Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ode to El Familia

Cuivis dolori remedium est patientia.

--Patience is the cure for all suffering.

This is a conversation I had with my mom, sometime during my terrible teen years:

MOM: What's wrong with you?! Have you forgotten where you came from??

ME: Where I came from? What, you mean some Third World country with a bunch of poor people?

MOM: Don't you ever say that! You are a Filipino--have some respect!!

ME: I know, but I was born in Canada so I am also a Canadian. Remember?

MOM: You think you're so smart because you speak fluent English and can manipulate conversations. But the truth is, you wouldn't be in the comfortable position you are now if it wasn't for the sacrifices made by your family!


After a few deep breaths, my newly composed mother began to tell me this story. I had heard much of this before, but now she made no qualms about filling in ALL the blanks....

MOM: When the Japanese came, we lost everthing. Our house was burned down during their occupation so that's why there are no photos from my childhood. Since my parents had 8 kids, they were not going to take any chances. We had to flee Davao.

The plan was to go to Cotobato since my mother, your Lola, had a brother there. This was a very long way on foot. We basically had to walk from one coast to another. It was a very long journey.

My father, your Lolo, carried all of the food and supplies that we needed. Your Lola carried your Auntie Nina near her chest since she was only a baby. I was just a toddler so your Auntie Linda carried me on her back the whole way.

We had to remain inconspicuous so the Japanese would not find us. So we often walked through fields. If my parents heard or saw anything suspcious we had to crouch down to the ground. Your Lola has since told me she was very very frightened during these times....

ME: Oh my GOD! Did you guys actually make it the whole way?

MOM: Amazingly, yes, we did. We stayed at my uncle's place in Pigcawayan, a city in Cotobato, until after the war.

ME: And then what happened?

MOM: We travelled back to Davao.

ME: You went back?

MOM: Well, my parents still thought we had a house to go home to. When we returned, that's when they discovered that our home was burned to the ground.

ME: That's so devastating!

MOM: It was, but remember, that was just a house. I think my parents were very thankful that we all actually survived.

ME: No kidding! That's an amazing story....

MOM: Well, there's still more. Do you want me to go on?

ME: Yeah Mom, for sure. Go for it.

MOM: So my father had fallen very ill in the years following the war. As his condition began to dramatically deteroriate, he eventually passed away from these complications.

This was very hard on my mother. She loved your Lolo so much. While he came from a very wealthy family, your Lola came from a very poor family. His family did not approve of this. In fact, they disowned him when he married her. So when he passed away, he did not have a lot of money to leave us.

My mother was very worried because she now had 8 mouths to feed, and we were all very young at the time--my oldest brother, your Uncle Tony, was 15 years-old. Your Uncle Danny, the youngest, was still a baby.

While your Lola was an intelligent woman, she only had an Elementary school education so her employment options were very limited. She also had many children to care for so she couldn't leave the house to work. This meant that your Uncle Tony was forced to sell fruits and vegetables on a street corner in order to put food on the table for us.

ME: Are you serious? Uncle Tony actually had to do that? He was like my age at that time!

MOM: Well, unlike you, he had no other options. It was not a glamorous job, but it was either that or starve.

ME: But I don't get it. How could you guys be living in total poverty and then somehow all become educated and immigrate to Canada and the States?

MOM: Be patient, I'm getting to that.

ME: OK, continue then.

MOM: So when hope was beginning to run-out for my family, my dad's sister suddenly arrived on our doorstep. What a godsend! She invited us all to move into her house so she could help us. Most of all, she was the catalyst for all of us getting an education.

Over the next few years, my aunt helped raise us and became our soul breadwinner. She would even pay for your Auntie Linda's and Uncle Tony's post-secondary education. This was a true gift since an education was the only ticket out of our poverty.

Once your Uncle Tony eventually graduated with a Master's Degree in Political Science, he made good on his final promise to our father....

ME: Promise?

MOM: Before your Lolo had died, Tony had told him he would take care of our mother and all of his siblings once he had the opportunity. And since he had just landed a good paying post-degree job, this was now the opportunity he had been waiting for.

Recognizing that our aunt had went above and beyond the call of duty, your Uncle Tony decided to take the responsibilty of paying for the rest of our college education.

Can you believe that? He sent us ALL to school! If it wasn't for your Uncle Tony, your Auntie Nina, Uncle Joe, Uncle Rene, Uncle John, Uncle Danny, and myself would not have had the opportunity to earn the degrees we have today.

ME: That's absolutely incredible! But how did Uncle Tony have the time to send all of you guys to school and start his own family?

MOM: He didn't. Helping us all get an education came at the price of his own personal life. Since he was so busy working crazy hours, there was just no time for dating or socializing, much alone getting married. When he did finally settle down, he was already nearing his forties.

ME: Wow, Uncle Tony is such an extraordinary person! So self-less. I mean all of you guys are amazing come from nothing and end up where you are today. Mom...I'm really sorry about what I said earlier. I really had no idea....

MOM: That's all right, hija. You come from a different world, so of course it is difficult for you to understand another kind of life. All we ask you to do is remember...and recognize that you come from a very special legacy. You are a Filipino.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow Day Chronicles: Two of My Favourite Things

As I watch the sky wildly falling outside in yet another one of those Canadian white-out blizzards, all I can think about are the simple comforts like a Bailey's and coffee, a bowl of hot chili, and a cozy fire..that is, if I had a fireplace of course. So since I can't invite you all over for a round of hot cocoa and a pot of stick-to-your-ribs chili, let me give you the next best thing--a book and an album you can depend on during your own lazy Sunday....

With one of the most convincing and multi-faceted characters that I have encountered in a long time, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an intertextual journey which successfully balances its many hats: a whodunit Mystery a la Sherlock Holmes (hence its title), an existential commentary, and a creative coming-of-age. Haddon does so, in such a way that, a) you won't put the damn book down until you've finished reading it, and b) you'll simultaneously laugh, cry, and ponder how prime numbers actually relate to life.

The story is actually a book within a book, written from the point of view of 15 year-old Christopher John Francis Boone--a mathematical prodigy that can mentally calculate 2 to the power of 25 (answer: 33,554,432), hates the colour yellow but loves the colour red, and was born without the ability to understand human emotion, all hallmarks of his autistic savant. When Christopher discovers that his neighbour's dog has died under extremely suspicious circumstances, he makes it his personal mission to find the supposed culprit. Without dropping any more spoilers, let's just say that despite the underdevelopment of Christopher's social intuition, you still get a fascinating window into his insightful views on life as he reveals a profound humanity behind those mathematical equations and scientific theories that somehow govern the laws of the universe.

Assuming that Radiohead does not need much of an intro, I'll just tell you straight-up--I'm completely addicted to their latest album, In Rainbows (single-disc release). While the actual merits of the record could have been lost in the hype of the band's "download-by-donation" marketing campaign, it obviously stood its ground because let's face it, it's a damn good album!

Unable to deny my penchant for cheesy analogies, I have to say that In Rainbows is like the musical equivalent of Momma's homemade apple pie: well-crafted and hugely satisfying. The album echoes the same pop rock fabric reminiscent of Radiohead's critically-acclaimed OK Computer, a sound the band consciously meandered away from in the form of surrealistic electronic rock by way of their 2000 release of Kid A and Amnesiac, which they put out the following year. As usual, Thom Yorke's characteristic falsetto and spot-on tone gives each song its Radiohead signature, however, In Rainbows equally showcases the extraordinary musicianship of multi-instrumentalist bros, Jonny (lead guitar) and Colin (bass) Greenwood, and Phil Selway's solid percussions.

While the band replaces their desire for innovation with that of listenability, their 7th album is anything but simple. "15 Steps" intricately layers a complex jungle-like drumbeat with an ultra smooth guitar progression, "Nude" is a dream-like lullaby in which Thom's wistful vocals say it all, and "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is beautifully crafted as that special chemistry shared by Thom, Jonny, Colin, and Phil takes the song to a perfect climax.

Needless to say, I'm probably going to crank-up In Rainbows on the old stereo, free pour some Bailey's into my coffee, and curl-up on the couch as I watch the dizzying flurries touch down outside my window.

"15 Steps" (Scotch Mist Version)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Happens in Mexico, Stays in Mexico....until now

"C'mon, that didn't really happen, did it?"

"Seriously...for about 5 minutes, I thought we were all on our way to a seedy Mexican jail."

"Hey, look on the bright side. At least you guys lived to tell the story and can all laugh about it now!"

"Right, it was really freakin' funny...."


As the entire wedding party all hopped on their borrowed banana seat bikes, our sticky sweat-drenched bodies were a very obvious indication that we were all in desperate need of a dip in that inaugural cenote.

Our buddy, Tim, a first-class schmoozer, befriended two local business owners during a night of debauchery involving way too many shots of tequila and Dos Aquis to mention. In addition to his well-deserved hangover, Tim had announced that his new acquaintances had offered to take us all on a personal bike tour through the Mayan Jungle. As icing on the cake, we would hit every single cenote along the way to do some killer snorkeling.

Needless to say, we were all sold on Tim's proposition.

So our trek began at the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, about three hours south of Cancun. We pedaled away from the sleepy coastal town and soon hit the bumpy gravel roads that wove through a dense rainforest of tropical dry and tropical wet semi-deciduous trees.

When we thought we couldn't possibly encounter any other humans deep within this jungle, our enthusiastic guides would bring us to the first of many remote beach enclaves in which hammocks were strung around a beautiful teak bar. With refreshingly stiff margaritas in hand, our eyes would wander from the waves calmly hitting the sand to the outdoor community of palapa huts lining the secluded beach.

It was paradise.

Once we had cooled-off, our guides cracked the whip and reminded us that we still had to experience the first cenote of the trip. So begrudgingly, we got our butts back on those bikes and lazily pedaled away.

After a sharp detour down a very steep and narrow path, we arrived at our first cenote. And it was absolutely breathtaking.

The clear, freshwater pool filled a nearly-symmetrical round crater, as a tall shale wall surrounded one side of the lagoon in which those ballsy enough (none from my party), could do some cliff-jumping if they so dared. Instead, we opted for the safer choice and all decided to partake in some marathon snorkeling as we pretended to be marine biologists and geologists for the day.

And so our day continued along at this carefree pace which consisted mainly of biking, swimming, snorkeling, and drinking. I know, life was tough....

As the tour drew to a close, a member of our exhausted entourage announced that he wanted to stop for a brief smoke break. Apparently, he couldn't smoke and bike at the same time. Since we were all teetering on heatstroke and total exhaustion, we all obliged.

So as our buddy went to light his cigarette, one of our guides began to spark a joint. He insisted that we all share his little party favour but for some reason, we all passed on the grass. After a full day of biking, swimming, and sipping margaritas, all I could think about was a cool shower and my comfy hotel bed.

Once our guide savoured the last hit of his doob, we all eagerly hopped on our bikes one last time and....

"ALTO AHI!!" A stern and authoratative voice called from the depths of the jungle.

We all simutaneously turned to one another with puzzled expressions that seemed to say--Who the fu** was that??

Suddenly, a small, Mexican man in a blue uniform emerged...seemingly out of nowhere. A very intimidating gun slung across one of his shoulders.

Right at that moment, I answered my own question. He was a Federali. Oh God, he probably smelled that jackass' pot and now we were all fu**ed!

Seeing the growing fear in all of our eyes, both of our guides calmly told us to: a) not to move, and b) not to utter a single word. They would do all the talking.

As we stood there in complete disbelief, all I could think about was a line I had read in a Lonely Planet about situtations such as this:

"Mexico has a no-tolerance policy for drug related offences and will not show Canadians or Americans any leniency if arrested under these circumstances. Neither Canadian nor American embassies are likely to intervene on their citizens' behalf if such offences are committed."

Great, we're all going to get thrown into a Mexican slammer--by some omnipresent police force--for a crime neither of us (Canadians) committed! To top it all off, this shit's going to go down exactly one day before my best friend's fabulous beach wedding...the soul reason we're all here in the first place!

And right when I thought I was on the verge of having a self-imposed heart attack, that enigmatic Federali officer ran right back into the bushes from where he came. It appeared as though some kind of deal was struck between him and our two guides, however, not a word was ever spoken about any of the details.

Once we finally got back into town, we thanked our two new friends for the exciting day, and promptly caught a cab back to our hotel.

The ride started off in complete silence until someone finally said, "Dude, did that really just happen?" Suddenly, we all broke out into an uncontrollable fit of laughter....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Their Lenses of Hope--"Born into Brothels"

"As an artist you are responsible to no one and to nothing, except to yourself and to the truth as you see it."

--from Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev

Even the most eternal of optimists would have a difficult time finding the silver lining in their lives. They are painfully poor, unwanted, and live under extremely inhumane conditions. Worst of all, they are born without so much of a chance of transcending these grim circumstances.

So who are they?

They are the children of Calcutta's brothels.

Often born into a long line of sex trade workers who were also sold into this desperate lifestyle, these young girls and boys just exist day-by-day, dreaming of the lives they could be living had the stars been aligned in their favour.

Maybe they would go to school and eventually become India's future doctors and lawyers. Maybe they would nurture their creative gifts to the fullest to become the great writers and artists of their time. Maybe they would one day earn enough money to rescue their families from this endless cycle of poverty. Maybe, just maybe....


Zana Briski was a woman with a vision.

After studying Visual Arts and Documentary Photography at both the University of Cambridge and New York's International Centre of Photography, Briski first travelled to India while pursuing a project on female infanticide. A few years later, she would return to the country with yet another trick up her sleeve.

Briski navigated through a world of pimps and drug dealers in order to capture the lives of Sonagachi's sex trade workers in her photography. But as she began to peel back the disturbing layers of Calcutta's red-light district, Briski found a source of both hope and despair in lives even more stigmatized than these brothel workers--their children.

From the time they woke up to the time they fell asleep, these little girls and boys worked. Whether it was making illegal sales for the family's underground liquor business, or playing the house maid where a hard slap and a barrage of drug-induced insults replaced a much-needed hug, these kids were painfully aware of their bleak fates.

And Briski knew she had to help.

While convincing the local boarding school to admit the children of brothel workers seemed like the equivalent of moving a mountain with one's bare hands, Briski decided to start off small. She would first, teach them the art of photography.

She gave these kids the power of sharing their world through their own eyes and this is what they saw:

**(all photos courtesy of Kids with Cameras)**

So Kids with Cameras was born.

Not only did Briski empower these children by encouraging them to learn more about themselves and the world around them, Shanti, Avijit, Gour, Kochi, Manik, Puja, Suchitra, and Tapasi, have started a movement in which children worldwide are being educated about the harsh realities of war, poverty, and sexual slavery through photography. As a result, children from marginalized communities in Cairo, Haiti, and Jerusalem have also contributed their own artistic visions as seen through their lenses of hope.

**If you would like to learn more, please visit the Kids with Cameras website. I would also encourage you to watch Briski's award-winning documentary that started it all, Born into Brothels.

Bamboo Blitz has been HACKED!

Hello everyone, I'm having the sneaking suspicion that my blog has been HACKED since a strange non-Blogger logo keeps appearing in my address bar so if anyone has any suggestions/advice, I would really appreciate it!

Regular posting will commence once I get to the bottom of this issue....

Thanks guys!

UPDATE (about an hour later):
**OK, I'm thinking that I somehow resolved my blog problems so I'll keep my fingers crossed....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Must We Pit Race Against Gender?

While Ms. Winfrey is making it no secret that she has Sen. Obama's back, her mentor, Dr. Angelou, publicly endorses Sen. Clinton. As a result, much is being made about the significance race and gender are playing in these presidential primaries.

However, is it not extremely problematic to assume that one's politics are based solely on these categories alone? Would it not be the same as asking a person of colour: Are you more loyal to your race or your gender? In the case of Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou, the more specific question would be: Are you Black first, or female first?

Is this not a ridiculous question? How would one respond if put on the spot like this?

Well, Dr. Angelou was put on that spot. Having made enormous contributions to both the American Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement, CBC's Evan Solomon made sure to ask her where her true loyalties really did lie. But make no mistake, Dr. Angelou made sure to give Solomon some perspective on the true nature of her politics:

SOLOMON: You’re one of the great observers of America. If you were going to say where we’re at now, how would you describe it to me?

ANGELOU: To say where we are today...we are in the throws--and I love the word--in the throws of finding out who we really are…how courageous we really are…how intelligent we really are. Sometimes we’d rather bear the ills we have rather than fly to others, and we know not ours. Sometimes we will vote for the same people our families voted for knowing very well that it hasn’t served us very well.

SOLOMON: You have worked with the great champions of civil rights…


SOLOMON: Malcolm X…


SOLOMON: -- as you say…Martin Luther King. Now there’s a very good chance Barack Obama, a Black man, has a very good chance to become the President of the United States...that Dr. Maya Angelou would see this as the fulfillment of one of the great civil rights dreams, and yet you’ve advocated for Hilary Clinton.

ANGELOU: Yes…I don’t see that as a contradiction in terms. That is to say that I have advocated for the best person. And I admire Mr.…uh…Sen. Obama. I admire him. But I also believe in going out with whom you came in with. Mrs. Clinton has earned my respect, admiration, and even affections over the last twenty years. When she was the wife of the Governor of Arkansas, I liked her then. She came into Arkansas with a fresh voice. And she didn’t try to talk down to anybody. She didn’t try to appease anybody by what she thought they wanted. She was herself. And when she stood up in the after having become a kind of joke, and she stood up. She didn’t argue, she didn’t shout, she just stood up like a woman. I thought, hmmm…If decided to run for anything, I would back her.

SOLOMON: In America, can you take out gender and race from the equation? Or are both of those movements—both of which you’ve been so intimately involved with—crucial factors to consider?

ANGELOU: I’ve taken them out.

SOLOMON: But how can you?

ANGELOU: Well, I’m an intelligent person. I don’t have to follow what is done by other people. I have intelligence and so I act intelligently. What I do, is I don’t say of Ms. Clinton that she is a woman so I support her. No, no, no. I meant she is a full human being so I support her. I support her because I admire her. I admire what she has been…and been to people in our country. Her dreams about health for all Americans are really notable.

SOLOMON: I wonder if you’re old friends, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, were sitting here and they looked at you and said, ‘We’ve finally have a presidential candidate….’ What would they say to you?

ANGELOU: I think they would say, ‘Good on you, Maya Angelou!’

**[The excerpt was transcribed from Solomon's interview, "Race vs. Gender Politics," that aired on CBC News: Sunday on January 12, 2008. You can watch the full interview HERE.] **

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The View from Baghdad

Since I've become a regular at Sunshine's site, her blog roll led me right to the home of another subversive Iraqi blogger, Mohammed. Grimly entitled, Last-Of-Iraqis, Mohammed's profile is enough to cause your heart to break:

I'm a 25 years old dentist [and] I live in Iraq (Baghdad). I was born and raised here but unfortunately I'm thinking that the Iraqis are going to [become] extinct. [S]o I made this blog wishing that I can make a difference or even share my grief with the whole world and give them an idea about what's happening here from the point of view of a civilian living in the war zone. [N]ot from the politicians nor people who get their benefits from the conditions.

After reading a few of Mohammed's blog entries, I was both moved by his raw candor and horrified as I could sense his deep anguish as he detailed the rapid disintegration of his country. In "Deterioration," Mohammed writes:

The most painful feeling you can have is when you see your neighborhood on the verge of destruction, the deepest sorrow is when you watch the place where you lived all your life and where you dreamed to live being raped by criminals!

I am honestly at a loss for words.

Living in the comfort of a Canadian, middle-class bubble, I watch the news at my own leisure and casually surf through the channels as Canada and America's version of the war appear as ubiquitously as those groovy I-Pod commercials. If I get sick of watching the men and women in combat shooting their M16s or rocket-propelled grenades, or seeing the catastrophic aftermath of yet another suicide bomber, my own trigger finger can just as easily allow me to escape to a world of CSI and American Idol....

But for Mohammed, their is NO escape. All he has to do is drive down his block to be confronted by the bullets and bombshells firsthand. Imagine, even just for a moment, that this is your life:

I was driving my car in my neighborhood streets while listening to the radio...I reached the side street and I saw the most horrible thing a man can see, there was a car(Kia minivan) escaping and two men shooting at us from it, half of their body was out of the window and they were shooting at us (me and the neighbors) and there were two men on the sidewalk, drowned in their blood, I wanted to follow them but then I remembered I don't have a gun or any weapon what will I do?
What would any of us do if faced with such unbelievable terror?

Meanwhile, CNN or MSNBC or FOX wave their euphemistic wands and let us know that "US-led forces continue to battle a determined insurgency" or when " U.S., Turkish Military Officials Try for Better Communications Following Weekend Bombing in Iraq." Remember the time when Bush insisted, "that to step back from Baghdad would have disastrous consequences in America"?? It's good to know that the war machine is just as strong at home as it is abroad....

While the American primaries are underway and each of the potential candidates spin their platforms on Iraq like it was Charlotte's Web, let me leave you with Mohammed's New Year's wish for 2008:

[A]s a new year begins, I wish peace will get back to the streets of Baghdad and Iraq in general, i wish that Iraqis could live like the rest of the world do, I wish that fanatics, terrorists, insurgents.....etc. call them whatever you want disappear, I just wish they disappear, I wish that anyone who wants to harm any human being disappear from the face of the earth, I wish the violence and the hatred in Iraq will go and be from the past....

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Mohammed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Growing Up is Hard to Do

When did it all happen?

By it, I mean adulthood. You know. The bills, the career, the car payments, the marriages, grad school, divorces, rent, and mortgages. And I haven't even mentioned the kids. But there's no bun in this oven right now so that story is still yet to come....

What I'm saying is that sometimes I psyche myself out by thinking about the seemingly blurred transition between my teen years and that of adulthood. It's like one moment my main concern was what dress I was wearing to the prom--and then, in a blink of an eye--it's now ten years later and I'm on the verge of getting married.

Where did all the time go?

And don't get me wrong. Much of this journey has been the reward. Remember how ectstatic you were when you moved out of the nest into your first apartment? Or how the best day of your life used to be when you could finally, legally buy a round of drinks and dance the night away at the hottest club? And we can't forget about all those college house parties that always turned into a complete gong show?

But eventually, there comes a point when our world begins to change....

I guess that's when life really starts to happen. It's when a parent becomes ill and you are suddenly faced with the true nature of life and death in a way you could have never been prepared for. Perhaps it's that crippling devastation of your first real break-up when you feel like your entire world has been turned upside-down. Or maybe it's that truly messy pickle you have somehow gotten yourself into and your parents just can't bail you out this time.

So now what?

You just roll with it. Because if you can stick it out long enough to wade through all of the crap, you start seeing the world through a brand new lens.

It's when your love for your family and friends seems to grow ten-fold as you begin to realize how they really are there for you until the end. And I think I'm slowly starting to understand why people decide to do it--start families of their own in order to keep this crazy circle going around. (Or maybe it's just that damn biological clock rearing its ugly little head for the first time)....

Monday, January 14, 2008

Aboriginal Women: State of the "Stolen Sisters"

[A nice image will appear HERE once Blogger fixes its uploading issues....]

Last night I heard the screaming

Loud voices behind the wall

Another sleepless night for me

It wont do no good to call

The police

Always come late

If they come at all

--from Tracy Chapman's "Behind the Wall"

In 2004, Amnesty International released a disturbing report detailing the state of missing Aboriginal women in Canada. The expose', aptly entitled, Stolen Sisters: A Human Rights Response to Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada, reveals the dark realities plaguing this marginalized demographic, while providing individual case studies of these forgotten women.

The epidemic of domestic violence has been prevalent in Aboriginal communities, both in Canada and the United States. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, First Nations’ people describe these disturbing occurrences as “[the] consequence to colonization, forced assimilation, and cultural genocide…and behavioural patterns practised by one or more people that weaken or destroy the harmony and well-being of an Aboriginal….”

Equally distressing, “Aboriginal Women: An Issues Backgrounder” reported that twenty-five percent of First Nations women had suffered abuse at the hands of a partner or spouse in 1999. Michelle M. Mann, a consultant on Aboriginal affairs and human rights, revealed how Aboriginal women were three times more likely to experience abuse than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. According to Mann, “Aboriginal women's vulnerability to violence and sexual assault within their communities is fuelled by social and economic marginalization and a history of colonialist government policies…which have disrupted relations between Aboriginal men and women and eroded cultural identity.”

If these statistics are grim, the findings are equally dire south of the border. Like their Canadian sisters, Native American women are also three times more likely to be victims of abuse than any other female demographic in the United States. In addition, “Native American Women and Violence” reports that America’s Aboriginal women experience the highest instances of physical and sexual abuse in the country. According to Lisa Bhungalia, “The problem of violence against Native American women is exacerbated by federal apathy in law enforcement and the courts, and minimal funding for shelters, counseling, and education in Native American communities.”

But despite these grim realities, Aboriginal women have continued to use their own agency in order to ensure that their voices are indeed, heard.

In Judy Rebick’s Ten Thousand Roses, “Indian Rights for Indian Women: Changing the Indian Act” by Caroline Ennis and Gail Stacey-Moore expresses the uprising of First Nations’ women who protested the violation of their Aboriginal rights under Canada’s Indian Act. Prior to the Act’s amendment in 1985, Aboriginal women could arbitrarily lose their Indian status as well as the status of their children by marrying a non-Aboriginal man, by voting in government elections, and by enrolling in post secondary institutions.

As a result, Mary Two-Axe Early founded the Indian Rights for Indian Women group in 1971 in order to challenge the discrimination within the Indian Act. After receiving a phone call from Two-Axe Early, Moore learned that her own Indian status would be revoked since she had a married a White man. Despite being ostracized by her community because of her biracial marriage, Moore became inspired to engage in her own activism in order to end the injustices imposed onto First Nations’ women. After years of educating herself on Canadian law and politics, Moore became an aggressive lobbyist for the rights of Aboriginal women.

Meanwhile, the fire was beginning to ignite Caroline Ennis’ activism. After her best friend, Glenna, was kicked-out of her own house by her husband, she was awarded a measly $1-a-year by New Brunswick’s provincial courts.

This infuriated Ennis to the point of rebellion.

Since the band’s chief had refused to challenge the court’s ruling, Ennis, along with several other women occupied the band office in protest of the dismal housing rights of First Nations’ women . Despite the many threats on their lives, the women continued their occupation in order to gain the leverage they needed to take their activism to the next level. With their reservation facing an imminent implosion, Ennis choreographed the Native Women’s Walk to Ottawa which would successfully illustrate the solidarity of Aboriginal women in championing their basic human rights.

The bottom line is that Aboriginal women worldwide share a dark collective herstory.

However, they continue to use their strength in activism in order to bring attention to their experiences of violence and structural discrimination within their communities.

And as Toni Morrison has said, this will always be a work in progress: "Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hook, Line, and Sinker--The Keyword Game

Lately, I've been especially amused by how cyber folk have found their way to my blog. While I can expect most of my readers to find me with a little help from MyBlogLog, Blog Cave, or Blog Catalog, others have landed at Bamboo Blitz as a result of their Google search.

This is when things get really interesting.

So after scanning through the "referring URLs" of my most recent visitors, I started keeping a tally of some popular keyword searches that launched people to my site via a variety of search engines:

1. "Filipina Mail Order Brides"
2. "Filipinas desire American husbands"
3. "Filipino lolitas"
4. "finding a Filipino wife"
5. "blow-up sex doll"

Do you notice a bit of a pattern here?

Obviously, the funny thing is that my site is the antithesis of the above subject matter. While I'm ectstatic when anyone decides to spend time at my blog, it makes me bust a gut when I think about these avid wife shoppers (or doll humpers) accidentally stumbling upon these posts: "Hello Dolly! Lifeless Lolitas Leap into Japan’s Dating Scene," "The Global Price of Sex," and "Buying a Filipina Wife: Voices of Mail-Order Brides in Canada," which all provide stark commentaries on the global sex trade and the mail order bride industry.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Video Cop- Out--The Clash

Since I've been really busy lately, my next full post will be over the weekend. In the meantime, enjoy one of my all-time favourite songs by The Clash--"Train in Vain."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Iraq--Seen Through the Eyes of Sunshine

Behind the cloud of the rhetoric surrounding terrorism, suicide bombers, Al Qaeda, and the imminent "democratization" of Iraq, lie the countless of mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and grandparents trying to carry on despite this deadly chaos. For this reason, I'm going to explore this issue from the best vantage point there is: through the eyes of an Iraqi....

A few days ago, a good friend of mine had turned my attention to this blog--Days of My Life--and boy, was I ever grateful! Initially, I figured it was just another one of your average-run-of-the-mill-blogs that reads like a diary, or how-to-make-$$-manual, or marketing get the point.

So I click on the link and what I find almost brings me to tears:

Days of My Life--"Talk about daily life of a teenage girl in Iraq, and days of suffer and success. My nickname will be Sunshine...."

As I read Sunshine's profile, I am left with the sense that she is well beyond her years. At just 15 years-old, this Iraqi teen aspires to be an engineer or pharmacist. And despite living right smack in the centre of American-Iraqi crossfire, she describes how "optimism is my strategy always...."

Each of Sunshine's posts, seemingly unbeknownst to her, provide a powerful commentary on the trivial nature of war and religious segregation. While eerily reminiscent of the young Anne Frank, Sunshine's youthful idealism and candid fear dramatically collide with the values detonating the mortars right outside her window.

In "Excellent Eid (part 1)," this Iraqi teen documents her road trip to Baghdad, where relatives are hosting a celebration of Eid ul-Fitr. As American troops ubiquitously line the streets of her journey, Sunshine exclaims: "Thank god we didn’t sleep in the street, when the US vehicles drive we have to stop aside, or drive 100 meters away, slowly with the lights on, if we drive nearby they point with lazer on our car or shoot!"

Once Sunshine and her family finally arrive, she enthusiastically revels in her surroundings as a delicious feast awaits all of the loved ones sharing this special occasion. And throughout her entire story, Sunshine's bright introspection never ceases to amaze me. When speaking to a family friend (referred to as "A") about the fractured relations between the Shiites and Sunnis, the teen is taken by his powerful insights. She shares this valuable lesson with us all:

'[T]he religion should gather us, not separate us, if the religion separate it’s people then I don’t want to belong to any, but I am sure this thing is made by the government, they want to see the Iraqis separated, but anyway it’s not going to happen.' I loved what he said and wrote it at once...well I celebrated Eid for 8 days, with the Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians....

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Listen to the "Gospel" According to Bedouin Soundclash!

Back in 2006, the boys from Bedouin Soundclash said sayonara to their long-time label, Stomp Records, and decided to test the waters out at Side One Dummy Records instead. As they continued to shake-up their reggae, dub, and soul influences into their signature sound, the end result was their rock-solid third album, Street Gospels , released in August 2007.

After seeing the Toronto-based Bedouin boys live in Victoria last year, I was definitely excited to bust a couple of impromptu moves to their brand spankin' new tunes. Let's just say that the record mixes a little bit of old, with something new, while melding some borrowed sounds, while being seeped in reggae roots. All of the 13 tracks weave together Jay Malinowski's hint of Brad Nowell-esque vocals and synchopated guitar riffs, with Eon Sinclair's hypnotic bass lines and Pat Pengally's skankin'-friendly drumbeats, to create a fresh new take on the dub sound. And even though Bedouin Soundclash don't need any extra street cred, the incredible Bad Brain's bassist, Darryl Jenifer, just happened to produce Street Gospels as well as their equally critically-acclaimed, Sounding a Mosaic. While the band is a far-cry from Jenifer's own hardcore band, he craftfully captures the distinct musicianship of each bandmember without over-producing the trio's soulful sound in accordance with his own punk rock ethics.

Even though Street Gospels deserves a couple of good full listenings, here are a few tracks that instantly caught my fancy:

"Until We Burn in the Sun (The Kids Just Want a Love Song)" kicks off the album with a very catchy roots reggae bassline and offbeated guitar licks, which meld perfectly with
Malinowsky's melodic rhymes--"Popping a collar and kicking down the street/Kick it, kick it, kick it to the friends you'll meet/ Beats to beats move our broken club feet/ On the offbeats and in the Middle East...."

"Hush" is the band's acapella offering that sounds remarkably like a gospel hymn, completely with hauntingly beautiful minor-key harmonies.

"Nico on the Night Train" sees the band blending a classic 50s chord progression (ie. remember "Oh Donna"?) with a standard reggae riff, as Malinowski's lyrics heartfully speak of a girl he once knew who is now living on the streets.

"Jealousy and the Get Free" is reminiscent of smooth old school dub tracks that sway like a hypnotic pendulum to a trance-like drum and bass.

"Midnight Rockers" carries Malinowski's almost singsong lyrics--"As scenester kids look for new school shockers/on the horizon comes a midnight rocker"--on board a rolling bassline and understated drums to create a really groovy Bedouin tune.

Even though Marley, Tosh, and Wailer have enormous shoes to fill, Bedouin Soundclash are still making a memorable mark in the new reggae-dub scene. If you're into this genre, make sure to check out some of the tracks above or take a peak at Bedouin Soundclash's myspace for a full listening of some selected songs.

Friday, January 4, 2008

PART 2: What's the Real News? --The Rich and the Scandalous VS. The Rest of the Universe

MAY 2007

As a videotape of a completely hammered Hasselhoff is leaked to Extra,

and Lindsay Lohan gets BUSTED on a DUI charge,

President George Dubya vetoes the Iraq withdrawal bill claiming that setting such a deadline would be like "setting a date for failure" in Iraq (BBC News),

Nicolas Sarkozy is elected as the new president of France and vows to smooth over relations with his American counterparts (the CBC),

and a 114 people die as a Kenyan Airways jet tragically crashes in Cameroon (BBC News).

JUNE 2007

As this Hilton heiress only serves 3 days of her 45-day sentence in the slammer for a probation violation on a previous DUI arrest,

and "The Canadian Crippler," Chris Benoit, sadly kills himself along with his wife and 7 year-old son,

at least 79 people are killed in massive mudslides that hit Chittagong, Bangladesh (BBC News),

Hamas proclaim victory over Gaza as they seize key Fatah infrastructure such as the Preventative Security building and the intelligence service headquarters (BBC News),

and to much criticism and dismay of AIDS activists, G8 leaders pledge $60 billion to fight AIDS, malaria, and TB in Africa (North County Times).

JULY 2007

While yet another young and skinny celebrity gets sentenced to do some soft time for a DUI offense,

and David Beckham makes his very high-profile debut with the LA Galaxy

over 100 people are killed and 250 more are injured in a Northern Iraq car bombing in which 2 tons of explosives are detonated at an outdoor market (BBC News),

Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, is the scene of a deadly confrontation between Pakistani security forces and a fundamentalist students group in which 100 people are killed following a raid led by the Musharref's security fighters (New York Times),

and 200 people die as TAM Airlines Airbus 320 attempts to land in heavy rain and skids into a deadly crash at Sao Paolo's Congonghas Airport.


While tabloid journalists clamour to get the latest photo-op of a very troubled Owen Wilson,

and this trainwreck couple finally check their butts into rehab in the U-S-of-A,

the Interstate-35W highway bridge collapses into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, resulting in 13 deaths and injuring 100 more (CBC News, Hometown Source,)

and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal are hit with the worst floods to hit these regions in living memory as 20 million people are displaced, while hundreds of thousands more have lost their homes, possessions, and livelihoods in the aftermath of a devastating monsoon season (BBC News).

By the end of this month, the death count reaches approximately 720,000 people succumbing to AIDS in Africa in 2007.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A 2007 Recap: What's the Real News? --The Rich and the Scandalous VS. The Rest of the Universe (PART 1 of 3)


As celebrity gossips everywhere jump at the chance to let the world know about Miss Lohan's latest stint in rehab,

and JT's infamous split from Cameron Diaz...

...50 people died in a mudslide in southern Brazil a few weeks earlier (ReliefWeb),

while nearly 50 more lives are lost as a string of deadly, hurricane-like storms hit northern Europe (BBC News).

Meanwhile, approximately 186,000 Africans die of AIDS during this first month of 2007.


While Anna Nicole Smith mysteriously dies in her Miami hotel room, so marking the beginning of the Dannielynn-paternity-scandal,

the ridiculously dysfunctional Houston-Brown marriage finally comes to an end,

and Britney loses both her hair and her sanity...

...340,000 people are left homeless in Indonesia as Jakarta is submerged in a devastating flood (ReliefWeb),

Austrian authorities uncover a huge global child porn ring, in which over 2300 suspects are involved from 77 countries (International Herald Tribune),

and 40 people are killed as a suicide bomber attacks Mustansiriya University in Baghdad (New York Times).

MARCH 2007

As Snoop D-O-double-G gets denied a British visa to perform in the UK,

Bradgelina welcome Pax into their lives,

and Mr. Spears receives his million dollar divorce settlement... tensions flare as an Iranian naval fleet seizes 15 British marines who allegedly entered the country's territorial waters illegally; however, a "national embarrassment" occurs after some of the marines sell their stories to the media following their release (,

Northern Ireland's rival sectarian parties announce a breakthrough power-sharing agreement between the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party and the Catholic Sinn Fein (the CBC),

and crazed gunmen seize a bus carrying 32 preschoolers and 2 teachers in Manila (BBC News).

So far, nearly 600,000 Africans died of AIDS in 2007.

APRIL 2008

While Prince William and Kate Middleton bite the dust,

Dannielynn goes home with her real daddy--the 15 minutes of fame fiend, Larry Birkhead,

and Boy George is arrested on false imprisonment and assault charges for handcuffing a male escort to a bed and sexually assaulting him...

...32 people, including both students and faculty, are senselessly killed in cold blood at Virginia Tech before the gunman takes his own life (the CBC),

a tsunami sweeps through the Solomon Islands, destroying over 900 homes, leaving 500o homeless, and killing nearly 30 people (Guardian Unlimited),

and 140 civilians killed in a car bombing at Sadriya market in Baghdad (Iraqi Body Count).

**Please stay tuned for PART 2 of the 2007 recap.**

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