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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Madcap's Haiku Prize (for those who asked)

Some of you illustrious poets, whose names were not drawn in the recent haiku contest (it was random, honest), have asked what Madcap received as a prize.

It was a carefully selected novel, written by a friend of mine in Nelson and (I think) very tuned to Madcap's wonderful sense of place, time and land.

It is Treading Water, by Anne DeGrace. You might like it too.

Congrats Madcap - enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Man with Tall Hat versus Amnesty International

You may or may not know, but after more than two years of movement-wide debate and hard work, Amnesty International recently decided on a policy related to sexual and reproductive rights. Without stating a position on abortion generally, it said it would campaign for abortion rights in cases of rape, incest or violence, or where the mother's life or health is in danger.

The Pope and his boys now are instructing all Catholics to stop supporting Amnesty. Those guys! What a barrel of fun they are. They'd make good dads I'm sure...

I was involved in the decision-making process here in Canada and we know that we will lose some supporters, those who are opposed to abortion in any circumstances. We have also gained supporters, who wonder how a human rights organization cannot campaign on such a fundamental woman's issue.

Even though it's a grassroots democratic organization, gaining or losing supporters is not the business of Amnesty - working to promote human rights and address grave injustice is.

Here's a terrific article by one of my favourite Canadian journalists - Heather Mallick.

Weigh in if you want to...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dirty Tricks as Bush and Harper Snuggle (Senor Calderon is in bed too)

The leaders of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. met in Montebello Quebec this week. Most of their discussions are secretive and apparently deal with ways to harmonize North America. As we slide toward more of an economic union, many of us believe that what is being discussed is how to lower the bar/standards on workers rights, the environment, oil extraction, safety etc.

The only advisory group to the Three Amigos is a round table of corporate execs - get the picture? Free flow of capital, less regulation, commodification of all things social (health care, education, the environment, etc.) And put up a big wall to keep the so-called terrorists out. Nice...

Now we have learned that the violent protest outside the gates may well have been prompted by police agents (story). Friends of mine were there, protesting peacefully.

Let's be sure to boot Harper and his cronies out as well as Bush and Co.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

11th Annual Gentlemens Cruisa Palooze

Sunset on Kootenay Lake

The Mingulay and crew

I returned Monday from four days on Kootenay Lake with ten other men. Each year we rent the Mingulay, a 55 foot steel hulled, diesel-engined beauty of a ship and hit the waves. Most of Kootenay Lake's 100 kilometre length is boat access only, so it's beautiful and private.

In addition to the tomfoolery you might expect from men in their 30s to 60s - fart jokes, drinking, testing herbal medicine, card games, fishing, hiking and jumping in the lake - we also have good conversation around the fire and learn lots about each other.

The area of BC I live in is here. Come visit sometime!

Friday, August 17, 2007


Many poems arrived (see post down the page). Every haiku was worthy of reward - from PT's metaphor for writer's block to Laura's intriguing scorpion tale.

Each poet's name was written on a slip of paper and put in the handmade wooden box (Zoey's school project). The box was shaken (not stirred) and a name was carefully and blindly selected.

The winner is Madcap!

I must say that this is fitting as one of her recent posts is a poem that is most wonderful (see the photo of the raspberry on her site and you're there). Once I have a mailing address, the prize package will be on its way. The contents are entirely unpredictable (just ask previous winners).

The submitted haiku:

Explosion of grouse

Stopped my heart altogether

Then - fast as their wings

- Madcap

Monday, August 13, 2007


The August 1st Keep the Beat fundraiser, organized by about a dozen 16 and 17 year old local girls was a huge success. More than 1000 people, of all ages, hit Lakeside Park in Nelson to dance, to listen to ten hours of live tunes and to donate a lot of cash. After expenses, the girls will donate more than $9,000 to War Child Canada. These young women will change the world if we let them...

Hand-painted sign hanging near the park entrance (click to see larger).

My daughter Zoey played a set of her songs, with Ben on bass, Laura helping with vocals and Nick on guitar (Zoey's at the piano). I'm biased, but it was a great set.

There was some rockin' going on later in the evening! (I don't remember all those damn bubbles though....)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rights of Indigenous Peoples - action opportunity

Something not getting much attention, but important... I think that it's hard to move forward if there is a mess in my past - is there a more fundamental mess in our collective modern history than the treatment of indigenous peoples?

Within weeks, the United Nations General Assembly must make a decision on the long awaited and urgently needed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Either the international community will move ahead with final adoption as has been urged by Indigenous peoples and their supporters worldwide, or adoption of the Declaration will once again be delayed due to the demands of a small, yet vocal group of states (guess who?).

Please take this opportunity to support the Declaration (petition here).

More than 18,000 individuals and organizations have already signed a global petition hosted by Amnesty International Canada in support of the Declaration.
If you haven't already done so, please add your name and encourage many others to do so.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Time to lighten up - Haiku ... and a prize

For those of you into philosophical and political straining (and learning) - go below to The Life of Brian post. Now it's time for a summer break. Haiku time. I know these are not technically pure haiku, but you purists can go to The Life of Brian too... the rest of us think of this poetry style as:
- 5 syllables
- 7 syllables
- 5 syllables

...usually with some reference to nature (not required by Withinsight).

THE THEME: 'A summer morning'

THERE IS A PRIZE. I will award it by drawing names out of my little wooden box (the one I keep arrowheads in, but that's another post).

Here's something to start you off...

Water and sky touch
Ghost mist off Kootenay Lake

Sun rays heat my brow

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Life of Brian...

I will put a Keep the Beat post up soon - it was an amazing event - a group of 16 and 17 year old girls brought together more than 1,000 people for 10 hours of live music ... and raised more than $8,000 for War Child. Yes!

My friend and former Red Cross colleague Brian lives in a most beautiful place on the ocean in Nova Scotia. He also writes and asks very interesting questions. He sent me the email below ... and I thought I'd pass his question on to you too (with his permission). (I can already see Lindsay's brain warming up to this one...)

I recently read Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. Perhaps you know it. It deals mainly with off-shoot Mormon fundamentalist branches (there are many) whose chief features seem to be paedophilia and the creation of faith systems to support that perversion and its attendant hypocrisies. (It was quite revolting to read.)

As I read, I began to notice that a lot of the identifying characteristics of these Mormon spin-offs are parallelled in the Christian fundamentalist churches and often find a place in a general way in the mainstream Republican conservative movement, (though not, I hasten to add, paedophilia). These social entities would claim no kinship with one another theologically, historically, politically or socially. I thought the Mormons weird, extreme and stupid, so I was surprised to recognize so much of their strangeness elsewhere. I am not surprised that Christian fundamentalists are weird, just that they are weird in many of the same ways as Mormons.

Here are some of the common themes I found:

First, anti-intellectualism. There is an almost universal denial of science, and the elevation of belief over fact, and sometimes a denigration of knowledge in general. There is rejection without debate of any objection, or even questions relating to matters of faith. To suggest that there is anything that is not perfect is to call into question the foundation of the whole edifice. It seems that in all cases the fall back position in terms of knowing ‘what to believe and how to behave’ is an individualistic interpretations of ambiguous historical writings. (In the case of Republicans, just think of the Constitution.) In all areas of behaviour obedience is demanded, not understanding, (with the consequent dilemma: how can you know what is demanded unless you have some understanding of it?) These features may be common to most religions, but as we go on, other things begin to emerge and it gets more interesting.

Individual rights. There generally exists a belief in the domination of individual rights over community rights which is often evidenced in a denial of the authority of the state. The God given right, and it is God given in most cases, to use force, most boldly characterized by support of the right of the individual to carry and, in the event of opposition by others, to use a gun. In many ways this is parallelled in US foreign policy.

Individual rights issues have a couple of sub-themes. First is the notion of male dominance in family relationships, usually with the rest of the family having duties to the ‘head of the family’ and he having different and often fewer duties to them. The common rejection of abortion is an easily identified further example. (Usually expressed in terms of the rights of the foetus, but actually flowing, I believe, from the evolutionary value for the male in having his genetic line maintained.) The other off shoot is a rejection of ‘otherness’. This is noteworthy in strong homophobia and its companion, hatred of same-sex marriage, and is further evident in varieties of racism and a general xenophobia.

Finally, I noted materialism. There seems to be a common belief in the positive value of material things, to the extent that God’s pleasure can be measured by one’s material success. As a consequence there is commitment to the values of hard work, honesty, and commitment at the expense of creativity, relaxation, and undeserved pleasure.

It seems to me that narcissism is a factor common to all of the above. They all serve to elevate self and self interest above any and all competitors. So why, I asked myself, do these different belief systems all promote narcissism? Then came the aha moment. The religions do not promote narcissism. The narcissism promotes the religions. Mormonism, Pentecostalism (et al), and Republicanism do not cause people to be narcissistic. Those are simply different ways to exercise that same psychology. It is their narcissism that causes them to create and promulgate these faiths.

Okay, now here is my real question: What the hell is it that makes so many Americans so self-important (not all of course)? I know that some of this seeps over the border and infects us, but it appears to have its genesis to the south. I seem to remember reading about the frontier experience having a strong influence on U.S. character. Maybe that is part of the answer. Have you read anything that addresses this issue?

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