31 January 2010

I died a thousand mimes

These guys must really hate it when their smartass friends put this on at parties.

Via PCL Link Dump

30 January 2010

Amazon vs. Macmillan: Fight!

The New York Times reports that Macmillan has pulled all their publications from Amazon in retaliation for a dispute over Amazon's rigid ebook pricing.

E.C. has been trying for a long time to convince me that ebooks + Amazon = end of the publishing industry, but I would have none of it. I just couldn't get my head around why abundant ebooks at awesomely low prices could be a bad thing.

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow uses his sci fi writer's powers of inference and extrapolation to tell us exactly why.
There's no such thing as a proprietary book. There's no such thing as a license agreement necessary to read a book. Books are governed by a social contract that is older than publishing, older even than printing. The recent innovation of copyright in books recognizes the ancient compact between readers and writers, and protects your rights to own your books, to loan them, to give them away, to resell them, to read them in any nation, in any circumstance. A publisher or bookseller can't force you to buy Ikea sofas to sit upon while you read your books.

But Amazon can force you to buy Kindles (and Amazon-approved devices) to read your Kindle books on and listen to your Audible audiobooks on.


And if one of the five titans that control almost all of publishing gets into a scrap with one of the four or five titans that control almost all ebook publishing, or the one company that rules the audiobook market, the collateral damage is that you will have to choose to eschew a gigantic slice of all the literature ever made in order to hang on to your library, or abandon your library in order to get access to that publisher's work. Or fill your shoulderbag with a half-dozen tablets and readers, one for each permutation of which corporate elephant is trying to crush another.

28 January 2010

Can't stand Salinger, yet I owe him

You've heard and I've heard the stories about what a horrid human being Salinger was and this is why I'm glad I read English during those "fallacies" times. This included "biographical fallacy" a literary tenet which deemed all reference (and all knowledge) of the author's life to cast a poisonous shadow on one's interpretation of the author's work. By the time I was in grad school the fallacy folly had passed somewhat but when it comes to someone like Salinger, one wishes one knew nothing about the man.

I will say this though, I owe him a lot. I was a tutor for two years and got loads of children who had never picked up a book. I'd give the kid To Kill a Mockingbird and if that didn't work, The Catcher in the Rye. It was fool-proof. To this day, I feel guilt at all the wine and flowers from teary-eyed parents. In their eyes, I was a miracle worker. Took me about two months before I made my "discoveries" and very few hours of prep before I was able to lay back and bank on my trade secret.

Boys would especially become engrossed and they are the most difficult customers when it comes to reading fiction — and so are male adults who make up only 37% of fiction readership — and once you got the boys hooked, a few strategic next few choices were enough to transform a quasi-illiterate mush brained kid into a shiny bookworm.

Once someone is an avid reader, grammatical and spelling mistake quietly, steadfastly vanish. I'm also a firm believer that reading literature nurtures empathy and helps socialisation. Of course, The Catcher in the Rye belies that "socialisation" notion and that is why boys love it. It takes young readers a while to realise that Caufield is the biggest phoney of them all.

27 January 2010

New Apple iPad announced

Well, some of the leaks were right. What for the last few days has been termed the iPad/iSlate/iTablet is really the iPad.

Steve Jobs appeared on stage wearing his black turtleneck at 10 AM San Francisco to present the new Apple product to a cheering crowd who gave the cancer survivor a standing ovation.

As predicted, the iPad will boast the features of "an exploded iPhone," said Jobs. Users will have access to maps, address books, photos, iTunes, internet browsing, drop down mail and a keyboard interface. After a decade without change the Apple mail and calendar softwares have finally been revamped for this new product.

The thing weighs 1.5 lbs with a 9.7 inch displays (which means nothing to us. Comrade Bingo has been metric since birth). The iPad has between 16 to 64GB of flash memory and ten hours battery life.

"What is the battery life like? We've been able to achieve 10 hours of battery life. I can take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole time. And it has over a month of standby time."

Hmm. We'll believe that when we 've tried it.

All your current iPhone apps will run on the iPad.

Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times came to talk about an app that he thinks might revolutionise the way we read newspapers. When the NYT announced last week it was going to monetize its site, we knew this had something to do with the launch of the iPad. Newspaper publishers are said to be expectant of what the iPad can do for their flailing business.

Finally, one of iPad's reason d'être is to compete with Amazon's Kindle. Steve Jobs presented a new app calls iBooks, partnering with Penguin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and Hachette. At first glance from photos online, iBooks looks a lot like the current iPhone app Classics and its store looks like the iTunes store. Like most book apps, iBooks allows you to change the font of the book your are reading.

We're still wondering whether iBooks possesses anything close to the technology of the Kindle which makes its screen look like the page of a book, a technology truly soothing to the eye when compared with regular computer screens.

[endgadget] [Guardian]

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Double-headed serpent, 15th-16th century AD, Mexico

The BBC always seems to come up with new ways of making us excited about culture. This time, the beeb has teamed up with British Museum director Neil Macgregor, who will host one hundred fifteen-minute programmes on Radio Four retelling the history of the world using one hundred selected objects curated by the BM.

Don't worry about not being able to see the object over the wireless, each programme has
its semi-neophyte commentor who handles it and tells you what it feels like — which is more than what you get when you look at an object in a museum. Also, the AHOFW website let's you zoom in to photos of the objects and twirl them around even.

The series began last week and runs until the end of the year. The BBC allows you to listen again to its programmes for at least one week, if not the entire series.

The first episode felt a bit flat and MacGregor took half of the fifteen minutes to set the show up — he even lays the ground for what surely will be a stern defence of the BM holding on to the Elgin Marbles, religious artifacts from Africa and everything else the BM has "acquired" which other cultures are claiming back. If you've been to the BM you'll know why people call it
the non-British Museum and it's appalling that the museum plays the "it's the world's heritage card" to sometimes incredibly disadvantaged nations. If the BBC can do it online over the radio, then it surely could do it from any place where some treasures might have been returned.

Even though my eyebrows were raised for much of the first episode, the following efforts are proving more fascinating than the next. We can only imagine how smart I'll be by year's end having only spare a few moments five times a day.

26 January 2010

Eagle Watching in Nova Scotia

Just a few minutes away from my vacation home at the eastern end of Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, up to four hundred bald eagles and some other birds of prey come to spend every winter, attracted by easily available food sources in the region's river estuaries and poultry farms. The village of Sheffield Mills hosts an annual Eagle Watch, where the wintering eagles are fed with dead birds from the farms.

Interested in seeing the spectacle, but concerned about the impact of this practice on the eagles, I contacted Mark F. Elderkin, a Provincial Department Of Natural Resources biologist concerned with endangered species.

According to Elderkin, in 2002 the organizers of the Sheffield Mills eagle feeding weekends, along with an array of persons representing local tourism and agriculture, met with the department to consult on the impact of the event.

In the past, looser provincial regulations on disposal of farm carrion meant that the eagles may indeed have been fed diseased fowl.  However, "Strict biosecurity codes are being applied now on all commercial operations in the Valley, hence the number of dead birds given to eagles is very limited from what it was a decade or more ago," says Elderkin.  "Diseased poultry is not (presently) thrown out for eagles to consume and the feeding sites where this is being done are strictly controlled by farmers and organizers."

Department of Natural Resources documentation notes that the eagles, which would be here for the poultry farm castoffs anyway, are becoming habituated to human presence and car traffic. While this may not seem like a good thing, it in fact expands the eagles' territory and has helped to establish the birds in the province.

Elderkin also indicates that the eagle population in this region is now stabilizing, after rapid growth during the 80s and 90s. There are actually only a few nesting pairs in this area of the province, out of an estimated over two hundred pairs province wide (most of them in Cape Breton). But from December to March, an estimated four hundred birds will live in the eastern Annapolis Valley.
I'll be checking in on the Sheffield Mills event this weekend (January 30, 31) and hopefully will have some pictures to post.

Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch

Stop feeding the poor already! A Republican apologises — sort of

Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer made the news last week for uttering unfathomable words: "At a town hall meeting Thursday in northwestern South Carolina, Bauer noted his grandmother "told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed."

That quote taken from the Boston Herald is nothing compared to the full audio.

Bauer took two days to apologise and his effort shows his reticence:

“I never saw it coming, but it is what it is,” he said. “Clearly I was taken out of context. Nobody in that meeting or any other meeting where I’ve said that before had any problem with it. In fact, I had a black minister at that meeting and he came up to me afterwards and asked if I could come speak to his congregation.”

For our Canadian readers: do go to Jon Stewart's Daily Show clip for a virtuoso critique of south carolina politics and news of the last year. The clip also includes a fuller audio of Andre Bauer going on and on about those poor people who insist on having children. So stop feeding them already!

Favourite music of dictators and aspiring despots

We thought you'd get a chuckle out of this: Mahmoud loves Chris de Burgh and the misguided singer almost became the first Western pop singer to sing in Iran since 1979. It took last July's elections for de Burgh to realise that maybe this wasn't such a great idea and he cancelled.

Ahmadinejad isn't the only one with a penchant for Western music:

Osama Bin Laden: reportedly believes Whitney Houston to be "the most beautiful woman I've ever seen" and he listens to Van Halen and the B-52's.
Robert Mugabe: Cliff Richard
Colonel Gaddafi: Lionel Ritchie
Nick Griffin: English folk singers Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy
Kim Jong-Il: Eric Clapton

Haiti, Canadian proragation and slacktivists: when online activism works

Demonstrators in downtown Toronto last Saturday

Torontonians went out in droves and marched against Harper's move to suspend Parliament yet again until March. I would probably not have heard about the rally had it not been for Facebook. My friends across the country marched and so did I. Toronto media reported the event in a somewhat muted and modest fashion. I'm glad we all took pictures, shot video and were able to share the magnitude of the event online.

The rally brought to mind a radio interview I heard last December on BBC's Start the Week. Evgeny Morozov, appropriately East-European and devoid of any hint of Christmas cheer, waxed lyrical about how the internet helped dictatorship spy on activists and how kids today joined groups all self-congratulatory about doing their part, a phenomenom known as slacktivism.

Morozov has an article in Prospect Magazine in which he explains why in 2007 he quit his job working for "western-funded internet projects in the former Soviet Union". Morozov takes the examples of Belarus and Iran as instances where activists use of the internet resulted in governmental backlash.

It's true that in the aftermath of the Iran election, one saw more tweets telling people to shut up about times and locations of demos than tweets about the demos themselves. The problem with using Twitter to reach everybody is that it will reach everybody, including your tyrants.

And Morozov is also right when he says that optimism regarding the use of internet as an insurrectionist move against totalitarianism is completely overblown. The idea that tweeting in itself will bring about real change is ludicrous, but too many politicians deal in vagueness and the idea that the internet can free peoples (clean, cheap, no army) is too a seductive idea not to spin it.

Also, insurrection cuts both ways. Muslim fundamentalists have use the internet not only to communicate covertly, but to publicise their extreme views.

Morozov also mentions a study revealing that 70% of the traffic over bluetooth between Saudi teenagers was pornographic. He posits that the most popular aspects of the internet, gossip and pornography — are great depoliticising forces. Whilst gossip has always been used for better and for worse as a normative force to influence specific behaviour, there is no way of getting around the depoliticising force of pornography.

This, of course, shouldn't be surprising. White supremacists have been on the internet since its conception. If the internet makes it easier for good people to get together, it stands to reason it will do the same for bad people as well. It's also enabled totalitarian regimes to promote their own agenda in spectacularly effective ways.

Canada isn't Belarus or Iran but we currently are under the reign of a government that shuts down websites that criticise it. Nonetheless, it took only ten days for 200 000 Canadians to join one anti-prorogation group which led to rallies across the country last Saturday. The success of the Facebook group did get some media coverage and the Tories fell fifteen points in the polls in fifteen days.

Harper's people knew of the protest of course and scheduled a press conference on Haiti obviously to divert the attention of our twenty four hours news channels away from live coverage of the protest. I don't know anybody who was in front of the telly to tell me who covered what.

Finally, Haiti is a good example of how we still are tapping the power of digital technology and finding new ways of helping people. Online donations are not new but the popularity and ease of SMS donations proved outstanding. And last week, Comrade Bingo reported on a fantastic website that allow families to upload pictures of family and friends and anybody who has the internet and time can try to match those photos to raw footage of survivors. This is the sort of endeavour that's perfect for those non-rallying slacktivists, for the geeks who can thrive on tasks that require that kind of focus and intensity.

That is the internet at its best and although Morozov is a good sounding board against those who gain by publicising the internet as a gateway to freedom, some slacktivists actually do get things right and get things done.

[Prospect Magazine]

25 January 2010

The Way The Future Blogs: Frederik Pohl on Isaac Asimov

I love 90-year-old science fiction legend Frederik Pohl's blog. He's been writing some really wonderful personal reminiscences of his friends and colleagues in the sci fi scene in the 1930s and onward. His latest post just happens to coincide with my current Isaac Asimov kick. (Yes, that handsome fellow on the right is Mr. Asimov, minus his trademark mad scientist muttonchops.)

Isaac - Part 1 of I Don't Know How Many

Comrade Bingo's Isaac Asimov Store

Seal hunt Minister gets tofu pie in the face

Ok, she's really the Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Gail Shea who got her just desserts according to PETA executive vice-president Tracy Reiman: “A little tofu pie on her face is hardly comparable to the blood on Ms Shea’s hands."

The Minister was unharmed.

[The Star]

Sky drones to spy on British citizenry

In preparation for the making of Minority Report, Steven Spielberg got a group of scientists and specialists to tell him what the future would be like. All the technology you see in the film was available or on the cusp of being available at time of production. Remember the spiders, the long-legged, tiny robots that slipped underneath the front doors of people's homes and scanned their eyes to verify their identity? British people must prepare themselves for it's precursor, the sky drone, reports the Guardian.

Indeed, as our favourite Western police state keeps pressing in its unrelenting march to the complete obliteration of privacy rights, is planning to use unmanned spy drones for the "routine monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers". Isn't it great. The police isn't even pretending this is an imperative step in the fight against terrorism. They're just going to spy on our British friends' lives to fight crop theft. Oh, they don't mean vandals who make crop circles. Generically modified crops are big business and the proprietary rights must be protected at all costs. [Guardian]

21 January 2010

Anglo-Saxon queen found

Things are getting mediaeval. After The Vale of York Hoard, which made the news last September researchers at the University of Bristol revealed they might have found the remains of the Anglo-Saxon queen, Eadgyth, grand-daughter of Alfred the Great.
Eadgyth and her sister were sent like chop liver to Germany to a Roman Emperor so he could pick one of them for marriage. He picked Eadgyth who remained in Germany until her death in 946 AD.
"Although her tomb is marked in the city's Cathedral by an elaborate 16th century monument, historians long believed her remains were lost centuries ago and that the tomb was empty. But in 2008, when the lid was removed for the first time in centuries, archaeologists discovered a lead coffin inside, bearing Queen Eadgyth's name and accurately recording the transfer of her remains in 1510." reports the Daily Mail

Professor Harald Meller told the BBC: "In the Middle Ages bones were often moved around, and this makes definitive identification difficult".

In the 24/7 news world it's quantity that counts (repeated the same ten lines about the same five news stories of the day three thousand times) not quality. For example, it would be nice to know why people felt compelled to move bones around.

Eadgyth's identity will be confirmed by testing her bones chemical traces of rocks found in the region of England where she grew up. The very idea of going all CSI on mediaeval remains inexplicably fills us with excitement.

Thank you to Comrade Bingo friend The Great Catherine for unearthing the news.

20 January 2010

Geeks drive girls out of computer science

Title notwithstanding, this is actually an insightful blog post from a computer science teacher about getting girls involved. Thankfully, the author spends very little time on this idea that geek boys are the greatest barrier to girls entering computer classes, focusing instead on her own experiences in getting girls engaged - which, it becomes clear, is the key point.

CowPuppy Ranch

19 January 2010

Essential McGarrigle

Kate and Anna McGarrigle provide the soundtrack to the NFB's classic animated short, The Log Driver's Waltz.

I expect the entire nation is looking this one up on the Youtubes tonight.

Help Haiti! Match survivor footage to family photos

You've already given money to Haiti but still feel powerless and want to do more? You can.

Thanks to Comrade Bingo follower spyderkl who got us on to an amazing website: Haiti Earthquake Support Center.

Match survivors pictured in post-earthquake photos and stills against photos posted by friends and family. Two individuals have been found already.

Pass it on and let us know how you make out.

Internet, sometimes I really, really love you.

On appeal: is it ok for British Airways to discriminate against Christians but not other religions?

Since this is our first blog on religion, we'll do our due diligence and assert that you will seldom see the folks of Comrade Bingo coming to the defence of Christians.

We are indeed rooting for British Airways employee Nadia Eweida who is suing her employer for not allowing her to wear the cross at work or that should hide it from sight. The basis for the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision was that whilst Muslims who work for BA are allowed to wear hijabs and Sikhs kara bangles, Christians do not have to wear the cross.

Putting aside oft-heard assertions which make the hijab a matter of religion at work but only a matter of cultural preference when one criticises Islam for its treatment of women, it makes no sense for a western secular court to make itself the decider of what world religions deem obligatory or not. [BBC]

Canadian Folksinger Kate McGarrigle Dies

"Canadian folk and roots music singer Kate McGarrigle, best known for her work with her sister, Anna, as the McGarrigle Sisters, has died at age 63," reports the CBC.

I remember being a kid in Montreal riding in the back seat of my parents' car and hearing Complainte pour Ste.Catherine for the first time. I'd never heard anything like the eerie and beautiful sound of those weird sisters.

The CBC article links to archives, vids and articles. Leaving you with the amusing homage to the McCarrigle Sisters Kate's children, Rufus and Martha Wainright made and posted on youtube. [CBC]

Viva Conando, the late-night debacle as metaphor for harsh economic times

"We have children. You've got $800 million. For God's sake, leave us alone." Such is the paraphrasing of Jimmy Kimmel to Jay Leno that New York Magazine uses to draw a pretty convincing case for explaining our emotional involvement in the late-night dogfight between Leno and every one else in the free world. NYmag is right. Tiger Woods was small fry. What galvanised us about the story is its exposition of corporate "greed, betrayal, stupidity, incompetence, an cluelessness".

As the NYmag article goes on to explain, the public feels for Team Coco and they've expressed their feeling at protest at NBC studios in NYC, L.A. and Chicago. Viva Conando! [NYmag]

18 January 2010

Tech School Evacuated, 11-Year Old Electronics Tinkerer And Parents Advised To Get Counselling

For the crime of messing about with witchcraft.. err, no, terrorism... err no, science and technology.. yeah.. that's the bad stuff.


How perversely distrustful and frightened we've become of the science and technology on which our incredibly high standard of living depends.

I wonder which school policies were violated in bringing a personal science project to San Diego's Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School - a school which "emphasizes technology skills".

Avatar, the end of the imagination

The following discusses Avatar (with spoilers) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (allusion to one non-pivotal scene)

The thought occurred to me years ago while I was washing dishes or driving or something and a chill ran down my spine. Two cinema-related yet disparate notions collided in my head. One was CGI. The other was Terry Gilliam.

We'll come back to both of them soon.

So there I was, years later after my chilling thought, watching Avatar in IMAX and telling myself. Yes, this is beautiful, this is imaginative, I should be spellbound. Somehow, I wasn't spellbound and since the plot of Avatar is more predictable than the unfolding of Titanic, I sat in the theatre, thinking it over. I was surrounded by Roy Orbisoned kids (IMAX) who wowed and ooohed, kids who've lived and grown up with Xbox and Playstation. They should be the jagged ones. Then, I began to wonder, because my wonderment always turns to the self-serving, whether this was an "emperor's new clothes" situation. After all kids go out of their to pretend that what they think should be cool they find actually cool. I soon had to demote myself again however, after listening to comments as I walked out of the theatre and talking it over with family and friends, and admit that most who saw Avatar were visually dazzled.

I have other problems with Avatar, pre-ordained script, a transparent historical metaphor with a phoney ending that belies history, white people bad yet complex/tribal people good and simple, and yet another white man who leads the way to freedom. Only my Anthony Lane (film critic for the New Yorker) has come close to expressing the core of my discomfort with Avatar, but he didn't do it whilst review Avatar, he did it in a review of Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

In "The Current Cinema" of 21 December 2009, Lane writes:

"I have no idea, any more than I can decide whether C.G.I. was the best or the worst thing that could have happened to Terry Gilliam. His gifts of invention were already so fecund, and so prolix, that this newfound ability to construct anything that drifts into his mind’s eye—as opposed to the ramshackle, hand-drawn delight of his earlier animation—spells both enchantment and chaos."

And that is almost the thought I'd had years ago. Now that CGI can demonstrate whatever Gilliam's imagination can conjure up, what nightmare would it be if he got the money to do it. In The Imaginarium, Gilliam sporadically bends the technology to his will and doesn't allow it to smother his flair for rendering artificiality, the cardboard trees, the Doctor's van and set. Yet there were disappointments. Within a second of seeing the Buddhist temple, I somehow knew Gilliam's imagination enough to know exactly what the temple (half falling apart, of course) would look like as the camera panned upwards and as we entered the temple itself. Nothing in it surprised me (except for Parnassus and Nick playing the Royal Game of Ur) and to see Gilliam's imagination fully rendered before me hindered me from imagining anything else.

And there lies the rub. First, we have a screenplay, words on a page and actors to interpret them. With a film like Avatar, everything is spelled out. Over and over for three hours. And then, there is sound. Such natural and simultaneously fantastic sound to make you feel the adventure as the sound system rattled your bones inside your body. Finally, the images and the ability to show anything conceivable mental conjuring.

Is this the price to pay for having been a reader or a (live) theatre goer all my life? Perhaps I am a pretentious bore for needing to add to an artistic/entertainment experience in order to find fulfilment in it, but I do suspect that's what makes those experiences enjoyable. How books and films allow my imagination to fill the gaps and how with a film like Avatar there are no gaps to be filled. The audience should participate in breathing life into a film. We each see a different film and that's why we can talk about it afterwards.

The Japanese versions of Godzilla will always be more real to me than the people of Pandora and so will the original King Kong. Paranormal Activity is a film that's frightened the public to death without the help of CGI but it's also not a studio film. My fear is that as Hollywood keeps pursuing CGI as its ticket to putting butts in movie theatre seats, this eroding at the imagination could get much worse.

It is entirely possible that this "imagination issue" is purely a generational problem. The Xbox kids sure loved the graphics.

Awards season: Is Tarantino getting the shaft?

As he received the Golden Globe for best screenplay last night, Jason Reitman opened with: "Quentin, I'm still waiting for them to say your name. I'm really confused right now".

Is this an Italian American thing? Martin Scorsese has never won an Oscar (they've given him lifetime achievement Oscars, doesn't count) and it seems the same is happening to Quentin. No, it's not an Italian American thing, Francis Ford Coppola has won Oscars. Is it the violence? But Quentin is killing Nazis this time. Killing Nazis doesn 't count.

Quentin is no Marty, but the glimmers how brilliance to be found in the midst of his erratic style and parodic violent world is unique and it deserves at least one Oscar. Quentin is a better chronicler of our times than many dramas and refined filmic explorations into the contemporary state of human nature. Few writers can encapsulate a rampant disease of our time, that of emotional and psychological dissociation, but Quentin did it with two professional killers who pursue a discussion about foot massage whilst killing a room full of people.

In Inglourious Basterds, we can observe the dissociative pathology arcing back historically to a charming, open, and articulate Nazi who attempts to woo a woman partly using, with naked genuineness, his reputation as a mass killer. (Ok, so pathological dissociation has always been except our post modern world seems to be the first in acknowledging it, exploring it stylistically, and perhaps unfortunately, embracing it.)

And, lets face it, Inglourious Basterds in just plain hilarious. The cathartic experience of fantasising, along with an entire audience and everyone who worked on the film, is a truly healing one. I think the last time I had so much fun thinking about how much fun the actors were having was whilst viewing 1991's Impromptu. Except Inglourious Basterds does one better. One comes out of the theatre feeling positively zen. Yes, the film is messy and too long but when a film stirs you up and leaves you spent, that film is art.

The HFPA missed their chance last night but the Academy really needs to step up to the plate. It's their chance this year. Don't award voters realise this is the closest to making Shindler's List as Quentin Tarantino is ever going to get?

15 January 2010

LIFE, a trove of photos

The website isn't new but we needed to tell you about LIFE.com just in case you missed it. The site generously published good size pictures of thousands of iconic photographs for you to discover though so many of them are already imprinted somewhere in our brains.

Today features many photos from Haiti but LIFE's value lies in its historical documenting of everything from WWII to Vietnam to Muhammad Ali with the Beatles. Also today is featured a spread from the fifties on a topic that's a minor obsession of yours truly, Tenzig Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Mount Everest. The site also has a decent search engine and anybody and anything you can think of was once photographed by LIFE.

14 January 2010

Comrade Bingo says "Give money to Haiti"

The Government of Canada commits to matching your funds donated specifically for Haiti earthquake relief, to any registered charity. Try not to give our money to people who will attempt to fix things by sending Bibles.

Official Press Release

Limbaugh says "Don't give money to Haiti"

After his stellar performance yesterday in which he pre-emptively accused Obama of using Haïti to gather even more support from light-skinned blacks and dark-skinned blacks (!?), and Pat Robertson's soulful and collected venom at Haitians for having made a pact with the devil, now Limbaugh his telling his audience not to donate money to Haïti.

My friend who sent me the link wrote this: "And the tsunami victims were also non-white. I guess black people in trouble get hated special? Or did I miss vitriol against the tsunami victims?"

Though I don't think Limbaugh has any fondness for black folks, I think what is summoning extra vitriol here is that Haitians happen to be of the same race as this president whom he despises so.

Two Canadians held hostage by turkey

Every time we started the ignition, it put it's head under the wheel well of the car or stood right in front of the car. We were trapped.

Yup, my companion and I held hostage for thirty minutes early January in St.Catharines, Ontario, while on our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We were driving down Lakeshore passing through a subdivision just before the canal when my friend spotted a giant bird and exclaimed he thought he'd just seen a wild turkey by the side if the road. I told him to turn around, I wanted to take pictures. That turned out to be a mistake.

We unsuspecting tourists made our approach toward Lakeshore from a quiet side street so we could pull over along the vast front yard of a bungalow where we'd first spotted the turkey. Even though the bird stood at least thirty metres away with its back to the car, it turned around and charged us as soon as we slowed down.

It was enormous and charging like an angry elelphant. Once it got close, it just halted and cosied up to the car like the vehicle was it's long lost friend. It kept gobbling except it didn't sound like a gobble, more like a purr.

Actually, a listen to a surprisingly wide ranging playlist of turkey sounds found on the National Wild Turkey Federation website revealed that turkeys do emit a sound called a "purr", expressing contenment. We were indeed being purred at. Or the car was.

Once we had all the photos and movies we wanted taken from the safety of our car (because we know turkey to be aggressive) our fifty pound-ish birdie friend refused to let us go.

Try as we might, we could not get the turkey to budge. We realised that the way it had charged at us and the excitement the bird displayed every time we started the car that the turkey was used to cars and probably seeking the heat from the engine on the very cold day. It was 15 below celcius in St.Catharines that day. After fifteen minutes we got fed up and decided to try to frighten the animal away.

My friend got out and made big movements and screamed loudly like they tell you to do when you're attacked by a bear. The turkey backed up but never turned it's back on him. It could have made a run for it but didn't. I didn't much like that. My friend seemed to think he'd frightened the beast away though and he turned around. As soon as he had his back on the animal, it went for him and I screamed from inside the car "Don't turn your back on it! Don't turn your back on it!" He barely made it back into the car.

We felt like complete idiots and started wondering whether the cars slowing down along Lakeshore were slowing down for the turkey or to mock the tourists trapped by the turkey. We got our answer when we called animal control.

Animal control informed us they'd been aware of the turkey for one month now. "So," my friend told animal control "I need you to come and trap it". I cried "No! we just need them to come and shoo the turkey." Which he what he meant really.

Animal control told us the law forbids them from moving an animal who isn't in distress or a threat to the population. But they told us they were sending somebody right away.

We did not wait for animal control to turn up. We called them later from a safe distance and explained another couple in a silver Jetta had pulled right over in front of us and the turkey took them on. After a couple of minutes they tried to get away but the turkey wasn't having any of it. Unless they ran the turkey over, we were pretty sure they'd still there by the time animal control showed up.


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