… here again


One of my favourite words, and certainly something I appreciate in others.  Mainly because its opposite- credulous– just isn’t something I get.

At all.

I’ve talked about it before.  Most recently in recounting my reread of Dr. Sagan‘s The Demon Haunted World.

And one of my all time go-to books of profound influence is all about credulity.

In Umberto Eco’s incredible Foucault’s Pendulum, its narrator, Casaubon, after years of education and experience, opted to become credulous for a time.  As we meet the various nefarious characters- those involved in the conspiracy theories and elaborate tales of the survival of the Templars, the Rosicrucians and immortal characters like the Comte de Saint-Germain, we grow, along with Casaubon, in the realization that credulity is among the most dangerous of human vices.

Casaubon was named after the classical scholar Isaac Casaubon- the ‘most learned man of his time’ (1159-1614), who challenged the ‘common wisdom’ of the day with his research into texts and historical writings- but also referenced his son, Méric Casaubon, the author of (among other things) On Credulity and Incredulity in Things natural, civil and divine (1668).  In that work, as a man of his times, he argued (again, among other things) that witches must exist- since everyone believed in them.

Eco’s Casaubon is a melding of the father and the son- learned, yet willfully credulous.  Why not?  Everyone else seems to be.  He remains one of my favourite literary characters.

I first read this book when I was at something of a crossroads (those crossroads again…).  I had taken a year off from my undergrad while I attempted to figure out just what direction I wanted to be taking with my studies.  I had decided that journalism wasn’t for me, Medieval Studies was too limited in time-frame, English wasn’t interdisciplinary enough… What to do?

I remember sitting in a favourite tiny hole-in-the-wall in Ottawa (the Ozon Cafe on Charlotte at Rideau- LOVED that place- the chef would eventually become one of my dearest friends) and reading about the damage credulity can wreak if allowed to run unchecked, and thinking to myself that I’d reallyreally love to DO something about making sure that we become less credulous and more discriminating- in what we believe and why we believe it.

The ‘Diabolicals’- so named by the three literary co-conspirators Belbo, Diotallevi and Casaubon, with patronizing disdain- created flimsy connections between historical events to support their theories about the occult secrets of the world.  In creating their own conspiracy theory and contriving to have it fall into the hands of the Diabolicals, the creators let credulity overtake their lives and, ultimately, ended up either dead or deluded as a result of their imaginary/constructed Plan.

I can honestly and legitimately say that Umberto Eco- and Foucault’s Pendulum, specifically- was one of the driving forces that landed me in Religious Studies (there were others- Dad was reading all kinds of interesting things about de-institutionalizing religions that gave me some food for thought, and I’ve always been intrigued by our collective stories).  But the terrifying prospect, illustrated in Foucault’s Pendulum, of credulity run amok was too much for me to face.  I had to start learning about how and why people would choose to willingly and blindly follow the prescriptions/proscriptions of cultures that disappeared millennia ago.

Generally speaking, I am predisposed to trust people and the fact that sofreakinmany remain willing to be trapped and stunted by credulity is still- even after so very many years of studying and, at times, participating in experiential communities- inexplicable to me.  Generally speaking.

Of course, credulity isn’t something that it restricted to religion(s) and religious/spiritual belief(s).  The gullible/unwilling to do the research can be found in other spheres.  Ones just as influential and potentially dangerous.

Government conspiracy theorists are high up there on my list of people I really don’t want to engage in ‘conversation’ at the mo’.  I’m not suggesting that we should ever sit by, complacently, and let our leaders run roughshod over our democracy.  Never that.  We have responsibilities as citizens of democratic nations.

The primary duty is to actually get out there and participate in the process- by voting- after examining the issues and the response and proposed solutions in order to choose our best possible leaders.  So you voted and still don’t like the way things are going?  Get more involved- volunteer, start a grass-roots movement, write a blog post…

But believing that our elected governing bodies are ALL working- ceaselessly and with contemptuous greed- to deceive the voting public about everything?  C’mon now.

Communicating and articulating informed perceptions of our realities is the only way out of the quagmire of superstition and credulity in which we seem to be trapped.  Buying the line of chatter offered by a talking head that is likely on the payroll of an institution with a self-serving mandate ain’t gonna cut it, folks.

As humans we see connections between things- that’s one of the many ways in which we attempt to make sense of the inexplicable.  I do that.  A lot.  The back catalogue (such as it is) hereabouts demonstrates that little fact quite clearly.  We create meaning from the bits and pieces of things that surround us.

I get it.  I do.  But I don’t structure my life according to these perceived connections.

Just because a bunch of people (or Fox News) tell me that the POTUS wasn’t born in Hawaii doesn’t mean it’s true.   A few radical racist anti-semites tell us that the Holocaust never happened?  Not according to the historical and human experiential records we have available to us.

Millions of people are willing to accept that a book of stories and social strictures is the divinely dictated word of a deity?  I’m not one of them.  I did that homework, and drew different conclusions- based in evidential research that says something else.

Last weekend (last weekend?  Really?  It’s Friday again already?  Where is the summer going?) I took a road trip to our Nation’s Capital to help celebrate the wedding of one of my dearest friends in the world.  On the long drive, I let the Shuffle Daemon have its head and set the playlist.

This one came up as we drove:

I seem to be living my life in placeholders these days.  There just aren’t enough hours…

Matt Johnson.  I don’t throw the word genius around lightly, but this guy… Brilliance.  Embodied.  He will be revisited at some point.

For now…

Recorded between 1988 and 1989, Mind Bomb is an album heavy on the politics and religion- and the politics of religion.  That ^^^ little ditty is profound and prophetic in so very many ways- and the introduction (Are you ready Jesus?  Buddha?  Mohammad?), with its allusion to The Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz (a song about another sort of chaos) is just sososo clever.

 ‘The world is on its elbows and knees, it’s forgotten the message and worships the creeds…’

Yep.  Why?  Because ‘they’ tell us to do so.

Did you catch the news this week?  Have you seen what is blowing up, again, in the ‘Holy Land’?  And the political maneuvering that is happening as a result?

It’s past time to stop listening to ‘them’ in our credulous intellectual laziness.

 Informed rationality.  That’s what it has to be about.

Heavy thoughts for a beautiful Friday evening in my City on the Lake.    Going to shake off the week, and I’m thinking that, perhaps, I’ll let Matt’s reference lead me into my weekend- which will involve the usual chores and catch-up and some reading (and maybe even some writing) that I’ve been meaning to get at…

But for now…

‘My dreams are getting so strange, I’d like to tell you everything I see…’

Happy Friday!

We Write…

Had to share this. Wonderful, lyrical words to get you thinking about the power of communication and the impetus to share our thoughts.


We write of summer meadows and of dewdrops,

Of circles caught in circles in our mind,

Of senses’ fantasies that beg releasing, in

Images that seep on page to find

Recognition in the land of journey

Of imagination played before our fluttered eyes,

Of colours bright or muted, freed from prism,

Of right or wrong, of truth, of evil lies.


We write of winter howling in bare treetops,

Of geometric tangents linked with space,

Of god and gifts and sad laments of knowing

Revealed inside the gifs behind our face,

Of politics and grace and favour owing,

Of how, by nature, owls seek out and track their prey

While, through the night, their silent wings stir currents,

Nocturnal voice, soft breathing held at bay.


We write at dawn and in night’s tiptoed torment

Of tales and thoughts, common to us all,

Of worlds within the world we all…

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Happy Birthday Canada!

Well.  Between my little rant last night, the fact that I got to do my civic duty as a voter not once but TWICE this month (in addition to our provincial election earlier this month my riding had a federal by-election yesterday), the evidence that journalism might just have a redemptive future in the form of one of my former students who is now an intern with a major news organization and who is producing wonderful articles (as evidenced here: http://globalnews.ca/news/1425365/climbing-parliament-hill-on-wheels/), the fact that I’m not affected (directly, anyway) by the insanity of SCOTUS’ latest decision (seriously, SCOTUS?  WTF?), the end of a wonderful World Pride- lovingly hosted by my hometown, and the fact that THREE of my very favourite Canucks were awarded the Order of Canada, I’m back to being the shiny-happy Maple Leaf Forever cole of yore.

Chris Hadfield- our astronaut extraordinaire- was one of recipients.  While he was up there on the International Space Station, along with recording an awesome version of Space Oddity, he did an incredible job of educating our young folk about the importance of, well, education.  Since his return he continues to lead by example- talking about the beauty of this planet we call home and the need to majorly up our concern about its future.

Still brings a tear of pride to my eye.

Rick Mercer has long been my fave homegrown comedic relief to the ins and outs of the political realm.  His rants are things of glory and insight spoken with an honesty that is becoming all too rare.

He’s off for the summer, but his remarks about the ‘mayor’ are points well taken.  The problem isn’t all with the train wreck that is the person, it’s the fact that the politics still resonate with too many people.  Who don’t know better.  And don’t want to know better.  Wait.  That’s taking me back toward my rant of yesterday.  And today I’m shiny-happy cole.

Guy Gavriel Kay… Jebus.  What can I say about that guy?  I have a post that has been languishing in my drafts folder for almost a year now.  I just haven’t been able to bring myself to hit ‘publish’ as of yet.  Any words of mine seem to pale brutally in comparison to his mastery of character and history and plot.  Suffice it to say- for now, at least- that he is my favourite Canadian author.  Someday I will stop with the hyper-self-editing and offer up my fulsome praise of the novels that have impacted me so greatly.

A friend and I have this thing we do when a correspondence requires a complete response and we don’t have the time- or insight- to provide one immediately.  We send a ‘placeholder’ text or email which marks our intention to get back to the discussion asap.

Let’s call this a placeholder about Guy.


My Canadianess is a complicated thing.  I love our people, our diversity, our landscapes and lakefronts.  Our history of making important- if sometimes understated- marks on the world stage is something in which I take great and ever-growing pride.

But it’s summertime.  And in summer my thoughts turn, as they often do, to music.  OUR music- one of our enduring contributions to the record of humanity north of the 49th parallel.

So… the Shuffle Daemon has the wheel today.

When I first got up this morning- to cloudy skies and heavy rain (which have since cleared up), my pal Booksy had beat me to the punch with her literary/musical Canada Day tribute.  It’s awesome.  Go have a look: http://lostandfoundbooks.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/mixed-tape-canada-day-music-for-book-lovers/.  I second every single one of her choices (especially the Rheostatics, her Hip choice and, of course, Gordie Lightfoot) and won’t duplicate her selections in my list here.’

But… since we were just talking about the Hip…

‘Courage’ was my original choice- it is, as Booksy noted, based on Hugh MacLennan’s Governor General’s Award Winning The Watch That Ends the Night– and therefore Canadian times two.  But ‘Bobcaygeon’, like much of the Hip’s music, is infused with that same sense of completeness in its Canadianism.

Named for a small town in the Kawartha Lakes district of Ontario (and not far from where I spent my first cottage weekend of the season a couple of weeks ago), the song references the 1933 Christie Pits riot in Toronto (that I spoke about briefly in the post about my Grandad) started by a bunch of xenophobic anti-semites during the Great Depression.  The song evokes both the complicated history of our multicultural heritage and the wonder to be found as the ‘constellations reveal themselves’ in the sky over cottage country.  Love.

Arguably the best thing to come out of Hamilton (I’m from Toronto, I’m supposed to dis Hamilton).  I bought Teenage Head’s ‘Tornado’ on 45 at the ‘5 and Dime’ in Wiarton, Ontario (while on our annual family vacation to a Lodge on Lake Huron) more years ago than I care to acknowledge.  They were Canadian punk heroes and I love them.  Okay, so they caused a riot at my Horseshoe Tavern in 1978, and then again at Ontario Place in 1980, but for this I forgive them.  I was waaaaaay to young to have been there, anyway.

Wow, just realized I’ve been referencing a whole lot of riots in this post.  We’re not a riotous people, really we aren’t.

Back to the Daemon…

I’ve been thinking about this band a lot lately- started a post all about them, actually.  But, once again, haven’t had the time to devote to doing them justice.  There seems to be a renewal of chatter about them out there lately- that 80’s resurgence thing, I guess- and I’m following Ivan on the Facebook and the Twitter.

Back in the early 80’s they screamed Canada to me.  Not only were they offering up solid synth-based danceable and fun tunes, they incorporated both official languages in the songs on their Rhythm of Youth album.  I think I wore out the tape, playing it on my Walkman so often.  This will be another of those placeholders– the band was certainly part of my youthful exuberance.

One placeholder leads to another… The Band.  On the Wikipedia they are described as ‘American-Canadian’, but Robbie is ours.  They deserve their own post, and they’ll get it, eventually.

For now…

Okay, so it’s a song about American history, but it is so well-crafted and -researched that it deserves its place as one of the great Canadian tunes.  And Levon was pretty awesome, too.  Even if he wasn’t Canadian.

Broken Social Scene is the exemplar when it comes to the wonder that is our music industry up here in the North.  With its ever-changing line-up of contributors, the band is all about contribution and collaboration.  They reject the moniker ‘super-group’, but they’re pretty damn super, if you ask me.  Their impact on Canadian music- indie and otherwise- has been profound.

Strangely, I like Feist when she is with the band.  On her own, not so much.  Togetherness is better.

Speaking of indie bands- and liking the chick vocalists better with a band than on their own (same thing holds true with Neko, IMO)…

And, since I can’t stay away from these guys (and because I saw them a couple of weeks ago- touring with original member Pete Cash for the first time in years), a little number from my hometown guys to send me off out into the Canada Day/evening and its festivities.

Ah, so young.  Although Andy is surprisingly unchanged.  And his dancing has altered not at all.

Let me just say again, in case you might have missed it before.  I love my home and native land.  Our patriotism tends to be somewhat more self-effacing than that of some of our neighbours, but I am proud and privileged to call myself Canadian.  Our national birthday provides the perfect annual opportunity to sing that from the rooftop patios, balconies, lakeside beaches or city streets.

Happy Birthday Canada.  May you have many more.