Wednesday, November 30, 2005


When four-fifths of your class is comprised of overly patriotic Mexicans and the other fifth is Colombian and the theme of the week is agriculture the following question is inappropriate:

What is a crop they farm in Colombia?

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Day I gave Money to the NOI

Walking through downtown Toronto is always an interesting experience. One time I saw Batman. I was in grade nine and a man carrying some groceries and wearing a plastic batman mask attached to a short black cape was crossing the street. What could I say? I just waved and called out, "Hey Batman!" Batman waved back, of course, and continued on his errand. Not many people can say that Batman has waved to them, but I can.

Recently a woman accosted me in Toronto and started muttering about the invasion of the pink monkeys. I am not lying. Pink monkeys. She must have been faking psychosis so that people would give her money. I mean, pink monkeys is so cliche. That's the first thing they'll start talking about when their playing crazy on one of those improv shows. Maybe not, but I was under the impression that most schizophrenics hallucinate about spiders, aliens, and the CIA. Pink monkeys aren't frightening. They're just something Timothy Leary or Lewis Carroll might write a children's book about.

I am one of those people who gives money to panhandlers. People always tell me that I am just feeding their drug or alcohol habit, but apparently only thirty per cent of the money goes to drugs and alcohol while the rest goes to survival. If I give two dollars that means I've spent a good $1.40 on a worthy cause. Not many charities can guarantee that seventy per cent of your donation will go to the actual cause . . . although I suppose not many panhandlers are going to guarantee that to you either.

Last summer a smartly-dressed man in a nice suit stopped Laurianne and started talking about books. I love books and so I started to listen. Laurianne started to politely leave but I continued the conversation . . .

"So you're starting a library?"

"Well, we're raising money to add these books to *insert library here*. We want black youth to have good African history books so that they can appreciate their history."

"That's a worthy cause . . ."

"Here's a list of books that we would like to add to our collection."

I glanced over the books quickly. I had never heard of any of them but, then again, I had only read a few books of African history.

"-- John."

"Just a second, Laurianne."

"Well," I dug in my pocket, "here's two dollars for the books."

"Thank you sir," he handed me a newspaper and a couple of flyers.

"No problem, thank you." I smiled. Here was an investment I could be proud of. Educating young people on their history. I didn't have any drug habits or drunken binges on my conscience.

I began rifling through the newspaper on the subway. "Hey, Laurianne?"


"What is Louis Farrakhan doing in this newspaper?"

"You do realize that you just gave money to the Nation of Islam?"

"Uh." I thought of the wonderful bag of chips that I could've bought, "they don't take money from white devils do they?"

"Apparently they do."

"Oh," I paused, "Do you remember any of those book's titles?"

"No," she said, "I was busy walking away."

"Right." *sigh*

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One of the greatest bands of all time, U2, recently performed here in Ottawa. I didn't go to their concert because I have difficulty planning that far ahead and I do not want to do any of those ridiculous things radio stations try to make you to do to win tickets.

Last year, I lived with a number of rabid U2 fans. I attempted to affect a demeanor of U2 antipathy to try to create some controversy. This is difficult to do because U2 fans will generally join in when you start telling Bono jokes and, well, U2 has such infectious tunes that it is difficult to pretend to hate them while the Joshua Tree is blaring from your speakers.

I'm not a huge U2 fan. I only have two of their albums and I tend to laugh at some of Bono's earnest pretension. Nevertheless, the volume knob of my car stereo is inevitably turned upwards whenever the soulful strains of a U2 song are played.

Also, I may not be as big a U2 fan as some, but at least I know what they're singing about most of the time. What am I talking about? Well, just listen to what one U2 fan wrote in the Ottawa Citizen about their supposed favourite U2 song: "My favourite is Sunday Bloody Sunday because the words speak to me. I know what U2 means about Bloody Sunday . . ." I'll interrupt the quote here, for a moment, to prepare you for the monumental superficiality of this fan's understanding of this song. As anyone whose favourite song is Sunday Bloody Sunday should know, Bloody Sunday refers to the killing, in Ireland, of 13 peaceful civilian demonstrators on January 30, 1972. Ahem, the quote continues, "I also hate Sundays. Sundays remind me of homework, school, long week ahead, and dreaded Mondays."

You would think that the line "bodies strewn across a dead end street" would hint at a different interpretation for this song than a simple complaint against the tedium of Sundays. I do not mean to feed my massively obese superiority complex more egotism by putting this peon down, but I think he should be relegated to listening to the unsubtle lyricism of Celine Dion or Mandy Moore.

I don't really believe that, but it's a shame that Bono's lyrics were wasted on this poor soul. Ah well, it is better to have him playing Sunday Bloody Sunday to depress himself further over the terrible day he is having than it is to have him pumping anything by Fitty, Ashlee, or any of pop music's other dry and talentless offerings.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


The word "circumcision" alone is enough to make most people squirm, but when the adjective "female" is placed uncomfortably in front of it, it is sufficiently disturbing for many people to excuse themselves from the conversation or to quickly change the subject. This is one thing which makes Senegalese director, Ousmane Sembene's, Moolaade so outstanding. He manages to inject the serious topic of female circumcision with a certain amount of humour which, I would argue, is no easy feat.
In a small village in Burkina Faso, a group of young girls are about to undergo their circumcision. Two girls run away while four others seek protection from Fatoumata Coulibaly (Collé Gallo Ardo Sy), a woman who refused to have her daughter circumcised seven years earlier. Fatoumata's own botched circumcision forces her to suffer greatly during intercourse and also forced her to deliver her only child by Caesarean Section.
I spent much of the movie trying to figure out what Moolaade meant. I found that my uncertainty of the meaning of this word and my own cultural disorientation made this movie that much more engaging. Without giving the full meaning of the word, Moolaade is the reason a Muslim African woman can stand up to the elders of her village. This is one of the many delights of the movie, a woman using ancient tradition against ancient tradition.
Ousmane Sembene has created a brilliant film on the clash of modernity and tradition and the battle of tradition against the forces of globalization. His conclusions, rooted in a feminist veneer and an inevitable, but African-tinged, concession to progress might surprise some. Sembene's movie leaves the viewer with much to think about. If one watches the movie and concludes that it is merely a cinematographic condemnation of female circumcision then they were not paying attention. Sembene deftly manipulates the plot, leaving images that will not leave your memory for some time. The image of a large pile of chattering radios burning in front of an ancient mosque could not be lost on even the most dwarse audience member. Although there are a few out there --- some of the sour reviews at caused me to scratch my head. I mean, I find it disingenous to harp on the poor plot development of the movie while admitting that you only watched half of the movie.
The movie is not graphic at all, and yet the mere sight of the short blades used to perform the act caused me extreme discomfort. The terrified yelps of a suffering girl made me cringe as did the explanation of why she could not urinate. The movie itself has little explanation on the procedure, but a young woman I watched the movie with was able to offer some helpful and nauseating details. I admit I knew little about female circumcision before the movie, but perhaps the occasional educational commentary from said young woman changed the overall impact of the film for me.
Some of the acting in the movie is poor but the major characters are believable while the principle character, Fatoumata, shines. This movie received rave reviews and deservedly so, in my opinion. The colourful cinematography is entrancing and the cultural exposition is enthralling.
Having been exposed to Sembene's work, I would like to watch some of his earlier work.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I have just finished watching Moulaade for the first time and I would like to send a big thank you out to my good friend, Piet Harsevoort. A fine piece of cinema. More thoughts to follow . . .

Sunday, November 13, 2005

by John den Boer

The man’s face is pale and blank
His hollow eyes strain to see
and I smell the odorous rank
of human mortality
Emaciated ribs jut
from the man’s sunken chest
Crimson blood drips from a cut
which yellow gangrene molests
His thin body convulses
as his swollen belly gasps
His weak heart barely pulses
as his swollen throat rasps
I watch him with contempt

but his face reveals no shame
As his bony arms attempt
to support his rakish frame
The man’s anaemic lips flutter
and his mouth, it forms a word
which his lips weakly mutter

. . . but the man cannot be heard.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Friday, November 04, 2005

More on the Job . . .

Last week Friday was supposed to be my last day of work at the golf course. I have to admit, working at the golf course was fun in the summer but fall is a different story. With snot running down my face, the wind biting into my skin, my fingers red and chapped, I would cut the greens or the rough so that the one golfer of the day could have a semi-enjoyable game of golf. I understand that it was important for the grass to be cut so that the course is in good condition for the spring, but I felt pretty useless and working in the cold and wet is absolutely no fun.

I was worried. I had optimistically set off to Ottawa upon receiving my degree, confident that I would quickly gain a job. Two months of slightly humiliating and uncomfortable unemployment quickly passed and I finally found a job as a greenskeeper at a golf course. As much as I enjoyed the job it was a little humbling to be cutting grass when I felt my degree qualified me for so much more. Yet I worked and enjoyed the sunshine and the camradrie. I even took up golf and, although it is hard to admit, I enjoyed it (maybe Mr. Ware can tell us what the Scots were thinking).

I began attending All Nations Full Gospel Church in Ottawa. Although I did not agree with all that they taught I thoroughly enjoyed their powerful praise and worship, their mighty prayers and their fervent commitment to always seek God first. I joined a Bible study under brother Harry. The study usually only involved Harry and I but it was good place to bring my concerns forward. At the first study I volunteered that I was seeking a better job and brother Harry said that he would pray that this would happen.

Meanwhile, back in Hamilton, my own family prayed for the very same thing.

Last Friday was supposed to be my last day but my boss asked me to work on Saturday. Having just received a speeding ticket, I quickly agreed. On Saturday he asked me to work Monday and I agreed, thinking that it was important to have as much money to tie me over against my rapidly advancing unemployment. On Monday my boss asked me to work Tuesday and, to be honest, I was a little annoyed because I wanted to sleep in and then begin my job search but I agreed because I didn't want to give in to the lethargy. On Tuesday my boss asked me to work Wednesday and I almost said no, but I agreed because Tuesday was actually pretty fun (because I did a lot of shovelling which is a brisk and enjoyable physical activity). On Wednesday my boss asked me if I would work on Thursday but I said no because I really wanted to start looking for a new job.

It's a good thing I said no because when I got home on Wednesday Laurianne quickly informed me that I had an interview the next morning at 7:30 am. Laurianne had taken a test that day to teach English as a second language. During the interview she selflessly recommended me for the position and gave such a sincere and enthusiastic endorsement of me that the director immediately scheduled an interview for the next morning.

So, I went to the interview the next morning smelling fresh and looking criss (and probably slightly nervous). I had carefully prepared answers in my mind while trying to review the parts of speech in my head. I patiently waited for the interview and test to begin while the director explained how the learning centre worked. I waited some more while she explained the weekly schedule and then I waited some more while she began to talk about the students I would be teaching . . .

The students I would be teaching? The only question she had asked me was how I was doing and she had not even looked at my resume. Laurianne had told the director so much about me that she already felt that she knew me. I sat in numb and joyous amazement while she continued to expound on my duties as a teacher. I had a job! I had not even had one day of unemployment. Not even one day.

Skeptics can explain this away, but I know that the only reason I have this wonderful job is because of the power of prayer. God is good. I am a man who has more sympathy for the apostle Thomas than most people. I always cringed when sermons directed righteous anger against poor Thomas who presumably witnessed the death of Jesus with his own eyes. I mean, it is a perfectly natural reaction to doubt that a corpse had risen especially when the first messenger is a former prostitute and the second or third is Peter who, you have to admit, is one of the more romantically inclined disciples, someone you'd expect to go off the deep end.

Praise God, because he is generous to fools like me and my friend Thomas and gives us an extra measure of grace. I thank the Lord for this job and I pray that I might honour him as I work to the best of my ability.
I have a new job! (Or "yob" as my Mexican students would say)

There's another learning centre nearby, our rivals if you will, some little place called something like, um, Redeemer Christian High School. Redeemer, eh? We should challenge them to some kind of soccer game because I am certain we have enough talent to annihilate those Dutchies.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


- Remember, I invented these updates.

- My feet are cold.

- Today was my last day of working at the Golf Course. Hopefully, I can find something else, and quickly.

- My fingernail is still messed up.

- I mean, I probably didn't invent these because there was probably someone who did this before me but since I don't know about this alleged person then they don't exist.

- That's right, they don't exist because I don't know about them. Chew on that, Descartes.

- I think my thumbnail is starting to go too. This can only mean that I have some kind of fingernail disease which spreads verrrry slowly.

- The CBC's documentary on the Quebec Referendum was quite good. It really helped jog my memory.

- My neighbour grows weed.

- Lauriane and I have been together for three months.

- They really don't make a big deal about Luther and his theses here in Gatineau.

- John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, his name is my name toooooo, whenever I go out, the people always shout singing "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt la-la la-la la-la-la . . . "

- (that was in my head all day.)

- Laurianne and I have been together for three months and apparently I still can't spell her name.

- I'm not saying that my neighbour doesn't spray his lawn, I'm saying that he grows cannabis in his house.

- Do do do de do de do-do.

- Why do French-Canadians love what's-her-name so much?

- No, I'm not talking about Celine Dion but that is a good question --- Why do French-Canadians love her so much?

- Man Huynh also loves Celine Dion.

- Man is from Chatham, not Quebec.

- Man is not French-Canadian, despite his Gallic-sounding name.

- Norah Jones!! That's it, why do they love her so much?

- My neighbour could also be using those hydroponic lights for a science experiment, right?

- One day, I went to pick up Laurianne from her friend's house and there was a man being serviced in our parking lot.

- This update is rated 16 ans+, by the way.

- Why are so many kids named Tyler or Tyson these days and why do they always go to the grocery store with their mothers at the same time as I do?

- Jerry Seinfeld, funny guy.

- Yogourt is better than ice cream. It is - I'm right and you're wrong.

- World Cup, coming up. Woo hoo.

Who deh?