Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Mary has a little lamb

Hmm, Monday's post did not include the picture I had hoped, and the same glitch has zapped the editing button so I cannot go back and edit that entry. So I will try again, somewhat inelegantly, by repeating the entry here:

In the Year of the Ram...

Mary is having a little Lamb.

In honour of this announcement, I have been spending my normal blogging time uploading the Tigana baby essays to my website. I'm only about half done, but there is enough there to remind me what it was like being an expectant father before. It was interesting reading where I had written that I would never have put Mary through what it cost her to have the pregnancy had I but known how hard pregnancy is on women, but I obviously cannot make that claim again this time. We went into this knowing exactly how rough things can get.

But I am sooo excited. Almost as excited as Tigana was to learn that she is going to become a big sister. November seems a very long time away to Tigana, who is already hugging mommy's tummy half a dozen times a day, whispering to it, "Be a girl!"

I think it is a girl, but based on nothing more than our "sense" of these things, but we are careful to tell Tigana "your baby brother or sister" so as not to set up any expectations.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Okay, let's see who is reading this blog by posting this simple rhyme:

In the year of the Ram...
Mary is having a little lamb.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Important safety note to self: Do not use a rotary toothbrush at any time mustache exceeds 1/4 inch below edge of upper lip.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Here (courtesy of Holly Gunn) is a fasinating site:

Museum of Unworkable Devices

Monday, April 14, 2003

Chicago (Movie)

Went, somewhat reluctantly, to see Chicago Saturday night. Niether my wife nor I are very big fans of the American musical, but living in Lethbridge, we had run out of other evening-out options. To my great surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I think there were three elements that elevated Chicago above the usual run of musicals.

First, the music was carefully separated from the 'action'. The integration of these two elements through cutting and thematic matching was not only highly effective, but very different from the usual musical where the characters go about their business until suddenly bursting into song mid-scene. I have never felt comfortable with this former approach, which lacks for verismilitude. If I were walking through a mall and various retailers suddenly burst into a big musical number, or a factory floor or an office or where ever, I don't think I would join in so much as freak. So I much prefered Chicago's careful distinction between staged musical numbers and movie clips.

Second, this sharp division allowed each format to work to its own best advantage without worrying about creating impossible seques between one and the other. The result was the staged musical numbers came across as just that -- I can't remember when I last had the same sense of being at a live performance while in a movie theatre. The staged numbers (perhaps thanks to the improved sound systems of recent years) felt very much like I was in the second row of a live musical and could have reached out and touched the performers. Live musicals of course score several points over a recording, but in this case the performances were a lot better than one could ever expect from a live caste. The immediacy of a live performance with the advantage of the multi-take, top star caste, was fairly unique in my experience.

Third, and what brought it all together for me, was that there was a compelling logic for the music. Unlike the typical Hollywood (or even more so, the typical Bollywood) movie where characters often appear to sing for no reason other than it is expected, here the musical number was the key metaphor of the art. The lead character being a chorus girl saw her life story portrayed as a series of musical numbers, so the numbers when they occured come across as the heroine's interior dialog rather than as some artificial construct. As a metaphor for the heroine's self-image, her perceptions of events (the tapdancing lawyer in the production of the court scene, for example) the music was great, high art. This contrasts every sharply with the pointless ness of most musical numbers in most American musicals, and made the whole exercise intellecually respectable for me. That the music itself carried a great deal of social commentary was an added bonus.

And, I must say, I really loved some of the music.

So, I highly recommend the movie to anyone who has not seen it yet. And you won't hear me recommending many musicals.

Quote of the day:

A list serve member commenting on an odd email he had received:
"It seems to be Hare Krishna spam. Now there's a sentence that
would have meant nothing to our grandparents."

Friday, April 11, 2003

Rising Expectations

Today was end of term. I can still look forward to a couple of weeks of marking, wrap up meetings, committee work, and other end of term tasks, but today was the last day of classes.

My wife (who teaches in the Management Faculty) came in looking a little down.

"What's wrong?" I asked, having expected to see the usual satisfaction that comes from having concluded yet another successful semester.

"Oh, well, you know that test I said the morning class bombed? Well, I had to hand it back last thing, so they left on kind of a grumpy note."

"Oh, that's too bad," I said. "But you said over half the class failed that test, so you can't really expect them to be overjoyed."

"I know, but it means I only got applause from two of the classes this year."


"Yeah, both of the other classes applauded, but it was, you know, a bit disappointing that it wasn't all three classes."

"Applause?" I asked, a bit incredulous.

"And only one of those was a standing ovation. The other class just kind of sat there when they clapped, you know, and it was quite short. And then they just left."

"Applauded?" Definitely incredulous.

"The MERGE class was good though. That was a standing ovation and it went on quite a long time, and they all came up after and shook my hand and thank me. That felt good. But it was only the one class out of the three."

"A sustained, standing ovation?"

"I must be slipping. I think it was because I was sick so much this term. It put me off my stride, even though I only missed a couple of actual classes. I just didn't have the energy this term."

"You're disappointed because you only got one standing ovation and one other applause?"

"Well, yeah? Don't they applaud for you?"

I didn't know where to begin to answer that one. NO, they don't, doesn't seem to cover it. I not only have never gotten an ovation, I've never met anyone else who has gotten one either, or even heard of such a thing before. And my wife has come to see this as a routine expectation.

And I didn't get nominated for a teaching award in my first and second years of teaching either.

And she has published more than I did this last couple of years, and has received more critical acclaim for her theorizing this year than I ever have in the past decade. (Indeed, the latest edition of Steven L. McShane's Canadian Organizational Behaviour is already citing her work, whereas I haven't made it into any of the big name textbooks yet.)

And she is one fabulous babe.

All this before she has even officially finished her Ph.D.

Must be time for me to retire.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Weekly World News (Review)

A frenzied couple of weeks as I try desperately to get everything done before end of term. But I wanted to comment on something here before it is off the shelves and too late:

I was in Safeway couple of days ago, standing in the checkout line when I spotted the Weekly World News headlines for the April 8, 2003 edition:

"WWN Uncovers

Top Secret North Korean Plan to INVADE AMERICA: Thousands already on West Coast posing as insurance salesmen!"

Followed by: U.S. Troops protecting Garden of Eden From Saddam!” and accompanied by "Is this the shrunken head of Osama Bin Laden?"

weekly world news cover april 8 2003

I often smirk at Weekly World News headlines and marvel, but this issue was so over the top that I erupted into uncontrollable laughter, attracting an embarrassing amount of attention from other customers. But it was soooo funny.

Or, not, depending on one's viewpoint. I was sorry that my students were out in their teaching practicums this week, because I wanted to take this paper into my classroom and throw it down at the feet of my Social Studies majors. That this paper sells any copies in Alberta is an indictment of every Social Studies teacher in the province. How dare we claim to be teaching critical thinking skills, or a knowledge of current events, or even of geography, if headlines like these continue to sell copies of the WWN It might please me to believe that everyone buying the WWN does so for the implicit satire, but I strongly suggest that most of those picking it up are taking it seriously. And…this is the scary part … many of these individuals have the right to vote, though thankfully, we can assume that anyone stupid enough to credit such a publication would be too stupid to actually find their polling station or be inclined to exercise their vote.

But really, one has to imagine the writers (one cannot call them reporters) for these publications sitting in their offices, bent over with laughter, brainstorming headlines. They at least must know that what they are writing is nonsense, so office conversation must surely revolve around how far one can push the credibility of its moronic readers before finally crossing over into the "nobody dumb enough to credit this" territory. Do they make bets with each other on how far they can push this line before the editor or the public balks?

I find their current event headlines the most annoying. It doesn't bother me so much when the WWN carries stories about Elvis or UFO sightings or, as this month, "Smelly co-worker can't be Fired" or "John Belushi's Ghost Terrorizes Frat House", but the 'political propaganda for idiots' is deeply offensive. Have moral reservations about the US invasion of Iraq? Well, turns out they were there to protect the Garden of Eden and other important biblical sites (p 11). Too stupid to think through the issues? Well, American troops protecting the bible, how much simpler do you need it? About the only way to top that one would be to show photos of Christ shaking Bush's hand, and the only reason they haven't gone there yet is the fear it might alienate some readers who figure they would be in front row for any second coming….

My previous favorite WWN headline was during the last Gulf War, which had a picture of Hitler standing in front of a ship with a caption to the effect that Hitler was coming out of retirement in South America to sail to Iraq so he could advise Saddam. Never mind the ludicrous suggestion that Hitler had been hiding out in Argentina all these years, or that he would be a 120 years old by now, or that he and Saddam are ideologically opposed on very issue, the thing is to equate Saddam and Hitler in the public mind, even when there is no possible connection.

On the other hand, how different is this than the mainstream American media's attempts to link Saddam with Osama Bin Laben? The fact that Saddam has persecuted religious minorities throughout his reign logically places him high on Bin Laben's hit llist, and vice versa, but somehow, they are suddenly all members of the same International Terroist Movement. Like they were both guest speakers at the ITM's annual convention or something.

At least the McCarthy era propagandists could sound bite actual communists giving lip service to Internationalism as the basis for its paranoia over International Communist Conspiracy, but what educated American could believe that Osama and Saddam have anything in common? (Well, aside from both being initially installed and funded by the Americans, I mean.) No one with an hour of reading on any topic related to Saddam or Bin Laben could possibly confuse the two. And yet….

I find watching or listening to any of the media cover over the war embarrassing, and have therefore started to avoid it altogether. Not so much a boycott as an act of self-preservation. One can only take in so much garbage before one can feel the neurons eroding….

Take for example this article on CNN coverage (as usual forwarded by UTOH editor John Herbert), or this depressing article by Robert Fisk (most respected journalist on the area) on the continuing coincidence of independent journalist dying from not so friendly fire.

It saddens me that I can feel our national IQ deteriorating as this constant barrage of American propaganda slops over the border.

So, might as well subscribe to Weekly World News and get the real measure of the American public.

I see, for example, on page 31 of the current issue is a picture of Saddam shaking hands with – wait for it! – Satan. Okay, apparently that whole Hitler thing was too subtle. Headline reads "Saddam breaks his pact with Satan!" "Sneaky Saddam will soon find that breaking a promise to the prince of lies has harsher consequences than doing so to the U.N." and "A spokesperson for the worlds' leading Satanist church claims that the double-dealing dictator reneged on a bargain he made with Lucifer to hand over the first 12 male children born in Baghdad in 2003 – in exchange for a guarantee of 'absolute victory' over the U.S. military in any military conflict." I have to stop, my brain is shrinking! Oh but, speaking of shrinking, how about the two page spread on "Osama's shrunken head found in south American"…. I wonder what these guys used to do before Photoshop software came along?

But all of this pales to insignificance compared to the main headline. Forget Hitler or Satan, linking North Korean invaders with insurance salesmen is clearly pushing the slander envelope! (I love the photo, if you can make it out here, that shows the Korean infiltrators dressed as insurance salesmen, but still wearing their Air Force hats!) And I love this paragraph: "Life in Korean-occupied Western America won't change completely. But expect some noticeable shifts right away if Kim Jong II's diabolical war plans succeed. 'Hollywood will continue to churn out movies for the world to enjoy, but you'll probably seen more of an Oriental flavor,' says a D.C.-based expert on North Korean affairs who was shown a copy of the plan."

Cigarette cartons carry the warning that if you smoke these your lungs will clog and you'll die a horrible death from lung cancer. Can't we slap the equivalent warnings on the WWN? "Warning: Reading this could lower your education" or "Warning: Reading this without laughing will cause those around you to believe you are an idiot"

But then, we'd have to put the same labels on CNN…and at least one can laugh at World Weekly News.