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Waiting for the Next Black Swan

[caption id="attachment_8109" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Gaming dice[/caption] I witnessed two events in my childhood which have affected how I have understood the world lifelong. The first happened when I was six, living in a house in Calgary, on a small dead end street, lined with poplar trees, close to the hill sloping down to the Bow River. It was May 9, 1945, VE-Day, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe. As part of the celebration, a daredevil and decorated Calgary pilot twice flew his famous 'F-for-Freddie' Mosquito bomber right down our street, so low that the twin propellers chopped leaves off the treetops. It had been part of an equally amazing low flying display all around the city. I and every kid on the street were out under the poplars, thrilled to the marrow. But we were all devastated, only a day later, when we learned that the plane had crashed, killing the pilot and crew, due to one last deadly stunt tried just before landing. I learned more about this double event year by year (there is a fully detailed account at http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,freddie.html). By the time I was twelve and an avid reader, I knew that the Mosquito was one of the most brilliantly-designed, fast, and versatile aircraft of the war. I had also met a former Mosquito pilot, who told me that, while pilots loved the plane, landings were often nerve-wracking, as it landed 'very hot' at well over 100 mph. By my teens, I also reflected that the pilot might have been exhausted, perhaps – who could blame him? – nursing a hangover, or perhaps just caught by a deadly cross wind. But anyway, on what was to be one last daring flyover before landing, his plane clipped a pole on the ground,and immediately crashed,… Read More

The misconceptions of anti-postmodernists

Anti-postmodern commentaries are certainly in vogue these days.  Whether penned by conservatives or reactionary leftists, these opinion pieces all support the same general premise:  postmodernism poses an insidious threat to society.  In a recent Quillette publication, Velvet Favretto is the latest to parrot misconceptions surrounding postmodernism.  According to Favretto, postmodernism erodes truth, undermines core Western values, and creates an atmosphere of intolerance on post-secondary campuses.  All three assumptions are highly suspect.   Myth #1: Postmodernism Undermines Truth  First, postmodernism does not impair our ability to negotiate truth.  What postmodernism says is that we only have access to the material world through human descriptions of it.  Since none of us come equipped with a God’s-eye point of view, we make do with our own vocabularies to explain reality, such as those established in law, science, philosophy, ethics, sociology, etc.  Because these vocabularies offer different perspectives, various groups compete to determine standards for truth.  That said, claims still require the marshalling of evidence to test their legitimacy; therefore, truth cannot be established by fiat or by mere opinion. Favretto distorts postmodernism’s essence by taking it to absurd extremes.  Referencing American public intellectual Stanley Fish, she insists that postmodernism “relieves me of the obligation to be right,” adding: “you don’t have to be right, because right and wrong don’t exist.”    If we accept Favretto’s premise, the difference in agendas between Hitler and Gandhi is argumentative.  Likewise, no qualitative distinction exists between the rhetorical eloquence of Martin Luther King Jr. and the rantings of a Tiki torch-wielding white nationalist.  It’s a red herring that no one in the arts or humanities takes seriously. Because postmodernism rejects grand narratives, Favretto assumes that there are “no grounds on which to say that any interpretation is superior to any other.”  There may be no ultimate grounds, but… Read More

The Treacherous Escalators of Sex and War

Over the last fifty years, relations between men and women, and relations between potentially warring states, have both been going through major changes. Sexual ones have come about mainly for cultural reasons, the strategic ones due to political and technological forces, but with a metaphorical parallelism. Both developments display widespread acceptance of a series of escalating steps, based on empirical observation and rational calculation, but also obscured by a fog of unrecognized possibilities, even the hint of 'other escalators'. Past 'steps' remain part of the psychological furniture of both the sexes and the strategists. Until the late years of the tumultuous 1960s, the central preoccupation of the majority of people in sexual relations was engaging in steps (even if a lot fewer than a hundred years earlier) in 'courtship' and its successful conclusion in marriage and parenthood. Full sexual intimacy often came first, but was largely 'pre-marital'. Non-marital intercourse was acceptable for single young males, but only for unusually adventurous upper-class women who did not fear social stigma, or for prostitutes or near-prostitutes. Otherwise, a socially powerful code for 'ladies' and 'gentlemen', while often violated, almost provided the very definition of middle-class life. International relations of the same era were dominated by the experience of the two World Wars and the Cold War that followed, by the predominant power of the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and by the existence of nuclear bombs, soon joined by lightning-like missile delivery. The weapons kept evolving, but as competitive threats, not for practical employment. Their awful destructiveness meant that even the most hawkish political and military leaders had to regard the escalator as one that must never be climbed to its top, with as few states as possible being allowed to set foot on the steps. This was not fully realized at first. Both the… Read More

Millenial Media Moguls: Doing the convention circuit like a pro with Barabara Dunkelman

I love Cons. Awesome Con, like all the rests, sparks fervor among it’s attendees like any other, to the point where it seemed as if most of the neighborhood had been taken over by costumed characters of every description. Having been to so many I can say authoritatively, these types of cons are usually about 90% similar to each, which is something I enjoy, but awesome con turned up the awesome in a myriad of ways. Near the front of the convention center there two huge areas for gaming, one for table top and one with video games of all types set up for fans to enjoy. The show floor was as replete with comics and other memorabilia as any I’ve seen with some extra guests as well. Booths set up by NASA, National geographic and the CIA rubbed up against those giving out 5-hour energy bottles and trying to sign up guests to a Dungeon and Dragons themed bed and breakfast. However a special highlight for me was that as part of my Awesome Con coverage I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat with the ever effervescent Barbara Dunkelman of Rooster teeth productions. Rooster teeth is a web video and community website which boasts the longest running web series of all time: Red vs Blue. Started back in 2003 in founder Burnie Burns’s living room, over the last decade and a half Rooster teeth has grown into a behemoth of web video production with hundreds of employees working on tons of different projects across tons of genres. Barbara Dunkelman An Ottawa native, Dunkelman moved to sunny Austin Texas back in 2011 to work as Rooster Teeth’s community manager and has since risen to be their Director of Social and Community marketing as well as on camera… Read More

Why Canada should rethink its immigration policy

Despite pro-immigration “diversity is our strength” platitudes/rhetoric coming from the Federal Liberals, the facts are starting to show that this may not be true. PhD student Sanjay Jeram, who was quoted in a column by Douglas Todd for the Vancouver Sun, said, “Housing, employment, urban congestion, the welfare state and training are all affected by Canadian immigration policy”. With 300,000 people entering the country each year (to put that in perspective, it’s the population of Laval is 420,000) it’s fair to ask how those numbers are bearing out. Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta are the provinces that carry the biggest burden when it comes to accepting new immigrants. Ontario is leading the way, receiving a staggering 52 per cent of new immigrants—the grand majority of which are going to Toronto, and Quebec amd British Columbia receiving 17 and 16 per cent, respectively. The Globe and Mail claimed that, out of one million immigrants this government plans to take in, 58 per cent will be economic, 27 per cent family class and 14 per cent will be refugees. While 58 per cent being economic immigrants might sound nice, the fact is even the most well-educated immigrants coming to Canada have a difficult time acquiring work in the country within the first five years of arrival, according to a Global News article. This puts a tremendous burden on our welfare system. Furthermore, “millionaire migrants,” as described in David Ley's book of the same name, showed that many were paying less taxes on average than other immigrants and refugees, and not declaring their global assets. This once again puts tremendous short-term strain on landed immigrants and natives alike. Wealth inequality has also risen more quickly in Canada than it has in the United States over the last decade, according to the Canadian… Read More

Islamophobia needs to be approached rationally, not emotionally

When students ask me if Islamophobia exists, my reply is always the same: It does—if you can prove it. I advise them to follow the evidence when ascertaining whether a claim against Muslims or Islam possesses any merit. Unfortunately, not everyone adopts a scientific approach to understanding this social phenomenon. It has even become fashionable of late to discredit the reality of Islamophobia or deny its existence altogether. For instance, when interviewed on The Rebel, University of Toronto professor Dr. Jordan Peterson referred to Islamophobia as a term “without integrity.” Likewise, Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah insisted that Islamophobia could not be defined, since it was a “fraud.” In the National Review, journalist Brendan O’Neill labelled Islamophobia a “myth.” Writing for the Prince Arthur Herald, political science professor Henry Srebrnik called Islamophobia a media “obsession.” None of these characterizations, however, are sufficient from a scholarly viewpoint. Self-evident positions, quick dismissals or gross exaggerations tend to detract from the main issue, that being whether a given claim made against Muslims or Islam is rational or irrational. Take, for instance, the statements made by conservative political commentator Mark Steyn. He remarked in the National Post, “most Muslims either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live.” Yet Steyn provides no statistical analysis to support his case. Here is what the evidence states concerning Muslim attitudes towards violence. In a 2016 Environics poll, only one per cent of Canadian Muslims believe that “many” or “most” Muslims in Canada support violent extremism. Globally speaking, Muslims overwhelmingly reject suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam. Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center found that Muslims view such extremism as rarely or never justified, including 96 per cent in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, 92 per… Read More
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