Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One Year

Bossons glacier in the French Alps near Chamonix on 12 Mar 2007 (left) and 12 Mar 2008. From The Guardian's photoessay on the world's glaciers.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Say Farewell

To J.G. Ballard, dead Sunday morning at age 78 according to the BBC. Extraordinary writer, extraordinary life.
Some of his novels, off the top of my head:
The Crystal World
The Drowned World
The Atrocity Exhibition
Empire of the Sun

There's a website dedicated to him (with a massive amount of content), a website that seems dedicated to journaling his influence,and, of course, a Wikipedia page. Hell of a thing, that he's gone.


Exactly 10 years ago on Monday, the world woke up to learn that two more unhinged American teenage misfits had snapped after years of bullying at the hands of the "jocks", the sporting overlords of their universe, and gone on a murderous rampage with semi-automatic weapons through their suburban high school.

Or that's the version we were told, anyway.

The teenagers were called Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their school was Columbine High, an idyllic sounding place nestled between the Denver metropolitan area and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. What is indisputable is that Columbine quickly became a byword for the nightmarish phenomenon - now seemingly a worldwide contagion - of school shootings. It was the bloodiest, creepiest, most vivid school attack anyone at the time could remember and remains, to this day, the episode the American popular imagination just can't seem to shake.

Harris and Klebold did not just gun down their victims in cold blood. They laughed and hollered while they were doing it, as though they were having the time of their lives.

In contrast to previous American school shootings, which had unfolded in hard-to-reach locales such as West Paducah, Kentucky, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, this one happened half an hour's drive from a major media hub. Denver television crews got there while the horrors were unfolding, and the cameras did not stop rolling for a week.

So starts Andrew Gumbel's Guardian article The Truth About Columbine in the Friday paper. In the article he discusses the role of the media, the echo-chamber that established the mythology, and the more and less horrible truth about what actually happened that day 10 years ago.
The stand-off? Didn't happen. The shooting was the SWAT team moving through the building looking for Harris and Klebold--who were long-dead and lying in the cafeteria. Cassie Bernall, asked if she believed in God and was shot when she said "yes"? Just shot. Another girl, Valeen Schnurr, asked if she believed in God, said "yes" and was spared. And the boys as Marilyn Manson-worshipping losers? Not so. Reasonably popular, the boys didn't listen to Manson at all. Really, an article worth reading. And then think about media complicity,our complicity, in generating myths instead of dealing with what really happened.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Yes, Thank You. Now Where's Ours?

President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined plans for a high-speed rail network he said would change the way Americans travel, drawing comparisons to the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system.

Obama was careful to point out that his plan was only a down payment on an ambitious plan that, if realized, could connect Chicago and St. Louis, Orlando and Miami, Portland and Seattle and dozens of other metropolitan areas around the country with high-speed trains.

From HuffPo

The question is, when is the Canadian government going to figure this out? 2070?
Bill Curry, writing in today's Globe and Mail (17 April 2009), points out how it is the fear of protectionism in the US that's driving Canada to begin the process of harmonizing our environmental regulations with those of the US. Not because human life on the planet is at risk. Not because it is the right thing to do. But because trade with the US is threatened. This is too little too fucking late. We really need to be getting out in front on global climate change--and if that means shutting down the tarsands, or going nuclear, or imposing a hard cap on carbon emissions, then that is what it means. Harper is so resistant to anything past 1950 that he actually makes me long for the days of Brian Mulroney. Yeah, that one. There was actual progress made on environmental issues under Brian, even while he pimped the country out. Harper is just so not the prime minister we need in these times. He's just intractable, incompetent, and just plain obnoxious. Revolution Now!

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Friday, April 10, 2009