Saturday, 31 December 2011

Even the (colossal) sun has spots.

or, "Shit!" roared the King; and all his subjects stooped and strained, for in those days the King's word was Law.
Up, Down, Appendices, Afterword.

Two poems by Wallace Stevens side by each: which cannot be dependably formatted with HTML to appear much like they do on the pages of Collected Poems (1954, republished 1981). Not that Stevens indulged in typographic effects to the degree of, say, ee cummings, and not that cummings is of the same calibre either; still, he or someone close to him was careful in the selection of fonts (Electra); I think he cared. But it simply cannot be accomplished on the Internet, too many variables - there it is.

So, get the book, read these poems: The Motive For Metaphor from about 1947; and, Not Ideas About The Thing But The Thing Itself sometime later but before Collected Poems was published - it is the last poem in the book. Stevens was 75 when it came out and died before his next birthday.

I know "It was like a new knowledge of reality," is ... lame, precious. OK?


You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.

In the same way, you were happy in spring,
With the half colors of quarter-things,
The slightly brighter sky, the melting clouds,
The single bird, the obscure moon—

The obscure moon lighting an obscure world
Of things that would never be quite expressed,
Where you yourself were never quite yourself
And did not want nor have to be,

Desiring the exhilarations of changes:
The motive for metaphor, shrinking from
The weight of primary noon,
The A B C of being,

The ruddy temper, the hammer
Of red and blue, the hard sound—
Steel against intimation—the sharp flash,
The vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X.

       At the earliest ending of winter,
       In March, a scrawny cry from outside
       Seemed like a sound in his mind.

       He knew that he heard it,
       A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
       In the early March wind.

       The sun was rising at six,
       No longer a battered panache above snow . . .
       It would have been outside.

       It was not from the vast ventriloquism
       Of sleep's faded papier-maché . . .
       The sun was coming from outside.

       That scrawny cry—it was
       A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
       It was part of the colossal sun,

       Surrounded by its choral rings,
       Still far away. It was like
       A new knowledge of reality.

Elsie Moll Stevens by Adolph Weinman, maybe.Elsie Moll Stevens by Adolph Weinman, maybe.Same length; two birds & two alphabets; two pauses made with periods and spaces, two 'outside's; that's all. I don't pretend to understand - just a kind of comfort that comes to me with Stevens.

I don't go looking for him; he arrives in odd ways, somehow, when I haven't even realized that I am glad to see him coming.

(Previously: Sunday Morning and Which is real? being the first poem of Stevens' I ever encountered. And since HTML is so undependable, here is an image of something like the idea I was shooting at: two of Stevens' poems.)

Ski stories:

From a distance you could see the trails cut on the side of the hill spelling L O L. Dad stopped the car so he could point it out. We were on our way to a big party the year that the deal was cut to go commercial; mid-50's sometime. I was a kid and did not know how to ski very well so I got dumped on the baby hill.

There was a microphone and PA system. A dare-devil was announced and - there he came! Dressed in flowing gauzy green veils, yodeling. Down the steepest parts - airborne off every mogul and then crashing, spectacularly, again and again. Would he get up? How could he carry on? There was so much applause and cheering that he made a second run. And I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to imitate him. No one noticed that I know of.

A few years later we were skiing on another hill, for the weekend; around Huntsville I think. There was a T-bar where the Model A rope-tow had been the year before, and a big competition was going on somewhere nearby.

Overnight it snowed heavily and in the morning the hill was covered with many inches of new powder. It was early - the tow was just starting up; and cold enough that the snow crunched as we stepped. We were all laughing.

Dad set out to demonstrate a telemark turn and came down a steep part of the hill. It was long and slow and graceful, arms held out from his shoulders, one leg trailing far behind the other (in those days you could still adjust your bindings to do such things) - a ballet. But the snow was not as deep as you needed for a telemark and he hit a rock and fell. One of his skis came off and went a little way farther down before it stopped.

Later on, at the lunch counter in the lodge, a man speaking in a heavy accent ordered a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Everyone laughed (including me); and the server said, archly, "Would you like that toasted?" He thought for a moment and said, "Sure, why not?" Dad said to me, "That guy just won the giant slalom - let them laugh."

(A part of dad's story though he is not mentioned there, from the Toronto Ski Club. They call it Blue Mountain, but there was another name.)

The days are getting longer again. Every year it takes 'til christmas to get over daylight saving time and the first solid returning perception is this: either the days are getting longer or at least they have stopped getting shorter. An indrawn hopeful breath.

Noam Chomsky, April 2011.Not a Twitter message:

Noam Chomsky answers questions from: John Berger, Chris Hedges, Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, Amira Hass, and Alice Walker (50 minutes). Discovered at the Real News; made back in March - some of his responses may have changed since Occupy.

A-and a quickie: Chomsky's tongue twister (30 seconds).

The two latest reads from Chris Hedges:
       Losing Moses on the Freeway 2005, and;
       I Don't Believe in Atheists 2008.
Framed (for me) by:
       War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning 2002, and;
       Death of the Liberal Class 2010.

He might well have called it I Don't Believe in Fundamentalists. A-and I did hear Christopher Hitchens say, just before he died, "There is no absolute knowledge," ... so, not much light shed here either. I think there is more to be learned from who gives a fuck about such questions than from considering their more or less arcane & irrelevant arguments - the good ol' ad hominem judgements of Clockwork Orange, Natural Born Killers and the like. Have you seen our Noam indulge it (such nonsense) anywhere? I haven't.


discover (dis-cover): mentioned here back in May (and surprisingly, for once, it took only a moment to find it). The word conjures up activity at the periphery, at the margins, borders, expansion of frontiers; but also (now that such discovery may be tainted, coloured by association with growth & exploitation) lifting portions of the proximate field like a rug or throw-cloth (or like the sod recently laid at St. James'), shifting the chameleon to peer behind it. Though all of this dis-covery remains quite ... liminal.

shibboleth: not a word one uses everyday, but I did (it just slipped out), and someone took me up on what it means, and I said 'taboo' - so I was concerned as I scrolled down the OED list of meanings, a long entry, and I began to think I had been mistaken ... or not.

1. The Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh) from his own men the Gileadites (Judges xii. 4–6).
2. A word or sound which a person is unable to pronounce correctly; a word used as a test for detecting foreigners, or persons from another district, by their pronunciation. A peculiarity of pronunciation or accent indicative of a person's origin.
3. A catchword or formula adopted by a party or sect, by which their adherents or followers may be discerned, or those not their followers may be excluded.
4. (added in 1993) A moral formula held tenaciously and unreflectingly, especially a prohibitive one; a taboo.

And one of the citations is to Faulkner's The Hamlet: "Eating ... things which the weary long record of shibboleth and superstition had taught his upright kind to call filth."

So. A-and just twenty-five years to get there. You say 'growth' and I'll say 'growf'. Is that it?

accouterment (accoutrement?): distractingly related to 'cooter' as soon as you voice it (uh oh) ... found in this NYT article: Economic Downturn Took a Detour at Capitol Hill by Eric Lichtblau on the 26th. And I can't make out if it is an authentic Americanism or a typo.

Change in net-worth, 2004-2010.At the right is a bit of the 'interactive' graphic. There seem to be some arithmetic errors computing percentages in the original, which I can't fathom, but the overall numbers are interesting. Everyone knows what a 'percentile' is eh? I didn't remember it exactly so here, have a look in Wikipedia.

cf. perk / perquisite: both of which have the complete OED imprimatur;

(cf.: abbreviation of Latin confer - bring together, compare, contrast).

All this cooter and liminal dis-covery stuff takes my mind back to an early girlfriend, Irish; she would play games with me (though not the main event, which drove me mad) and used to say uncomforbtle for 'uncomfortable' with a charming childish lisp in an (apparently) unforgettable way.

That Chomsky plays word-games too, though better ones than I no doubt, makes me brazen.

Is there any use in any of this? Beyond a sort of prozac-avoidance mechanism? Beyond busy-work?

Pintando os dedos.Pintando os dedos.(A government funded event took place in São Paulo recently, Pintando o 5 Desafio de artes. A challenge they say (desafio). "Três artistas, música, platéia, muitos improvisos, e tudo muda a cada cinco minutos." / 'Three artists, music, audience, many improvisations, and everything changes every five minutes.' Looks like marking time to me - but who am I to criticize?)

I altered their logo, I prefer to see the five fingers of a hand, painted and ... creating. The abstract '5' might almost be an 'S' - for Superman, Sleveen ... or, or ...   Sexo!

(A friend of mine used to refer to a sex act she called 'the whole ten-finger grope' but that's another story.)

I troll around the Internet (far too much), self-indulgence; picking up images that correspond to some degree with the interior landscape; or that simply remind me of far-away Brasilian friends.

And the images that catch my eye these days, the ones I select, are running to what you see here. I figgure some kind of internalization is taking place, waking an anima that haunts my dreams. For a long time I thought it was Abishag - 'faloorum ding doorum' and all - but no, it's subtler than that. And not just one! Though it is no nightmare y'unnerstan' - these are friendly ghosts, allies, stern sometimes but never threatening. There's none of The Hag about 'em, no. More like some of the faces at the end of Coppola's Apocalypse Now maybe. And it's not that 'Golden-Age-in-the-past' guff neither.

In Terra Caetano sings: "... as tais fotografias em que apareces inteira porém lá não estavas nua e sim coberta de nuvens." / 'those photographs in which you appear entirely, yet not naked since you are wearing clouds.' A modest earth.

Pierre Trudeau's 'mere tribalism' (not to mention his 'Where is Biafra?') does not figure into this - it's not that kind of snobbery. But I am not so clever as the real intellectuals and I can't sort things out so nicely. Where do positive tribal qualities fit into anti-globalization struggles f'rinstance? Into sectarianism? How to distinguish Arabs and Israelis living in a single unified Palestine/Israel from, say, the Canadian federation and Québec? Seems to me the provinces would be better off separately or in smaller somewhat-aligned groups, clumps, on their own, without the Feds altogether.

In the end though it comes down to individuals and what they do, doesn't it.

¡Ya basta!A lawyer friend of mine asked me the other day what to do (about the environmental fiasco, the Cluster FCCC, the lemming sleveens, what you will). I stammered something about suicide - the romantic notion of walking out onto the lake on a cold snowy night with a quart of Macallan's like an elderly Inuk; and Vonnegut's necessary and sufficient argument against such behaviour; and so on. But when a lawyer asks for advice you had better try to say something (or else the doberman joke may lose its savour).

Line & hand in Chauvet cave.The truth is I have no idea what to do. None. Waiting. Not waiting for a miracle, just, waiting. Learning the details of doing compassion in these dark times (the hard way) and like the man says - practicing resurrection.

(Or something.)

Be well.


Gwynne Dyer with the verdict on Durban: Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure. It makes me weep.

Deportation of Greenpeace.Gambling on the Future of the Planet.Africa & poor nations scream while the Rich and Getting-Rich bicker.See you at COP-Out 18 or COP-Out 19 or 20 ... it depends.South African cartoonist Jonathan Zapiro on COP-Out 17.

And previously (famously, infamously) depicting Jacob Zuma with a shower fixture implanted on his head. A shower being Zuma's prophylactic against AIDS as reported following a 2006 incident in which he (allegedly) raped a woman known to be HIV positive.

Zuma with showerhead rapes Free Speech.Zuma with showerhead rapes Justice.Zuma with showerhead.Zuma with showerhead.The women depicted as Justice and Free Speech remind me of Maite Nkoana-Mashabane - but I guess what he has done to her (and she to herself) is only vaguely analogous.

Zuma has sued Zapiro for defamation and the case will come to court in August 2012 (details here).

Guy de Maupassant La Ficelle:
... quand il aperçut par terre un petit bout de ficelle. ...

Alors il recommença à conter l'aventure, en allongeant chaque jour son récit, ajoutant chaque fois des raisons nouvelles, des protestations plus énergiques, des serments plus solennels qu'il imaginait, qu'il préparait dans ses heures de solitude, l'esprit uniquement occupé par l'histoire de la ficelle; On le croyait d'autant moins que sa défense était plus compliquée et son argumentation plus subtile.

- Ca, c'est des raisons d'menteux, disait-on derrière son dos.

Il le sentait, se rongeait les sangs, s'épuisait en efforts inutiles. Il dépérissait à vue d'oeil.

Les plaisants maintenant lui faisaient conter "la Ficelle" pour s'amuser, comme on fait conter sa bataille au soldat qui a fait campagne. Son esprit, atteint à fond, s'affaiblissait.

Vers la fin de décembre, il s'alita.
I remember the title as Un bout de ficelle, but everywhere it is called La Ficelle, maybe I am conflating Boule de Suif. (?)

Lewis H. Michaux.Lewis H. Michaux / National Memorial African Book Store in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (download):
look son, I'd like to straighten you out
black is beautiful but black isn't power
knowledge is power
so you can be black as the crow
you can be white as snow
and if you don't know and ain't got no dough
you can't go and that's for sho'
Echoes of Joseph Lowery at Obama's inauguration:
when black will not be asked to get back / when brown can stick around / when yellah will be mellah / when the red man can get ahead man / and when white will embrace what is right
This doggerel has a quality of equivocation somehow; over-simplification, inaccuracy, cracks papered over ...

City of Oakland logo.City of Oakland logo.City of Oakland logo - New Dreams, New Ways.The story of Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, seems to belong here: see below; if you can get between the lines of the double- & triple-talk NYT rhetoric that is.

Consider the punctuation in "... citing reports that “anarchists” were fomenting violence." Why not put whatver verb she used inside the quote? Not enough 'spin' that way to get 'traction' I guess. At 62 she was born in the trough between the peak and the hump of the post-war baby boom (more on that next time maybe).

Mayor Jean Quan & Police Chief (acting) Howard Jordan.Mayor Jean Quan.Mayor Jean Quan.Not a tall woman.

Change is everywhere evident; or changes at least. Since Rodney King say - though Oakland ain't quite LA either.

I know! (getting back to Peter Kent as venal poster-boy, and Stephen Harper & Laureen Teskey as Mr. & Mrs. Smug.) We can do it up as a calendar (?)       That's it! I can see it now: a set of commemorative plates suitable for hanging on the wall (beside the print of Picasso's Don Quixote, next to the Giacometti-esque maquette of the same standing on the real-wood end-table there, and across from The Little Mermaid miniature Den lille Havfrue on the shelf in the cabinet with the glass doors); John Baird, Tony Clement, Peter MacKay (as The Queen), Peter MacKay's dog as Dulcinea; Rona Ambrose & Lisa Raitt (to represent the distaff side and avoid feminist recriminations).

The Perfect Gift!
A product that makes New Year's Eve worth celebrating.
Order now to get the Complete Set!
(Each plate is individually signed. All major credit-cards accepted.)

[Renata & Rob: The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing.]

1. Oakland’s Reins Blister a Mayor Raised on Protest, James Dao, December 28 2011.
2. Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure, Gwynne Dyer, December 14 2011.

Oakland’s Reins Blister a Mayor Raised on Protest, James Dao, December 28 2011.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Days after Jean Quan was elected mayor in the fall of 2010, the Oakland police put a wheel clamp on her silver Prius while it was parked outside City Hall. She cursed her husband for not paying the family’s parking tickets and braced for the embarrassing news articles.

So it began: the rookie year from hell. In May, the city attorney quit, lambasting City Hall as being corrupt. In October, the police chief followed suit, complaining about micromanagement. In November, voters rejected a tax that Ms. Quan had advocated to help fix a budget shortfall. December brought new talk that all three of Oakland’s professional sports teams might leave for fancier digs.

But the problem that has really besieged Ms. Quan, the first woman and first Asian-American to be the city’s mayor, has been the Occupy Oakland movement, which in October turned a grassy plaza in front of City Hall into a muddy staging ground for anticorporate protests.

In a dizzying series of reversals, Ms. Quan initially embraced the protest, then ordered the camp cleared, then allowed the demonstrators to return after the police seriously injured one of them, a Marine veteran. Two weeks later, she ordered the plaza cleared again, citing reports that “anarchists” were fomenting violence.

Now, Frank H. Ogawa Plaza remains empty most days, but Ms. Quan’s mayoralty is teetering. In a city known for its flamboyant and colorful mayors, she has emerged as one of its most controversial. Conservatives accuse her of coddling the protesters, while former allies on the left are incensed that she ordered the plaza cleared at all.

And now two rival groups, one started by a black community activist, the other by a white former mayoral candidate, are vying to have her recalled.

“She should have declared a position and stuck with it,” said Dan Siegel, a longtime friend and adviser who broke with the mayor after the police cleared the plaza the second time but who opposes a recall. “The problem was going back and forth, which wound up making everyone angry with her.”

For Ms. Quan, 62, a longtime civil rights activist and former union organizer whose husband and 29-year-old daughter participated in Occupy protests, the possibility of being undone by youthful demonstrators poses a painful paradox.

To this day, she fondly recalls being “a mouthy little Chinese kid” who chided a dean at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1960s for threatening to revoke her scholarship because she had posted leaflets calling for a grape boycott on campus. Early in the Occupy campaign, she issued statements saying she endorsed the “pro-99 percent activists.” (Yet when she appeared at a recent panel event with protest organizers, she was loudly heckled.)

In an interview over matzo ball soup, Ms. Quan, who speaks so swiftly that her sentences sometimes tumble into each other, acknowledged sympathies for the protesters. “My background has made it emotionally harder” to order police actions against them, she said. “But I’m the mayor of the city. I have to make decisions based on being the mayor.”

To her critics, Ms. Quan’s ambivalence underscores what they consider her fundamental weakness: she remains, they say, more activist than executive, uncomfortable using police power to maintain order. And in Oakland — which had 90 homicides last year, three times as many as San Diego, despite being one-third the size — public safety is issue No. 1 for many voters.

“Her handling of Occupy was a classic example of her inability to lead,” said Charles Pine, a retiree who is helping to organize one of the recall drives. Or as a former city official put it: “She views herself as part of the group who are giving hell to the man. The problem is she is the man.”

Ms. Quan has had a particularly tense relationship with the police union, which endorsed her main rival for mayor and last month issued a letter calling her handling of the protests “confusing.”

The friction stems partly from her complaint that pay and pensions for the police consume half the city’s general fund budget, leaving little for social programs, parks and public works. Last year, as a city councilwoman, she supported the layoffs of about 100 officers and recruits, though she has hired back more than 50 since becoming mayor.

“I think a lot of police officers feel she doesn’t like them,” said Dominique Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, which represents about 650 officers.

Critics have also attacked Ms. Quan’s crime-fighting strategy, which emphasizes focusing services as well as police patrols on 100 blocks that account for 90 percent of the city’s most violent crimes. “They think I’m too soft on crime because I want to do the intervention and prevention,” she said. “I just think I’m being smart.”

As for talk that she is indecisive, she bristles. “I do stuff based on data, not on rhetoric,” she said.

Ms. Quan grew up in Livermore, where her father, who died when she was 5, ran a restaurant. Though her family had been in California since the 19th century, she was the first member born in America, because anti-Chinese immigration laws had prevented her grandfathers from bringing their wives to the country.

At Berkeley, she and her future husband, Floyd Huen, helped organize a famous 1969 student strike demanding ethnic studies, then wrote the curriculum for an Asian-American course. The couple spent several years in Manhattan while Mr. Huen attended Yeshiva University’s medical school, then moved to Oakland, where Ms. Quan organized immigrant workers for the Service Employees International Union.

Her political career began almost accidentally in 1989 when, after mobilizing parents to fight the elimination of a school music program, she decided to run for the school board, winning in a Republican stronghold. “It was just sort of a continuation of my activism,” she said.

A 12-year stint on the board was followed by eight years on the City Council. Then came her stunning victory in last year’s 10-candidate mayoral race.

Under the city’s new voting system, which requires voters to rank their preferences, she was the first choice on less than a quarter of the ballots. But when second and third preferences were tallied, she emerged the winner of the four-year term, defeating the favorite, former State Senator Don Perata, by less than two percentage points.

Leonard Raphael, the treasurer of one of the recall committees, said Ms. Quan’s lack of a clear mandate might make her vulnerable. “I’m hoping that wrapping yourself in the mantle of progressivism isn’t good enough anymore if you are incompetent,” he said.

But it is far from clear that the recall groups have the resources to gather the nearly 20,000 signatures needed to put a recall on the ballot next year. They have also failed to coalesce around an alternative candidate — and if the recall question makes the ballot, a mayoral election will be held simultaneously. Mr. Perata has said he will not run.

At the same time, organized labor seems to be lining up behind the mayor, and her friends are beginning to mobilize.

“She is a fierce fighter and very well organized,” said Dick Spees, a former Republican city councilman who is friends with Ms. Quan. “And she will fight it to the end.”

Durban climate-change conference was an almost total failure, Gwynne Dyer, December 14 2011.

The Durban climate summit that ended on Sunday (December 11) has been proclaimed a great success. The chair, South Africa’s international relations minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told the delegates: “We have concluded this meeting with [a plan] to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come. We have made history.” Don’t be fooled. It was an almost total failure.

This time, the rapidly developing country that put up the greatest resistance to a binding global deal was India. (In 2009 and 2010, it was China.) The chief Indian delegate, Jayanthi Natarajan, held out against any legally enforceable treaty through three long days of nonstop, overtime negotiations. In the end, she agreed that an eventual deal would have “legal force”—but it would not be “legally binding”.

Lawyers get rich arguing over the difference between phrases like these, but that is for the future. The question now is: given what the Indian government already knows, how could it possibly have taken that position?

Three years ago, while I was interviewing the director of a think tank in New Delhi, she suddenly dropped a bomb into the conversation. Her institute had been asked by the World Bank to figure out how much food production India would lose when the average global temperature was two degrees Celsius higher, she said—and the answer was 25 percent.

This study, like similar ones that the bank commissioned in other major countries, has never been published, presumably because the governments of those countries put huge pressure on the bank to keep the numbers secret. But the Indian government undoubtedly knows the truth.

A 25 percent loss of food production would be an almost measureless calamity for India. It now produces just enough food to feed its 1.1 billion people. If the population rises by the forecast quarter-billion in the next 20 years, and meanwhile its food production falls by 25 percent due to global warming, half a billion Indians will starve.

India will not be able to buy its way out of the crisis by importing food, because many other countries will be experiencing similar falls in production at the same time, and the price of the limited amount of grain still reaching the international market will be prohibitive. So India should be moving heaven and earth to stop the average global temperature from reaching +2 degrees. But it isn’t.

Like almost every other country, India has signed a declaration that the warming must never exceed two degrees, but in practice the government acts as though it had all the time in the world. Maybe it just can’t visualize a future in which those numbers become the reality. Or maybe it is just too attached to the principle that the “old rich” countries must pay for the damage they have done.

That’s a perfectly reasonable argument in terms of historical justice, for the old rich countries emitted around 80 percent of the greenhouse gases of human origin that are now in the atmosphere. But if only those countries act promptly, then the average global temperature soars through +2 degrees and Indians start to starve.

Most developed countries do not face similar losses in food production at +2 degrees, for they are further away from the equator. Their position is merely selfish and short-sighted; India’s is suicidal.

Over the past 15 years of climate negotiations there has been a steady decline in the seriousness of the response. The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 committed the developed countries to stabilize their emissions and then cut them by an average of six percent by 2012. Developing countries were exempt from any controls, because they were not then emitting very much. And deeper emission cuts would come in a second phase of Kyoto, beginning in 2012.

Based on what we knew then, it was a cautious but rational response. In the meantime, however, developing country emissions have grown so fast that China now produces much more greenhouse gas than the United States. Global emissions are not in decline, as they should be. Last year, they grew by six percent.

So what was the response at Durban? The 1997 Kyoto targets for the developed countries will be maintained for another five years (with no further cuts), and developing countries will still not accept any legal restraints on their emissions. Then everyone will sign a more ambitious deal (still to be negotiated) by 2015—and the new targets, whatever they are, will acquire “legal force”, whatever that means, by 2020.

By that time, annual global emissions will probably be at least twice what they were when the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997—and the +2 degree barrier will probably be visible only in the rear-view mirror. The outcome at Durban could have been even worse—a complete abandonment of the concept of legal obligations to restrict emissions—but it was very, very bad.


Saturday, 24 December 2011


Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript. 
Hungry for Climate Leadership, December 21 - Winter Solstice, at Peter Kent's constituency office in Toronto.December 21 - Winter Solstice, at Peter Kent's constituency office in Thornhill.

Please take a close look at the attached photograph. The young man at the right end of the banner took hold of that pole at Steeles & Yonge, carried it up to Kent's office, about two miles, held onto it facing the rush hour traffic for two hours, and then back down to Steeles again; all in the (at times) driving rain without ever letting go. A skinny fellow, and fasting too at the time.


Look at the girl at the other end, her posture. It would take a doughty soul to want to be in her way I'll bet. The girl in the yellow poncho is with Occupy Toronto - and she is unmistakably there isn't she? Present. And the old woman in the yellow and orange coat - a smoker as I happen to know. Look at her. Make it a good long look. She also went the entire route holding onto that banner.

She tells me there is something crooked in the Occupy Toronto media group, information is getting lost and twisted; sounds like a conspiracy theory to me; she says, "Sure it's a conspiracy, what do you think? I'm from Poland, I know about that stuff."

She's right of course, though it may be subtler than outright conscious obstruction (or not). Some of: Cocky know-it-all nerds? Misplaced faith in technology? Pa-ra-noia? Paranoia? Paranoia? (to the tune of Handel's famous chorus)? Lack of experience in knowing when to stop changing platforms? Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Whatever the reason, it has been clear from the get-go. The website(s) have never been effective. No point going there if you want reliable information, none. I notice that the latest incarnation is "the Official online face of the Occupy movement in Toronto." Whoever they are, they don't understand irony either.

Even, could it be the perfect being the enemy of the good (to be as gentle as possible)?

[La Bégueule (Voltaire, 'The Prude' says Google Translate, but I like 'The beguiled').
     Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
     Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien;
see also: 'Ta gueule connard!' & 'Ferme ta gueule, ostie trou de cul!']

Don't believe me? Fine. Don't do a quick compare&contrast with the OWS/Occupy Wall Street site then. An archive running back to Day 1; a Forum with many many many posts & comments every day; ... What Ever. (!)

TCC Toronto Climate Campaign.The 'official' information on the vigil is here: Hungry for Climate Leadership. They might eventually post some photographs (or not - I personally doubt it, see 'negative' below).

When I several times put out the idea of being in front of Kent's office all day every day, and then rapidly back-pedal to an hour a day at rush-hour, in shifts - it is met with total & absolute dead silence on all sides. (?) Not a word, not one, not even "no."

Does any of this have anything to do with why forty (out of three or four million) turned up for the vigil? (Of course not! STFU!)

I am not a very pleasant person: negative (or at least often mistaken for such), angry, fractious, sullen, ornery, arrogant, impolite ... unrepentant and unregenerate, a snob, an asshole curmudgeon (though not a penny-pincher) ... the list goes on ... not as smart as I sometimes think I am. A-and I smoke!

Hungry Ghost.So I guess it is not strange that I am isolated.

Like despair it is worse on some days than it is on others. Worst is when I get to imagining old-testament prophets suffering the slings and arrows, Ezekiel laying on his side for years! chained there. (Though forty figures in Ezekiel's story too ... hmmm.)

And I am feeling now that maybe I should not even be sharing these stories of the people carrying the banner. (?) I am honouring them, simple as that, but I don't know anymore when I have gone too far, stepped over yet another invisible line (and no one ever tells me).

Hungry Ghost.The basic smiley,   :-)   is easy. And there is  </3  (broken heart) which is in fact quite difficult in HTML. How about this one,   ?:-(   or   ¿:-(   for baffled & total incomprehension?

The 'hungry' in HUNGRY FOR CLIMATE LEADERSHIP and the colour of red, take me back to Gabor Maté's In the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction and the images he invoked from Buddhist cosmology.

A note on uploading photographs: If you click on the top photograph above to see it at higher resolution you will get 1,600px × 1,200px (the original is 2,560px by 1,920px, if you send me an email I will forward it to you). I have been uploading stuff for years now and only recently noticed that Blogger/Picasa resizes things to a maximum dimension of 1,600px (who checks such things?). So I tried Flickr, where the maximum turns out to be even less, 1,024px. (And Tumblr too where it is 500px.) 
Ecce Homo, Hieronymus Bosch, late 1400's.Pontius Pilate, handwashing, and so on ...

I sent off this Open Letter to some eminent k-k-Canadian prelates, and to Douglas Stoute, dean of St. James' Cathedral. I expect no reply - I have tried this kind of thing before and not had one, beyond more-or-less polite acknowledgements of receipt (and in most cases not even that). I sent off copies of Charles Taylor's A Secular Age to several of them who indicated interest to me, but I have never had a word back that they read any of it.

The Good Samaritan, Rembrandt, mid 1600's.The operative bit is here: Chapter 20 Conversions, Section 2 [pages 737 ff], or here really, in Luke 10:33:
"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, ..."
Paying particular and careful attention to what kind of seeing might be implied when they (Andrewes & cohorts I suppose) use the word 'saw' in the phrase "and when he saw him." Even a meditation on the first word of that verse, 'but', would not go amiss.

For the record, here is the event at which I listened to Mardi Tindal, Herb Gale, & Colin Johnson: Environment and Climate in Peril: How people of faith will care and advocate for creation put on in May by Oikos. And here are some previous musings of mine: Waltzing on air (May 2011), and Why nobody came ... a bust then? (October 2009).

A slightly updated notion of correctitude:

I like dipthongs. Here is homœostasis/homeostasis in the OED:
The maintenance of a dynamically stable state within a system by means of internal regulatory processes that tend to counteract any disturbance of the stability by external forces or influences; the state of stability so maintained; spec. in Physiol., the maintenance of relatively constant conditions in the body (e.g. as regards blood temperature) by physiological processes that act to counter any departure from the normal.
Hence 'homœostatically correct' and I'll leave it to you (but do note the 'temperature' reference).

It is wonderfully cute that the OED interface does not recognize 'œ' - if you want to find this word in there you must damn-well know it is in there beforehand.

Trivial Pursuit: Which was first, Rita or Katrina?

(Katrina - August 23-30 2005, Rita - September 17-26 2005)

What about Lee & Nock-ten just in August? Or Washi this last week? Ever heard of them? Google&Bing if you are curious. 
"Sail on. Sail on, o mighty ship of state.":
   (Leonard Cohen, Democracy)

Just a few bits of news:
     Politics Stamps Out Oil Sands Pipeline, Yet It Seems Likely to Endure,
     Harper warns Americans he will ship oil elsewhere, and,
     Canada 'very serious' about selling its oil to China, Harper says .

Stephen Harper & Laureen Teskey.Stephen Harper & Laureen Teskey.Stephen Harper.There is a video of Harper talking to 'Senior News Editor' Lisa LaFlamme attached to both the CTV & Globe articles - but you have to watch an ad to see it. When it gets dark later on tonight I will grab it with my trusty snapshot camera and post it on YouTube ... ok, here it is: portions of year-end interview.

They have progressed so far, these (silly?) pundits, that they see a 'risk' that America will be upset, even angry - except that the real risk is that we will make the planet uninhabitable.

The poster-boy for venal is Peter Kent (here) so Stephen Harper as poster-boy for smug begins to make a matched set, a 'suite' of poster boys. 
There are some who believe in love. I know something about love, a little bit: I have truely loved some women, and my children and their children; some other people. Far from being any sort of force I have found it best expressed in a chinese phrase which translates 'wind and cloud'. Pierre Reverdy's epigram: « Il n'y a pas d'amour, il n'y a que des preuves d'amour. » / 'There is no love, there are only proofs of love,' well, I can't forget it.

(Echoing the philosophical eddy that runs through faith to aesthetics) I am lifted out of myself by certain experiences, though not, I think, transcendentally: Handel's Messiah, when she sings, "I know that my redeemer liveth," and, "For unto us a child is given," and, "And his name shall be calléd, wonderful, counsellor ..."; the New World symphony; Bach; ... even singing some of Wesley's hymns can do it for me ...

There are some who believe in God; most of them seem to me to be using faith as a bulwark against despair. We must resist despair! But I have despaired, I didn't set out to do it but there it is - and yet, on the other side of it I somehow find myself still breathing, still loving.

I sometimes think that those who have not despaired and who still believe in a certain kind of God (with a capital 'g'), are marking time in a way, waiting for a miracle or some other magic that will save us all (and them too of course); and so they do not generally put their flesh on the line, even in struggles they know to be 'ultimate'.

Be well gentle reader. 

Probably not, except to say, "Christmas? BAH HUMBUG!"   :-)

(Who knew you could still get a rise from the wealthy so easily?) 

1. Open Letter, David Wilson, 22 December 2011.
Open Letter, David Wilson, 22 December 2011.

Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada,
Herb Gale, Moderator of the 136th (past) General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada,
Colin Johnson, Anglican Archbishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, and,
Douglas Stoute, Dean of Toronto & Rector of St. James' Cathedral.


I went by St. James' Cathedral park on Tuesday. They have indeed put new sod over it all, with lots of little red signs advertising whoever got the contract to do the work. But I wonder if we really need an archbishop, dean, rector and the rest of this fol-de-rol purple cloth to cover up the fact that our planet, our only home, is mortally wounded - and I don't think sod is sufficient dressing for such a wound. The Occupiers might have been, and not only a dressing but a remedy; but their tongues are now being skillfully muffled and Toronto is getting back to "normal".

Please take a close look at the attached photograph. The young man at the right end of the banner took ahold of that pole at Steeles & Yonge, carried it up to Kent's office, about two miles, held onto it facing the rush hour traffic for two hours, and then back down to Steeles again; all in the (at times) driving rain without ever letting go. A skinny fellow, and fasting too at the time.


Look at the girl at the other end. See how she is standing. It would take a doughty soul to want to get in her way eh? And the old woman in the yellow and orange coat - a Polish immigrant and a smoker too as I happen to know. Look at her. Make it a good long look. She also went the entire route holding onto that banner. The girl in the yellow poncho I don't know - but she is unmistakably there isn't she? Talk about 'going the extra mile' - and then some.

Now, IF you were leaders (which in my estimation you are not), and IF you had some few like these with you (who obviously are), well ... what do you think might happen then?

Mardi has said publicly, at least several times, that she is convinced that Peter Kent understands both 'the science' and the catastrophe we are facing. What nonsense! Convinced!? Has she no discernment? And I could speak uncomfortable truths about the rest of you as well - all from my own personal experience and observations of what you have said and done in public - but you must be living with that.

Here, read this again: Luke 10:33, and consider exactly what 'saw' means in the phrase "and when he saw him," and this: 'A Secular Age' Chapter 20 Conversions, Section 2, Charles Taylor, [pages 737 ff], being Ivan Illich's take on that story. Your reserve and forbearance (to put a gentler name on it than might be put, because I really do think that you understand at least some of this) is not helping us - who have fallen among thieves.

Be well,

David Lee Wilson,

ps - This is an open message. I have also sent it to 'The Observer', where someone I was once mistaken for is the editor; and to a few people at Kairos; to one of the organisers of the event; and to my children so they can know without the fear of contradiction that I spoke the truth as I saw it when I was able to.


Monday, 19 December 2011

eighth blackbird, is that VIIIb then? or bVIII?

(with a sub-theme of 'grateful for small mercies')
Up, Down, Nothing much.

Winter Solstice Vigil.If you are in Toronto, please consider attending this important event - details here: Hungry for Climate Leadership.

A candle-lit vigil of hope and solidarity, on the longest night of the year (in so many ways); at the Constituency Office of Peter Kent (sleveen), Canada's Minister of the Environment:
       7600 Yonge Street, Thornhill.
       (not the 7600 in Richmond Hill).

(Why not straight in front of his house, I wonder? Doesn't he live there somewhere?)

Wednesday December 21, 4:00 to 6:30 PM. Rallying at Yonge & Steeles (a 20 minute walk away) at 3:30 PM.
(You can't get there by TTC apparently. If I find a way I will post it here.)

Elizabeth May has her moments: She doesn't call Peter Kent the P.O.S. he really is - but she doesn't tell us how much she likes him either, at least not this time (and I am grateful for that).

In this press conference she several times hits the shiny little nail right on its shiny little head:
       - the original at CBC 30 minutes (better sound quality),
       - posted by the Green Party as part 1 & part 2 (not so much).

And in this post: Kyoto withdrawal: There must be a political price to be paid.

Aislin, Keystone Kops.Looks like Barack Obama has caved in / is caving in / will cave in / might cave in / might not cave in ... on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Bloomberg: "... Republicans fell short on efforts to force the permitting of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline ..."
Globe: "... would require Mr. Obama to decide within 60 days whether to grant a permit for the pipeline. But the legislation also allows Mr. Obama to decide not to do so ..."
NYT: maybe so ... maybe not ...

And more of the same nonsense equivocation from McKibben & Meisel (with exaggerated emotional overtones worthy of a basketball). At least they have stopped spouting, "WE WON! WE WON!" and I for one am grateful for small mercies.

Just have to wait and see. (But we don't like waiting, do we?)


      Among twenty snowy mountains,
      The only moving thing
      Was the eye of the blackbird.

      I was of three minds,
      Like a tree
      In which there are three blackbirds.

      The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
      It was a small part of the pantomime.

      A man and a woman
      Are one.
      A man and a woman and a blackbird
      Are one.

      I do not know which to prefer,
      The beauty of inflections
      Or the beauty of innuendoes,
      The blackbird whistling
      Or just after.

      Icicles filled the long window
      With barbaric glass.
      The shadow of the blackbird
      Crossed it, to and fro.
      The mood
      Traced in the shadow
      An indecipherable cause.

      O thin men of Haddam,
      Why do you imagine golden birds?
      Do you not see how the blackbird
      Walks around the feet
      Of the women about you?

      I know noble accents
      And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
      But I know, too,
      That the blackbird is involved
      In what I know.

      When the blackbird flew out of sight,
      It marked the edge
      Of one of many circles.

      At the sight of blackbirds
      Flying in a green light,
      Even the bawds of euphony
      Would cry out sharply.

      He rode over Connecticut
      In a glass coach.
      Once, a fear pierced him,
      In that he mistook
      The shadow of his equipage
      For blackbirds.

      The river is moving.
      The blackbird must be flying.

      It was evening all afternoon.
      It was snowing
      And it was going to snow.
      The blackbird sat
      In the cedar-limbs.
   Could be way misleading, what with Obama and 'blackbird' and pictures of a young black woman mixed up into it and all. Oh well.

Geli Forlefac.

Geli Forlefac.

Geli Forlefac.

Geli Forlefac.

Geli Forlefac.

Can't be helped; or could have been maybe but wasn't; suffice to say it's about what the 1% or the 99% (or whoever the fuck they are) are not stopping doing anytime soon. Makes me want to hear Caetano's Terra or here or here.

Photographs of Geli Forlefac from Kwesi Abbensetts.

Nothing needs to be said here about eighth blackbird, or very little - their website is one of the few I've seen that actually works, both comprehensive and intuitive. The notes that follow are just reminders to myself:

     eighth blackbird: Nicholas Photinos, Tim Munro, Yvonne Lam, Matthew Duvall, Michael Maccaferri, Lisa Kaplan.
eighth blackbird: Michael Maccaferri, Tim Munro, Yvonne Lam, Matthew Duvall, Lisa Kaplan, Nicholas Photinos.
formed in 1996

• Tim Munro, flutes (Molly Barth to 2006)
• Michael J. Maccaferri, clarinets
• Yvonne Lam, violin & viola (Matt Albert to 2011)
• Nicholas Photinos, cello
• Matthew Duvall, percussion+
• Lisa Kaplan, piano

- Round Nut Tool
- beginnings
- thirteen ways
- fred
- strange imaginary animals
- Double Sextet • 2x5
- On a Wire • QED: Engaging Richard Feynman
- Lonely Motel: Music from Slide

None of their music shows up on the pirate sites, not much on YouTube either - and downloads are only available in the US, so ...

Reading Empire of illusion, the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle from 2009.

Why thirteen pages of wrestling up-front? I thought I had taken the point after a page or two. And the writing often seems so ... all-over-the-place, tendentious (is that the word?) ...

That said (and nevertheless), parts of this book are making me take long uncomfortable looks at myself.

The little piece of lyric from eighth blackbird's 'addiction': "one too many unchecked fantasies / one too many unchallenged assumptions /one too many unexamined beliefs /and you slide into addiction ..." which I found as I was finishing up the last post - seems to be a harmonic convergence.

And what comes around seems to go around too (or something) - this review of three Orwell biographies turned up in the free section of the LRB: Reach-Me-Down Romantic, which (going around yet once more) also touches on Christopher Hitchens (though the review is dated 2003 it seems to acknowledge Hitchens' recent death - ambiguity is good I guess).

I read some of this on Gutenberg Australia: Fifty Orwell Essays, particularly 'The Lion and the Unicorn' mentioned at the end of the review.

Depressing ... I hadn't realized that he was given to such concluding sentences as, "I believe in England, and I believe that we shall go forward." Oh well.

That's it; running out of candles.

I did find a bakery this week with a woman there (one of the owners) who both knows how to make bread and run the slicing machine (unlike the wage-slaves at Weston's & Cob's Bread respectively), and she was not in a hurry; and the bread is about half the price. And with croissants. A TTC ride away, but I like riding on streetcars - I was smiling the whole way back carrying my weekly supply of bread.

Something to look forward to on Sundays.

Be well.

( ... hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain ...)

Nothing much:

An interesting survey from the Globe: Poll: C’mon, be honest: Answer these highly personal, somewhat inappropriate questions posted on the 16th, response as of the 18th here (but the wankers haven't said how many responded and have not published the geographical & age stats, yet - 'stay tuned' they say).

Responses to December 19th:
1. In 2011, were you more stressed or less stressed than you were the year before?

 Way more stressed 27%
 A little more stressed 27%
 About the same 23%
 A little less stressed 16%
 Much less stressed. Who can complain about 2011? 7%

2. What's the biggest stress in your life?

 Money 22%
 Family 14%
 Work 35%
 The current political climate 7%
 The environment 1%
 My love life 9%
 My health 6%
 What I'm going to cook tonight 5%

3. How many Facebook friends do you have?

 50 or fewer 19%
 51 to 150 18%
 151 to 250 11%
 251 to 400 10%
 More than 400 7%
 None: Facebook is for chumps 36%

4. How many of those friends would you tell if you had a serious health problem?

 None 9%
 5 or fewer 40%
 Up to 25 20%
 More than 25 5%
 Everyone would know. I'd post it on Facebook 1%
 I told you I’m not on Facebook 26%

5. How much household debt (including your mortgage) do you have?

 None. I'm in the black, baby 38%
 Less than $150,000 32%
 Between $150,000 and $300,000 18%
 Between $300,000 and $500,000 8%
 More than $500,000 4%

6. Is that more or less than last year?

 A lot more. I've racked up at least another $50,000 6%
 A little more. I've added on another $1,000-$50,000 12%
 About the same 25%
 A little less. I paid off up to $ 50,000 25%
 A lot less. I paid off more than $ 50,000 5%
 Let me repeat: I’m in the black, baby 26%

7. How many servings of vegetables do you eat a day?

 Do chips count? I don't eat vegetables regularly 8%
 One to two servings 51%
 Three to five servings 35%
 More than five servings. Just call me Popeye 6%

8. How much chocolate do you eat a day?

 I don't eat chocolate most days 62%
 Less than half a chocolate bar 27%
 Up to one chocolate bar (or the equivalent) 8%
 One chocolate bar and another chocolate snack 1%
 As much as I can get my hands on 2%

9. Did you sext this year, either as a sender or receiver of text, video or photos?

 Yes. What’s the harm? 19%
 No. I’d be mortified 63%
 I don't know what sexting is 18%

10. Do you know anyone who did?

 Yes 28%
 No 64%
 I'm not saying 8%

11. Which of the following did you do as a parent over the past year (check all that apply)?

 I lied to my kids 12%
 I bribed them 14%
 I swore in front of them 24%
 I spanked them 4%
 I ate their Halloween candy 17%
 None. I'm a perfect parent 4%
 I don’t have young kids 67%

12. Which of these foods should be banned (check all that apply)?

 Bluefin tuna 34%
 Shark fin soup 61%
 KFC's Double Down sandwich 40%
 Foie gras 25%
 McDonald's Happy Meals 25%
 None. I don't believe in food bans 27%

13. Who is your favourite royal?

 Harry (of course!) 10%
 Will (of course!) 8%
 Elizabeth (of course!) 17%
 Kate (of course!) 17%
 Does Pippa Middleton count? 13%
 Abolish the monarchy 36%

14. Whose death this year affected you the most?

 Jack Layton 55%
 Amy Winehouse 6%
 Steve Jobs 20%
 Elizabeth Taylor 2%
 Christopher Hitchens 11%
 Hickstead 5%

15. What resolution do you really want to commit to this year?

 Save more money 14%
 Lose weight 27%
 Have a better sex life 12%
 Get a better job 9%
 Be nicer to friends and family 10%
 I'm not making any 28%

16. How much cash do you have on you right now?

 None. I've always got my debit card 14%
 Less than $20 22%
 Less than $100 37%
 $100-$ 500 21%
 $500 or more 5%

17. Did you join a gym this year?

 Yes 24%
 No 76%

18. When was the last time you worked out?

 This week 50%
 This month 14%
 Within the past three months 10%
 Within the past six months 7%
 I didn't work out at all in 2011 19%

19. When was the last time you had a physical?

 Within the past six months 25%
 Within the past year 29%
 Within the past five years 26%
 It's been more than five years 11%
 I've never had one 8%

20. What's your secret vice?

 Junk food 27%
 Porn 26%
 Nail-biting 7%
 Impulse shopping 8%
 Stealing office supplies 1%
 I'm not telling 31%

21. Are you feeling hopeful about 2012?

 Yes 65%
 No 13%
 Not sure 22%

22. What are you most hopeful about?

 Money 14%
 Family 25%
 Work 20%
 The current political climate 2%
 The environment 0%
 My love life 12%
 My health 9%
 What I'm cooking tonight 4%
 I told you I'm not 14%

Ah ... another systematic information twister discovered: Pain in the ass formatting tables - so I pasted the responses into a .jpg with Paint, which .jpg was long and skinny (300 x 5,000 pixels or so); uploaded the .jpg, all done! Wrong! Google sets a maximum dimension on photographs (I guess) of 1,600 pixels, so it was not legible.