Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That Sinking Feeling

My memory is muddy what's this river I'm in
New Orleans is sinking and I don't want to swim

--from "New Orleans is Sinking" by the Tragically Hip

I haven't been able to get that song out of my head since Sunday when I was up late reading up on how prone New Orleans has always been to a devastating hurricane. And it looks woefully like those dire predictions are coming to pass.

Now, I can understand how some might be tempted to beat the global warming drum with both hands in their efforts to explain Katrina and her waves. That may turn out to be absolutely right, but are we going down the right road here, or are we maybe jumping the gun a wee bit?

Reminds me of that HP printer commercial - the clever one with people moving white rectangular frames around that appear to transform back and forth between pictures and physical windows. Near the end of the ad, the voice-that-knows-all declares that the images created from their wonderful new product will not begin to fade for 108 years. (Not 107, not 109,...)

Of course, we can't really know until we actually wait it out, by which time the smarmy ad-writer will be long-since deceased, and unable to hear my grandson say: "Grampa told you so!" But that doesn't stop us from believing in the science we presume led to the 108-year conclusion in all its exactitude. (I heard from a guy once that carbon-dating can be used to figure these things out, as long as it's anti-matter carbon, so it proves the future instead of the past...)

Seriously, though: 108 years? Did someone get that figure from a beaker reading or perhaps one of those supercomputer simulations? How the hell do they know?

They probably don't; at any rate, I certainly wouldn't bet on the scruples of the Marketing lords. Whether they have met the scientific rigors required to make the claim publishable in a respected journal is unimportant. All that really matters is whether I, Consumer, believe in science enough to buy the claim religiously.

It's that kind of faith in science that is unproductively at play in the global warming debate. In our haste to find a meaning in the world of science for the calamities that befall us, global warming has become something of a scapegoat for environmentalists and progressives everywhere.

And I assure you, my opinion has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I have gobs and gobs of oil-shares.

Ahem. It's just that I can't help thinking that we don't have more than a few decades of properly recorded data to make comparisons with; and so pinning every environmental tragedy (besides Stephen Harper) or observed temperature spike on mankind's contribution to global warming seems just a little too easy.

Then again, I have to either believe that, or what the scientists are telling me, and sometimes you realise more than just New Orleans is sinking.

And no, you don't want to swim.

EDIT fixed links

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Original Song #1 (with plug)

Tattered Sleeve

Got to tell you how I can’t
Begin to tell you anything
Salty streaks upon your cheeks
I won’t pretend I don’t see them today
A matted mess, your ratty dress
You’ve given up coloring me to impress
Unapproachable, you’re a shattered soul
Impossible to console

I want to find a way to reach you
But you draw your shell around you
You just can’t hide your emotions
When you wear them on your tattered sleeve

I found a mussel on the beach, closed-up tight it’d washed-up heavy
I almost opened it up, but I let it fall in the muck
I couldn’t bear to see another creature died alone at sea
Now you’re standing in front of me; we’re two lost souls imperfect to a tee

Well it’s not like I don’t know you
I can read the misery between the lines on your face
Why can’t you trust me
A crying shame is no disgrace


Show plug: My three-piece band, Randboro (a lotta heart; a little talent), will be opening for mega-surfers Los Tabernacos tonight (Friday, Aug. 26) at Barfly, 4062 rue St-Laurent, corner Duluth, in Montreal. We may hit the stage as early as 9:00 p.m. or as late as 10:00. If you're in the neighbourhood, we'd sure love to see you there.

Canadian Idle

That's what you call a guy like me who watches Canadian Idol but is too ashamed to vote. (I wonder how many others watching consider it a guilty pleasure - I guess that's just the Opus in me.)

The Idol franchise assuredly counts as total pap for the masses of course; another example of shameless exploitation of people who regard themselves as nobodies unless they see their faces on every other web ad, get hounded by the tiresome paparazzi, and have to deal with those grubby fans everywhere they go - never a moment of peace!

And while we're on shameless, I have to hold back my dinner every time they break to those coyly slipped-in ads for fashion magazines, cars and make-up; always featuring our fun-loving young heros in their contrived fantasy-boot-camp TV-land existence.

Oh, and I could go on about host Ben Mulroney, living proof of genetics' supremacy in passing on the recently isolated "Insufferable Gene" (formally named MilaBriMuldoon-16 after the Benster himself). What other combination could've produced this ultimate TV personality from hell?

Still, I somehow cannot bring myself to ignore the show. Maybe because it gives me something to gab about with me dear old Mum, who is quite taken with TV these days, but mostly watches stuff I have no countenance (or cable) for. And it's on at the time I typically find myself sitting on the couch with my 15-month-old boy, Francis, sucking back his beddy-bye bottle. (He just loves that show.)

Vapid as it is, I have to say there is always at least one personality you want to root for. Someone who rises above the show's sacred crass commercialism and star-factory mission.

Except I don't believe it for a second. The producers are too slick and the contestants too perfectly handled. And knowing that it's a booming franchise that reaches to dozens of countries, like that Big Mac that looks and tastes exactly the same in Bangkok as it does in Chicago, you know you're not getting the straight goods.

And just when I thought I had seen it all, wouldn't you know they even have a promising new franchise in - wait for it - Iraq?

Yes, thanks to the intrepid reporting of the London Daily Telegraph’s Oliver Poole, we know that in a country where the power is only on for four hours here and four hours there, where tens of thousands are dying, and where all-out civil war may be just about to explode, none of it gets in the way of sickening commercialism.

Iraq Star has become a television phenomenon since it began six weeks ago and more than 2,000 hopefuls have risked the country's dangerous roads to audition.

This week, in a studio in a corner of Baghdad's Babylon Hotel, a teenage girl attempted one of the Lebanese pop songs popular among young Iraqis only to be mercilessly ridiculed for her inability to dance.

Then, in a musical critique rarely heard on the British version of the show, a singer was upbraided for making a grammatical mistake in her metaphorical tale about a humming bird. " 'Slaughtered bird' is masculine," the judge complained. "But you kept saying it is feminine."

Then, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, Poole tells us about the person “being tipped as a winner”: 12-year-old contestant Bilal, of Mosul:

At the audition he performed his own song that told of the destruction of Iraq and the suffering of the children.

Half way through he started to cry and by the time he had finished all three judges were weeping.

Sigh. Alright, where’s that phone…

- 30 -

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Soft-headed on Softwood

Well, I guess this will show those 'Mericans how Paul Martin's government deals with an "unacceptable" flouting of NAFTA:

Despite heightened rhetoric earlier in the day by high-ranking cabinet officials and the Prime Minister, Mr. Peterson said Canada would wait until after it received WTO approval and performed extensive consultation with Canadians before retaliatory tariffs would be considered in the softwood lumber dispute.

“We have not made that decision. We will pursue all measures including litigation, possible retaliation, and heightened political advocacy,” Mr. Peterson said.

Okay, so let's not show all our cards. Given that the United States imports so much of our oil, at least let them sweat a little, thinking we might look at that. Oops - spoke too soon:

One particularly Draconian measure has already been ruled out — imposing export quotas on Canadian oil exports to punish alleged U.S. protectionism on lumber.
I don't get it. All this soft-pedaling in the face of a totally domineering and disrespectful attitude from the U.S. government. They are the ones who pushed for the FTA and later, NAFTA. Now here they are treating the agreement like it's just another meaningless piece of paper signed by some mis-guided previous administration.

We've seen it time and time again with Bushco: the land-mines treaty, the Comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty (though that was Clinton who rejected it in '99), the International Criminal Court, and let's not forget the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

These guys are world-class bullies, and proud of it. Canada should follow the European Union's example and fight fire with fire, because we're not dealing with reasonable people here.

This softwood lumber dispute has been a contentious issue for years now, and soft diplomacy has only gotten us one back-handed slap after another. If the United States refuses to respect NAFTA's rules when it suits them, then so must we. Canadians don't agree on a whole lot, but we certainly can agree we don't want to be Bush's punching bag. Let the sanctions begin, and make sure they target the so-called Red states hardest.

Update: More on this topic by Timmy the G at Voice in the Wilderness

- 30 -

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Welcome all.

Tattered Sleeve is the title of a song I wrote several years ago, about a person I knew who truly wore their emotions on their sleeve.

And those were raw emotions, and that was no silk sleeve (hence the title). The song opens with the line:

Got to tell you how I can't begin to tell you anything

But the lines I am most proud of appear later:

Found a mussel on the beach
Closed-up tight, it washed up heavy
I almost opened it up
But I let it fall in the muck
Couldn't bear to see another creature died alone at sea
Now you're standing in front of me
We're two lost souls
Imperfect to a tee

I wrote that several years ago, at a time when I had just got my BA in Journalism and Communications at Concordia University here in Montreal. At the time I was growing disgusted with mass media, which I saw as far too compromised by its privileged, corporate nature. Writing songs meanwhile, is pure and personal; and performing them live is an immediate rush for someone like me who is all about sharing ideas.

But then in June, 2003, that same press clued me in to Howard Dean's campaign and the "blog" that seemed to be fueling it. Now, I'm a Canadian who grew up admiring Pierre Elliot Trudeau for his dazzling intellect and stylish leadership, so I was no fan of W (or just about any Republican for that matter) and I was quite interested to see which of the Democrats might trash him in '04. Dean would've done nicely, but I doubt running the teensy state of Vermont is enough experience for the best pol. But that's another post.

Point being, Dean's blog suddenly opened my eyes to the fact there are a whole lot of smart, compassionate people out there on the "internets" that I learned you can have a good conversation (or at least laugh) with.

From Dean's blog, I soon found Daily Kos, and Cursor, and Atrios and Juan Cole and TPM (but I hate when he gets into his one-track-blogging routine), and my all-time fave: Whiskey Bar

Then earlier this year, I got clued-in to Cathie from Canada's blog and Voice in the Wilderness, which led to the concept that I, Scott Murray, who sometimes posts as "Scott in Montreal", an admittedly bland moniker I chose sometime last year over on the Dailykos site, should damn-well start my own blog.

So here we go. Hopefully when I look up and see Tattered Sleeve each time I post, it will remind me to be honest and open - and sputtering with raw emotion when necessary. To the memory of Joe Strummer (RIP), who never shied away from saying what he thought needed to be said screaming from the rooftops, I dedicate this site.

And as for comments, have at 'em, folks.

BTW: My band is called Randboro - more on where that name comes from another time - and we'll be playing Barfly (4062a rue St-Laurent, Montreal) this Friday, opening for local surf-lords Los Tabernacos.