DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008 .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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Defeating the Canadian Government

It is not very often than Canadian politics is more interesting than American politics. Well we are experiencing one of those rare occcasions.

Just seven weeks after electing a Conservative minority government, the opposition parties are seriously considering replacing the government through the political device of a "vote of no confidence" and an offer to form a coalition governments to replace the Conservatives.

How does this work, you might ask! In our parliamentary system, a minority government can only continue to govern with the confidence of the Opposition . This usually requires the governing party to make concessions to encourage the cooperation of one of more of the opposition parties. It is the government's responsibility to find a way to function with the cooperation of the opposition parties, which in reality represent the majority of the electorate.
(Canada is a traditionally left of centre society even though we have a Conservative government currently)

Normally, the opposition parties are reluctant to unite against the governing party for fear of losing their distinctive position on the political spectrum. There are some real differences among them. Rarely does a single issue offend them all.

How did this situation come about that the opposition parties are planning to defeat the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Two days ago, finance minister, put forward an economic program the Conservative hope to follow until a formal budget is presented to parliament. A couple of items in particular offended the oppostions parties. The government decided to stop public funding of the political parties. (This would hurt the cash strapped opposition parties. The Conservatives apparently are still well funded.) Also, the Conservatives are going to ban strikes among government workers for three years. But the major item that infuriated the opposition parties was the fact that the government did not put forward a major spending program to support the economy in this time of economic recession as have most industrialized countries governments around the world.

The opposition parties are working on a plan to have a vote of no confidence to defeat the government. The Liberals and New Democrats (socialists) will form a coalition and the Parti Quebecois (seperatists will promise to vote with the coalition ( for concessions for Quebec, of course). This is a serious endeavour with the retired senior politicians being called in to help arrange the political program. Ed Broadbent, former leader of the NDP and Jean Chretien, former leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister are a crafty and knowledgeable pair. Apparently the plan is well enough developed that who will get what cabinet posts have been worked out. The Liberals will hold the Prime Minister's position and the New Democrats will get important economic portfolios.

When the goverment is defeated it must go to the Governor General, Michaele Jean, and ask her to dissolve parliament as it no longer has the confidence of it's members. She can either call for another election or inquire if their is another party which could form the government with the confidence of the majority of members. It is at this point the opposition parties can put forward their coalition plan. They will argue, it is too soon after a general election to go to the polls again and they will promise to at least hold their coalition together for a year or two. If they are persuasive, the Governor General (Queen's representative) will ask them to form the government.

This situation is unique in Canadian politics. While there have been a couple of coalition governments in Canadian history, I do not believe this parliamentary proceedure has ever resultied on a Coalition Government taking over. Normally, an election would be called with the defeat of the government.

The Conservatives are scrambling to avoid a "vote of no confidence." They have put off the parliamentary opportunity for the vote for a week. They have already rescinded their plan to drop public funding of the parties. In the next week the Conservatives will be trying to convince the public that such a move by the Opposition is irresponsible and that his government has a mandate to govern. I suspect they will offer other concessions to stop the Opposition's efforts to defeat them.

It may take quite an effort. the Opposition seems to smell blood and they do not like the arrogant style of the Conservative government. Many do not personally trust Stephen Harper.
As for me, KICK THE BUMS OUT! I am not a fan of the Harper Government.

In all fairness, I feel a greater trust in the possible Coalition to handle the economic problems facing Canada. Canada's current relative strong economic situation is built upon the economic programs of the last Liberal goverenment, with years of balanced budgets and surpluses that allowed Canada to begin to pay down it's debt. They also supported adequate regulations of banks and agencies of the government that has avoided the worst of the US situation. I do not have confidence that Stephen Harper, the ideological conservative economist can make the adjustment in his thinking to bring about progressive interventionist economic programs needed at this time.

The next week will see some fascinating politics in Canada.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I wish all my American family and friends a Happy Thanksgiving. I trust you are able to share the day and a meal with significant people in your life.

I have said this before( I always think of this day fondly). It is worth saying again, "My fondest memories of my years living in the US are around Thanksgiving. American friends always included us and made us feel welcome. I had one friend in particular who , in spite of having four children of her own, always enlarged her Thanksgiving table to include not only my small family bur also other odd friends who found themselves alone at this time of year. The extra work and sharing the day with others was always a joy for her. She was a loving and gracious friend.

This year the silly tradition of pardonning a turkey by the President seemed to get more attention than it deserved. In some religious traditions on significant holidays prisoners are pardoned and release. It would have been nice if the President had pardonned and released Omar Khadr, our Canadian "terrorist" who has been tortured and is lanquishing in Quantanamo since he was 15.

(He is the last of prisoners from Western countries being held there. It is to the shame of the US that they even violated International law by punishing a 'child soldier' rather than rehabilitate him. Worse still, the Canadian government has not used Canada's special relationship with the US, to insist of Khadr being released and sent home. He is one of our children, now a young adult. who has a right to the best protection our government can offer.) Sorry, I digressed.

The young wild turkey below is one that evaded all slaughter. I like to think so! This year for the first time I have confirmed for myself that there are now wild turkeys in our area. Who knows some time soon they may be seen on my fields.

As a tribute to the Presidential pardon and Sarah Palin's pardon (in full view of the slaughter of birds) of a turkey I offer the following video. It made me smile.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

PS. If you go to the bottom item in my sidebar, the picture of the pilgrim hat and the turkey made out of vegetables. you will find one of Jacqui Lawson's remarkable animated pictures.
Click on it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Midwifery in the Pig Pen

It is midnight I thought I should check on Babe, the sow, in her farrowing pen. I was counting on all to be well as I am tired and looking forward to going to bed. But alas NO! She has started to have her litter. One lone piglet so far. I will be having a restless night checking on her. Luckily our cold weather has let up. It is up to -3C and snowing a little. One of those quiet nights with snow flakes fallen. You feel embraced by Mother Nature. Should I hum "Silent Night". I will let that pass too soon for Christmas songs.

(click on photo to enlarge)

I let Babe outside earlier today to enjoy the snow and root around.

She has a well developed undercarriage, waiting to feed a litter of piglets.
She has been in the burdock. (not my favourite weed.) Those are the hitchhikers on her side.

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One of the kittens did not share my excitment. She was content to just lie in her bowl on top of the wood box by the cook stove. Damn! she is cute.

Meanwhile, back in the shed I am a little worried about Babe. She has had one piglet and is very slow at having any more. One could be sideways blocking the birth canal. I have already told June I may need her small hands to reach up into the birth canal and break up the piglet jam.
I don't think she wants to do it. Years ago my friend Gayle did it and the sow immediately had twelve piglets in a row popping out. What a sport my friend Gayle was. Such lady friends are hard to come by. ( you would think after a nine year courtship, I could have made up my mind about marriage!!!)

I will add to this post as things progress in the farrowing pen.
1:15 AM
I returned to the shed to find a second piglet, up dry and sucking. I guess their is no blockage . Perhaps, they will come in rapid succession now.
Back to the shed after a short time in the house trying to repair the heat lamp. Things are not good. One of the little piglets that seems on their way has be laid on and is dead. There is another piglet, a red one which is up and sucking Another piglet is laying at the back of the pig and is also dead. I guess it never took a breathe. As I watch another piglet popped out. Over the rail I go and pick it up, poke it a little. It takes a breathe or two and then stops. I slap it, compressions of the chest, blow on its face, stick my finger in it mouth. Nothing, it is dead.
I now have three dead one and two living. Not good. The beginning of a disaster?
3:15 AM
Back to the shed once gain. No change. No more piglets. I set up the heat lamp and try to get the two piglets to lay under it. They do for a while but prefer to lay against the mother's feet in the danger zone. The sow has once managed to get up and change sides to lie on this evening but it is a struggle so she seem content to lie on one side. The sow is not making any sounds like she is trying hard or in pain. These piglets should be popping out. There should be 10 or more to go.
4:00 AM
I just got back from the shed and figure their must be a blockage in the birth canal. Time to get ready for the arm up the birth canal trick. I heard June get up for a trip to the washroom so I went to see her and ask her if she is ready to push here small hand up the birth canal. She declined the invitation. Chicken!!!! And Babe is her pet pig. Well I guess it is my hand Babe gets.
5:00 AM
I just got back from the shed. I pushed my arm up the sows birth canal far enough that I passed my elbow. It was easier than I thought. My arm was covered with warm water and lots of dish soap. I could just feel the head of a piglet. The presentation seemed right. I will give the sow a little more time. I watched her for a while become coming to the house. If nothing happens. I will have to try again and push my arm in further and try to pull the first piglet a little. To get my arm in further I will have to take my shirt off. I wish it were not so cool.
It has been snowing lightly all night. There is about 6 inches of snow on the ground and the light wind blows the snow into my footprints in the snow between trips. I am surprised at this amount of snow. I checked the Weather Network and it seems their will be light snow all day today. "It's starting to look a lot like Christmas. . . . ."
7:00 AM
I just came in from the shed. Babe popped out one more piglet that doesn't look too strong. I brought it to the house to warm it up and get it up steady on it's feet. I don't think it has sucked yet. I was afraid the sow might lie on it.
Babe seems to be trying to push. I thought I would try to put my arm in the birth canal again snd try to puch it further. Unfortunately, Babe has moved to a position which is awkward for me to do what I have to. I had taken some more warm soapy water to the shed just in case. I will try later.
Babe tries to get up on her feet but cannot being too fat. I can't help her by myself. It would be could if she got up, moved about and lay down on the other side. This might place the piglets in the birth canal in a better position.
I could do with some sleep but I don't wamt to leave Babe alone for to long. It would be nice to have someone to watch Babe while napped. (Just a dream.)
8:15 AM
I was just lying on my bed with Heidi (head on my shoulder). Might have dozed off for 15 minutes or so. I made a quick trip to the shed to see what was happening. Nothing! Babe is still lying on the same side although she has slid ahead a bit. I think I can do the arm in the birth canal thing again and try to get my arm in farther. Babe has delivered only 6 piglets all night. A mature sow should deliver 12 or more. The last litter she had 17. She sure looks big enough so I figure she has an obstruction. If I cannot reach it I will try to get some help to get her on her feet which might help any piglets in the birth canal to shift position.
9:00 AM
I was just with the sow and I put my arm up her birth canal again as far as I could and felt nothing. I called the vet for some free advcie. I asked her if there is an area of the uterus beyond my reach. There is. So piglets could still be in the sow. We talked about some possibilities as to what is going on. I am going to pick up some injections of oxytocin (I think). This help the uterus to contract. I also called my neighbour to see if he csn help me role her over of get her on her feet. Apparently, she could be low on calcium or just tired. I was going to try and milk her for some milk for the little one I got in the house. I may do this before I go to the vets.
12:00 Noon
I am back from the vet and just finished giving the first shot of oxytocin (the hormone of love) to Babe. She is still lying on her side and the three little pigs are in a pile under the heat lamp. In two hours I will give Babe the second shot of oxytocin. I hope then she will feel real maternal and her uterus will contract more energenically. This mothering hormone I have had around the house before to use on my cows. I have been tempted to give it to one or two crabby lady friends at times (Tee Hee).
Time for a nap for me. . . .and Heidi, of course.
2:00 PM
I went to the shed to give Babe her second shot of oxytocin to discover more piglets. Sadly, three were dead. My total as of now is 10 live piglets and 6 dead ones. There many be one or two more to be born. This is not a good count but not a total disaster. If Babe can care for 10 or 11 piglets this will be good. There will be enough teats to go around. The injection of hormone seems to have worked really well.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Early Christmas

I got my first Christmas package the other day. I don't mean to sound like it is one of many. With the exception of a book from my sister it is my only Christmas package. My second cousin, Jennifer, each year sends me a large package for Christmas, the postage alone is more than I would spend on a gift. Usually the package contains some of her home perserves, baking and Italian cakes and goodies, including a Panattone Sweet Bread. It is a great bounty of goodies I always look forward and enjoy sharing with whoever is around the house. In fact, I have had friends ask me if I had gotten the package yet. No doubt angling to share in the bounty.

This year the box contained something quite different. It was basically a box of apples, Macoun apples, a favourite of mine, which I used to enjoy when I lived in Connecticut. There were a few chocolates and a jar of perserves squeezed in along with a few photos.

I little while ago Jennifer had written me she was considering a career change. She was considering purchasing an apple farm, near where she lives in Connecticut. When I last visited she had told me she hoped to some day to start and agricultural enterprise but could not decide what it might be. At the time, she was trying to help save the last dairy farm in Connecticut, which was owned by the town but had a manager/farmer to operate it and a community group to support it. Besides, producing organic milk and milk products it was a resource for school children to visit and learn where milk comes from. After years of much effort sadly this farm has, at least temporarily, stopped operation. It was in the context of visiting this farm she told me of her hope to get involved in agriculture some day.

I was a little surprised at Jennifer's agricultural ambitions. She is a very elegant lady in her early 50's. She is single (was married for a few years in her 40s). She is a professional woman who has always worked in the construction field. She is an architectual engineer. She is a graduate of Georgia Tech and The Cooper Union. She is a woman of some means with a lovely house in a small town in Connecticut. She travels and seems to be the care giver within her family doing things to help her sister and father , in particular. She even is the care giver to me at times. I am very fond of her and she has been very generous and supportive of me at times. When I lived in New Haven, I got to know Jennifer's mother , cousain Jane, a lot better. She was my oldest cousin, my American cousin. I seemed to have been a favourite of hers who trusted me with some important issues in her life. Before her I was a favourite of her mother, my aunt Ruby, (by marriage), who was a grand dame of a lady most people found a little difficult but I found interesting. When my cousin Jane died I said to Jennifer we should correspond so that we would not lose the family connection. I always enjoyed having exotic" American cousins when I was young. So seeing her as a farmer was a bit of a stretch.

This brings me to the box of apples. Jennifer is considering purchasing an apple farm near where she lives. She is currently crunching the numbers to see it it is a viable operation for her the purchase. Unlike myself Jennifer is more of a realist and less of a dreamer than I.

Here you can visit the web site of the apple farm
One of the variety of apples grown here are Macoun. It was from here she purchased the box of apples I received. I have eaten them all already. Yummmm! I will have to go and purchase some apples to make the apple pie I was dreaming about eating.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Cousin Jennifer and I a few years ago.

Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Connecticut

Another View of the Mark Twain House.
On my last visit to Connecticut my cousin took us to the Mark Twain House seen in the above pictures. It is a interesting place and a lovely grand house. When you marry well you can live in such places even if like Twain you are a writer and when not writing you would rather play with the children. As a child my mother read to me at least twice the books Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It was interesting to see his home in Hartford.
Also, nearby is Harriet Beecher Stowe's home. She was a neighbour to Mark Twain. As a child, I had also read Uncle Tom's Cabin, based on the life of a fugative slave living in Canada.
If you ever get near Hartford, Connecticut, these historic sites are worth a visit.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Lady in the Snow

Well we had a little snow. Not much compared with what they got south of us in the snow belt.
We just got the edge of the Alberta clipper that passed through by crossing the great lakes.
I think the snow will stay and begin to accumulate. Winter is here.

The graceful Heidi is scanning the view in the direction of the shed. Hoping for a pig sighting I assume.

She remembers what she is here for and begins to sniff around.

Awwww! found it. A nice spot on the edge of the road to make a deposit. ( Before I got a big dog, I didn't consider what a waste management problem she could create.) Periodically the snow plow will be by to clear it away. She still manages to squat in a very ladylike way.

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One last look around before heading for the house, couch and warmth.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canadian Divas

I am not much of a music buff. I enjoy it when it happens but I do not usually seek it out. On radio I prefer good intelligent discussions to endless music.

I do enjoy female singers who sing songs with clear and wonderful lyrics. So the other night when the CBC was having a program of Canadian Divas through the years I listened. It also caught my attention that it was being broadcast from the Unitarian Church in Ottawa.

{Oh yes! I do love Vera Lynn and her war time songs. They always make me a little weepy.}

The scheme of the show was to play an historic recording of a famous Canadian female singer from 1930 to 1960. This was followed by a contemporary singer/musician performing in a way that paid tribute to the historic singer and yet made the music their own. This was based on a Gala recording of Famous Canadian Female singers.

Some of these singers I remembered at least back to Gisele MacKenzie, others I knew a little by historic reputation: Deanna Durbin and Norma Locke, for example. They all were well know and much loved in their era. My mother would have known them all. If you go to the Gala recording Website you will find the list of singers and a little 30 second recording sample of each.) Guaranteed to make you want to find more of their songs, perhaps, in you old record collection.

[Gala Records's mission is to preserve historic music of interest to Canadians.]

One singer I have taken a special interest is Alys Robi. She was a very famous singer in the 1940's who was much loved by the soldiers in the war. She is a French Canadian who before Celine Dion, who found acceptance in English Canada, the United States and Europe , singing in English, French and Spanish.

Alys Robi interests me because she was the girlfriend of the father of a friend of mine. In the late 40's she and Lucio Agostini were a professional team and a romantic couple. Her life was a manic depression tragedy which reflected here mental health. Lucio Agostini was both the great love of her life and her greatest heart break. He was married and in the end rejected her and would not leave his wife. Alys Robi after stuggling with life, love, and fame was finally hospitalized and lobotomized to overcome her bipolar disorder. Amazingly she survived! The CBC series of "Life and Times" did a documentary on her.

Alys Robi was never a star again but she did go on to sing and entertain again. Often she sang for Veterans who remember her from the war years.

I have included the You Tube video below because it was a show in CBC radio done by Lucio Agostini, (a famous orchestra leader and composer in Canada). on which Alys Roby performed

I hope you enjoy this bit of live radio, when radio was king. Sadly, such musical variety shows are not done much anymore except on the CBC (our beloved National Radio Network, funded by government) as was the program I began with about Contemporary Canadian Divas from the Unitarian Chruch in Ottawa. Enjoy! both listening to Alys Robi and music only as radio can present it as an exciting event.

One You Tube there are other videos of Alys Robi music, both particularly about her and others from the movies that have been made about her Life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They Can Make You Proud

Apparently, my 11 year old grandson, Dylan, asked his parents if he could stay home from school on Remembrance Day to watch the history channel on TV to learn of the meaning of the day. It seems he is not very happy with the usual thing they do a school on this day.

Dylan Robinson (the day we spent together going to pick up my dog Heidi)

Dylan is a bright child who is intellectually curious and sensitive. He is a excellent student and attends a school where the language of instruction is French, not his first language but one he has mastered.
He aspires to be a veterinarian. He is very interested in my animals. He, also, seems to enjoy listening to me about the animals and the flora and fauna of the natural world. I think we have a nice relationship.

It turns out he has a passion and talent I knew nothing about. He likes to write songs. he has taken keyboarding lessons, I am not sure if he also writes music.

In any case, in response to spending the day watching the programming around Armistice Day, he wrote a song about the WWI battle of Passchendaele, the third battle of Ypres, in which Canada played a major role in winning at the price of 16,000 Canadian Corp soldiers.

Here is his song:

Passchendaele Was A Living Hell

Passchendaele was a living hell
Is a story I will tell
It’s a story so scary
In the Belgium’s muddy prairie

German’s had all the good guns
So they killed tons and tons
But when the German’s where done
It was the British and Canadian's who had won

Passchendaele, Passchendaele was a living hell
If you go there you will see the shells
Exploiting in the air, those German’s didn’t care.

16,000 Canadian soldiers gone in a flash
Whatever’s left of the bodies is smaller than ash
For five months these countries fought
One Million Soldiers got bombed or got shot

Now I am done my story
And today it’s still Belgium’s territory
These countries lost one million people for nothing.

So for some families the news must sting
When you get the news that someone you know dies
It makes you want to curl up and cry.

Dylan November 11, 2008

I think I am prouder of him more for caring enough to learn about WWI, than for his song writing.

I give high praise to his parents for understanding not all learning is in school and to recognize they have a trustworth son who can stay home alone and do as he said he would.

Well done, Dylan.

I look forward to having an interesting conversation with Dylan about what he learned.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting Along Before She Got Along

It has been a long time since I have had to negotiate living arrangements with a woman. I found the items below amusing. I also recognized them from my past.

Two things you should know about me.

1. I am passive-aggressive .

2. The more people demand something of me, the less I do it when asked.

Those are probably just one thing.

The second thing might be. I hate conflict. It is usually for this reason I am motivated to meet a demand.

Nine Dangerous Words Women Use


This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

"Five Minutes."

If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.


This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin in Nothing usually end in Fine.

"Go Ahead."

This is a dare, not permission. Don't do it!!

"Loud Sigh."

This is not quite a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about Nothing. (Refer back to #3 for the meaning of Nothing.)

"That's Okay."

This is one of the most dangerous statements a woman can make to a man. That's Okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.


Don't read anything into this. Do not question it. Do not faint. Just say, "You're welcome." Sometimes that works.


Meaning screw you! Don't worry about it;

"I got It."

This is something a woman has told a man to do several times but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking "What's wrong?" For the woman's response, refer to #3.

I wish I had been better at reading the verbal cues!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembrance Day

I prefer Armistice Day, which is what it was called when I was a child. We remembered that the Great War, the war to end all wars , was ended with an armistice signed in the 11th month, on the 11th day at the 11th hour in 1918.

On this day, we remember the sacrifice of all those who died in this war and subsequent wars: WWII, Korea and Peacekeeping Missions around the World. Currently, we remember the soldiers who have died as a result of our involvement in Afghanistan.

For most of us the central act of our rememberance is a two minute silence at 11:00 AM wearing our poppy, the symbol of this day which dates from WWI. There is, of course, the offical ceremony broadcast from Ottawa.

It is the most serious of demands that a country can make on its citizens, to risk one's life in a military conflict. Our leaders have a heavy responsibility to ask any of us to do this. They need always to be held account for their decisions.

A propaganda poster from WWI

As a form of remembrance on this day I like to read a little about one of the wars, it's history, people's lives and battles. I am particularly fascinated with WWI. It was an unimaginably dirty war where soldiers were expendible commodities.
This year with the Canadian film, Passchendaele,a dramatization, we are reminded of one of the nastiest campaigns. Canada, in its courageous effort lost 16,000 soldiers while making the difference in this battle. The Allies lost about 500,000 and the Germans 260,000 all for a very muddy part of Belgium , which once won was shortly after abandoned to the enemy. Many bodies were never recovered. Soldiers just fell in the mud and water, dead or to drown and then just to be trampled into the ground. It was calculated that in one square mile one million bombs were dropped. It is hard to imagine such a devastating casualty toll would be acceptable today. Of course, now technological warfare can devastate the enemy from a distance.
During WWI Canada had a population of about 8 million. 600,000 Canadians went off to the war in defense of the British Empire. Canada was still in many ways a British colony. For the first time Canadians fought together as the Canadian Corp within the British military. By WWII, Canada, as an independent country sent 1 million troops toward that war effort. While we are not a militarized society, Canadians have a proud military history of honourable and courageous service when called, "for God and country."
Below are some websites I spend much of the weekend reading. To further understand the First World war I recommend them to you, starting with The First World War. com. It is full of information. I was particularly interested in the poetry and songs of the time. They are interesting to read and listen to. The poster collection at McGill are works of popular art which tell us a lot about the period of time. Also, very interesting are the War Artists of the First World War. (Among there were three of the Canadian Group of Seven artists, Jackson, Lismer and Varley).
To go on and read about the life and times of an ordinary soldier read the blog assembled from the correspondence of The experience of a WWI British Soldier or visit the Oral Histories of the First World War.
War is so much more that battles and politics. it is about ordinary people, their lives and their times.Looking at these Internet resources can make the war and its era come alive , real to us. for a time so very long ago, worthy of remebrance.

An extensive source of information on WWI I particularly enjoyed the songs and poems of WWI

The Canadian film, "Passchendaele"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Get Up. Get Out, Get Going

In spite of a run of lovely weather I find it hard to get up and going these mornings.
My aches and pains, mainly in my knees, slow me up and tire me out. Also, I am often forced to get up and go outside with the dog in the middle of the night. This begins with Heidi sticking her face in mine and being quietly persistent until I struggle.

Our brief, mid-night crawling is refreshing with some moments to enjoy the starry heaven on these clear and cool nights. But. . . .

I am quick to crawl under the comforter when I return and resume my sleep without missing a

This is a poster which hangs above my bed. I was given to me by a dear American friend who used to regularly visit me her, as I did her in Jamestown, New York. She thought it reminded her of me. I guess she saw me as a curmudgeonly bearded guy always seeking to teach some young child something. It was a time when children, most not mine, played a big part in my life. Where have those years gone. Now it is animals that demand and get my attention.

"Turn the light off! It is too early to get up."

It seems Heidi is reluctant to get up this morning. Last night, not once, but twice, she got me up for a trip outside. I don't feel all that well rested this morning so she can get up and suffer along with me. While I set a fire in the woodstove and get a coffee, she just moves from sleeping on the bed to napping on the couch. Oh! for a dog's life!

Heidi is looking in my laundry basket for her pet kittens, which she enjoys. The mother cat is not so sure Heidi should be so close. (Click on the photo to see the cats distress)

The task today. Split some more wood. I am still behind in this chore. While my knees are not so good my wood spitting muscles are still good. To tell the truth, spitting wood is more skill than strength. I consider it a form of meditation, the Zen of woodspitting, in the spirit of the Christian mystic, Evelyn Underhill who wrote, "Work is a form of Prayer." Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Black President. . . .Barely!

It has only been a couple of days but I am already tired of hearing about Barack Obama skin colour.

He did not run a campaign which used the race issue to get votes. In fact, Afro-Americans did not flock to his side until he was readily accepted in large numbers by white Americans. Then ,and only then, did Afro-Americans think there just might be a chance to see one of their own elected President. Even then, Obama did not do anything special to garner their vote. He did not surround himself with Afro-Americans with long standing political and social activist credentials. I thought at the time, "How the US has matured". Could the US have moved beyond it racist roots. Perhaps, I should change some of my thinking.

The fact is, Barack Obama hardly qualifies to be Afro-American. His American mother was white. His father was not American but an African. He does not carry in his soul the stigma of slavery. This is not his cultural narrative. He was raised in an white household. His schooling was largely in societies that did not pay much attention to skin colour, in Hawaii and Indonesian. He got an education in large white Universities and went to a presitigous Law school at Harvard. This is not a background that many Afro-Amercians can identify with. It would be a more accurate description to say that Barack Obama is white. He is culturally white and only his skin colour makes one call him black. How superficial is the race designation!

(It has turned out that he is was the perfect candidate to be the first Black President: whites were not threatened by him and black accepted him as one of their own.)

I have seen this up close. I had a cousin who was adopted and of mixed ethnicity. She was part Jamaican and part white. She could be called an Afro-Canadian, although she had little or no cultural contact with the black community, going to school in a small rural town and later at a private girls school. She was culturally white. ( The only "black" problem was my aunt never knew how to cope with her hair)

At the time in her life when she wanted to know about what it meant to be Black, she came to see me. I was the closest person she knew who knew what it was to be culturally black. I had lived for 10 years in American inner city neighbourhoods. I had been part of the civil rights struggle, I had read extensively the literature, from Frederick Douglass, to WEB Debois, to Frantz Fanon, to Richard Wright and many in between. I talked to her at length. In the end she seemed satisfied but did not go on to identify with the Black community by taking part on Black culture in the city.

I also had a close black friend, who lived with us when we were in Seminary. He was from Jackson, Mississippi and advanced in life by always having a white benefactor: his white minister in Jackson (who survived a shooting there during the civil rights struggle) a wealthy Boston lady, myself, our denomination (which wanted black minister to demonstrate how liberal they were )and others. (On graduation a special ministry was created for him in Cleveland.) This conflicted him at the time of the black power struggle.

He was not comfortable in his own skin. Publically he was very vocal and black espousing Black Power. Privately, he just wanted a quiet parish where he could be a humble pastor. I was one of the few friends who could tell him he was a fraud; Like the time he revealed how he was an habitue at a fancy dinner club at the top of the Prudential Center in Boston at the same time he was a black power agitator on the streets of Roxbury.

And then, there was the time, in Cleveland, when he was trying to talk a black couple into including a "African Dance" in their wedding which he claimed to have learned from a Nigerian. After he demonstrated the dance, the man slowly commented, " Looks like the Mississippi shuffle to me!" I don't know who was more embarassed; me, for him, or himself.

Cultural identity, which is part of our core Self, is so much more than skin colour. Barack Obama culturally is more upper middle class white than black. This is how he dresses and presents himself in public. He does not speak "Black English" or argue through parables like a black preacher. He is disciplined, rational, articulate and uses proper formal English in making his arguments. Interesting, it was his minister, Reverend Wright, who epitomized the black culture, from his preaching style, black slang right down to wearing a dashiki. Could Barack Obama been a cultural voyeur in Wright's church.

I recently read Barack Obama went to work in Chicago as a community organizer because he wanted to understand better he plight of the urban Black poor. Could it have been an effort at self discovery?

The Black Community has unquestioningly embraced Barack Obama, as one of their own. He has had few Black critics of his cultural presentation of himself, with the exception of Jesse Jackson getting caught in a ungarded moment threatening him physical harm for daring to lecture the Black community to take responsibility for the state of the Black family in American. It is time the men to stepped up and be men and take responsibility for their children and their families. (As truthful as this may be in depicting the plight of the urban Black family, his judgement is that of the middle class white culture). He may come to be judged more harshly by the Black community if he does not deliver the goods as President. I think their judgement is supended for now.

I, for one, am waiting to see how many well qualified minorities, including women, make it into his administration in powerful positions. How much change will we really see. So far he seems to be surrounded by the usual bunch of white male power brokers. Time will tell.

Barack Obama has a daunting task. His white benefactors, his white constituents, his Black constituents and other world politicians are expecting a lot from him. I trust he will find his own voice and continue to speak for himself and achieve what he feels called to achieve. Otherwise, he will be pulled in all directions. I hope he get beyond always being the first Black President. If he is judged by his skin colour he may have trouble pleasing everyone. In any case, I, for one, am getting tired of it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Down to the Wire

Well! our American neighbours are about to elect a new President. The end of the Bush presidency is in view. If Canadians, or people in almost any other country of the World had a vote, Obama would win hands down. Only, in America, is it considered even close.

If I had a vote I would vote for Obama. When is all began he would have not been my first choice. I liked Denis Kucinich, one of the few real progressive politicians. Later,as the choice narrowed, I liked Governor Richardson, with his vast foreign affairs experience. Now the choice is Obama or McCain. It is a no brainer.

Obama is an intelligent articulate person. He has a vison for the US. He is a prgmatist and not driven by ideology with slogans for solutions. He believes he will surround himself with intelligent progressive people who will given him good advice. He will listen to a broad range of advice and make rational decisions. He can put an intelligent sentence together, even paragraphs, and an uplifting articulate address, without muffing the English language. the US has had enought of a President who is a "common man", it needs an uncommon man who is smarter than most of us.

Obama is not without disappointment for me.

One of the most disappointing is that he has shunned Muslims. In the face of being accused of being a Muslim he has not said he has Muslims in his family, of whom he is proud. And, if he were a Muslim he would be proud to admit he was; for, Islam is one of the great religions of mankind with many values it shares with Christianity and Judaism. It took Colin Powell in his endorsement of Obama to say what had to be said. Being a Muslim in America is part of the ethnic/religious mix of the nation and Muslim have every right to participate fully in the society including believing one of their number could some day run for President. Muslims now outnumber Jews in the US. Why did no one actively seek the Muslim vote.? It could have made a difference in Michigan.

Obama failed to publically defend his friend Dr. Khalili when he was spoken of as a "terrorist" when in fact he is a well respected Palestinian-American scholar on the Middle East. For Obama to shrink from defending Islam shows a degree of a lack of moral courage. I hope, when President, he shows more courage. he needs to show leadership in helping Americans to overcome their Islamophobia. Dr Khalili's books are worth reading. Obama could have encourage people to do so.

In Mosul, Iraq, when the Christian community came under attack and many fled the city, many Muslims were concerned for their neighbours plight and tried to help them. Why! Well is it required in Islam to be particularly protective of Christians for in its early history the Christians protected the Prophet. Here is Sunshine, a charming teenage Iraqi blogger writing about this.

The last two orders that our prophet gave before he died were to be kind with women and to protect and treat the Christians the best way, because they supported the prophet and protected him with his followers, we own them forever otherwise it will consider a discrepant(sic) for his will..

Mosul citizens helped as much as they could, by raising amounts of money, bought food, matrixes, and necessary things and took them to villages where their friends and neighbors were staying, it is not a charity or so, it is our job to help each other, and support each other, I wish I'll wake up tomorrow and find everything good, no more battles, killing and threatening..

It is past the time to reciprocate : we should stand up for our Muslim neighbours beginning with President Obama.

I would prefer if Obama were a political progressive. He is spoken of by his detractors as among the most liberal legislators and even a possible Socialist. This makes me laugh. He is no Socialist. Those who accuse him of being one just demonstrate their ignorance. He is a right of center liberal which would place him in the middle of the American political spectrum. In Canada, he might be thought of a progressive conservative (Once the name of our current Conservative party) on the basis of his political programs from foreign policy (militarily aggressive and wedded to Israel) to his half way measure for a health care plan. His plan, like McCain's supports private insurers. To realize the savings necessary for a truly universal health plan private insurers and the profit motive must be elliminated. he needs to listen to the health care professionals who prefer a single payer universal health care program. Canada has a fine health care syatem that cost 1/2 per person the US system does. The US is the only liberal democracy that does not have a government funded program which makes it unheard of for people to all they own due to illness . Here you will find two videos worth watching.

I am disappointed that Obama has not forcefully declared he will end torture and close the prisons around the World holding political prisoners. Those prisoners who will not be charged with a crime should be sent home. If they cannot go home for some reason, like the Chinese Muslims, they should be invited to come and stay in the US. They are the US responsibility. I will be disppointed if Obama does not end this shame on America in his inaugral address.

He needs to tell the American people that he will begin to repair the damage done to the Constitution by the Bush Administration, beginning with a investigation of illegal and criminal behaviour. War crimes need to be prosecuted in the US before the International Community tries them in the International Criminal Court. Only when the US, faces up to the damage done by the Bush Administration can it's reputation as a just and well respected World leader be restored. With the Democratic party dominating all three branches of the Federal government, the opportunity to restore the Nation fully is possible.

Like most people around the World, I shall be watching the election results with a keen interest and a hope for the Great Republic. We all pray that Barack Obama is up to the task and will rise to the occasion. The World has great expectations.