Earlier this evening, I finished reading The Tyee's fascinating series on one of my favourite topics -- free transit. The series and the reactions to it -- in comments, additional articles in The Tyee, and in blogs such as Stephen Rees -- have given me a lot to think about; and I will certainly be writing a detailed response myself.
However, while that was foremost in my mind, the TV happened to be playing the end of a "Wheel of Fortune" episode. The all-American-pretty young woman won an SUV. The genuine almost overwhelming excitement she and her friends expressed at winning a vehicle (I really thought she was going to faint!) showed just how deep the auto culture has bred itself into the very DNA of most North Americans. And in that moment I recognised once again how hard it is going to be to argue against the car, and why most people look at me as if I am crazy for not having had a car for so long.
Death and Nothing
This weekend saw the death of two film directors widely recognised as masters of their medium: Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni. Both were, it seems to me, fascinated by the estrangement of individuals from their social mileus. It was as if both had absorbed Erich Fromm's psychological treatment of capitalist-consumerist alienation and regurgitated it as movies. But their respective birthplaces clearly affected their visions -- Bergman seeped in the greyness of Scandinavia, while Antonioni could better handle a multi-coloured tapestry.
I have rarely enjoyed a Bergman picture. I can intellectually understand the soundness of his direction and his mastery of material. But I found his vision and his settings too bleak, too cold (emotionally and physically) to hold my interest. But I adored Antonioni.
My father was a senior executive of MGM in London when the director was hired to make "Blow Up". I was about sixteen and intricately involved in all things London and sixties and I so wanted to be a part of the movie. I had heard of Antonioni but had never seen any of his films. Through my father and through other contacts, I managed to see Red Desert and the L'Aventurra-La Notte-L'eclisse trilogy in a single weekend. I was hooked. I managed to visit the set of Blow Up a few times, and enjoyed wild arguments with my father and his fellow execs about whether or not the director should be allowed to have real dope on the set in the party scene.
It took me three times of watching to see Zabriskie Point. I've watched it again several times and each time I like it better than before. I know American critics, in particular, hate it with a passion. But most of them hate Coppola's One From The Heart, too, which simply shows they have been numbed to sleep by all the dreck they are forced to watch. The Passenger, with its famous ending, is also immensely watchable.
Farewell to both Bergman and Antonioni. At 89 and 94, they had good long lives.
Last night we joined the crowds at John Hendry Park to celebrate the 2007 edition of Illuminares. For me, at least, this is East Vancouver's major annual day of revelry. We have a wide range of neighbourhood activities across the city throughout the year. But one evening every July we gather around Trout Lake to enjoy the creative ways in which we can defeat the darkness. Wood nymphs, stilted performers, and music of many kinds weave their way through the swinging lanterns and light-bag-marked family groupings.
I love it.
My camera settings got screwed up unfortunately (OK, OK, I screwed up the settings!), so I didn't get any useful shots. Oh well, the memories are fine.
Trees Near Hilo
New Orleans VI: Six Windows
From the people who brought you fully-armed wannabe cops to wander the aisles of public transit, now comes the idea of filming everything that goes on in the bus. According to a staff report quoted in the Georgia Straight:
"The purpose of the video system is to deter ... on-board security incidents, improve the safety of bus operators and passengers, and provide evidence for investigation of incident claims." A later section of the report notes that it is to deal with "vandalism, absenteeism, assaults-related costs and insurance claims and premiums."
There is opposition, of course. Andrew Pask, coordinator of the Vancouver Public Space Network, told the Straight that he's concerned about the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buses. "People should be able to use public spaces without having to be recorded, without having their movement tracked, their conversations taped, their actions videoed," he said. "People should have that right. When you start infringing on it, you start inching ever closer to a police state."
What planet does this naive guy live on? Cameras follow us in taxis, on SkyTrain stations, in every supermarket and corner store, in most parking lots and most building lobbies and elevators. I don't believe that adding buses to the list substantially reduces the freedoms we have already squandered.
However, according to the figures quoted by the Straight, the plan doesn't make any economic sense. The annual cost for the system is said to be $470,000 in order to generate savings of just $140,000. And how exactly will this system deal with "absenteeism", I wonder? Has the bus drivers' union considered what the cameras may really be for?
Bravo To Cuba's Revolution Day!
Fifty-four years ago today, Fidel and Raoul Castro, along with about 150 supporters, attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack was a miserable failure but this action was the formal start of the revolution in Cuba.
Bravo to the Cuban people for surviving fifty years of vicious military and economic attacks by the world's major superpower! Bravo to those countries (including Canada for a change) that simply ignore America's outrage at the business and tourism links that have grown over the years! Let us all smoke fine Cuban cigars in celebration.
How To Tell When Alberto Gonzales Is Lying
Our mayor Sam Sullivan and the self-styled leadership of the municipal workers' union have between them cocked up contract talks.
We find ourself on day two of a long-anticipated and anticipated to be a long strike. Some libraries are closed, along with community centers, swimming pools, some daycare facilities, and a range of inside services such as land titles and permit applications. The temperature is cool right now, and it is wet. But the summer is expected to return in full force soon. And with that will come piles of stinking household rubbish clogging the lanes (tell me again why household garbage collection isn't an essential service?)
I'm an anarchist, not a syndicalist, not even a Wobblie. Most unions are just as concerned with controlling the working man and woman as are any board of directors or tyrannical owner. The municipal workers' union is no different. Meanwhile, Sullivan and his cronies have proven themselves incapable of managing the situation to anyone's benefit. Technocrats rise or fall on the success of their compromises; -- here, they have failed completely.
For us it is all just a bloody mess that we have to live through.