Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Differentiating products?

Lately, a number of advertisements have included speech bubbles with catchy, yet banal statements like "Now that's different!" and extraneous adjectives such as "ultimate," "cool," and "amazing". Presumably these statements help the modern consumer make an informed choice; they provide the "skinny" for the shopper who does not wish to be burdened with details or draw any conclusions for themselves. Nevertheless, they're doing much more than the thinking for that shopper. They're blatantly informing them of their preferences; before, it has always been subtle, manipulative and conniving. Can't a reasonably informed shopper determine what is different or amazing? Given that I'm a techie I ignore these speech bubbles and focus on the features, but they still grate me the wrong way. They should read "good margin," "better margin," and "best margin". These statements do not shine like the newly waxed and elevated car at a dealership, rather they read with the intended simplicity of a children's book. Just give me the features, so that I'll know what I'm getting and, yes, so I can rattle them off to anyone that shows the slightest interest in my latest purchase. Come on advertisers, you've already duped us into double mortgages for flat screen TVs, do you have to add insult to injury by insulting our intelligence?

Shock Rock

Lately, I have been thoroughly enjoying the sounds of Shock Radar. Here, you can sample a bunch of songs and download a few of them; the highlight of this site is virtual concert video where they perform Methadone. At the end of the film they mention doing a cover of War Pigs. I guess this is the reason why I like the music so much; it satisfies my desire for a nostalgic yet progressive sound. System of a Down is another band that does the very same thing.

The latest Vinyl Cafe podcast (a fantastic show, also available on streaming and conventional radio, that will engender a deep appreciation for Canada in you and make you laugh so hard you ...) featured a band called Great Lake Swimmers. They have a very interesting sound, combining 70's folk standards with the subtleties of "alternative" music. Plus, as a bonus, they maintain the non-violent protest lyrics of the 70's.

On a totally separate topic, check out this hilarious video. It is in German, but you get the point anyway.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Creation Care

Last month I went to the Creating Wealth and the Created World conference at Regent College in Vancouver. They have just recently posted the notes and presentations of some of the speakers, notables such as Preston Manning and Clive Mather, on their website. The facts on the oil sands alone is worth a visit to the site. A favourite of mine from the conference was Cal DeWitt, he is an impressive individual who passionately yet eloquently communicated his concerns and wisdom concerning the environment. His work with the Town of Dunn, a sustainable community, is particularly laudable. All of the ordinances are posted on the website, so other towns can use them for their own use.

See Biblical Environmentalism? for more on this subject.

While I was speeded to UBC aboard the new network of express buses I read that TransLink intends to implement a wireless system which will post information on arrival times, change traffic lights so buses can maintain their schedule and, perhaps, offer wi-fi on board the bus (something even B.C. ferries can't even pull off). My bliss on public transit was rudely interrupted when I had to wait for 25 minutes for the bus to arrive on the Swartz Bay side. Then the bus weaved its way through Sidney and many hours later I made it home. Victoria transit, in my experience and to my chagrin, runs has buses arriving early at stops (sometimes up to 5 minutes early) and has poor connections, although I have seen some progress on the latter in recent years.

Rendition and Torture

A friend of mine who is a source for many documentaries recommended I watch Taxi to the Dark Side (BBC) and Extraordinary Rendition (PBS documentary by Stephen Grey, the author of Ghost Plane; this website is excellent, here you can watch the film and read a chapter from the book). My spirit sank as the last hope for disbelief was squashed; it was as bad as I knew it would be, but the protective barrier that my subconscious had erected was now razed. I have asked myself repeatedly how this can happen. Jeffrey Addicott, a former U.S. Army lawyer who advised the Bush administration on its policies for torture answered this for me. In Extraordinary Rendition he states, "Justice, in my view of things, is the last priority as it is in any war." Some very disturbing facts presented in Taxi are: 1) only 5 to 7 percent of all detainees have been captured by Coalition Forces. In the case of Daliwar, the main subject of the documentary, it turned out that the commander of an Afghani regiment had rocketed the U.S. base and turned over innocent civilians to take the rap in order to gain credibility with the Coalition Forces. Is it too hard to believe that local militias would hand over innocent people for their own gain especially when a bounty is involved. 2) only 9 percent of all detainees had any links with al Qaida.

What is most disturbing, even haunting, is that no one has been held responsible for these actions and the Bush administration continues to justify these means. Worse, even when it yields to public pressure and officially bans these acts the administration continues to employ them via different means. The latest version is for independent countries such as Kenya to rendition subjects themselves, in one case 11 children were among those taken and held, so countries like the U.S. can interrogate them. Now the U.S. does not do the rendition themselves, but still, allegedly, tortures these victims itself. Allegedly? Whether U.S. citizens administer the torture is irrelevant, they still support the practise while they ban it.

Duplicitous, vague and obscure are appropriate adjectives for this administration; somehow, there is no paper trail, the practises of torture from Bagram transferred (with Captain Wood) to Abu Ghraib then practises specifically reserved for Guantanamo were administered in Bagram. Since my discovery of the Project for the New American Century in 2001 (see my entry Duped from May 2006) I have wondered when people will wake up. At least there has been progress, e.g., these documentaries and Dennis Kucinich's motion to have Cheney impeached. Nevertheless, it will probably take 20 years for the common individual to truly comprehend the extent of this administration's nastiness. What troubles me is whether all administrations, including those of my country Canada, have been so underhanded, the dirty deals so dirty. Is the Bush administration especially bad or has 9/11 just let them do it all publicly with the peoples' rubber stamp, given that extreme times require extreme measures. Keep your head up.


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