Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Spiritual Brain

The Spiritual Brain, A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, Harper Perennial, Toronto, 2007

The fMRI and PET scan research promotes nonmaterialist science of mind. Beauregard’s University of Montreal studies and other research he documents in Spiritual Brain demonstrates that mind is not just an illusion of the brain or that the brain alone is souly responsible for all human activity.

Recent fMRI research demonstrates why placebo effect may be more truly said to be the basis of medicine. Mayo clinic certainly validates it. It not just an artifact. Sham Surgery causes knee mobility improvement that lasts indefinitely. The brain is no longer seen as a mechanistic entity but rather synaptic ions are revealed to act like electrons with all the improbability of Heisenberg. Determinism formally a cornerstone of the science game with materialism is left alongside Newtonian physics as neurosciences leaps into the realm of creativity and relativity.
Ironically as Physics, with Quantum theory and String Theory come to accommodate if not encompass and embrace spirituality and consciousness, biology remains hell bent on clinging to the increasingly dubious limitations of “ promissory materialism “.

Each myth of that dogma is debunked as more research unfolds to support the concepts of self and consciousness and the idea of free will with mind indeed being demonstrated to affect the matter of brain rather than vice versa. Double blind prospective science supplants politics and rhetoric.

Individuals with near death experiences, cardiac arrest and documented brain death are revived to reveal functional counsciousness and self with knowledge of events thoroughly unexplainable by the limits of materialism.

In contrast nonmaterialistic neuroscience keeping pace with quantum physics addresses energy fields and points to the extraordinary neuroplasticity of the brain with near as many neurons as stars in the galaxy. It is not just another computer or monkey brain but clearly something as extraordinary as life itself.

Consciousness has restored the self to the science of discovery as Beauregard's research literally lights up the mind. Brain remains in perhaps a loftier place in this new scheme of neurosciences. Science can once more return to an empirical search for truth rather than a devotion to the religion of materialism.

Well worth the read if only for the updating of present day neuroscience research and a clear statement of the mind blowing and brain numbing debates in this awesome field of human endeavour.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Rossland is this marvellously quaint and modern town 10 miles above Trail. Town proud merchants catering to savy tourists have developped their little inland mountain community. Walking the few blocks of town streets I'd feel at moments I was looking at New England shops, in a suburb of Whistler, while all at once back in gold rush era of the 19th century. It is unique and cultured community with it's own Light Opera Company. I learned as well that the teacher of the local high school dance troupe is formerly of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
That night at the Firehall restaurant and cabaret,indeed a red brick towered firehall with a well used firepole, the smoothest jazz saxophone along with stand up bass,soft drums and very hip singer lead guitarist played one great set after another. Between sets an hillarious and attractive burlesque dancer re enacted brief camp routines reminiscient of the Gold Rush era.
Rossland today is the extreme skiing capital, site of the pond hockey championships and a destination for all those who love to back country mountain bike. The people on the streets, in the gift shops, and sports wear stores, all seemed to radiate health and vitality.

I was delighted by the cozy book store and expresso bar whose stock may not be large but whose selection and diversity is superb. It's a mixture of Banyen Books, an Oxford library collection and the latest in paperback thrillers and Canadian childrens' stories.

Much to my surprise I found the following cutting edge neuroscientists writing. I'd read a remarkable paper by him in a scientific journal recording his studies of Carmelite nuns. But here was the book which I quickly bought up. It's called the Spiritual Brain by University of Montreal researcher Mariol Beauregaard and writer Denyse O'Leary, Harper Perennial, 2007.
Drinking cafe latte across from an opera company with snow falling outside Ifelt real contentment as I began this latest treasure.

I was invited to Rossland for an exquisite evening meal at an extraordinary wood stove heated home surrounded by appealing spiritual art. Even the dog seemed a happy reincarnated soul. The gathering of cosmopolitan international professionals had humorous tales of their various jaunts but all had been captivated by the outdoor adventure of Kootenay living and stayed to raise their charming university aged children. My gracious hosts glowing with health and good humor looked hardly old enough to be the parents of lawyers and epidemiologists.

And yet they seemed representative of this community. Refined, energetic, world travelled, ecologically conscious and personally compassionate.

I was reminded of the demographic trend that suggested given the advances in communication technology that cities with their onerous traffic, lack of parking, urban crime and street filled crack addicted pan handlers were quickly becoming second choice to those who wanted to raise their families safely and now could do so with all the advances of modernity and insights of postmodernity.

Rossland was certainly such a place.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


"I didn't know who the Americans were," she said softly with a far away look. "I just looked up and it was their planes and their bombs that killed my mother. We didn't care for Saddam Hussein any better but he didn't kill my family."

There's confusion and complexity in war that doesn't suit the "sound bite" religion of dichotomies. "There's a man with a gun over there, telling me I've got to beware.......People carrying signs, mostly say, hoorah for our side....paranoia strikes deep," wrote Steven Stills in the Buffalo Springfield "For What it's Worth" hit of the late 1960's.
"What choice did we have," the old German man told me. "If I didn't go to the front they'd send me and my family to the camps. It wasn't just jews in the camps. It was Germans, Ukrainians, Poles, anyone who didn't do as we were told."
One of the best psychiatry jokes is, "What's the opposite of being paranoid? Thinking you're following someone."
"It was night," she said. "I was just a little girl but my mom was giving me the 4-10 because the men had told her the rebellion had started. She took the 22 and we went to our rooms. Only in the morning did she realize that she had the 4-10 ammunition and had given me the 22 ammunition. If anyone had come the guns wouldn't have mattered. We were just glad to be alive in the morning."
So many people were on the 'wrong side' of conflicts. What's politically correct is always changing to suit the flavour of the month political authorities. The "baby killer" becomes the "patriot" becomes the "has been".
Where it was once "cricket" to kill the purple and save your own orange ass it overnight becomes decidedly bad form to do any such thing. The polka dots on the other hand must kick striped ass to be men. It's all wrapped up in the cultural imperatives of manifest destiny and whatever other words can justify or explain events afterwards. Mostly a very unhappy God is being used to justify the grandiose killing of an unknown soldier third planet from the sun in a distant arm of a minor galaxy .
And the winner always writes history even more so today than before. When Trotsky became politically incorrect Stalin airbrushed his face from the Communist photo albums. Given the technology of the day you can still see the truth of power. Today the technology is so much better that Trotsky would never have existed.
"Better to be judged by a jury of one's peers than be carried in a coffin by six friends," the policeman told me about firing his gun in self defence. At the time those in the know who'd never themselves been attacked by killers, even if they were 'only' 20 year old killers, who'd never shot guns and depended wholly on the police for their safety, had suggested that this equally young cop 'should have just wounded the guy....not killed him." Too much television and too little knowledge of predators alive or wounded. Survival is such that neither wanted to die but only one attacked.
Everyone has an opinion and more often than not the correctness of that opinion depends on distance from reality.
It was once thought that drug addicts spent too much time in their fantasy worlds and lost track of reality but now the television, play station culture has people equally out of touch with reality.
"They were coming through windows with AK47's to kill my mom and sister.Of course I shot them," he told me. He'd been 16 when his family left South Africa and moved to Canada. "I don't talk about anything like that here. People don't understand. They're all mixed up here. It's good in a way. This much ignorance only happens when people are so safe. That's why I like it here."
I listened to a CBC radio interview yesterday of Melissa Fung the remarkable Canadian journalist who was taken hostage recently in Afghanistan and later released . She was telling the shocked interviewer that the Pakistani man had randomly picked her for a hostage. It was "just business". "He'd have preferred a man because they're easier to take care of." "This is their family's work.....capturing hostages and ransoming them for money." The interviewer's incredulity seemed to be that there wasn't anything terribly political about the whole affair. It was all just random and opportunistic. It could happen to anyone and more importantly it could happen here.
This interview is an extraordinary documentary of history where those who are faced with the front lines of reality try then to explain their experience to those who are priviledged to be in the back lines of power. Increasingly it comes across like those who have tried to explain a religious experience to a person who hasn't known any such encounter. It's like talking to a older virgin poet about lust transformed by love. You know they don't want the bodily fluids and they're really angry that there's sweat but that's the reality. They look at you like you're dirty and you just give up trying to answer their questions or explain to them why their poems aren't quite human.
Life, real life, does not come packaged. It's instinct and survival. Nuremberg wasn't about a particular time and place but rather more so about the human condition. Milgram's seminal research taught us all our frailties and how thin the veneer of civilization is. Perhaps it's getting thinner as the Westpoint psychologist Gross in On Killing would argue that television violence and 'sound bite religion' is teaching us in a thousand different ways that 'might is right'.
I don't like the American war machine. The Guess Who's American Woman, banned all over the states in the 70's still remains a favourite of mine. But that doesn't mean I want the communists, fascistts or taliban in charge. Often the devil one knows is better than the alternative. I don't think Obama has an easy job of staying alive when so much of the world economy revolves around selling arms and ammunition, the NATO nations themselves being the greatest arms producers. They're the good guys. The bad guys more often than not just want the money. Who want's to change the paradigm.
"I'd rather be a hammer than a nail," sings the saddest song of man. The reformer is forever the enemy of anyone who benefits from the status quo.
In it all I admire the hope and resilience and those that continue despite the losses and failures. In spite of all the easy ways out they continue to know that the Gorgon's knot isn't supposed to be cut with an axe or knife. There's always another way. In the end my faith is that what happens is usually the best of a bad lot. And we all know politics makes strange bedfellows.
Right now we have it easy. If Star Trek or Men in Black have any say about the future we're going to be trying to get along with insectoid species and relate to the intelligence in a crystal. When that time comes we'll look back and remember the songs 'These are the good old days."
My own New Year's wish is of course, Peace on Earth Personally, though I hope I'm less quick to judge, less willing to choose sides, more forgiving and tolerant. Mostly I hope to continue hearing from people who were there what it really was like and not to believe the 'spin' or 'sales pitch' or propaganda that gets added to the simpler complex confusing tale of reality and truth. "
"Confusion is the harbinger of change," said the famous Wisconsin psychiatrist Dr. Whitaker. It's too easy to stay in the safe zone of my own predjudice, thinking I'm growing when really I may be stagnating.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nigel Tranter

I am so enjoying reading yet another Nigel Tranter novel. This one is "Tapestry of the Boar", published in 1993 by Hodder and Stoughton Limited. It's a typically magnificant historical fiction romp around the pivotal times of Scotland's ancient past. The cover truthfully describes "this gripping 12th century tale of action, chivalry and romance." Set in the reign of Malcolm the Fourth, Hugh de Swinton aids in the establishing of Scotland's first real hospital at Soutra de Lauerdale. This is all set to the background competition of Celtic Scottish highlanders and Norman Scottish Lowlanders, the Roman Catholic church imposing on celtic Christianity while all the while English Plantaget wants all Scotland under his English flag. Meanwhile politics always seems to interfere with shepherding and cattle droving and birthing all round.

As I've a friend living now in Kirkcubright it was a joy to see that name mentioned here. Tranter's descriptions of geography brings fondly to mind my own time visitting Scotland. At times I think I should have the music of Old Blind Dog playing in the background. Either that or the Simon Fraser Pipe Band. Soon Robbie Burns dinner will be here and I'll again be hearing the glorious toast to the hagus before the annual partaking of that sacred fare.

With the snow outside ever deeper I'm so thankful to have found this Nigel Tranter in the hospital gift shop so that I can curl up in warmth in bed and be whisked away in time and place by that most enchanting of story tellers.

Excuse me now I must leave this motel room and get back to escorting a princess on mission for the king on a sailing ship bound for Holland.

Dec. 26,2008- Kill all the Lawyers

William Deverell is certainly one of my favourite writers. A true master of the detective and mystery genre, he is also the very best ambassador of West Coast Canada. Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North America Crime Writing, he is to British Columbia what Janet Evanovitch is to Chicago and Ian Rankin is to Scotland.
When I recently had the joy of working with a compassionate american hospital lawyer, I thanked him with a hard cover gift of William Deverell’s “April Fool.”
In book charades I once symbolically stabbed the lawyer son of the most remarkable host and hostess who’d graciously invited me into the warmth and charm of their talented family and luxurious home. The quote from Shakespeare came to the mind of one of the other guests but none knew of William Deverell’s book. I felt a fool explaining that it was a book, really, by trial lawyer William Deverell. The very sharp and amusing young lawyer responded, “Not to worry, I’m a contract lawyer“.
Meanwhile his mother clearly a female bear about her children eyed me suspiciously. She’d just told a story of her mother arming her to fend off attackers in the night during an African rebellion. One doesn’t jest even symbolically of harming an African mother’s child.
Now what would Author Beauchamp have done in my place? Somehow got the lovely lady off for justifiable homicide citing my long list of past dinner party faux pas, no doubt.
Author Beauchamp is one of Deverell’s most delightful characters, an aging Victoria barrister married and deeply in love with a vivacious modern environmentalist. It’s tempting to ask how much this characterization resembles himself and his lovely wife in their Gulf Island home. Successful trial lawyer he became the writer of outstanding television series Street Legal. His early book, “Kill all the Lawyers” has been followed by his latest 2008 book “Kill all the Judges”.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Christmas. My rent a wreck winter tired red Grand Am car parked under last night's snow in front of the Glenwood Motel room here in Trail .All week working at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital Daly Pavillion I've used the key fob horn activator to find it among all the other white parking lot burial mounds.

It's definitely a white Christmas. Reminiscient of my Winnipeg childhood, front yard snow men, backyard snow tunnels. Sometimes we even had to wait for neighbours to dig out the doorway so the door could be opened in the roof high snow drifts. Then we'd go round and dig out other neighbours.

We had a sun room, windows all around, at the front of the little red brick bungalo on Fort Garry's North Drive. That's where the Christmas tree stood. Sometimes we'd go out to the woods to cut down a fir or pine with axe or saw. More often though we bought it up on Pembina Highway and tied it on the roof of the car. I remember the American Rambler doing this duty, a blanket under it to protect the paint job.

Mom had the decorations from the years gone by, some her mothers and maybe her mother's mothers. They lived all year carefully wrapped in basement boxes alongside the preserves. There would be angels and stars, round green and red balls, tinsel and flashing multi coloured lights. Decorating the tree was a family affair but most often it was just Mom and the boys. Dad was instrumental with the tree stand and the lights. Christmas was always a special family occasion. Mom made it so.

There'd always be a dog too. Sonny our springer spaniel played centre stage in a lot of childhood memories. Sometimes it was Buddy or one of the goofy black labs. Dad loved playing with Sonny, circling his hand held treat about Sonny's head till pretty soon Sonny was spinning like a top, barking and sliding about on the hard wood floor ,threatening to crash into the tree. Mom would be shooshing dad with her , "Johnny, no," We kids would be jumping up and down laughing. The dog would fall over and Dad would grab him in a hug and that dog would lick faces all round.

Many's the night I shook Christmas presents before going to sleep listening for Santa. Mom even put out milk and cookies when we were really small. I miss her.

Then it would be Christmas morning. But what a time it was getting Dad out of bed. Ron and I'd get on either side of him poking and shaking him and Dad would feign sleep and act like he didn't know it was Christmas morning asking us endless questions about why he had to get up. "Dad!" we'd scream. The dog would be jumping up with its forepaws on the bed. Eventually Dad would say "Oh alright, I'd best see what all this fuss is about!"

Meanwhile Mom would have their tea made. Caroles and weather reports would be playing on CJOB. Mom turned the radio on as automatically as she put the kettle on the electric stove.

Mandarin oranges. Mom always had mandarin oranges. There'd be stockings hanging from the mantle mostly with individually wrapped chocolates and candy cane. Dad would be in a white sleeveless under shirt and red or green plaid pyjama bottoms, and slippers. Mom had floor length house coats. We kids flannel plaid pyjamas. The only clothes we liked getting were Hockey shirts. I had Toronto Maple Leaf's blue and whites while my brother wore the Montreal Canadiens white and reds.

Alot of the Christmas photos feature us wearing hockey gifts with their respective logos. Invariably we'd get new sticks. We always got new pyjamas but the only ones I remember liking had a cowboy and horses pattern. Mostly we didn't like clothes as boys. We wanted toys. Toys. Games. Sport stuff !!

Dad in his pyjama bottoms and white sleeveless undershirt would sit by the tree with the dog by his side hoping for more treats while mom sat by the table drinking her tea. Outside our three big fir trees were heavy laden with snow.

Ron or I would hand out presents from under the tree and we'd wait while each person opened theirs. Much oohing and ahhing, and thanking and yipping with the dog running in circles, mom shushing and Dad laughing.

Mom tried to save paper from year to year. Our parents had lived through the depression and waste was frowned on. Occasionally we'd talk about the years that a particular piece had been in the family, trying to recall which gifts had been wrapped in it the year before.

Funny I don't remember the presents much today. Not many come to mind right now. Alot of things that kids needed like socks and underwear, winter clothes, books or school things got wrapped and put under the tree. Always something, modest enough, like a car, plane or boat model, a camp knife, something we really wanted would be in amongst all the " just stuff". I remember most the red wooden sleigh my father made me out in secrecy in the basement work shop. Later he'd make me my first set of wooden skis with cow hide straps.

Mostly it was the occasion. Family. It wasn't about church or outsiders. It was just family. Church was part of it. But that was on the Sunday of Christmas week and I don't remember Christmas falling on a Sunday. If it did, church would have been fitted into the ritual of Christmas tree morning present opening, afternoon toboganning, or ice skating and later Christmas dinner.

Best of all was when my Aunt Sally came. She was my mother's older sister and came from 'out east". She was always elegantly decked out in the lastest Toronto fashion. She and mom would giggle like girls when they were together. She'd make my dad blush too. We were best of buds all the way till she died at 90 a few years back.

Even earlier Grandma, mom's mom was there. She smiled alot and had hands gnarled with arthritis. She lived in the sun room where we'd have the tree until one night, not at Christmas, she died in her sleep. She was a happy kind soul. And her daughter's sure loved their mother. And she loved her grandchildren.

Sometimes Dad's cowboy brothers came south with Grandpa Hay. Grandpa was an old Scot. A pioneer. Later Reeve. The men would tell stories of hunting, horses, farming, the one room school house, friends from childhood, guys who went to war, for hours. We kids would look on and listen with fascination. I don't ever remember Grandma Hay taking that long winter trip south in the boat sized cars they drove. Minetonas, northern Manitoba, may as well have been the north pole in winter. I always loved visiting the ranch though in the summer getting into trouble with the gang of cousins, chasing chickens and even riding their huge clydesdale horses. When I was really small I remember one of the uncles first lifting me up on that big horse. It had to be bigger than an elephant. Years later I 'd ride horses, camels and harleys. Dad loved to tell stories of driving teams of those horses, logging, as a boy before the war. It wasn't till after mother died that he talked about the coastal bombing missions he flew on during the war. He didn't even tell us he'd gone hang gliding with our uncle in their late 70's. "I couldn't tell you," he said. "I was afraid you'd tell your mother."

I'll always remember mom's turkey dinners. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Rhubarb pies. Chocolates, candy canes and oranges. Playing canasta and rumoli cards after dinner, Dad showing 8 mm movies, little shorts from the year before and years gone by. In one mom got the camera and caught him naked except for shorts and suspenders holding up knee high socks and black shoes. In another mom and a gaggle of other mothers are chasing cans on the ice rink at the winter fair. I'm running around playing Indian in another Christmas short. There were lots of us kids and the dogs in those movies. Home movie memories. A ritual in the Hay home.

Christmas peaked when I was a kid. It never got better. Dad and Mom,Ron, the dogs and the rest of the family getting together, playing and laughing on this special day of the year. Toboganning too. We did that in the afternoon before the dinner. The sleigh dad made was by far the fastest thing on the riverbank slopes. Or ice skating, especially the year the wind blew the snow off the frozen Red River and we could skate for miles.

Later there'd be other good christmas memories. Door to door carolling with teen age school friends for UNICEF, opening the Christmas food care packages in the London flat away across the Atlantic , my gorgeous young dancer wife and I, so very young to be travelling and working overseas. Later Christmas's with familes when we had our own house. My wife and I did our very best to make the finest Christmas dinners to entertain the parents we loved. Whirlwinds of preparations, kitchen chaos and really, good times.

Later the lonely Christmas seasons, more thoughtful spiritual times. Christmas masses, faraway from home places, palm trees, strangers, hospitals and work. A Christmas alone at sea with a dog and cat. But always the spirit of Christmas.

It was never again like the special Christmas of childhood with Mom and Dad, my brother and the dogs, grandparents, uncles and aunts, the Winnipeg home, snow and heart's aglow with love and laughter.

Right now my ninety year old dad is with my brilliant brother,beautiful sister in law and crazy grown nephews out east. I'll trying phoning them all again before I sweep my car and head into the hospital. The nurses just called. I'm looking forward to Christmas dinner with other doctors and nurses tonight. There's always the spirit of Christmas among them.

Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


In the Beginning there was God and God created the Big Bang. The basic idea of Christmas is that God became a man. Clearly he'd already become man because we're all made of God stuff.

The creator creates out of self or non self but regardless the zero or one become the many and now the many become zero or one. Old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem. The linear occidentals favour one and while the circular orientals favour zero. It's an east-west thing. The story's in the middle east so it's mostly transcendental.

Jesus was born in tough times: mass baby killings and crucifixions. Old Romans were far worse than the New Roman Americans. They were bad guys despite their latin poetry and road building comparable to the nazis without their autobahns and volkswagons. Engineers had better press in the old testament. The Old Romans supported the Herods like the New Romans supported Saddam Hussein.

Sometime after spitting up and baby talk Jesus said, "My father and I are one." He also did the Keanu Matrix stuff like walking on water and raising the dead. Aldous Huxley showed that the Perenial Philosophy had been around a long time so it's not just the Q teachings that got and kept people's attention.

Armies of lepers followed Jesus. It's said he's all or nothing. Imagine all the HIV positive and those with AIDs marching on Washington. Sick peope are the least likely to get up and walk. That's just what they did around Jesus,albeit, he gave them a helping hand.

His disciples weren't the swiftest, either. Once he was gone they whacked the first thief among them even though Jesus talked mostly about forgiveness. He died between robbers and told one he'd join him in heaven.

Jesus was a criminal. He'd get the electric chair today. Contemporary Christians should be wearing gold electric chair jewelry . Which is just one more reason for denying the government capital punishment. It's not like it's been infallible.

"Forgive them for they know not what they do," was as inappropriate as Jesus' politically incorrect injunction to "Love your enemy."

He revealed the Trinity 'relationship' God, the three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Identify with the crucified son and no doubt someone will say ,"Get off the cross, we can use the wood." We're all victims or sinners and the father is Joseph or God depending on perspective. It was an immaculate conception.

Only as an adult did I know my Mom was the Holy Spirit.

She knew when we were bad or good better than Santa. But it wasn't until much later that I learned the CIA,NASA and the gadget guys from James Bond and Get Smart let mothers beta test their latest lie detectors, tracking devices and eyes in the back of their head surveillance systems before any of us kids knew such things existed.

Jesus preached the Family God. Interlocking triangles.

I sang car0ls this week in Heavens Waiting Room among wheelchairs and drool. The local minister brought cheer with her piano playing and carole singing. She rallied the troops. All around me they looked pretty beat up. They were smiling though. Maybe some were grimacing. Dementia probably looks worse on the outside like alot of things.

Meanwhile I’m reading the Shack, by Wm Paul Young, a Christmas gift from my friend George. MRI studies have shown that giving lights up the brain nucleus accumbens and hypothalamus in the same way chocolates do.

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?" (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?) Jesus said it first. But that's the middle of the story.

Now it's Bethlehem, shepherds, stars, angels, wisemen and donkeys.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Trail was first explored in 1808. It’s name comes from the Dewdney Trail built by Edgar Dewdney in 1865. At the time the native people of this area were the Interior Salish Tri be who called themselves Senijextees, and were commonly known as the Lakes Indians. The Dewdney Trail was built for the Wildhorse Gold Fields.
James Forbes wrote the impressive Historical Portraits of Trail (Trail City Archives, 1980) stating that two prospectors , Joe Morris and Joe Bourgeous “staked five claims on a mountain across a narrow creek valley that they were working that straddled the trail. These 5 claims were to become the nucleus of a rich gold-copper lode discovery that gave birth to the cities of Rossland and Trail.” P2-3
The mining legislation of the day only allowed each miner to stake 2 claims so when they travelled to Nelson to record their claims they offered the fifth one to Eugene Sayr Topping in exchange for him paying the recording fee. Forbes wrote that “Col. Eugen Topping…and another American, Frank Hanna, formed a partnership and in June 1892 pre empted 343 acres of flat land at the mouth of Trail Creek….Topping and Hanna continued to promote their townsite to anyone who would listen but Trail Creek Landing was little more than a supply depot and shipping point for the Rossland mining camp up the valley.” ibid P5
Steam powered Sternwheelers travelled the Columbia River – Arrow Lake and Kootenay Lake System before later railway development and road developments. A two seat wagon stage also served the area until cars appeared as early as 1912. In winter sleds or sleighs were used.
In 1895, F. August Heinze, a Montana mining promoter, sent his lieutenant to Trail Creek to scout for a suitable location for a smelter to treat the Rossland Ores. Topping offered Heinze 40 acres of bench land above his townsite and one third interest in the townsite itself. Heinze had secured a contract with the LeRoi Mine to supply ore to the smelter and agreed to Topping’s terms. Construction began on a small copper smelter in late 1895 and in the spring of 1896 a narrow guage tramway from the river through the smelter to the LeRoi Mine in Rossland was begun.” Ibid p9
The smelter remains today. As a result of ecological concerns sulphur emissions were limited early and the ‘greening’ of the valley became a central concern of the people of Trail. Today the valley is a favoured tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts and a recreational wilderness paradise.
Dr. W.T Hoyes, was the first doctor to arrive in 1896 followed by Dr. Douglas Corsan who built Trail’s first hospital at the corner of Cedar Street and Helena Street. In 1906 the building was sold and converted into the Aldridge Hotel. Subsequently Dr. Thom, Coughlin and Ney bought the building back and turned it into a clinic. A second hospital was built by Dr. Frank Patterson kitty corner to the Aldridge. In 1926 a 50 bed hospital was built but the city soon outgrew this so in 1954 the present Trail regional hospital was built at its present site overlooking the Columbia River Valley.( Ibid p63-64)
Today it’s called the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.
The 12 bed inpatient psychiatric ward is located in the Daly Pavilion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

False Witness

Exodus 23 states: "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness." In western common law, we are considered 'innoscent until proven guilty' however in French legal tradition there is a presumption of 'guilty until proven innoscent." Hence the famous French writer whose "J'accuse" echos through history. On face the significance of the latter is found in the unwillingness of individuals to make 'false reports' or false accusations. In the French tradition, if you cannot "prove" the accusation then the accuser must bear the penalty of the crime. There is no free lunch there. Increasingly however here we are seeing the alternative system of "totalitarianism" being applied.

"You can't imagine what it was like living under communism," she told me. "Everyone can accuse you of anything and the very act of accusing makes you a friend of the state. You never knew who to trust. Even your family and friends could be awarded financially or with priviledges for testifying against you. And there was no defence. It wasn't as if there had to be any paper or anything like that. Any person could say you were saying things that were objectionable and anything could be objectionable depending on how it was taken."

There is no threat to false accusation, here. All manner of government service encourage neighbours to 'testify' against neighbours promising anonymity. An argument between two mothers not uncommonly is followed by a visit from Family Services.

Just as there is no whistleblower protection here when the whistleblower correctly exposes true crime, there is almost total protection in anonymity for those who bear 'false witness'. In this way what is literally gossip and character assassination is 'institutionalized' and as such given credence where none is deserved. All too often outright lies are cloaked in the most innacurate and nonspecific of languages the 'doublespeak' of beaurocratese too.

Once a statement of lie was significantly demonstrated then the individual was called a 'liar' and the information that followed was deemed equally untruthful by design. There was never a need to 'prove' each and every lie because the court called upon the individual to 'tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God". Yet today, a judge told me, 'everyone lies' in court, and "frankly I can't do anything about it."

At a legal conference doctors were told not to diagnose 'malingering' so that no longer could a physician report that the patient who claimed to be paralysed from the waist down ran out of the room. Well, perhaps he could report it, but heaven forbid he draw any conclusion about the behaviour.

Somehow it has become offensive to describe the offender thus, no matter how offensive the offender is. It has become important to 'validate' the liar as if validation itself was now removed from the very truthfulness of 'validity'. Lying meanwhile is principally done for personal gain.

Where this occurs "might is right' becomes the'truth' because truth is no longer arrived at by logic or scientific investigation or even closed ballot consensus. No one is considered of 'good character"either because 'good' like 'truth' has fallen in the cesspool of 'social relativism". The basis of character was once thought to be truthfulness and veracity, even though it was always recognised that truth without compassion could be deemed cruelty.

The courts perhaps, the state, the beaurocracy for sure, and certainly the criminals especially liars all stand to gain by this proposition. Those groups alone that are part of all totalitarian regimes otherwise institutionalized gangsterism, have the most serious conflict of interest when it comes to the assessment of truth for truth sake and clearly would not promote punishment of false witness. I won't even comment on politicians.

When the Bible was removed from government and court tradition it seemed truth went as well. I personally don't suggest the Bible return but indeed would suggest that perhaps courts and beaurocracy go further along the bizarro path they've thus far embraced. Remove all penalty for lying so all of us can collectively gain from the new deceit called "my truth".

Honestly there are crosses burning in Prince George. I'm sure I heard him say, what was that thing you told me was the most offensive thing, yes that's it. He said that and shes' one of those too.

"I'm tired of lying in court," she told me. "I didn't mind doing it at first for friends. But after a while you think a person should get paid for that sort of thing. "

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dec.16,2008 - The Day the World Stood Still

"Vancouver is beginning to remind me of Winnipeg, " the jovial garage attendant said to my agreement as I paid the parking ticket thankful for my Ranger 4x4 on the icy streets. I was meeting my friend at the Scotia theatre where he'd bought tickets for us to see The Day the World Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves. I settled in with my
buttered popcorn dinner to watch this 'save the planet' film.
Later my friend and I proceeded to the Starbucks for decaf americano and regular coffee. I added to my earlier dinner with a fruit salad.
"He's the star from Matrix." I said.
"Yea, he has the face for science fiction."
"I walked out of church when the minister said we had to walk gently on the planet and meant it literally," The grapes and pineapple bits were delicious.
"But the planet is fragile," he responded. "Look at the rapid decline in male sperm counts all over the world. That's one of things like the canaries in the mines you should take note of." I thought about science and wondered who was measuring and how they were sampling these declining sperm counts.
"What we need is space travel as opposed to wasting rockets on war." I countered.
"I agree to that."
"Buckminster Fuller showed that there's nearly infinite energy but that the bullies are controlling it, hoarding out of their fear and inferiority."
"No doubt, but we're not investing in the nearly infinite energy now because too many people are making billions off fossil fuels."
"Then there's the alternative and energy saving patents the corporation executives are hoarding like the priests before them hoarded the secrets in the Vatican Library. The planet is resilient. We may not be. Consciousness may transfer to cockroaches. I could be looking at the carapace of a pretty cockroach in a future postmamallian lifetime." I drank regular coffee at night while he drank only decaf.
"We're interconnected with the planet," said my friend. He has a warm smile, black glass frames, lively dancing eyes, and usually wears a ball cap.
" After a decade of fear mongering terrorist propaganda for profit I'm just not ready to jump on this 'save the planet' for profit fear mongering platform. I don't think my sorting out garbage is going to do anything when my government is dumping waste en mass with cruise missile cocktails It's like our finance minister who evaded taxes and wouldn't hire Canadians. The problem lies way above me. I don't know how to change the bullies. Like that defence minister in the movie. "
"I just believe it's one person talking to another person." he said, " The greatest contribution of western consciousness is the realization that we all are born individually and die individually. "
"But our immigrant populations come with the old family, fear and revenge based tribalisms. It's only the second or third generation that move onto the individual consciousness. They want it too but their grandfathers' sold them out for properties their children's children are going to have to pay the mortgages on."
"I wonder what those old civilizations must think of us who only think in terms of a hundred years at most. Individually it's still us alone and God, the Creator."
"I believe it's us and God and our neighbour. At times my neighbour seems like the Borg. I can love God, the Creator, but my neighbour is the difficult one. That's why Jesus said "Love your enemy, even the tax collector loves his family." The Chinese waitress was cleaning the table and taking away our empty cups.
Pointing his finger and showing the three pointing back, he said, "But you really get what you put out and I think whenever I'm having difficulty what am I doing to create this." I agreed with my friend and Oprah on the "Secret" in principle but in practice it seemed to me to unravel pretty quickly.
"Don't get me wrong, I like Eckart Tolle, Deeprak Chopra and all the other circuit guys. But there's the government - type person, the neighbour who says 'we are not amused' , the bully, the authoritarian with a gun or the paranoid who needs to step over you to save their life, the immature one, the Homeland Security guy with the power to abuse, the smug jailors. To me the guys with real 'planet' power are like Zeus and Athena, gods so far above me and so far distant they're like soap opera stars. Clowns demanding taxes for word games and charades and threatening me if I don't take them seriously. In comparison I feel little different than a house slave to the outdoor slave, the homeless freezing in the street tonight. "
"Victim doesn't look good on you but as long as I've known you you've had this thing with authority." He said, as we got up putting on overcoats and scarves. The East Indian guys beside us were leaving as well.
"That's the same for Job in the Bible. Victimship doesn't look good on any one. The women got away with it by burning bras. " I said.
"Speaking of which I heard Halle Berry was naked on some Vancouver street last night."
"God she must have had frost bit nipples. But look at the Dalai Lama. He and his buddies did the peace and prayer bit as good as any could and now all he's doing is whining about the Chinese. That's victimship. Freud was rescued by the Brits and said, 'Maybe the paranoids were right." That's victimship too Now everyone claiming a monopoly on suffering. The bullies are claiming they're victims. It's the doublespeak of 1984 and Animal Farm all over again. Look at these bail outs. They pay themselves for screwing up but if us house niggers screw up we're freezing our butts with the outside niggers."
By that time we were indeed standing outside and freezing our butts. It reminded me of the the hundreds or more conversations we'd had in the Winnipeg backlane between our childhood homes. Our breath would be freezing on the fur trim of our parkas and we'd still be talking the winter away.
"You know the joke, what does the masochist say to the saddist, beat me, beat me, and what does the sadist say, 'no'." he said, laughing. "I've got to go. Work in the morning"
"Have you heard anything about these new messages astronomers are supposed to be getting?"
"No. What about Zelmon Schacter.Do you hear anything about him these days?"
"All I heard is one of his students is a rabbi here."
We were backing away from each other. He was parked in one direction, I in another. Already the discomfort of parting was on me. Soon I'd be alone with God. My friend's been a good neighbour but I remember how we fought in the snow when we were kids. Hard to hurt each other much with parkas and mitts. Like the Inuit poetry wars.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Presence

This is a picture I took in Israel of where I thought Jesus migh t have sat when he taught the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."(Mathew 5) Tonight I saw Pacific Theatre's "Christmas Presence". Ron Reed and the original company that performed it 25 years ago had gathered together to do one more performance of this strangely moving enigmatic questioning of the Christmas story. Immanual. God within.
It reminded me of the miracles that I experienced when on pilgrimage to Bethlehem I crossed the blood streaked streets in the sights of sniper rifles. The way was harsh but the journey was worth it. I stood with dozens from other lands and sang a Christmas carol in as many different languages. I was moved to tears then as I had been over and over again in what seems rightly called the Holy Land.
Reading the Beatitudes again tonight I see once more why these teachings caused those dependent on external finite earthly power to resist the notion of internal infinite heavenly power. Yet Love conquers all.
Earlier this week I saw the epic movie, Australia, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackson. I cherished the idealism and sense of the sacred that filled this movie as much as the extraordinary scenery and panoramic views of a country of ancient song.
I found Sarah McLaughlin's Wintersong album and played it all day in the truck along with the Sheree Plett Christmas album I got this year. I was shopping for family. Thank God for sweaters. And especially thank god for all those articles of clothing and accessory where one size fits all.
It's not Frankincense, Gold or Myrr I found but the Bible said there was gift giving that first day. I'm not not so bothered by the commercialism as the forgetting of the message of forgiveness. Love your enemies, Jesus said. In the Triune Brain of McLean, the lizard, mammalian and human anatomical constructs develop sequentially into that which is truly human. Lizards don't love but mammals can love their family and perhaps their 'tribe'. To be truly human as Jesus was, he said Love God and Love your neighbour as yourself. It stands to reason that if your enemy wasn't your neighbour he wouldn't be your enemy.
It's Christmas. It's a time of Love. The winter solstice was no doubt taken over by the church from the earlier tribal traditions. The secret part of WWII I most enjoyed learning of was that men all along the firing lines refused to kill each other in the thousands or more at Christmas. Instead they crossed the lines and shared their meager rations.
I'm hoping that this is happening right now. Peace on earth. Good will to men! Merry Christmas.

Vancouver Snow

Snow in Vancouver. It began last night when I was at the Rainbow Church Christmas party carolling. We sang Silver Bells. "City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas...." This is rainy Vancouver. When it snows the 'air' has no feeling of Christmas but rather rank terror. Even as I speak cars, silly enough to try it, are plummetting down the alpine Oak Street to an adult rendition of Bill Cosby's Baby Coach Wheel go cart spectacular descent to sure destruction in the unsuspecting freeway traffic of W6th.
Vancouver drivers, notorious for buying driver's licenses under the table, stoned on the principal billion dollar crop, BC Bud marijuania, (which also explains the bizarre local politics ), now have an excuse for fortified egg nogs in the morning. Those who are older with aging livers and a potpouri of geriatric medicines never 'share' their 'recreational usage' with their unsuspecting neurologists, cardiologists and psychiatrists because they consider marijuania a herb and alcohol an elixer. 60's flashbacks then compete with hearing aid feedbacks as horns honk and cars collide. "Hey man, we're tripping."
In addition there's multicultural bedlam with half the southern immigrant drivers never having seen snow let alone driven on ice. Meanwhile the west end traffic police have only been issued bicycles or if they're lucky, motorcycles. Canadian Tire sells out it's slim supply of snow chains in one day. Displaced Winnipeggers are en mass teaching emergency counterintuitive ice driving techniques to awe struck Vancouverites.
In Vancouver we 'go to the snow'. That means Whistler, Blackcomb, Grouse or Cypress Mountain. It's not supposed to come to us. The City Planners would never use salt on the roads as they need all the salt they requisition for their tequilla.
By afternoon the sun usually comes out. The ice will turn to slush and everywhere relief will reign. Then Robson Street will again be festive without the snow as everyone hurries to buy a Christmas tree and chat over Starbuck molkas about the surviving the latest 'blizzard'. Only if the rains return will the 'air' of Christmas again sing on city streets of Vancouver. Silver Bells. White Christmas! Humbug! A good monsoon. Now that's a Vancouver Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


It was the Canadian Author's Association 2008 Annual West Coast General Meeting. A noteworthy collection of writers had gathered together in this Georgia Street Vancouver Whitespot on the way to Lion's Gate Bridge near Stanley Park.

The trouble was that they were all in disquise. Obviously paranoid about being recognised they had got out of their pyjamas and house coats. They'd washed their hair. Some had shaved. Others had slept for the first time in weeks. By all external appearances they looked largely normal. A little bright eyed, a bit too eloquent, laughing excessively, they were trying not to let some cat out of some bag. Otherwise they were normal.

No one would have guessed that they wrote steamy romance, dirty sex scenes, devious intrigue and gruesome cadaver strewn mysteries. Properly dressed in brown tweeds and white sweaters, talking of their work, they ate fettucine or fish and chips with knives and forks. An historian even showed around pictures of her latest grandchild.

The technical writer spoke quietly to the person next to him about artic terrorism. A dozen conversations about a myriad of highly suspicious subjects obviously embedded with arcane code were happening all around me. A former minister claimed to write urban fantasy. Two fellows in golf sweaters talked about the various methods of war time killing. It was all highly irregular.

Pirates, lovers, sexpots, spys, adventurers, irreligious , rebellious, and sometimes even inspirational, they were a dubious lot indeed. Story tellers. Writers, scribblers, jotters and word processors. They'd been at it along time. Some of the young had even gone white haired with their craft. Outrageously original, they claimed to use their imagination. At the same time some were delving into obscure sources for lost secrets claiming it was research for their latest work. Subversives, all of them. Vainly autobiographical and gossippy biographers. You couldn't tell which was which.

I confess I tried to put a face to a particularly incisive bit of political satire or wonder if that rather fetching woman had written that downright mischievous bit of romance.

Yet on the outside, overall, you couldn't tell them from the Kiwanis or Rotarians for instance. Maybe one or two clutched their wine glasses a bit possessively. The coffee drinkers showed nail and cuticle damage. Someone spoke a touch hurriedly. Perhaps the waitress hovered a bit more until the bills were individually paid. But otherwise they could easily have passed as normal humans.

At least until the book draw took place. As each person's name was called the individual proceeded to a table full of published works. That's when the madness or transcendence occured. Each of these otherwise innocuous looking beings took on an otherworldly sheen and glowed uncannily as they touched the treasure of their fellow authors. It was some kind of reverent communion. As each took a book in their hands it was as if they were suddenly complete. A faraway look appeared in their eyes. The meeting ended abruptly thereafter. They all almost scurried out of the restaurant

I followed of course. I had a book too and felt inspired just holding it. A warm and cozy feeling. Electrifying even.

Perhaps I wouldn't report this to the authorities, I thought. I didn't quite know where it was leading. It was clear that I was returning. These people warranted serious study. Maybe not research, yet. But someone had to keep an eye on them. Left to their own devices they were producing books. And alot could be said with a book. I'd already been right to suspect them of having words. I'd be back. No doubt of that!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bluewater Cruising Association


I've just come home from the Blue Water Cruising Association's Annual General Meeting and Awards night. My friend Tom sailed back from Hawaii this summer with me on my SV GIRI. 2700 miles in 34 days slowed down just a tad by a broken mast a thousand miles from Hawaii. Tonight Tom received the BWCA's 999 Offshore Sailing Award. I'd already received the offshore skipper award for solo sailing to Hawaii in 25 days over the Christmas of 2004. It was good to be in the audience hearing Tom graciously receive his award. We'd seen alot of water together and he commented on just how much water there was "out there" . That brought appreciative laughter from those who'd done their share of ocean crossing. With pause for inspiration he said, "I'm glad to have gone where you can be sure of finding the unexpected. " Looking around the room I saw the 'elders' of that august sailing community nodding. He'd touched a chord.

Adventurers. That's what we were. And the sea is the mother of surprises.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I keep forgetting to say that I've won a Folio. My article "Blind to all the signs" won in October, 2007. It's the international writer's award. I had my bio in the Canadian Author's Association West Coast Chapter newsletter and didn't mention this award. Silly. So I'm mentioning it here. This is a quote from the Medical Post.

Medical Post's physician-writers win prestigious Folio award October 09, 2007
NEW YORK Those amazing “doctors who love to write for us” have done it again for the Medical Post, garnering a glittering gold award in late September at the prestigious Folio: Awards show here.
Blind to all the signs
Seeing beyond despair
A sinking feeling of helplessness
Approximately 3,000 entries were received overall for the competition, billed as the largest and most prestigious awards in the North American magazine industry. “Eddies” were given for excellence in editorial content and “Ozzies” recognized excellence in magazine design.
Spirit of medicineThe Medical Post received a Gold Eddie award in the Business-to-Business Healthcare/Medical/Nursing “Best Single Article” category for its “Spirit of Medicine” series. The articles were personal accounts from Drs. William Hay(“Blind to all the signs,” Nov. 14, 2006), Larry Kramer(“Seeing beyond despair,” Sept. 26, 2006)and Paul Caldwell(“A sinking feeling of helplessness,” May 25, 2007)on the emotional struggles they face daily in their profession. It marked the third time this year Medical Post doctor-written columns has been honoured in industry award competitions.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dec.4, 2008

"Be Yourself - everyone else is taken."

"What's the opposite of being paranoid? Thinking you're following someone?"

"When they outsourced the suicide lines overseas, an american called and upon saying "I'm suicidal," was asked, "Can you drive a truck?"

Anthropologists asking new tribes what they call themselves usually hear the same thing in whatever language, "The People". So their next question is what do you call "others." In this regard Inuit means the people whereas the Cree word, for their northern neighbours, Eskimo, means 'fish eater'. In Borneo asking the latest tribe what they called themselves, they were told, "The People" so they asked what do you call others, and were told others were called "The Edible Ones".
Given this understanding of tribalism, sociopaths can be considered those who belonging to some tribal grouping do not consider 'outsiders' , for whatever reason, 'kind'. A new useful term for this tendency is to call this 'othering'. The psychopath in contrast is solely a loner without any real identification with humanity and therefore metaphorically considers all 'others' as 'edible'. Jay Lifton, author of Nazi Doctors, in his discussion of the psychology of war states that alienation is a central tenet of the propaganda campaign. Each sides engages in dehumanizing the other for the justification of their own ends.
Looking for similiarities as opposed to differences is the methodology of compromise and peace. The mind subtracts and divides whereas the heart adds and multiplies.

"It's a good day when you're on this side of the grass."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Quantum of Solace - 007

Quantum of Solace with Daniel Craig as Bond was great action, terrific acting and all round a marvellous romp. Almaric as villain Dominic was as truly sleazy as the cynically portrayed CIA characters were believable. Judi Dench as M was most endearing while Olga Kurylenko was a passionate beautiful and intelligent Bond woman. The cute and lively Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields) was a delight. The plot however was a bit like the lyrics of a heavy metal song, not particularly important given the explosions and gunshots. Suddenly there was a necklace.
Given that M's mothering seemed to replace the former polysexuality of Bond, one wonders who the producers were marketting too. And where were the gadgets!!! Still it was Bond! My childhood friend Kirk called from Malibu to say we had to see it when he got to town. As grade school kids we'd read the first Ian Flemming paperbacks together. What would adolescence have been like without the unforgettable Bond girls or the extraordinary Bond cars.
We're now older than Daniel Craig, the new Bond and my ponch matches Kirk's thinning hair. Decaf at the Starbucks beside the Scotia theatre was a long way from A&W Root Beers of earliest years or wine and beer of later Bonds. Talk was of family, friends, Obama and Federal Reserves. Were the Parti Quebecois really going to be the next government of Canada?
After the last Bond, Kirk said, "What would anyone expect from boys raised on role models whose government licensed them to kill and let them chase beautiful women and drink on the job. " I'd said it was no wonder that men of our generation by comparison have felt ripped off in their work lives. I laughed when Kirk asked, "Do you think Canada paid a product plug to have our secret service mentioned in Bond?"
Out on the street Kirk showed me all the airbags in his new Mercedes. I told him I was driving my 50 cc Honda rather than the 1200 Harley because "It's safer on the wet winter streets" So thinking of safety we both drove away from another reckless and wild 007. One of the few good things to come out of the Cold War.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

2008 Vancouver Toy Run

This is the Annual Vancouver Toy Run! Every year motorcyclists all over the world have 'toy run's' to give kids in hospitals toys at Christmas. Those are toys on the back of the bikes. It was awesome to be apart of something so good. Riding my Harley in that staggered line that weaved through Vancouver with the police themselves out on their bikes, it was a really fine feeling. I'd been part of the Ride for Dad earlier in the year which raised money for prostate cancer research. That run started from Trev Deely Harley Dealership on Boundary with an opening prayer from the minister of the Westcoast Biker Church.
All over the country non biker but similiar events are done for some charity. Walkers, runners, dart throwers, car washers, whatever. Doing something for charity raises a mundane individual and secular activity to a community and spiritual plane.
I remember organizing a caroling group for the children's hospital as a teen ager and how much fun we had singing badly door to door knowing we were raising money for these sick kids.
This summer I liked seeing the Kiwanis making breakfasts for a group of drunks on Salt Spring Island. I've seen the Mason's cars getting people to the hospital whereas the Shriners are forever setting up burn units as their charity. All those community clubs listed along with the churches on a sign outside of towns do a lot of good. Either Kiwanis or Rotary donated the first incubator at the country hospital where I first delivered babies.
Last Sunday I was at a couple of churches where each were engaged in feeding the homeless, all aspects of the weekly 'food kitchen' done by church volunteers.
I just thought tonight of how much is done in the name of charity and just how many volunteer and extracurricular events are going on all around us. This is the real glue of society. It's hard not to notice a charity biker run. We're as loud and proud as the annual Gay Pride parade, itself a charity event, but in our own biker way. But there's quilters out there and quiet people doing things for the troops overseas. It's the Christmas season but this charity goes on all year and it's really what makes people more than the sum of their parts. Mostly it feels good. I'm proud to be human just thinking about the good things people do for others.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Country Song

Riding for You

G A7 D G

Black hats and white hats, cowboys and Indians

G A7 D

It was all so clear to me when I was young

G A7 D G

Now it's black bras and white bras, bad girls and good girls

G A7 D

And I don't know whose the fastest draw


I'm riding down this canyon looking for another ambush


Cause my horse is kind of spooked


And there's a posse coming after me cause the sheriff in the last town


Isn't happy less he's got a cowboy on a noose

G A7 D G

Countries and memories, bugles blowing revelry

G A7 D

I can't recall my mind at peace

G A7 D G

Since I first met you in the desert garden of eternity

G A7 D

And you made your promise to me

G A7 D
And you made your promise to me

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Library, Music and Deer

The Central Vancouver Library is a wonderful place.

Researching a book on Sexuality I was able to access the Janus Report on Sexual Behaviour and read,not wholly to my astonishment, "Age and aging are a spectre for Americans....our greatest fear connected to increased aging is fear of dimished sex."

I was equally interested in Bert Archer's, The End of Gay (and the death of heterosexuality). He considered Gay as a phase like feminism on the way to a more liberal but different view of sex, sexuality, gender and identity per se. Jeffrey Weeks, Invented Moralities: Sexual Values in an Age of Uncertainty was somewhat less engaging though came to similiar conclusions. Bert had included some stories from his own sexual experience. This made Bert a 'wetter' read to Jeffrey's 'drier' text.

Lieberman, a New York sociologist describing the traditional "functions" of the family said that as an institution it was so 'weakened' that its very survival was in doubt.

Alot of Essentialist versus Social Constructionist debate underlay the various books I perused. One book, Beyond Queer, argued for conservatism and that sex might well become a non issue in how we view the neighbours.

My eighty year old Baptist aunt in a whisper, though no one else was present, told me after we'd talked with a couple of nearly as old men, 'they're a bit light, you know , but they're very good neighbours."

All the sexologist reports do say there's far more going on than meets the eye. Frankly that's probably good for straights as well given the American penchant for couch and calories. Maybe with the aging population we should all go back into the Victorian closet if it hasn't been outsourced.

I wrote my friend in Scotland about the goings on over here and she wrote back, 'there's all manner of men wearing skirts over here too." She's praying for a flat in Edinborough. I saw my first Scottish tattoo there.

In the midst of these studies my boat surveyor, Tim McGivney recommended I not use my mast until repairs have been made to it. I'm praying that isn't synchronicity at work.

August Rush, the charming movie I just watched on TV caught my attention because of the inspiring music and Robin Williams. He's really just one of the gang with the real leads, being three children. It's one of those beyond colour movies with black people and white people naturally mixed throughout as if they all belonged there and weren't just a product of some quota system. Perhaps that's what we can expect with regard to sexuality one day. The story is about a child protege lost to his musician parents and found again through music. "The music is all around us, you just have to listen," the boy says. The family, despite Leiberman, still functions spiritually and the movie is uplifting.

Like this picture I took of two deer last summer. The beauty is all around us, you just have to see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


When I saw this old car I was reminded of the car my roommate bought when we were just out of high school forming a band. We had one great run to Winnipeg Beach with the girls and the picnic basket. The car died that first day on the return trip and lay an empty husk by the side of the road, the cost of towing it home more than it was worth.

Seeing this old car there in the field I thought that a lot of memories had ridden it. Many men measure their lives through vehicles as women so commonly remembered theirs through children.

Tim Curtis from Joy Division suicided at age 23. I watched the movie his wife Deborah made only because the band's name had come up in Peter Robinson's , "The Summer that Never Was", the "Inspector Banks" novel I've been reading since my trip to Texas Creek. Like Socrates Tim had epilepsy. Like Dylan Thomas he drank too much. I'd say his death was a waste but who am I to judge.

I was talking to a hairdresser who having watched the Three Faces of Eve was telling me about reading the work of Dr. Colin Ross, the psychiatrist who wrote the book, Dissociative Identity Disorder.

What did I think of the past, she asked, Could we change it?

I told her I thought the 'events' were God's will. What's done is done. As Omar Khayyam elegantly said, " the moving hand writes and having writ moves on." A negative event in the child's past had given rise to a whole series of events that followed in Eve's life. Yet equally had that event not occured the child might as easily have died. Too often people romanticize the road not taken without considering what is, is or may well be the 'best of a bad lot'. Then there's string theory, multi dimensional reality, black holes, relativity and the whole question of the validity of time.

If I suicide and St. Peter gives me a brand new harp and puts me at the head of the band then perhaps suicide isn't so bad after all. If on the other hand suicide lands me in a worse pit than the one I thought I was escaping then it's really isn't worth the bother.

The events of the past remain fixed but the spin that we put on any event so commonly depends on the events that follow. It's not over till the fat lady sings.

What we believe depends on our individual view about life itself. We don't like to admit that. We don't want to talk about it. But suicide means different things to different people.

The past is open to interpretation. The meaning, the thoughts and feelings with which I view these events is a 'social construct' even if the events themselves may be 'essentialist." If I believe that life is secularly separate and individual then I'll believe and feel wholly different than if I consider life sacred and everyone of us spiritually interconnected.

My friend asked if she could have my stuff when the rapture came.

The rusted car is central to the picture but life is all around it. Enjoying T.S.Elliott's, The Hollow Men, I really enjoyed hearing that 'Spirituality is growing love inside". Before my mother died, she told me she was tired. It was easier for my brother and I to decide we'd not wake her than it was for my father at 89. My friends' mother before her death on being asked why she hung on, answered, "I want to see how it turns out." "Don't leave until the miracle happens."

Since death is as inevitable as taxes it seems the most one can say for suicide is that it's impatience. It never seems to be timely. Given the elements I was glad to get this picture now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We're at War. Whose winning

My brother, Ron, the photographer/MBA, sent this picture to me taken of my Aunt Sally during WWII. He's digitalizing some of the old photos and I'm really thankful. When I showed this picture of my aunt to a glamorous friend, she wrote back, "your aunt looks like a fashion model." Growing up in Winnipeg that's what she always appeared to me. She'd fly in from Toronto bringing city cosmopolitanism to our prairie town where the radio reported the daily hog and wheat prices.
In the 40's she was working as a Canadian secretary for the WW II war effort in Washington DC. I remember her teaching me a valuable lesson about war, "I loved it," she said, "It was the most exciting time of my life. We felt badly for the boys going overseas but for those of us in Washington it was often such a terrific party."
I remember a radio operator stationed on a american submarine telling me the same thing about his Vietnam War years. "It was the best time of our lives in the Navy. It wasn't like the Vietnamese had a navy of their own so we just got to play with all this high tech listening equipment with little risk to ourselves. We felt badly though for those guys who were humping it in the jungle.".
Someone told me that for everyone in actual combat there were dozens if not hundreds profitting from their sacrifice. And the further away from actual battle you got the more money you could make from the war. Indeed it's always those who are somehow above war themselves who today who most recommend it.
Now we're at war. It's difficult to hold a position of pro military and anti war mongering but that's exactly where I stand. I have the greatest admiration for individual soldiers but increasingly see them being used for business rather than "peace keeping". It's the same attitude I have for the police knowing that individually they serve to keep the city safe but quite frankly find it offensive that so much of their work is sneaky tax collection rather than traditional 'law and order'.
As to the Canadians in Afghanistan, I'm thankful for Dr. Patterson's book "Outside the Wire." because it really brings home the complexity of this war. As with the Vietnam war, those who profitted from war said ,"either you're for us or against us. " It's always with this kind of primitive lizard brain reasoning that real discussion is silenced. Ad hominems (against the man) are perhaps the strongest evidence of a weak argument and one of the classic fallacies of rhetoric. The bumper sticker I saw this summer in Portland said, "I"m a patriot and that's why I'm against war!"
I heard Barrack say he was going to get America out of Iraq. Such promises in Vietnam years though preceded more military spending and death. Why find cures for cancer, build geodesic dome cities on oceans, develop space station solar power plants, study prayer and telepathy, move forward on the scientific teletransportation of matter, or have fair housing and employment when it's so much more fun to blow up people and things. A cruise missile costs a million or two a deadly firecracker. I don't think Lennon was wrong when he and Yoko did the Montreal bed in singing , "All we are saying, is give peace a chance. "
Given the extent of evidence that 9-11 certainly was, in part an inside job, and that the weapons of mass destruction were being made in Korea not in Iraq, surely a time out might be considered to see who had the most to gain and has gained the most from invading the wrong country. It's a toss up whether Wag the Dog or Art of War with Nicholas Cage is the best commentary on postmodern war.
However the Berlin Wall fell and America has a black man as president elect. I'm betting India will beat China to having the first man on Mars! This morning I was studying the findings of functional MRI's. Lizard spit is helping diabetics. Viagra works by giving the penis laughing gas. The Lord truly works in mysterious ways!
There is always hope. My Aunt Sally was a stalwart Baptist and always believed in a new day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I just watched the movie, Intervention, on DVD. It was captivating much as Clean and Sober was in a way that 28 days wasn't. I still liked 28 days. Intervention, though, speaks to the non voluntary, confrontational approach or forced rescue of the drug addict. If I didn't work in this field I'd question the civil rights and human liberties aspects of this. Certainly the lead character who is literally forced to go to a rehab centre threatens to take a restraining order out on his estranged wife who has undertaken the intervention. "I feel I've been kidnapped," he says and yet he only appears to acknowledge later that he really had been kidnapped by the drugs.

Drug addiction is that powerful and there is a need for an individual to be removed from the source if only for a week for perspective. That's the position of detox units but the actual corruption of character and motivation and denial that's involved in the alteration of brain chemistry is such that weeks if not months are necessary before there's any semblance of true saniety. The "lizard" brain functions to the very end but the mammalian and human brain take that long to resurrect.

The experiments with monkeys show that if a lever is wired to their pleasure centre in the brain they will pull that lever till death going without food or water just to get their 'fix'. Man is little different and the powerful effect of crack cocaine is like the lever, though clearly alcohol, opiates, amphetamine and even marijuania can powerfully addict.

While the movie does well to capture the loss of mood modulation that is one of the pathognomic features of drug withdrawal and early sobriety (perhaps even the first year) it does well to address the 'damaged' relationships which exist in association with addiction.

I was reminded of the child who was trying to please the alcoholic mother but her mother's pleasure was solely related to the internal level of alcohol and not at all related to the daughter's actions. People pleasing and personal guilt follow such relationships especially where dependency is at stake. The idea of the domestic addictions is addressed here but the movie is waiting to be made which addresses the even bigger picture. The employer employee relationships, the generals and the soldiers, the country's leaders and their people, all of these relationships have been negatively impacted by alcoholism and other addictions.

The beauty of the 12 step movement was that it was purely a 'self help' program with the initial actions of alcoholics helping other alcoholics but only if the alcoholic wanted it and was ready. There is good evidence that with other diseases the earlier the intervention the better the outcome but that avoids addressing the issue of nicotine and heart disease and lung disease. Man's addiction to war and killing may cave to the high costs of insurance. If the real estate crisis doesn't break America then surely the military long term health costs will, if only for the post traumatic stress disorders which are associated with addictions in a third to a half of cases.

Intervention does 'blame the victim' but it initiates a treatment and recovery process which is life saving and highly rewarding. The movie gets an Aplus for acting and plot and the dramatic spectacular ending. Thankfully, though the ending was truly human outside Hollywood the special effects aren't nearly so exciting.

Today I attended the Christ Church Cathedral service and was glad to see my special friend George. Later I could chat with a former employee and see how well behaved her delightful daughter was. Now when did I begin to appreciate children in terms of 'well behaved'? It was a good to see and hear Dean Peter Eliott. The visitting choir was masterful with hand clapping spiritual music. Each Sunday so much is happening in that wonderful space of polished wood, restored organ and beautiful stained glass. It's simply a prayerful place of Christian feng sui with a such a diverse group of people gathered for worship.

Later at 6 pm, I attended the Rainbow Church in St. John's United Church on Comox in the West End. It's more down to earth and robust. Each week someone reads out the names of those with illness and cancer in the congregation. There's moments of silence when individual prayers are encouraged. There's a roughness and humility. The words of the songs are projected onto the wall. The beat is up tempo. Everyone sings along with with pianist and band. They rock as a smaltzy spirituality creaps into some of the songs and Sultans of Swing comes to mind. Multi coloured flag dancers in belly dance constumes fill the space before the cross. The financial dream is for a 'dream centre' to attend to the physical and emotional as well as spiritual needs of those who come.
After church they serve a fellowship potluck. I haven't stayed though I will one day. Talking after church to a friend who just moved here from Winnipeg left me swirling in nostalgia.

Earlier that day at the library I had gathered a selection of books on various aspects of sexuality. I'm concluding a project of several years, writing a series of papers addressing the concerns that people bring to my office which I have yet to see in any of the standard text books. Last week I had a stack of books on alcoholism and drug addiction for another similiar project. I'd mildly wondered what people passing my desk must think of a guy with cocaine, heroin and ecstacy references all over his library work table.

Well, that was not nearly as telling as today's collection which included a titles like the "Anal Taboo" and "Medical aspects of various perversions." I was using a book called Cosmos Best Sex Secrets to prop open the one which compared todays stats with those found by Kinsey. The trends were amazing. Feminism, freedom of information, internet and various other 'theories', falling just short of mad cow disease or alien invasion, were put forward to explain this.

When I was younger I would have been 'embarrassed' to have these books in the open on my desk. I actually thought others were interested in what I was reading. I've reached an age where I don't think it really matters. Past 50 I've found no one is interested in what I'm reading especially if it is about sex.

It's the young we have to worry about, given their stamina. I read books today they shouldn't allow anyone under 50 to read. Also I could write a paper comparing what books were available in the medical library, the downtown library and this west end library. The latter were certainly more into the 'hands on' and far less interested in intellectualization. Go figure.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg

I just watched Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, a captivating and very amusing documentary that reminded me so much of my own Winnipeg. It's a great black and white movie memorial that combines stock historic footage with home movies and present day reenactments. Naked super vixens, vintage hockey players, dead horseheads and buffalos compete with sleep walkers and endless snow scapes, fur coats and hudson bay blankets. The mystic nature of the forks and the magnetism of the place itself are juxtaposed with the intellectual ennui of escapist fantasies. And all of it revolves around the family reminding me of childhood and countless Christmas homecomings.

Vincent Massey High School reunion is coming this 2009 spring and Guys' nostalgic reminiscence has pushed me one step closer to returning again despite the old home being sold, Mom death and Dad living now near Ron in Ottawa.

Even now my memory conjures up a kaleidoscope of fond reminiscenses. There's the red brick house, Dad's garage and Mom's garden. Then the parks and the surrounding wheat fields. Fort Gary, Portage and Main, the YMCA, Manitoba Theatre School, MTC, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I'll never forget walking to University of Winnipeg, the snow flakes falling and the beautiful young faces. Neil Young's song's words 'all my changes were there' comes to mind as I remember church coffeehouses, hospitals and OR's. I loved my own first house in Riverheights. The memory of my friends taillored word work creations, dinner parties, dances. It's all a gift of a city where people are as warm as the outside is cold.

Even here Winnipeggers greet each other as ex patriots might in a foreign land. And I for one look forward to passing on the news of this tribute to an extraordinary city in the heart of the heart of the heart of the continent.

Nov.14, 2008 - Journalling

"Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly."

All beginnings are like children learning to walk. Falling down and getting up and falling down and getting up. The smile is what separates the child from the adult. The adult somehow thinks they are entitled to wings. Just because they learned to walk as children doesn't mean that rocket science should come easy. Yet there they are grimacing with the complexities of new knowledge, demanding that politics and love should progress smoothly and rapidly without a myriad of little falls or big kabooms.

The child laughs and cries where the adult trudges and groans. Walking on water would be standard despite the critics of myth busters and deceit of Ninja. A man has done it. But just because Daedalus melted his wings before the sun didn't stop the Wright Brothers. Learning is a natural curve of fits and starts and steady progress only with application. To parphrase Einstein, genius is 99% perspiration and 1 % inspiration.

I hear so many people saying they are unhappy where they are but are so unwilling to change one minutiae of their daily lives. And when the galaxy and universe conspire to push them forward a micron they give up with tears and pouts insisting they'll never be good at anything. Today there is so much reward for inactivity. The drug culture surplants the television world. Free heroin is the latest halcyon cry of government when we were only just trying to break them of the habit of offering free lunches we all but them must pay for.

Writing is just that. As a teen ager I made a decision to write, so admiring the books I found in the library and the lives and words of poets and authors I encountered there. The daily journal became a thing I carried along with keys and wallet A little black book that fitted pockets and went everywhere with me in an age of slide rulers and atom bombs. Looking back today I see I've been keeping a journal for nearly 50 years. Today I can write with greater ease and that connection between fingers and mind is a product of hours, days and years of writing. My favourite writers have but written more.

The mind is just a muscle. The famous nun studies showed that those who used theirs most were least likely to develop dementia. In addition to journalling I remember consciouslly trying my hand at different genres of writing. There was even a period of time when I wrote letters to the editor long before I wrote editorials. Anything can be done in this way. The proverbial baby steps with their crawls and falls and standing tall. It's beginning in the day and continuing in tomorrow.

That was the message of the last writing class I took to deal with my continued struggle with the sheer volume of the 'novel'. I'm now a master of a page or 10 pages even ,but am as overwelmed at the thought of 100, 200 or 300 as I was once at crossing continents or oceans in various conveniences. Jobin, that brilliant, witty, much published raconteur told us how she'd begun with one hour a day and a year later had a book that's gone on to television syndication. Her writing makes me laugh and I've always enjoyed the special connection that writing brings between my insides and the insides of others. Emotionally and intellectually we share this intimacy of idea, word and feeling.

But it really just is in the doing. Reframed, writing for me is just another way for "quitting" inertia, just overcoming sloth, the age old addiction today so commonly called "I can't" and "Yes, but". If I want to be a writer I must write. Writing is taking the mind and fingers out of park. Once in motion then I can drive to whereever I would go. A jaunt around my own community, out there on freeways to a foreign country or over here to some form of multiplicity machine.

I must remember though that publication never made me more than just that single gift to myself or lover, as in the Song of Songs. In the alpha and omega I am not writing for magazines or libraries but just for you. The you that Buber called Thou or just the you who laughed after falling and got up again to continue on when no one else was smiling and the unmoving were dead in the water. The writer must continue on despite rejection and just a little afraid of acceptance. It's really just another form of sharing. What was that line of Kurt Vonnegut's: all we are is just communicating peep holes on reality.

Hey, you, over there, are you listening. Yea, you. I saw you falling out of your peephole and think it terrific that you got back up. Have a great day!!! Sure, I'll pray for you too.