A surprising omission …

Its a bit surprising as I look back over this blog that I’ve made nearly 130 posts over a couple of months, and I’ve yet to make a post about Star Trek. I suppose the fact that Enterprise went off the air last year has something to do with it … for the first time in more than 20 years, there’s no active Star Trek TV series in production, so there’s little new to talk about.

But its still an omission … while Star Trek over the years has had its share of bad acting, hackneyed writing, and questionable special effects, it also represents a rather impressive ‘canon’ of creative material. Between the TV series, the movies, the comic books/cartoon shows, and the novels, the amount of creative energy expended in the Star Trek universe over the past 40 years.

The franchise has an anniversary of sorts this year … it was Sept 8, 1966 that the first episode of Star Trek was broadcast on NBC, so the franchise as an ‘accepted’ piece of entertainment is 40 years old this year. Of course, there was a pilot episode before the 1966 series start, in 1964, and by all accounts was in Rodenberry’s head before that, but 1966 seems a good year.

I didn’t see the original series when it first aired. In fact, I was born the Monday of the week that Star Trek first aired in 1966, so I was a bit young to have caught it the first time around. Regardless, from the first time I saw the show, in re-runs in the 70’s, I knew it was something of interest.

It goes beyond the writing or acting, some of which were less than memorable. You can certainly point to classic stories and episodes from all Star Trek forms, but there’s an ethic that has always run underneath the Star Trek universe. It was shallow, and weak in the original series, but if it hadn’t been there, that original series wouldn’t have survived its faults. Instead of succumbing to its flaws, instead of becoming the cliched ‘wagon train to the stars’ that it was originally billed as, it was able to rise above its limitations.

And rise above in spectacular fashion. After 4 more TV series (plus a cartoon show in the 70’s), some 10 movies, and countless books, the official Star Trek universe has grown vast and diverse. What began life as the barely 2 dimensional world of Kirk and Spock, now spans space and time and culture. There are few parts of our culture … from the design of flip cell phones through medical scanning technology … that haven’t had some tangential impact from Star Trek.

I think the reason for this ubiquity is that underlying ethic I mentioned before, the one that let that original show, and a few movies, rise above their worst moments. It started weakly, brashly, with a lot of style but little substance, but it was there … the notion that despite all the evidence to the contrary, humans were eventually going to work out how not to kill each other and focus on larger issues. Initially, this was little more than a technology cult, worshipping at the alter of the mechanization of the future. But as the series and movies progressed, the substance fleshed out.

The final triumph of Star Trek, the reason that it is still relevant 40 years after its first episode aired, is that there was always hope for the future. The underlying notion, however preposterous it seems from our perspective today, that we would all someday work together for the betterment of all people, instead of competing with each other for the profit of a few, is why Star Trek continues on today with talk of an 11th movie. Its worth noting that as we are 40 years after the first Star Trek episode, we are also some 57 years early for another important anniversary … in 2063, in Boseman, Montana, Zefram Cochrane will make the first warp flight, and bring Vulcan contact with earth for the first time. Or so the story goes, anyway *G*

The Pregnant Goat …

Lagos-Street-02 ol

Originally uploaded by Elron6900.

This is the pregnant goat. I was in Lagos, worling on this street for 5 years, and this goat was pregnant essentially the entire time. I never really did work out who owned her, or where all the baby goats went … not too sure I want to delve too deeply there, lol. When I took this, I had just arrived in Lagos, and was taking shots of my street. She stopped and looked at me, waiting for me to snap the shot before continuing along her way.

Harper and fixed election dates …

Edited 17:45 … I see Bill Graham made my point in Question Period today, and good on him.  While Haprer was quick to assure that 'this government' would never do that, he didn't point to anything that legally rules that possibility out.  This legislation is nothing new … before, the clock was 5 years from an election, now its 4 … thats the only difference, IMO


Stephen Harper announced some fairly serious democratic reform today. Its unclear yet how much of this will actually be implemented on the ground, and its unclear whether Harper even has the right to do what he has done without some sort of Provincial assent, especially on Senate terms and elections, but he's put out some pretty heady ideas.

Several provinces already have some form of fixed election dates, but so far, I am more curious about whats not being said than what is. The idea that the government is forced to call an election after a certain amount of time is nothing new. Right now, no government can serve longer than 5 years without an election, and that "Must have" date is fixed from the time the government goes into power. From what I have seen, Harper's proposed legislation has done little more than change that from 5 years to 4 years. While the news is talking about the fact that a majority government is limited to a 4 year term, no one is asking the question "What if they choose to call one earlier?"

So far, I've seen nothing in this which prevents a majority government from ignoring the 4-year date and calling an earlier election, for politically expediant reasons. And if thats the case, then this is a solution with no problem, because Canada already has a fixed term for majority governments. The real teeth are if this legislation actually prevent a majority governement from calling an election before the 4 year limit is up … if it does that, then its a solution that address the problem of politically motvated election dates. If it fails to address that basic point, however, then there is no solution to anything, merely a decrease in the maximum term for a majority government.

chomsky.info : The Noam Chomsky Website

chomsky.info : The Noam Chomsky Website

There are few living people I admire more, intellectually, than Noam Chomsky. If you are looking for a pair of eyes to cut through all the crap, all the window dressing, all the trappings of power and intrigue, Chomsky’s vision is about as sharp as they come. I was first exposed to Chomsky years ago through his documentary “Manufacturing Consent.” Its a fairly brutal look at the use of media by democratic governments to not only control their people, but to do so through a ‘manufactured’ reality.

Even if you aren’t a fan of political documentaries, Manufacturing Consent is one I recommend. Its fast paced and interesting, and Chomsky is the kind of guy that can hold our attention with his logic. That documentary is where his famous quote about sounding like you are from Neptune comes from … he makes the point that the structure of new media today, and the way ‘news information’ is imparted to us, is structured in such a way as to not give time to the person who has to spend time setting up their argument. Unless what you are saying ALREADY falls into the existing reality, you will need time to explain the context of your ideas to people … when modern sound-bite news refuses to allow that, people saying truly revolutionary things come off sounding as if the come “from Neptune.”

In short, I don’t know anyone today who sees the political world with clearer eyes than Chomsky. I love the look of his new website, and it looks to be FULL of info. To me, the simplicity of the home page is wonderful, and an excellent analog to Chomsky himself … he provides an excellent and intuitive ‘user interface’ that allows others to see the world through his eyes. If you want to get some fun mental exercise, learn some new things, and challenge your preconceptions, spend an afternoon with Chomsky.

TorontoSun.com – Eric Margolis – Final act in the death of Yugoslavia

TorontoSun.com – Eric Margolis – Final act in the death of Yugoslavia

As people who know me personally know, I am a voracious newspaper reader. I read at least 2 newspapers on most days … The Globe and Mail, and the Calgary Sun. One of the reasons I love the Sun is its easy to read format … unlike the big broadsheet format papers, the tabloid Sun is easy to handle. That format spills over into the writing and content and design. In many ways, the Sun is my 'Headline News' to the Globe's in-depth analysis.

But even that doesn't work all the way, because the Sun comment department is second to none. Even with the conservative, right leaning editorial stance of the paper itself, they have one of the more balanced comment sections I have seen. While all newspapers these days talk about the independence of their editorial commenter's, many avoid the real issue by only hiring people who generally share the editorial slant of the paper itself. Its doubtful Eric Margolis would be in the Sun if they operated that way, lol.

But there he is, and again this week he has a fascinating bit, talking about, essentially, the final end of The Great War. Many people think that there were 2 great wars in the 20th century, and a third cold war. But the fact remains, they were all simply a continuation of World War I. We call WWII a different war, because of the large gap in active hostilities, but the rise of German nationalism can be tied directly to the conditions of the 'end' of WWI, conditions that were little more than the continuation of warfare through economic means.

'Peace conditions' after WWII, which essentially led to the Cold War, also continued the domination of the Balkan region, which, after all, were where it all started back in 1914. Even as the Soviet empire collapsed, WWI was still not quite over, as Yugoslavia was always a fiction of peace treaties, as opposed to a real country. And its 'destruction' into its 'original' ethnic elements is really what signals that The Great War is finally over. And it took less than a century, just barely, lol.

But its not just Margolis who shines, IMO … especially on Sunday's, the Comment Section is remarkable. Today there were a couple of other articles I wanted to discuss as well. TorontoSun.com – Lorrie Goldstein – Tories: It's no time to gloat talks a bit about new polls that show Harper's PC's might win a majority if an election were held today. Goldstein rightly cautions people not to listen, lol. I've always wondered what purpose such polls are in Canada … in NO way is general popularity a relevant number for a Canadian political leader, at least not in terms if their job.

While there are "feel-good" things you can attach to a high approval rating, in a political system of ridings, where the leader of the party that wins the most ridings is Prime Minister, general popularity means squat in any real sense. What matters is how popular you are in a majority of ridings and while on the surface those two things may seem similar, a quick look at election results shows how silly it is.

Every election, we do 'popularity polling' alongside the actual election. And every election, glaring deficits of democracy are shown where the 'popular vote' never lines up with the number of ridings won. At election time, its not a popular vote that counts, its whether or not you can get a majority in a majority of ridings. Popularity may be nice measure of how well the country is accepting your policy, but to use it as a political forecasting tool is lunacy in Canada. Without more detailed geographical information about popularity by riding, polls like this give NO useful electability data, IMO … if anything, its more misleading than accurate. Check out Fair Vote Canada for more details.

The Calgary Sun – New revelations by Bishop Fred Henry was an interesting attempt to debunk the new Gospel of Judas documents recently profiled by National Geographic and others (I blogged on it here). He uses a rather silly analogy, borrowed from the Catholic World News, about a discovery of the Gospel of Skip and Muffy. Its a humourous approach to obscuring the issues, but that's all it is in the end … a veil to cast over issues.

Henry talks about how "The fourfold Gospels are part of the canon of Scripture" and he is right. What he fails to discuss is their radically different treatments of Judas. While none goes as far as the Gospel of Judas does, its only in John that Judas reaches truly evil proportions. In Mark, Judas' role in everything is shown in a FAR more wrok-a-day way. Henry never addresses these differences, or how they may relate to the new documents being translated.

But in the end, Skip and Muffy have nothing to do with the formation of Catholic theology, nor are they in a time-frame or place to do so. The Gospel of Judas is contemporaneous to other gospels, date wise, written in the generation or two to follow Jesus. As later scholars like Aquinas would debate canonical texts, early Christians were creating and discussing the ideas that would go into those texts. The Judas Gospel, like the Gospel of Mary, clearly represents a view that didn't win out, over the course of history, but Henry and others fail to acknowledge, when they use silly analogies like Skip and Muffy, that early Christianity wasn't a place where a single, clear message ruled … it was a time and place when many different messages competed for supremacy. Uncovering documents like Judas, or a full version of Mary, if we ever do (and OOOOOO how I hope we someday stumble across THAT little gem, lol), can only serve to help us understand better. Whether we ultimately decide they are relevant to our faith or not, I think its arrogant to dismiss so readily words like the Judas Gospel.

Finally, TorontoSun.com – Sheila Copps – The Beltway feud was an interesting article by the former Liberal cabinet minister about the feud between Harper and the media. As someone whose been on both sides of this debate, she is perhaps uniquely qualified to comment. Its not surprising that she would highlight the symbiotic relationship where each side needs the other to survive, but I wish more politicians took their responsibility to the people who elect them more seriously. Ultimately, the politician is my employee, and the reporter is my proxy … when Harper walks out on a reporter, he is walking out on me. You can spin that anyway you like … his job is to answer to the people who elected him, and he does that through a free media, unencumbered by 'approved' lists of reporters and questions.

Stephan Harper and the Media

Imagine going into a meeting with colleagues on Monday morning, where you work, and responding to a question about your work by ignoring the questioner and looking to someone else in the meeting, or worse yet, by getting up and walking out, declaring that your colleagues are out to get you.  Imagine going into a meeting with clients on Monday morning, to discuss a new initiative your company is putting forward, but refusing to answer questions.  Imagine addressing project stakeholders, but refusing to allow stakeholders to form their own agenda or questions.  Can you imagine keeping your job, or the project, or whatever under these circumstances?  In the real world, petulant displays like Harper put on the other day, walking out on the National Press, and no refusing to speak with them entirely, those sorts of displays get you fired.

This isn't the first time I've talked about this specific issue, or about Harper and the media in general, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last.  I'm certain it won't be the last time I give my friend Anitsirhc reason to say "I told you so."  George ran an excellent bit on this on Thursday night's The Hour where he talked about this issue, and talked about the tradition of first-come-first-served questioning during Press Gallery conferences, and I loved the fact that he played Terry Milewski's questioning of the PM, and the non-answers regarding his claims.  I'd also like to commend George on using the word 'crap' in description of all this … its never been appropriately applied than the way he used it in this report.

But this issue goes beyond the tradition of the Press Gallery.  It speaks directly to control of information, and it speaks to vital questions of democracy.  What Harper is looking for, essentially, is a media environment where his office controls who can ask questions of the PM, and when.  Buried in several of the reports I've seen, George's included, are phrases that send chills down my spine.  "Approved list of reporters" was one, when describing who would be able to ask question during Parliament Hill press conferences.  When did we flashback into the era of Soviet-style media manipulation, where only government approved journalists get access to the Prime Minister?

The fact remains that Harper has forgotten who he works for.  Regardless of their status as reporters, every single person in the Press Gallery is Harper's boss as a citizen of Canada.  He serves at their pleasure, as he serves at my pleasure, and at all of yours, if you are citizens of Canada.  He is obliged to answer to me, and it is not in his job description to appoint or approve the people who ask him questions for me … the function of a free press is to provide a free marketplace of ideas where I can choose to read the reporters from the Globe and Mail, the CBC, or The National Post, or any number of other specific viewpoints on the information.  If Harper's office controls the list of people who ask him questions, then the 'marketplace of ideas' ends up skewed towards the whims of the PMO.

The irony is, in theory, I am Harper's poster-boy redneck.  I was born and bred in Alberta and i believe fiercely in individual rights and responsibility, solid conservative values.  I should be the sort of person Harper appeals to, and I'm here to say that he needs to talk to whatever reporters want to ask him questions.  One of his jobs … perhaps his ONLY job in the grand scheme of things … is to tell his project stakeholders whats happening.  Harper sees it as an intrusion to answer reporter's questions … it is, in fact, the reason for his existence in Canadian politics, IMO.

If he thinks the public supports him on this, I think he'll find he is badly mistaken.  There's something about the notion of the PMO preparing lists of 'approved' reporters that turns my stomach.  One of the key complaints western leaders had about the Communist threat was its control of information flow, and making lists of approved reporters and news agencies was one of the main ways communist governments controlled that information flow.  If nothing else, borrowing the methods of Josef and Leonid is hardly good optics for a Prime Minister who is supposedly Conservative and right wing.

GenX – another old poem

This will probably be my last 'old' poem, at least for now. I think this is the last one I wrote in my poetry period in the late 90's, and I believe I've already posted all the others. So any of you here for the poetry will just have to wait for new inspiration after this one, lol. Though, I suspect if you're here for the poetry, you're not here anyway ;-). Regardless, enjoy …

by Lyle Bateman

Worker bees, filing into the metal hive
necks tied with tinted silken experience
colours melding with fractal swirls
knowledge knotted against seepage.

Dung beetles, scurrying about for daily bread
the remains of the day clinging to legs that
carry mindlessly on through the concrete garden
to dinner at the next carcass.

Drone ants, plodding in glittering hills
providing supplies for unseen queens
in return for sustenance barely deficient
to flame to the light within.

Book worms, burrowing through libraries
for knowledge to grease future wheels
digesting books through the practical funnel
in search of a final design.

Lone spider, watching from above
in high-strung slumber for the silk shivers
that say tonight's dinner is ensnared
in the social safety web.

Copyright 1998