Photos and such will follow in due course, now to get back to looking up film listings…
Monthly Archives: October 2004
When Andy arrived on Monday, he happened to mention that he carried with him a highly valued commodity. Douglas Coupland’s latest novel was released in the UK in August, but is not set to reach these shores until January ’05.
Needless to say, Andy was kind enough to leave the book here while he ventured over to Chicago for the night. And having nothing more to do this week than read for an afternoon, I pulled my laptop over to the sofa (in case anyone thought of anything else I should be working on) and read.
As with any Coupland, there’s plenty to say about the book. His characteristic traits are all firmly in place, but his work has yet to become staid in these eyes. I’m still processing, and am looking forward to getting a chance to read through again, more carefully, when I either get round to ordering it from amazon UK or when the US release finally arrives. In short, he’s done it again.
Dear Michael W Smith,
Next time you choose to make a phone call to me–whether that be another pre-recorded diatribe or perhaps a personal call that doesn’t seem as much of an abuse of my time–perhaps you would humour me and not presume to know what my values are. I understand that the phrase “our values” doesn’t necessarily include the person to whom you are talking, but the implication was clear. And quite frankly, I’m a lot closer to sharing John Kerry’s values than I am to sharing yours.
Perhaps in your cossetted world the only issue facing America, or indeed humanity, is that of gay marriage and civil partnerships. Sadly that is not the case in the world I inhabit, the same world everyone I know seems to inhabit. There is, for example, the question of fiscal responsibility, there are issues of honesty and integrity, and there is that thing the faith from which you milk your millions calls for more directly than anything else: loving your neighbour and lifting up the oppressed.
Next time you choose to make a phone call to me, I would be happy to discuss these and any number of other issues with you. I’ll even try to avoid referring to your little slip-up last time you played in London where, I am told, it appeared that you thought U2 were British. But if you want my time, I’d be grateful for a little of yours in return, along with an acknowledgement that it’s a big world out there, a complicated world, and one that can’t be reduced to a single issue.
I look forward to your prompt response.
(emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Yesterday, an instant messenger conversation or two led me to take a look at the UN Charter online. And I was rather disgusted by what I saw! The site uses frames, dodgy animated gifs (not only for the flag, but for bulleted lists!) and very poor HTML to make one of the world’s key documents an inaccessible mess.
So when I discovered that UNCharter.org had not been registered I thought I might as well do something about the status quo. Twenty hours later I am delighted to be able to announce that UNCharter.org now contains the full (english) text of the United Nations Charter, cross-referenced and searchable.
I’ve got a couple of ideas of further features for the site, but something tells me I should perhaps catch up on whatever else it was the past twenty hours were meant to be about achieving.
After a couple of weeks where I finally regained momentum, a whole host of projects have been keeping me away from this blog yet again. One that is now public is the relaunch of the sarahmasen.com discussion boards and the beginning of an overhaul of Sarah’s whole site. Another relates to the fact that the domain name UNCharter.org was available and now is no longer. Hopefully that (and at least one other) will be ready for previewing shortly.
Of course, another event will probably limit my blogging options for the rest of the month, but I’ll try to stop by here occasionally.
One of the saddest facets of Christian involvement in US politics is the string of gross oversimplifications that are made when it comes to the issue of abortion. The fact that the Republican party has a tendency to want to outlaw abortion is alleged to be God’s seal on that party’s policies, and evangelical and conservative believers find an incredible capacity for tunnel-vision.
So it’s more than a little surprising that the Kerry campaign haven’t been all over the research of Dr. Glen Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. In the latest SojoMail Stassen reveals that his research (admittedly based on limited evidence, but still significant) into abortion rates suggests that abortion rates were falling under Clinton and have sharply risen under the Bush administration.
That research needs to be supported and extended. That research needs to be proclaimed from the rooftops. If you want to reduce abortions, if you want to “save babies’ lives”, you need to invest in a social infrastructure that will allow parents to support those babies. It’s time that the rhetoric of “democrats=pro-choice=pro-abortion” get kicked out of US politics. It’s not just lacking in nuance, it seems to be bad statistics.
The BBC is reporting that Japan has offered to write off a $200million debt owed to it by the Nepalese government. The loan was made 20 years ago and had yet to be paid off.
This development shows a shift in Japan’s policy regarding international debt from the position four years ago when Jubilee 2000 campaigners gathered outside the Japanese embassy in London every Tuesday morning to petition the then-president of the G8 to raise debt’s profile on the G8 agenda for their annual summit in Okinawa. That campaigning had little immediate fruit (but the embassy staff enjoyed the attention each week) and Japan was at the time alleged to be threatening countries with cuts in development aid should they apply for debt cancellation.
Now Japan is cancelling a key loan to one of its key debtors. A debtor, in fact, that is not included in the list of 37 countries included in the HIPC program. (To be included in HIPC countries must have a 150% debt:GDP ratio. It is worth noting that the number of countries eligible has increased since HIPC launched). There are a number of countries outside HIPC that desparately need debt relief, I’m holding out hope that this is a sign that the consensus on terms-for-inclusion is cracking.
Joi Ito links to this piece by Chris Anderson in Wired. Dubbed “The Long Tail” it explores the new sales models that the vast catalogues of online services such as amazon, iTunes and netflix are opening up. With their low overheads such services can afford to keep far larger inventories than their bricks-and-mortar equivalents and are seeing significant returns on those inventories with large numbers of sales of items that would otherwise fade into obscurity.
For those of us who tend to make choices of music, film and books that often slip outside the mainstream it is an enticing concept. The suggestion that
it is a fair bet that children today will grow up never knowing the meaning of out of print suggests a world of promise. Some of us will certainly miss the hours of searching through used CD shops to find that rare gem, but I suspect we’ll adapt (and if the distribution medium changes, then there will for some time be ‘antique’ dealers whose stock we can search for those antiquated CDs).
Anderson attempts to argue that the current price of MP3 downloads is too high. It is true that the music industry cartel currently controls pricing, and he provides costings to suggest that items could be sold more cheaply, but he apparently fails to take into account for the retailer to make a profit. Certainly their overheads are lower, but that doesn’t mean their expectations of profitability are similarly. They are corporations after all.
And that point is also part of the reason I am sceptical about the argument for subscription services which would have unlimited ‘streaming’ of music replacing the current purchase model employed by iTunes. The idea of paying a limited monthly fee for unlimited monthly music sounds great, but the control that this centralisation of music ownership hands to undemocratic organisations is of concern. This proposal is not about placing the music in a kind of ‘cultural commons’ of the sort being explored by Creative Commons, and could, as competition increases and with it exclusive licensing deals, see a repeat of exactly the same problems that have dogged artists whose labels have gone out of business consigning their unreleased records to purgatory.
Of course there are also the nagging concerns about the decline of traditional retail, in part selfish. While not all retail outlets will be impacted in the near future, when I end up in a shopping centre/mall it’s the bookshops and music retailers that set me at ease. They are the ones under threat. And they are often the focal points of vibrant communities being natural congregating points for creative people. The positive potential is considerable, I hope the urban planners have our backs covered!
UPDATE: Those interested in this topic may like to consider this piece at demos.
When discussing the issue of international debt, the most common question people have is a variant on
who controls these debts? The answer is usually a combination of the IMF and the World Bank. These two institutions, funded by a conglomeration of governments, are responsible for lending money to countries for development projects. It is these bodies that are responsible for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, that requires countries who desire debt reduction or cancellation to demonstrate their commitment to good economic governance (and, along the way, the privatisation of public services and the removal of trade tarrifs) through the production of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).
It seems that rich-country governments are finally admitting that the HIPC process has run out of steam. Gordon Brown‘s pronouncement that the British government will put up significant funds for further debt cancellation, and rumblings within the US government of new policy on debt cancellation, amount to tacit acknowledgement that the programme we were told five years ago would solve the problem of ‘third world debt’ has done nothing of the sort.
One of the many great injustices of the debt crisis is that the terms of cancellation are decided by the lenders. To use an oft-quoted analogy, if I were to declare bankcruptcy then the process would be arbitrated by independent parties rather than my creditors. In international finance there is no analogue to this and it is the creditors (who naturally have a vested interest) set the terms. Various long term solutions to this situation have been suggested, chief among them the proposals of Jubilee Research, a team within the New Economics Foundation by Ann Pettifor, the former Director of Jubilee 2000 UK.
What was for so long lacking was strong voices from the debt-afflicted nations. With at least one government threatening to withdraw development aid from certain countries were their governments to speak out, or even request debt cancellation, many indebted governments were forced to act submissively. That, at least, is changing. Since the WTO meetings in Seattle in 1999 when poor country leaders managed to stall proceedings (while police gassed protestors outside) and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa’s meeting with G8 leaders in Okinawa in 2000, the voice of the poorer countries has grown louder.
The BBC this week reported that African leaders failed to get more votes on the IMF and World Bank boards. This news initially dispirited me — it’s about time that countries so deeply affected by IMF/WB policies had a strong voice on their boards — but on reflection I’m taking it as a sign of progress. Only a few years ago there would not have been a group like the G24 to make such demands. Now there is. Maybe soon they’ll start making the gains they so richly deserve?
I don’t remember first discovering the music of Sam Phillips. I think she was one of those artists whose names I heard somewhere and whose records I subsequently scoured the Greenbelt fringe stalls for. Right now, we’re waking up to Martinis and Bikinis. Usually ‘waking up records’ wear on me quickly, but this one’s lasting longer than most.
She’s coming to Calvin on October 16th, and in anticipation of that I was delighted to find this article/interview with her. It’s a great mixture of personal reflection and substantial interview. It can’t hurt that it contains the news that T-Bone Burnett is working on a new record (and I’m taking that more seriously than the rumours of such that have been floating around for at least 8 years now).
There’s good, meaty stuff about faith and art. There’s reflection on raising their daughter Simone. There are hints of what’s to follow A Boot And A Shoe. Well worth reading.
UPDATE: I posted a few notes about the Calvin show here. In short: it was stunning.