Thursday, July 31, 2008

From the Books: On Leadership and War

" Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

- Herman Goering -
Nazi Luftwaffe Commander

Mr. Bush might have more in common with Mr. Goering than he thinks...

I've been thinking a lot about pacifism and if it is a view that can actually be held in today's climate. I always thought that if Canada were directly attacked I would be willing to fight to protect the freedoms I have here. And yet that argument hinges on war being able to create peace... is that simply the reality of it or a feeble solution we have come to terms with?

Best of Steve Nash

If you're a fan of the NBA or of Steve Nash, heck even if you know who Steve Nash is (and I know all you Victoria folk do, homeboy what!) then you need to check out this video of him and B-Diddy spoofing Will Farrel's new movie.


Too hilarious...

Monday, July 28, 2008

26 Down, 14 To Go

At long last, the much sought after pictures of my beautifully burgeoning wife are here! The paparazzi have been hounding us and People Magazine has offered 20 mil. for first picture rights but... oh wait, I'm not Brad Pitt. But people have been asking... ok, fine, someone asked.

Here are the first shots of my soon to be son/daughter growing so splendidly in my wifey's belly. Doesn't she look great!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

From the Books: On Politics and Humanitarianism

"Humanitarianism is about the struggle to create the space to be fully human"

"At its best, politics is an imperfect human project. It is at its worst when we delude ourselves into thinking it can be perfect"

"Today one of the greatest challenges facing humanitarianism is the blurring of boundaries between humanitarian assistance and the political objectives of military intervention"

From "An Imperfect Offering" by James Orbinski

Monday, July 21, 2008

Latest Listenings

I fancy myself something of a music buff. I have a website that keeps my listening stats which makes me something of a music nerd. The site tells me I currently have 1,156 musicians in my library. From those I am bringing you what I am really digging lately.

Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes" - Think of these fellows as a love child of a crazy three-some: Simon & Garfunkel, The Shins and Sufjan Stevens. Easy melodies and voices of S&G with the fun complexity of The Shins and the songwriting quirkiness of Sufjan Stevens. And if you believe in the gospel of Pitchfork this album is the biggest thing to drop since Sufjan Steven's "Illinois." How can you go wrong?

The Raconteurs - "Consolers of the Lonely" - Do you like guitars? Do you like rock and roll? Then you must listen to this album! If you ask iTunes to direct you to "guitar-driven rock" you might end up with something like Nickelback which is fine... if you're a fourteen year old boy. If you want real meat-and-potatoes rock and nasty guitar riffs with a mean innovative streak - this is it. Jack White of The White Stripes is the push behind the Raconteurs but this project is tempered by his partner in crime Brendan Benson - something you don't see when he's in White Stripes mode. This is a great album!

Jakob Dylan - "Seeing Things" - Of Wallflowers fame, Jakob Dylan is moving solo. He's stripped down the music so it's essentially him and his guitar and while the album is not earth shattering it is effective. His songwriting is reminiscent of his old man (aka Bob Dylan) and his delivery draws you to the lyrics. Soothing acoustic melodies, deep soothing voice = excellent coffee shop material.

Hawksley Workman - "Between the Beautifuls" - This is a Canadian artist that few have heard of
and that everyone should know. Innovative piano driven rock that grabs and never lets go. This album is less rock and maybe more power pop but it only makes it more palatable to the casual listener. If you aren't convinced, listen to the single "Piano Blink" and, like they say, the rest will be history.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Of An African Genocide

I recently just watched the fantastic movies Sometimes in April and Shooting Dogs which chronicle the 1994 Rwandan genocide in all of its infamy. If you've seen Hotel Rwanda... I pity you because that is Hollywood. These movies are a much better account, I especially encourage you to check out Raul Peck's Sometimes in April though I warn you it's not an easy movie to watch.

All this got me thinking about how we, as white Westerners, view Africa and the genocides that occur there. Hotel Rwanda was a hit movie. Books such as We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families remain on the top of Chapters and Amazon African best-seller lists (which is not that prominent a list!). There is a big push to know about Rwanda.

I highly encourage people to know about it but I wonder what good it is doing. The recent report is that more than 300,000 have been killed in the genocide in Darfur. Since the downfall of the government in Somalia in the early 1990's hundreds of thousands of died. In the DR Congo. In Ethiopia. In Zimbabwe. In many African countries thousands have died from armed conflict or what we would likely deem 'terrorism' in the West. In South Africa alone 1.8 million people have died from AIDS, according to UNAIDS latest report.

And yet all we can seem to muster is a few books to assauge the guilt of a genocide that occured 14 years ago. It's great to learn about Rwanda if it inspires you to make sure it never happens again. And yet it has taken 3 years for the international community to condemn Sudan's president of war crimes in the genocide there. Nothing has changed. We belatedly believe that watching Hotel Rwanda makes us better people and somehow assures us that it will never happen again. Let me tell you, it IS happening again as we speak in African countries across the continent.

At one point in Sometimes in April one of the US government civil servants who is struggling with the US/UN inaction asks, "Is it because they're African?" When 5,000 Americans die in New York it not only makes news but creates 2 wars. When Canadian soldiers die in Afghanistan it never fails to make the news and parades are held. There is a distinct difference between how wars in Africa are treated and wars in the West. Maybe it is because they are Africans...

What will it take for us to rise up as nations and say this is not acceptable? That lack of ARV treatment for AIDS is not acceptable? That people dying for lack of clean water is not accessible? That nations standing by as systematical genocide is implemented is not acceptable? The sad answer is I don't know, I can't see that line...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rest In Peace

This past week my Grandpa and my Grandma both died. Grandma finally succumbed to her year long battle with stomach cancer and Grandpa died a few days later from the effects of his stroke a week earlier. Today was their memorial service in Calgary and I'm not there to remember so here are my memories.

Grandpa was a God-fearing man who loved nothing more than sitting down for a cup of coffee and telling stories all afternoon. I remember him always pulling out the Daily Bread after breakfast to read that day's devotion. I remember his Dutch accent when he prayed. I remember the light in his eye when he told stories of being in the Dutch army or of immigrating to Canada and living in a converted granary. I remember how when I got my eyebrow pierced he pulled me aside and told me I didn't need to do that to get attention. He often came home with new trees for the farm or some other little gadget he found... which often caused him to be in trouble with Grandma. I remember going to the cattle market with him and everyone knew him, he was an old time farmer. He loved it when people took the time to play Skip-Bo with him and he loved winning even more (and he hated when the last time I was there I beat him every game!)

Grandma was a busy woman who loved her family. She was always protective of us kids and wanted us to stay away from the pens and the gully... which is exactly where we wanted to be! I remember her pride in driving and getting her licence at 60-something. She always made roast when we came over and she always overcooked it... but it was always yummy all the same. I remember when she was upset at Grandpa she spoke Dutch so we wouldn't understand. She always hoped us grandkids would get married to Dutchies and when she found out Nolana's Dad was Dutch and she knew Nolana's Grandpa she was thrilled and immediately gave her blessing! I loved it when she made rockebrote (sp?) with Gouda cheese on top.

As much as I feel detached from all that's happening in Calgary I know I will miss them dearly. I shed a few tears when I thought that my son or daughter won't get the privilege of knowing these two people who I have so many memories of. This picture was from the last time I was at the farm. I saw them again but away from the farm and after Grandma was sick... and to me this is how I remember them.Rest in peace Gramps and Gran.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From the Books: On Parenting

As a dedicated reader I am committed to sharing the wealth of my aquired knowledge with you, my reading public. I will sporadically share a quote that sparked a thought for me in the hopes it will do so for you. So, without further crap, here is the 1st installment of From the Books.

"Parent's imaginations build frameworks out of their own hopes and regrets into which children seldom grow, but instead, contrary as trees, lean sideways out of the architecture, blown by a fatal wind their parents never envisaged." - Elizabeth Smart - "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept"

Since I am becoming a parent myself in a short time I have been contemplating what it means to be a parent and how you can measure success. What does a successful parent accomplish? Do they mould children in their values? Are parents who have 'rebellious' children failures? I like this quote because as much as every parent wants to do the best and shield their child from the pains of life, you can't protect them from everything. I think a good parent doesn't shield their child (and thus cripple them) but rather makes sure they have the tools to deal with the disapointments that life inevitably brings.

And how to do that is a completely different and more complex matter...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Canada vs. America: The Beer Wars

This weekend my friend Matty and his sister Sara were up to visit from Washington and, for the occasion, we decided to blind taste 15 beers from North and South of the border to decide which country holds the title for best beer.

Now any real Canadian knows Canada has the best beer but Matty has recently decided to put aside "other allegiances" and get his American citizenship.... so he's not a real Canadian and was touting the American side including one of his home brews.

Sara was our expert pourmaster and of course you can't mix men and beer without some poker springing forth.

We had a sample of them all and dicussed them, wrote down any notes and gave them a ranking. We didn't see anything but the beer so no biases. We stuck to lighter beers (even though I am definately a deep, dark beer fan) so to keep it similar. At the end we ranked our top 5 each and then averaged out to see which beer was the overall consunsus winner. and it was...

... a Canadian beer, of course! Actually from Victoria, Phillips Brewery Blue Buck Ale. Copper color, citrusy flavour and all around easy sipper. Canadian beers definately were the big winner but there was a couple American beers that did alright so they can be found. The big loser of the night was another BC beer...Which as Matt wrote for it, "Tastes like the kitchen sink" (whatever that means!). Matt's home brew was on the bottom end of things but not the bottom so he went home happy (even though my comment was "skunk"....)

A good time was had by all...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Instructions Of A Chariot

As your typical guy typically goes I believe that instructions are simple and as the typical instructions goes, they are simply not understandable.

I recently got this dashing bar cart for my birthday from the in-laws and this weekend put it together... all by myself! lol It went well....
Let me tell you, those instructions are devious! They make it seem all simple, "Put it together in 5 easy steps". And then when you look each of those 5 steps has more than 5 steps in it. Really! This is step one.
That's more like 5 steps! And then of course it's all in language not even an English major could decipher. It's mental gymnastics to figure it out. But once I did I quickly rolled along and here is my fancy-schmancy new bar chariot (which is so more cool sounding than cart, kinda brings up images of Ben-Hur or Gladiator!)

I am now, officially, part of the upper class. I shall stock it with the finest wines $10 can buy me and when company comes over make a show of debating which one would best go with Kraft Dinner. Then with a sniff (so that they think none of them are really up to my level) I will pull a bottle out, turn the twist cap and pour everyone a plastic glass of wine. Ahhhh, perfection!
Actually I kinda like it and it's gonna get used this weekend... keep your eyes peeled!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Family Matters: A Clarification

Now, after some discussion and some more research I feel the need to clarify my stance on abortion.

I do not, I repeat do not believe it is right. We see too many pregnancies of expediency and I fully support the work of pregnancy centers that get women to actually stop and think the issues through. This is not a decision to made lightly.

Now in Canada, as I have recently discover and been somewhat corrected, we legally have quite the interesting situation. Since the Morgental decision by the Supreme Court in 1988 we have technically been without any abortion laws. This means no regulation by the federal government. Since the odd Senate tie (and subsequent non-passing) of an attempted new law there was been no government willing to step in and create one. The Supreme courts specifically put the onus on the legislative bodies to make a law and accepted that it was their right to do so.

Now, I believe they should do so. Up to this point, most abortions are done in the first trimester, about 97% before 16 weeks. In B.C. you have to have a Dr's permission and have it done in a hospital to have an abortion after this period (according to the BC College of Surgeons, etc., etc.) There are currently no Dr's in Canada who will perform a 3rd trimester abortion (as far as I can find out).

So, while there is no law each province has their own little "obstacles" to prevent abortions. I am of the persuasion that it is the right of the government to regulate abortion ("will of the people") and there seems to be a certain point where the majority of Canadians (according to the CBC) want to see some regulation. So why don't they do their job and make some already! At some (arguable and arbitrary point) there is some agreement that a feteus becomes a human baby.

Now, I know my thinking on this might not seem completely articluated and coherent but that is because as a Christian I have the battle between following Christ and still being part of this world. I believe in human rights and I believe in sacrificing myself before God's will. I believe in the Bible and in equality. There is a struggle to apply Godly values to a world that regards them as not sane. I once heard a preacher say that "Christianity is simple" and I laughed. The message is simple and the applications not so much. So I struggle on...

I appreciate those who critique for they refine my position and challenge my weaknesses. Seriously. I also believe in free and open debate!

"Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened"

" I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -Gallileo

Monday, July 7, 2008

Family Matters

A short while ago on my old blog I posted about a well known "family advocate" and his political leanings. Well, it seems like somebody else is up the same tricks in the Canadian province of Tex... sorry, I mean Alberta. Guess this particular form of rabid right-winger is not nation specific. You can read about the situation here:

A family group called The Canada Family Action Coalition is appealing the government to revoke the Order of Canada that was given to one Dr. Henry Morgentaler.

* Side Rant* Just once I wished these so called "Family" groups would make the news for something other than their political leanings. Maybe like a new family program that helped families regardless of race, religion or political leaning.

Anyways, Dr. Morgentaler is creating quite the firestorm these days since he is a prominent advocate for legalizing abortion in Canada. Abortion, being the touchstone, bed-rock issue that it is for Christians (why is this?) this has everyone up in arms. How dare the Canadian government recognize this, this, abortion lover!

Now, I know abortion is a touchy subject and as a male there will be those out there who say I should just shut my mouth because what can I know about women's rights, etc... There might be a grain of truth in this but do I need to be African to be concerned with African rights? Should only disabled people be concerned with disabled people's rights? You get my point... (or not, whatever.)

Where I stand on this is here: Abortion is wrong. As a Christian I find it hard to argue otherwise. But even from this standpoint I recognize the issue is not black and white, little in this world is. If there was a choice between my wife's life and my child's life I would be little short of daft to not think at least twice about wanting to save my wife's life.

Now to the news. Just because I feel abortion is wrong does not mean I feel abortion should not be legalized. It should be! Without a doubt. For two reasons:

1.) Simply because abortion is illegal does not mean it's not going to happen. Before Dr. Morgentaler it was done in sketchy clinics and the backs of vans. For desperate women all over the world abortion should be legal. Make sure at least they live! They should have access, as citizens of Canada, to proper medical care.

2.) Christian morality does not equal govenment law! As with Ol' Dobby, simply because I believe something radical like that God "knit me into my Mother's womb" with purpose, from conception... this does not mean it is the "will of the people". Canada is a secular democracy concerned with equal rights for all. That's how it should be.

So for those "family advocates" who believe Canada should revoke Dr. Morgentaler's award... he won a secular, government award. Not a Coalition of Family Matters whatever award. He fought for human rights and should be given the award.

Now get out of the news and quit making Christians like me look bad and feel ashamed to be called a Christian.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where The Streets Have No People

I walked to school this week (something I am starting for a little exercise) and I passed one person. One person. And then I realized I kinda miss the streets of Korea and Ethiopia. They have flavor, they have character and most of all they have people.

Just being out and walking you feel like you're interacting with people and part of a culture/community. There are people selling things on the street. People walking to work. People mingling and hanging out on the street. When I walked to school in Ethiopia, even at 6 a.m. I would be dodging donkeys and beggars and passing school kids and people walking to work or to catch the mini bus to the next town. It was real and vibrant.

Victoria's a swell city but not so much for people on the streets. I could go downtown to Government Street but I am not so fond of gawking, consuming, lost tourists. That's not culture, or at least not the kind of culture I'm looking for.

I kinda miss Ethiopia sometimes.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Why Literature?

I think I might have reached a point of crisis. After devoting years of my life to the study of literature I sit here and ask myself, "Why study literature?" Or more specifically, how does fiction enrich my life?

I haven't been reading many novels lately and I haven't taken an English class in around 3 years and now I'm doing both for the month of July. And after starting into the novels, I really have to wonder if we're all deluding ourselves into thinking studying/reading novels is worthwhile.

Now, I know the arguments and I stilly have high regard for my degree. I believe Arts degrees teach you to think, analyze and process information rather than just learning a specific skill set. There was a study back that of the CEO's of major corporations, 70% (or thereabouts) had graduated with an Arts degree. For those of you who think your engineering degree or your bio-physio-chemical-arrangement degree is so much better - I think not.

And yet, when I look at the world around me I wonder how novels help it. The economic chaos, the cultural abysses, the rampant poverty, the lack of critical thinking... For all the Oprah's Book Club members, it's not doing anything to change this. Novels aren't true, they're not real - so how do they apply to life?

I know the arguments for how they are art and how studying them is a sign of our moral and cultural superiority, how art enriches our lives, etc... To this I wonder, why am I so concerened with enriching my life when others lack basic essentials such as clean water or food? I believe art in all forms (painting, music, writing, etc...) is a great personal release mechanism and a vehicle for expressing emotions, but why should it become anything more than a personal endeavor?

I don't know. I can't say I am definitively convinced in any direction yet, but this is just something I am pondering and that I am sure my English professor will call me task on (I've already told him I am a skeptic...) Anybody out there have any suggestions to add? Anybody want to play my devil's advocate? Or answer the question, "How does literature affect world poverty?" Anybody?

Friday, July 4, 2008

New Home!

Welcome to my new online home!

Since I am no longer actively travelling (though still longing to travel) I decided to switch my blog around as the old one was more individual trip based (Korea, then Ethiopia). This new one will hopefully be the same great content as the old one but maybe slightly more inclusive. More thoughts, more mental wanderings as well as what Nolana and I are up to and where we're wandering to. Same great pictures from my lovely lady, same great writing from yours truly. So update you links and bookmarks and keep checking in! Bear with me as I probably tinker with this a bit and fix any bugs.

Who knows where wanderings might lead but the journey is half the fun!