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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another









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9/06/2003

Scouting

For my sins I occasionally book scout. I did it more seriously a few years ago but now I do it for pure fun. Along with scoring a Henckel deep dish frying pan with lid - USD $157.00 - for $3.00 at one garage sale I picked up mint copies of Ian Hunter's Malcolm Muggeridge, A Life, Ved Mehta's The Ledge Between the Streams, Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, Lawrence Durrell's Bitter Lemons and Humphrey Carpenter's J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography. Not bad for $4.50.

Blogs Canada

Over on the side you'll see the seditious little logo from Blogs Canada. Seditious because Jim Elves has managed to perfectly recreate the look and feel of Canadian government sites. What he has also done is create a place where left, right and just plain strange can meet and read each others' blogs.

Tonight, for the first time, I landed at fellow Vancouverite, Caterina's top blog. What a treat. First, this is a woman who, looking at her photoblog, has as many books as I do, or did, before I sold them. Second, she lives with/is married to? a man who Googles Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Her sidelinks are wacky and interesting. (And yes I do want a bottle of Ferrofluid.

Jim is doing us all a huge favour by connecting the blogging dots in Canada. Check it out.

9/05/2003

Just plain mean

Paul Jané is a nasty piece of work. The dog dares fisk the Arab News...I mean the Guardian is one thing but surely in our multicult world the Arab News is sacrosanct. After all, it is a sort of sheltered workshop for the imbecile Islamofascists who want to prove their rather doubtful writing and thinking credentials. Mean Mr. Jané . He suggests that, perhaps, before lecturing us they might get their own house in order...
Israel, although not a superpower, is however totally and unquestioningly supported by the world’s one remaining superpower so its defeat in Lebanon is doubly humiliating.

What? You're referring to that time that Israel invaded most of Lebanon and shot down over a hundred Syrian planes (with no losses) over a couple of afternoons?

That was quite the defeat, wasn't it? I'm sure that the Israelis cry themselves to bed every night over that one...

It is important to note that the common denominator in all these Arab victories is Islam and the Arab commitment to defend their religion and to sacrifice themselves in the name of God.

It's good that you pointed that out, otherwise I thought that the common denominator would be that you were fighting two countries that were in too rapid a decline to do whatever would have been necessary to beat the pants off you, and another one that just decided to say "screw this" and concentrate on more important things.
link paul jané
Oh you bastard. Imagine insulting Arab dignity quite so thoroughly. There is nothing for it but beheading or a nomination to Canada's Top Blogs.

Better than Ezra II

And now, back to my discussion with Ezra. He told me he wants to publish a magazine that is more hip, more urban, more urbane, more in tune with the times than the Report. That sounded great. When I asked how he envisioned the new magazine's website, he paused. Then he said he could not foresee his magazine having an active site. It would be a contact page only. He did not want to invest in something that would lose money, he said.
link kevin steel
This is a damning indication of just how far out of touch Ezra is and, therefore, what a doubtful prospect he is as a magazine proprietor. Kevin has nailed it.

The internet is on its way to replacing paper magazines. Either you realize that and get with the program early or you flog magazine subscriptions to rednecks and wrinklies who want nothing to do with that new fangled internet stuff. Poor Ezra hasn't a clue. (For proof, take a look at his website.)

Better than Ezra

A quick scan of the blogroll reveals, from the ever readable Kevin Michael Grace (his double lamentation of the idiocy of a chickenless KFC and the general imbecility of retail clerks and those selling things like, well, books specifically, crosses the preciseness of Orwell with the waspishness of Kingsley Amis (at his best)), that Ezra Levant is looking to revive Alberta Reports.

KMG has lots of sound advice as the former editor of that long forgotten (at least outside Alberta) magazine.
I appreciate that my suggestions are unsolicited and probably unwanted, but I do have some expertise in this area, and I should like to see Ezra succeed, if only to remove some of my friends from the unemployment line. Ezra spoke at some length of the glory days of Alberta Report, of the influence it wielded. The argument I tried to make to him on the air was that the Report lost whatever influence it had with top people long before the end because it had become deadly dull. Did I just say "influence"? Top people stopped reading the magazine years ago. Many of them had forgotten its existence.
link et seq. Kevin Michael Grace
Even with the rumour that the magazine might be spiced up by appointing Colby Cosh editor, a dead tree fortnightly of with Ezra's unique, not to say mildly eccentric, personal stamp strikes me as re-inventing yesterday. A worthy socon goal no doubt; but not likely to make much way on the newsracks of the nation.

Grace is spot on when he writes,
I hope that Ezra understands that his magazine will need to cover "culture" (broadly defined); an obsession with politics (broadly defined) would kill the new Report just as surely as it killed the old one.
The question is whether Ezra would recognize culture if he fell over it. By their website ye shall know them and Ezra's is a prototypical example of the young geezer - the sort of 30 something who really does wear waistcoats and three piece underwear. His political skills are reputed to be awesome within the tight little world of losing for principle conservatives. His capacity to create buzz in and around Calgary conservative circles is striking. After all, Ezra fell, (ex-Alliance hacks, on the Kyoto Accords (he's against them in case you were wondering.)

In politics Ezra's instinct for blood - his own or others - makes wonderful theatre and his unbending economic libertarianism fits an underserved niche. Magazine publishing, as the younger Byfields demonstrated, is a rather different enterprise. Comparing Kyoto to the National Energy Policy wows 'em in the Oil Patch; but apples to aardvarks comparisons look plain silly in print.

The saving grace would be Colby's better researched and better written journalism. The question there being whether or not Colby, a writer long before he is a politician, could work with a man who is teetering on the brink of gadflyhood. Colby knows enough about magazine publishing to be clear about the nature of proprietor/editor relations. It is not clear that Ezra is capable of paying the sort of disinterested but close attention a proprietor needs in order to build a magazine which will last.

Colby should get his shot and some bright proprietor is going to give it to him, but playing into Ezra's Beaverbrook delusion would be a giant step backward. (And if the rumour is true that Colby got his haircut for this then he must immediately reread Scoop and get a grip.)

9/04/2003

Why there is a hole in the road map

The road map requires that the Palestinians dismantle militant groups. Abbas has said he wants to persuade them to disarm, but told parliament he will not order a crackdown.

"This government does not deal with the opposition groups with a policing mentality, but with a mentality of dialogue," he said.
link yahoo news
Within the weird world of Palestinian politics Abbas' position has a certain sort of logic. Because the people he is proposing to have a dialogue with are more than capable of shooting Abbas. Which suggests that this would not be a terrifically profitable dialogue. A fact which I am certain Sharon took into consideration when he began Israel's journey down the road. He knows that the conditions for peace will not exist so long as Arafat remains in charge directly or indirectly of the Palestinian Authority. And Sharon knows there was not the slightest chance that Hamas and the rest would disarm willingly.

What Sharon has done is follow the American road map to what he has known all along would be its inevitable conclusion - total noncooperation and continued terrorism from the Palestinian side. Why? Largely because Sharon realized that the charade was the requirement for a free hand and American support when it finally comes time to take Arafat and several hundred terrorists out of the equation and off to a distant and incommunicado location. With Arafat gone and the keenest terrorists either dead or in exile the moderate majority of Palestinians can cut a real deal which will give them a home, possibly a state and finally an end to the fraud of their refugee status. It will also give Israel a measure of security which it has not had for the last twenty years.

Music Giant awakes from doze

Hello....CD sales falling? Well it must be those nasty pirates and all that durned new technology. So what is a giant to do? Sue the customers? Wait, here's an idea. Cut prices!

The rocket scientists at Universal, no doubt in consultation with the an Economics 101 student they bumped into on the street, announced yesterday that it was dropping its CD prices - suggested retail of course - from $17 - $19 per disc to $13.00,
"Music fans will benefit from the price reductions we are announcing today," Jim Urie, president of Universal Music & Video Distribution, said in a statement. "Our new pricing model will enable U.S. retailers to offer music at a much more appealing price point in comparison to other entertainment products. We are confident this pricing approach will drive music fans back into retail stores."
link cnet
Could the giant's awakening have had anything to do with this,
Forrester Research on Tuesday predicted a steep fall in CD sales, as audio and video file sharing over the Internet continues to emerge as a preferred option among consumers.

The firm said 20 percent of Americans engage in music downloading, and half of the downloaders said they are buying fewer CDs. By 2008, 33 percent of music sales will come from downloads, with CD sales down 30 percent from their 1999 peak. On-demand movie distribution will generate $1.4 billion by 2005, and revenue from DVDs and tapes will decline 8 percent, Forrester predicted.

"The shift from physical media will halt the music industry's slide and create new revenues for movie companies, but it will wreak havoc with retailers like Tower Records and Blockbuster," Josh Bernoff, principal analyst at Forrester, said in a statement. "As a result, we're about to see a massive power shift in the entertainment industry."
link cnet
It would be churlish to point out that the music biz has had five years to see this coming. Cheap to suggest that rather than suing its customers it should move aggressively to offer music legally and cheaply over the internet. Imagine if it turned out that Steve Jobs actually saved the music business by creating a retail model which works.

Fast Food Cringe

Colby Cosh and Jim Elves have been having a bit of a go at fast food. Colby's got mail and Jim is happy to announce that some of his best friends eat fast food. But where Jim goes off the rails is right here:
It's true that I don't frequent fast food joints here or abroad. It's definitely not that I find them too plebian for my pocketbook or gastronomic sensibilities. It's mostly that I don't like the idea of large American corporations using their financial might to mould the psyches of less-westernized cultures.
link blog canada
I have no problem at all with not eating fast food because you don't like it or think it unhealthy. But avoiding Micky D's because of a concern that "large American corporations using their financial might to mould the psyches of less-westernized cultures." strikes me as the worst kind of unthinking anti-Americanism.

As it happens the KFC's and McDonalds of the world are very good at selling a certain sort of product. So is Coke. They manage to invest pretty ordinary things with a sense of possibility which is often lacking in the lives of the people they are selling to. If you are sitting in the middle of a heat wave in vacated Paris or are wondering how to make a living in Warsaw or Moscow the infusion of a bit of American culture is bound to be a pick me up. Not because you want to abandon your own; rather because the great promise of America is that life can, in fact, be different. The fast food merchants know that and they hitch their doubtful wagons to a very attractive horse.

A vast majority of the populations of the second, third and fourth worlds, as well as millions of people in declining first world countries - say, for example, France - are so thoroughly fed up with their dishonest, corrupt and incompetent governments and businesses that America in all her manifestations offers hope. It is unsurprising that a swig of Coke or a cheap bag of over salted french fries sold at a reasonable price is enticing.

Jim is not in the least racist in his disdain for the fast food world; rather he is, like many of the Left, guilty of a sin which has a much less tainted reputation: he's a snob in the finest tradition of Margaret "I hate America" Drabble and our very own George Grant. It is no great sin but it smacks of both the Left's and Canada's inferiority complex when it comes to things American. Rather than admitting there are things America excels at - including fast food - the cringe reaction on the Left is to try and suggest these things are simply not worth doing.

The Canadian spin merely super sizes the cringe.

9/02/2003

The BBC on the defensive

"Quite a few people were working on it. It was one of those things that got inserted by mistake. We were thinking of things where anonymity was important. It was an assumption too far," she said.
the guardian
Throwing in the words "intelligence source" to a Press realese issued by the BBC governors supporting Andrew Gilligan's version of events put the BBC in the land of fantasy. Dr. Kelly was not, as Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, a former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee who certainly would know, by any stretch of the imagination an "intelligence source". As the Guardian's headline puts it, "Did the BBC 'Sex Up' its own statement?" Well, yes, yes it did.

8/31/2003

Losers

A really brilliant article by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in Prospect Magazine. After disembowelling the literary left and its pronouncements on 9/11, radical Islam and Iraq Wheatcroft drives towards the root causes of the loonieness.
Today, credulous doting on Islam is not just an expression of western self-hatred. On the face of it, Islam and the western left have nothing in common at all. But they do, in fact, something profoundly important. They share the common experience of defeat. Islamic terrorism is not a function of success but of failure. As a culture and society, Islam enjoyed a glorious golden age between the 8th and 12th centuries, but it has been in decline for many centuries past, some would say since the first fall of Baghdad.
link prospect magazine
The whole article is worth reading.