Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fearful Symmetry

(and dangerous too).
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

¡Ya basta!Better late than never. :-)The point's gonna be up-front this week:

Bing-ing & Google-ing around to see what David Suzuki is up to, and found this. It was purely by chance. No thanks are due to any of: Greenspiration or Climate Action Network Canada or; none whatsoever. Have to watch and see if they pick it up later on sometime. No word on it from the Green Party of Canada either of course; the only time I hear from them is when they want (another) donation.

But never-m-m-m-mind the 'social media' quibbles. Eventually I did get to this invitation to a non-violent protest and demonstration in Washinton D.C. in August-September - possibly involving (wait for it) ... civil disobedience.

Keystone XL pipeline map.The focus of 'Tar Sands Action' is specific: the Keystone XL pipeline (XL somehow stands for 'expansion' - the dashed lines on the map). The initial Keystone pipeline only completed in June of 2010 is already leaking here and there - 11 times as reported in the Wall Street Journal. There have been adequate demonstrations of pipeline fallibility in recent memory - the latest being ExxonMobil's dump into the Yellowstone river just yesterday - but pipeline failure is secondary to the need to stop development of the Alberta tar sands and begin toilet-training (as Ralph Nader so eloquently put it some years ago) both Canada and the United States of America before it is too late.

So, making a long story short - it feels like the Last Chance Saloon - if it comes together and if I can get across the border on a bus and find a place to stay down there I will go, gouty feet and all. Some largeish 'ifs' in there eh? If the demonstration itself gets stopped or dropped ... dunno - weep and wail and gnash my teeth like the whoremongers of yore I guess. If I get stopped somehow, then I can still show solidarity on Parliament Hill in Otttawa, or at Queen's Park right here in Toronto.

Dig it.

Seri - Livre arbítrio e evolução.Seri - Livre arbítrio e evolução.
Was there free will during evolution?
Stay, it could be dangerous down here.
   (from humor do Seri)

The Survival of the Fattest by Jens Galschiøt.The Survival of the Fattest by Jens Galschiøt.The Survival of the Fattest & The Little Mermaid.Gilmar - Ocre.At the risk of conjuring up a misogynist nightmare (the thought police are surely after me by now anyway), here is a statue by Jens Galschiøt, The Survival of the Fattest aka Justice. He slipped it into the Copenhagen harbour during the 2009 climate conference - right beside The (iconic) Little Mermaid. And a comparable cartoon from the cover of Gilmar's book OCRE - Quadrinhos não recomendáveis para pessoas românticas available at Loja Zarabatana.

'The Little Mermaid' in Danish is den lille havfrue. 'Havfrue' looks to be 'half-woman' - scope for another rumination out around Iemanjá & Oxum, through Le Livre de Marie (by Anne-Marie Miéville) and Je vous salue, Marie (by Godard) and back again. Or have a (longish) look at Femmes Damnées (Delphine et Hippolyte), a poem by Charles Beaudelaire quoted in Le Livre de Marie - look at the differences between the four English translations of the 12th stanza, which goes:
Je sens fondre sur moi de lourdes épouvantes
Et de noirs bataillons de fantômes épars,
Qui veulent me conduire en des routes mouvantes
Qu'un horizon sanglant ferme de toutes parts.

... I digress ...
So. Who is receiving the bulk of those pension payments and dividend coupons then? (Don't ask.) In the end that is. Something about demographics? A five (or so) year differential in average age at death? Is that it?

("Don’t ask me nothin’ about nothin’, I just might tell you the truth." from Bob's Outlaw Blues, not the man himself but it goes ... something like this ... oh, here we go, here is the man himself after all.)

I started out (innocently enough) watching a few films about the massacre at Nanking in 1937-38 (City of Life and Death (2009), and Nanking (2007), both can be found on IsoHunt & Demonoid). And the next thing, I was wondering again (Uh oh.) ... and making up this little time-line:
1914: start of WWI.
1917: 'America enters the war.'
1918: end of WWI.

1933: Hitler sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
1937: Nanking (wake up call).
1938: Munich Agreement - "Peace for our time."
1938: Kristallnacht (wake up call).
1939: WW II begins.
1941: Pearl Harbour.
1945: end of WWII.

1956: M. King Hubbert, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.
1962: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring.
1968: Paul & Anne Ehrlich, The Population Bomb.
1972: Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth.

----: any number of wake-up calls in the mean time.

1992: Rio Summit.
1997: Kyoto Protocol.
2009: UNFCCC fails in Copenhagen.
2010: UNFCCC Cancún fiasco.

----: any number of additional wake-up calls in-between time.
Which, if you think about it, brings us round again to Washington D.C. in August & September. When is Barack Obama gunna get his thumb out? And if not, it doesn't probably matter much.

Faces in Flags.I got fooled again:

A few weeks ago, looking for the Wiphala flag (despite it's been hijacked by everyone under the sun and then some) to poke in here, I came upon a picture of a green-eyed girl with a regular-old Bolivian flag painted on her face.

I thought it was somehow 'real' - that there had been such a girl some where some when. Not so. Probably not a girl either.

Goes to show: I don't know a damned thing. ... so ... I've decided that my flag will be Sumac leaves stuck on with the gooey white sap that runs out when you break 'em off.

Change from the top down? Change from the bottom up? Change from the grassroots? Change by correctitude?

Here's one: a controversy around false comparisons between circumcision & genital mutilation. Symmetry gone amok.

Or the two schoolgirls on my street last week selling gender respect on the installment plan - so I said, "What about Agathe Habyarimana & Catherine McLeod-Seltzer & Paris Hilton?" They know who Paris Hilton is at least. I asked if the people who put them there selling bullshit at minimum wage maybe have any respect? I could tell they were glad to cut their teeth (that is, their impermeable smiles) on a harmless old guy (with a smile too, though not rain-proof) ... all good.

Idealization (is it deification yet I wonder?) of women (this is not a perfect example, but it is in the zone - by Doug Saunders); idealization of First Nations' sensibilities around nature (see Endgame just below, but it's not hard to find); idealization of homosexuals - if you are not for us you are against us and so forth - poor old Rob Ford eh? Is 10% of the population gay? Or is it 1.5% adjusted to 3% if you count curiosity? Symmetry gone awol with correctitude & official nonsense abounding.

Lyn Adamson.It cuts both ways. There is the daemonization of Israel f'rinstance, or the flip side - deification of Palestine, depending. Twenty photographs by Jim Rankin of the Toronto Star (here's the link for as long as it lasts). The caption on the first one (right) says, "Lyn Adamson, co-chair of Canadian Voice of Women of Peace, prepares to board a flight for Greece as members of the Jewish Defence League denounced an effort by Canadian activists to join an aid flotilla to Gaza. Adamson, one of the five delegates, is seen here gathered at Terminal 3 on Sunday, June 19, 2011 before the delegates left for Greece." At least five flights to Greece, return. A 'training exercise' as they prepare for violence from the Israel Defence Force. Why do all these people look like deer in the headlights to me?

Reminds me of Desmond Parsons who once said to me, "I met the Hamas mayor of the town and he was a nice man." (You can start here and follow the United Church thread if you are interested, Blogger had a different CSS in those days, but CTRL ++ makes it vaguely readable.)

Then there is this approximately dangerous nonsense from Derrick Jensen: Endgame (2006). Dangerous nonsense? Not fair eh? Well, that's what it looks like. The book is coming from the library and maybe I'll spend some more words on it here once I've read it.

Derrick Jensen.Derrick Jensen.In the meantime you can watch him talking about it - sort of a latter-day Richard Alpert aka Baba Ram Dass. He does seem to confuse premises with conclusions, idealizes the Stone Age, bashes Mahatma Ghandi & Martin Luther King ... blah blah blah ... and gets a few central perceptions right along the way too.

So this year his buddy Franklin López makes a 'feature length' documentary out of it all: END:CIV Resist or Die. There are too many 'visual leveraging techniques' for me - a mullet masquerading as a curly California perm (as it were). A devotee of Mikey Moore maybe? More info here.

It seems like quagmire mental territory to me. What would I know? Something about the perfunctory way he throws out some of it bends the needle on my correctitude virus detector. Still and all and even so, it was mildly appealing to an old fart with at least one foot on the desperate & hopeless & despairing side. Appealing enough that I did watch both films all the way through. I have some of the same questions. So for now let's say he's got the questions right.

Beaumont-Hamel.General, Sir Henry de Beauvoir De Lisle.General, Sir Henry de Beauvoir De Lisle.General, Sir Henry de Beauvoir De Lisle.I like the way that this whole entire nation mourns with Newfoundland on July 1 every year and remembers what happened at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1 1916 - the best part of a whole entire generation of Newfoundland men shot to pieces for nothing. Free fireworks in the evening and everything(!)

And our Sir Henry de Beauvoir De Lisle, career soldier, played polo in South Africa during the Boer War, started out young and got old and died. They say he was confused when he ordered them forward - hell, who wouldn't be confused in the circumstances?

And they obeyed the order - but then, at that point they didn't have much choice did they? That's what those hand guns the officers carry are for. They were confused too no doubt - for all of about 30 minutes according to reports.

At the end of the preface to Fearful Symmetry (which he wrote during WWII though he wrote the preface in 1969), Northrop Frye says:
Today, now that reactionary and radical forces alike are once more in the grip of the nihilistic psychosis that Blake described so powerfully in Jerusalem, one of the most hopeful signs is the immensely increased sense of the urgency and immediacy of what Blake had to say.
It seems a strange place to find hope? He wrote it in 1969, springtime, and he thought Blake's urgency and immediacy was somehow hopeful? He doesn't say but ... 1969 in Toronto ... Rochdale College in full swing was it? There must have been rumours of glory going around eh? (Yes, I know there were - I was there - though I was too stupid to go looking for Northrop Frye when he was merely alive.)

Anyway, one out of two ain't bad - he got the 'nihilistic psychosis' part right on.

When things get particularly difficult I sometimes re-read his Double Vision; because it is short, because it was the last thing he published ... whatever.

In Chapter 2 he talks about Pynchon, and says:
The Bible is emphatic that nothing numinous exists in nature, that there may be devils there but no gods, and that nature is to be thought of as a fellow-creature of man. However, the paranoid attitude to nature that Pynchon describes survives in the manic-depressive psychosis of the twentieth century. In the manic phase, we are told that the age of Aquarius is coming, and that soon the world will be turned back to the state of innocence. In the depressive phase, news analysts explain that pollution has come to a point at which any sensible nature would simply wipe us out and start experimenting with a new species. In interviews I am almost invariably asked at some point whether I feel optimistic or pessimistic about some contemporary situation. The answer is that these imbecile words are euphemisms for manic-depressive highs and lows, and that anyone who struggles for sanity avoids both.
I'm not sure he had Pynchon quite as pegged as he thought ... but it does follow on from talk of psychotic nihilism eh?

I have never understood why my friend Keith disliked Frye so much? Some kind of competition or fear? Or maybe it was an ideological thing? Can't say. His wife used to brag that he would write a book that would knock Anatomy of Criticism right off the shelves - but he never wrote it.

Sumac sprouts, July 3.Interesting that it is very difficult here to say that Frye's faith, if he had any, and the central position of the Bible in his work are ... irrelevant to me. Treading very close to issues that have no issue (as it were).

There's them sumac sprouts again: Raise the flag boys and girls! Bit of sun first thing in the morning like that is about what they get - though as the days grow shorter again and as the sun moves southwards it lasts a little longer each day.

The days grow shorter and the sun lasts longer - how can that be?

Sumac is dioecious (enough vowels in that one for ya?) - separate male and female plants. And sure enough, two kinds of sprouts emerged. Sadly the first two up, and quite obviously different from the ones that remain, withered and shriveled up and died. No idea if they were male or female (you can still see one of them in the photo) - with luck what is left will grow large enough to know for certain. Then there will have to be another sprouting program to bring balance and harmony to this little Sumac realm - years of work ahead, imagine!

Beija Flor by Jesperson.Also by chance came this update of the life of the hummingbird from last week. Lookin' good.

How is it that the longest day has passed but the hottest weather is yet to come?

William Blake's Jerusalem is now coming from the library too. The public library system here is one thing that works. ... Had to go up to emerg at St. Michael's to renew a prescription yesterday afternoon - and discovered that (at least that part of) the Ontario health system works too. The delightful young Chinese doctor laughed when I (indirectly) called her a quack. Making a woman laugh, laughing with a woman, you can't beat that (!)

Be well gentle reader.


Seri.Seri.A few more images from Seri, and a few others that seemed too apt not to include.

Seri.Seri.Don't you have Facebook or Twitter, E-mail?

Don't you have anything in the virtual world?

Aren't you real?


And a series of articles from the Guardian about the political support given to nuclear energy following Fukushima:

British government's plan to play down Fukushima, June 30: Internal emails seen by Guardian show PR campaign was launched to protect UK nuclear plans after tsunami in Japan.

UK government and nuclear industry email correspondence after the Fukushima accident, June 30: Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the level of coordination between government departments and the nuclear industry during the Fukushima crisis.

Call for Chris Huhne to resign over Fukushima emails, July 1: Former party chief executive in Scotland says Huhne must go over 'conspiracy' to protect nuclear industry.

Scottish government signals end to nuclear power opposition, July 1: Energy minister says SNP is 'perfectly open' to extending the life of existing nuclear power stations.

Fukushima spin was Orwellian, July 1: Emails detailing how the UK government played down Fukushima show just how cosy it is with the nuclear industry.


1. Circumcision and bigotry, Dow Marmur, June 26 2011.


2. EPA Urges More Scrutiny of Pipeline Expansion, Ben Lefebvre (Wall Street Journal), June 7 2011.


Circumcision and bigotry, Dow Marmur, June 26 2011.

In our time, a growing number of responsible exponents of Christianity are going out of their way to either reinterpret or distance themselves from the many anti-Jewish references in the New Testament. For in addition to the age-old malicious accusation that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, Christian scriptures have condemned many fundamental Jewish practices.

Circumcision is one of them. Though Paul — like Jesus, John the Baptist and the early Christians — was circumcised, he “spiritualized” it in ways that legitimize the rejection of the rite that goes back to the biblical Abraham.

The implication is, of course, that what was important for Jews — adherents of “the religion of law” — is irrelevant to Christians, who live by “the religion of love.” Paul’s later followers often openly attacked circumcision.

Contemporary exponents of Christianity, on the other hand, have been accepting of the practice. In fact, many Christians, including the Royal Family, circumcise their male offspring.

Christian anti-Judaism has in modern times been hijacked by secular enemies of religion. It’s manifest as anti-Semitism, often in the guise of pseudo-science or out of feigned commitment to human rights. Male circumcision is usually maligned as “genital mutilation.”

Soon the citizens of San Francisco may be urged to ban the procedure, even though many American men are circumcised.

Significantly, among the strongest contemporary opponents of the call to ban circumcision are Christians. Prominent among them, apart from California evangelicals, is the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer. He has written:

“Although the issue does not concern Christians directly, as a religious leader I can only view with alarm the prospect that this misguided initiative would make it illegal for Jews and Muslims who practise their religion to live in San Francisco — for that is what the passage of such a law would mean.”

Not only have Jews — for whom circumcision has been one of the foremost expressions of identity — reacted strongly against the proposal and its sinister implications, so have Muslims, who also circumcise their sons.

The media have mostly recognized the attack on circumcision for what it is: anti-Semitism in the guise of ostensibly humanitarian declarations laced with hypocrisy and misleading medical references. Thoughtful analyses in defence of the practice have appeared in editorials in quality newspapers in Canada, the United States and elsewhere.

The overwhelming majority of medical opinion isn’t opposed to male circumcision. The procedure is considered to be particularly beneficial in the fight against the spread of AIDS. Canada’s Stephen Lewis, who has been in the forefront on this fight, is an enthusiastic advocate.

To compare it to the terrible custom of female circumcision is a ludicrous and malicious attempt to misrepresent gender equality. Circumcision in women is very harmful and Judaism, too, forbids it.

While condemning female circumcision for the untold harm it does, including making child-bearing so risky that it can even lead to infant death, the World Health Organization has declared that “male circumcision has significant health benefits that outweigh the very low risk of complications.” The report strongly supports it in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

You don’t have to be paranoid to discern naked prejudice against Muslims and Jews in the opposition to ritual male circumcision. Sadly, perhaps reflecting their own neuroses, a small number of Jews have integrated the calumny and don’t want their sons to be subjected to the rite. Instead, they’d like to distort the practice by inventing artificial ceremonies that seek to eliminate the hallowed custom.

Anti-Semitism not only endangers the lives of faithful Jews but also has the insidious potential to poison the minds of its victims.

Dow Marmur is rabbi emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple.

EPA Urges More Scrutiny of Pipeline Expansion, Ben Lefebvre (Wall Street Journal), June 7 2011.

HOUSTON — The Environmental Protection Agency called on the State Department to increase its scrutiny of TransCanada Corp.'s plan to extend its Keystone pipeline system, saying leaks along the line present an environmental challenge.

The 1,300-mile line has sprung 11 leaks overall during its one-year lifespan, raising concerns about the company's plans to nearly double the system's capacity as part of its so-called Keystone XL project, the EPA said in a letter to the State Department. TransCanada restarted the 591,000 barrel-a-day line Sunday after a May 29 leak of 10 barrels of oil in Kansas. The line also spilled 400 barrels of oil on May 7 in North Dakota.

"These events...underscore the comments about the need to carefully consider both the route of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline and the appropriate measure to prevent and detect a spill," Cynthia Giles, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said in the letter, dated June 6 and released publicly Tuesday. "EPA believes additional analysis is necessary to fully ensure a full evaluation of the potential impacts of the proposed project."

The State Department is expected to issue a decision whether to approve TransCanada's expansion project by the end of this year. The department on Monday said it would add six additional public meetings to its permit-review process.

Advocates of the Keystone expansion have said the system would supply the U.S. with more oil from a politically stable ally. TransCanada's ability to detect and clean up the leaks has also been a point in the company's favor, petroleum trade association American Petroleum Institute said.

"This shows that the process works," said Marty Durbin, the API's executive vice president of government affairs.

Despite the number of leaks, the line's structural integrity isn't a problem, TransCanada spokesman James Millar has said.

"The majority (of leaks) have been small and manageable," Mr. Millar said in an email. "All were cleaned up quickly and we moved forward."

Environmentalists have criticized the expansion plan, saying that a new pipeline would run across environmentally sensitive aquifers. They have also raised concerns about the type of oil the line transports, a heavy crude mined from oil sands in western Canada. Environmental groups have said production of the oil-sands crude greatly increases greenhouse-gas emissions.


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