from Tell el-Amarna, Egypt, ca1353-1335 BCE 12 1/4" high. Agyptisches Museum, Berlin

recording of Stuttgart staging of Philip Glass' opera


The solar radiation which hits the earth per day is roughly equal to the world’s current energy consumption – per year.

Miranda in Canada

January 28, 2011

Last weekend, a group of friends spent an evening sipping and talking from our hats. Somewhere in the middle of a string of friendly port-accompanied arguments, the Canadian equivalent of the “Miranda Rights” came up. (How this came up is lost in a fog).
The following brief, written during a typical lull at work, is alarming. It is also oddly unhelpful in a practical sense. Understanding and insisting on your Miranda Rights is useful if ever arrested in the US… it is less clear the utility of knowing that you have no such rights here.

Finally, it is odd for being the only thing I know of which is more frightening about the Canadian police (hardly angels to be frank), as opposed to their American comrades.  Put in other words:  that Canadian police have the right to act in a manner even worse than those in the US, should make Canadians not only nervous but also deeply embarrassed.


In the briefest of summaries:

The Supreme Court (Canada) ruled on a trio of cases in 2010. According to a 5:4 decision:
As ruled in R. v Bryden (1990), detainees have a right to “a single consultation’ with a lawyer prior to being interrogated, and must be informed of that right. This right, however, is “one-time-matter”. After that first phone-call, they have no right to any further contact with a lawyer. (There are three exceptions, see below).

After that initial phone-call, the detainee’s right expires

A detainee may be interrogated (without any defined time limit) without being allowed to re-contact a lawyer for further advice… let alone insisting on having a lawyer present.
A detainee, of course, may refuse to speak to police at all… but he must do so despite any pressure the police wish to apply, and must consider the risk that remaining silent will “look” very bad if they must be defended in court.

Illustrations: a little about two of the three 2010 Supreme Court Cases

(1) The court refused to overturn the conviction of Mr. McCrimmon (convicted of eight sexual assaults).
Prior to his interrogation, McCrimmon was unable to reach his chosen lawyer by telephone. Instead, he was allowed a brief discussion with legal-aid/duty-counsel. During the ensuing interrogation, McCimmon repeatedly asked to be able to have more assistance of a lawyer and to have a lawyer present. Police denied his requests.

(2) The court refused to overturn the conviction of Mr. Sinclair (convicted of manslaughter).
After being arrested, he was advised of his rights and spoke to a lawyer twice, each time for about three minutes.
He was then interrogated for about five hours. During the interrogation, Sinclair told police five times that he wanted his lawyer to be present. Police told him that he had no such right, and resumed the interrogation.
Sinclair ended up giving an implicating statement during the interrogation.


There are three types of situations in which a detainee DOES have the right to re-contact legal counsel:
(a) If the police wish to use “non-routine procedures, including participating in a line-up or submitting to a polygraph, which do not generally fall within the expectation of the advising lawyer at the time of initial consultation”
(b) Changes in jeopardy. [if police make any changes to the detainee is accused of]
(c) If the police should reasonably doubt a detainee’s understanding of their right to contact a lawyer prior to being interrogated, he/she must be advised of this right again.

here’s a tip kids: the use of gradually revealing (actual or fake) evidence
”The common police tactic of gradually revealing (actual or fake) evidence to a detainee to demonstrate or exaggerate the strength of their case does not automatically trigger the right to a second consultation, giving rise to renewed s.10(b) rights.
and another tip: why the police might choose to allow a detainee to contact a lawyer more than once
Police are certainly permitted to choose to allow the presence of a lawyer interrogation.
“There is, of course, nothing to prevent counsel from being present at an interrogation where all sides consent, as already occurs. The police remain free to facilitate such an arrangement if they so choose”  (from majority decision, written by justice Charron, R. v Sinclair) (emphasis added)
The same majority opinion pointed out that “police may allow any number of further consultations, perhaps even using this as a technique to reassure a detainee that further access will be available if needed.”  (emphasis added)

from the dissenting opinion
(written by justice Binnie, on behalf of the four dissenting judges)
“What now appears to be licensed is that a presumed innocent individual may be detained and isolated by the police for at least five or six hours without reasonable recourse to a lawyer – during which time the officers can brush aside assertions of the right to silence or demands to be returned to his or her cell in an endurance contest in which the police interrogators, taking turns with one another, hold all the important legal cards,..”  (emphasis added)

one last bit from the majority opinion
“…a rule that would require the police to automatically retreat upon a detainee stating that he or she has nothing to say would not strike the proper balance between the public interest in the investigation of crimes and the suspect’s interest in being left alone.”  (justice Charron)

Voice of Fire. Barnett Newman





10Amusements: No.3

January 26, 2011

During the mid-1980s, the Brazillian government tried to solve inflation by forcing a price-freeze. The result: people – believing that the freeze would not last – didn’t want to sell anything. From an interview with a Brazillian economist (This American Life):
“People hid the merchandise… [for example] you could not find meat at the butchers”.
“Because they just weren’t buying?”
“No [the ranchers] hid the cattle… You can do that here; it’s a very large country”.

Because grief is so human – it hits everyone at some point – societies and religions have evolved to help us to help each other. But unlike grief, there are no rituals for depression.

(loosely paraphrased from an interview: Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison)

You [in the first world] made yourselves rich at the expense of the environment. Today you want to stop us [in the third world] spending the same expense towards development.


Two decades later, this is a fairly familiar argument. But at the time I was shaken.
I remember a very similar bitterness of a Peruvian friend: You worry about the spotted owl while my country is crippled by poverty, corruption and civil war.




Where the Wild Things Are

I’ve forgotten how it came up. My guess is that my niece, just turned ten, asked which books were the current favourites of my daughter, a little past two.
Click-Clack-Moo, and Where the Wild Things Are”.
From there, I think that I can quite faithfully paraphrase the heart of the conversation:
“Have you seen the movie?”
“No. The book has only a few words, I didn’t think it would make a very good movie”.
She was wrong; I was not blunt when I told her so.

Besides the issue of tact, I had remembered that the nieces are notorious for their ability to be terrified by even the most mild of films. (I first witnessed this when I tried to show one of them, age about four, Snow White. Most recently, last Christmas, they were given a copy of E.T. The thank you was tempered by an admission that it was a bit too scary.)

That niece was right to doubt the prospect of expanding the original book – 368 words, and **** illustrations by Maurice Sendak – into a full-length movie. But the most delightful aspects of Wild Things is exactly that the screenplay (Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers) managed to pull off this stunt. This is also to the credit of Sendak’s book: spare in words, but spectacular for its ability to nudge loose its page-bound text…. not just allowing readers to expand the story, but setting their imaginations to twirl.

The movie wanders from Sendak’s pages, imagining details big and small, and then returns again almost faithfully. Almost nothing strays from the spirit of the original. (A bit of superfluous romance is the only exception I can think of).             
The Wild Things are given names, and relationships among themselves.
As in the book, the Wild Things adopt Max as their king. The screenplay fleshes out this rail from which things veer – with an exploration of the persistent longing for leadership, gullibility and suspicious, stubborn faith and disappointment. This is the largest of the screenplay’s innovations: Max eventually leaves the place here the Wild Things are, not just because he is homesick, but also because he learns the cost of promising things pulled from his imagination. The magician who pulls a rabbit from a hat, without honestly considering his abilities, is a magician soon to be bitten.
The book plays on a thrill: the Wild Things are terrific fun, but they are friends who turn from playful, to vicious, to loving and then are lost to rage. Set in motion, the Wild Things are moody… wonderful, but frightening, as friends.
There are lots of brief delights of added detail, faithful to the spirit of the book. The Wild Things, when they are getting along, love to sleep in one big heap.
The ending is different, straying close to sentimental: the Wild Things are sad, not angry, when they find out that Max is leaving. I think it’s saved from schlock because it reflects, but does not speak, a belief which I can not shake outside the cinema: it is painfully natural for anger to be followed by sadness.

* * *

The workings of imagination, story-making and (day)dreaming have been woven into the movie. Borrowedvisuals: a ball of

string reimagined as a house where a Wild Thing lives. Max copes with loneliness by retreating into his imagination. When Max manages to snare his mother’s attention three times: once by prying her from work with a story, once by embarrassing her with wolf-suited antics, and once by running away to the place where the Wild Things are.

* * *

I’ve caught myself focusing on plot over film-making.
Let me try to make amends:
The movie’s Wild Things are giant puppets from (the late) Jim Henson’s studio. Each is played by at least one “suit-actor” and a voice-actor, overdubbed in a largely improvised studio session. Together, they excel at communicating the wildly swinging emotions of the Things. Maybe this was partly achieved with C.G. trickery – but, considering the question would require a fourth viewing, it must have been with a subtlety lacking in the adnauseum of recent C.G.-assisted films.
Puppets (and Max) are captured by film shot with an appropriate (illusion of) rawness… faithful, I thought, to the rough cross-hatching of Sendak’s drawings. (director of photography: Lance Acord). Hand-held camera is used, but thankful sparingly. The most striking contribution was made an unusual habit of lighting the action from behind. The result is a camera dazzled by fleeting bits of sun in its eye.

* * *

One last note:
I really like movie trailers.

As a kid, allowed 30 minutes per day of television, it was not uncommon for me to spend it channel-surfing in the pursuit of advertisements… but trailers are so much more fun than ads. Besides, you have to see a lot of movies to become irritated by being subjected to the same trailer over and over again.
I hate arriving late to a movie, partly because it means missing out on the trailers.
I’ve enjoyed plenty of trailers which promoted movies which I wouldn’t see unless handcuffed to the most idiotic of companions.
I’ve enjoyed plenty of trailers for movies which turned out to be brutal disappointments.
Like the opening shots of movie, its trailer(s) are often a movie’s most creative pieces of film.

But there are also lots of cases when I want to throttle a trailer’s maker… and the studio executive who ok’d its release.  Trailers avoid the obvious pitfall: never give away too much of a plot.  What they much too often do is spoil a precious moment which should be wrapped in the complete movie… typically a line of dialogue.
The trailer which I’ve seen for Where the Wild Things Are offended badly in exactly this way. In the ridiculous hope that it might, someday, somehow, be expunged, I will not repeat it here.  I will say that it was the worst part of the movie, but since a perfect film seems impossible, the trailer (a side-show) place to screw up.

loosing, finding

January 2, 2011

“It’s not that I mind loosing my mind,
it’s just that you’ve got it all the time”

circa 1993


I’m afraid of loosing my marbles
but what really terrifies me is that I might find them again,
rolling and scattered under foot.





look up, wonder

January 1, 2011

from "The Mole Sisters and the Moonlit Night". Roslyn Schwartz