Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Blog!

I have made a move from Blogger to Wordpress, which is hopefully a last and final move.

Lots of pluses over there - able to migrate both of my old blogs to the new site so everything is one place (all the way from 2006!), cleaner design, more of my own design than just a template, more features, etc...

So hopefully you'll check out the new blog and say hi! You can find it at:


I'll be posting over there from here on in.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toronto Island

I'm a little behind on posting this but about a month ago we headed over to Toronto Island for the day with some friends of ours, taking advantage of some smoking warm weather.

A short ferry ride later we were picnicking like we were at some secluded park instead of in the city. It's a beautiful spot with a great vantage of the city, a quick reprieve from big city life.

It was a nice day full of friends.

A water park gave us some reprieve from the heat. As soon as we put Daija down her feet were in motion and she was tearing through the water with absolutely no fear! She loved it.

We hit the model farm where the little buddies checked out the horses, the pigs, and many other animals.

We passed on the clothing optional beach though....

And after a long day in the sun we arrived home happy, burnt and tired.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Next weekend Toronto descends into controlled chaos as the G20 world leaders arrive to ... well, we're not sure what they're going to do but it will likely involve a lot of talking... something I'm sure they had to do in person.... in downtown Toronto. I'm pretty sure it was the most logical place to meet.

In fact, the build-up to the meeting only proves that downtown Toronto was the most illogical choice for the meeting. Not that Harper cares one wit. The fence around downtown Toronto is up. Cell phones are ready to be jammed. Fake lakes have been built to highlight the best things about Ontario (which is clearly our fake lakes and Muskoka chairs...) While sitting around the fake lake, reporters will be wined and dined at no cost to them. Garbage cans, bus shelters, and mail boxes and anything that might hinder cops beating down protesters have been removed. Now, trees are being removed because protesters might rip them out and rush the meetings with a tree... Speaking of protesters, sound cannons have been bought and laid beside the normal tasers, tear gas and billy clubs. In light of this, businesses are shutting down. UofT has decided to close its doors and move all the students out of the area, including dorm students. Baseball games are cancelled, CN Tower closed, shows cancelled, festivals pushed out or in danger, epic gridlock, etc... etc...

I tell you, this all seems perfectly sane.

Except, it doesn't. And all at the price tag of an estimated $2 billion dollars which, for some reason, is far more than any other summit and is being called "the most expensive three days in Canada's history".

All for what? To market Canada? To show we have money to spend? To talk about economics and climate change while taking Lear jets and consuming mass amounts of just about everything possible? As some have said, G20 has never been more than "a really expensive dinner party".

I would love to get down there and check it out but to get inside the security gates I need a good reason... How does, "Because I'm paying for it" sound?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

365 Days Later

When we first moved to Toronto (a year ago today!), we moved into our house pretty much site unseen. We saw a few pictures but they were in the middle of renovating so it was hard to see what it actually looked like and a friend went and saw it for us. We thought it would do the trick and it was a decent deal but the one thing we wanted fixed before we moved in was the yard - it was a mess! Actually, I don't think 'mess' quite describes the disaster zone it was at the time.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen last summer so this summer we've been determined to have a yard we can enjoy and where Daija can plan. We've been working on it and now, 365 days later, we have a yard!

This is what it looked like to begin with (and this was already after we cleaned up all the junk back there...)

Nolana spent countless hours out there yanking weeds and tilling the soil and often Daija was out there helping.

Daija would collect the rocks, play with the worms so they didn't get lonely and keep Mommy company. Some of the time Daija wasn't so much 'helping' as just rolling around in the dirt...

Eventually, we got it to the point where it looked like this.

We sectioned off the one side for a little vegetable garden where Nolana is growing a few varieties of tomatoes, lettuce, aragula, some other salad greens, cucumber, beans, zucchini, sweet peppers and some snow peas that aren't doing so good at this point.

Daija loves being able to go out and help water the plants with her little watering can. Sometimes Mommy likes to be able to go out and water Daija....

Yesterday, I went and picked up a truckload of sod and dirt and Nolana and I got it all laid down. Now we have a yard!

While it's nothing fancy, we can now spend some summer evenings out there BBQing. Daija can run around and play (we're hoping to get a little sandbox) and it all feels just a little nicer than before. It only took us a year....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Can Daija come out and play?"

This weekend I was home alone with Daija as Nolana was away for the weekend at a ladies retreat. Saturday evening as I was preparing dinner, I heard the doorbell ring. Daija freaked out (she has a thing for doorbells...) and I wondered who in the world it could be; I wasn't expecting anyone. Must be a salesman or someone looking for donations I thought.

I opened the door and there stood the 8 year old boy who lives across from us. "Can Daija come out and play", he said. I kid you not.

It's pretty cute, he just loves her. And Daija thinks he's pretty cool too. He rides his bike around and she comes in after being out there with him asking me for a bike (she can sign both 'want' and 'bike').

I felt bad having to tell him that Daija couldn't come out right then because we were going to eat. I definitely felt way older than I am - kind of like the mom in the cartoon. I'm too young (and Daija's too young!) to be answering the door to my child's friends, asking if Daija can come out and play!

* Come to think of it, the boy kind of looks like the one in the picture too!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


A few random links that I've come across and feel like sharing.

Awesome cartoon from Matt Bors. I especially love the spill/not a spill. I think we're a little past calling it a spill.... time to think of something a little more accurate.

This month the first World Cup in Africa's history comes to South Africa. It's going to be crazy. Want to know how much African's love football? Watch this.

" The African Game" -- Documentary Film Screener from REDD Kat Pictures on Vimeo.

I remember being in Ethiopia and walking into the cafe/bar next door to our apartment when the Arsenal games were on. The place was packed and every eye was glued to the TV; the place would explode when they scored. (H/T to Africa is a Country)

I'm a bit of map lover. I like scoping out surroundings, plotting out locations, trying to remember every country in the world and being able to place it on a map.... that kind of thing. It's a disease. Which is what makes this link so cool. 10 Greatest Maps that Changed the World.

Ever thought of buying a prostitute? No really, some NGO's, churches, random white dudes out there seem to think this is a valid way of helping out. Sounds good in theory but check out this article which succinctly states why it's not at all a good idea. Lesson of the story: Good intentions are not enough.

Speaking of good intentions that ended up with less than savory outcomes, I am reminded of this cartoon:

Monday, May 31, 2010

All Thumbs

Thumbs UP:

- for completing my coursework for the summer! Just one more paper to write and then some work on my thesis and writing/editing. Perhaps more time for blogging? Perhaps.

- to the hope that no classwork actually means free time and the chance to catch up on some personal reading.

- to the morning cool of a summer day. Especially when it's spent quietly with a cup of coffee. Except there's not much quiet in my house anymore....

- the smell of a good espresso bean. Every time I take my bag of beans (always Fair Trade!) out to grind them, I give them a good sniff beforehand.... I've taught Daija to do the same!

- for BBQing. A nice hickory or chipotle BBQ sauce and cooking on the grill can make anything taste good, I swear!

- to watching Daija tear fearlessly through the splash pads/water parks, loving the water so much that she can be shaking and teeth-chattering cold but she refuses to go home.

- to the garden my wife planted and the hope of fresh garden veggies at some point.

Thumbs DOWN:

- to the unfettered aggression of Israel towards the Palestinians and their territories. And to their backers, the USA and Canada, which allow them to flaunt their apartheid state with impunity.

- and to those who respond to such claims with uneducated cries of "anti-semitism". Palestinians are Semitic people too and Arabic is the most widely spoken Semitic language in the world. Get your facts straight and stop crying wolf to hide your oppression of others. Full stop.

- to still not knowing any further where my paths lead post-Masters. Sometimes wandering is not the easiest path to take...

- to the hottest May on record in Toronto. When it's too hot to go outside, it's too hot.

- to the Terrible Twos and a child who has found the joy of screaming, hitting and exercising her misguided free-will.... sounds like adolescence lite.

- to still needing to sod the back yard and to still just having a dust patch for a yard. Please hold off on the rain this week so I can get it done!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Birthday Cooking

Normally for birthdays I get to request a special meal to be made for me; this year I did it a little differently. Instead, I asked to be able to whip up something and for Nolana to clean up after - the best of both worlds. I enjoy getting to play in the kitchen but the clean-up = not so much enjoyment. So, with the deal crafted we went down to St. Lawrence Market to browse around. Not only did I get my ingredients but I got a couple locally made mustards, a cranberry one and a maple one. Huzzah!

Then, once the little one was down for a nap I cracked a beer and set out to do some cooking. Here's how it turned out:

The main dish was a Chicken Satay with a spicy peanut dipping sauce - taken from Closet Cooking.

The spice combo for the chicken made my mouth water (love lemongrass, love cumin) and the peanut sauce was divine - sort of an Indonesian/Indian/Thai fusion dish.

I had picked up some mussels at the market and threw together a broth - beer, garlic, lime, onions. Turned out okay but I think I prefer a white wine broth, though I once had a great mussel dish using a dark lager.
Finally, I grilled up some zucchini with some spices and mixed up a vinaigrette for the salad using Pomegranate balsamic vinegar, oil, lemon juice and a dash of my newly acquired cranberry mustard. Turned out to be a nice birthday meal!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breaking News on Breaking News

You're not going to believe it.... They're going all CSI across the road! The news trucks were there, a mobile investigation truck, and a crazy looking man getting arrested - straight from the TV show kinda stuff. I bet they'll even solve it in under 24 hours....

You can read the news here.

Check the building where it's happening (view from our back yard).

And see the news truck (one of them - also from the back yard).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Apple Pie French Toast

I think a pretty traditional Mother's Day treat is pancakes or waffles but I did one better this year: Apple Pie French Toast!

Caramel, apples, candied nuts, french toast - what's not to like! I got the inspiration from over at Closet Cooking (which is pretty much my favorite food site - the pictures and recipes are always mouth watering!), just added more apples (best part!), made a mix of candied walnuts and pecans, used a multi-grain loaf and substituted some of the water for maple syrup to make it thicker and a little maple-y. Super yummy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Toque Tales

Just a few quick pics from our little monkey who loves any hat she can get her hands on, especially if it's Mommy's!

Also, I've uploaded a bunch of pictures of her onto Facebook recently if you haven't seen them. Just click here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bacon Bomb

Last night we had some friends of ours over for games, drinks, dinner, ... But this time, unlike others, we pulled out the stops and did everything in our power to clog our arteries from now until kingdom come! We decided to pair meat with... meat!

You can check out the original experiment here and where we got our inspiration - lots of great photos!

It's called Bacon Explosion and consists of melding 2lbs of bacon with 2lbs of sausage, mixing in some BBQ sauce and calling it dinner. I'm not joking.

It was quite the experiment and actually turned out really well, not nearly as fatty as I expected. I made a mean hickory, chipotle BBQ sauce for it, a good BBQ rub, slow cooked it in the oven first and then transferred it to the grill to crisp it up. Here's a picture of us men with our creation:

I only show a picture of the men because the women were grossed out by the idea of so much meat and fat.

As my friend said, I think there's a reason that women live longer than men on average....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beer, Please Meet Scotch

My loyal readers will know my affinity for a good beer. I also love a good scotch. What do do when you love both? Never fear!

Big beers are often aged in liquor barrels, especially bourbon. On occasion you can get a good beer aged in scotch barrels and Harviestoun Ola Dubh is one of those beers. It's a Scottish beer whose name means engine oil, and truth be told it kind of looks like engine oil!

Scotch is aged for various time periods in barrels to give them a distinctive flavour. The longer you age them, the smoother they get.... also the more expensive they get! Ola Dubh is aged in Highland Park scotch barrels which offers their product aged for 12 years, 16 years, 18 years, 30 years, and 40 years. I've had the pleasure of drinking the 12 year old Highland Park but the 40 year version is about 1,000 Euros a bottle so I don't imagine I'll be drinking that any time in the near future!

But I can afford to try the beers that are aged in Highland Park barrels. Ola Dubh is unique in that Harviestoun has aged the beer in each of the different Highland Park barrels, 12-40. I've had the pleasure of having the Ola Dubh 30 before on-tap and the other night I dug into the cellar to drink a bottle of the Ola Dubh 12 and the Ola Dubh 40 side by side. Drinking them beside each other allows me to see how the time in the different barrels has changed them in unique ways because the base beer is the same in both cases.

As you can see, they're pretty spiffy looking bottles. When a beer is aged in whiskey or bourbon barrels they pick up the characteristics of the liquor and the barrel; the longer they sit in there the more of the characteristics they pick up.

From what I remember of the Highland Park scotch, it has some very distinct peat and smoke flavors. When I crack the Ola Dubh 40 and 12 this is confirmed - smoke and peat. Here are my tasting notes from the Ola Dubh 40:

Pours a jet black almost opaque, just a glimmer of brown around the rim when held to the light. A finger of khaki head builds up on the pour and settles to a collar with a few swirling patches of bubbles.

Nose is much more subdued than the 12, earthier with a hint of peat and much smokier. Roasty malt, a hint of dark baker's chocolate, wood, a good dose of scotch.

Such a smooth sipper. Silky presence of the barrel - oaky wood with a hint of ash, vanilla, a touch of peat, smoke. All beside a nice roasty malt base, dark chocolate, a touch of bready malt, raisins, a hint of dark fruits, just a faint hint of alcohol and a light warming in the finish. Silky smooth, creamy mouthfeel; not overly full or robust but perfect for 8%, scary drinkable.

As you can tell from the picture, they look quite similar in the glass. The Ola Dubh 12 is a little fruitier in the nose, much less creamy in the mouthfeel, and a little less integrated. Using the Highland Park 40 year barrels has made the peat and the smoke more prevalent in the beer and had more of a mellowing effect: mellower scotch = mellower beer.

The Ola Dubh 40 is much pricier (aged in pricier whiskey barrels) but it's significantly superior in my mind. Can't decide between scotch or beer tonight? Ola Dubh should make that decision a little easier.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fly By

Just a quick update to the blog so that no one thinks I've forgotten it!

I am knee deep in what has turned out to be the busiest time of the year. Not only are my two final papers due this month (Using Indigenous Knowledges to Decolonize African Universities and Africa and the Black Diaspora: Crossing Borders through Senegalese Hip Hop) and not only do I still have the chapter in the book that I mentioned a while back, but I am now co-editor of said book which is a ton of work, I have another paper being turned into a chapter in another book, AND I have been asked to contribute a chapter to yet another book. Nolana's away in Victoria with Daija visiting it up and it's a good thing because I am putting long, long days in at school.

So, while I am off busy writing and editing here's a fun little link for ya.

The internets are abuzz over Mother Jones' map which covers celebrity involvement in Africa, otherwise seen as the "celebrity recolonization of Africa".

Clink on the link and see a history of celebrity involvement in Africa. The original map (not this screen grab) is interactive and you get to see who wrote a song about which country, who adopted a baby from where, and just how many celebrities go on "fact finding missions".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Miscellany links from/about Africa

How to Write About Africa - genius!

An excerpt - "Among your characters you must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the West. Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good. She must never say anything about herself in the dialogue except to speak of her (unspeakable) suffering. Also be sure to include a warm and motherly woman who has a rolling laugh and who is concerned for your well-being. Just call her Mama. Her children are all delinquent. These characters should buzz around your main hero, making him look good. Your hero can teach them, bathe them, feed them; he carries lots of babies and has seen Death. Your hero is you (if reportage), or a beautiful, tragic international celebrity/aristocrat who now cares for animals (if fiction)."

Go read it it all, it's masterful.

The Economist
on the chances of a fair election in Ethiopia (slim to none). Not only that, the current Zenawi government is propped up by US aid (one of the largest recipients) and Zenawi is championed among the "new breed" of democratic leaders in Africa. Uh huh.

Last election was also marred with violence and arrests, tampering, etc... In my time in Ethiopia I never met a single person in the city who had voted for Zenawi and many of my students had stories about older brothers being arrested, etc... A friend of ours remembers being quarantined to their compound and listening as gunshots echoed through the city. Most people are thinking/predicting this next election will be even more unfair and violent...

Musical Break! Malian Rokia Traore. Not sure if I love the video but I love her music.

I'm a big fan of South African Desmond Tutu, the man is not afraid to criticize just about anybody if they're messing up. That includes Africans who discriminate against gay and lesbians ("Hate has no place in the house of God") and South Africa's ally the U.S., calling the war in Iraq an "immoral war". Speak it brother!

Africa's entry in the "Uncyclopedia" - more genius!

'The only thing positive about Africa is HIV."

African exports include: Ebola, Madagascar (the movie) and "Apos'trophes t'hat s'erve no' purpo'se".

Musical Break #2! Do you know where Mauritius is? Most people don't and would never have heard music from there - but this last summer at Toronto's AfroFest, Menwar wowed me and here's a clip of him playing at Montreal's International Jazz Fest. We're already stoked about this summer's AfroFest!

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention one of the best blogs about the continent, as well as where I found some of the articles, Texas in Africa. Go check it out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Free Speech in Canada

Recent news out of Ontario is that American conservative speaker/writer Ann Coulter is here. For those of you who might not know her, she enjoys "stirring up the pot" through right-wing rhetoric racism. She wrote the book, If Democrats had any Brains, They'd be Republicans and has been notoriously anti-Muslim, advocating that no Muslim should be allowed to fly, instead they should take flying carpets. I am not joking, there is no way you could make this stuff up.

Of course you can guess my reaction to such a person. She uses racism as a tool to incite people, blatantly using ignorant, inflammatory comments to make the news and sell books, and ignores the power of what she says. In today's speech, when a Muslim student asked her about her "flying carpets" comment, nothing that she didn't have one, Coulter told her "to take a camel" instead. And she made the news.

Still, her vast store of idiocy is not what this post is about. What I want to do is relate this issue and Coulter's recent foray into Canada to something else I had previously written about here.

British MP George Galloway was denied access to speak in Canada at an anti-war protest due to his attacks on Israel and connections with the Palestinian Hamas (who Canada labeled a terrorist org.) which include being part of the Viva Palestina convoy bringing food to Gaza to promote peace. At the time I noted that we had allowed George Bush to cross the border to speak, why were we denying Galloway? My question remains: If we allow people such as Coulter across the border to spew her vitriolic rants why was a British elected official (Galloway) banned?

I think part of the answer stems from what Galloway represents - a critique of Israel. He highlights atrocities in Gaza, sides with Palestinians and Arabs as a whole and roundly denounces American foreign policy that supports such atrocities... policy that Canada seems to agree with. I know Israel is a touchy subject but his views are not welcome and even less welcome than the racist rants of Coulter? He's involved in initiatives to promote peace and equality for Muslim people's and Coulter advocates against Muslim people. We talk about free speech in Canada but this one exclusion (Galloway) and one inclusion (Coulter) speaks to what is allowed in Canada, what is deemed acceptable, and what is allowable to say.

Free speech in Canada... as long as you agree with our policies and don't like Muslims.


No, I haven't gone and acquired a job at Starbucks (though the free coffee is tempting!) Instead, I am training Daija to go work at Starbucks and get that free coffee for me! What else are children for?

It's actually quite cute, every time I go to make coffee she wants to help. She puts the filter in for me.

She knows where I keep the grinder and the beans.

She pushes the button on the grinder until the beans are all done and then signs "all done".

Then, she gets to push the on button.

We smell the beans and she imitates me, saying "Mmmmmmmm."

The ultimate goal is to get her to the point where I can wake up and tell her, "Daija, go make Daddy coffee and bring it to him in bed!" Now I just need to teach her how to fry up bacon....

Monday, March 22, 2010


An interesting thought for the day from French philosopher Jacques Derrida (On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, 2001):

"Yes, there is the unforgivable. Is this not, in truth, the only thing to forgive? The only thing that calls for forgiveness? If one is only prepared to forgive what appears forgivable...then the very idea of forgiveness would disappear."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tired Traveller

When we moved to Toronto we sold our car and committed to using transit as our primary mode of transport (secondary if you count our feet) and we weren't sure exactly how it would go. Nine months in (I know, where did the time go?!) and we quite enjoy transit for the most part, the subway system is fairly easy to navigate and you get to avoid the massive traffic snarls that ravage Toronto every day. Sure, grocery shopping takes a little more co-ordination and a little more time needs to be scheduled in for transport but it's way cheaper.

The only hiccup is Sunday morning when regular service doesn't start until 9am which is too late for my lovely wife whose work shift starts at 7am. So one Sunday a month we book our Zipcar (amazing!) and I drive her to work. Today was actually the first day we had to do it due to sickness, etc...

All 3 of us got up at 5:30am and drove mommy to work. Which was a little too much for our little munchkin who, while peering over the couch this morning, simply fell asleep. Doesn't look like the most comfortable position but she was out cold on the back of the couch!

I wish I could sleep as well as she does!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part 3: Racism in Canada

Somehow the news just keeps revealing the deep-seeded racism that exists in leaps and bounds in our society, all coated over with a deep self-belief that we are somehow a tolerant and accepting society.

This quick blog makes for a the perfect part 3 of my trilogy on race and the construction of authenticity in Canada. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A recent news article on CBC.ca sparked a massive wave of comments. It was in regards to a UofT student who was seen on a terrorist video from Somalia and has been rumored to have been killed in a battle with insurgents.

Off the bat, I am against violence, especially when done in the name of religion. Secondly, I am against the way the word "terrorist" has been used to construct the "bad guys" who are always Othered through race, language, religion, etc... Presidents and soldiers can senselessly kill people but they are never constructed as terrorists, put on watch lists or have their travel restricted.

Beyond this, I was appalled (though not really shocked) at the comments on the story. They speak powerfully to what I have already discussed in terms of creating "real Canadians" and "fake Canadians", all under the auspices of multiculturalism and tolerance.

One commenter says: I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm all for immigration but not including the following: Somalians, Tamils, Haitians and any other ethnicity that thrives on cultivating old battles on our soil. I know that not "all of them are radicalized" but enough of them are, and worse, those who aren't can and will be turned by others who freely enter our borders to do so.

He begins by stating his tolerance (he's "all for immigration") and then proceeds to spew one of the most openly racist and exclusionary statements I've heard in a while. He places violence in the hands of racial minorities, fueled by their hatred for others, disrespecting our soil. He tries to appear conciliatory by recognizing that "they" are not all "radicalized" but that so easily they'll all flip - like they're the 12 yr. old who will do anything if their friends tell them so. You want to exclude whole groups on the basis of.... violence? Exclude Americans then. Their gun violence is the highest in the world and they "cultivate old battles" in places like Iraq. Or how about any other nation that has had civil war (Canada can be included in this)? Oh, and for the record, my brother-in-law is Tamil - guess I should keep an eye on him in case he "turns"... it'll have to happen sooner or later.

In response to another comment that perhaps this man's experiences in Canada pushed him to extremism: WHAAATT!?!?!?! This is one of the most insane things I've heard. Canada has opened their doors and their hearts to allow these people into our country, many of them escaping a futureless life, poverty and persecution. How dare you make ignorant comments with a bite to the hand that feeds you.

Canada is constructed as the benevolent, gracious host who should be thanked. Not only did we "allow" certain undesirables to enter but we "opened our hearts" to all the Orphan Annies of the world, giving them a chance at a better life. They escape their "futureless life" (somewhere else) to come to Canada and a.... place where their credentials ignored, their job prospects truncated, their knowledge devalued... a futureless life? They escape poverty (somewhere else) to come to Canada and have.... poverty? They escape persecution (somewhere else) to come to Canada and.... face persecution? I'm certainly not trying to diminish the experiences of people who indeed have faced hardships in countries torn by war, famine, globalization, etc... but Canada is no walk in the park for immigrants (the article actually states that the subject of the story was born in Canada but most posters just assumed he was an immigrant - no way he was a "real Canadian"). Canada is loving and peaceful and people should thank their lucky stars to be here, subsequently showing their gratitude by never disagreeing with a thing, speaking English upon arrival, buying all their coffee at Tim Hortons and joining a local hockey or curling rink.

A final commenter stated: This man was not Canadian in any way shape or form. By calling him a "Canadian", CBC, you have degraded the word and yourself.

How do we define a Canadian? Born in Canada? Has a Canadian passport? Believes in peace, love and donuts? Speaks only English or French (preferably English)? Is White or at least acts as White as they can? Is being called "Canadian" some badge of honor that one has to win or earn? When a White soldier goes to Afghanistan and commits some crime do we question his nationality, wonder if perhaps he was never really Canadian to begin with? So many questions...

As a summary: Dionne Brand, a relatively famous Black Canadian writer, writes in one of her poems - "I don't want no fucking country". It's really not hard to see why certain individuals wouldn't want to align themselves with Canada, when in return Canada doesn't really want any part of them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Your Friendly English Teacher

In this age of Facebook communication, Twitter-pating, and txt msgs, proper usage of the English language seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Bad English angers this particular dinosaur.

Here is my list of mistakes you will not make when communicating with me, please and thank-you.

Lose/Loose - You do not loose your ring. You do not loose track of time. Your clothing is not lose. Lose = to not win. Loose = to set free; not tight fitting. Correct usage: "I will loose the Hounds of Hell on you if you lose your ring because it is too loose." Wrong usage: "OMG, lol, like how in the world did i just loose my phone, now how can i txt my bfffe? (I saw this the other day, what the h*ll is a bfffe?)"

You're/Your/Yore - Your is possessive. You're is a contraction which is substituting for 'you are'. Yore is a long time ago. So it's, "No honey, those pants don't make your butt look big. You're beautiful." Guys especially, remember this.

To/Too - To is a preposition. This means it is a linking work for nouns, pronouns, etc... It does NOT signify 'as well'. As in, "No honey, those pants don't make your butt look too big. It's time to go." Guys especially, remember the grammar rule but strike any part of this phrase from your vocabulary.

There are others but I will leave it at this. I think you get the point. Never at any point are any of these interchangeable.

I feel better now.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thumbs Out

My friend Matt over at Bing Dynasty often does his quick summaries as thumbs up/ thumbs down so I am ripping him off (imitation is a form of flattery) and here are mine:

Thumbs up (a.k.a. Aaaahnold approved):

- Apple smoked old cheddar from St. Lawrence Market - so good.

- Daija cuddling with me when she wakes up.

- Organic, fair trade, dark roast espresso - more than one shot, please and thank-you.

- My momma coming out here again to visit. And by visit I mean coming out here to babysit so Nolana and I can go out

- Building towers with Daija's Mega blocks

- This, one of the freshest new music videos in a while. From Nigerian born Afrikan Boy. H/T: Africa is a Country

Thumbs down (a.k.a. Joaquin says you fail):

- not sleeping well. Life is just that much harder with less sleep....

- soft, stinky poo. Not mine, Daija's.

- PCs that start to crap out on you after 2 years. If only I could afford a Mac...

- Feeling behind at school and never having the time to catch up, or even better, get ahead.

- The Flames struggling just to make the playoffs with a GM who thinks getting Matt Stajan is the answer. Ha.

- Tim Hortons. I don't get the national obsession.

- Nolana and Daija going to Victoria without me again. Victoria is such a great place...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Hey, I just said that!"

Do you ever have those moments when you're reading or watching the news or talking with friends and you hear something that sparks a sense of deja vu? I was reading an article today by Canadian and UofT scholar (he's actually in my department) Rinaldo Walcott about multiculturalism in Canada and instantly thought, "Hey, I just said that".

And, indeed I had in this blog about "Real Canadians". It actually also pertains at least remotely to last my last blog post, the letter to Mr. Ignatieff.

Here's some of the article.

Walcott states "Official [Canadian] policies of multiculturalism... exacerbate the problem of belonging (89)

Walcott quotes Ignatieff's Massey Hall Lecture where Ignatieff describes Canadian multiculturalism as seeking to protect the cultural rights of as many people as possible. Sounds good right?

But where do collective rights fit into this Liberalist schema of individualism? What about the cultural groups whose identity is firmly embedded in the collective? Group rights pose a major problem for Canada's version of multiculturalism, denying any collective rights to groups.

Walcott goes on to examine how the English and French are excluded from these ideas of multiculturalism based on their status as "Founding Nations" - their identity is beyond question, beyond the need for 'protection' by multiculturalism policies - They are "Real Canadians". He quotes Eve Mackey who says, "Canadian-Canadians are assumed to be white, disinterested in seeking special status of any sort, and certainly their cultures (if they claim a culture at all) are neither funded nor supported by the government apparatus" (92).

Not only does this echo my previous post but show how government focus on funding multiculturalism creates more separation. "Real Canadians" don't need funding or special privileges.... mostly because we are already given these things anyways through other channels. Heritage becomes a specifically non-white discourse that needs to be enacted and re-acted through parades, national costumes, cultural celebrations, etc... Non-white Canadians are positioned as outside of Canada and are "allowed" into Canada through government multiculturalism.

Despite disagreeing with many aspects of his article, it's always nice to hear someone else voicing the same things you are - makes you think you're not alone in left field!

Despite these recognitions of cleavage in Canadian society, we as voters are presented with dismal options. On one side is Liberalism which champions multiculturalism as the way - except that their version is predicated on individual right which only seek to fragment cultural groups and assimilate them into a homogeneous Canada and which creates "Real Canadians" and "hyphenated Canadians"; and on the other side are the Conservatives who can't even be bothered to put on the facade of multiculturalism or inclusiveness in completely ignoring any issue that is not white, straight, upper class, and male. Uggggghh.

Especially after such national fervor that the Olympics inspired, it is hard to see how Canada or its people could be accused of racism - Hell, we let the Natives dance! Our medals has Native motifs and so did our hockey jerseys! It's easy to say that racism is in the past.

Dionne Brand says, "Only the brazen can say, "I was not here, I did not do this and feel that." One hears that all the time in Canada; about what they feel they are and are not responsible for. People use these arguments as reasons for not doing what is right or just. It never occurs to them that they live on the cumulative hurt of others. They want to start the clock of social justice only when they arrived. But one is born into history, one isn't born into a void" [italics mine] (A Map to the Door of No Return, 82).

Beyond this, not only is Canada built on the exploitation of others it still continues today in less explicit (sometimes) ways. It's impossible to choose impartiality or neutralism as a position.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Politicizing the Olympics

Dear Mr. Ignatieff,

You don't know me and we've never met. I've read one or two of your books and voted for your party on occasion, although that was mostly due to lack of options and just to spite our current President Prime Minister.

I am writing this letter in response to a recent news article that appeared in the Toronto Sun which examined whether or not our esteemed Prime Minister was paying for all those prime seats at Olympic events that the average Canadian such as I would love to have but can't afford. It appears that 5 people were given all access passes to the Games, one of them being Mr. Harper and one of them being yourself (the others being Harper's lackeys).

Despite this, Mr. Harper has decided to take the high road, recognizing the privilege he has as well as the hard economic times that we're in, and has decided to pay top dollar for each event he attends. This happens to be as much as $1100 a ticket.

I understand the minuscule amount this number is when you take into account the billions of dollars that went into making sure we hosted such a wasteful prestigious event. Yet, it is the symbolic nature of the gesture that at least shows he is making an effort. Not only this, but his lackeys are paying for their tickets as well.

What was your response to this? What did you say when asked about your free pass to all the Games? You are not going to be bullied by Mr. Harper's gesture and will be most certainly using your pass because you, and I quote, "don't want to politicize the Olympics." I am befuddled. Who in their right mind actually believes that the Olympics has nothing to do with politics? You fashion yourself as an Academic (capital A) and have based this on holding positions at such illustrious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, London School of Economics, and my current institution, the University of Toronto.

I presume after such a broad career at such a high level you would have come across at least one of the multitude of works that examine just exactly HOW political the Olympics are. I emphasize the 'how' because all of these writers start from the presumption that the Olympics ARE political. Everything about them is political from the funding $ to the selection of the city to the opening ceremonies to which events athletes can compete in.

You might have heard something about countries boycotting the Olympics in 1936, 1956, 1976 in Montreal (our country!), 1980, and 1984. There was also talk of boycotting the most recent summer Games in Beijing. You might have heard about how Hitler used the 1936 Games to promote White Supremacy, about athletes in Mexico who performed the Black Power salute on the podium, how 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed in 1972 (if you haven't heard of this one, there's a movie you can watch. Go to Blockbuster and ask for Munich. Steven Spielberg, Eric Bana, Academy Awards, is any of this ringing any bells?), how a bomb went off in Atlanta in 1996, or perhaps how Iranian athletes would rather withdraw than compete against Israelis. Each of these events has very little to do with athletics and almost everything to do with politics. Heck, even here in Vancouver we have people dressing up like it's Halloween and smashing windows. No doubt, the Olympics are political.

Make no mistake, I will still not be voting for Mr. Harper. His politics alienate me, his constituents enrage me, and his insistence on looking ridiculous confounds me. Nor will I vote for his lackeys which often enrage and confound me even more. Yet, your stance and subsequent statement strike me as petty politics, a low blow if we are to stick with sports talk. But your shot did not score, your trick did not fully rotate, you missed a gate... You looked foolish and little while your opponent made the right gestures.

This is what frustrates me most about your tenure as Liberal leader. Instead of making any substantive talk or, even better yet, any substantive action, you are content to mud wrestle with your opponent. If you were both young, attractive women this might be acceptable to a large percentage of the population but unfortunately you are both men who are many miles past young. What frustrates me even more, is having to admit that Mr. Harper was right on this occasion.

You'll understand, and hopefully forgive me, if I tell you there's really no way I can vote for you either in any upcoming election. Not strategically to block Mr. Harper, not for change. I want change as much as the next guy but something tells me you're not really the kind of change I want.

I hope you enjoy watching the Closing Ceremonies, say howdy to Mr. and Mrs. Harper for me.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daija Days

It's been a while since I update you on my little squirt and I know for most of you those are your favorite posts (don't worry, I don't hold it against you). She's also currently on my mind because instead of napping she has been crying in her crib off and on for the past hour (Go to sleep Child!)

She got her first ever pigtails and was quite fascinated with them.

She has some new toys that she likes playing with, like this train that she gets pushed around on and now she even pumps her fist as we go "choo-choo".

She's also getting really good at stacking her blocks up and has even more fun when I stack them up and she gets to knock them down!

Daddy's often gone long days at school so sometimes she gets to wait in the window for me to come home, which is always a nice surprise!

She's learning a bunch of new signs (or at least attempting them, sometimes it takes some creative guesswork! But you can tell she's trying to let you know!) such as car, hat, sun, horse, wait, toilet, etc...

She's also attempting to say alot more words though those take even more creative guesswork! Mostly it's just vowels with one of the few syllables she knows thrown in. She's got mama and dada down pat and is pretty good at papa (which sounds more like bubba).

She is also getting quite the will and is willing to test the limits at times. Still, she's a lot of fun!

Ready to go outside.
Singing a song that involves 'sleeping'.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'll be able to Quote Myself

I struggled with naming this post and thought of just calling it [Self-congratulatory Post] but thought that was a little less subtle than I wanted....

But the reason I might have for being so self-congratulatory is that I am getting published for the first time! And its not with one of those self-publishing places either where you pay to get ripped off. I know, I'm as shocked as you undoubtedly are. I guess someone out there thought that my thoughts were worth preserving for eternity (or at least until your dog eats the book) in a medium other than this blog (the internet is forever right?)

I am writing a chapter in a book that is tentatively titled "Spirituality, Education, and Society: An Integrated Approach." It's a collection of essays geared for educators and discussing how spirituality needs to be put into discussion with schooling and society; my essay will be based on a paper I wrote last semester on the power of collective spirituality to resist dominant norms within the classroom as envisioned through indigenous knowledges.

I'm thinking I will update you fine folks as I work through the process, simply because it is pretty much consuming my time at this point. I was given two weeks to edit and expand my essay within the given framework for the chapter and then send it back in for another edit/reading.

I'm obviously pretty excited as this is a great opportunity for me, though excitement has undoubtedly been dwarfed by worry as I edit and re-edit trying to figure out how I want my work to be represented (and how I want ME to be represented) in the academic/public sphere. I'm also pretty sure that, as this is my first publication, I will at some later point look back and laugh at how poorly written and inarticulate this article is, so I shouldn't worry about it too much!

I'm a little stressed about it all but knowing that when in fact it is done and published it will feel pretty rewarding.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympic Spirit

As you likely have surmised by the over abundance of red mittens with a Canadian flag on the palm and the incessant commercials involving a Canadian flag, wilderness or beavers, the winter Olympics are currently happening. I have a strange ambivalence to such an event, something along the lines to how C.L.R. James describes Lucian, an early commentator on the Greek Olympic games, as both repulsed and unable to stay away at the same time. I love sports and yet fully recognize that sport is not something pure and detached from society at large: it reproduces inequalities, is intricately involved in cultural production and re-production, and fully participates in racist discourses.

Here are some of my early observations on the Opening ceremonies and the Olympics as a whole:

1. Why make such a big deal about the Native chiefs being late? Dignitaries are late all the time and slip in with little fanfare or notice, so why feed the narrative that First Nations people are always late, lazy, unaware of time, etc... I hope it was an act of purposeful resistance. It was either that, or they were held up by security on their way in and had their fingers tested for explosives residue....

2. The Native dancing was one of the most blatant displays of trying to 'write' Canada as a diverse, multicultural space while at the same time ignoring the historical reality of what the land means to First Nations people. The welcome also ironically echoed the many times First Nations people welcomed the first explorers only to be thanked with death, colonialism, reserves, and exploitation. I secretly hope that when they were talking in their native tongue that they were cursing out the Olympics.

3. I almost spit out my drink when after the dancing, when the nations were about to walk into the arena, all these people clad in white came out and started to encircle the dancing First Nations people. I thought perhaps they were indeed going to be historical and start shooting or rounding them up to move them to a smaller area....

4. I then actually did spit out my drink when, as Greece was the first country to enter, the commentator said something to the like of: "They should give Greece a gold medal for their contributions to civilization around the world." Uh, seriously? Not only is modern Western society a bastardization of Greek democracy but if we take that line, the contributions that Western society has made to the rest of the world include colonization, the Atlantic slave trade, mass-scale exploitation, the spread of misogyny, etc... If we're awarding medals for such "contributions" perhaps we should award the silver to Germany for their "contributions" during World War 2 and America the bronze for their "war on terror".

5. The whole ceremony was an exercise in narrating against history, specifically in narrating Canada as a diverse, accepting, polite, forward-thinking country. From the hybridity of the punk-rock Scottish fiddlers, to the commentators constantly highlighting the diverse communities in Canada "Listen to the crowd go wild for the Chinese team, there's a large Chinese population in the greater Vancouver area...", to highlighting the benevolence of Canadians to 'developing countries' (The community coming together to buy the poor Indian team matching costumes).

6. And finally, the gross exoticism of non-White nations (speaking of which, is there anywhere a Whiter gathering of sports than the Winter Olympics?). From the mystique of the "Snow Leopard" to the appeal of the lone Jamaican athlete, there was the pandering to the "underdog", the racial other.

I know this all seems quite negative and like I hate the Olympics, and I haven't even touched on the economic or regional impact of such a bombastic, self-aggrandizing, consumerism driven event (okay, maybe I just did...) Yet, like I said I am oddly drawn to watching the breath-taking speed of the downhill skiers, the mechanical determination of the speed skaters, the high-flying snowboarders, and the thrill of the crowd when hockey is on (except for women's hockey; 18-0 is hardly a competitive sport...)

It's here and I'm not going to don a mask and smash windows but at the same time I'm not going to willfully blind myself from some of the realities of what is going on.

Interestingly enough, the first Olympics in Greece were not only about sport but it was also a time for intellectuals to gather and share ideas, for drama and theater, etc... Instead of protesting in the streets perhaps we should call for an international symposium to gather every Olympics in the host city to share ideas on sport, society, culture, etc... Actually, even in the modern era medals were awarded for "events" such as architecture, town planning, and various forms of literature such as lyrical, dramatic, and epic. Perhaps Vancouver should award medals for protesting... ;)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Falsely Arrested?

Just a short post, I don't want to rant and rave. It gets tiring.

You've likely heard about the 10 Americans arrested in Haiti for trying to illegally take 33 "orphans" across the border to the Dominican Republic. You may have also heard that they belong to a church group.

If you go to the church's website the first thing you see is an update telling you that the group has been "falsely arrested".

The leader of the group stated to press that they didn't think they needed approval to take the children out of the country, they were just trying to help.

Regardless of whether or not their intentions were good or or not, they were correctly arrested for breaking the Haitian law. You cannot legally take any children across any national border without paperwork, even if it were simply Daija and I going for a say trip to Detroit. This is common sense. Also common sense: when you break the law (intentional or not) you get arrested.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" or something like that. Whether I intend to break the law or not doesn't change the fact that the law is broken. Some are blaming the religious aid groups as a whole, some are citing the arrogance of Americans in flouting laws in another country, many are pointing to ignorance and stupidity, some are balling them all up into a maelstrom of epic proportions but, like I said, I don't want to rant and rave. Just wanted to say, this was not a false arrest. False arrest is when you didn't do anything wrong - they definitely did.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Real Canadians

There are many cultural and national groups in Canada that are 'hyphenated' Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, Somali-Canadians, Afghan-Canadians, etc... I have no problem with them self-identifying as such, in recognition of their heritage, ancestry, etc...

The issue I take is with the rest of us 'un-hyphenated' Canadians turning around and calling ourselves 'real' Canadians, implying that the 'hyphenated' Canadians are somehow less Canadian or illegitimate in some way. There are NO real Canadians, unless we're going to talk about the First Nations groups and even then, in that context 'Canadian' implies a transplanted, colonial entity that stripped the First Nations of their land and their identity, forcing them to conform to 'Canada' as a European conceived nation-state.

There's a Wyclef (Haitian-American rapper) song that carries the line, "Your grandfather was an immigrant too" and that speaks to the heart of the matter - Canadians are an amalgamation of various immigrants joining in one place. It happened over time so perhaps some people feel that time somehow legitimizes them as 'authentic' Canadians but some of the first Canadians were not the white, Euro settlers who we imagine as 'real' Canadians, from the beginning there was a multiplicity of cultures and races in Canada - despite many of these early stories being erased from our national narrative or consciousness.

While many people would not come out and explicitly say that they are 'authentic' Canadians (though some do), implying that there are 'un-authentic' Canadians, this mentality is prevalent in many aspects of Canadian life, from the living rooms across the country, to the way government acts on behalf of its citizens. Recently there have been a couple of stories that illustrate this. Recently a Toronto woman was stranded in Kenya. The Canadian government not only did not offer assistance but aided in naming her an imposter (despite her holding a Canadian passport) and aided the Kenyan officials in imprisoning her, stripping her of her rights as a Canadian abroad. Oh yeah, she was a Kenyan-Canadian with a son in Toronto waiting for her. But she was not 'authentic' enough for Canada to bother helping.

Recently, a much more sticky issue has arisen with the imprisonment of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay. Many have pressed the Canadian government to repatriate him (bring him back to Canada to be tried) rather than let him sit/rot/be tortured by the Americans. Just today the top courts in Canada ruled that, despite blatant human rights violations by the Canadian government, Khadr does not have to be brought back to Canada. Public opinion has been split, with many arguing that he is a terrorist who should have to rot, that he is not Canadian enough to have rights that would be assumed if it were a 'real' Canadian. He was 'only' born here, he lived in Afghanistan where he was arrested, etc...

If we believe in Canada as a political entity, as a country where each individual is given equal rights, there are no 'half-Canadians' or 'sorta, maybe Canadians'. There are those who hold passports and are 'legal' Canadians and those who aren't.

But he doesn't watch the Maple Leafs every Saturday night on CBC, he doesn't pay his taxes, he doesn't represent 'Canadian ideals', he doesn't speak English, he's not REAL. What a bunch of crap. If Khadr was white it wouldn't matter. If a white Canadian was stranded in Kenya he wouldn't be thrown in jail at the request of the Canadian government.

Another fine example of the racial disparity here in Canada and who is defined as a 'real' Canadian: I have a friend who is British. When he crossed the US/Canada border he was routinely hassled about his visa, British passport, etc... upon re-entry into Canada. He now has a Canadian passport and is accepted, he sails through the border like I do. My thesis supervisor is an internationally respected Kenyan scholar who has been a Canadian citizen for years. She tells me that without fail she is still hassled at the border. It is much harder to believe that, despite her passport, she is a 'real' Canadian.

I am a third-generation Canadian and you know what, both my grandfather's "were immigrants too" (and my grandmothers too!). I am still in the range to be classified as Dutch-Canadian but I don't identify that way. By identifying as Canadian I recognize that I am implicated in a history of genocide, state-sponsored racisms, and colonial endeavors in the past and today. And yet I believe that Canada can be more, a place where everyone can belong and where everyone at least has equal rights under the law (would it be too much to ask for more?)

Often it's too easy to blame the Government (capital G intentional) without realizing that the government represents us, its constituents. The government can't pursue racist agendas without the support of its populace. And in Canada today, it is still okay to separate the 'real' Canadians from the others.