Saturday, November 26, 2011

Waiting For Christmas...

Waiting for Christmas
Grandma Moses

If Grandma Moses were to paint this wonderful little folk art painting today, she would have to name it something else, as it would no longer be politically correct to call it "Waiting for Christmas". It would have to be named something like "Waiting for Santa", or even worse "Waiting for the Holidays". Bah humbug. Every year Christmas slips farther and farther away from us, until it has become something we don't recognize anymore.

As a teenager, I read George Orwell's "1984" and it disturbed me so much, it stayed with me. I remember thinking, "Thank goodness we live in a civilized world where such things could never happen". But they have happened, and are happening now. There is a dictionary of "1984" Newspeak, and it is chillingly similar to much of the politically correct language we use today.

Newspeak - The official language of Oceania. Newspeak is "politically correct" speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing "unorthodox" political ideas have been removed.

Oldthink - Holding on to old ideas and patterns of thought not consistent with current government policy. Maintaining a belief that is no longer acceptable, but was normal just a few years prior.

Crimethink - To even consider any thought not in line with the principles of Newspeak. All crimes begin with a thought. So, if you control thought, you can control crime.

Sound familiar?  We have allowed this to happen. I know people ~~ real, live actual people ~~ who are afraid to say the word Christmas. "Shhh, you can't say that word."

It's still only November, but the stores are filled with Christmas Holiday decorations and music, the television is filled with Christmas Holiday advertisements and slogans ~~ "Give like Santa, save like Scrooge".

Bah humbug!

I want Christmas back.  My Christmas.  The one that feels magical just saying the word Christmas.  It has an aura about it that evokes the smell of cinnamon and pine trees and a crackling fire.  Oh, I know, I know, it was originally a Pagan celebration of light, and we ursurped it and turned it into something else.  I get that.  But most cultural holidays have evolved in one way or another.  I just don't want my Christmas evolving into something crass and sterile, like Pottersville in "It's a Wonderful Life".

In our culturally sensitive world, we celebrate the holidays of all folks ~~ Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Yom Kippur, Tet Nguyen Dan, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah ~~ and so many more.  We would never dream of asking them to change the name of their cultural festivals, just to accommodate us.  Why on earth are we doing it to accommodate other folks?  Whether we are Christian, non-Christian or atheist, it is not *Holiday*, it is Christmas, and it is celebrated by over one-third of the world's population.

I love everything about Christmas.  It's a really lovely time of the year.  Next Thursday is December 1st, and I can hardly wait for Christmas.  Let the fun begin.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to my American Friends

The First Thanksgiving
Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

I am still having trouble on and off logging onto Blogger. Argh. In any case, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. I hope everyone is spending today with folks they love, and are having a wonderful meal, perhaps watching some football, and then a lovely, long snooze.  Enjoy, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

JKF ~~ 48 Years Later

Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and yes, I can remember where I was what I heard the news. JFK was the first president to have been born in the 20th century and his presidency was a pivotal turning point in history ~~ the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the Space Race, the beginning of the Vietnamese war ~~ all defining moments that changed who we are.  If JFK were running for the presidency today, would he be a feasible candidate?  The way we scrutinize nominees for any office, I doubt very much whether he would survive his life being put under the microscope; he definitely had feet of clay, and he had made mistakes both before and during his presidency.

In the fullness of time, I think President Kennedy is best remembered for how he stared down Premier Kruschev and the USSR between October 14 and October 28, 1962.  That was the closest the world has ever come to annihilating itself.  It took a man of great courage to do what he did.  I remember my mother was hanging her laundry on the line, and before she could finish, she came inside, sat down on her chair, and stayed there until the crisis was over.  She believed it was the end for all of us, and in her own way she was making peace with the world's demise.  The Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, asked both Kruschev and Kennedy to have a cooling off period.  Kruschev said yes, Kennedy said no.  He insisted the U.S. Navy would stop and inspect all Soviet ships arriving off Cuba, beginning October 24.  After one Soviet ship was stopped and boarded, on October 28 Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites subject to UN inspections, and the crisis was averted.  My mother got up out of her chair.

It took a man of great strength to do what Kennedy did.  It was the ultimate game of *chicken* and he won.  That is true leadership.  It is rare to see leadership like that today.  Folks are too busy trying to please everyone.  It is for that strength and leadership that JFK will be remembered.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Secrets, Lies and Promises...

Toulouse Lautrec
Museum: Toulouse-Lautrec Museum

How do you tell someone that their drinking is ruining their life, and the lives of everyone who loves them?  How do you stop pretending that no one knows and that no one is being hurt by it?  Secrets, lies and promises...  It has not been a secret for years, and now that it is progressing, people cannot continue with the lies anymore. The sad thing is, no one is being judgmental, just extremely sad ~~ and powerless to help. 

Alcoholism is not a solitary disease; it is insidious and has a long-lasting ripple effect on everyone in the alcoholic's life.  The alcoholic drinks and their loved ones suffer.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and as it progresses and destoys the alcoholic's life, it takes down everyone else in its path.  And, the most destructive aspects of alcoholism are the secrets, the denials and the promises, especially the promises.  When parents drink to excess, it robs children of their innocence.

Alcoholism can ~~ and does ~~ happen to anyone.  Some folks can drink socially for years and not become *hooked* on alcohol, while others can become addicted after just a few drinks.  It is easy to understand the *hows* and *whys* of why a person starts drinking.  Sometimes it's to cover pain and unhappiness; sometimes it's just the *occasional nip* to endure an otherwise unendurable situation.  Sometimes it's to bolster one's confidence when a person is feeling insecure, lonely or confused about a situation.  Sometimes it's just to get through the evening.  Unfortunately, there comes a time in the process when the little nip becomes something much more, and the alcohol takes over.  The once funny, bright, warm-hearted individual becomes irritable, angry and mean-tempered ~~ their personality changes and they are no longer themselves, but an alcohol-infused ogre.  And the sad thing is, often they are not even aware.

Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to describe air. It’s too big and mysterious and pervasive to be defined… [T]here is no simple reason it happens, no single moment, no physiological event that pushes a heavy drinker across a concrete line into alcoholism. It’s a slow, gradual, insidious, elusive becoming.  Caroline Knapp ~~ "Drinking: A Love Story"

I had a close friend who was an alcoholic, and I sat by and watched her life deteriorate, like a slow-motion train wreck.  I could not help her.  One day she came to me and said she had joined AA and was determined not to let alcohol have any more power over her life.  Since then, I have watched her life blossom in her sobriety.  To me, alcoholism is the darkness, and sobriety is the light.

The disease of alcoholism is not something to be ashamed of.  In the 21st Century, we have become enlightened about so many diseases, including the disease of alcoholism.  It no longer carries the stigma that it once did, and thank God for that, because it is in pretending the disease doesn't exist that people suffer.  Like any disease, alcoholism can be treated and cured.  The first step on that journey is removing the denial and the secrets.  The second step on the journey is to accept just how badly it is affecting one's life, and especially the lives of the people who love that person.  The third step is to do whatever it takes to stop drinking, before any more damage is done ~~ to everyone.

To anyone who has become caught in the trap of alcoholism, I say, please get help.  The life you are slowly but surely destroying is not only your own, but all of the people who love you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mutilation By Mirror...

There is a show on television called "1000 Ways to Die", but I have never watched it because the premise of it seems too morbid to me. According to Wikipedia, "1000 Ways to Die is a docufiction anthology television series. The program recreates unusual supposed deaths and debunked urban legends and includes interviews with experts who describe the science behind each death. Up until the end of season one, the final story of each episode showed actual footage of dangerous situations that almost ended in death, along with interviews with people involved in the situations. A portion of these deaths have been nominated for or have received a Darwin Award. A frequently recurring motif is that of unsympathetic individuals' choices backfiring on them, resulting in death. The show is filled with black humor (particularly in the narration) which tempers the otherwise somber theme of death. It portrays the deaths using live-action recreations of the events along with expert and sometimes witness testimony, also using graphic CGI animations, similar to those used in the popular TV show CSI, to illustrate the ways people have died." Well, they can add one more unusual way to die to that list: death by mirror.

I have a large plate glass mirror in my bathroom. I have lived here for 14 years, and only recently I noticed the mirror was slanting forward. At first I thought the room was crooked, and then I realized the mirror was not properly anchored and was beginning to tilt forward from the top, and was slowly leaning away from the wall.  I was able to push it back until it was secured between the side wall and the shower, and then I phoned a handyman to come in and fix it. Immediately.  When he fixed it, he said that it had never been properly glued to the wall.  I have been living with that mirror hanging over my head ~~ literally ~~ for the past 14 years, and it could have come crashing down at any time.  And that thing is heavy.

Can you imagine?  You're sitting on the *throne* just doing minding your own business, and *boom* ~~ death by mirror.  Make that "1001 Ways to Die".

What Is A Community...?

What defines a community? A broad definition of a community is "a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or international community." A city is a community. Folks who live within a community understand that, in order to have cohesion and mutual respect, there must be laws in place to protect every member of the community, and it is the responsibility of each member of that community to obey those laws. Also within that community are certain right and freedoms. A perfect community is one in which the laws are counter-balanced by the rights and freedoms. Everyone knows what is expected of them. It is on that basis that I object to the invasion of my community by a group of people who claim to represent me. They do not.  They are, in fact, holding me hostage in my own community.

The balance sheet for the Occupy movement has not been in their favour.  In most cases, the original organizers have bailed, and the sites have been hijacked by less savoury folks.  There have been drug overdoses, deaths, rapes, murder, and a rise in crime in the districts close to the occupation sites.  In Vancouver, the street vendors and business owners were interviewed, and all of them report a 40% drop in their business since the occupation began.  The occupiers are actually hurting the 99% of the folks they pretend to be helping.  A few days ago, a city worker was doused with urine when one of the occupiers tossed it out of his tent.  The Vancouver site stinks to high heaven of feces, urine and other odors which are unidentifiable.  It's a slum.  Under what condition is that acceptable, ever, in any civilized community?

Last night, the mayor of New York ordered the OWS site to be dismantled, and to everyone's amazement, a judge ordered it back.  That does not bode well for the injunction application against the site in Vancouver.  My question is, what happened to the rights of the citizens of the community that these occupations are harming.  The message of the *occupation* has been lost, and the majority of folks want the tents taken down.  The occupiers have no one to blame but themselves for how badly their movement degenerated into something negative and pointless.  Did they really think that sitting in stinking, fetid tents, getting stoned and playing bongo drums would bring governments, corporations and regular, hard-working folks to their knees?  In fact, it had the opposite effect.

Most of their message was actually one with which I agree.  We ~~ all of us ~~ need to do more to help folks who are less fortunate than ourselves.  But making general, sweeping demands is not the way to do it.  It has only created an "us" or "them" mentality; if you're not with us, you're against us.  That is a form of emotional blackmail, a passive aggressive attitude that has torpedoed their movement rather than convince us to get on board.  It has made me really angry, and I have posted about this twice in the past few days because I want those slums out of my community.  They don't represent me, or anyone else I know.  The folks who are sworn to uphold the laws ~~ for all of us ~~ need to do whatever has to be done to restore our community to the true majority of folks who live here and abide by the laws of the city.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I'm Baaaaaack

For some strange reason, I have not been able to log onto my Blogger account for the past week. It wouldn't accept my password. So I have been unable to post here, or to post comments on all your wonderful blogs. But today, et voila! it's working again. So, this is just a brief note to say hello, and to show you my new ghastly rain hat. Isn't it a hoot? I'm definitely not a hat person, but with all the torrential rains we have been getting lately, a hat has become a necessity here in Vancouver. I have always chuckled at people who wear hats *ironically*. Some hats are sort of like the ironic beards men have effected lately. You know they're wearing them just as a way to say, "Look at me, look at me..." The Tilley Endurable hat is the most ironic of them all, and it makes a statement about the wearer: "I've been to Africa; I've been to Australia, you can tell by my hat..." I actually thought about buying a Tilley Endurable hat, but then I thought the irony of it would be just a little too pretentious. So, I ended up with this gawd-awful thing. But, hey ... it works. I wore it in the pouring rain yesterday, it kept me dry, and best of all, when I took it off, I didn't have hat hair. All in all, a good investment.

It's lovely to see you all again.  I'll be back soon.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Young Man

Young Man With a Blue Cap
Vincent Van Gogh

Young men in caps and hoodies always make me nervous.  There is something slightly sinister and foreboding, particularly about hoodies, especially if there is a baseball cap underneath the hoodie.  I always suspect the young fellow is up to no good, so I was a bit apprehensive when I saw the young man walk into the restaurant yesterday.  It was Friday, the end of the week, and I didn't feel like cooking, so I stopped at a McDonald's for a hamburger and root beer.  Shhhh...  don't tell anyone, but I also occasionally ~~ as in once every six months ~~ like to have an A & W momma burger.  Anyway, the place was crowded, and I managed to snag the last remaining table.  The young man came in, took his order, and walked around the restaurant with his tray, eyeing my table.  He circled twice, and then came back and asked if I would mind sharing my table with him.

He didn't appear to be the type of person I would necessarily want to break bread with, so I made some sort of motion with my hands, and said, "No, I would rather not..."  but he didn't understand me, and he thought I had said, 'No, I don't mind..."  So, he sat down.  I sighed and continued eating.  And then I glanced over at him, and underneath the baseball cap and the hoodie was a very sweet face.  He was about 22 or 23 and had a lovely expression.  I immediately felt very bad, so I said, "This restaurant is very crowded this afternoon", trying to make up for my earlier rejection.  He features immediately relaxed, and he smiled and said, "Yes, it is".  He had an unusual accent, and I think perhaps he was from a country in South America.  I wanted to ask him where he was from, but I wasn't sure if he wanted to be drawn into a conversation.  So I finished my hamburger, and as I got up to leave, I smiled at him and said, "Enjoy your meal".  He smiled a very sweet, open smile, and I left.

Afterwards, as I was heading home, I felt very bad about the whole encounter.  I could have been more friendly.  I could have made him feel welcome.  Perhaps he was a visitor here, and he wanted to interact with someone from the country he was visiting.  My own brother has travelled to many countries throughout the world, including South America, Asia, Africa and all throughout Europe.  He always had stories of the people he met there, and the conversations he had had with them.  Here was my opportunity to be part of this young man's story of his visit to Canada, and I missed it.

How many of us do this?  I'm as guilty as anyone.  I size people up by how they appear, how they dress, or how they present themselves.  I wonder how many times I have been completely wrong.  That young man had the courage to sit at my table; I should have at least had the courage to be more friendly and outgoing towards him.

“Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.” ~~ Shirley MacLaine

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Vancouver ~~ What Am I Missing?

The words "occupy" and "demand" are two words I have a problem with. In my opinion, they are not the words of democracy, and in that regard, I am having difficulty understanding the Occupy Movement. They claim to be peaceful, but my feeling is that in fact they are passive aggressive, which is the most malevolent type of aggression.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help me to understand why I should be sympathetic towards this movement. So far, I am not, and I am moving farther away from any understanding as the days pass.

According to the October 14th issue of Time Magazine [page 22], "The movement started in Canada, of all places. The editors of Vancouver-based anticonsumerist magazine Adbusters called for a Tahrir Square 'moment' on September 17 in lower Manhattan to protest what they called the disproportionate power of the U.S. corporate elite."

It started in Canada? Oh, good grief, those rabble-rousing Canadians.  The only problem is, Canada is not in the same economic situation that many other countries are in, including the US ~~ not even close.  Canada did not have a housing bubble, and did not have a housing collapse. We did not have mortgage failures. Our banks did not get overextended, did not have to be bailed out, and are still lending. Unemployment and poverty are not rising in Canada, but are actually lower than at any other time since the 1960s.  There are so many jobs in Alberta, Canada's immigration department is fast-tracking applicants from other countries who want to come here to apply for work.

So, what am I missing?

So far, the only effect I have seen of the Occupy Movement is that the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London has been forced to step down. "In recent days, since the arrival of the protesters' camp outside the cathedral, we have all been put under a great deal of strain and have faced what would appear to be some insurmountable issues. I hope and pray that under new leadership these issues might continue to be addressed and that there might be a swift and peaceful resolution." St. Paul's Cathedral has done more to help the less fortunate of London over the centuries, than any ragtag band of people living in fetid stinky tents. The church saved people's lives during the blitz of World War II. Again, what am I missing?

A list of Occupy Vancouver's demands are here, if you care to read them. I don't blame you if you don't. Some of them are so out-of-date that I wonder if these folks are actually in touch with the 21st Century. I love number 17: Repeal the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. All synthetic drugs and hard drugs (including cocaine and heroin) should be distributed by prescription through a pharmacist. All botanical drugs should be distributed like coffee beans. Human medical autonomy must now be respected by all.

My favourite is number 11: "The CBC should get enough funding so it can go commercial free and not have to depend on big business for advertizing. Then it can be truly independent." Well, we all want that, don't we? I mean, wouldn't it be wonderful to watch Coronation Street all the way through, without commercials?

Oh, good lord...

Every year in December, the Santa Claus Christmas Parade is the biggest fundraiser for the Vancouver Food Bank.  This year it is being disrupted by Occupy Vancouver.  The street vendors and other businesses around the encampment report that their business is down by 40% since the "occupation" and their livelihoods are being threatened.  So, the very people these "occupiers" claim they want to help, are the very people who are in fact being detrimentally affected ~~ by Occupy Vancouver.  And to add to their credibility, one of the occupiers overdosed on drugs at the Occupy Vancouver site last night.


As I said, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to convince me why I should support these folks.  I have an open mind, so, you don't need to agree with my point of view.   I really, really want to know what it is that I am missing.  So far, I am not convinced.  So, please convince me.

Update: OccupyVancouver protesters given until 10 am tomorrow to remove all tarps, unoccupied tents & open flame heat sources by Vancouver Fire Department.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Separated At Birth

Yesterday, when I read that Kim Kardashian had filed for divorce, I saw a picture of her with her soon-to-be ex-husband. When I saw the picture, I thought, "Hey, wait a minute ... Kim Kardashian was married to the guy from the Twilight movies...?  How did I miss that...?" It is the same guy, isn't it? I must have missed that marriage, because I blinked and it was gone. I need a program to keep up with all these folks who flash across the screen and then fade back into oblivion again. At one time, I actually thought Kim Kardashian and Snookie were the same person. Who are these people? I mean who are these people? They show up on the covers of magazines, the headlines on CNN and other news sites, countless TV programs, and I really have no idea who they are. These folks are all interchangeable, aren't they?

Kim Kardashian just received about a kajillion dollars for airing her wedding on television, and another bazillion dollars for selling the photos to various magazines. I don't think the ink was even dry on the cheques yet, before she announced her divorce ~~ and it was the top headline news yesterday.  Does anyone care?

Who are these people?

(Does anyone else think these two guys look exactly alike...?  Or is it just me?)