BC Forest Service Map Images

Much of my childhood was spent travelling to various lakes and valleys throughout BC, usually somewhere along the road less travelled. Most of those roads are not shown on normal highway maps, so BC Forest service maps were indespensible to many family camping adventures. These maps, however, are long out of print. Now I’m sure there are various BC backroad guidebooks you could buy to fill the void, but I thought I would try to put the large collection of Forest Service Maps which I’m lucky enough to have access to in the public sphere (by which I mean the internet).

So, I’ve photographed them with my DSLR under semi-optimal lighting conditions, and edited the files for maximum readability. Unfortunately, my DSLR is only 6 megapixels, and I think 12 or 25 would be necessary to make the maps highly readable.

I’ve posted the maps in a folder on my Picasa page, here. Note: in order to use the maps, you must “download file”. To do this, click on the map you want, and click “download” on the upper taskbar (it’s to the right of “Full Screen” and “Share”). Even clicking “magnify” does not reveal the image in any thing close to a usable resolution.

If these maps are useful to anyone, please let me know. If I got requests, I could potentially make (or if I’m out of town, ask my parents to make) higher resolution copies of a particular map by taking many images. Or, if anyone knows of a better resource for these maps already on the internet, please let me know and I will direct people there instead!

Now, here are the direct Links to the Forest Service Maps – plus some Park Maps thrown in for good measure!

Cariboo Chilcoten Forest Service Map

Kamloops Forest Service Map

Merritt Forest Service Map

Chilliwack Forest Service Map

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Who Stands with the Roma?

France is currently deporting hundreds of Roma because their presence in France is “illegal”. The question of the legality of the deportation is actually quite interesting, because of the way the law in its current state privileges non-nomadic life, but that is not the issue I wish to address here. Rather, I want to discuss which groups are coming out in support of the Roma, or in support of Sarkozy’s deportations – and the rational behind this support.

The prominent figures in the Catholic Church have come out against the deportations:

In the document the Bishops say they deplore the way the Roma and Gitane people are being scapegoated by society. New legislation being introduced by Sarkozy is stirring up prejudice, they said.

Questions about whether the support for the Roma come from figures in the Church or from the Church itself were settled when the Pope made this announcement on August 22nd:

The Pope urged French pilgrims to welcome people of all origins, saying that the scriptures were “an invitation to know how to accept legitimate differences among humans, just like Jesus came to pull men together from every nation, speaking every language.”

The Vatican repeated its opposition on August 27th. They have, however, been in no way the only voice come out in opposition of these deportations which single out the Roma. A UN human rights body, various rights groups, trade unions, and even George Sorros have come out against the deportations.

A group conspicuously absent from voices of support for the Roma in France is CRIF, an umbrella organization which represents many Jewish organizations in France. In fact, while technically the CRIF have remained neutral, a statement made by their president Richard Prasquier closely reminds me of the way American Republicans speak about illegal Mexican immigrants in southern American states:

CRIF President Richard Prasquier said he supports the idea of expelling illegal Roma from the country and that the idea of denaturalizing certain foreign-born criminals is “understandable” if they are guilty of attacking officers.

Implying that the deportations concern primarily immigrants who are guilty of some offences is not neutral. In fact, it conceals the reality of the situation, and repeats xenophobic stereotypes of the Roma as a criminal people. It is extremely worrying to hear this neutrality from France’s Jewish community – logically one would expect European Jews to feel solidarity with the oppressed Roma; they were after all both subjects of the Nazi genocide:

It is not known precisely how many Roma were killed in theHolocaust. While exact figures or percentages cannot be ascertained, historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma. Of slightly less than one million Roma believed to have been living in Europe before the war, the Germans and their Axis partners killed up to 220,000.

To the extent that anti-semitism persists in Europe, I sincerely doubt it to be more prominent than anti-Roma sentiment. While I have never personally met someone openly anti-Semitic, the vast majority of Eastern Europeans I have casually encountered (none of which became my friends) have openly expressed hatred for Gypsies. Therefore I take seriously accusations that this racist policy is an attempt to garner votes support from National Front supporters in an upcoming election.

Not all French Jews, of course, support the CRIF problematic neutrality. Patrick Klugman, a member of CRIF director’s committee is upset at CRIF’s position, stating: “I think it’s the role of the Jewish community to be heard”. Klugman is a dedicated anti-racist, and the founder of JCALL, the European Jewish Call for Reason (worth a look). I doubt that it is random that Klugman both opposes the Occupation of the occupied territories, and the silence of CRIF on the racist deportation of the Roma – both immoral realities ignored in the name of a group’s self-preservation. We can see this logic of careful respect for violent oppresion in statements made by France’s chief Rabbi, Gilles Bernheim:

“This affair is not easy,” he said last week. “It requires both moderation and firmness.”

While Bernheim said he hoped decisions on security “are made case by case, and that we never stigmatize a community,” he also voiced support for Sarkozy’s tough-cop proposals.

“I haven’t forgotten that there’s a real war that has been established against the police, against the forces of order, and when I see the violence that is exercised against the representatives of public order, I tell myself that we also need firmness to react to that,” he said.

The reality, of course, is that stigmatizing a community due to a few alleged incidents is exactly what is happening. Hundreds of Roma have already been deported with no alleged charges.

The failure of France’s Jewish community to come out en masse against the deportations reminds me of what Chomsky has been saying since the 70s about those who claim to “support Israel”: “supporters of Israel are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration.” One wonders how far this moral degeneration has spread.

Late August Songs

Musically, I go through cycles. For years, I’ll listen to the same music. And then in a day or a week, I’ll discover a plethora of new amazing songs, by exciting new (to me) artists. I thought I’d share some of the tunes I came across today and yesterday.

1.  MyHope (A myspace song)

MyHope is a fabulous like ukelele jingle about a time in the future when this generation’s kids find their parents old myspace profiles and amuse themselves with their parents old comments and haircuts. Nothing specific about this song is terribly new, it’s just terribly darling! The performer is Molly Lewis, and I came across her while searching for covers of “Still Alive“, the song from the end of Portal, the video game.  Her cover was the best, but her own songs are even better. She seems to be a bit of a hero on the comic-con scene. Her thing seems to be uke covers of pop songs. She’ll even play freebird.

2. If Only you were Lonely

I first heard this song (last night) while riding in a car with Dave – Sonny played it on my 1960s Sears Silvertone guitar, the one I bought at an antique store in Bellingham for 40$ and had to re-enforce to keep from collapsing when I put strings on it. It might have been the first time I’ve heard Sonny sing – certainly the first time he’s invoked the Gods of early New Country with his heartfelt voice.

3. Arthur Macbride (Paul Brady’s 1977 version)

I’ve known about this song a little longer – I was introduced to it at TAPSS. It’s a great anti-war song, a story of two Irish lads standing up to an English Seargent ,”who would have no scruples but to send [them] to France, where they would get shot without warning. ” I’m not sure how I feel about their subsequent beating of the Sergeant and the military drummer – but on the whole, I feel very positively about this number. It’s a fun one to play, also, since it’s in open G and has many irish stylistic embellishments.

Abraham Lincoln on Freedom, Wage labour and Slavery

The liberal tradition is employed by the left and the right to justify their positions concerning contemporary “capitalist” society. An issue often raised concerns US slavery, whether it made life better for slaves, whether it was better or worse than wage slavery in the north. While we’ve all heard Noam Chomsky talk about this, it’s probably a good idea to look for other sources on what 19th century liberals actually thought about freedom. Micheal Sandel has written about Lincoln’s conception of freedom and how it relates to wage labour and slavery in a book called “Democracy’s Discontent: America in a search for Public Policy“.  The following quotations are taken from a chapter called “Free Labour versus Wage Labour”:

“Although he shared the abolitionist’ moral condemnation of slavery, Lincoln did not share their voluntarist conception of freedom. Lincoln’s main argument against the expansion of slavery rested on the free labour ideal, and unlike the abolitionists, he did not equate free labour with wage labour. The superiority of free labour to slave labour did not consist in the fact that free labourers consent to exchange their work for a wage whereas slaves do not consent. The differences was rather that the northern wage labourer could hope one day to escape from his condition, whereas the slave could not. It was not consent that distinguished free labour from slavery, but rather the prospect of independence, the chance to rise to own productive property and to work for oneself. According to Lincolm, it was this feature of the free labour system that the southern critics of wage labour overlooked: “They insist that their slaves are far better off than Northern freemen. What a mistaken view do these men have of Northern labourers! They think that men are always to remain labourers here – but there is no such class. The man who laboured for another last year, this year labours for himself. And next year he will hire others to labour for him.” (181)

“Lincoln did not challenge the notion that those who spend their entire lives as wage labourers are comparable to slaves. He held that both forms of work wrongly subordinate labour to capital. Those who debated “whether it is best that capital shall hire labourers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them ot it without consent,” considered too narrow a range of possibilities. Free labour is labour carried out under conditions of independence from employers and masters alike. Lincolm insisted that, at least in the North, most Americans were independent in this sense: “Men, with their families – wives, sons and daughters – work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favours of capital on the one hand, nor of hirelings or slaves on the other.”

“In Lincoln’s hands, the conception of freedom deriving from the artisan republican tradition became the rallying point for the northern cause in the Civil War. In the 1830s and 1840s, labour leaders had invoked this conception in criticizing northern society; wage labour, they feared, was supplanting free labour. In the late 1850s, Lincoln and the Republicans invoked the same conception in defending northern society; they superiority of the North to the slaveholding South consisted in the independence the free labour system made possible.” (183)

“The Union victory in the Civil War put to rest the threat of free labour posed by the slave power, only to revive and intensify the threat posed by the wage system and industrial capitalism. Lincoln had led the North to war in the name of free labour and the small, independent producer, but the war itself accelerated the growth of capitalist enterprise and factory production.” (183)

“In 1869 the New York Times reported on the decline of the free labour system and the advance of wage labour. Small workshops had become “far less common than they were before the war,” and “the small manufactures thus swallowed up have become workmen on wages in the greater establishments, whose larger purses, labour-saving machines, etc., refused to allow the small manufacturers a separate existence.” THe article criticized the trend it described in terms reminiscent of the labour movement of the 1830s and 1840s. THe fall of the independent mechanic to wage earner status amounted to ” a system of slavery as absolute if not as degrading as that which lately prevailed in the South.

The 1870 census, the first to record detailed information about Americans’ occupations, confirmed what many workers already knew. Not withstanding a free labour ideology that tied liberty to ownership of productive property, American had become a nation of employees.” (183)

Heidegger and Russell on Technology and Politics

It is normal to draw a strong distinction between the way we think “technology” in analytic and continental philosophy. The traditional liberal, or analytic position is to claim the neutrality of technology, “technology is a means to an end”, whereas strange Heideggerians talk about “enframing“, “standing reserve”, and other German concepts that make no sense to liberals. Continental philosophers (including different varieties of Marxists and psycho-analytic post marxists) conceive of technology (or alienated labour) as something genuinely new, which has changed the fabric of human kind, and which is not neutral with respect to social-political problems faced by contemporary society. Liberals, and analytic philosophers, on the other hand, refuse to see technology as something tainted, and are often first to support the “build a better mousetrap” solution to any technological-ecological catastrophe.

There are a few reasons, however, why we might not want to so sharply divide the liberal from the continental tradition on technology, however. Firstly, if one actually reads Heidegger’s “Question Concerning Technology” (which is quite easy, in fact, since it is available for free online), one finds that Heidegger in no way disputes the standard, liberal, definition of technology as neutral:

The current conception of technology, according to which it is a means and a human activity, can therefore be called the instrumental and anthropological definition of technology.

Who would ever deny that it is correct? It is in obvious conformity with what we are envisaging when we talk about technology.

Heidegger’s essay certainly doesn’t conclude by positing the instrumental definition of technology, but importantly he does not dismiss it as false. His argument that situates technology as a “mode of truth” procedes from the everyday understanding of technology – one might say that for Heidegger, the instrumental understanding of technology is true, but not adequate. Not adequate because it does not sufficiently account for the affect technological thinking has on man’s being in the world. It is that non-neutrality – the transformative effect of technology on the way the world appears – which is normally seen as anti-liberal.

However, if one actually reads the eminent analytic philosopher, Bertrand Russell, on the subject of technology – one begins to wonder whether the discussion, or at least the concerns, are really so different:

This brings me to the second kind of idea that has helped or may in time help mankind;  I mean moral as opposed to technical ideas. Hitherto I have been considering the increased command over the forces of nature which men have derived from scientific knowledge, but this, although it is a pre-condition of many forms of progress, does not itself insure anything desirable. On the contrary, the present state of the world and the fear of an atomic war show that scientific progress without corresponding moral and political progress may only increase the magnitude of the disaster that misdirected skill may bring about. In superstitious moments I am tempted to believe in the myth of the Tower of Babel, and to suppose that in our own day a similar but greater impiety is about to be visited by a more tragic and terrible punishment. (google book link)

The shared concern, then, is the idea that something other than technology is required to take care of the situation in which man is placed by technology. The strong, although perhaps superficial difference, is this: for Russell the technological situation is characterized by the magnitude of power which resides in technological machines man creates. Whereas, for Heidegger, the technological situation is characterized by seeing the world technologically, by the technological form of truth, or of revealing. However, if we look closely at what is meant by the technological “mode of revealing”, we begin to see the complex relation between the technological mode of revealing, and man’s situation of excessive unbridled power which could result in disaster:

Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the revealing that challenges.

According to Heidegger, in the technological form of revealing everything appears as something to be ordered and secured – or one might say, mastered. In fact, things literally appear as a challenge to be mastered. There is ample anecdotal evidence for this worldview – think of the settler mindset and its desire to tame and work the land, or the scientific value of endless progress towards understanding that which initially appears chaotic. For Heidegger, the complexity of man’s technological situation is, however, not characterized by the difficulty of the challenge (this we are constantly overcoming), but the difficulty of coming to grips with the situation of challenge itself:

enframing challenges forth into the frenziedness of ordering that blocks every view into the propriative event of revealing and so radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth.

Perhaps because Heidegger is a philosopher first, and believes strongly that philosophy has no social purpose, he frames the problem around man’s relationship with truth as such. Truth, for Heidegger, is essentially ambiguous – but this ambiguity is buried over in the frenzy of correctness as one is constantly engaged in the challenge of organizing and securing the energies of the world. (In true Heideggarian fashion there is also a reversal – this very burying over of the ambiguity of truth is a revealing of the mysterious nature of truth, hence the famous phrase from Holderlin: “Where the danger lies, the saving power also”). However, while the social effects of the technological way of seing things may not be his first priority, they are not totally absent from the discussion. In the post humously published Der Spiegel interview, Heidegger famously claimed his lack of faith in Democracy – and if we read this statement in context, we see the similarities between Heidegger’s and Russell’s concerns coming into line:

During the past thirty years [1936-66], it should meanwhile have become clearer that the planetary movement of modern technology is a power whose great role in determining history can hardly be overestimated. A decisive question for me today is how a political system can be assigned to today’s technological age at all, and which political system would that be? I have no answer to this question. I am not convinced that it is democracy.

I would indeed describe [conceptions of democracy] as halves because I don’t think they genuinely confront the technological world. I think that behind them there is an idea that technology is in its essence something human beings have under their control. In my opinion, that is not possible. Technology is in its essence something that human beings cannot master of their own accord.

The central assertion about technology is, then, that the essence of technology is not something we can “master” – one might say that mastering as such is not master-able. And considering the current precarious situation of man vis a vis both the danger of nuclear weapons and global warming,If we are to read this statement without prejudice today, we ought probably conclude that Heidegger appears to be on the right track – democracy, at least real-existent democracy, is not able to deal with the technological situation of the species. Russell, on the other hand, is resolutely pro-Democracy. But, if we return to Russell’s claim about technology, it does not appear that Russell thinks technology to be “masterable” either – he refers to “moral as opposed to technical ideas”. And for Russell, man as “moral” is decisively not something masterable:

Man, viewed morally, is a strange amalgam of angel and devil. He can feel the splendor of the night, the delicate beauty of spring flowers, the tender emotion of parental love, and the intoxication of intellectual understanding. In moments of insight visions come to him of how life should be lived and how men should order their dealings one with another. Universal love is an emotion which many have felt and which many more could feel if the world made it less difficult. This is one side of the picture. On the other side are cruelty, greed, indifference and over-weening pride.

Russell’s view of man as split between good and evil, or love and reason, is traditional – and while it is compatible with the notion of technical things as neutral, it is not compatible with the idea of politics as technics. The disagreement over democracy essentially concerns democracy’s ability to consider man as man, in other words, to be moral and not merely technical. Russell’s optimistic outlook for democracy conceives of democracy not as an idea put into force intentionally by man in order to order and secure desirable life, but rather something which organically develops over time:

Ordered social life of a kind that could seem in any degree desirable rests upon a synthesis and balance of certain slowly developed ideas and institutions: government, law, individual liberty, and democracy.

Moral ideas sometimes wait upon political developments, and sometimes outrun them.

The transformation of morals into politics is not a simple technical procedure. The question, then, is not whether or not politics is technics, but whether Democracy is adequate to the situation of man in which man everywhere seeks to master the world, and yet can not master his own mastering of it. Before man everywhere ordered and secured the world, there was no pressing need to secure the species against nuclear and ecological disaster. But today, the crisis is imminent: we have a limited amount of time to begin significant cuts to human C02 emissions, or we will face catastrophic climate change and potentially exterminate the species.  So, the question of whether democracy could be adequate to the moral need of humanity, in a time when its institutions so sorely lag behind that need, is a live question.

If we are to learn anything from Russell or Heidegger’s questioning concerning technology and politics, it is not adequate to remain at the level of discussing theoretical disagreements between them as philosophers. Of that there is plenty, sometimes conveniently presented on youtube. Rather, we should engage their thought on the level of its content. Anyone can engage with the content of this question, but only in conversation with these philosophers if one is willing to actually read them, which is something different from observing their propositions in order to argue with them and “prove them wrong”. Any genuine thinker is not simply “right” or “wrong”, but contributes to thinking on issues which concern the situation of man.


Chilcoten Adventure

Last week my father and I went on an adventure into the Chilcoten, the region West of the Cariboo, North of Whistler which stretches between Fraser Canyon and the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been meaning to visit this region for years, but various other commitments have always taken priority.

The area is a real backwater – there hardly any traffic on the highway as you cross the Fraser River, despite being only a few minutes from the relative metropolis of Williams Lake. As you continue past the Williams  Lake “Loran C” station the ground is covered in rocks – remnants of violent volcano activity in the region’s past.

There is little industry in the Chilcoten – the few sawmills (one of which my father did a fair bit of work on) are not currently operating, although there is talk of getting the mill at Hanceville back open, cutting metric timber for the Chinese market.

At Riskie Creek we took a detour south to Farwel Canyon. This road is effectively a back road off a back road – truly the back of beyond. The only vehicles we saw were fire personnel. We spent the night at an abandoned homestead on the road between Farwel Canyon and Big Creek Junction. Although we carefully parked our car out of sight of the road, this was unnecessary as only one other car passed between the time we stopped and when we left the next morning.

If there is one place in the Chilcoten which feels on the upturn, it would be the town of Nimpo Lake. The town boasts several coffee shops, a good restaurant (“The Dean”), and (at least) two float plane services which offer tours and fly-in/fly-out service for hikers and visitors to Chris Czajkowski’s wilderness eco-tourism resort. If anyone’s interested, Chris’ establishment is for sale at the bargain price of $175k. The only downside is everything must come in and out only by float plane or on your back.

At the Western End of the Chilcoten is “the hill” aka Heckman Pass. Surely one of the most impressive and fightening pieces of road in the current British Columbia Highway Network, the Hill is an 18km descent out of Tweedsmuir park 1500 meters into the valley below, with grades of up to 18%. When we descended, it was 10 degrees warmer at the bottom of the hill than at the top – but astonishing thing is the completely different feel of everything – all of a sudden you are out of the Chilcoten, and in the coast region. The valley at the bottom is remarkably mild and rich – fruit trees grow profusely, and there are many farms.

Bella Coola is the end of the road. A town suspended in time, but certainly not a ghost town. We were impressed by the friendliness of the people, and the sense that the native community is on the upswing. At the warf there is a cannery, similar to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. It is as if when the cannery was shut (in the 80s, probably), clover leaf simply walked away – the office still has a sign stating “direct inquiries to…”. There is no fence – no warning tape to prevent you from walking out to the old cannery building. Isn’t Clover Leaf worried about liability, if someone were to injure themselves on their old wharf? Where are the lawyers!

At the dock we met an old soul with a gorgeous old fish-packing boat. Built in 1939, it was (unlike most everything else at the dock), in pristine condition. While it still maintains a fisheries license, it is currently being used to ship jade from ocean side mining operations. The old Russian-Canadian who owned and ran it had no respect for bureaucrats – people with no experience and no willingness to stand behind their word, on his account.  By the look of his jewelry, he seems to have done ok.

On our way out of town the next day, we poked around a building project which looked suspiciously like shopping mall construction. It wasn’t – it was actually expansion of a band school, funded by Stimulus dollars. We met and spoke with Alvin Mack, who was working on painting designs above the front facade of the school. He spoke with ease and honesty about the violent history perpetrated against the Nuxalk nation, and repeated by the first nations community against itself. He actually carved a pole which stands in the centre of town which is called the “residential” pole – which serves to remind the community not only of the violence perpetrated against members of their community in residential schools, but of how that violence must no longer be repeated by the community against itself.

Alvin seemed to have a remarkable handle on the way perspective dominates and makes difficult the healing of first nations communities. Basically every attempt by the settlers to impose order on the Nuxalk in fact produced chaos. For instance, when chiefs from around the Beela Coola area were all brought to live in Bella Coola, and all given houses on the same street – this produced chaos. When the children were taken away and punished for speaking their language, chaos. When the parents were left behind, their childs taken away – chaos. When for forty years the violence of residential schools were denied by the authorities – chaos. And perhaps most observantly – when first nations communities are set up in individual family homes, so everyone lives in their own space, develops their own perspective – what does this do to the band council, to the community? Chaos – and this specifically reveals something very essential about the difficulty in western democracy – how to get people to think and work together, when lived experience is set up to promote the selfish ideal? Alvin understood the solution – rebuild the band school, teach the children the traditions and songs, and how to work together.

Our failed democracies could learn something from the successful rebuilding of first nations communities – we go around pretending we are the firm culture, and it is theirs which is in trauma. But in fact, the inability of liberal democracy to successfully deal with global warming and domestic poverty make it clear that there is nothing terribly strong about settler culture today. This isn’t to say it should be thrown out and replaced (although this is somehow an essentially western way of thinking about political problems), or maintain the status quo because of the danger of revolution (again – who thought this was a good way to formulate the problem?), but return and on the basis of the genuine and positive aspects of our cultural tradition, build a world which is adequate to our humanity. And as I often point out – that means addressing the central problem in democracy of small mindedness and the taking over of the system by factions. Examining these failures and attempts to overcome them in first nations band-democracy might shed light on the same problems in liberal democracy.

Ayer and Husserl on the Problem of Other Minds

Tonight I found myself in the strange position of reading A. J. Ayer – just for fun. Traditionally I identify as a Continental Philosopher, which means I dismiss all readers of Bertrand Russell as full of nonsense and devote myself solely to Heidegger, Hegel and Kant and followers. However, after attending TAPSS this seems an exceedingly stupid way to do philosophy. Not that I’m a convert – I still think analytic philosophy is a weak tradition. But, its foundations must have a certain potency to them – it is after all still chugging along today (although that might have more to do with the Nazis than the actual rigour of the thought).

Continue reading “Ayer and Husserl on the Problem of Other Minds”

Toxic after effects of Fallujah “worse than Hiroshima”

I don’t have anything interesting to say about this, other than I can’t find any evidence of any North American press reporting on the issue – which is disturbing to say the least. So, I’m just posting the Belfast Telegraph’s story. You can also read about it on Arab News and China.org.cn

“Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Continue reading “Toxic after effects of Fallujah “worse than Hiroshima””

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

Rush has released a documentary, chronicling the band’s career from the suburbs of Toronto in the early 70s to present.

The documentary proceeds in chapters, each which present a different period in the band’s history. There is a remarkable amount of footage from the different periods – even of the band practicing in suburban basements, and arguing with their parents about whether they should remain grade twelve to complete highschool. This gives the documentary a realistic, and not at all contrived feel.

The film includes commentary from many other famous musiciens on the progression and importance of the band, including Billy Corgan, Jack Black, Kirk Hammett, and Trent Reznor. I was genuinely unaware of the influence of Rush on many of these artists.

The argument of the film is, roughly, that Rush is one of the great rock bands. To be compared with Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. While Rush has received much less critical acclaim, the film claims that the body of work that Rush has produced over the last 40 years speaks for itself. In an attempt to adjudicate this claim, I’ve spent the last week listening to Rush – not just Moving Pictures, or 2112, but bits from the entire corpus. My conclusion is that once one gets over one’s biases against “prog-rock” or “electronica”, it is all good. Even eighties tracks like “Mystic Rhythms“, “Red Sector A” and “Time Stands Still” sound good today. But it is really tracks like “Working Man”, “Tom Sawyer”, and “Red Barchetta” that put the band over the top, into that elusive top category of musical groups.

In Praise of Google News

I like physical newspapers. I like the feel of the paper, I like the way they become crumpled and “well read” when properly enjoyed. I like the different sections, the passing around the breakfast table. I especially like spilling coffee on them, or using them to cover a work area before beginning a messy project, probably involving glue.

But regarding the news, physical newspapers don’t cut it anymore. Each single one operates under a different complex of pressures, norms, and incentives. If you only read one, you’ll have a terribly skewed perspective. And if you read many, you’ll be inundated with paper, and you’ll have trouble acquiring them outside major cities.

Google news is in many ways a vastly superior alternative. Searching through thousands of newspapers around the world by key-word allows one to bypass the local biases, the regional political pressures, everything that spoils good reporting. Of course, there are always biases in anything you read – but being able to get a spectrum of facts from different world papers puts one in a better position to read through them.

I realized how dependant I was on google news (and its sometimes corollary – the facebook news page) when Chomsky started making a big deal on how, in the middle of the Wikileaks coverage on Afghanistan, new evidence that the American military assault on Fallujah has left a toxic legacy “worse than hiroshima” was not being reported in the American media. “Not being reported?”, I thought, that’s ridiculous. I had heard about it a day before his comment had been posted. But then when I looked back to Google News where I had read about it, I realized that all the stories on Fallujah were in papers like “The Belfast Telegraph”, “The Tehran Times”, “China.org.cn”, “The Socialist Worker”, “Arab News”. And that’s when it hit me – it’s trivial to access stories from these papers using Google News – you just search and click, completely simple, and (hopefully) transparent. But if you are reliant on North American dinosaurs like “The Globe” or “The Vancouver Sun”, “The New York Times”, you won’t find out about this.

I’m certainly not claiming that “The Tehran Times” or “The Belfast Telegraph” are better papers than the “Vancouver Sun” or “New York Times”. My point is, in fact, that I think claiming one paper is better than another, so I shall read paper X rather than paper Y, is radically 20th century – and has been surpassed and replaced by google news.