August 14, 2007

Tripping on my favourite names in Google...

Using Google, search for the name of someone you know, or search for yourself.

The essence of the web is going from one idea (or "place") to the next via links. Your name, or parts of it, is connected to other people in webspace in the same way.

It's weird for me to take something, a label that I have always thought of as my own, and see it attached to someone else. It makes me question my own label. I keep picturing someone else wearing my name on a sign around their neck, like it doesn't belong to me...

That whole "sense of self" thing...

John Love
So many, but I like this one ("John Lee Love", inventor of the pencil sharpener):

Ernest John Love

James Evan Love (my Dad) led me here...
James Evans - Open Frequency artist

Angela Huntley Clarke (my Mum) led me here...

Okay, I admit that last one was a bit self-serving...

...and here's another:

Where did the name "Love" come from?

Some search results:

Other names in my family...

(Boy, except for those Markses, my heritage is pretty darn WASPish...)

August 13, 2007

How Should Vancouver Deal with Violent Panhandlers?

Recent news stories have reported violent attacks by homeless people. This is disturbing on several levels.

Of course, my heart goes out to the victims of this violence. Society should help those people first, immediately, as they are the obvious victims of crime in that moment.

However, in addition to providing that immediate relief to them, we must also look at circumstances that helped to create the conditions in which the violence arose. This may get muddy and vague on an individual basis, but might be easier to identify when detected as part of a larger urban trend.

For example, Mr. Homeless Jones beats on a more vulnerable person, takes their money and blames their behaviour on a lousy upbringing, or some mental illness. At street level, it becomes a criminal/legal matter which prosecutes the offender and seeks some restitution for the victim (in theory). Law enforcement also has a vested interest in seeking the contributing factors, as an aid to prevention or mitigation.

But if there's seen to be an upsurge in the numbers of crimes caused by homeless people, what larger scale patterns are contributing? Drug addiction? Mental illness? Desperate poverty? Doctors, social service workers and law enforcement all are aware of these factors.

I have in the past become familiar with a few street people - folks who beg for money every day - and over the past five or ten years, I have never experienced any violence of any kind, and have only ever had someone get "in my face" once. I have rarely felt threatened. Nonetheless, everyone must make their own judgments about other people, and about how safe they feel personally.

A few of my close friends recently mentioned the news stories about violent beggars to me. They just read the headline to me out loud, and I swear I can detect a bit of an "I told you it was dangerous" tone of voice from them. To me, this is just an indication of their own fear and concern for their own safety, which, while I respect their point of view, does not dissuade me in the least. If I was going to get attacked by someone, there have been lots of other circumstances under which it might have happened and did not, like in the Downtown East side just walking down the street, on the grounds or in the wards of Riverview when I was used to visit my Mother, or in many other places. The homeless or mentally ill do not scare me too much. I think they're the ones who need the most help. They're at the bottom of the food chain, getting beaten up for scraps by bigger badder people. It's the gang members or crime-oriented people, who live well hidden within the lower and middle class - the social and economic predators who have all their faculties and coping skills down to a fine art and know how to effectively camouflage themselves inside the beats of everyday society - those people are the real danger, not the poor, brain damaged bastard who is trying to scrape together fifteen bucks for a bed for the night.

My heart goes out to the elderly gent who was beaten up for not giving his homeless acquaintance a few bucks. From what I've heard, this old gent had been helping this guy in his own way for quite some time. I just hope that the "crime and punishment" approach isn't used indiscriminately as a blanket answer or to in effect, punish street beggars for being on the street.

I believe the biggest reasons behind these problems are:
  • Increasing numbers of mentally ill people who are not under proper care. (Inadequate facilities? What will replace large institutions like Riverview? Are current facilities and programs adequate? What role do the Provincial Government and the Health Care providers play in this?)
  • Huge drug addiction problems throughout the downtown Vancouver core, and growing out into the surrounding municipalities. (Where are the rest of the pillars in the "four pillars approach"?)
I sincerely hope the mainstream media discusses the broader, larger issues, and helps to educate people on the big picture, and doesn't just fan the flames of fear and discontent, which would just lead to NIMBYism.

Related Links:

August 05, 2007

The Greatest One-eyed Hero of Them All...

...or "I yam what I yam, because he is what he is."

I've been going through my latest Popeye phase. I go through an infatuation with Popeye the Sailor every few years (similar to my recurring obsession with Devo).

Popeye the Sailor was introduced to readers of the Thimble Theatre newspaper comic back in 1929. His creator, E. C. Segar, is widely considered to be a master of the comic strip, influencing generations of later artists in mainstream and underground comics. (Wikipedia has some very informative articles on both Segar, and Popeye.)

I probably got my first images of Popeye from those low-quality "King Features" cartoons made in the 1960s - you know, the ones where the bad guy was named "Brutus" instead of "Bluto". They looked so cheaply made, and every episode had the exact same story arc: Popeye and Brutus would start off as buddies, Olive would entice each of them (like the spindly little siren that she is), and before you know it, Popeye and Brutus would be in a battle to the death to win her affections. Popeye would inevitably chomp down some spinach (how many cans of that crud did he have stuffed down his sailor shirt anyway?) clean Brutus' clock, and get a big smooch from Olive. That's the gist of most of the episodes I ever saw.

I think that most of my generation (boomers or before) probably got their introduction to the Sailor through his cartoon adventures. Of all of the cartoon series produced, the Fleischer Popeye cartoons from the '30s are the best Popeye cartoons ever made, and in fact are probably among the best cartoons ever made of their time. The Fleischer Brothers also made some incredible Superman cartoons back in the 1940s, placing two of pop culture's most popular characters under the roof of the same animation house.

I've read that back during his newspaper strip heyday, Popeye the Sailor was more popular than Superman. Maybe it was the Sailor's humanity and earthiness that appealed to reg'lar folks. To be honest, Popeye really was a superhero in his own right, being tough as hell and practically invulnerable to bullets himself.

In his first adventure in 1929 (a number of years before Superman appeared in the newspapers and almost ten years before Action Comics #1), Popeye easily withstood 16 bullets after rubbing the head of Bernice, the magical Whiffle Hen. His invulnerability was magical, but still pretty impressive. And after he started eating spinach on a regular basis in the '30s, forget about it - nobody could touch the guy. He routinely clobbered guys three times his size, in the boxing ring, in Rough House's Diner, and anywhere else for that matter. Bullets would just stick into his back causing him a mild irritation, which he compared to prickly heat. That's one tough swab.

But, aside from his fantastic abilikies and adventures, the Sailor also retained his good natured humanity. In the Segar newspaper strip back during the depression years, Popeye literally gave the clothes off his back (plus a thousands of dollars) to a destitute widow and a poor single mother who was clothed only in rags. Superman might be able to fly, move mountains and turn back time, but I never once saw him give up his cape to a homeless person. Superman usually flew above that sort of thing, while the Sailor waded right into it.

As a kid, I didn't know how old and influential Popeye was. When I was nine, I remember my Mum joking "I yam what I yam". I knew that it was something that Popeye said, and I knew that people quoted him for fun because they liked him. My Mum and Dad had enjoyed Popeye when they were kids back in the 30s and 40s, the same way I did in the 70s.

Popeye appealed to "the salts o' the ert'"; regular people (maybe blue collar more than white collar), because he didn't look down his nose to anybody. People could relate to him. No grown-ups I knew ever ran around quoting Superman. That would have been too silly.

Back in Segar's daily newspaper strip, Popeye was really quite a little roughneck, practicing diplomacy with his fisks on a regular basis. He was the image of the tough little one-eyed runt beating the hell out of the town bully, and thus endearing himself to the whole town. Back in his mid-30s newspaper strip, Popeye took weird risks too, like starting his own country and experimenting with radio propaganda to encourage immigration, or running a newspaper and beating up bullies in order to drum up new readers. Built with equal doses of slapstick humour and social commentary, it had a lot of messages for the grown-up reader, aimed at the perspective of the masses.

Beyond the original comics and cartoons...

For me, Robert Altman's 1980 movie "Popeye" with Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall was a very big event. It was a fun, silly and (IMHO) well-crafted musical movie in the slapstick genre, but with subtle symbolism and social themes which adults could appreciate without taking anything away from the kid appeal. In many ways, it stayed more true to the original newspaper strips than the Fleischer cartoons. The live-action movie really brought the world of Popeye to life for a new generation. The movie woke me up to the original incarnation of the Sailor as developed by Segar.

Underground cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton were obviously influenced by Segar's work too. Just look at Olive Oyl walking. There's "Keep on Trucking" and "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" right there.

Popeye has certainly mellowed out a bit over the years, mostly in order to not give little kids the wrong messages. The fact is that the world can still be a hard and unfair place for both kids and adults, and Popeye presents different faces to appeal to different audiences. Kids see a funny looking, good-hearted guy who protects woman and children ( But, it also seems like tattoo lovers, bikers, sailors and rugged individualists can identify with Popeye as well. Today's adults can enjoy the tattooed little roughneck sailor who never gives up his independent streak (

Other Links About Popeye: