I must break off my blogs on the Leacock Summer Festival to comment on the dreadful case of the three teenagers and their caregiver who died when their car plunged (was pushed?) into the Rideau Canal, near Kingston, Ont.
One must make no assumptions in a criminal case. But the fact their parents and an elder brother have been charged with first degree murder, has raised the question of whether this is an “honor” killing.
It is interesting the extent to which apologists will go in rationalizing cultural practices like this. I heard a woman who is a sociologist at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) speak about this on The Current on CBC Radio this morning.
She seemed offended by the outrage being felt over this incident. Her line was that the issue is violence against women, not cultural practices, and that Canadians shouldn’t think they’re any better than people from other cultures because women are often violated in this country.
There are, unhappily, cases of women being murdered in Canada, as well as their children, by the woman’s mate. But there’s no pattern of the type of murder of children by their parents like the estimated 5,000 “honor” killings per year that happen around the world in Muslim families.
It is an ironic coincidence that just this week, the United Nations issued its Arab Human Development Report, 2009. An account of the report is here.
Arab nations are part of the Muslim world. The report asks: Why have obstacles to human development in the region proved so stubborn.”
The report identifies several. Here’s one:
Many Arab women are still bound b y patriarchal patterns of kinship, legalized discrimination, social subordination and ingrained male dominance. Because women find themselves in a lowly position in relation to decision-making within the family, their situation continuously exposes them to forms of family and institutionalized violence. It is difficult to gauge the prevalence of violence against women in Arab societies. The subject is taboo in a male-oriented culture of denial.
What applies to the Arab countries in this respect also applies to other nations where Islam is the predominant (or only) religion.
All three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianly and Islam, spring from cultures of male supremacy. Secular movements within the first two have brought about the development of human rights and personal freedoms. Not so much within Islam.
I think this is yet another example of how religion poisons everything. The full report is at this link.
I watched with a mixture of excitement and apprehension as my TV screen filled with images of Endeavor’s blast-off last night from Cape Kennedy. There’s still nothing like a space launch. You’re confident everything will be all right, but you’re never 100% certain.
The launch that put Canada’s Julie Payette back into space — joining another Canadian already at the International Space Station — came on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the historic moon trip of Neill Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
And Monday, July 20, will mark the 40th anniversary of their Apollo 11 landing, when Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon and uttered the memorable words, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
(Most people have forgotten, if they ever knew, that NASA had to doctor the tape of Armstrong’s audio; he muffed the famous line and it had to be edited.)
I remember gathering with my family that Sunday night long ago to watch the scene unfold on our black and white TV.
With us that historic night was my friend Ronald Lawrence, who was just getting up his own steam as a naturalist and author of wildlife books. Ron went on to a fabulous career in which he had his books translated into many languages. Sadly, Ron is no longer with us.
There’ll be a celebration at NASA headquarters in Washington on Monday. Armstrong, notoriously shy, won’t be there. Aldrin will. He’s been more public about his life, including his struggle with depression and alcoholism. He writes of his life in his new book, Magnificient Desolation: the Long Journey Home from the Moon (Harmony).
I’m old enough to remember the consternation Sputnik caused. When the Russian satellite went up, I told anyone who would listen that we’d be on the moon in ten years. It took twelve.
There are only seven more flights scheduled in the Space Shuttle series. Then it will be on to the Constellation Program. NASA hopes to have astronauts on Mars in 20 years. It’ll be a case of hopping out in stages. First, back to the Moon on a new space vehicle, the Orion, and its Moon lander, Altair. Then to the moons of Mars and finally, the Red Planet itself.
Worth all the cost? Of course. I’m convinced that Homo sapiens are genetically programmed to explore this world and move on to new ones. Some day, we’ll have to give up this burned out old planet, and abandon our tired, weak sun.
That’s longer in the future than any of us can imagine. The trail begun by Armstrong and Aldrin shows us the way. In the words of Chairman Mao, “The longest trip begins with but a single step.”
I’ve always admired the ability of people who have “a way with words.” The journalists whose short, punchy accounts bring us the core of a dramatic story. The novelists who reach our hearts with their dialogue.The poets who create lyrical verses — especially those that can be put to music.
So I’m blown away by Dave Carroll of the Maxwells group. He had a bad experience with Air Canada/United Airlines. United broke his guitar and refused to acknowledge responsibility. Finally, in frustration, he told them he’d write three songs to tell the world of their negligence. Here’s one version, that’s all over the Internet:
Dave writes of this episode in his blog, which is here.
I once had a run-in with United in South America, but I was able to convince them to give me a free ticket as compensation. Then there was the time my daughter Sharon and I were trying to fly back from Tokyo. The day before our scheduled flight, I learned American Airlines had my booking, but had lost hers. I phoned the PR Vice President’s secretary. The next day, we were on our way — first class!
We’ve been hearing lately that robots are taking over more and more human functions. How about that nirvana of human interaction, automatic, untouched by human hands, instant translation?
It’s happening right now, on the web site of the French business daily la Tribune.
Go here and you’ll see the front page of the paper, and in the upper right a series of flags depicting different languages. For English, click on the Stars and Stripes (natch).
You’ll see some dazzlingly funny heads, but also, depending on the news of the day, some that make reasonably good sense.
I chose the English heading, Our Good Food to be Discovered.
“Discover each week with latribune.fr,” the English translation told me, “a good address to dine of, between professional friends or your lunches.” I clicked as directed, and then chose, A good terrace in Paris. This what what I got:
It is almost impossible to guess, since the pavement, that Fontanarosa offers a splendid shaded terrace. And yet, it is a harbor of freshness and relaxation which the owner proposes, Flavio Mascia. Surrounded by lemon trees and climbing plants, the customers benefit from softness under vast parasols which protect from the heats of the sun. As for the kitchen, it reveals all the perfumes and savors of Sardinia in which Flavio Mascia is originating.
Laugh if you will, but I got an overwhelming urge to get on a plane, fly to Paris, and find my way to what is obviously a really good sidewalk cafe. I can smell the flowers, imagine the cheekiness of the waiters, and hope that when I get the bill, it won’t put me over the limit on my credit card.
Currently, this unusual translation service is only sporadically viewable. Check it out if you can and you’ll find lots more, even more uproarious, examples.
Like the story on Ryanair’s plan to fly passengers standing up: “Ryanair loan to make travel of the passengers upright.”
The multilingual version of the web site dispenses with journalists and translaters. It relies instead on computer software that translates the original French into English, German, Spanish and Italian. Chinese and Japanese are to be added by the end of the year.
AFP, the French news agency, says the editors of La Tribune are confident that once software glitches are worked out and a human is hired to tweak the texts, the paper will gain a vast international audience.
Even Google Translate admits on its site that its output cannot “approach the fluency of a native speaker or possess the skill of a professional translator.”
Yet, I have to think it’s a mind-opening experience to gain even an imperfect translation of the day’s latest news, as seen by reporters of another language.
Of course, this innovation will be condemned by the exponents of proper writing and the correct use of language. Another cost-cutting maneauver that won’t survive the recession. Something no responsible newspaper should get into.
I’m of the school that any reading is good reading. I’ve never seen anything wrong with comic books. (They call them graphic novels now.)
Mind you, it doesn’t follow that any writing is good writing. So I don’t expect robotic translation to become the standard any time soon.
It didn’t take long for the Prime Minister to realize he’d made an embarrassing boo-boo.
Wrapping up the G8 meeting in Italy, he used the occasion of a sombre international gathering on the economy and climate change to mount a partisan political attack on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
As you see here, the PM blundered. Poor staff work had misinformed him about comments allegedly made by Ignatieff, but which were actually made by someone else — an unnamed academic.
The comments suggested that the G8 might morph itself into a larger body, but without Canada as a member.
Thinking it a good opportunity to tear a strip off the Leader of the Opposition, Harper let fly with such pie-in-the-face spoilers as:
- “Mr. Ignatieff is supposed to be a Canadian …”
- ” … irresponsible, coming from a senior Canadian parliamentarian.”
- “Nobody, but Mr. Ignatieff, in the world has suggested excluding Canada from a meeting of major countries. Nobody.”
Mr. Ignatieff, gentleman that he is, has accepted the PM’s apology.
“I accept the Prime Minister’s apology… Canada’s efforts would have been better spent engaging with global leaders on shared issues.”
Know what gets me about this? Not that sloppy work by the PM’s press secretary gave him a bum steer. Not that someone thinks Canada may get frozen out of future international confabs.
No, what gets me is that the Prime Minister of Canada (that’s all of us) would use the occasion of a global forum to launch a partisan attack on the leader of another party. To turn a G8 news conference into a venue for putting the knife into a domestic political rival.
Even if Mr. Ignatieff had said something along the lines of what he had (incorrectly) been reported to have said. That still wouldn’t have justified the PM’s remarks.
There’s no room for cheap domestic politicking at a serious gathering of heads of government.
It’s been a bad week for the PM. His chronic tardiness for G8 photo shoots.The dust-up caused by backroom Tories protesting the $400,000 tourism grant to the Toronto Gay Pride parade. News that the U.S. is going to build its own isotope facility, due entirely to Mr. Harper’s abandonment of Canadian production.
The latest public opinion poll put the Conservatives a point up on the Liberals. They won’t stay there, at this rate.