Monday, February 27, 2006

Amman Makes Urgent Plea Regarding Howard

Uh oh. Apparently things aren't going so well in Timbuktu. I just got a letter from Amman, who must have found my address amongst Howard's items. He wrote me this message urging me to abduct Howard. The problem is that I'm busy right now.

There's not much I can do from this side of the ocean. I just started my new job. Things just started to get organized in my own life after Howard left. Maybe it's selfish of me, but I don't want to give that up. I can't be flying over to Africa to go babysitting a man almost twice my age! I'm sure it will all pass over. I hope it will anyway, but this is actually kind of funny. Part of me enjoys seeing someone else endure the Howardianism. Is that evil?

(For a full definition of Howardianism, go here)

Dear Mr.Sirbarrett,
You must do something about this Howard. He is making me drive crazy!! Five month now and he is like bird that doesn’t know how to fly. Maybe there is reason why his name is “Wayward” –because he is lost.

I write to you because I know that you know this Howard. He talk about you and say you are his friend and that you are his “poor son”. I know that he has no son but he talk like a freak man. You must know how it is with Howard.

Sometimes he is OK but sometimes he is just like freak. Most times he act like freak. He talk to camels and make them rambilunctious. He wear no clothes in the town here and women run away scary and screamy. The men, they hurt themselves in laughing but then people all excited and it started like mosh pit with them toppling over like grapes. One man almost killed me from squishing then I look up and it is because Howard and because everyone is running away from him, climbing over people like monkey. Then Howard didn’t not even say sorry but he make excuse that “it was his day to be free.” He haves no morals except this “Howardianism” which is like dirty smell.

Last week he teached me poker. He say if he can teach me English, he sure as the hell he can teach me poker. This game I like but with Howard not so much. He never take track of cards, so then it get time to change them but he just sit there waiting until the sky it get dark, then I say to him: “Howard! Turn them! Turn Them!” and he get upset and say “Patience my good man.” I am no man of him! He make me feel not so good. His face, it is just like joker. To make me angry, when I am finished playing a first game, then he is finished playing a second game, so he say: “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” and take all my chip. What do this means? He say it is part of his religion but I can see no silly religion like that. That is like saying “the black shall be white.” When I look at myself and Howard in water, I know I will not be white like him, but in my religion, we do not say those things to someone.

I and Howard have many problem over directions again. When I tell him we are to go to find Maritania he shake his head and say “no, no. I will not.” I say “come on Howard, we just have to go outside Algeria a bit.” He say “no, I will not be pressured! I don’t even smoke!” It is time like this that he so crazy I cannot take him any of the more. At one time I pull my knife and say “Howard. We are going to Maritania!” but he pull knife too and threaten to kill Seamus the camel. This cruelty to helpless animal is no fair on Islam, so I must give up. I get out mat and pray and he face other direction and pray too. He pray to devil god.

That night I go home and lay myself to sleep in tears. In this morning, he wake me up before the sun with him screaming. He sayed: “Amman! You taked my showerhead!” I sayed “No! it was not me!” He sayed; “Yes, you liar! Only you would have it taken!” and he goes with it on and on and on: My water is spraying, you taked it! Where is it! Give me head! I was still in sleeping and didn’t know what he was to say. Finally I gived him head but it was not his showerhead, it was mine.

Of course it will not work because I cut it off hose, but with Howard he does not know these things. I am filled with fear that he will come back soon to do something that is like a freak would do. I am afraid he may try to cut off MY head.

Please help,

Filed under Howard Wayword

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Canada-US Relations: We're Not a Peace Keeper Either

Let's be open about the rivalry: sometimes Canadians like to jibe our southern neighbor's, saying they're a bunch of war-mongers. Paul Martin didn't have a great relationship with Bush. Now that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, will that change? There is lots of discussion on that. Well, thank goodness the Americans have moved on from asking us to be part of the wild scarecrow in the sky idea: anti-ballistic missile defense systems! We disagree on a lot of things, us Canucks and Yanks, but maybe it's time to patch up our relationship with the States. Incidents like Carolyn Parrish saying that she hates those American "bastards" have done some damage to our relations. Still, one thing I think many people respected Paul Martin for and to some degree Chretien before him, was the fact that they stood up for Canada to the Big Brother.

Canada and the US are like an old married couple. We bicker a lot, but we depend on each other -and we're stuck together. It's ok to disagree, as long as it doesn't become personal. Right now, it seems that a large part of our global problems ARE because people take things personally. They get sensitive over cartoons, or they disagree over what democracy means. One thing that we should acknowledge in this continent, is what we do have in common. Well this is it: however you want to phrase it, we're both at war.

Canada is in Afghanistan, and the US is in Iraq. We both went in to change regimes. We overthrew the Baathists and the Taliban. So how is it working out for us? Well the overthrow part went just find and dandy. Coalition forces were tough. But hmmm, I forgot to check back after the west won the war. We lived happily ever after right?


Just before a Canadian general takes command in the Afghan south on March 1, a poll reported in the Globe and Mail shows that a large majority -63 percent of Canadians are opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan. Only 27 percent are in favour, and 73 percent believe we should have a referendum to decide!

Q: But wouldn't it be dangerous to pull out of Afghanistan now?

A: Oh you bet your buttons! It would not only be dangerous, but it would also be irresponsible.

No, when I think about it maybe things aren't so good for our troops, for U.S. troops, for Iraq or Afghanistan. I think I heard something about bombs, someone was killed or wounded recently, again, something about insurgents, heroine, a failure to govern, the phrase "brink of civil war" and the list goes on.

Wars are this continent's black eyes. When you just keep fighting and getting slugged, it can be hard to see the reality of it. The majority of people still think we should be fighting this "war on terrorism" but I think it should be apparent that we're not doing a very good job. It's tough to fight a war on terrorism ain't it? Especially when the terrorism just keeps getting worse.

Well, now the majority of the Canadian and American population can agree on something. It seems that the population is slowly being injected with some sense of clarity. What's becoming clear is that we both wish our troops would come home now rather than in body bags later.

I'm not suggesting that we pull out of Afghanistan though, if that's what you think. Americans also realize it would be dangerous to pull out of Iraq at this point, and that the "democratically" elected government there cannot govern without support. I think when it comes to the military, enforcing stability is just a band-aid solution, so we need to give credit only where credit is due. There are some good things that the military can do and that it is doing, but it needs to be balanced and supported. For example, troops have been taking land-mines out of the ground so that children don't blow their legs off when they're going for a walk. However, I'm sure they're also kidnapping people in the middle of the night and holding them in prison for ridiculous amounts of time. What I'm suggesting is that there has to be more to fixing up a country than defense. Collectively, now that it's too late not to have started this war, North America should start collaborating with each other and with other countries to figure out how we can deliver aid that will allow countries to develop and prosper towards their own goals.

Yesterday I went to Andrew Cooper's "Food for Thought" lecture held at the Centre for International Governance Innovation(CIGI) where he discussed various examples from his papers including Adding 3N's to the 3D's: Lessons from the 1996 Zaire Missions for Humanitarian Intervention" and Haiti: Considering the 3D Approach". He discussed how the "D's" of development, defense, and diplomacy aren't enough -that they must be supplemented with the three "N's" as well: networks, niches, and norms. The discussion was lively. Participants brought up the fact that in fragile situations on the ground, it can be difficult to distinguish between civilians and combatants. How do you deliver good and protect your interest at the same time when behind every veil there could be a bomb?

The discussion had special reference to Haiti, where Elections Canada recently facilitated the democratic rise of Rene Preval back into power. That country has a history of failed democracy, which is why they are apt to say "the constitution is made of paper, but the bayonet is made of steel." Ironically, the elections might be regarded as a success, but we still have the paradoxical problem that force was used to interfere with the democratic process. Aristide was plucked from his leadership position, and democracy was imported, not created. We still have many things to learn about how countries can be stabilized and how they can stabilize on their own, when given the right tools. This discussion can be applied to so many post-colonial fragile states and slums around the world.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, neither Canada nor the U.S. has acted solely as an angel. The highly publicized scandals in prisons and on the streets of Iraq attest to this, but Canada's missions and Afghanistan have seemed somewhat ambiguous since the shut-down of the Taliban. Are troops just sitting around drinking coffee all day? What qualities of education do Afghan children now enjoy? What rights do women have? How well do independent businesses operate outside of Kandahar? And what is this war really worth?

While Canada gives a larger portion of its GDP to aid, we're still on the bottom half of the list, and we give nothing close to the portion of our GDP when compared to countries like Sweden, who give 0.5 percent and we have one of the highest standards of living in the world! We have to figure out how we can give more and then do it. We have to deliver resources and supplies in a way that will actually make a difference, in a way that isn't going to enrage residents and put NGO's or embassies or the UN in danger.

Bono recently asked George Bush to put just 1 percent of the GDP towards aid. He went to a breakfast prayer because he was compelled by a "messianic complex" to hearken back to the ancient concept of tithing, a concept that is supposed to be part of Christianity and Judaism. Jews? Christians? Do you remember? People used to put aside 10 percent of their incomes to help the poor, and farmers left sections of their fields for reapers. After Bono's plea was over, Bush used the opportunity to laud his own performance regarding the natural disasters that have occurred, but the reality is that his presidential performance has shown less generosity than previous presidents, and poverty and AIDS are a growing problem. In 2002 when world leaders got together to put together the "Millennium Development Goals", eradicating AIDS, reducing starvation and poverty were part of them. They set the deadline for these goals at 2015. Since 2001, it seems many of us are self-absorbed. Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) calculated that "It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil, we will use the next trillion in 30," but it takes a Chevron ad to ask "so why should you care?" It always seems that we're chasing a dream, and for the moment, we have enough of our own problems to deal with.

So, when it comes down to it, maybe modesty is the best policy. We're not peace keepers. We're not philanthropists. However, in an increasingly globalized world where problems like global terrorism, global warming, global disease, and global poverty exist, they are precisely that: global problems. We might be forced to care. Perhaps we should put our nationalistic pride aside and try to work together to accomplish these goals sooner rather than later.

Filed under News Reviews and Politics

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tribute to Tree

The storm took her down, for she was not willing. This is a big sturdy maple no more. My father and I examined her many limbs, then with our surgical tools, cut apart.

The axe I swung, mighty but deceiving, a couple of times, the axe bounced right back. I was sweating and heaving til evening, ravens just watching, snow on the ground. The stubborn grain had to be approached precisely, so I focused intently on the centre of the block. Crack! The fibers split! Ease all the tension! When the knot is so tight, there can be nothing more grand. I satisfy myself getting wedged right between it. Off it creaks, like the vampire's coffin door.

Split Siamese twins, only the tree feels nothing. Her skin has long ago ceased to wear her like a coat. Peeling so easy, like the dress off a stripper, my red maul, flashing: mad blur in the air.

Now it sits halfwise. Now it lays helpless. This is the great dieretic undoing. I am now staring at nature's own neurons, cells shocked by actions, abused, dumb and lame. I stop to marvel at the beautiful patterns, creases: the wrinkles of calculable time!
I feel degraded for how I've destroyed it, yet I know purpose by packing the pile. Look at its sad face. Oh how it's humbled! Nothing left for it, 'cept into the fire. The tall figures haunt me. The forest is judging. What can I say that will lessen the blame? "Murder it wasn't. The weather was raging. I did not do it. The wind was who did! I say the tree has now come to fruition. What it can't say now is writ in these lines."

"This was no cruel vivisection," I whispered through their torsos.

Filed under Poetry

@Copyright 2005 Sirbarrett

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Beautiful Hard Miserable Respect

I finished my last day of school this Thursday, wrapping up the consultations and presentations until I return for a few more weeks in April, prior to graduating with a Public Relations diploma. I have now been in school for almost eighteen years straight! My six-week leave to go on job placement starts on Monday and I am excited to be starting as media relations assistant!

In the meantime, I'm applying for other positions like Tourism Counselor, Community Relations, Events Assistant and others. This morning I participated in an "open house" to learn about a receptionist/PR position in a chiropractic clinic with a similar philosophy to this one. The chiropractor talked about how the Canadian health system is failing, and made the doomsday statement that it will be bankrupt by 2020. He made it real by telling us that one third of us will die of heart-related problems, cancer, or directly from infections acquired in hospitals or as a result of medical treatment error. Thanks doc!

I was eligible for the position, but I believe the employer wanted to see how we reacted to the process as a group before selecting individuals for one-on-one interviews. We introduced ourselves then went through a Powerpoint presentation. Three people were selected for interviews right away, but I was sent home with six others, who will "hopefully" have an opportunity to discuss their skills further at some undisclosed future date.

In other news, I got a completely incoherent email this morning from "Olinda Lancey" which reads as follows:

"studied profession social. Disappoint yours servants news we anything. is he sugar here beautiful prison.
friends am my side. beautiful prison edge profession bad.
he reply raise tying pride, off drew immediate is pretty.
back corner beautiful hard miserable respect. appearance make back force? happened turning why tying.
steps drew reading we across. development already purpose nothing respect?"

I would like to know the answer to "is he sugar here beautiful prison" as I can only guess it is perhaps the grammatically incorrect question: is he sugar here in this beautiful prison? It is a beautiful prison isn't it? I wonder if my "appearance" made such "back force" that one of my outgoing messages was intercepted and somehow recoded into this garbled mess. Some of us live contentedly as drones. Others are trying to claw our way out of the prison, but why? It's so beautiful. We might as well enjoy our surroundings before we go searching for something outside, which we can never predict. "Democracy is a prison without walls" my World Issues prof once said.

Speaking of democracy, in Haiti, they found that the democratic process for the recent elections mired by possible conspiracy. It is such a poor country that were thousands of ballots thrown into a landfill site elsewhere, they might not be noticed, but in Haiti where a garbage dump is the closest thing poor people can visit for something of use, they are. Beloved by many of the region's poor, Mr. Preval will apparently serve as officially elected President, although he will remain concerned about vote-rigging and fraud for good reasons. Some suggest that all the unanswered questions and election ambiguity might stem from the US and France opposing Preval's victory because he was a supporter of ousted leader Aristide.

A stunned Israel is trying to work out their relations since Hamas was elected as the new Palestinian government. It appears that the Hamas might reform itself from the terrorist organization that it is regarded by many to be, but Israel is considering the political pressure it can wage against it by imposing sanctions and blocking trade, which is essential for Palestinians economic survival; they depend on Israeli ports to export their products. When poverty strikes, it is malnourished women and children who often suffer most. The alternative of support from Israel for the Palestinian government may be a more dangerous kind of support from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose anti-Israeli statements and questionable nuclear practices have brought him to the height of UN attention. Palestinians are in the position to accept help from anyone they can, including the Russians, so if it's not the US and Israel reaching out their hand, it will be someone else.
As this article suggests, isolating the Hamas government won't help the peace process between Israel and Palestine -the peace process that so many hoped Sharon would see to the end.

Well, maybe this is a beautiful prison simply because it never ceases to be captivating in its confusion. If the world were a body that needed chiropractic treatment, it would be because it doesn't communicate openly with itself. Nerves and organs have been choked off like truth because of deception in and by leaders and the media. For example, the US and allies recently didn't want to disclose allegations of another abuse scandal in Iraq by British soldiers on children in Basra because it could further threaten their troops and fuel more anti-western sentiment. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized them about it, they deflected the blame saying he is just trying to deflect attention himself from his questionable nuclear programs. So who's the hypocrite?

We're now seeing a whirlwind of offensive and reactionary political publications, innuendos and outright lies. I hope I won't be put on any death lists for mine. A banner held by one of the protesters of the political cartoons depicting Mohammed read: "only the sons of [the] devil can disgrace our holy prophet" which, although it might encapsulate frustrated sentiments, simply isn't true. Every human has the potential to disgrace G-d, otherwise I would have written His name without including the dash. I'm sure I have enough artistic ability to draw Anne Frank and Hitler in bed together, or Iranians wearing bombs at the World Cup or Mohammed in a silly costume if I really wanted to (which I don't).

My father might be a devil, but he's not the devil and using sensationalist words like that is ironic considering the war on terror, and Islamophobia started to a large degree after September 11, when Bush branded certain countries as being part of the "axis of evil". "Evil" doesn't mean anything anymore. It's less coherent of a word than the above email is. All the negative depictions and slander threaten Coalition forces as well, but Danish and other newspapers have no trouble publishing them then apologizing later.

It is as if to wage successful war, propaganda and psychological warfare are necessary. Rumsfeld has recently pledged more resources for psychological warfare in the Pentagon budget. Regardless of the purpose, people will say whatever they want to say. Censoring or arresting them for doing it won't solve the problem. Deception though, is affecting the psychological health of everyone. If we want peace, people have to be both more tolerable and tolerating. It's about time we start talking about it, instead of engaging in war.

Filed under Politics

Thursday, February 16, 2006

HNT: When you're Tired of Walking

Switch to drumming. It's good for your soul. I always like to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, especially when they can keep time.

Want to get into the rhythum? Learn about HNT

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Probing Bodies for Answers

I am intrigued by the innovations of science on the body ever since I visited the Body World's II exhibit this weekend at the Ontario Science Centre. This exhibit featured real cadavers, preserved through a technique developed by Gunther von Hagen called "plasticization". The bodies were split open in various ways in a variety of positions, from the "pole vaulter" to the "skateboarder", as well as various dissections, from the "ring man", who had rings of flesh from the superficial to the interior, and "drawer man" who's chest opened up like a set of drawers to display his tightly packed innards. These served as diagrams of nerves, muscles, skeletal structure, and cardiovascular organs.

There were also natural irregularities, such as a man who had six fingers and toes on each limb as a result of a congenital disorder. There were tumors, brain hemorrhages, and smoker's lungs. It was all a little bit shocking to stand beside a corpse, look over at him, and take notice of his tattoos. I'm sure part of what attracted several thousand visitors in one afternoon was the lurid appeal of seeing dead bodies, whether we would like to admit that or not. However, I was reminded again of how surprised I was to see various orthopedic innovations, such as a hip replacement, and an artificial heart valve, when I read this story, about a baby who received a heart transplant before natural birth, on Valentine's day, because that was the critical time. Is that an example of preserving life, or in some sense, speeding it up?

This idea that modern science can save us, or build a monster, is what led to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It has also allowed us to generate brand new heart tissue from stem cells, or make blind frogs see again. It boggled my mind to see a metal kneecap shining on a skeleton, like a gold tooth amongst pearly whites. Seeing a little metal valve in the middle of a gushy heart seemed so strange. It was like something you'd expect to see in a gas tank. It really reminded me that we humans are just hardware. We're manipulable. Our brains are like a motherboard, we can play around with electrodes, and do some circuit-breaking if we like. If we do have souls, do they morph as our bodies do, taking on new shapes as we're weathered by the world? We're flesh and bones, and while we may be something else if you dissect us according to another category of being, when we die, we die. Nietzsche was thus quoted for that very reason, right in the exhibit: "body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body."

That baby's life was saved by a transplanted organ the size of a golf ball. Another life (the surgeon's) that itself might have been saved in history too because of innovation, altered reality in a physical way. We see from this line of thinking, that choices can have an exponential result. If our bodies can perform feats to change their own structure and others, selecting which features survive by supplanting them in a mishmash of natural and interventionist parts, puts us in control of the conditions that we will thrive in. So how do we know that we are only our bodies? Might we not be a combination of many, and if so, which part of that consciousness that chooses, was simply a reaction? Which part of it is free will?

Filed under Philosophy

Valentinian Lesson #4: Valentines Day History

Looking Back on Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day was more of an event for me when I was a kid. I remember the adrenaline rush anticipating cinnamon hearts and hoping my message would get me noticed. I'd spend lots of time cutting off the edges of my construction paper to make sure that I had an adequately shaped heart, then I'd glue on doilies or draw a picture and write a generic poem like: "Roses are red violets are blue, you are the smartest so I will choose you. Will you be my Valentine?"

Everyone would come to class with their cards sealed with stickers or tied up in fancy envelopes. Considering that we had a designated time to hand out Valentines cards, if you didn't make one for everyone, you would be regarded as a jerk. We'd hand them out, then I would carefully make a stack and pick through each one, delighted that suddenly I was the most important person to everyone! We'd eat cupcakes and have a great time. Usually the theme took up the whole day so much that we didn't even have any lessons! It wasn't until high school when I wrote a girl a long love letter that Valentine's Day no longer seemed like a valid excuse for obsessive infatuation.

The Lesson
So the lesson of the day? Keep it simple.

Gender Differences
Apparently more men than women think Valentine's Day is the most romantic occasion to propose. According to my sexuality class too, although men are stereotypically thought of as logical, we tend to be more romantic and less practical in our thinking when it comes to relationships. If you are going to propose guys, you better have your key messages straight, and speak with confidence. If you're lucky and she says "yes" she's going to remember how you asked her for the rest of your life. Therefore, keep it simple, but be yourself and be sincere. Don't overflower it. Be creative and say what you feel when you feel it. Don't get worked up. Know your audience, and if necessary, rehearse. Some women like surprise, some don't, but if you've got a ring in your pocket and the time feels right, go for it.

For your average "cute" couple
Reminding anyone else who is simply in a comfortable relationship, you have to do something. Make a point of recognizing your partner as someone who's special to you, and internally make note of something they've done that sticks out to you. This is good fuel for your fire when you suddenly have doubts about them. Don't take it for granted that your loved one doesn't expect anything from you. You might end up in the doghouse.

To Lover Haters
If you're bitter and single or you think Valentine's Day was just created to make those of us in unsuccessful relationships feel like dirt, or just a way for the chocolate company's to make money, you're right. The real reason why Valentine's Day was created was because the world hates you.

The Volta
But you can still have fun right?! Sometimes the commercialism makes me sick. I feel like my intelligence is being wasted when I see things like a billboard trying recruit people for a "Valentan." You might as well get in on the little perks though, -eat some sweets, blow a kiss, hug a friend, or send someone a note that says "I want to make your wildest dreams come true" and pack it full of randomn things like cottage cheese, without signing it. Just shove it in their mailbox and run away. Another idea I thought of if your sex life could use a pick-me-up is to write kinky resume's and apply to your partner, highlighting your "skills." It would be a playful way of working out potential relationship problems and you could apply for whichever kind of job you like.

Valentine's History
The interesting thing about Valentine's Day is that it has an obscure history.
There were several St. Valentine's that were all martyrs of love in one way or another. One of them was a priest who married couples when he was prohibited from doing so. Emperor Claudius II thought that married men would want to stay home with their wives instead of going off to war, but he wanted fighters, not lovers. So ultimately this resulted in the priest's death. Another St. Valentine was a Christian prisoner during the same period. At the time Romans thought of Christians as heathens and they would put them in the arena to be publicly eaten by lions for the entertainment of the rich. During this time Christians had underground meetings which they organized by giving each other the signal of Christianity by drawing the fish in the sand. As bible readers know, this is a reference to when Jesus claimed that he was a "fisher of men."

Anyway, one St. Valentine was a prisoner. The jailors daughter was said to have caught his attention, and she visited him several times. The Romans would periodically kill their prisoners to avenge their fallen soldiers before they made prisoners kill each other as Gladiators and turned it into a sport. This prisoner might have been put to death for trying to organize an escape, but in any case, he was put to death. However, what he left behind was a small card addressed to the jailor's daughter signed "Your Valentine."

Valentine's Day is probably the replacement for another occasion that happened on February 15, marking the Roman's start of spring: the Lupercalia feast. It was during this time that Romans had a ritual cleansing, protecting their homes and calling on the god Lupercus to save them from the fierce wolves of the forest, who at the time, threated whole cities. They would gather and the men would draw women's names from a jar to choose their sweethearts for the year.

Valentine's in Other Places
In Japan and Korea, apparently Valentine's day is the day that women give men chocolate, but also on the fourteenth of April and of March they have food colour theme days. So, for example, on April 14th it's 'black day' when singles will get together and eat black food together. (I could be getting this wrong but that's what my Korean conversation partner tells me).

Whatever the meaning of Valentine's Day is for you, make the most of it and love yourself. I'd like to read your romantic quotes, and if you have movie quotes from people who hate love, Adorable Girlfriend and Madamerouge are having a I hate love movies contest

My least favorite romantic series is the Young and the Restless. The most seductive dance is the tango. My favorite love story is cliché, but oh well, it's Romeo and Juliet and the greatest romantic lie: "we will always be together."

What do you find romantic/unromantic?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Valentinian Lesson #3: Thinking Too Much

What is our largest sexual organ? Before you answer "my johnson" consider your brain. Brains do strange things when they are in lust, nevermind love.

In contrast to Valentinian lesson #2, that suggested love comes from sight, this article suggests love can dampen certain senses of judgement, and make us blind. Unrequited love can result in symptoms of mania, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or even suicide. This article suggests it is a instictual urge that needs satisfying. Learning to love is a process of learning how to articulate our feelings and find someone who understands us. Maslow's needs includes love and a 'sense of belonging.'

Love releases endorphins in the brain that can become addictive, forcing people into a situation of dependency where they cannot kick their love habit. Recently, an example of this was depicted in this year's controversial movie Brokeback Mountain when Jack Twist says "I wish I knew how to quit you."

Love has a way of making you think the person you're loving is more important than anything else -to the point where you'll fantasize and ignore reality. This is in line with the Petrarchan tradition of idolizing the object of love and demeaning oneself in comparison. Astrophel and Stella by Phillip Sidney is a good example. On that note, I've delved back into the archives of my personal journal to a time when I was either in love, hormonal, or madly insane, to bring you:

Thinking Too Much

I think and I
think and I
think and I
think and I
think about you.

The thought of you softly grazes my head.
It's like a light fairy,
yielding a machete.

The thought of you is funny:
It changes.

Then, I think about that,
and I wonder: should I be thinking?

Then this brings me to my next point:
What if I could just STOP!

The thought of you worms itself into my brain,
then it works itself into an anxious structure.

Tension builds...
then suddenly!
-or puncture me with a steroid needle of noxious substance.

I can't see clearly.
My own worries take over my mental infrastructure.

I long. long. long. for this and that,
decorating the waiting room of my heart
with outdated memorabilia.

I'm taking aggressive means
of addressing my confusion
with those who have deprived me
of my intelligence,
but now I am my only victim.

People like you take all I have, just in thinking.

@ 2005 sirbarrett

Thursday, February 09, 2006

HNT: Valentinian Lesson #2

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"Young men's love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes" -William Shakespeare

Is young men's love really love if it lies not in their hearts? Eyes can be decieved or debauched or delighted and made full of lovely shapes and sizes, firing radiant sensations through the optic nerve. What the heart knows not cannot hurt it. Or can it?

Speaking of body parts which offer love, Jimmy has also reminded me of another valuable lesson: "sometimes our hands love us".

He is off to Mexico where I hope he will find much love in amongst the balmy sands.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Valentinian Lesson #1

As a lead up to V-day, I thought I would try to collect and share some lessons on love. So here is the first:

If you are not greedy for love, it will come back to you.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Baby born in Subway

I thought it was a nice light story to wake up on my alarm to. A baby was born to the city of Toronto, right on the subway platform! Meanwhile, the trains just kept running as normal. A man donated his shoelace to tie around the baby's umbilical cord, and it was wrapped up in a coat.

I thought I heard something about the baby recieving free public transportation for the rest of her life?

Either way, it's a success story for those births that happen so quickly that you can't make it to the hospital in time. I myself was born in fifteen minutes under a tree at a party. (No joke). My dad cut my umbilical cord with a jackknife and wrapped me in a picnic tablecloth, just like the rustic folk do. Delivering calves and kids is pretty much the same thing.

I see this child as a destined traveller.

Monday, February 06, 2006

We Call Him "Prime Minister" Now

It’s been over a decade in Canada, but with the swearing in of Stephen Harper as the 22nd Prime Minister, we have a Conservative government again.

It will be a challenging government, just like the one before it –the second minority government in a row, but Harper seems to be expressing to us that less is more: by downsizing parliament and doing away with departments like the gun registry, his intended message is to save more taxpayer dollars.

It is a smaller government composed of 27 members, down from Martin’s 39 in 2004. Harper’s opinion is that this will be a “more focused and more effective” government, saying that the ministries “reflect Canada”, coming from diverse backgrounds, including MP’s from each province except PEI, who had no Tory MP’s. Harper will have to do some consensus-building with all the provinces, though it may not be easy and everyone is waiting anxiously to see just how it will work out.

The cabinet is composed of nine Ontario MP’s, including Tony Clement, who previously served as Health Minister under Tory leaders Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and four MP’s from each Western province. It also includes the first parliamentarian of Japanese heritage, Bev Oda, who will look after Canadian Heritage and the Status of Women.

Harper’s first bill to be passed is predictably the Federal Accountability Act, which prevents past government members from becoming government lobbyists for at least five years. This will apparently break up alliances which would otherwise cause ethical dilemmas.

But which, if any, alliances are operating now?

When Belinda Stronach jumped parties to join the Liberals last year, frankly, people were upset. She was called all sorts of things, among them: ‘a turncoat.’ It was surprising that she won her riding in this recent election! However, it seems she may have paved the way for other politicians to do the same thing. Dave Emmerson surprised everyone today by switching over to be Conservative minister of international trade after being elected in Vancouver as Liberal in both the 2004 and 2006 elections. He served the Martin government as Liberal industry minister, but as Harper says: “obviously that service is over.” Emmerson justified his move suggesting he’ll join the Tories based on the checks and balances that Harper has infused into the governmental system.

In contrast to the weakened powers of government though, while Harper seemed to promote an elected cabinet, he was criticized for appointing unelected candidate Mike Fortier as new minister of public works. Harper justified this by saying he needed to have someone from Québec (Fortier is from Montréal). Fortier was also the co-chair of Harper’s Conservative party leadership campaign that he won in 2004. His appointment as Senate is to be only “temporary” and that he must step down to other contestants. So Harper can claim that this position will eventually be an elected position, but not until the next Federal election, meaning that for this government, it won’t be. Fortier will not be forced to run for a by-election.

Supposedly a “diverse” cabinet, only six women filled Tory seats, dropping 2-4 percent of what the Paul Martin government had from 2003-4.

They include Edmonton Tory Rona Ambrose, who holds impressive language skills and is the youngest Tory member. She becomes environment minister. Marjory LeBreton served under Brian Mulroney and in Harper’s election campaign. She was elected as the senior Senate leader position.

Former Deputy Opposition Minister and Nova Scotia MP Peter McKay becomes Minister of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and also becomes Foreign Affairs Minister. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is an organization started in 1987 which supports programs to revive Eastern-Canadian economy and create jobs. One initiative is to help the fishing industries which have suffered mixed threats of negative media attention over food safety, disease, mismanagement and over harvesting. Their report suggests that aquaculture output will surpass beef production worldwide by 2010. So the ACOA’s initiatives include reinforcing the benefit of proximity to the US market, sustainability, developing alternative finfish industries in the Atlantic Provinces, better systems of labeling, subsidies and research.

The sponsorship scandal was like a landmine planted in the Liberal party just waiting to go off. It brought Paul Martin’s reign down and destroyed the party's credibility, because he was the finance minister who approved the programs found to have wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers money. Martin quietly resigned and said his goodbyes today.

Hopefully Harper will use some strategies to involve all MP’s in a cooperative government and heal the political wounds that have plagued us for the past two years.

Filed under News Reviews

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Benin Benefit Concert

Last night's benefit concert attracted more than one hundred people for an evening of music. My sister raised money for her trip to Benin, Africa, where she will be working for four months this summer.

She thought it would be a great opportunity to practice her French, since it's located in the French region, near Cotonou. She gets along well with children, and will do a good job of organizing activities, teaching, and providing supplies for the school, thanks to the help of our friends, family and our congregation.

The program last night included singing, guitar, an ensemble and piano from a wide range of styles. There was the Lifted Voices, a group of six women including their pianist, who did songs like "He (Jesus) Never Failed Me Yet", a bouncy and exhuberent piece, "This Little Light of Mine" and some lighter songs of their own creation, including a song about annoying encounters with answering machines: "After Beeps". They read some proverbs and wished my sister luck.

Her friend Walter has a very stageworthy voice which suited his cover of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. He also did John Lennon's "Imagine" which I thought was perfect for the context. It was interesting to be in a church setting but hear the words: "imagine there's no heaven...imagine there's no religion...imagine all the people, living for today."

I sang the unreligious song "Vibrate" by Rufus Wainwright and hoped people got a chuckle out of it. Later I talked to several who did get the humour and I chatted with my neighbors, a couple, marvelling at the belly which is due to give birth to a new baby in six weeks time!

Mennonites love their coffee, desserts and fellowship, so we stayed for several hours at the church, then started packing up. Back at my parents, that had even more food! I talked to my little sister's friends, feeling a bit old but enjoying their stories which reminded me of the good old days. They have such bright hopes and colourful personalities!

Anyway, so the concert was a success, and now my sister will have a way to fly to her mission. So that you may learn a bit more about where she's staying, here's some information on the place she's going to, from her display:

La Casa Grande is not adequately described as a simple orphanage, but as a place of restoration and as a refuge of peace for children who have lost those who love them.

The children at La Casa Grande live as a family with a mother and father figure, Esther and Paulin, and resident staff members who are brother and sister figures.

Their vision is to construct a village where the children will rediscover their sense of family, and of the world. It will have a health centre, a school facility, a workshop, and playground and sports facilities.

La Casa Grande has already purchased land for the new facilities, and needs continued aid to begin construction.

In 1997 a missionary group from Burgos Mennonite Church in Spain encountered a woman who was supporting a group of orphans and abandoned children in Benin. Their congregation was inspired to aid her.

In June of 1999, Annette and Paco Castillo were sent to open the centre in Benin.

In November of 2004, Paco and his wife Annette returned to Spain, and left the growing centre in the hands of Paulin and Esther Bossou. Today there are 24 children living there.

There are three staff members currently working at La Casa Grande: Elianne, Evariste, and Abel.

Filed under Events

Images from the Week

All set for my job interview and a curious, glowing rock at Frenchman's house.

The music corner and Katie, anxiously awaiting the birth of a new calf.

Frenchman playing guitar, the book of fractals and tarot card meanings.

This week was very interesting and busy going to interviews, completing assignments, promoting the job fair, and spending time rehearsing for my sister's benefit concert.

I had fun visiting Frenchman and learning about fractals. They are shapes that mirror themselves on the macro and micro scale. So for example, a triangle made up of triangles made up of triangles. I was intrigued by the fact that fractals are more recent in study, coming long after Euclid, with people researching and trying to figure them out all the time. I had no idea that they could be found in nature, for example in aveoli and tree branches. Fractals make me think of the idea that the universe could be just a molecule of some other universe, and that an eyelash could make up a whole galaxy for other creatures.

It was nice seeing my little sister's friends and catching up with people at my church who I haven't seen for a long time. Plus, the coffee and squares are always nice. They give me something to jog off.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Udge tagged me, and now I'm finally responding. Sorry. It's been a busy week, but here she is:

Four jobs I have had.
restoration technician
program coordinator
camp maintenance/golf cart driver
food sampler

Four movies I can watch over and over.
The Cutting Edge, Zoolander, Bourne Identity, Ace Ventura,

Four movies I've only seen once, but would love to see again.
Syriana, State and Main, The Pianist and Sylvia

Four places I have lived
Trois-Pistoles, Que. Guelph, ON...I haven't really lived many places, but I'd like to live in Montreal or Harlem.

Four TV shows I love to watch.
Family Guy, Rescue Me, Corner Gas, Arrested Development but uh, I don't really have TV, so people are always talking about great new shows that I've never seen.

Four places I've been on vacation.
Halifax, Florida, Germany and Portugal.

Four blogs I visit daily.
Mitzee, Lorena, Barbara and Cox and Forkum

Four favorite foods
greek salad

Four places I'd rather be
Somewhere that was warm and had palm trees

Four albums I love.
The Bends -Radiohead
Grand Turismo -Cardigans
Grace -Jeff Buckley
In Utero -Nirvanna

Four vehicles I've owned
I made a raft once.

Four others, to pass the chain on...
No pressure people! Captain Bee, Madelyn, Finnegan and Beth.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Interview Experiences: Right On Target

How was today a perfect contrast to yesterday? I got a job! A great job! Things were right on target.

I woke up at seven o clock sharp and had my clothes ironed and hanging on the door like an inviting extra layer of skin. There was a little frazzle dazzle as I matched colors and made sure my tie was straight, but that's the fun of it all. Got to school and handed in an assignment feature story about a trainer who teaches first aid and coordinates volunteers for the Canadian Red Cross an organization that's important during emergencies and calm periods, internationally.

The lecture was about management types, and we got our assignments back about resolving conflict. As a facilitator you must get to the root of problems by dealing with feelings and issues, not people, so that you can deal with them before they fester. Yay! A good mark. No problems there, although the case study did make me a little nervous. It can be difficult eradicating bickering within the workplace.

Our teacher talked about the merit of 360 degree feedback, that when organizations want to learn how each position can perform most effectively, they have to ask everyone who is affected by their position from the janitor right through to the CEO. She pointed out though, that this is costly and time-consuming for organizations to actually do. Ideally, they would also need to ask the customer.

I deked out of class early to print off some last minute things for my second interview that was itself scheduled last minute. I had already composed and selected and hummed and hawed about the portfolio for the first interview. I primped and primed it with colour ink from my favorite new printer, and a CD to throw into the kit. I had prepared this all for the first interview that I was about to have, but not for the second, which came later in the afternoon. So I rushed off to the first interview and got there with a comfortable cushion of time before it started.

I arrived in just enough time to marvel at the building I would have the possible opportunity of working in for six weeks! My interviewer was in another interview, so I took the liberty to hang my coat and take a little tour up the steps that wound around the building. My shoes were noisy on the wood steps, so I treaded cautiously and sneaked around, even though I was within earshot of the interview, which I could hear going on over the partial windows in the centre conference room.

It was a glorious sight, the building! Ceilings high and arching, skylights, Italian architecture, historic museum relics everywhere, multi-levels of glass offices equiped with the finest of technology, furnished with a cork floor. The building is a historic site, protected and preserved by our city. It used to be a gin distillery. There were displays of coopers tools, hand-crafted barrels, and brass distillers from the early 20th C.

Once I got in the interview, I was kindly offered tea or coffee. I don't remember how it happened, but I followed my interviewer into the kitchen. It seemed like the right thing to do, although these things are often ambiguous to me. Connotations of "professionalism" sometimes seem like they are anyone's guess. I took tea and we chatted lightly before getting down to the meat and potatoes. (No, it wasn't a potluck) Then upon leaving the kitchen I got myself flustered and felt the need to get rid of my spoon. There was a bit of a dance that I did with another employee at the sink, not sure how to insert myself spatially, then he put his hands up in the "I surrender the sink" gesture, and I shot my spoon into the sink. Once I was out of the kitchen, I no longer felt like the outside intruder.

I forgot to bring my resume with me, doh! so my interviewer had to fetch it upstairs and I felt like a silly man. She came back in record time beginning with a question about my background. After the initial question or two, we fell away from the script and she informed me of the many interesting projects and functions of the organization, events they throw, issues they cover, giving me ideas as to how I could contribute. It had to be one of my best interviews. She had a lot to say, which for me is good. I like lots of info. The interview was relaxed but motivating, professional but quite delightful and not nerve-wracking at all.

After I left, I still felt good about it, but I knew I was up against some other pretty competitive students. So far we've all acted civil to each other in class. There haven't been any cases of missing students and no brawls to date over job opportunity turf. If I didn't get this job I'd be disappointed, but not heartbroken. Oh well, I thought, I still have two more interviews to do: one today, one Monday. So, I walked around and ate some lunch outside, noticing the beauty of the weather for the first time in awhile.

Five minutes later, I got a call offering me the position.

Ok, now today is officially good. I still had another interview to go to but I accepted. To have my first choice of a work experience was elation! And no waiting around or anxiety about just finding somewhere to work for our school placement.

Wearing a suit on the street for the first time in awhile can play psychological games with you. Suddenly you'll be surprised how much more attention and respect you may get from certain people (aka the general public) simply because you look nice. Not being as casual can make you less approachable in some cases but I had people holding doors for me, offering me positions in line, and backing their cars up so that I had adequate space to walk on the sidewalk. It was amazing how much power a shirt, tie and polished shoes did!

Now I didn't have any pressure. I had a placement. However, I thought I'd still go to the second interview, just to keep my appointment and possibly find out some neat stuff.

I had some time to kill so I went to Chapters and read excerpts from The Book of Answers. From it I learned where the rude gesture of the Anglo-Saxon middle finger came from: Apparently during the war between the French and the English at Agincourt, the French were so amused by the English archers, that they vowed to cut the middle fingers off of their enemies. When the English were victorious and the French were retreating, the English apparently showed their middle digit as to say "in your face." The gesture has lived on with us.

The second interview was for a technical products corporation. They were hiring for a media monitor for their fast-paced industry. Duties included reading up on the competitor, some data entry, building contact lists, that kind of thing. The office vibe was nice, and the interviewer seemed very easy to get along with but I told her up front that I had already accepted another position. I'm not sure if she felt I was wasting her time or not but she was still nice enough to tell me about her business anyway, give me water, and take me on a tour. In some of the labs they were doing experiments on the technology to see if it could withstand extreme conditions like heat. The staff room had fussball tables, ping pong, and beer on tap. She showed me a map with flags on it showing their offices around the world, and we related travel experiences. She talked about the exciting opportunities to arrange press tours in Europe etc, which made me interested about the job, but I was happy to leave the position to another student when a bunch of them were fighting for it, and when the other option that I had just accepted suited my interests more. She complimented me on the design of my contact card before bidding me adieu. She told me to keep my portfolio, but accepted the pieces in it "in case" she wanted something to refer to in the future. She commented that its presentation was a "nice touch" which is something I found nice to hear.

So then my old man and I went out to get some new dress pants to celebrate the success. I discovered my new waist size when I was trying on pants, and a tailor pinned the leg at the right length. She looked quite smart in her own pants and business jacket. I was a bit tight for time since my band rescheduled practice early, so I went off without changing.

Anyway, so then it was funny when I was no longer in a place where people dressed like Donald Trump. Instead, I was in a foam-lined room playing away on my electric guitar, rocking out, with a suit and a tie on.

My band practice was good. Skull yanked the cord out of the wall and we played in the dark again, which heightens your sense of hearing. BFG is off to Cuba this week so it is our last practice for awhile, making it special.

After it was over I grabbed some succulent pizza and went for a walk in the rain with my guitar and all my travel necessities that I'd been carrying all day, including my CD player and some Franz Ferdinand. My feet were sore from the shoes, and my tie was loosened by time. I felt worn out but yet full of lucky charms. That was a perfect way to come home at night: feeling successful.

"Come on home
So come on home
So come on home
But don't forget to leave
" -Franz Ferdinand

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

If I had a Million Bucks

Things could be different. I spent three hours walking around going door-to-door in the freezing cold. If desperation could make a sound, it would be knocking. Every street I turned on was a dead end. The map I was given showed streets that were no longer there. It might as well have been a map of Atlantis.

I asked people if they would like to donate SLAM! (The timid simply hid inside their house and turned off the lights). So then I would try the next house and show my identity card in case they cared who they were saying no to. I asked a little girl if her mother or father were home and she said no, which made me wonder why she was standing there like that, with the door wide open. Children are so innocent!

Needless to say I got lost and took a detour through a construction zone, getting a soaker and tons of burs on my legs. I somewhat enjoyed the desolate darkness compared to the empty glow of doorbells. After awhile, hearing excuses why people couldn't afford to give $20 when they had two SUV's sitting in their lanes got boring. Yes, I can understand how it must be hard at work. I know exactly what it is like getting cut back. Then again, I CAN actually understand why they were saying no to me. I would say no to myself if I came up to my own door, even though that would be quite impressive. The problem is that there are too many incentives to care about everything, so too little incentives to care about something. I admit: without details, I wouldn't give a flip either. When it was all over I got picked up and shipped away. The driver asked how much I made: Nothing. I didn't even make minimum wage. And so that was three hours of my life down the tube. I will never do anything door-to-door again. I won't even say it was worth a shot. Not even one emotionally, socially or mentally damaged kid was helped. It's like I took the link right out of kidsLINK.

There will be no HNT this week. Instead, I will simply refer to someone who understands. He will tell you what he would do if he had...a million dollars. (Don't donate, just scroll down)

It's a good song.
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