DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Three Jack O'Lanterns

Carved and ready for Halloween. I wonder who might fined their way to my door? In 25 years only about six kids have ever come by my remote place.

What might my granchildren, Dylan, Olivia and Travis go "trick or treating" as?

A month from now I will get a big bag of candy left over from Halloween when there parents decide they have had too much stuff.

I would prefer they collected money for Unicef instead. Yes, the still do that. When I was a child it was a very popular thing to do along with shaming people into giving us candy.

I miss the time when Tina would ask: "Mr Robinson will you make enough candy apples for all the kids at school?" I did. There were less than 50 spread over 8 grades. Tina was so pleased to dole out this prized treat to her school mates. I should have made some this year. Maybe next year.

Happy Haloween Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A little Self Analysis

I just filled out a Personality Disorder Test online. These types of test are amusing amd should not be taken too seriously. Here are the results:

Note: the hyperlinks below do not work!!!! Try the test for yourself using the above hyperlink and then you can explore the meanings of the terms. After doing this test try the Dante's Inferno Test. I was assigned to level 2 in Hell. So deserving!!

Paranoid Personality Disorder:Low
Schizoid Personality Disorder:Low
Schizotypal Personality Disorder:Low
Antisocial Personality Disorder:Low
Borderline Personality Disorder:Low
Histrionic Personality Disorder:Low
Narcissistic Personality Disorder:Low
Avoidant Personality Disorder:Low
Dependent Personality Disorder:Low
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:Low

-- Take the Personality Disorder Test --
-- Personality Disorder Info --

What should I make of this, either I am sickenly normal or I have no personality? No wonder I have no great passion in my life to motivate me. Call me Mister Mellow. My emotional live go from mellow to depressed. If only I had a little upper manic range. it is a rare event for me to get excited or angry. "Remember when Mr Robinson got mad...." a young friend of mine used to say.

Recently, I was unterviewed by a psychatrist to see if I might qualify for a government pension because of my periodic bouts of depression. I have suffered from cyclical depression all my adult life and only a couple of years ago mentioned it to anyone. This psychiatric visit is my second effort to get a doctor to fill out the forms. The first one offered me medication and/or Cognitive Behavoural Therapy (the current popular therapy for mood disorders). I was not interested in medication, particularly when it is on a trial and error basis and after researching CBT I didn't think much of it. We decided the doctor had nothing to offer me. He said I had gotten by all these years with a high level of functioning and there is no reason I could not continue toughing it out.

I sometime I think all I need is a good woman in my life and an interesting job at which to work.
But I had all that. I was minister of a church in the misdst of the issues of our time in a college town. I was married to the love of my life. I suffered silently then from depression too. This would help but it is not a solution. There have been other interesting lovely women and some jobs I was very involved in. The jobs invariably came to an end and the women, in spite of thinking I was a lovely fellow decided to move on. I long ago realized women like the bad boys. They are exciting if somewhat dangerous. While I find work interesting and always worked hard iwas never motivated to "live to work". I have always "worked to live". It was no hardship for me to step off the professional ladder to raise a child.

Well, I just visited the second psychiatrist on the off chance he might recommend me getting a pension. After talking for an hour, I mentioned I was not interested in medication. He ended the session saying "Well that is what I do?" He was a pill pushing psychiatrist. Oops! I think he thought I was there to be treated and I wanted an assesment. As it turned out I went there in an up tempo mood. I should have acted more moribund and perhaps, suicidal!! to get his attention.

I came away with mixed emotions. I felt I had failled the test. He wasn't going to sign the papers. for a pension. I am not emotionally ill. Ergo! No pension. I also felt relieved. I had confirmed that I was not handicapped emotionally.

I know a one hour session with a psychiatrist cannot evaluate a person. I remember years ago, training for the ministry, spending three days doing personality tests of all kinds. This was correlated with three standardized photos of me naked: frontal, side, rear. Somewhere there is a collection of over 300 sets of photos like this of men and women studying for the ministry. Hmm.
This was somatatyping as developed by William Sheldon in which he found a positive correlation between body type and personality. Sheldon did this to lots of students in the Ivy League schools of New England. The thought of there being naked pictures of George Bush, when he was at Yale, buried in the archives amuses me. There certainly are such pictures of prominent people. Hmm.

I digress.

I see from the list of disorders there is no depressive one. It is not in a category in its own right.
I wrote the test hoping to learn a little about depression. Alas! the quest for understanding will have to continue .. I wonder what those old somatatyping test said. . . .

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Halloween is Coming

This a our cat on the back fence of the spooky house we lived in in Roxbury. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Right to Return

On October 5, I wrote a blog entry about the changing demographic of New Orleans with the poor and black of the city relocated across the US. So many of them lost their homes because they lived in the most vulnerable parts of the city that were the worst damaged. They have been dispersed and moved beyond easy access to the city. They cannot visit their homes, salvage anything or take advantage of the job opportunities in reconstruction. New Orleans, because of circumstance; and, I would suggest by design, will become a smaller and whiter community. There are forces afoot to achieve this.

There is a need for a deliberate plan to see that the former residence of New Orleans can return to find affordable housing, either the reconstruction of their old neighbourhoods or new construction of appropriate housing. Such a plan should have as one of its principles the "right to return". This should include financial assistance to do so. Government intervention is needed here to guarantee it. If market forces are allowed free rain the poor and black will find their options very limited.

This bring to mind the Palestinian demand of the "right to return" for those who were dispersed from a large part of Palestine when the state of Israel was created. The white establishment of New Orleans will find a multitude of ways to frustrate the efforts of the poor and black to return to their city. This is axiomatic in any urban renewal scheme. The destruction of New Orleans is an opportunity for a massive urban renewal project. ALL the diaspora of New Orleans needs to be included in the renewal plan.

The poor and black of New Orleans are in the same situation as the Palestinians wanting to return to their homes in Israel. Israel has done everything they can to frustrate this dream and right.

There are those that are realizing this second victimization of the poor and black in New Orleans. They are organizing to resist it.

Leadership from the Federal and State governments are need to guarantee simple justice.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Her Rights are Our Rights

Karla Homolka

I suspect there are few people in Canada who do not know who Karla Homolka is.
She and her husband Paul Bernardo were convicted of the grizzly and unforgiveable sexual abuse and murders of three young women. Those who do not know the details of this sensational crime can read about it on the Crime Library Website , or read the factual summary in Wikipedia .

Homolka served her full twelve year sentence and has been released, but with restictions on her rights to privacy and association and movement. Recently, she was been in court to have these restrictions removed. We await the judges decision.

Her full citizen rights should be restored. She should not been seen as a special case. Here are the reasons.

1. She has served her full sentence and met her obligation to the courts and society. Some feel her sentence was too lenient that a "deal with the Devil" had been struck in her plea bargain. If you believe in the rule of law one must accept the decision of the court and law.

2. By serving her full sentence with no time off for good behaviour she actually served the time for a much longer sentence. Of course, those who criticize her sentence would not be satisfied with any length of sentence.

3. By keeping her under surveillance and with restrictions on her rights as a free person, Society is in effect continuing her sentence. Any such restriction should have been part of the original sentence with a clear end to them. As it turned out she should have recovered all her freedoms upon the completion of the sentence.

4. Karla Homolka did all she could in jail to rehabilitate herself. She earned a university degree, she learned a second language, she participated in many self development groups to bring about personality changes.

5. There is no evidence she is a psychopath and a dangerous person as some armchair psychologists have claimed. All the psychological evaluations supported this view. They did find that she suffered from "severe clinical depression", "battered spouse syndrome", and "post traumatic stress disorder". She has also expressed remorse for her crimes. Presumably, the self development courses she took dealt with these psychological problems.

6.She has earned the right to restore her life and to make a contribution to Society. She has been evaluated as "not a danger to society". Even if she were we should not tolerate the punishing of people for crimes they "might do". In our justice system, we are punished for crimes we commit. There are efforts to undermine this principle with such instruments as a "security certificate" and "being a member of a criminal organization".

7. If we continue to punish Karla Homolka by restricting her liberties we are establishing a situation that threatens all our freedom. If she can be treated the way she is, indefinitely, any one of us could have our liberties resticted.

A free society is a balance between personal liberty and communal security. It is a risk but I , for one, would support a society that errs on the side of personal liberty. If society establishes restictions on personal liberty to prevent, "what might happen", all our social and political liberties can be taken away. This is too high a price.

Justice demands that she be restored to full citizenship.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks: American Hero

In memoriam

She is know as the mother of the civil rights movement. With dignity she stood up for her rights and ultimately for the rights of everyone. Rosa Parks will always be a symbol of the truth that one person can make a difference and unless one asserts ones rights they can esily be denied you. She will be remembers Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 24, 2005

Prisons: Hiding the Problems

One thing the United States is very good at is building prisons and filling them. The overwelming response to those who come in conflict with the judicial system seems to be "lock them up" and "throw away the key " of possible. For all problems the solution seems to be get the people out of society and out of site.

The US leads the world in percentage of citizens in prison. And the numbers seems to be increasing. Even women in prison are increasing at a steady rate. If you are poor, black or hispanic the chances of you going to prison are much greater. Justice in the US is not blind it as racist with a social class bias.

The rapid increase in incarcerations is startling and dramatic. Since 1970 the rate and numbers of prisoners has steadily climbed. It has increased seven times until the US now leads all other nations in percentage of people in prison. (It is also number four on the list of countries that execute people and it is one of the few countries to put children to death.) This is largely due to the War on Drugs, that other phoney "war". Prisons and the building of prisons is a growth industry with many of them privatized , for profit, institutions. Sentences having gotten longer and the three strikes and you are out" law detaining prisoners, indefinitely, have helped to fill the prisons. For a slightly dated article on prisons visit "The US Prison System is Spinning Out of Control" For more informattion on crime in the US start at

The above cartoon is misleading. The problem of the increase in the size of prisons and the increasing number of inmates is not a result of the events of 9/11. Of course, the response to this event was predictable. Arrest and imprisons people. Now we see this being done without charges of court appearances by some, a truly scary prospect.

There seem to be insufficient effort to solve the problems in society, find alternatives to prison, correct racism in the system. Americans just seem to want their fellow citizens out of the community and out of sight.

For a Nation that prides itself on defending freedom and sees itself as a just and humane society the prison system is a sad reminder of its failings. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Remarkable Eco-Community

I have long been interested in intentional communities from monastic communities,through anababtist communities to hippie communes. I have often thought these were the way people ought to live. It is my conviction that the tribe is the basic social unit and not the nuclear family or the individual. At one time, in our culture, particularly in rural communities this was more the case. In fact, on my neighbour farm the grandparents have a home and the grandson is about to build one for himself. Three generations are living and contributing to the farm life.

These days there are interesting forms of community being developed by urbanites that are seeking ways to live together and in the natural world in constructive ways. These are eco-communities. Basically they are people that live together on a tract of land, with indivudual homes and family units but share a vision of how to live in the world.

I learned recently of such a community in Iceland, Solheimar. It is a remarkable community for a number of reasons. First, It has been successfully in existence for 75 years. I think of the failled perfectionist communites in the 19th Century: Brook Farm, Fruitland, Hopedale. These failled, though they had some common visions with Solheimar: common living, cultural life, economic security and a social vision. This community pre-dates the dreamers of communes of the 1960's. It can bee seen as a forerunner of these and a more successful one.

Solheimar has become a self sustaining community. It also is ecologically sound, incorporating all kinds of elements of design and conservation so that as a community it gives more back to the environment that it extracts. It also has a very rich cultural life with music, drama, and arts and crafts as regular parts of the living together. Most interesting to me is that it integrated into the community people with handicaps, mental and physical. They make meaningfull contibutions to their life together.

The one advantage Solheimar has it the one all of Iceland has : a ready source of geothermal energy. They get not only their heat from this source but had a way to generate electricity with it.

I encourage you to read their web site carefully. the demonstrate that there is a way of living in the world creatively and comfortably, giving back to the environment.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trying to Win Friends

Currently Karen Hughes, a public relations professional, is an envoy for the Bush Administration travelling through Muslim counties like Turkey and Egypt, trying to build support and understanding of the United States. She iften speaks to women and student groups.

From all reports Hughes has not done a very good job and has received some hostile responses from her audiences. Currently, she is in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the World. Before a group of University students one female student posted the question to which many of use would like an answer ""Your policies are creating hostilities among Muslims," a female student, Lailatul Qadar, told Hughes. "It's Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and maybe it's going to be in Indonesia, I don't know. Who's the terrorist? Bush or us Muslims?" "Your policies are creating hostilities among Muslims," a female student, Lailatul Qadar, told Hughes. "It's Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and maybe it's going to be in Indonesia, I don't know. Who's the terrorist? Bush or us Muslims?"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jew, Jap, Nigger

We have all used them, offensive words with reference to members of ethnic groups. I like to think I have used them less than most. I early learned that what I said, in all innocence as a child, was deeply hurtful and unacceptable speech. These words haunt my memory of my childhood.

I credit some of my sensitivity to the use of such words to my mother. She never used offensive words toward others and was in fact very accepting of all people, in spite of her narrow English protestant upbringing. I have always refused to thing badly of ethnic groups and give into stereotypes with no personal experience to disprove the validity of the stereotype. Something within me withheld judgement, sometimes for years, until eventually life experience confirmed my faith conviction of the falseness of stereotypes. I am proud of the dogged sense of fairness that saw me at an early age challenge some common stereotypes of ethnic groups within my family and community. Now as an adult, I am not shy to speak out and tell people that I am offended by their remark, word or joke that I know is hurtful to others. I think more people should.

Let me discuss the three words in my title as examples: jew, jap, nigger. There were others referring to catholics, Italians, Poles, Chinese, homosexuals, women etc. But these three have a history in my life that replays in my head.

Jew. I never met a Jew until I went to University. I grew up in a suburban, white. protestant "ghetto". Our diversity was that we had one catholic neighbour, who I found out years later was a French Canadian. There were no people obviously ethnic. We all seemed the same although my closest friends were immigrants of German-american, Russian, Irish, and Italian stock. In reality, we had no ethnic differences in my neighbourhood.

My parents carried some racist baggage from growing up in Toronto. I remember my mother telling me how she and other children used to chase after the Jewish rag man, the sheeny man. He would walk the streets and collect old rags which I assume was saleable. The kids would chant. "You killy Christ". Such were the ethnic sensitivities in "Toronto the Good" in the 1920's. This story always shocked me for it was out of character with my mother. My father, on the other hand, as an adult occasionally used ethnic slurs. He never seemed to be able to shake the expression "being Jewed out" of something. I assume this is a reference to a Jew being a "Shylock". It is still well engrained in our culture. I hear this phrase from people in my part of Ontario, who never met a Jew. I think from these early associations I found myself shying away from using the noun Jew. I was always more comfortable using it as an adjective, Jewish people. It was not until my church in New Haven came to share its building with a new Synagogue was I challenged. One day the Rabbi said, "You know it is OK to use the word "Jew". a Jew is a Jew. For me, the word alone had become a derogatory word because of negative thinking that had been attached to it. I am not alone. On TV the other day, a man expressed how offensive it was for him to get a bill in a restaurant with a note on the corner, "Jew couple". I guess this was to identify them for the waiter. (Now I know why restaurants number their tables). Why is this not just a descriptive phrase? Somehow it was obviously highly offensive to this Jew. Would being identified as a Catholic couple or Muslim couple be as offensive. i don't think so. Somehow Jew is an emotionally charged word because of the historical and social babbage it carries. At times, even for Jews it can be viewed a derogatory. Once as a teenager, I attended a service at Temple Sinai in Toronto and was so impressed I suggested I might like to become a Jew. To this remark our host said he didn't understand why anyone would "want" to be a Jew. Being a Jew carries a great burden, historically and socially.

I was always very aware as a teenager of the history of the the Jews in Europe. My mother was a history buff and she told me what she knew and we read together some accounts. I even viewed the movie, Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) which was the first such film to use captured German footage. It left an impresssion. I cannot bring myself to see more such films.

I remember as a young adult going to Roches Point on Lake Simcoe and seeing the tattooed numbers of the arms of practically all the adults. I knew what they meant and now wish I had had an opportunity to talk to one of them about their experience. My wife's grandmother ran a summer hotel with almost an exclusive jewish clientele. She often made anti-semitic remarks. When challenged she excused her jewish friends with "Well they are "christian jews " thus explaining the anomaly of her have friends in a group for which she held deep prejudice. For her "christian" meant good. (My wife's family grew up in the same neighbourhood in Toronto as my parents). So "Jew" remains an emotionally charged word for me for the associations it has.

Jap. I have less to say about Jap than Jew. When I was young it was common to hear people refer to the Japanese as Japs. It was a derogatory word left over from the second world war. As Japan became an economic powerhouse in the world andthe Japanese prospered the word has become less frequently used for we now admire much of what is Japanese today. When I was in the first grade, I actually had a Japanese friend, Morley Joe. He was a a shy boy and was part of a rural family that had a market garden that grew vegetables for Chinese restaurants. (Maybe he was Chinese). I do not remember my friends using the word Jap. I am glad to see it lack of useage today. As a young adult, I learned about the treatment of Japanese Canadians (and Italians aming others) during the second world war. This is deeply embarassing for all Canadians in our now multi-cultural society. It should be a warning to use to not let our fears turn on others. These days Arabs and Muslims are at risk of being this generation of "Japanese Canadians." What derogatory terms will be brought back from the War in Iraq? They will find their way into American English. I trust they will no become part of Canadian English.

Nigger. This may be the most emotionally charged ethnic word in our culture. It is deeply offensive. When I was young I think we used it without all the emotional baggage. None of us knew any people of African heritage. I do remember my favourite candy. They were gelatinous little black dolls about an inch long we called "nigger babies". We would get our five cents worth and bite their heads off and stretch them out of shape. No adult ever challenge us to the use of the term. Years later, I spotted them in a store in the US and was shocked they were still being made.

I used to tell people I never new any people of African descent until I got to University. Then I would have to correct myself for I had a favourite teacher in highschool who was an African Canadian from the Maritimes. I think we were all sort of colour blind as he was so well liked. But our community wasn't. He considered buying our family house. No sooner had he and his wife left, the neighbours were calling concerned they might have a negro neighbour. This was during the US civil rights efforts. I do not remember them using the world nigger. Canadians are too polite I suppose. I am sure they thought it.

When I lived in the United States the word "nigger" I heard a lot and soon came to know how offensive it was. I lived 10 years in black nieghbourhoods in Boston and New Haven out of choice. I came to know the African American history and culture quite well. I went through all the ways of referring to my neighbours depending on the politics of the time: coloured, negro, African American, black and now I think we are back to African American. Never did I use nigger.

Much to my consternation I find the term "nigger" used in this area of Ontario where there are few black. This is an area made of up of French Canadian and decendents of European immigrants. I don't sense hostility when it is used but ignorance of it hurtful meaning. I was at my sister's home in Toronto with a young girl from our small village. When my sister's boarder showed yo my young friend exclaimed. "She's a nigger." and then again when she saw my sister's cleaning lady, she exclaimed, "There's another nigger." I never could stop her from using the word. I think it may be used easily in the French community because of the French word, negre. Which I just learned is offensive too.

Interesting within the black community it is used often. it is sometimes self deprecating and sometimes even affectionate in its useage. It is also a negative reference which only another black person can use. This was obvious to me one day when I was on the steps of our home in New Haven watching the children play. (My son had nice toys so we often had neighbourhood children in our yard) My son was 5 years old. A couple of the older kids began to argue and one called the other, "you dumb nigger". In a flash I picked up my fair haired blue eyed son and took him in the house where I told him as forcefully as I could that he was never, ever, under any curcumstance to use the word, "nigger" like the other kids. He was the only white child for blocks. His kindergarten class at the Martin Luther King School had 65 children, only 4 were white. I figured he had to learn very young to be political in the choice of language.

Language interests me and these words, so powerful in their useage, reverberate in my memory. I wish I had never used them but I have learned that words have power and that part of being a civilized person is to be sensitive to the negative power of them on our compatriots.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Child Slavery: Shame on Us All

The above image is that of a slave child from when slavery was an economic backbone of the US and many other countries. I use this nameless child as a symbol for all child slaves. When I went to school they taught that slavery ended in the British Empire in the 1830's and the civil war ended it in the US. As a teenage I remember watching an exploitation film on slavery in the world, Mondo Cane. At the time, while fascinated and horrified I was a little sceptical of the extent of the practice of slavery. Well the film was right. Slavery is alive and well around the world. I just read that there are 25,000 slaves in Brazil on cattle farms. (another topic another time).

It is child slavery that is so overwelmingly sad. It is made possible by poverty around the world as children are sold into slavery by their parents. They are often tricked with the hope of a better life. And, of course, they are just kidnapped. No one hardly notices as so many of the poor are invisible to the comfortable and the powerful. A startling statistic I read the other day was that the 500 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 460 million poorest. I am not sure what this says other than there are lots of poor people and really few truly wealthy and powerful ones. We are in awe of the rich and we don't really see the poor. Perhaps, it is a witness to how successful social institutions are at oppressing the poor and defending the right to wealth and property. Otherwise, the poor would rise up in revolt more often.

Children are enslaved for many reasons. They are a source of cheap labour for the textile industry that supplies us with inexpensive clothes. They are sex slaves. They are camel jockeys in the Gulf states.. They are child soldiers. They work on farms so we can enjoy inexpensive chocolate. They are ritual slaves still sacificed in temples. Where there is money to be made, children are exploited by this industry of slavery.

What got my attention was learning of the child slaves in Haiti. There are 300,000 such children in that poor country. The poor enslave the poorer. It is a widespread and an accepted part of Haitian culture. How ironic. The one country that successfully came into existence by a slave revolt 200 years ago, defeating Naploeon's army, today has institutionalized slavery.

There children are call restavèk. This is creole for the french, "rester avec". Poor parents give up their children on a promise that they might have a better life: food, clothing, shelter and a chance to go to school. For some with benevolent owners (for they are seen as property) this may be the case, but for most the restavèk are pressed into hard, degrading domestic service mixed with physical and sexual abuse as they are subject to the whim of their owners.

My cousin when she lived in Haiti on an offshore island, Ille a Vache wrote me of a young girl she had befriended and given some modest gifts. The next day she noticed the little girl no longer had them but one of the other children did. She thought at the time that the girl was an informal adoptee of this family, as if she might have been a relative and that she was merely treated unfairly. After hearing this story, I read of the Restavèk and realized that this little girl was probably one of those children. She seemed to have had a better existence than most, but a slave none the less.

These children are not considered people. They are looked down upon and are often treated no better that the family dog. They do the bidding of their owners all day long under dreadful living conditions. When they become too old, when they have to legally be paid, about 14 years, they are turned out onto the streets to make their own way. They can even be killed. It is a sad reality in this country so close to the wealthiest nation in the world. Haiti is our neighbour and few in Canada or the US have said or done anything for these children and tried to end this practice. A few agencies

One man, Jean-Robert Cadet, a former Restavek. has written a book on his experience. His story of escaping this system and managing to get an education is inspiring. He overcame the shame of being a restavek and had the courage to tell the world about the plight of these children. Even the former President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide wrote about these children's plight. Even he could not end this institution of slavery.

It occurs to me the Canada might be in a position to bring light on this dark reality in a neighbouring country. Canada has some ties with Haiti; economic, political and cultural. Many Haitians have come as immigrants to Canada, and Quebec, in particular. Canada has peace keepers in that country and now we have a Governor General who is of Haitian ancestry. Wouldn't it be wonderful if she, in her position, and on behalf of all of Canada made it part of her legacy to draw attention to this problem. Perhaps, we should write Her Excellancy The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean and put the proposition to her. Hopefully she has already decided to focus on this issue. by Picasa

Sunday, October 16, 2005

They are my People!!

Yes, I am guilty. I watch a soap opera, Coronation Street. About two years ago I started watching. My mother used to watch it decades ago and I teased her back then. Now I am hooked!

What do I find so fascinating about it? It came clear to me the other day when in one of the households mother popped some cheese dreams in the oven. (For those who do not know what it is, how sad. You have missed a great treat. It is an open faced cheese sandwich with a little bacon on top. It is heated under the broiler of the oven and eaten warm when the cheese is stringy.) I thought my mother invented it. But it must be a English treat. I said it out loud, "These are my people!!"

I have long been jealous of ethnic groups with their rich culture: language, customs, food and festivals that so enrich Canadian society. I am just the white English Canadian that seems to belong to no ethnic group. I find myself sharing in other's ethnicity. I currently live in a Franco-Ontario community. Here I support the right of people to speak French and be served in their language. I catch myself researching the history of French speakers in Ontario. Recently, I discovered imformation on L'Ordre de Jacques Cartier, a secret Franco-Ontario organization. (A topic for another blog). I am overjoyed that my grandchildren are bilingual and share in the Franco-Ontario culture. They, at least, are part of an ethnic community.

When I lived in the US in black urban communities, I became very knowlegeable of black culture and participated in it sharing in community organizations. I remember trying to educate local kids who Martin Luther King was and why my hair and their hair was different. I belonged to so many groups, when I applied for a church job the committee thought this Robinson was black, much to their disappointment. When I was once approached to join an organization call, The English Speaking Union, I declined belonging to such a selective group. I shyed away from identifying with other Canadians in the US. I joined and identified with the Americans. From my accent, the quickly know I was not one of them but they always accepted me.

It is lonely not belonging to any ethnic group. It is from working class English people that I came, like the Coronation Street community in Manchester, England. It took me a while to make the connection. I kept hearing aphorism and other figures of speech that were used in our home. And, of course, references to the British Royal Family. I think they were more dear to us in our home than on the Street.

My grandparents came to Canada, in 1903 from the pottery district of England, Stoke-on-Trent.
They were working class protestants. There are tradesmen and small business men in our background. My grandmother always seemed to me to be the typical, little old Methodist lady. She was sweet, genteel, and took the pledge at 18 and never drank alcohol all her life. It took her 40 years of living in Canada to decide she was a Canadian. My mother was a keen student of British history amd lover of the Royal Family. But I became all Canadian with little emotional commitment to England. I had lost my ethnicity.

Now I know what the fascination Coronation Street holds. It reconnects me. These are my people! They speak and behave ways I understand. I find myself now listening for those familiar expressions. Save me from myself and any temptation to join a Coronation Street Fan Club. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Moose Season has Begun

Do you see the calf

Cow and calf moose

Moose season has begun in this area. Moose hunting is part of the rural culture here. For some it is a chance to harvest some wild game as their ancestors did. The go about it in a businesslike manner. And then there are those who built a temporary camp in the bush. With their friends they make a party of it of a week or more. They pretend they are great survivalist hunters, drinking lots and swapping tales (and lies) of previous hunts. They tramp through the bush and drive moose into the open for the kill. After skinning, quartering and hauling the carcass out if the bush, there is more drinking and celebrating their "free" meat. (In reality, their hunting trip may have cost the thousands of dollars.) Then, there are also poachers, who often kill moose and with no authorizing moose tag they leave the dead animal to rot in the bush. This is the really shameful part of the season. Worst of all there is the blood lust. There are always those who relish the killing. In variably, they are the ones driving around with the severed moose head on the hood of their pick-up truck.

The moose is a wonderful, peaceful animal well adapted for life in the bush. They are so delightful to see grazing in the marshy lands. They can be scary too if you hear them crashing though the underbrush. They also can be silent ghost-like creatures who let you pass quite close without announcing their presence. They can be dangerous, the most dangerous animal in the bush, if surprised. Every year people are killed on the highways in collisions with these maters of the woodland, the largest of the deer family. Viewing them, either a noble bull or a serene cow with one or two calves is always a special moment for me.

I hate moose hunting. And hunting in general. I avert my gaze whin I pass the carcass of a moose hung upside down being skinned and butchered. It remains for me a kind of pronography.

I am one of the few people around here that does not own a gun. For this reason, in spite of the many years I have lived here, I will never be "from here". I will always be, l'étranger.

Few need the meat and the hunt has aspects of appealing to our lower instincts. I have some respect for the traditional hunter, either native hunters or those of us who for generations have lived in or around the bush. I am not against killing for food but I do think all killing should be done with a sense of reverence. This is seldom done. Slaughter house are disgusting places where killing is a business. I remember the summer I had to go regularly into Hoffman Meats in Kitchener where the butchered 600 pigs a day. Not a pretty sight. It will always be in my memory. In Jewish ands Islamic traditions there are ritualistic slaughters where some spiritual recognition is given to killing for food. Bit the Christian tradition there seems to be little recognition of the significance of slaughtering in spite of the admonitions for a special responsibilty for Nature.

In native spirituality there is a recognition of the significance of killing. There is a spiritual connection among all things. A moose can be the spirit of an ancestor. Small rituals before and after the hunt are often carried out. Smudging with purifying smoke of sweet grass for the success of the hunt and the responsibility of the hunter; and an offering of tobacco as a gift to the spirit of the moose after the hunt are observed. A métis friend of mine saw his 12 year old son kill his first moose, a young bull with a rack of antlers. He was so proud of his of this transition to manhood. He had become a hunter. Most of all he was proud of his son asking for some tobacco so he could make an offering to the spirit of the moose. He had taught his son well.

We all need to nurture a feeling of reverence for the food that has perished, particularly the meat, so we may live. It is very humanizing so do so recognizing our connectedness with Nature. I guess for most of us the best we can do is to say a small prayer of thanksgiving over our meals. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 14, 2005

Limiting Rushing into Wars

I have been pondering a couple ideas nations should implement that would give them pause before they rush into war. Both require support in law. 1. The children and grandchildren of all legislators that approve a war action must be immediately drafted into the military if they are elligible under the usual limitation of age and health. 2. No corporation should be allowed to make a profit for any involvement they have in supporting or supplying the military action.

It is true that that old men and women make the decisions to go to war. They expect the young, and often the poor, to risk the dying. Legislators would show more restraint if their precious children and grandchildren will be required to share the risks of war. What is true now is that none if the members of Congress and the Senate in the US has an immediate family member serving in the military. This is probably true in most nations. One has to respect the British Royal Family for their tradion of serving in the military. It is ironic that at the time of the invasion of Iraq a Canadian member of parliament had a son serving in the US army in Iraq even though Canada deliberately said, "No thanks to the invitation to be part of the coalition of the willing!" Right now there is an effort to embarrass the Bush administration with a call for a petition to have the Bush twins enlist in the military. What a wonderful spportive gesture it would have been if at the beginning of the war they had enlisted as an example for others. It is stiking that none of the Bush extended family, including cousins, has stepped up in support of the "noble" cause.
I suspect what is true for the Bush family is true for all the legislators and bureaucrats that think war is so necessary. Personally it galls me. If the members of these wealthy tribes support the war they should step up and serve. If they oppose the war, they need to find ways to speak out and influence their family elders to do the right and just.

Equally as disturbing is that there are corporations that make enormous profits when war is waged. For the life of me I do not understand why this is OK. If the middle class and poor%

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yom Kippur Posted by Picasa

Rosh Hashanah / Yom Kippur

In Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,
the hand holding the shofar represents mankind asking for
God's mercy and forgiveness from sin.
The sin is represented by the brown at the bottom of the window,
and what is depicted here is at once triumphant and yet repentant.

I offer the following Islamic poem to illustrate the meaning of Yom Kippur.
This is the holiest of says for Jews. It is the Day of Atonement. For individual Jews this is a day to make things right with God. I find this similar to what Moslems do daily as they submit to God in prayer. Atonement means "at one ment" (to be one with God.) Through atonement we are returned to what we are created to be. . .the best we can be. Through prayer and fasting one seeks this.

For more information on Judaism,

Allah Won't Ask (By Anonymous)

Allah won't ask what kind of car you drove, but
He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

Allah won't ask the square footage of your house, but
He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

Allah won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, but
He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

Allah won't ask what your highest salary was, but
He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

Allah won't ask what your job title was, but
He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

Allah won't ask how many friends you had, but
He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

Allah won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, but
He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

Allah won't ask about the color of your skin, but
He'll ask about the content of your character.

Allah won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation, but
He'll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.

A Visual Oxymoron

Stripping Nudes

This photo of two young women appreciating the exhibit of nudes at the Leopold Museum in Vienna struck me as being a visual oxymoron. The museum offered free admission to anyone who viewed the exhibit in the nude or semi nude to full appreciate the erotic art. I am not sure which is more exquisite, the art or the art lovers.

For more picture , Not all public nudity is pretty.Posted by Picasa

It Must be a Guy Thing

Doing my dishes is always a kind of meditation time for me. I never can understand why people do not like to do dishes. It is a job of limited duration that imposesorder onto chaos and makes that which is dirty, clean. There is a large sense of satisfaction for only a small effort of work.

When I had foster children, they were relieved that I would not be asking them to do dishes. I learned early on that it took me longer to cajole them into doing a few dishes that it took me to do them. And besides, I liked doing them. It was my time of quiet meditation.

I look out from my kitchen windown onto a pasture and down the road to the next farm. It is an interesting view in which I can see whoever drives up the road and whether their is activity at my neighbours (country people are nosey). On the left, I am reminded, reassured, the river is there for I see the line of trees along the bank. The river is down in a cut through the landscape.

These days I also get to watch two wonderful draft horses gazing and a small flock of sheep. I used to have cattle, which I loved to watch, but these beasts will do for now. The animals belong to my neighbour, which has seen me eating a lot of lamb these days as my payment for hosting his animals.

Occasionally, a fox, deer, moose or bear come into view. My heart soars on these occasions. What a privilege to see them. At times, there may be someone walking the road or on the corner of my field next to the river. I find myself switching into defensive mode? (County people are very territorial) Who are they? What are they doing? Who are they? Friend or threat? Invariably it is of no importance other than me worrying if Ben will bark and be a pest. In the summer they might be canoeist looking for a place to camp. I know it would result in an interesting conversation with others who enjoy canoeing, a break in the solitary life.

I digress. What is fascinating me these days is that the ram and the two horses are grazing together. The two geldings and the ram seem to have a bond. The ram prefers the horses company to that of his ewes and lambs. Hmmm! Is it a guy thing. Do the testosterone crowd perfer each other's company, except of course when they are looking to get 'laid'.

I never understood this male bonding. I hate men in groups. They are always in competion. they lie to each other usually about their conquests: business, social, sexual. I have always preferred the company of women. Besides the ever present titilation of possible seduction (always a tension between men and women) women talk about serious things of life and meaning. Do I not get it. Is it a guy thing on which I am missing out. I shall think on these things while doing the dishes, imposing order on chaos.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


How to Observe Thanksgiving

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.

~~Author Unknown.~~

I considered posting the above poem for Thanksgiving thinking it expressed a positive outlook.
Then the reaction set in and my cynical self wanted to reverse the sentiments as being more realistic. Life is painful not upbeat. The meaning of the poem turned sour before my eyes.

For many people the holidays are not very joyous. The family ones: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter are painful reminders of what is lacking in our lives for which we do not have reasons to be thankful. In that light, the above poem is just pollyanna nonsense.

I am one of those who struggle to stay positive about holidays. When I was part of a group or had family around for whom I was responsible to making their holiday fun, it was not difficult.
Now I am alone, it is a battle with myself to not get to negative.

It would be best to tackle this head on and go and volunteer somewhere to help others at these times, but I don't! Each year, I say next year I must do that. I could even host my own gathering and draw together others who are alone to share a meal. By the time, I think of this cynicism has set in. Who wants all those "odds and ends" of people underfoot. It would be better to be alone. You can't make, "a silk purse out of a sows ear" (as the saying goes). You cannot make such a gathering a meaningful one of significant people in your life. The sugnificant people in my life have largely gone and live only in my memory. It is a safe place for them and me. I am not sure I would be comfortable if they came calling . So I visit them in memory and occasionally find them on the Internet.

I guess you have figured it out!! I suffer from periodic depression, which apparently vast numbers of us do. This Thanksgiving I seem to have avoided falling into one. I had a nice meal,
although, in the end, I did not make a squash pie as i promised myself. I shared my meal with my pride of cats and my loyal dog Ben. I also had a couple of lively chats on the Internet. So, all in all, I survived, smiling although far from joyous. Joy is not an emotion I experience even in the best of times. My emotional range is from mellow to dark depression. I envie those who can jump for joy.

The advice in the above poem is intellectually good advice to be positive in one's outlook, (I have handed a lot of that out in my time) but emotionally for me, it is silly pap.(or crap if you prefer!)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks

For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped,
For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped,
For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb,
For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!
For the trade and the skill and the wealth in our land,
For the cunning and strength of the workingman's hand,
For the good that our artists and poets have taught,
For the friendship that hope and affection have brought --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!
For the homes that with purest affection are blest,
For the season of plenty and well-deserved rest,
For our country extending from sea unto sea;
The land that is known as the "Land of the Free" --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!

For me, Thanksgiving shall always refer back to the "first Thanksgiving"in 1621 in among the pilgrims, on Cape Cod. I know it was not first and it really was not a Thanksgiving feast for the pilgrims.) This "one of" community feast has taken on mythic significance meaning. I don't know why Canadians concede this event to the Americans, since as part of British North American we have a shared history.

Reading all about this Thanksgiving feast in Governor Bradford's Journal has always inspired me. How this small band of people, who were down to less than 50 souls, having lost more than half there number in the first year and who had a meager first harvest felt obliged to have a community three day feast with their aboriginal neighbours. In reality, the natives brought most of the meat, venison. So it was a pot-luck kind of affair. It would be a couple of years before successfull farming and hunting would seen abundance of food. The pilgrims would have fasted and prayed, as was their custom, before having a Thanksgiving meal.

For me, the real significance of this meal is that two peoples who were strangers had become friends. The natives, who could have easily have driven the strangers from their lands instead welcomed them and help them survive by teaching them to farm and locate edible plants and game that would come to sustain them and help their colony thrive. The natives, Massasoit and Squanto, who had learned some English from fishermen, who visited their shores, were there to greet the strangers and offer succour. It is a bittersweet historic event in the light if the genocidal events that scar the history of European settlement of North American. But for a moment in time we have a memory of how we should be with one another. I like to think Canada learned this lesson which has seen us develop into a country if immigrant communities that celebrate our differences in a rich multicultural mosaic.

My best memories of Thanksgiving are those of Thanksgiving meals shared in the home of American friends, when I lived in New England, in the region of that first community feast. For Americans Thanksgiving is a National celebration that I see as more important to them than Christmas or Easter. As a less commercialized holiday it is part of the historic myths that define them as a nation. I was always welcomed as "the stranger". I was not really a stranger but my friends knew I was far from family so they graciously added me to theirs. If course, there was alway the wonderful food, with its delicious smells and tastes and textures and colours. More important there was genuine fellowship and affection. These Thanksgivings fill my memory and enrich my life. While the food for my body is just memory, the food for my soul continues to nourish me.

This year I shall eat alone. The food I will prepare for myself will not be the traditional fare. I am planning lamb and perhaps some moose, with potatoes and carrots and pickles. All this is food grown, gathered and prepared by me. I think I may try to make a squash pie with the butter nut squash. I will use my good dishes and set an extra place to remind me of "the stranger". It will not be a joyous holiday for me but not one without meaning over which I shall remember Thanksgivings past.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Autumn Gold Posted by Picasa

Autumn Splendour Posted by Picasa

Today, with the sky clear and blue and a chill in the air, the leaves of the trees are at their glorious best in the Temagami region. This is nature's prayer of Thanksgiving before it retires for its rest in Winter. I shall light my wood stove and have another coffee to warm my self inside and out. For the moment all's right with the world!

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Again we hear that George W. Bush was instructed by God to attack Afganistan and Iraq. He also apparently told him to solve the Palestinian problem by creating a Palestinian state that will live in peace with Israel. He has used this kind of language before and his supporter on the religious right no doubt find it reassuring. I frankly find it terrifying.

I have spent my adult life trying to find out what people are really saying when they use religious language. What is the existential experience to which it is pointing. Is it literal, metaphorical or some other abstraction of speech. Does it point to a 'reality', a metaphysical entity, express a feeling or desire? I am convinced most religious language is metaphor. It is more like poetry than descriptive prose. It should not be taken literally. We should experience it and let whatever meaning we find wash over us and illicit a response.

When religious language is used outside the worship experience or prayer, it should be qualified.
It should be preceded with "as if" or "I feel".

With George W. Bush's remarks there are never any qualifies. He speaks as if he is making a statement of fact not of faith. God speaks to him, apparently in American English with a phoney Texan drawl ( for we know, like George, God is a New Englander) He hears instruction from God to carry out a mission. If he really believes he is making factual statements and not metaphorical ones he should be viewed as suffering from religious psychosis, a mental illness. This is the man who decides if people live of die. This is the man in control of the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction the world has ever known. What if God tells him to launch a thermonuclear attack of another nation? Who is too stop him. Common sense or sweet reason will never trump God. The problem with religious literalist who claim their truth is from God, there can be no dialogue.

When you read that George Bush sees people "either you are with us or against us" and the world as divided into good and evil, you know he does not understand that the hard choices are between relative evils. Seldom are our choices between good and evil.

I for one lay awake at night wondering what other evil nonsense will George hear from "God".
It would at least be nice if God told him to stop torturing prisoners. "Remember George I declared 'Thou shalt love thine enemy'. Be a good boy and do as I say."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf Posted by Picasa

Yesterday I wrote some comments on Islam and Ramadan suggesting that non-muslims should familiarize themselves with this world faith as muslims have become an increasing larger minority in our Canadian society, both to understand our neighbours and fellow citizens and to perhaps learn something more about our own religiosity.

For some fascinating careful reading I suggest looking at Iman Sistani's website He is the leading Shia cleric in Iraq who exercises both political and moral power in that war torn country. Even the occupying forces listen when he speaks. He lives in Najaf, the spiritual center of Shia Islam where the mosque of Iman Ali is located. Here is buried the martyred founding leader of Shia Islam, after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. This website is a wonderful source of information on Islam from the sublime to the mundane. Here you will find information on all the intricacies with which one must struggle to be a good muslim. It must be hard to be a good muslim as it is to be a good christian, good jew and even a good secular religious humanist, like myself.

Iman Sistani is a very important person in Iraq. While he holds no political position he has much influence on the shape of the emerging Republic dominated by the majority Shia Muslims in that tortured country.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I am so tired of pickling. My garden is obviously too big. Right now if I never see another cucumber or zucchini I will be happy.

My little pantry cupboard is almost filled with mason jars full with my efforts. I have made relish from zucchini and three kinds of cucumber pickles (I prefer the brine pickles). I have also pickled carrots (more to do) and two kinds of pickled beets.

On my shelves are also several jams and jellies made from wild berries picked on my property.
I even made mint jelly from the mint plants growing along the river. This I will eat with the lamb my neighbour gave me. The lamb should last me all winter so I am looking for interesting recipes.

Today, I am making saurkraut with the lovely cabbages. I hope it turns out well. I have some moose meat and may end up with some moose sausage woth which it will go well.

From my garden I have also frozen some zucchini and butternut squash, an easier way to preserve it than pickling.

And, or course, a winter's suppy of potatoes isto be stored in the basement in a dry cool place.

I wonder why I do this as a single guy with few friends and family with whom to share it . It is a big job and really needs a group of people to do it. One reason is that I like to grow a garden (I am not very good at it) and I hate to seen the fresh produce go to waste. What I cannot give away I process, freeze or store. I wanted to give some to the food bank but apparently they do not handle fresh produce. Something wrong with this! Town people on modest income could certainly use fresh produce! I also believe this style of life I live needs to be preserved. There is knowledge and skills that have been lost to the last couple of generations that needs to be rediscovered as I have done. These may become more useful and even necessary in the future with climate change and decreasing fossil fuel supplies. Last, I feel guilty of sitting on this large piece of land without trying at least to feed myself from what I can grow and raise on it.

My growing interest is in the ability to identify, harvest and prepare wild plants from the forest. I keep telling myself some year I will try to harvest enough of these items to preserve them for my pantry. There are berries, of course, and I already do that. But there are also greens, starches, herbs and medicinal plant in abundance all around us. Once again, this will be a challenge for another year. In the meantime, I will enjoy the fruits if my labour over the winter.

Ramadan Greeting Posted by Picasa

October 5th saw the beginning of Ramadan, the month long fast period which is obligatory for muslims. This religious devotion begins on a date set by the lunar calendar so it varies from year to year on our calendar.

For those of us who are not muslims this month of devotion is an opportunity to take some time to learn a little about Islam and Ramadan, in particular.

To be religious is part of being human. In fact, it might even be the defining characteristic of "humanness". This reality has spawned religions great and small. For billions of people it manifests itself in being an adherent to a particular faith. For others, it may just be a consciousness of being present in nature, or community or loving connections with others. We all have a way of relating to the inner core of our being and feeling a connection to the Mystery, called God, what Rudolf Otto call "mysterium tremendum et fascinas" (the mystery which is both terrifying and fascinating.)

For devotees of Islam their whole lives are to be lived is submission to God, the Mystery. If fact, Islam means submission and a Muslim is a submissive. Following the five pillars of the faith is a way of living one's faith. Fasting and daily prayer are two of the pillars and during Ramadan they are central to the religious devotion. Learn of Islam for yourself

What is the purpose of Ramadan? In the quotation above in the photo we are informed that it is required of muslims to participate in order to learn self-restraint, self-discipline in order to make oneself a better muslim, submissive to God. There are other benefits: to feel closer to God, to read scripture, to think of the poor and share in their suffering, to be thankful for your good fortune, and to be in community, to name just some of the meanings and benefits. I encourage you to read a little about Ramadan for yourself.

In Canada, muslims are increasingly making a contribution to our shared national life. Non muslims might learn something about Islam and themselves by participating in a "shadow way" in Ramadan. We might fast during the day, focus our thoughts of the Mystery of life in which we participate , read devotional literature, think of the poor and be prepared to give alms. We might even eat some of the traditional foods before sunrise and after sunset. If we are fortunate enough to have Muslim friends and neighbours, they might invite us over to share an evening meal. In this way, we could learn a little about this great world faith and what it might mean to be a muslim. I suspect we might learn a little about ourselves and what it means to be more submissive to "God".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Jesse Jackson just wrote a piece that echo's some of what I wrote, October 2 on Urban Renewal and Racism. While I focused on New Orleans, he takes a broader view. He also points out the way the Bush administration has used this "opportunity" to set aside labour laws that protect workers, guarantee seniority, establish minimum wage rates and protect health and safety.
His article is worth reading,

Where are the protests from organized labour?? What a sad state it must be in the US.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cleaning up. Ben and I Posted by Picasa

These photograph are last years efforts at putting up out log cabin which will be used as a camp.
It is by the river on our farm property. This year we continue to do things but it has been slow finishing. We are able to use it and enjoy the river. Eventually it may be winterized.

Roof is on Posted by Picasa

Framing the roof Posted by Picasa

Setting the foundation Posted by Picasa

Choosing a building site Dylan at cabin site Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 03, 2005


The R100 Airship over Toronto Posted by Picasa

I was sorting through some old photos of mine and found this one of the R100 airship over Toronto. I believe it is above Avenue Road in front of the Royal Ontario Museum on the left and Ainsley Hall, Victoria University of U of T, on the right. It must have been taken August 13, 1930, when the airship did a little flying around eastem Canada after making it's one and only trip to Canada, where a tower had been built upon which to dock it. What an exciting scene this must have been, not only over Toronto but viewed over many small towns.

This photo led me to try to find out a little about this short period in aviation history. See the web site of the Airship Heritage Trust,

Airships failled to be developed as a military and commercial enterprise. The British R100 and R101 were luxury liners. After the R101 crashed in France, striking the steeple of a church,the program was abandoned. The Germans had more success. Their airships flew over the world for a short historic time for both commercial and military purpose. Even the US had an airship program but after two of their airships crashed interest wained. What probably finished airship travel was the crash and burn of the German zepplin, the Hindenburg, at Lakehurst, New Jersey, which was so dramatically recorded on radio. The US had refused to suppy Germany with helium so the Hindenburg used the more volitile hydrogen.

There is some limited use of airships still today as anyone who has seem the Goodyear blimp hovering over stadiums. Some militaries around the world have some modest use for them.

In this day and age of rising fuel costs, I wonder if their might be a niche for airships in travel and the commerical hauling of goods. I think of luxury travel over remote parts of the world. I also think of the moving of heavy good to remote sites. Could they have a place in Canada's arctic for transport, travel and military surveillance.

The R100 was almost sold to Canada. If it had been Canada might have developed an airship program where others failled. With improved fabrics, and structual materials and the use of helium some of the problem of the past could be solved. Perhaps, history will see the return of the great airships.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Our Roxbury Home Posted by Picasa

This is our Roxbury home while I was in seminary. This 250 year old wooden house was our urban renewal project. It had a two story Greek revival porch on the front. I don't think the outside had been painted in 100 years. I enjoyed living in this inner city black neighbourhood. While we lived there, we were never from there for we could easily leave, unlike many of our neighbours. Living here was "real" with people, through their struggles created meaning and community. I always felt welcome, even though I was an outsideer. I remember well going to a community memorial service for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the day after his death. I was the only white person there in a hall filled with several hundred people. Dr. King remains an inspiration for me.

In a way, I regret not going to Oxford for a year in order work on this house. I spent the year being the gypsy student taking classes at Harvard, Boston University and Andover-Newton Theological School, while trying to fix up this house. They were good years.


It may be unavoidable but what amounts to urban renewal is in fact a form of social engineering which in effect is ethnic cleansing.

I remember back in the '60's when urban renewal was all the rage. Remember how great promises were made to redevelop a city. They were grand and ambitious projects in which everyone was to benefit. Inevitably they began with renewing the downtown core, getting rid of substandard housing (real functioning human communities,..remember!). First on the agenda would be a new city hall to house the politicians. Then more commercial development to create jobs for suburbanites. Then, the money ran out soon after some "projects" were built for the poor. I saw it in Boston and New Haven, where I considered buying a house for $1.00 in a black neighbourhood with more vacant lots and empty buildings than homes. This housing stock was owned by HUD the federal redevelopment agency. which bought it up to clear the way for urban renewal before the money run out and the political will disappeared. It happened in Canada too. Toronto got its city hall with the partial destruction of Chinatown. And more blatantly Halifax raised Africville, to all our shame.

A city is an organic entity of people living their lives and is not easily manipulated for the benefit of ALL its residents buy redeveloping structures and infrastructures. The most vulnerable pay the price.

Now we will see urban renewal and social engineering on a massive scale in New Orleans. I have read articles where mention has been made of the task ahead being an "opportunity". This is code word for the powerful inflicting their will on the less powerful. The glorious thing is the poor and black have been removed and dispersed across the country to become someonelse's problem. This is what lies behind Barbara Bush's thoughtless remarks at viewing the refugees, "What I hearing, which is kind of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas." What she said outloud was no doubt whispered across the US as countless cities, towns and villages which saw an influx of black victims of Katrina.
Even before all the refugees had found a temporary place to sleep the wealthy white establishment of New Orleans, whose property was largely spared, met with THEIR mayor in Dallas to begin to plan the reconstruction of THEIR city. Under the leadership of Jimmy Reiss of the New Orleans Business Council, redevelopment and gentrification of New Orleans was underway.

Finally, someone has said it flat out. In the future, New Orleans will be smaller and whiter. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonse R. Jackson made this remark One would hope his remarks were descriptive and not prescriptive. I suspect not. I hear of no plans to consult to poor and dispersed residents let alone to help them return home. The diaspora of New Orleans will largely reestablish their lives elsewhere as it takes a decade to rebuild their former city. It need not be this way! For it to be otherwise, deliberate efforts must be made to rebuilt from the bottom up and not the top down. Naomi Klein suggested such an approach about a month ago.,5673,1566199,00.html . It will never happen. The urban poor have been flushed out of New Orleans by Katrina to become the problem for other communities across the US. There is no will to have it otherwise.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


My favourite web site on the Internet is one about Isfahan,

This wonderful Persian city (a world heritage site) is in Iran. It is a city filled with marvelous Islamic architecture from ages past. I love the web site not only for it's content but for its design as it allows you to navigate around the city to view the buildings. I was surprised when I mentioned it to my sister and she told me she had been there. I also had a Muslim woman with whom I exchanged emails who had also been there and shared some of her photos with me.

Sadly, there is a nuclear fuel processing site underground near the city. The thought of the US or Israel bombing this area to destroy Iran's energy program fills one with overwelming sadness of what could happen to this part of civilizations heritage. Perhaps, the Iranians feel the city gives their nuclear site some protection. I doubt if anything could stop the barbarians when their minds are made up. Remember the Iraqi Museum and manuscript archives!!!

I hope others will enjoy this site and Isfahan will be there, intact, for centuries to come.


I am struggling to learn enough HTML and Blogger tags to modify and add features to this blog. I guess every newbie has gone through this but I wish some help was here now in person.

I am thinking of a couple of young women, who I have come to know through their blogs who mastered writing web pages at a tender age. With pride they both refer to themselves as Geeks, a negative word used in hurtful remarks in my youth. They have embraced it and given it new and interesting meaning. While these two young women have much in common, including web design skills, entrepeneural endeavours, intelligence, college studies, attractive appearance etc, they are very different.

Sara, is a staight arrow of a person whose life revolves around family, school, her beloved Apple laptop and shopping. She, no doubt, does her conservative family proud. With her I wish she would comment more on wider world events,( letting us know she is aware of living in a chaotic pained world) and finally find the allusive boyfriend. When she was searching for a university to attend I could not resist writing her to encourage her leaving home and attending a big city school across the country. Predictable, she chose the local safe one near home. Her web site reflects her orderly life.

Stephanie,, is a rebel who has a very expansive life. Through her creative website she celebrates her sassy self. She reminds me of Witman's "I celebrate myself! . . " in his Leaves of Grass. While she is a dedicated web design student she is also an accomplished musician currently interested in bellydancing. She is also a cam girl who celebrates herself by taking her clothes off. Her photos of her lush nubile body are more artistic that most among cam girls. As with "geek" she seems to take some pride in referring to herself as a "camwhore", among whom she is a leader of a small band of interesting women. Her website is complex and expansive reflecting her personality no doubt.

I find both of these young women fascinating in their own way. As an Internet voyeur and somewhat of a cyberstalker, I will continue to peek in on there blogs and wonder how interesting in real life these young women would be.

Some day I hope to earn the designation, Geek.