Category Archives: internet

canada’s election: commentary from the web

I have no brilliant commentary to offer, myself, but here are a few interesting articles from the interweb. (Credit where credit is due: several of these articles came to my attention by way of the facebook walls of my friends. Facebook: the lazy person’s news source, as long as you have intelligent and well-informed friends.)

1. The Guardian – Canada’s Cold Dawn, by Heather Mallick. The Americans are apparently learning from their mistakes, or trying to – and the rest of the world is certainly good at pointing them out – so why is Harper doing his best to repeat them?

2. The National Post – Welcome to the New Canada, by Tasha Kheiriddin. This election was expected to offer up another wishy-washy minority government; instead, it revealed a more-or-less total overhaul of Canadian politics, which has been coming on for some time. The separatists are crushed, the Conservative party completed their reinvention and rise, the long-standing dominant Liberal party has been hobbled, and the NDP has the chance to establish itself as the new alternate party. Could be disaster town, could be an exciting new playing field for Canadian politics. Lots of interesting reader comments on this one.

3. The Financial Post – In Canada, we have no conservatives, by Terence Corcoran. Or… is the playing field exactly as it was before, with the Conservatives essentially replacing the Liberal party, moving firmly into a centrist position, and maintaining the status quo with a few minor changes? Is Harper equally disappointing to fervent advocates of small government as he is to enraged lefties?

4. The Common Sense Canadian – A vote for Harper is a vote for oil tankers in BC, by Rafe Mair. Posted before the election, but a sobering concern for BC residents.

5. The Globe and Mail – Their man has a majority; now oil patch wants elbow room, by Carrie Tait. Post-election, more oil tanker info.

6. The McGill Daily – Four McGill students elected to parliament.  Aaand…. YIKES. Seriously? From what I understand, these candidates were probably nominated to run at a point when the NDP didn’t think they had much chance of winning the seats, and thus there was very little competition for the positions… and now they’re MPs. Wow. One candidate doesn’t own a cell phone? Most of them did little-to-no campaigning? Another facebooked the McGill Daily to explain why she wasn’t available for comment? It would seem they rode the Layton ticket all the way into parliament. Perhaps they’ll end up being excellent MPs, bringing their youthful enthusiasm, etc etc….  but I feel a little worried. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the NDP deals with their new situation.f

And… I need to get to work, so that’s all for now.

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Freakangels

Awhile ago, I posted a link to Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo, a free online webcomic by an acclaimed Canadian comics writer/artist… I hope you got the chance to check it out.

Now I’m bringing you another comics link: Warren Ellis’s FREAKANGELS, written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Paul Duffield.

Warren Ellis is the legendary creator of Transmetropolitan as well as zillions of other fantastic works in a variety of genres. I was a BIG fan of the limited comics series Global Frequency, which was at one point was going to be a television show. The TV project has since stalled, as do so many TV/movie projects. For we rabid fans who follow the potential adaptation of our favourite geek-works to screen, it’s an immensely frustrating process. I suppose the process of getting ANY film project going is equally spastic and frustrating. Warren Ellis has seen his work transferred to screen with massive success (RED, which came out recently, was based on his work), but more often.. not so much success.

But I digress. FREAKANGELS is quality comics, put up on the web for free by a bizarre and benevolent comics wizard who decided to undertake The Great Webcomics Experiment and put up a totally amazing, professional weekly comic, supported by merchandise and loyal fans. FREAKANGELS is printed and published in graphic novel format as well, but from the beginning it has been free and online. Pretty amazing.

So if you like dysfunctional superheroes, post-apocalyptic worlds, gorgeous artwork, Hott Babes, steampunk (+1 geekpoint if you know what steampunk is, +2 if you LOVE IT), and witty British dialogue, CLICK HERE!  I mean, it’s totally free, dude.

P.S. While I’m on the subject of comics, I must say that “Y: The Last Man,” which my awesome father gave me and my broski for Christmas, is one of the best comics I’ve ever read. Believe the critics! It’s amazing. Not for free on the internet, though. Gotta go buy it. Or borrow it from me, the next time I’m in Victoria.

666

666 facebook friends

xkcd: beauty

science ftw!

In other news, I got an NSERC! Hurrah!

Also, people who express opinions like the one stated in the first panel are one of my major, major pet peeves.

a few notes about current events

1. Please, please follow what’s going on in Libya. The uprising began over a month ago, and now we’re throwing in the planes. What will happen? Have a look at this article on Al Jazeera, a military perspective on what the outcome might be.  I’ve been following Al Jazeera and the New York Times, my two usual news sources.

2. In Yemen, government officials are resigning in droves. It’s an incredible gesture, one I find heartbreaking and poignant. For a government official to find their own administration’s actions so appalling that they simply cannot support them anymore, and must resign as a protest or simply as a measure of absolute last resort… I think it’s a remarkable expression of integrity. There have been many, many occasions in the past when government employees of various stripes have resigned in America, though it’s not been much-publicized. Horse of a different colour when you’re looking at actually overthrowing the entire regime.

3. All hope and love to Japan – pretty much every catastrophic force of nature went balls to the wall on those islands, and the country and its people have responded with a grace that staggers the imagination. It’s fascinating to contrast all of these recent disaster responses – there have been far too many, as of late. Are we, as a global community, learning anything about how to respond? How to coordinate international relief efforts?

4. Egypt votes! Exciting!!

IN GENERAL (warning, opinions and ideals to follow)

I’ll confess: I don’t follow current events nearly as much as I should. Few of us do. I believe that as privileged residents of powerful countries, whose leaders we have the great good fortune to be able to influence, we have a responsibility to stay informed. Being a citizen of a democracy is a blessing, a privilege, and a responsibility. Like it or not, our countries are affecting the affairs of the world in a huge way, every single day. Our leaders make it happen. And we can influence them. That’s our job. That’s what it means to be a good citizen – to hold up our end of the democratic bargain and contribute in a thoughtful way to our country’s activities, be they domestic or international. There are a thousand ways to do this, be it voting or activism or simply conversation with your fellow-citizens about, y’know, things that matter.

Why bother what happens to other people? Why all this responsibility, anyhow?

I think it’s wired into us to care about what happens to other people. I think it’s a fundamental part of being human, an inescapable and beautiful part of our very makeup.

Stuck to my wall is an incarnation of the Humanist Manifesto. Without getting too far into it, this is a document I believe in and try to live by. Point 3 reads: “Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.” Point 4: “Life’s fulfilment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.” Point 6: “Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.” Taken together, these points tell me that we should be paying attention to what’s going on in the world, and working to improve the world based upon what we learn from our observation. We cannot blindly set out to make the world better, with a set idea of what’s right; no, we must learn and think and constantly examine and evaluate our notions of ethics. Ethics must be tested by experience. We can observe in the world how certain kinds of governance or economics are serving human needs and interests. Are they succeeding? Is there need for change? As points 4 and 6 assert, as human beings we naturally find our fulfillment and happiness in honestly seeking to further the ethical, humane treatment of ourselves and others. Our ideas about what constitutes ethical, humane treatment will always be changing. Each new situation requires assessment. It’s a constant task. It’s how we participate as fulfilled, social human beings.

I’m not trying to say that it’s easy. Back at the dawn of humankind, all of these highfalutin’ ideals only applied to participation in a small travelling band of people. You would live and die with the same 100 or so individuals, and would never be called upon to question the ethics of a government that oversaw hundreds of millions of people. You would never be called upon to think about the standard of living of strangers on the other side of the planet. Our brains, perhaps, are not wired for such considerations. I mean, twenty thousand years ago we were exactly the same creatures we are today, from an evolutionary perspective. We evolved as social animals, but only to deal with a small number of individuals, all of whom were known to us by sight and sound and touch, a physical reality. The complexity of our civilization has outstripped our ability to cope. We have an incredible capacity for abstract thinking which allows us to ponder these problems, but it’s not instinctive and it’s not easy. We’ve created these systems, which often escape our understanding and control, and now we must do our best by them.

So read the news, and think about it. Like it or not, you can’t deny it: you are a global citizen. It’s far too late to untangle the threads. You have the privilege of citizenship in a powerful democratic nation, literacy and education, and freedom of speech and expression. Be a citizen.

FOMO (fear of missing out)

Read this blog post by Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr and Hunch), about the “Fear of Missing Out,” and how it drives our use of social media. Or don’t read it, just read this excerpt:

“FOMO is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does. Many people have studied the game mechanics that keep people collecting things (points, trophies, check-ins, mayorships, kudos). Others have studied how the neurochemistry that keeps us checking Facebook every five minutes is similar to the neurochemistry fueling addiction. Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are.”

I certainly suffer from FOMO, as I imagine we all do to some extent. I’m conscious of it and I try to minimize it, but sometimes it feels worse to have 10 options for saturday night and agonize between them, than to have just 1 solid option and go for it. Sunday morning, you’re wondering if the other parties Had More Fun. This is an extremely pointless line of thinking. It can be so difficult to wring the positive effects out of social media; often, it rarely feels worth it to be on facebook. There’s so much potential for good, but for whatever reason it’s very difficult to take advantage of only the good, and keep away from the FOMO and the endless comparisons, a thousand ways to poke your every insecurity or small hurt. Flicking through profiles, thinking: Are they achieving more than me? Are they prettier? Are they having more fun with their new partner than they were with me? I’m sure we’ve all done this at least once.

Anyhow, Caterina Fake is an interesting lady, who is a total master/mistress of social media. I read an article about her in Wired awhile ago – in fact, I think I read it while sitting in C&C’s bathroom, probably the best place to read Wired magazine. Here’s the article: What You Want: Flickr Creator Spins Addictive New Web Service.

mattie ross = katniss everdeen?!

Apparently Hailie Steinfeld, who played Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers’ True Grit, is being considered to play Katniss Everdeen in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games. Can I get a fuck yeah?  She’d be perfect.  Like Katniss, Mattie was a great teen girl heroine because she was actually hard-as-nails, all the way through, almost to the point of being unlikeable.  No mid-movie conversion to a more acceptably wimpy and dependent girl.  Moments of human fear or upset, yes, but then right back to her unapologetic, ass-kicking self.

As Ebert writes in his review (in case you didn’t know, Roger Ebert is my hero.  His blog is one of the best things on the internet), “She [Hailie Steinfeld] sidesteps the opportunity to make Mattie adorable. Mattie doesn’t live in an adorable world. Seeing the first “True Grit,” I got a little crush on Kim Darby. Seeing this one, few people would get a crush on Hailee Steinfeld. Maybe in another movie. But the way she plays it with the Coens, she’s more the kind of person you’d want guarding your back.”

OK, now go see True Grit, and read The Hunger Games, so that when Hailie Steinfeld steps into the role that could launch her into a Twilight-style cult of adoration, you’ll be ready.