Stephen Harper Vs. Sociology

According to our Prime Minister, there are good times and bad times to commit sociology. Bad times include April 2013, when authorities accused two men of planning a terrorist attack against a Via Rail passenger train. Another occurred after the Boston Marathon Bombings, when Harper took issue with the idea of investigating the root causes behind the event. Now, while speaking to a crowd at Yukon College in Whitehorse, he said we should not view the many cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women as a “sociological phenomenon.”

In Stephen Harper’s mind, presumably, acts of violence are crimes, and crimes exist outside the realm of spreadsheets and data and general trends that themselves are the result of several knowable factors. Only individuals divorced from all reality but their own commit crimes, and laws are what fix that — not a bunch of sociologists in the library.

On the recent homicide of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose lifeless body was found in Winnipeg’s Red River, Harper said, “Obviously in the particular case … we want to extend all our sympathies to the families and friends. This is a terrible crime, clearly a crime. But first and foremost it is a crime, and the most important thing is to make sure we have a thorough police investigation.”

Earlier this year, a report compiled by the RCMP and Statistics Canada revealed that while aboriginal women account for just 4.3% of Canada’s female population, they compose 16% of the country’s female homicides and 11.3% of the cases for missing women. Other figures from Statistics Canada suggest that aboriginal women are victims of violence at a rate of three and half times more than non-aboriginal women. They’re also seven times more likely to be murdered. But that’s just what the numbers say. Why they’re like that, no one knows. Continue Reading →

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The Day’s Big News

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A List of IPAs Other Than Alexander Keith’s

When Alexander Keith’s concocted the slogan, “Those who like it, like it a lot,” the brewer was implying a couple of things. First, that there was something different about its beer. Second, that only a sophisticated few could appreciate its wondrous bounty.

It’s brilliant marketing, perhaps, but not entirely accurate. Anyone who’s tried Alexander Keith’s signature IPA knows that it’s not nearly as unique as the slogan suggests. And despite pressure from an online petition to change its “India Pale Ale” (IPA) description, the Halifax-based brewer has insisted on retaining the label even though its beer does not meet industry standards for the IPA style. Alexander Keith’s IPA is, by all appearances, a standard blonde ale.

For many, this might not be a big deal — until you try an actual IPA and discover that Alexander Keith’s version has more in common with Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue than it does with a Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA. In simple terms, a real IPA is all about the hops. The style originated when English brewers dramatically increased the amount of hops in their pale ales to survive the long voyage to India. The result was a beer with an amber body and, most importantly, distinct bitterness. The hops also impart flavours and aromas of pine and citrus.

The IPA style has since become one of the most common among craft brewers in North America, and as consumers become more familiar with it, Alexander Keith’s stubbornness to change how it identifies its beer grows more and more absurd. Continue Reading →

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Is Knowing Your Neighbour Necessary?

Last week, Maclean’s posted an article about modern life and living titled “The End of Neighbours.” Subtitle: “How our increasingly closed-off lives are poisoning our politics and endangering our health.” The big numbers that appear in the opening paragraph are as follows:

  • Over 30% of Canadians report feeling disconnected from their neighbours.
  • Around 50% of Americans report that they don’t know the names of their neighbours.
  • About 33% of Britons report that they couldn’t identify their neighbours in a police lineup.

Pretty brutal. But that’s not to condemn those involved in the aforementioned studies. This problem be systemic. Friends move. Technology alters how we interact. Fashion changes how we perceive. Advertising influences. Scientific discoveries occur. Other people are often annoying and just talk about themselves, anyway. They’re disappointed rather easily, too.

A central argument throughout the Maclean’s article is that it’s healthy for us as a society to mix. It’s important for a dentist to interact with her carpenter neighbour and a Liberal to wait at the same bus stop as a Conservative. Two nearby families that may not like each other should learn to solve their differences, or at least compromise. It’s good to face the Other.

Here’s a quote from the piece: “The evolving modern definition of a good neighbour is no longer someone who is part of your life, someone you chat with over the fence, a reliable shoulder in good times and bad, but someone who doesn’t bother you, either in your enjoyment of your home or by threatening its property value.” Rings true.

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Canadians Using Less and Less and Less Cash

We’ve said it before, so let’s say it again: Canada is on its way to becoming a cashless society. Canadian Business reports that “non-cash instruments” now “account for 90% of payments in this country.” That means Canada is one of the world leaders when it comes to purchasing goods and services with plastic.

That said, cash still comprises over 40% of all transactions. But that’s mostly for the small stuff. Think Snickers bars and hair gel. Today, more and more items that cost an amount of money you’d hope would give customers pause are being exchanged for no physical money at all.

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Some Questions About Outfitting Police Officers With Body Cameras

From the Toronto Star:

How much will it cost to store a massive library of audio-visual recordings? If audio-visual equipment is only to be activated in situations in which footage might be needed for court evidence later on, who makes that decision? Who decides what footage should be kept and what can be thrown away? Who pays for the extra time it will take officers to go over the audio-video evidence so nothing is left out of their notes?

The implied question that looms above all else: Who’s going to pay for all this?

Meanwhile, in America.

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Mystery and Romance Still Exist

Music blogs have been talking about a man named Lewis. He is a Mystery, a Romantic. His songs are slow-tempo and synth-soaked. His singing voice is full of distressed feeling and non-naive hope.

What is known about the pseudonymous Lewis is not much. Some evidence suggests he’s from Canada, but that’s far from proven. Apparently, in 1983 a man who “stayed in the Beverley Hills Hotel, drove a white convertible Mercedes, and dated a girl who looked like a model” recorded an album titled L’Amour. He then disappeared. About 30 years later, a copy of L’Amour popped up in an Edmonton flea market. Lewis was reborn.

Earlier this month, someone found a second Lewis LP titled Romantic Times. On the cover, a man in a suit with cigar in hand stands before a private jet. An engineer credited for working on the 1985 album said that while he remembers little about the session, he does recall Lewis appearing to be “under the influence.” The one known copy of Romantic Times recently sold on eBay for $1,825.00.

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Can Hitchbot the Hitchhiking Robot Make It Across Canada?

This is an experiment to see not if humans can trust robots, but if robots can trust humans, says Hitchbot’s co-creator Frauke Zeller, an assistant professor at Ryerson University.

Hitchbot’s mission: to hitchhike from Halifax to Victoria, presumably while making new friends and having plenty of adventures along the way.

Hitchbot is programmed to converse about many things, but let’s hope for the mission’s sake Hitchbot steers clear of prodding discussions on politics and religion. Let’s also hope Hitchbot is programmed to be quiet when the occasion calls for silence. No one likes a needy passenger.

Judging by Hitchbot’s Twitter account, the little guy has already been promised a ride into Quebec, despite starting the journey just yesterday. Then again, homeless drifters of the human variety rarely get this level of positive press coverage.

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A Look Back at the Drive-Through

Maybe you’ve heard: Today is National Drive-Through Day. There’s a time to commemorate almost everything these days, it seems!

Anyway, to honour the occasion Canadian Business has assembled a short history of the stay-in-your-car convenience. Did you know, for example, that Canada’s first drive-through arrived in 1975 thanks to the good people at Wendy’s? Apparently so!

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Andrew Coyne on the State of Canadian Democracy: It’s Bad

This video is a few months old, but worth the watch. Even if you already have, you shouldn’t feel bad for watching it again. There are more pernicious ways to squander your time.

Clip summary: For nearly 40 minutes, Andrew Coyne talks into a microphone about all the bad things in Canadian politics today. Voting, lies, media, debates, lies, too much PM power, too little MP power — all topics are addressed. It’s a situation, Coyne argues, all parties have helped create.

A few good lines he delivers near the beginning: “We should be aware, of course, of falsely idealizing how politics used to be in this country. There never was any golden age. But we should equally steer clear of the lazy assumption that it’s always been this way. It hasn’t. It’s worse now.”

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An Eternal Tweet

A violent incident occurred in a home along Selkirk Avenue in the not-so-gentle City of Winnipeg. What happened exactly is not known. The article doesn’t reveal much beyond mention of two ambulances, two victims, and one knife. But is any act of violence ever fully known? It’s unlikely. Government authorities may put a person in prison for her or his transgression, but the motives, the desires, the minute-by-minute history of the world until the incident occurred — these are the timeless questions.

Early this morning, a similar event took place in Winnipeg’s North End. In a back lane near the 200 block of Salter Street, a few blocks away from Selkirk Avenue, police found a person with multiple stab wounds. This person is in critical condition.

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How to Fix Edmonton’s Image Problem

Alberta’s capital, if you didn’t know, has an image problem. Proof: when Oprah Winfrey came for a visit, someone gave her a pair of truck nuts. According to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Edmonton is also one of the worst places in Canada for women. That’s pretty awful.

Now, the Make Something Edmonton initiative is trying to return the city to its former glory — or, at least, create a new form of glory. Do something that evokes glory.

Writer and Make Something Edmonton member Todd Babiak thinks that rebranding the city with a slogan that involves words such as dynamic, innovative, creative, sustainable, and diverse will do no good for anybody. So they got that going for them.

Maybe now is the time to get serious about erecting that Wolverine statue.

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Will Tornadoes of Fire Become Our Future?

“There was at times a wall of flame a couple of storeys high,” he says. “There were literally tornadoes of fire in the treetops and when they were crowning, they’d literally explode in front of us.”

This quote comes from a CBC story about large and larger forest fires in the Northwest Territories. The article’s scientist expert — Mike Flannigan, University of Alberta — says climate change is responsible.

If human-induced climate change is real — some say it is — the whole planet may adjust in a way that isn’t pleasant for people. While the lifeless water and rock of our planet might endure super floods, extreme cold, and tornadoes made of fire, civilization as we know it might not. Maybe some of the non-human animals will. Maybe they’ll go on to create a new society built upon love, trust, altruism, and kindness. They will host parties and admire art. They will breed in sustainable quantities. The future of Earth will be in their capable paws.

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