Monthly Archives: April 2006

Finally, a helping hand for bored lonely chickens

Singapore researchers just showed a Montreal conference their “Poultry.Internet” system whereby you can give your pet chicken an intercontinental cyberhug. O Brave New World, that hath such gadgets in it. At last we can begin to live.

Where does one even begin? I suppose by saying chickens are common household pets in Southeast Asia. It’s not as strange as it sounds (how could it be?). I mean, the average cat’s occasional gift of a damp dead mouse does less for your breakfast options than a steady supply of fresh delicious eggs. And what’s with pet snakes? True, a chicken that bounds into your lap carrying your slippers if you ever return from business travelling awaits further cybernetic advances. But hey, a “Poultry.Internet” prototype is here now. Where was this in the science fiction from my teens?

One lingering annoyance is you have to travel with a wireless-enabled chicken doll, which might raise eyebrows at customs. The chickens, pending upgrades, also have to wear special jackets (or, for penguin fanciers, tuxedos), creating an opening for pettifoggers to suggest if someone has to be there to dress the chicken, they could just pet it at the same time. Also, why not program in a petting sequence so the jacket periodically strokes the bird without the tedium of you having to not be there? Continue reading

The ultimate conformist

As the federal Liberals search for the next Trudeau, an embarrassing revelation has emerged about the last one: He was not deep but silly.

Many adults of mature years have been startled by the revelation in Max and Monique Nemni’s new book, Trudeau, fils du Québec, père du Canada, that Mr. Trudeau toyed with conservative Catholic separatism in his teens. Not me. Lots of us hold dumb ideas in our youth. I’m not even particularly upset that, in his 20s, he flirted with the hard left: I’ve always thought his strong reaction to the FLQ crisis was driven in part by unsavoury first-hand experiences with that sort of radicalism.

What has always bothered me, and recently startled the smart set, is the stifling conventionality of his mind. Listen to Lysiane Gagnon’s wounded reaction in the Globe and Mail: “I knew that, like many of his contemporaries, Mr. Trudeau had been appallingly indifferent to the horrors of the Nazi regime … the reality is much worse than I thought … as late as 1944 (he was 25), he admired the writings of notorious French anti-Semite Charles Maurras.” But the worst was his failure to “escape the dominant ideology … far from being the free-minded spirit he appeared to be later on, he was a conformist.” Continue reading

Distasteful, grasping and undignified chest-thumping

“A few more years will put us all in the dust,” American founding father John Jay wrote to his wife after losing the 1792 New York state governor’s election, “and it will then be of more importance to me to have governed myself, than to have governed the state.” I’m not certain how I’d go about trying to explain this concept to modern Canadian politicians. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t start in question period.

As it turned out, Jay avoided the dust until 1829. Just 46 when he wrote that letter, he had already served as president of the Continental Congress in 1778-79, helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, helped draft the constitution and write the Federalist Papers supporting its ratification, then been first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Three years later he even became governor of New York, but in 1801 declined re-election, and reappointment as chief justice, and retired to his farm.

Gad, you may be thinking, they don’t make men like that any more. But if they did, would we elect them? Leaving aside the quality and quantity of his services (did I mention he also wrote the New York State constitution?) he seems to have done his duty cheerfully and modestly, indeed cheerfully because modestly. Then he did a Cincinnatus. See, he was this Roman who … I’d bet silver dollars thrown across the Rappahannock to Krispy Kreme doughnuts that John Jay had read Plutarch and absorbed his lesson about the importance of following a good example … and setting one. Whereas our MPs are as unlikely to know about Cincinnatus’s example as to try to follow John Jay’s. Continue reading

Obviously, the press is not trying to offend Christians …

You know it’s Easter when the snow melts, little coloured eggs appear, some fool kicks the Easter Bunny and the media start running what I think of as their “Was Christ a black lesbian?” features.

First off the mark was Maclean’s, whose April 3 cover asked “Did He Really Die on the Cross?” It also claimed that Michael Baigent, author of The Jesus Papers, “inspired The Da Vinci Code,” though a British judge disagreed. Still, he got into newspapers as well, and was interviewed on Fox News (by a guy who thought Jesus would have been “near his 70s” in AD 45), although his principal hypothesis is completely silly. He claims Pontius Pilate was in a bind after Jesus said people should pay taxes to the Romans (render unto Caesar being, apparently, not a parable but accounting advice) because the Zealots really wanted him dead and the Romans really wanted him alive.

So by pretending to kill him, Pilate satisfied the mob while by secretly not killing him he … um … didn’t satisfy the Romans because a convincing fake execution has exactly the same public impact as a real one. But never mind. Jesus isn’t God nyah nyah nyah, he went to France and had a daughter with Mary Magdalene, he had sex, we have sex, yay. Continue reading

One of those chills everybody talks about makes me ill

Among the joys of a free society is a free press. You won’t always like what you read, but you know everything will get covered whether you like it or not. Frivolous, alarming, it doesn’t matter. It’ll be there. Right? Huh? Guys?

On frivolous, I’ve reached the age where the newspapers repeatedly attempt to persuade me the hot new pop sensation is some young person of whom I have never heard. “Bublé” sounds like a new perfume a couturier is trying to foist upon the public but is apparently a singer who just won four Junos. So said the top story in both the Globe and Mail and this newspaper on Monday, the main thrust of which was that celebrity host Pamela Anderson still has a prominent chest. (The Globe had the big colour photo on A1 but the story on A9.)

Celebrities are news. Last week my wife and I were downtown (to meet our accountant, but overtaxation is apparently not a big story). On our way from one bookstore to another (they’re establishments with racks of magazines about celebrities, plus some other weird stuff on shelves) we noticed a drab new building selling condominium units starting at a mere $500,000. What dunce would pay more than the price of our house for less space in a less appealing part of town? Monday’s Globe told us that too: MP Garth Turner, a successful businessman in private life, and Belinda Stronach, a successful businesswoman in her choice of parent. The Globe also peddled rumours that a pop singer named Alanis Morissette, bought herself and her mother units on the same floor as Ms. Stronach. Know what? Mr. Turner has seen Ms. Stronach in the building and they have nodded at one another. I’m giddy. Mr. Turner has also seen Thomas d’Aquino, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, in his slippers (his own, not Mr. Turner’s). Ooooh! Continue reading