DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 .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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blessed are the Peacemakers

With the current kidnapping of four Christian Peacemakers, two of which are Canadians, in Iraq I am reminded of the tension I have felt toward Christianity. It is the one which divides Christians into those who practice the religion about Jesus and those who witness to the religion of Jesus. The former I consider the religion of Paul and the latter is the religion of the four gospel and what Jesus taught.

Most of the Christian churches practice a variety of Christianity about Jesus. Their focus is on theological issues. From the Catholic church to the Protestant fundamentalists, they have developed complex theologies and developed creedal tests for membership. At a young age, I rejected, and had trouble understanding, such issues as: the trinity, heaven and hell as a place, physical resurrection, virgin birth, etc. These are the stuff of the religion about Christianity. It never successfully embraced me with my doubts and I early rejected it.

The most distinctive churches of the religion of Jesus are the Peace Churches. Historical Peace Churches The most well know of these are the traditional ones with a long history of pacifism and direct action: Brethren, Quakers, Shakers and Mennonites. There are others less well known such as the Hutterites, Doukabours and Bruderhof Communities. Bruderhof Communities - Contact the Bruderhof They all have their roots in what is known as the left wing of the Reformation or Anababtists. The only exception is the Bruderhof Communities which is a 20 century reconstruction of Reformation era anababtism. The left wing reformers tried to live lives according the their understanding of Jesus' message in the four gospels. These peace churches are the survivors of many religious and social experiments of that era that would put 20 century hippy communes to shame.

Which ever type of Christian church' to which one is drawn, there is a great demand on your commitment. The former's demand is to have Faith in the fundamental notions while the latter demands a commitment to living a life exemplar in deeds rather than creeds. Being more than a nominal Christian but a very serious demand on one. For all my atheistic doubts, I have always taken religion as very serious. Serious enough to reject the faith of my family.

I am a Unitarian (whether we are Christians or not others seem to judge, for us it is irrelevant) I knew the seriousness of being a Christian and could never make that kind of commitment. My spiritual home was among the Unitarian Universalist. I knew it and felt it right away. It was a church that embraced me, with my doubts, and encouraged me in my personal religious quest. With no creedal test for membership and a proud tradition of social action it was a group with which I was comfortable. We are better described as "seekers rather than believers". And we like to think we should be judged by our "deeds rather than creeds".

My church with it's origins in Calvinism and its long tradition in direct social action has aspects of both types of Christianity. To my embarassment we are not at all radical in our life style. We are in fact, a very middle class group: well educated and well heeled. As one who struggled to make one of our local churches more inclusive socially, I realized we seem to hold little interest to the poor and black. With all churches we sadly participate in making Sunday morning the most segregated time of the week.

I have long been drawn to the Peace Churches. If I was looking for another church I probably would become a Quaker. Their witness to peace and social justice has always impressed me. No matter what cause I was drawn to support, they were there and often leading. They were always, quiet, simple, modest and deeply commited in their faith. When I was in college in the
Mennonite region of Ontario, I was always impressed with the modest piety of the Mennonite students who quietly said a prayer over their meal in the midst of the very secular hubbub of a liberal arts college.

On the issue of peace the majority of Christian churches have relied upon the doctrine of just war and loyalty to the secular state to draw back from the pacifist demands of Jesus. When the government calls, even for immoral and illegal aggressive war, most Christians answer the call and are willing to kill "their" enemies as a right in a just war. For those in the Peace Churches pacifism is absolute. They have seldom deviated. They are often not passive in the sense of doing nothing but rather actively passive at resisting aggression at great personal risk.

I have long made a commitment to pacifism, which is probably all I share with the Peace Churches. I also have been interested in intentional communities, socialism, simple living and sobriety which might also find acceptance with left wing reformers. My complicated intellectual understanding of religion, personal individualism and a middle class upbring have held me back from any radical life style change or to the demanding commitment of the Christian Peacemakers.

When I lived in the United State I was very active in the peace movement an a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a pacifist antiwar group. I remember being asked by the US consultate when I was getting resident alien status to live in the US, if I belonged to any subversive organizations. "What's on the list?",I asked. There was an actual list but the officer did not know what groups were on it. I just said "No". I am sure the FOR was probably on it as were a couple of other organization I belonged to. I am sure security these days is more rigorous.

I am very impressed with the Christian Peacemakers Christian Peacemaker Teams: committed to reducing violence by "Getting in the and their witness to there faith and commitment to direct action to peace action in many places of danger. There is even a project here in Northern Ontario at the Grassy Narrows Reserve. They have worked in Iraq for three years among Iraqis and along with Muslim Peacemakers with nothing more than their faith to protect them in this dangerous war zone. They put us all to shame. Now four of their members are in grave danger. One can only pray that their faith will sustain them and their good works will make it easier to negotiate their release. They shared the same risks as all Iraqis where massive military and police presence could not bring peace and security.

In this season of the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, there is much to think about.

Say a quiet prayer for the kidnapped Peacemakers in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Carols

The season of the ever present Christmas carol is upon us. For the next month we will be assaulted with all those traditional tunes we cherish They remind us of the delights of Christmases past. My fondest caroling memories are those of singing in Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill in Boston. (One of the things to do in Boston in the Christmas season.

Most carols are familiar and we learned them by osmosis as we grew up singing them with our elders off sheets of lyrics published by all kinds of sources. It is one of the few times that mixed age groups sing together. We should do more of this. There are always inserts in the local newspapers for use in public services. We always retrieved song sheets out of the piano bench where my sister so painfully learned to play. We come to love many of these tunes: some religious, some seasonal and some yuletide in their emphasis.

Occasionally, a new one comes along and is accepted. "The Rebel Jesus" is just such a one for me. While it has been around for a while I just became aware of it. It can be found on the Christmas album ( my age is showing! CD) of Kate and Anne McGarrigle, The McGarrigles' Christmas Hour. It is sung by MarthaWainwright .

This carol was written by Jackson Browne back in 1991.

Here are the interesting lyrics

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants' windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They'll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all god's graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robber's den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgment
For I've no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Originally recorded by Browne for the 1991 Chieftains holiday collaboration, The Bells of Dublin, "The Rebel Jesus" has taken on a life of its own.

Maybe this will become a new favourite carol for us and our children and grandchildren. For now it is new and a message to consider.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas Banned in Boston

It is amusing to be reminded that Boston has not always been the liberal beacon to the American Nation that we now think it is. There was a time when the dour pilgrims banned the celebration of Christmas which even then was so much more that a narrow Christian celebration. The complaint was that there were too many pagan elements. Christmas always has been a potpourri of many traditions around the Winter solstice.

This is a picture of this year's Boston Christmas Tree before being cut down.

Presently, with the renaming of the Boston Public Christmas tree being renamed, the "holiday tree" in the name of inclusiveness and political correctness by some well meaning bureaucrat, a line has been crossed. It is the silly line. I never thought I would ever side with Gerry Falwell on an issue. He takes it more seriously than I do as he sees it an assault in Christianity.

What is too bad about this "tea pot" of a contraversay is that it is a squawk over a lovely tradition that is a real bond between Canada and the United State. Unfortunately there has been hurt feelings over it.

In the year, of the disaster of Katrina and Canada's effort to assist our American neighbours, it is good to remember Canada's great pre-Christmas disaster and the generous response of the people of Boston. As a token of thanks and friendship the people of Halifax through the Nova Scotian government have sent a giant Christmas tree to Boston for public display in gratitude for Boston's assistance in the wake of the Halifax disaster in 1917.

In that year, two munitions ships exploded in the Halifax harbour when they collided and caught fire. This was the largest man made explosion until the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Halifax harbour is a contained bowl with a narrow opening to the open sea. When the explosion in the Bedford basin occurred it released a shockwave, a tidal wave and a fire storm on the city. Like Boston, a city of wooden houses. Many people, who were drawn to watch the fire were killed and many lost their eyesite as theu watch through windows. At a time, when communication and transportation was not as rapid as today the people in Boston heard of the disaster and mounted an immediate assistance mission by train to help their fellow historic maritime city with which they had long economic and cultural ties. (It is interesting to note that their response was faster than the US federal government's response over Katrina.)

I have long been aware of the story of this Canadian disaster because my mother as a young woman worked for a man who was on a train heading into Halifax when the explosion occured. He shared with her some eye witness account.

And, a second reason, I remember the Halifax disaster is my generation studied the Canadian novel, Barometer Rising, by Hugh Maclennan, which is based on this disaster. (We read expurgated copies with the sexy bits removed) Now kids study the American novel Deliverance (with the sexy bit left in.) Strange!!! I am in favour of teaching a culture by reading a community's literature and/or classic literature, but that is another topic. Apparently, students today are incapable of reading good (hard) literature.

I just heard our Governor General is also sanitizing Christmas referring to the Christmas tree as a holiday tree. For a holiday as commercial and full of pagan elements this is unnecessary. People of all faiths can in good conscience celebrate in the merely cultural non- religious aspects of the Winter celebration. If one insists in renaming the Christmas tree, they could at least use a tradional designation and call it the Yuletide Tree. Here is a Jewish web site on Christmas If public officials want to "purify" Christmas they might promote more modest gift giving and carousing at this time of year. BUT THAT WOULD BE BAD FOR THE ECONOMY. That might be more in line with the spirit of the meaning of the life of Jesus. This was the wrong headed motives of the pilgrim sages when they banned Christmas in Boston.

The pilgrim fathers wanted a homogeous society of "community of saints" Christians. Today there is a sensitivity to have an inclusive multicultural society with no public preference for one culture over another. The model for this is French society which consitutionally strives to be a secular society. This is why they banned Muslim girls wearing head scarfs in school. Their public cultural blindness and public commitment to a strictly secular society has got them into the cultural clash that they are presently experiencing. Our Canadian model of multiculturalism where we publically encourage and share in the richness on each others cultures is a mich better way to build a shared culture. In this way, we maintain an inclusive society.

Have a Happy Holiday Season! Merry Christmas! All the Joys of Yuletide! HO, HO, HO Everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2005


I just spend the past two hours lying in the fetal position in the middle of my bed
slowly, oh so slowly, slipping deeper into a depression. Unable to move even as I was vaguely aware of the house cooling down as the woodstove goes unattended.

My only thought, "Oh, what a warm release death would be." The solitary pain is unbearable.

"It's over, it's over , your baby doesn't want you anymore. . . ." the lyrics of the Roy Orbison brings me back to full awareness when it seeps into my dreamlike thoughts fro the radio. This is a searing reminder of one reason (not the only) for my overwelming despair brings physical pain to my chest.

It has only been 30 years since she left me, and our son, to find fulfillment for herself.

I shall carry this pain to my death as it periodically returns to ravage my soul.

Today, it just reminds me I must get up or I will surely just lie here until I die.

I hate depression and how in ravageous my soul .

The lyrics of "It's over"

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Sombrero Galaxy

The Eye of God

Twice I have visited a planetarium and both times have been impressed and permanently affected.

The first was when I was a child who really didn't even know what such a place was. So when the show began at the Hayden Planetarium, I thought the skyline around the darkened hall really was that of New York City. It took me a couple of years to understand that it really wasn't and the roof had not been opened up so we view the starry sky.

The second time was as an adult at the McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto (which sadly is no longer there ). The beginning of the show took one back outward into space: Earth, solar system, galaxy (milky way), other galaxies, the big bang origin of the Universe. All the time, the announcer enhanced the dazzling images with the statistics of distance, time, size. It was an awesome experience. It dispelled for me all simple notions I have about the Universe that movies had left me with. The Universe is a reality of size and beauty and mystery that the human mind really cannot comprehend.

These experiences were long before the Hubble Telescope and the images that are now available to us. To just spend a little time looking at them is awe inspiring, raising wonderful questions that are religious.

We are all delighted at the wonderful pictures of the Earth from the Space Station of our blue planet, our island home in the vastness. This has changed our perception of our shared life together . We are now a global village and citizens of the Earth whose fate is shared. Multiply this image thousands times and you have the wondrous beautiful images available to us via the Hubble telescope. When you intellectually learn what you are looking at (i.e. moons, galazies, stars, nebula, gas clouds, etc) in size and distance it is almost unbelieveable. Some images are millions of light years away and even light years in distance across. And, in the Universe which seem so emply we find it full of countless object in space.

If you think about this for long you soon realize it is all beyond our ability to fully grasp without some very specialized education in astronomy and astrophysics and other esoteric special knowledge.

Religions with there prescientific understanding of the Universe have to integrate the scientic view. I will never understand those who out of hand reject the science. Who reject the scientific view as not reflecting the religious view of the Universe being God's creation. I think it not only enhances the religious views with it sense of mystery and awe but also gives us an understanding (which remains largely a mystery) how creation unfolds. Whether one sees this as a natural, spontaneous self creating process or a view of the "hand" of God at work, it cannot help but affect us as a "religious" experience.

I have long believed, (persuaded limited evidence) that Mankind is not alone in the Universe. Given the vastness of the Universe and the just shear statistical possibilities there are thousand and maybe even million of possibilies in the Universe for there to be intelligent life. It is an act of hubrus and (for religious people) a limiting view of God to think that we are alone in the Universe and the highest life form. That we are a unique personal concern of God. This limited view of the Universe is not sustainable. I am among those who believe that Creation itself is God, creating itself. We should feel privilege to be a part of this divine unfolding. We are part of God and it us. We are after all an intelligent part of the Universe (Thinking matter in naturalistic terms) that thinks: thinks about thinking and thinks about thinking about thinking.
Just being aware of these level of abstraction for me is wondrous. Which is why I went on to study philosphy in an attempt to understand the persistent questions of "ultimate " things.

In my teens, I was teased as the class atheist and a somewhat strange guy. I still consider myself an atheist and an religious humanist. I am an atheist for technical philosphical reasons.
Briefly: to say that God exists is to say it is a creation. A existent "thing" has a beginning and an end. To say that God exists is to deny the idea of God as eternal. God is seem as limited in space and time like all created (existing) things. We then are faced with the question: Who created God. This is the problem of the inadequecy of language. God is ineffable: to be experienced or intuited rather than rationally known.

There are 300 billion stars in our galaxy and 100 billion galaxies in the Universe. Common sense should tell us that we must not be the only intelligent beings in the Universe. That is the most improbable explanation. Amir Aczel in his book, Probability 1, does a statistical probability calculation and determines there must be at least one more place with intelligent life in the Universe. There are probably as many as 10,332 such places. Carl Sagan, the renowned astronomer thought one million was reasonable.

I do not believe in UFO's. I am deeply sceptical of all that popular speculation. I am inclined to believe with Stephen Hawking in his lecture on Life in the Universe that our planet has not been visited for if it had it would be an much more intrusive and ugly experience. If some intelligent being was able to visit our planet we would be the inferior "sub humans" in the relationship. Our fate would even be worse that that of Native Americans when Europeans first arrived. We know 90% of them died from disease and informal and systematic genocide. They were viewed and treated as inferior people. Our fate would be no better.

The other fact that is coming to be realized is that there is no intelligent life in our solar system: no place on other planets or moons that human life could easily live. We do know there are other planets around others stars in our galaxy that are suggestive of hosting life. But the closest of these is so far way it would take generations of living on a space ship to reach it. So in reality, we are alone in the Universe. We are so remote we will never make contact with other intelligent life forms.

This should give us all pause. Do you not feel the sense of "mysterium, tremendum et fascinans" that Rudolf Otto spoke of describing the "Numinous", God. , the Reality that was mysterious and fills us with trembling fear and fascination.

I like to think that Creation itself is God and we are a part of this great miracle of Life. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called it the Divine Milieu in which God evolves from Alpha to Omega creating itself. . . . we are the thinking emerging part.

Praise God! Walk humbling with your God.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Thanksgiving Dinner in 1621

Pilgrims Banquet to Indian Chiefs was fit to set before a King

"The state dinner of the occasion--the real Thanksgiving dinner--took place on Saturday, the last day of the celebration." Writes Clifford Howard of "The First Thanksgiving Dinner" in America, in the November Ladies' Home Journal. "Notwithstanding that the kitchens of these wilderness homes were sadly wanting in many of the most common essentials of cookery, there was no lack of good things nor of appetizing dishes at this great feast. The earth, the air and the water had yielded their bountiful supplies, and the good dames had done honor to their skill and ingenuity by setting before their hungry guests and companions a repast as sumptuous and tempting as it was varied and delightful. Foremost of all there was roast turkey, dressed with beechnuts; then came rare venison pasties, savory meat stews with dumplings of barley flour, delicious oysters (the gift of the Indians, and the first ever tasted by the white men), great bowls of clam chowder with sea biscuit floating in the broth, roasts of all kinds, broiled fish, salads, cakes and plum porridge; while the center of each of the long tables was adorned with a large basket overflowing with wild grapes and plums and nuts of every variety.
"It was the time of the Indian summer. The soft, mellow sunlight shone warmly through the drowsy haze, illumining the sombre woodland with a rich golden light, while the gentle winds of the south, laden with the sweet perfumes of the forest, came as a lingering dream of summer to add to the joy and brightness of this Thanksgiving feast. Upon the balmy air arose the hum of many voices and the merry music of laughter, as the Pilgrims with their Indian guests partook of the feast that the Provider of all things had given them."

What is wrong with this picture?

When I first saw this picture i smiled. After all it was on a web site of Mennonite humour. Then I experienced that sick feeling in my gut when I recognized it for what it is: a racist statement (joke).
Without even mentioning Islam it tells us that Muslims are terrorists. This is not true. We should all resist the linking of "terrorist" and "muslim" which is so often done in the media these days.
Anyone who cares to reflect for a moment must realize the terrorists come from all religious, national and ethnic groups. "One man's terrorist in another man's freedom fighter." Terrorism is used by virtually all groups in violent conflict. To creating fear among non-combatants is an acceptable tactic of war. Daily we are reminded of this with news from Iraq.

My "favourite" terrorist is Carlos, the Jackel. There was a time when he was a shadowy person of mythic proportion. In reality he is a Venezuelan who became a terrorist for hire. He is now in a French prison. He may be the classic terrorist as he was no country's freedom fighter but willing to carry out terrorist acts for money, an entrepeneurial terrorist.

What makes this picture funny? It is the Amish buggy. If the Camel symbolizes Islamic terrorists, the buggy is a symbol for Mennonites. Mennonite terrorist is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. The Mennonites, known for their strict adherence to pacifism, a Christians trying to live a Christ-like life based on his words in the four gospels, are the least likely group to resort to terrorism. They are in fact, peace loving, modest hard working people, who when they have been persecuted, relocate rather than fight. Unfortunately, the joke is at the expense of Muslims. This makes it not funny.

We need to always be on guard against such black humour. There are current sensativities within our multi-ethnic society that need to be respected. Humour around them can be very hurtful.

We all resort to such humour from time to time. Depending on the group or motivation of the humourist it might be quite acceptable to do so. As a honky, white, guy of English origins, I take no offence at the depiction of a bumbling English guy. As a Canadian, I can laugh at the beer drinking, over polite, "eh" speaking Canadian, even though I don't drink beer and I have worked to rid my speech of the redundant non word "eh". (There are versions of ut in New England. Maybe that is why I feel comfortable there). I'll confess to being the polite Canadian. There is an element of truth to these stereotypes, which is what makes them funny.
In ethic humour, the lead must be taken by members of that community to determine what is acceptable humour. I learned this principle living 10 years in black urban communities in the US and now being part of the minority in the French Canadian part of Ontario.

I first found the above picture when I was searching for a famous Mennonite humourist. I remember when I was in University in Waterloo county, reading an article about such a person who was comparable to Stephen Leacock; unfortunately, he wrote in "Pennslvania Deutsche" (German) and was never translated. Ever since I have been trying to learn something about him. I don't even remember his name. What a shame this Canadian hunourist has been lost to us. While searching I was listening , on radio, to a Canadian Muslim woman who does Muslim humour around issues at the Mosque .. . . .Whow this will be another topic for investigation.

I guess my point is we should all do our best to resist hurtful ethnic humour. I for one speak up when I know it is coming and tell people I don't want to hear it and it offends me. If they slip one by me, I don't laugh; and, tell them that sort of humour is unacceptable. Aren't I a party pooper. No. In fact, I am quite a funny guy who thinks there is lots to laugh at without being hurtful to lots of people.

Hay, have you heard the one. . . .. . .eh

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Distastful Display

Oprah did it again. She put on that show of HER FAVOURITE THINGS. This is a distasteful display of conspicuous consumption where she give away expensive items to a well healed audience. It is a celebration of greed with a sense of entitlement by the lucky guests who are among the economically blessed already.

I find this theme show so painful I cannot watch it. When I do I think what wonderful things could be done with the money for these items for people whose lives would change little if they did not get them. There are people, on the streets of Chicago who a most modest gift or a lovely meal would have tears come to their eyes.

Then there are the victims of Katrina who are facing a Thanksgiving a lot worse off this year than last. And, there are the millions around the world that live on less than $2.00 US a day. These images make Oprah's show an obscenity and a kind of upper middle class insult in the face of the worlds needy.

I know this show is entertainment. Do the privileged have to entertain us by flaunting their excess of consummable goods. It is also a form of advertizing. Retailers of high end good are no doubt breaking her door down to have their goods given away. I doubt if she pays for any of them so her act of largesse is a mirage. I also know if she did not have this show money would be available to do other things.

I have great respect for Oprah and what she does for charity with her vast wealth. She is a good stewart of her wealth and I would be loathe to tell her she should do more personally. She also inspires others to give which is wonderful. This one show is a black mark on her wonderful efforts. I look for the day for someone to write the book, "The Gospel According to Oprah" which will share her insights of life and how to live it and a full appreciation of her well meaning charitable work.

How wonderful if once a year she opened her studio, or filled a hockey rink with the shabby poor and dishevelled homeless, to share some of life's bounty. Maybe it would not make good entertainment but I bet their are wonderful human stories to be told among the marginalized and how they have found themselves where they are in life. Oprah with her power could inspire real social change so that the poor's needs can be better met.

Below is the list of Oprah's favourite things that so many people now think they cannot live without.

Holiday 2005 Oprah's Favorite Things
Burberry Coat and PurseSuggested retail price: Coat, $695; Purse, $695800-284-8480;
Philip Stein Teslar Diamond WatchAvailable at all Neiman Marcus locations:
Garrett Popcorn Shops' CaramelCrisp® and CheeseCorn™ TinSuggested retail price: $117 6.5-gallon tin; serves up to 18 people888-4-POPCORN (888-476-7267);
Oatmeal Cookie Dough from Fox & Obel MarketSuggested retail price: $49.99(makes about 30 cookies)800-443-1805;
Ralph Lauren's Black Label Cashmere Cable-knit Sweater with Front Placket in CamelSuggested retail price: $498888-475-7674;
Pure Color CordsSuggested retail price: $160–$170800-959-2944;
Apple iPodSuggested retail price: $299800-MY-APPLE (800-692-7753);
UGG® Australia's Uptown BootSuggested retail price: $180 orNordstrom stores:
Lovely by Sarah Jessica ParkerSuggested retail price: $62Available at Nordstrom and Macy'sdepartment
BlackBerry 7105t™ from T-MobileSuggested retail price: $2991-800-TMOBILE (800-866-2453);
Brownies from Moveable Feast GenevaSuggested retail price: $25800-709-5723;
Nike Free 5.0 iD®Suggested retail price: $95866-633-6453;
Croissants from Williams-SonomaSuggested retail price: $39.95 (Box of 15;Order plain, chocolate or mixed)800-541-2233;
Kashwére® Shawl Collar RobeSuggested retail price: $145; $155 XXL(Available in 12 colors)818-773-8090;
Hope in a Jar from PhilosophySuggested retail price: $104 (8-ounce jar)800-568-3151;
Also available at Sephora, Nordstrom and Marshall Field's"Grace" Basket from PhilosophySuggested retail price: amazing grace bubble bath,$25; amazing grace shampoo, bath and showergel, $22; amazing grace soap duo, $18; amazinggrace body firming emulsion, $34; basket, $16800-568-3151;
Also available at Sephora, Nordstromand Marshall Field'sThe Oprah Winfrey Show 20th Anniversary Collection DVD CollectionSuggested retail price: $
Sony VAIO® FJ NotebookSuggested retail price: $1499.99 ($1599.99 in a variety of colors)877-865-SONY (877-865-7669);

Merry Christmas Darlings
says Oprah!

The Plains of Afghanistan

I just had to write a little about Afganistan to use this quote of warning

from Rudyard Kipling

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains
And the women come out to cut up what remains
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
And go to your Gawd like a soldier."

There are lots of foreign soldiers there, including Canadians, in this much forgotten first front on the "War in Terror" . The British are about to send more substantial numbers of troops, as they plan a withdrawal from Iraq. At the same time, the Americans are quietly withdrawing. They haven't exactly rolled on their rifles and blown their brains out,( their treatment prisoners at their secret torture jails might be symbolic of this), but they are leaving before the job is done and could be accused of" cutting and running", leaving the job to others.

The Talaban has not gone away. The insurgency there is strong and may be growing. They have learned some techniques from Iraq insurgency. The central government still has limited control over many parts of the country, which is locally controlled by warlords who are the backbone of the opium trade, which represents 60 % of the economy.

The Pastun region, in the south, where Canadians are and most of the fighting against Taliban is sporatically fought, is particularly lawless (more correctly 'a law unto itself' for there are strict tribal ans islamic laws enforced.) . The Pastun are a tribal people who are in many ways are medaeval. Just ask the Pakistan government, for Pakistan's Northern Frontier is peopled by the same Pastun tribal people. They once aspired to a country of their own, Pastunistan. Pakistan has only a limited control over their territory which is why Bin Laden can hide out there. The latest earthquake disaster in Pakistan gives one some sense of the remoteness of the mountainous part of Pastunistan while the plains part in Afghanistan is just as remote.

Afghanistan is an endlessly fascinating country. It is a country of ethnic groups forced together by the British when they thought they could control it, as they did India. They were driven out, when they were the most powerful country in the world, by the tribesmen of that country. (Oh if we only could learn from history!)

Afghanistan is a county I would love to visit. It is possible with some care. If you have the time I encourage you to view this wonderful site of photos of Afghanistan.

I do not know what the fate of Afghanistan is. One can hope that their new democratic government can succeed. But many of the members are warlords and former warlords with local sources of power and influence. Many should be prosecuted as war criminals. Who will speak for Afghanistan? The likes of Fauzai Gailani perhaps, The peoples of Afghanistan deserve some peace after 25 years of war. It has the potential of being a great tourist destination. The Agha Khan Foundation has just built a five star hotel in Kabul, which will house rich foreigners, and do little for ordinary Afghanis, but it is a start. In the end, it will be Afghanis who will determine the fate of this mysterious county that waves of history, Asian and European has washed over. One can only wish it well and trust the day will come when the foreign troups will leave.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Today was the Santa Claus parade in Toronto. This is a great institution in the city, which I experienced as a child. I think of my mother on such occasions. She was big in taking such public events whether it be a visit of a member of the Royal Family or the Santa Claus Parade.

She would have my Dad and the three of us in tow trying to get a good spot to see the parade. With the crowds being nine or ten rows deep along the edge if the road it was sometimes difficult. My dad would have one of us on his shoulders but could not hold us all up. We would be excited. "The parade is coming mommy, I can't see. Mommy. I can't see. ! I want to see Santa. Mommyyyyyyy!!!"

My mother would go into survival mode. She would get the three of us together and form a fallanx, pushing forward. In a loud voice she would be demanding, "LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN THROUGH. THE PARADE IS FOR CHILDREN. MAKE ROOM FOR THE CHILDREN." Like Moses parting the Red Sea a space would open and we would find ourselves in the front of the crowd. I don't remember when we didn't get a front seat on the curb to watch the parade.

Somewhere behind us my mother and father had there eye on us with only a slim visual connection to us but in those days, it seemed all adults kept their concerned eyes on the little children. Some reassuring woman would touch us on the head to let us know she too had her eye on us. (Times have changed) It was only when I became a parent did I come to understand that a gentle, normally sane parent, can become a mighty warrior when it came to their children. Even mild mannered me has had such moments.

Toronto always had the best looking Santa. If time allowed we would make our way to Eaton's Department Store to see Santa a second time go into the store where we made our way in to sit on his knee and let him know what we wanted for Christmas after being instructed by our mother to not ask for too much as Santa has a lot of children to bring gifts.

When I moved back to the Toronto area I took Parker and joined by sister and her family to see the parade. It was always a good show but never as memorable as when my mother took us. It was too bad that she did not live long enough to be with her grandchildren and fight for them to have a front row seat.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Black Bears Our Gentle Neighbours

A Mother Sow with Triplet Cubs

No sooner is the Fall bear hunt over than the call goes up to re-establish the Spring bear hunt.

A few years ago, the Ontario government, in it's wisdom and on the advice of government biologists banned the Spring bear hunt. Ever since then those with an economic interest in hunting bears have carried on a persistent campaign to have it re-established. Even the lengthening of the Fall hunt, which puts other users of the bush at risk, has not satisfied them.

Bears are never referred in the press without calling them "nuisance" bears. There is an attempt to depict them as dangerous vermin, just as wolves where so depicted until relatively recently,resulting in their extinction in much of their range in North America. Thankfully, O can still hear the wolves howl from my porch.

Black bears are not dangerous. This does not mean that they can't present a danger. Given the tens of thousands of bear/ human contact each year few people are hurt. Killing a few hundred more bears a year is not going to reduce the dangers appreciably. Those that use the erroneous image of bears as dangerous to justify hunting them must realize to get rid of the "threat" would require elliminating bears all together.

The most dangerous animal in the bush is the moose. Never are they referred to as "nuisance" moose, even though many people each year are killed and injured by them mostly through collisions with them in our highways. You also do not want to startle one in the bush. In fact when one shows up in someone yard in town, or even in their swimming pool people are delighten , even if inconvenienced or suffer property damage. Rarely do they want the police to come and kill them. Bears are never so celebrated.

Black bears are often lumped together with Grizzly bears, Kodiak bears or Polar bears. These are much more aggressive animals. Like these bears they are portrayed as dangerous carnivores often shown baring their teeths. Black bears do not exhibit this behaviour except in the movies.

Black bears are, in fact, quite gentle and shy. They are basically herbivores eating grass, roots, and berries. They are only scavenger meat eaters. They are wonderful mothers often having more than one cub for which to care. According to one bear biologist it is not even dangerous to get between the sow and the cub. He apparently regularly caught cubs to tag and study them in from of the mothers.

The worst thing about the Spring bear hunt is that the bears have cubs with them at that time of year. While only male bears were to be shot one cannot tell the male and female animals easily so there were always lots of orphan cubs. Winnie-the-pooh, the much loved bear was such a cub when a Canadian soldier on his way to Britain in WWI made a pet of him and took it with him after naming him after his home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Most orphan cubs die in the bush not being able to feed themselves. Those that are rescued are sometimes raised to be reintroduced into the wild.

Few local people hunt bears at any time of the year. In the Spring, Americans showed up with their dogs and baits of smelly garbage to kill bears. It should not be considered a hunt but a slaughter as bears are lured into range or treed by dogs and then killed. They call it a sport. We are here to hunt the B'ar! I more than once heard in our local store.

There is not a bear problem. There is a people problem. People who chose to live in the country and/or share the habitat with bears need to educate themselves in bear behaviour. This includes how to create distance between yourself and a bear when it appears threatening or you are just scared. Believe me. The bear is also scared. People must do everything they can not to encourage bears into their campsites or their towns. When berries are in short supply they are attracted by easy food: human garbage. We need to have our garbage under control. If they do come into town, if there is no food they will leave if left alone. We are impatient so there are efforts to trap them and take them back to the bush or they end up being killed needlessly.

We should celebrate the bear just as traditional native spirituality does. We are privileged to have the hundreds of thousand of black bears in Canada. So many species of bears are under threat of extinction around the world. Our brother, the bear has much to offer us. To watch them in Nature is to have your Spirit lifted. We must learn to love the bear as we share its home. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I love language: language joke and games, archaic language, seldom used words, new and abused words etc.

I also like interesting parts of speech: formost of these are oxymorons (I even love the sound of this word). I love them because we often use them and think we have said something informative when in fact we have said something literally confusing and contradicting.

It is fun to spot them in writings. I found this one and nearly fell off my chair laughing. It is "THONG COVERED" I take the fifth on what I was reading but i guess it is obvious it is not literature of a high quality.

For a list of oxymorons visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Temagami River Below the Cross Lake Dam This spot is a two day float above my place on the river. My young friend Tina, who often went canoeing with me, is on the water in my canoe.

This week I once again got my running water back. It seems I spend more time without than with running war as my pump seems to be failing far too often. One of the joys of country living. I also am very lazy on getting it repaired and back up and running. It is not much of an inconvenience for me to haul water as I can do all I need to do with about 20 litres a day. In the summer I bathe in the river, being in and around the river daily it is not difficult to fill the pail of water for the house. If I didn't live alone, being without running water would be a greater inconvenience. I also seem to have a great capacity to live with this situation I remember once hauling water for 9 months not only for my son and myself but about a dozen cows.

When I do do the work to get the water up and running I am always surprised how little work it really takes. I also have this wonderful sense of appreciation of what a luxury running water is.
Not much more than a hundred years ago, most people around here would not have had running water. Some would have had a hand pump in the house pumping water from a well or cistern but others would require hauling it from a pump at a well head of from a nearby lake or river, as I do. Many of these families were large, 12 to 20 children in French Canadian families were not unusual until the present generation. How did they manage then.? You have to admire their effort. I guess many hands made light work. Of course, mother worked harder than most but that is another story.

My water is pumped directly out of the Temagami River 400 feet away with an overall lift of about 35 feet. It is wonderful water: clean, crystal clear, refreshingly tasty and so soft your hair feels like silk after washing with it. I drink it not only untreated but unfiltered. Never have I or anyone gotten sick from it. I considered having it tested 25 years ago but I was told as a river flowing steadily it is impossible to test it for contamination for all you would test is the sample at a moment as the river moves on.

The river descends from the Temagami wilderness area, a highland area of lakes and rivers in rocky pre-cambrian shield land covered in Boreal forest. There is not industrial development above me. It's not from lack of trying as there is constant prospecting for base and precious metals in the area. Now a days, the rules under which logging in the area is done are designed to protect the water and the rights of all the other stake holders in the area: native, canoeing, vacationers, trappers, endangerded species, lovers of the woodland, hunters, fishermen, etc. No longer is the forest the sole preserve of lumber interests to exploit. With luck and vigilance, the water will remain pure for years to come.

Canada has about 25% of the worlds fresh water. We unfortunately abuse if badly rather than protect it as we need to. A lot of effort and money goes into treating it to make it safe for human consumption. I wish more effort would go into preventing it from being polluted and cleaning up pollution from long ago. It is to Canada's shame that so much of this precious resource is treated so badly.

For some interesting facts on Canada and water visit, Freshwater Website: Quickfacts

Our water resources are coveted by other countries. There are those who want to make money exporting in large quantities this essential resource we have stewartship over. But it is a unique resource for it is essential for life and should not be economically exploited. So far Canada does not allow such exports. Bottle water can be sold offshore but bulk water or diverted water is not allowed. The United States has long eyed Canada's water resources as their need for water in the western part of their country grows. They need it to flush their toilets and fill their swimming pools as well as watering crops. Canadian provinces and US states bordering the Great lakes have been trying to protect them and resisting grand water diversion schemes. 85% of Canadians water flows North. There are those who from time to time suggest great diversion schemes to reverse the flow of whole watersheds to have the water move south. There is also talk at how water should be viewed as a continental resource and not just a Canadian one.
So far, there is not free trade in water between Canada and the United States. The future may see some nasty disagreement between our two countries over this. Both of our countries need to do a lot of conservation and preservation and better utilization of water before transportation of this resource.

The water I have access to is to me a gift from God which I view as a privilege to have and use. I have done my bit to protect my mile frontage on the river. When I have cattle I fenced them away from the river. Over the years I have planted 10,000 trees mostly along the river. There is a portion of riverback across from my log cabin that I have watched for 25 years as it slowly restores itself. It is slow but in recent years big strides have been made. Nature does have a capacity to restore itself if left alone. This is a kind of miracle.

If you go to the very beginning of my blog there is a picture of the river in 1922, when logging had stripped all the trees right to the waterline. The river then was much abused to float the logs to the mills. Such bad forestry practices are a thing of the past. The river is now lined with lots of trees and bushes and flowers and herbs and grasses. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all lakes and rivers and wetlands were well protected and preserved. Clean water is a right and not a privilege and we should not settle for chemically treated water as the best we can do for human consumption.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Former President Jimmy Carter

Former President Carter grows in stature as the years past. He has done more for humanity since he was President than when he was President. The work of the Carter Center in contributing to the work of democracy in many countries around the world is much admired and trusted. Just as the man is. I doubt if a more decent man had ever served as the President of the great Republic. His Christian faith has quietly informed all of his actions. For a brief biography read,

In an almost unique way he has spoke out on the distressing state of his beloved country. For an ex-President to criticize a current President it must be seen as an indication of the depth of his concern.

There is an effort to get former President Clinton to speak up in a similar forthright fashion and offer leadership for the United States.

It is a hopeful sign that such people are speaking up and cannot be easily dismissed as fringe and disloyal Americans. Posted by Picasa

Woodstove and Winter

My lovely antique wood cookstove.

Lately the weather has warranted me starting a fire in the wood stove to get rid of the damp chill invading the house. It is one of the nice things about winter: to heat the kitchen and much of the house with my L'Islet model woodstove. It is one of the reasons I bought this farm 25 years ago. This is how it appeared back them. It reminded me of the island cottage in Muskoka at whichI spent good times in summer when I was a teenager. With a little elbow grease and stove black I can clean it up and make the chrome shine. But it is not a museum piece yet. It is a working stove upon which I love to cook and keep warm by; standing near it when it might be -30C or occasionally -40C outside. I have never baked bread in the oven but older neighbours tell me it makes wonderful bread.

I am not the homesteader, back to basic kind of guy, I like to think I am. Can you see the clue in the picture?.................. Yes, it is the pretty fondue pot on the top of the bun warmer. I am a yuppie in part of my soul. Fondue was very popular when I was an urbanite, man about town.

I still love fondue. My favourite is cheese fondue, which I call "seduction meal #3. I forget what #1 and #2 are. One of them must be pot roast and the other might be roast of beef with Yorkshire pudding. (My ancestry is obviously English.) In truth when you are a single guy on the hunt, cooking for a woman is very sexy. If she is young, and her mother failed to teacher her to cook, she is easily bedazzled.

The fondue is very sexy to share. Eating and cooking food at the table is very sensual. It may be beef bourguignonne,(cooking raw beef in hot oil at the table), cheese fondue or chocolate fondue as a dessert. You not only can feed yourself but also you can feed your partner and talk continually of eating and feeding the soul.

At one time, I looked high and low to find emmenthal and gruyere cheese in this northern hinterland with which to make cheese fondue along with a little kirsch and a dry white wine. Now I have discovered a prepackaged Swiss Fondue product that tastes as good as my best efforts. I use it and fool everyone. Into the heated cheese we dip the the French stick pieces each with a edge of crust so it stays on the fork. If it falls off it makes for more converstion and gathering closer togetherfishing it out of the pot. To complete this meal, small potatoes (which can also be dipped if not boiled too much) and a lovely garden fresh salad.
White wine with this meal is one of the few times I drink alcohol. You can't believe how successful this meal has been as a seduction meal. Although, I once tried it on a middle aged couple, friends of mine with no sophistication, who had never heard of fondue. They hated it: stinky cheese! Their loss. I ate the whole pot by myself after they left.

For a "full court press" on a date I get out the chocolate fondue. Start with excellent quality chocolate. Use kirsch and a little white wine to thin it heated. Then the fun begins as you dip pieces of fruit in it: fresh strawberries, pineapple wedges, mango, oranges, even grapes. Chocolate dripping off chins are reasons for laughter and touching. Awe intimate secduction!!

So I have not always been a rustic country, back to the land type. There was another life long ago. Now I am happy cooking strews and soups and moose steaks on the top of my wood stove. Always I include lots of onion, my favourite vegetable (or should it be called a herb since I use them in some many things.) In any case, I cook to now with no other motive than to feed my body and soul, often alone with my thoughts and memories.

Here I will stand for a large part of the Winter cooking and keeping warm feeding this wonderful stove, truly an Island (L'Islet) of comfort. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Islamic Feminism

From a Western perspective Islamic Feminism is a contradiction in terms. The common thinking is that Islamic women are oppressed and abused.

But the reality is that Islamic societies around the world are widely different on how women are treated. Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan are all different to various degrees on the treatment of women. And now there are large numbers of Muslims in Europe and America and Islam there has had to adopt to the culture of secularity.

There are those that argue that Islam holds women in high regard and they have had rights (in theory if not always in practice) long before Western women. It is easy to forget how few years ago it was that women in the West were essentially chattel. They were their husband's wife with no vote, no property rights, not able to borrow money on her own, and abused at home with little social outcry (a man's home is his castle and what goes on their is not society's business).

The restrictions on women in some Islamic societies may have more to do with ancient social and trible custom that Islam. The high regard Islam has for women in its sacred literature is undeniable. Ut will be the basis upon which Islamic feminism will be built.

Islamic women are speaking out and asserting their rights in an Islamic woman's movement. Women are speaking up and looking for change. In the United States, I find Susan Muaddid Darraj, an Islamic feminist academic, interesting

Most impressive are the women who have stepped up with courage and fought back when they have faced abuse in order the advance the rights of women. Here are the three I find remarkable:

Fausai Gaulani.. She lives in Herat, Afghanistan and has won a seat in the new Adghanistan legislature. In this western city, which until recently was control by a war lord, Ismail Khan, who enforced restrictions on women similar to those of the Taliban. She has come out from under her burqa to manage somehow to charm both men and women to elect her. Hopefully, she along with others in that nation's new legislature will improve the lot of women in that very traditional society.

Rani al Baz. . . She was a well know news reader in Saudi Arabia when her equally well know husband almost beat her to death. Rather than hide this domestic abuse and criminal assault she spoke up and let pictures of her damaged face be published. She did this at risk of loosing her children to her husband who had rights and responsibility for them that superceded hers in the restrictive Saudi society. She not only won a conviction against her husband but also has gone on to speak up for the rights and security of Islamic women generally.

Makhtar Mai. . She lives in a very traditional tribal community in Pakistan. She was gang raped on order of the local tribal elders as a form of retribution and restoration of family honour for something her 12 year old brother did. She was then publically humiliated my being paraded through the streets naked. She was expected to commit suicide. She fought back speaking up demanding justice. In the end, she won a judgement and financial compensation. With the money she started schools, one for boys the government runs and a girl's school she controls. She is a student in her own school where she is learning to read and write.

These women deserve our admiration and support where possible. At great personal sacrifice, they have advanced the status of Islamic women. If the feminist tenents of Islam are to be realized, it will be because Islamic women have demanded that it be so. In the end, it will be an Islamic feminism and not one imposed by the West.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It is Time Omar Khadr Came Home

I pride myself on being mild mannered. But I just lost it yesterday after reading the factual information on Omar Khadr's imprisonment and torture at the hands of the American barbarians. USA: Who are the Guantanamo detainees? Case Sheet 14: Canadian National: Omar

I wrote an outrageous letter to the Prime Minister and if he had been within arm reach I would have grabbed him by the suit jacket and shaken him until the silly grin was off his face.

Omar Khadr is one of our children. He is a Canadian citizen. He has every right to expect our government will rescue him from the predicament he is in.

In Canada, we do not torture children. A child who commits a capital crime is sentenced to no more that 3 1/2 year in jail.

The best our government can do for him is get the Americans to promise not to execute him! This is a shame on all Canadians.

Omar Khadr, was only 15 when he was captured and wounded in Afghanistan. As a child he should have been treated as a victim not a combatant. He should have been rescued and "rehabilitated" as the child soldiers in Africa have been even though they commited murders, even of family members and mutilations, (cutting off of hands). Omar Khadr thought he was helping a country defend itself against an invading military force.

For what it is worth here is what I wrote the Prime Minister. I expect a form letter back, maybe even a visit from RCMP. (I guess I could rage against them on my front porch as I never let anyone in my house who carries a gun.)

Dear Prime Minister Martin,

I have just taken some time to research a little about Omar Khadr and his imprisonment under the Americans.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! Do your job and get this Canadian child out of the hands of the Americans. He was only 15 when grabbed and should have been seen as a child and victim in need of rehabilitation perhaps, much as they have been doing with child soldiers in Africa.

Canada has failed this child and your government's ineffectual action brings shame on us all.

A solution would be to have him treated as a child, allowed to plead guilty and sentenced to time served and sent home. He has not only had his rights denied but he has been tortured by the Americans. He has paid for his "crimes"., if trying to defend a country being invaded by foreigners is a crime.

Canada as the US best economic and supportive neighbour should have some leverage. If the US wants to risk that to torture this child so be it. DO WHAT IS NECESSARY to get one of our children home: Recall our ambassador , bring our troops home from Afghanistan, shut off shipment of oil products to the US. Do whatever is necessary. Bring one of our children home. Surely the US owes us a favour.

Shame on you and your government for letting this go on for four years.


Philip Robinson

If anyone else thinks Canada should do more for Omar Khadr, I encourage you to write the Prime Minister, at the address in the hyperlinked article above.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Armistice Day


I was moved by this exchange writer Steven Laffoley recounted on a visit to New York City to visit the site of the World Trade Center.

When we finish eating, I get up to pay the bill. I cross the center of the room and approach two waiters standing at the register. They are talking about the Veterans' Day holiday.
"I remember when this was a day to celebrate peace," says the older waiter to the younger. "It was a day to celebrate the end of World War One."
"Really?" says the younger waiter.
"Yeah, I can't remember the name of the day," said the older waiter as he rings a bill into the register. "But when I was kid - I think it was sometime in the '50s - the politicians didn't want a peace day, so they turned it into a celebration of soldiers."
Perhaps because of the red wine, I feel talkative. So I interject, "It was called Armistice Day."
"Yeah, that's it," said the older waiter, turning in my direction. "It was called Armistice Day, a day for celebrating peace."
"In Canada," I tell them, "they call it Remembrance Day."
"Remembrance Day?" he says. "I like that - Remembrance Day. It's almost like a day for peace." He hesitates and then adds, "Right now, we could use a day like that."
I smile and nod, then hand him my bill. He rings it in, and after I pay, he wishes me well. As we leave the restaurant, and walk to Times Square, I think about what the older waiter said, "Almost like a day for peace."
And I think: He's right. We could use a day like that.

It is good to remember those who have died in the many wars in which Canada has participated. Our honouring those who served and died should not for a minute let us think war is in any way an honourable undertaking.

I have always been impressed that Canadian veterans have spoken over the years the phrase, "Never again". Those who experienced war directly seem to have learned that war is the ultimate obscenity. Since the Great War, "the War to End All Wars" humanity has failled miserably to meet the challenge of achieving a lasting peace. It is a shame with which we all must live.

For those who need to be reminded what a human waste war is, view this web site, "We Were Humans. "

More recently we need to know of the destruction of the city of Falluja in Iraq. It will be remembers as a symbol of the barbaric occupation of the Americans in their stuggle to maintain control over Middle East oil.,2763,1638829,00.htm

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


It is very sad and distressing to follow the rioting in France over the last couple of weeks. France is facing a challenge to its self image as a country shaped by the rallying call of the French Revolution, liberté, équalité, fraternité. Unfortunately this is not a reality for many French citizens. France has not fullfilled it's rallying cry of the French Revolution for many. Now these marginalized citizens are rioting in the streets. One thinks of the racial riots in the US a generation ago.

One of the distressing things about the reporting of these events is that one is given the impresssion it is Islamic youths, immigrants from North Africa that are rioting. This is somehow part of the "clash of cultures" (Islamic vs Christian).

Such a simplistic view is just racist. The unrest is more characteristic of a classic marxist revolt, "Workers of the World Unite." This is an economic and social stuggle. The marginalized who suffer from discrimination, de facto segregation, racism, umemployment and poverty want to be full members of French society. They want in.

France has not successfully embraced multiculturalism. Immigrant populations have been coming to France for a couple of generations. Most have come from former French colonies.
They have not been absorbed into French society so that within a generation they are seamlessly viewed as French.

Canada with our commitment to multiculturalism has done well in the integration of immigrants. As a teenager, my closest friends were: Grebeldinger, Hunchak, Olexy, Agostini, Clancy. Never for a moment did I think of them as anything other than Canadian, English Canadian at that. I just found it a little odd that Mrs. Hunchak spoke with an accent. Surely no one doubts that David Suzuki is a Canadian. The Right Honourable Madame Jean, our new Governor General, who is an immigrant from Haiti, is now, without doubt, a Canadian, a French Canadian no less. This lack of acceptance and integration of new citizens requires vigilance. There must be a recognition of multiculturalism and then proactive efforts by all Canadians and government to help new citizens find their place in the Canadian mosaic.

The French seem to have not recognized the reality of multiculturalism in their country. They have a mythical view of themselves. They pride themselves as being a secular society in which merit is the guiding principle of social upward mobility. Unfortunately, this is not the way the world works for the masses. French pride, arrogance and racism have prevented easy "free enterprise" upward mobility to work.

In the midst, of all the agony in French society this past week the CBC did a feature on the news of the rise of anti-semitism in France. It left me weeping over the news. Did the French learn nothing from WWII . The point was made that this growing problem is made worse by government inaction. Some of these Jews are leaving as they no longer feel they can be safe in their country. Canada is a prefered destination where they can speak French, live as Jews without fear and their children can become Canadians. I hope we are worthy of their trust.

Those rioting in France are second and third generation " immigrants." They are French!!!! They have never lived in the country of origin of their parents and grandparents. They share French values. While some are Muslim, many of the youth are nominally so as they share the French secular culture.

For a understanding of the history and background of this unrest in France I invite you to read a piece by Professor Juan Cole in his blog, Informed Comment. for November 9. He usually writes on the Middle East and Islam but he has some real understanding of France.

One can only hope that France comes to recognize the realities in their country and embrace multiculturalism, recognizing the full Frenchness of the marginalized and find ways to integrate them into the mainstream of French culture. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005



Finally, the moose season is coming to the end, the hunters will go home and the moose will once again be the lord of their domain. The moose, the largest member of the deer family is the most dramatic animal in the forest. It is a gentle browser of plant on the land and in the water. It normally, moves silently through the forest and swamps singly or in family groups.

It is a joy to behold in its natural habitat, a mysterious moving creature you feel privileged to see.

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 04, 2005

More Pregnant Women

I just discovered a lot of pregnant women like to have their pictures on the Internet. Perhaps, their husbands talked them into it and they may come to regret being photographed and put on display in such a public forum I, for one, still find them all wonderful in their glory as Earth Goddesses: Do I suffer from a fetish. . .hmmm?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eid Mubarak (Blessed 'Eid')

At the end of Ramadan Muslims celebrate the successful completion of the obligations of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr festival. To Muslims everywhere, "Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year).

As a non-Muslim, I would like to post some remarks that president Clinton wrote on this occasion in 2000. These celebratory remarks are a recognition by the President of the United States for a better understanding of Islam's contribution to North American culture.

It is difficult to imagine President Bush making such a speech. Enough said! If I say more it will become a rant.

Here are Clinton's remarks, on this festive occasion in 2000 at a gathering at the Whitehouse.

"Let me say that there is much that the world can learn from Islam. It is now practiced by one of every four people on Earth. Americans are learning more in our schools and universities. Indeed, I remember that our daughter took a course on Islamic history in high school and read large portions of the Koran, and came home at night and educated her parents about it, and later asked us questions about it. (Applause.) And, of course, there are now 6 million Muslims in our nation today. The number of mosques and Islamic centers, now at 1,200, continues to grow very rapidly.
Today, Muslim Americans are a cornerstone of our American community. They enrich our political and cultural life; they provide leadership in every field of human endeavor, from business to medicine, to scholarship. And I think it is important that the American people are beginning to learn that Muslims trace their roots to all parts of the globe -- not just to the Middle East, but also to Africa, and to Asia, and to the Balkans and other parts of Europe. You share with all Americans common aspirations for a better future, for greater opportunities for children, for the importance of work and family and freedom to worship.
But like other groups past and present in America, Muslim Americans also have faced from time to time -- and continue to face, sadly, from time to time -- discrimination, intolerance and, on occasion, even violence. There are still too many Americans who know too little about Islam. Too often stereotypes fill the vacuum ignorance creates. That kind of bigotry is wrong, has no place in American society. There is no place for intolerance against people of any faith -- against Muslims or Jews or Christians, or Buddhists or Baha?is -- or any other religious group, or ethnic or racial group. If America wishes to be a force for peace and reconciliation across religious and ethnic divides from the Middle East to Northern Ireland to the Balkans, to Africa, to Asia -- if that is what we wish -- if we wish to do good around the world, we must first be good here at home on these issues. (Applause.)
I ask all of you to help with that, to share the wellsprings of your faith with those who are different, to help people understand the values and the humanity that we share in common, and the texture and fabric and fiber and core of the beliefs and practices of Islam.
Children do not come into the world hating people of different tribes and faiths. That is something they learn to do. They either are explicitly taught to do it, or they learn to do it by following the example of others, or they learn to do it in reaction to oppression that they, themselves, experience. And those of us who are adults have a responsibility to change those childhoods, to give this generation of children around the world a different future than so many have played out tragically in the last few years.
I think it is quite ironic that at the end of the Cold War, when a system of atheistic, controlling communism has failed and been rejected, our latest demon seems to be the old-fashioned one of people fighting each other because they are of different religious faiths, or racial or ethnic heritages. We know that is not at the core of any religious teaching. We know it is not at the core of Islam.
So I ask you again to rededicate yourselves in this coming year to making sure that others in this country truly understand and appreciate the faith you embrace, its practices, its beliefs, its precepts and its inclusive humanity. Thank you. (Applause.)
The Koran also teaches, in addition, to the fact that we should do unto others as we wish to have done to us, and reject for others what we would reject for ourselves, but we should also make a commitment to live in peace. There is a new moon that has risen at the end of Ramadan and a new millennium marked in many nations. And again, I say to you as we leave, in addition to your prayers and work for peace and understanding and reconciliation within the United States, I ask especially for your prayers for the current mission of peace in the Middle East.
We are on a track in which the Israelis, the Syrians, I hope soon the Lebanese, and already the Palestinians, have committed themselves to work through these very difficult, longstanding issues over the course of the next two months -- the longstanding commitment between the Palestinians and the Israelis to resolve their business by next month. So this will be a time of great tension, where all people will have to search for wisdom and understanding, where there will be great reluctance to open the closed fist and walk out into a new era.
And I think that the prayers of Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of goodwill all over the world will be needed for us to get through these next several weeks. But for you, I hope it is an immense source of pride that you live in a country that is trying to make peace in the land where your faith was born. Thank you." (Applause.)

For more imformation on Islam I encourage one to read one of the many sites on line. This one is straight foreward.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


This lucsious "earth mother" is 27 weeks pregnant.
She is exquisitely sensual, with soft curves, blurred position in a natural setting and her fullness of body witness to the miracle of life within her loins. She fills one with adoration rather than lust. To me she represents the feminist side of God.

Throughout history women and fertility have often been linked art and craft.
One of the most famous depictions is the Venus of Willendorf. She is probably a fertility charm, with her exagerated body parts. She represents womanhood in her uniqueness, as the bearer of life and nurturer. As faceless she represents all women and not a particular woman.

It is hard to fathom why women are far to often victimized and treated so badly.

Venus of Willendorf in the Vienna Museum

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Plight of Humankind

To understand a problem it can be helpful to reduce it to simpler terms. To understand the state of our world and the condition of humanity there is a video that does this. Here is it's text summary:

THE MINIATURE EARTH . online version

If we could turn the population of the earth into a small community of 100 people, keeping the same proportions we have today, it would be something like this:

61 Asians
12 Europeans
14 Americans (from North and South America)
13 Africans
01 Australian (Oceania)

50 women50 men

67 are not christian
33 are christian (Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox)

6 people own 59% of the entire wealth of the community

13 are hungry or malnourished
14 can't read
only 7 are educated at a secondary level

Of the village's total annual expenditures of just over US$ 3,000,000 per year:
US$ 181,000 is spent on weapons and warfare...
US$ 159,000 is spent on education...
US$ 132,000 is spent on health care.

If you keep your food in a refrigerator
And your clothes in a closet
You are richer than 75% of the entire world population.

If you have a bank account
You're one of the 30 wealthiest people in the world.
25 struggle to live on US$ 1.00 per day or less...

47 struggle to live on US$ 2.00 per day or less.

Work with passion
Love without needing to be loved
Appreciate what you have
And do your best for a better world.

Now watch the video

Divali: Festival of Light

Divali is a day of love and joy,
A time where people greet each other
With tidings of peace and happiness,
With words of thoughtfulness.

Divali signifies good over evil,
Light over darkness,
Love over hatred,
Truth over untruth,

In the Indian community today is the beginning of the Festival of Lights, Divali. It is a five day celebration of the conquest of light over darkness in all ways possible. It is a joyous and fun time in the Indian community for Hindus, Sihks and Jains. Candles are lite, gifts are exchanged and food is shared. In many ways it is a celebration of love. It is a community celebration with many layers of meaning rooted in ancient literature of story and myth, age old traditions and religious ideal.

I particularly like the aspect of the celebration of and reverence for women. They are revered for it is women who so often are the bearers of "light" in the community and family. They nurture, feed and do so much to enrich the lives of all.

Women are personified in the goddess Lakshmi Mati, the goddess of light, wealth and beauty. In the ancient mythology she is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Here is a description of the feminist significance of Divali,

A woman with all good characteristics and qualities is also called Lakshmi. All peace and pleasures of the family depends on the ‘Grihalakshmi’. For this reason it is the duty of every man to give due respect to women in the form of mother, sister, daughter and wife. In every form women deserve respect. . . . . . . where women are worshipped there resides God, where God resides there is heaven, where there is heaven there is blissfulness, peace contentment and prosperity. But the worship of women does not mean to be lost in ‘lust’ and luxuries and to be there slave. Woman has been given the greatest respect in Indian Culture.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Divali is a national holiday. This Caribbean Island where so many Indians were brought forcefully so many generations ago has preserved this cultural tradition and shared it with all the community. To learn more of this religious and cultural celebration I encourage you to read,

This beautiful cultural traditional festival has much to enrich us all. Learn about it and if their is any chance find some ways to celebrate it with Indian friends and neighbours.