Saturday, May 30, 2009

Radio Snob

I will confess I'm a bit of a radio snob. By that I mean if given the choice I would prefer spending my time listening to the radio. Something about the availability and information that is radio has appealed to me. Plus it can be very funny at times.

A couple of years ago, as you may know, I was able to get an XM Radio receiver for free and I decided to sign up for the account. The unit was the XPress EZ Radio. It took a few minutes to get it placed into the vehicle, seems the Pontiac Sunfire doesn't have the easiest blowers to connect things too, needless to say I got it hooked up. To solve some of the problems I have incorporated bungee cords to keep things still and it works beautifully.

So what do I like about satellite radio? Well, after a couple of years I have learned to simply hate terrestrial radio. Perhaps 'hate' is a strong word, a better one, or phrase may be I have learned to appreciate the vast selection of satellite radio and find terrestrial radio very limited in selection and scope. For some reason Brantford has poor radio reception and selection, so satellite is the way to go.

The merger has created some problems, one writer had this article. I have to agree, anything that limits my choice of trance is a bad thing.

Now I realize any blog or news on satellite radio will probably have a negative spin to it, after all it was just about a year ago that the two main services, XM and Sirius merged. This was due in fact that both were bleeding red ink since their individual commencement. I should point out that recently, Time Magazine declared satellite radio one of the Biggest Tech Failure of the Last Decade. Yes follow the link and you can discover why Time made that claim stick with satellite radio. If you read the article the failure had more to do with the fact it has not made money, rather then any technological problem. Still I suppose if your an investor and put any money down, you would agree with the accessment. There has been problems and I will admit, there was a time after the official merger and when I was contemplating cancelling the subscription. There was a lag time as the two systems tried to come together and work out some of the bugs. Fortunately I decided to continue with it, and since I got a satellite radio boom box, that little unit has been liberated from the car and has come indoors, or outdoors, where ever I put it. The Delphi Boom Box means satellite radio goes anywhere I want to go. This means that I don't have to miss any baseball games, or hockey games for that matter. It has been a great benefit and so let me say 'thanks kids' for giving it to me for Christmas.

So I had the negative article, now for some good news, I read one article by a fan of satellite radio, in the New York Daily News one feature writer wrote a column entitled: "Why Satellite Radio makes us beam". I have to agree with him, the fact there are so many channels means I can experience a large number of niches and styles. Right now I'm listening to "Spa", the new age channel. Well, what would you expect for a quiet Saturday night.

I've heard a number of complaint about satellite radio, besides what I quoted, but I wonder if things will soon get better. I look around and see a number of family members with satellite. I know Stephanie and Jon have Sirius, Kim has XM, installed with her car and Jeremy just got Sirius, he wanted hardcore sports and the CFL. I know this is an extremely small group to consider, immediate family, but I wonder if this is something that may start to happen.

Right now General Motors is offering two years subscriptions to XM Radio with the purchase of many models. They have an Overview page with the information. I know it states a free 3 month subscription, but we've all seen the ads on television. I suppose someone could make the joke that a bankrupt car company is equipping its models with bankrupt satellite radio. Talk about synergy. It makes a person feel good all over. Still it means more people listening to satellite radio and that ultimately has to be a good thing. I don't know if I want to call it the long expected and hope for breakthrough for satellite radio, or that we shall enter a period when just by sheer numbers it will become popular, its something we can all hope for in the near future.

So I will make sure the subscription keeps going and I will continue to be a fan of satellite radio.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hypocrisy of the Left

Normally I take the time to expose some of the hypocrisy of the Right, such as the conspiracy to remove Pluto from the list of planets, or much that has gone on in North American politics during the last eight years. However, this does not mean I am not an equal opportunity ranter, exposing the problems of the left as well. I should point out that with the left in such disarray, it's been a challenge, however the last month or so has been a bonanza. It's been such that I'm surprised Ann Coulter hasn't been on a total screed about it. Most of her stuff is so venomous I'm surprised there's not a 'poison' label affixed to her work.

Still, that's for another rant. What has gotten to me has been a couple of things:

the first has to do with the magazine BriarPatch Magazine. It has declared itself to be a Fiercely Independent and often irreverent. It has also led the fight against error and that sort of thing. I had a subscription for one year and with some of the issues, it was one year too long. It had some good material, such as an interview with Naomi Klein, author of the most excellent No Logo, the manifesto of the anti-globalization and neo-liberalism movement. However for every one issue on Naomi Klein, the rest has been, well, not that good. What ended my subscription and allowed me to simply not renew had to be the last one I received. It dealt with the issue of sexuality in Canada. That in and of itself wasn't enough but some of the articles were either silly or bordering on the ridiculous. Plus it revealed, sadly, the hypocrisy of the left.

To quote one article:
offering an alternative to the famous West End bar scene, ... including FOD collective members, to be “shallow, apolitical, capitalistic, expensive, exclusionary, trans-phobic, ableist, inaccessible

I was shocked at the division in that community and I realized part of the hypocrisy of the Left is that it can degenerate into the same fundamentalist claptrap as the Right. Here is one group narrowing defining itself by attacking another group as being all sorts of nasty 'istic'. My gosh the other group is ableist. So here it is, fundamentalism at its clearest and worst, the division of a group from another by some narrow defining terms. The same group that would deride another as being fundalmentalisst is demonstrating the same belief system. It reacts against another and accuses the other of all sorts of invented crimes.

I think that which did it for me was the interview of Kara Gillies. She spoke of the need to legalize a union for sex industry workers and the potential to decriminalize prostitution. She declared:
Maggie’s and other sex workers’ organizations across the globe believe that the decriminalization of prostitution is a necessary step toward realizing sex workers’ rights and well-being. Decriminalization would involve repealing all of the Criminal Code sanctions specific to prostitution and allowing the sex trade to be governed as an industry or business.

In response to this, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter posted this article "10 Reasons for Not Legalizing Prostitution". The author of the article gives the 10 reasons as:

1. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.
2. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.
3. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry.It expands it.
4. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.
5. Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex Industry increases child prostitution.
6. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution.
7. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.
8. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health.
9. Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice.
10. Women in systems of Prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.

So the magazine, instead of supporting the exploited, has a person declare the reasons for continuing the exploitation of women involved in the sex industry.

Alright, that's the first demonstration of hypocrisy. I'll have more on the topic of human trafficking in the weeks and months ahead.

The second has to deal with the reaction to a recent bill in Alberta. It seems the government has given parents the right to remove their children from class if the topic is controversial. To sum up the bill:
A bill that has raised the spectre of Alberta parents hauling teachers before human rights tribunals is an offensive attempt to placate ultra right-wing conservatives, says the man whose legal crusade forced the province to rewrite its human rights legislation

So in other words, the avenue for 'punishing' those who do not think properly in Canada, the human rights tribunal, may become a vehicle of protection against those who have sadly become the natural targets, that is conservatives in Canada. I mean it's alright to have a Human Rights Tribunal when all you are doing is hauling parents and conservatives in front of it, but heaven help the Canadian mosaic if it's being used to target wonky lefties. Of course the response to the article is divided between those who think Albertans are barely civilized to others who say:
What? How dare parents think that they should have more say in educating their kids then the nanny state!

Jail the heretics! Clearly a bunch of unionized socialists should be over to over-rule parents on how their kids should be raised.

I expect there's going to be a lot of hand wringing over this one. Imagine a province allowing parents to have a say in the education of their children. What next some group deciding that they do so have the freedom of thought and expression. I suspect the moment that occurs those on the extreme left will foam at the mouth and declare the sun shall stop shining and stars shall drop from the heavens.

By the way the actual wording of the subsection is as follows:
11.1(1) A board as defined in the School Act shall provide
notice to a parent or guardian of a student where courses of
study, educational programs or instructional materials, or
instruction or exercises, prescribed under that Act include
subject-matter that deals explicitly with religion, sexuality or
sexual orientation.
(2) Where a teacher or other person providing instruction,
teaching a course of study or educational program or using the
instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) receives a
written request signed by a parent or guardian of a student that
the student be excluded from the instruction, course of study,
educational program or use of instructional materials, the
teacher or other person shall in accordance with the request of
the parent or guardian and without academic penalty permit the
(a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction,
course of study or educational program is taking place or
the instructional materials are being used for the duration
of the part of the instruction, course of study or
educational program, or the use of the instructional
materials, that includes the subject-matter referred to in
subsection (1), or
(b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part
in the instruction, course of study or educational
program or using the instructional materials.

In other words, the school will inform parents as to what is going on in the school. Imagine that! Talk about subversive. It's no wonder the chattering latte class in Toronto is tittering. After all, they opine, parents of Alberta will be involved in the educational process of their children, we certainly can't allow that.

Again, the hypocrisy of the left rearing it's ugly head.

To the Left I say, you have been outed, now smarten up

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In Defense of Dijon

By now we have all heard about the scandel in the US of A right now. I'm not talking about a sex scandal ala Bill Clinton, or even the scandel of involving the United States in the invasion of a sovereign nation, rather this is the "Scandel of the Condiments"

It appears that at a local burger joint, the President ordered a cheeseburger and asked for, well you watch and listen:

It appears he asked for dijon mustard, which is now being considered a sign that the President, far from being a man of the people is an elitist socialist, who wants to turn the United States into, a dijon loving, state subsidized medicine, Hugo Chavez loving commie state.

The right immediately capitalized on this slip and proclaimed loud and long, Sean Hannity, the obvious darling of the extreme right wasted valuable time denouncing the President for his choice. This was later picked up by Rush Limbaugh even got in on the act. Mark Steryn had to comment on it:

It seems all this thoughts of elitism directed against the mustard has to do with a series of commercials that were run quite a few years ago:

By the way, the man with the Grey Poupon is the late British Actor Paul Eddington. He is best remembered for his role as Jim Hacker, the MP and cabinet minister who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, at least according to the television series; Yes Minister and "Yes Prime Minister".

With that as the background, let's put things in perspective. Is this the worst thing that's happening to the US at this time? The Canadian Press said it the best when it mentions the two worlds and economic melt down facing the US. The Chicago Tribune got into the act of attacking the right for their attack on the President's preference of condiments.

Still what about dijon? What is there about this mustard that makes it such a great target. Certainly it is mustard, with a different flavour and a suspiciously french sounding name that perhaps speaks of its origins. Hmmm, if the President likes dijon now, does that mean in the future he will be bowing down to the President of France, M. Nicolas Sarcozy? That becomes the question, of course if he wants to hear what President Sarkozy says, he will have to bow down, the man is quite short in comparison. Still, what's this about dijon.

The site, WiseGeek gives the answer:
Dijon mustard is a refined version of that first condiment and has its origins, obviously enough, in Dijon, France. A man named Jean Naigeon created his version of mustard in Dijon in 1856. Throughout the ages, most people made mustard from mustard seeds and vinegar. Naigeon used “verjuice” instead of vinegar. Verjuice is a sour liquid made from unripe grapes. This use of verjuice in place of vinegar made Naigeon’s Dijon mustard smoother and more palatable. The name “Dijon,” in fact, refers only to the recipe, rather than the city (unlike champagne, for instance).

Inventor Maurice Grey came up with a machine that automated processing mustard seeds and he and Antoine Poupon, armed with Naigeon’s recipe, opened the Grey Poupon mustard store in Dijon. They made the mustard on-site and sold earthenware mustard pots as well.

The Dijon mustard recipe means the mustard must be produced only with brown or black mustard seeds, or a combination of the two, and verjuice, wine or vinegar. No artificial colors, fillers or other additives may be used in Dijon mustard, making the recipe very popular these days.

It's mustard with a different base and some extra flavours. But someone will notice, it was first concocted in France, true but so what. The thing about dijon is that it is delicious. I must admit it is my preferred mustard to put on my sandwich, for example. It has a tangy flavour which adds to the sandwich. I still like regular mustard, but for my sandwich, it is dijon. I have also tried honey mustard but I think the flavour is too overpowering and sweet for the average sandwich.

As for the condiment of an elitist, well this could be a damaging accusation if it wasn't for one thing, you can buy it at a Dollar Store. This is not a slur against dollar stores, but I think anything you can buy at one hardly makes it elitist. If you can plunk a dollar down and get a jar of it, it's more the condiment of the common people.

Barry Levenson, the curator of the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum declared:
The mustard sniping has Wisconsin's Barry Levenson seeking equal air time. The founder and curator of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, which touts the world's largest mustard collection, said Dijon mustard is "a sign of good upbringing," not of pretention.

Sure, the Grey Poupon ads of the 1980s showed a British gentleman in a Bentley snootily asking another Brit in a big car for some Grey Poupon. But Levenson points out an Imperial margarine ad similarly featured a crown magically appearing on a woman's head when she chose Imperial spread.

Margarine isn't pretentious, Levenson said, and mustard "makes you feel grand for a very low price." Added Levenson: "Condimentally correct people don't do ketchup."

So I suppose conclude, let the President enjoy his dijon, let the right fume and spout their outrage and secretly the Democrats chortle.

However I want to conclude with one of the best scenes from Yes Minister that show some of the humour of Paul Eddington

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Save the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography

I was up visiting and moving family this past week and is my habit I bought a couple of issues of the Ottawa Citizen, I still hold to the old habit of reading newspapers. What caught my eye was an article regarding the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The article was an interview of the current director of the National Gallery of Canada, Marc Mayer. In the article, which began with the byline that no doubt infuriated supporters of the CMCP that the museum as it was, had to go. His plan which is now in place, is to put the Museum into the National Gallery. He points out that such a move will give the photograph exhibitions an opportunity to have an audience. It was pointed out in the article that the CMCP received 36,000 visitors a year while the NGC received on average 500,000.

Nonetheless, the move has been greeted with a great deal of criticism. There are many who put the closure as work of that diabolical Stephen Harper. This all stems, they claim from the time the Harper government did all those cutbacks to culture.
"First, Prime Minister Harper and his minority government scrapped the national portrait gallery, then chopped international funding towards the arts, only to later transfer that support towards sports, and now they are closing our beloved Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in order to create more office space with a view," writes Robert Houle, a Toronto artist, educator and critic.

"Now, it seems that he has found a new partner and support in the new director of the National Gallery of Canada."

The Director denies this, of course and gives the view that the Museum was not able to find a 'home' as it were and so it was hidden from the minds of people who enjoy visiting museums. It was located beside the Rideau Canal and the Chateau Laurier. He gets very angry when he is referred to as "Harper's Twin". As if he and his evil twin Stephen conspired to bring this all about.

Since the closure and the hiring of M. Mayer there has been a groundswell of opposition to the ending of the CMCP as a stand-alone museum. A website has started called Save the CMCP. If you go to the site, you can find a place to sign a petition. Of course the petition has gotten under the skin of M. Mayer as well:
"The institution never took root. I'm just coming at the very end of this thing and I'm doing what is right as far as I'm concerned. There's no way for us to rebuild that institution from scratch. It's a long sad story. It's that simple. I don't take any responsibility for the long sad story. I'm just putting us out of our misery with this long, sad story."

Mayer also said he found it "unconscionable" that many of the people who signed the online petition at have never visited the museum.

I signed the petition. I also want to say I have visited the museum on a number of different occassions when I have gone to Ottawa. I first found the Museum in 2002 and have enjoyed the various exhibitions that have been featured. I signed the petition because photography is an important medium and having its own 'space'. Let me say, the space was delightful. If you go to the "Save the CMCP" website you can read the history of the place. Amazing when one considers it was a converted railway tunnel and it was great. So it leaked, a lot of places leak and most of them can be fixed. I suppose part of the problem came about because of the money put into the NGC, not that I am one to complain about that, it too is a great building and worth the investment. However, it may be the case that the big place gets the lion share of budgets, interest and work. Everything else is left to fight over the crumbs and certainly under the Chretien regime, the crumbs began to get smaller and smaller.

So now its a couple of rooms in the Gallery, probably getting lost with everything else that is happening at the NGC. This is not to say I am critical of the NGC, but rather there was a place for the CMCP, it filled a niche. While photography is part of the medium arts, it deserved its own place, so that people can enjoy the unification of technology and human insight. This, of course, is not what M. Mayer believes, he wrote in an article in the Globe and Mail that:
For example, I am not a proponent of separating Canadian photography from the rest of art. It would suggest that there is a difference between photographers and artists, or worse, between Canadian photographers and artists, an abhorrent notion. Nor have I ever understood the need for a medium-specific institution, like the CMCP, dedicated to one area of contemporary art. There are not many museums of photography in the world, but they are generally older and have much broader mandates than CMCP. It would seem outdated to me to create one today.

A problem from his defense is that there are museums that are specific and no one would call them wrong. He seems to be more willing to justify what has happened rather then to address an issue that concern others, that the photography collection will get lost with everything else.

As I said, I have visited the CMCP a number of times and it was and is a institution that deserves its own space and deserves to be part of the Canadian experience in Ottawa.

Sign the Petition.