Saturday, September 23, 2017

The show must go on...

A couple of the juniors from the Jewish side came up for the weekend because their Bubby was in a play.

At 87 years of age Bubby retains her love for the stage. She's lived and breathed live theatre all her life. It's something she was born into. Her family was deep into live theatre in the old country, which happened to be Poland. Various relations landed in the bigs; Broadway, film, and TV.

She never made the bigs. Instead, it fell to her to start up a theatre company in a small town a couple of hours north of Toronto, and that company is going strong to this day.

Ironically, her family hails from the same small town in Poland as my mother's folks. What are the odds? Here I am with the Farm Manager living the good life at Falling Downs. Eighty years ago our respective forbears, her's Jewish, mine nominally German, were co-habiting the same shithole shtettl in Poland.

But back to the play. The theatre company she co-founded over fifty years ago was putting on a stage adaptation of "Gas-Head Willy," a novel by a local author. What we didn't know was that the theatre had an air conditioning failure last Thursday.

You'd like to think that would have been fixed by Friday at the latest, but such was not the case. I overheard some admin types talking amongst themselves and it seems they can't get a contractor on site till Monday or Tuesday.

What the hell? You've got a veritable emergency and you can't get a HVAC contractor in under four days?

Go into the trades, dear young people...  It's gonna be at least another hundred years before a robot comes out to fix your air conditioner.

Meanwhile, we've been having a heat-wave in these parts. Yup, we've been setting record high temperatures most of September.

Heat wave.

Record high temperatures.

No air in the theatre...

But the show must go on!

And it did. Not that I particularly noticed or cared. I was fading in and out of consciousness for most of the evening. Luckily, I was alert for Bubby's lines, so I didn't completely disgrace myself.

I've had the privilege of having the Bubbinator in my life for ten or fifteen years now. Every time we go to see her in a show, we figure it could be the last time.

And we'll keep going as long as she keeps going!

Air conditioning or not, the show must go on!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Government of Canada selling off surplus Porsches

Ya, I know what you're thinking; Neumann's making shit up again...

And I can't blame you. After all, the pot-addled hillbilly isn't always the most reliable narrator.

But check this out; Environment Canada has this beauty 2010 Panamera 4S on auction, minimum bid $38,000. Apparently they needed it for "emissions testing!"

Of course they did!

If you're a SUV kinda guy, maybe this 2014 Cayenne with a mere 15,000 clicks on the clock is more your speed. More "emissions testing," of course!

No matter how you feel about wasteful government spending, you gotta tip your cap to the smoothies who slipped these purchases past their superiors!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Me and Elvis

When I was over at the Cobble Beach Concourse last weekend, I tried to take a picture with my phone, a picture with the Farm Manager posed alongside a very pretty 1934 Bentley.

Although I thought I took a couple of dozen pictures, only one turned out, and it featured the torso of the FM alongside that pretty car. Back in the day of real cameras and real film, you wouldn't have claimed that "turned out."

But with the new technology, everything is good all the time, right?

I bring this up only because I miss that old school 35 mm stuff.

The first time I was in rehab they pounded into me the importance of having something to do when they graduated me. You had to have a hobby or an interest or a passion or something, otherwise you'd just fall back into your old ways...

So I took up photography.

It almost became a passion.

There are people who have Neumann photographs on their walls to this day, and not all of them are relatives.

 My photography career peaked when the Bookshelf Cafe offered me their walls for a couple of months. That was the good news.

The bad news was I'd have to share those walls with another photographer.

I was mortified. Share those Bookshelf walls?

No way!

Long story short, it wasn't long before I was taking another crack at rehab.

That's when I found out I wasn't the first repeat customer. According to the old hands at the place, Elvis used to go there all the time!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Google's commitment to a free press; Big Brother tightens the noose

I see where Google Canada has found half a million in spare change to fund a media literacy program at the Canadian Journalism Foundation. This will equip Canadian youngsters age 9 - 19 to better ferret out "fake news" and develop a "deeper understanding of the role journalism plays in democracy."

Of course it will. After all, a free press is the very cornerstone of our democracy. Just ask the CJF if you don't believe me. Here's CJF chair David Walmsley; "fake news accelerates distrust in our institutions, including distrust of the trained media who spend so much time trying to hold the powerful to account."

Oh, so that's what they've been doing! If that's the case, they've been doing a slovenly job of it over my lifetime. As near as I can tell, trust in mainstream media was on a downward spiral for decades before Trump and Putin allegedly invented fake news a couple of years ago, and for good reason; the typical news consumer figured out long ago that if and when media hold the powerful to account, it is by accident rather than by intent.

No, there are many agendas that have priority over that particular mission, and they're generally the agendas of the rich and powerful.

Be that as it may, we're truly going down the bunny hole if we buy into the notion that Google or anybody else in Big Tech has the slightest interest in saving journalism or promoting truth-telling. These outfits are now the richest and most powerful entities on the planet, with the exception of a handful of nation states.

It's safe to say that holding themselves to account is not a plank in their program.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The temp agency - slave traders of the 21st century

I wrote a post a few years ago sarcastically applauding Canada's enthusiasm for "temporary foreign workers."

Some poor schmuck in Indonesia who has a limited grasp of English, or at least a limited grasp of sarcasm, tweeted my blog to all his buddies and before I knew it I was inundated with queries on how a welder from Indonesia or Malaysia or half a dozen other countries might make their way to Canada.

Had I fewer scruples and more ambition, I might have replied to those queries by offering some bullshit "immigration information package for qualified welders." Yup, for a mere five hundred bucks I could have sent them stuff they could readily find on the internet for free. And thousands of them would have bought it.

I could have become a labour broker! Those desperate migrant welders could have made me rich!

That's what temp agency's are; labour brokers. Calling them slave traders is a bit of an insult to slave owners. Slave owners made an investment and had a vested interest in maintaining or enhancing their value. That required them to feed and house their slaves. The modern corporate employer has no such obligations, and the temp agency that sources the vast majority of employees today has even fewer.

Here's a story from the New York Times that contrasts the career trajectory of a worker in the pre-temp era to what's going on today. Forty or fifty years ago employers generally had some sense of duty to their employees. I remember when I was hired on at Kearney-National in Guelph back in '77, the woman in the HR office telling me, "welcome to the Kearney family."

I'm pretty sure nobody hears those words when they're handing in their paperwork at the Acme Employment Agency today. In the event, I moved to a better-paying family after a couple of years, but the point remains that the hiring process was qualitatively different when the employer was directly responsible for the hiring.

But, as Neil Irwin points out in that NYT story, the temp agency has allowed the corporate greedbags to run a more efficient ship.

Fuck the worker, and may God bless the bottom line!

The golden age of gas fumes

Did you know that in 1927 Cadillac offered 50 different body styles from a variety of coach-builders, and a whopping 500 different colour combos?

I didn't either.

That's just one of many nuggets of automotive miscellany I happened upon while strolling the 18th fairway at Cobble Beach today. It's a little overwhelming to take in so much automobile history at one go. How do you fully appreciate a Cord Speedster when you're already overwhelmed by a Stutz Bearcat and a bevy of vintage Bentleys?

There were a number of cars on view that were over one hundred years old. I can't imagine that anyone is going to be restoring and showing a 2017 Cadillac a hundred years from now, but I suspect the Type 55 will still be going strong two hundred years after it left the factory.

That's because they don't build stuff like they used to. The idea that you took pride in what you built and made it to last has pretty much gone out the window. Guys like Henry Ford and Walter Chrysler put their actual names on the cars that came out of their factories. They staked their reputations on the quality of their products.

Times have changed, and not for the better.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The winter-beater

Lot's of good stuff in my Globe today. Liz Renzetti kicks things off with a beauty take-down of Facebook on A2.  Also in the first section we see a nice tribute to "The Rock" and how being cut from the Stamps practice squad twenty years ago helped make him the A-list commodity he is today, and a moved-me-to-tears profile of a young actor who inexplicably checked out when everyone around him believed he had it all going on.

Further in we've got Doug Saunders, aka "Mr. Renzetti," with a lengthy polemic on why we need another sixty-million immigrants to properly colonize this great land the Indians so generously gifted us, so lengthy in fact that I've had to put it aside for later while I mollify the Farm Manager with a display of "doing something" around the place. For once I do not begrudge The Korean his $6.30.

Now that summer's over we're finally getting some decent summer weather. Me and the FM spent some quality time on the patio at Dockside Willie's yesterday afternoon, watching the melancholy spectacle of a few die-hard pleasure boaters try to wring the last drops of pleasure from the summer that wasn't.

Picked up an older Subaru last week. I'd set out to find a set of snows for the current ride. For not a lot more money, I got a practically new set of snows with a Subaru attached. Overall I've had good luck with them. Of the three I've owned, two took me well past four hundred thousand clicks. The other one was a lemon. This one has about eighty thousand fewer kilometres on it than the GM product that's been my daily driver for the past few years, so with a little luck I've found a winter-beater that should last for pretty much however many winters I've got left.

Must do something with the summer vehicle situation. The Mustang 50 is a nice enough car, but I'd never have bought it had I known the FM was done her driving days. For a thirty year old car it's impeccable and has lots of jam, but if I'd known, I'd never have bought one with an automatic. For me, a sporty car is just a whole lot sportier with a manual. Also, I've only had one ragtop in my life, a '64 Bonneville with a 348 4bbl and four speed, and I figure it's high time I did that again. There's a very pretty '69 Dart GTS (big block, four speed) convertible at Cars-on-line that's been calling my name, but the Farm Manager swears it's really shouting "denouement."

It's Concours weekend at Cobble Beach, so there's been some inspirational traffic going by Falling Downs today. Maybe we'll check out the show tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, I better get on with "doing something," - re-arranging the parts vehicles behind the barn... and maybe see what I can do about the mirror on the Ninja. If the FM gets into her Netflix, maybe I'll have a shot at a 10k blast around the block.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brazil; a very stinky kettle of fish

Brazil.

The new corrupt government is putting the boots to the old corrupt government, but the corrupt supreme court seems to be putting the boots to everybody all over the place... because corruption in Brazil is universal?

Do not take umbrage, dear people of Brazil. Until very recently, "corruption" was more commonly known as "good governance."

But in spite of all that, there's been a couple of headlines that caught my eye.

Here's a killer headline from the Washington Post.

That is some nasty shit!

Up here in the northern hemisphere we'd go to jail for a long time for randomly killing Indigenous folks.

Those days are long gone.

Long gone up here, at least. We have to be way more subtle in how we kill the aboriginals...

But they're still way brazen about it in Brazil.

That's got to be a blot on a nation's record, wouldn't you think? I mean, who in the hell in the modern world brags about killing the natives?

Get the fuck outta here!

But wait a minute... here's a story from the New York Times that will lift your spirits.

Yup, it might be "bumpy times," but the hedge funds are booming!

That's Brazil.

A very stinky kettle of fish...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pot-addled hillbilly beats serious journalists at Macleans to story by almost a year

Compare these headlines.

The sinking of the Canadian Navy.  That's from Macleans in August 2015.

Royal Canadian Navy sinking fast. That's from the perpetually inebriated think-tank here at Falling Downs, in October of 2014.

You'd almost think Scott Gilmore reads this blog, wouldn't you?

Well, maybe not... anybody who gives a shit was probably aware that our navy was sinking long before either of those stories. Gilmore and I obviously both give a shit, perhaps not for the same reasons, but still...

I ran into the Macleans story because I was looking for stuff around Canadian military procurement. Those 18 Boeing Super Hornets that are supposed to "temporarily" tide over our pathetic excuse for an air force are in the news again.

Eighteen airplanes for 6.3 billions. That works out to 350 millions per by my math. To do what? Stop Putin's aggression?

Thanks for the laugh! Hey, just strike Putin off your Christmas card mailing list if you're pissed at Putin. It'll have about the same impact on Putin's imaginary aggression as those eighteen warplanes... but look at the savings!

But seriously; we've been replacing our CF-18s for ten or fifteen years. We've been replacing our aging (and let's face it, we're way beyond "aging" here) Sea King helicopters for twice as long. The Harper gang was getting boffo press on our new fleet of warships for ten solid years without ever building a ship.

It's the Canadian way, eh? Talk tough and show up for the photo-ops.

Then, do nothing.

Wait for next photo-op and repeat.

And it's been going on long enough that we can safely say it's a bipartisan thing.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ignorance isn't bliss, but it can make bliss last longer

So, what up with that Fukashima thing? You know, the non-news item where that nuclear reactor has been spewing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean for years now.

Ignorance is bliss.

And what up with all the contaminated sites that have been flooded by hurricanes Harvey and Irma? Those contaminated flood waters will have to go somewhere, won't they?

Ignorance is bliss.


Someday our bliss will end.

We will live to rue our ignorance.


Deconstructing the NAFTA boondoggle one belated news story at a time

Conventional wisdom holds that NAFTA has been good for Canada. That's pretty much the only story corporate media have room for - although the Globe and Mail used to give Unifor economist Jim Stanford a token column once in awhile to sow seeds of doubt - in the interest of journalistic fairness I suppose. But the over-riding theme, always, is that NAFTA has been a rip-roaring success.

Every now and then, though, the gate-keepers of the "news" get sloppy and a bit of truth slips out. Canadian Press had a story last week about Canadian auto-parts plants in Mexico. Writer Alexander Panetta informs us that "Canadian auto-parts companies have over 120 plants and 43,000 employees in Mexico..." That's up from a small handful of plants and a few hundred employees pre-NAFTA.

Panetta introduces us to Nataly Jacobo. She works eight hour shifts six days a week in one of those Canadian plants for a weekly pay of $61. Those hours would pay a minimum wage worker in Canada over $500 per week.

Geez!... you don't imagine that's why Canadian auto-parts manufacturers operate in Mexico, do you?

Of course it is! That was beyond obvious to the typical factory hand even when Lyin' Brian Mulroney was singing the praises of the original Free Trade Agreement back in the eighties.

"Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!.." the old swindler promised.

A recent trend that's been gathering steam in the last couple of years is to blame the gutting of Ontario's industrial economy on automation. That's becoming truer every day, but it certainly wasn't true twenty or thirty years ago when the real damage to our industrial working class was being done.

So a little rough math tells me that our Canadian auto-parts makers are saving about twenty thousand dollars a year for every job they put in Mexico as opposed to having that job in Canada. Times that by 43,000, and we're talking serious money. Obviously, some Canadians have done well under NAFTA... the ones who own those companies!

The rest of us got screwed.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fort Indians to get own fort

I wrote a post a few years ago criticising First Nations leadership. That's a little awkward, because I'm a white settler, whether I want to admit it or not.

And I don't. Is it my fault that my parents dragged me ashore at Pier 21 at the age of not-quite-one?

Hell, what was I supposed to know about the back story?

Now that I know somewhat more about that back story, I'm obliged to speak out.

A little while back Justin got lots of good press when he ceded a prime piece of Ottawa real estate back to its rightful owners while simultaneously repudiating the name of said real estate, hitherto known as the Langevin Block.

Its new name will be "The Palace of Co-optation."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Revisiting Porto Munkenegro three years on

I noticed with a modicum of alarm that there are now more than five thousand missives posted on this blog. What a humongous waste of time that's been!

But it's been therapeutic for me, at some level...

Take this post on the gangster state of Montenegro from three years ago.

Three years on, Montenegro is now a fully made member of the NATO gang. How is that even possible?

Well, dear reader, the most implausible possibilities have come to pass.

Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. How the fuck did that happen?

It's hard to know what to say...

My favourite "leftish" web-site, Counterpunch, has of late been inundated with anti-fascist screeds extolling the virtues of beating up fascists in the streets.

Who is a fascist?

Apparently it's anyone who looks like they might have voted for Trump. It's OK to beat those folks up, whether they voted for Trump or not, because after all, if well-meaning folks had beat down more proto-fascists in the streets of Berlin in the 1920's, Hitler would never have happened.

This is a narrative wholly ignorant of the street violence of 1920's Germany. Violence inevitably begets more violence. The parties most amenable to maximum violence will prevail in the end. And then what?

And then fascism, that's what.

This man, Trump, was at one time the toast of the Professional Black Activist class in America. Your google key can find you all sorts of smarmy liberal feel-good celebrations featuring Trump and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Today Trump is deemed the embodiment of White Supremacist ideology in America. He's brought fascism to the USA.

Bullshit.

America went fascist long before Trump. One could argue that America was already there by the time Ike made his famous speech warning of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

Maybe Harvey and Irma will help Americans figure out who they really are...


Friday, September 8, 2017

The beauty of it all

Will God smite Mar-a-Lago?

Or will God spare Mar-a-Lago?

If God is indeed dead, as has been hypothesised by deep thinkers since the time of Nietzsche and beyond, will Mother Nature or Hurricane Irma spare or smite?

Allow me to speculate for a moment; what use is the death of God if Mother Nature and Hurricane Irma are rushing in to fill the void?

These were the questions I was pondering when there was a sudden knock on the door.

A knock on the door is a novelty in these parts. There's a reason folks like us live off the beaten path. We don't appreciate random knocks on the door. That's why our welcome mat has "naff off" embroidered into it.

I see where the Wynne regime has charted its own course on the legal weed journey. They'll grow a whole new bureaucracy called the "Cannabis Control Board." I'll bet growing that bureaucracy is gonna be a whole lot more lucrative than growing weed.

But that's how things play out when you let politicians run the show. Somewhere along the line those folks forgot that they were public servants, ie, servants to the public.

Hahaha... that's a good one, eh!?

A few days ago I breakfasted with my old pal Kipling at the Teviotdale Truck Stop. He's knee-deep in grandchildren these days, so it's hard to get together, but Kipling has an old-timer's perspective on this whole legal weed question. He figures the entire legal weed thing is a scam to put pot profits (triple alliteration!!!) into the hands of Bay Street wankers and their attendant bureaucracy sycophants, while cutting out guys like himself who have been growing quality organic shit for forty years.

I suspect he's right.

So there's a knock on the door.

The hounds go ballistic.

The Farm Manager wants to run for the gun cabinet.

Relax!

It's just a couple of local kids who hunted our property last year and repaid the favour with some mighty tasty goose summer sausage.

I gave them the thumbs up.

Conditional on another round of summer sausage of course.


The beauty of it all...





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When the system breaks down

Around here I have a system. Diesel goes in the yellow jugs. 50:1 two-stroke mix goes in the one gallon red jugs. Any larger red cans have straight-up gasoline, high-octane in the smaller ones and run of the mill ethanol-gasoline mix in the larger.

That ethanol thing is quite the scam. Farmers grow corn. Mostly they grow it by the Industrial Agriculture standards approved by Monsanto and the rest of the Big Ag overlords.

Corn grown, you can choose to use it as food for your family or food for your car.

But the food you feed your car won't ever feed a family...

It's a fucked-up thing.

But I digress.

Systems.

They can go awry. They can be corrupted. They can get fucked-up.

You'd be surprised how often my simple system with the fuel supply goes in the ditch.

Sometimes it's just driver error, as in when I can't remember what runs on diesel and what doesn't. I'm always clear that the Ninja needs high-octane gasoline. But the cars can be confusing. I mean, last year I was piloting that diesel VW. It becomes habit to stop in front of the diesel pump at the Pioneer.

So you change cars but you still stop in front of the diesel pump... ya, you gotta keep your wits about you.

And the further you go down the Alzheimer Highway, the bigger that challenge becomes.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

NFL in death throes

Professional football is well past its best-before date. Its legitimacy is rapidly eroding on two fronts, each of which is bigger than the NFL.

Colin Kaepernick kicked off something that's starting to snowball and have repercussions. The politicisation of sports isn't a fad that's just going to go away. I'm of two minds on that. On the one hand, it's a shame. I'm not a serious fan, but I can appreciate the athleticism of a great pass or an exceptional touch-down run.

On the other hand, the NFL and pro sport in general have for too long prostituted themselves as cheerleaders for a militaristic faux patriotism, which effectively politicised sports long before Kaepernick took a knee.

The other front is the rapidly growing public awareness of the CTE scandal. When a guy like Ed Cunningham walks away from his dream job, he's making a statement every bit as courageous and important as Kaepernick's. The NFL money guys might have thought they put the brain injury thing to bed with that billion dollar payout last year, but that was just the beginning.

There is no end in sight... other than the end of the NFL itself.

The NFL is toast.



The future of food

My Sunday Star today has on view a wholly unappetising story by Lisa Kramer titled Consumer demand will lead to lab-made 'clean meat'.

Yummy!

Kramer bobs and weaves through a thicket of issues ranging from food safety to animal welfare, but ultimately seems to have only one over-riding concern; safe returns for investors. Of course that's how virtually all policy is decided these days. Nothing is a good idea until "luminaries" like Richard Branson and Bill Gates put money into it.

We have to call bullshit on that. The last hundred years of the corporatization of the human food supply chain has given us cheap food. It's also given us an obesity crisis and a diabetes epidemic. Big Ag is a nightmare for our ecosystem. Industrial agriculture, no matter how much it enriches investors, impoverishes everyone.

We don't need more corporate control of our food supply.

We need to break free of that corporate control!

Buy beef that was grass-fed in pastures instead of fattened in feedlots.

Source your eggs from small farmers who allow the chickens to run free.

Patronize your local farmers' market (but beware the "farmers" who source their produce at the Oshawa Food Terminal - they're everywhere).

There's a growing enthusiasm for "real food" alternatives today that didn't exist a generation ago. Community supported small-scale farming is on the rise everywhere. A lot of millennials are saying "goodbye Wonderbread, hello artisanal sourdough!"

Here's a great example of what's happening. Riverside Bakery is a community supported bakery in Stirling, Scotland. I use them as an example because I've met some of the folks involved, but similar ventures, be they bakeries or butcher shops or what have you, are popping up everywhere.

And while they may hold little appeal for Branson and Gates and other big investors, they, and not lab-grown food products, are the real future of sustainable agriculture.





Friday, September 1, 2017

It's not the corporate greed-bags; Mother Nature causes high gas prices

There's a hilarious item on view at CBC this moment claiming that it's Hurricane Harvey in Texas that's causing gasoline prices to spike 25% in Ontario.

It's because Harvey shut down all those refineries on the Gulf Coast, dontcha know...

How much Ontario gasoline comes from refineries on the Gulf Coast?

If I'm not mistaken, the percentage is right around zero.

But the folks who do supply your Ontario gasoline claim that their adventures in price-gouging are all about Hurricane Harvey.

Sounds like bullshit to me.