Friday, February 29, 2008

Was Wiarton Willie Right?

As I stare out the velvet bars of my window here at the Yoni School for Wayward Poets, it is snowing...AGAIN! Mothercorp tells me it's the result of La Niña, the nasty sister of El Niño.


But get this. A few weeks ago, I was also staring out through the slats, and what did I see? This:

I don't ever recall seeing a cardinal in the snow, or hearing one on the first day of February. I've also heard mourning doves and a chickadee. On the more temperate days.

It's hard to believe now when it's snowing yet again. But maybe Wiarton Willie was right and we'll get an early spring.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Caledonia, Caledonia, What Makes Your Big Head So Hard?

Today is the second anniversary of the Six Nations native occupation of the Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, in good old Ontariario.

The second anniversary.

I haven't written about it previously. The world is full of occupations and disputes and land claims. Many of them bigger and more momentous. Israel, Palestine and Gaza. That's one big land claim isn't it?

But Caledonia is closer to home.

On Feb. 28/06, the members of the Six Nations took over a land development site called Douglas Creek Estates, on which building had already taken place, saying it was native land and it belonged to them. They blockaded the road, which was in fact, the main street of Caledonia and took over. The blockade caused major disruptions in the town of Caledonia, gave rise to protests by the local residents, and in some cases incited destruction of property and minor violence. Especially during the first year of the occupation, there was a great deal of tension. This abated somewhat after the blockade was finally removed, but other developments since then have ensured that the crisis is not yet past.

That's a little bit of background. If you want more, Google Douglas Creek Estates - Caledonia ON and you'll find that a little industry has grown up around this occupation.

So now we are into year 3. HWSRN just happened to be in Caledonia today, the actual day of the anniversary. He took some photos (from a distance, without getting out of his vehicle, because it is not a place that is inviting to people taking photos, unless you are big mainstream media, and sometimes not even then.)

The Caledonia occupation brings into stark relief all the problems Canada has had in dealing with aboriginals, land claims, and the reserve system. Overlapping jurisdictions exacerbate the problem. 200 year old treaties raise their hoary heads. Mohawk Warriors slip in and out of the territory relatively unimpeded. It's a mess. And the local residents suffer the consequences but don't have any of the power.

Ultimately, the Six Nations are claiming (based on a treaty of 1784) a huge swath of southern Ontario, six miles on either side of the Grand River, for its whole length, which they say was never legally ceded to the government of Canada. It was taken from them over the years by government fiat or shady dealings, anything but an honest trade.

And here's where the difficulty begins. Jurisdictional troubles. The aboriginal question is a federal responsibility. And successive federal governments, of any party you'd like to name, have managed to drag their feet when it comes to dealing with land claims. They seem to hope it will all just go away if they ignore it or prolong the agony.

It's not going to go away. The First Nations have, if not the highest, one of the highest birth rates in the country. (And there's an interesting anthropological study...)

As a result, the state of land claims by aboriginal groups in Canada is a disaster. There have been some successes, but the looming claims far outnumber those.

Furthermore, any action by aboriginal groups inevitably takes place within some province's territory. So the provincial governments have to become involved. This occurs mainly in the area of policing. And in Ontariario, policing of sites like the Caledonia occupation has become a thorny problem, because a native, Dudley George, was killed by provincial police in 1995 at a similar dispute in Ipperwash Ontariario. The current premier of Ontariario, Malton McGuilty was instrumental in setting up the public inquiry that excoriated the previous government's actions at Ipperwash. So, when it comes to Caledonia, he's walking on eggshells. The result is a lot of football tossing. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Many Canajuns I have talked to just want the governments to do something! On the other hand, their opinions about the Six Nations claims are quite divided. Everybody seems to agree, more or less, on the justice of their claims. The natives have begun to develop the idea that they are stewards of the earth. I think this is possibly just another version of the Noble Savage myth, perpetrated by the "Noble Savages" themselves. But the protesters clearly broke laws and have never been called to account for that. The OPP (Ontariario Provincial Police) has repeatedly failed in its duty to enforce the law, and there is not a citizen in the province who doesn't think the reason for that is political manipulation. Malton McGuilty is guilty. And the continued inaction (or, at the least, failure to make visible progress) is made worse by the fact that the Six Nations groups themselves appear unable to produce a united leadership.

Oh, there's so much more to be said. But I have only one thing more right now. You know, India, Pakistan, most of Africa, parts of Asia...they're all still working through the consequences of colonialism, that virulent strain of thought which presumes that you can take over and actually own somebody else's land, their homeland, their culture. We see it all happening far away.

Caledonia proves that we're still dealing with the colonial past right here.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Want a Brand-New Novel for Free?

My friend Marianne Paul sent this link to a just-published novel by Charles Bock, which Random House is offering for free download, for a limited time.

Here's a screenshot of the web page. Click on it and it will take you to the actual page.

But here's something interesting. The download is free. It's still copyrighted, of course. Nevertheless, it's free. But in the background, difficult to notice under that messy red "Download" button, there is a further copyright message. It says:

© Copyright 2008. Charles Bock. This is our intellectual property, so kindly don't fucking steal it.

What exactly are the implications of this? I'm not sure. If it's free, you can't steal it. Except by republishing it and claiming it as your own. Would anyone actually go to that kind of trouble?

I just don't know what to make of it. This definitely goes to the whole debate over copyright, digital rights, plagiarism and the Net.

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Peace Today

All right, don't everybody go and get all mushy on me, OK?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Top 100 Books

I found this list of top books a while back, but I can't remember where it was.

When I look at it I'm surprised at the number of them I've read. Also, it seems quite an arbitrary list. James Joyce at the bottom? But anyway, lists are fun. Titles with an asterisk are those I've read.

1.The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)*
(Great page turner. By comparison, the movie sucked. And furthermore, I don't care what the judges said, you'll never convince me that the whole premise wasn't based on Holy Blood & Holy Grail...or that the controversy wasn't manufactured by the publisher to boost sales of both books...)
2.Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3.To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)*
4.Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5.The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)*
6.The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)*
7.The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)*
(I read the entire trilogy approximately every five years.)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10.A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)*
(I want J.K. Rowling to stop using the word "revision" for "review".)

12.Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)*
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
(Saw the movie. Loved it.)

16.Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)*
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)*
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21.The Hobbit (Tolkien)*
(What has it got in its pocketses?)

22.The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)*
(High school required reading.)
23.Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)*
26.The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)*
(See previous post on this.)

27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)*
(Can't tell you how many times I've read this.)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)*
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)*
(A masterpiece. Again, the movie sucked.)

32.The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33.Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)*
(Ayn Rand makes me want to chew nails...both for her philosophy and her fictional style.)
34. 1984 (George Orwell)*
(Orwell makes me want to chew peyote buttons...just to forget about things for a while...)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)*
(Really well-written retelling of the Arthurian story from the women's point of view.)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)*
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40.The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
(Too much violence. Too much sex. Too many characters.)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47.The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)*
48.Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49.The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50.She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51.The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)*
(Kingsolver engages in the exercise of writing from several disparate points of view.)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
(Only managed the Coles Notes.)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54.Great Expectations (Dickens)*
55.The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)*
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)*
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)*
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)*
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)*
62.The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)*
(See above)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)*
(I read this for the first time when I was 12 years old.)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)*
(You really can tell he's from Ontariario.)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)*
(This is a Major Major piece of work.)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)*
(I first read this probably around the same time I read WarrenPeace. I did not then understand why Police Inspector Javert hounded Jean Valjean. Valjean had done his time (originally) and paid his debt to society. What right had Javert to persecute him? I recently re-read it. My opinion has not changed.)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)*
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
(Great movie.)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73.Shogun (James Clavell)*
(Everything I know about Japan I learned from this book.)

74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
(Great movie.)
75.The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78.The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)*
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)*
(Huxley makes me want to chew peyote buttons...just to forget about things for a while...)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)*
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)*
(Another masterpiece.)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)*
(Everything I know about Toronto...well, actually, I didn't learn it from this book.)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)*
(More high school reading.)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)*
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)*
(I want Redfield to stop using the word "intensely" when he means "intently".)
100.Ulysses (James Joyce)*
(Still working on this one...about two-thirds through it...on my second attempt...I have no idea what it's about.)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Praising Others

Praising others should be part of our daily life and a component of our Dharma practice. Imagine what our life would be like if we trained our minds to dwell on others' talents and good attributes. We would feel much happier and so would they! We would get along better with others, and our families, work environments, and living situations would be much more harmonious. We plants the seeds from such positive actions on our mindstream, creating the cause for harmonious relationships and success in our spiritual and temporal aims.

An interesting experiment is to try to say something nice to or about someone every day for a month. Try it. It makes us much more aware of what we say and why. It encourages us to change our perspective so that we notice others' good qualities. Doing so also improves our relationships tremendously.

A few years ago, I gave this as a homework assignment at a Dharma class, encouraging people to try to praise even someone they didn't like very much. The next week I asked the students how they did. One man said that the first day he had to make something up in order to speak positively to a fellow colleague. But after that, the man was so much nicer to him that it was easy to see his good qualities and speak about them!

--from Taming the Mind by Thubten Chodron, published by Snow Lion Publications

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Upcoming Jack Kerouac Movie

Curt Worden left a comment in my post about Jack Kerouac from Sept/07 to tell us about a new documentary about Kerouac called One Fast Move Or I'm Gone. There is still not much detail available about where we can see this film, but Curt says it will be forthcoming.

I didn't want to leave his comment languishing in the back pages, so I'm posting about it here. I'm sure Kerouac fans everywhere would want to know about it. Click on Curt's name to go to the website, where you can view a trailer.

And here's a screenshot of the web page:

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Remember the Maine!

Today is the anniversary of the day the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbour in 1898. According to the Naval Historical Center, more than 260 sailors were killed.

I wonder how many Murricans now know that "Remember the Maine!" became the rallying cry of the Murricans in the subsequent Spanish-Murrican war. As a Canajun, I wonder how many Canajuns ever knew that. I remember hearing the expression as a kid, but I suspect it wasn't until much later that I learned anything at all about what it meant.

And only today did I decide to research it a little bit. But somehow, some of the details were familiar.

The Maine was sent into Cuba during the Cuban independence struggle with Spain to protect Murrican citizens. This is a (sometimes) legitimate (and often-used) rationale for establishing a military presence in trouble spots around the world. In this case, the US was not engaged in open hostilities with the Spanish, and the Spanish government had reluctantly agreed to the ship's presence in the harbour. Everyone was wary and working to avoid trouble.

But then the Maine blew up. In the immediate aftermath, Spanish officials were instrumental in the rescue operations, which led the captain of the Maine to believe that Spain might not be responsible for this disaster. However, a US Navy board of inquiry ultimately came to the conclusion that the Maine had been the victim of a mine. The board, however, did not assign blame to anyone.

Nevertheless,this conclusion inflamed Murrican public opinion, aided and abetted by the "yellow" press, and it wasn't long before the tension escalated into outright war.

But in fact, even at that first board of inquiry there was some doubt about the conclusion that a mine was responsible for the explosion. Some said it was spontaneous combustion of a coal bunker right next to an explosives magazine that caused it. Later studies also raised this possibility, perhaps even more strongly, but there has never been a definitive conclusion.

Now, US history is liberally sprinkled with iffy examples of so-called provocation, the latest one being Iran's putative nuclear program. (I shouldn't pick on the Murricans about this sort of thing, though. World history is full of this. Any excuse to go to war, it seems...) And somehow or other, elements of the mainstream media always seem to be available to fan the flames of nationalist outrage. It seems the rabble-rousing press played a large role in instigating and supporting the Spanish-Murrican war.

The more things change, eh? And who played a pivotal role in garnering support for the current Iraq war? The media, of course. Rather than doing their real job, they bowed and scraped before their political masters and misled the Murrican people. Who are the "yellow" journalists of today? Fox News, maybe? Who never let the facts interfere with ideology? But they were not the only offenders. Nearly all of the big media joined in.

Was the destruction of the Maine a deliberate act of war by the Spanish? Was it a phony provocation? Or an accident? It's hard to say. I don't think the Spanish did it. The Spanish-Murrican war lasted four months and ended with the downfall of the Spanish empire and the possession by the US of nearly all of Spain's colonies, including Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. It made Teddy Roosevelt famous. It set the course of history. Look at the names above. They are all still central to US policy. John Hay, who later became Secretary of State, called it "a splendid little war".

Alas, there is no such thing today as a splendid little war. Even the little wars, the six-week Mission Accomplished wars against relatively weak blow-hard regimes have a nasty habit of degenerating into interminable death traps. Fortunately, we still have the media to beat the jingo drums for us.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

5 Grammys for Amy Winehouse

OK, all right. Amy Winehouse swore she wouldn't go to rehab. But she did. Then the Murricans denied her a visa so she couldn't go to the Grammy Awards ceremony. But the rehab let her out so she could do a satellite performance. And she won five Grammy awards. Including Best Song for Rehab. Not bad.

I hope she pulls it together and the rehab sticks.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Gonna Keep Dancing" Nominated for Juno!

Hey! Here's some Fantastic news! Fabulous news! Wonderful news! Excellent news! Glad Tidings news!

This recording here, which I wrote about last September and which HWSRN played several tracks on a couple years ago, has been nominated for a Juno Award in the Childrens' Music category! (For those of you reading from other countries, the Junos are the Canajun equivalent of the Grammy Awards.

Here's a screenshot of the Juno Awards page taken with one of my latest blogging toys, Fireshot, which is a Firefox extension of Screenshot Studio. Neat little toy, when it doesn't crash your browser (which it has not the last few times I played with it.) Anway...the screen shot:

I'm just so thrilled and happy for both Eddie and HWSRN. The Juno Awards show will air on CTV on April 6/08, so be sure and watch. Meanwhile, you just go back to my posting in September cuz I also posted one of the tunes off the album and you can hear just why it deserved such a prestigious nomination.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Poll Results

Larry's Latest Poll is completed. The question was: How Do You Hold Your Pen? The possible answers were:
  • Between index & third fingers
  • Between third & fourth fingers
  • In my fist like a stabbing knife
  • What's a pen?
The results were overwhelmingly (76%) in favour of the first choice, just as I suspected. 7% chose each of the next three. Now, if you add that up, it's 76% + 21% which, in my simple arithmetical head = 97%.

Maybe this should be the next poll question: What happened to the other 3%?

Maybe they abstained? Maybe they chose "None of the Above"? Maybe they voted in some other poll? It's a mystery to me.

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Asymmetric Aphorism #3

A friend in need usually turns up at dinner time.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yoni School (US) Election Watch Pt. 8

Super Tuesday!

Oh what a treat I had today! On Super Tuesday, of all days, I got to listen to pretty much all of Lush Bumraugh's radio show. I guess maybe it's not news to the Murricans, but it was a bit surprising to me that Lush is frushtrated these days. Things are not going hish way. In fact, I think Lush Bumraugh thinks the Republicans are heading firmly down the flusher.

It's a sign of trouble when the leading so-called "conservative" radio talk-show host in North America spends almost his entire three hours fulminating against the man who is apparently the leading Republican runner, Sen. John McCain. (Ah, we here in Canaduh have it so much nicer, where McCain refers to a brand of French fry from PEI...) Bumraugh never actually said so, but he clearly prefers Mutt Romney to McCain. He accuses McCain of Liberal Democratic leanings. Which is disastrous for Republicans, since the Democrats are supposed to be the ones who have Liberal Democratic leanings. But there you have it. On Super Tuesday, Lush Bumraugh spent three hours attacking (or at least disparaging) a Republican! He barely mentioned the two leading Democratic candidates. (So, maybe the Republicans are sensing defeat, and have already taken to squabbling among themselves?)

Now, to me this spells trouble for the Republicans. Either that, or it's just that Lush is, at the moment, concentrating his efforts on convincing registered Republicans to vote for the Republican candidate he prefers. When that's all done, one way or the other, perhaps he'll turn his attention to the Democrats.

I love listening to Lush Bumraugh. Not because I agree with him. But he's a masterful broadcaster. He's bombastic. He's abrupt. He's loud. He's intimate.

Yes. Intimate. He hunkers down to the golden microphone in the EIB studio and can sometimes modulate that gruff voice into the warmest teddy bear you could ever want. And he talks to his friends. All those tortured conservatives who have nowhere else to turn -- 20 million of them or so -- and need good ole Lush Bumraugh to validate their opinions and make them not feel so lonely. Why, to hear him talk, you'd think that the USofA had not been ruled by a Republican president for the last 7+ years! You'd think the Democrats were in the White House. You'd think the Murrican mainstream media had never once abdicated its duty of responsible journalism, its duty of speaking truth to authority. You'd think Fox didn't exist! And people like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly (two certifiable bigots IMHO...).

Lush Bumraugh is a great improviser. If he went seriously into improv comedy, rather than playing at it the way he does, I'm sure he could get himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in no time. He's a marvelous talker and the pearls of wisdom slip easily off his honeyed tongue. I'm sure he goes into the show with a few ideas about what he wants to talk about, but he's not like other talk show hosts I listen to. They organize themselves into time slots and topics. "OK, this topic here, then the break, then that topic there." He takes a few phone calls from all across the country and charms everybody he hasn't already ravaged. He flows from one subject to the next in an uninterrupted stream of conservative consciousness.

Lush Bumraugh is all politics all the time. Why, he even managed to turn an ad for a tankless water heater into a political screed! Marvellous stuff. And he's also all editorial all the time. I don't think I know of anybody else who can spend that much time offering little but his own opinions. Remarkable, I say.

So I like Lush. Bumraugh. I'm not sure I could listen to 3 hours of him every day. But every once in a while it's a real treat to hear him, and to hear how the persecuted minority (conservative Republicans...) is managing to survive in such a hostile world.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

OMG, The Mellotron Demo Video!

This video blew me away. These two British geezers were instrumental in the development and marketing of the Mellotron? Unbelievable!

This was the instrument (or one of them, at least) that revolutionized the sound of music in the 70s. The Beatles used one. Moody Blues built their sound around one. Rick Wakeman & Yes. Strawbs. Pink Floyd. The list is endless. I mean, even Bob Seger used one!

And it was these two guys?

On the other the video. I don't believe I ever heard anyone use a Mellotron the way these two guys envisioned it. I never knew Mellotrons had separate rhythm sections and one-finger accompaniment. In those days, that must have been completely unheard of. Or maybe not...I remember seeing and hearing a Lowry organ, one of those big home console models that did the automatic rhythm accompaniment thing in the mid-70s.

But those two geezers?

Now that I think about it...maybe there's still hope...for all us geezers...

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