The pleasing surprise is that the dystopian Mecca of the near future is Toronto.  In fact huge chunks of the novel play out across the Eastern Ontario landscape culminating in a final scene in, of all places, Joyceville.

Doctorow has written a speculative piece about what happens to those who leave society by walking away into the countryside in a future without scarcity, where “feedstock” can recycle through printers and produce prescription drugs, clothing to order, or foodstuffs and weapons.  These walkaways remain at the leading edge of technology, of course:  it seems the smartest are those most inclined to quit “default” society.

No doubt the dictionary will acquire a number of new terms from the book.   “Foof”, for example, is a derisive acronym to describe someone from a Fine Old Ontario Family.  Derivatives of this term, foofery and foofy are self-evident in their usage.  Doctorow has coined “beautiful child” to describe someone younger than oneself who surpasses one’s technical skills or even intellect, i.e.:  “Did you see the beautiful child who did the surgery on Uncle Alex?”

The novel’s thesis runs along lines that people walking away from default pose an existential threat to the defaults, even though they demand nothing from them, and choose regularly to move on rather than fight for land and possessions.  It’s fairly easy for the walkaways to do as they have unlimited material, youth, and health.

The construction of an elaborate camp (known as a B&B) is quite easy with the help of online information and a sic-fi-level salvage network of abandoned factories and warehouses from which materials may be liberated to recycle into the new building.

Of course it is easy for default — portrayed as shadowy corporate interests and embodied in one wealthy Toronto family — to turn its sense of abandonment into fear, and portray all walkaways as terrorists of the ISIL variety.

-more to come

 

High Water

July 29, 2017

20170729_133931-EFFECTS

 

 

Today we discovered that the road through Bedford Mills is cut off by flooding.

The Canadian government paid out a 10.5 million dollar settlement to Omar Khadr for the same reason they paid out for the Syrian engineer Arar: the security apparatus in Canada screwed up and they’ll do anything to cover that up. Canada’s relationship with the four other Sisters depends upon it.  That’s why they’ll sit still with the American military calling Khadr a murderer and an absurd lawsuit from a widow’s family.

You’ll never see a member of CSIS on trial for human rights abuses, and that certainly would have happened if the government had not paid out.

Justin Trudeau can spin this as the rule of law, but the rule of the Five Sisters takes precedence.

Wiley E. Conservative

July 20, 2017

Deja vu. All through the 2015 federal election campaign Stephen Harper’s Conservatives acted like Wiley E. Coyote, trying this gimmick and that to destroy the blasted Road Runner in the person of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. But the traps never quite worked. There were the four debates which pitted two veterans against the callow youngster.  JT won.  The Conservatives and NDP wore out the “Just Not Ready” ad. Then JT picked up the husk and with a deft judo flip, turned it into a pre sold, “I’m Ready” ad. Canadians, tired of the other ad’s overreach, agreed.

Newbie Andrew Scheer’s idea of leadership seems also to involve a lot of Acme Hardware purchases, and the 10.5 million dollar wedge is as hopeful a gadget as any Harper attempted. JT’s response today in the Globe and Mail simply involved driving the wedge back the other way. The Acme hammer of the talking points is the 71% disapproval figure from a single online survey by paid contributors. If even one new survey shows the opposite, Wiley E. Sheer will have black soot all over his face.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/nafta-talks-too-important-for-partisanship-trudeau-says/article35751115/

Andrew Scheer has squeaked into the post of Federal Conservative Leader with promises of a new world of conservatism-with-a-smile, but I have been put off repeatedly by his fondness for bumper-sticker logic and the use of reductivism in place of truth.

A single example of this deception by oversimplification is Sheer’s fondness for the phrase “confessed terrorist” in reference to Omar Khadr.  Khadr, a Canadian citizen captured at 15 in Afghanistan, signed a confession in an illegitimate military tribunal — not a legal courtroom — as the main condition for release from ten years of torture in an American internment camp in Cuba with no other prospect for release.  CSIS personnel went to the camp to interrogate the former child soldier, then turned over their intelligence to the Americans.

It bothers me that Stephen Harper and this grinning acolyte radiate false rage over the $10.5M payment to Omar Khadr because it riles up the Conservative base.  Slogans like:  Canadians need to let Mrs. Speer know how we feel about Khadr! appropriate an American family’s private sorrow and vulgarize it into a crude plywood sign on a roof in Calgary.  Time will tell if this extended anti-Trudeau tirade will generate income from Conservative donors for Scheer as well as the Long Gun Registry worked for Harper.

Scheer’s history of success in assorted votes indicates considerable political acumen.  He is likely smarter than he looks and sounds, but it grates that this “conservative” seeks to draw the level of political discourse in Canada so low.  I had had hopes that the new Conservative leader would keep politics north of the Canadian border, help put back in place a reverence for political discourse, and always take the high road without bastardizing his party’s position by conflating facts and ignoring nuance.  Instead, we see a man only too willing to ape the tactics creating electoral-success-at-all-cost in the United States today.

Michael Chong would have made a much better Conservative leader, but he may have to wait through another election cycle or two to get his chance.

 

http://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2017/07/21/fox-news-trump-supporters-and-canadian-conservatives-walk-hand-in-hand/

Canada Day on CBC

July 1, 2017

I have just watched 3 1/2 hours of TV during which a crowd got wet.  It was pretty good.  Some Irishman named Bono gave the best speech of the day before he sang, according to retiring CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge.  Bono said he offered to do a song at the event because he likes Justin Trudeau’s stand on human rights.  Multiple Grammy winner Shania Twain introduced Canada’s two new astronauts, but didn’t sing.  The ageless Buffy St. Marie kicked the afternoon off with a rap during which she wandered off the stage to address Prince Charles and the P.M. directly.  She is a compelling performer.

Prince Charles spoke pretty good French for the first half of his speech, then segued without a trace of irony into English.  Royal.  What struck me was how much he seemed to enjoy himself in the rain, meeting everyone.  Justin Trudeau let go with a barn-burner of a speech, working the soggy crowd very well.  Then he forgot to mention Alberta when rhyming off the provinces and territories.  Mansbridge ruminated about that all afternoon.

The best act was the co-hosting job by Sandra O and Mitsu.  They timed their English/French comments so tightly that it appeared one was speaking over the other, but after a while I realized that they had to have rehearsed this difficult timing, for every syllable came out just right.  Mitsu’s radiant personality and O’s gravitas emphasized that this was a serious show about a serious, if joyous event.

The Trudeau family swept away any stuffiness in the performance with J.T. (and Sophie) popping out of their seats from time to time, most notably a drop-in on Peter Mansbridge during his broadcast.  Justin took the mike and interviewed Peter in a mildly amusing segment.  The two drew quite a crowd of friendly onlookers eager to wish Mansbridge well on his last show.  On their way out Peter offhandedly suggested they say hello to his wife and son.  The camera swung to frame a shocked Cynthia Dale and the younger Mansbridge, who looked rather like his father when shaking the P.M’s hand.

Comedian Mark Critch just did a funny standup routine in front of a crowd in Newfoundland, joking about Peter’s retirement and how he wants his job.

The interviews with people across Canada turned out to be more interesting than one might expect.  CBC Power and Politics host Rosie Barton interviewed one woman, her teenaged son and pre-teen daughter.  Rosie asked how long it had taken them to get to Parliament Hill from their home in Northern Ontario.  “A nine hour drive after a five hour train ride and a ten minute boat trip.  And then we waited four hours in line, and we arrived here just ten minutes ago.”

Rosie asked why they had come.  The woman identified her family as First Nations, “I wanted to bring my children here so that they can see what Canada is like.”  Nice lady, with great kids, to judge by their alertness and intelligence.

UPDATE 2 July, 2017

I quit watching t.v. at 12.15 a.m.  Still no fireworks.  Gordon Lightfoot was a treat, though.  He had performed on the same stage fifty years ago in 1967.  Most of the evening was shots of Rick Mercer on a roof tossing to indy rock bands performing in various locations around Canada.

Cirque de Soleil performed on a soggy Ottawa stage, though.  Courageous acrobats, those.  The poll dancer’s routine was flat-out amazing.  He could run up a 25′ stripper pole with less effort than it takes me to climb a flight of stairs.  The trampoline guys took some risks in the rain, but I saw only one slip in an otherwise flawless performance.

Today’s newspaper coverage has moved on from the Trudeau-forgot-Alberta bulletin ( a teleprompter misread) to chaos-at-the-gates stories of Canadians frustrated by overly tight and disorganized event security over the afternoon.  So the Canadian version of catastrophe at a public event involves standing in line for eight hours without food, only to find that this line doesn’t actually go anywhere.  The body count consisted of one man who fell off a three-story building while climbing it.  He’s in hospital with a head injury.

As a viewer I felt glad for those who made it onto the Hill, and sorry for those trapped in lineups, but that’s a lot better than reading grizzly details of a bomb blast.  I was especially glad that our granddaughter stayed at home with her parents and watched T.V. rather than facing that crowd.

I prefer bathos to tragedy.

I’ll miss you, Peter Mansbridge.

A look into dangers of using herbicide to control wild parsnip outbreak in Lanark County
COMMUNITY Feb 03, 2016 by Theresa Peluso

I write from the point of view of a Rideau Lakes Township property owner who looks after fifty acres of trees on a 107 acre fam. Wild parsnip is a current problem to my seedlings because it has spread from the township road into adjacent fields. Ms. Peluso naively claims that “After two years, the plant dies.” She further suggests that the seeds don’t spread far. Nothing could be further from the truth. The seeds are magnets for birds. I now have clumps of wild parsnip growing wherever on my tree plantation there was a patch of bare ground and a bird has stopped to roost after a big meal of parsnip seeds. These were not “disturbed” sites in almost all cases.

After eight years of careful mowing, I can state definitely that Ms. Peluso is wrong when she claims that regular bush-hogging before the plant goes to seed will kill wild parsnip. In its first stage it will regrow and flourish indefinitely.

Until this year I have used increasing concentrations of Roundup in a spot-spraying program to keep the wild parsnip from overwhelming my seedlings. Reluctant to spray excessively, I mowed the aisles between the seedlings with a rotary mower. The Roundup worked, but the areas I chose to mow repeatedly, simply grew back. But now the wild parsnip survivors have become tolerant of the spray. It’s time for a new herbicide.

“With proper management, using environmentally sustainable solutions, we can control the spread of this plant.” Sorry, Ms. Peluso, we can’t. Not unless we kill every small bird in Eastern Ontario with a taste for wild parsnip seed.

My merchant just quoted me $1450 for a container of Clearview. Roundup ran $265 last time. Clearview is a serious financial step for a hobby farmer or a municipal government, but I see no point in unleashing Roundup-tolerant wild parsnip seeds on the environment.

Finally, I would suggest that parents not listen to those who belittle the risk to kids of wild parsnip. It’s nasty stuff, far more of a threat to unprotected faces and arms and legs than poison ivy.