Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Tuesday's Thought

Flying through the ether, landing softly by your side...

"By words the mind is winged." — Aristophanes

Incidentally, from the online Webster's, the following etymology:

Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin aether, from Greek aither, from aithein to ignite, blaze; akin to Old English Ad pyre (SEE edify ... Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French edifier, from Late Latin & Latin; Late Latin aedificare to instruct or improve spiritually, from Latin, to erect a house, from aedes temple, house; akin to Old English Ad funeral pyre, Latin aestas summer...)

Oh for a less hypertextual brain!

with all my hert / heorte / herza

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What did you get for your money's worth?*

Things I learned in Newfoundland

(the truncated version ... since it's been two months since I first promised to get to this)

• That in Grand Banks your day always starts with waking up.

• That the song lyric isn't "I's the guy".

• That, despite claims to the contrary, the moose in Newfoundland are mythical.

• That lighthouse keepers, like hatters, were made mad by mercury.

• That you shouldn't park a rental car on things that burn.

a buzzing buzzing bee with no voice,

* Asked of me by the customs agent in Fortune, Newfoundland, upon our return from St-Pierre. My answer was "A corkscrew, a commemorative spoon, a T-shirt, and ... some groceries" (including chocolate-chip-cookie cereal). Not exactly a stellar moment for international trade.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

For my grandfather

W.W. Lowrie, 1912–2004

Farewell to Nova Scotia

Good-bye to Vestochk-Shotlandii, to you have a swim along the coast permission seabound to your dark and dull mountains at the moment when I remotely far on the will it is into air by ocean brimy to which you not you podnimayete never sigh or desire for me?

The sun placed in the West of bird kishes on each shaft entire, is which nature it pokazalas' inclined but there not ostalo by any rest for me

I afflict so that it would begin from my native soil that I afflict so that would leave my comrades all and my parents, that, I was which it considered so that it would be gamine so to the road and my bonny, bonny which I so much fell in love with

The drums of pobili and by the wars of potrevozhili my zvonoki of captain, I must it obeyed thus good-bye, good-bye with
charm Of vestochk-Shotlandii for his place of takings earlier it tripled, I will be the remote, distant party

I imeyu of 3 brothers and they on the rest to their handles fold in their centers but the poor and usual right seaman in proportion to me necessarily it threw news in air in the dark and blue sea

** This is the text of a traditional song babelized by translating the English lyrics to French, representing my maternal grandmother; and then translating the text back to English, representing my mother (and mother tongue); then translating the resulting English text into Russian, representing my paternal heritage; and finally the Russian text has been translated back into English, representing me.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye my love, goodbye.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Tonight I Have Officially Lost It

Good evening, and welcome to my mind. It's a weighty thing, my mind, on this cavernous October night, and so I'd like to share the burden with others. Read on if you dare.

A. My end-of-pennies campaign

How many times have you tossed a penny down the mall just to watch it skitter or thrown a penny out the window when you received it with your drive-through change? Many people perform these and other unusual behaviours to rid themselves of pennies, the laughably anachronistic coin. And when was the last time you stooped to pick up a penny? Perhaps, with the average hourly wage for a Canadian worker at $17.28 (Statistics Canada, April 2004), bending to retrieve a single cent simply isn't worth your time?

Pennies are silly in an age when the price is of the average Canadian home is $217,498 (2003, Canadian Real Estate Association, latest available figure). Minting pennies each year is a dreadful waste of money and resources, a harm to our environment, and a now-irrelevant support of the market apparatus. My campaign of four simply steps will do away with one of the biggest unnecessary costs in Canadian society.

1. Everyone turns in their pennies. Think about how many pennies you have stashed somewhere in your home: in your piggy bank, in your mad-money jar, in your wallets and purses, in your glove box, in the utility drawer, etc., etc., etc. OK? According to some informal estimates, the average Canadian has ready access to about $3.00 in pennies (obviously some of us have a few more than others). Imagine the economic benefits if all thirty-odd million of us suddenly donated all our pennies to the charities of our choice. This injection of some $100-million into the economy would have a substantial, and reverberating, effect.

2. The government rolls back the GST to five percent. Many people have campaigned to get rid of the GST entirely, but I don't believe that's on the government's agenda at this time, despite the fact that the GST is a regressive tax that unfairly burdens lower-income earners. A five-percent tax potentially eliminates the need for pennies, provided we gain the cooperation of one important party...

3. Retailers end the ridiculous practice of pricing by pennies. Can anyone explain the economic difference between $4.99 and $5.00? Right: there is no economic difference, just a certain psychological appeal. Well, the year-on-year savings to taxpayers offered by my end-of-pennies plan should more than pacify the right-wing capitalists among us who actually believe we're entitled to save a penny or two on the backs of third-world workers whenever we buy new shoes, shirts, sporting goods, incense holders, or superpacks of will-o-crisp at Wal-Mart. Pul-eeze!

4. The Canadian mint ceases to make new pennies. According to documents tabled in the House of Commons, since at least the mid 1990s (possibly earlier), a penny has cost more than its face value to mint, leading the Royal Canadian Mint to reduce the copper content of the Canadian penny and introduce other substances in its place. There are certainly enough pennies already in circulation to see us through the change to a decimal system. Within a year or two, pennies will disappear quietly from common coinage, like two-dollar bills and fifty-cent pieces: still acceptable as currency but rather unusual. Collectors can make their fortunes collecting pennies, and the rest of us will be relieved of the burden of this antiquated copper.

I know my campaign is hardly unique. Americans have been having this argument for years, and here's how one commentator summed up the situation in the US:

The Government's experience with the metric system and the Anthony dollar suggests that the public must be convinced that there is a pressing need to change anything which has become embroidered into the social and commercial fabric of society. Despite careful examination of the various arguments supporting the elimination of the penny, we cannot identify any benefits associated with price rounding and the cessation of penny production.

Aargh! It's time for Canada to be a leader and stop the insanity! Won't it be nice to know that those who buy and sell really are nickel-and-diming us? And can you tell that my heritage is only one-quarter Scottish?

The penny: its time has passed.

B. My end-of-daylight-saving-time campaign

Speaking of time: did you realize that most Canadians spend more months living on Daylight Saving Time than on so-called Standard Time? It's true: since 1986, North Americans (in those jurisdictions that follow Daylight Saving Time) set their clocks ahead one hour on the first Sunday in April and turn them back an hour on the last Sunday in October, giving us seven months on "daylight" time and only five on "standard" time.

The situation is even weirder in Europe. In the European Union, "Summer Time" begins on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October — creating a one-week lag between the two western continents. And Russian clocks are two hours ahead of Standard Time during the summer months, to take advantage of the early sunrise and lingering twilight. These discrepancies must pose some mathematical puzzles for international businesses!

Daylight Time has been with us consistently for almost a century, although the concept has its roots in the 1700s; it has been neither uniformly applied nor uniformly well received. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which is responsible for overseeing Daylight Time in the United States, promotes the adoption of Daylight Time for three reasons:

1. Daylight Saving Time saves energy.
2. Daylight Saving Time saves lives and prevents traffic injuries. (This point is contested by some agencies.)
3. Daylight Saving Time prevents crime.

These are all good reasons to adopt Daylight Time universally — that is, to get rid of the habit of swapping back to Standard Time for five months of the year. Since it would hardly affect the Majority World (areas of the globe between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which receive roughly the same number of daylight hours year-round), I propose an international movement to shift the clocks forward by one hour globally.

Opposition to extend Daylight Time rests with the farming lobby, which argues that farmers' needs, production, and local conditions vary too widely to accept uniform application, and some religious groups (also with a few people who have sleep disorders or trouble setting their VCRs). The compromise position, of permanently setting clocks ahead thirty minutes, has been ruled out because of astronomers' preference that noon reflect the highest point of the sun in a time zone (although, given the geographical span of time zones, this preference is fairly arbitrary).

Perhaps a change would be the way to celebrate the centennial of Daylight Time, in 2016. I'm up for a campaign; how about you?

(In case you're interested in even more details about Daylight Time, here and here are two informative, if fairly similar, sites.)

C. The loss of Jacques Derrida

The intellectual world is a darker, sadder place today.

As CBC.ca put it: "World-renowned thinker Jacques Derrida, who helped found the school of philosophy known as deconstructionism, has died, French officials said Saturday [October 9]. Derrida was 74."

OK, so some of you are mourning other news, such as the death of Christopher Reeve or the announcement that Melissa Etheridge has breast cancer, or a personal loss, such as strikes us all. And these are equally terrible events, in their way. But I believe our world, caught up in its techno-positivistic late-capitalism tensions of the demands for ever-increasing production exceeding the capacity of sustainable consumption, needs more thinkers, more philosophers, more critics, and Derrida was one of the greatest.

Sure, maybe you can't define deconstructionism and maybe you wouldn't recognize a postmodernist if she tweaked your nose, but the world you know today was shaped by Derrida and other intellectuals in the late 1960s. Our society doesn't value intellectual labour very highly, but if we did, Derrida would have been one of our most valuable citizens.

Shortly before his death Derrida said, "Learning to live should also mean learning to die, taking into account and accepting the absolute nature of mortality with neither resurrection nor redemption." A person should keep this advice in mind, especially around family holidays.

I, for one, will miss Derrida.

And this just in...

VANCOUVER - A giant squid surprised a fisherman in British Columbia, worrying scientists who say its appearance could be another sign of global climate change.

Last Saturday, Goody Gudmundseth hoped to net a couple of salmon off the coast of Vancouver Island in Port Renfrew. Instead, when he felt a tug on the line, Gudmundseth knew he'd hooked into something else.

"When the rod went, I thought we got a really big chunk of weed or something," recalled Gudmundseth. "It was acting really different than usual."

The squid weighs 20 kilograms and measures about 1.5 metres long.

Scientists call it the Humboldt or giant flying squid [Dosidicus giagas]. They said it prefers warm water, which means Gudmundseth's catch is likely a long way from its home in the Gulf of California. The find is fuelling speculation about climate change.

"It may have come up with a ton of warm water or it might be that they're making their way north comfortably now," said Kelly Sendall, senior collection manager at the Royal BC Museum.

Gudmundseth almost decided to keep the squid for bait or to eat it as calamari. The squid has now become a reference specimen for the species in BC, Sendall said.

Another Humboldt squid was captured last month off the coast of Alaska. Scientists don't know whether the creatures' appearance will be a short-term one, or what effect they may have on the ecosystem.

Courtesy of CBC News Online Staff

Well, that's it for me. Thank you, thank you very much!


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Leslie's Language Round-Up

An irregular feature about language in our time

From the "There's no defence like a good defence" File...

Library mural littered with misspellings

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) - It didn't take a nuclear physicist to realize changes were needed after a $40,000 ceramic mural was unveiled outside the city's new library and everyone could see the misspelled names of Einstein, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and seven other historical figures.

"Our library director is very frustrated that she has this lovely new library and it has all these misspellings in front," said city councilwoman Lorraine Dietrich, one of three council members who voted Monday to authorize paying another $6,000, plus expenses, to fly the artist up from Florida to fix the errors.

Reached at her Miami studio Wednesday, Maria Alquilar said she is willing to fix the brightly coloured five-metre-wide circular work but offered no apologies for the 11 misspellings among the 175 names.

"The importance of this work is that it is supposed to unite people," Alquilar said.

"They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work."

Alquilar said creating and installing the work took a lot of time and money and the mural sat at her Santa Cruz, Calif., studio for two years until the city cleared the way for its installation.

There were plenty of people around during the installation who could and should have seen the missing and misplaced letters, she said.

"Even though I was on my hands and knees laying the installation out, I didn't see it," she said.

The mistakes wouldn't even register with a true artisan, Alquilar said.

"The people that are into humanities and are into Blake's concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words," she said.

"In their mind, the words register correctly."

Editorial Comment: The ability to form words is not writing
Too few people have the ability or time to work out exactly what they want to say and then say it. They fall back on boilerplate text, shop-worn clich├ęs, or inarticulate paraphrases of their real meaning. That isn't a matter of correct grammar, good punctuation or impressive vocabulary, and curing it will need more than style guides or diatribes. — Michael Quinion

Entertainment: Pink Words
Excerpted from Pink's fabulous single "God Is a DJ"

(Verse 1)
I've been the girl with her skirt pulled high
Been the outcast never running with mascara eyes
Now I see the world as a candy store
With a cigarette smile, saying things you can't ignore
Like mommy I love you
Daddy I hate you
Brother I need you
Lover hey fuck you
I can see everything here with my third eye
Like the blue in the sky

(Verse 2)
I've been the girl, middle finger in the air
Unaffected by rumors, the truth: I don't care
So open your mouth and stick out your tongue
You might as well let go, you can't take back what you've done
So find a new lifestyle
A reason to smile
Look for Nirvana
Under the strobe lights
Sequins and sex dreams
You whisper to me
There's no reason to cry

Births and Deaths
Noted poet and fascist T. S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot was born on September 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. In his 1935 essay "Religion and Literature" he reflects, "It is not enough to understand what we ought to be, unless we know what we are; and we do not understand what we are, unless we know what we ought to be" — demonstrating in this observation both chiasmus and paradox. How rhetorical!
(with information from chiasmus.com)

and finally...

Fashion News from the Personification Department
Excerpted from Sarah Slean's much-anticipated single "Lucky Me"

(Verse 1)
Science wears a new suit
To his coffee toast and eggs
But he has to skip the stairs now
Because of two broken legs
Whine whine I cannot climb
Everytime's the same
I'd be more inclined to help him
If he could remember my name

(Verse 2)
Faith can't fill the dance hall
'Cause her powers have declined
But at the beauty pageant
She will always take the prize
Light light Easter white
Roll her in the dirt
When it comes time for kneeling
She'll say "You go first"

Pictures at 11! : P