. After all, I did once live through the wall from his road manager at my Weybridge, Surrey condo, and was very excited one time to see the great man's white Roller parked outside. Why not fame by association?

On one of my recent browsing safaris I came across a video curiosity that features a very young and hairy Ian Anderson near the start of his career journey.  Called the 'Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus', it features Anderson's band as first up and his now famous flute-playing position, one leg in the air.

Only last year I went to see the flute star do his jump-up pied-piper act on the Canadian leg of his Thick as a Brick world tour. Even balder than me but in better shape from skipping around the stage, Ian still gets his leg up. When I try being one-legged at yoga class I invariably topple fast.

"You are about to be transported to another age, swinging London in the late sixties" brags the VHS cover blurb. "You’ve heard of Oxford Circus, You’ve heard of Piccadilly Circus, Well this is the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus" boasts Mick Jagger.  For that era, nearby Kings Road in Chelsea was Cool Central when I attended college right at its heart. Hard to believe we were so weird. Were did all that spontaneity go?  Don't you wish you could still leap around like that!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Knowing When a Union is a Good Thing

Seen from afar the lack of enthusiasm for their Union in some of the larger and more successful European countries is hard to countenance. As a holder of an EU (in addition to my Canadian) passport I am concerned that many of those EU citizens who live in and therefore can vote in the Union are either indifferent to its future or actively hostile. An EU passport is a gift that, thanks to British nationality rules, I am able to pass on to my children and grandchildren born in Canada. It is a pity that those like UKIP supporters or Scottish Nationalists who pursue a course likely to result in their loss of EU privileges cannot all spend time living outside the EU for a while to understand what a positive construct such a federation actually can be.

Here in Canada we have a functioning federation coming up for its 150 year anniversary in 2017. Recent election results in Quebec have improved the likelihood that the federation will remain whole for that celebration. Yet we have barriers against inter-provincial trade and movement of labour that might amaze EU citizens. Such commonplaces as consumer taxes, policing, health care delivery, professional certification, and legal systems vary, sometimes considerably, between the members of this vast federation (provinces and territories) in which there are seven time zones. The internal free trade and harmonized rules and goals of the EU are unthinkable here. That said, our multicultural federation functions adequately enough that 35 million people remain eligible for the G7.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When did Society Become so Inconsiderate? Part II

A while back I wrote about Lynne Truss' marvellous little British book 'Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life (or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door)'.  


Recently I got hold of Charlotte Hays' 2013 American equivalent: 'When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question'.  While Hays' book is very droll, its wry humour is laced with pathos. With regret for a time now passing when manners counted for something, Hays examines what is increasingly becoming the norm in personal behaviour:- 

"Tattoos. Unwed pregnancy. Giving up on shaving…showering…and employment. These used to be signatures of a trashy individual. Now they’re the new norm. What happened to etiquette, hygiene, and self restraint?"

Ms Hays skewers the way the wealthy and the trendy have eagerly adopted the mores of the lowest rung in society. Life is now full of loud and abusive cellphone conversations that curdle one's innards, outrageous and impossible-to-ignore dress sense that makes a nudist lifestyle look appealing, and eating habits in public that Elvis Presley even in his obese late life would have thought gross.

She reminds me as a senior how much I hate kids in shops using my first name without permission, how illiterate TV and radio announcers are becoming, how 'reality TV' focuses on anything but that we can admire in a person, how infrequently we ever get offered a seat in a crowded waiting room or bus any more, and how little respect the wisdom of age gets.
She concludes: 'If we are ever to slay the beast of White Trash Normal, we must regain the sensibility that says being a gentleman, or a lady, is the most important thing we can achieve.'  Amen.