A painting of me

Israel will never turn armed might into strategic security. If need be, it could win a war against all its enemies combined. But if it wants peace it must face the decision it has avoided for 40 years: withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories. Military victories and land grabs are futile. Security will come only with political resolution.
— Some valedictory reflections offered by Ehud Olmert, Israel’s outgoing prime minister, when he announced his resignation last September. (The peace has been lost to Israel’s military victories)

The cost to the United States of helping defeat Adolf Hitler, liberate Europe from fascist rule and halt the holocaust came to roughly $3.6 trillion, adjusted for inflation. The cost of the bailout, to date, comes to about $4.6 trillion. World War II was a steal — and with the $1 trillion difference there’s still enough left over to cover the past costs of the Marshall Plan and the The New Deal.
Ken Silverstein, for Harpers.

The wild getups, the in-yourface bumper-stickers, the foul language at the restaurant, the snarky tone in the weekly newsmagazines, the loud bass thumping from the thousand-dollar woofers, the Lee Atwater approach to public discourse—what are these if not the mating calls of a neutered body politic, of people who can allow the full-scale invasion of a country that never attacked them but who will come to blows over a parking space? Or, if you want to push it all the way: what are these displays if not the cultural patrimony of ancestors who could tolerate chattel slavery and be incensed to the point of open revolt by a tax on tea?
— Garret Keizer, Of Mohawks and Mavericks

Yes You Can!

    4 November 2008, terribly early in the morning

Americans will start voting today. I will sit and watch. I’m hoping there is going to be record turn out, that young people and minorities actually get off their asses and vote, and that at the end of the day a black dude who grew up in Kenya is the new President of the United States of America. I won’t lie: I’ll probably still think America is a piece of shit evil-ass country. That won’t change the fact that Americans electing a black dude to run their country is anything short of amazing.

Then they all gathered around Sonny and Sonny played. Every now and again one of them seemed to say, amen. Sonny’s fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others. And Sonny went all the way back, he really began with the spare, flat statement of the opening phrase of the song. Then he began to make it his. It was very beautiful because it wasn’t hurried and it was no longer a lament. I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, and what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now, I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth. He had made it his: that long line, of which we knew only Mama and Daddy. And he was giving it back, as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever. I saw my mother’s face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her feet. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s tears again, and I felt my own tears begin to rise. And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky. — James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues.

Any Americans reading this: vote. For the love of god, vote.

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To put [undecided voters] in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
David Sedaris on Undecided Voters in the Current Election

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

‘And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’‘

Lee Atwater in a 1981 interview explaining the evolution of the G.O.P.‘s Southern strategy

With Palin we have two generations of shotgun weddings. It’s like she thinks it’s a core value to preach abstinence and get knocked up. — Wil Shipley

If you need to appear on an internet list to know whether you’re someone’s friend, you may have problems a computer can’t solve.
Merlin Mann)

I’ve been told that like liberty, you can’t put a price on owning an iPhone.
Rishi Suchak

In the 80’s, MAD magazine responded to every complaint letter with “thanks for your concern, the person responsible has been fired.”
Adam Koford

Ramanan: It’s really slow. The first part is alright. Then there is a lot of nothing. Then the end.
Mezan: Just like life.
— discussing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

In human society, all violence can be traced back to these seven recurrent blunders: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principles.
— Mohandas K. Ghandi, Young India, Oct. 22, 1925 (via Harpers)

Which brings me to the jackassiest comment of the day regarding Amazon MP3, from Jupiter Research analyst David Card to the Associated Press: “In and of itself, (Amazon MP3) isn’t enough to change any market share. They have to do a good job at building their store.”

Well, perhaps Amazon can find a book or something about how to build a successful high-volume online store.
— John Gruber, More on the Amazon MP3 Store

Riley: (showing the chair brawl scene to Huey) ‘Ey. You ever noticed whenever someone throws a chair…a brawl jumps off?
Huey: Aren’t you worried about Grandad?
Riley: (slight pause) Look. You wanna see it again? (shows chair brawl scene again) ‘Ey look. Look. Look-looky look, see? I bet you don’t even have to hit nobody with the chair. And niggas would still start wilding out.
— Boondocks (Episode 5 Grandpa Fight)

"Me Too!"

   17 September 2007, early morning

Herman, how could you? We’ve all thought about counterfeiting jeans at one time or another, but what about the victims? Hard-working designers like Calvin Klein, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Antoine Bugle Boy. These are the people who saw an overcrowded marketplace and said, “Me too!”

I was reminded of this quote when reading some of the bad press Apple has been getting about their entry into the ring tone market. I have probably said this several times already, but paying for ring tones is stupid. (Paying a $1 for a DRM’d up ACC file is also stupid, but at least when you’ve paid your dollar you have a whole song to listen to.) Back when there was no way to get a song on to your phone except via your cellphone provider I can understand paying a premium to do so, but now? It’s rare to find a phone that is missing USB and Bluetooth and WiFi. There is always at least one way to get data onto your phone all by yourself. Thankfully, we live in a world where there are people who like gadgets and hate paying for stuff they don’t have to.

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Mario Savio and Battlestar Galactica

    5 September 2007, early morning

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all! — Mario Savio, Sit-in Address on the Steps of Sproul Hall, December 2nd 1964

Mario Savio was a student leader at Berkeley during the 60s involved in the free-speech movement. He sounds like an amazing fellow. I learned of him from watching Battlestar Galactica of all things. In the season finale for Season 2 of the show, Lay Down Your Burdens, Chief Tyrol gives this stunning speech to his workers — It’s a really great scene. It turns out the speech just paraphrases some of the things Savio said in his speech on the steps of Sproul Hall.

Tyrol’s union speech is an almost word for word quote of Mario Savio’s address during the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in 1964. According to Ron Moore and David Eick in the podcast, they even got permission from Savio’s widow to use it (even though, due to the way copyright laws work from back then, they could have just used it without permission, they felt they should get it). As a result, it’s even listed in the credits: “Mario Savio speech excerpted courtesy of: Lynne Hollander Savio”. Actor Aaron Douglas (Chief Tyrol) actually studied film of Savio, so all of the hand gestures Tyrol makes when he gives the speech are gestures that Savio actually used.

Battlestar Galactica is by far one of the most interesting shows on television. I am dying to see season 3. (Television Executives: There are lots of reasons people pirate television. Off the top of my head, waiting months and months and months for a DVD set would be one reason.)

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Milhouse: Is this the untimely end of Milhouse?
Milhouse2: [pause] But Milhouse is my name!
Milhouse: But I thought I was the only one!
Milhouse2: [shakes head] A pain I know all too well.
Milhouse: So this is what it feels like…when doves cry.
Lemon of Troy, The Simpsons.

Out of Existence

    2 April 2007, early morning

The people in Harlem know they are living there because white people do not think they are good enough to live anywhere else. No amount of “improvement” can sweeten this fact. Whatever money is now being earmarked to improve this, or any other ghetto, might as well be burnt. A ghetto can be improved in one way only: out of existence.
— James Baldwin, “Fifth Ave, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem”

I’ve been going through James Baldwin’s non-fiction work. I finished Notes of a Native Son last week, which is excellent, and have started on Nobody Knows My Name, which looks to be even better. Both books are collections of essays he did before the civil rights movement really got underway. The quote above comes from an essay Baldwin wrote for Esquire. This essay is excellent. If you can track it down I recommend you read it. James Baldwin is the best writer America has produced yet.

I wonder if Shima and her planner friends are required to read essays by Baldwin and other people who have lived in the ghettos they aim to improve. My guess is no. Shima seemed a bit disappointed in what was going to be done with Regent Park. I also felt it was more of the same, but really, what do I know? I thought of the quote from Baldwin above while reading the following in the Globe:

Flemingdon Park is one of 13 so-called “priority neighbourhoods” identified by the city for targeted funding by the municipal government, social agencies and other groups. Over the next four years, the city plans to add an extra $13-million for these neighbourhoods.
Wall of silence breached in Toronto revenge killing.

After 50-60 years of failed government housing here in Canada and in the US, you would think they might want to try something different.

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Reporter: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”
Mr. McCain: (Long pause) You’ve stumped me.
An interview with John McCain.

Gangstarr White Dude: Hey, where’s the strip club?
Me: Which one?
GWD: I don’t know.
Me: Well to get to Club Paradise head West on Bloor.
GWD: No, fuck that place.
Me: House of Nottingham is left when you get to Bloor.
GWD: Yeah, that’s the one
— In front of Lansdowne Station

I've Been to the Mountaintop

   23 January 2007, terribly early in the morning

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

This was the last speech Martin Luther King, Jr, gave before he was assassinated. He was killed the very next day. It’s an excellent speech — like all his speeches — and well worth taking the time to read.

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Keep asking me, no matter how long
On the war in Viet Nam, I sing this song
I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.
— Muhammad Ali

A country like Canada has a choice of policy to change its future course. It can adopt an isolationist position in order to safeguard its cultural and racial homogeneity, and it can reduce the admission of immigrants with the optimism that the country can continue to grow in an information age even without population growth. Alternatively, it can embrace the opportunity of becoming a truly multicultural and multiracial nation, and with its enriched cultural and economic endowment, can become actively engaged in a globalized world. The short-term cost of making a mistake is probably negligible, but in the long run, Canada may have to pay a heavy price for its lack of foresight in not being able to recognize how immigration can continue to contribute to the building of an economically and culturally diverse Canada that is adaptable to the twenty-first century and beyond.
— Peter Li in Destination Canada: Immigration Debates and Issues

What makes a man turn neutral ... Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?
—Zapp Brannigan

Dude with a plain white plastic bag: Hey, do you wanna buy a cellphone?
Me: No thanks, man.
—At the corner of Bloor and Lansdowne

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