Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Seems like every day there's another moody musician trashing his hotel room, beating up his girlfriend and then driving wildly around in his car while he is entirely drowned in some form of illegal drug. Usually, the man's irrational behaviour is thrown onto some sin-bearing beast such as the battered scapegoat of traumatic childhood. The truth is, you'll rarely find an artist worthy of veneration for both his music and his life because so many musicians shoulder the misfortune of having been deprived of pudding cups in their lunch as children.

Robert Nesta Marley was born out of wedlock and into poverty on February 6, 1945; a son of a loving woman and an absentee father. Bob's was a decent childhood until his white father, Norval Marley, urged his wife to send his son to the city for a better education. Norval received Bob and then left him under the care of an elderly and infirm woman. This left Bob, at the age of five and a half, wandering the streets of Kingston for eighteen months before being found and sent home to his mother, Cedella. During his early teens, Bob Marley lived in the poorer housing projects of St. Anns, Jamaica, and found himself often rejected by his peers because of his light skin; an early romance was shattered by the girl's brothers who said they didn't want," no white man screwing up our bloodlines." Marley had to work to establish himself as a musician: his first two songs were major flops, around a hundred of his early Wailers songs afforded the group only three pounds a week, and their crooked producer kept back the hundred and thousands in royalties they had earned. Still Marley continued to do what he loved, playing music.

Bob Marley sang to improve a chaotic world, singing of hope, world peace, and love for fellow man. Some would say that these songs are sung by many musicians. This is true, but Bob Marley is better.

During the late seventies Jamaica was in turmoil. Michael Manley, leading the Jamaica's left-wing socialist party, and Edward Seaga, leading the country's right wing Jamaica Labour party, were in fierce battle for election as Prime Minister. Brutish gangs from both parties wandered the street bullying their constituencies into submission. Bob Marley was put under tremendous pressure to headline a "Smile Jamaica"concert by Michael Manley, the campaigning Prime Minister. Marley finally gave in and was put under the protection of a group of vigilantes called the Echo Squad. Oddly enough, the usually obsessive guards melted into the night one Friday. In their stead, two carloads of gunman poured out into the compound and shot Marley's manager in the groin five times, his wife in the head, and Bob himself in the chest and arm. All three survived (did they function? Well, I don't know) and Marley bravely sang in front of the throng, reciting, "Puss and dog, dem get together/ what's wrong with you my brother/ puss and dog, dem get together/ why can't we love one another?" After the concert, Marley went into a fourteen month exile which ended when a temporary truce was reached between the two warring Jamaican parties. Bob came home to lead the "One Love Peace Concert" with both Seaga and Manley attending. At the end of his last song he boldly cried out for "the two leading people of this land to come up here and shake hands, show the people that you're gonna unite, show the people that you love `em right." Edward Seaga and Michael Manley, the two warring leaders under whose power thousands had been slaughtered, were made to shake hands in front of the nation of Jamaica. Bob Marley had accepted two men who had been responsible for his near death experience and had convinced them to take the first step towards Jamaican peace.

Bob Marley's dedication to music and his determination in the face of devastating odds can be witnessed throughout his life. His commitment to peace is equally apparent and his songs have touched everyone from South American Indians, to African tribesmen to the citizenry of North America to the world. How many other modern musicians have the United Nations Medal of Peace? Bob Marley remains a true legend on a stage of talented but truly unworthy musicians.

*disclaimer* I have ignored the prodigious smoking by said rockstar of Cannabis Sativa L. his visits to whorehouses, his fathering of at least 14 children by seven seperate women, his marital infidelity, and his thievery of a guitar. Why? Because I want to make him look good.

Monday, September 29, 2003

I was led to the site of the man who saved us from the Y2K bug, the time-travelling John Titor. John Titor Any thoughts?

Omaha, Nebraska? *snicker*

Sunday, September 28, 2003

I was sitting in my room reading the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and listening to some chunes when suddenly Holmes became a far more complex character. I was just marvelling at Holmes' know-it-all arrogance and apparent lack of emotion when I began reading of Watson's apprehension over Holmes' cocaine and morphine abuse.

My ignorance of the use of illicit drugs is greater than my knowledge of their use, and so I was surprised to learn that Sherlock injected a seven-per-cent solution into his arm. I was under the impression that cocaine is only "snorted." Of course, Sherlock knows best and I'm sure his method reflects this.

Anyhow, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries cocaine was considered relatively harmless. Sigmund Freud recommended its use as a tonic to relieve depression and sexual impotence. Sarah Bernhardt took pride in her cocaine use and who hasn't heard the infamous use of cocaine in Coca-Cola? The former use of cocaine in coke is well known but it isn't often you hear about Thomas Edison's invention of a special tonic made with cocaine . . . Ok,well, he didn't invent the tonic, but he certainly recommended it as "miraculous."

This makes Dr. Watson's reaction all the more interesting to me (and no, Watson is not the bumbling idiot I came to believe he was after watching a few old Sherlock films.) Dr. Watson condemns the use of cocaine despite the fact that there seems to have been no widespread condemnation of the drug at that time (cocaine cough drops, anyone?) Sherlock seems to realize his abuse of the drug is wrong which is why he answers, "On the contrary . . . it would prevent me taking a second dose of cocaine" to Watson's questioning if Sherlock minded having his theories to the test.

Sherlock Holmes needs mental stimulation and when he doesn't receive this from his work he lapses into cocaine abuse. I never though I'd read Sherlock Holmes saying, "It is cocaine . . . a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?" Even a seemingly dogged rationalist can have lapses of irrationality.

Saturday, September 27, 2003


The bullets whined and whistled
dashing through the air
The bullets bounced and fizzled
in a bumping, grinding scare
The bullets fought and flew
in a biting, bloody brawl
The bullets struck and slew
in a torrid, squelching, squall
The bullets cried and screamed
in a carousing drunken fling
The bullets smoked and steamed
in furious swarming stings
The bullets boozed and bit
on a banquet of blood
The bullets swore and spit
in a puddle of earth and mud
The bullets won a war
shredding through the skin
The bullets are a whore
scarlet in their sin.

(c) John den Boer, 2000.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Ethiopia: Part I, Beta Israel

There are a number of theories on the origin of the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia. According to the Kebra Negast, an ancient Ethiopian book, the Queen of Sheba was the Ethiopian Queen Makeda. When she visited Solomon she had a child with him named David who ruled Ethiopia as Menelik I. According to Falasha tradition, they are the retinue of Israelites who accompanied Queen Makeda back to Ethiopia after she had lain with him. Other theories claim that the Falashas are the lost tribe of Dan or that they are the Israelites who fled to Egypt following the destruction of the first temple in 586 B.C. Significantly, the Falashas observe a remembrance of the destruction of the first temple but not of the second temple. This is a powerful argument against those who dismiss the Falashas as Christian and Jewish remnants who fled the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

As the Falashas have not adopted the talmud, many scholars assign them a place before the 2nd century B.C. Having no talmud, the Falashas retain the ancient customs of the Israelites, priests rather than rabbis, animal sacrifice, the original dietary laws, and circumcision. The Falasha have an Ethiopian version of the Pentateuch and follow the Sabbath religiously, believing the Sabbath was created before the heavens and the earth. Christians, of course, can remember the story of Philip's conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Clearly, the eunuch was reading the passage from Isaiah for a reason. Perhaps he was merely interested in Israelite customs or perhaps he was influenced in some way by the Falashas.

Ethiopian Jews prefer to be called Beta Israel (the house of Israel) rather than Falasha, which is a term given to them by their ethnic neighbours meaning "outsiders." Beta Israel has endured much persecution over the centuries. Christians, during the kingdom of Axum, eyed them with suspicion and attempted to force them to convert. Falashas claim that they therefore fled to the mountains until Queen Judith led them in a popular revolt against the ruling dynasty. There was 350 years of relative peace for Beta Israel until the kingdom of Axum rose once again in 1270. For the following 400 years the Falasha fought for their freedom. It wasn't until 1624 that Portuguese-backed Ethiopians finally defeated the Falasha. Beta Israel endured hundreds of years of horrendous persecution, forced conversions, land confiscation, and repression.

The chief rabbi of Egypt had ruled in the 16th century that the Falasha were certainly Jewish according to the Jewish legal code but it wasn't until the early twentieth century that European Jews finally took notice of their Ethiopian brethren. There were drives to support the persecuted Jews of Ethiopia and to recognize them as legitimate Jews.

When Ras Tafari Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, the new Marxist government came down hard on the Falasha who were seen as "Zionist conspirators." The government of Israel began to airlift the Falashas to safety in the early eighties. There are presently around 25,000 Falasha in Israel. In 1997, Benjamin Netanyahu disallowed the immigration of Falashas. Approximately 22,000 Falasha remain in Ethiopia (most of these are Falashas who were forcibly or willingly converted to Christianity.)

In Falasha culture, men and women are equal and they carry out their occupation together.

"Praised be Thou, God of Israel, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God of the whole earth. God, give us Thy blessing. Bless us with the blessing with which Thou didst bless Abraham. Bless us as Thou didst bless the storehouse of Abitara [a charitable woman]. Keep our going-out and our coming-in, Thou who art the keeper of Israel. Keep us in peace. Praise the Lord, O ye heavens. Let the whole earth praise Him. Amen!"

- Falasha prayer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I'm currently writing my book report for early modern Europe on Japan: The Dutch Experience. Well, I'm not writing it just now but I am in the process of writing it. Right now I'm just interrupting the process for one of my frequent breaks in which I can gather my thoughts and . . . in which I can just not work on a book report.

Speaking of my book report I thought I'd share an interesting quote written from the perspective of a Japanese observer. Apparently, the Dutch had not impressed this particular scholar with their Protestant work ethic, "Content to waste his days and nights, [the Hollander] lolls in a large chair, smoking a long pipe and looking very bored. A table loaded with food is before him, a decanter and glasses at one arm and a fawning geisha at the other."

Perhaps, the lack of industry on the part of the Dutch had more to do with the severe limitations placed upon them by the Japanese than actual laziness. Or maybe, just maybe, the Dutch have historically been lethargic fornicating gluttons, and Calvinist scholars have seen fit to reform history.

That was a pseudo-break, I had absolutely no respite from my book report and thus I shall take another break involving a certain flakey pastry (no that was not a metaphor for anything, I'm actually going to eat a flakey pastry.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I'm very sleepy right now so I'm hoping I'm no more ubiquitous than usual. That's right, I used a word without knowing what it means.

Hmmmm, I've looked the word up in the dictionary and apparently it's some sort of synonym for omnipresent. Obviously being sleepy has nothing to do with being present in all places at once. Furthermore, while sleepiness might occur in degrees, omnipresence does not. Either you're everywhere at once or you're not.

I suppose one could be in most places at once. Or in several places at once. Clearly, however, in order to be ubiquitous one must be everywhere at once. Therefore, the very premise of this entire post is flawed and the information consumed herein by my non-existant readership is entirely devoid of reason or purpose.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Confronted with a fellow student's admiration of the confederate flag, I've began to think about symbolism. Now, there's books upon books upon books written about symbolism so my ideas on this subject are hardly necessary but, in the words of another infamous boor-- frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

To the unapologetic southerner the confederate flag represents the fight against tyranny, heroism, and the defence of their valued traditions. To most African Americans the confederate flag represents an infuriating promotion of the heritage which historically enslaved, segregated, and depreciated their humanity.

The League of the South's website argues that the confederate flag is a symbol just like the Celtic cross is a symbol and that both symbols are used by racist groups to promote their hate. The argument is that while the Celtic cross is not often viewed as hateful (unless it is tattooed onto the burly arm of a snarling bald-headed inmate) the confederate flag is viewed as hateful, which doesn't promote the just equality we should impose upon symbols.

I'm reminded of the continuing debate over the swastika. The swastika is a symbol which is over 3,000 years old and has been used to symbolize good luck, life, love, power, and the sun. Ancient swastikas can be found in New Zealand, America, Japan, China, India, southern Europe, England, Greece, and southeast Asia. The word swastika comes from the sanskrit svastika which means "to be good/well/fortunate." The Finnish Air Force, and the American 45th division used the symbol until WWII (for obvious reasons.) Rudyard Kipling employed the swastika on his coat of arms, Carlsberg beer had it prominently displayed on its label, Jackie Kennedy wore a sweater with the swastika on it (conspiracy theorists . . . eat that up!), and Tsar Nicholas II's daughters embroidered lucky swastikas on their scarves before they were executed in 1917. Apparently there was at various times Canadian hockey teams named the swastikas. There's even a town in northern Ontario called Swastika. In an ironic juxtaposition, one can apparently find an ancient Jewish grave with a Swastika carved into it.

Unfortunately for the swastika, German nationalists appropriated the symbol from the Aryans of northern India as a claim to direct descension from the Aryans. The symbol came into common use in a large variety of places throughout Germany for nationalistic and anti-semitic purposes. In 1920, when Hitler needed a symbol for the Nazi party the swastika was an obvious choice. Clearly the symbol was something which could be used to stir fire in the German people's souls.

The swastika may have had a long history before WWII but Hitler truly corrupted the world's perception of the symbol into something truly abominable. The statues dedicated to the founding fathers of American towns and etched with the swastika were now looked on with horror, the government tried to impose a new name on the town of Swastika in Ontario, and wherever people saw this symbol they were reminded of the great horror which Nazism had brought.

So should we go about waving the swastika proudly about our heads and declaring that it is merely a good luck symbol? I'm not convinced. While we can perhaps understand the Hindus, Buddhists, and indigenous tribes which still use this symbol, I believe the reinstatement of the swastika is a long time coming in the West. The best policy is to be sensitive to the deep-seated feelings of those who suffered under the Nazi regime.

Now, it's a certainty that the confederate flag has not resulted in the same level of bile among Western society as the swastika, but I believe the same degree of sensitivity should be applied. What does a confederate flag rally do but stir up anger? If southerners are so eager to celebrate their anglo-celtic heritage why don't they use a picture of the celtic cross or a leprechaun? Yes, the confederate flag is not intended to symbolize hate, but to many it does.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

I finished Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart yesterday night. The narration was excellent, the story was thought-provoking and the plot, though simple, was superbly crafted.

The story follows Okwonko, a proud man of tradition, and his reaction to the decay of these traditions and all he holds dear as the British impose their laws and culture on his people. Achebe himself was not a Christian but I appreciated his sympathetic portrayal of one of the missionaries, Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown treated all of the Africans with respect and he, in turn, received respect back. He did not zealously trash the Nigerian culture and religion, but taught his faith and actually dialogued with the people. Mr. Brown actually bothered to learn about the people and their culture. This, I think, is the best way to preach the gospel - as good news rather than some sort of divine punishment.

"Anyone who would undertake heretics' conversion must possess an accurate knowledge of their systems and schemes of doctrine." - Irenaeus.

Mr. Smith, on the other hand, is the polar opposite. "He saw things as black and white. And black was evil." How much dignity can a man have when he is told that the entire history of his people is rubbish? How much self-respect can a man have when his entire identity must be wrapped up in a culture that is not his own? One of the reasons Chinua Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart so his people would understand that they did have a heritage worth remembering and that to be African did not mean to be inferior.

"We were called primitive, uncivilized or shenzi. To the arrogant mind of the British imperialist, there was only one civilization and that was European and colonizing. Because we stood outside European culture, colonialists claimed we had no civilization. But we had our own civilization that to us was more advanced than the European one because it gave us land, food, freedom, identity, spiritual peace and happiness. To the extent that our civilization met our needs, we were not primitive. Europeans considered themselves more advanced because they could conquer, kill and rob more efficiently. Black people could not possibly prefer a civilization that killed and colonized them to their own.
More incomprehensible logic was to come. Having judged us as primitive, the white man proceeded to tell us, The reason I have killed and conquered you is not because I want to steal your land, minerals, timber and labour but because I want to civilize you (or turn you into what I am). In other words, I want to turn you into the one who kills you, transform you into your own enemy!" - Koigi Wa Wamwere, I Refuse to Die

Anyhow, it was an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who would be interested.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

I've just finished reading Grant K. Goodman's Japan: the Dutch Experience for the book report I have to write for Early Modern European History. The book deals more with the Japanese than the Dutch but my professor said that this book was fine to do my report on.

I found the willingness of the Dutch to jump through numerous hoops in the name of trade most amusing. Relegated to a small Island in Nagasaki's harbour, the Dutch had an overgrown bureaucracy assigned to them by the Japanese which the Dutch were financially responsible for. All Dutch property was subject to search and seizure at any time. When the Dutch entered the harbour, their rudders, guns and ammunition were removed while their ships were "inspected" by officials (in other words, officials took their cut.) Religious services were forbidden (kinjuru - a word I remember from James Clavell's Shogun yay!) Perhaps feeling sorry for the Dutch, the Japanese did allow them use of the local prostitutes. No church services? Prostitutes Galore? All of this makes me think these particular Dutchmen weren't your strict Calvinists. An account of the yearly Dutch visit to the shogun is even more amusing, "Soon after we came in, and had, after our usual observances, seated ourselves in the emperor's (sic) name, he then desired us to sit upright, to take off our cloaks, to tell him our names and age, to stand up, to walk, to turn about, to sing songs, to compliment one another, to be angry, to discourse in a familiar way like father and son, to show how two friends or man and wife compliment or take leave of one another, to play with children, to carry them about in our arms, and to do many things of a like nature . . . Then they made us kiss one another like man and wife, which the ladies particularly showed by their laughter to be well pleased with."

Incidentally - kissing was unknown to the Japanese until the Europeans introduced the practice. Perhaps the Japanese women were not laughing out of pleasure, as suggested, but rather over how ridiculous kissing looked. Anyhow, the capacity of two Dutch men to engage in homoerotic behaviour all in the name of trade is most amusing. I also read that at one point the shogun asked the Dutchmen to demonstrate their method in urinating. I'm not sure how much cultural variety there is in urinary methods but perhaps the shogun gained some insight into that.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Hurricane Isabel arrived today. The paper claimed she would arrive at 2:00 pm here in Southern Ontario. Isabelle was either incredibly early or she was incredibly late for her appointment because at 2:00 it was decidedly calm. The furious wind I witnessed this morning gave me the feeling that by the time Isabel arrived she'd be tossing little old ladies through the air. Isabel, you suck.

The last big hurricane to arrive was Hazel and she did significant damage to this area. My grandfather lost his nursery business to her when she swept through and killed all of his young trees. I'm sure he'd own a large business now if Hazel hadn't graced Ontario with her presence. He owned a greenhouse for a while after he "retired." I wish he still had that place, it made him so happy. Now all he can do is putter around Tillsonburg re-reading all the books in the local library.

I began reading Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" yesterday. I find the book most interesting. Perhaps I'll write an analysis of that book once I've read the entire thing. Black Thought, of the Roots, led me to the book in an interview in which he explained why he had named his 1999 album "Things Fall Apart." While the book follows the negative influence colonialism had on one village in Nigeria, the Roots' album explores the negative influence commercialism has had on hip hop. However, instead of dwelling on this influence, the Roots seek to move their artistry past all the negatives in the same way Chihua Achebe sought to revitalize the arts in Nigeria.

Oh, and a clarification. When I declare with pride that my last name is "den Boer," I'm not condoning the behaviour of the truly boorish boers of South African fame. Although they may be my distant cousins, I despise all they did to Africa. Perhaps you find it odd that I try to distance myself from the Afrikaaners when its a certainty that I had ancestors who engaged in behaviour which was just as horrible. Well, everyone has horrible ancestors somewhere down the line and I'm sure everyone who despises racism as much as I do would wish to distance themselves from the Nazi-sympathizing Apartheid regime.

On that note, Mandela was just recently removed from the U.S. list of terrorists. Thanks America! Now maybe Cheney can apologize for voting against Mandela's release. Not likely, Cheney claims he still would have voted the same way. Now he says the ANC has mellowed and Mandela has become an admirable man. Suddenly Mandela stopped being a terrorist and became a statesman. How convenient. Only the extreme right believes Mandela was ever a terrorist. Everyone else realizes he was a political prisoner. Inability to connect the repressive nature of Apartheid with ANC's freedom fighting . . . perhaps this has something to do with Cheney's immediate inability to connect today's terrorist with anything other than a hatred for freedom.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Well, I've decided to begin a blog. Whether I can keep this up is a question that remains to be answered. If this whole blogging experience becomes a tiresome chore then I will, of course, quit. However, if this becomes something I enjoy then I may just continue blogging.

My decision to begin blogging was one which happened rather randomly, like most things that I do. I'm not keeping a blog to impress anyone, although that would be an agreeable side-effect; I'm keeping a blog because I enjoy writing and this is much easier than attempting to write the quintessential Canadian novel. I probably will never write such a thing, I lack the necessary vision. So, because my blogs will always be published no matter how poorly written they may be, the blog was the obvious choice over the novel.

The name I've chosen for my blogspot, boerishbwoy, is the fifth attempt at a clever monicker for myself. The four before that must not have been so clever or they wouldn't have been taken already. Either that, or there's four people who are more clever than I. Not likely, but plausible.

The name itself is taken from my last name den Boer, which means "the farmer" in Dutch. This last name is not to be confused with de Boer which is a younger form of the same name. Clearly, my ancestors tilled the soil for a much longer period then the upstart de Boers and therefore my name carries with it much more pride and dignity. Either that, or my ancestors were so simple-minded that they forgot to change the spelling of their last name when "den" was becoming obsolete. I have brilliantly taken a section of my last name, Boer, and added a simple "ish," thus rendering it "boerish." Boerish sounds much like boorish, a word which brings to mind a clumsy ill-mannered fellow with large shoes. Interestingly enough, this word was first used to describe my very people - the peasant farmers -in 1562 as a derogatory meaning "clownish rustics." Although I can be clownish, I could hardly be described as a rustic being a city-boy through and through. Therefore, my last name is slightly ironic except that I can be rude, uncultured, and oafish and generally looked down upon by the well-heeled aristocratic types. I don't know any aristocrats or aristocratic types but I'm sure if they knew me they'd look down on me.

The "bwoy" part of my blogspot's name comes from my gender. I am a male. You may be thinking that this is an odd way to spell "boy" but I have rendered the word boy thus on purpose. Why? Well, perhaps as my blogs begin to increase you'll notice my obsession with reggae and Jamaican culture. Bwoy is boy in patois. Thus the name - boerishbwoy.

Hopefully this blog can be a place where I can develop my thoughts on a number of topics. Being a student I may digress into pseudo-intellectual rants about politics, history, and book prices. Bear with me, I'm a boor.

Who deh?