“Do Not Call” list now LIVE (sorta)

Sick of those unsolicited calls, obnoxiously wondering whether you’d be interested in carpet cleaning or a “special business opportunity”? This is the day to (hopefully) stick it to those telemarketer bastards.

The national Do Not Call register is now (reportedly) in operation. You can register yourself at this this CRTC link, or at the telephone numbers below. Go get ’em, tiger!

The following is from the Canadian Marketing Association Manitoba website:

National Do Not Call List — This service will come into operation on Sept. 30, 2008.

The list will remove your name for a period of three years from the telemarketing lists of all organizations that place calls to Canadian consumers, with the exception of those phone calls that qualify as an exemption (below). The National Do Not Call List applies to telemarketing only — that is to unsolicited calls that sell or promote a product or service, or calls that solicit money or donations in lieu of money.

Certain telemarketing and other calls are exempt from the list, including:

  • Telemarketing calls from a company with whom you have an existing business relationship.
  • Telemarketing calls from charities registered under Section 248 of the Income Tax Act.
  • Telemarketing calls from political parties calling on behalf of a candidate running for nomination or as part of an official campaign for said candidate.
  • Telemarketing calls to solicit subscriptions for a newspaper of general circulation.
  • Telemarketing calls made to a business consumer.
  • Calls from market research firms that are conducting public opinion polls.

As of Sept. 30, 2008, consumers can register their home phone, cellular or fax number(s) on the National DNCL.

You can sign up online at www.LNNTE-DNCL.gc.ca or by calling the toll-free numbers 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625) or 1-888-DNCL-TTY (1-888-362-5889)

POSTSCRIPT (Tuesday) — Hah, how utterly predictable. With millions eager to get on the list, this CBC story is hardly a surprise: Website, phone lines for do-not-call list overwhelmed.

Atwood on the art of Harper

Harper’s huge recent cuts to arts programs, along with his remarks about arts being a “niche interest” and “a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants,” are a slap in the face to people like me, who devote countless hours to volunteering for the arts and the pursuit of our own artistic endeavours. Harper’s gaffe (as it’s shaping up to be) is a window into the man’s soul, which looks to be a chill and forbidding place to live.

Out of interest i dug up what i could on Harper’s cultural cred. From a Wikipedia article, here’s some background:

  • born in Toronto, father an accountant at Imperial Oil.
  • attended Northlea Public School, John G. Althouse Middle School, Richview Collegiate Institute. Graduated 1978, top of class with 95.7% average.
  • was member of Richview Collegiate’s team on Reach for the Top.
  • enrolled at U. of Toronto but dropped out after two months.
  • moved to Edmonton, worked in Imperial Oil mail room. Later, advanced to work on company’s computer systems.
  • enrolled at U. of Calgary; completed Bachelor’s in economics. Earned Master’s in economics, 1993, thesis on  “the influence of political cycles in the formation of fiscal policy” (according to the 2004 Globe & Mail article Educating Stephen ).

Hmm … not a lot of evidence there for artistic savoire faire. But the article does go on to list some serious cultural chops. Harper:

  • has several hobbies.
  • has participated in many artistic endeavours.
  • is an avid fan of ice hockey and the Calgary Flames.
  • has ventured into sports broadcasting. During TSN broadcast of World Junior Hockey Championships, appeared in interview and expressed views on state of hockey today. Expressed preference for overtime period in lieu of shoot-out.
  • taped cameo appearance in an episode of TV show Corner Gas which aired in 2007.
  • reportedly owns large vinyl record collection.
  • is an avid fan of The Beatles and AC/DC.

Oh, well, okay then — by that measure he’s clearly qualified to both comment on and control (read: “strangle”) the country’s artistic future. However, let’s give a moment to one of our country’s preeminent artists, dagger-tongued author Maggie Atwood, who in a recent Globe & Mail opinion piece (To be creative is, in fact, Canadian) demurs with Harper’s view. Do read the whole thing, but here are the first few paragraphs:


From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

September 24, 2008 at 11:00 PM EDT

What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we already live in? What do we like? Who are we?

At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we’ve been punching above our weight on the world stage — in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it’s a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada’s cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada’s GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an “estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).”

But we’ve just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called “ordinary people” didn’t care about something called “the arts.” His idea of “the arts” is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I’m one of them, and I’m no Warren Buffett. I don’t whine about my grants because I don’t get any grants. I whine about other grants – grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity – not because they think they’ll be millionaires.

Every single one of those people is an “ordinary person.” Mr. Harper’s idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that’s attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures – cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. “Ordinary people” pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for “the arts” in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. “The arts” are not a “niche interest.” They are part of being human.

Life in the hands of Google

I am woefully bad at making life decisions. I can waffle for months while opportunities come and go without latching onto any one of them.

Trouble is, i don’t see a decision as saying “yes” to something; i see it as saying “no” to the thousand-and-one alternatives. And i hate the narrowing of possibility. As a guy with no great agenda, who doesn’t see much point to grandiose career and life plans, who prides himself on accepting and enjoying whatever comes along, it’s hard to choose, even when choice is forced upon me.

To wit: my looming return from the summer’s travel. It’s got to come to an end sometime, somewhere. But when? And where? Where to lay up my carcase as the world has its way with me?

Then i hit upon the ancient stratagem of the oracle — that mysterious, evasive entity one consults at turning points in one’s existence. (Wikipedia: An oracle is a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion; an infallible authority, usually spiritual in nature.) Of course, some superstitious wretch poking at chicken guts in a stinking cave won’t hold a pop-can of credence in the modern world. No, these days who better to consult than the mighty sage, Google?

So i dashed off a quick list of things that are important to me, tacked on the names (one at a time) of the various towns that have appealed to me in the past four months, and plugged it into Google to see how many hits came up — possibly a meaningful indicator of how involved each particular town is with the items of interest. Here’s my first crack:

Google search of zen + bicycle + poetry + green + [town name]

Results (alphabetically):

  • halifax ………… 178,000
  • montreal …….. 860,000
  • ottawa …………. 321,000
  • tofino ……………….. 6,080
  • toronto ………… 203,000
  • ucluelet ……………. 1,130
  • vancouver …….. 175,000
  • victoria ……….1,090,000
  • winnipeg ………. 118,000

You’d think the larger cities (especially Toronto) would have the most hits on any search, simply because of the greater number of computer users and, presumably, web sites. But the results belie that, which makes me think there may be some validity to the technique. I’m surprised.

Of course, small towns stand no chance against cities in this ranking, so i’ll have to refine the method. But preliminary results look, as the scientists say, promising. So far Victoria is a clear leader, with Montreal running second. Stay tuned as Google messes with my life.

Past election results (West Coast)

I’ve been meaning to look this up for a while, and finally got around to it thanks to this Globe & Mail page.

Federal election results, Nanaimo-Qualicum riding, 2006 and 2004

2006 candidates Jan. 2006 2004 (candidate)
James Lunney, Conservative 41.4% — 26,102 22,935 (Lunney)
Manjeet Uppal, NDP 32.2% —- 20,335 19,040 (Scott Fraser)
Jim Stewart, Liberal 19.1% —- 12,023 11,646 (Hira Chopra)
David Wright, Green 5.3% —- 3,361 4,311 (Wright)
Dusty Miller, ? 1.5% —- 920 557 (Michael Mann)

Much as i detest strategic voting as a perversion of the democratic principle, i might consider it this election because i think it’s important to keep the Conservatives from gaining a majority this time around. There’s little doubt they are going to win, but another minority will at least minimize the damage they do while the left gets its sh*t together again.

Conservatives had quite a lead over the NDP in ’06, less so in ’04. It’s a tough call — vote your beliefs (a “wasted” Green Party vote, in my case) or vote for least bad outcome?

2 scary things

First let me say in my defence that i am not a complete jam tart. I have faced down the charging grizzly bear; i have been  dragged across the Mexican reef strapped to the boat; i have been trapped in the white-out atop the Arctic pingo. Yes, these were scary. But my experience in teeming T.O. this past few days has brought to light two things that scare me more than all of the above:

  1. PEOPLE. I walked around all yesterday afternoon with a mounting horror that i might have to actually talk to someone — this despite my observation that Toronto people unexpectedly seem to be among the friendliest urbanites i’ve met. In typical fashion, my fears were compounded by the beating-up-on-myself notion that i should not feel this way, that people are my species, that if i’m to get anywhere in life fearing people is not going to help. Which only made it worse, sweaty palms, tripping heart and all.
    Maybe i was simply overdosed on the social, what with all my recent travelling, and this was just the recoil. Maybe i needed alone time, with nowhere to go to get it. But i have also begun to suspect something else. I’ve been reading the blog of the eclectic and pathologically blunt Faye Kane for a couple of years. She’s a high-functioning autistic with almost no interpersonal skills, who can relate to people very well on-line but not at all in person — to the point where, up until a few months ago, she actually lived in a secret “cave” or shelter concealed somewhere in urban Virginia, surrounded by her computer equipment, microwave oven and MREs (military rations). Reading her descriptions of how it feels to be autistic has lead me to wonder whether i, too, might have a mild form of autism (Asperger’s syndrome, to be precise).
    It comes and goes, but at times just looking into somebody’s eyes, even a friend, can be a searing experience and a real challenge. I cannot understand how some people do it as a matter of course. Full, open communication is a challlenge, too — plodding, difficult and often futile.
    But then it passes, or mostly, and i can function with (relative) ease again in the world of people.
    I’m not going to pursue this self-diagnosis, for it wouldn’t lead to anything i can work with. Rather i’m taking the approach that i am as i am, despite my ideas or wishes to the contrary, and the best way forward is to accept that and work with it.
  2. PRETTY WOMEN. My social paralysis is redoubled when it comes to these delectable creatures, because it gets entangled with the wild card of desire. Now that i’m firmly into middle age, a lovely young lass (even the less than lovely ones) have become something to covet — not the plebeian way one might covet a new mp3 player (which i do), but in some gut-deep, evolution-driven, ineradicable, save-me-from-looming-death sense. It’s not like a choice that can be dealt or bargained with (or fulfilled), it’s more like a glandular, animal hunger with no conceivable end to it. Sure, it’s controllable — the last thing i want is to become that cliché, the older man with the trophy wife. But dang, that doesn’t stop me from wanting it.
    And with that want comes a giving away of personal power. If a woman — any woman, probably — played her cards right, she’d have me on strings like a puppet. Worse yet, even if i did somehow resist her, i would think about it and regret it forever. Such is the lot of the insecure heterosexual male. I really hate this part of me, and so … i fear the pretty woman.