Sunday, January 31, 2010

So, I was just watching a bit of "Obama Visits Republican-land", and I've just got to say that I'd give whatever you'd like to have a leader just half as smart for Canada. We're stuck with a guy who makes the average Republican look like...well...Obama. And, given that the Republicans who stepped up to the plate at this dinner had all the intellectual power of the undoubtedly overcooked chicken on their plates, that's saying something.

It strikes me that America's got something amazing sitting there in Washington. Obama seems to be a guy who's willing to gamble his second term on actually getting good things done for the citizens of America, and bringing civilisation back into American politics. I'm really hoping America will sit up and take notice. After eight years of Reagan's nitwittery, eight years of something unrecognisable as intellectually defensible policies during the Bush administration, not to mention the hell of Rove-ian "politics", America's finally got a guy in power who doesn't care about getting re-hired. He cares about governing. About being responsible to the citizens of his country. About trying to fix the things that are broken, and enhance the things that work. Get behind him, people!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

If you haven't seen "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus", well, you really ought to. Really. Non-stop big-time fun.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's all about style, and nothing says "Style!" like a pair of cans on your ears. Really.

And now, off to the pub for beverages and talk of things pedagogical with colleagues. Isn't it swell to have "colleagues"?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Damn! By a strange twist of fate (get the photo relevance - heh, heh?) I missed seeing Steve Earle here in Vancouver. One of the few folks I'd pay big bucks to see, and I missed him. Of course, the "strange twist of fate" wasn't all that strange. I don't pay attention to the "Who's Comin' to Town?" news. I'd miss The Second Coming, I'm pretty sure ('course, that one I'd be glad to miss, but...). I really have to get out more. Or at least pay attention to what's going on around me. Damn. I hate that.

But, speaking of things missed, as anybody halfway literate knows, J.D. Salinger has died. And, of course, he's being written up as having been a great recluse. A man who shunned the limelight. Positively antisocial, by golly. A mystery man. And why? Because he wanted to live exactly the same sort of life we all live - unnoticed. Just another guy living in a small town in New Hampshire. Now, in an age when it seems like every moron with no shame figures he/she damned well ought to be famous, and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that fame (as, of course, a cretin of enormous proportions), maybe it's true that simply wanting to live an average life is aberrant. Maybe J.D. was totally nuts to not want to sell himself and his family in order to bask in the glow of the public's adoration and sell more books.

But...really?...I don't think so. He wrote good books. People read them (the verb is definitely present tense). So, he was somehow obliged to give interviews? To pose for pictures? You're kidding, right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yep, pretty impressed by that there iPad.

I'm almost sure I saw Tim Burton disappearing among the trees here.

Or, maybe not.

That last line could pretty easily be tagged on after this one: "Oh, I'm so excited that Apple will be announcing their new tablet!" Orrrr......... Excuse me while I stifle a yawn.

Monday, January 25, 2010

House-rise? Attack of the As I've mentioned before (I think), the world's full of odd sights, and there's nothing better than a camera to help make them visible. Walking around with a camera in your hand changes the way you look at your surroundings. And, of course, you occasionally get to meet new people. "Why are you taking a picture of that?" Anybody who's got a really clever answer to that question, share it, won't you?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If the sun ain't shinin', put it up on a billboard, and make it shine! Although, come to think of it, the sun was, in fact, shining. Yeah, well....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

So, a guy finally finds a rectifier station, and he's got a problem that needs rectifying, and what happens? Nothing. No rectification whatsoever.

Meanwhile, if you're photographically-inclined and a lover of jazz, have I got a book for you. "The Jazz Loft Project", by Sam Stephenson. It's a collection of photographs by W. Eugene Smith, accompanied by transcripts of tapes he made over the years between 1957 and 1965 of jazz musicians famous and not-so, just hanging out, jamming, and talking. You can hear excerpts from the tapes here.

Yep. On the outside, cut off from what's within. Yep. It happens.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A bright spot would go really nicely right now. Really, really, really nicely.

Yes, well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's nice when something "bright" happens, isn't it? A little ray of sunshine (as they say), beaming in just when it seemed things might be turning bleak?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As I've mentioned before, industry just isn't part of Hamilton anymore. At least, not a big part.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More from the big Xmas sojourn. Yet another bit of forest I rambled through as a kid.

And this little article from the NYT, sent to me by The Sicilian Princess. Sums up my career-choice process pretty accurately. I can remember taking an aptitude test while I was in my 3rd year of university, and I kept picking all the answers that suggested that I'd get to dress casual, spend my time reading and thinking about things that interested me (rather than some corporate non-problem), talk to smart, interesting people, and pretty much run my own show. Funnily enough, "university professor" came up 'way at the top of the list of possibilities. I could, I suppose, have picked things that would have included "mindless drone", "nitwit", "greedy, scum-sucking bastard", "willing to say or do anything for a buck", "morals that would embarrass a Wall Street banker", but FOX News wasn't around at that time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Check this out. Neat, huh?

And, since you've obviously got time on your hands, take a look at "Encounters at the End of the World", by Werner Herzog. Yet another darn fine film.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You can pretty much tell what's going to happen in the next few seconds, right? Right. Which is kind of how "Crazy Heart" plays out, but it's still a darn fine movie, and you ought to go see it.

And, by the way, in case you're not paying a whole lot of attention to my links list over there on the right, you should go click on "My Four Eyed Fantasy". Emily Shur does nice work (not to mention having a name that lends itself to obvious, and juvenile, humour).

Friday, January 15, 2010

I don't know...somehow "Take me to your leader," comes to mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

See? This is why more people should use public transit. The things you see while you're waiting for the bus. Especially if you're waiting near some railway tracks. Which, of course, is public transit to the max.

By the by, if you're a mystery novel fan, you really have to pick up Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo". I haven't finished it, but, so far, so really good. The only crushing blow (on more than one front) is that Larsson died before he could finish the series. Three books out of what would seem to have been a planned ten were completed before his death. I'm going to be so peeved when I finish the third novel in the series... And, to make matters worse, he seems to have been a "good guy", too.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I just watched the full interview of John Yoo on John Stewart's show. Eeyikes! This guy is a lawyer how? Other than his ability to not answer pretty straightforward questions, that is. Wowee. He has not a clue as to the point of the law or precedent. No notion that you can't really claim to be an "originalist" regarding the American Constitution in the same breath as you claim that the President should be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. No wonder Bush and Co. picked him to write their torture permission memos.

Meanwhile, over there on the "Links" list, I've added "My Four Eyed Fantasy". You should go have a look. Emily Shur does good stuff.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Location, location, location. Well, O.K., and access, too, would help. Which seems to have been the one thing this little burger joint lacked.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Now, wouldn't you think there'd be something pretty darn special behind that door? Unfortunately, I can't tell you. I took this through the passenger-side window as I was waiting at a stoplight on my way somewhere else. It's a bar, I can tell you that much.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Carrying on with things I saw while in Ontario. White on white on gray.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for a good photo book (and who isn't?), try "The Forgotten Ones", by Milton Rogovin. Fantastic portraits taken by an equally fantastic person (Well, "persons", really. His wife, Anne, surely deserves a lot of credit.). Definitely a book to be added to your collection.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Now those are bare trees.

Friday, January 08, 2010

A relic from my adolescence. This used to be a little roadside restaurant - just behind it is Hwy. 20, once a main road into Hamilton, and pretty close to being the boundary of the known world. At least, the known world of my buddies and I. It's very close to Punchbowl Falls, an edge-of-the-world bicycling destination for 12-year-olds. At least, for 12-year-olds from my neighbourhood. Our bicycles, and rides like this, were our first forays into independence.

Too bad I can't remember what the place was called.

Did I mention that my hometown, Hamilton, formerly "Steeltown" is now billing itself as "The City of Waterfalls"? Well, it is. With a certain amount of justification, as you can see. There are a fair number of falls such as this, running off the edge of the Niagara Escarpment that surrounds much of the city. This one is known as Punchbowl Falls.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I could be wrong, but I'll bet that there's nothing more tedious than the semi-annual visit to the dentist for the big cleaning of the teeth. A fine combination of boring and occasionally painful. First there's that ultra-sonic plaque zapper, followed by the lower tech tooth-scraper, followed by yet another tooth-scraper, followed by "polishing", followed by flossing, followed by the fabulous fluoride treatment. Aaaaagggghhhhhhhh!

So, I guess you can figure out the big event in my day, huh?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Did I mention it was cold back East? Oh? It still is, you say? Aw.

Don't get me wrong - I like snow. High up on the mountains on the North Shore, where it looks postcard perfect. Scenic, by golly. I grew up with the stuff, shoveled plenty of it, drove through it, and now I'm convinced that it's best enjoyed from a distance.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Evidently, trees caught a lot of my attention on my visit to Hamilton. These were beside a "trail" known as the Chedoke Radial Trail ("trail" is in quotes because a 2 metre, paved-ish surface doesn't, to me, qualify as a "trail"). It follows the rail bed of the long-gone Brantford and Hamilton Electric Railway. How "long gone"? It was shut down in 1930. Lonnnnnggggggg gone. Got to wonder if the "electric" part of the name had anything to do with that.

Still, converting old rail beds to walking/biking trails is a wonderful thing, in my book, and Hamilton's got plenty. They're great in that they tend to stay away from the developed parts of town, and they're accessible to pretty much anyone. Fit? Not fit? Who cares? These were built for trains, so their grades are negligible. And, at least in Hamilton, a lot of them are even lit! Yep, you can stroll along them on a summer evening without a care.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Spent the day hunched over the computer, working on a new course I'll be teaching this term. Can you say, "Stir crazy"?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

More of my home town, Hamilton. Think of it, if you're American, as Pittsburgh north. Steel built the place. When the North American steel industry fell apart, so did Hamilton. This particular bit of dereliction is down near a bar mill I spent part of a summer working in. Almost anyone of the "male" persuasion who grew up in Hamilton in those days spent at least their summers, once they reached university age, working in the mills, earning tuition money. Some never left. Until the mills began to shrink, that is.

My most vivid memory of this particular mill is of climbing up into an open-top boxcar full of red-hot iron rails, about 30 cm x 10 m, in order to spray paint shipping numbers onto their ends. You've never really lived until you've skated along red-hot steel ("skated" because the soles of your safety boots were melting), with a can of pressurized spray paint in your hand.

Later that same summer I put in time in a rod mill. This was a mill that specialized in making the stock for things like rebar. Huge bars of steel, 30 cm x 2.5 m(?) would be heated white hot, then sent through a series of opposing rollers that would gradually reduce their diameter to 4 or 5 cm, while their length grew to 15 m or so. The process involved sending the narrowing, but lengthening, bars across the mill floor, guided by rollers in the floor, to sets of opposing rollers with increasingly narrow gaps between them, at high speed. Eventually, it was like watching neon tubes rocket across the mill floor. Except that these were long, white-hot, very flexible, very massive, steel rods. Every once in a while one would snag on one of the floor rollers and go shooting into the air, curling and twisting like some giant wounded snake, throwing off sparks, and sending us all running for cover. It wouldn't do to let one of these deadly snakes actually strike you - they'd burn through you without a pause. A strange combination of beautiful and deadly. Now I think, "What a great photograph that would have made!" But I'm sure glad I wasn't one of those destined to spend their lives in the mills.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Well, the new year is off to a grand start. Spent a pleasant afternoon buying books, eating good food, drinking good wine, talking with my good friend, Lillian-the-Librarian. How much better can it get?