Saturday, June 12, 2021

Happy Anniversary, Indiana Jones!

 Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is my favorite movie, bar none.  The funny thing is that I avoided it at first because I thought it was about religion--some story I read featured the ark or something.  The second funny thing is that the first time I saw it was at summer camp, and the van for the group (the kids who stayed a full 8 weeks got to go to town during the evening in between 4 week sessions) was late.  We came in just as Marion was drinking the big dude under the table.  Yet even if one loses the first part, one of the greatest openings to any movie, and the MF snake in the MF plane (way before Sam Jackson), the movie still rocks.

So, why do I love it so? 

  1. The tagline for the second movie described the first one so well: "If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones."  Just so much great action, thrilling, even when you know the hero must live.  From the escape from the cave at the start to the bar fight to the sequence from the tomb to the plane to the truck chase to the sub scene to the opening of the ark, the movie just grabs you (or me, anyway).  
  2. Indiana Jones is such a great character.  Smart, clever, resilient, funny, flawed, human (he gets hurt and feels the pain).  
  3. Marion.  I married a snarky brunette with freckles.  Coincidence?  I am not sure.  Marion was the first female action hero that I can recall.  She was not just pretty, but she was determined, resourceful as her ability with a skillet against bad guys demonstrated, and, yes, she could drink.  Indiana was a fool to let her go, and we needed the fourth movie, despite its flaws, just so we could get Marion back in our lives again.

  4. The best bad guys.  Not just the cartoonish Nazis--we love seeing Indy beat them and best them--but Belloq.  Whose smarts and arrogance made him a good match, the best match for Indiana Jones of all of the bad guys he faced.  He could not have tricked Belloq into drinking from the wrong cup.  
  5. Did I mention the sequence from the tomb to the plane to the truck chase? Any of those would be the best action sequence in a movie but to have them back to back to back?  Wow.  
  6. Hey, a professor as hero?  Did that shape my destiny as well?  Well, no.  But still, woot!
  7. So much funny stuff along the way.  The movie was just very well written.  
  8. A great score.  John Williams's best stuff?  Not sure but it competes well with his Star Wars stuff.  

One can quibble--that Indiana Jones is a product of imperialism--it belongs in whose museum--and more, but what a great piece of entertainment that still works today.  Its imagery, its quotes and memes, and all the rest are still relevant today and are burned into popular culture.  

So, enjoy the ride as the map shows the hero moving across the world.

Quarantine Report, Week 65: Phased 1

 Ontario is loosening up.  Woot?  Um, not so woot.  Long lines yesterday at clothing stores which have been closed for a few months, the full extent of Costco is now open, and, yes, patios at restaurants.  It is not enough and too much.  It is not enough because the schools remain closed, and the kids could really use just a few weeks of hanging out together.  It is not enough for me because ultimate frisbee can only start in phase 2 in three weeks even though we know that outdoor stuff is really safe.  It is too much in that people are going to let their guards down even as there are variants that are pretty harmful to those who have only had one shot.  Ottawa and Ontario are at about 70% for one shot but only 10% for two.  That latter number will accelerate, but we aren't there yet.  

My basic approach is to be pessimistic in the short run and optimistic in the long run.  I am not confident that Canada will change the travel restrictions soon.  Indeed, last night, I had an epiphany--that there was no way they would change the restrictions until after Trudeau comes back from the G7.  This government cares mostly about optics (except when it comes to having a defence minister who does not know what the job entails) so they would not want to reduce the restrictions at a time where it would make things very easy for PMJT to come back.  So, the "logic" of early July makes more sense in that context.  That and Doug Ford blaming foreigners for his own failed responses makes the Liberals more cautious.

 In a mostly meeting-less week (not a trend, alas), we made much progress on planning a series of CDSN events.  The summer institute's speaker lineup is nearly complete, the Year Ahead in December is getting there, our 9-11 event is 2/3s set, and we have started to go through the many applications for a new Project Coordinator.  I am taking my time on this hire, as I have learned that rushing it does not work out so well.  We have one podcast to record this week before we take a pause.  Our wonderful podcast producer, Melissa Jennings, is traveling and could use a break.  So, after the upcoming week, the next #BattleRhythm will be around Bastille Day, which is actually when I am slated for my next shot.

The baking continues.  I mentioned the s'more brownies I was going to make last weekend.  They were as gooey and as tasty as I had hoped for.  I distributed to our neighbors as I didn't want to cause Mrs. Spew and I to go into sugar shock. The next recipes?  Not sure, but the pressure is on as my family has informed me that I will be cooking and baking at least one night of the Saideman reunion in August.  I am going to have to figure out what worked best over the past year .... that is besides chocolate chip cookie dough pots which are, of course, required.

 

 

 

 

The story at home of late is the aging of Bob.  My daughter insisted long ago that she wanted a cat, and so we got Bob from a shelter.  He turned out to be less cuddly than we hoped, the kind of cat who would take a good petting session and turn it into a good practice first aid session.  In the past few years, he has slowed down.  During the pandemic, he has gotten positively cuddly.  He now limps around the house as his back legs and back bother him.  So, we have moved from mutual suspicion and distrust to detente to pandemic pals.  I have never been a cat person and am a bit allergic (but my daughter suggesting at age 6 or 7 that we get divorced so she could have one house with mom and a cat and another with dad and the dogs causes me to drop the objection).  So, he now insists on being picked up and put on my lap a couple of times a day to hang out for a while, making it hard to type.  But since I regret not spending enough time in the latter days of the lives of dog 1 and dog 2, I figure I can do this for Bob.  We are nearing the stage where we have to start weighing how much pain he is in versus how much he still has a decent life.  We have been through this before, but it does not get easier.  

I will finish on a silly note.  The good news is that I am biking farther and farther, getting more exercise as the weather has been mostly terrific. The bad news that the southern end of my route has both a donut shop and an ice cream truck.  Last week, I had to try the bubble waffle cone.  Well, it was more waffle than cone as you can see.  I also ordered the cookie monster ice cream for complete decadence.  Because the only way through this pandemic is to grab and hold onto (and eat) the sweetest stuff one can find.  Even if it offsets the benefits of the bike ride.  

Good luck finding the sweet stuff while we make our way through the next phases of this thing.






 




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

This Is Canada

 In the aftermath of a mass murder attack, folks tend to say: this isn't America or this isn't Canada.  As Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino noted, this is very much America.  Canada isn't the US--it has less gun violence, its racial politics are different, but, yes, violence is inherent in the system.

We just had an attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, where a driver killed four members of the family leaving the youngest severely wounded and orphaned.  This is not the first attack on Muslims.  An attack on a mosque was only four years ago.  It seems light years away when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Syrian refugees in the face of rising xenophobia and Islamophobia.  Since then, Quebec has passed legislation squarely aimed against Muslim women who were hijabs as well as other religious minorities.  It may be too much to say that the recent violence is state sanctioned but not too far to say that the province has created a permissive environment that allows those who hate Muslims to feel as if they have a legitimate grievance.  

To be sure, this is not just a Quebec thing as that legislation is popular in the rest of Canada, that violence has occurred in Ontario not just this week but often.  That Muslims throughout Canada report hostility and harassment on a regular basis.  

This is a time of hate.  Several things are coming together.  The pandemic and the economic challenges have caused people to seek blame, to be frustrated, to seek to act out.  Fox and its ilk compete to curry with the resentful--putting out the most awful brew of lies and blamecasting.  Social media giants like facebook, twitter, and google have pursued clicks and encouraged others to do so, helping to radicalize folks.  The shift in right wing politics, where resentment boils over, has led to politicians either tolerating awful stuff because they fear electoral repercussions (notice the Republicans buying into the Big Lie, notice the Conservative Party of Canada having fights about whether to go further right or to become more centrist) or embracing it in order to get votes.  The People's Party of Canada is a xenophobic party seeking to use hate to get beyond two percent of the vote.  The centrist parties are reluctant to confront the hate of the so-called populists.  Trudeau criticized the Quebec legislation when it came out a few years ago. Now, he mostly demurs.  

These are very dangerous times for those who are different and for Democracy.  Canada is in better shape since its diversity and its institutions make it hard for the Conservatives to shift further right and still win elections. But the environment is still breeding violence.  Perhaps most Canadians buy into some version of the multicultural ideal of strength from diversity, living with each other, but there are sufficient numbers of folks out there willing to do harm.  This, alas, is Canada.




Saturday, June 5, 2021

Quarantine Report 64: Fluffier Than Before

 Yeah, I have let myself completely go during this pandemic.  Which means I have had the opportunity to notice how daily growth can produce notable changes every once in a while.  Like, when I was growing my beard out, it seemed the same for a while and then suddenly much bigger.  Now, tis my hair which seemed a bit long suddenly feels like I have wings on the sides of my head.  I am the fluffiest I have been since ... high school I guess.   I can feel my hair flop around as I go downstairs or as the breeze blows when I go outside to get the mail. It has been seven months since my last haircut, and the next one will happen after I get my second shot which is still a month or more away.

And, yes, we have both more and less certainty in Ontario.  The authorities now say we of GenX-AZ can mix if we want to, getting Moderna or Pfizer for our second shot or we can stick with AZ.  Of course, the problem with the latter is finding it, since there is not so much of it.  They say that we are eligible for our second shot 12 weeks after our first, but then there are some folks who are getting ahead of that pace.  The good news is that the Ontario authorities are calling all the folks over 80 who have not gotten a second shot.  The bad news is that this is necessary in part because the web-based system was down.  And, yeah, for those hunting shots, there are two paths--the govt locations which book up fast and the pharmacies which require tenacity to find one accepting appointments.  I did go on campus briefly and saw the line for vaccines, so I feel pretty good about getting my second dose (non-AZ, if I want that) as Carleton is only vaxxing students, faculty, and staff.  

It was my first time on campus since ..... October.  Last time, it was to get a flu shot.  This time, it was to pick up 25 copies of a book we are assigning and providing to the participants.  We have a nearly complete roster of participants--emerging scholars, junior military officers, junior policy officers, etc.  We have a nearly complete roster of presenters.  So, the event is in good shape.  A key part of it is to build bridges and foster networking across the traditional divides.  That was supposed to be facilitated by lunches/dinners/coffee/bar time.  So, the event will be online, which not only means less social time but also less time--there is no way I want folks to be on screens for entire days.  The bright side is that we don't have to arrange travel or the like, so it is an easier event to organize.  We have some stuff we have to do, but we are nearly there.

The CDSN and CSIDS are also organizing a couple of 20th anniversary of 9/11 events, so we are working on that as well.  We dropped the 50th anniversary of BattleRhythm this week, so that was a nice marker of how much progress we have made.  As we say on this episode, we really don't know who is listening, but we've had enough folks across town tell us that they listen that we believe we have some listeners and many of them are in or near government.  I am most grateful to Stéfanie von Hlatky for being such a great host, as this has added a heap of worktime to her very busy schedule.  She brings terrific insights, much humor, and great connections that make for great interviews.  Melissa Jennings, the CDSN's Director of Communications, produces each podcast with great care, diligence, and patience.  Paxon Mayer, our PhD RA, helps prep us with the research she does for us.  It is a terrific team, and I am lucky to have them.  Otherwise, we are in the middle of a transition as our previous project coordinator has moved on, and we are in the midst of hiring a new staffer.  If I didn't buy principal-agency theory before, I certainly do now.  

On the Canadian defence scene, there was not too much news this week--just one more senior officer losing his job, this time for uttering the N word apparently.  Two retired chiefs of the defence staff wrote a regrettable op-ed where they worried about the plight of senior officers.  Not a great look, given that this culture that they blame is one that they did little/nothing to change.  It happened on their watch, and now they want to say "hey, due process" at a time where it is clear intra-CAF processes are anything but due.  So, they didn't cover themselves in glory.  My take on that was:

On the personal front, it might best be summed up by this latest google map of where I traveled in May, quite a contrast to the average May where I have done fieldwork in Brazil, South Korea, and Europe.

The farthest north and west I went was to Costco.  The farthest south was biking to Manotick for exercise and for, um, ice cream.  Indeed, the trend of the week was combining exercise with bad eating as I tried out the donut shack and a new ice cream place.  I have lost weight during the pandemic, but most of that was in the first few months.  My plateau since has reflected a balancing of stress exercise, stress baking, and stress eating.  I am guessing next month's map will feature the trip to Carleton as my longest voyage of June.  I am looking forward to the family reunion at the end of July in Philly.  My daughter will make it from LA so I get to see her for the first time since Dec 2019, and it will be the first time seeing everyone else since Thanksgiving of 2019.  Zoom is helpful, but it just isn't the same.  Oh, and samplers of beers in Philly bars await me along with steak sandwiches and pretzels.  We shall see if I have to really quarantine when I get back, as that is what the Canadian border policy calls for.  Will it change by then?  I doubt it.

Time to make some s'mores brownies as the treat of the week--the aforementioned stress baking.  Be well and good luck in this uncertain time!





Tuesday, June 1, 2021

215 and Then So Many More

 Canada has been shaken by the discovery of a mass grave for 215 Indigenous kids at a residential school.  Children from Indigenous families were taken away from their communities and forced to go these schools that were designed to remove their identities and make them as white and as Christian (Catholic, either mostly or entirely, I have not read enough to be sure) as possible.  The conditions at these places caused tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other diseases to thrive, not unlike concentration camps I have toured in Germany, and priests and nuns and others abused the children.  

As an immigrant, I did not have the opportunity to be failed by Canadian schools (my Canadian friends report not getting much info about this stuff when they went to school).  Instead, I learned only a smidge as this stuff was referred to in the citizenship guide we read to prepare for the test:

This text understates the harm as the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that 4,000 children died at these schools--a far higher rate than kids in the rest of the population--and a number that many see as an underestimate.  What always gets me is that these policies and schools continued into the 1990s.  Well, that's not fair.  They continue to this day but in a different form.  Instead of residential schools akin to concentration camps, we have kids taken away from their families due to welfare policies where the parents are seen as unfit due to the scars and legacies of the past--that past oppression and persecution has lead to poverty and other poor conditions, so the state comes in and takes kids away.  

The Commission had all kinds of recommendations including spending money on finding the rest of the mass graves.  It does appear that some of this has been funded, but it is not clear to me why so little progress has been made.  

The US has a similar situation as the equivalent of re-education camps were set up in the US, they had high rates of death and disease and accidents.  I don't know if this stuff is covered in the Native American museum in Washington, DC, as my visit there was cut short.  Each year (except during pandemics), my daughter and I visit a few Smithsonian museums on the Mall in DC.  Three years ago, we went to the Native American History Museum, but we didn't stay long.  My daughter was really uncomfortable with the government that continues to persecute Native Americans curating a museum about them.  There were displays that were critical of the Trail of Tears and about Standing Rock, but I don't remember anything about the damage done to the kids.  

Anyhow, because I didn't know that much about the Canadian experience, I felt a bit more comfortable with genocide being used to describe what the US did to Native Americans than what Canada did to the First Nations.  The more I learn, the more I realize that the word fits only too well.  Much more needs to be done to recognize what happened, to compensate for the damage, and to improve the policies and the realities that the Indigenous people of Canada face.