Friday, July 30, 2004

Wops, Cops, and Roger Waters

Woggie is back, and he has a new ethic slur of the moment. After three albums with iffy references to Asian people (The Final Cut, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, and Amused to Death), and some crude (but funny) jabs at the Irish on The Wall's DVD commentary, he's gone and rhymed "wops" with "cops" on his upcoming song "Leaving Beirut."

Roger, dear Roger, why can't you leave the crappy end-rhyming to Gilmour?

Really, now. He does claim that the whole "fleeced in Naples by the wops" business is drawn from personal experience, as opposed to a generalized perception of Italians as pickpocket criminals, but personal experience is no excuse for a lyrical gaffe Gilmour wouldn't have permitted on About Face.

Besides, the sort of slurs Roger throws about in a careless manner give his attempts at addressing contemporary issues an almost quaint feel. Wops? Hey Rog, I have an idea for your next song: "Dagotown." Has a nice mouthfeel, doesn't it? We can base it on my great-grandfather's personal experience in old San Jose. Come down here and I'll share my notes with you.

Or, how about an album based on the injustice of NINA policies? Oh, wait, you're not so keen on the Irish.

I'm being unfair. I will be the first to say that many of the "slurs" that get Roger in trouble for being misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-black, etc, are explicable and even appropriate within the context of his albums. All the neo-Nazi ranting on The Wall is in a narrative framework that demands it-- come on, how scary is a would-be messianic dictator character going to be if he gets up at the podium at his latter-day Nuremburg and just picks on the dopeheads and acne-ridden music freaks? He'd probably get drafted for public office by political parties on both sides of the Atlantic. No, Pink needs to be an evil bastard, or at least talk like one, and taking the lyrics out of context and beating Roger with them is missing the point. Even the "gook" line from Amused to Death's "Too Much Rope" makes sense, as it's given to the viewpoint of a former Vietnam vet who is trying to make peace with his past. Context is critical.

The man does seem to have a problem with Asians, though. At the very least, he comes across as insensitive toward them; as I wrote above, the iffy references to Asians are on at least three albums covering a nine-year period. Roger may have even slipped some "nip" or "jap" references into Radio KAOS that have escaped me. It troubles me far more than the common accusations, because not all the references can be neatly explained away by narrative demand, but I haven't seen any widespread commentary on this particular issue. (And the crowd didn't much care when I brought it up about four years back.)
That Icelandic interview I linked to above is interesting for another reason: I can't seem to recall hearing or reading about the teenaged Roger's jaunt through the Middle East before. At the least, this account of joyriding and hitchhiking through Beirut and Baghdad rings only the faintest of bells, though it should be at least as interesting to the Floydian biographer as Gilmour and Barrett busking in France. If the young Roger really did view regions outside Britain and the usual British holiday destinations (St. Tropez, etc) firsthand, that does somewhat dull the "armchair commentator" blade that's also used against him. At least he bothered to leave the chair!

Come to think of it, a new bio on the Floyd did come out last year; I didn't have a chance to buy it then and I don't remember the author's name now. Maybe that had details on Roger-in-Beirut. I'll have to look into it.

A final thought: Roger's car broke down on the road to Damascus. There's a weighty image to ponder.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Belief in Hell Boosts Economic Growth!

No, it's NOT from The Onion

Close enough, though.  I found this article on the homepage, and the ways in which it offends the thinking reader are legion.

Fer crying out loud, can anyone prove that a belief in hell-- or gods-- even promotes morality in the first place?  Particularly economic morality?

The Fed's own account of this study is as laughable as the write-up, and the absurdities ought to be obvious.  Ireland has a pretty good economy these days-- but it was the bunghole of the North Atlantic for centuries.  Have the Irish become more religious than before?
Apparently not-- church attendance is falling, and notable seminaries have had to close for lack of willing priests.  Maybe the Irish just fear hell but don't believe in God, Christ, Heaven, or the rest of it. 

Does belief in reincarnation NOT promote morality the way belief in hell "does"?  If not, why not?  That goes unanswered.  Or, apparently, unasked.

What about belief in the Islamic hell-- you know, the one with ovens and fires that sounds ten times worse than a modern liberal Christian "separation from God" kinda-hell?  The study didn't even examine notable Islamic countries (Turkey does NOT count).   Where are the North African economic powerhouses? 

The Fed's article can be found here.  Note the correction at the top of the page!  The paragraph on how fear of hell leads to less corruption is a masterpiece of weasel words and fuzzy thinking.

Christ on a biscuit.  If people have to concoct these kinds of arguments to support their religion, there must not be any good evidence to start with.

I think this religious dishonesty is undermining my faith in the economy.  Time to start hoarding my wages in the cookie jar.  Down with banks and speculators!


Friday, July 23, 2004

Swallowtail Weather

I tend to associate swallowtails with late June/early July, as Tiger Swallowtails were going gangbusters during this time on my first encounter with Michigan (2002).

This year, they've been a fizzle: a few sightings early in spring, and a mere handful at what I'd considered their peak season.  Even our annual jaunt to Lake Superior didn't net us many swallowtail sightings, and the last two years they made an obstacle course of every road we traveled north of Standish.

So, I was thrilled to see a large, dark form swooping around my workplace's front lot with that characteristic "heavy" swallowtail wingbeat.[*]  It came close to me repeatedly, once flying straight at me before veering off with a metre to spare.  It had definite tails, but otherwise its appearence was foreign to me.  It was dark, but lacked the brilliant colour pattern of a Black Swallowtail, and it was not iridescent like a Spicebush, much less a Pipevine.

I know those three 'guys' very well, and none of them checked out.  This butterfly was about the size of a Spicebush, and it had the "classic" rounded outline instead of the "long," angular wing-shape of a Black Swallowtail.  It was dark brown, not true black, and the colour outlining its hind-wings was yellow-orange.  There may have been some yellow on the forewings as well.

Hold on, you say.  There is a butterfly in the region with just those colours in that pattern, the Giant Swallowtail.  Nuh-uh.  I had a vivid encounter with those at Point Pelee last year, and that glass slipper won't fit.  One, those things are freaking huge, literally the size of a small bird.  I watched a Giant zoom through a glade containing a couple of Monarchs, and the Monarchs were rendered Dwarfs, or at least Peasants, by it.  Two, the Giant Swallowtail flies like a bird.  No leaden wings there.  Three, the Giant has pale underwings, and this mystery visitor did not.

I'm stumped, and while I love to see a new and unfamiliar lepidopteran, I don't want to be flummoxed by one.
A few minutes later, I saw a Tiger soaring over the road.  That makes it a very good day.     

* Compare a Tiger in flight to a Monarch sometime.  Even better, compare a Monarch with one of the dark swallowtails, like the Spicebush.  The swallowtails seem positively clumsy by comparison.

The Glorious Gravel Pit

The yard outside my workplace was recently graded, and I noticed right off that the new gravel was pretty darned cool. A few days after it was laid down, I picked up a nice piece of calcite that bordered on optical-grade. Next to it was a black sedimentary rock with a cute, nearly complete cast of a brachiopod (I presented that one to Jon). A cursory inspection of the lot on any given day will net me a handful of partial fossils, mostly brachiopods. I found a few today in the space of five minutes while sitting just outside the door-- and I think I'll run them by Jon for identification.

The fun doesn't end with sedimentary rocks, though. There are some nice frothy igneous bits, and some pretty red pieces of granite, and lots of lovely rocks with crystalline veins, or visible fault lines, and beautiful colours and structures.

Sadly, a good portion of the lot is ground daily by pickup trucks, massive supply vehicles, and my own little Escort. All the pretty rocks, fossiliferous or otherwise, will be ground into smaller and smaller bitses, until only dust is left, and that dust in turn will be sprayed with nasty oil to keep it from kicking up clouds.

Ah well. The brachiopods all could have ended up as oil deposits to be burned inside said trucks and vehicles.

Little Dead Fords by the Side of the Road

During last Friday's morning commute I saw a mid-90s light blue Ford Escort lying abandoned on the shoulder of the freeway. A few miles later, a Ford Tempo (same era, same colour) had met the same fate.

Both those cars were gone by Monday, but that day another Escort lay abandoned on the shoulder. This one was a pale red, like a very faded maroon, but looked to be the same approximate age as the other cars.

I drive a mid-90s Escort, a '95 to be precise. This phenomenon does NOT make me feel good.

Note: This morning, the Dead Ford of the day was an old Explorer. That one I don't grieve for.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Read This Now and We'll Throw in a FREE splorgnark!

$19.95 USD is the price the average person will shell out for just about anything.  [I base this on my own experience and on a lifetime of watching commercials for mail-order crud].  If the price is anything less, say $15.99, the mark... er, prospective buyer will feel the goods really must be worthless.  Any more, and the buyer suspects that the price is jacked up no matter how many "free" deal-sweeteners are thrown in.  Besides, if the product *is* garbage, it's a lot easier to rationalize blowing "less than twenty" dollars [plus sales tax and probably S&H...] than it is to say, "Oh well, it was only twenty-seven ninety-nine."

Now, my question is, WHY is this the mental threshold?  And when did it come to be?  Twenty dollars doesn't cover my average trip to the farmer's market, but before inflation (and, presumably, cable television ads) it wasn't exactly play money.  What was the going rate for "exclusive offer" toys, gadgets, and elixirs on 1940s radio, or 1960s magazines?  And what would that correspond to in today's money?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Nice Things

Things that are Good, Dibrova Edition:
Perfect white water lilies.
Clear water and little fish.
Brown eye-spot butterflies with no fear of man.
Snout butterflies (1).
Perfect little blue butterflies that sit centimetres away from you and rub their hind wings together, even if they are eating bird crap.
Red Admira(b)l(e)s, in general.
A whole tree of cedar waxwings, alive and happy.
Missisauga rattlesnakes that are moving away from you.
Turtles.  Turtles.  Turtles.
Mushrooms that look like porcelain.
Tall trees that provide shelter from summer downpour.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Mm, the inevitable.

Schwarzenegger Calls Budget Opponents 'Girlie Men'

God. I've just been praying for a headline that made me laugh, and the Lord has provided. The Lord and Arnie.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

using System;

namespace Cymbalina { 
          class DianeBlog {    
                      public static void Main(String [] args) {
                              Console.WriteLine("Hello, world.");