Sunday, December 31, 2006

For the New Year

While I’ve been away from the world of electronica in recent days, I wanted to extend my prayers for peace to you all for the coming New Year. We have experienced unspeakable horrors in the past 365 days, many of which have gone unseen and have been dismissed from memory before the period of mourning has been passed, and yet, history cannot be denied and will not be lied to in the end.

May we find in 2007 the inner strength and peace to live with our neighbours in true outward peace, setting aside our differences and remembering that there is only one small world in which we can call our home.

To everyone that regularly reads my musings, thank you for your support and comments. I am in the process of moving at the present time, so I may not be posting too frequently until the end of January, which is when I shall be fully entrenched in my new digs … Hallelujah!

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace:

... but, it can't end quite yet!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few prognostications for the upcoming year (or longer, who knows). This is the great tradition for the media, after all (even as I write this I’m listening to CBC Radio and they’re talking about that very thing), so how can I possibly pass up on the opportunity?

First of all, I must say something about the situation in Iraq … big surprise, right? If The President believes that the execution of Saddam Hussein is going to have any positive effects on the situation in Iraq he should undergo rigorous drug tests: he is either on crack or methamphetamine. The only thing that the execution accomplished, in my humble opinion, is to create a martyr for the hard-line Bathists who are currently involved in the (not a) civil war that the U.S. military forces are so incapable of ending. A dead Hussein shall serve as a marvellous rallying point for all those still desperate to restore the “old” and reject that which has been foisted upon them by the Americans.

While the concept of democracy is wonderful, there are those who may still resent the idea that a foreign nation entered their land, killed their civilians and then installed a puppet government under the auspices of “democracy”. Of course, I could be mistaken.

The U.S. Presidential race, while not reaching its consummation until November of 2008 shall also be something of great interest (for most of the world) as the field of candidates begins to filter out and the cream begins to rise to the top. I will not name specific candidates (Hillary? McCain?) but … let’s put it this way, given the current demographics in the United States, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the Democratic Party would select a woman and a black man for their ticket in the hopes that it would have the broadest appeal to the voters … of course, I could be mistaken.

As for Israel and Palestine, I am sad to say that I do not believe that things are going to improve, or, for that matter, remain the same as they are at this point in time. I do not believe that this current “cease fire” is going to last too much past the end of January, if it makes it that long. I have a very bad feeling that there shall be an act of violence in the middle-east – in Israel/Palestine – so severe that it shocks the world, though it will not be too much of a surprise to the world.

I pray that I am wrong, with all my heart and every fibre of my existence, but I feel – with those same things – that I am not.

Those are my comments …

Happy New Year … Thank you, Ben Heine, for the wonderful cartoon! Your work is an inspiration.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Comments: Freedom of Speech

It is said that change, like many other things in life, is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that I have to like those changes. Here is a case in point: this blog. Since I began writing on … or for this “thing”, whatever it is to be considered by future sociologists (aside from a phenomenal waste of time for the most part, but that’s just for some of the one’s that I’ve come across … there are many in the blogesphere who challenge the “serious” journalists with their pursuit of the truth), the blog that I began so long ago has changed several times.

Most of the times the changes have been the result of something that I wanted to introduce in order to make this a site that was more interesting to visit, and visit again and again. It takes time to write the articles that I post and I would like to think (and hope) that there are some people that actually do stop by to see what there is brewing inside this complicated distillery that doubles as my brain.

This most recent change, unfortunately, is not something that I wanted to make, but am forced to as a result of circumstances that have been taken out of my hands by people who have been visiting this site. I know that there are some visitors by virtue of the comments left for some of the articles that are posted, and I have tried to encourage an open dialogue, even with those who may disagree with my views. I am not naïve enough to believe that everyone will be persuaded by my arguments (or rants), though it is a nice thought.

There have been some individuals, however, who seem to believe that the idea behind the “freedom of speech” extends to the usurping of someone else’s rights. While those of you who may be reading from within the great Empire of the United States of America, or if you are one of the citizens of the Empire, I am sorry to inform you that the amendments to the constitution for which you are so proud are not applicable on this blog.

The writer/owner/administrator and sole creator of all original material posted upon this site is a resident and citizen of the Dominion of Canada, a sovereign nation governed by its own set of laws … and we even have a constitution. Having said this, I must now inform the readers of this blog that comments will now be moderated before being posted to the site. I am not in favour of this policy, but in lieu of the recent hate attacks that occurred on this blog and on Desert Peace’s, as well as the posting of two comments containing advertisements (by the same person under different names) just a day ago, I am left with no alternative.

The comments with the advertisements shall be deleted, and future attempts to include such spam will find a similar end. Legitimate links that would be of interest to the readers of this blog are, of course, welcomed.

I want to assure readers that this is not being done in an attempt to stifle negative comments: these shall still be posted, so long as they are not rife with profanity and personal attacks. If you want to rant and rave, start your own blog. If you feel that this policy is a violation of your “freedom of expression”, get over it: this is the Internet, not Amerika.

Write what you want as comments. The only things that will be automatically rejected are comments that contain overtly hateful or racist language, as well as anything misogynistic or depicting violence against children. If the comments are on point and present an idea that isn’t an attack, it will be posted.

If your comments don’t appear immediately it means that I am not online at the time and will review submissions as soon as I’m logged on again.

Thank you for your patience, and for reading. I will have some “micro stories” to post soon – a new genre of short stories that I discovered this weekend … a truly marvellous way to tell a tale.

Until then, take care, and enjoy the pre-Christmas shopping psychosis … and Happy Chanukah!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

In Loving Memory …

We sometimes forget how important certain people are in our lives. Time tricks us into taking for granted that we’ll always have, “another opportunity” to say the things we had meant to say the last time we spoke, or to call when we thought of calling and then put it off because something else came up. It doesn’t take long before people can completely loose touch with each other for the simple reason that we allow our lives to make the less important things become the most important.

Instead of making the time to nurture old (and new) friendships, we instead decide that something else is more important, or, we wait for the other person to call us, thinking, “they’ve got my number, they’ll call me when they want to talk.”

As true as that may be, it isn’t necessarily the best guideline to follow.

I have to tell you that this is being written out of an extreme sense of sorrow: last evening I was informed that a dear friend had lost her battle with the demons that had been tormenting her, and she succumbed to their seductive message, seeking to end her pain through permanent means. Out of respect for the family, I am not going to name her, or direct you to her obituary. For the purposes of this tribute – memorial – and, I suppose, article, I shall refer to my dear friend only as an Angel.

There are times when you meet people in your life and afterwards you feel as though nothing has changed for the experience. This was certainly not the case with this particular Angel. From the very first time I met her, while she was sitting on the front steps of her mom’s house and playing guitar I was struck by many things all at once: here was this amazingly beautiful young woman who also happened to play the guitar extremely well. When I told her how much I’d enjoyed her playing she blushed and thanked me for being so kind … but being kind to an Angel is never a chore, it was a pleasure.

We may not have spent much time together, but we ended up at the same high school for one year (my freshman year to her senior), and even though it was strictly taboo for a senior girl (especially one as stunningly beautiful as an Angel) to be seen in public talking to a lowly freshman, whenever she saw me in the cafeteria she made a point of stopping by my table and chatting for a while.

It seems like a lifetime later when we reconnected, but when we spoke for the first time it was as though we hadn’t missed a single day … though there were now three children in the picture, as well as an ex-husband, but she was the same Angel as when I was a kid.

That was my first mistake. Neither of us were the same. When we spoke the issue of my life and my struggle with bi-polar affective disorder and fibromyalgia (a chronic pain condition) came up, and I learned, much to my sorrow, that these things were familiar to her as well. Depression and pain were very much a part of her life, but where I can say that the treatment I have received has been, for the most part, exceptional, something went wrong … or so it would seem … for an Angel. Instead of being allowed to soar, she plummeted, suffering both inside and out, both emotionally and physically.

As I said before, both of us were familiar with the pain and suffering associated with depression and manic depression, and it makes me feel absolutely terrible that such a wonderful individual would go through something like this without reaching out to others first … but that is, I realize, my own feelings of anger creeping in, anger that stems from feeling as though I might have been able to say or do something if only she had called ….

When I was speaking to her sister last night one of the things we discussed was the issue of guilt. Regardless of what has happened, we must not fall into the trap of blaming ourselves for something that someone else chose to do: it is, ultimately, the choice of every living being whether or not they will continue to live or take some sort of action that will hasten their deaths. You may say it is one of the lesser “qualities” of human nature, but it is truly one of the defining characteristics of humanity: possessing the ability to consciously end one’s life at a particular time and place.

In all honesty, I feel totally devastated by what has happened, but there have been a mixture of other feelings as well. This morning when I went into the kitchen I experienced a painful back spasm while reaching for a bowl. This reminded me of what the Angel’s sister had said about her, “no longer being in pain” when we spoke. We spoke about the pain that she had experienced, and here I was, doubled over in a spasm of pain that made it impossible to even lift a simple cereal bowl out of the cupboard.

Over the years since I have been receiving treatment for fibromyalgia there have been numerous occasions where the thought of “no pain” is so attractive, I can almost not believe it possible. Every day when I wake up the first thing that I do is something called a “body scan”, which is part of a relaxation technique in which you become acutely aware of how every inch of your body is feeling. Invariably, it seems, there is pain. Granted, it is much better controlled with the medication my doctor provides, but even so, there are times when it is almost crippling in its intensity.

As my back was having spasms this morning I couldn’t help but think, “she’s no longer in pain,” and I was furious. How could someone do such a thing, and yet … Yet, what right do I have to be angry with her? Yes, her pain may have ended, but it was not a decision that she could have come to very easily.

Now, however, whenever my pain breaks through and I need extra medication to regain some control, I will be thinking about my Angel, knowing that she didn’t have to leave us so soon. Every life she touched was blessed for having known her, and sense of humour, smile and laughter will be deeply missed.

Sweet Angel
your songs, so sweet
filled the summer air
accompanying the birds
your voice
reaches to the heavens
attracting the attentions
of those desiring
to hear you sing your songs
for them,
to join them
for all eternity
sweet Angel
you will be missed.

In loving memory of an Angel (1964-2006).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canada's next Prime Minister?

Several months ago I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine that I was thinking a great deal about yesterday while watching the final hours of the Liberal Leadership Convention on television. As I have never been a card-carrying member of any political party, and don’t have any plans of joining one in the foreseeable future, I look at these events as opportunities to see what these politicos act like when surrounded by their good buddies, as opposed to being hounded by “the opposition”, and other undesirables (such as their constituents).

I’m really not sure where my fascination for political conventions comes from, but it seems to go back quite a bit: as a teen, in high school I recall watching the Democratic National Convention that selected Geraldine Ferraro as Walter Mondale’s running mate … and I remember thinking to myself that, “there’s no way America will elect a woman VP … yet.” That was the 1984 convention, which led to the second term of Ronnie Ray-Guns … or, Bush I (making Dubya, the son of Bush II, who suckled at Ray-Guns mams, Bush III … or just Bushwhacked … whichever).

Whatever the cause, I find political conventions a fascinating display of the human condition, though that condition isn’t necessarily what the humans want others to see; all the better when things like that happen, I say … all the better.

As for the recent Liberal Convention and my particular interest, it all centres around a particular message that I sent to a friend on January 24th of this year, shortly after the election of Stephen Harper and his minority government. The relevant section of the message stated,
“ Well – there it is – Martin just announced that he will serve his constituents, but he will not continue to serve as the leader of the Liberals. Nobody has been named (Belinda Stronach was been asked earlier by CTV idiots if she would "throw her hat into the ring" if the time came ... she refused to reply).

Personally, I think the best choice (yes – call it "that", if you want –) would be a very wise individual named Stéphane Dion ... brilliant individual, and he would be a powerful force in la Belle Province. The other name that leaps to mind is Pierre Pettigrew, another character that could pull the Red L out of the Blue Q PQ.”
Of course, my assessment of Dion’s popularity in “La Bell Province” may have been something that was not fully considered, though I still believe that Dion will have greater appeal in Quebec than the majority of the people Harper is able to propose as candidates. When it comes to the west of Canada, this shouldn’t be a problem: there have been several prime ministers who have been from Quebec, and they have received support from the west, though the majority of their support has come from central Canada (thanks to our unbalanced electoral system).

The election of Dion as the leader of the Liberal party signals a significant shift in the party, a shift away from the path that Paul Martin had adhered to while serving as finance minister under Prime Minister Chrétien, but had difficulty adhering to after he took the reigns of the government. Dion is dedicated to focusing on three pillars as the foundation of his leadership, and, presumably the government, if the Liberals are elected. Those three pillars are: integrating economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability.

It may seem like simplicity itself, but in a time when we are still facing vast economic disparity within our own country, and nations that are experiencing genocides, there are great things that need to be done. The virtual abandonment of our commitment to the Kyoto accord, which only goes to the year 2012, is desperately in need of re-visitation, and social justice is something that needs to be examined on a national and international level, especially in light of recent events in Lebanon.

These are three pillars from which an entire country could be run: health care and social programs can fall within the economic sustainability and social justice portions, while we could likely find a place to fit every other concern (there is always a way to make things fit). Even if it doesn’t fit, that is one of the things about leadership: at some point you must recognize that there is a time to hold steadfastly to your plan, while at other times it is necessary to change course in order to avoid being destroyed by an advancing army.

I truly hope that Stéphane Dion turns out to be the type of leader that is able to listen well to the wise voices, filter out the foolish, and take the time to assess the situation before committing his forces to a hopeless cause. If he does, his first mission, the defeat of Harper, will be successful, but that only gets him into the Big Chair … from there the real work begins.