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18 December 02: TNR Resources Ltd  just released the results from its drill program on the Rock Creek gold deposit in Nome, Alaska. The first five core holes successfully intersected the targeted high-grade Albion zone and surrounding stockwork mineralization with ore-grade intersections, confirming previous results and showing improving gold grades to the northeast. Drill highlights include: 2 m of 17.09 g/t gold (0.50 oz/t), 2 m of 18.89 g/t gold (0.53 oz/t), 4 m of 5.12 g/t gold (0.15 oz/t), 12 m of 5.11 g/t gold (0.15 oz/t), 6 m of 7.63 g/t gold (0.22 oz/t), and 10 m 5.49 g/t gold (0.16 oz/t). Read the news release ...

27 November 02:  TNR Resources Ltd. and NovaGold Resources announce that to date they have completed 11 holes totaling 745.8 metres (2447 feet) on the million-ounce Rock Creek Gold Project in Nome Alaska:  five holes of infill drilling, three holes stepping out to the northeast, and three holes stepping out to the southwest.  All core has now been logged and samples have been shipped for analysis to the ALS Chemex laboratories. The drill crews will be taking a break for the American Thanksgiving holiday and will commence drilling again the first week of December.  The current drill program has two goals: to continue step-out drilling beyond defined limits of the deposit, and to begin in-fill drilling on a 30-by-30-meter drill-spacing. This program will improve the project's geostatistical database and increase the gold-resource confidence level and classification. Results from Phase 1 of the Drill Program are expected in early December.  The Rock Creek Gold Project is located in the Seward Peninsula near the city of Nome, Alaska, and at present it hosts a Total Measured and Indicated Resource of 555,000 ounces gold grading 2.74 g/t and an additional inferred resource of 563,000 ounces gold grading 2.53 g/t. Five additional exploration targets have been identified with the region.

Updates regarding other TNR Resources projects:

Spring Project, New Brunswick

The Company has been given a $30,000 grant by the Ministry of Mines in New Brunswick to continue to explore the Company’s Spring project located 25 km WNW of Fredericton.  The geological work conducted thus far on the Spring Property has included soil, VLF-EM and magnetometer surveys, trenching, and two drill programs of two and three holes, respectively. The property is located immediately northwest of the community of Springfield, New Brunswick, approximately 25 kilometres west-northwest of Fredericton, the province's capital.  The Company plans to complete two drill holes designed to test the projects gold potential to depth.  Drilling on this project is scheduled to begin immediately.

Opikeigen Lake

The Company has now received all necessary approvals for its acquisition and financing of the Opikeigen Lake project in Ontario. The 2500-hectare Opikeigen Gold property is located approximately 120 km east of the former gold-mining town of Pickle Lake, Ontario. This mineral property is located within the active Uchi Subprovince of the Superior Province, a subdivision of the Canadian Shield. Several greenstone belts comprise the Uchi Subprovince, which strikes for 600 kilometres from Lake Winnipeg to the Hudson Bay Lowlands. This Subprovince hosts the Pickle Lake, Rice Lake and world famous Red Lake gold mining camps. Between 1935 and 1966, the Pickle Crow Gold Mine near Pickle Lake extracted 1.4 million ounces of gold from 3.4 million tons of rock; Goldcorp Inc.'s Red Lake deposit has grown to 3.8 million ounces of reserves and is one of the most profitable gold mines in Canada. TNR can acquire a 50% interest in the project by spending a total of $500,000 over the first two years on exploration and project maintenance including taxes.  The Company is currently completing and reviewing all the data and plans to drill the project in early winter 2003.

The Shotgun and Illiamna Lake Projects

Plans are being made for a spring exploration program on both of these South West Alaska Gold projects.  The Shotgun Deposit is located in the emerging Kuskokim Gold Belt, which hosts two of the largest gold deposits in Alaska, the 10-million-ounce Pebble Deposit and the NovaGold Exploration Corp.'s 23-million-ounce Donlin Creek Deposit.  Shotgun has an inferred 1-million-ounce gold resource, with significant exploration potential to define a multi-million-ounce deposit.   TNR and NovaGold have revised the exploration-expenditure schedule for the Shotgun Project as follows:  TNR will spend $250,000 in exploration expenditures on the Shotgun Project by the end of May 31, 2003; an additional $750,000 by May 31, 2004, an additional $1 million by 2005, and an additional $1 million by May 31, 2006.

Work conducted on the Illiamna Project by BHP Billiton points to large targets bearing striking geophysical similarities to the Pebble copper-gold deposit as well as to the Shotgun gold prospect located approximately 100 km to the northwest. Spring 2003 exploration on both projects will include geophysics and drilling.

5 November 02: TNR GOES NOVA! shouts a Natural Resource Investor report, which provides a comprehensive picture of TNR Resources Ltd.'s Alaska gold projects.

12 September 02: Yesterday Basil Communications Inc. client Dasher Energy Corp. (DHR:TSXV) announced that it had signed a Letter of Intent with Mantle Minerals Ltd. (MIN:TSXV) to explore and option the 100%-owned Afridi Lake Property located 320 km northeast of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The exploration program proposed  will consist of up to 1,000m of core drilling to test a number of selected targets identified by prior airborne (multi-frequency EM, total field magnetics) and ground geophysical surveys (HLEM, magnetics, and gravity) for kimberlite. 

“There are a large number of significant but not-yet-drilled targets on the Afridi Property," said John Fraser, President & CEO of Mantle Minerals Ltd. “There is excellent potential for our joint venture to discover additional diamondiferous kimberlites in one of the world’s richest diamond fields. This drill program will help define that potential.”  Shear Minerals Ltd., International Samuel Exploration Corp, and Dasher each have an option to earn up to 25% of the Afridi Project.

7 August 02:  Long-time client TNR Resources Ltd.  just announced that it has finalized a joint venture agreement with NovaGold Resources Inc. to advance the million-ounce Rock Creek Gold Project toward production within the next three years.

 ***Project Highlights***

Under the terms of the agreement TNR Resources would earn a 49.9% interest in the project by spending US$10 million dollars on exploration and development to bring the project to production by June of 2005.  After the earn-in, NovaGold and TNR Resources will form a JV company and contribute or dilute their percentage interest according to a straight-line formula. As part of the agreement, TNR Resources will issue 500,000 shares to NovaGold. The joint venture intends to fast track the exploration phase of the Project, with the objective of bringing Rock Creek to production within the three-year option period. This is the second joint-venture agreement signed between the two companies to advance two of NovaGold’s earlier stage wholly owned gold deposits.

In the first year of the agreement, TNR Resources will fund a US$1 million exploration and development program at Rock Creek. As previously announced TNR Resources is funding a US$500,000 program at Shotgun Gold Project. NovaGold will manage the Rock Creek program while TNR Resources will manage and operate the Shotgun program.

“The joint ventures with TNR Resources are excellent opportunities to accelerate the development of our Rock Creek and Shotgun gold deposits toward production,” says Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, president of NovaGold, “while allowing NovaGold to remain focused on advancing the Donlin Creek gold deposit to feasibility.”

“We believe that the Rock Creek and Shotgun gold deposits have excellent potential for significant resource expansion and could be rapidly advanced to become a high-quality, low-cost mines,” says Gary Schellenberg, president of TNR Resources, “The NovaGold / TNR Resources strategic relationship is an opportunity to add significant new value for shareholders of both companies.”

The Rock Creek Gold Project is located on the Seward Peninsula near the community of Nome, Alaska. The deposit is the most advanced lode-gold deposit in the Nome Mining District that has historically produced over 5.5 million ounces of gold from the nearby stream and beach placer deposits. The property is road-accessible and located on private-patented land, which is expected to result in facilitated permitting. The deposit is exposed at the surface and amenable to open-pit mining with a low strip ratio. 

The project exploration team has begun on-site work on the 3D geologic model with a focus on defining the at-surface higher-grade zones that would define the starter pit and enhance the early economics of mining the deposit. The deposits remain open along strike and down dip, with potential to significantly increase the gold resource with further drilling.  Planning for the delineation and offset drilling program on the high-grade targets is underway. The Rock Creek exploration program will focus on defining the higher-grade gold mineralization using a combination of detailed structural mapping, trenching and drilling, as well as, multi-element geochemistry and geophysics in preparation for detailed engineering and pre-feasibility studies. NovaGold previously released a total Measured and Indicated Resource of 555,000 ounces grading 2.74 g/t gold with an additional Inferred Resource of 303,000 ounces of gold grading 2.78 g/t using a 1 g/t cut-off grade, based on work completed by NovaGold, Kennecott, Newmont and Placer Dome at Rock Creek.  The adjacent Saddle deposit contains an additional Inferred Resource of 260,000 ounces of gold grading 2.61 g/t gold using a 1 g/t cut-off grade.

Gold mineralization at Rock Creek occurs over a 10-kilometer trend associated with sheeted veins and stockwork zones within altered quartz-mica schists. Highly anomalous gold in soil samples extend from the areas of known gold mineralization at Rock Creek for over a kilometer and additional highly anomalous gold in soil targets occur over the 10-kilometer long trend. Drilling highlights from Rock Creek include 6.28 g/t (0.18 oz/t) gold over 12.2 meters (40 feet) and 5.6 g/t (0.16 oz/t) gold over 15.2 meters (50 feet).  Additional high-grade intercepts of greater than 3 g/t over significant widths occur on several other targets on the property outside of the currently defined resource area. 

Preliminary metallurgical testing of Rock Creek, commissioned by NovaGold, was comprised of a series of bench and pilot-plant tests at McClelland Laboratories Inc. of Reno, Nevada.  Gold recovery from shear veins, which constitute 35% of the resource, is indicated at 87% using gravity and cyanidation of the tails.  Gold recovery from sheeted veins which makes up 65% of the deposit is indicated at 86% using only gravity methods and up to 98% recovery with cyanidation of the tails. A preliminary internally generated economic assessment study using a gold price of US$300/oz, indicated that Rock Creek could sustain an annual gold production of 110,000 ounces for 8 years, at an average cash cost of US$153/ounce, a cumulative cash flow of US$86 million, and capital costs of less than US$40 million.

Exploration on both Rock Creek and the previously announced Shotgun projects is expected to begin immediately upon closing of the $1.2 million private placement subscription first described in a February 18, 2002 news release.  This is expected to take place shortly after TSX approval of the TNR-NovaGold Rock Creek Agreement.

TNR is a junior resource-exploration company with projects in North and South America.

26 July 02:  Gold is taking a hit today -- down more than $7 -- and this has tightened the guts of junior exploration companies that have been counting on higher gold prices to increase interest in their projects.  According to one of my partners, gold's down for three reasons:  The market's heading back up ("it was oversold at 7500 and is finding a new level at 8000 - 8100"); the corporate crackdown ("arresting those three Adelphia Cable directors was a good start"); and the stronger US Dollar ("it's more expensive to buy gold").

18 July 02: Argent to Option Iron Lake Property:  Argent Resources Ltd.  has signed a letter agreement with Eastfield Resources Ltd., whereby, subject to regulatory approval, Eastfield has granted Argent an option to earn up to a 70% interest in the 92-unit (5600 acre) Iron Lake property located in the Cariboo region of B.C.  The property is located 40 kilometres northeast of 100 Mile House, B.C. and is bisected by recently constructed logging roads.  A major regional aeromagnetic high is centred on the property, which is largely till-covered. The Iron Lake copper gold palladium property represents a significant exploration target. Its host intrusive complex is comparable in terms of size, magmatic phases present and strong palladium and platinum soil anomalies to North American Palladium Ltd.’s Lac des Isles deposit in Ontario.  Similarities to other deposits and deposit types have been noted.

Initial work will include detailed air-photo analysis to determine more precisely the direction of glacial ice movement and therefore the source of existing soil anomalies.  Additional soil geochemistry to the east of previous sampling is required, to be followed by reconnaissance Induced Polarization surveys along existing roads and trenching of anomalies prior to drilling. An unpublished summary report prepared for Eastfield by J. W. Morton,  P. Geo., President of Eastfield, describes exploration completed by Pickands Mather and Company in the early 1970’s, and in the late 1980’s to 1992 on behalf of various parties under the direct supervision of Mr. Morton.  Collectively this work established that the magnetic anomaly is caused by a zoned mafic intrusive several kilometres in diameter.  Initial exploration in the 1970’s, designed to assess the porphyry copper potential of the aeromagnetic anomaly, included several wide-spaced drill holes.  These holes were subsequently resampled in the early 1990’s and shown to contain elevated levels of platinum, palladium and cobalt.  A soil survey completed on a portion of the property in 1990 outlined several significant platinum and palladium soil anomalies (peak values to 392 ppb Pd and 260 ppb Pt).  Outcrops of altered pegmatite exposed by road construction returned up to 933 ppb platinum and 258 ppb palladium. 

Eastfield acquired the property in its present configuration in 2000.  In 2001 prospecting by Mr. Morton in the centre of the platinum soil anomaly resulted in the discovery of several angular mineralised boulders in the glacial till.  The mineralised boulders, which can best be described as olivine-pyroxenite, routinely grade 0.50 to 0.75% copper, 0.40 to 0.75 g/t gold and 0.30 to 0.60 g/t platinum group metals. Subject to regulatory approval, under the terms of the Letter Agreement  Argent may earn a 55% interest in the Iron Lake property by making staged share issuances totalling 360,000 common shares, option payments totalling $100,000, and completing exploration work totalling $1,000,000 over a five-year term.  Argent can earn an additional 15% by spending an additional $1,000,000 within the five-year term of the agreement.  An initial 60,000-share issuance is due upon execution of a formal agreement and its acceptance by the TSX Venture Exchange.  A first-year minimum exploration expenditure of $50,000 is required. The acquisition of an option on the Iron Lake property is one of several measures undertaken by Argent to satisfy TSX Venture Exchange Tier 2 Tier Maintenance Requirements and to reactivate the Company. An independent geologist will be retained by Argent to prepare a report on the Iron Lake property suitable for submission to the TSX. 

Argent is pleased to announce that it has negotiated a convertible loan for $150,000 from Capital Associates Investment Partners Limited.  The loan has a term of one year with a rate of interest of 12% interest per annum, compounded annually with principal and interest payable on maturity.  The loan principal, and interest with Argent’s permission, is convertible into common stock of Argent based on the share price averaged over a 10 day period following resumption of trading of Argent’s stock, at the maximum allowable discount from market price, and will be subject to shareholder approval if conversion will result in a change in control.  The funds from this loan are intended to be used for exploration expenses on the Iron Lake property and for working capital.  This loan arrangement is subject to regulatory approval. Information requested by the TSX regarding the plan for reactivation has been forwarded to them in preparation for the TSX to allow trading to resume.

26 June 02: client Secureview Systems Inc. has entered into a Letter of Intent to acquire a power company with government contracts in Estonia in exchange for 2,731,728 common shares of Secureview, this being equal to 20% of the currently issued and outstanding common shares of Secureview.  Estwind Energy has been given a license from the Estonian Utility Company to install a pilot project in Estonia consisting of a total of six wind turbines (V39 500 kilowatt Vestas). Three of the wind turbines are expected to be located in Saamemaa, with the remaining turbines expected to be located in Tostamaa, both in reliably constant high-wind areas (8.53 m/sec). The Estonian Utility Company Eesti Energia has agreed with Estwind Energy to purchase all of the electricity -- up to 3 MW (megawatts) of power (1 MW = 1,000,000 Watts) -- that these wind turbines will produce. Eeesti Energia has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to purchase up to 300 MW produced
by additional installations of Estwind Energy's wind turbines after Estwind Energy's pilot project has been completed. Estwind Energy is one of the first power companies to take advantage of business  opportunities in Estonia arising from that country's swift and radical decentralization of energy utilities and its professed need to lower emissions levels as a means of entering the European Union.

2 June 02: Dasher Energy Corp. announced on Friday that it has received an exploration update on the Sceptre and Tiara Diamond Properties, located in the heart of the Coronation Diamond District, some 100 km southeast of Kugluktuk, Nunavut.  Dasher currently holds a 20% interest in these claims. Stornoway Ventures Ltd.  is the operator on the project.

Approximately 6500 line kilometres of detailed helicopter-borne magnetic and electromagnetic surveying have been completed over both properties and preliminary field data has now been received.  A total of 112 priority targets have been identified, including 28 high-priority anomalies that will be ground-checked commencing in mid-June.  Many of the kimberlites discovered in the Coronation Diamond District to date outcrop, sub-crop, and/or are associated with kimberlite boulder trains. Stornoway indicates that it is optimistic that summer field work may result in an early kimberlite discovery from the properties.

The Sceptre and Tiara Properties together comprise approximately 220,000 acres and adjoin Rhonda Corporations Inulik Property (within 3 km of the Knife kimberlite) and land packages held by Ashton Mining of Canada and partners (hosting the Artemisia, Kikerk, Potentilla, Thrift, and Stellaria kimberlites).  In recent years, nine kimberlites, at least six of which contain diamonds, have been discovered within a 10 km radius of the properties.  It is estimated that more than $20 million will be spent by at least a dozen companies on grass-roots exploration for diamonds in the Coronation Diamond District in 2002. 

Dasher has significant interests in two additional, separate, non-contiguous claim blocks in the middle of this area, totalling 40,348 acres.  The 29,379 acre "Tree River" block is located on the east side of Tree River, approximately 14 km east of Ashton Mining of Canada Inc.'s Potentilla kimberlite pipe. The 10,969 acre "Inulik Lake" block lies approximately 10 km due west of the Hydra and Perseus kimberlite pipes of Ashton and Pure Gold Minerals Inc. and 10 km east of the Altair pipe of Kennecott Canada Explorations Inc. and Tahera. The block is surrounded by claims held by Kennecott and Tahera, Rhonda Corporation and Ashton and Pure Gold. Dasher has the right to acquire the right to earn a 50% interest in these two claims.

Dasher has acquired a strategically located land position in both the Lac de Gras and Coronation Gulf districts.  Work programs will be undertaken on numerous properties this summer and fall.

About the Company

Robert Basil is President of Basil Communications Inc., a private Vancouver firm, founded in 1996, that  provides high-end marketing, strategic planning, and multimedia services for public and private companies in Canada and the United States. The company's current's clients are in the high-tech, engineering, and natural resource sectors. "Essentially what I do is stop pages from being blank," he says.

Basil received his Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, at SUNY/Buffalo, and received a graduate degree at Stanford University, where he also taught American Literary and Political Culture Studies (1993-1996). Basil has been a professional writer and editor for twenty years.  He has contributed dozens of articles to books and journals – and has served as Executive Editor for Free Inquiry Magazine (1985-1989) and as the Acquisitions and Senior Trade Books Editor for Prometheus Books, Inc., (1990-1993).  His two essay collections, Not Necessarily the New Age and On the Barricades, received critical praise and wide attention. Basil has been interviewed by more than a hundred radio and television programs, including “Larry King Live,” and has been quoted as a communications and cultural expert in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and many other newspapers.

In 1997 Basil launched Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture, an internet publication that has won plaudits for its articles, interviews, fiction, columns, and virtual art and photo exhibits. 

A patron of the arts, Basil plays some jazz piano and has become quite the photo enthusiast since moving to North America's most beautiful city a number of years ago.



Notes & Miscellany

23 December 02:  This has been a wonderful year:  I got engaged, work has been busy, I've done a lot of writing I'm happy with, and my friends and family could not have possibly been more charming, illuminating, and generous.  In fact, I have yet to have found an occasion to use my favourite insult on someone face-to-face: "I am going to memorize your name, and throw my head away" (Oscar Levant). I'm grateful.

20 December 02:  I see that Pope John Paul "approved a miracle" attributed to Mother Teresa's intercession, "paving the way for the nun who dedicated her life to the poor to be beatified -- and possibly made a saint," according to the Associated Press. "A Vatican statement Friday said Mother Teresa's work in the last century had made her a "'world emblem of Christian charity.'"  Although I don't make a point of mentioning this at parties, I have never much esteemed the late nun.  My real disdain began when I learned in the eighties that she refused free pain medication offered her
hospices because she wanted indigent, dying Hindus to imitate Christ on the cross (I kid you not).  That said, there are many circles of hell -- one should never forget this! --and hers is several circles to the north of where Cardinal Bernard Law will end up. 

10 December 02:  Colleague Paul Chung has started an illuminating website -- -- devoted to international markets and investments.  I know that I always listen to him. A recent item explains, with a good deal of delight, how a United States Department of Commerce policy designed to make imported Canadian lumber more expensive backfired:  "Rather than curtailing production --a move that would have raised prices but lost them customers -- [British Coumbia] companies shut down high-cost mills and put extra shifts on their most efficient mills.  Moreover, sawmillers have used technology and higher-quality timber to knocked $65 off the cost of every thousand board feet of lumber they sell.  In other words, the increased competitive pressure forced the Interior mills to become more efficient and more productive." United States lumber producers are not pleased.

9 December 02:  I've written a lot about the downtown eastside of Vancouver.  In July I learned (I thought) that my best friend in that neighborhood, Violet, had been murdered.  News of Vi's death had indeed been exaggerated, it so happens. Praise be. It is a miraculous and an absurd story -- characteristic of a neighborhood that haunts our city and nation. I hope to share the story with you soon. 

4 December 02:  All week I've been listening to my second favourite Christmas album: Count Your Blessings, a live recording of classic and original Christmas songs by Victoria Williams, Holly Cole, Rebecca  Jenkins, Mary Margaret O'Hara, and Jane Siberry. I've given up on getting back my favourite Christmas album, the Roches' We Three Kings, from a favourite downstairs neighbor who is already well into her season of suffering and seclusion, bless her heart.  At any rate, I have been having spasms of holiday-season generosity -- and, knowing that I needed to act on them before I calmed back down, I decided to tell the world how much I admire certain liberal Catholics who stick with the mother church, no matter how much I disagree with their theology and tactics, no matter how doomed their aspirations might be.  The Catholics I admire are optimistic, and they are not wimps.  There's an excellent article in this week's Village Voice about Catholic women attacking sex abuse and sexism -- "the stained glass ceiling" -- in the Church.  "There probably will come a day when American Catholics get tired of living in a missionary country and want some homegrown priests," writes Ginger Adams Otis. "It's already happening — in Rochester, New York, a woman priest delivers a sermon to a congregation of 1500 every Sunday in the Roman Catholic-identified Spiritus Christi Church. The parishioners don't seem to mind; actually, they were instrumental in convincing Reverend Mary Ramerman to honor her calling. And her deacon, Denise Donato, will be ordained as a priest in February."  My parents used to attend that activist church on occasion, well before it broke from Rome and all of its congregants and leadership were excommunicated.  They speak of it fondly.  The Church's website tells a story worthy of Christmas.

3 December 02:  Former Chief British Columbia Coroner Larry Campbell has been installed as the new mayor of Vancouver, and the city's downtown eastside should receive the enlightened attention it requires, finally.  The neighborhood haunts us. A recent New York Times article spells out details of the so-called "missing women"case that cannot yet appear in Canadian papers due to our trial-shield laws, with reporter Clifford Krauss grimly noting, "Twenty-five of the women disappeared in the last two years before Mr. [Robert] Pickton was arrested, long after family members and the police received a tip about bloodied women's clothing seen at the Pickton farm. No women have been reported missing in the Downtown Eastside district since the arrest"(italics mine). The city needs to atone for abandoning these women.

1 December 02:  Much as I love my Canadian land, I did miss being in the United States for American Thanksgiving. If you put aside the historical ironies of the original Thanksgiving, you're left with a day to meditate on the world's generosity to you:  My son, for instance, and my siblings, and my parents, and most of my favourite friends are still alive.  Boats go by my apartment's balcony.  I'm reading Cookie Mueller for the first time.  And I have a new favourite colour (light violet), a fact that delights me to no end, God knows why.

12 November 02:  Thanks go to Reason Express for this item:

Already, the Homeland Security Act threatens to move far afield from actual threats to national security. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has tacked on an amendment that would push beyond last year's Patriot Act and make it even easier for the government to get its hands on electronic communications.

The current law allows Internet providers to give any law enforcement agency any information if the company comes to believe -- after being told so by the government -- that the info could involve "an emergency involving immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person."

Hatch wants to water down the "reasonable belief" standard to a simple "good faith" provision. Translation: As long as no one is out-and-out lying, all bases are covered. And it's not just law enforcement that could make such requests: "any federal, state or local governmental entity" could ask for data to prevent something bad from happening sometime (not just immediately) in the future.

If adopted, such language would pretty much hand the right to read your e-mail, chat sessions, or IP logs to, let's say, the county department of social services after anonymous sources tell it you beat your kids. At no point would you actually be charged with anything. Not even the pretense of an investigation would be required.

It's an elegant twin for pre-emptive war: pre-emptive surveillance.

4 November 02: Former Stanford University Football coach Tyrone Willingham took over the Notre Dame program this year and, as everybody knows, the team went undefeated until  last week .  I'm not surprised.  Even at Stanford, Willingham stood out as an especially charismatic and serious man.  I remember watching him walk through the Quad and thinking to myself, "He's not the kind of guy you could go up to and just TICKLE."  I was sorry that Stanford had to lose him, but in truth I wasn't sorry that my alma mater lost to Notre Dame this year.

29 October 02: October Is College Days Bittersweet Nostalgia Month, Apparently:  I was going thru today's OpinionJournal, the Wall Street Journal's "best of the web" tour, and came across an item about Michael Niman, whom I knew in college.  Niman was a campus radical back in those days, and we butted heads a few times because I worked for the college newspaper, which he viewed as banal when not completely fraudulent (if I remember right). I avoided him where possible. We've run into one another and corresponded a couple of times since back then:  He is, of course, a real good guy, and we shared numerous enthusiasms  in addition to our disagreements, and I wish I had been a kinder young man.

Mike's still a campus radical, now teaching journalism and media studies at Buffalo State College.  The piece for which had assailed him was called "Was Paul Wellstone Murdered?"  He's a portion, sans comment except to note that I don't need to agree with Mike Niman to enjoy the sound of his voice anymore:

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I'm certainly not a conspiracy theorist. But to be honest, I know I wasn't alone in my initial reaction at this week's horrible and tragic news: that being my surprise that Wellstone had lived this long. Perhaps it's just my anger and frustration at losing one of the few reputable politicians in Washington, but I also felt shame. Shame for not writing in my column, months ago, that I felt that Paul Wellstone's life, more so than any other politician in Washington, was in danger. I felt that such speculation was unprofessional and would ultimately undermine my credibility. In the end, my own self-interest triumphed, and I never put my concerns into print. Neither did any other mainstream journalist, though I know of many who shared my concern. 

When I heard Wellstone's plane went down, I immediately thought of Panamanian General Omar Torrijos, who in 1981 thumbed his nose at the Reagan/Bush administration and threatened to destroy the Panama Canal in the event of a U.S. invasion. Torrijos died shortly thereafter when the instruments in his plane failed to function upon takeoff. Panamanians speculated that the U.S. was involved in the death of the popular dictator, who was replaced by a U.S. intelligence operative, Manuel Noreiga, who previously worked with George Bush Senior.

There is no indication today that Wellstone's death was the result of foul play. What we do know, however, is that Wellstone emerged as the most visible obstacle standing in the way of a draconian political agenda by an unelected government. And now he is conveniently gone. For our government to maintain its credibility at this time, we need an open and accountable independent investigation involving international participation into the death of Paul Wellstone. Hopefully we will find out, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this was indeed an untimely accident. For the sake of our country, we need to know this.

25 October 02: " "TROUBLEWAITS is a Web site of the deliciously ferocious writings of Austin's own Robin Plan. Tender madness. Unrelenting anger. A bitterness so pure and beautiful that one dram would dissolve the gates of hell."

So writes Ric Williams about Robin Plan's recent project in today's Austin Chronicle.  I'm glad she's on my side, people.

29 September 02:  It's a magical fall day in Vancouver, so I took off for the downtown eastside to visit my favourite bookstore -- Spartacus -- and to tack up posters promoting safe injection sites for this city's heroin users. I ran into the guy who designed the posters, Murray Bush, an artist-activist who is uncommonly charming, certainly one of the good guys.  (I could not have been more delighted to show him what I was doing, of course.)  Murray, the guy on the left in the photo below, was in the Pigeon Park vicinity documenting the occupation of the empty Woodwards Building by his homeless neighbors.  His website has an excellent slideshow tour of the protest.

24 September 02:  As basil.CA readers know:  When I get into a funk, I read and read and read.  Sometimes this improves my mood; it rarely damages it further; and, because I have a very expansive view of education, I believe it elevates my mind.  The best experience is when my reading makes me laugh out loud, as a recent item did.  In a story about Vancouver officials trying to close down three bars in the city's downtown eastside neighborhood, we get this paragraph: "The bathrooms are shooting galleries," says one. "Cops are always here raiding the people for dope, drugs and hookers and shit," speculates another.

The faux-journalistic use of the word "speculates" is so wittily Canadian that I will live to read another day.

10 September 02:  I really do appreciate the rip-snortin' polemics produced by the International Communist League (4th Internationalist) and its publications The Sparticist and Workers Vanguard. The research is wide and solid, the aim is exact, and the Trotskyist dogma is pure (and hence, to my mind, usually detachable). A recent piece from the Vanguard takes apart Bush Jr.'s War Against Iraq wish-list with delightful verve:

The war propaganda being churned out to justify another round of imperialist mass murder is breathtaking in its cynicism. The wealthiest, most powerful purveyor of terror in history fulminates against tinpot ruler Saddam Hussein as a menace to the world,
“another Hitler.” Britain, which gassed insurgent Kurdish villages in Iraq in the 1920s, joins the U.S., which saturated the jungles of Vietnam with Agent Orange and CS gas, in denouncing Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the 1980-88 war with Iran. The U.S. ought to know: it was secretly aiding and militarily advising Iraq at the time. The Pentagon “wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas,” recalled a veteran of that covert aid program. “It was just another way of killing people” (New York Times, 18 August). ...

War is the continuation of politics by other means. Imperialist war is the concentrated expression of the “normal” workings of the capitalist system, which daily condemns countless numbers of people around the world to death by malnutrition, lack of
medical care and industrial “accidents.” As always, imperialist terror abroad will mean further repression and regimentation at home.

Wielding the bodies of the thousands slaughtered in the World Trade Center attack, the Bush administration declared an open-ended “war on terror” against all perceived enemies, foreign and domestic. The cry of “national unity” was used to mobilize the population behind a murderous military adventure in Afghanistan. In the U.S., it has meant anti-immigrant
witchhunts and racist dragnets of Near Eastern and South Asian immigrants, increased surveillance and spying, draconian attacks on democratic rights and new laws targeting the rights of organized labor in particular. Now the government has met the possibility of a West Coast port strike with threats of everything from Taft-Hartley injunctions to a military occupation of the docks.

6 Sept 02: Reason magazine senior editor Jacob Sollum, one of my favourite libertarians, recommends that American legislators read the Canadian Senate's Special Committee on Drugs 600-page report calling for the full legalization -- not merely the decriminalization -- of marijuana (which I don't touch, by the way -- not that I'm otherwise completely vice-free).  He concludes his piece by making this amusing swipe at Canada:  "It's a sad commentary on the ossified state of drug policy in the United States that Canada—home of socialized health care, strict gun control, and speech restrictions—has something to teach us about personal choice." Let me show you around Vancouver, Jacob, if you want to see what enlightened, nonideological personal choice looks like!

29 August 02:  The sweetest congratulations to my father, George Basil -- one could call him the ORIGINAL -- on his 70th birthday.  Dad started out wise and good looking, yet continues to surpass himself.

21 August 02:  Today's Boston Globe features a profile of Carmelia Sadat, daughter of Anwar Sadat. 

If you were acquainted with Camelia Sadat in the years after the 1981 assassination of her father, Anwar, and if you remember her appearances on national television to promote peace in the Middle East, and if you knew her as a teacher at Bentley College, Boston University, and Harvard, and if you recall how she brightened Boston society with her charm and intelligence, then when you ask where she wants to meet, you are surprised to hear her say: ''The Dunkin' Donuts in Newton.'' On a blistering morning, there she is, sitting alone at a table, waving to you, dressed in a red plaid skirt and soft yellow blouse, and, at age 53, still beautiful. The warmth of her greeting, however, is a camouflage, because for Camelia Sadat, the past decade has been hell.

It began with epileptic seizures and then brain surgery in 1993, followed by neurocognitive complications, the loss of her job, alienation from friends, the forfeiture of her house, eviction from an apartment, bankruptcy, homelessness, and now, a life reduced to monthly Social Security checks and residence in a small room without air conditioning in a dormlike facility made available by the Newton Housing Authority. 

Even with evidence of Ms. Sadat's grace everywhere, the story is often sickening:  Nothing isolates a person more than "neurocognitive complications"and their related euphemisms.  People would sooner gaze at drowning children than into the eyes of a mentally ill person.

4 August  02: Vancouver's two daily newspapers generally do not measure up to papers published in comparably sized American cities -- not sure why. There is very little investigative reporting -- except on the business pages -- and the Mayor's office and the police department operate almost completely beneath the journalistic radar.  I'm still getting used to it.  That said, I read the Sun and the Province regularly.  Today that commitment was rewarded beautifully.  The Vancouver Sun front page headline reads: Lawyer cuffed and jailed on suspicion of pie possession:

A Vancouver lawyer [Cameron Ward] says he wants an apology from the Vancouver police after he was handcuffed, partially strip searched and detained in jail on suspicion of planning to assault Prime Minister Jean Chretien with a pie. [...] Ward, who said he did not have a pie, was placed in a small cell and police impounded his car on the grounds that they suspected there might be a pie in the trunk. [...] Only minutes after Ward was hustled away in handcuffs, another man was arrested because police believed he planned to assault Chretien. The man, who identified himself to reporters as William Christiansen, was arrested and later released. "Apparently, they thought I was going to throw a piece of pie at him," Christiansen told reporters. "Why the hell would I spend $1.80 on a piece of pie and waste it on that guy?"

This article was like one of those great double espressos, and I hopped out of my apartment to enjoy the day with my fellow citizens, many of whom were carrying ballons and flags, cheering Vancouver's annual gay parade, which is always a sweet and happy event.  God bless my city, for reminding us of the good parts. 

31 July 02:  My friend June and I have been discussing plastic surgery recently, since Melanie Griffiths appeared on that obseqious TV program "Inside the The Actors Studio."  I went over to the TV to block the view of the actress's mouth:  "Check it out, June:  No other part of her face is even moving, let alone showing any expression."  Since then I have been seeing dishearteningly frozen faces everywhere.  Joan Rivers looked like such a merry monster on "The Tonight Show" last night I had to turn the set off.  And I saw a photograph of Courtney Love the other day that completely freaked me out:  She looked  like Charlize Theron -- had the latter just been fished out of some lake.  It really makes me sad to think of it.  A need for esteem so great you forget what your own face is supposed to look like?  I remember watching an interview with Rivers in which she said she had been asked out just once in college -- a blind date, really -- and when the boy came to her house and saw her, he said, "You should have told me," and left.  When I saw the comedienne last night, I imagined that she could have dug her original face right out with her own hands, to prepare itself for the mask she had chosen to take, to charm the world. This terrible college tale of hers aside, in her career Rivers illustrates something even more fundamental:   Women are much harder on --  and crueler to -- other women insofar as their looks are concerned than men could ever be.  Girlfriends of mine who have sought plastic surgery were not trying to impress me, I assure you.

29 July 02: Several years ago, I had the pleasure of helping the great Thomas Szasz celebrate his 73rd birthday at his house in Syracuse, New York.  I gave him a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and got to sit next to his daughter, winsome Suzy Szasz, at the dinner table.  (Suzy was one of my authors during my days as an editor at Prometheus Books.  Her book, Lupus: Living with It, is a lovely, tart memoir; I prefer the book's original main subtitle, though:  "You Don't Have to Be Healthy to Be Happy.") Professor Thomas Szasz is the world's pre-eminent anti-psychiatrist psychiatrist, whose many books, including The Myth of Mental Illness, attack medicine's tactic of pathologizing "aberrant" human thinking and behaviour.  His recent article in, Sins of the Fathers, takes apart the Catholic Church's convenient, medically fashionable excuse for neglecting to protect children from its predatory priests:

American law defines sexual congress between an adult and a child as a crime. The American Psychiatric Association defines it as a disease called "pedophilia." Crimes are acts we commit. Diseases are biological processes that happen to our bodies. Mixing these two concepts by defining behaviors we disapprove of as diseases is a bottomless source of confusion and corruption. That confusion was illustrated by a February 8 letter to The Boston Globe in which the Rev. John F. Burns defended Boston Cardinal Bernard Law against critics who said he ought to resign. As an archbishop, Law had transferred the Rev. John J. Geoghan to a new parish despite allegations of sexual abuse. Geoghan eventually was accused of molesting more than 100 children over three decades.  "It should be noted that neither Cardinal Bernard Law nor Father John Geoghan was aware early on of the etiology or pathology of the disease of pedophilia," Burns wrote. "The cardinal did what an archbishop does best. He showed kindness and love to an apparent errant priest. Father Geoghan also did what more recent knowledge shows pedophiles do: namely, be in total denial, with hardly any remembrance or remorse for their diseased acts. Calling for the cardinal’s resignation is absurd. Let the healing begin and the law take its course."

The law is taking its course not only in the suits filed against the church by the victims of Geoghan and other abusive priests. Geoghan himself has been convicted of molestation in one case and faces trial in another. But if his behavior was caused by "the disease of pedophilia," a condition that not only compelled him to fondle boys but erased his memory of those "diseased acts," how can it be just to punish him? The uncertainty introduced by viewing sexual abuse as the symptom of a disease played an important role in the church’s failure to protect congregants from priests like Geoghan. In a May 8 deposition, Cardinal Law was asked how he approached molestation charges. "I viewed this as a pathology, as a psychological pathology, as an illness," he said. "Obviously, I viewed it as something that had a moral component. It was, objectively speaking, a gravely sinful act." The combination of these two irreconcilable views, medical and moral, was a recipe for inaction. 

16 July 02:  I've been out of sorts recently, and I have addressed this condition in my usual ways, including marathon magazine-reading. This month's Vanity Fair was especially diverting. I found out that a former student of mine has inadvertently fathered model-actress Elizabeth Hurley's child.  I found out that nobody could possibly ever despise me as much as people despise Michael Ovitz.  And I found out that rapist and molestor and former priest Paul Shanley was given his free pass by the Boston diocese in part because he himself had been molested by a former cardinal.   Wow.

11 July 02: In the early nineties, Jim Goad was one of my favourite writers.  His zine "ANSWER Me!" somehow soothed and heartened me with its vitriol, loathing, and fine and funny writing. His detractors believed he polluted  readers with his takes on race, rape, mass and serial murder, and suicide, but I was always inspired by Goad's intellectual derring-do.  I even taught his work to my winsome Stanford freshmen, something I hope I'd still be bold enough to do today.  A few years ago his gyroscope popped off its string:  Goad abandoned his dying wife (Debbie, his former "ANSWER Me!"collaborator), and he took up with a shit-disturbing lass who accused him of kidnaping and battery, hence two-plus years in an Oregon prison.  John Strausbagh's recent New York Press interview with Goad is a good place to make the reacquaintance of this most civilized, savage writer.  Goad notes "the big irony" of not being allowed  to receive any of his own writing in the mail while he was in prison.  "It might have a bad influence on me," he was told.

4 July 02: Happy 4th of July to my fond mates to the south.  It is so easy to imagine being with you on your picnics in the park today:  hot dogs, chat, beer, second cousins, potato salad, frisbee, plastic spoons, grass stains. God bless it all, and do please save me some.

19 June 02: More charming American initiative:  In today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution you can take a poll:  Which company would you like to have as a sponsor for your wedding? Choices range from Victoria's Secret and Tiffany to Home Depot, Budweiser, and Krispy Kreme.  (You also get to click the "I think the whole idea is tacky" box -- the leading choice, at 48%, as I write.)  The poll is a sidebar to a very amusing article about a Georgia couple who didn't want their wedding reception to devastate their bank accounts.  It was the female half of the couple that took the initiative:

Her fiance, who owns a small painting and contracting company, was skeptical. "I said 'Baby, that ain't going to work.'"

[The woman] didn't specify what she wanted. Instead, she outlined what she was offering her potential underwriters: She would list their companies in the invitations, the ceremony programs and the thank-you notes. She would place framed notices listing the vendors at the buffet table and on the dinner tables. She also offered verbal recognition during the reception, a thank-you advertisement in a local newspaper and contact information for each of the  vendors at her wedding Website. Then the offers started rolling in.

Gerard J. Monaghan, president of the 3,000-member Association of Bridal Consultants, says "This violates every social grace there is." 

I am not sure Monaghan has that right.

10 June 02:  Altavista's translation program, Babelfish, delights me to no end. It translates entire webpages with a single keystroke.  I'm sure the translations are often faulty, but who cares? -- I'm playing with Babelfish for the feel, not the exact meaning, of the language.  I translated pages from my girlfriend's site and I'm still not the same, after hearing her voice, as it were, in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and even German. Wow.  Oh well. (I myself sound best en français, it turns out.  Who knew?)

6 June 02: Author, blogger and "dynamistress" Virginia Postrel was kind enough to email along the opening of a 1999 speech in which she set forth her hearty, smiling brand of libertarianism.  (Her word is "dynamism," hence the charming moniker.) I first read these remarks in a Vanity Fair article, and  I immediately knew I had to follow her work closely thereafter.  Originally delivered at a dinner for the Civil Society Institute at Santa Clara University, July 11, 1999:

The 21st century is almost here, and it doesn't look much like they told us it would be when I was a little girl in the 1960s. We used to think the 21st century would look pretty much like The Jetsons. There would be flying cars, of course. Everyone would live in a high-rise apartment building with a robot maid and a stay-at-home mom. Fathers would work in big corporations making industrial products like Spacely Sprockets. There would be no dirt, grass, trees, or backyards. The future would have no old-fashioned houses, no suburbs, no shopping malls. It would have no blue jeans, sneakers, or skateboards. It certainly would have no goth teenagers, evangelical Christians, Internet billionaires, feng shui consultants brown-skinned  immigrants, or female soccer stars.

The 21st century that we imagined back then was clean, neat, and orderly, and so were its inhabitants. It would be a future in which neither the clothes nor the society had any wrinkles. Even dystopias such as 1984 , Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 imagined a controlled, conformist, predictable world. That's not the world we got.

But the future also doesn¹t look like they told us it would when I was a teenager in the 1970s. We haven't run out of oil. The currency hasn't collapsed. Famine hasn't swept the world. We didn¹t have a nuclear war, and the Soviets didn't conquer Europe. We haven¹t destroyed ourselves with credit cards. We aren't living on self-sufficient communal farms. People
still get married. Unemployment is low. Men don't wear leisure suits, and women still wear bras. In fact, bra design is a pretty high-tech, high-fashion business these days. Just ask the folks at Victoria's Secret.


28 May 02: "The Samuel Jackson Soundboard" is the funniest website I have seen in months:  Use it as a managment tool.

23 May 02:  Columnist and commentator Ann Coulter is one of my favourite wingnuts:  a bold beauty whose derision for establishment and liberal opinion often unhinges her mind; she is always terribly entertaining if not always terribly enlightening. Today's column made me laugh out loud (which I like to do). 

Republicans were so dumbstruck by the mendacity of Democrats claiming President Bush had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attack, they have overlooked the most stunning legerdemain of this accusation. 

Suppose Bush had known 19 Muslim immigrants planned to hijack four planes on Sept. 11. What could he have done? Throw Arabs out of the country? Put them in preventive detention? Order airport security to take an extra little peek at swarthy men boarding planes? Liberals won't let us do that now!  ...

Memo to Democrats: Muslim men are plotting another terrorist attack on America right now! That's what you know. What are you doing about it? Directing airport security to keep searching white paraplegics at the airport? 

17 May 02:  I run into educated people who, if they don't necessarily judge a book by its cover, do something even more stupid:  judge a person by the books he or she reads.  Last year, for instance, I loaned a feminist friend Christina Hoff Somers' Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, thinking, "Hey, she'd probably want to sharpen her positions by reading this controversial book." Whoops! I hear she's still out there on Vancouver's hipper streets slandering me as a priapic blight. 

Recently  I calculated that I have spent about 95,000 hours of my life reading, or almost eleven years -- mostly polemical nonfiction of some kind.  The amount of time I've spent reading material that I've agreed with:  Maybe a year, probably less. The amount of time I've enjoyed myself reading:  pretty much always, even those many months in early adulthood reading people like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Rudolph Steiner (fifty or sixty books apiece) (I had friends who were believers, and I determined that reading works by their heros would help prolong our conversations); lately I've devoted myself to studying the history of Palestinian and Israeli propaganda -- what's to agree with there, when certainty itself is the blight?

For the last ten years, publications put out by the International Communist League have always been lying around on one of my reading tables. My favourites:  The Sparticist and Women and Revolution, which I often used in my "Bill of Rights" classes at Stanford University.  Each article ends with a call for international socialist revolution guided by the principles of Leon Trotsky; what I call "placard rhetoric" is positioned everywhere:  A recent piece entitled "Down with the Anti-Immigrant Witchhunt" concludes:  "Mobilize Multiracial Union Power in a Mass Labor-Centered Protest! Defend Immigrants, Blacks, Labor Targeted by anti-Terrorist Laws!" 

These obsolescent stylistic devices aside, there are a lot of great political pointers even for those with no Marxist sympathies at all.  These Trotskyites helped me win more than one debate. I once torpedoed a dear buddy during a conversation about the Dalai Lama, seeing how far I could go as temporary Sparticist, arguing that China was liberating Tibet from the shackles of a theocratic society that had exploited and even enslaved women.  As the afternoon wore on, I expanded my onslaught, supporting every decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party over the past twenty years.  This bit of contention between us was artificial, true, but we went at it with great energy and seriousness. Against a finer mind,  I won that argument.  My buddy told me awhile ago that he hasn't engaged in adversarial political discussion since, though I have indeed tried to bait him.

14 May 02: So:  If the Likud Party doesn't want to grant the Palestinians any form of statehood ever, then, uh, what's Israel supposed to do with 'em? Annex the West Bank and Gaza but deny Palestinians Israeli citizenship, thereby finding a way to treat the Palestinians worse than the United States has treated Native Americans? (I refer to the treatment the latter received after Native American territories were admitted into the Union as states.)  Occupy their lands and emasculate them as a people indefinitely? Crowd them into Egypt and Jordan?  I honestly haven't been able to find Netanyahu's scenario.

Yeeach.  The cliche is that Israel is the Middle East's "only democracy."  It's a distinction that seems larger than it is, because Americans utilize that term thoughtlessly, as an honorific.  What Israel shares with its neighbors is as important as what distinguishes it:  It is a religious country, and insofar as Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews can be considered a single ethnic group, it is an country ruled mono-ethnically as well.  Because I am someone who was raised if not by then certainly for Americans,  abiding by the visions of Martin Luther King and Mark Twain and John Ford, my criticism of this state of affairs should be regarded as  implicit.

12 May 02:  Today's favourite euphemistic description:  "I watched a lot of  'I Love Lucy' reruns in those days" (i.e., she did a lot of heroin in those days).

12 May 02:  The Catholic Church is the gift that keeps on taking, as the estimable Gary Wills proves in a sharp New York Review of Books article called "Scandal." Here's one tale I'm going to drink to forget tonight:   "When the [molestation victim] finally brought suit for damages, a judge threw out the case because the statute of limitations had expired—and the archdiocese successfully countersued for the $4,000 it had spent on the court procedure." (The priest who had molested the boy died in prison after having been convicted of another pedophilic molestation.)  An astonishing article in the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes numerous similar cases of the local archdiocese seeking large financial judgments against people who were raped by its own priests and who tried to sue the Holy Church.

I know, I know:  It is the congregation and not the hierarchy that is the true body of the Church.

But still.

9 May 02: "Angel Girl, You are undermedicated, that's clear."  So begins apost in the most involving online forum I've seen in years: Psycho-Social-Babble, created by University of Chicago's "Dr. Bob" Hsiung, MD. The narratives and confessions here are very often harrowing and pitiful, and I for one can't spend more than fifteen minutes at a time reading them, but I do spend time here on most days.  It is a strong community of people who have been isolated both by their mental illnesses and by the ignorance of their so-called real communities and by their friends and by their families. The past day's posts from "Angel Girl" give you a good sense of what's at stake here:

"ANNOUNCEMENT" ("Effective immediately I am changing my name from Angel Girl To Fallen Angel") "AAAAAAAAAA" ("Sorry to hurt your ears. I just felt compelled to scream. Too bad it didn't help me" ) and "GOODBYE" ("I've decided not to post here anymore. You've all been more than accomodating and have tried to help me. But I'm starting to realize that by posting here I feel like I'm looking for pity and I'm not. I know how hard it is for people to stand by me and to be the brunt of my anger. I also know that it's my behavior that they are abandoning and not me but the end result is that I'm still alone. They're not in my life anymore so it really doesn't matter why they abandon or what they abandon, the fact is they're gone from my life").

Dr. Bob unyiedingly upholds etiquette restrictions -- swearing or belittling somebody can get you temporarily exiled -- but the forum he's founded nonetheless provides a lifeline to a lot of people.  There's more drama here than you'll find anywhere on television, and more revelation than you'll get in any church I know.

8 May 02: In a perfect piece for ReasonOnline, Charles Freund decries the way journalists have been abusing assassinated Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn:

The New York Times, for example, wrote on its front page Tuesday that Fortuyn "carried the same strong anti-immigrant message that has helped propel a resurgent far right to political triumphs in Austria, Denmark, Belgium, and,  through Jean-Marie Le Pen, France." ...

Fortuyn's case is considerably more interesting than are the merely xenophobic political movements of Denmark or Belgium, because he attempted to turn Europe's immigration debate on its head. Although Fortuyn was certainly a "rightist" -- he compared himself to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi -- he described his movement not as an anti-immigrant crusade, but as an effort to save Dutch  liberal ideals. Indeed, as an openly gay politician, he often described his positions in terms of gay identity politics. ...  Fortuyn [claimed] that the Dutch tradition of tolerance was under attack by an intolerant Islam that rejected assimilation, that his identity as a gay man was threatened by gay-bashing Muslims who characterized him as "lower than a pig," and that the ideal of gender equality was being undermined by Muslim attitudes toward women.

7 May 02:  "The Future and Its Enemies," by former "Reason" editor Virginia Postrel, is an unusual book-length manifesto, more given to delight than to old-fashioned persuasiveness. Her libertarianism is not deduced from ethical postulates; she's not like Ludwig von Mises or Ayn Rand.  Rather, her libertarianism is induced by her love for creative surprise, which she believes is best fostered by wide open ranges of scientific and social and artistic activities that are regulated by governments as little as possible. Her weblog, or "blog," is called, and I recommend it most highly. 

In the last two days she's had worthy things to say about high-tech swimsuits, the killing of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, the nonsense of Francis Fukuyama, the "deep linking and cyberlaw" controversy, and the packaging of Noam Chomsky's new (and malignant) book. I adore her: She's not a zealot, she's not a parrot, and she still loves the world, and she's totally game.

6 May 02: The Marco Polos:I love Vancouver culture.  My perfect day is simple:  Walking from my English Bay apartment to my office in the Scotia Tower, perhaps taking the long way there along the seawall; people-watching so shameless I'd be beaten up if I weren't wearing sunglasses; meeting my pals for drinks on the balcony of the Sylvia Hotel; topping it off by grabbing a cab to Yaletown or Commercial Street or Kits (I haven't worked my way to Main Street yet) for dinner at a new restaurant.  We have every kind of restaurant in Vancouver, and new combos are appearing weekly:  Korean Mexican, Afro-Indian.  For some reason, though, I have had a hard time imagining what "Japatalian" food would be like; I guess I am going to make a reservation.  A buddy from back east writes:  "I ate in a Thai-talian restaurant in, of all places, Bangor, Maine the summer  before last.  The Thai food was far better than the Italian.  The culinary hyphen is in the form of the noodle.  The same long strand of pasta with different sauces.  Maybe they should call these restaurants Marco Polos."

25 April 02: As you know, I've been following the recent "crisis in the Catholic Church" rather closely.  This is not just because I went from a lame to a lapsed Catholic in my early adult years.  And this is also not just because I had a nifty little career there as an expert in American religious culture. What I'm still waiting to read or hear is this:  Media outlets and the justice system have known about pedophilic priests and the church hierarchy that protected them at least since 1992, when Jason Berry published Lead Us Not into Temption: Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children.  In his Foward to the book, priest-professor Andrew Greeley called the crisis "the greatest scandal in the history of religion in America." I read the book in manuscript form as an editor at  Prometheus, and I tried to sign Mr. Berry to a deal, but we couldn't afford the advance he needed, though it was indeed a modest one.  (My then-colleagues and I were directed to be unyielding negotiators, and for the most part we were.) 

Everything most people are only learning about now is described in Berry's book, which was reviewed glowingly at the time of its original publication but which received little other media exposure. From my own experience as an editor and as a sympathetic critic of religion, I can assure you that publishers and producers knew that if they publicized a story that criticized the Catholic Church, they would be hit by a ton of bricks.  I remember that when several of my secular humanist friends, all former Catholics, founded an organization called Catholics Anonymous, the local Buffalo, NY paper practically accused them of inciting the murder of priests; it was a very unpleasant front-page story, and of course it appeared on a Sunday.

21 April 02:  The owners of the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots are apparently avid followers of my weblog.  They have taken to heart my February 4th plea and made quarterback Drew Bledsoe a Buffalo Bill.  This act has made me almost irrationally happy.

25 March 02: Excellent piece today by Andrew Sullivan, who argues that former Stanford University Provost Condaleeza Rice is the right choice for Vice Presidential candidate in 2004: "When you think about it, it's hard to think of any rival in the cabinet with the same credentials for a future vice-presidential nomination. And what it would do for the image of the Republican party as a whole would be momentous." Nifty insights, but wrong conclusion.  Rice is too imperious ever to run in an election for anything.  Rudy Guiliani is going to take Cheney's place on the ticket.

19 March 02: I was charmed to hear this morning that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell agreed not to put up any more roadblocks to a vote on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill just so long as his name gets put on the top of the lawsuit he's filing against it, one that will go to the Supreme Court and one, I believe, that he will win. 

My American friends tend overwhelmingly to support the bill.  They believe that it will reduce what today's New York Times editorial page called "the out-of-control drive by politicians for campaign donations [that has] become ... a shakedown, bordering on extortion." [Note: link requires registration.]

Hmmm.  Shakedowns and extortion have long been illegal in the United States; promoting your point of view in the media
there has never been illegal.  Why do you need a law limiting free speech in order to nab prick politicians?

Expediency.  Because reform supporters believe that this bill is the easiest way to reduce corruption, they put forth an argument that borders on bad faith.

This is a common tendency among the well-educated and deeply cynical American Left.  You can see it again in their gun-control position, which forces them to argue that the American Founders didn't mean what they wrote when they wrote the Second Amendment.

Hey, I like gun control.  I live in Vancouver, BC,  and I can walk around outside anywhere, at any time, and feel completely safe.

Americans can have what their northern neighbors have:  They can pass an amendment that restricts gun use and ownership; they can even institute a second Constitutional Convention and rewrite the first amendment while they are at it.  According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, "Under this procedure, the states  initiate the amending process by petitioning Congress for a constitutional convention. When two-thirds of the states  have submitted petitions, Congress must call a convention. Any amendments approved by such a convention must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Congress decides whether state legislatures or state conventions will ratify these amendments."

Neither procedure appeals to campaign-reform and gun-control advocates, because both procedures invest authority in the will of the American electorate, who like their guns and who like to put their money where their mouth is.  Claiming to be working on behalf of their fellow citizens, in reality such advocates distrust and infantilize them.

18 March 02: If I didn't think I was a pretty smart and informed guy, I wouldn't be doing all of the writing and editing I do.  That said, in the course of my life I have missed some obvious things.  I must have been fourteen when I found out spaghetti wasn't harvested by Italians from their celebrated pasta plantations, for instance. This morning I had an inkling that I was guilty of making another whopping oversight.

The snow was really coming down, very unusual at any time in Vancouver but especially so this close to Spring. Everybody was walking around holding umbrellas. Umbrellas? Have people been carrying umbrellas during snowstorms my entire life without me noticing? 

I took a poll and happily found out that umbrellas for snow protection is a Vancouver thing. "Snow is white fluffy rain," one colleague said. "It might be the influence of recent Chinese immigration," said another, himself Chinese. "We use umbrellas to protect ourselves from the sun, too." And a friend from Finland noted: "You would be forced into exile if you were caught out in the snow with an umbrella in Scandanavia, I assure you." 

There's a stirring essay in The Weekly Standard by David Gelernter, Beyond Barbarism in the Middle East. It points out something I've long thought but never had the sense to say, let alone write down:

"We now learn that suicide bombers are told to expect a heaven full of comely virgins as their next assignment. To the suicide-murderers, those waiting virgins are real as dirt. The killers call themselves 'martyrs,' but in their own minds they are the next thing to sex criminals. 'Pardon me, sir or madam, do you know why I plan to murder your child? Because the authorities are offering me great sexand, after all, I don't get many opportunities.'"

It is easy to imagine the attractiveness of the idea that virtuous sacrifice will be rewarded by sexual pleasure.

Properly defining "virtue" and "sacrifice" has been difficult for a lot of religions, Catholicism jumping  into my mind first. Recent articles I've read about the pedophilic priests of Boston and Florida have missed, I think, a basic point:  When these men were becoming priests in the first place, their secret sexual preferences appeared to the world as strong heterosexual restraint – i.e., a virtuous sacrifice, one that did lead, under that guise, to sexual pleasure, and to sex crime.

15 March 02: Perhaps because the weekend is coming up, I am thinking of crime today:

Charles Krauthammer presents the most cogent case I've read against the guilty verdict given Andrea Yates; no political columnist conveys reasoned moral conviction with more power. In his former life Krauthammer was a psychiatrist – I am sure he was worth every Ben Franklin he charged.

British Columbians don't have quite the same vengeful spirit you find among Texas jury pools, and that is not always to our civic benefit. The obvious case in point:  the so-called "missing women" – 50 women who have "disappeared" from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside since the early 1990s.

Because police departments in Canada are far less transparent than their American counterparts, it is difficult to ascertain how actively Vancouver's own were trying to solve these disappearances. We do know, however, that until last year Vancouver's police department discounted the possibility that a serial killer was at work.

What nutty thinking!  Did detectives really believe that there were dozens of men all homicidally fixated on our city's drug-addicted prostitutes and all able to hide the bodies of those they killed and keep them hidden?  It's a most unusual M.O., as the remains of killers' victims are virtually always found not long after the murders. This very unusualness points to one guy, or one group of guys.  If they can make the case against Robert (Willie) Pickton and throw him and maybe one or two of his cohorts in prison, women will stop disappearing from Hastings Street, though they won't stop dying there.

I should note that the police department was not alone in dismissing the serial-killer hypothesis.  Most journalists and indeed most everybody I talked to about the "missing women" were more ready to believe that the streets were filled with mysogynistic killers than they were that such evil and the success of such evil are happily very rare in this country.

1 March 02:  Daniel Pearl, the Wall  Street Journal reporter murdered in Pakistan, was a colleague of mine at The Stanford Daily back in the day.  I was a grad student enjoying a stint as the paper's Books Editor, and Daniel was an undergraduate reporter.  Like a lot of his buddies in the newsroom, Daniel was brilliant and cheery.  I knew that when he and the other whippersnappers made their careers in journalism, they would do bold work.

I did not know until today that Pearl was an Israeli citizen as well as an American – both of his parents were Israeli.  His dual citizenship might have made him an ideal victim for the sickening zealots who killed him. 

Writes's Eric Alterman: "The fact that [Pearl]  had no Israeli passport and did not consider himself to be an Israeli has no bearing on this, particularly in the eyes of the kinds of people who killed him. Why is this fact being so studiously avoided in the media discussion of the events? I understand why it was avoided when Pearl was believed to be alive, as  it could have given his killers added incentive. But now that he is dead, why the squeamishness? ...  If Pearl was killed because his captors knew he not only an American Jew but also, by Israel’s standards, an Israeli, does this knowledge make any difference? I’m not sure, but I can’t see the value of avoiding the question.", The Wall Street Journal's online editorial division, has published a condolences page.

26 Feb 02:  For Canadians to experience a lift in self-esteem comparable to what happened after Sunday's hockey game, we would have to win the next world war all by ourselves.

21 Feb 02: For most of my years I believed that the death penalty was an essential part of justice, that the taking of a life required the payment of a life in return.  A civil society that did not exact retribution equivalent to those injuries committed against it would become weaker and increasingly un-civil.  I had Hegel and Aristotle on my side.

I gave this opinion up completely, though, over the course of a long argument with buddy of mine.  (It was the only time I ever admitted complete defeat to him.)

Yes, equivalence is the key, my polemical pal argued,  conceding that a state's need to exact revenge might not in itself be unethical, and even putting aside the fact that innocent people are not always protected from the penalty's mistaken application. 

The main problem with the punishment is not the taking of lives, he said, but the sparing of them.  You can't spare the lives of those who kill minorities, for example, more often than you do those who kill whites; you can't spare beemers more than the great unwashed. "You have to kill them all just as often," he said.  "Revenge in your theoretical model – the civil state standing up for itself – is worthy, but your model is impossible to apply, equally and to everyone, in real terms."

In the real terms of my life, this change of opinion has meant that I now root against Sam Waterston's character  in most episodes of "Law and Order."  And I spend a lot of time online studying crime and justice.

Lately I have been reading everything I can about Andrea Yates – the mother who drowned her five children.  If the Houston prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty causes outrage, to me it is outrage of a buoyant sort, and as such a rare enjoyment.

I don't know whether Mrs. Yates was or is insane, but I am certain that (a) she won't be put to death, and (b) that the people who want to kill her will be exposed as unworthy, pitiless servants of justice. An uplifting thing that will be to see.

15 Feb 02:  Bless Alberta's Jamie Sale and Quebec's David Pelletier and their gold medal.  Canadians are happy today, but also a little embarrassed.

My colleagues here in enchanting Vancouver are unanimous in noting that the Canadian figure-skating establishment would never have made such a stink about the judging of the pairs competition had not the Americans done so first. Canadians, I have found, like to avoid confronation, and we do make it a habit of withholding full conviction from our opinions, knowing that we might sometimes be mistaken. 

This fun fiansco has provided a consise study in the contrasts of national characters, beginning with the CBC broadcast of the event and then NBC's.  The CBC announcers were disappointed in the Silver, and a bit mystified (as I was); the appalled American announcers were powered by righteousness to demand a confrontation. 

Also charmingly characteristic was the consensus in the Russian reaction:  Life is a dark fate, and humanity maintains dignity only by refusing to moan. How can you Canadians complain about a Silver Medal when Russians never even complained about Stalin?

(And leave it to a French judge to screw a French Canadian.)

14 Feb 02:  Happy Valentine's Day, everybody.  Thanks to Beth Henry of  The Weekly Standard Online for pointing my way to this too believable story of wacked-out values in the American academic milieu. Penn State's student paper had initially refused to run an ad on Valentine's Day that "urged students to consider going out on a date instead of trundling off to see the Vagina Monologues."

In her very funny story, Shannon James writes that the newspaper was "curiously sensitive": 

A quick visit to their online edition shows all sorts of cringe-inducing material: articles entitled "Vocal Vaginas," "C**tfest Brings Empowerment to Penn State," "Why is Vagina so Hard to Say?," and even an editorial proclaiming in its headline “Women Need to Explore Their Sexuality and Start with Vaginas.” One letter to the editor defended the C**tfest celebration by saying, “If one group is censored, all groups are in danger.” Indeed.

12 Feb 02 PM: Sweet gratitude goes to my American cohorts and colleagues for their expressions of dismay. "We are All Canadians," wrote one, referring to the rotten judging in last night's Olympic Pairs Skating Final. 

Gratitude to the Canadians, too:  I love the way my neighbors here in the north convey gall.  Pristine sentences are poured into full paragraphs, and ire is shown not through volume but by giving the occasional consonant a peevish pop.

12 Feb 02 AM: Living Large:  In order to maintain their renowned level of politesse, Canadians resort to euphemism in a way that always enchants my Canadian-bred but American-raised self.  Second favourite euphemism heard this morning:  "He's done a lot of living."  First favourite:  "She's done a lot of living."

7 Feb 02: reports today that Philip Morris has not bought a single magazine ad in 2002.     It is hard to find a happy angle to this story.

Does the cigarette-marketer's decision mean that it is becoming a more responsible conglomerate citizen? "The best kind of advertising may be no advertising," says Robert Thompson, Syracuse University professor of media and pop culture. Philip Morris's cigarette brands already have tons of exposure, and print advertising creates more flak than it's worth.

I'm glad most of my friends have left magazine journalism; they're too middle-aged to be looking to change careers, which is what a high percentage of writers, editors, and production workers – and ad salespeople – will be doing shortly.

As for one former colleague of mine –  who used to edit his newspaper's Sunday Magazine – I'm kind of sorry that he had changed careers already, and won't be around to take this hit.  This fellow regarded himself as an expert in journalistics ethics.  Still, when I proposed writing a light personal essay about the satisfactions of smoking – "Ten Things I Learned to Love with My First Cigarette," I think was the title – he shook open a copy of the recent issue and pointed at all the ads.  "We don't do stories about tobacco, light or dark, critical or not. They pay my salary."

One would hope that now the magazine industry will atone for its history of ignoring the tobacco industry. That won't happen. The publications that don't fold will always carry a torch for the Nicotine Queen, believing that eventually she will simply have to change her mind.

5 Feb 02: His lawyers have asked U.S. Federal Court to release John Walker Lindh on bail pending his trial, contending that the young Talib from Marin is no flight risk.  We know that Lindh's lawyers view this case as an occasion for fun, an opportunity to show how wily they are; so, we should not be surprised by this or any other motion.  It's clear that Lindh, who made it into Afghanistan with no trouble, will not be given bail.

But this is not clear:

Why had the 20-year-old, untrained  Lindh been able to do what the CIA and the United States intelligence community failed to do:  get inside the Taliban, even meeting Bin Laden? 

4 Feb 02:   For some of us Buffalo Bills fans, watching yesterday's Superbowl game was like watching your exwife get married to a guy who's simply better than you.  She's in the arms of Adam Vinatieri, and you're forever Scott Norwood (and wide right).

Buffalo is a drinking town with a football problem.  I can think of one thing, though, that would make the problem easier to take:  Get rid of weak-boned Bills quarterback Rob Johnson and give Drew Bledsoe a new starting job. He would be absolutely worshipped in Buffalo.

31 Jan 02: Lasses and Laddies! The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has agreed to pay$100 million to those sexually abused by its clergy over decades, according to today’s Associated Press. “The church's offer includes $32 million in cash, about $70 million in property to be donated to the state and $8 million to fund counselling services for sex-abuse victims.”

Exquisite offensiveness can offer its own odd and uneasy delight, as by instinct one attempts to sort delicta from maleficia. 

The Irish government’s indemnification of the Church against further lawsuits – now that’s new -- is perhaps what I’ll drink to forget tonight, though a remark made by Bishop Eamonn Walsh of the Catholic Bishops' Child Protection Committee [sic] might even be worse. "I think [the Church] should be congratulated. It must have put extreme strain on their resources." 

30 Jan 02: George W. Bush’s State of the Union address evinced a man after metamorphosis. It was more heartening than astonishing to watch. He even managed to rescue the phrase "ticking time bombs" from the land of cliché, investing it with its original potency. 

The agenda in that speech was surely set, in large measure, by Condoleeza Rice, who back in the day used to have an office – a rather larger one – near mine in the Stanford Quad. Even as a Provost there she began her public statements with a thorough reality check that was unusual – not to mention unnerving – in academia. She found that to be a powerful rhetorical strategy – as now has George W. Bush.

Rice has the personality – and the moral clarity – of someone who has never wished to run for office. (Her impatience with posturing was legendary at Stanford. She often refused to attend meetings at which issues would be “discussed.” Her great quote: “I don’t do committees.”)

Back to the speech: The domestic agenda Bush described in his State of the Union was remarkable. Putting Americorps front and center? A stimulus package? Increased oversight of public companies? Expanding unemployment insurance?

We’ll be seeing a lot of new Bush Democrats. 

 23 Jan 02: Anti-Zionism to Anti-Semitism: "Arafat Hits new low , Accuses Israelis of using Palestinian children for Spare Parts": Parsing the distinction between anti-Zionism (in its militant forms) and anti-Semitism interests me because Arab complaints against Israeli Jews and the State of Israel seem different in kind to historical complaints that emanated from Europe from medieval times onward toward Jews. These latter thoroughly demonized Jews as evil, anti-national, uncivilized demons; that is, they were condemned for who they were, what their basic nature was. 

Current Arab complaints very rarely seem to do this; indeed, their chief argument is that Israeli Jews are ultra-nationalistic; here Jews are condemned for what they are doing, for going against what their basic nature ought in fact to be. 

Alas, both complaints seem to lead to hatred. Maybe another way to distinguish them is that Arab hatred of Zionism and Israelis emerges from the victim-Zealot mindset that prevails among Arab-Muslim culture (but not other Muslim cultures). European hatred emerged from the Ruler-Majority mindset. 

At any rate, why I found Arafat's comment about Jews harvesting the organs of Palestinian children so remarkable – and so inappropriate, over and above its factual lunacy – was that it reverted to a form of hatred not indigenous to the Arab Cause. 

I sent a journalist friend of mine the above link with my comments, to which he added mirthlessly:

"As to the Arabs and the Jews, I think Arab Muslims, until the creation of Israel, were largely free of the type of anti-Semitism that prevailed in Europe for centuries. Christian Europeans hated Jews for many reasons – for being obscurantists (denying the divinity of Christ), for their otherness and later (after a century of assimilation after the French Revolution) for their sameness – but not so much for what they did than for what they were. (Am I repeating you now?) Arabs, yes, now hate the Israelis for what they do, but I believe that hatred is metastasizing to classic European Jew hating: the only good Jew is a dead Jew."


Arts & Letters

16 December 02:  Now and then I decrease my inventory of books, to free up space (or cash) and to recognize permanent changes in my fields of interest. Just recently I unloaded my entire spiritualism library to a dealer who could not have been happier picking up crisp editions of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Rudolf Steiner, and other seers and seekers. Also taken was my Jack Kerouac collection.  I hope that the new owners of these books will be as inspired as I was by the Kerouac and as inspired as I wasn't by the spiritualism. 

I told the friendly book-dealer I was holding on to all my photograph and comic books for the time being; my attachment to them is as strong as ever.  I have already chosen my next addition: The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner. The parts I've seen thus far -- previewed on Gloeckner's website -- are heart-rending, revelatory, and beautiful, and necessary, and as completely disquieting as the greatest art.

11 December 02: basil.CA's sister site, Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture, isn't really an ezine anymore, but that bit about "basic culture" is still true.  We've recently finished a comprehensive Ellavon archive, with art and photography by Marilyn Suriani, John Sindelar, and Lincoln Clarkes; columns by Kristi Coulter and Julie Damerell;  Kat Kosiancic's "Be My Junkie Shadow"; interviews with Diane Middlebrook and Paul Kurtz; the collected early work of the great Robin Plan; plus wonderful contributions from John Glionna, Jonathan Mayhew, Jeanne d'Arc O'Day, Joseph Conte, and Chris Basil.

2 December 02: My buddy Lincoln Clarkes takes off for Ireland later this week, after doing some book-signings in Vancouver and Toronto.  I love him, but I'm glad he's outta here, for the time being anyway.  Four-plus years working on the Heroines series have surely taken their toll on the photographer, though any such toll is not readily evident in his urbane and generous demeanor.  Lincoln tells me that we can expect a show of new work after he returns from Ireland.  Geez -- if indeed he ever comes back from a land populated by winsome redheads.

2 December 02:  Fiddler Richard Chon is rejoining the the Sons of the San Joaquin after a short while of separation.  I'll pass along the band's tour schedule when it comes in. 

Chon will still lead his Western Swing band -- the Saddle Cats -- from his base in the Bay Area.  He tells me they are actively at work preparing demos.  Until these turn into a real record, the easiest way to listen to Chon's music is to scoot over to the Son's online "Central Store" and pick up Li'l World.

13 November 02: "Someone" is a videopoem directed by Katrin Bowen and written by acclaimed Vancouver photographer Lincoln Clarkes, whose epic project Heroines is being published later this month by Anvil Press.  This  hypervivid videopoem by Bowen and Clarkes features more than a dozen women who live in Vancouver's desperate downtown eastside drug and prostitution ghetto. "Someone" debuts at the 2002 Vancouver Videopoetry Festival on Friday, November 15 at 7:30PM at the Pacific Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street (604) 688-3456.

Complete information regarding the festival can be found online.

12 November 02:  Juliana Hatfield is my favourite crabby musical genius and she has a new band, Some Girls, which she formed with fellow Blake Baby Freda Love on drums and Heidi Gluck on bass. No album yet, but the band's website has an up-to-date media archive.  The great Ms. Hatfield once scolded me from the stage of Vancouver's old Starfish Room.  *sigh*  It doesn't get any better than that.

5 November 02:  Atlanta photographer and Basil ally Marilyn Suriani has just updated her website.  I love her work.  Helping Suriani prepare her book, Dancing Naked in the Material World, changed my life; it was like I gained new sight.  (Thanks to Billy Howard for the fine portrait below)

17 October 02:  My friend and colleague Tim Switala passed away last week.  We went to the University of Buffalo back in the day, and he was named Music Editor of the student newspaper the same day I took over as Arts Editor (summer 78):  We put out a weekly insert called The Prodigal Sun.  He was a lovely guy, an amused, reserved, and polite advocate of punk and new wave; he tutored me -- I'm sure that he must have given me more than fifty records over the years, including the collected Black Flag; he also played drums for Pauline and the Perils. He was married to Rebecca Bernstein, a breathtaking dynamo whom I and everybody else adored, and they had a son named Dakota. This Monday Rebecca organized a New Orleans-style street funeral for Tim, which wended its way through Buffalo's Lower East Side.  Eh, Oh! Let's go! My admiration forever.

18 September 02:  I met Jonathan Mayhew while we were graduate students at Stanford University in the early 1980s.  We took a William Carlos Williams seminar together: Now that was one real fun afternoon crowd:  Novelist Gilbert Sorrentino led the way, and future luminaries and miscreants explicated and harangued in equal measure. Jonathan spoke with a clarity that is almost never found in academic life, or life.  He introduced me to the Songbooks of Ella Fitzgerald and the singing of Sarah Vaughan, turning their work into obsessions from which I never recovered; I even named my ezine "Ellavon" -- to which Jonathan has contributed -- after these magical jazz musicians. 

I am happy to report that my buddy, today an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas, is publishing a blog.  I much recommend it.  Here's an excerpt:

There are poets I have been trying to read for years but still don’t “get.” In other words I don’t understand why they write the way they do, or what others admire in them. It could be that every poet requires a specialized approach, that I need to learn to read all over again each time. What I might reject in one poet slowly acquires value in another. I’ve been reading Jim Brodey recently. How could I not like a poem that begins “Art Blakey is in the furnace. Elvin Jones / is in the pipes” -- or “Where Trane went / Ceravolo survives”? Yet still I resist Brodey somewhat, because of a quality that I can only call "sentimentality.” I am an obdurate reader, to be sure. Most people, on the other hand, do not try to read beyond a certain horizon of taste. For me it is more rewarding to read poetry I do not yet like, examining the reasons for my own stubborness. 

Taste is not really a matter of individual preferences. How could millions of people, each acting as an individual, suddenly decide that they like Elvis? It would be like that science-fiction story in which the “law of probability” is temporarily suspended, so that everyone in New York City decides to go to the same Chinese restaurant on the same evening at 6:42 p.m. I feel that my own “taste” is perfectly predictable and coherent, the inexorable product of my cultural formation. This might explain my highly resistant style of reading. 

3 September 02:  I spent much of the long weekend listening to the debut album of the Wig Titans, cartoonist Mary Fleener'sband. It was just what the doctor ordered! It's smart and fun and it had me dancing around the kitchen.  Fleener is one of my favourite artists:  She's completely charming.  The above panel is taken from her piece "Thanks Joey" in the recent music-themed issue of  The Comics Journal.  Last fall Fleener edited a special issue of that journal devoted to Women in Comics. I've yet to file it away.

29 August 02:  My least favourite maxim of all time most certainly belongs to George Santayana:  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Its banal ubiquity has not increased its charm any. Remembering the past is usually a necessarily step to repeating it. Historical records of religious and clannish rivalries, confidence games and marital treacheries, and tragic hubris and the rest of it are no doubt worth remembering, but not for any contraceptive function, thank you very much.

19 August 02:   Harriet Tubman, pictured above, is the patron saint of  Tubman was a leader of the Underground Railroad, smuggling American slaves into Canada and threatening to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back.  This website, just a few months old but already near-epic in scope,  is the creation of Robin Plan, a legend from the zine scene that flourished in the eighties and early nineties.  She's one of the greatest writers of our era, and her takes on the arts and on our invidious "psychopharm" culture are priceless.  She certainly shares with Harriet Tubman an unquenchable audacity and a great gun.

24 July 02:  Today's guilty but also worthy pleasure: Lisa Germano's "You Make Me Want to Wear Dresses" video, found via Guillotine Love, which calls itself "The Lisa Germano Enthusiast's Resource Center."  (And that it really is; it's a fine site.)  It's an old video, from 1993, but I'd never seen it before.  (I am sure I will see it a few times more.)  "You Make Me Wear Dresses" is from Germano's "Happiness" album, which came out in two versions.  First it was released by Columbia; then, after Germano left the label out of disgust at how that album was mixed, 4AD put out a completely remixed and resequenced version.  The original release was wonderful, but 4AD's is a masterpiece.  These days Germano is on tour with Neil Finn; I hear Wendy &  Lisa, late of Prince's band and now a fine duo, are joining them on a fall 2002 release CD. [Correction:  Only Wendy Melvoin is joining Finn's band, according to Sean at -- 26 July 02]

9 July 02:  "How comes it," asks my man Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1670), "that our memories are good enough to retain even the minutest details of what has befallen us, but not to recollect how many times we have recounted them to the same person?"  I know that my own friends wonder, often and out loud, why I never seem to notice that I'm repeating myself, so it is really pleasing to read that Mr. La  Rochefoucauld and his salon-mates shared this particular cognitive deficit.  I finally bought his Maxims last November, and the book might never leave my bathroom.  The man's skeptical appraisals of human vanity, self-love, envy, and romance are wry and perfect.  "When it comes to love, the one who recovers first recovers best" -- "En amour celui qui est guéri le premier est toujours le mieux guéri" --  was a favourite in my old Buffalo days, not sure why.  Today I am a businessman with many clients who are involved in financing and promoting various speculative ventures.  It is a world in which, if skepticism is not always rewarded, then naivete is pretty much always punished.  The following La Rochefoucauld maxim comes to mind most every day:  "Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportation to our fears."  (It is no more sentimental in the original French:  "Nous promettons selon nos espérances, et nous tenons selon nos craintes.")

10 June 02:  This weekend my brother and sister-in-law treated me to Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner). This movie completely enchanted me.  Here is Vancouver Sun critic (and personal hero) Katherine Monk's take on it:

As the one of the first narrative features to emerge from the Canadian First Nations film tradition, Zacharias Kunuk's Fast Runner is nothing less than a complete revelation and reinvention of cinematic form. Stretched out over three hours, Kunuk slows his narrative pace to match the landscape and the aboriginal oral tradition. As a result, the story has a chance to sink in and stew -- creating tension beneath the surface of these frozen frames. The beauty of the movie goes well beyond the incredible landscape, however, as it tells the story of Atanarjuat -- a kid destined to take on the son of his father's rival. Set in an ageless time, before the white man sullied the North with European vice, the movie successfully translates myth to film without sacrificing anything in the process.

6 June 02: Christopher Hitchens is my favourite writer these days.  That we are aligned almost perfectly in literary and political matters is not the reason.  The real pleasure is in learning, in essay after essay, that I usually don't know how right I am -- *laughs out loud* -- I'm simultaneously humbled and heartened. It's like waking up each morning to find your wife even more winsome than she was the day before.  (Shouldn't you have been paying better attention to your wife, or to your own opinions, in the first place?) The following comments in a recent "Minority Reports" column are brilliant and completely right on:  "September 11, more than anything, marked the opening of a culture war between those who believe that god favors thuggish, tribal human designs, and those who don't believe in god and who oppose thuggery and tribalism on principle. That ought to be the really historic and dialectical sense in which it 'changed everything.'"

3 June 02:  THAT'S  NICE!
Vocabularial cluenessness could become a theme here, I fear. I woke up with a start this morning after dreaming that somebody had mocked me for not realizing that the word "diagnosis"derives from "gnosis," which means "knowledge" and comes from the Greek. My dream adversary finished me off this way:  "I bet you were surprised to learn that 'prehistoric' comes from the word HISTORY." By the time it occurred to me that I must have already known about this diagnosis-gnosis connection , I was too wound up to get back to sleep and counterattack. Still, I was relieved to discover that I was not completely "ignorant" -- another word belonging to the "Gnosis Family" of words, the Fredo of the family, let's say.

This family story repeats itself in the Latin languages, but with a funny twist.  Here the word for knowledge is "scientia," from which of course we get "science."  We also get one of my favourite all-time words, nescient-- literally, "to not know," to be ignorant. The more common form of this word is "nice," which started out meaning "dim-witted" and "stupid,"  connotative meanings that hold well into today.

19 May 02:  I'm pushing middle age, and only this morning did it dawn on me that the words "perturb" and "turbulence" must share an etymological root. Yet somehow I am allowed to send emails to friends and colleagues and even my clients unsupervised! (For those few who haven't been clued in yet:  both words derive from the latin turba, meaning confusion and such.)  I am looking for a way to redeem myself and think that nothing less than coining and popularizing a new word will do.  This is our new word:  PERTURBULENT, as in, "You're mother needs to switch to ginger ale, because she's becoming ... pretty ... perturbulent."  The word turns into a nifty noun: "Perturbulance is your mother's middle name."

This morning was excellent for my modesty generally.  For instance:  A couple of months ago I purchased Patty Griffin's 1000 Kisses and Mary Lou Lord's LIVE City Sounds.  Each CD is the singer's most recent work, they are low-key and acoustic affairs, and they are both heartrendingly winsome.  I had been vaguely aware that these albums were alike in another, indeed crucial way -- but what, how, why?  My own thickness was making me perturbulent. 

Application and study would not, however, fail me as my poor insight had before.  I read the song-lists for the thousandth time. Aha!  Both Mary Lou Lord (above) and Patty Griffin (shown below) cover a Bruce Springsteen song:  Griffin does a version of "Stolen Car." Lord performs "Thunder Road" (recorded live in a Boston subway).  Neither singer changes a word:  "I met a little girl and I settled down," Griffin sings.  And Lord:  "So Mary climb in/ It's a town full of losers/ And I'm pulling out of here to win."

I find these mono-gendered versions terrifically moving.  And when you play the two songs back to back -- actually, when you start with Lord's "Thunder Road" first -- and imagine the same lover singing to the same girl -- you hear demise follow inexorably, it seems, from hope.  Love is mere afterbirth; it is isolation that is the body that walks away. 

14 May 02:  When the total tonnage of today's monotheistic religious bullshit threatens to choke all reason out of me as well, I turn to certain trusted CDs:  Otto Klemperer's recording of Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" has been filling my Vancouver West End apartment for weeks.  In my Walkman is Buddy and Julie Miller's eponymous album.  This is one deeply Christian married couple.  Their music is a thrilling blend of country, bluegrass, and swamp rock; their harmonies make me simply gasp; things move.  Emmylou Harris, who covered Julie Miller's supernal yet gutbucket hymn "All My Tears," has said, "I want to be a Miller when I grow up." And I would rather crash on this pair's couch than visit Paris.  The Millers drain theology and unwarranted righteousness from their religion, leaving the joy and drama.  Whether or not you pray or hold to some spiritual faith, these musicians can make you leap to your feet in praise of the miracle of creation.   At any rate that's what happens with me.

3 May 02: I love American culture. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team will honor Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes at tomorrow night's NASCAR race.  "During the Pontiac 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the race cars of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Park and Michael Waltrip will all have a black stripe under the left headlight. Over-the-wall pit crew members also will wear stripes under their left eyes," according to

27 April 02: TLC was a *great* group, and by that I don't mean they were merely wonderfully charming; I mean truly great musicians and artists.  The death of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes is a terrible and bewildering loss. I'm dismayed.

In the past, when I heard people describe Destiny's Child as some kind of extension of TLC, I thought they were insane; it was like comparing Green Day with Nirvana; it was like comparing the wonderfully charming with the truly great.

The first time I heard TLC was when the video for "Creep" came on MTV.  I couldn't breathe.  Even today I need to be lying down to watch this performance in which everything comes across completely, the singing and dancing and style and story, with confidence and imagination and real joy. 

Here's a thought experiment for you:  During TLC's final tour, "Left Eye" used her solo portion of the show to juggle and do magic tricks.  Ha!  I believe this was part of her central vision of conveying joy.  This is an exceedingly uncommon vision, actually.  The Beatles had it, and it is easy imagining any of them juggling or sawing a fan in two in between songs; same with the B-52s, or the Talking Heads.  Not so, however, with the Velvet Underground or Bob Marley and the Wailers, great artists and serious ones but not serious about conveying pure delight.  The older I get, the more I value delight and joy in art. It is a blessing. It helps me live. 

I borrowed the photo fromThe Atlanta Journal Constitution, which is covering Lopes' death most appropriately, as it would the death of a queen.

9 April 02: My happy congrats to Carl Dennis, who just won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his book "Practical Gods."  Dennis has been a Professor of English at my alma mater, SUNY/Buffalo, his entire career.  The English Department there has always been one of the best in the world, but even in the company of luminaries Dennis has stood out for his probity and generosity; and he has stood almost alone, among poets I've known, by having no apparent vanity.  Rock on, Professor!

6 April 02:  Vancouver photographer and accidental crusader Lincoln Clarkes publishes his first book later this Spring: Heroines: A Social Documentary, an epic series of portraits of women who live and work in Vancouver's drug neighborhoods. You can visit Clarkes' own website here.

10  March 02:  A new list of links has been added to basil.CA – "Comics Artists." I was inspired to assemble the links upon learning that the marvelous and magical Julie Doucet had decided not to draw comics anymore.  Doucet told a Globe and Mail reporter, "I never set out to have a career in comics. I left art school in the late eighties. It was very dark and depressing, just afteer the Reagan Years.  Everybody was thinking, 'No future.' So I quit school and went on welfare, thinking, 'I willl never make it as an artist – I will never make it doing anything, so I'll just go on welfare and draw."

Ms. Doucet and I briefly corresponded during this period – Doucet is from Montreal, and her "bad English" is very charming – and I treasure this correspondence along with the fabulous Xeroxed mini-comix she sent me.  I also treasure the memory of what a friend said to me after being shown her work:  "Uh Bob, when did you start getting into disgusting pornography?" I thought that the frequent depiction of carnality in her work reflected quizzical merriment more than prurience; it was fantasy in the best sense.

I had never been more delighted by my own prescience.  Doucet's "Dirty Plotte" was the first comic published by Drawn & Quarterly books, now one of the world's great book companies and responsible for publishing a number of other brilliant Canadian comics artists, like Dave Cooper, Joe Matt, Chester Brown, and Seth.  Female artists rightly regard her as a goddess who created a new artistic language for the whole crowd to use.

According to the Globe & Mail article – no link's available – Doucet's left comics behind because of "professional burnout and a frustration with the insular 'boy culture' of the scene." She now devotes her time to painting and print-making.  Some of this recent work was published last year in her book Long Time Relationship.

4 March 02: I see that the controversial Vancouver, BC website is back off its "under (re)construction" status.  Gone are the photo-galleries, videos, and audio-interviews that created such a ruckus last Winter among the city saints.  The website is minimalistic now, its current ongoing project something called "Pigeon Park Sentences." People can always skip the site entirely and send hatemail straightaway.

28 Feb 02:  Vancouver polymath Kat Kosiancic debuts "Be My Junkie Shadow" tonight at The Blinding Light Cinema in Vancouver, BC.  Kosiancic's video-documentary tells the story of  women who live and work in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, BC. 

The Blinding Light is located at 36 Powell Street. The show starts at 8:30PM.

Writes Vancouver Sun critic Katherine Monk:  "The film is bound to pull you in as one moves from ignorance to enlightenment through [Kat's] eyes.  We get a chance to see how strong these women are as we hear about their dreams and desires, which seem to grow stronger as their bodies grow weaker.  In the end, we don't see nameless victims at all -- but beautifully warm people hoping for redemption."

"Be My Junkie Shadow" was produced with support from the people at the Coast Mountain Group of Companies and Basil Communications Inc.

Photos and interviews adapted from “Be My Junkie Shadow" appear in Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture, which has recently concluded a year-long hiatus. The nearly complete archive is also perusal-possible.

8 Feb 02: "Whose Stalker is Most Entertaining?" asks Fametracker in today's online poll. (David Letterman's – 56.06%.)  Fametracker is subtitled "The Farmer's Almanac of Celebrity Worth." It is earnestly inconsequential but marvelous.  Its writers view entertainment culture as neither populist roar nor aesthetic rot, but as a box of kittens to pour on the floor.  They teach us to admire the real mathematics of fawning and the singing grace of curiosity not blackened by the objects of its interest.

6 Feb 02: I discovered this morning that a former “author of mine” – that’s what we editors call writers who publish for the house we work for – died in November: Robert Rimmer .  Bob was most famous for his novel The Harrad Experiment, which outlined his philosophy of “polyamory” – think “not monogamy” – as a way of achieving enlightened social and personal evolution.  He was very cheery, very honest, and very dirty (without being furtive).  I enjoyed our telephone conversations indeed. 

Bob Rimmer was like many academics, intellectuals, and spiritual leaders who believe that society could be better served by a meritocracy.  Bless him, though:  Bob had the courage of his convictions, and he was unusually outspoken in expressing this belief, once even siding with the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in attacking democracy as counter-evolutionary.  In Free Inquiry Magazine I used the occasion to attack this “author of mine” with a strident sarcasm that I now regard as quite unappealing.

The attention seemed to charm Bob, however, and he sent me a gift, a first-edition copy of William Carlos Williams’ Complete Poems, published in the late thirties.  Williams had inscribed the book to him – “To Bob” – which made me cherish this book more than any other I then owned.  “I was friends with Bill Williams’ son Paul, and slept with Paul’s wife,” said Rimmer, a dirty old man from the beginning.

I sold WCW’s “Complete Poems” and gutted most of the rest of my library in 1996,  in order to raise the money I needed to move up to Vancouver.  The  man who owned the used-book store came to my apartment and packed the several thousand books himself into handled paper-bags; he had the bearing of an undertaker, which served  to cure me of my fetish for book-buying (happily enough).  I wince for that one loss:  the “Complete Poems.” To Bob, then.


Basil Communications Inc.
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Email:  ProfessorBasil at gmail dot com


  All text and photographs copyright © 2002 - 2007 Basil Communications Inc., with the exception of the photo of Kat and Josie, by Leah Wiebe; photo of Harriet Tubman, public domain; photo of Lisa Lopes, from the Atlanta Constitution; photo of Robert Rimmer, from; photo of Virginia Postrel, from; photo of Julie and Buddy Miller from; photo of Patty Griffin from; photo of Mary Lou Lord from; Julie Doucet self-portrait, detail of back page of My Most Secret Desire (Drawn and Quarterly).