Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cycling Against the Occupation

Photo of the day: Palestinian cyclists tour the West Bank city of Qalqilia in protest of the closure of that city. (Khaleel Reash, Maan Images).

Via Institute for Middle East Understanding

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Safety video for cycling in traffic

I thought this was well done, demonstrating how to operate a bike as a vehicle, under all rules of the road. In particular, controlling the lane is demonstrated well here. This was a hard lesson for me to learn when I first started bike commuting as I didn't want to delay anyone or be "in the way". However, nearly getting doored when feeling pressured over to the right taught me a valuable lesson. Unfortunately I have experienced many a honk from an angry driver who thinks I should be driving in the gutter, or who nearly sideswipes me while passing too close. However, the truth is that most drivers are fine with this type of cycling, and they would rather see you clearly and not making unexpected maneuvers (even if they are delayed a few seconds!). They may not always be happy but everyone stays alive!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What's New on the Green Scene?

"We have reached a point of planetary emergency," says climatologist James Hansen. It seems the earth is near a tipping point.

Busy doing the most tipping are the richest Canadians, the tar sands, and businesses.

Imagine the whole human family squabbling about whose turn it is to scrub the atmosphere.

So what is a regular Joe or Jane to do?

Well, this summer, you could green your travel, or avoid the whole thing with a staycation.

Or, put your girls to work with a chest charger.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jim Prentice lies about Digital Copyright on national radio, then hangs up

Oh my, this would have been hilarious, if it wasn't real. CBC's Search Engine finally got an interview (10 minutes promised, 10 8 minutes delivered) to ask some questions about the digital copyright. Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing sums it up nicely:
[Prentice] delivered nothing but spin and outright lies about his legislation and ended up hanging up on Jesse Brown, the interviewer.

You have to listen to this -- in it, the Minister lies, dodges, weaves and ducks around plain, simple questions like, "If the guy at my corner shop unlocks my phone, is he breaking the law?" and "If my grandfather breaks the DRM on his jazz CDs to put them on his iPod, does that break the law?" and the biggie, "All the 'freedoms' your law guarantees us can be overriden by DRM, right?" (Prentice's answer to this last one, "The market will take care of it," is absolutely priceless.)
It's crazy - he speaks slowly, hums and haws, ers and ummms, until the 10 less than 8 minutes are up. The big question is whether he doesn't understand his own bill or just doesn't want us to get it.
Jim Prentice unlocked - Listen for yourself (It's the first segment).

Some actual information about the bill. Join the Facebook group or check out the website Fair Copyright for Canadians

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So What About Iraq?

What with the subprime mortgage crisis, the Democratic primaries, and the spiking food and fuel prices it seems as though everyone has forgotten about Iraq. Here's an interesting post from Last of Iraqis, one of the few Iraqi bloggers still left in Baghdad:
I have been asked by many westerner friends and readers so many times about the reality of the situation in Iraq and especially in Baghdad. Many are confused about the truth, many are manipulated by the media and most of them have the same question "is the situation good in Baghdad as we hear?"
He sums up: got better but is it good yet or close to being good? No it's not...Is it close to normal, is there a hope for such thing? No it's far way from being normal and I can't see hope for such thing at least not in the 10 coming years...Is it violent? Yes it is...
He says things are better than they were during the absolute peak of the violence (2006-2007 "was the bloodiest times for Iraqis so when comparing to those times the situation is less violent but please don't forget that at that time Baghdad was like a living hell") but cautions the situation is still far from good.
Baghdad is still violent, there is a large count of daily civilians casualties, unidentified dead bodies, road side bombs, explosive cars, kidnapping and criminal acts and there is something I need to make clear that is the pattern of violence.
Some areas are better than others, and some types of violence have receded more than others. He also suggests he may be more desensitized than an outsider - fewer dead bodies still means there are dead bodies, after all.
I might see it good but I strongly believe you would not if you came's a bit less violent but it's still violent...still there are explosions and they are a lot, still there are kidnappings and they are more than the beginning of this year, still there are sectarian violence, still there are a lot of dead bodies.

Here's another post on a similar topic from about a week ago, with pictures.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Story of Stuff

I realize this is a few months old, but for those of you who haven't seen it yet, The Story of Stuff is worth watching. It is a free 20 minute online video that connects the various aspects of all the stuff we consume, in a cute and simple way. Questions of environment, politics, social justice, health, and equity are raised. Although somewhat simplistic it is tightly presented, and I have to say I learned some new things. Plus there's more information on the site to follow up with. Check it out at

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Masculine, Feminine, or Human?

Robert Jensen on categories of masculinity and femininity:
In a guest lecture about masculinity to a college class, I ask the students to generate two lists that might help clarify the concept.

For the first, I tell them to imagine themselves as parents whose 12-year-old son asks, "Mommy/daddy, what does it mean to be a man?" The list I write on the board as they respond is not hard to predict: To be a man is to be strong, responsible, loving. Men provide for those around them and care for others. A man weathers tough times and doesn't give up.

When that list is complete, I ask the women to observe while the men answer a second question: When you are in all-male spaces, such as the locker room or a night out with the guys, what do you say to each other about what it means to be a man? How do you define masculinity when there are no women present?

The students, both men and women, laugh nervously, knowing the second list will be different from the first. The men fumble a bit at first, as it becomes clear that one common way men define masculinity in practice is not through affirmative statements but negative ones — it's about what a man isn't, and what a real man isn't is a woman or gay. In the vernacular: Don't be a girl, a sissy, a fag. To be a man is to not be too much like a woman or to be gay, which is in large part about being too much like a woman.

From there, the second list expands to other descriptions: To be a man is to be a player, a guy who can attract women and get sex; someone who doesn't take shit from people, who can stand down another guy if challenged, who doesn't let anyone else get in his face. Some of the men say they have other ideas about masculinity but acknowledge that in most all-male spaces it's difficult to discuss them.

When that process is over, I step back and ask the class to consider the meaning of the two lists. On the first list of the culturally endorsed definitions of masculinity, how many of those traits are unique to men? Are women ever strong? Should women be strong? Can women be just as responsible as men? Should women provide and care for others? I ask the students if anyone wants to make the argument that women are incapable of these things, or less capable than men. There are no takers.

I point out the obvious: The list of traits that we claim to associate with being a man — the things we would feel comfortable telling a child to strive for — are in fact not distinctive characteristics of men but traits of human beings that we value, what we want all people to be. The list of understandings of masculinity that men routinely impose on each other is quite different. Here, being a man means not being a woman or gay, seeing relationships as fundamentally a contest for control, and viewing sex as the acquisition of pleasure from a woman. Of course that's not all men are, but it sums up the dominant, and very toxic, conception of masculinity with which most men are raised in the contemporary United States. It's not an assertion about all men or all possible ideas about masculinity, but a description of a pattern.

I ask the class: If the positive definitions of masculinity are not really about being a man but simply about being a person, and if the definitions of masculinity within which men routinely operate are negative, why are we holding onto the concept so tightly?

Robert Jensen has a gift for breaking down this kind of thing so simply. A good article - read the whole thing

The Intrepid Explorer Returns, plus links about The Apology

As you may have noticed I have posted very little in the past few weeks. This is because I have been away exploring touristing the far reaches of the world Europe. Regular blog posting to resume shortly.

The big story today is the federal government's apology for the residential schools, and of course the disgusting remarks of Pierre Poilievre. This has been well covered both in the mainstream press and the blogosphere and I have nothing new to add, so I'll just list some good links.

The Toronto Star's coverage has been really good, with about 15 articles, plus videos. For instance: Why the apology matters to us all, Apology 'is not going to fix what happened', Native apology doesn't address grim reality, Apology alone cannot close a gaping wound.

Also check out Dawg's Blawg on the apology, TGB's It wasn't me! It wasn't me! and Stageleft's Apology Day. And don't miss the biting commentaries from Harper Valley (including her trademark graphics).

And on Pierre Poilievre, here's just a few select comments from Canadian Cynic, Scott Tribe, Liberal Catnip, and Just Another Willy Loman