Sunday, 26 June 2011

The new face of journalism

Latest New York Times supplement   (suggested)

  Yesterday in the Toronto Star Kathy English, Public Editor wrote the following:

With more journalism programs graduating more students, and the recession-battered media industry continuing to cut costs, unpaid internships have become the new normal, raising valid concerns that only those who can afford to work for free will become journalists.

In some cases, none that I know of in Canada, interns are even paying for the “privilege” of unpaid work, hiring consultants to help them land internships. Last year, an internship at the Huffington Post went for $9,000 at a charity auction.

  This is the new face of mass media journalism – unpaid interns doing the heavy lifting, cut staff in the workplace, cut and paste investigative journalism (I’m guilty too but I’m not making money out of this and I reference my sources), misleading editing and corporate PR masquerading as informed, independent reporting. The Huffpo had this job description listed in the employment section yesterday.

Huffington Post Intern - Lifestyle Photographer

Company: AOL

Location: New York, NY

Date Posted: June 25, 2011

Requisition # 121540BR Posting Job Title Huffington Post Intern - Lifestyle Photographer Brand Huffington Post Media Group Market Location US - New York - New York City Position Type Intern Posting Job Description The Huffington Post's home & garden site ShelterPop is looking for an intern to act as our roving photographer for interiors, portraits, and man on the street shots. This is not a photo internship that will keep you inside, calling agencies and cropping images, but rather a gig that will have you meeting the most stylish folks on the streets of New York as well as inside some of the most fashionable city interiors. If you love The Selby and The Coveteur but secretly think you could do better, we want you! The ideal candidate will have a flexible schedule (2-3 days a week), their own camera, lights and tripod as well as excellent composition skills,  an interest in design and a  collaborative spirit. This is an unpaid, for-credit internship…

  So work in New York City for free in one of the most expensive places in the world and supply your own equipment while the big A gets $300 million for selling the company. Nice business model! As Bruce Weinstein, Business Weeks Ethics columnist says, “As long as the intern gets what is promised, it doesn’t violate any ethical principle.” Suck it up you socialists. This is the world we live in.

  The corporate indoctrinated editors aren’t any better. The lead for an article by Harry Bradford in the Huffpo on Friday 23, 2011 was “Low-Income Americans More Often 'Very Happy' Than Middle Class: Poll (Harris poll released on the same day)”. If you check at the bottom of the article, it states:

“But it's not the poorest Americans that are least happy. When broken down by income group, it's those earning between $75,000 and $99,999 that were least satisfied, with only 29 percent found to be "very happy." Those making the least, under $34,499, were actually the third happiest income bracket out of five (groups). People earning $100,000 or more yearly, were the happiest, with 37 percent feeling "very happy."

  This is quite a bit different and more nuanced than the lead so the casual reader would assume money doesn’t buy you happiness so why are those losers complaining – a subtle support for the inequities in American society.

  The most dangerous and least known consequence of the `new journalism’ is the spread of ideological positions of the right through front organizations posing as independent think tanks which the news organizations use as cheap copy masquerading as informed, independent reporting dug up by the diligence of their staff.  It may help their bottom line but the danger to democracy is evident. Here is a map of the Koch brothers’ connections to influential information organizations and individuals.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Farmer’s market

Distant photo of local Farmer's market

   I took these photos at a farmer’s market near my home. Mostly organic food from local farms, jam, homemade preserves, gluten free bread, pies and other items which are not available at the local supermarkets. Prices are slightly higher than the stores but the quality is better. The city also rents out plots to locals for vegetable gardens in some public areas which are not used for parks. Some people donate the surplus food to food banks. One of my neighbours gives me his extra tomatoes and other vegetables since it seems to be feast or famine with backyard gardens. I planted cucumbers, onions, lettuce, squash and tomatoes in my backyard. We’ll see how things turn out.

Maple syrup
Jams and preserves

Surrealist interlude

  I don’t know what to say about this video except its a great escapist moment after you’ve thinking too long and hard.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fast food

New Moscow Wendy's restaurant

  Last week the third major American hamburger chain, Wendy's opened in Moscow. Burger King had their debut last year and McDonald's arrived way back in 1990. In an article from the Moscow Times yesterday:

“The restaurant will offer an American menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, salads and roast beef sandwiches. The average bill will run 250 rubles ($9), or $3 to $4 more than in the United States. Wenrus projects annual revenue of $1.5 million to $1.6 million per store, roughly 40 percent higher than at a store in the United States.”

Myself in the Worker's Paradise

  Things have certainly changed since my youth. I went on a camping trip through part of Russia with a group of Aussies with whom I connected in the part of London known as Earlscourt a.k.a Kangaroo land and survived on Finish flatbread, caviar ($1 US per jar) and Kvass that we purchased in pails from miniature tankers which drove around the streets. The ice cream from the street vendors was also very good although I found the bread from the stores a bit doughy for my taste. We also had a stash of Swan beer, Australia’s favourite which we were lucky enough to smuggle across the Finno-Russian border. In the previous picture you can see me wearing my Canadian t-shirt in front of the statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. Printed on the back of it were the words “Canadian National Drinking Team.”  Bad idea! I seem to remember couples who had just been married arriving in cars for photos at the statue. The cars had dolls or teddy bears tied to the bumpers.


  We got along with the locals very well. The picture of me with the hot Russian chick was taken in the grounds of the USSR exhibition of economic achievements where we learned that every major invention of the last one hundred years was created by Russians before those capitalist, imperialist swine stole the plans using traitors and spies. There was variation in the campgrounds from pleasant huts on the shore of the Baltic to openings in a white birch forest beside a mosquito invested swamp.

  I’ll bet that Wendy’s didn’t use this ad in their Russian commercials.

Family Photos

November 11, 1920

  I was looking at some of my old family photos today and I thought that I would share this particular one because it has an interesting story. The location is Westminster Abbey, London and the date is November 11, 1920. It is the scene of the interment of the Unknown Warrior and the tomb is in the foreground. The Unknown Warrior was an unidentified British soldier who was killed on a European battlefield during WWI. The following quotes are from Wikipedia:

The idea of a Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was first conceived in 1916 by the Reverend David Railton, who, while serving as an army chaplain on the Western Front, had seen a grave marked by a rough cross, which bore the pencil-written legend 'An Unknown British Soldier'.

He wrote to the Dean of Westminster in 1920 proposing that an unidentified British soldier from the battlefields in France be buried with due ceremony in Westminster Abbey "amongst the kings" to represent the many hundreds of thousands of Empire dead. The idea was strongly supported by the Dean and the then Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

At the quayside, Marshal Foch saluted the casket before it was carried up the gangway of the destroyer, HMS Verdun (L93), and piped aboard with an admiral's call. The Verdun slipped anchor just before noon and was joined by an escort of six battleships.   As the flotilla carrying the casket closed on Dover Castle it received a 19-gun Field Marshal's salute. It was landed at Dover Marine Railway Station at the Western Docks on 10 November. The body of the Unknown Warrior was carried to London in South Eastern and Chatham Railway General Utility Van No.132, which had previously carried the bodies of Edith Cavell and Charles Fryatt. The van has been preserved by the Kent and East Sussex Railway. The train went to Victoria Station, where it arrived at platform 8 at 8.32 pm that evening and remained overnight. (A plaque at Victoria Station marks the site: every year on 10 November, a small Remembrance service takes place between platforms 8 and 9.)

On the morning of 11 November 1920, the casket was placed onto a gun carriage of the Royal Horse Artillery and drawn by six horses through immense and silent crowds. As the cortege set off, a further field marshal's salute was fired in Hyde Park. The route followed was Hyde Park Corner, The Mall, and to Whitehall where the Cenotaph, a "symbolic empty tomb", was unveiled by King-Emperor George V. The cortège was then followed by the king, the Royal Family and ministers of state to Westminster Abbey, where the casket was borne into the West Nave of the Abbey flanked by a guard of honor of one hundred recipients of the Victoria Cross.




 My connection to the event is that the woman on the right side of the picture is my great grandmother, Isabelle Truttman whose only son was killed on the Western front and who was invited to the interment with my great grandfather. The man standing on her left was Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg who was chief of the German army general staff during WWI and second President of the Weimar Republic. Also present in the front of the picture were Alexandre Millerand, the President of the French Republic at the time and Marshall Ferdinand Foch who was supreme commander of the Allied forces at the end of WWI.

Try to name the other men present.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

School Days

North Toronto Collegiate Institute

  My old high school was in the Toronto Star newspaper today. In an article by Louise Brown:
“They come to the guidance counsellor with headaches and tears and insomnia and nerves and grades dragged down by the expectations that weigh on their teenaged shoulders. In one of the most academically high-octane schools in Canada, the epidemic of student stress reported by one in three Ontario students has reached a point staff no longer can ignore.

Concerned at the growing number of students diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorders — and more who seem headed that way, especially in Grade 9 — North Toronto Collegiate has launched an unusual program to teach teens how to handle the stress thrust on them by parents, the school system, and themselves.”

  It was the same when I was a student at the school and of my 140 peers in Grade 9, only one hundred were in next year’s Grade 10 class. In those days, nobody talked about stress. If you couldn’t hack the education then you transferred to Northern Secondary down the road where the “losers” got job training.  The Principal expected the school to be the top in academics, music, football and everything else. He was a hard assed ex-Latin teacher who drove the teachers as much as the students and woe to anyone who crossed his path. 98% of the graduates went to university.

  I think that part of the problem was the intake area included both blue collar areas and very wealthy neighbourhoods.  I came from a working class family who had lived in the catchment area for four generations but there was no expectation that your future prospects were proscribed by family background. If you were interested in academics then you went to NTCI and that was it. Of course my social life was not too hot. It’s hard to compete with guys who drive Dad’s jaguar sports car when you have a bicycle for transportation but I didn’t have to deal with parental expectations like some of the others. According to the Fraser Institute high school comparison study, the average family income of students at the school was $170,000 in 2009, there were zero English as Second language students and it was one of the top twenty schools in the country.

  How does the school plan to deal with student stress? From the article:

North Toronto plans to fundraise next year to be able to bring in stress-busting experts like the Youth Wellness Network year-round and may even make a day of stress-busting workshops compulsory next year. Network founder Michael Eisen speaks to students about how to avoid exam stress by taking a break every hour and focus on the joy of learning, not the pressure of the end result.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Arab spring (2)

East meets West on the Giza plateau

   In my last post, I talked about the problems with the basic facts about Egypt.  With this post, I’ll try to nail the canard about a new economically neoliberal Egypt as a consequence of the Arab spring.

  Yes.  Commie Canada sucks and corporate America agrees with this proposition. After reviewing the data maybe we should all pack our bags and move to Egypt especially since Rep. Peter King recently stated that 80% of American mosques are staffed by radical Muslims!  The 2011 index of economic freedom is a joint project of the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank and the Wall Street Journal. I set up charts based on their data comparing America, Canada and Egypt for the period spanning the years from 2001 to 2011 for government spending, labour freedom and fiscal freedom. The score is from 0 (worst) to 100(best). Of course remember my caveat about Egyptian data but this is really about American perceptions. The quotes are from the index of economic freedom website.

Fiscal freedom (Egypt 90, Canada 80, US 70):

“Egypt has below-average personal income and corporate tax rates. The top individual and corporate income tax rates are 20 percent. A special tax of 40.55 percent remains in effect for oil, gas, and exploration companies. Other taxes include a property tax and general sales tax (GST) that functions as a value-added tax (VAT). In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 15.4 percent.”

“Canada has moderate tax rates. The top federal income tax rate is 29 percent, and provincial rates range from 10 percent to 24 percent. The general corporate tax rate was reduced to 18 percent from 19.5 percent as of January 1, 2010, with provincial rates ranging from 10 percent to 16 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) and a property tax. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 32.2 percent.”

”U.S. tax rates are burdensome. The top income and corporate tax rates are 35 percent. Other taxes include an estate tax and excise taxes. Additional income, sales, and property taxes are assessed at the state and local levels. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 26.9 percent. Should authorities choose not to extend tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, the tax rate on the top individual income bracket will jump to 39.6 percent beginning in 2011, and the top capital gains tax rate will increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.”

  Now that the house is controlled by the Republicans and influenced by the tea party, Americans can look forward to Egyptian style taxes.  Of course that also implies Egyptian style poverty and lifestyles –out with big screen televisions and in with radios if the electricity works. Richard Escrow in the Huffington Post said about Egypt, “Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.” Sounds like America? He goes on to say, “Spurred on by the IMF and the World Bank, Egypt eased corporate regulations and began privatizing its bank sector. It lowered individual and corporate tax rates, while at the same time setting new deficit targets for slowed-down government spending. That won praise from Middle Eastern news outlets and corporation-friendly multinational institutions.”

Labour freedom (US 90, Canada 80, Egypt 55):
“U.S. labour regulations are highly flexible. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is low, and the severance payment system is not burdensome. With private-sector union membership steadily shrinking, more union members currently work for the government than for private businesses.”
“Canada’s efficient and flexible labour regulations enhance employment and productivity growth. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is moderate, and dismissing a redundant employee is not burdensome. Rules on work hours are flexible.”
“The impact of the Egyptian government’s new labour code has been limited. The labour market remains rigid, with high non-salary costs of employing workers and restrictions on work hours.”
   The new Egyptian labour law includes new protections for workers such as a 60 day notice of layoffs.  Of course America would never accept such socialist concepts as worker protection or paid leave of absence for maternity situations; however, one can always have room for improvement. One new Republican congressman called for a  review of child labour laws. Now that the illegal aliens are leaving there is a whole new demand for cheap labour

Government spending (Egypt 65, America 55, Canada 53):

“Following the global financial crisis, Egypt adopted a fiscal stimulus package measuring 1.5 percent of GDP. As a result, total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, rose significantly to 34 percent of GDP in the most recent year. The budget deficit is around 7 percent of GDP. Subsidies are widespread in oil, transport, and housing and are poorly targeted in the food sector. Privatization has stalled.”

“In the most recent year, total American government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, equalled 38.9 percent of GDP. Spending increases totalled well over $1 trillion in 2009 alone, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2008. Stimulus spending has hurt the fiscal balance and placed federal debt on an unsustainable trajectory. Gross government debt exceeded 90 percent of GDP in 2010.”

“For Canada in the most recent year, total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, held steady at 39.7 percent of GDP. Privatization is widespread, and the government encourages competition even in sectors formerly operated by government or in privately owned monopolies. With a lower debt-to-GDP ratio, Canada was well positioned to finance a significant stimulus plan in the wake of the global downturn.”

   Again Egypt leads with government spending but they better get their act together with the privatization. If America stops that stimulus craziness and listens to Paul Ryan hope to see a big improvement in this area.  Canada is a lost cause but what can you expect from socialist Canukistan.

Arab Spring (1)

Myself in Saggara, Egypt

  I thought that I would do some posts on the so called Arab Spring because the general press commentary as expressed in the New York Times, the self proclaimed newspaper of record, seems to parrot the official government pronouncements and policy guidelines rather than the true state of affairs.   Intelligent, reflective readers deserve better.  The current situation in Egypt is a good place to start and first thing is to put the “news” in context.

  The NYT opinion is Egypt is on the verge of becoming some sort of neoliberal, western economy with its attendant democratization. The real question is whether it is a positive thing for the Egyptian people considering that the former president Mubarak’s neoliberal policies (the most progressive in the Middle East) had already led to a situation in which many Egyptians had a daily income of approximately $2 and even medical doctors were receiving about $3 daily.  A lot of the current news in the mass media is a conflation of the American political elite’s view of a positive outcome with Egypt’s needs. The Huffington Post on January 29, 2011 had an article titled “Why Egypt matters: Implications of the Protests.”  The commentary’s purported concerns were 1) strong US ally, 2) Israel Palestine peace treaty, 3) Islamist influence, 4) business concerns and 5) regional implications. The important thing is that probably everything you know about Egypt is either wrong or inaccurate. From an article in the Guardian:

The quaintly named Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (or Capmas) was established by presidential decree in 1964 as Egypt's "official source for the collection of data and statistical information, and its preparation, processing and dissemination". Capmas is in charge of "providing all the state bodies, organizations, universities, research centres and in development [sic] and evaluation processes with the information that can help them to make informed decisions". In effect, this gives the Egyptian state a monopoly on statistics, and for 30 years (at least) Capmas has been headed not by professional statisticians but by a succession of major-generals from the military.

  Brian Whitaker in an article in the Guardian on Oct.25, 2010 stated, “Imagine trying to govern a country that lacks adequate statistics about economic activity, healthcare, crime, education, urban development and environmental pollution. Imagine a country that relies heavily on agriculture, and yet has produced no data on the quality of cultivable land since the 1970s.” The information gap in Egypt runs very deep. According to the report "Information Gaps in Egyptian Statistics and the Quality of Basic Data," released by the Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center, no reliable data exist on Egypt's population; with some government studies claiming there are as few as 80 million and others estimating it at 85 million. The World Bank, for instance, claims that Egypt's population is 83 million, while the United Nations World Health Organization puts it at just under 77 million. When I was travelling in the Nile delta, I saw obscene variations in wealth between people living by the side of the road in hovels and palatial estates of the rich while the official UN statistics stated that the wealth inequality in Egypt was much less than in America.

From my bus travelling in the Nile delta

  With respect to the specific economic circumstances of their citizens as redacted in this blog:

“With regards to the economy, the report (Information Gaps in Egyptian Statistics and the Quality of Basic Data) highlights the absence of data on manpower, income, and expenditures, as well as small-sized projects operated by less than ten individuals. In a grave indication of the incongruity here, these businesses constitute the primary providers of job opportunities.  The economy also suffers a data shortage on work quality and payment averages, the study says. Budget figures for energy consumption, according to the study, are not specific.  Moreover, industrial activity statistics are insufficient, the study reveals, while also highlighting a shortage in prospective estimates on monopolistic practices.

Informational failures in determining the rates, reasons, sorts, and the legality of foreign migration, as well as the numbers of expatriates abroad and their locations are also endemic. Internal Immigration totals as well as patterns and motivations also continue undetected.

The report says that, although the tourism sector represents a principal source of national revenue, the country neither possesses statistics on the reasons for tourist visits, nor their approval rates. It also points to a shortage of data on domestic tourism.”

  In the end, the regime was screwed by its own lack of data. On Nov.1,2010 Walid Kazziha, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo said that” not all sectors in Egypt suffered from information deficiency ... The security apparatus seems to be very aware and alert. I don't think we're going to have a 9/11 in Egypt.” No. Just a regime change.

Myself playing 'Lawrence of Arabia' in the Sahara desert

Monday, 20 June 2011

Restaurant Review: Le Papillon (2)

Les plats principaux

Magret de canard
Grilled boneless breast of Muscovy duck, orange Grand Marnier sauce, potatoes & vegetables

Jarret d’agneau
Braised Ontario lamb shank au jus, daily potatoes & vegetables

Confit de canard
Slow-roasted leg of Muscovy duck finished in the oven for a crispy skin, red wine demi-glace, potatoes & vegetables


Pouding chômeur
A rich golden cake baked with caramel sauce & served with French vanilla ice cream

Tarte aux pommes
Crème brûlée
Vanilla cream custard topped with a hard layer of caramelized sugar

The total cost of an excellent meal for four including a bottle of Niagara region Riesling wine was $209 plus tax and gratuities.  Well worth a returning visit.

Restaurant Review: Le Papillon (1)

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Le Papillon Restaurant Front

  Le Papillon opened in 1974 as Toronto's first crêperi and provides a casual French dining experience to Torontonians. After several moves within the historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, they have now re-opened in an Old Town Toronto building that perfectly complements their French brasserie atmosphere. The menu continues to deliver old favourites such as French onion soup and Crêpes Bretonnes, while providing a newly expanded selection of steaks, as well as duck, seafood and pasta dishes. Also not to be missed is their list of homemade classic French desserts.

Specials of the Day

  Le Papillon has won numerous awards over the years, most notably 'Best French Restaurant' in Where Magazine for five years running. They continually strive to provide a relaxed, upscale and white linen approach to fine dining with an emphasis on excellence. I took my kids including my second oldest daughter who graduated from George Brown College last week. The service was excellent with an apparently French waiter who tolerated my offspring’s predilection for sending back wine and food that is not up to their standards.


Camembert frit
house-made cranberry

Pâté de foie de poulet
Chicken liver & Cognac pâté, cornichons,croustini

Escargots de Bourgogne
Broiled snails, traditional garlic parsley butter

Research Notes 1

Julian of Norwich

In what manner those who approach the order of anchorites ought to approach and to order themselves, that which follows according to the Use of Sarum will make clear. No one ought to be enclosed without the advice of the Bishop ; but let him be taught and warned by the Bishop or some other presbyter that he must devoutly examine his own conscience, and in particular whether he desires holiness with a good or bad purpose, if he desires it to please God or to attain wealth or the praise of men ; lastly whether he have strength and endurance of mind enough to avail against the crafts of the evil enemy, and against manifold mischiefs of that sort. When he shall have promised to bear such things for the kingdom of God, and to set his hope on God alone, let the Bishop, or a presbyter by command of the Bishop, enclose him. But let the one who is enclosed learn not to think highly of himself, as though he deserved to be set apart from the mass of mankind ; but let him rather believe that it is provided and appointed for his own weakness that he should be set far from the companionship of his neighbours, lest by more frequent sin he should both himself perish and do harm to those who dwell with him, and should thus fall into greater damnation. Let him therefore think that he is convicted of his sins and committed to solitary confinement as to a prison, and that on account of his own weakness he is unworthy of the fellowship of mankind. This rule must be observed with both sexes.

Clay, Rotha Mary., The Hermits and Anchorites of England. Methuen & Co., London. 1914.

The quote is a foreword to the office of the enclosing of anchorites according to the use of Sarum which was used in the Middle Ages. Since the vast majority of anchorites were women, I was thinking how close the role of the bishop was to a modern psychotherapist when confronted with a female client.

 Enclosure was first and foremost an intellectual acquiescence to a patriarchal world view where the woman is unworthy due to her original sin by virtue of her gender. The postulant is denied the validation of her beliefs and there is an intellectual coercion by an implied but not expressed notion of personal guilt for the failings of her community. Also note that the Black Death which was prevalent at the time was considered God’s punishment for sin and thus the sin of the prospective anchorite would cause the physical death of herself and her companions: therefore, exclusion and obedience to God as corporally manifested in the form of the Church was justified for the safety of society.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Obama’s position on women

  Am I missing something? White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer when asked about  the War on Women gave the above in an interview at the Netroots Nation on Friday. He is supposed to be Obama’s point man on his policy positions but I have played the segment several times and I don’t see where he answers the questions given by Daily Kos Associate Editor Kalli Joy Gray. From Wikipedia:
Netroots Nation is a political convention for American progressive political activists, originally organized by readers and writers of Daily Kos, a liberal political blog. It was previously called YearlyKos. The 5th Annual Netroots Nation conference was in Las Vegass at the Rio All-Suite  Hotel & Casino July 22–25, 2010. The 2011 conference will be in Minneapolis from June 16–19.
  This guy is pretty bright with magna cum laude degree from Georgetown University and has had a long relationship with Obama - White House Deputy Communications Director (January-November 2009); Communications Director for Barack Obama's transition team (November 2008 to January 2009); Deputy Communications Director for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign (July 2008 to November 2008); Traveling press secretary for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign (January 2008 to July 2008) so I’m surprised when he is out gunned by  Kalli Joy Gray a.k.a Angry Mouse. This should be a slam dunk with a fellow progressive but he appears to waffle on some clear cut issues.
  The Obama administration seems to take the progressives for granted with the attitude that there is nowhere else for them to turn during an election. They want to be able to triangulate with the right like President Clinton on welfare while leaving their flank exposed to attacks from the left. If a third party progressive candidate for president in 2012 comes forward then they’ll have some real problems.

Student + Debt = Joy

One of my daughters graduating last week

  According to an article in the New York Times by Ann Carrns today, the more debt that students incur the higher their self esteem.
“The more college loans and credit-card debt that young adults 18 to 27 have, the higher their self-esteem — and the more control they feel they have over their lives. They tend to view debt positively, rather than as a burden.”
  This surprising conclusion from a sociological study of college students was reported by Rachel Dwyer, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State.
  In the study, this positive effect of debt was most pronounced in lower and middle class students who “focus on credit as a necessary investment in status attainment” while upper class students did not appear to psychologically benefit from increased levels of debt.  Pity those trust fund kids.  For me this seems to be another example of magical thinking as expounded in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, “Bright sided.”

  I checked the author’s CV and noted another paper published in 2010 titled,” Poverty, Prosperity, and Place: The Shape of Class Segregation in the Age of Extremes.” The basic conclusion was that rich, white people don’t live where poor, Black and Hispanic people reside and the wealthy either live on large lots in the suburbs or upscale enclaves in the city.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Canadian Identity

Nothing brings out the beast in Canadians like a final challenge between a Canadian and an American hockey team. This year is no different with the final game for the Stanley Cup being played tonight between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks. The video above is being shown on Canadian TV channels. How many stereotypes can you identify in the clip? They left out French unfortunately  since the country is bilingual except for the North West territories which have eleven official languages - Chipewyann, Cree, English, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey and Tłįch.  

  The same thing happened in Buffalo, New York during the Junior World Hockey championships in January of this year.  The Buffalo Evening News had a lot to say about it:

“It is a good thing that the World Junior hockey tournament did not last any longer. Another week and we might have had a border war.

Even as it was, I think we saw a different side of the normally placid, polite, patient good neighbors we thought we knew. Buffalo was invaded by a sea of red. The tide has receded, leaving behind some hard feelings, shattered stereotypes and an aftertaste as bad as the backwash from a warm Molson.

Whatever happened to the polite, humble, rule-respecting folks we thought we knew? Where were the civic-minded citizens who dutifully wait at the street corner when the traffic light is red, even when no cars are coming? Wherever you are, we want you back.”

  Do any of you cultural identity experts have an analysis?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hola Absolut drinkers

Viva Mexico

  Absolut Vodka is Swedish brand of vodka produced in Åhus, Skåne which was purchased by the French company, Pernod Ricard from the Swedish government in 2008. In a spate of Gallic impudence (from a US perspective) they had an ad campaign showing the world political geography according to an Absolut vodka drinker. In Mexico, this campaign had ads displaying North America as if the Americans had lost the Spanish American war.

According to an article in the LA Times:

The campaign taps into the national pride of Mexicans, according to Favio Ucedo, creative director of leading Latino advertising agency Grupo Gallegos in the U.S. Ucedo, who is from Argentina, said: "Mexicans talk about how the Americans stole their land, so this is their way of reclaiming it. It's very relevant and the Mexicans will love the idea."

  I wonder how John Huppenthal, Gov. Jan Brewer and the others in Arizona would feel about it. I can just see it hanging on the wall of a Tucson Unified School district ethnic studies classroom wall.

It’s Chinese to me.

Mickey Mouse false cognate in kanji?

Def: False cognates are pairs of words in the same or different languages that are similar in form and meaning but have different roots. That is, they appear to be, or are sometimes considered, cognates, when in fact they are not.

Japanese kanji and Chinese ideograms have many false cognates. The (世論 kanji) What Japan Thinks  website came up with a list of the more interesting ones. In a June post, I talked in a humorous manner about the Tepco logo as really a false kanji cognate for the Mickey Mouse symbol.

Ranking result
Q: What kanji were you surprised to learn the Chinese meaning of? (Sample size=1,070)
Japanese meaning
Chinese meaning
Toilet paper
Pig guts boiled in spices
Postage stamp
To cut one’s hand
Steam train
Mental arithmetic
To conspire a plot
Force someone to do something against their will
A wicked heart