Monday, December 18, 2006

Song of the Week: Johnny B. Goode - Peter Tosh

Peter Tosh was a member of the Wailers along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer until he left after Chris Blackwell refused to give him a solo album in 1974. The bad-tempered Tosh, always one for wordplay, dubbed Chris Blackwell Chris Whiteworst. He also referred to the Jamaican government as the crime ministers who shit in the house of represent a thieves (he didn't vote so he wasn't calling himself a thief). Tosh was far more revolutionary in his lyrics than Marley. While Marley is remembered for his song "One Love," Tosh angrily refused to consider peace until there was justice. Tosh was notorious for his short fuse and it had only gotten worse after a tragic car accident in which his girlfriend died and he fractured his skull. He bitterly complained that he could not reach the levels of success that Marley did because Marley was half-white and more marketable. Tosh once threatened violence and wrath against Marley because he found out he was seeing a white woman. When Marley entered the room, Tosh greeted him amiably as if nothing was amiss. When Marley heard of the incident he laughed and said, "Peter? fussin? You don't seh!" Although it is conceivable that Tosh was wary of fighting the dread-locked superstar people called "Tuff Gong" for his toughness and surprising strength, it is also possible that Marley's cool was just the thing for Tosh's fire. Peter Tosh continued to live in Marley's shadow after Marley died in 1981. He did earn a reggae grammy and enjoy great success in South Africa. He was outspoken about his beliefs and often received the blunt end of Jamaican justice. In fact, in 1978 he was beaten senseless and left for dead in a prison cell for singing a song that violated Jamaica's anti-profanity laws. On September 11, 1987 Tosh was shot dead in his home in what the police called a robbery. No goods were taken, however, and only one of the three men responsible was arrested. Tosh was probably cantankerous right down to the end.
Johnny B. Goode is a cover of the famous Chuck Berry classic with a few minor changes. Tosh didn't like to do covers but was persuaded to do so and relunctantly agreed. I'm glad he did.

Deep down in Jamaica close to Mandeville
Back up in the woods on top of a hill
There stood an old hut made of earth and wood
Where lived a country boy named Johnny B Goode
He never learned to read and a write so well
But he could play his guitar like ringing a bell yell

I say go (go johnny) Johnny be good tonight, yea
I said go (go johnny) johnny be good

He used to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Sitting in a tree in the railroad track
Old engineer in the train sitting in the shade
Strummin' with the rhythm that them drivers made
People passing by would stop and say
Oh my oh my how what the boy can play


Mama said son you gotta be a man
You gotta be the leader of a reggae band
People coming in from miles around
To hear you play until the sun goes down
Boy someday your name will be in the lights
Saying Johnny B Goode tonight

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


He considered himself something of a philosopher. He walked as he imagined philosophers walked, slowly, elbow resting on arm and chin resting on fist with his brow furrowed in contemplation. Occasionally he would carry a thick tome under his arm. This book was usually in Greek, a language he had once learned but had since forgotten. He could still sound out the words, but their sound rang empty and meaningless in his ears. When he had the book, he would sit on a large rock that sat on a prominent corner of the village, across from the Église de la Croix Sainte. On this rock he would open his book and begin reading aloud, pausing once and a while to gaze at the heavens as if finally understanding some minute detail of existence. He did not care so much about learning from the books, as he did about the warm sun on his skin and the pretty women walking by.
Usually, however, he would sit at a prominent place on the patio of Hôtel Méditerranéen and ponder existence aloud, over a pint of Heineken. He never brought his Greek books there, as the owner of the hotel was Greek and might begin questioning him about the books' contents. Sometimes he philosophized in French, sometimes in Kirundi, sometimes in his limited Arabic, and sometimes in broken English. His philosophy consisted of simple metaphors and homilies, and the occasional insight gained from a book read long ago.
His face radiated a youthful innocence and naivite that belied his old age. His hair was peppered with grey, and deep laugh wrinkles splayed from the corners of his eyes. These brown eyes danced with life and vigour, even when he furrowed his brow in attempt to brood darkly. His skin was light brown and his face revealed some of his Arabic ancestry. His black mother had been a beautiful city woman of loose morals, notorious for her trysts with various mazungus and rich foreigners. She had actually fallen in love with an Arabic businessman who hadn't reciprocated. Still, the Arab had sponsored his illegitimate child through a decent education in Paris.
Baybars al-Hamid Ntwari was his name, although very few people knew or remembered this. Most of his fellow villagers affectionately called him the old bighead. Many people would come to him for amusement and a few earnest country folk genuinely valued his advice.
"Monsieur, my neighbour plays loud music, what can I do to make it stop?" asked one middle-aged villager.
"Mmmm," he responded, and then nodded his head as he sat deep in thought, "A neighbour is like an empty vase and the things you say to them should be the flowers which make this vase functional."
"What of the loud music?"
"Music is like an emotion which cannot be defined."
"But what should I do to stop this loud music?"
"Eat with him, food is a healing balm."
"And he will stop his music?"
"Ask not if the music will stop, but if you are willing to sacrifice flowers and healing balm for the volume of that which cannot be defined."
"Aaaah, I see."
One day, a dark day like no other, a glowering youth sat down in front of him, his fists on the table and his tense body leaning forward in an intimidating posture. Baybars had heard rumours of troubles around town, but, as usual, he had ignored them. He had heard many rumours during his time, and only a few had come to fruition. Even then, he had survived without trouble: "Why are you here old man?"
"Why is anyone here?"
The youth's glower became fiercer, "Why are you, an Arab, here, in Africa?"
"The earth remains impartial about the labels we give it, though we stain it red with our blood, it remains unmoved."
"The soil of Africa is black like its people."
"If the colour of the soil determined the distribution of peoples various skin tones, then Europe would have a chalky white soil," Baybars spoke softly, in the sing-song voice he used for his philosophizing, "this soil is red and brown and yet I see no red men."
"I want to extinguish all of the foreigners."
The old man, usually jovial, became serious, "May I tell you a story?"
"A story?" the youth asked incredulously, "a story?"
"Yes, a story."
"You try my patience, old bighead," the youth glared malevolently at the old man.
"Long ago in ancient Greece," he began, for whenever he told a parable it was set in an often anachronistic ancient Greece, "there was a farmer who was renowned for his olives."
"I hate olives and mazungus except for Karl Marx," the youth observed coldly.
"When you get past the bitter flesh, the core of Marx is an inedible pit," sang Baybars softly.
"I shall continue," Baybars put up his hand calmly, in a quieting motion. The youth remained strangely silent, although he shook his head and sniffed derisively, "This farmer was known across the land for the quality of his olives and the thick honey-brown olive oil he created. Men travelled from the furthest reaches of the country to buy his wondrous olives and his olive oil. Year after year, his olive crop was without equal and each year he prospered. The man was exceedingly proud of his olives because he had been born a gypsy and suffered much persecution as a young man. He was angry with all of the people who had treated him unjustly. He was particularly angry with the Jews, however, as two men who happened to be Jews had been particularly unkind to him. A Jewish baker had beaten him when he had made amorous advances towards his daughter, and, after he had bought his land, a Jewish moneylender had charged him exhorbitant interest rates that kept him in debt for many years. Yes, the man was proud of where he came from and proud of where he felt he was going. One year, however, his olives inexplicably became bitter, dry and almost inedible while his olive oil became a sickly pale yellow. He was confused, having no idea how his olives had failed to grow as well as usual. He had tended them with as much care as usual and yet they could not even fetch a tenth of their former price. Angry and frustrated, he mulled over his dilemma until he came up with the solution."
"You're trying my patience, what was the solution?"
"The Jews. The Jews had given him the evil eye and caused his olive crop to fail."
"What is the evil eye?" the youth growled.
"An envious eye that casts a curse upon the one who is looked at."
"I have no time for your story," the youth's eyes smouldered with impatient anger.
"Very well," Baybars responded.
"Don't you realize you're on trial, old man?" the youth stuck a long finger in the old man's face.
"What crime have I committed?" Baybars asked quietly.
"You have stolen land, raped our women, murdered our countrymen, and oppressed our people."
"I am happy that I at least have a trial. You are my judge?"
"When did I do these things?" Baybars asked, looking at the young man intently.
"Your people, your father have done these things."
"You knew my father?" Baybars smiled in a patronizing manner.
The youth's eyes flashed with anger as he reached behind himself and thrust a machete dangerously close to Baybars' face. Baybars reflexively turned his head away and put his hands above his head, "Don't talk down to me, old man!" the youth nicked Baybars' face neatly with the machete, a tiny red fleck of blood appeared.
Baybars recomposed himself with astounding speed, "Did you know my father?"
"No, but I know what he did," the youth hunkered menacingly over the table where Baybars sat.
"You know he invested in coffee?"
"From stolen land, thereby condoning the colonial system!"
"Land is like the wind, who can own it?" the red fleck of blood had formed into a tiny rivulet, which Baybars wiped away with his hand.
"If the mazungu, Tutsi cockroaches, and Arab fools could sell the wind, they would. Your father propped up the colonial system through his investment and you profited from it!" the youth spat.
"The rat criticizes the mouse for eating garbage."
"Say what you mean, old bighead!" the youth knocked Baybars' Heineken from the table, and it clattered across the stone patio before the neck snapped as it hit the yellow concrete wall.
"And your father, Hameza, is he not a foreman and does he not take wages from the coffee plantation?"
The youth leaned forward, his slick face inches from Baybars, "My father uses the corrupt system to his benefit whereas your father was part of the problem."
"The vulture does not seek out its brethren before it feasts on a carcass."
"In plain terms, old bighead!"
"And your father," Baybars said calmly, "he distributed his wages equally to the rightful owners of this land?"
"He was the rightful owner!" the youth reared backwards and swatted his machete through the air aggressively.
'Of all the land?"
"Of all of our land."
"So, the Tutsi, the mazungu and my father stole your father's land?"
Your father owns all of Burundi's land?"
"All Hutus own Burundi, we were here first."
"This is a law?"
"This is the truth."
"And how am I guilty?"
"You are guilty of benefiting from the profits of stolen land."
"My father's coffee investments mean my own guilt?" Baybars queried.
"So, I must repay the profits?"
"That," the youth snarled, "would be just the beginning."
"My father lost money in that investment, does this mean that you pay me?"
"Fool!" The youth cuffed Baybars across the top of his head. The movement was quick and violent but only connected weakly with the old man's pate.
Baybars rubbed his head gingerly, more for the benefit of the youth than for himself, "what of the accusation of rape?"
"Your father raped a Hutu woman and you are the bastard product," the youth eyed Baybars contemtuously, "I know your story."
"The songbird does not sing the song of the jackal," sang Baybars softly.
"Enough with your proverbs, old bighead!"
"Tell me something, young man," Baybars said in an even tone, "do rape victims customarily allow their rapists to name their child?"
The youth looked unsure of himself for a moment and then quickly collected himself as if remembering something he had been told, "Any pairing of an outsider with a Hutu is the equivalent of a rape!"
"What of your grandmother?"
"What of her?"
"She is Tutsi."
"You lie!" the youth, furious, swung his machete down into the table, where the metal cleaved into the wood and vibrated for several seconds. There was obviously something to Baybar's claim.
"What of the accusation of murder?" Baybars queried.
"You have supported a government that has endorsed genocide against the Hutu people!"
"Whom did I support?"
"Micombero and all of the Tutsi pigs!" the youth spat.
"In which election did I vote for Micombero?" Baybars asked.
"There was no election! He stole power like all cockroaches do."
"Then how did I support him?"
"You are a part of the system of foreigners that oppresses the Hutu majority!"
"Ah, the fourth charge," Baybars noted, "I oppressed my mother and her people. Why would I oppress my own mother?"
"Some Hutu are part of the problem. Your mother was part of the problem."
"Yes, a few extremists create problems for everyone."
If the youth comprehended Baybar's barb, it wasn't apparent on his face, "I have no more time for words with you. You are beneath me."
"What is your verdict, young judge?" Baybars asked respectfully.
"You are guilty!"
"And what of my sentence?"
"Death!" the youth roared.
"May I have one final request?"
"What is it?" the youth snapped.
"May I finish my story?"
The youth hesitated, the nervous anticipation of the kill was apparent in the way his chest heaved with short breaths, "Fine."
"The farmer believed that his olive crop had failed because of the evil eye the Jews had given him. He felt that if he did not stop the source of this evil eye, his body would shrivel away to nothingness."
"That's stupid."
"That is what he believed. Now that he had located the source of his failure, he pondered how he would repair it. He finally came to a rather crude solution: he incited a mob which burned down the homes of the Jewish families in their village. This satisfied his anger and he retired to his home as bitter, shrivelled, and dry as his olives."
"This is it?" the youth scoffed, "I don't get it."
He looked into the youth's bloodshot eyes, and what he saw was emptiness, "You are the man."
Baybars closed his eyes as he felt the metal bite into his skin repeatedly. He looked up at the sun shining through the branches of a Eucalyptus tree and he smiled despite the pain as he felt the life drain from his body.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Song of the Week: Ndakuvara - Oliver Mtukudzi

Zimbabwean artists Oliver Mtukudzi, also known affectionately as Tuku, has a powerful soulful voice which brims with emotion. Most of his songs focus on the struggle of the average person, although fans sometimes claim that his music has veiled criticisms of the government. Unlike his more politically active compatriot, Thomas Mapfumo, Mtukudzi has chosen to remain publically silent on political issues. This song too, if one took it as a stretched metaphor, could possibly be a criticism of Mugabe . . . or just a song about an ox. Whatever the case is, I absolutely love this song and, for me, it packs a powerful emotional punch. Disappointment with the choices of a loved one is a universal theme, I guess.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Song of the Week: Taylor by Jack Johnson

From Jack Johnson's second album, On and On, it's "Taylor." I had no idea, the first few times I listened to this song that it was about a young prostitute. I think this is because Johnson avoids the modern tendency towards blatant sexualization. The inclusion of Ben Stiller is funny, but probably leads a lot of people away from the actual message of the song.


They say Taylor was a good girl
never one to be late,
complain, express ideas in her brain
Working on the night shift
passing out the tickets
you're gonna have to pay her
if you want to park here.
Well, mommy's little dancer has
quite a little secret:
working on the streets now
never gonna keep it.
It's quite an imposition
And now she's only wishin'
That she would have listened to the words they said, poor Taylor.

Well she just wanders around
unaffected by the winter winds, yeah
and she'll pretend that,
well, she's somewhere else
so far and clear, about 2,000 miles from here.

Peter Patrick pitter patters on the window
but Sunny's silhouette won't let him in
and poor old Pete's got nothin 'cause he's been fallin',
but somehow Sunny knows just where he's been.
He thinks that singin' on a Sunday's gunna save his soul,
now that Saturday's gone
Well sometimes he thinks that he's on his way
but I can see that his brake lights are on

And he just wanders around unaffected by
the winter winds, yeah
and he'll pretend that,
well, he's somewhere else
so far and clear
about 2,000 miles from here.

Such a tough enchilada
filled up with nada
givin' what she got to give to get a dollar bill
she used to be a limber chick
time's a been tickin'
now she's finger lickin to the man
with the money in his pockets
flyin in his rocket
only stoppin by on his way to a better world
if Taylor finds a better world
Taylor's gunna run away

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cold Comfort

A wet blanket
clings with clammy fingers
cold and creeping
on naked skin,
kicking only causes
these wet claws to cleave closer
Call out, but the cold cover
collects your cries
in its callous clutch
Curl up, but the carpet's
condensation clamps uncomfortably
close, crawling slowly across the skin
Arctic cool scratches your insides
like collapsing crisp ice crumbling into
glacial cracks, cravenly piercing past skin
and flesh into your collapsing core.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Music Challenge (via Pete via Jake)

1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to the question even if it doesn't make sense.


How are you feeling today?

How do your friends see you?
Living In Love

Will you get married?
Wish You Were Here

What is your best friend's theme song?
Lion of Judah

What is the story of your life?
Oppression/ Get Up Stand Up

What was high school like?
Junior Gong the Dreadful

How can you get ahead in life?

What is the best thing about your friends?
One More Cup of Coffee

What is tonight going to be like?
Pressure Drop

What is in store for the remainder of this weekend?
All Shall Be Well

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Song of the Week: Redemption Song - Performed by Ziggy Marley and the Chieftains

I really enjoy this version of the classic Bob Marley tune performed by his oldest son and the Irish group, the Chieftains. I think that the Irish can relate to this song more than most Europeans.

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
sold I to the merchant ships,
minutes after they took I
from the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong
by the hand of the Almighty
we forward in this generation,
Won't you help to sing
these songs of freedom?
'cause all I ever had:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
none but ourselves can free our minds.
have no fear for atomic energy,
'cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
while we stand aside and look? ooh!
Some say its just a part of it:
We've got to fulfill the book.
Won't you help to sing
these songs of freedom?
'cause all I ever have:
redemption songs;
redemption songs;
redemption songs.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
none but ourselves can free our minds.
Wo! have no fear for atomic energy,
'cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
while we stand aside and look?
Yes, some say its just a part of it:
We've got to fulfill the book.
Won't you help to sing
these songs of freedom?
'cause all I ever had:
redemption songs -
All I ever had:
redemption songs:
These songs of freedom,
songs of freedom.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Phil asked me yesterday how it felt to be part of another nation. I think this is a good question. I live in Québec and I love Québec, but I'm not Québecois. Does this nation encompass the geographical area known as Québec or does it only refer to those who are both geographically and culturally Québecois?

Well, at least I'm in a nation that is part of a united Canada. Of course, I don't think my entire nation agrees with me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Few of the Interesting Spammer Names I Have Received Mail from Recently:

Napoleon S. Pathologies
Otwell Delbert
Mindy Slaughter
Hamish Kong
Victoria Rant
Mammon G. Trailblazer
Bakeries F. Gary
Dutch V. Fluctuation
Xerographic V. Amortizing
Conciliator C. Timely
Aldermen G. Pledge
Glades S. Kayaking
Lesson R. Paraded
Cootie A. Tia
Hermosillo S. Tummy
Towheaded E. Homewards
Encyclopedias M. Seismologist

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Song of the Week: Pachelbel's Canon played on the electric guitar by funtwo.

Perhaps you have seen this already, but if you haven't I think you can agree that it's absolutely amazing.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I walked into the living room where she was watching television. Standing before her, I thrust my chest out and grinned in clownish exaggeration.

She looked at me and quipped, "I've decided that I won't be having children with you."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Song of the Week: Untold Stories - Buju Banton

"Untold Stories", from Buju Banton's great album 'Til Shiloh, has been compared to Bob Marley's beautiful Redemption Song. Bizarrely enough, Sinead O'Connor recorded a cover of "Untold Stories." Her song lacks the raw powerful vocals of the original, but it's an interesting tribute nonetheless. Forget Shaggy or Sean Paul's pop albums, Banton's 'Til Shiloh is the greatest dancehall album of all time. In fact, in 1999 'Til Shiloh was selected by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 best albums of the decade. Banton's gravelly voice gives this song, about the struggle of the poor, a soulful raw quality that always strikes a chord with me. As surely as Dylan's voice was "a voice that came from you and me" (Don Mclean, American Pie), Banton's voice speaks for many of the developing world's struggling poor.


While I'm living
Thanks I'll be giving
To the Most High, you know

I am living while I'm living to the father I will pray
Only him know how we get through every day
With all the hike in the price, arm and leg we haffi (have to) pay while our leaders play
All I see is people a -rip and a-rob and a - grab (ripping and robbing and grabbing)

Thief never love to see a thief with a long bag, (thieves never like to see thieves with more than them)
No love for the people who ah suffah real bad (the people who are suffering badly)
Another toll to the poor, may God help my soul
What is to stop the youths from get out of control?
Filled up with educations, yet no on no payroll (yet not on any payroll)
The clothes on mi back have countless eye-holes

Chorus x2

I say who can afford to run will run (leave Jamaica)
But what about those who can't... they will have to stay
Opportunity a scarce, scarce, commodity
In these times I say... when mama spend her last to send you to class...
Never you ever play (when mama spends her last bit of money to send you to class, you don't ever play)
It's a competitive world for low budget people
Spending a dime while earning a nickel
With no regard for who it may tickle
My cup is full to the brim

Could go on and on the full has never been told
Through this life keep getting me down
Don't give up now
Got survive someway some how

Saturday, November 11, 2006

White Poppies?

In 1933, the Women's Cooperative Guild began producing white poppies as a symbol of peace and the end of all wars. The Peace Pledge Union took up the white poppy in 1934 and continue to produce it as an alternative to the red poppy. The Peace Pledge Union began after the canon of St. Paul's cathedral asked people to send postcards promising never to support war. This dubious promise was taken up by a large number of Britons and their membership soon swelled. According to the White Poppy for Peace website (run by the PPU, the white poppy stands for a pacifist solution to war:
The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome.
From economic reliance on arm sales (Britain is the world second largest arms exporter) to maintaining manifestly useless nuclear weapons Britain contributes significantly to international instability. The outcome of the recent military adventures highlights their ineffectiveness in today's complex world.
Now 85 years after the end of the ‘war to end all war’ we still have a long way to go to put an end to a social institution which in the last decade alone killed over 10 million children.
The large difference between the red poppy and the white poppy is that the white poppy is meant not only to remember all the victims of war, but also to support pacifism. Of course, the implication is that wearers of the red poppy would rather see the continuance of war (and support arms sales, nuclear weapons, and the killing of 10 million innocent children.) Wearers of the white poppy, besides their distasteful disrespect of veterans, have too much faith in humanity. I would never pledge to reject war, and not because I love war. On the contrary, like most people, I find war abhorrent. Still, I recognize that there are always going to be genocidaires, Hitlers, Pol Pots, militarism, greed, and ideological clashes. Thus, there will always be a need to protect and defend the defenceless. This is what the red poppy stands for, not only for remembering the dead, but also for carrying on their fight for justice. The red poppy should not be a political symbol that asks us to support wars whether our government is wrong or right. No, it should be a symbol of remembrance and of the fight for justice. In the words of Peter Tosh on his song Equal Rights: "Everyone is crying out for peace, no one is crying out for justice." We can demonstrate for an end to violence, but are we demonstrating for true peace? True peace, true shalom, encompasses justice and the restoration of all creation to God's original intent. This is something that we cannot have as long as humans, with all their evil and hate, are in the picture. We work for shalom, but we know it is not obtainable by human power. Unfortunately, as a last resort, justice must occasionally be obtained through violence. John McRae's powerful poem, In Flanders Fields, asks the reader to take up the battle so that the dead can rest in peace. McRae meant that we should take up arms and fight on, but also, I think, that we should honour their memory in all that we do in our society. These men and women fought for justice, and we should remain vigilant in protecting our communities and working for true shalom. The red poppy stands for peace too, but not a peace that is blind to the imperfections of humanity. We shall not forget.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Flickering

The old man could often be seen strolling around the mall. He would put one foot in front of the other and sort of swing his body from side to side. No one could call him graceful; his method of walking was more akin to a loping steer than a slinking cat. Sometimes he would fold his hands behind his back, moving forward at a leisurely pace as his shoulders swung to and fro. This was the way that he felt royalty walked. That is, not loping like a bovine, but at a gentle pace with their hands behind their backs. He did not realize how ungainly his walk looked.

It bothered him when people would rush to stand in front of him on the escalator and then just stand and wait to be taken to the top. The thing was, he never stood on an escalator. In fact, when he was on an escalator that was when all of his sauntering ended. On the escalator, he moved with the furious energy and purpose of a high-paid lawyer. No, when someone stepped in front of his doddering old form on the escalator, he would wait, arms folded in front of him, until that person had completed their journey to the top. Sometimes, if the mall was especially busy, he would have to wait for half an hour until he could make the journey to the top of escalator the way he wanted to.

He hadn't always sauntered. There was a time when his escalator pace had been the pace of his life. He had been a brisk walker with hard long steps and almost no wasted movement. This had been when he had known his precise destination and purpose. Now -- now he drifted along slowly, and tried to let his mind catch up to his languid pace. He had hated malls before and avoided them whenever possible. Now he would spend hours at the mall. He had carefully calculated his walk to give the impression of an old man enjoying the twilight of his life, but inside he was panicking.

Smiling wistfully, he strolled along with his hands folded behind his back. Why had he come to the mall? He winked at a tiny baby to spite the panic welling up inside of him. Why was he here? He felt the sack brush him gently on the back of his knee. He brought the sack from behind his back, slowly, as if he were merely admiring his merchandise. There were four cans of tomato soup. Why did he need four cans of tomato soup? Perhaps he was making tomato soup for his daughter. He smiled, imagining that tiny bundle of joy running to greet him at the door. It was such a pleasure to have a daughter. He glanced at the four receipts scattered amongst the cans. Why had he bought tomato soup four times? He couldn't answer this question, but the despair and confusion this caused him were not apparent on his beaming old face.

Once he had wandered the parking lot for two hours, looking for his car. Up and down the rows he walked, doing his best to appear to be an old man enjoying a pleasurable walk in a parking lot. A couple of minivans and an SUV had almost hit him. He had not been able to recall if his car were green or blue or turquoise. He would stop suddenly at a familiar-looking car, pretending to admire its chrome sheen and then moving away when he saw an unfamiliar bumper sticker or a foreign item dangling from the rearview mirror. Finally he had seen a car that looked like his and when he had reached for his keys he had realized that they weren't with him. He had not driven that day. In fact, he had not driven for a month. His wife had told him she had lost the keys the day after he had run out of gas on a rural highway far from home. He had been exploring, he told his wife, but there had been a worried expression on her face.

He thought of his wife now, but he couldn't remember what she looked like when she was worried. Her face was young and happy and there were no lines whatsoever on it. Remembering her, he smiled to himself. He wasn't pretending this time.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tune of the Week:
I have decided, each week, to share a song that I enjoy. If reggae isn't your thing you will probably be disappointed most of the time. However, there is no need to fret because I do enjoy a wide variety of musical genres. Yes, yes, I know that you weren't fretting, but I was only attempting to multiply, in my mind, the impact of my blog. The first tune is Damage by the underrated Anthony B. Anthony B's patois is quite thick and his Rastafarian double-speak might be a little confusing to wade through and so I have printed the lyrics and given a few definitions. "I and I" is a phrase which eliminates the pronouns you, me, they, he, and she in order to emphasize the i-nity (unity) of the community with the Most I (Most High.) "Downpress" is the word which Rastafarians use to signify oppression. Up is a positive direction and therefore up-pression is an lexicological oxymoron for the Rastafarian. "Babylon" is the entire wicked system of downpression and "livity" is the Rastafarian word for life or for being alive. Enjoy . . . or start fretting, you can do that too.

Anthony B - Damage

I and I defend the downpressed is a must!
You neither I and I need to fight nor fuss
'cause everything them say them rightful own, belong to us
my father don't tell I and I that everything shall fall to I and I is a must
so Babylon set the livity, every day another one bite the dust, my Lord!

You don't have to say you're sorry, for all the wrongs that you have done, mmmmm
I don't want to hear sad stories, 'cause the damage already done
oh, the damage already done

Broken bones and wounds need tender repair, hang on brotherman, don't despair
although we forgive seven times seven, still the damage already done, so much damage already done.
Stop and listen a while to this meditation style, going straight to your mind.
True, you're wicked and wild, (but) the only way you can deal with this vibe
is to free up your soul and mind, a yagga yagga yagga yoy (chorus)

Everybody wants their peace of mind, trying to justify how they deal with mankind
sometimes I wonder how they sleep at night time when all the damage already done, oh the damage already done. Stop and listen a while to this meditation style, going straight to your mind,
true, you're wicked and wild, (but) the only way you can deal with these vibes
is to free up your soul and mind, a yagga yagga yaga yoy (chorus)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Dutch are Cheese Worms

“Oh, ha-ha,” he laughed, giving me a knowing nod, “you’re Dutch.”

He laughed again, as if the fact that I was Dutch were the punchline of some universal joke that I was completely oblivious to.

I was perplexed and I think my baffled expression communicated this confusion quite well.

“You like that weird freaky stuff,” he grinned, prompting me with his raised eyebrows.

“You know,” he said, “like that freakin’ perverted crap.”

He pointed his finger knowingly at me, “I’ve been to Amsterdam, don’t tell me that you don’t know I’m right.”

I smiled at his idiocy; something which he felt was an admission of guilt, “See! Ha ha, I knew it. You people are freaking perverted, man.”

“But you like that weed now, don’t you?” he seemed genuinely pleased about his knowledge of Hollanders, “good shit. You probably do the hard shit too, eh?”

I looked over at my wife, which was, according to him, another admission of guilt. He crowed with pleasure and then proceeded to lay out some more obtuse comments about my alleged sexual and narcotic proclivities.

It seemed futile to me to inform my inebriated attacker of my staunch Calvinist roots. I am the product of what is perhaps the antithesis of the contemporary Dutch stereotype. I am a religious, somewhat conservative individual who does not indulge in drug usage, abhors euthanasia and abortion, is monogamously heterosexual, and definitely does not do “weird freaky stuff.”

The older Dutch stereotypes are easier to take. I don’t mind being labelled as miserly, stubborn, mule-headed, practical, economical, disciplined, blunt, or even slightly stupid. Being labelled a pharmaceutically-plastered pervert is a littler harder to take. The disturbingly gross Dutch villain from the movie Austin Powers: Goldmember is, in all likelihood, partly to blame for the reinforcement of the modern Dutch stereotype. Fortunately, I did not have to explain to this all-knowing fellow that I do not eat my own skin.

Cruel stereotypes are quite effective in rousing public support for campaigns against one’s national enemies. These stereotypes might inspire fear, rage, or contempt, but any way they’re used they can help raise the necessary fighting men to fend off the enemy. From the crazed Muslim terrorists in Back to the Future and True Lies to the cruel Krauts supposedly nailing babies to church doors in Belgium there have been attempts throughout history to dehumanize the enemy.

Yes, the Netherlands was once a major world power. In the seventeenth century, the Netherlands was the economic envy of much of Europe and even threw mighty Britain into a bit of jealousy. There were Dutch trading posts throughout the world from Ceylon, Malacca, Deshima, and the Dutch East Indies to South Africa, Guyana, New Amsterdam, Suriname, and various forts along the coast of Africa. Along with this empire came a reputation as money-grubbing skinflints and frank stubborn louts. The Japanese who were known to be guarded in their speech were astonished at the forthrightness of the Dutch. They claimed that the Dutch were the most arrogant of all the European traders they dealt with. Of course, they also admired the Dutch trading skills as a Japanese proverb said, “Where the Dutchman has passed, not even the grass grows anymore.” This may also have referred to a certain lack of proper hygiene exhibited by the Dutch at this time. Still, the Dutch had not impressed the Japanese with their Protestant work ethic. One Japanese scholar observed the following: “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.”

The Dutch had a formidable empire. The only reason the Dutch haven’t dealt with the same post-colonial fallout and white guilt that the British have is because the British took over most of the Dutch possessions. Plus, the Dutch like to think of themselves as tolerant (this is called self-stereotyping) and the slave-trade and the exploitation of Indonesian labour doesn’t fit well into this equation.

So, the Dutch and the British hated each other because they both wanted to control the sea routes from the East Indies. Three wars were fought between the British and Dutch between 1652 and 1674. In May of 1667 the indomitable Admiral De Ruyter sailed up the Medway, wrought havoc on the British ships, and blockaded the Thames. And thusly did the Dutch defeat the poor British.

For a while.

The third war was also a failure for the British and their French allies as the land force was halted by flood waters and the Anglo-French fleet were handily defeated (four times!) by the clever De Ruyter. The tension between the Dutch and the English dimmed somewhat when in 1688 William III, Prince of Orange, assumed the English throne with his wife, Mary, and put the Dutch navy under the command of the British. When the English and Dutch navy were combined the English sailors viewed the Dutch with some resentment, and unwanted advice or orders from Dutch sailors were said to be from “my Dutch uncle.”

But the insults had begun before this: during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, a British admiral, Samuel Pepys, wrote the following not-so-flattering entry in his diary, “Methinks, by God, the devil must shit Dutchmen.”

As if being the excrement of the epitome of evil isn’t bad enough, a British pamphlet (The Dutch Boare Dissected, 1665) from the same period read “A Dutchman is a Lusty, Fat, Two-legged Cheese worm. A Creature that is so addicted to eating butter, drinking fat, and sliding (skating) that all the world knows him for a slippery fellow.” Not only that, but the Dutchman “loves to be down in the Dirt, and Boare-like, to wallow therein.” It was during this time, when the Dutchman was still a slippery dirt-wallowing cheese worm, that a number of new phrases entered the English idiom.

Dutch courage is the bravery one gains after drinking alcohol. This implies, of course, that the Dutch are not only drunkards, but that their courage is also sorely lacking. A Dutch bargain is a bargain settled over drinks. A Dutch headache is a hangover. A Dutchman’s draught is a big swig of alcohol. Dutch gold is brass, because the Dutch are too frugal to use real gold. Dutch comfort is cold comfort because, you know, things could be worse. A Dutch concert is badly played music because the Dutch are apparently lacking in that department. Dutch talent is the more the result of mistaken brawn than actual skill. Going Dutch or a Dutch Treat refers to both parties paying separately for a date. Double Dutch is writing or conversation that is as garbled and incomprehensible as the Dutch language (or it can be the use of two jumping ropes simultaneously in opposite directions). Dutch generosity is stinginess.

Before the Dutch were eclipsed by the French as the hated enemy, they were the original frogs. As swamp-dwelling men it made sense to call the Dutch frogs. In a 1672 anti-Dutch satirical cartoon, the Netherlands is portrayed as a huge horse dropping on which maggots feed and eventually grow into full-grown Dutch frogs. In this cartoon a frog dressed in military regalia begs the devil “Sweet little Devill thou shall't hear my prayer/ A poor distressed Froglander to spare.” The French certainly ate frogs, but the Dutch were frogs. Considering the trimness of most of the modern Dutch, the depiction of Dutchmen as fat frogs in many early modern cartoons is quite humourous. John Arbuthnot’s 1712 polemic The History of John Bull argued that the natural enemies of the English were the Dutch rather than the French. While the Englishman (John Bull) is “an honest plain-dealing fellow, Cholerick, Bold, and of a very unconstant Temper,” the Dutchman (Nic Frog) is “a cunning sly Whoreson, quite the reverse of John in many particulars; Covetous, Frugal; minded domestick affairs; would pine his belly to save his Pocket, never lost a Farthing to careless servants, or bad debtors.” The Dutchman dwells in “a marshy soil and unwholesome Air, infested with Fogs and Damps.” In The Embarrassment of Riches, Simon Schama writes “It was only in the eighteenth century, when France rather than the [Dutch] Republic had established itself as a major naval adversary of the British, that their satires turned to eaters, rather than imitators of the frog, for stock abuse” (264).

Perhaps I should have turned to my antagonist and given him a good old fashioned Dutch rub.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

As Karen and I discussed this week - with seven aunts, three uncles, four grandparents, and absolutely no rivals, there can only be one conclusion: this kid is going to get spoiled.

Friday, October 20, 2006

How long will it take for the Conservatives to stop referring to the inadequacies of the previous government and start focussing on their own game plan? I mean, it's a bit like a student who brags about his C- because it isn't a D.

Also, if this new "Clean Air Act" is any indication, the government is like an Olympic high jumper who is aiming to beat the Sicilian record. Because, you know, if you aim low enough, you're bound to reach your target.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Watch W5 at 7:00 pm Saturday or at 1pm Sunday:

The most respected and most-watched current affairs program on Canadian television, W-FIVE returns for a new season of hard-hitting investigative reporting. The new season launches with an update on the disturbing cross-country investigation of U-Haul trucks followed by a look at a Radical church that controls unwitting members.

*edit* the program has been moved to next Saturday.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I've been tagged by Jake.

I am to reflect on four words that he has selected:

sorrow, birds, reciprocal, charisma.

Sorrow - Young Werther is quite caught up in this whole phenomenon. He is what the Soggy-Bottom-Boys would refer to as "a man of constant sorrows." And he's a in good company, Jesus was also a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).

Birds - You can flip them, leave your metaphorical seeds as food for them, my wife might have one if she sees Oprah in person, the worm is gotten by the early one, I was told by a little one, I was born as naked as a jay one, two of them can be killed with one stone, when they have the same feathers they flock together, one of them in the hand is worth two of them in the bush.

Reciprocal - She's very sorry but her feelings for you just aren't, okay? You're a nice guy, though.

Charisma - It once meant divine favour but now it's personal magnetism. I suppose you need divine favour to have personal magnetism. Not to be confused with charismatic, which means a raucous, highly disorganized church service which focusses on experiential Christianity.

I shall tag Piet and Aaron with the following words: Subliminal, Abomination, Tirade, and Pretension.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Appropriation of Reggae

Young and old protesters alike readily identify with Bob Marley. They'll quote lyrics from "One Love" as they sway, smoke herb, and talk about peace. When many people think of Bob Marley they think of a man who promoted peace and togetherness and perhaps a little bit of the ol' ganja. Of course, the revolutionary lyrics are entirely ignored. In Talkin' Blues, Marley sings:

"I'm a gonna take a just-a one step more 'cause I feel like bombin' a church. Now that I know that the preacher is lyin'. So who's gonna stay at home when the freedom fighters are fighting?"

I'm not sure that peaceniks can actively promote church bombing unless they want to cross over into the Anarchist school of protest. Of course, they should probably start listening to Rage Against the Machine or something else if that's the road they're going to follow. In the song Ride Natty Ride Marley sings,

"Tell you what: now the people gather on the beach and the leader try to make a speech, but the Dreadies understandin' that it's too late: fire is burning; man, pull your own weight!"

When the people are on the beach with their leaders it isn't because they want their leaders to enjoy the soft sand, but because they want their leaders to enjoy the warm water . . . and never come back. Bob Marley is often painted as this pot-smoking hippie who played soccer and wanted to live in peace with all humanity. Marley was a great singer and lyricist, but some people lose sight of his revolutionism and tough gangsterism. Marley garnered the nickname "Tuff Gong", not because he was a resilient bronze disc, but because of his fighting skills. He loved the image of the gangster rudeboy and rose to the top utilizing this toughness in combination with his raw talent. Marley was a good man, but he was not the flower-sniffing guru that some paint him as. He was a fighter, a womanizer, a rudeboy, and certainly not a saint.

On Sunday, I heard something on the radio which I found fairly disturbing. On Ottawa's pop-radio station, Hot 89.9, I witnessed the teeth-gnashingly horrific music of Fergie (or Fergilicious as she calls herself . . . she can spell it for you over and over if you want). Fergie, in case you are unaware, is the bikini-clad woman in the bad beer commercial that is the Black Eyed Peas. One of Fergie's hits, the inexplicably stupid "London Bridge" is actually a rip-off of Gwen Stefani's vacuous hit, "Bananas." If you haven't heard of either song, you are blessed indeed. During the course of her interview, Fergie claimed to have been inspired by all types of music. This, presumably, includes a heavy dose of one particular type of music: namely crappy superficial music with no redeeming qualities. She also claimed to "love reggae." Why did I shudder so when I heard this? Is it because the result of pop music which appropriates reggae is often just souless tofu wrapped in a decent chocolate beat?

I find the cultural appropriation of reggae by American pop stars interesting. Certain aspects of the reggae culture are accepted while others are entirely rejected. Red, green, and gold bracelets are readily appropriated by decidedly non-Rastafarian individuals like Gwen Stefani. The red, green, and gold which Rastafarians wear come from Ethiopia's flag. Ethiopia, of course, is the spiritual homeland of Rastafarians who believe that they should lead the repatriation to Ethiopia after the four hundred years of slavery in Babylon (America) are over. For Rastafarians, the red represents the blood of Africans spilt over the years by Babylon, the gold represents the wealth of Africa, and the green represents the beauty and vegetation of Ethiopia. Gwen Stefani, who likely has very little interest in Africa unless it provides the labour force for sweatshops for her fashion line, readily wears the three colours while she wails out her songs over ska, rocksteady, and reggae beats. I am not arguing that non-Rastafarians can't do reggae - they already have proven that they can do it quite well. But when was the last time that Beres Hammond wore the tri-colour around his wrist? Does UB40 ever drape themselves in Rastafarian imagery? Rastafarianism might be bizarre to most of the world, but using their religious symbolism as a fashion accessory is disrespectful.

The troubles of Buju Banton also illustrate this selective cultural appropriation. Fifteen years ago, a teenage Banton recorded a song which has haunted him ever since. The violently anti-homosexual song, "Boom Bye Bye", was penned by someone else and voiced by the young Banton. The fact that Jamaican culture has a strong aversion to homosexuality and that Jamaican patois often reflects the violent reality of the street leads to more than a few violently homophobic songs. Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Capleton, Sizzla, Elephant Man, TOK, Vybz Kartel, and Buju Banton have all been targeted by homosexual advocacy groups for promoting violence against gays. The respective representatives for informers, the pope, rival soundmen, the Queen of England, Osama bin Laden, and the Babylon system are not involved in the movement against these artists despite violent pronouncements against their persons. The day that Fergie or Paris Hilton start talking about killing a batty bwoy is the day that they have truly embraced all the aspects of the music . . . but I am being ludicrous, of course.

Admittedly, "Boom Bye Bye" is juvenile, socially irresponsible, and tasteless. However, Banton is caught in a bit of quandary. If he apologizes for the song as his opponents demand he'll be seen as selling out by his people. If he doesn't apologize, gay advocacy groups will continue to picket every single show he has and work hard to ensure that his music does not receive any major radio or television play. Buju Banton has not made any more violently anti-gay songs. In fact, the vast majority of his catalogue over the last decade includes songs that are positive, uplifting, and thoughtful. The remaining tunes are harmless love songs. The supposed goal of the gay advocacy groups is to stop violent music. I would submit that a better way to get through to the reggae community would be through dialogue rather than attacking the music and culture. The attacks against Buju Banton act as a wedge which drive the two sides even further apart.

The point I am trying to make, however, is that while genuinely talented reggae artists like Buju Banton are having their voices muted, other less talented individuals are cashing in. Recently, the Hasidic singer Matisyahu has gained a lot of attention. Some of his fans are clamouring about the second coming of Bob Marley and other such nonsense. If a Hasidic Jew spitting lyrics in very very poor Jamaican patois is good reggae then the genre is in a lot of trouble. The New Tork Times' Kelefah Sanneh addressed the over-enthusiastic Matisyahu fans this way: "Perhaps Matisyahu's fans aren't familiar with a little-known group of performers who still make great reggae records: Jamaicans." ooch.

Matisyahu aside, I believe that non-Jamaicans can and do make great reggae music. Artists such as Alpha Blondie, Seeed, Tryo, Lucky Dube, Gentleman, UB40, and Tyken Jah Fakoly all make wonderful reggae music. Reggae has reached around the world from Latin America to Africa to Europe and even Japan. The problem is when the form of reggae is adopted without the soul or when the masters are ignored in favour of the imposters.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Personality Test:

Your Type is
Strength of the preferences %

Other INFJ's:

Nathan, prophet of Israel
Robert Burns, Scottish poet

U.S. Presidents:
Martin Van Buren
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Fanny Crosby, (blind) hymnist
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Fred McMurray (My Three Sons)
Shirley Temple Black, child actor, ambassador
Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, martyr
James Reston, newspaper reporter
Shirley McClain (Sweet Charity, ...)
Piers Anthony, author ("Xanth" series)
Michael Landon (Little House on the Prairie)
Tom Selleck
John Katz, critic, author
Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary)
U. S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL)
Billy Crystal
Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury)
Nelson Mandela
Mel Gibson
Carrie Fisher
Nicole Kidman
Jamie Foxx
Sela Ward
Mark Harmon
Gary Dourdan
Marg Helgaberger
Evangeline Lilly
Tori May

(I wonder when Nathan, prophet of Israel, Aristophanes, Chaucer, and Goethe took the personality test. I am also curious as to how Mel Gibson and Mother Theresa of Calcutta ended up with the same personality.)

INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally "doers" as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people -- a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul mates." While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood -- particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.

Due in part to the unique perspective produced by this alternation between detachment and involvement in the lives of the people around them, INFJs may well have the clearest insights of all the types into the motivations of others, for good and for evil. The most important contributing factor to this uncanny gift, however, are the empathic abilities often found in Fs, which seem to be especially heightened in the INFJ type (possibly by the dominance of the introverted N function).

This empathy can serve as a classic example of the two-edged nature of certain INFJ talents, as it can be strong enough to cause discomfort or pain in negative or stressful situations. More explicit inner conflicts are also not uncommon in INFJs; it is possible to speculate that the causes for some of these may lie in the specific combinations of preferences which define this complex type. For instance, there can sometimes be a "tug-of-war" between NF vision and idealism and the J practicality that urges compromise for the sake of achieving the highest priority goals. And the I and J combination, while perhaps enhancing self-awareness, may make it difficult for INFJs to articulate their deepest and most convoluted feelings.

Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the "inspirational" professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. Perhaps the best example of this occurs in the technical fields. Many INFJs perceive themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with the mystique and formality of "hard logic", and in academic terms this may cause a tendency to gravitate towards the liberal arts rather than the sciences. However, the significant minority of INFJs who do pursue studies and careers in the latter areas tend to be as successful as their T counterparts, as it is *iNtuition* -- the dominant function for the INFJ type -- which governs the ability to understand abstract theory and implement it creatively.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


- The relatively new album from the Roots, Game Theory, is a great one. If you love the Roots it's definitely a solid purchase.

- I usually start an update by saying that I haven't done this for a while. I've decided not to do that this time.

- I cut my hair on Sunday.

- Gasp, Niet op Zondag!

- "I mean that a defeat in Iraq will embolden the enemy, and will provide the enemy more opportunity, to train, plan to attack us, that's what I mean. One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." - George H.W. Bush

- I wish I had unvarnished access to the truth. That would come in handy during a debate.

- - How much respect should you give a political pundit who appears on a tawdry reality show? Tucker Carlson is the man who once called Canada "America's retarded cousin", and who was schooled by Jon Stewart on the now-cancelled Crossfire show on CNN. Now he showed the world that he is sorely lacking in the rhythm/balance/agility department on "Dancing with the Stars." I would post a link but it really isn't worth anyone's time.

- People need to stop comparing everything happening today to the events of World War II. Until a powerful militaristic totalitarian state appears which is bent on expansion and brutally murders all in its path, the overwhelming majority of these comparisons fall flat. And, quite frankly, they belittle the sacrifices of millions of veterans and the deaths of countless innocents.

- I saw Stephen Harper and Jack Layton up close on Friday.

- I also saw Mohammed Karzai's motorcade.

- One of my students compared my new look, with the haircut, to Jason Statham. I'm not kidding. I must admit, I lack the brawn or pure thuggery of Jason Statham but I have heart . . . and a receding hairline.

Here are a few other famous faces I've been compared to:

Dustin Diamond

Sideshow Bob

and Nicholas Cage. Note the receding hairline.

- I got to witness a boat going up the locks on the Rideau Canal on Friday as well. Lieutenant-Colonel John By you're the man.

- Lieutenant is pronounced as "Leftenant." We're in Canada, after all.

- Bill Frist recently claimed that he couldn't reveal what the United States considers torture because then the enemy could train for it . . . wha?

- "There's so much trouble in the world." - R.N. Marley.

- I want to thank everyone for their concern for my sister Linda. Please keep her in your prayers and pray for her restoration, recovery, and healing. We all miss the laughing, smiling, genuinely joyful presence of our dear sister and friend. Here is a newspaper article relating to the cult. Peter Rigo is a false teacher whose blatant sociopathic manipulation of his followers stands against all that the church stands for. Don't let your anger turn to hatred, but let the bitter taste of injustice churn your stomach and bring you to your knees as you approach the Father for justice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some Ramblings About Apologies

Not too long ago, Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of the Canadian government for the Chinese head tax. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 put a head tax of $50 on all Chinese immigrants attempting to come to our beloved country. This head tax increased to $100 in 1900 and $500 in 1903. Basically, the Chinese were paying the equivalent of the average worker's annual salary just for one of them to come into this country. In 1923, the Immigration Act was replaced with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which, as its title suggests, excluded Chinese Immigration altogether.
Some Canadians felt that this apology was setting a bad precedent. They felt that apologizing to the Chinese would force an apology for every single group that was ever wronged by the Canadian government. At least one Canadian asked if this meant that he would get an apology from the Romans for the treatment of their ancestors. How long until the descendents of that shaggy-haired berzerker of the Black Forest get their compensation for a gladius to the solar plexus?
This topic interests me deeply. How long does it take before an entity is no longer responsible for its historical actions? Do the victims of an injustice need to be alive in order for compensation to be doled out? Can we judge a previous civilization or generation according to our present-day values?
When some historians learned that deserters who had been shot during the First World War were being pardoned, they protested. The officers who carried out the punishments were merely following military law, they claimed. By pardoning the deserters we are condemning the officers who carried out their sentences. We have no business retrospectively moralizing history, do we? While it's true that we must place events in their historical context, we also should not fall into a trap where history is viewed from a foundation which is, basically, an amoral soup. Did the Aztecs carry out human sacrifice? Sure, but that was their religion. Did the CIA assassinate Lumumba? Almost certainly, but it was the Cold War.
This does not mean that we shouldn't be understanding of historical moral differences -- far from it. We would be horrible historians if we didn't contextualize. We should, however, recognize that there are moral absolutes that transcend time. Murder is always wrong, whether you're a 7th century Norseman or a 21st century guerrilla. Injustice and immorality are not new; they've been here as long as sin. Of course, reading history would get very tedious if the historian kept interjecting every so often to express moral indignation. In the same way, history would get rather romanticized if the historian kept interjecting every so often to excuse certain behaviour. Often it is enough to portray a historical event or character in its context and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. Humans have an innate sense of justice and morality.
It is true that we need to be sensitive to the context of an event. We can condemn American support for brutal rebels and dictators in Africa and Latin America, but we would be remiss if we didn't place this in the wider context of the Cold War. The Cold War doesn't justify a coup d'etat, but it would be wildly unresponsible not to mention it.
Is it possible to read history without some kind of moral foundation? Perhaps, but if someone can read about the Holocaust and find the cold hard rationality in it, excuse the perpetrators of this heinous act, and deny the cancerous existence of evil then they ought to be examined. Any good historian, however amateur, would have a difficult time denying the human capacity for truly evil acts.
I read one editorial which complained that if Canada apologized for the Chinese head tax, then some poor schmuck down the road will have to apologize for something the present government is doing. People, the writer argued, are just reacting to the forces of their time and we shouldn't condemn them. Besides the distasteful implication that this was not a racist policy, this also implies that only contemporaries can offer moral judgements, or worse, that there can be no moral judgements. What kind of justice is there if its standards change after every age? I can only hope that unjust actions of today are scrutinized and apologized for in the future and I hope that past actions continue to be judged and apologized for.
This leads to the question of how an entity can be held responsible for something which occurred 50, 100, 200 years ago when the individuals making up that entity are entirely different. If someone truly believed that an entity bore no responsibility for its past actions then they would be fundamentally opposed to returning stolen art, for example.
A common retort to demands by black Americans for reparations for slavery is "My ancestors may have had slaves, but I never had a slave, why should I pay?" Historical injustices perpetrated hundreds of years ago can often still be felt today. While I may never have had a slave, my ancestors certainly benefitted directly or indirectly from the slave trade. Thus, if I can take pride in the Dutch resistance to the Spanish, I should also be ashamed of the Dutch role in the international slave trade. Surely if I can glory in Vimy Ridge, I can also feel shame for the Chinese head tax. I am not personally responsible, but I am connected to these things.
Of course, when money enters the equation, the whole thing becomes that much more complex. After all, how do you measure suffering in monetary terms? Personally, I would hesitate before suing an organization on behalf of my ancestors. Although I would still feel the sting today, I would not feel comfortable profiting from their suffering. Sure, it is compensation and not a bribe and, yes, every apology is empty without true remorse, but I would still feel uncomfortable. As always, there are a lot of questions which remain unclear and unanswered in my mind.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Four

I walk through glowing green fields
the grass is damp and the earth yields,
soft and uncertain like a newborn deer
tottering, bounding, now leaping with glee
bold and lively, prancing without fear
Ah, what a pleasure this is to see!
I walk under the baking sun
my breaths are deep, and my sweat runs
the earth is firm like a ripe plum
sweet and juicy and tart on my tongue
thunder rolls and grumbles like a drum
See how the August skies have sung!
I walk through forests dark and deep
the wind whips my face and makes me weep
the breeze swirls all the rusty leaves
which snap and crumble beneath my feet
like all the things you once believed
Aye, see how the wind scatters those empty sheets!
I trudge the icy rocks and snow
the sun is faint like the dying glow
of a fire fading as it grows old
and the embers fade to blackened coal
as my bones crack in this icy cold
Lord, its clammy claws spear my soul!

and then I awake in those glowing fields
and feel that soft earth as it yields
. . . I use this memory as my shield.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another Day at the Government Office

He arrived at the wicket, clutching the small paper showing that he was, indeed, C73.

The man in front of him had a face that somehow reminded him of a styrofoam plate. The face was round, pale and had such forgettable features that they seemd to have faded into his marshmellow skin. Two cold eyes, unremarkable in their greyness, probed him with apathetic nonchalance. The small mouth, bordered by two thin lips, parted and a dry voice intoned, "Can I help you?"

"Yes," he said, presenting the small scrap of C73, "I'm here to register."

The two beady eyes blinked twice in the moment of silence that followed, "May I see your documentation, please?"

"Yes, certainly," he answered, rummaging through his pockets.

The monotone listed the necessary items with uninspired precision, "Your license, your health card, your birth certificate, a copy of a bill, your social insurance number, and your grade four science notebook."

He laughed, "I have all of those things except the notebook, of course."

The man sighed in bored exasperation, "All the applicants need their grade four science notebook or at least, in lieu of said notebook, a photocopy of the cover."

"Are you serious?" he smiled.

"Do I appear to be joking?" the man's inflexible mouth asked.

"Well, no, but you can't expect me to have my grade four science textbook," his smile was rapidly vanishing.

"Notebook," the man corrected.

"You can't expect me to have my grade four science notebook."

"Government regulation S-33, paragraph four, line two clearly states that, and I quote: 'all applicants are to present a copy of their grade four science notebook or a photocopy of the cover of said notebook."

"You're serious," he gaped.

"Indeed," the man said.

"My grade four notebook?" he asked incredulously.

"That is correct," the man's eyes had a remarkable ability to do absolutely nothing but stare with blank impersonality.

"I don't have my grade four science notebook. I don't even remember taking science in grade four," he stated.

"I am sorry sir, this is not my problem," the man droned in what seemed a routine statement.

"I don't have my grade four notebook," he said with a pained expression, "it's probably underneath four hundred tonnes of waste and has likely decayed beyond all recognition."

The man waved his hand in mild annoyance, "I suppose you could show us your library card."

"Excuse me?" he asked.

"You could show us your library card," the man repeated robotically.

"Why didn't you say that earlier?" he scratched his head as he was wont to do when he was irritated.

"You didn't ask," the man said as he methodically gathered all of the cards and papers from the counter in front of him.

"How was I supposed to know that I had to ask?" he queried as he handed the man his library card.

"I am sorry sir, this is not my problem," the man answered.


The man typed furiously for several minutes, checking the various cards in front of him from time to time. "I am sorry sir, it appears you have a two-dollar late charge on your library card," the man uttered with impassive flatness.


"Would you like to pay that now, so I can continue your application process?" the man prompted.

"This is not a library."

"I do realize that, sir, this is not my problem," the man said with mild detachment.

He muttered under his breath as he searched his wallet, "Here's five dollars."

"We do not carry change," the man said as he lazily pointed to a sign bearing the message "WE DO NOT CARRY CHANGE."

"Then keep the change," he said in vexation.

"I am sorry sir, that is against public policy. We do not accept bribes," the man said in a voice that betrayed something that approached conviction.

"I was not offering a bribe," he growled.

"It certainly appeared that you were," the man replied.

"I was trying to keep things moving," he said.

"In other words, sir, you were greasing the wheels or, to put it bluntly, bribing a public official," the man shook his head in unemotional condemnation.

He dug in his pockets and counted out two dollars in change in assorted quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies, "here."

The man counted the money, "this is $1.98."

He fished out two more pennies from his back pocket, "here."

The man placed the coins with metallic clank in a drawer in front of him.

"It sure sounds like you don't have change," he said sarcastically.

"You're right, sir," the man's grey eyes stared ahead blankly.

"Of course."

The man's fingers slid nimbly across the keyboard. He frowned, his expression approaching something resembling concern. There was a long pause, the two beady eyes blinked in consternation and the man appeared genuinely agitated.

"I am sorry, sir, it seems you have been reclassified as a potato," the man finally uttered.


"You have been reclassified as a potato."

"Right. A potato. Can you please just register me?"

"Sir, it is against the policy to register any kind of tubers as voters in this country."

"Well, of course," he said, "but as you can see, I am not a potato, and you can, therefore, register me."

"Sir, you according to my computer, you are a potato," the agitation had disappeared.

"Your computer is wrong," he said, as he scratched his head in consternation.

"Don't be absurd," the man's lips formed something which resembled amusement.

"Absurd? Absurd is reclassifying a human being as a potato!" he snarled.

"I am sorry, sir, potatoes do not have the franchise in this country," the man declared.

"Yes, and with good reason," he replied, "but I am obviously not a potato."

"As long as you are classified as a potato I cannot allow you to register."

"Potatoes are a vegetable and vegetables are incapable of thought or action. In fact, when people lack the ability to move or speak they are called vegetables," he stated in rising anger, "I am obviously capable of movement and speech and therefore I cannot be classified as any kind of edible plant."

"Sir, this is not my concern."

"Why do you suppose that potatoes have not been granted the franchise?"

"I am not required to answer that question."

"Humour me."

"Sir, I am a public servant. I am not required to serve as your personal entertainment," the man stated coldly.

"Why can't potatoes vote?" he asked.

"Potatoes cannot vote because, among other things, they are incapable of higher thought processes," the man replied.

"What else are they incapable of?"

"Sir, there are a plethora of things that potatoes are incapable of doing," the man answered, "if I were to list all the things that potatoes cannot do we would be here all day."

"Can potatoes, for instance, wait in line for an hour and then hold a ludicrous conversation, such as this one, with a seemingly mechanized bureaucrat, such as yourself?" he asked.

"Sir, there is no need to call me names," the man said tepidly.

"I apologize, I do, but I really need to know if you think that potatoes are capable of conversation," he said as calmly as he could.

"Potatoes are incapable of higher thought processes and, thus, a conversation is impossible for a potato."


"Well, sir, I am glad we could help you, now would you please allow the next applicant through?" the man waved his hand lethargically in the direction he should go.

"How do you feel about holding a conversation with an individual who, as a potato, is incapable of conversation?"

"Sir, you're being facetious."

"There! That's another thing potatoes are incapable of," he said triumphantly, "Have you ever given up on your potato salad because it was being too facetious?"

"I do not particularly like potato salad, sir."

"Neither do I, although I suppose for me to consume potato salad would amount to cannibalism."
"Sir, please do not make this difficult or I will be forced to call security."

"Do you suppose I should fight for potato suffrage, or do you think that I would have better luck re-classifying myself as a human being?"

"Sir, please."

"I mean, how many potatoes get library fines?"

"Sir, I am not a librarian."

"You would make a good one, I'm sure."

"Thank you."

"Could you please recognize my humanity and re-classify me as a human being?"

"I am sorry sir, it is not my place to categorize you."

"And I suppose I should just telephone Carl Linnaeus up and have myself classified correctly, shouldn't I?"

"He's dead," the man intoned, "that would be impossible."

"Maybe I should appeal to government to stop taxing potatoes without giving us representation."

"That might be a good place to start."

He sighed, looked into the empty souless eyes in front of him, and lost all hope of ever being anything but a starchy vegetable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I got this from Jake Belder: You type in your name + needs and give the top twenty results. I eliminated the repeats, of course.

1) John needs to get his patootie back here.
2) John needs help.
3) John needs your bone marrow.
4) John needs a way to assign an item's UUID to an attribute.
5) John needs to see.
6) See number 10.
7) John needs, John wants, John gets.
8) John needs . . .
9) John needs to borrow a car on February 25.
10) John needs to embrace family values.
11) John needs a Yoko.
12) John needs a coffee.
13) John needs rest after throat surgery.
14) John needs a better camphone.
15) John needs to make his DW site more noticeable.
16) John needs a smoke.
17) John needs a shave.
18) John needs to be allowed to change the focus of his hope.
19) John needs you.
20) John needs an umbrella.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tagged by Graham Ware.

1. One book that changed your life: A lot of books have changed my life. Of course, the Bible has effected the most change, but almost every book I read changes my perspective and widens my horizon just a little bit.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once: The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Faith of George W. Bush, Stephen Mansfield (I need some paper to clean myself and I would like some kindling).
4. One book that made you laugh: The Far Side Gallery 1, Gary Larson.
5. One book that made you cry: Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire.
6. One book that you wish had been written: 1,001 Answers to All of those Pesky Philosophical, Ethical, and Scientific Questions that bother John den Boer, El Shaddai.
7. One book that you wish had never been written: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Author Unknown.
8. One book you’re currently reading: The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: The One About the Electric Neon Typewriter or something like that, I think, Whathisname.
10. Now tag five people: Marcellin Mutoni, my sisters, the Barnhoorns/Snoeks, Aaron Gysbers, Daryl de Boer.

First, an explanation. Laurianne and I recently moved from our apartment above the paint store to a luxurious pad further north-east. This, at least partially, explains why I have not updated for such a long time. Our new apartment is quite nice and all our friends are invited to come (almost) anytime. For those interested our new address is: 9 Rue Galipeau Apt. 1, Gatineau QC, J8Y 4C2.
Without television or access to the internet I have been doing quite a bit of reading. I read Nurrudin Farrah's Links, Andrea Levy's Fruit of the Lemon and Never Far from Nowhere, Edward P. Jones' The Known World, M.G. Vassanji's The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, and I have begun The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke.
Nurrudin Farrah's Links is an excellent book and I admire his poetic and deft skill with words. He has an incredible gift with language and story-telling. Links tells the story of Jeebleh, a Somali-American, who returns to his roots after twenty years to make peace with his mother's memory and his old friends. Mogadishu comes alive with startling clarity and complexity. I would recommend this books based on Farrah's gift with words alone.
Andrea Levy is a British author of Jamaican descent who writes about the Jamaican experience in England. Both books were quite good, but I would recommend Small Island before either of these two books. This is not to say they aren't good because they're quite good; they just don't seem as carefully crafted as Small Island.
Edward P. Jones' The Known World is an intricate tapestry of intersecting plotlines and rich characterization. The book is set in antebellum United States. The reader is thrust into a disconcerting situation where a slave plantation is owned by a rich black man. This sort of situation was very rare in the United States but it did happen and Jones' consistently unsettled my moral assumptions by creating sympathy for characters whom we are, archetypically, supposed to despise. The book is rich with connections between places, times, and characters.
M.G. Vassanji's The In-between World of Vikram Lall is also an excellent book. As the title suggests, the main character is one Vikram Lall, one of the most corrupt men in Kenya. Vassanji tells the story of Lall from his youth, the brutal Mau Mau attack that had such an impact on his life, to the present. Vassanji ably shows us the tightrope in between coloniser and colonised that the descendents of the Indians who worked on Kenya's railways balanced upon. Historical characters like Jomo Kenyatta come alive and the confusing and blinding ideology of ethnic nationalism is deftly portrayed.
I have also watched some good movies. The best one was probably Everything is Illuminated. Many people would hesitate before watching this movie because of the presence of Elijah Wood. I, too, hesitated, but this story of a Jew who visits Ukraine to trace his roots is a powerful, humourous and dramatic masterpiece. Well, maybe not a masterpiece but a really really good movie.
You may have read this and wondered why I have the pictures of Heineken when I didn't even mention Heineken anywhere in this entry. Well, I have now, so the pictures do belong. Gotta go, see ya later.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Lebanese Evacuation

Some Canadians are absolutely incensed with the idea of rescuing thousands of "sometimes Canadians." These complaining Canadians, of course, take the most extreme examples of dual Lebanese/Canadian citizens who have not been in Canada for over twenty years and then proceed to whine about multiculturalism and the waste of tax dollars on rescuing these Canadians of convenience. They never mention the vacationers, six-month residents, or the strong Lebanese community here in Canada. No, for these fiscally-conscious Canadians the lives and well-being of these people is not as important as balancing the budget. As I was involuntarily listening an inane talk radio show yesterday several people pointed out that these Lebanese-Canadians should not choose to live in a violent area and then expect to get rescued.
Suddenly, according to these budget-balancers, the onus is on the victims to read the political climate of the place they are living and correctly predict a sudden outbreak of violence. Would these same people be so harsh on the Jews living in Poland in 1939? After all, some people were aware that Hitler had plans to expand his influence. The Jews should have understood this and immediately dropped all of their belongings and livelihoods and moved elsewhere.
Would these Canadians be so harsh on snow-birds if a war were to break out in Florida? I doubt it. After all, snow-birds are usually white, elderly, and fairly wealthy. Lebanese-Canadians, on the other hand, are viewed as Arabs who took advantage of Canadian generosity by buying a sure-fire insurance plan to be rescued in the event of war.
First of all, Lebanese-Canadians are a diverse mix of Muslims and Christians who can be divided further into a number of religions and ethnicities from Greek Catholic to Kurdish to Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox to Druze. Far from the imagination of many complaining Canadians, the Lebanese are not camel-riding extremists in the middle of a desert. Lebanon is, or rather was, a beautiful, mountainous country and ideal vacation spot with breath-taking beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, few Lebanese could have predicted that Hezbollah's ill-advised aggression would have resulted in Israel bombing Lebanese suburbs and infrastructure along with supposed Hezbollah military targets. Many Lebanese feel they are being caught between two war-mongering extremists and they want out. Those who do support Hezbollah do so out of a sense of injustice. While this is no excuse, it is natural to want to lash out and strike back. Of course, that is no way to create peace.
Many Canadians were also upset over a perceived lack of gratefulness on the part of the rescued Lebanese-Canadians. Personally I believe that Canada is doing an admirable job amidst a staggering number of logistical and organizational nightmares. Unlike many European countries and certain ubiquitous world powers, Canada does not have a presence on the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it difficult for Canada to find ships willing to risk errant shells in order to pick up refugees.
I understand that many of the Lebanese-Canadians are under quite a bit of stress. It is exceedingly difficult to maintain a calm demeanor when bombs are falling without any apparent pattern all around you. Imagine, if you will, that you have just gone through several days of bombings; perhaps a bomb even landed close to you. Now, imagine that you finally find out what the government has planned for evacuation after several days of disorganized announcements, an extremely busy phone-line, and a useless internet connection. Imagine that a country that was, perhaps, on the verge of an economic breakthrough has been bombed back twenty years. Imagine that you have an extended family who is constantly at risk and cannot come with you to Canada. Imagine that you finally get on a ship after risking your life to come to port two days in a row and imagine that this cargo-ship is uncomfortable and floats in the water anywhere from sixteen to twenty-four hours. Now, imagine that you finally get on a plane once you reach Cyprus or Turkey. When you finally get home imagine that a camera and a microphone are shoved in your face and the following statement is implied, "You must be relieved and grateful to finally be back in Canada."
My first reaction would not be to wax eloquent about how great Canada is. No, my instinct would be to point out that people are dying in my country and that I am far from relieved. Then, with anger building inside of me I would launch into a tirade about all of the incompetent things that happened on my journey. Then, maybe when I went to a hotel, my home, or the home of relatives, maybe after some sleep I would start to be relieved that I was alive. Still, I wouldn't start dancing in the streets. After all, my country is still on fire.
On this same radio show, the host pointed out the bias against Israel. He claimed that few people attacked Russia over its heavy-handed atrocities against Chechnya, but as soon as Israel defended itself, everyone was ready to point out Israel's crimes. This logic sort of reminds me of a gradeschool boy who excuses himself for punching another student in the face by arguing that another student had done the same thing earlier. The host agreed with our prime minister that "Israel has the right to defend itself." I agree that every nation has the right to defend itself. Of course, defence implies a certain amount of restraint. If someone were to punch me, I would be justified in punching him back. Now, if I not only punched back but also pulled out a knife and slashed the individual forty times I would be overreacting. I am not astute enough to divine the reasons why these attacks are occurring, but I am clever enough to know that it isn't because of two kidnapped soldiers and some violent rocket attacks. Whatever the reasons, I pray that there may be peace.

Who deh?