The hand, writing on the wall

Hello there strangers… Been a while…

Between the extended recovery time that followed an awesome holiday (more on that to come), and a laptop that is down (and pretty much out- hoping to find a replacement this weekend) for the count, logging blogging time has been a little tricky of late.

So… again with the reblog.

While away, I had the opportunity to take in the British Museum and to hang out with a whole bunch of ancient things and peeps I’d been reading about for decades. They have an outstanding collection from Mesopotamia and Assyria, and visiting my ancient friends called this post to mind.

We are less than two weeks from a very important municipal election here in TO- one that I referenced way back when I originally wrote the post. The circumstances have changed a little- our current ‘mayor’ is unable to run again, so his brother has stepped in to drive the Ford Nation bus in its headlong rush to oblivion. If the rhetoric- from all three ‘viable’ candidates- since my return is any indication, I’m not sure that this election will institute the sea-change that is required to get this town onto the necessary footing to remedy the missteps that have been the norm for the past number of years, and to move forward with making the city livable and workable in the future. Sigh.

So… Let this be a reiteration of my Mene Mene. Positive forward momentum, while looking backwards and acknowledging our mistakes. THESE are the things that need addressing. Let’s DO this thing, TO.

colemining

The Hebrew Scriptures have some pretty cool stories that contain some really cool characters and memorable lines.  I’ve been studying the texts of the OT and NT and the Apocrypha, and Pseudipigrapha, and the literatures of neighbouring countries (Egypt, the Ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, and etc.) for so very long now, it’s tricky trying to single out what (and who) makes my absolute top of the pops of ancient literature.

I have resolved my love-hate relationship with the particular text(s) that served as the focus of my doctoral thesis- and I’m back to hanging out and having fun with my gnostics, in all their ‘heretical’ glory.  I’ve neglected the Egyptians and Mesopotamians a bit lately- after teaching about them for a few years running and visiting with them at the ROM on a weekly basis we all needed some time apart.

The NT and I remain estranged- there are still some residual hard feelings left over from my Master’s thesis…

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‘It’s the same old story…’

Apologies in advance as this post is likely to be somewhat all over the place.  I’m a little medicated- I think I’m fighting a sinus infection.  This polar vortex/never-ending winter nonsense is kicking my ass.

Since I’ve already discussed the deeply-held conviction I have- the one which states that we are increasingly (and willingly) falling victim to organized and concerted attempts to keep us insulated from/ignorant of the important shit going down in the world- I won’t reiterate my discouragement yet again.  It’s clearly posted any number of times for those who choose to have a look.

But.  The Oscars.

I do appreciate finely crafted films- and the artistry that is involved with the entirety of the process.  The writing of the story, the vision behind the scenery and cinematography.  The costumes, the make-up.  And, of course, the performances that serve to bring the stories alive.

I like movies.  I do.

And they don’t have to be super-serious, story-heavy films to get my seal of approval.

I’m still reeling from the loss of Dr. Egon Spengler, earlier this week.  While I know that the great Harold Ramis left us a wonderful collection of time-tested comedic brilliance, Ghostbusters remains up near the top of my all-time favourites list.  I can quote that movie pretty much word-for-word.  I’ve used it in classes.  Every time I visit NYC and come across one of the landmark buildings from the film I am ridiculously happy.

Egon’s serious, scientific mien was the perfect foil for Ray’s innocence and Peter’s smarmy used-car salesman schtick.  Which is why his one-liners had so much impact.

I appreciate film-making as both an art form and as pure entertainment, and there is no doubt at all that each year some very important films are rightfully nominated for these awards as a representation and validation of their place in our cultural canon.

12 Years a Slave is my choice for must see viewing this particular year (and I say this despite the fact that Brad Pitt is in it- generally speaking you can’t pay me to see anything with that guy).  Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir remains one of the most affecting reads I’ve ever experienced.  It should be required reading- and now viewing- in schools everywhere.

I have to admit that none of the rest of the films piqued my interest enough to see them when they were in theatres, but I will check out Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena, and Captain Phillips, eventually.

Still, I just can’t bring myself to care about the pageantry that is the Academy Awards.

In addition to the ever-ostentatious red carpet and the tired jokes and digs at fellow celebrities (not that I don’t think Ellen will be a great host), the pomp and self-aggrandizing glad-handing and masturbatory back-patting kind of ruffles my feathers.

It’s a matter of priorities.  And I don’t think that we are able- or willing- to adequately prioritize our time, at all, anymore.

Especially not this year when the ‘local’ twist is that Mayor McCheese will be attending.  Jimmy Kimmel is involved, somehow.  I’m not sure if he invited RoFo to be his guest or what.  I don’t really care.  I’m sick to death of anything that serves to validate this guy in any way.  Or that gives him any sort of platform to further his self-serving re-election campaign.

If the fact of his presence at an event that is broadcast to the world isn’t a clear demonstration that the drawn-out awards season has become completely irrelevant as anything except personal glory-seeking and attention-whoring…

Sigh.

Especially during a week that saw the situation in Ukraine escalate, and the Russians making moves that might result in war, and American assertions that Putin’s actions might end with his nation’s removal from the G8.

These are world changing events.  We’re in a whole mighty-big-Twinkie load of trouble.

Yet many of us will be spending five or more hours witnessing and then talking about the outrageous fashions/jewellery/hairstyles of the Hollywood A-listers.  And the irresponsible and clueless elected leader of this city- as he attends the elite event (belying his claims to be against all things ‘elite’- here at home, anyway) seemingly oblivious to the fact that those who invited him are laughing at him, rather than with him.

So he will continue his posturing and campaigning.  Endearing himself to those who attracted to the bright and shiny things that lay outside their reach while yet applauding his ‘man-of-the-people-ness.’  Those same people who will never see the mutual-exclusivity of those two extremes and who will vote for him again come October.

We need to stop giving this guy a stage and an audience.  But, like awards season as a whole, it’s truly ‘the same old song and dance’.

‘Get yourself cooler, lay yourself low
coincidental murder, with nothing to show
with the judge, constipation will go to his head
and his wife’s aggravation, you’re soon enough dead

it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend
it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend

gotcha with the cocaine they found with your gun
no smoothy face laywer to getcha undone
say love ain’t the same on the south side of town
you could look, but you ain’t gonna find it around

it’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend
it’s the same old story, same old story
same old song and dance

fate comes a-knockin’, doors start lockin’
your old time connection, change your direction
ain’t gonna change it, can’t rearrange it
can’t stand the pain when it’s all the same to you, my friend

when you’re low down and dirty, from walkin’ the street
with your old hurdy-gurdy, no one to meet
say love ain’t the same, on the south side of town’

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry could have been writing about RoFo.

‘I’m worried, Ray. It’s getting crowded in there and all my data points to something big on the horizon.’

And we’re down a Ghostbuster to help get us through.

Go gently, Mr. Ramis.  Thank you for the laughter.

PS.  On a FAR more optimistic note, a couple of wonderful bloggers have seen fit to nominate me for a couple more awards.  Kim, at Let me Reach with Kim Saeed, offers valuable insights and information for those dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Madeline, at Madeline Scribes, is a source for diverse discussions based in her experience as a professional social researcher.  They offer valuable perspectives on many of the things that I am wont to discuss hereabouts and are truly Voices of Inspiration.  Please do go and visit with them- I have no doubt you’ll learn something. 

Thank you both sincerely for the nominations!  I very much appreciate the recognition.


Songs that can change a life #4

This IS kind of funny.  Especially the part about the Leafs…

Haven’t done one of these in too long…

I love music (in case you weren’t aware) and I have to admit that I sometimes over-gravitate to the same old songs (emphasis on old). This isn’t to say that I don’t listen to and appreciate new music- but there are certain songs that truly are like old friends.

The beauty of the Shuffle Daemon is that it brings these old friends back into my life when it’s been a while since we last hung out. The other day, as I waited for the metaphysical enigma that is the King streetcar, the SD reminded me that I hadn’t visited this old buddy in far too long.

Once upon a time a week wouldn’t have passed by without me giving it a listen. Seriously, some of my friends still hear this tune and think of me. It’s another of those story songs that I so adore. It tells the story- based in a particular time and place- of a town in economic collapse and the social conundrums that result.

And it’s The Jam.  N.B. The ‘posters’ in the video: “Anti Complacency League! Baby!” and “If we aint getting through to you- you obviously aint listening!”  I concur.  3 wonderful, jam- (and Jam-) packed minutes.

While I waited for that most elusive of streetcars (seriously- where do they go? At least 10 passed by in the other direction in the 20 (!) minutes I stood waiting. They have to turn around sometime. Don’t they?!?!  And who, exactly, decides that they should be short turning during rush hours when there are dozens of people fighting for standing room on the ONE car that is actually permitted to complete its route in its entirety? Yeah, we don’t need a better-functioning public transportation system downtown at all, do we Mayor McCheese? Useless subways in Scarborough are far more important…), those opening notes (in a live version I picked up somewhere) came over the headphones.

Not only is it peppy and catchy and undeniably well-constructed, it’s also experience-based recollection and social commentary that still rings authentic and important. Once again, more than 30 years after the fact (stuck in the 80’s this week.  Mea culpa).

The Jam were representative of the melding of punk, new wave, and mod revival that came out of the UK in the late 70s-early 80s. Based out of Woking, Surrey, they combined the anger that fueled punk rock with the stylish R&B and tailored appearance of 60s mods, and, like the Kinks (as I’ve said repeatedly) emphasized their Britishness through the subject matter of their songs.  They focused on issues that affected their working class backgrounds- in the community from which they hailed- and the social problems they saw in their travels across the UK as they played the clubs.

Paul Weller has crafted some of my veryvery favourite songs, ever.  (My Ever Changing Moods from his Style Council days, not to mention You’re the Best Thing… listen to them.  Seriously.)

Town Called Malice recalls his teenage years in Woking, part of the Greater London Urban Area.  The title of the song is a play on the 1950 novel by Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice, although Paul had not read the book before writing the song.

The novel is, in part, about its heroine’s attempts to bring economic prosperity to a small town in the Australian outback, turning it into a ‘town like Alice (Springs)’.

Being an eminently talented wordsmith- and British to boot (the Brits are so wonderfully adept at word play- especially when it comes to ‘sounds like’ constructions and rhyming slang.  Sight tangent: I came up with the ‘subtitle’ of this little blog o’ mine- ‘Made of the Myth’- after having heard a news story about the ‘Maid of the Mist’- those tourist boats that take you up close and personal with the glory of Niagara Falls.  To this day, the ONE person who picked up on that is a British buddy of mine- who cottoned on immediately.  Such a way with the language, our British brothers and sisters…aaaaaand we’re back), Paul was more about connecting the rhythm of the book’s title with that of his creation- and the shared concept of towns facing hard economic times.

As a legal term, malice refers to intention- either expressed or implied- to do harm to another.  Now I’m no lawyer (understatement, that), but according to Wikipedia/Pythia: ‘In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken… as requiring either: 1) an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or 2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e. the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk…).’

Recklessness.  Hmmm.

‘Better stop dreaming of the quiet life
‘Cause it’s the one we’ll never know
And quit running for that runaway bus
‘Cause those rosy days are few

And stop apologizing for the things you’ve never done
‘Cause time is short and life is cruel but it’s up to us to change
This town called Malice…

…The atmosphere’s a fine blend of ice I’m almost stone cold dead

…A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-op
To either cut down on beer or the kids’ new gear
It’s a big decision in a town called Malice.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track
It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –
Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings
Lost laughter in the breeze
I could go on for hours and I probably will
But I’d sooner put some joy back in this town called Malice’

Standing on that street corner in the freezing cold, waiting for the public transportation- a ‘hot button’ election topic- to show up, those lyrics echoed in ways they have never done before (and, as I’ve said, I’ve know the song by heart for over three decades).

Reckless malice.

Since Ford is determined to continue playing the Media Star, at least he is admitting that the new YouTube programme is nothing more than a glory-seeking, extended campaign ad.  Okay, maybe he didn’t say that exactly… He is welcoming questions from ‘all around the world’- and most of them are concerned with the sideshow that he has become, internationally.

Gotta say, I’d really prefer a mayor who is more concerned with the state of our city and its citizens than with shoring up his image and reinforcing his narcissistic need to ensure that the spotlight remains focused on him and his own deluded self-image and -importance.

The rights to Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, by Toronto Star reporter Robyn Doolittle (one of the three journalists to first view the ‘crack video’), have been sold and will likely be made into a film.  Setting aside what I may or may not think of Doolittle, I am outraged that it seems to be acceptable to be keeping this guy’s name and image in the media.

National ‘newspapers‘ are already casting the film.  We are continuing to reinforce his lack of judgement, self-serving and unsupported sound bites, and his knowingly reckless behaviour.  And I’m not just talking about the shit (yes, I said ‘shit’- I’m PISSED OFF) he pulls in his ‘private life’.  Believe me, waiting for the 504 streetcar on Sunday, I had a loooooong time to think about his ‘transit plan’ and the mess that he has made worse in the three years since he was elected to run the city.

He is at least as big a train wreck politically as he is personally.  THAT seems to be getting lost with the spotlight being continually shone upon his antics.  He is not a clown.  He is not a ‘celebrity’.  He is the elected leader of the largest city in Canada and he has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to uphold the responsibilities of that role.

If we are to be subjected to this buffoon on all varietals of media between now and October (and then, hopefully never again), how’s about we pay closer attention to the truth of the matter than the sensational circus of shame.

Expressed or implied intent to do harm.  Foreseeing that harm will be done, and recklessly charging ahead regardless.

Sounds like Malice to me.

We’re ‘at the moment bound for nowhere- just going round and round.’

‘It’s up to us to change this town called Malice.’

Listen up, fellow Torontonians.  Join the Anti-Complacency League.

Please.

PS-  From the ridiculous to the sublime… this is making headlines all over my news feeds- especially those that come from my beloved Royal Ontario Museum.  The discovery really has nothing to do with this post- nor with the stuff I usually talk about- except that it is demonstration (if further remains necessary) that destroying our natural wonders for the sake of economic expediency also leads to the destruction of all those things buried beneath the surface of this here world of ours- natural AND of human origin- that help to tell our stories.  Can’t wait to check out the previously unknown species!

The good, the bad and the really really bad.

A very mixed-kinda-weekend just passed me by, seemingly quicker than I could blink.  We got more snow, the colder than usual temps are still upon us, I picked up a couple of new books to read, mainly stayed inside and caught up on some stuff I’d let go for too long…

But I also woke up Saturday morning to find that the lovely Ursula at An Upturned Soul has nominated me for a blog award.  Her posts run an interesting and diverse gamut, writing about things such as narcissism and personal relationships/interactions that are always both informative and illustrative of her talent for communicating the intricacies of such complex subjects in well-reasoned and -researched, yet still approachable and understandable, articles.  A recent post, Personality Disordered, was especially resonant for me, given the fact that I am also inclined to run off on tangents.  More than a little.

This morning, wonder of wonders, I discovered that Kim over at Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed has also been so kind as to nominate me for an award.  She, too, writes about narcissism and surviving its abuses, and her insights regarding identification and recovery are enlightening and valuable resources for surviving the toxicity that such relationships create.

I greatly appreciate the respect for my own writing that spurred the nominations, and I value the reciprocal relationships we have developed through our mutual followings.  I encourage my readers to visit with them and explore the many valuable things they both have to contribute to our WordPress World.

I love this World.  As I’ve mentioned before, the most wonderful and surprising thing I have discovered since starting this blog a little less than a year ago is the community that is there to support, entertain and challenge me as I gain footing and change some things up in the development of my online presence.  Rather than restrict the pass-on nominations as suggested by both awards, please have a look through my blog roll- and click on the avatars of those friends who thoughtfully leave comments- and discover for yourselves the variety and engaging intelligence that I’ve been privileged to find in this neck o’ the woods.

Unfortunately, all this loveliness has been disrupted by the increasingly business-as-usual abuses of those who hold power and influence in the wider, outside world.

I referred to this the other day.  Harper’s conservatives are doing their best to ensure that this country becomes a democracy in name only.  Since a democracy can only be as strong as its weakest link, we MUST work to strengthen those links that are inclined to let this sort of thing fester and continue without notice or comment or attempt at rectification.

This is the primary reason behind my goal for 2014- to search out a new type of classroom that is based on the dialectic and exchange of information based in facts and experience, rather than rhetorical reliance upon emotion and belief.

Since my appearance (still reeling a wee bit from the experience- radio geek that I am) on The Current a couple of weeks ago, education and our educational system has been back on my personal radar bigtime.  I’ve joined/re-joined a number of discussion forums dealing specifically with post-secondary education and teaching and this popped up in one of them on Saturday.  I had comparable experiences, upon occasion, but I am extremely distressed that they seem to be growing in frequency, and extent of damage to the learning experience.  I’m not sure that I will ever comprehend the close-mindedness that drives people to enroll in a course in an institution of higher education solely in order to maintain the supremacy of their own unexamined beliefs.  Stories like this are among the things that make me miss the university classroom less and less.

My pal Booksy over at Lost and Found Books brought this back to my attention this morning.  Again with the gradual dissolution of democracy under our very freakin noses by this government and its agenda.

And in local news: this idiocy is about to air beginning today.

I have to admit to feeling a bit nostalgic today.  As such, this tune popped into my head while thinking through all this stuff and the Voices Carry movement that I’m encouraging of late.  And Mark King’s bass playing is always something to witness…

The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The spirit of the people
The rhythm has begun …

Old men with their protocol
Lead us off to war
Sometimes we don’t even know
What we’re fighting for
Marching to the beat of their drum

Leaders we no longer trust
Told too many lies
The promises they made to us
Were never realised
Hear me now the chant has begun

Nowhere left to turn
No-one left to turn to
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have the answer
Our whole world’s in danger

Oil slicks on the ebbing tide
Progress out of hand
Blind men choke on swallowed pride
Heads down in the sand
Don’t wanna see the damage they’ve done

Trees destroyed by acid rain
Falling from the skies
When our children place the blame
Who will tell them why
Hear me now the chant has begun

Why is love so rare
All this talk of warfare
Voices raised in anger
They don’t have an answer
Pass the word along
We can wait no longer
Too much blind destruction
Follow love’s instructions
Now the chant has begun

(chant)

Make your choice there’s no escape
Add your voice, the chant has begun

This song was written and recorded in 1984.  1984.

30 years.  And we still haven’t grown the chant into the roar it needs to become.

Hype Hype Hooray?

I know, I’ve used this graphic before (this one is smaller and a different colour, though).  And I do admit to a little fatigue with the whole ‘keep calm and…’ thing, but hey, when something works…

Is anyone else having a whole lot of trouble getting remotely excited for these Olympic things that are about to start over there in Russia?

Is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as card-carrying and flag-waving a Canadian as you’d ever want to find- and winter is kind of our milieu if you will.  Last time out?  All those Golds- and on home soil/snow/ice?  What was better than that?!  The day the gents won the hockey final turned into an impromptu party that ended with me and a friend up on Yonge Street yelling our fool heads off with the rest of the city.  It was a totally spontaneous expression of happiness and pride.

Even the summer games in London got me pretty psyched- although, in that case, I have to admit that most of my enthusiasm was for the spectacle that went along with the whole shebang.  The UK is the source and home of so very much of the music that I adore and count on to keep me sane and human- so the opening and closing ceremonies were something I am happy to have experienced.  I’m sure some sports events happened in between, but that honestly wasn’t high on my list of must-see television viewing.

This time out?

Seriously couldn’t care less.

Part of it has to do with the constant barrage of criticism (not that criticism isn’t warranted) about Russia- be it due to dangerous political policies and legislation regarding the LGBT community, the outrageous costs and demonstrated evidence of corruption, the fact that Sochi is a summertime resort area (palm trees, anyone?) and therefore not exactly appropriate for the winter games… the list goes on and on.

But really, my cynicism/indifference (the degree of my ennui about the Games depends on the day) stems from some things that I’ve spoken harped about here in the past.

I usually begin my days (weekdays, anyway) with CBC Newsworld’s morning show.  Lets me know what happened overnight, gives me an idea of what newest polar vortex/snow hell seasonally appropriate weather I can expect to experience over the course of the day.  Today I had to change the channel.  It was all Olympics, all the time.  It was more commercial than news program.

And.  I.  Just.  Don’t.  Care.

I appreciate that the athletes work reallyreally hard to take a stab at the podium in the international spectacle that is the Games.  I get that the Olympics has been used, historically, as a means of shoring up national enthusiasms in times when less-than-fun things are happening.  I totes understand that all of that requires a certain amount of money and marketing and such like things.

But the increasingly cynical/exasperated/discouraged me is really feeling like the spectacle and materiality and unbalanced (in every sense of the word) emphasis placed on events like this (with their hyper-emphasis on competition and us vs. them) have become less about ‘bringing the world together’ and more about aiding and abetting the collective numbing of the masses to the realities of our global/national/local situations.

Pessimism?  From me?  I know- not my usual way of approaching things.  But I’m really, well, FED UP is the first descriptor that springs to mind.

Too many things, lately, seem to be little more than constructs meant to distract us from issues of genuine import and things that emphatically need immediate attention.

I mentioned in my last post (which was oh-so-long-ago- and refuses to link.  That whole time thing is getting to me again) that I had a discussion (for want of a better word) with a close friend regarding the inherent and vital importance of education- and Humanities education in particular- that increases with each passing day.  We are increasingly exposed to TOO MUCH information- and SO much of that information is erroneous, biased or politicized to the extreme that it bears no resemblance to anything remotely like rational, examined truth.  (Please don’t let’s start about the relativity of truth right now.  I’m too tired to argue abstracts when I’m attempting to reiterate the point I made about dialectic vs. debate a little while ago).  Too many people don’t have the critical thinking skills to assess the bombardment of information that comes at them constantly.

That my friend seems to think that people are incapable of paying attention to anything long enough to see the value (let alone the necessity) in learning these skills, is quite out of keeping with my usual faith in humanity and our drive to do better and be better- just because it’s possible (and not because we’re looking for a big cash payout).  We have this discussion fairly frequently (he’s a science-type-dude) and he genuinely thinks people are too lazy- by nature- to want to put that much effort into anything that doesn’t have demonstrable and instant personal payback.  I’m unlikely to convince him otherwise, and, honestly, his perspective is frequently supported by the bulk of the evidence.

Distraction.  It’s everywhere.  If you don’t think that you are being actively distracted- at pretty much every single turn- I’d love to hear from you about exactly how you are managing to avoid such things (unless you’re living off the grid in the wilderness somewhere- which would make it unlikely that you’d be reading this to begin with.  And ‘off the grid in the wilderness’ is neither a practical nor attractive option for me at this point).

I admit that I was distracted earlier this week- in part by a brutal cold/flu thing that knocked me off my feet for a few days- but mainly by a couple of books that I picked up a few weeks back.   I used the opportunity of the dumping of snow and total disinterest in the Super Bowl, arrest(s) of Justin Beiber and comparable ‘happenings’ in the world to catch up on some reading.  I might talk about those books later, but in all honesty they still haven’t ‘settled’ enough for me to figure out if I enjoyed them or not.

Getting back to work- and to figuring out just what form my next classroom might take- I’ve been bombarded with reasons (as if more were required) why any classroom in which I choose to participate MUST be one in which the dialectic is permitted to reign.  I’m done with debates (did you see that whole ridiculous debacle between Bill Nye and the Creationist?  And the plethora of follow-up idiocy?  How was that even a thing?  How?!?  And the first ‘mayoral debate’ was held here in TO.  And he’s being talked about on Jon Stewart AGAIN tonight.  Plus ça change…. Sigh).  I will not seek to engage with those who are looking only to ‘win’ as a furtherance of agendas that benefit the very few.

And please don’t take that to mean that I’m agreeing to disagree.  A young woman, captured on the wonderful photoblog site, Humans of New York (look for them on the facebook, if you’re into such things- truly lovely photos and subjects), said something that resonated with my feelings of futility lately: fighting can be useless.  If people want to be stupid, let them stay stupid and move forward (I’m paraphrasing here).

Just as closed minds can’t be forced open, many of those people who are constantly and willingly distracted by the media and the commercial trappings of society are unlikely to be looking to actually learn anything that goes against their already-established beliefs.

Is this a terrifying reality?  Yep.

Is it irreversible?  I hope not.  I’ve lived my life trying to demonstrate that this needn’t be the case.  Laziness- physical or intellectual- is a learned, nurtured behaviour.  If we feel we don’t have to think for ourselves… this is very much to the benefit of those who hold power and control our economies.  This has always been the case, of course.  The institutionalized church is probably the most famous employer of this tactic to keep the masses doing what they oughta and keeping the status quo all status quo-ish.

We are told to pick a side and stick with it.  Moreover, we are told that the ideas behind the side we choose do not need constant re-evaluation or a deeper delve into the origins and the reasons for the perpetuation of these ideas.  Those that express a differing view are the enemy– and to be treated as such.  Polarization is the norm- and anything like a middle ground is seen as wishy-washy or non-committal.

It is a means of social control.  People choose to ignore the fact that they are being controlled by the information that is approved and meted out according to schedules.  We are content to absorb and repeat the information we are fed because thinking about it and coming to our own conclusions take more effort than many of us can handle expending.  The reasons for this are myriad- and some are almost excusable.

But we don’t have to listen- or engage with those who mindlessly spout the nonsense they heard on Fox News on any given day.  We can choose to ignore the rhetoric- and certainly the attempts to influence our actions and decision based in spurious arguments without basis in fact.  We can avoid subscribing to the insidious sleight of hand that politicians, lobbyists and business leaders employ (often through the use of popular media) to keep us distracted.

We also can try to keep from feeling frustrated with those who refuse to acknowledge the manipulation as we decide to change the paradigm.  As we decide to stop with the debates and approach our common issues using reasoned discussion and evaluations of all perspectives- objectively and sincerely- without concern about towing any party lines or protecting our personal assets (such as they may or may not be).

Instead of sitting glued to our television sets/mobile devices watching our athletes demonstrate the power of doing something, we can choose to actively participate in the decisions being made in our names by getting off our collective rumps and thinking for ourselves.  It’s a stretch- but I know we can do it.

Don’t want to be an American idiot
One nation controlled by the media
Information age of hysteria
It’s calling out to idiot America

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay

Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue

None of us need be idiots- American or otherwise.

Failing that, we can all decide to just keep on believing that sunsets happen because ‘their (sic) acts of god.’

PS- All that said- best of luck to all Canadian participants in Sochi (and those competing from across the world as well, but hey, I am CANADIAN) and thank you for the positive ways in which you always represent our home and native land.  And while I am on the topic- can someone please explain to me- once and for all- why professional hockey players are permitted to compete in amateur Games?  And also- why is curling a sport?  (ooh- that’ll cause some stir.  Almost as bad as admitting to not caring if the Leafs ever win the cup or holding firm to the opinion that Tim Horton’s coffee suuuuucks.  I’m sure they’ll arrive to revoke my citizenship/passport any day now).  Apparently it actually stipulates in the official rules of curling that the victors of the bonspiel HAVE to buy the vanquished beers post-competition.  IN.  THE.  RULES.  Not sure I get the ‘sport’ aspect of that particular game (although it’s not the only one that keeps me bemused.  Golf is a close second…)

There it is again…

I’m not really the type of person who looks for signs or stuff like that.  But I do try to listen to what the universe seems to be telling me.  Since I believe that we, as people, are interconnected in numerous ways, I do subscribe to the idea that synchronicity exists and is at work in our lives.  I’ve written about that before.  When things aren’t going all that great, it’s easy forget that these connections exist so sometimes we need a kick in the butt to get us paying attention again…

January/February is not my favourite time of the year.  In addition to the polar vortices (anyone else getting completely sick of the overuse of that particular hysterical buzz term, or is it just me?) of biblical proportions (it’s freakin’ cold out there again today) and a distinct lack of sunlight, I find that my brain tends to slow into hibernation mode- and likewise isn’t up for much in the way of social interaction or, to be frank, productivity.

Winter blahs to the nth degree.

So, given the usual late-January ick factor, yesterday was an unusual day.  I was productive at work- despite the fact that I needed those fingerless gloves (think Bob Cratchit at work in any theatrical/filmed version of A Christmas Carol) to effectively type the regular daily correspondence (wearing them today, too.  Polar vortex, you suuuuuuck) and feeling like was I getting somewhere with a few things on the new job-search front, so the fact that I have been feeling a little less-than-myself, and not particularly inclined to write stuff lately, was less wearing and seasonal-affective-disorder-triggering than it has been.

Before I left work I got an email from a dear friend regarding an in-the-works CBC radio story on a topic close to my heart.  The one I wrote about here.  This friend gave the producer my name to possibly have a chat about my experience with and perspective on the whole thing.  Interesting, indeed.

I headed home on the TTC, grabbing the first bus that showed up so as to not have to stand in the cold for long.  Mistake there.  That first bus took me not to a nice, warm subway station where I could get on a nice, warm subway, but to a streetcar line.  Which would be fine.  In reasonable weather.  But it seems as though the streetcar lines don’t play nicely with polar vortices, so the connecting streetcar (which was there right when I got off the bus- THAT never happens) was going nowhere.  Which also meant that all the streetcars that showed up after it were also going nowhere (given that they all use the same tracks).  There were lots and lots and lots of people exiting streetcars with nowhere really to go.  Instead of waiting around for shuttle buses to start arriving, I started walking.

Toronto is a great town for walking.  Normally.  The downtown wind tunnels when the wind chill is making it feel like -30+ degrees Celsius?  Nope.  Not fun.  Not great at ALL.

But, once I was committed, I walked.  The rest of the way home.  After a few blocks I could have hopped a subway but I have this stupid stubborn streak that, MetroPass notwithstanding, makes me feel lazy or something if I take public transportation for a minimal distance.  One subway stop?  Silly.  In January with brutal wind chill?  That might have been the more prudent option, actually.

Point of all this?  I was walking past things I wouldn’t normally be walking past- if I’d taken a more sensible route from here to there/there to here.  I stopped in for a coffee partway- it warmed my hands, even if it burned my tongue- that helped make the last few long city blocks survivable.  Liquid warmth clutched in mittened hands, I cut through the courtyards between buildings and found myself beside the venerable CBC MotherShip itself. 

Just as this song came on the Shuffle Daemon:

Followed by:

and then:

Once home and (somewhat) thawed out, I got to thinking about the opportunity to share my two cents (which is what I do hereabouts, after all), having my voice heard by some who might not otherwise hear it, and the potential positive outcomes that such an opportunity might bring.  I’m certainly not counting chickens- opportunities aren’t always realized, after all- but there seem to be some things moving in my little section of the universe.  And even the barest hint of a whisper can sometimes, if properly nurtured, lead to the necessary volume required to affect change.

I also realized that it was six years ago this week that I defended the thesis that earned me the title of PhD.  Achieving that designation has taken me down a number of paths- and none of them are the one on which I thought I’d be traveling.  This, I realized, is okay.  Knowledge and experiences are never wasteful- and should never be wasted.

Even with the lassitude that winter always seems to instill in me, I’ve started 2014 with the intent to bring about change.  For myself in my own life, and in matters that will contribute to changes in my wider community and world.  I’m still working out strategies.

But….

I’m on my way to City Hall tonight to attend a ‘how to become a candidate’ meeting in the Council Chamber (yes, that famous site of so much of the recent press attention our ‘mayor’ has brought upon us.  I can’t even think about the latest escapade.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll be ready to talk about it.  Although I’m sure it will be well-covered by Jon Stewart, so not sure I should bother).  Not because I’m thinking of running- at this time, anyway- but because I’m genuinely interested in learning about how the process works and the steps required to declare and then pursue candidacy for municipal office.

Basically, I’m doing things and looking forward.  Which, when it’s cold and dark and the News keeps getting on my nerves (there was that speech the PM gave in Israel too.  Was going to write about that… We’ll see.), is nothing to sneeze at (there is more than enough sneezing going around here, surrounded, as I am, by people who SHOULD be at home, in bed, with the flu).

Well, my soul checked out missing as I sat listening

To the hours and minutes tickin’ away

Yeah, just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin

While it was all just slippin’ away

Well I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come

Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend…

There WILL be better days.  I’m doing what I can to expand the reach of my small voice.

Have to keep that in mind.

Voices Carry

Looking to my friend the Lorax for some perspective and wisdom right about now.

I don’t get angry- as in raging, yelling, screaming, po’d– all that often.  This is not to say that I don’t have my moments (ask my sibs.  Or let Fletch tell you the story about the night I threw the beer bottle at his head… it was empty.  And I meant to miss him.  And he agrees he deserved it- not so much for the practical joke that led to the toss, but for the goading that continued despite the fact that there was clearly steam of a forbidding sort exiting my ears as he just kept talking…).  But generally speaking I tend to be fairly even-tempered- often to a fault.

I can summon outrage at the inequities and stupidities and ethical lapses of the world at large, or defensive anger if you mess with any of my family or friends, but I find it far more difficult to get truly angry on my own behalf.

Not sure why this is.  Perhaps there’s something of a tendency to let things roll of my back a little too much.  To pick my battles- and to believe that I have attained at least enough wisdom and maturity to know that many of the battles that I could wage in my own defense are things that will likely pass- given enough time.

I’m not saying this hasn’t caused some problems in the past.  People who don’t know me well have made the assumption that I’m a push-over of some kind, when their baiting doesn’t achieve a desired result.  I’m nothing of the kind.

I tend to redirect the anger into positive things- activism, writing, incorporated and integrated lessons that have helped me develop and grow…

Today I’m just MAD.

This has started.  I wrote a bit about the idiocy in la belle province – the flipside of another kind of idiocy that I also I wrote about- when it first came to light.

It seems like reactionary opinions are popping up everywhere lately.  This morning a blogger I admire a great deal- her posts, whether fiction, poetry or editorial/non-fiction, are always extremely well-written, thoroughly researched and clearly examined- wrote a great piece about the worldwide epidemic of rape, in response to the latest report of a tourist who was viciously attacked while in India.

I commented that I especially appreciate the fact that she pointed out that rape- and a culture that sweeps it under the rug- is not something that is restricted to places outside of the Western world.  Although the media seems to repeatedly highlight cases like this most recent one in India, it’s all too easy to point fingers and put the spotlight back on those who are described as ‘other’.  That is, not North American/Western European.

And we have such a great record here of justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence in this neck o’ the woods.  Right.

I heard about the Danish tourist while watching the morning news as I prepared for work, but read the story online as well- since television news sound bites are generally not all that illuminating these days.  The posted story (on Yahoo Canada) was no more informative (and was so poorly edited that I shudder in remembered discomfort), but the most repugnant thing- aside from the crime itself, of course- were the comments.

There are endless and ongoing discussions about the comment sections and the trolls that haunt them.  I’ve seen a few that specifically talk about targeted misogyny and the threatening, stalker-like behaviours that some people seem to think is somehow acceptable.

There is a whole cadre of people who believe that the perceived anonymity of the internet (with its screen names and ‘creative’ avatars) makes racist, gender biased, homophobic, self-interested and/or completely uneducated commentary permissible- if not outright expected.  There seem to be a whole lot of people out there who have nothing better to do with their time and feel entitled to speak about things- usually without anything resembling background or insight- in short bursts of unsupported and irrational anger and/or hatred.

I wrote yesterday about the ways in which our current government is silencing not only those in the general population (or those with some measure of celebrity) but the scientists and scholars whose warnings regarding environmental and social outcomes, if current paths continue, are becoming increasingly dire.

I feel like I’m trapped in Bizarro World.  Any internet troll/ignorant racist can find a forum that will either garner followers of similar ilk or, rarely and in extreme cases, raise red flags of warning that will result in banishment from a community page, but those who have a sincere interest in speaking about injustice or mismanagement or just plain loss of common sense and decency, are gagged by the pundits and PR people who are paid to act in defence of our putative ‘leaders’.

Another blogger buddy of mine posted a true-to-form and lovely poem about optimism and winds of change yesterday.  I’m hoping that she is right.  Even that bit of brightness and optimism raised the ire of someone who took umbrage with a perceived lack of inclusion in the poetic language she used to express her hope so thoughtfully.  Jebus, people.  (check out scottishmomus’ response, as well- it’s classic!)

Why are the voices of those who shout about the extremes- polarizing the ‘sides’ that should be coming together in discourse for the benefit of all- the ones that are given the most air?

Way back in 1985, Aimee Mann wrote some lyrics about an incredibly dysfunctional and violent relationship with a narcissist.  The video illustrates this beautifully.

Before I started writing this post, the chorus kept on running through my head, and with every repetition I saw Aimee stand up from her seat at Carnegie Hall as she sang the line ‘he said shut up, oh god can’t you keep it down? Voices carry’.  Until I went looking for it to link to this post, I hadn’t seen the clip in years (okay, maybe decades) yet that image has stayed with me in a powerful way.  She decisively ceased to be in any way trapped by the bullying demands of that jerk’s ideals of conservative conformity.

I ‘ve called Harper a bully before.  He, and politicians like him (no names mentioned, Mayor McCheese) aren’t inclined to give their naysayers much latitude when it comes to debating their particular perspective on things that affect us all.  Whether they prorogue Parliament or shut down Council meetings through acts of ignorant obstinance and violations of procedure in order to avoid addressing those things they choose not to discuss, as the Lorax notes, if INFORMED, caring people don’t get off their asses and stand up to them, then those things that desperately need to get better WILL NOT.

You, my peeps here at the WordPress, are certainly those to whom the Lorax is referring.  From that perspective, I realize that I’m- once again- preaching to the choir (other than those trolls I mentioned earlier- not sure that I’d include them in this august congregation).  But all of you out there have readers and friends and family members across a much wider world than in my little piece of it here at colemining.

I’m trying to ignore those infuriating noise-makers who have nothing to contribute beyond vitriol, out-dated/ill-informed rhetoric or towing of party lines that are working to the detriment of all of us.  Focusing on the trolls (internet or otherwise) is doing nothing more than raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels. So I’m instead going to focus, today anyway, on rallying the cries of those who ‘care a whole awful lot’ and take the time to invest the thought and time in their actions and reactions to the world around them to contribute to a dialectic that will lead to positive change.

Dialectic is not synonymous with debate.  The latter involves a measure of persuasion- and, often, an emotional investment in the perspective- that is required in order to ‘win’.  Dialectical methods search for truth through reasoned argumentation.  They involve discourse between two or more people with differing points of view but who wish to use logic and rationality to work toward the common goal of gleaning the best possible truth of a matter.

It’s not about who  yells loudest or most persuasively.  Unlike debates, dialectics do not require an external judge to determine a ‘winner’.  Consensus is reached through discussion rather than hammering the other side with talking points and statistics.

Politicians use debate and rhetoric to inflame the emotions of those who bother to listen to them.  They appeal to the often-base desires of voters in order to motivate that electorate to continue to support them- since they suggest that in so doing ‘the people’ support themselves (and not necessarily the despised ‘others’).

Since, especially lately and hereabouts, many of our politicians seem completely disinclined to participate in any sort of reasoned discussion with those who hold opposing views, those of us who wish to approach this world of ours with reason and fairness have to wonder what it is they are trying to hide as they avoid discussions and favour more insidious forms of rhetoric.

‘I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind
But I’m frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of…
 
I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I’ll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
And something to fear
And I try so hard to keep it inside
So no one can hear’

Enough sitting quietly as a cowed reaction to the bullies that are stepping all over us and our futures.  Time to start a rumbling of discourse.

Voices carry.

PS- If you made it this far (thank you!), please know that I realize that this one was long and ranty- even for me (which is certainly saying something).  I noticed a lot of my fellow bloggers posted ‘year in review’ type posts as 2013 ended/2014 began.  Since I did not do so, I’ll justify this one as my look back at some of the things that have got me thinking and talking and writing and encouraging discourse- internally and out there in the world(s).  As long as something new doesn’t come along to rile me up all over again, next post will be back to something a little lighter and more positive.  Promise.

Take off, eh

Just in case there was any remaining doubt in your mind- which there shouldn’t be if you have read any of my posts (like this one Or this. Or this.)- I am very proud to be a Canadian.  I might get more than a little testy about our elected leaders- and their behaviours and systematic dissolution of some of the very policies and programs that have made us stand out, internationally, as an awesome place- one with welcoming arms and a social conscience to go with its gorgeous landscapes and world class cities, but I’d really rather live here than anywhere else in this wide world.  (At least permanently.  An extended holiday somewhere without winter wouldn’t be all that bad…)

I read this article without even a bit of surprise and with a heart full of pride.  I love it when we are recognized for our overall awesomeness.  For the most part, we deserve it.

Which is why I was distressed to have read this article yesterday which is, IMHO, bang on about our very real and very dire situation here in Canada’s biggest (and best) city.  We are in a state of crisis, evidenced yet again yesterday when the chair, Frances Nunziata (an ally of that buffoon I’ve spoken of at length), of city council was forced to shut down the session because of the un-parliamentary behaviour of said mayor-in-name-only and another of his cronies.

What’s a citizen to do?  Really.  I’m asking.  For reals.  Looking for a response that makes sense to me.  There is a crisis of strong, ethical leadership at all levels of government right now (although, as the article notes, Kathleen Wynne is doing her absolute damnedest to lead her chaotic party with something like a responsible example- it’s a majorly uphill battle, though) and that got me thinking about a number of things- none of them particularly comfortable.

At dinner with close friends a couple of weeks ago, the talk turned to politics (not something that is unusual).  One amongst our number- a high school principal in one of the RC boards in the GTA- will be throwing his hat into the ring of provincial politics sometime in the near future.  He took a run at it about a decade ago but decided that it was a bad idea- given the dysfunction of the political environment.  But things have now reached a state where he is feeling like not getting involved is a form of negligence or collusion.

As we spoke, and as I ranted about the municipal situation (as I’m inclined to do), he suggested that I should run for city council.  My initial reaction?  Yeah, right.  First of all, I do not have the personal wealth to get involved in politics (one of the many flaws in the system), and the reality of the situation here in TO means that I would be unlikely to garner any level of financial backing, since I’m not convinced that my view of things is in any way supported by others in this great town.  At least not those with the money to spend to back an untested candidate.

Plus, I would certainly be dismissed as an ‘elite’- given my educational and locational background (having always lived in affluent, ‘downtown’ neighbourhoods), so that would eradicate any possibility of support from ‘the Nation’ and others who might be disinclined to vote for a non-career politician.

I have no interest in having my life exposed to the constant scrutiny of the media- and to those in opposition of my views that might seek to ‘expose’ something unseemly.  Not because I have anything to hide- no skeletons in my closet that I’m aware of- but because the thought of becoming part of a system that is run that way is anathema to everything I believe in.  The behaviour of ridiculous groups like the ‘birthers’ in the US, or those who vilified Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion- when they ran for federal leadership- solely because of academic background and perceived elitism… I just don’t get- and can’t, in any way, suborn that kind of thing.

So.  I dismissed the suggestion out of hand.

After reading the articles yesterday, and with my Canadian pride all lit up like the CN Tower at the recognition that we are pretty cool folks, now I’m feeling like making excuses for not participating on some level is far too close to complicity in the perpetuation of the complete lack of leadership that we are dealing with in my city.  And my country.

I’m not sure what to do with this feeling, or where it might lead me, but I’m thinking that the New Year is going to HAVE to see some action on my part.  Enough just writing and bitching about it.  My CV- widely dispersed in my ongoing search for a more meaningful line of work- claims ‘excellence in leadership’ as one of the attributes I could bring to a company or organization smart enough to hire me.  I’m thinking that it’s time I figured out how to put those skills into practice to effect some change.  How that will be done will require a whole lot of reflection and discussion with my loved ones.  I’m not sure I can sit idly by as my beloved city/province/country loses all those things that make us stand out- and stand tall- as Canadians.

That said, I’m not about to commit myself to a run for council.  I don’t think I’d last a day.  I am a pretty patient person (as classrooms of hundreds of undergrads can attest), but at the first sign of behaviours like those seen in the council session yesterday?  How do you fight idiocy?  I have no clue- and standing, daily, against that level of discourtesy, boorishness, ignorance and completely unjustified arrogance would render me completely ineffective in a matter of weeks.  I can’t fight on their level.  I won’t fight on their level.  But I am at a loss as to how to even begin to raise the standards.

The people seem to like their idiots-as-leaders/media personalities (did you see the latest Fox ‘News’ debacle about the definite ‘whiteness’ of Santa Freakin Claus?  And Jesus?  You can’t see me, but believe me, I’m shaking my head in exasperation).  I’m not an idiot, and I have no intention of playing one on tv.

I hate politics.  Not a big fan of politicians either.  They are single-mindedly focused on their own agendas- or those of the lobbies that support them.  The few ideologues who are brave enough to climb into the mire for the betterment of others too quickly become engulfed by the surrounding culture of self-serving impetus.  In the aftermath of the loss of the great statesman (NOT politician.  NEVER a politician), Nelson Mandela, it’s impossible not to make a comparison with those putative leaders that we can claim, these days.  How do we remove the ‘dirty word’ aspect of politics and politicians in favour of a more statesperson-like definition?

And then there are those ‘mayors’ who never even finished university or had a career other than ‘politician’ and ‘ part time football coach’… Those who cast unfounded and libellous aspersions upon the names and characters of those journalists who are called to hold him- and those who likewise claim to represent the best interests of the city- to account…

Food for thought.

PS- I have also decided that I am going to begin interspersing my regular conversation with all the stereotypical ‘Canadianisms’ that float around outside our borders.  Anything to keep up our image of ‘quaintness’ in the face of accusations of inbred idiocy, which, given the fact that so many people are still saying they would re-elect a certain someone, aren’t completely unfounded.   So… ‘take off, you hosers.  I’m off to pick up a two-four of Labatt’s Blue and then head oot and aboot in the snow of the Great White North. Eh.’  

PPS- I’m not, really.  Labatt’s Blue is TERRIBLE beer.  And I never been either oot or aboot- to my knowledge anyway.

Horns

How long can a lovely walk, some holiday spirit, a great book (which I hope to finish tomorrow or the next day- since it’s suppose to snow.  A LOT.), some Doctor Who and a fun national football game (sorry about that Ticats.  Maybe next year.  Thanks for coming out, anyway) sustain a little bit of good cheer?

This is not a rhetorical question.  I’m going to provide the answer.

About as long as it takes for the work week to begin again, it would seem.

Dilemmas.

I wrote about a comparable situation a while back, so I’ve pretty much exhausted the mythological connections that dilemmas call to mind.

There has been a definite- and unfortunate- pattern present in my posts of late.  I say ‘unfortunate’ because, while I strongly feel that such things HAVE to be said, and discussed, and generally put out there so that individually and collectively we can work to figure out something better, I reallyreally hate negativity.  With a passion.  Yet I can’t seem to completely overcome that particular frame of mind at the moment.

This is largely due to the continuing systemic violations of ethics and commonsensical good manners and proper behaviours that we should be able to expect in an educated, well-reasoned society.

I’m not even going to go into the latest antics of the town’s ‘chief magistrate’, except to note that he, once again, displayed his true colours, this time on that paragon of responsible journalism, Fox News, and even THEY didn’t seem to know what to make of him.

Oh, and Canadian media?  Can I please ask that you stop with the headlines shouting about things like the ‘return to the gravy train‘ that he has claimed has happened since his powers were stripped (a little over a week ago)?  Please?  While the articles do, in fact, go on to explain that the tax hike is required because of things like the useless extension of the Scarborough subway line (one of his personal pet projects), chances are there aren’t many remaining members of his Nation that will read more than the headline.  Might strain their beleaguered brains (I no longer have the energy to be pulling any punches with those who continue to support this madness.  If you STILL think that he is defensible as a public servant, I really have nothing left to say to you).  Thanks bunches.

And the continued denial of complicity in scandals and pay-offs/pay-backs by our federal leader?  Yeah.  The fatigue on that score has also maxed itself out for the time being.

Further to my post suggesting that we are losing the ability to sustain anything like civilized dialogue, it is gratifying to see that I’m not completely alone in my concerns about the complete lack of politesse that seems to be accepted as normative these days.  Gotta admit, I smiled a whole lot when I read this story, and the impetus behind it.  Words have the power we give them, and we seem to be imbuing profanity- for its own sake- with a whole load of power lately.  Very nice to see a Carleton University student who is willing to question the ubiquitous nature of certain words- and point out how ridiculous they sound in most contexts.

The personal stuff?  All job-related, of course.  And all about standing up for myself in the face of bullying as I attempt to retain my principles and ethical grounding in the face of increasing pressures to ‘toe the line’ in order to keep my job.  I may not be able to affect the larger society in any real way, shape or form, but I am very much unwilling to participate in actions that violate my sense of right and wrong in my own life.

Regardless of how badly I might need the paycheque.

‘Faced with two equally undesirable alternatives.’ 

Horns.  Of a dilemma.  Seemingly stuck well and good in the region of my derrière.

That picture up there ^^^ is a stock photo of the reconstructed ‘Horns of Consecration’ at Knossos, that represent the sacred bull- ubiquitous in the culture and landscape of the Minoans, centred on the island of Crete.

Those Minoans were pretty impressive people.  They were highly organized merchants- engaged in trade with surrounding nations- and their language and culture influenced their neighbours in many ways from the 27th century BCE until the volcanic eruption on neighbouring Thera (Santorini) sometime around 1500 BCE created a ripple effect that destroyed key Minoan cities and might have been a factor in leaving them open to the conquering Mycenean armies.  (The volcanic eruption on Thera is considered by many to be the source of myths of Atlantis.  LOVE myths of Atlantis… but that’s for another day…).

Minoan religion focused on female deities- and female religious officiants were the norm.  The civilization seemed to have boasted a pretty egalitarian society.  Artwork and statuary presents both men and women participating in cult activities- such as bull-leaping- and their sophisticated agricultural and governmental systems were not restricted to men.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus (the most celebrated artificer of the day- he also made a pair of wings, which his kid ended up (mis)using) designed and built a little thing called a labyrinth for King Minos at Knossos.  It was a necessary architectural feature, since the king had a problematic foster child who was half man/half bull (due to a minor indiscretion on the part of the king’s wife and a lovely-looking bull- that should have been sacrificed to Poseidon).

This Minotaur– a compound of Minos and tauros, or ‘bull of Minos’ (his name was actually Asterion, but no one really remembers that)- was first reared by the king’s wife (her name was Pasiphaë, but not many really remember that, either), but he eventually became unmanageable as his beastly and unnatural side came to the fore.

When Asterion became too much for his mother to handle, the Oracle at Delphi advised Minos to seek help from that gifted craftsman, Daedalus.  He created such an elaborate and cunning maze that even he had trouble getting back out once construction was complete.

The labyrinth became the home and prison of the Minotaur- where he was kept appeased by the sacrifice of seven youths and seven maidens (collected from amongst their arch-enemies in Athens) until he was killed by the Athenian hero Theseus (who was able to escape the maze of the labyrinth with help from Ariadne, Minos’ daughter,  and her skein of thread- which provided the clew (‘that which points the way’- the origin of our English word clue) he needed to get back out after slaying Asterion.  See how much fun word origins can be?).

The word labyrinth is derived from the word labyrs– a double-headed axe that was both a religious symbol and associated with the power of the royal house in Minoan tradition.

Still, other ancient labyrinths have been attested- and found- in places like Egypt and India.  Postulated purposes vary- they are thought to have served as traps for nasty spirits and/or as paths used as cheat sheets, of a kind, in ritual dances (ancient versions of the footprints on the floors at Arthur Murray schools of dance- how’s that for an antiquated cultural reference?!?).

By the Medieval period, Christians were including them in their places of worship- meant to represent pilgrimage paths or simply foci for meditation and/or prayer, and they came to symbolize a path to god- with one entrance and one twisting and turning path to the centre.

Metaphorically, a labyrinth can be a situation that poses some issues of extrication.

Very much aware of that particular sense of the word at the moment.

These days, there has been something of a resurgence of interest in labyrinths.  Parks and common spaces feature labyrinths as part of their landscape designs.

Toronto’s labyrinth, located right beside the Eaton Centre, the Church of the Holy Trinity, and in spitting distance (not that it’s remotely polite to spit) from both Old and New City Halls, is meant to be a place of quiet reflection in the heart of the city.

A few years ago I led walking tours (as part of the ROM Walks– at our wonderful  Royal Ontario Museum) of the area, that ended at the labyrinth.  Visitors to the city were always amazed to find such a place of quietude surrounded by the summertime hustle and bustle of the culture of consumerism and municipal politics.

This evening, intensely frustrated by the events of the day (and of yesterday, but I’m consciously forgetting that THAT day existed at all), I paid a visit to Trinity Square, hoping that its meditative properties and foundation in the history and wisdom of the ages would provide a bit of a respite from the direction and intensity of my thoughts.  Sadly, it was no match for the labyrinthine tracings of my current thoughts and anxieties.

Horns?  Still present and pissing me off.

So… in the way that everything is connected (at least in my way of looking at the world)…

Solution: Second attempt

Some Bowie, Muppets, and feel-good holiday fare (this is another film I associate with the holiday season, for some reason) all wrapped up in one package may well return me to a reasonably human state of mind.  Hopefully it will be enough to last the week…

In this song- pivotal to the action of the film, Bowie’s Goblin King, Jareth, weaves an illusion around Sarah, attempting to win her love and distracting her from the time limit that he set for her to find her baby brother, Toby.  While his promises seem attractive at first, they are soon revealed to be superficial and wrong– and Sarah realizes that she must return to her path on the labyrinth.

So, taking my guidance- and my clues, if you will- where I can find them, I’ll be heading back into the labyrinth tomorrow.  Trying to retain the hope that the Ludos and Sir Didymus’ will balance the machinations of the Jareths of this world.

PS- seems to be a glitch in the WordPress world (or my computer.  Or the universe.) this evening- I can’t seem to link past posts.  Please feel free to browse the back catalogue for those posts I referenced, but was unable to link, should you feel the urge.

Character, referenced

I’ve been thinking about that word a lot lately.  Partly because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (32000+ words on the go), so character development is something on which I’m pretty keenly focused as I attempt to unfold the story from the recesses of my imagination.

Creating someone believable out of nothing is always an interesting endeavour.  I like to think that I have always been a writer.  Even as a child my imagination allowed for the creation of friends and scenarios- for my own amusement and that of others (ask my sibs sometime about the entity known as ‘Baby YumYum’- as space alien who accompanied us on family vacations).  They all had back stories and hometowns, histories and very specific likes and dislikes.  I remember it being fairly simple to come up with one character or another, pretty much at the drop of a hat.

As I’ve been an avid devourer of books since I learned how to read, the characters of favourite novels (and periods of history) tend to stay with me, and they sometimes take on a life of their own.  Strong characters become friends- to be cheered on as they reach goals or mourned as they pass on, and remembered as though they were real in moments of passing fancy.  Any number of times I’ve had to catch myself thinking about someone- missing them or thinking about how much they might enjoy a particular event- only to realize that I’m in fact recalling a character rather than a ‘real’ person.

Strong fictional character can become fully realized to those who love them.  When I first read Anne Rice- way back in the Dark Ages before Lestat started looking like Tom Cruise (shudder.  BOWIE- okay, maybe Sting- should have been Lestat…)– I often caught myself having conversations with her characters- particularly Marius- that vampiric remnant from the height of the Roman Empire- since his worldview and personality were companionably comparable to my own.

Somewhere along the line of my heavily invested reading, I sort of started believing that the characters I loved existed out there somewhere- waiting, perhaps, to be met in unlikely circumstances.  I mentioned, when talking about the wonderful exhibit at the AGO celebrating the amazement that David Bowie has brought into our collective existence, that I once wrote a stream-of-consciousness piece in which the narrator carried on an ongoing dialogue with the spirit of Ziggy Stardust.

I talk to characters like that all the time.

Flip side of this?  If the GREAT characters can get out there into the world, then so can the ones who aren’t so nice.  As a consequence of this little peculiarity of belief, I can’t not finish a book- even if it’s terrible (IMHO)- because leaving it unfinished maximizes the possibility that the horrible characters WILL make it into our world (this belief unfortunately meant I had to read the first Twilight novel in its entirety.  That’s a couple hours of my life I’ll never get back.  I didn’t speak to the person who gave it to me for at least a couple of days after, as revenge).

I mentioned this little eccentricity to a book loving, like-minded friend of mine.  Her response was to stand in line at the Ottawa Public Library for hours in order to get me a autographed copy of Timothy Findley’s Headhunter.  Here, from the talented pen of one of Canada’s literary treasures, was a story that included my own pathology.  The characters of Heart of Darkness escaped into a dystopian version of Toronto.

In addition to being a wonderful read that I revisit over and over (and which holds pride of place on my bookshelf), it was proof that I’m not (completely) crazy.

This love of character and story is one of the many reasons why I so love– and emphasize the importance of- myth.  Characters that were envisioned millennia (or centuries, or decades, or weeks) ago STILL capture our imaginations and are part of our common communications.

We constantly recall and revisit and remake these figures from our past stories- guys like Gilgamesh, or the patriarchs and other happening dudes of the OT (Melchizedek is my personal fave exemplar of the Super-Priest- and there’s a movie about Noah and his Ark coming out in the Spring), Jesus, the Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed… our mythologies are filled with amazing characters who continue to resonate with us- through the stories about their words, actions or the things they left behind them.

But that may also be why I’m struggling a bit (okay, a lot) getting these characters of mine fleshed out and onto the page.  I have a longlonglong history of hero worship to reconcile as I attempt to give life to my own fictional people.

(Another ‘waiting in line for an autograph’ story?  Since I was just talking about her… Anne Rice at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa after Servant of the Bones was released.  By the time I got to her- and had my PICTURE taken with her- I was so overwhelmed with the memories of the characters she had given me I was pretty much a blithering idiot.  Did manage to stammer something about missing Ramses and looking forward to the continuation of the story of The Mummy, to which I’m sure she said something courteous and respectful- she’s a truly lovely person- before I stumbled away)

And add to that the fact that recent events here at home (you might have heard something about what’s going on by now.  Assuming you don’t live on Mars) have had me thinking more about the development of moral character than fictional character development.

Oops.

According to the Wikipedia:

“Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual’s stable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. Moral character primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another — although on a cultural level, the set of moral behaviors to which a social group adheres can be said to unite and define it culturally as distinct from others.”

The word comes from Greek, with an original meaning pertaining to a mark of some kind which is impressed on a coin.  There is a sense of indelibility about the word.  True character cannot be erased or washed away.

Character, as a quality, is at the heart of discussions of ethics and morality- things that form the core of most of the religions and philosophical systems we find across the world.  Morality is also defined by our cultures and the mores of our secular societies.

Caricature comes from a Latin word that means ‘to load’.  A picture that is a caricature is ‘loaded’- with either simplified or exaggerated characteristics.  They are rarely complimentary, and often used in political editorial commentary.

We’ve seen a lot of that up here lately.

“Maybe I’m too nice.”  He actually said that in an interview during his press jag today.  He was trying to answer a question about why he was hanging about with known criminals and writing them letters of reference.

Although some citizens of his Nation remain steadfast- distinct as it is from the rest of the us- the society seems to have crumbled somewhat over the past few days.

The television show has been cancelled- apparently ‘production costs’ are too high for the small television station to handle.  The locks at city hall have been changed.  And now federal Conservative leaders are telling him he should step aside.

Still, he continues to ignore the tide of opinion while remaining a caricature and refusing to demonstrate an iota of the moral character to which he lays claim.  Like Kurtz, in Findley’s novel as in Joseph Conrad’s original novella and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, his delusions of grandeur have damaged the city and those around him.  So it’s past time for us to close the book and walk away.  Stop feeding his narcissism and his inability to look beyond his own ego as he continues to believe his own press releases (or those that his brother creates for him).

Whether he is a created political character or a sad caricature of what can happen when a life of privilege is not tempered with education, experience or any attempt at critical analysis, I’m writing him off, once and for all.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time,
just for one day
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing,
nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes,
just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying,
then you better not stay
But we could be safer,
just for one day

Bowie placed the title of the song in quotation marks since the subjects of the song are only ironically “heroes”.  In their own minds and only for that limited time period.

Time’s up, Rob.