Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect my actual opinions.

July 30, 2004


I have computer woes. Actually not so much "woes" as really fucking annoying bullshit. Sorry, but I'm a tad irate. I tried to install XViD (it's an MPEG-4 video encoder, if that makes any sense to anyone reading) and it (or I) somehow corrupted the Windows registry, or exacerbated an existing corruption, or something. Anyway, the upshot is that I was unable to boot into my system and unable to fix the problem.

So I installed Windows XP while praying to God that my 15 gigs of really important data was still intact. It was. Thank you, God, I owe you one.

Now I'm copying that data over to another computer on the network so that I can wipe this drive clean and start over. It's going to take a couple of hours, so I think I'm going to bed.

I apologise once again for my extended absences. I get focused (my wife would say "obsessed") on certain things to the exclusion of almost everything else, and recently I've been focused on really nerdy computer stuff instead of this blog...

My dad was visiting with us a few days ago. It was great to see him, but it reminded me, as it always does, of how much I miss my family in England. Most of the time I just sort of forget about it, but it's always there, in the back of my mind. I suppose I feel a little as if I'm between homes right now. England isn't my home any more, but Canada isn't either. I don't know where I belong; somewhere over the Atlantic, perhaps. Don't get me wrong: this, here, this place, this house is my home, but I mean it in a different sense. It's hard to explain. My family -- my wife, my kids -- are more important to me than anything. But I still don't feel like I belong here, sometimes. When I go back to England, I don't feel I belong there either. Both countries are, in some fundamental way, alien to me now.

Maybe this will change with time. Perhaps I'm just in the middle of a shift from one state of being to another, from "British" to "Canadian," if you like. Or perhaps I'm not. Maybe I'll always be floating between, never really belonging anywhere. I don't remember ever feeling any particular attachment to England, now that I think about it, aside from the obvious connection that it's where I was born and where almost all my blood relatives live. It could be that "British" and "Canadian" really have no meaning, they're just convenient labels. Or perhaps I'm just congenitally unable to feel "in my place," always with an underlying sense of displacement, a refugee from everywhere.

On that cheery note I'm going to sign off. I'll try to write more. Seriously.

July 20, 2004

My dog ate my keyboard

Sorry for my extended absences. I tend to fixate on things: this blog, for a while, and now a programming project. I'm going to try to work on dividing my focus better. I shall not neglect my three readers any longer!

To make up for it, or perhaps to further increase your suffering, here's a bad poem I wrote a year or so ago. I'm not a great poet, or even a good one, but I'd like to be. Anyhoo, here it is:

I imploded
I was pushed into myself
In spectacular fashion
On the journey inwards I saw
Emotions personified
I saw my fear
He was wet, shivering
Kneeling over a blue child
Hands on the still chest
Mouth on the cold lips
Praying to a silent God
Paramedics running
So he stood up guiltily
Don’t stop, they shouted
As he knelt back down
He started to cry
I saw my misery
He was an empty pit
His mother in the corner
Recently diagnosed
Sitting knees to chest
Rocking autistically
Frantic with tears
Because his father
Had confessed again
So he drank alone
Until he fell from his chair
And broke his rib
I saw my fury
He was laughing, hot
Sitting in a smoky pub
His best friend burst in
Sobbing, shirt ripped
A guy pulling her arm
He approached him
And started hitting
But couldn’t stop
People dragged him away
I saw my lust
He was lying with a stranger
He knew so well
Knee between her legs
Watching her react
Raw animal moves
Intoxicated him
In this foreign home
She is the one
Who made me implode
Pushed me into myself
In spectacular fashion
I want her here
For the journey back out
She is my explosion

July 08, 2004

Bush is a liberal

That's right, you heard me. A liberal.

Yes, I'm being deliberately provocative. But I'm in despair over how "liberal" has become a dirty word, particularly in American politics. For a politician to be labeled a liberal is a kiss of death, or at least that's the intention of anyone throwing the word around. But this stems from ignorance of what liberalism really means. In the classical, and correct, definition of liberalism, Bush most certainly does qualify:

In the nineteenth century in Europe, the great age of liberalism, the term stood for freedom from church and state authority and the reduction of the power of royalty and aristocracy, free enterprise economics, and the free development of the individual. Liberalism advocated freedom of the press, religious toleration, self-determination for nations. It was liberalism that established parliamentary democracy. The Founding Fathers might be termed liberals.

- iAmericanSpirit Political Dictionary

The Founding Fathers were liberals? 'Fraid so. They weren't left wing, by any means, but liberalism and leftism are not the same thing. Liberalism does not even belong within the left-right spectrum. Liberalism, in fact, holds the middle ground between anarchism and totalitarianism. Anarchism advocates the removal of all power structures, particularly those of a hierarchical nature. It proclaims all people equal, and thus no person should rule over another. Totalitarianism is precisely the opposite. It advocates extremely formal and hierarchical power structures and emphasises individual submission to the state. Liberalism is neither:

1. One broad usage of the term is for a tradition of thought that tries to circumscribe the limits of political power, and to define and support individual rights. We can call this "political liberalism".

2. What can be called "economic liberalism" insists upon the necessity of free trade, is outraged by cartels and monopolies, and sees no merit in a government that meddles unnecessarily in the marketplace.

- Wikipedia

Totalitarianism is absence of freedom. Liberalism is freedom -- the very root of the word is "liberty" -- and yet not the absolute freedom of anarchy. Liberalism's freedom is relative freedom, a grown-up kind of freedom that recognises there are multiple freedoms, and these often clash or contradict. Liberals believe that through compromise all freedoms can be maintained. It is a pluralist philosophy.

By all these definitions Bush is a liberal. Bush believes in freedom from church authority (but, being a liberal, believes in freedom of religion) and freedom from government authoritarianism. Bush believes in free markets and capitalism, and the "free development of the individual." He believes in freedom of the press, though, like all politicians, seeks to manipulate it. Bush believes in self-determination for nations but, like all genuine liberals, not at the expense of allowing a totalitarian regime to prosper. (I realise he allows Saudi Arabia to prosper, but Bush is also a realist.)

The vast, vast majority of Westerners is liberal, and so is the great majority of Muslims. Those who aren't -- the Leninists, Stalinists, fascists, radical Islamists -- represent a tiny fraction of the world's population. Yet that tiny fraction is the most vocal, the most aggressive and the most zealous. The aforementioned groups and paranoid Chomskyites aside, no-one truly believes that we liberals represent a serious threat to the minority, yet they represent a serious threat to us. Liberalism and our way of life, our free and pluralistic societies, disgust and alarm them. Totalitarianism may have all but collapsed in the West with the fall of communism and fascism, but it is still a strong and mostly growing force all around the world. From Iran to Pakistan, from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, from Palestine to Egypt, totalitarian radical Islamics are baying for our blood.

Meanwhile we liberals, we Democrats and Republicans, socialists and progressives, conservatives and centrists, and especially us Western liberals, turn a blind eye to this threat. Those who warn of the real and present danger facing our culture are condemned as racist or reactionary by well-meaning but naive commentators. Israelis, the vast majority of whom are also liberals, are called "Nazis" for their deathless siege on Arafat's compound, while their children are slaughtered by Palestinian suicide bombers. Despite the Saudi government's own admission that it is spending our petrodollars on building mosques and Islamic private schools in North America, mosques and schools they then staff with those who follow the extremist Wahhabi tradition of Islam, who teach our children and our citizens the lies of radical Islam and pass out textbooks describing Jews as "sons of pigs and apes."

We're all liberals. We must never stop fighting each other over social and fiscal policy, over the role and extent of government, over all the many differences between our various denominations within the great liberal mindset. But we must save our biggest fight for our enemies, the supporters of totalitarianism, the denigrators of freedom, for they wish to destroy us and what we represent.

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

- Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address

July 05, 2004

It's not all serious

Saddam plays rock, paper, scissors.

Favorite quote: "Aziz: Tiger Hand always beats paper."

Some bits

Nice editorial in the Globe and Mail on the threat of radical Islam. Perhaps those who come away from Fahrenheit 911 persuaded that pre-war Iraq was full of shiny, happy people and that the war on terror is just another American oil-grab will realise it's not quite so simple. As the article says, we're not in a clash of civilisations, we're in a clash of civilisation against barbarism.

This Slate piece raises some interesting points about Islamic terrorism. Apparently Israeli intelligence, unlike most other participants in the war on terror, no longer uses "al-Qaeda" as a catch-all label for Middle East terrorism, but instead refers to "world jihad," noting that there are dozens of organisations with similar ideologies and goals as al-Qaeda and that all must be taken seriously (to which it's tempting to respond: no shit, Sherlock). Also interesting is the hint, hardly mentioned in the mainstream press, that foreign terrorists -- Palestinians, Jordanians, Saudis, etc. -- are resposible for a great deal of the violence, and the incitement of such, against coalition forces in Iraq.

A fascinating article on the "novel" 'Alam Saddam Hussein (Saddam Hussein's World), written anonymously, perhaps by a senior Ba'athist. Particularly interesting is the description of Hussein's attempt to assassinate Kurd leader Moustafa al-Barazani: it was arranged that al-Barazani would be visited by seven Iraqi sheikhs, and two of them were persuaded to carry under their gowns a tape recorder, ostensibly to gather intelligence on al-Barazani. Little did they know that the tape recorders were in fact bombs, which were detonated remotely while the sheikhs and al-Barazani met. The latter was injured by the flying severed arm of one of the unfortunate sheikhs. While unsuccessful, the plot was certainly ingenious, and serves to highlight the ruthlessness of Hussein.

Finally, Mark Steyn's review of Bill Clinton's My Life might be the most entertaining of them all. Steyn, right-wing maniac though he undoubtedly is, never fails to delight with his turns of phrase, e.g. "Clinton's book is a double flop: Either stake your claim to join the guys on Mount Rushmore or embrace your destiny as a guy who rushes to mount more."

July 03, 2004

From the mouths of babes

So my six-year-old and I were watching Dudley the Dragon last night while my wife and various other children were at a "grindcore" show (see her blog) -- or, rather, she was watching it and I was working on fleshing out the details of my favorite fantasy involving an anti-war march and Janeane Garofalo -- when there came some shouting and laughing from outside.

"Now who's that?" Anna asked rhetorically, and went to the window to look out. She pulled aside the curtain and peered into the night and then, her voice dripping with contempt, said "Oh, it's only some wiggers."

I love it, I love it.

July 01, 2004

Svelte Saddam's super-stylish

By Ross Thomas

BAGHDAD - Saddam Hussein turned Iraqi heads today during his arraignment at his former palace in Baghdad, his first public appearance for months.

Saddam Hussein "looked marvellous" at his arraignment today (Reuters photo)

His silver pinstripe suit with a distinctly modern cut (Paul Smith, $1,500) above a crisp white open-neck shirt (Prada, $250) drew admiration from many observers.

"He looked good, very good," said Jane Ferkin, New York Times fashion editor. "The charcoal and white combination was an inspired choice. The suit looked great with the shackles."

Saddam wore black Gucci loafers ($300) with no socks, a bold decision lauded by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Carson Kresley.

"My first thought when I saw him was 'hip'. He looked with-it, cool even. So I wasn't in the least surpised when he crossed his legs and I caught a glimpse of his delicious sockless ankles," said Kresley, who has long been an advocate of bare feet in loafers during summer months.

But it wasn't just his wardrobe that caught the attention of style gurus: Saddam took a minimal approach to accessories, sporting only a platinum Cartier wristwatch ($3,200).

"It was exactly the right watch to wear," said Martin Fowler of GQ magazine. "It was understated enough to perfectly complement his ensemble."

Saddam's new look is in stark contrast to his days as Iraq's brutal totalitarian dictator, said Joan Rivers, famous for her Oscar-night fashion commentary.

"Before it was all army outfits, heavy on the drab green, and how about that stupid beret?" she said. "Today he looked marvellous, it's a complete departure for him. He's lost a bit of weight, too."

Rivers also pointed to Saddam's hairstyle as further evidence of a fashion turn-around.

"He's dyed his hair, I think. Remember when he was dragged from his spider hole seven months ago?" she asked reporters. "He was a complete mess, all grey hair and straggly beard. I was disgusted at how he'd let himself go."

Kresley, too, was excited by Saddam's apparent desire to leave behind his military fatigues.

"I guess someone had a word in his ear, finally. The soldier look gets real old real fast, it's time for something a little more mature and sophisticated," he said. "Lose the rifles and pistols, it's all about shoes, belts and glasses. His trial will certainly provide his designers with a great showcase. I can't wait to see what else they'll come up with."

Saddam rejected charges of war crimes and genocide.