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2 Dec. 04: Northern Lion Gold Corp. (TSX-V: NL) announced yesterday that my buddy Jeff Girardin has resigned as Chief Financial Officer and from the board of directors of the company. Jeff is leaving to pursue new adventures in Australia with his wife, Carol. I'm going to miss them both.  What a couple:  They remind me of my favourite lines from Pasternak's "Poems for Lara":  The root of beauty is boldness,/ And that is what draws us to one another.

The Company also announces the appointment of Antony Wood, B.Sc (Honors), CA, of Vancouver, as its new Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Wood joins the Company from Diagem International Resource Corp. (TSX-V: DGM), where he served as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and a director. Mr. Wood is qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the United Kingdom and in Canada, and previously worked for KPMG LLP as a business advisor and auditor.

28 Oct. 04: Dasher Exploration Ltd. has commenced its first work program on its La Juliana property, in Sonora state, Mexico. The program is designed to define targets for drilling early in the new year and is expected to be completed by early December. This initial program includes mapping, geophysics, geochemical sampling and trenching. It follows up the previous sampling of parallel structures at La Juliana and should advance an understanding of the strike length of the known Juliana trend. Dasher has now secured in Mexico the infrastructure necessary for both the current work and work planned for the new year. All work will be under the supervision of Paul Metcalfe, PhD, PGeo, the company's designated qualified person, as defined by National Instrument 43-101. The La Juliana property is a volcanic-hosted bulk tonnage, epithermal gold prospect covering 700 hectares in eastern Sonora state, Mexico, in the Mulatos mining district. Dasher has the right to earn a 60-per-cent interest in the property from Chesapeake Gold Corp.

24 Sept. 04:  The twin-ruling purposes of all business communication – from receipts and invoices to news releases and feasibility reports, and even including letters of termination – are: to not screw up and to foster relationships. The same cannot always be said for other forms of communication (as you know), despite one's wishing.

26 August 04:  I've accepted a full-time position in Kwantlen University College's Business Communications program, where I've taught on a half-time basis since last May.  I won't be scaling back my Basil Communications Inc. consulting business; the two work activities complement one another beautifully.

4 August 04:  Northern Lion Gold Corp. (TSX-V: NL) has now earned an undivided 51-per-cent interest in the 13 claims that comprise the Haveri gold-copper property, located in southwestern Finland. A joint venture has now been formed with Mountain Province Diamonds Inc., which holds the remaining 49-per-cent interest. In accordance with its Oct. 10, 2002, option agreement with Mountain Province, the company incurred total expenditures of $650,000 on Haveri to earn its 51-per-cent interest. The Haveri project encompasses an area of widespread gold and copper mineralization, within altered mafic and felsic volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks of the early Proterozoic Tampere schist belt, over an area 1.5 kilometres by 2.0 kilometres. The properties are located 175 kilometres north of Helsinki, in Finland, a mining-friendly and infrastructure-rich member of the European Union.

6 July 04: TNR Gold Corp. has been informed by its joint venture partner, Geocom Resources Inc., that drilling has commenced at the La Carolina project in San Luis province, Argentina. Four diamond drill holes have been completed in the Estancia zone as part of a planned 3,500-metre core program. The company plans to drill test gold zones located in each of the Estancia, Cerro Mogote, Cerro Pajaros and El Camino areas. 

5 July 04: Argent Resources Ltd. has received complete assay results for the diamond drilling program completed at the Timmins Offsets gold project. The program successfully tested the geometry and controls of gold mineralization previously delineated at this property, which is considered to exhibit strong similarities to the Pamour mine in the Timmins gold camp. The 2004 drilling shows the zones to continue at depth and remain open down-plunge. Four of the holes drilled by Argent contained sections of visible gold. 

6 May 04:  Basil Communications Inc. client Apolo Gold Inc. has started mining gold and silver on its Sumatra property. Click here to read the company's updated online PowerPoint presentation.


5 April 04: Northern Lion Gold Corp. has provided the following update on its continuing exploration program at the Haveri gold-copper property located in southwestern Finland, approximately 35 kilometres northwest of the city of Tampere. The current drill program consists of a combination of diamond drilling and shallow-hole percussion drilling. It is designed to: (i) test a number of priority targets identified both by past work and by a three-dimensional induced polarization (IP) survey completed by the company in October, 2003; and (ii) further define, expand and upgrade the inferred resources in the Haveri/Shaft and Peltosaari zones, the two primary mineralized bodies previously identified by Glenmore Highlands Inc., in 1999.

Drilling commenced in the northern part of the property in early February and seven holes, totalling 1,743.75 metres, have been completed to date on the Peltosaari (two), ME (two), NW (two) and Shaft (one) zones. Two additional holes are in progress, one to further test the Shaft zone at depth and the other to continue the investigation of a well-defined IP chargeability anomaly associated with the NW zone.

At present, drilling is being carried out by two core rigs, both operated by Suomen Malmi Oy (SMOY), Espoo, Finland, which produces NQ2 core with a diameter of approximately 51 millimetres. Drilling to date has been slower than anticipated, as a result of mobilization and technical difficulties encountered in the initial holes. The pace of drilling has recently accelerated with the resolution of these difficulties. The current exploration program calls for a minimum of 8,000 metres, approximately 30 holes, of drilling to be completed on the property.

The company has now received fire assay results for the first two holes, ME-01 and P-01, which were designed to test the continuation downplunge or downdip of the mineralization previously identified in the Main/Shaft zone and Peltosaari zone, respectively. Hole ME-01 extended 255.80 metres and intersected highly altered and brecciated mafic and felsic volcanic rocks containing trace to minor amounts of pyrite, pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite as disseminations and in quartz veins and veinlets. From 102.0 metres to 221.45 metres, these rocks are characterized by highly anomalous gold content, including fine-grained metallic gold in narrow (plus/minus several millimetres) quartz veins at 117.5 metres and 118.0 metres.

Drilling was terminated prematurely in hole P-01, due to technical problems associated with a fault at 190.0 metres to 192.6 metres and, as a consequence, the intended target has not yet been tested. However, gold values in excess of 1.0 g/t were noted at a number of locations within the hole.

5 April 04: Argent Resources Ltd. has announced that drilling has commenced on it's Timmins Offsets Gold Property, located near Timmins, Ontario. The drill program will consist of approximately 4500 metres of drilling and will test a recently completed reinterpretation of the gold mineralization previously delineated at this property. Recent drilling by Black Pearl Minerals, Argent's partner encountered visible gold in 41 of 61 drill holes, and includessuch intercepts as 319.2 g/t over 5.18 m, 53.7 g/t over 3.5 m, 18.6 g/t over 13.4 m, 5.7 g/t over 12.6 m, and 10.6 g/t over 8.0 m, among several other significant results. Argent considers the results to be indicative of a very strongly mineralized gold system.
The Timmins, Ontario Gold Camp is situated at the western end of the Archean Abitibi Greenstone Belt, one of the great gold and base-metal mineral districts of the world. The eight major gold mines of the Timmins area have produced more than 65 million ounces. The Timmins Offsets Gold Project is located in SW Tully Township, 40 km NNE of Timmins.

5 April 04: Northern Lion Gold Ltd. has provided an update on its continuing exploration program at the Haveri gold-copper property located in southwestern Finland, approximately 35 kilometres northwest of the city of Tampere.

The current drill program consists of a combination of diamond drilling and shallow-hole percussion drilling. It is designed to: (i) test a number of priority targets identified both by past work and by a three-dimensional induced polarization (IP) survey completed by the company in October, 2003; and (ii) further define, expand and upgrade the inferred resources in the Haveri/Shaft and Peltosaari zones, the two primary mineralized bodies previously identified by Glenmore Highlands Inc., in 1999. Field activities at Haveri are supervised by Henrik Wik, MSc (geology and mineralogy), an experienced Finnish geologist, under the direction of John R. Fraser, PGeo (B.C.), vice-president, exploration, a qualified person as defined by National Instrument 43-101.

Drilling commenced in the northern part of the property in early February and seven holes, totalling 1,743.75 metres, have been completed to date on the Peltosaari (two), ME (two), NW (two) and Shaft (one) zones. Two additional holes are in progress, one to further test the Shaft zone at depth and the other to continue the investigation of a well-defined IP chargeability anomaly associated with the NW zone.

At present, drilling is being carried out by two core rigs, both operated by Suomen Malmi Oy (SMOY), Espoo, Finland, which produces NQ2 core with a diameter of approximately 51 millimetres. Drilling to date has been slower than anticipated, as a result of mobilization and technical difficulties encountered in the initial holes. The pace of drilling has recently accelerated with the resolution of these difficulties. The current exploration program calls for a minimum of 8,000 metres, approximately 30 holes, of drilling to be completed on the property, including the contiguous, 100-per-cent-owned Ansomaki claim.

The company has now received fire assay results for the first two holes, ME-01 and P-01, which were designed to test the continuation downplunge or downdip of the mineralization previously identified in the Main/Shaft zone and Peltosaari zone, respectively. 

Hole ME-01 extended 255.80 metres and intersected highly altered  and brecciated mafic and felsic volcanic rocks containing trace to minor amounts of pyrite, pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite as disseminations and in quartz veins and veinlets. From 102.0 metres to 221.45 metres, these rocks are characterized by highly anomalous gold content, including fine-grained metallic gold in narrow (plus/minus several millimetres) quartz veins at 117.5 metres and 118.0 metres.

23 January 04: Argent Resources Ltd. has disclosed that diamond drilling and exploration personnel have been mobilized to the Timmins Offsets gold property. Drilling is expected to begin next week. The drill program will consist of approximately 4,500 metres of drilling and is designed to test a recently completed reinterpretation of the mineralization previously encountered on this property.

The most recent drilling in 1997, by Black Pearl, produced visible gold in 41 of 61 drill holes, and included such intercepts as 319.2 grams per tonne over 5.18 metres, 53.7 grams per tonne over 3.5 metres, 18.6 grams per tonne over 13.4 metres, 5.7 grams per tonne over 12.6 metres and 10.6 grams per tonne over eight metres, among several other significant results. These results are indicative of a very strongly gold mineralized system, and Argent is anticipating significant enhancement of the deposit.

The Timmins, Ont., gold camp is situated at the western end of the Archean Abitibi greenstone belt, one of the great gold and base-metal mineral belts of the world. The eight major gold mines of the Timmins area have produced more than 50 million ounces, with a weighted average gold grade of 0.26 ounce per ton. The Timmins Offsets gold project is located in southwest Tully township, 40 kilometres north-northeast of Timmins.

Bryan Joseph McKay, BSc and MSc, PGeo scientist (Ontario), is the qualified person, as defined by National Instrument 43-101, for the Timmins Offsets gold project.



Notes & Miscellany


27 Dec. 04:  New York was wonderful:  a lot of writing and a lot of walking.  And I found my new favourite graffito.

14 Dec. 04:  I hope everybody's getting ready to start the holiday festivities. I'm off to New York tomorrow. I stay in Manhattan a couple of days, and then I take the train upstate to visit with family.  I'll be back in Vancouver the day after Christmas.  More posting then.

8 Dec. 04: I have never met a seriously drug-addicted woman who called herself a feminist, but I know more than a few professed feminists who drink a ton. I asked my friend Kat to explain this for me.

28 Nov. 04:  It's finals and grading time at my school, so basil.CA posting will remain light for awhile.

15 Nov. 04:  Condi Rice will be an iffy Secretary of State. There's nothing diplomatic about her personality or her history.  I remember when she was hired as the Stanford University Provost in the early 1990s, her main job was budget reduction, and numerous academic and other programs complained that they had no say in what was cut; Rice wouldn't even meet with department representatives.  "I don't do meetings," she noted, imperially. Except when George W. Bush is in the room, apparently she is still reluctant to "do meetings."  She has not shown that she has a gift for persuasion, or for compromise, or for understanding an opponent's point of view. I pray she blooms.

4 Nov. 04: An old friend from college writes:  Yesterday, I felt like someone who had known for a long time that his lover was going to leave him. I'd pre-grieved. For more than a year I had obsessed, cried, lost sleep and tried everything possible to make her stay. So when she finally did it Tuesday night, I was ready: time to accept the world and move on. And then I went home last night. 

You know how when a relationship ends, everything serves as a reminder: a song, a scent, some romantic artifact? Odd as it sounds, that's how I felt last night. Piles of magazines, newspapers turned to the political pages, my Kerry/Edwards coffee cup, everything mocked. Even looking at the clock reminded me of how I made sure not to miss the news on Saturdays, hoping to find some positive poll number, some reason to hope. And for what? She left as I knew she would. My country broke up with me and I don't understand what happened. Warren Zevon's "Hasten Down the Wind", which Linda Ronstadt covered, always reminded me of my friend C.’s old boyfriend, when she began to grow and slip away from him. The line is,  "She's so many women. He can't find the one who was his friend." That's how I feel about my country right now, and that's the part that hurts. 

28 Oct. 04:  I was in class teaching when the Boston Red Sox won the pennant last week and when they won the World Series last night. It's an odd sensation to be surprised by one's own feelings:  I wasn't at all unhappy that I missed my favourite team make history.  Class was a gas. It pretty much always is.

18 Oct. 04:  A few years back, Kato Kaelin (OJ Simpson's noted houseguest) was being interviewed by Jay Leno, who asked Kaelin how he dealt with all of the derision and mockery he'd received. "My old friends were with me. A person can't make new old friends," he said, with a wisdom I hadn't anticipated. I think of that line a lot.  Last weekend my friend Carda flew up to Vancouver from Bakersfield, California to see the city for the first time and to see me for the first time in almost ten years.  What a joyful time we had.  The experience of loving and loyal friendship stretched over long periods of time is a nectar the young don't taste.

Last week my oldest friend, Al, forwarded along the above photograph, which I had never seen before.  Back in 1978 I had convinced him to quit college and hitch-hike with me up to Alberta.  (His dad took the photo the day we left our hometown of Fairport, New York.) In Calgary we parted ways, for what was supposed to be a brief time:  I wanted to take a side-trip up to Lake Louise with a girl I'd just met. I never managed to return for Al, who after waiting for me for weeks left Calgary and hitch-hiked his way to Colorado, where he had been going to school.  On the way there he became a born-again Christian.  A few months later Al caught up with me, punched me, and forgave me. (It took me quite a bit longer to forgive myself.) When we were in high school, Al and I used to crack each other up imagining what it would be like to be old friends together.  (Would we have rocking chairs?) Well, *this* is what it's like.  We haven't seen one another in twenty years, and we live thousands of miles apart, but we are connected through time and at our cores. You can't make new old friends.

7 Oct. 04:  In this month's Harvard Business Review there's a very important article titled "Presenteeism: At Work, But Out of It."  The word "presenteeism" is an analog to "absenteeism" and refers to employees whose lack of performance is much harder to measure than their absentee workmates' is. "Employers are beginning to realize that they face a nearly invisible but significant drain on productivity [...] the problem of workers being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning. By some estimates, the phenomenon costs U.S. companies over $150 billion a year – much more than absenteeism does. Yet, it's harder to identify. You know when someone doesn't show up for work, but you often can't tell when, or how much, poor health hurts on-the-job performance. [...] The fact is, when people don't feel good, they simply don't perform at their best. Employees who suffer from depression may be fatigued and irritable – and, therefore, less able to work effectively with others. Those with migraine headaches who experience blurred vision and sensitivity to light, not to mention extreme pain, probably have a hard time staring at a computer screen all day."

What struck me most forcefully in the article was the list of ailments that lead to presenteeism -- depression, allergies, migraines, asthma, arthritis -- ailments that can be made invisible to one's colleagues.  (Also on the list was "chronic lower-back pain -- without leg pain."  You can't hide leg pain the way you can back pain.) Why would you want to make these ailments invisible?  One, you want to work.  Two, you don't want to be disbelieved:  These conditions are not so much diagnosed as they are self-reported:  And you can ask anyone who suffers from depression, as an example, how much understanding he or she gets from friends let alone from colleagues at work.

The article's author, Paul Hemp, might have pointed out how the word "present" is already used in a similar context.  Mentally ill people who have a shot at getting a job are said "to present well" -- that is, to hide their condition well enough not to be stigmatized by it, well enough to be allowed to work.

1 Oct. 04:  I pay my bills and submit my invoices on time, but otherwise in matters of paperwork I am a shameful laggard, as the administrative staff at Kwantlen University College keeps finding out. Yesterday a woman in the School of Business head office emailed me regarding an item to which I had not yet attended.  The email began:  "Mr. Basil, I have somehow missed hearing from you."  I have learned that Canadians are never so polite as when they are finding words to indicate that this is the last straw.

23 Sept. 04:  This has been a month of family milestones.  I know that my son, Miles, who turns 18 today, will excuse his Dad's pun the way he has happily and patiently excused, pretty much from the time he was born, a good deal of Dad's eccentricities.  His mother and I have known that our son has been an adult for a long time.

16 Sept. 04: My parents, George and Maureen Basil, travelled west to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in Vancouver.  My sisters Maria and Jenny, and Jenny's husband, Frank, flew here as well, and took turns staying in the city with me and on the Sunshine Coast with my brother Chris and his family.  A week-long visit: A lot of flowers, a few limos, dancing and dining, clear sky, good wine and beer, and lots of love. (That wonderful photo of my parents was taken by my six-year-old niece, Zoe Basil.)

3 Sept. 04: "Basil in Brief" has been updated.  It's still brief.

31 August 04: A New York buddy (and Yankees fan) writes:  "The Presidential election is my baseball season this year. Right now I'm totally focused, though I'm trying, I'm trying real hard to disengage so the pain will be more bearable when the time comes. (I'm reminded of Samuel L. Jackson in the last scene of Pulp Fiction: 'But I'm trying, Ringo, I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd.') Four years ago sitting in Yankee Stadium for Game One of the World Series against the Mets, I gave myself a hypothetical: The Yankees or Gore? I went with Gore. So the Red Sox can win it all as far as I'm concerned, as long as Kerry wins it all. (Double win for you.) That's all that matters right now. I want to love my country.  The Purple Heart band-aids [passed out at the Republican Convention] tell you all you need to know about who the Republican delegates are and what they really think of men who risk their lives in war: If you're a Republican, you're a hero who risked his life in defense of liberty and freedom. If you're a Democrat, you're a chump.  They are vile."

25 August 04: There won't be any new entries for the next few days, as I'm flying down to Portland, Oregon.  Purpose:  To spend a couple of days browsing through the world's best used bookstore, Powells City of  Books.  The inventory of this place is so deep that it has four copies of one of my books, and five of another. (Average rank on  about 1,000,000.)

19 August 04: Paranoid people believe you know what they're talking about (when often you don't).  That's why they can be as merry as they are afraid.

18 August 04:  This bit of video is hilarious.

3 August 04:  I still miss a number of things about the United States: good newspapers, fast food served swiftly, the way people sound in Georgia.  What I miss most is what I call "extreme radio": talk and call-in programs that focus on conspiracy theories, Satan, UFOs, magical human transformations, rifle maintenance, paranoia, the one true truth, Bakersfield cow disappearances, and polygamy. Canadians just don't have that obsessive, one-big-idea *zeal* that characterizes most Americans, and our radio is less inventive. My favourite "extreme radio" show was always Dave Emory's "One Step Beyond," hundreds and hundreds of hours of programming that's still exploring topics like mind-control, the CIA, cults and serial killers, and the Nazi influence on American corporate and political life. (A typical program listing reads:  "Knights Of Malta, Parts 1 and 2: Covers the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a lay military order of the Catholic Church which wields tremendous international political power. Particular emphasis is on the profound influence the Knights wield on the U.S. national security establishment. 60 minutes.") (Another real good one: "M4 -- Gloria in Excelsis: The CIA, Women's Movement and the News Media: Details Gloria Steinem's background in the CIA and her numerous connections to reactionary political elements. In addition, the program sets forth the relationships between the publishing empire of Katherine Graham and the CIA. 150 minutes.") The shows are scholarly, detailed to a byzantine level, and annotated.  You don't need to buy the theory to learn fascinating stuff.  (You probably know the story of Mary Kay La Tourneau, the teacher who went to prison for having sex with, and bearing two children by, one of her underage students.  (She's being released tomorrow.) But did you also know that her father, who received a million votes in the 1972 Presidential election, was such an extreme right-wing zealot that he was kicked out of the John Birch society?  Or that he greeted people with the Nazi salute and had a dog named "Kaiser," and had a second, secret family that lived in Germany? And did you know that La Tourneau's brother acted as George Bush Sr.'s lawyer during the Iran-Contra hearings? This goes on and on, mesmerizingly.  Synopses of all of Emory's shows are online, as are most of his actual broadcasts (in real audio).

1 August 04:  Thanks for your emails. I'm fine – the bruises are pretty much all gone.  At any rate, it was not too terrible of an event, more depressing than scary.  (I found out that I am not afraid of physical violence -- speaking of learning from traumas.) The attack wasn't even the most important thing that happened to me that day, or that hour, in fact.  I was coming home from visiting my friend Violet -- the Princess of Pigeon Park. She had scolded me for talking to somebody I wasn't supposed to -- much of our  conversation typically concerns how to behave properly in her neighborhood!  I told her, "Geez, I'm so stupid."  "No.  You are not," she replied.  She had a bouquet of flowers -- this is a woman who buys herself flowers – and she gave me one.  "I love you, Bob." (She had never told me that before.) It occurred to me only after I got home that (a) walking back to my neighborhood holding a flower might have made me a good target (gay!), and (b) in all the bloody commotion, I had forgotten to find my flower and bring it home (damn).  Violet looks as tough and beautiful as ever, but her voice is only a whisper these days. You can be sure I would not have been attacked had Violet been with me.

26 July 04:  MIT's "open courseware" is a free educational resource for faculty, students, and "self-learners" around the world. There are more than 700 courses now online, each including a syllabus, calendar, readings, extensive lecture notes, assignments, and miscellaneous study materials.  It is a spectacular gift.

20 July 04:  I've been physically beaten up twice as an adult. Each time my attacker believed I was gay.  In Mountain View, California a number of years ago I was at a club with a female companion who looked particularly boyish that day in an old gray sweatshirt. An hispanic guy told us to leave; I asked him why, and he became incensed:  He threw me across the room, then leapt on top of me, and started punching. (My shoulder was dislocated.) The bouncer pulled the man off, then ordered my friend and I out of the club:  The entire place jeered us on our way out.  It was bewildering, or it was until my friend said, "They think I'm a man."

Late last Saturday night I was walking home to the West End from a friend's place downtown when a car skidded to a stop right behind me.  A man leapt out of the backseat and kicked me in the face. On the ground I curled up into a ball and covered my head, which he continued to kick until a group of women came around the corner a few moments later. "Why are you doing this to me?" I asked him.  "You're a faggot," he said.

Generally I very much like Vancouver cops, but I must say that I was disappointed by the officer who showed up after one of the women called 911.  "Are you sure you didn't upset him in some way?  Did you cross against the light, or give him the finger?"

17 July 04:  I attended my son's high-school graduation back in New York last month; I certainly enjoyed his ceremony more than I did my own:  It was swifter, friendlier, and generally more celebratory, and I didn't get a stiff neck.  Of the 400 graduates, ten were named Ashley, and there were nine Amandas. (Gone is the Age of Jennifer.) The day had one bittersweet note:  Fifteen graduates were heading directly for service in the Armed Forces, yet no mention of their commitment was given by any of the speakers that day.  Indeed, these students received scant applause when given their diplomas, leading me to wonder how purposefully recruiters at my son's school targeted the lonely.

14 July 04:  Rush Limbaugh actually said this today: "If you're down, turn off the partisan media. Just turn off the TV, don't read anything. Just listen to this program for three hours every day and be done with it, and go to my website. This is not a plug. I'm just thinking of you." Hilarious. I should confess that for a few months there, back in the early nineties, my media intake *did* consist solely of Limbaugh three hours a day.  I had no TV, I was in between jobs (and in between girlfriends, obviously), and I was trying to "learn conservative." At any rate, Limbaugh had not yet become the blowhard he is today; he still made honest attempts to persuade.

5 July 04:  Reflecting on the War in Iraq War during her 2004 commencement address at the all-women's Barnard College, author Barbara Ehrenreich said that her belief in "a certain kind of feminism" died after she saw those photos of women toruturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. "It was a kind of feminism that saw men as the perpetual perpetrators, women as the perpetual victims, and male sexual violence against women as the root of all injustice. Maybe this sort of feminism made more sense in the 1970s. Certainly it seemed to make sense when we learned about the rape camps in Bosnia in the early 90s. There was a lot of talk about women then -- I remember because I was in the discussions -- about rape as an instrument of war and even war as an extension of rape....

"It's not just the theory of this naïve feminism that was wrong," she said. "So was its strategy and vision for change. That strategy and vision for change rested on the assumption, implicit or stated outright, that women are morally superior to men. We had a lot of debates over whether it was biology or conditioning that made women superior -- or maybe the experience of being a woman in a sexist culture. But the assumption of superiority was beyond debate. After all, women do most of the caring work in our culture, and in polls are consistently less inclined toward war than men. ... Gender equality cannot, all alone, bring about a just and peaceful world. What I have finally come to understand, sadly and irreversibly, is that the kind of feminism based on an assumption of moral superiority on the part of women is a lazy and self-indulgent form of feminism. Self-indulgent because it assumes that a victory for a woman - whether a diploma, a promotion, a right to serve alongside men in the military -- is ipso facto -- by its very nature -- a victory for humanity. And lazy because it assumes that we have only one struggle -- the struggle for gender equality -- when in fact we have many more. The struggles for peace, for social justice and against imperialist and racist arrogance cannot, I am truly sorry to say, be folded into the struggle for gender equality." 

Doorway near Pigeon Park, Vancouver (Canada Day, July 1, 2004)

21 June 04:  No new basil.CA posts for the next week or so:  I'm flying to New York City to visit friends, then taking the train upstate to see my son graduate from high school. (I've been humming the melody to "Sunrise, Sunset" a lot these days.)

21 June 04:  One of the satisfactions of living in my neighborhood is that smart people are always writing about it.  This is from a funny-sad article called "We Give a Name to the Malodorous" in this week's Westender

What's that smell? Bute & Davie.

Smells like...Arguably the West End's most unfortunate intersection (particularly the short northside stretch that leads to the liquor store and produce market) where, in one fell swoop, you can witness the city's failure to adequately address its homelessness problem. Drunkenness, public drug use, panhandling, general belligerence and despair, futile attempts to sell you back the items that were stolen from your garbage... it's all here, and it stinks. 

What it is: Kind of an abstract notion, but this place proves you can actually smell crushed dreams.

6 June 04:  I have hardly been able to emerge from 1980s-era flashbacks since the news of Ronald Reagan’s death yesterday.  During the Reagan years I was very unhappily married to a woman whom I adored; Stanford University gave me a graduate fellowship and made me a scholar; and Paul Kurtz took me into his publishing empire and made me an editor.  In New York and in California I read, I ran, I wrote, I slept, I drank. All a lot, except for the sleep, the lack of which is only partially explained by the birth of my son, who is set to graduate from high school in two weeks. In short, when Reagan was president, my faults flowered fully, along side of my gifts.  I have fewer of each now, and have managed to keep some of the ones I liked the best. 

4 June 04: Speaking of Kat, this morning she came up with my new favourite insult, to describe a grumpy pal of ours: "He has a pickle shoved so far up his butt that it makes him hiccup dill."

2 June 04: I joined Amnesty International last year the day after Christmas.  My friend Kat was staying with me for the holidays, and we ran into a volunteer, a clipboard in her hand, outside of Hamburger Mary's, where we had gone to address the holiday cheer of the prior evening with omelettes and homefries.  It was freezing cold and snowing and, being in Canada, it was also a holiday, Boxing Day, so I was very much impressed by the dedication of this volunteer: a pink- and blonde-haired, pert and punky cherub whose black scarf swept the sidewalk. She had a runny nose, and it was time to declare my devotion, with a signature and a cheque. Excepting the Red Cross, Amnesty International is the only organization whose goals are completely in concert with my own, politically. Here is its most recent report on Canada. And right here is its rather more lengthy synopsis of human-rights abuses in the United States. 

22 May 04:  To celebrate the Victoria Day long weekend (another reason to love Canada), I went shopping for some sheet music, found some (Vladimir Rebikov's "Silhouettes: Nine Childhood Pictures for the Piano"), then decided to scoot down to my favourite bookstore, the radical, volunteer-run Spartacus, only to find that it had burned down. Arson:  No one's been arrested yet.  I think I'm going to cry all day; I loved that place.  Without the books, broadsheets, zines, and journals I could find only there, I would be a cretin.  Volunteers are hoping to rebuild the bookstore.   You can send donations to the Spartacus Books Fund at the CCEC Credit Union, 2250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5N 5P9.

14 May 04:  Passive aggressives make their problems your problems.  Aggressive aggressives assure you that you are the problem. 

12 May 04:  Torture of POWs is forbidden by international agreement more for practical than for ethical reasons:  If we torture your prisoners, you might retaliate by torturing ours. It's hard to imagine American and British soldiers allowing themselves to be captured alive now, when they know what's probably in store for them.

Author David Swanson points out: "What has been done to prisoners in Iraq is not entirely unlike common occurrences in prisons in the United States. Rape, torture, and murder happen in U.S. domestic prisons with a frequency that would appall most people if they knew about it. Human Rights Watch and other groups have worked to document these problems in the world's largest per-capita prison system, a system that is also one of the most secretive and which suffers from an uninterested media. Of course, various members of the Army, Guard, and Reserves have previously worked in U.S. domestic prisons, not to mention the legal limbo of Guantanamo Bay - the disturbing accounts from which have not terribly interested our visually stimulated media."

To which I would add:  One can understand the retribution meted out on society by former inmates brutalized and humiliated by American prisons.  You've turned one another into garbage.

11 May 04:'s Hit-and-Run site has posted a link to a BBC story describing Iraq's war-crimes tribunal. I had to respond with a comment. (Additional, apropos, and recommended reading today is Mike Niman's piece The Privatization of Torture.) 

6 May 04:  My summer Applied Communications class started this week. My students are delightful.  See what I am asking them to learn.

30 April 04: I told an American buddy that numerous other friends south of the border have said they might move to Canada if Bush is re-elected.  To which my buddy replied:  "Be thankful we don't invade." Relations aren't that bad yet, but neither are they too good.

23 April 04:  "Under Florida law, illegally obtaining more than 28 grams of painkillers containing the narcotic oxycodone — a threshold exceeded by a single 60-pill Percocet prescription — automatically makes you the worst sort of drug trafficker, even if you never sold a single pill," writes libertarian Jacob Sollum. "Even if, like Richard Paey, you were using the drugs to relieve severe chronic pain." Paey was just sentenced to 25 years in prison.  Read Sollum's complete ReasonOnline article here and feel terrible.

18 April 04:  I was afraid the International Communist League (ICL) had gone under; there hadn't been any new material on the group's  website for about a month.  This cadre of Trotskyists brings a real female orientation to its economic and political analyses.  (So far as I can tell, the group's leaders and the editorial board of its flagship publication are for the most part female. Those whom I have met personally, in San Francisco and in Vancouver, have impressed me as being erudite and dynamic.) I was thus pleased when yesterday two new pieces were uploaded to the ICL website, including Marriage and the Capitalist State, which begins: Why anyone not under social pressure or economic duress would voluntarily enter the bonds of matrimony is, of course, one of life’s mysteries. Nonetheless, it appears that these days the only people who actually want to get married are the only ones President Bush wants to stop: gays and lesbians. ... Absolutely, they ought to have the right to marry. And just as absolutely, we socialists fight for a society in which no one needs to be forced into a legal straitjacket in order to get medical benefits, visitation rights, custody of children, immigration rights, or any of the many privileges this capitalist society grants to those, and only those, who are embedded in the traditional 'one man on one woman for life' legal mold.

The piece continues: Apocalyptic predictions of the end of civilization if gays are allowed to marry are obviously hysterical fantasies; at the same time, gay marriage in itself will not end the often deadly prejudice and pain gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people encounter every day in this homophobic, anti-sex society. But that pain makes it even more important to fight for every possible democratic right, every form of social and political equality that can be wrested from this society. 

It is a vital task of the workers revolutionary vanguard to fight for full democratic rights for
gays—including, today, marriage rights—and to fight to win the working class to this cause. 

17 April 04:  Please pardon the meagre postings of late.  It's a combination of getting my taxes together and finishing my grading while trying to fight off some lingering (minor but certainly rather bothersome) ill health.

12 April 04:  I've been living in Canada for eight years, and I still forget that "Easter Monday" is a holiday way up here. It's good to imagine what can happen after any resurrection.

12 April 04:  "Bush ran as a 'uniter not a divider,'" a buddy noted with laughter this morning, "and he succeeded ... in uniting half the country against the other half."

6 April 04:  To continue an apparent recent theme, I note that Canadian newspapers have the most charming obituaries. Today Mary Jane Woods writes about her recently deceased father, William Arthur Woods

William Woods was the second of three children born to Irish immigrants, James and Nora Woods, in 1920. They lived in a house on Boon Avenue owned by a group of my father's aunts -- ladies who worked as secretaries and had not married. In those "Irish need not apply" times my father supported his family by delivering handbills after school all over west Toronto. From those days came the lesson that feet were important business capital. He lectured us on the importance of good foot health and in particular how to cut our toenails to avoid having them become ingrown....

After Dad served overseas in the Irish Regiment, he met my mother, Frances Dunne, a legal secretary, at church. They married and together raised and educated five children: Tom, Ted, Mary Jane, Maggie and Louise who grew up to be: a bank CFO, postal supervisor, lawyer, teacher and nurse....

My father read nothing but war history. He said he had promised himself when he was over there that if he ever made it home, he would find out what he had been doing....  My brother, Tom, took my father back to Europe to the beach he had fought on. All Dad said was: "It looks different standing up."...

At his funeral, Dad was called Bill "Wood" rather than Bill "Woods", a mistake he had come to expect throughout life. He lived simply, worked simply and left this world simply.

28 March 04:  I should have mentioned below that Jay Rosen is also the editor of The Revealer: A Daily Review of Religion and the Press, a very useful website.

23 March 04:  Congratulations go to Jay Rosen ... for being called, in the April 2004 issue of Vanity Fair, the Samuel Johnson of the internet. *applause* 

Rosen was my editor and mentor at our University of Buffalo student newspaper The Spectrum.  He was relentless.  Good writing was born of initiative more often than talent, he thought.  Indeed, talented writers who couldn't produce, or who flaked off, earned Rosen's scorn and pity.  I tended to be an erratic young man, and as much as I resented his prodding (which often took place in public), I made sure I worked like a dog for him, making all my deadlines and trying to surpass his original requests, before I'd hitch-hike out of the city to I typically didn't care where.  Jay and I both had some megalomania in us at the time, so we were not friends (friendship came a ways down the road).  That said, the professional standards I have now were ones he branded onto me then -- his was a hard and merciless generosity.

 In a March 20 entry to his very fine blog, Pressthink, Jay -- now the chairman of NYU's School of Journalism -- notes that "the rant is generally not my style." Reading that, I felt such a whoosh of time passing that my ears got cold.  I know that the years have made Jay's a reasonable and friendly authority -- the students he now mentors love him -- but I still never thought this one-time world-great ranter would write those words. 

10 March 04:  When Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi sucker punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche the night before last, driving his face into the ice and breaking his neck, everybody in the city got sick, at first with pure revulsion but then with shame, too. The identification of hockey with Canadian national spirit is almost total.  There is no passing of the puck, as it were:  If something is wrong with hockey, something is wrong with us, each of us.  There is no scapegoating.  As somebody raised in the States, this amazes me. (I tell my students that although I am Canadian, I might as well have been raised on the Klingon home world, and that they will please forgive me my lack of nuance. They do.)

27 February 04: On Tuesdays and Fridays I have a long commute from the West End of Vancouver to the pastoral town of Langley, where I teach college part-time.  I pick up my first bus at 5:42AM, switch to the skytrain downtown, then zip off to Langley from the Surrey Station in a bus that’s getting less and less quiet. With the sun rising earlier, I’m enjoying the trip more, listening in to conversations. Tuesday:

“My son said ‘motherfucker’ yesterday.  He’s three years old!  Monique told me I should put hot sauce on his tongue every time he swears.”

“Won’t work,” said a cherubic toughie whose lips held an unlit cigarette for the entire trip.  “I tried it once, and the next day I came into the kitchen and my little girl was drinking hot sauce from the fucking bottle. It’s beyond hope.  Last week we’re in the car and we hear a siren, and she goes, ‘Shit!  Cops!’  She’s still in diapers!”

23 February 04: Mike Niman was a fellow college journalist back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  He was an activist in the true sense of the word -- indefatigable and heading somewhere – and he founded a student newspaper (originally called, and wittily so, “The Other One,” and later called “The Alternative Press”) to provide information and insight not found in the mainstream student newspaper, at which I was an editor.  Mike was adversarial but always very friendly and thoughtful, friendlier and more thoughtful, typically, than his adversaries, if I remember right. 

He made a splash a couple of years ago with an article called “Was Paul Wellstone Murdered?”  (The text is more nuanced than the title.)  In 2000 he helped coordinate Ralph Nader’s Western New York campaign.  I emailed Mike and asked him whether he was going to be helping Nader in 2004, too. Mike emailed back: 

I won't support him this time around.  There are a few reasons.  First, while I firmly oppose, on principle, voting for the lesser of two evils, I must recognize that these two evils just ain't on the same playing field. The damage that a second Bush presidency could potentially do to the world is almost unthinkable.  First off, Americans can kiss their civil liberties goodbye.  With Kerry or Edwards in the white house, at least we can possibly protest against their policies without being beaten at best, locked away indefinitely at worst. 

So yeah, we're hoping to elect an evil we can fight against, as opposed to an evil who would thwart such an exercise of democratic rights.  People supporting Nader also have to face up to the realization that this is not, nor was it ever, a democracy.  The winner take all system is structurally rigged toward maintaining the status quo.  Exercising our democratic right to support the candidate of our choice at this point in history can lose us what few vestiges of democracy we still have. 

Kerry, the likely nominee, ain't Al Gore. While I couldn't vote for Gore under any condition, I can hold my nose and tolerate Kerry who at lease is parroting a progressive line.  And that's where Nader was successful.  All the remaining democratic candidates sound, at least rhetorically, a little like Greens.  The 2000 race, which saw Bush elected only because the Dems turned their back on their key consistencies, taking them for granted, and ultimately seeing them stay home on election day, has in fact spelled out the death of the neo-con DLC -- the folks that gave us the Clinton presidency, NAFTA, the WTO and so on. 

Bush was elected because the Dems lost their soul.  Now their establishment candidate, Kerry, is a former organizer of Viet Nam Veterans Against the War.  He's at least talking the talk, though I wouldn't expect him to actually walk the walk. This is not the Democratic party of 2000, wanna-be Republicans that they were at the time.  So really, there's less need for Nader today because we made our point and many of our issues are not central to the debate for the first time in 30 years.

That said and done, I'm not against Nader's candidacy.  I studied the numbers and I can argue he really didn't cost Gore the election.  Gore cost Gore the election.  All the Naderites who could stomach Gore already bailed to the Gore camp by election day, fearing the worst case scenario.  Those who voted for Nader would never have voted for Gore anyhow.  That being the case again, it would be good to have Nader in the race -- to keep Kerry honest and looking over his left shoulder instead of following the traditional democratic path and the assuming progressives vote is his as he drifts toward the right as primary season ends and the debates with Bush begin.  So I support a Nader candidacy.  I just don't support voting for Nader.

Mike Niman is an Assistant Professor of Communications at Buffalo State College. Do please visit his excellent website,

20 February 04: Go Stanford!

19 February 04:  Downtown eastside activists and agencies are working to replace the Four Corners Savings Bank, which is closing down, with a financial institution called ... the Pigeon Park Credit Union.  What a name, and what a poignant effort -- sign me up. (For readers who haven't been to Vancouver, Pigeon Park is no park; it's a busy little drug hub – see Pigeon Park Sentences.) 

13 February 04: Palestianian propaganda – and by propaganda I mean media and public relations – has improved in the last year or two.  (The Islamic Association for Palestine's website is now a very useful resource for news and background, its biases being so apparent that, interestingly, they don't get in your way.)  That said, the best propaganda for the Palestinian cause, I've found, still comes from Israeli scholars, in particular historian Benny Morris, a Zionist.  Below is an excerpt from Henry Siegman's recent article in the New York Review of Books:

Many in Israel and in the West may believe Palestinian fears of their eventual confinement in a collection of bantustans to be irrational, or simply a ruse to discredit Sharon's government. But the plausibility of those fears could not have been confirmed more dramatically, or more shockingly, than by what Benny Morris, a leading Israeli historian of Israel's War of Independence, recently said in an astonishing interview in Ha'aretz on January 9, 2004.

According to Benny Morris, recently declassified documents in the archives of the IDF reveal that in 1947, Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders concluded that a Jewish state could not come into being in the territory assigned to Jews by the UN “without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians.... In the months of April–May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.”

This resulted in "far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought," including "many cases of rape [that] ended in murder" and executions of Palestinians who were lined up against a wall and shot (in Operation Hiram).

The dismantling of Palestinian society, the destruction of Palestinian towns and villages, and the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians were not unavoidable consequences of the war declared on the emerging Jewish state by Arab countries. Rather, as Morris repeatedly confirms, it was a deliberate and planned operation intended to "cleanse" (the term used in the declassified documents) those parts of Palestine assigned to the Jews as a necessary pre-condition for the emergence of a Jewish state.

The incredulous interviewer asks Morris, "Ben-Gurion was a 'transferist'?" Morris replies, "Of course." He adds, "Ben-Gurion was right. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here." Indeed, Morris faults Ben-Gurion for limiting the "cleansing" to the 1948 armistice line. "Even though [Ben-Gurion] understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet during the war. In the end, he faltered." Morris believes that it is only a question of time before Israel will have to complete the job begun in 1947 by "cleansing" the entire West Bank as well.

The interviewer asked Morris whether he was not justifying war crimes. Morris replied that the necessity and nobility of the Jewish people's return to their patrimony justified what the Jewish forces did. "There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.... The need to establish this [Jewish] state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them."

10 February 04: "We realize we have made a friend when in a relationship we are able to suppress that special disappointment which follows getting to know him, her, anyone – even oneself – well,” wrote Lionel Abel. It is sweet to remember those first resigned sighs, from my loyal friends. The essence of friendship is neither correction nor therapy.

6 February 04:  There's a well-reported if disheartening article in this week's Georgia Straight by Gordon Laird, "The Politics of Homelessness."  Here's a bit of it: 

About three weeks ago, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) doubled its estimate of the homeless population across Greater Vancouver. From a 1,200-person count in 2002, the current estimate has now doubled to 2,400, GVRD planner Verna Semotuk reports. "Service providers and shelters are all saying that their numbers have spiked," Semotuk says in a phone interview, explaining the dramatic increase in the homeless count. "We're now seeing some of the results of [social-assistance] cuts made two years ago." 

Such widespread and rapid growth is almost unprecedented in post-­Second World War Canadian history. Other centres like Toronto and Calgary have, to some degree, anticipated the boom in homelessness, although both have had mixed success. And with a B.C. provincial government that spends most of its housing dollars on "supportive" housing that offers little relief to the destitute, and a federal government that has yet to champion a national plan on homelessness, Greater Vancouver is proving itself surprisingly vulnerable. 

What really scares everyone, homeless and outreach workers alike, is the new eligibility rules for provincial income assistance that are expected to take effect as early as the end of March. Based on limits that restrict recipients to only two years of benefits in a five-year period, the new rules are expected to cull tens of thousands of people from B.C.'s welfare rolls. (Leaked government documents from last October estimated 29,000 people might be cut off across B.C., and 6,300 in Vancouver alone.) Municipal politicians estimate that the welfare cuts could deliver anywhere from 600 to 2,000 new homeless to the streets of the GVRD. If that maximum figure happens, it would represent an enormous increase in homelessness within two years. 

So what does this mean for Vancouver?

"Absolute disaster," says Mayor Larry Campbell, noting that 2004 began with a cold snap that filled shelters to capacity. "I mean, 200 I might be able to handle, but 2,000, I mean, it just can't happen." 
The plain fact is this: with human overflow from outer municipalities, and with some of those districts clearly ill-equipped to manage existing social problems, downtown Vancouver could see an influx of the destitute from across the region and the province, and possibly end up rivalling Toronto as the homeless capital of Canada. "I would like to not believe that the [Liberal] government would put that much stress, any more stress on the system," Campbell says, struggling to comprehend the possibilities. "It simply can't handle it; it just cannot handle it."

4 February 04: "Many serious Catholics have moral problems with the concept of the miraculous, because it leaves unexplained the dilemma of unanswered prayers from innocent and trusting sufferers," writes Christopher Hitchens in Free Inquiry magazine. "What is to become of them, unless their entreaties happen to coincide with the needs of a deceased celebrity for still more adulation in the afterlife?"  The "deceased celebrity" in question here is Mother Teresa, about whom Hitchens wrote The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, a good attack on the revered but misunderstood and misrepresented nun.  I am liking the political writing of Hitchens less and less these days, but we're still on the same page when it comes to organized religion. 

1 February 04: No political instituation is more overrated than democracy.  It is not intrinsic to justice, to liberty, or to human rights and safety.  Amy Chua, who teaches at the Yale Law School,  writes, "Markets concentrate wealth, often spectacular wealth, in the hands of the market-dominant minority, while democracy increases the political power of the impoverished majority. In these circumstances the pursuit of free market democracy becomes an engine of potentially catastrophic ethnonationalism." We see this happening today, she notes, in "Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Russia and the Middle East." Read an excellent interview with Chua in yesterday's New York Times.

12 January 04:  If I were *too* afraid of sounding ignorant, I would rarely leave my apartment, and I certainly couldn't teach.  Alas, I am only *medium* afraid of sounding ignorant. Today in one of my communications classes, I noted that many businesses pay too little analytical attention to their signage, "to the point that many shops in Surrey even have their signs hanging upside-down." Hands instantly went up, and I was politely informed that hanging signs this way indicates that the business inside has closed down.  Is this a Canadian thing?

8 January 04:  "Fifty years ago, more than half a million mentally ill Americans lived in state-run mental hospitals like the one depicted so searingly in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Today, laws protect the mentally ill from needless involuntary stays. As a result, fewer than 80,000 people now live in such institutions," write Sasha Abramsky and Jamie Fellner in an excellent American Prospect article. 

BUT:  "The revolution in mental health care, called deinstitutionalization, has not [...] lived up to its promises. It is true that mentally ill persons are far less likely to be confined in the bleak, punitive, overcrowded and counterproductive warehouses that passed for hospitals decades ago. Unfortunately, though, it is also true that they are far more likely to be confined in the bleak, punitive, overcrowded and counterproductive warehouses that are U.S. prisons."

When I became a card-carrying member of Amnesty International a couple of weeks ago, American prisons and jails (and the more than two million people who populate them) were on the top of my agenda.


Arts & Letters

31 Dec. 04:  You cannot edit yourself any more than you can tickle yourself, Diane Middlebrook once told me. Better writers understand this. 

28 Dec. 04:  One of America's last truly public intellectuals, Susan Sontag, died today.  I admired her work for its spirit (if not always for its conclusions). "The distinction between thought and feeling," she wrote, "is really the basis of all anti-intellectual views: the heart and the head, thinking and feeling, fantasy and judgment. Thinking is a form of feeling; feeling is a form of thinking." I need to nail that quote to my front door. [Roger Kimball's scathing obituary enumerates some of Sontag's intellectual missteps. -- 29 Dec. 04]

9 Dec. 04:  I just started Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, the second volume of Marjane Satrapi's comic-strip memoir.  Volume one chronicles her life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It's completely endearing.

30 Nov. 04: Recently my son asked me to recommend some good rock-and-roll magazines, and I couldn't think of any American ones still around. (I pointed him to Q Music  and New Musical Express, both from England.)  I honestly don't know why people still buy that stale old Rolling Stone, which stopped being a serious music magazine around the time I graduated high school. The current issue lists and ranks the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."  We get "Hotel California" coming in at number 50, "Maybelline" at 18, while Eminem's surpassingly beautiful and powerful "Lose Yourself" is relegated to number 166 ("the highest ranking song in the last ten years," Slate points out). And no Grateful Dead. ("Friend of the Devil"? "Truckin'"?) At least we get Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (number 179).

29 Nov. 04:  Last night I dreamt that Lisa Germano and I had a conversation about the lyrics on her magnificent album "Happiness."  From the song "Around the World": I lost my head/It was in the waste basket/When I found it I'd give anything/To change the words the words the words that come out of it/ … /Eyes are open/Can I really believe what I see?/Love is everywhere and I could have it/Love is everywhere and I could have it/If I see it/What a waste/What a waste to feel the way I feel/While happiness is just around the corner/'Cause happiness is just around the corner from forgiveness/Once around the world/Could I feel my way around the world?  I need to write this woman a letter.

6 Nov. 04: 
In the current New York Review of Books, Russell Baker reviews the career of journalist A. J. Liebling, recounting Liebling's experience as a young man in Paris with one of the "sporting girls" of the Boulevard Saint-Michel.  Late in his life Liebling would write of her: "To one I owe a debt the size of a small Latin American republic's in analysts' fees saved and sorrows unsuffered during the next thirty-odd years. Her name was Angèle. She said: 'Tu n'es pas beau, mais t'es passable.' ('You're not handsome, but you're  passable.') My brain reeled under the munificence of her compliment. If she had said I was handsome I wouldn't have believed her. If she had called me loathsome I wouldn't  have liked it. Passable was what I hoped for. Passable is the best thing for a man to be. … After that I was with her often. I do not know if she had a heart of gold, but she had what I learned long years later to call a therapeutic personality. She made you feel good."

4 Nov. 04:
A loyal basil.CA reader sent me a friendly election-day double-dinger: an email entitled "Is Bob Cranky Today?" that begins, "Your entry today [on Tom Wolfe, below] was opaque and confusing." I *was* cranky, and it *is* confusing.  Here is what I meant to say: 

Wolfe was my favourite writer for about a year in college, when I was an editor at the college newspaper:  He really opened up my view of nonfiction generally and journalism in particular.  He was very *useful* to a young writer.  His later essays are often very funny, but they are infected with reverse snobbery, which I loathe a good deal more than regular snobbery. From college on, and especially from grad school on, I've run into countless snobs and reverse snobs.  I have always like snobs more:  They think they are better bred than you, and that's fine with me, even on those occasions when they are clearly wrong.  Reverse snobs decry the whole idea of breeding and so not only renounce but *deny* theirs -- they become citizens of the working class, etc., or some other "authentic" class.  They are frauds, not to put too fine a point on it.

And here is what I meant when I said that Wolfe now parrots the Republican party:  He employs clichéd expressions like "the Eastern Media elite" to echo reactionary resentments the same way that party does. I don’t know if being a parrot makes you fraudulent, but it does make you mind-numbing.

3 Nov. 04:
At one time Tom Wolfe was my favourite writer.  (When I was at Stanford, I used to teach The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.) He lost his charm when he started writing fiction.  He lost everything else when he started parrotting the Republican Party.  It's not uncommon for writers to get resentful and ossified at the end of their careers, but it always dismays.

15 Oct. 04:
  I generally don't encourage my friends to describe the comings and goings of their romantic lives, because when they do it's the only time they're not interesting: their stories usually vary so little.  A good break-up tale is especially rare.  Jim Goad's "why i resisted entering a public feud with a cancer patient" is a *great* break-up tale.  It's filled with real pity, the kind that exposes false pity mercilessly.

1 Oct. 04: 
The language used by George Bush in the presidential debate last night relied, as always, on an us-them/good-evil dichotomy that you often find in religion, especially early monotheism.  When the early Jews imagined an incarnation of absolute evil -- Satan, or Lucifer -- this being was given two primary qualities: deceitfulness, and an unwarranted sense of entitlement.  And of whom does that remind you?

24 Sept. 04: Autumn is my favourite time of year, and the annual Vancouver Film Festival is my favourite local event.  It inspires me.  This year's themes:  The Cinemas of East Asia, Canadian Images, German Indies, Cinema of Our Time, Changing the World, and Spotlight on France. Tonight I'm off to see a film made in Iceland, Cold Light, "a warm and tender story about chilling clairvoyance." How could I not?

19 August 04:  I tend to have a thing for crabby women.  (You know who you are, most of you.  *smiles*) I sometimes blame this on musicians and songwriters like Juliana Hatfield and Aimee Mann (above). In "Save Me" -- from the film "Magnolia" -- Mann sings, "You look like the perfect fit/ for a girl in need of a tourniquet."  And in "I Got No Idols" Hatfield warns, "Love me, love, but just don't touch/ I don't like to be touched./ You might think we all need that stuff/ but I don't think about it much./ And when I do, I have to leave the room,/ I'm scared of what I might do." (These last two lines echo that great couplet from the Stones' "Paint it Black":  "I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.") Aimee Mann appears at the Commodore on Granville Street next Tuesday. I'm there.

23 July 04: I have books by Daniel Clowes (that's one of his self-portraits, above) in every room of my apartment as well as in my downtown office. The instant I picked up his new comic, Eightball 23, yesterday, what had been something of a tough week became Christmas morning. 

The current issue of The Comics Journal has a 48-page-long interview with the great Phoebe Gloeckner.  (That's one of her self-portraits, below.) In one part of the interview Gloeckner explains that she started attending punk shows in the early 1980s so that she could vent her hostility by slam-dancing.  Raised by hippies,  she says, "I thought they were slow and stupid. That really bothered me, that kind of stoned quality, and 'everything was beautiful' and 'love the one you're with...' and I just thought, 'What a joke.' It is, you know."

9 July 04:  I've updated and redesigned my little photogallery. (It's best viewed in a 1024 x 768-pixel screen-area format.)

18 June 04: Fantagraphics Books is publishing the collected Peanuts comic strips by Charles Schultz: 50 years worth of work in 25 books. I purchased volume one last week -- $40, Canadian -- and it is wonderful.  You see a young, sad artist begin to find his groove.

Adrian Tomine started publishing his comics in national magazines like Details and Pulse when he still had a couple years of high school left to finish. His own comic, Optic Nerve, is beautiful, and often bleak -- he is an heir to Schultz, certainly; sunny people mystify Tomine, although they *are* his naive heroes.  His recent Scrapbook: Uncollected Work 1990-2004 is gorgeous: There's a ton of full-colour examples of his design and magazine work, as well as record covers he's done for bands like Weezer and the Eels. Also included are several black-and-white strips and sketches that are laugh-out-loud hilarious. It has been a revelation:  I have followed Tomine's work from the beginning, and I didn't realize he had funny in him.

3 June 04:  I've donated my URL to Murray Bush (pictured above with a friend during the 2002 Woodward Building protest) and the fine people at DowntownEastside.CA.  Back in 2001 the original configuration of my website -- an ambitious multimedia affair -- created such a hullabaloo that I was forced to take it down.  (A contributor was receiving threats of real violence;  it was an appalling episode.) The site's next incarnation was a simple, one-person, and text-based production. I felt very much at ease with getting myself into trouble; not so with getting my friends into trouble. And at any rate I was not going to abandon the domain name entirely, because I was indignant and angry.  I'm not anymore.

1 June 04: 
Compared to how often parents denounce and disown their children, it is remarkably rare to see them do so in print. Why? Perhaps because, to anyone outside the writer's particular family orbit, slagging one's offspring utterly undermines one's standing as a parent, and hence one's authorial credibility, too. (The father of cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer, saves his harsh judgments for himself.) I can think of only one example in the genre:  Famous atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair's complete and oft-published rejection of her first son, William Murray, after he became a born-again Christian. (This son was the "Murray" in the Supreme Court Case Murray v. Curlett in which the court banned prayer in United States schools.)

Books by adult children attacking their parents, on the other hand, are everywhere.  Parents, even if they are not dead, can't fight back. This genre, then, allows justice for those children among us who could never defend themselves before, but for the rest it provides a template for a cowardice that is very tempting.

17 May 04: I've written below that I started to study etymology "the way a butcher takes up the harp, with earnest humility and no schedule for achievement." The simplest connections thrill me to no end.  (Do you know that the words "touch" and "toe" and "digit" -- as in "finger" --  share an etymological antecedent with the word "teach," each word sharing the sense of pointing at something?) I keep a mental list of obvious connections that had escaped my notice. This morning I was going over my lesson plans and determined that the word "commercial" probably has something to do with "commerce."  I'm lucky to be allowed outside, let alone teach college-level business communications. *smiles* 

13 May 04:  My office recently leased a Minolta Fiery X3e, which is a printer, copier, and scanner. Now I can run off professional-quality prints of my photographs right down the hall, as large as 11-by-14 inches. I could not be more thrilled, because now every aspect of my favourite hobby is up to me:  from taking the picture and selecting files for modification via Corel Photopaint or Adobe Photoshop Elements software, to publishing the results on the internet or sending them off to friends and clients through email, to choosing paper for printing.   No waste, and no waits.  (Visit Photo District News' online-gallery series and inspire yourself.)

30 April 04:  For those of us still waiting for Richard "Chich" Chon's Western Swing album to come out, we can wait while listening to music from his fine Cajun band, Courtableu. Favourite new cut: "You Low Down Dirty Dog."

26 April 04:  "Write a book of poetry in which the letter B never appears. See if anyone notices." This is one of Jonathan Mayhew's very charming writing experiments.  Another is: "Write non-stop for 6 months, in every waking hour not devoted to any other necessary activity." (I once knew a person who pulled this off, with nifty results.)  The following experiment is one I've been trying:  "Write an autobiography, but including only events having to do with  particular 'subjects' (cooking, jazz, landlords, shoes)."  (Visit Jonathan's fine blog.)

11 April 04:  And into the "reason for living" category comes the winsome new CD from Mary Lou Lord, "Baby Blue."  Ms. Lord has climbed on out of a couple black holes herself, bless her heart.

5 April 04: Kurt Cobain, who perished ten years ago today, would have loved Charles Burns' serial comic Black Hole, which tells the tale of Seattle teenagers in the 1970s who are infected by a terrible and disfiguring plague.  It is a profoundly beautiful book, in the same way that the downtown eastside of Vancouver is a profoundly beautiful neighborhood.  No sentimentality, no to-do lists, and your existence is on the end of a fork.  You can have clarity:  Despair (the absence of hope) and nirvana (the cessation of desire) are closer than cousins.

31 March 04: Dominique van Hulst's recording of "Heaven" -- that old Bryan Adams song -- is so lovely it's staggering. 

28 March 04:  The proverb "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater" has always sounded a bit comical to me, in part because of its archaic derivation in a time before drains, and in part because I know people who throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.

24 March 04: On her National Public Radio program "Fresh Air" this week, Terry Gross presented a very beautiful two-part commemoration of the life of Spaulding Gray. Click here to listen to these programs.

12 March 04:  My parents celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary on September eleventh.  It sounds less odd to say that particular date these days, the noun "nine-eleven" having replaced it to refer to the day the World Trade Center came down.  At first I preferred the use of "September eleventh," because it conveyed gravitas, but now I'm grateful that my parents have their anniversary back, more or less.

After the train massacres in Madrid yesterday, I heard numerous Spanish commentators say, "This is our nine-eleven."  America's former ambassador to Spain likewise noted, "This is their nine-eleven."  A date becomes a proper, alphanumeric noun, which becomes a proper, solely numeric noun, which becomes a generic numeric noun.  I can see where this is going: "The Todd Bertuzzi suspension was the Vancouver Canucks' nine-eleven."  "That rotten exboyfriend was our daughter's own nine-eleven." We shall all have our nine-elevens, out of all proportion. (You watch.)

6 March 04:  “My actions are controlled and shaped to what I am, and to my condition in life,” wrote Montaigne.  “I can do no better.  And repentance does not properly apply to things that are not in our power, though regret certainly does.  I can imagine numberless loftier and better disciplined natures than mine; but this does not make me amend my character, any more than my arm or my mind grows stronger by my conceiving some other man’s to be so.”
An American I once knew told me, “The mode of your very being insults me.”  But for two, my words failed me.  I choose my friends for their faults, and the gulf between good judgment and good discernment is as wide as the life I’ve led.

20 February 04: No one would call me a stern teacher.  This is as much a matter of disposition as philosophy:  I can't do stern very well; I have a much wider range of tones across the sunny spectrum.  (This is something of a fortunate predicament, in that I am not a sunny person by any stretch.) In class the only time I even approach a stern tone is when I talk about copyright issues, in particular the illegal downloading and copying of music, movies, and games from the internet.  (Because what happens in class stays in class – *smiles* – I won't tell you what percentage of my own students are guilty of such downloading; you can probably guess.) 

I will have to come clean with my students, though, and admit that I've been downloading DJ Dangermouse's "Grey Album," which re-mixes the Beatles' "White Album" with Jay-Z's recent "Black Album," with charming results.  Record company EMI, which controls the copyright to the Beatles songs, has sent out a "cease and desist" letter to Dangermouse and to stores and websites that are distributing the album; in effect the company wants to eradicate a new work of art – one, however, that is not denying revenue to the copyright holders, as "The Grey Album" is not a for-profit commercial project.  (When DNA put a dreamy dance beat behind Suzanne Vega's song "Tom's Diner" and released it as a bootleg, Vega's record company went after the re-mixers – DNA was, after all, making a profit off of Vega's work.  Vega suggested that her company release the re-mix as a single and split the profit with DNA, and it became her biggest hit.)

13 February 04:  The best concert I ever attended was given by Courtney Love's band Hole, at a club called The Edge in Palo Alto in November 1994,  the third or fourth stop on the "Live Through This" tour, which had been postponed following the death of Love's husband, Kurt Cobain.   To get as close as I could to the band, I squeezed my way into the mosh pit.  My first mistake was wearing my glasses into the mosh pit, for in moments they were slapped off my face.  My second mistake was trying to find them on the mosh-pit floor.  When I showed up to teach my Stanford University undergrads the next day, I was squinting and badly bruised, which my class properly thought was hilarious.  I wasn't able really to describe to my students why I needed to be that near to the band, or how overwhelmed and inspired I was by the voice and the audacity – and indeed, by the mere living presence – of Courtney Love; I mean: she was living and not dying, and I was, too.  I've never been able to go further than that.

On her new single, "Mono," Love sounds terrible, but precious.  It sounds like she can barely breathe.  Again I am more moved than I can say.

2 February 04: There's an excellent story in New York magazine about the disappearance and probable suicide of monologuist Spaulding Gray.  [Here's a Washington Post story. – 5 February 04]

20 January 04:  "How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead?" sings Patty Griffin in "Long Ride Home."  I love that line.  No personal pronouns.

15 January 04:  This afternoon I have spent way too much office time trying not to laugh out loud.  I’m reading one of Fametracker's many reader forums, this one called “Tired Movie Clichés.” 

The hero is trying to solve an unsolvable case. He's got evidence spread out all over his desk/ counter/ dining room table. He's been staring at it for days. He's unshaven and bleary-eyed. Suddenly, he has a fit of frustration and rage, sweeping all of the carefully laid-out evidence onto the floor.

Collecting himself, he kneels down to pick it up. But then he freezes and stares. It turns out that the evidence has fallen onto the floor in such a way as to reveal a previously unnoticed clue, cracking the case wide open.

My favourite movie cliché is “the slow clap.”  The outsider or scapegoat has just finished delivering a speech of breath-taking bravery and truth, qualities that have not been witnessed by anyone in the town in years.  The crowd reacts with stunned silence.    The camera does a 360-degree pan.  Then you hear it:  A single clap from a single man (it is always a man), then another several seconds later, then another – and he is joined by another soul who has just seen the light.  Within thirty seconds the entire crowd is applauding and shouting its approval.  I cannot imagine “the slow clap” ever having actually occurred outside of a movie theatre.

13 January 04:  My 17-year-old son recently asked me what I thought of the book Catcher in the Rye.  I wrote him, “J. D. Salinger is a romantic, and by that I mean he believes in a human ideal of innocence exemplified by children, away from civilization, etc.  Innocence is overrated, in my opinion.  Children can be the cruellest people, and the cruellest adults are cruel because they are acting like children:  greedy, and with no empathy, no understanding of complication. Salinger's ideal world is just the stupid dream of an adolescent with a gift for what some people think are fine sentences.”  (It should be noted, however, that from the time he was a toddler my son has been an exceptionally empathetic person – the exception who proves the rule.) 

In the December 2003 Harvard Business Review (not available online), Judith Martin – i.e.,  Miss Manners – makes my point with a good deal more subtlety:  “The particular conventions of each society have to be memorized.  But the basic principle behind etiquette is thinking from the other person’s point of view, and you have to train for that in childhood.  For a child, empathy is a counterintuitive lesson that must be taught and retaught from an early age.  That doesn’t mean that a well-mannered child will naturally grow up to be empathetic.  Maybe she will; maybe she won’t.  But she will at least learn to behave as if she is, which will make her socially acceptable.”

2 January 04:  By the time I met Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, he was a lawyer who vetted manuscripts as a favour to my then-boss, Paul Kurtz, owner of Prometheus Books Inc. Kurtz told me that Stefan had been a very successful musician in a former life, and a mathematician, too.  His father was the great German-Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg, whose sponsorship of Mahler helped bring that composer's work out of disrepute. 

When Leonard Bernstein died, I asked Stefan if he'd known him.  He sure did know him, having served as an assistant director for Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein smoked several packs of cigarettes a day, and Mengelberg said his key job during concerts was to have lit cigarettes ready for Bernstein backstage in between the curtain calls and encores.

Bernstein is holding a cigarette in the photograph on the cover of my new "St. Matthew's Passion" CD.  It is a truncated, English language recording. I had never heard this piece in English before last night, and it sounded wonderful! I've listened to other "St. Matthew's Passion" recordings literally hundreds of times, and read the Gospel According to Matthew thousands of times, yet only last night did it occur to me to ask myself, "How did the author of this Gospel know what Jesus said in Gethsemane, if the disciples were all sleeping?"  I am certain that during my years at Prometheus I must have read – indeed, perhaps even studied – any number of explanations, but apparently I have forgotten them all. Bernstein made Bach and the Bible feel new for me last night.


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  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).