Monday, May 27, 2013

Of Freak Mojo and Dead Clowns

This weekend we visited an annual event called the Great Glebe Garage Sale. For those of you unfamiliar with Ottawa, the Glebe is a very wealthy urban neighbourhood within spitting distance of downtown. Once a year, the entire 'hood gets together and throws a massive garage sale, with almost literally every house for blocks participating.

This being a rich neighbourhood, you'd think folks would generally have good stuff to get rid of. But I spent three hours cruising sales that, as far as I can tell, were mainly unloading Debbie Gibson CD's, used inkjet printers and other items for which there is no market whatsoever, anywhere.

Okay, one man's trash is another's treasure, but seriously--how did you get rich enough to live in the Glebe if your business sense isn't acute enough to tell you that literally no one has any use for a how-to-use-the-Internet book from 1997?

All right, I'm just being pissy. Sorry. The thing is, my garage-sailing skills are mediocre at best. I'm really jealous of people who have that seventh sense that directs them to where incredibly weird and awesome finds can be had.

People like my friend Beau, who for as long as I've known him has been tuned in to a whole other Luck Plane of finding bizarre shit. When we were in high school, there was this idea that late-night TV was full of weird cheesy old B-movies and forgotten, unloved cultural ephemera. (This was before capitalism, having for years made the uncharacteristic mistake of overestimating people's intelligence,  figured out that people will indeed sit through an hour-long commercial.) But when I turned on the TV at 3 am, I was never able to find The Prisoner or Godzilla Versus Mothra. Kitch and bulldada evaded my best efforts to find it.

But pull an allnighter at Beau's drinking coffee and eating chips, and turn on the TV, and wham--there is what appears to be a camcorder video of a guy eating grass, goat-style, which appears to be growing on another guy's head. Yes there is.

What I'm saying is--dude's got some major freak-magnet mojo.

Anyway, as it happens, Beau was cruising the Great Glebe Garage Sale the same day and came across this. It's a cheesy paperback mystery from gotta-be-the-fifties about a business magnate who joins the circus (!) as a clown (!!), and turns up dead of an apparent suicide a few days later (!!!), but it's awfully suspicious (you think?) and the maybe-murder has to be solved by a retired reporter who spends his days writing angry letters to the editor about how inept the cops are (!!!) It's called "Unhappy Hooligan" which--okay, look, I haven't read it, maybe I should, but as far as I know "hooligan" does not mean "clown." Are there gangs of violent soccer fans in this book too? I don't know, but at this point it wouldn't surprise me.

Knowing of my perverse fascination with dead clowns, he snapped it up for me.  If you can't have the weirdo magnet mojo yourself, next best thing is to have a friend like Beau who will find the stuff for you. Thanks pal!




Saturday, May 11, 2013

A perfectly reasonable question for climate change deniers.

So, in honour of today's news that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have reached 400 parts per million: a bit of a point that's been brewing in my mind for awhile.

I think it's time that climate change deniers tell us all exactly what they would accept as sufficient evidence to justify serious action on global warming. They've never done that.

I mean, obviously they say they don't believe in it. But they must agree that, hypothetically, if it were true, there would be something that would be enough to persuade them. I don't believe Elvis is still alive, but if someone brought me an living, breathing old guy and took his fingerprints and DNA samples, and a body of qualified and disinterested geneticists and fingerprintologists told me they matched confirmed samples taken from the King back in 1957... I'd revise my opinion the the matter.

Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean you can't lay out a set of circumstances that, if met, would change your mind.

From the very beginning, the science and politics of climate change have been met by a series of denials. First, the claim was that there was no warming, indeed the planet was cooling. Then, okay, it was warming after all, but surely not due to human activities. Then, yes, global warming, and indeed we were causing it, but hey--maybe it's a good thing. Plants eat CO2, therefore more CO2 means more plants means more food for us. Then, no, okay, that was kind of a stupid idea, global warming is probably not a good thing, but it's probably too late to do anything about it. (Oh, if only we'd known sooner!)

The point being, at every turn--at every turn--the deniers' fundamental objections were addressed beyond any reasonable doubt to someone who has any respect for the scientific method. Whereupon the objection promptly changed, and science and climate activism said "Oh, okay" and gamely went back to the drawing board, patiently studying the question and gathering the evidence to address the deniers' concerns. Whereupon the goal posts were promptly moved again. Wash, rinse, repeat, for decades.

Of course, the objections were always different, but oddly enough they always, always pointed exactly to the same policy directive:  "We should not do anything to limit carbon emissions." Really quite remarkable; all that study, all that new data, all those fundamentally different conclusions, and yet it always meant, basically, hands off Big Oil and Big Coal. I guess all roads do lead to Rome.

Now, at no time, to my knowledge, has the climate change denial industry stated clearly what evidence would persuade them that climate change is real, caused by humans, and clear and present danger that needs to be addressed now. The best they've ever been able to do is, "No, that's not good enough. No, thanks for trying, but that won't do either. How about this? Hmmm... no, I don't think so."

They're like restaurant patrons who won't say what they want to eat, but keep sending every dish back to the kitchen.

Now, I've been writing this post as if I thought there was some chance the deniers were acting in good faith. I was going to suggest that the deniers should be required to clearly state what they would accept--and then the rest of us can decide if that smoking gun looks too much like a mushroom cloud. The point is to call them out and make them clarify their position.

But let's not kid ourselves. It isn't 1990 anymore and the pretense that there can be any honest disagreement on the subject stopped being tenable a long time ago.