Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

4/11/2005

Ten inches

File under: 1000 Words, I Made It Out Of Clay, No More Pencils, No More Books, Hubris. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 8:44 pm.

My graduate school had a pottery studio on campus. I joined the pottery club during the first year of my Master’s, but this was a full year before I’d completely lost my motivation to do schoolwork, so I spent little time in the studio.

During my second year, the only course I was taking some ill-conceived algebraic geometry class whose audience consisted of eight graduate students taking the course for credit, and eight professors and postdocs. Two months into the class, the professors and postdocs had taken leave. “No point sticking around when I don’t understand anything,” one of them told me in confidence, and I agreed. Unlike the profs and postdocs, however, I needed the credit, so I compromised by attending the class and not stressing over it. The course was cotaught by two experts, one of whom was clearly more of an expert than the other. One day, after class, as Alpha wrapped up the lesson, Beta turned to me and whispered, I am SO lost in this class.

I took this as permission to ignore all homework assigned by Alpha. A few months later, I gave up on Beta’s assignments as well. Me and five of my classmates.

That year, I was productive in other ways.



When I moved to the Island, one of the first things I did was seek out a pottery studio. I also wanted to take lessons; I felt I’d progressed as far as I could on my own. I soon discovered, to my dismay, that although I now lived in a region known for its potters, none in my city were available to offer lessons. There were two types of lessons, it seemed: ones for student artists studying to be professionals; and one for children and adults who just wanted to poke around with clay.

“We don’t usually offer intermediate-level lessons,” said the artist who apparently was the one to talk to about that sort of thing. “Not much demand for it.” He glanced over at my station, which was surrounded by small misshapen bowls, which were all I’d been able to make this first day working on a new wheel with unfamiliar clay. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking; probably something close to what I think when my C students tell me that they typically get A’s in math. “In order to be eligible for my intermediate-level class,” he said, “You have to be able to throw five ten-inch cylinders, one after another. Can you do that?”

“With certain types of clay,” I replied. “Ones with more tooth than this stuff,” I added, hoping he’d be impressed by my use of the jargon.

He looked skeptical. “There’s still room in my beginner class,” he told me.

I took this all rather personally; I’d taught beginner-level classes, after all. In any case, I knew what one did in such classes, and that wasn’t what I needed to learn. So I set out, during the ten hours a month I could get into the studio, to master the ten-inch cylinder.





They aren’t cylinders, I know. but they were originally. And before they were fired, they were ten inches.

‘What made a bunch of American conservatives sudden experts on Canadian politics?’

File under: Character Writ Large, Righteous Indignation, Sound And Fury, Home And Native Land. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:40 pm.

Rivka at Respectful of Otters says pretty much what I was thinking about the American bloggers who posted the details of the Gomery Inquiry that were banned from publication by Canada’s Orwellian, free-speech-hating, communist government. Except not really, because what I was thinking involved a lot more snark and swear words, and a lot less research and fewer links, so you should probably go read her instead of me.

Among other things, Rivka points out that the publication ban was imposed by the courts, not by the legislature; and that it was imposed to help ensure that it would be possible to select an unbiased jury for the trial. Most importantly, she points out something that you’d never have known if you got all of your news about Canada from American bloggers: the Brault testimony covered by the publication ban was not secret. It was open to Parliament, to the press, and to the public. It just couldn’t be published until the trial was over. But the inquiry is such big news that there will be no shortage of information about it available when the trial ends; contrary to what Captain Ed will have you believe, he is not the single saviour “exposing the wrongdoers in the Canadian government and allowing Canadians to have the information necessary to make an intelligent decision about their leadership.” There was never any question that that information wouldn’t be available before an election - which is scheduled at the ruling government’s convenience. And if the Liberals were to call an election before the details of the report were available to the public, they’d be crushed at the polls.

I am disturbed by restrictions to free speech. I am, however, also troubled by impediments to due process. On occasion free speech and due process butt heads, and it’s impossible to uphold them both absolutely. It seems a more than fair compromise to impose - under very rare circumstances - time-limited restrictions on the former in order to safeguard the latter. The only issue I have with this publication ban is that it’s untenable in this Age of the Internet, which is populated by smug American assholes who have little to no respect for Canadian sovereignty. As Rivka said, the publication ban helped the Conservative Party more than anyone else: for a week, virtually the only information available about the Gomery Inquiry came from Americans who’d rather gloat about their rights than try to understand ours.

This is not hyperbole; Last week, I jokingly remarked to wolfangel that Canada should start issuing publication bans on everything - it seems the quickest way to get the US to pay attention to us. In her post, Rivka wonders aloud (atype?), What made a bunch of American conservatives sudden experts on Canadian politics? I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the fact that the American blog that scooped Brault’s testimony has a category called “Canada“, which was created on April 2 of this year and deals exclusively with the sponsorship scandal. Michelle Malkin, who didn’t seem to think that Canada’s latest federal election was worth writing about, is suddenly very interested in our government. You’d think that our constitution was signed two weeks ago and promised us nothing but free health care (but not, alas, free speech) and government scandals.

I’ve seen this before - Americans learning just enough about my country to piss all over it in the name of patriotism. Sooner or later this scandal will leave the news (and - if I may offer a prediction - the Liberals will emerge battered but intact, because eventually it will become apparent that “OMG SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL” doesn’t cut it as either a platform or as a campaign strategy, Mr. Harper), and they’ll forget about us all over again, or at least until the next nursing shortage or brain drain, at which point we’ll get another earful of pedestrian commentary and US-flag waving. (Aside: I’m more than a little amused at the amount of mileage that a couple of unoriginal US bloggers have been able to get out of a single account by a single American blogger of a single Canadian source who’s supposedly “very reliable” although we regret to tell you that we can’t tell you who he is. (Or she. Or they.) It’s pundits, pundits all the way down!) Pity we can’t issue a publication ban from which only Canadians are exempt.