Tuesday, July 31, 2007
E WORKS OF
Since writing the last post (no pun intended), Molly has come upon what she things is the greatest site on the late Ingmar Bergman. Bergmanomania:The Magic Works of Ingmar Bergman has all the features of the sites I mentioned previously and much more. The site contains commentary all on of his major movies, downloadable trailers and film clips, interviews, documentaries and even parodies of some of his ouevre. Drop on over for a real treat.
Monday, July 30, 2007
THE SEAL IS BROKEN: CHECKMATE FOR INGMAR BERGMAN:
The famous film director Ingmar Bergman (July 14, 1918 - July 30, 2007) died today. Bergmann was born in Uppsala Sweden, and his father was a Lutheran minister of Danish descent and of rather strict views, Erik Bergman, who later became the chaplain to the King of Sweden. The darkness of Bergman's early life resonated through Ingmar's later work. The themes of death/mortality, sex and sexual politics, guilt, faith or the lack thereof and loneliness echoed through the director's later films and plays. Bergman's first film was 'Frenzy' (1944), and his ouevre spanned many decades. Two good sources for a cinematography are http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/bergman.htm and http://1worldfilms.com/Ingmar%20Bergman.htm . The latter allows you to purchase many of his films. The former contains an excellent biography that supplements the Wikipedia site on him.
Bergman was as prolific with his DNA as he was with his writings. He was married five times, and he acknowledged 9 children as his own. All of them with the exception of one author and one airline pilot became involved with film. He had a favourite repertoire of actors that he hoped to include in his films, and he was more than slightly lax with them, allowing them to improvise and change the tone of many of his films. One of these actors, Liv Ullman, became one of his mistresses, and she and he had a daughter that he also acknowledged as his own.
Those interested in the sort of "lit-crit" that professors of fine arts do can slake their thirst at http://www.senseofcinema.cam/contents/directors/02/bergman.html or http://www.filmref.com/directors/dirpages/bergman.html . Bergman spent more than one stint in nutters in his life. One of these little "rest cures" happened after he was arrested in 1976 and charged with income tax evasion. The charges were later dropped, but the result was that he left Sweden for exile in Munich and only returned in 1982. I gotta say that his attraction to craziness didn't interfere with his "procreation duties" as can be seen by his progeny. One has to appreciate, however, that Bergman was both rich and lived at a time when the so-called "helping" professions were far less developed in the industrial power that they have today. Nowadays few except that who accept the position of the factory material of permanent marginals who earn their keepers large salaries can escape interference with their sex and family lives. Different times. Different places. Today you have to accept the position of "welfare bum"-with all that implies for your life- to breed like a rabbit.
My own favourite films of Bergman were 'Scenes from a Marriage', 'Fanny and Alexander' and, of course, 'The Seventh Seal'. Not being a film nut/nit I'm sure that those more knowledgeable that I could argue with my choices. One hardly hears today about existentialism and its themes. To a large extent this is because we live in a time without real faith when attempts at such partake more of hysteria than real conviction. The "faith" of the American evangelists is as much a cartoon faith as my own pen name of Mollymew is a cartoon. I wonder if the faith of Islamic fundamentalists seems the same to many Muslims. Je ne sais pas. The existentialists lived in a time when they actually mourned the death of a real and present God and the meaning that he imparted. Today we see this God as a fading photograph in an old family picture. Both fascism and Marxist communism failed dramatically as substitutes.
Much has been lost since that time. Very few people today actually bother to confront the real meaning of death, for instance, when there is no certainty of a meaning to it or a life thereafter. When they cling to the modern cartoon versions of "certainty" they lose something that traditional Christian (and Muslim for that matter) culture preserved from the Greeks. They lose the comedic aspect of life. They simply can't get the joke. They also lose the tragic aspect. One can see this very starkly in the conservative ideology rampant in the USA where "tragedy" is invoked to justify injustice but the whole idea of Nemesis and the punishment for over weaning pride is absent. Leftism, of course, shares similar blindness, but the contrast is hardly as visible as it is when you read conservative commentators.
What exactly has been lost here ? Read the nonsense spewed out by Islamic fascists. Read the same sort of thing produced by the present American or Canadian government and their supporters. Read pretty well anything produced by neo-conservatives. Read most of what is produced under the heading of "leftism". Read the more rhetorical anarchism statements. What is missing ? The whole idea that life is complex and has depth. Yes, I miss the existentialists greatly. I'll also miss old Ingmar. He should never have confessed his chess strategy to Death disguised as a priest.
Molly on Dover Beach
Sunday, July 29, 2007
To check for the times of the full moons of this year Molly highly recommends the Time and Date site. This site has a wealth of information on matters chronological including solar and lunar calenders and the opportunity to design your own calender for any number of countries of the world complete with all holidays religious and secular. Not just a way of telling time, but much more.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
DOZENS OF FARM WORKERS EXPOSED TO TOXIC PESTICIDE CHLORPYRIFOS:
On Saturday, July 21, more than 75 workers were labouring at grape picking in California when an adjacent almond orchard was sprayed with the toxic chemical chlorpyrifos. Some workers were hospitalized soon after while the others were told to go home and "take a shower". They were later phoned and told to go to the hospital, but most farm workers can afford neither the medical costs nor the loss of wages (God bless the American medical system). When some of these workers attempted to return to work on M0nday, July 23rd, they fell ill again. This is the second serious major pesticide exposure incident in California this month. On July 10th over a dozen workers were exposed to chlorprifos while picking oranges. The United Farm Workers are calling on people to email the California Department of Pesticide Regulations and demand that they investigate these incidents to the full extent of the law. They are also calling for a ban on dangerous chemicals such as chlorpyrifos. To join this campaign go to http://www.ufwaction.org/campaign/chlorpyrifos .
If you'd like more information on the chemistry and effects of chlorpyrifos go to the Wikipedia article on same. Or for much better information go to Pesticideinfo.org's page on same. The latter, by the way, is a great resource, its home page I mean. PesticideInfo.org is a project of the Pesticide Action Network North America. Molly went there expecting to find the usual cranks and nuts of the "my naturopath diagnosed me with multiple chemical sensitivity but then I took the homeopathic remedy prescribed, meditated, adjusted my chakras and read more of Deepass Chopra and I'm cured and will live forever or at least until I transcend the illusions of this state of being" ilk. I was very pleasantly surprised. Now I admit that I didn't go over the full site with an inquisitor's eye, but what I did see was actually based on reality rather than quackery, neurosis, new age conmanship and a crude substitute for better religions. I found no bullshit on what I examined, including those things that I know very well such as fleas. I even found a few unique suggestions for my life long project to kill every ant in the world- a crusade that I signed up to in childhood- without poisoning my cats. Ants, crows, gastrointestinal parasites, primitivists, fleas, etc....there are some life forms that have no useful function to anything else. Am I wrong in this in terms of the ants ? Anyways Molly was impressed, and she'll add panna to her links list soon.
THE NEW SANCTUARY MOVEMENT:
(AND THE NEANING OF DIRECT ACTION):
The latest issue of Time magazine (July 30- Aug.6) has an article on the New Sanctuary Movement in the USA. This coordination of faith groups is a response to the increasing repression and harshness that so-called illegal immigrants are facing in the USA these days. It's a wide coalition of groups ranging the spectrum from the Unitarians, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalians and the United Methodists to Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Quakers, Evangelical Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. Like the sanctuary movement of the early 1980s when the US government attempted to deport refugees fleeing repression and wars in Central America this movement offers sanctuary in churches for immigrant families under immediate threat of deportation and all sorts of other help for those not in an immediately critical situation.There is actually no legal right to sanctuary in churches, but authorities are almost always unwilling to raise the public stakes by violating the customary rule of sanctuary.
The most recent growth of this movement to follow the gospel's edict to "shelter the stranger" stems from a March, 2006 Lenten message of Cardinal Archbishop Roger Maloney of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in which he urged his priests and other faithful to disobey Bill HR 4437 should it become law. This bill passed the House of Representatives where it was introduced but later failed in the Senate. It would have criminalized any aid given to an illegal immigrant even if the giver was unaware of the legal status of the recipient. It put the onus to know on the giver of charity and essentially outlawed charity towards undocumented aliens in the USA.
(Molly Note: The article in Time Magazine gives the date of this instruction by Mahoney as 2005 while the website of the NSM gives it as March 2006. Time has made a mistake in this case. Their confusion is a result of the fact that HR 4437 was introduced in 2005 and passed on Dec. 16th of that year- a little early "Christmas gift" from the ruling class of the USA to poor people in that country. Molly has one of her recurrent fantasies stimulated by this, a retelling of A Christmas Carol with Ebeneezer Bush in the starring role and the ghost of Ronald Reagan come to warn him to mend his evil ways. The ghost will be dragging a chain made of nuclear missiles, boxes labelled either "To Iran" or "To Nicaragua" and various other unsavoury items. But more on this later in the year)
The New Santuary Movement continued to organize throughout on January 29th, 2007 they met in Washington DC to set up coordination of their various efforts. The Time article refers to the "founding" of the NSM as being in May of 2007, but once more it errs as what the NSM calls 'The Convening' in January is a more accurate date for the "founding". The consensus of the meeting includes the following guiding principles and goals:
Guiding principles or values:
-Faith platform: focus on faith-based moral principles
-moving immigrants from victim to witness
-ensuring the dignity of those we serve and those who oppose us
-open public witness being willing to take the consequences of our actions
-To protect immigrant workers and families from unjust deportation
-to change the public debate
-to awaken the moral indignation of the country
-to make visible immigrant workers and families as children of God
The website of the NSM gives much more information on their organization and goals. There are similar initiatives in Canada for immigrants and also for deserters from the American armed forces, but the religious efforts are considerably sparser and uncoordinated as compared to those in the USA. Anarchist efforts such as the No One is Illegal coalition do fine work here but lack the ability to offer people subject to deportation the sort of sanctuary that religious groups can.
What the Time article lacks in chronological accuracy it makes up for in situating the NSM in a wider context of what be termed "the struggle for America's soul". In particular it discusses how America, as one of the most religious nations on Earth, has "two wings" to its faith communities and how this initative from "the left wing of religion" overtakes the neo-conservative wing that has had far more publicity in the past. A particularily interesting comment is how, in the case of immigration, the left Christian position is far more biblically based that the conservative position. In the Old Testament, for instance, God speaks of being "the God of the aliens" 103 times. Right wing pundits can find no passages to challenge this. Molly has seen in the past little while how the power of the right wing manipulators of Christianity is gradually being eroded, even within the segment of the church known as "Evangelicals", by a slowly developing movement for a new social gospel. always meant to comment on this. Hope to say more later. Nowadays it is not only the traditional "liberal churches" that are questioning the designs of the American state but also some rather unexpected(to orthodox leftists) critics from different theologies. Have a look at the article if you can, and check out the NSM website.
All this leads into the subtitle of this blog. What is the meaning of direct action ? Basically it is identifying a problem and then taking direct action, either collective or individual, to remedy the problem. Seems simple, but it actually isn't. It contrasts with "indirect action" which is lobbying an authority or attempting to change the personnel in that authority so that they rather than a group or individual affected by the problem will take action to correct the problem. Direct Action is often taken as a subject of unquestioned belief amongst anarchists. It's assumed that it is not only the best course of action at all times and in regards to all problems but also that it is the only method that ever solves a problem. This is obviously not true, and a more rational and less ideological modest anarchism would admit this while retreating to the word "usually" and laying stress on "the law of unforseen consequences", also known as TANSTAFL (there ain't no such thing as a free lunch), in that carring out problem solving by "indirect action" has other effects seperate from the immediate problem in question and often leads to less than optimum solutions.
That's all well and good and probably deserves more discussion than I have given it above. A much more grevious problem, however, is the great confusion that exists amongst too many anarchists who can't see the difference between direct action and a militant posturing. What the churches mentioned above are doing is direct action in its purest sense. Some of what they do either challenges or violates laws. Some of it does not (but would if bills such as HR4437 were to be passed). Direct action does not depend upon illegality to be so defined. A housing or food coop, for instance, is also direct action in its purest form.
Neither does the aspect of illegality or especially a violent attitude and actions make indirect action magically into its opposite. Arranging regular riots whenever certain members of the ruling class meet to plot evil -with a 100% certainty of failing to prevent any such planning on the part of the ruling class- is, at best, petitioning with a brick rather than a ballot. In may be seen as a media circus to influence others, but only a true believer could believe it is effective in this regard. The money spent on organizing, travelling to and defending the arrested in such circuses would be far better spend buying air time for ads. Worst of all it can, and to a large extent has, become nothing but an identity badge for those who not only don't care about reaching the unconvinced but would be very disturbed if their self image was disturbed by their ideology becoming more "normal". The sadness of some of the attempts to give examples of "success" in regard to these events (they cost the state X dollars for security, they prevented a third understudy to the 2nd assistant ass-kisser to the vice director in charge of boot licking from attending, etc.) is actually quite pity provoking if seen from outside.
Direct action presumes at least a good chance that the plan will succeed. Not necessarily a guarantee (nothing is certain in this world), but at least a real chance. When there is pretty much a 100% certainty that it won't succeed it is no long direct action. It is, at best, the symbolic action that advocates of violence like to disparage. At worst it is far less than that, existential justification perhaps.
Molly for one is quite pleased that large numbers of people, most of which have never heard of anarchism, are adopting its methods at least in part. She is displeased that some anarchists seem determined to stray from them.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
THE ROADS OF OTTAWA:
Besides the comparison of Ottawa's and Winnipeg's drinking water quality (referred to previously on this blog) which came out all in favour of Ottawa Molly noticed another aspect of life in Canada's capital that is far better than that in Winnipeg. Here as well it may be natural advantage rather than deliberate public policy that accounts for some of the difference. The contrast between the amount of road repair going on at any given time when the ground is not frozen in Winnipeg as opposed to Ottawa is astounding. Not that Ottawa lacks "road work", but it generally appears to be construction rather than playing "catch-up" in repair of streets that rapidly deteriorate. There was one long term closed-for-contruction road, Bank St., that Molly had to negotiate around. I assume that this was some sort of upgrade as the parts that were open seemed much better than the average Winnipeg street. But, like Winnipeg, there often seemed to be no obvious plan to what the City of Ottawa was doing there. Molly saw none of the tearing apart of entire streets for repair that is a common site in Winnipeg. The City of Ottawa also seemed to have planned some repairs to one major thoroughfare to happen in the dead of night even though Molly could see nothing wrong with the road as it was. Perhaps this was good planning of a proactive nature, and the defects they were to repair were below the level of detectability of someone from a prairie city.
Now, Molly is not a city planner, and perhaps this is the reason why she cannot see the rationale for the common City of Winnipeg practice of chipping out a series of two foot deep pits on a street and then seemingly losing interest for a period varying from days to months. There are hundreds of these pits across the city. I have little clue as to what the plan for them is. Is it sewer and water line repair ? Is it some wierd way of resurfacing a road ? Whatever it is for why dig a hole and then walk away ? Why not finish a job once started ? Parts of the Bank St. project looked like this. Holes dug and then nothing happens. No obvious work going on. I admit that we were only in Ottawa for a little over a week, and it's entirely possible that the next crew for the next stage could show up faster than is the custom in parts of Winnipeg. Molly is hardly the only Winnipeg citizen who has complaints about this bad habit on the part of the City. Perhaps it is an argument for the sort of workers' control over regular maintenance that anarchists advocate. Proper coordination between different work crews is very likely to be better achieved by communication amongst the workers themselves rather than by adherance to some sort of overarching "plan" that makes no sense if looked at from anything but a bureaucratic perspective.
But Ottawa undoubtably has a natural advantage being as bedrock down there is a lot closer to the surface than it is out here. All prairie cities suffer from the plague of potholes that grow under the snow and blossom forth with the coming of spring. The two worst items are undoubtably Winnipeg and Regina, both of which are built on land that in part should be natural swamp-thereby benefitting water conservation. As an ex-inmate of Regina I am willing to testify that Winnipeg is far worse in this regard. The potholes range from tiny little 1 inch dips to gigantic street collapses that go six feet down and stretch 50 feet. Winnipeg has far more of the latter than Regina does. So much so that it's a wonder that more cats, small dogs and children don't go forever missing here. Unlike Regina Winnipeg did have, and still has to a lesser extent, a real reason for existing other than government and the corruption involved in same. Regina was chosen as the capital of the then NWT as a result of competition between rival gangs of land speculators. The thugs around then Leftenant Governor Dewdney and the more powerful thugs around the CPR gave Regina its present form. The capital was declared out west on what is now "Dewdney Ave." on waste land picked up for a song, but downtown was declared miles away on land held by the CPR.
Winnipeg's natural situation at the confluence of two rivers that were navigable is a much more intelligent place for a city, even if flooding is an ever present danger. But it still suffers from the fact that it is built on prairie gumbo. Things sink here, just as they do in Regina, and an eternal cycle of repair becomes inevitable. Ottawa lacks this beautiful natural attraction so it is no wonder that driving on its roads takes nowhere near the presense of mind that it does out here on the prairies. What it lacks in "awareness traps", however, it may make up for in the twisting, turning, curving total irrationality of the layouts of its streets. Now, any city that grows naturally rather than according to "plan" may share this little driving obstacle. Molly's difficulty in driving in Ottawa was compounded by the fact that, unlike out here on the prairies, they seem to have little regard for natural directions in Ottawa. Streets cross streets rather than avenues. Streets can run both east and west as well as the western customary way of north and south. That is understating the case. Winnipeg, being as it is built on a river is quite different from the "grid-plan" of prairie towns, but with a little adjustment you can get used to the idea that say "going north on Henderson" is really going north north east and going north on McPhillips is really going north west. Molly is still frustrated by people who grew up in this city who have NO conception of natural directions- even when she tries to get through to them that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and that south is towards the USA and north is towards the North Pole. Molly has immense difficulty in getting through to some people that their only references of "right and left" are totally dependent on what direction you are coming from in the first place. Pretty simple to me, but quite imcomprehensible to a large number of people who live here. But...there is at least some hope here. In Ottawa there is no such hope. Like a cat in British Common Law "a street will wander where it will" down there.
But Ottawa has one other gigantic advantage over Winnipeg in terms of road planning. They actualy have real bicycle paths, real fucking bicycle paths that even go across bridges. Unlike in Winnipeg where the existing bicycle paths are almost solely amusement parks built on waste land and going nowhere- a sop to the granola crunchers without any benefit for the majority of the population who might want cheap transportation. You have no idea of how pleasant this is unless, like Molly, you have spent almost a quarter century at a job where driving is a major part of each day. The taxi drivers, the bus drivers, the truck drivers, the couriers and Molly of this city have never ending complaints about the idiots who ride bikes in this city, particularily in winter. Fine if you want to challenge fate and a double loaded semi, but leave us out of your suicidal tendencies or your arrogance. We actually really, sincerely, truly, absolutely don't want to kill you. What seriously pisses Molly off is when the granola crunchers venture out of "hippy heaven" (the Wolseley area where good hippies go when they die) and put their fashionable politics ahead of the safety of their children by tooling (tools indeed !) around on very dangerous streets with their kids in either baskets or kid trolleys. People are frequently run down here in the car theft capital of Canada for sheer fun, and the people who drive their own cars are often little better. Once more consult the truck,bus,courier drivers and not just Molly. Molly's only act of aggression towards the bike riders is deliberately hogging the curve so they can't speed past and blindside either me or the people in front of me. Bike riders aren't supposed to do this, but they often think it is their right to do this. Lots of agro from them to poor little Molly. Less agro however than when I hog two lanes and drive slow to pass them, thereby aggravating the speed demons behind me. Those drivers are really pissed off. Now, Molly would never admit to having ever broken a law in her life. She always obeys the speed limits to the letter. But many, many professional drivers less restricted by the law see a 60km/hr zone and know they can go 70 without ever being stopped by the police unless there is a campaign on. Similarily for red light cameras with different numbers. But suppose Molly was one of these bad, bad people who are 500% better than the "average driver" in this city, and some idiot was tailgating her because 10kms over the speed limit was too "slow" for them. When Molly would do the "car equivalent" of hogging the curb by deliberately slowing down to the speed limit these people are just as pissed off as the bike riders are. Hey fucks, I'm helping to preserve your life. Show a little gratitude. Left wing bicycle aggression and right wing SUV aggression: it's all the same to those of us who make their living by driving. Your politics and intentions don't count.
Molly is actually of the opinion that it should be legal to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk. She is unaware of any incident in human history when anyone was ever killed by being run down by a bicycle. Perhaps she is just ignorant. She is,however, very aware of the frequent serious injuries and often deaths when idiot drivers run down bicycle riders in this city. It may be better in places that are not car theft capitals, but not by much. Molly noticed that the drivers in Ottawa were much more polite than here in Winnipeg, and they were quite tolerant when she did indeed, really, truly, absolutely, without a doubt drive the speed limit because she had no idea of where she was going. They also used signal lights, an action which, by popular convention, is frowned upon in Winnipeg and is usually an invitation to speed up so that "you don't get my lane you son of a bitch". Actually most of the drivers there really, truly, absolutely, without a doubt obeyed the speed limit. Molly was the fastest item on the 417 out to the Diefenbunker. How I love divided highways and a clear path ahead.
But...the bicycle paths. Both Molly's jaw and the jaw of the wife were agape. Jesus Christ, you could fit a small car in the width that the bicycle riders were allowed. No sweating bullets and checking what you can hit on the left behind you if some dumb bugger(drunk or sober) weaves out of his one foot of pedalling space. And how many paths, how many paths. it eliminates at least one major stress from driving. Christ, I've died and gone to civilization. Especially across the bridges that are one of the major sweat events here in Winnipeg if a bicycle rider is either stupid or arrogant enough to challenge traffic here.
Now, Molly is totally aware that residents of Ottawa may think that there should be more bicycle routes, but they should be aware of just how advanced they are in comparison to most other Canadian cities. It's something to be proud of. Molly is all in favour of both better bicycle routes and-much more importantly- better public transit like she has seen in European cities. Molly makes her living by driving,however, and any decent city will still have cars. Molly,however, "hates" driving when she is not working. She's getting a bit on in years, and she knows the elitism of trendy lefties who concentrate on bicycle issues while ignoring public transport for those who can barely walk let alone peddle. Let alone people down in the economic scale who don't have time to waste. Ottawa has a LRT system, but it pretty much serves the bureaucratic elite. Molly has blogged before about how much she loved the subways of Prague, and she thinks that this is an example that larger Canadian cities should follow. Ottawa, as a very spread out city, would be a great location for a real subway system. It presently is a shining example of how to accomodate bicycles on public streets, as least in comparison to other Canadian cities. It could do more, but it is still many steps ahead of Winnipeg.