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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Harperocrisy at its best

Muslim Women line up to vote in Somalia (top) and India

This is my recent letter to the local editor. Self explanatory, even if you don't know the current political scene in Canada.

The politics of fear and prejudice are alive and well in Canada. Prime Minister Harper has introduced a bill to force veiled Muslim women to show their faces at the polls. On the surface this seems like a reasoned response to a current issue of voting fairness, and the struggle to find the right balance in accommodating those of diverse beliefs. Take a look beneath the surface.

When is the last time you were required to show photo identification to vote in a federal election? That’s right…never. When was the last time Canadians who send in an absentee ballot had to prove their identity in some visual way? Correct again…it’s not required. No one is required to match their face to identification documents.

So what then is the furor about removing the veil to vote? Is it possible that it is a politically-stirred pot that plays on some Canadians’ fears of those of the Muslim faith, or who are uncomfortable when they see a veiled woman?

A simple explanation is that for the good of democracy and the integrity of the voting system in Canada, every citizen must prove that they have a face. In fact, in the spirit of acceptance and generosity, the Prime Minister’s bill allows for Muslim women to ask to be taken behind a screen by another woman, to lift the veil. This will prove, of course, that she has a face.

I’m tempted to begin a movement in time for the next (possibly soon) election. I’d love to see thousands of fellow Canadians, men and women, show up at the polls with masks, veils, bandannas and other stylish face coverings. We could each demand the right to be seen in private to prove we have faces.

Pandering to prejudice is a cheap way to win votes. I believe most Canadians cannot be bought so easily.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Looking for a pic-i- nic basket...

This beautiful bear has been hanging out in our yard for weeks off and on. He's fattening up before heading off to bed for the winter. When I head out at night, I usually mutter loudly, "Human being coming through!". Just in case he's lounging anywhere nearby. (Thanks to my neighbour Nelson, for taking this great photo. Click on it to see larger.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ahhh Aspen - wondering your way to Montreal...

My young friend, Aspen Switzer, is moving - both herself and her career. She leaves any day now to live in Montreal for a while. She'll perform, probably record and will make many people happy. Here is a song from her last CD. I live in the same narrow valley of which she sings. Bonne chance Aspen! (There's a great song posted in my September archives also.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reflections on mortality...and arrowheads

This morning: corner of the yard outside my office and view from the beach. An easy day to not work...

Life goes by quickly. I can't remember which one of you has a counter that shows the minutes, hours and days of life since your birth - this might make it seem like it goes by slowly, especially if you check your blog say... every hour... to see how long you've lived. (How do I get that counter by the way?)Tick, tick, tick.

On the other hand, I look for arrowheads on the beaches on Kootenay Lake, where I live. I have found dozens of small chippings and about 6 full arrowheads so far. I showed them to someone who knows archeology and the history of the Ktunaxa people, who lived (and still live) in this area. For a few he said, "Probably pretty new, within 250 years." For one he said, "This is an older style - normally we figure this is 1,000 years old or more."

Geez, some guys sat on my beach 1,000 years ago, knocking chips off the churt. Maybe they lost my arrowhead or maybe it was a reject. "Hey man, there's time to get it right, get rid of that one."

When I hold one of these things, I sometimes do get a deeper sense of time and place.

Now those people who squatted on my beach are moisture in the sky, or dust, or soil, or merged into one of the ancient cedar trees that still survive in a few valleys in these mountains. Blink of time.

With such a short stay here, what matters? You tell me what you think, and I'll tell you what I think.

Whoops, I'm rambling.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Gotta love the kid, Will Ferrell... and even George

This is an important message from the President of the United States... sort of.

Graffiti of the month...

I used to post graffiti of the week, but I've drifted - maybe I'll try for monthly.
I'm not sure this one is graffiti, or just damn good marketing. (Thanks Mike D for sending me this.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PowerPoint versus story-telling

You don't find many rants on this site, other than political or human rights or religion... okay, maybe you do get some. But this one's new.

I am organizing a conference for about 300 people. There are 20 or so presenters in plenary and workshops. We asked every one of them to consider not using PowerPoint slides at all, to limit to a small number if they do, and in any case, to rely more on telling people what's interesting about the topic. If you can tell an anecdote or story - all the better.

Am I the only person who is sick of these words on a screen? I dislike the flying, spinning ones the most. The only PowerPoints that seem to add to the presentation for me are the ones with beautiful or interesting photos (such as what I posted here). I worked with First Nations communities a bit last year and heard so many good orators and story-tellers (including painful tales), that I felt spoiled.

Oh, almost all of our conference presenters chose to us PowerPoint anyhow, and almost all have so many slides they'll never get to tell a story. Good thing there will be coffee, good food and some interactive sessions. We even have a concert with great musicians one evening - I wonder if any of them will show slides rather than sing... Our conference.

What do you think? (Feel free to tell an anecdote or use a photo...)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Call the US mercenaries to account

What a world!

There about 180,000 US troops in Iraq, without a chance of leaving the place less of a mess than when they arrived. There are also, by some accounts, more than 120,000 private security personnel. Such as the Blackwater dudes who killed a number of civilians a few weeks ago...Private military contractors are now a $120 billion dollar, global industry.

These guys have the guns and ammo, the armoured vehicles and the body armour. They get paid to protect all sorts of politicos and business folks. What they don't have is the same accountability as a soldier.

Geneva Conventions? Not us!

Military justice? Not us!

US civil or criminal law? Hell no, not us!

Iraqi law? Not if we can get out of town quickly!

Apparently, when they get injured or killed, the individual mercenary doesn't get the care and reimbursement promised to them either. Who gets the good deal out of this industry? Corporate interests of course.

If you're American and want to send a message to your government, check this site out TAKE ACTION

Check this out on Blackwater

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The oldest kid...

My children, looking oh-so-thoughtful when asked to be serious

I'm going to spend the weekend at a youth symposium, in a lovely mountain town (Kimberley, BC). I was asked to go because I work with and mentor young people sometimes. Or put another way, "We want to have some old farts there too - as long as they don't tell young people what to do..."

My daughter and three of her friends are attending. They are going on a bus that is picking young people up town to town, and getting them hyped. I found an excuse to drive alone and enjoy the scenery, including the highest mountain pass in Canada . It won't be surprising if there is snow up that high - in fact, I'm bound to see some (Kootenay Pass live webcam, if you want to see if I'm telling the weather-truth).

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are. You're only as old as you feel...

"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."

- George Burns

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Canoe, Lake, Son...Sun

I live on Kootenay Lake, an amazing mountain lake, fed by glaciers, in southeastern British Columbia. It's 100 kilometres long and most of its shoreline is not accessible by road. Since our separation in the spring, I've been renting an old cottage-like house with lakefront access. On Thanksgiving day (October in Canada), my son and I paddled across the lake in the cool fall sunshine. This is him, in front, dreadlocks and all.

I love big cities for the stimulation, the cultural depth, the anonymity and (sometimes) the architecture - Vancouver and New York City appeal to me as North American examples. I also love the small town culture of Nelson, where I live and I love the natural world being so accessible. You?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Something about autumn..

My daughter just sang a song for me (with piano). It was Autumn's Here, by Hawksley Workman, an amazing Canadian songwriter, not known well but worth looking up. One line in the song is "Autumn's here... and it's okay if you want to cry." Damn if it didn't make me cry.

I think I have a visceral response to this season. One apparent reason for this is that it's a season of endings, of dyings... of creatures and plants going dormant. Canadian geese fly south, over my roof, early every morning now, large flocks with deep plaintive honkings. Even in this mostly coniferous forest valley, there are banquets of leaves - yellow, red and brown.

It's dark in the morning when I wake to stretch and meditate. The air is cool and crisp then - I can see my breath if I go out on the deck to look at the lake. I feel my ancestors stirring.

I suppose we each have different temperaments. I have one that comes alive when I feel sad, when I feel the sense of comings and goings, when I see that all life begins and ends. And that the in-between contains love or is a meaningless and quick blur. I suppose this could make me want to climb in a hole or scream or simply hit the three bottles of single malt whiskies in my cupboard. Instead... I feel alive.

Tomorrow morning I'll go out in the canoe early with a coffee, and probably have to wear a jacket and hat. I hope the sun climbs over the mountain to warm my face, rather than simply rising behind grey clouds. Either way, autumn is here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Regina Spektor - a musical interlude

Here's a song and video by one of my favourite singers. This one's pretty mellow, some are less so. She's one of the main influences in my daughter Zoey's music.

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