J Goes to the Movies

I settle into the theatre seat next to my cutie-pie. We’re at the premier of A History of Violence (free tickets, woo hoo) and looking forward to it. Then, to our dismay, we see him: it’s J.

I use his initial only here, because I don’t want to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend by revealing his full name and his infidelity to her in the same article. That’s right: J is not just awkward, boring, and irritating, he’s also unfaithful and dishonest.

Worse, he was a bad friend to a good friend of ours. So there is really no mercy here – nothing to stop me from making fun of, say, his belief that the flair he wears has to be symmetrical. “I have to wear this metal bracelet on my right arm”, he told me earnestly when we first met months ago, “because I have a metal earring in my left ear”.

I pointed out that he had a Transformers Autobot patch on his pants but nothing to counterbalance it. He deflected my criticism deftly, revealing the Decepticons armband he was wearing under his shirt. He had proven his symmetry at the cost of his dignity. We all have to make sacrifices for the things that are most important to us, I suppose.

Now, we are sitting directly behind him. “Shhhhh”, my date whispers. “Don’t let him know we’re here.” Fine by me. The show is about to start anyways, because the woman who’d been plastering Y108 posters around the theatre is about to get things going.

From the front of the theatre she nervously announces what we all know already: she’s from Y108. The good part is that she’s going to give away prizes based on correctly answering trivia questions (doing so at a premier last week had landed us the tickets to tonight’s show, so we are ready for action).

She explains that if you know the answer to the question, you need to stand up so she can point to you and you can shout it out.

“Who did Viggo Mortenson co-star with in Apollo 13?” she asks.

J jumps up along with various other hopeful theatre-goers. “You, in the black shirt and black toque”, she says, pointing directly at him.

“Me? Me?” he asks, looking behind him to see who else might be wearing his outfit. But no one else is wearing a winter hat in September. It’s his lucky day.

More hesitation, more awkward mumbling, cut short as he calls out triumphantly, “Apollo 13!”

The theatre is silent. Instead of answering, he’s just repeated part of the question. Everyone is confused. No one more so, it seems, then the promoter who asked the question in the first place.

“Good job,” she says, “come on down and get your prize.”

It really is J’s lucky day. Not only was he picked to answer, he answered wrong and got away with it, much to the consternation of everyone else. The theatre is awash with discontented grumbling. “Ed Harris!” shrieks a woman indignantly. She had stood up at the same time as J and damnit, she wants her rightful prize. “ED HARRIS!”

The promoter woman starts to catch on. “Wait a second…did you say Apollo 13?” But it’s too late. J is already back in his seat and even though he now knows he was in the wrong, there is no easy exit for him. No one asks him to return the tickets, which he is caressing nervously. A light red flush colors the back of his neck. He is hoping the promoter will just move on.

She does. “What trilogy did Viggo Mortenson previously star in?” she asks. I leap to my feet and bellow “APOLLO 13!” Laughter follows. “Fine,” J says, turning in his seat. “Go head and take my – ” He falls slient as he recognizes me. I look him in the eye and he turns back around.

Take that, you cheating symmetrical bastard.


Dedicated to C. You know who you are, we love you.



Perhaps I shouldn’t care this much about American politics…but I couldn’t help but be overjoyed by this news.

Jury indicts top US congressman

Screw you, Mr. Delay.


Corporate Quislings

China is cracking down further on online expression. New regulations for news websites introduced on Sunday widen restrictions that were already harsh. News websites must be “directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests” according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

The Chinese government has been remarkably successful at monitoring, censoring and controlling the internet. An anti-free speech campaign that combines repressive technology and a willingness to make examples out of people has proven effective.

They couldn’t have done it on their own, and in fact, they haven’t. Western corporations have been happy to help. Microsoft’s Chinese web portal does not allow its users to search for “democracy”, “freedom” or “human rights”. Google agreed to remove “subversive” news from its Chinese news search engine. I read one report that said that searching for certain terms on Google China causes the search engine to stop working for several minutes.

Even worse is the case of Yahoo! and Shi Tao. A journalist who worked for a daily publication called Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News), Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison after Yahoo! helped the Chinese authorities identify him as the source of an email that communicated “state secrets abroad”. The email contained the text of a warning sent to his newspaper by the Chinese authorities not to publish anything related to the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Yahoo! had this explanation for why it helped condemn a journalist to the notoriously brutal Chinese prison system: “Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based.”

Legal, of course, is not the same thing as moral. This is the problem with corporations. By their very nature they are amoral.

They are also disloyal, something we ought to remember as we deregulate. Yahoo! is an American company, but it has no loyalty to the American right to freedom of speech. Money talks, even if it means sending innocents to a gulag. I’m reminded of the willingness of companies to provide Nazi Germany with whatever it needed for the Holocaust. That, after all, was perfectly legal too, according to the “laws, regulations and customs of the country”.

It’s not just web companies that deserve a closer look. Corporations are falling over themselves trying to gain access to the Chinese market. The Chinese government has played this out very cleverly. When they started to open up China’s markets a couple of decades ago, the standard Western thinking was that if the Chinese people had more freedom to make money, they’d have more political freedom too. After all, aren’t capitalism and democracy supposed to go hand-in-hand?

So companies were encouraged to do business in China. But the current situation in China makes it clear that capitalism has nothing to do with democracy. In fact, the corporations who were supposed to help bring freedom to the Chinese people are helping the Chinese government keep it from them.

I think the Chinese government might be even more clever than this. They are threatened by democracy, but when they look at our democracies, they feel reassured.

They see that people in the West care less and less about participating in the governing of their societies and that voter turnout here is declining. They see that people in the West are disillusioned about their democracies and increasingly have no voice, that media and government are more and more corporate, that power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few.

What’s good for the Canada goose is good for the Chinese gander. Rome gave the Romans bread and circuses to keep them quiet, Beijing gives the Chinese Big Macs and Hollywood.

But we do have options. Canada should pass laws that require that companies that operate in Canada adhere to ethical standards internationally. If Canadian individuals can be prosecuted for having sex with minors in East Asia – perhaps even according to the “customs of the country” they happen to be in – then Canadian companies, or Canadian subsidiaries, can be held responsible for helping throw dissidents into gulags.

Vidkun Quisling, Minister President of Norway during WWII, cooperated with the Nazis and handed over Norway to them when they invaded. His name has since become synonymous with traitor. He was later executed for high treason. I wonder what fate lies ahead for the corporate quislings of the 21st century.


Workplace Hazards

Writing isn’t always easy, especially when you have to deal with unscrupulous editors. There’s nothing worse than working hard on something and leaving your desk to return and find it’s been mangled beyond recognition by someone who has only a basic understanding of the English language.


Oracular Spectacular

Next week is an important week for Canadian politics. With all that is set to take place in the House of Commons this fall, one has to expect some explicit posturing and partisan rabble-rousing as Canadian politicians burst from the gates on Monday. I thought it was time to go on record with a brief prognostication of events to come – if only to defend my title as political oracle on Ade. I’m looking to go 2-0 on electoral predictions. So I say there will be no fall election. Let me tell you why.

Harper is wounded and he has no ammo to defend himself. My prediction: the Libs will kick him while he’s down and attempt to defend their record as strong fiscal managers in the process. There is scarcely an issue for Harper to champion, and his public credibility east of Alberta has never looked worse. To put it bluntly, the cards are not in his favour.

The key issues defining the political narrative this fall are well known. Gas prices and softwood lumber are likely to emerge as the first two topics tackled in the opening round of Question period. This follows two months full of national media attention doted on these two topics. The dire situation in New Orleans (and expectantly in Texas) has increased political expediency of both issues – Can-Am relations & gas price controls.

That said it is also expected that the opening of Parliament will usher in other familiar domestic concerns, issues that dominated the political dialogue in Ottawa before the summer recess. This includes an implicit recognition that an election is around the corner and campaigning is already under way.

Justice Gomery will release the first of two reports about the sponsorship scandal on November 1st. This first report is expected to rile public sentiment about a perceived democratic deficit in Canada, and make partisan politics between parties the order of the day. If Gomery’s conclusions are particularly damaging to the Libs (as it is widely expected to be), one could expect the Liberal government to have a major announcement in the works to push the report off the media’s radar. This announcement could define the premise of the next election. More likely however, it will be some form of omnibus tax legislation that includes two components: corporate tax cuts & gas tax relief – more on this in a moment.

It has also recently been revealed that Justice Gomery’s second report, one that will oblige the Prime Minister’s to fulfill his promise to call and election within 30 days, is going to be delayed. This will set back the forthcoming election – by most recent accounts until March (I’ve recently heard rumours that it could be as late as May). However, an election call could come before winter, if the Government loses a vote of confidence in the House. There are two considerations defining this possibility. First, that Conservative leader Stephen Harper is willing to go to the polls before Gomery issues his final report. Second, that the Liberal’s fall agenda is thought to include some kind of confidence vote in the form of a money bill.

Mr. Harper has recently said he would not hesitate to call an election, if it is required to hold the Government accountable for details of the sponsorship inquiry. And while sources in Ottawa suggest that the Liberals want to avoid giving the Opposition undue opportunity to force an early election, I would say they have little to fear. It is rumoured Finance Minister Ralph Goodale’s fall fiscal update will presage the Liberal’s legislative agenda and could contain budget-like pronouncements such as new tax measures. This is similar to the situation before the 2000 election. I would take this rumour one step further and suggest that, given the current context of a weak and distorted Conservative Party, the tax legislation will become a reality before November. It is unlikely that the Liberal’s would lose on such a bill, literally or figuratively. There are two reasons I say this.

First, being bold enough to introduce such a policy would make the government look active and it would be a show of leadership – something Martin is in dire need of having. Second, it would confuse and divide the opposition to the point that the chances for defeat are nil. If the potential legislative ingredients included corporate tax cuts and also a home heating rebate, or some form gas price regulation, the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP would all be at odds to support or deny the passage of the bill. The Tories don’t want to oppose corporate tax cuts (although they could say the cuts don’t go far enough); the Bloc has publicly stated in today’s Gazette that gas prices are the party’s top priority; the NDP too would have a hard time pooh-poohing a home heating rebate. Taken together, I doubt any of them would find ground for a politically expedient coalition to take down the Martin government. (*watch for senior Martinis and the PM publicly criticizing Harper for “holding hands” with the separatists – I suspect this will be the cornerstone of their pre-election smear.)

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
Email me


Proud contributor to
Director, Web Division at