The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: January 2008

My Generation, Part II

Barack Obama, recently endorsed by Ted Kennedy

NEW YORK—David Brooks’s column in today’s New York Times is a good reminder of why he’s more than just the paper’s token conservative. Brooks argues that Edward Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama underlines something that both the pre- and post-boomer generations have in common: a shared sense of service and community, values that seem to have skipped the generation in between. (Or at least, the values of a certain couple that conservatives don’t like very much.)

It’s tempting to read Brooks’s argument as yet another right-wing writer insisting that the Clintons are selfish people. But beneath that, he registers an aspirational account of the younger generation, an account notably free of qualification or skepticism. (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  4 Comments

Kenya: A License to Kill? No Need to Apply

Photo by Arno Kopecky

NAIROBI, KENYA—In a conflict of endless complexity, one simple truth now stands out as the most salient feature of Kenya’s post-election crisis: the government has allowed itself to be overwhelmed by teenaged mobs whose most sophisticated projectile is a poison arrow.

An understaffed — and in some cases complicit — police force has been left to its own devices; gangsters are running circles round it while the army watches from the barracks. There may be several reasons for this, but the most likely is that authorities are afraid to acknowledge they’ve got an emergency on their hands. By withholding the armed forces, that’s just what they’ve created. (more…)

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Posted in Notes From Vancouver  •  3 Comments


NEW YORK—We may never know for certain what Hillary Clinton was thinking when she chose, nearly two weeks ago, to bring up Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our powers of observation are limited to effect, not intent. But the effect of Clinton’s comment, and the verbal skirmishes it unleashed, has been clear: the transformation of Barack Obama from a presidential candidate to a black presidential candidate. And the beneficiary of that transformation seems to be her, and her alone. (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  2 Comments

More True Ottawa Confessions

Centre Block Fire, Parliament, 1916

Above: Centre Block Fire, Parliament, 1916, hours after being started by the Bironist
JB Reid, Library and Archives Canada, C-010079

I have a confession to make. Several confessions, really. And I want to get them out of the way before some muckety-muck justice department lawyer spills the beans to Amnesty International, the BC Civil Liberties Association, my sainted mother, and above all you, Ottawa. It’s not just prisoner-of-war detention practices anymore.

Posted in The Bironist  •  1 Comment

Image courtesy of

Toronto–There are just twenty days until my relocation to Paris, so I better get used to watching live sports at screwed-up times. And since I’m gaining interest in the Australian Open tennis championship, one of tennis’s four grand slam tournaments, I figured I’d test my early mettle with a 3:30am semifinal match between the sport’s dominant star and a rising gun.

Now, the match wasn’t really played at 3:30am, not in Melbourne anyways. World number one Roger Federer and up-and-coming Serb Novak Djokovic squared off in the second of two semifinal matches at 7:30 pm local time. That’s 7:30 on Friday night. In other words: this match was taking place in the future! In fact, if you’re reading this on Friday afternoon, it still hasn’t happened. But I watched it, and I can tell you who wins. Call your bookie right away. On second thought, don’t.


Posted in Sportstrotter  •  2 Comments

Digg Small Loser Page

Heath Ledger had Mary-Kate Olsen on redial. This is what I’d really like to write about today.

But looming over that is the Digg algorithm change.

I’ve been skimming Digg since it began in 2004 because I thought Kevin Rose was hot. His affable nerd haircut and rumpled slacks. He was my Dark Tipper on The Screensavers. My interest in the cultural memes of tech made me an avid follower. I never once felt I could get a story Dugg because I wasn’t in that particular boys club. (more…)

Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  2 Comments

Quick Reading Links

Tiny Images from

Visual dictionary: visualization of all the nouns in the English language.

Space Cameras: Hasselbald’s web museum of cameras used by astronauts.

: Small piece in the NYT about Russian graffiti and the post soviet mindset.

Radical Software: early 1970s media magazine.

Alphabet 26: Bradbury Thompson’s single-case alphabet design.

Posted in How to Read  •  No Comments

Delicious Tag Cloud

My 2.0 favourites from the past week

Social Bookmarking Gallery:
Enter in your user name and this cloud maker will make you feel all 2.0-y inside by popping out a collage of your keywords.

As my ominous tag cloud above demonstrates, I am an arch enemy of social tagging and semantic web as unfiled is my biggest category.

Try Thumbalicious, a thumb-sized image visualizer so you can read easy and enjoy more

Celebrity Gallery:
US Primaries Gossip!

Follow superstars Paul, Huckabee, Obama, Clinton, Edwards et al with Politweets. Tweets from the bleeding edge of democracy.

Edwards is a Twitterer and he will even add you as a friend!

The Amazing Kreskin Gallery of the Future:
Semantic report 2008. Another kick at the soothsaying can, which defines semantic web as “about representing meanings, connecting knowledge, and putting these to work in ways that make our experience of internet more relevant, useful, and enjoyable.”

Video Art:
The Internet Party: What Happens When Google’s Parents Leave Town for the Weekend?
The personification of Facebook, Digg, eBay, Snopes, Wikipedia. “Do you guys know where Google went?”

Hardware Gallery:
Lonely Sandwhich gets eloquent on the MacAir:

“So, too, is the Air a proof-of-concept. The concepts it sets out to prove are the clearest ones implied by its name: that data is weightless, that storage is wireless (a concept augmented by the parallel release of Apple’s new hard drive-equipped wireless router dubbed Time Capsule), and that connectivity is ubiquitous.”

Social Justice Gallery
Perennial social justice whiners MoveOn are finally actually moving on with things.
MoveOn wants a piece of the Facebook action to politicize those who haven’t tired of
being challenged to The Simpsons quizzes by high school acquaintances. Oh no. This means my neoliberal friends can now constantly invite me to democracy trivia challenges.

Twitter Gallery
Go ahead and eavesdrop!

If you preface your twitter post with “overheard” it ends up here with all the other spying activity.

Photo Twitter. Easy photo posting in twitter-like frivolous fashion.

Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  No Comments

NEW YORK—Kim Campbell, who was momentarily prime minister of Canada in 1993, was once reported to say on the campaign trail that an election is no time to discuss serious issues. That campaign turned out to be her last, but the maxim remains true for some.The latest example was noted by the New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon, who reminded us on the weekend that in the midst of intensely competitive presidential primaries, no candidate from either party has yet to deal honestly with the dilemma of Iraq.Gordon runs through the proposals of the Democratic candidates, whose positions range from pulling out of Iraq immediately (John Edwards: troops out in ten months) to just pretty damn fast (Barack Obama: sixteen months). (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  2 Comments

Kenya: To Hype, or Not To Hype

Notes from Nairobi

NAIROBI, KENYA—A Montreal professor arrived in Nairobi recently. He came here two weeks after the well-publicized chaos began, and it was interesting to hear him relate the impression outsiders have of Kenya as a country where burning buildings, mass riots, and dead bodies have become the norm. Once you’re on the ground, he said, the picture that emerges is a calmer one, “where a number of local disasters are embedded in a matrix of peace.”

We were sitting in cushioned chairs on the balcony of a middle class pub, surrounded by chatty locals and sipping malt beer as we waited for a meal of curried tilapia to reach our table. There was nothing in our situation to suggest that Kenya was, as I described it in the title to one of my previous blog posts, “on the brink.” Nor was our bar in any way the exception that night — the truth is, placid scenes of domestic routine far outnumber the more compelling images of looters kicking tear gas canisters out of the way, or grandmothers wailing outside the church their families were burned in. (more…)

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Posted in Notes From Vancouver  •  2 Comments

American Gladiators, old school edition. Sportstrotter, second from left.

TORONTO—It’s fast, it’s violent, it’s administered by guys in striped shirts working with a pre-determined set of rules, the competitors are in amazing physical shape, and every contest produces a definite winner. But is it sport? I’m talking, of course, about NBC’s reincarnation of American Gladiators, an updated version of what was the single greatest television show on the planet if you surveyed fifty twelve-year-olds sometime around 1992.

I remember watching the original Gladiators with bug-eyed attention every week. In first-run syndication from 1989 to 1996, the show was an amazing spectacle: extremely fit but otherwise ordinary Joes and Jodies competing in ingeniously conceived contests of physical strength and agility against the hulking Gladiators: Laser, Zap, Ice, Turbo, Sabre, the deaf hottie Siren, and my all-time favourite, Nitro. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  3 Comments

There Will Be Microblogs

Soup Swap Boston

Microblogs. No, not infectious diseases and virology.

Blogging copy is just too long. Forget the writing–who has time to read all that stuff? As Mr. Jobs put it:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is… the whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”


Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  No Comments
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