Friday, November 30, 2007

Tenenbaum Truths...

While I like to dabble in a pop culture post every once in a while, I thought I'd make Wes Anderson the object of my blogging affection. From the Bottle Rocket debut to The Royal Tenenbaums, the Anderson-Olsen dream team have mastered the art of writing glass-half-empty comedies. By cutting through the formulaic bullshit of many mainstream comedies, Anderson brands his films with a distinct stylistic stamp of offbeat characters going through the motions of life's standard downers--divorce, heartbreak, identity issues, depression, disloyalty...As a result, his films effectively showcase the vulnerabilities of each character in a sobering salt-in-wounds way that is both painfully familiar and refreshingly unique.

My favourite offering from the Anderson-Olsen duo would have to be The Royal Tenenbaums (with Rushmore coming in a close second). I'm not sure what reeled me in more-- the fallen child prodigies with major abandonment issues or how Chas (Ben Stiller) and his sons always rock matching Addidas tracksuits. Whatever the case may be, the film is deeply entrenched in the Welles/Salinger-esque tradition of broken high-society families.

At the heart of the Tenenbaum tale is Royal, an absent and neglectful father whose 3 offspring each have their own abandonment complex to match. You have Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), the brooding and emotionally detached adoptee; Richie (Luke Wilson), the sucidal tennis champ favourite; and Chas, who walks around with a Royal chip so large that he's on the verge of keeling over. Magnifying the characters' current downfalls is their former glory days, an era of pre-divorce innocence and genius. After Royal obliviously bursts each of their bubbles with his own signature touch, so begins the characters' demise. While his ex-wife, Etheline (Angelica Huston), is as good as a maternal role model as they come, her influence sadly cannot halt the self-destructive behaviour of her adult children.

If you're a child of divorce with especially complicated daddy issues, the premise will strike awfully close to home for you. If not, the film will still move you in all sorts of ways. As a member of the first category, I was really touched by how the film realistically captured the essence of broken family ties. Since Royal's main paternal flaw lies in his self-centred inability to provide his kids with unconditional love, each child is left with a warped sense of what love really is: Margot's incapacity to love Raleigh St. Claire (Bill Murray), Richie's forbidden love for his sister, and Chas' overprotective parenting strategies. But as they eventually discover, blaming daddy for all of your life's failures starts getting pretty damn old if you're not actually taking some of the responsibility for the mess. While each of their stories can almost become a cliche of the post-divorce fall-out, Anderson successfully weaves unique supporting characters into the mix such as the mescaline-induced-wannabe Tenenbaum--Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), as well as Henry (Danny Glover), Etheline's soft-spoken-soon-to-be-husband who serves as Royal's dramatic foil.

At the same time, Royal experiences his own epiphany once he realizes the collateral damage his thoughtless actions have scattered along the way. With exception to his stomach cancer hoax, Royal genuinely tries to make ammends for a lifetime of screw-ups. Anderson also uses Mr. Tenenbaum as a shining example of how karma can and will eventually bite you in the ass.

So The Royal Tenenbaums is a story of mending the most obliterated of fences, no matter how ugly the carnage may be. Because in the end, all of our families are dysfunctional, and have feuds, and hold grudges, and have dirty secrets, and experience tragedy. That's at least something we can all take comfort in knowing...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

No Crappy Employees Wanted

I thought I would balance out my last post with something a bit more light-hearted...

So in Edmonton, a small business owner was so fed-up with her influx of crappy employees that she resorted to unconventional measures to filter-out her next batch of workers. How unconventional are we talking here? Well, Charmaine Rose, owner of the high-end lingerie boutique, La Belle Femme, targeted the first place any job hunter actually starts their search--the Classifieds. But instead of the usual we-are-looking-for-full time-workers-spiel, Rose's full-page ad reads: "If you can come to work on time, not steal from us, not show up drunk, then come in and see us today..." Damn straight!

Not surprisingly, Rose's disillusionment is a reflection of Alberta's current human resource crisis. Since potential employees are basically tripping on entry-level jobs, this high availability of employment is ironically having an adverse effect on employers. According to Rose, "I've had 50 year-olds come to work drunk and missing shifts after payday, and saying to me, 'I know what the job market is like and can basically pick up 10 positions in a half hour....'"

So as Alberta continues to ride high on their epic oil wave, I can only imagine how disasterous the crash is going to be once all the pumps run dry...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Global Price of Sex

As you've probably figured out by now, I'm a major CBC junkie. So on Sunday night, I was tuned-into none other than my favourite channel when I stumbled upon this documentary, Sex Slaves. And yes, it was just as disturbing as it sounds...

Global sexual trafficking steals the lives of half a million women every year. Often these women come from the margins of society where poverty and everyday survival become the centre of their existence. They are either lured or kidnapped by a very sophisticated network of organized criminals in order to feed the profits of this thriving, multi-billion dollar industry. And as Sex Slaves so painfully illustrates, the business of buying and selling human lives is definitely booming in Eastern Europe.

This is when we get a glimpe into the life of Tania. At first glance, she exudes the energy and vitality of a beautiful young woman until you start to see the dark trauma in her eyes. As Tania shares her unimaginable story, you wonder how any human being could endure such pain and anguish.

Her story begins in Russia. After Chernobyl's nuclear catastrophe in 1986, Katia's family was eventually relocated to the Ukraine. Consequently, their intense radioactive exposure came at the price of numerous health problems as three of Tania's siblings were diagnosed with various cancers. Her younger brother's condition was so severe that he would soon die without the proper treatment. Adding even more insult to injury was that the high cost of medical care would prevent the family from seeking these much needed treatments due to their dismal income. Therefore, Tania took it upon herself to help her loved ones out if this futile situation.

This when the opportunity of a lifetime seemed to fall right into her lap. As a waitress at a local cafe, Tania had crossed paths with an older women who held promises of a better life. The woman claimed to have international connections within a legitimate nanny business in which Tania would be the ideal employee. This new career could earn her more than $1000 a month. While plenty of doubts had crossed her mind, Tania finally conceded that this could be her one big break to secure a better life for both her daughter and siblings. Little did she know that she would be entering an underground world of sex and slavery.

Tania was taken to Turkey where she was sold to one of the country's homegrown pimps. He had bought her for a cool $5000 from her supposed friend back in the Ukraine. This friend turned out to be a highly accomplished human trafficker with dozens of unsuspecting girls and women under her belt. Apparently, this businesswoman was sending her own daughter to law school by selling the souls of these young lives.

In Turkey, her latest Ukranian victim endured months of sexual torture. Tania was trapped behind closed doors in an Instanbul villa as she slaved for 24 hours a day as a prostitute. Not only was she regularly beaten and raped by both her pimp and paying johns, Tania never saw a single penny from any of her profits. In fact, her pimp was so cruel as to propose that she could actually pay for her freedom by working off her debt, or purchase price of $5000. This became Tania's only source of hope...

After an exceptionally cruel beating, one of Tania's johns had noticed multiple burn marks all over her body. When she had come clean about her pimp's regular abuse, this particular john decided to buy Tania her freedom. Soon after her return home, Tania's younger brother passed away.

Sadly, Tania's story only echos the horrific tales shared by thousands of women worldwide. While both Canada and the United States have introduced harsher anti-trafficking bills to further protect victims within each country, such legislation obviously does not extend to the international community. And as the human trafficking industry exists to barter innocent lives in exchange for cheap and cruel sex, thousands of others stand to make a killing from these transactions.

**This PBS site has clips from the documentary as well as interviews from each of the women featured in the film:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Let It Go

"yousha"--Kanji character for FORGIVENESS

To be honest, I used to think forgiveness was a big fat crock with my main mantra being: ____screwed-me-over so why the hell should I forgive them?!? Or ___doesn't deserve my forgiveness! As you can tell, I was one to hold a mean grudge. And the whole while I carried around this enormous burden, I somehow convinced myself that they were the ones truly suffering from my inability to let go. Oh, how anger makes you blind...

What I eventually realized was that it was just easier to hate the person. As I followed my faulty reasoning, I didn't have to actually spend the time or emotional energy resolving the issues underlying my anger. I believed that life would just carry on in its merry little way without me ever having to confront any of these feelings.

Believe it or not, this stubborn rationale was actually working out for me until I finally got a big-time wake-up call...

And that's when the cancer hit. Not me, but my supposed foe. The whole picture started to change. Why was I angry again? Was it even worthwhile? Why did I wait until this person was on his deathbed before I even considered any of this? There was only one thing left to do...

When we finally made our peace, it became one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It wasn't about me backing down and surrendering my conviction, or even absolving him of any wrong doing. As I forgave him, I simply put all of the hate and animosity to rest. I just let it go. Because in the end, there just isn't enough time. And sometimes you just have to learn these lessons the hard way...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Crazy Canuck Love Story...

What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good, and at times--downright cheesy--love story. But not to fret, folks. I saved the good one for you...

Imagine that skiing is your religion. Instead of a church, you have the mountains, and you say your prayers at the top of a snowy peak.

You live for the lightening speed and familiar swish your skis make as they shred through the snow. In fact, your antics are so extreme and sometimes even careless that the competitive circuit has pegged your team the Crazy Canucks. Damn straight!

Not only have you received praise for your daring technique, but for also changing the face of the sport. During a time of European downhill dominance, your team has helped put Canada on the world skiing map.

And even when you're a world-class skier, bailing is inevitable. Unfortunately, the faster you go, the harder you fall. God knows you've had your share of nasty wipe-outs and concussions but somehow you always bounce back. Like they say in all the other extreme sports, go big or go home...

Sadly, all of Dave Irwin's previous crashes would pale in comparison to his last. On March 23, 2001, he would take the most monumental bail of his life. This is one accident Irwin would not just bounce back from.

After the crash, he went into a coma. Nobody knew if he was going to live or die.

Three days later, he awoke to a bunch of unfamiliar faces. He didn't recognize his siblings, his fiance, or even his children. He couldn't walk or talk so it was safe to say that he probably wouldn't ski again. Apparenly, Irwin had suffered permanent brain injury with little chance of recovery.

Lynne Harrison didn't want to believe this grim fate. She was Irwin's fiance. But let's be realistic here. They had been dating for less than a year and the couple had just moved in together. It didn't take a genius to figure out the chances of these two actually staying together following Irwin's accident. Slim would probably be a fair assessment.

However, Harrison spent the next six years nursing her lover back to health. Even though he didn't have any recollection of her, their home, or even their life together, she didn't give up on his recovery. She became his caregiver, companion, teacher, and friend. She really believed that all of the unconditional love and heartbreak would eventually pay off.

And she was right.

While Irwin will forever be a changed man, he can now walk, talk, and even hit the slopes. He doesn't remember much of his life prior to the accident but his new life is just as full. In fact, Irwin and Harrison even started the Dave Irwin Foundation for Brain Injury which is an advocacy group that helps educate the public, while providing support for those living with brain injuries.

Sigh...don't you just love happy endings? (I'm probably making a bunch of you gag as we speak!)

Don't worry, I'll make sure to balance things out with a really depressing post tomorrow...he he!

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's Called PRIORITIZE, Alberta!


Let me describe this province in just three words for you--oil, rich, jobs. This is where labourers earn six-figure salaries, where there's a labour shortage in the service industry due to the concentrated work force in the resource sector, and where the provincial government has enough cash to provide every single Albertan a hefty rebate check due to its incredible budget surplus. In fact, during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the province reported a $7 billion surplus! Which brings me to my next question: Why the heck did 25,000 women and children from abusive homes get turned away at Alberta's local shelters in 2006??

According to a report released by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS), 41 shelters were forced to close their doors on these troubled families due to the lack of provincial funding. Lack of provincial funding? While I'm definitely not a mathematician, a province that can afford to hand each of its citizens a whopping $400 cheque for the sake of being an Albertan, does not experience a lack of funding. They experience a lack of fiscal accountability.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that Alberta women's shelters only receive a mere $22 million province-wide. According to Jan Reimer, the ACWS's provincial coordinator, an additional $20 million is needed to fund employment, infrastructure, and facilate programs needed to effectively support these victims of domestic violence.

C'mon Alberta, we all know you're sitting on a gold mine so the last place you should be cutting corners is from the sanctuaries that provide a safe haven for thousands of women and children. Seriously...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Like a Settin' Sun...

"I've seen the needle
And the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie's
like a settin' sun."

--Neil Young, from "Needle and the
Damage Done"

Addiction. It's that dirty little family secret that conveniently eludes conversation, or the troubled silhouettes lining the streets, known only as junkies. Someone once told me that being an addict feels like someone eating your soul and serving it up on a silver platter. A pretty powerful analogy when you consider that even the euphemisms--train wreck, hitting rock bottom, user--all paint really grim portraits of the affected individual.

And what about all of those addict-related movies we've seen? Trainspotting, Spun, Requiem for a Dream, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (the book was even more powerful), Walk the Line, The Basketball Diaries, and Blow--just to name a few--all tell dark stories of lives rapidly spinning out of control in the name of just one more fix...

Even more heart-wrenching is watching Intervention. Not only do you get a candid glimpse of this self-destructive behaviour, you are reminded of the humanity behind the disease. These are not mere junkies but mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Each of their stories are unique, while being tragically similar.

While I've never been an addict myself, I've seen friends go down that well-travelled path. I'm not going to divulge all the dirty details but I will say this: The worst part about it is that you actually think they are going to die, as in, OD into cardiac arrest and then just like that, they are dead. The end.

But they didn't die.

Instead, they managed to pick themselves out of that hopeless gutter and chose to live. While some may consider this a small miracle, I believe it was something much more tangible. I think that amidst the fog of all those empty trips and endless parties that there was a moment of clarity in which they realized there was more. Thankfully, their family and friends became a mirror of this hope.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dude, what's a MEME?

So the latest theme at the blogs I shamelessly stalk seems to be spilling your guts. While I'm a regular at pax compoundia, I somehow overlooked the fact that Karloff so obviously passed the guts-spilling-torch onto me so here goes nothing...

8 Things I'm Passionate About:
1. The love of my life
2. Shimi (my cat)
3. Racial and gender equality
4. Peace
5. Learning
6. Snowboarding
7. Writing
8. Playing music--guitar and piano

8 Things I want to Do Before i Die:
1. Travel to Africa
2. Do some major heli-skiing
3. Write a book
4. Go skydiving with my best friends
5. Hike the Westcoast Trail (at least once)
6. Run a marathon
7. Buy my mom a sweet vacation home
8. Be able to kill the half-pipe on my board (practice, practice, practice!)

8 Things I Often Say (you'll notice the obvious lack of sophistication in my everyday speech)
1. Sweet Jesus!
2. For the sweet love of God!
3. Duuuude...
4. F*** that sh**!
5. That blows!
6. That's not cool!
7. Yeah, man.
8. What a bummer...

8 Songs I Can to Listen To Over and Over Again (How can I choose just 8 ?!? I guess I'll have to choose by genre...)
1. "Hey Joe"--Jimi Hendrix
2. "Suck My Kiss"--The Red Hot Chili Peppers
3. "A Day in the Life" --The Beatles
4. "Stop"--Jane's Addiction
5. "Raw Sugar"--Metric
6. "Natty Dread"--Bob Marley
7. "I Believe (When I Fall in Love it Will Be Forever)"--Stevie Wonder
8. "Sing a Simple Song"--Sly and the Family Stone

8 Things That Attract Me to My Best Friends
1. Love
2. Trust
3. Humour/ Wit
4. Understanding
5. No-BS-mentality
6. Intelligence
7. Loyalty (schmoyalty..he he he!)
8. Ambition
9. Sense of adventure

Wowzers, that required more brain power than I thought! In the nature of these memes, let the force be with you:
***Ivy --I know you've done a bunch of these already so no worries

Monday, November 19, 2007

What is Politics?

Yes, I know that George W. jokes are getting old but I found this cartoon and just couldn't resist! If you're a fan of political humour, check this out:

A little boy goes to his dad and asks, "What is politics?"

Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way: I'm the breadwinner of the family, so let's call me capitalism. Your Mom, she's the administrator of the money, so we'll call her the Government. We're here to take care of your needs, so we'll call you the people. The nanny, we'll consider her the Working Class. And your baby brother, we'll call him the Future. Now, think about that and see if that makes sense."

So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what dad had said.

Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So the little boy goes to his parents' room and finds his mother sound asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.

The next morning, the little boy says to his father, "Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now."

The father says, "Good son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about."

The little boy replies, "Well, while Capitalism is screwing the Working Class, the Government is sound asleep, the People are being ignored and the Future is in deep poo."

Still I Rise--Dr. Maya Angelou

This goes down as one of my favourite poems of all time, written by none other than the great Dr. Maya Angelou. As you may know, Ben Harper also did a rendition of her poem in his song, "I'll Rise," off the Welcome to the Cruel World album. Learn more about Dr. Angelou here...

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?'
Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard'
Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tears for Bangladesh----Wrath of Cyclone Sidr

The wrath of Cyclone Sidr ravaged the southwestern delta of Bangladesh on Thursday.

Storm winds reached up to 240 km/hr.

It is estimated that over 3000 people have died.

Hundreds of thousand more are left homeless...

without food
or clean
drinking water...

and are in desperate need of aid!

You Made Me Blush!

Today, I just wanted to send a huge THANK YOU to a fellow Pinay blogger for her kind words and tagging me in her last post. Such a kind gesture and you really did make me blush!

Girl, you inspire me too!

Check out Ivy's blog here!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Carnival Mirror of Crime

“These CEO’s, man…If you’re that ruthless, you’re a scary dude. I tell you, now when I walk past a little gang banger, I don’t even blink. But if I see a [W]hite dude with a Wall Street Journal, I haul ass. Before I walk past the Arthur Andersen building, I cut through the projects. If you cut through the projects, you may just lose what you have on you that day. I ain’t never been mugged of my whole future." –Wanda Sykes, comedienne (originally appeared on Tongue Untied, and borrowed from Paul’s Justice Page )

The insidious nature of corporate greed really isn’t news to us, is it? From Sicko’s powerful commentary on the corruption underlying America’s HMOs, to the infamous implosion of Enron, white collar crime pervades our global culture. But you can’t really critique corporations without pointing a finger at the very law that actually enables these questionable business practices. I mean if top Canadian and American government officials weren’t so busy shaking hands with these powerful entities in the name of "I scratch your back and you scratch mine"ethics, perhaps policymakers would reform the current system that appears to be safeguarding white collar corruption.

How does the law enable corporate criminals? Well, Dr. Paul Leighton and Dr. Jeffrey Reiman provide some very convincing answers regarding the American criminal system. Reiman’s compelling The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice, and Leighton’s companion website, Paul’s Justice Page, both provide thought-provoking analyses on the subject.

At the heart of their arguments, corporate crime essentially thrives in a judicial landscape in which they are structurally favoured (Well, even I could have told them that). Reiman reasons that the disparities between the rich and the poor, the conditions and overuse of the American penitentiary system (ie. the prison industrial complex), the accessibility of guns, and the flawed drug policy (ie. War on Drugs) are four of the main sources of crime in America. I would say his most compelling argument is how he likens American criminal law to that of a carnival mirror. If the popular consensus of the typical criminal is that of a young minority living in poverty, than a distorted criminal system can only follow. According to Reiman, such a system even “weeds out the wealthy” as the poor are more inclined to be arrested, charged, convicted, and have longer prison sentences than that of middle-class or upper-class criminals.

And Leighton’s stance follows Reiman’s scenario quite closely in, A Tale of Two Criminals: We’re Tougher on Corporate Criminals, But They Still Don’t Get What They Deserve. He effectively compares and contrasts the experiences of two very different criminals— petty thief, Leandro Andrade, and white collar culprit, Andrew Fastow. During his criminal career, Andrade was involved in a series of small-time, non-violent heists involving shoplifting from a K-mart and residential burglaries to support his drug habit. Since his last crime would mark his third straight conviction triggering the Three Strikes law under California’s criminal system, Andrade was destined to spend over 50 years in an American penitentiary as a result of stealing under $200 worth of goods. Fair enough because he’s just another dirty criminal, right?

Well, let’s look at Mr. Fastow’s story. I don’t think he really needs an extensive introduction so I’ll try to make it brief. As former chief financial officer of Enron, Fastow embezzled over $200 million from employee investments and pensions as a result of fraudulent banking transactions. He was eventually indicted on 109 felony counts including obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and securities fraud—not to mention the emotional anguish he caused thousands of former employees as he financially crippled their futures. When it was all said and done, Fastow entered a plea bargain that would get the lucky guy a mere 10 years behind bars.

I guess Leighton’s critique is pretty obvious. Neither Andrade or Fastow are innocent here but do the ends really justify the criminal means?

**NOTE: I will make sure to follow-up this post from the perspective of the Canadian criminal system. Also, I only included a very brief overview of Reiman's and Leighton positions. For greater analysis on these issues, I would recommend reading Reiman's book and Leighton's site.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How Big is Our Universe?

The idea for this post came to me as I was lying in bed one night (get your minds out of the gutter!) and started thinking about Astro Physics. What do I actually know about Astro Physics? Not a whole heck of a lot, hence the reason I started tripping myself out over it.

This whole debacle actually began earlier in the evening. I had watched Back to the Future for the bazillionth time and couldn't help but ponder the possibility of time travel. How far-fetched was this idea? Was there actually scientific evidence supporting this preposterous notion? So alas, I turned to trusty ol' Google for answers.

Instantly, I realized the best place to conduct my research would be the NOVA website. And boy, was I ever right! Not only did the site explain some of these concepts for me, it even dumbed things down which I appreciated.

So back to the issue at hand--time travel. Apparently, the root of this idea is closely tied in with Einstein's Theory of Relativity which pretty much entails our relative measurement of time and distance. I'm not going to lie, this stuff gets deep so I'll spare you my crude scientific analysis. But here's the dumbed-down version so you can read this crap for yourself.

And once I unearthed the concepts behind Einstein's famous theory, I started thinking about the universe and how incomprehensibly vast it must be. Is there only one universe or is there an infinite number of universes? How far does our universe actually go? How many galaxies are in our universe? Since the universe is so vast, couldn't there be an infinite number of living beings out there? Okay, I know asking such questions is enough to make the average person go loco but I just couldn't help it! I had become a crazed-wannabe-astronomer who needed answers!

So once again, I turned to NOVA Online and found the article aptly entitled, "How Big is the Universe?" It was written by Brent Tully, an astronomer from the University of Hawaii. According to Tully, we are extremely limited by time and distance in order to truly answer this age-old question. Since there are approximately 6 trillion, yes TRILLION, miles in 1 light-year, the farthest galaxies we are able to see are 10-12 billion light-years away. Seriously, my brain can't even begin to compute how far away that really is!

If my mind wasn't completely BOGGLED enough, I stumbled upon the Harvard website which helped put some of these insane figures into perspective. Those most distant galaxies, at approximately 10 billion light-years away, are "so far that the light arriving on Earth today set out from the galaxies billions of years ago. We see the galaxies not as they are today, but as they looked long before there was life on Earth."

Doesn't that just blow your mind??

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tale of a Taser Tragedy

Zofia Cisowski had been looking forward to this day for a long time. It was the day that her only son, Robert Dziekanski, was going to arrive in the country and share in the Canadian dream.

Cisowski had immigrated to Canada from Poland nearly a decade ago. She had eventually settled in Kamloops and was patiently tucking money away for the arrival of her only child. Seven years later, her son would finally be joining her. He was a 40 year-old carpenter with a soft spot for geography. Sadly, his first day in Canada would also be his last.

On October 14th, Dziekanski arrived at the Vancouver International Airport. His flight had been two hours delayed, but his first plane ride had touched down safely. Unfortunately, things were about to get much more complicated for Mr. Dziekanski.

Since he had never flown before, Dziekanski was not familiar with airport protocol. He didn't speak any English and there was no translator in sight. Dziekanski had helplessly wandered around the secured customs area unable to find his mother for nine hours. Nine whole hours had went by without airport staff assisting or even approaching this lost man.

Meanwhile, his mother was only 100 metres away waiting for him in the New Arrivals. Cisowski had become concerned when several hours had elapsed without any sign of Robert. Even though she had repeatedly pleaded with the customer service reps to help her locate her son, Cisowski was reassured that airport security would eventually find the lost man and lead him to his mother. Nine hours later, the tearful mother had jumped on a bus back to Kamloops after Immigration Services had wrongfully informed her that her son had never arrived.

But Dziekanski had arrived and the hunger, jet lag, and frustrastion were finally bringing him to his breaking point. He had become angry and irrational. He was screaming and throwing around airport property. Airport security had been called, while the RCMP had arrived shortly after.

The 4 officers had approached Dziekanski and tried to calm him down. Apparently, those 4 officers felt physically threatened by this irrational and disoriented screaming Polish man. This may explain why after only 25 seconds, this potentially "dangerous" man was tasered, not once, not twice, but four separate times. Not shockingly, this 50,000 volts of pure electricity had sent Dziekanski into cardiac arrest. Instead of trying to revive the man, those 4 officers had continued to physically subdue him.
Dziekanski had died on that airport floor shortly after.
Afterwards, I'm sure those RCMP officers were kicking themselves when they realized that an eyewitness had captured the whole tragedy on his camera phone.
You can learn more here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Intelligent Design of Ethical Education

So I'm writing this post in response to a recent discussion on Blog Catalog, and boy did it ever get people all riled up! Not surprisingly, the debate is a familiar one: Should intelligent design be taught in the classroom? Before I completely shoot down this notion, let's explore the facts from an ethical perspective.

Such a curriculum would automatically meld the interests of Church and State. In Canada, this issue is further complicated by certain provinces (Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec) actually funding Christian institutions as "separate schools." This has become extremely problematic considering Canada also has large Aboriginal, Jewish, and Sikh populations. Even in the 19th century, many Canadians recognized that such a system was flawed. As Manitoba entered federation in 1870, the Manitoba Act was passed shortly after in order to exclusively protect the religious and language rights of English-speaking Protestants and French Catholics. Such protection came in the form of publicly funded Christian schools and language laws in order to represent the separate interests of the Anglophone and Francophone majority. But as the face of Manitoba began to change, so did the demand for these denominational institutions. Many politicians argued that including the Church into public schools greatly undermined the Constitution. They eventually won. In 1890, the Manitoba Schools Act was passed in order abolish the existence of these separate schools and French language laws within the province.

Ethically speaking, public institutions are extensions of our government, and thus have the responsibility of being entirely inclusive and representative of all citizens as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By all means, if parents want their children to learn Creationism in the same breath they learn the Theory of Evolution, they definitely have the freedom to do so at any private school of their choice (unless the family happens to live in any of the 3 provinces mentioned above). So if public schools were to teach the idea of intelligent design, then the curriculum should also include teachings of Aboriginal spirituality, scriptures of the Torah, and the ancient philosophies behind the Guru Granth Sahib--not to mention all of the other spiritual teachings from our multicultural society. Honestly, do you actually think the Canadian government would be willing to open up that can of worms and fork over that kind of funding? (Especially since they are too busy wading through the crap of yet another expensive scandal. But that's in a whole other post, folks...)

Since I got that off my chest, what are some of your thoughts on this issue?

Monday, November 12, 2007

When in doubt, ride it out...

As much as I love snowboarding--the therapeutic rush as you ride through your favourite bowl, the overwhelming euphoria that's triggered by your board floating above fresh powder, and that sense of contentment knowing that you, indeed, have made the "first tracks" of the day--there is one creeping fear that lurks in the back of the minds of skiiers and snowboarders alike. Avalanches. Just the word, itself, makes me cringe. Because in that one word comes the frightening image of thousands of tons of snowy wrath chasing and eventually burying the poor sap who just happened to be in its rumbling path. Yiiiikkkkkeeessss! And if you may find yourself in this unluckiest of predicaments, you better hope to God that you at least packed a shovel and a transceiver to give you some chance of survival. Though in the end, one's only real choice when facing this imminent death is getting the sweet HELL outta there! As Jeremy Jones will show you in the following clip, when in doubt, ride it out!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Regardless of the Spotless Mind

Imagine if you had the ability to instantly wipe the slate clean. I don't mean in the figurative sense here, but in the the literal push-of-a-button possibility of all those unwanted memories simply vanishing. (I realize that I'm sounding flakier by the moment here but please bear with me.) At first glance, I have to say that such an idea appears quite inviting. Memories of all those nasty break-ups--GONE. Memories of personal defeat--also GONE. I mean what harm could possibly be done by selectively discarding such unwanted mental baggage?

However, such mind alteration would have to result in some consequences. I mean take Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. For those of you who haven't seen the surreal film, here's the 20-second synopsis: Boy meets girl. They eventually fall in love proving that opposites do attract. But as the honeymoon phase ends, the couple realize that their differences may be irreconcilable. As a result, they break-up and both decide to undergo an irreversible procedure to erase all memories they have had of one another. Ultimately, Joel (Jim Carrey) regrets his decision and sets-out to metaphysically recapture all of his memories of his dear Clementine (Kate Winslet), despite the fact that she still has no recollection of their relationship. Are you all still with me? I know it sounds bizarre but I think that Kaufman truly has his finger on the pulse of the human condition. How? Well, read on, folks...

Recently, a very close family member of mine was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease (AD). A truly hearbreaking illness, AD causes one's body and mind to eventually disintegrate. Essentially, the disease is progressive brain damage in which tiny plaques slowly envelope centres of the brain, resulting in permanent cell damage. And these nasty plaques don't discriminate either. They target one's use of language, reasoning, motor skills, and even long and short-term memories. In a sense, it's like individuals suffering from AD are like the love-lorn Joel. Knowing that their fate is imminent, I imagine that they try to hold on to their memories in any way they can, good or bad. Because in essence, our memories are what define us--they make us who we are. Even in those negative memories--that nasty divorce, the death of a loved one, or living through a natural disaster--there is significant evidence of our humanity.

At the same time, our memories of our loved ones are instant portals to those moments that define our relationships. Whether they allow us to relive the marriage to our sweetheart or the birth of our children, such memories remind us why these people are in our lives. And in the instance that a loved one's recollection of these moments simply vanish, as in the tale of Joel and Clementine, we carry on their legacies in our own way regardless of their spotless mind.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

DAMN! Canadians Sure are Funny!

All right, so this post is a small ode to Canadiana--a spotlight on two freakin funny Canadians! I realize that this isn't a new phenomenon as the likes of John Candy, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Dan Akroyd, all of the SCTV alumni (notably Martin Short, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O’Hara), all of the Kids in the Hall alumni, Norm Macdonald, Leslie Nielsen, Michael J. Fox, Tom Green, and even Lorne Michaels (SNL founder), are all Canucks that have memorably made us laugh our pants off. However, I would like to add two more funny favourites to the list. While Canadians everywhere will know both of these comics very well, perhaps our American and international neighbours will get a kick out of these guys too!

...and the bloody hilarious Rick Mercer--
(I know he's best known for poking fun at our southern neighbours but I thought I'd switch it up a bit and show you this clip instead)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Buy Nada Day

For the last 15 years, the folks at Adbusters Media Foundation have found a rather ingenious way to royally stick it to the man. They launched Vancouver's International Buy Nothing Day, an entire day devoted to buying zilch, zero, nada. With mobs of Christmas shoppers scouring the malls in the name of sweet Santa, such a movement may seem like an unlikely sell (Sorry, I couldn't help myself). But on the contrary, this day of anti-consumer reckoning has actually caught on in 65 countries such as the UK, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Norway and India, to name just a few. So what day did they choose to mark such an event? November 23, in order to put a kibosh on the pinnacle of Christmas shopping mania. In addition to their zero shopping mantra, the Buy Nothing activists have put global climate change at the centre of this year's activities. According to Adbusters co-founder, Kalle Lasn, "So much emphasis has been placed on buying carbon offsets and compact fluorescent lightbulbs and hybrid cars that we are losing sight of the core cause of our environmental problems: we consume far too much.” Oh, let the pacifists unite!

Here are just a few of the events taking place during International Buy Nothing Day 2007:

-->Credit Card Cut-up: individuals volunteer their services at a local mall by cutting-up those nasty Visas--for free!

-->The Zombie Walk-->Buy Nothing participants wander around shopping malls and poke fun at the expressionless, zombie-like faces of Christmas shoppers.

-->Whirlmart-->a large Buy Nothing posse invade a local Wallmart by forming a long conga line of shopping carts throughout the store without buying a single thing.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hello Dolly! Lifeless Lolitas Leap into Japan’s Dating Scene

Creepy single men have discovered the Holy Grail of love in Japan—life-sized dolls! And we're not just talking about your average Betty-blow-up doll here. These are anatomically-correct dolly soul mates! According to Reuters, the silicon seductresses were originally marketed towards individuals with special needs in order to aid in the pleasure department, but they soon caught the fancy of many single Japanese men. The Oriental Industry Co. has now patented nine doll designs in order to meet the demands of their largest market—disturbed middle-aged men who pay up to$5500 USD a pop. Barbie, watch out girl!
Sure, these lifeless lovers don't eat, speak, or even breath for that matter, but they do possess one unbeatable quality: unconditional love. Take it from serial dolly dater, Ta-Bo, who swears by his five prosthetic lovers: "A human girl can cheat on you or betray you sometimes, but these dolls never do those [things]." Shucks, now that is love. (Or at least a very sick, twisted, and pathetic version of it!)

Doggone Dog Digging Himself into a Deeper Ditch...Ahem...George Washington's Slaves' Grave?!?

As if shamelessly dropping the "N-bomb" wasn't bad enough! Shame on you, Dog!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What's in your bubble?

Jimi Li has retaliated against our branded landscape. As our public spaces have become completely inundated with ubiqutious ad culture, the graphic artist has decided to take matters into his own hands. But fear not, folks. He brings not guns, or tanks, or bombs. His preferred weapon of choice? Well, bubbles of course. Yes, that's right--thought bubbles.

In what he has coined "The Bubble Project," Li has taken to the streets of New York City and targeted his advertising foes with the homemade bubble stickers. In turn, passersby are encouraged to fill in these bubbles with their own commentaries. Afterwards, Li photgraphs the tagged bubbles and posts the results on his website. More recently, this bubble boy has even released a book of his anti-branding work. The reasoning behind his bubble counterattack? According to Li, "[These bubbles stickers transform the corporate monologue into open monologue...More bubbles mean more freed spaces, more sharing of personal thoughts...and more imagination and fun." Thanks, Mr. Li.

For your bubbling pleasure, I've even included a blank bubbled ad below. So what's in your bubble?

Check out Li's website for yourself:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Will the real Asian woman please stand up?

Images of Asian women you've probably seen...

Just a few of the Asian women you SHOULD have seen...

Trinh T. Minh-ha--prolific Vietnamese American feminist, filmaker, artist, writer, and scholar. Notable works: Reassemblage (film), Women Native Other (book)

Vickie Nam--Vietnamese American journalist, editor, and youth leader. Notable work: Yell-Oh Girls!: Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing up Asian American

Dr. Melinda de Jesus--Filipina American feminist, writer, editor, and scholar.
Notable work: Pinay Power--Peminist Critical Theory: Theorizing the Filipina American Experience (editor)

Amy Tan--prolific Chinese American writer and scholar. Notable works: The Bonesetter's Daughter, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Joy Luck Club

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I used to friggin love this game as a kid!! You have to play at least one game!