Monday, August 30, 2010

Social Analysis of the Individual

"Individualism" is a social hallmark of post modern society. In pre modern times all individuals knew their place and felt apart of the greater whole. With modern times there has been an increasing alienation and individualization. All of the traditional groupings of society have broken down to some degree with increasing numbers of alienated individuals. Where previously family, community, work, trade, profession, religion defined a person increasingly individual identity is not glued into this social milieu but apparently more isolated and autonomous.

This is merely appearance and there is perhaps less freedom and individual autonomy as individuals struggles to fill the vacuum left by the failure of old institutions to compete with the new institutions.

Capitalism and marketing have lead to the identification with an individual with a brand. Indeed soccer players who would seriously question going to war for their country think naught about fighting for their 'team'. Just as Hitler was able to influence Germany through the media and sell the Nazi 'brand' so today as Marshall McLuhan so aptly stated the "Media is the Message". People increasingly associate with the latest consumer fad and identify through the brand labels of such things as clothing, cars or even video games.

The instability and frenzy of these associations is at extreme contrast to the medieval lifelong relationship with all the individual's institutions.

What is lost for the individual who has apparently got freedom where 'freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose' is the obligation of the institution for the individual. Consumer brands 'owe' nothing. The medieval individual could expect a place in society, and return from state, church, work and community. Today government and corporation limit all manner of 'liability' with endless pages of legalese little difference in appearance from holy writ of yesterday. Legalese is the new 'latin' of modern society. Not ironically it comes in a computer and one 'scrolls' down till they reach the 'accept' button and press 'agree' no different from the slaves or citizens of yesteryear.

In a throw away society where the "bic" lighter was the hallmark of disposability, even educational degrees increasingly have a increasingly short shelf life listed on the diplomas. The cost is greater than ever before but the 'product' comes with shortened or absent warranty and the value that the individual gets is tied to an economy that increasingly appears like a Vegas crapshoot. Where a man got 50 years of marriage for a year of courtship cost, and the familes of the bride paid the high price of the marriage, todays "Sex in the City" princess expects men to dish out the same fee for 5 year stretches of marital bliss coupled with lifelong divorce costs. Familes are expected to pay for marriages over and over again for their children who increasingly like First Nations children leave their children, those not aborted, to be raised by grandparents so the children can delay ever longer the obligations of maturity.

Family appears to have dissolved along with community. The very names of people in the past designated fathers or mothers and definitely clans and nationalities and communities. Recent paternity suit studies show that the father is not the father in a third of cases. Children don't know their parents and mothers abort their children. The survivors of these family wars rarely hold the Rockwell family portrait relationship which was indeed the norm as late as the 50's. Marriages last on average 5 years and anthropologists depict North America as a culture dominated by 'serial monogamy'.

The 'lone' individual is indeed a myth to some degree in anthropologists minds as they step back and look for the age old patterns of family and community in postmodern society. In addition to serial monogamy there are large patterns of loose knit harem networks with isolated individual women having occasional sex with ranging males who count on these women who think themselves 'free' and 'individual' for their alliances if not their maintenance. Government institutions serve as such, playing the father or mother to increasing numbers of society. In the US today 1/8 of individuals receive food stamps from the government breast. Patriarchy and matriarchies are replaced by the autocratic parentalism of government beaurocracies.

Increasingly governments coopt individuals into military like work organizations where the rewards are slim but the individuals are part of large clan like endeavor. Corporations endeavor to make the workplace 'family' like to give the disenfranchised the illusion of 'connectedness'.

Traditional social institutions rose 'organically' out of tens of thousands of years and many generations of trial and error and competition. Todays institutions are the products of decades of 'ideology' at most. The political correctness of social communism is a new fascism that replaces the "Mrs.Bucket (Boooquets) of yesteryears. The principle structures of yesteryear were government, church, community and family. Where an individual believes themselves today to be an individual it may simply mean that they don't see the often cleverly hidden new government, new church, new community or new family that really rule their lives. These "new" structures appear to have limitted 'ties' but extract full payment from the individual. Just as the soccer audience lose their lives in the after game punch up they are warriors none the less. The cause may be equally 'frivolous' as the wars of nations too but the fact remains that these are a new structures of attachment that can have as deadly consequence as the traditional structures.

Those who claim to have escaped from religion have only replaced one set of priests and bishops for the appointed secular judges of a legal theocracy who use latin, rituals and obfuscation with a greater vigor than the medieval church.

The monogamous family of yesteryear is replaced with polygamous units and actual harems. Lower status men are offered pornography and lower status women provide cleaning and day care services to the new monarchs and princes whose own lives are usually ruled by the stability of the more ancient traditions tied to power.

The average home dweller if they can afford housing lives in one place about 5 years. Neighbourhoods are no longer 'brand' items as criminals mix freely with all and communities are denied association by integrity or value but are only allowed to associate by monetary means where monetary means are decided not by traditional means but the new orders that loosely control, but indeed do control, individuals perhaps even more than the medieval past.

This new order of things for the masses in general is that they are 'free' to be utilized, moved, controlled, rearranged, and rootless, without religion, not associated with a political party, disconnected from community, neighborhood and family. They have the language of the new latin and 'political correctness' and alone reach out to new but superficial connections such as internet social networks to replace the depth of loss they experience in their name brand clothes with their name brand ideas.

Almost deserves a wake. Fascinating to consider what e tremendous changes will lead to as new forces compete. The force of muslim jihad with tight knit family units and community confront the loose association of the post modern harems, the dictatorship of religion by the archbishop judges of political correctness and the mobile work force and armies that are poised for any 'new' brand which the media gives it. It's fascinating really, like the Glass Bead Game of Hesse. The hypocricy is readily apparent and the arrogant certainly continue to strut and waddle no different than the Stalins of WWII and the saber rattlers of WWI. History allows one to see the present in light of the patterns that are if anything increasingly loud when the American Idols would have us believe that all is new but Ecclesiastes said 'nothing is new under the sun."

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

St. James Anglican Church, Vancouver, Aug. 29,2010

A doctor colleague sang the praises of St. James Anglican last week. She and her husband so enjoyed the Anglo-Catholic traditions. I've always enjoyed St. James. I love that Street Outreach done by Father Mathew Johnson in this neighbourhood where I work. Laura, baptized Catholic, says it reminds her of her childhood attending church with her mother and sister. "My mother always ensured that we arrived early. We were told not to squirm. I think that taught me patience." she said. "Today I love the incense and the music."

Laura put on her new t shirt from House of James, Abbotsford. It says, "God's as sweet as chocolate chip cookies. Psalm 34.8." So I put on my new t shirt that says "They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts." We had to dress Gilbert in his new leather harness. He's chewed through three already but this looks like he won't be able to outsmart it. With the harness I can tie him into the motorcycle box.

The sun was breaking from the clouds as we rode to church playing the new Outsiders Christian rock cd on the HD Electroglyde's Stereo. Parking the bike in front of the police station I figured it would be safe.

Then much to our surprise, though arriving at church late as usual, we were actually in time for communion. I'm sorry we missed Rev. Mark Greenaway-Robbins sermon because in the past they've left me much food for thought. Indeed one sermon might have been the inspiration for the lyrics of the latest Outsider songs. He kindly gave us bulletins being at the back of the church while his colleagues lead prayers. I said, "Sorry, we're late." and he said typically, "God understands."

Alice welcomed Gilbert which always makes us feel better since he can be a trial. Pews to a puppy aren't for sitting on but rather for chewing. The binding of books from my office experience with Gilbert are also tasty to a puppy. Everyone who greets him must want , to his puppy mind, to experience high fives with his sharp nailed paws too. At least he didn't bark in church this time. He accompanied me to communion and didn't go for the wafers but sat nicely beside me thanks to the understanding girl kneeling next to me. She sandwiched him between us with a knowing smile. I love dog people. There's hope as each day at church he gets more used to the routines. I'm not expecting genuflection on cue but really do see peace of mind as possible.

I loved the closing hymn, "Oh God, our help in ages past." Then elderly Father Michael welcomed us to St. James writing down our names and emails so that we could receive the St. James news. I like the email bulletins because there are so many events going on during the week in the modern church it's the best way of knowing what's actually happening. One of my favorite evenings was attending a recital at St. James.

The Postlude fugue in E flat major by J.S. Bach played on the St. James organ lingered in my mind as Laura and I walked Gilbert back to the motorcycle to begin another week.

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Indo Canadian Wedding

It was a great honor to be invited to Peter and Sarika's wedding by the father and mother of the bride. My friend, Laura, was simply enchanted.

"I've never been to an Indian wedding," she said, "All the girl's at work say it's a fabulous affair." Laura is a grandmother, having been to her own wedding, and the weddings of her daughters and friends who are still married, she simply gushes at the romance and weddings in general. Divorced, I prefer weddings as a spectator event today.

It had been more than 25 years ago that I was in Bombay. I was visiting with a doctor who was on vacation from working with Mother Theresa and we'd made a friend who was home for his grandmother's wedding. I will forever be thankful to him for the memory of friends riding through the parks in Bombay singing "Hey Jude" together. He'd invite me to his wedding in Chicago and I'd enjoy being one of the men he'd gathered for this august affair.

At Peter and Sarika's wedding eating with Gopaul he'd ask me what I remembered about Bombay. When I told him, he laughed and said, "It's all changed now. It's grown immensely. India is the second largest market in the world after China."
"I really want to go back, " I said, "I'd just love to motorcycle across India."

"The traffic is horrible now. There's an overturned lorry every km or so as reminder of all the accidents they have." he cautioned.

"Ah, but then I'd know that God still loves me every km or so of travel," I laughed.

When this conversation occurred we were already at the South Hall, standing in socking feet in the temple waiting for the bride. We'd met a couple of nights before at Ganesh and Anita's where the hand painting party, the Mehndi Ceremony, had taken place.

"I asked my East Indian friend at the hospital about this. She told me it's usually just the bride and the women that meet for the Henna tattooing. When I told her the guys were invited, she told me that meant it was 'open'. " Laura told me this while she was fussing with her make up.

After a long day at the clinic I was more inclined to lie down on the sofa with Gilbert and the television but showered and spiffed up because Laura was excited. The family really are pillars of the community who deserve the respect of one's presence when invitations are given to their daughter's wedding. I so admired the bright and loving son and wise and beautiful older daughter. I actually looked forward to seeing the beautiful younger daughter so spoken of her resilence and good cheer.

Most of all I admired Ganesh who stood up to an international ring of gangsters who broke into his shop, beating him and threatening him with guns. Where a lesser man would have given up and backed down, he continued to work. The video tapes and information he gave to the RCMP lead to the arrest and conviction of these jet setter criminals that had been terrorizing businesses all across Canada.

Now here was Ganesh, a kind of man Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry would acknowledge, handsome in his traditional cream Nehru jacket suit standing serenely beside his glorious wife, Anita who looked absolutely spectacular in her buttery yellow sari.

The perfect gentleman, Ganesh immediately introduced me to Vancouver's reknowned cardiologist whose company I was humbled to share. Like great clinicians, he shared that weariness I've come to know, but his eyes sparkled with delight in the company of his friend Ganesh. His wife, a community nurse, would warm Laura's heart taking her off to where they'd have henna tattoos together.

Scotty and Michelle had arrived earlier and Michelle was delighted with her painted hands. All over the girls were holding them up trying to keep them from being smudged. The painting was so intricate, filligree and byzantine.

Scotty and I were indulged in East Indian delicacies as Ganesh and Anita kept sending servers over and over again to our table.

"This is just the hor d'oeves, " Scotty said smiling, "The dinner's not served until later." Already stuffed with food, I looked back and said, "You've got to be kidding!"

"Really," said Scotty nodding in amazement.

Laura returned with an intricate henna tattoo on her shoulder. "Because we were in the hospital, we didn't get our hands painted since with all the washing we do it would come off too soon." Laura was very happy with her tattoo, now joining all the other girls and women in oohing and ahhing at each other.

The dancing was something else.

"I just love the East Indian people, " Laura said, "The men are so refined and the women are so glamorous." Ganesh had us all up dancing and I enjoyed watching the Caucasian lawyer in her green sari circling with the lovely Chinese girl decked out in sari and bangles. The older women were especially resplendant in bright sparkling crafted gold earrings and necklaces and bracelets. The Indian men began to circle themselves and do intricate footsteps with deep bends and jumps while the women apart weaved among themselves like brightly plumed birds.
Then the ceremony of first gifts took place. One of many kindly 'interpreters' informed me , "The first gift is water of the wells. In old days the women carried water from the wells on their heads but today it's much more ornate." In all the dancing Anita was outstanding. Much to Scotty and my surprise Ganesh was a very fine dancer himself, light on his feet and looking like one of the leads from the Bollywood movie classic.

"They're so beautiful together," Sonya told me. "Everyone knows how much Ganesh and Anita still love each other. It's just so beautiful." She gushed.

Sonya I'd learn later was Ganesh neice. East Indian families are really big and with their long lasting marriages and love of children intertwined and interconnected.

Sarika was the most beautiful of all her hands ornately painted in black and gold with similiarly painted feet and legs. She literally glowed. No one at all would have to ask who the bride to be was because she shone out from all the most beautiful women around her. She was truly radiant and her parents, family and friends were together to celebrate her long life, love and happiness.

Dinner was a grand affair. "We have to dance so much at weddings because of all the food," the woman next to me in the buffet line said laughing over her shoulder.

And that was just the intro. Laura and I rose early Saturday morning to get dressed for the actual wedding.

At South Hall we gathered with all the people we'd met it seemed only the night before. The men were all in suits and the women again outdid the flowers and birds with the beauty of their colourful saris.

We all had to cover our heads to be in the temple, the men each having kerchief's that reminded me of my Harley Davidson head bandanas. The girls were more styllish with shawls and scarfs.

Michelle said, "Do you hear the bag pipes." Michelle has very good hearing or it's just her youth because it was sometime before Scotty and I heard what she was hearing and Scotty is as Scottish as they come. But sure enough there were bagpipes. And yes, the Bagpies originated in India but given my own Scottish heritage I'd argue with anyone that the Scots bagpipes were the most refined.

The pipers and drums appeared with lovely dancers following. I felt like I was at a biblical scene expecting King David next to appear. And sure enough there was Peter looking like a modern day prince resplendent in his white suit carrying his ceremonial sword.

Inside we all took off our shoes. First breakfast was served and I had the pleasure of sitting with a young fellow who was the husband of a bridesmaid. We talked ofboats and fast motorcycles while the girls talked of other things.

Then the actual wedding began with prayers and chanting and amazing tabla drumming. The Groom entered and then the Bride each passing solemnly under the decorated arbour. During the ceremony they walked about the shrine four times. With the last of these regal walks they were married. Wall to wall there were men on one side, women on the other, chairs around the back of the hall, with the rest sitting and kneeling on the floor around the families of bride and groom. Above was the chandelier with great white gossamer drapes going to the four corners of the room. The harmonium music and tablas coupled with the chanting brought a sacred peace to the ceremony.

"She bride was so beautiful. She looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor," Laura said.

I couldn't help but think of Plato and the idealism of forms because the couple really seemed to represent that. So beautifully attired, surrounded by their parents, this beautiful young couple were starting the journey of their lives.

Children and families uniting, communities growing.

More eating of course. Large buffets of scrumptuous cuisine awaited us. We were feasted. It was good to see Anil. Ganesh's close friend had been unable to attend the Mehndi Ceremony because of a death in his family. Ganesh was so happy to have him there on this most important day. All the older East Indian men help each other during these community events that are such extravaganzas with so many people. Ganesh and Anil were both so concerned that the needs of the elderly. The older men were seen throughout watching over and ensuring the younger men were seeing to the needs of the ancients. Ganesh son really was exemplary in this regard. The women mostly cared for the little ones who were a joy to see in their finest costumes. Later when no one was watching these little ones would group together and run about playing and sharing secrets while us older ones moved a whole lot slower.

It was a sunny day. Laura and I took our leave. What an honour and a joy to be part of such a remarkable celebration amidst so much love. Ganesh prays each day. I've seen him in his work stopping all else to be with God. And here there was so much goodness. Truly humbling to see such gifts and partake in the richness of community and the spirituality of the Indo Canadian wedding.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Joneses Movie

This is the a movie I'd expect my friend Kirk to recommend. It has that cultural relevance, cutting edge society critique with just the right humorous twist that appeals to his sense of irony. It's all about keeping up with the Jones but the strings of the puppet masters are what is most intriguing. Demi Moore and David Duchovny individually and with the electricity between them make this movie about popularity and marketing truly believable. A delightful movie I'd highly recommend. All it was missing was the dog.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Cliff Movie

Red Cliff is the most amazing epic movie directed by the genius John Woo. Vast casts of character and endless sets. Action, drama, history, romance, this movie has it all. It is a story of battles fought in China's Three Kingdoms circa 220 to 280 AD. I recognized the Han. Emperors and courts, prime ministers, and generals. But of course their wives and loves figure prominently. And the little boy flutist who stopped the army at practice. Such poetic touches coupled with gentle love scenes between the most comprehensive battles of swords, arrows, catapults and shields. The acting was exemplary - Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyl Zhang, Chen Chang, Wei Zhao. I felt as if I'd been transported back in time to a front row seat in a different culture and time. I was truly thankful for the invitation.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Station Movie

The Last Station, screenplay and direction by Michael Hoffman, is a movie of Jay Parini's novel, an historical drama depicting the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life. It's an extraordinary movie of the man who so influenced Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Tolstoy, considered the greatest novelist, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, proposed pacifivism, non violence, living as Christ taught, believed men equal founded communal living experiments and educational reforms and exasperated his wife Countess Sofya Tolstoy, mother of his 8 surviving children of her 13 births. Helen Mirren played Sofya richly portraying her depth and love. Christopher Plumber played Leo Tolstoy with his twinkling eyes, great intelligence, eccentricity and moral, philosophical and theological struggles. Paul Giamatti played Vladimir Chertkov who would become a people's publisher, friend of Leo to the end and posed the supreme threat to the inheritance of the Sofya's children. The relationship of Sofya and Chertkov is exquisitely depicted by Mirren and Giamatti. James MacAvoy played Valentin Bulgarov , Tolstoy's secretary who would try desperately to understand Tolstoy's love as it related to himself and Masha, to Leo and Sofya and Giamatti and the people. Bulgarov lived on to be a leader of the nonviolence movement into the 1960's of 20th century. The movie has an intensity and characterization that captures the essence of a Tolstoy novel. It touched me as truly as Tolstoy's great novels did constantly showing the greatness and smallness of man. The movie is a true tribute to Tolstoy, made with the love he deserves. I cried. What more can I say. Christopher Plumber and Helen Mirren brought all 48 years of the marriage of Leo and Sofya to the screen with refinement reserved to the greatest of actors. This movie is all about love.

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75 year AA anniversary

This year Alcoholics Anonymous celebrated it's 75th year of existence in San Antonnio. It was a great success by all accounts. Against all odds a couple of men started an organization to save themselves from alcoholism by saving others like them. They carried a message of hope to countless others and demonstrated by their abstinence what had been thought an incurable disease was treatable. Their program was a spiritual program. Millions are now members and many many more have been able to sober up knowing the success of the membership. Further there are countless other 12 step self help support programs that work effectively to restore healthy living.

I heard one young man wax poetic about 75 years and shared his joy at participation in an august organization. I couldn't help but think though that while it in no way detracted from the success of AA, the religion of Christianity was two thousand years old, Mohamedism nearly so, Buddhism too, Judaism much more and Hinduism even more so. I thought too empires lasted only a few hundred years at most by comparison, Egypt being perhaps longest, followed by Rome and Great Britain and America mere infants. Politics are so much more divisive than religions. Yet villages and cities have existed in the same location built upon ruins of ruins for time immemorial. Finally our planet is very old and man didn't make that though some might argue all existence is just an idea in the mind of God and man. The Trinitarian view of creation is as dynamic as the String Theory of Physics.

God and all that is Spiritual are for a long time. There was no word such as 'eternity' today in the Bible. The words for long time were from an agricultural people and hunters and gatherers, all who knew naught of zero and the mathematician Descartes. Time was much more proximal as was distance. The translators of the Bible changed the meaning of the words to 'eternity' which had previously simply meant for a long time, albeit a "very long time". People were more present in the past. Intellectualism wasn't the thing of computers and man made machines but rather philosophy was more about 'natural' philosophy. Living in the world people had first hand access to the creation of God whereas today it's man's world that presides in the minds of most. That world too is a 'modern' world view, pre fractal and not post modern or post fractal.

A third of the adult population never drink. They tend to be most successful in life all round. One third of the adult population never abuse alcohol. Alcohol abuse is drinking to toxicity, ie alteration of consciousness, induction of delirious states, getting drunk, drinking so that there is a negative consequence , drinking more than 2 to 3 glasses of wine at one sitting. The third of the adult population that abuse alcohol are called 'heavy drinkers' or alcoholics by researchers, but tend to call themselves 'social drinkers' . They've been drinking 'wrong' for a long time usually and the negative health and social effects are increasingly evident as single party insurance companies look at what is costing them so much money. Just as 'smoking' once considered normal was shown to cause lung cancer and heart disease, alcohol abuse is now known to be the root of much physical ill health but even more mental illness and social illness. It is costing society too much. Just as smoking was questioned finally now alcohol abuse is increasingly being addressed.

75 years ago society 'blamed' the alcoholic for moral weakness. The same society celebrated smoking. Yet in the last two or three decades it's become evident that Tobacco Companies, Governments and Businessmen are colluding to make a 'killing' financially off the members of society who are at risk, genetically and socially for developing an addiction to nicotine. Indeed all the evidence points to the same business of marketing to the young as street drug dealers do with cocaine and other illicit substance. The hypocrisy within the nation is such that psychiatrists have said that the problem isn't addiction but rather that individuals are getting their 'supplies' from other than the 'company store'. Yet the industry and government continue to be complicit in promoting ill health. Yet overnight in North American smoking became socially frowned on and a similar movement is increasingly taking place with regard to alcohol. Just one aspect of this is the movement of parents to have bars and liquor vendors removed from university campuses. The First Nations movement became the powerful force it is today only following the initial movement to 'dry reserves'.

It's amazing how much can be accomplished in such a short time. 75 years is a generation or two at most. The New Testament talks of the 'salt of the earth'. It's a fascinating subject in Epidemiology what a small percentage of individuals it takes to stop an epidemic from spreading. The influence of AA will be present for a 'very very long time' indeed. That just seems to be the spiritual way of things.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Don Brown, Author

I was searching the Kindle books on line for a quick down load vacation read. I picked Malaccan Conspiracy because it looked like a Tom Clancy. I wanted a quick read of a modern thriller. Just as historical fiction teaches me a bit of history, and science fiction gives me a bit of advance science, reading these geo political thrillers keeps me marginally in touch with geography and politics of the day. They're all kind of Clint Eastwood Westerns with good guys and bad guys, chases, and guns and James Bond type sleek women who don't complain or nag.

Don Brown's Malaccan Conspiracy turned out to be the latest in the Zondervan Navy Justice Series. Don Brown was a JAG Officer who served with the Pentagon and got lots of Navy medals. His writing really is Tom Clancy with a soul. Clancy is the real leader in action thrillers and catches the heart of the matter but it wasn't until I read Don Brown that I realized what he was missing. Of course the President would pray if he was facing a nuclear strike on Washington. Prayers and ethics and morals are a part of Don Brown's books. There's a delightful irony too regarding political correctness. The minister of state's conversations with the minister of defense and the concerns about television ratings in face of mass destruction are worth the read alone. I loved the fast paced Bourne Identity writing and the high action geo political story of terrorists and good guys so downloaded The Black Sea Affair. Sure enough I'm enjoying it just as well.

The characters are real and yet there's something uplifting about the series. I just learned where John, the writer of Revelations lived on a mediterranean island because a character commented about it. I realized I was growing tired of action writers telling me where the best wine was. I like that theres not the drinking and drugging that are so apart of many modern writer's ideas of what 'action men' are like. Yet here's an ex Navy officer saying the submariners are drinking black coffee and it's that much more believable. The men are talking about their wives the way men talk about their wives. Even the bad guys talk about women the way guys talk about women. I realized I've been subjected to a subtle form of low brow propaganda about drugs, alcohol, and pornography in some of the other thriller writing.

Zondervan is the publisher. I didn't know that till I looked up who Don Brown was. It figures. I like Zondervan's major publication series a lot so figure anyone who does will also like Don Brown's writing.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Salt Spring Island AA Round Up, 2010

It was great to arrive on Friday and get tickets. $35 each for the weekend was a steal since it covered 2 breakfasts, a place to camp and the fabulous lamb and pork roast.

Laura, Gilbert and I arrived on the Harley Electraglide, Gilbert getting all the attention perched in his box on top of the back luggage rack. We decided to stay at the Wisteria Bed and Breakfast this year so had a very elegant time of it compared to the previous year when we'd motorcycle camped, using the showers and washrooms and enjoying the comraderie of all the others there.

The Friday night speaker was inspirational. Saturday morning we slept in delighting in the Wisteria breakfast and lazing the morning away. Laura, Gilbert and I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up on zzzs and have a little time to ourselves off the clock. We walked to Ganges and enjoyed the Artists Market having coffee in town.

The afternoon lamb roast was a treat. Seeing Margaret, Brian, Kate, Murray and a dozen or so more we see each year was a thrill. It's fun to be part of a community and reunite year after year at the same conventions and meetings. We sat outside again with Gilbert and enjoyed the Saturday night speaker thankful that the audio system carried to the back. We walked back to the Wisteria with Gilbert knowing he'd not have tolerated well being left outside if we'd stayed for the dance.

Sunday we had Beverly's exquisite breakfast, gathered up our stuff, packed Gilbert's toys, and loaded the motorcycle, arriving just in time to hear Allan Moberg. He's a remarkable island cowboy sailor singer whose Amazing Grace sends chills up everyone's spine. The morning speaker was funny with a tale too typical of the fun that goes on too long and then takes ever so long to find a solution. He was in that solution as he spoke and a joy to hear.

Laura and I bade farewell to friends and then on the motorcycle headed out. We drove to all three ferry terminals, Long Harbour, Vesuvius, and Fulford doing quite the tour of this spectacular island on the Harley Electraglyde with Creed music crescendoing out of the speakers. At Fulford we were able to catch a ride to Schwartz Bay where we transferred to the ferry taking us back to Tsawwassen. Everywhere we went Gilbert was a celebrity among the bikers.

Finally we got home uplifted from a weekend of spirituality and community. Every year I've gone to the Salt Spring Island AA Round Up I've thoroughly enjoyed myself. This was another such experience. I am truly grateful. Thank God.

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Location:W 13th Ave,Vancouver,Canada

Wisteria Bed and Breakfast, Salt Spring Island

Our 2 night stay with Len and Beverly at the Wisteria Bed and Breakfast on Salt Spring Island couldn't have been more pleasant. Laura learned that they had been in the hotel industry for 30 years. It certainly shows. He managed a group of boutique hotels in Manhatten while she was the pastry chef of the Westin Hotel, Times Square. I loved breakfast. Each morning was different and exciting. Walking Gilbert at 6:30 am I met Len walking his cat. The couple of men who stayed with their dog Maxine in the cabin beside us had been there all week. The French girls had come in for an overnight. Laura would bring back cream for the coffee and tidbits of gossip each time she wandered off to the main house. I thought I was in a Sommerset Maugham novel. It was that kind of quaint and peaceful little place with room for a dozen guests. The young couple beside us were so romantic. While an Asian woman was very mysterious and looked like she could have been in some diplomatic service. There are various spas on the island. I imagined some of the older people must be off luxuriating somewhere, probably over by the famous Salt Spring vineyards. The young were probably kayaking or something else ever so strenuous. I missed my binoculars and telephoto camera. Some eagle or such, a very big bird at the least, had a nest in the neighbors tree and I so wanted to identify the noisy big babies. Little hummingbirds feasted outside our window. Walking Gilbert I saw deer in the yard and on the school yards. Laura and I were attending the annual Salt Spring AA Round Up at the Farmer's Institute. I can't wait for another excuse to come back and

stay with Len and Beverly dining on their incredibly scrumptious fare in the casual elegance of the guest house.

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Anti-authoritarianism and Alcoholism

Alcoholism engenders 'anti authoritarianism'. This is a direct consequence of the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain. The frontal lobes which are associated with good judgement, the stuff of wisdom and sanity, appears to be inhibited to some degree as a result of the disinhibition caused by alcohol and drugs on the Amygdala or feeling centers of the brain. Dopamine transmission is altered by drugs and alcohol. Not only that glucose utilization and even DNA expression have been altered by alcohol.

What character or personality or feelings preceded the continued abuse by alcohol and drugs may be a mot point. The drugs and alcohol are like brain damage in this regard. Mostly reversible brain damage but brain damage nonetheless.

So studies show that alcoholics at least are immature on formal testing. But the question remains whether they were before since clearly alcoholism causes regression. Part of the work of AA and the steps of AA is the resocialization and psychological training that mere 'abstinence' and 'harm reduction' programs simply don't address. The expression that captures this well in AA is that " if you only sober up a horse thief you'll get a better horse thief." Abstinence may address the characterological and cognitive and emotional disturbances in time but socialization and maturation aren't necessarily going to magically appear. The program of AA as opposed to the fellowship of AA aims to expedite the process of maturation.

It's here that anti authoritarianism becomes an issue. Drunks don't" take guff from anyone nohow." They are particularly 'proud' of their independence. Indeed some drunks and addicts living under the bridge celebrate their 'freedom' though they're slaves to alcohol and singing the 'hobo existence' is mostly making a 'virtue of necessity.'

Given the extent of post traumatic stress disorder associated with alcoholism it's extremely common to have drunks really have some person in authority really do them wrong. Women are raped, men are stolen from and battered and sometimes raped ,as women are stolen from and battered as well. Studies of alcoholism and drug abuse show that this population is weighted with betrayal disillusionment and abuse. That most of this occurs after the development of the disease of alcoholism and addiction doesn't account for that which seems to precede the addiction.

Given that underlying all addiction and alcoholism there is an anxiety disorder which responds to the anti anxiety effects of drugs and alcohol, the increased anxiety is a product of the increased environmental threats or hypersensitivity that precedes the development of alcoholism. With alcoholism there is at most a 50% contribution of genetics and this is not even shown in drug abuse. The consequence is that most of addiction and alcoholism is a response to environment. Toxic settings beget toxicity.

There is a well used expression in the program of AA called "pitiful incomprehensible demoralization." The psychic change or spiritual awakening that has been said to need to precede real change from alcoholism is the realization that the whole course of one's life has been going awry. The authority in the life of alcoholism and addiction has been the drugs and alcohol and all the supports that have been given to the life of alcoholism and addiction. The enablers and the philosophies and even the theologies and politics that appeared to support the drunken life now no longer hold the sway they once did.

For some alcoholics this starts first with the realization that the police are not the enemy. Sober and functioning as positive contributing citizens, able to obey laws because the erraticism of alcoholism is gone, there is no longer conflict with the law. No longer drinking and driving the alcoholic no longer has to 'fear' the police. Indeed the police are often the greatest fans and support of recovery. Partly this is because many of the members of the police have developed alcoholism themselves and are in recovery. Alcoholism and addiction respect no social class. Indeed the higher one rises in society and status with the money and freedom that comes the greater the risk and opportunity for the development of alcoholism and addiction. A day doesn't go by that a politician, judge, doctor, engineer, pilot, senior bureaucrat, isn't enterring a program of recovery to address their addiction. The original founders of AA were indeed upper and middle class men, surgeons and lawyers and businessmen.

The disease of alcoholism is said to be 'cunning, baffling, and powerful'. In recovery it becomes apparent how ubiquitous its influence was. Voting for the political party that wanted the bars to stay open later was just one of many things that became apparent. Alcoholics were like kids who ate foods full of sugar. If an event allowed the liberal flow of alcohol then it was a great event.

So much of civil libertarianism is attractive to the alcoholic or addict that the question recently asked was "would Shambala exist without the drugs and alcohol." Certainly Woodstock might have happened but the whole movement of the day was quickly hijacked by the drugs and alcoholism much as soccer games are increasingly being hijacked by the drunk and stoned elements in the audience.

The alcoholic in the Big Book of AA is described as the great 'critic'. So much of the thinking of alcoholism and addiction, the actual brain disease which is associated with suicide and depression, is negative. The regression of alcoholism is best seen in the pot smokers who never leave the couch follow the news and criticize ad infinitum all the actions expressed in the media. Alcoholics and addicts and 'big shots' and such "legends in their minds" and so full of false promises and 'superman beliefs' that they commonly believe they can do whatever the booze and drugs make them 'feel' they can do. A well honed AA slogan addresses this peculiarity. "If you talk the talk, walk the walk!"

In this regard alcoholics and addicts in recovery will often still be criticizing politicians and priests, leaders of business and professionals. Naturally the 'alcoholic' knows better. Their most common refrain is 'I could do that too if I wanted to". So naturally in AA people who are living in their heads are repeatedly told "Show me, don't tell me."

The anti authoritarianism of alcoholism seems even worse with addiction. Part of this is that today so many of the addicts have begun their careers of drug abuse prior to any socialization. Many alcoholics, especially those referred to in the early years of the Big Book of AA, were well established in their lives before their relative wealth and freedom and success allowed them to indulge their alcoholism. The difference with addiction is that so many of the addicts missed the socialization of stable homes, schools and work dropping out and living on the streets and developing anti social and criminal ways as the 'only' way of life because their addiction took them down in their teens. Drugs are said to 'bring people to their knees' earlier. Addiction is more commonly showing up now in the teens and twenties where as it used to be encountered most in 30s, 40s and 50 year olds.

Much of the anti authoritarianism in alcoholics and addicts is merely 'adolescent'. The disease of alcoholism and addiction has kept them aways from the normal avenues of socialization and character maturation. Alcoholism and addiction makes non joiners and isolators and loners of individuals as a direct part of the disease itself. Addicts and alcoholics especially those who relapse and especially those who keep relapsing must keep themselves free for the call of their master so they stop drinking and drugging but maintain a lot of 'free time' on their hands. They remain 'anti social' and insist that this is just the way they are. Often they are actually 'pouting' like adolescents while the rest of society is inviting them in. But the disease of addiction has taken over this aspect of their thinking and they remain 'aloof' mostly as a means of being ready to relapse, free to respond to the 'craving'. Indeed anti social behaviour, isolation, per se, is a form of 'craving equivalent'. Addiction and alcoholism are 'parallel play' activities and there is no need for 'commitment' to relationships or groups or societies or families or other individuals. The only commitment needs to be to the drug or alcohol. That is the God that is being worshipped and a crack house even more than a bar shows that same almost sacred participation in alienation. Even the love making of addiction is more 'mutual masturbation' than true love. This is the reason the sex addict despite the number of partners or players is caught in the prison of masturbation without the joining that comes with relationship. The sensational overrides the relational.

It's with these thoughts that anti authoritarianism must be considered. The Big Book of AA cautions the alcoholic against even 'righteous anger'. Addicts select from their environment all the negatives that government for instance does and repeats them. This may indeed be a 'craving equivalent' as well because it's tied to the self pity that justifies drug and alcohol abuse and relapse. Ultimately if everything is so wrong, if all those people in charge are fools, 'why not drink?"

That said, human rights and civil liberties and political action are all a very important part of community involvement. Eventually the alcoholic or addict in recovery moves into a world of decision making that involves criticizing positions of ones' government. At this point it seems important to remember that alcoholism and addiction present as diseases of 'immaturity'. It's been said that 'children break things and adults fix them." To this end alcoholics and addicts who are very good at breaking things and putting down and criticizing and belittling are asked "what would you do better." RAther than allowing addicts and alcoholics to wax poetic about the problem they are derailed early and asked 'what is the solution". What would you do differently from the President or Prime Minister? How would you solve the problem of terrorism? How would you get the votes to build a child centre? The specific feature dominant in the critic is that they dare not propose their own ideas because they lack the courage to face the kind of criticism they themselves so readily dish out. In AA people are told "if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." "Too many cooks spoil the broth." The critics are mostly commonly the ones that are interfering with things being done unless they actually are apart of solutions.

Indeed it is in community involvement that addicts and alcoholics eventually move. The 'business meeting' of AA with it's disagreements and confusion is a place where people learn to controll their tempers and work with others to a common goal. The rallies and round ups of AA are major community projects where people learn to put on events and address all the grievances and expectations associated with these. The alcoholics in AA cheer the leaders and organizers of these and eventually see that the same 'feelings' are what normal people feel for the leaders of society and all their organizations. The tendency of addiction is to see the cup half empty whereas one political leader versus another in the Western world is more often not the paranoid position of the childish alcoholic and addict, black and white but rather shades of grey.

Clinton, Bush and Reagan, are all A students but clearly the Aplus is preferred to the A minus. Mulroney and Chretien, Harper and Ignatieff are A students as well. The political question is which one is A plus versus A minus. None of these individuals are satanic, evil, losers or any other description that the anti authority alcoholic might give them. The Pope is like wise not terribly machiavellian. Surely the whole system is at fault because it doesn't place the 'critics' as the billionaires and move the car washers into the big chairs smoking cigars. But that's childish thinking. It's destructive and doesn't have a solution beyond revolution that would get the critic off the couch and into the real work of society. The organizers of AA event, those too often thankless, are appreciated as leaders should be. It's said though that those most criticized in AA are those that do the most.

But all who stand up make themselves a target. Studies of monkey behaviour show that the bleachers are always full and that few are ready to do the work and take the risks but all want the rewards. This may be a part of the animal we are. Alcoholism and addiction may only bring this worst side of human character to the fore.

It's with thoughts like these that I personally like to temper my tendency to criticize my political leadership. Government and taxes aren't necessarily popular. Yet addicts and alcoholics have a tendency to project their own past negative experiences associated with drugs and alcohol onto whatever authority that presents today. This anti authoritarianism needs be balanced against the overall good that organizations do whereas the addiction flourishes in chaos so the call of the addiction will always be in the back ground.

Anti authoritarianism is part of the disease of addiction and alcoholism. To be an exemplary leader you must first be an exemplary follower. Recovery is about being of service in recovery. Service doesn't start at the top and service isn't usually being a critic. Anyone in organizations knows that the 'talkers' are a dime a dozen where the "doers" are few and far between.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Personal Safety and the Internet

I woke up one day and realized that my own government had released information on all of it's citizens to nefarious characters around the world. Investigations into the most private of information, our income tax returns, indicates that some 200 people at least and many agencies have access to that data.

In two major hospitals in two major cities in two provinces I have ensured that doctors had to show identification to get patient files. Prior to that a white lab coat and a stethoscope got any information. Most of the 'support' staff in most institutions are minimally paid.

When I caught my staff distributing confidential information and let her go notifying the police, the police told me that "It probably happens all the time but you're the only doctor I know of who has come forward."

My accountant in a moment of psychosis or a drunken rage or just plain stupidity dumped all the files of all his clients in the dumpster only to be found by astute Province reporters who made that a front page story.

Private investigators have told me what the television says that anyone's garbage is the best source of information about the individual. Garbage men aren't bonded.

If I ever want to hunt someone down I knew I could without the internet. I was stalked before the internet. I was also held hostage before the internet. I was physically attacked in a public place one early evening walking home. I almost died in a crowd when I rescued a woman being raped from a gang of 8 or so guys who subsequently attacked me and pushed in front of an oncoming subway train pulling me back at the last moment and demonstrating how 'no one does anything'. Not one of the hundreds of people and dozens or more at least had helped the girl and none helped me. I've phoned 911 three times and on each occasion there were no cars. One time some sports fans were wrecking the city. Other times the police have been at an emergency faster than I could have imagined.

Our governments in the west and east dueled and played girlish macho with enough nuclear missiles to kill everyone a dozen times over and now they've lost some. Our governments sell the weapons to the terrorists which the terrorists use on others. The western nations are the principal arms dealers.

The legal system protects and supports criminals, their principal clients. It's a first come first serve justice system and when a person pulled the trigger of a gun he thought was loaded in my face he got off because he claimed that I'd threatened him. The system now is indeed to claim that you are a victim even though you're the actual victimizer today. Just as common criminals get off with murder in the courts claiming their parents abused them, Israel recently claimed that they were victims so it was okay for them to attack innocent sailors on the high seas shooting them from helicopters and then stealing their cameras and films. This stuff goes on all days and the legal system and government don't seem to think it's their job to ensure 'protection'.

Mr. Dugald Christie, an amazing lawyer who'd demonstrated that the Canadian legal system did not serve the poor was killed by a hit and run driver while riding to Ottawa to say the legal system had disenfranchised the middle classes as well. Like the health care system which was once 'universal' but is now mostly for the priviledged the legal system serves only the rich. We are at greatest risk for saying things like this. Mostly I personally am most likely to cause my own death or bring harm on myself and not just politically.

When I did home visits I found half the elderly were stoned or drunk and falling down breaking things. Others who weren't were climbing on roofs adjusting antennas in their seventies and falling down breaking things. There's a very brief window when your hormones no longer rule and you have some maturity and physical capability. Unfortunately you're usually working for an old fart who has you doing dangerous things. Workplace injuries and work stress account for so much damage in society still.

When individual yacht owners were being told they had to purify their waste the city was dumping pollution in tons without purification. "Alternative" "medicine's" have caused countless deaths and no one hears of them because news is only news when it's against the major professions. The government fast ferry multi million dollar loss was due to technicians and bureaucrats not listening to engineers. We don't hear about this. We don't hear the names of those individuals who denounced the doctors who said the Red Cross blood was tainted and for political reasons the government and agencies did nothing till countless people were infected and dying.

Once I've had a certified electrician leave my house at the most unsafe it's been and we're alive today because an electrician friend came by and investigated the high voltage arcing which I'd asked him about because the intermittent flashes of light seemed dangerous. I was given a gun back by a gunsmith that fired when I put the safety on.

But when I smoked and dranked I commonly poured gas into the outboard like so many 'macho men' do. I also stood up in canoes and all those other things that aren't safe.

The government has cut back on so many of the people who were responsible for testing foods and water. Even when the water inspectors were present for the sake of profit the water supply of cities the size of Toronto depended for it's safety on individuals like Carey Shinn who served as a watchdog on city councilmen. VAncouver almost had a casino, hotel, cabin complex on it's principal lake's watersupply if it weren't for someone thinking that might not be 'safe' despite the promises. The promises are the kind of thing that resulted in Chernobyl.

9-11 wasn't supposed to happen if dozens of 'fail safe's were acted on. Indeed 9-11 is probably one of the best examples of gross incompetence and stupidity since Pearl Harbour. But then the British had the Titannic.

When I was a very minor 'hacker' I found that there were no firewalls for most of the governments data bases. Indeed all you had to do is dial up the access number and people had put all personnel files of those who are now in power on their data bases. There weren't even laws about online 'confidentiality' then. Most recently a real hacker notified the Seatle hospitals that their systems were wholly penetrable and advised them of the measures that they should take to cough up security (note that hospital records in the US are also financial records). The hospitals ignored this but rather got the FBI to label this Robin Hood an evil criminal. Hackers for years have been telling the authorities where their weaknesses are but the authorities consistently ignore them and 'save face' by paying off a consultant to do a 'report' and appearing to address the problem. Each new generation of computer is more powerful and generally can breach easily the security systems of the previous computers.

Fear is ubiquitous. Identity theft is a reality. The greatest 'identity' 'scam' here was the tens of thousands of people whose credit card information was taken by the credit card machine scandal.

My patient who was a professional military assassin by any other name said it was easiest to get a guy in the washroom especially if they had a routine. Changing routines is apparently what one has to do to be safe. Changing passwords and codes and credit cards and addresses is clearly a great idea but I lose my codes and credit card companies won't give you credit cards if you move too often. I've moved alot.

I've had my life threatened several times. My family's life has been threatened. I've been knifed and shot at. I've been at times a touch 'paranoid' when people were phoning me up threatening me and the police literally told me all they could do was act on the physical presence, record a conversation etc, but not actually 'protect' me.

One of my patients who was being hunted by gangs after he fingered a mobster was offered 'protection' by the police but the police told me this wasn't 'television'. There's no money for that kind of protection. They could cover his case for a few weeks or months but not a life time. Fortunately criminals more often than not have more recent enemies and as time goes on if you avoid them they can't risk settling an 'old score' as it could interfere with them settling 'new scores'.

So the big question is "are you worth it?" My friend doesn't put her children on the internet and gets outraged at the lack of security that the schools have regarding children's information. One of my patients who was a convicted pedophile lived across from a school yard. So many of the ex cons break the conditions of parole and yet there are rarely consequences. The patient wasn't an actual threat but his taking a place at risk was an indication that he himself was no longer facing the life long nature of his risk. He wasn't intentionally irresponsible just didn't really accept that he was the threat he really was.

A few judges locally refused to imprison gay prostitute drug addicts who knowingly had unprotected sex and spread HIV in the early years. I naturally thought this was the judges way of expressing their homophobia but there was no consequence for their irresponsible behaviour. The medical community was trying desperately to treat an infectious disease and these priviledged highly protected rich old boys were condemning countless men to death and cost the health care system millions before they got off their high horse and listened to their colleagues who had more sense than they did.

My friend's children are worth probably a hundred thousand each. Kids sell and yet it's really quite rare. Young women drug addicts end up in pig farms. If I was rich, young, attractive or had children I would worry more about 'broadcasting' personal data but information about every professional is available to everyone. We're easily followed home from offices. I've been. I've had an unlisted number and have taken the time to make my whereabouts unknown but neighbors will tell strangers where the 'doctor' lives.

I had Jimmy Patterson's house pointed out to me. If anyone was going to break into my home I think they'd find more in his and yet it's fairly common knowledge where he lives. When I lived in Shaughnassey it really did seem that that was the shopping district for the East Vancouver criminal crowds. Yet when my jeweler friend was broken into it was a gang operating all across Canada.

Mostly the media inflates the fears. It's a fear mongering society we live in.

At the end of the day I'd like to remember all the people who over the years have returned my wallet or camera or computer when I've left them somewhere. Countless times as a kid strangers took care of me and didn't do mean or nasty things. Church leaders, boy scouts and teachers collectively were just great. The opportunities that were available for others to take advantage of most of us were myriad but in the end people are collectively basically good. That's the way it was growing up in Winnipeg. I know that things aren't as good everywhere as they once were but that's what old people always say. So far we haven't had a world war in my lifetime and while more people are being jailed by our governments and more people are at risk in these environs than ever before overall we're living longer and healthier than ever before.

For all the billions on the internet and all of us with blogs and most of who are relatively nobodies the risk is very small of someone using this means to suddenly enter your life and become a Chainsaw Murderer. Internet dating with all the risk that would appear to be there is probably no more risky than talking to a stranger at a bar.

I had an employee who had falsified her resume and lied about her past and presented herself as a highly believable and caring person. Psychopaths are notorious chameleons. I loved Robert Hare's book, Snakes in Suits because it's main warning is that they're not different per se than the next guy but are identifiable by patterns. I've been fooled and supposedly I should know better but then I've almost been killed by an ex wife and ex wives have almost killed us both and maybe they'd say that of me.

For the longest time I didn't trust the internet with any credit card number. It's still a source of major concern for me and I have a credit card with a limit for that use. I wouldn't give out my home address and yet my emails and phone numbers are commonly getting accessed because my government and the law won't protect me from their 'friends' because clearly these agencies consider 'telemarketers' and such more their 'friend' than me or they'd not allow them to infringe on my privacy. I hate the curbside suedgie windshield washers because I don't believe strangers should have the right to touch me or my vehicle and yet it's obvious that my government would rather protect the rights of vagrants than protect my safety.

I am concerned that when I'm away and blog then someone could use this information to access my home. The fact is that my secretary tells people when I'm away and I have to arrange call at times so that even though countless people are in fact giving their comings and goings away this doesn't lead to more break and entry. At times I've lived in the country only to realize that police aren't available and I'm at greatest risk for defending myself and going to jail for hurting a criminal breaking into my house. It's probably not safe to possess anything of value. When my car was broken into the government insurance refused to cover the cost of what was stolen. My friends house was broken into three times and he can no longer get insurance.

I have all these concerns. Most criminals aren't reading blogs. Fortunately most criminals are just drug addicts and opportunistic. I feel sorry for the police because they have very few resources for most of the crimes and are expected to hunt down ghosts and goblins ad infinitum at times.

Over the years I've had state of the art security systems and had problems with them going off because of cleaning ladies. I recently had a firewall system probably better than the police but the cleaning lady kept unplugging it with her vacuum cleaner and I couldn't afford the thousands of dollars 'security'. I once established a series of 'traps' that would hurt burglars only to learn that I'd be culpable if the burglars got hurt. Indeed I was told that I had to put up a higher more expensive fence to keep a child from breaking into my already locked and secured yard because I'd be responsible if they drowned in the pool yet I wasn't allowed to use glass and razor wire along the top of the fence and the neighbour objected to the higher fence that would make my yard safe from the lack of parenting of kids in the neighbourhood. I moved. I won't have a swimming pool. I'm worried because one day I would like a hot tub.

More and more I pray. The only security seems really to be with the Lord. I'm glad that I'm a very dangerous person who has martial arts, silent kill and knows every object as a weapon but I'm an old man and more often than not I hurt. I have a dog that I have to protect more than he protects me. Yet if a person pokes a dog and he bites that person I can be sued but I can't sue a person for inciting my dog. Canada is a very insane country to live in with the most insane laws and legal system with all it's technicalities and goobly gook. Every computer has a book of legal agreements that I'm required to sign to use any program and I gave up reading the fine print years ago so I could learn how to save lives. I have to trust. I trust the legal system generally. I mostly trust the police. I trust my government sometimes and the media sometimes. I never really trust criminals and am increasingly not trusting businessmen. I tend to avoid listening to the fear mongering. I worry far more than enough already.

Indeed I worry too much already.

God is good all of the time. If I live in fear then really I don't trust God and yet I don't like to waste God's time.

The closest I came to death was in hospital at the hands of my caregivers on one occasion. Another time it was from a bacterial infection that no one could protect any of us from. As I child I almost died so many times but didn't. Half of those times I was doing things boys do which boys shouldn't.

Today I still think I'm my own greatest threat and being of Scottish descent I know the next fear is the government because those dastardly English are always trying to steal your very blood and now one wonders if it's not just the bleeding southerners and us northern folk all over again.

There's no way out but by death and life isn't safe. If you feel far from God, it's not hard to figure out who moved.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Park Dr,Capital F,Canada


A beautiful person just asked me about how to get started blogging. I was going to answer her email personally however when I began I found that I was sharing information that others might find helpful too.

I was first encouraged to blog in a meeting of the Canadian Author's Association. The president of the BC Federation of Writers had come back from a trip where she'd been visiting various editors and publishers. What she learned was that these people appreciated artists having blogs. Blogs gave them more insight into the people they were investing money in. Apparently the problem in the industry, which has grown lean and mean in recent years, was the one shot wonder. This was the author or artist who produced only one good work. Publishers invested money and time into 'branding' an author and work and were so often disappointed by the failure of the authors and artists in the past to continue. Often they don't make much money off the first book or works that they back and it's only in the continuation of the work of the artist that the publishers, editors and backer really make their profit.

I certainly appreciated this concern as a friend who was a record producer described how often he'd been 'burnt' by bands that fell apart after their first album. He said that this was why he had stopped backing bands with anyone in them that had a drug and alcohol problem because this was the principal problem he'd identified that lead to the short life of creative individuals and groups.

I personally had invested thousands of dollars in friends 'art' and 'music' only to lose the money because the individuals became alcoholics and their work which might otherwise have appreciated and made me money gathered dust and was overpriced 'pretty' but certainly not 'art' that I could even sell at the original price. I put it down to being a parent for friends, supporting their dreams and wondering if one day they will ever give up the drugs and/or alcohol and find the creativity and genius I'd seen in them before they gave it to the bottle or drugs.

That night I went home and started a blog. I used the Google "Blogger". It's on the google top bar when you pull down the "more". It really was very easy to do and follow through. I do know computers and such but the directions were rather 'idiot proof'. I had a blog set up and running really quickly adding pictures and videos and ultimately adding devices. I even tried to 'monetize' but there's no money in that as Google has it set up so that one gets a penny only if a person clicks on a 'google ad'. I never bothered to remove it when I realized that it was a bit of a scam and that someone was getting a whole lot for very little. I liked the fact that Google had the blog and that I could blog as others could so didn't particularly worry. There's probably ways to maximize income with blogging. I've not really looked into this much. Just every once in a while I'll "play" at the computer and add something to the blog like the 'monetize' or another time I joined it to Facebook and another time I added a stat counter. I see something someone else has and wonder in a computer geeky way, how do they do that, and if it doesn't take much time I do it.

I confess blogging has become something of an addiction. It's definitely detracted from my regular professional writing. I used to make hundreds or thousands of dollars a year publishing articles. I would write something like I do on the blog and then maybe edit it a few days later and send it to an editor and they'd kindly print it and send me a cheque. I rather liked that. Indeed the first cheque I got for writing 40 years ago I wished I'd framed rather than having spent like any other old money.

Writing is one of my joys in life. Sharing my thoughts with others. I've loved learning and teaching and writing and all that and over the years have enjoyed it much as I've enjoyed photography. I took pictures for a newspaper once as I also had a newspaper column once. The column paid me $100 a piece and the pictures got $20 a picture. That was a quarter century or more a go. Big money at the time. It was a city journal. Now I might make anywhere from $500 to $1000 for an article. I've just taken whatever the 'going' rate was. I've done so much pro bono work in my own regular work and in my writing but feel I should pay lip service to "business". It's not really something I've paid much attention to and yet I'm envious of people who are rich and acknowledge that they've focused more on this matter than I. I'm grateful that I have what I have.

So blogging has allowed me to 'connect' without that step where I send a letter to an editor and wait for a response. It's removed the paycheque from the equation too. I wonder about that. Yet I love the direct access. I began a diary when I was a teen ager and kept it for all the intervening years. An ex wife destroyed or kept my diaries, I believe, out of spite, or simply because she didn't care or because she thought she was doing the world a favour. I remember thinking that I'd always planned when I was older to write a book and here I was missing bits and pieces of the record. I had so much literally 'stolen' in the divorce process, poetry, paintings, sketches, wood work. I know no judge cares about this. It's like all that refridgerator art of children that has no 'value' to the world of politics and law. That's why I think money so often misses the mark and that so much of what is of the greatest value you can't buy.

I guess that's why I like the 'elusive butterflies' of thought getting out there. I've been fascinated by how 'censorship' of adults serves the most tyrannical governments. Right now India is interfering with Blackberry claiming it's for the 'good of the people' but as I've got older I've come to think when I hear it's for the 'good of the people' mostly somebody saying "it's good for me."

So I blog. It's direct. It's immediate. I've taken blogs I've written edited them and then sent them off for publication.

I was a very private person until my divorce. In my divorce all the lies and misinformation and personal details of my life and anyone else who chose to marry and was punished for not achieving perfection (dying in the saddle) became public domain. I think that caused me to feel that I'd rather have my 'diary' be public rather than have people read about me what others thought. I'm not my best advocate. I have enemies. People who don't are usually empty skin. Lives of quiet desperation. If you don't have scars you've never really done anything to threaten the tyranny and abuse that is prevalent wherever we turn. In deed the sad truth is that if you haven't any 'scar's you may well be the problem. The priviledged protected few are not the solution I envision. They're not the solution that the great religious leaders and indeed political leaders envisioned either.

I'm looking forward to reading the Autobiography of Anne Murray. I heard an interview of her on TV and she said the same thing. She'd rather people heard it from her rather than heard it from her detractors. She'd heard a biography was going to be written and decided to get out her autobiography. Anne Murray is one of my favorite Canadian singers and I do look forward to getting to know her better.

The other thing is that there is 'too much information' today. The problem is sorting it through. I was one of the greatest fans of Paul Johnson's writings. His history of Christianity is one of the very best as is his New York Times bestseller, Modern Times. Now a mistress has said he's been seeing her and he likes 'spanking'. Now this genius and great man of letters is known as "spanker Johnson". Lady Di was a drunk too. Prince Charles wanted to be Camillia's tampon.

I think we collectively have to get over the primitive hypocrisy that allows the very rich and powerful to buy or kill anyone that may ruin 'their' reputation. Bill Gates could like little boys but we'd never know it today unless the Apple Company was trying to discredit him. I don't think Bill Gates likes little boys. His wife is hot and he's one of my heros, just as Steven Jobs is. Yet as a society and the media we'll continuing to be swayed by 'false allegations' and "ad hominem's" without realizing that none of us get to know what the Bush family really does at private dinners. Maybe George gets his peepee out and his mother spanks it. Maybe Hillary liked to watch Clinton and Monica. I think that the media with it's 'one picture' and one sound bite and it's rank sensationalism has to be countered by the 'blog'. In a blog you get a 'bigger picture'.

When my friend went to prison for selling marijuania, I didn't think he was a 'bad' man. I didn't think his selling marijuania was good but the British Empire was built on selling booze and opium whereas the American empire is built on selling weapons. Knowing him as a guy who cared for his children, built things, told funny stories, I kept it in context of what the judge who I didn't know said about him.
My ex patriot friends from behind the Iron Curtain said that everyone knew someone who was 'out' eventually. Now everyone knows someone in North America who is 'out' in some context. Martha Stewart and Conrad Black are both scapegoats.

I think the blog gives a fuller dimension of anyone and counters that movement back to the utter hypocrisy of church and government of yesteryear. I encourage people to judge the fuller context of the information and where it is coming from because increasingly there are 'conflicts of interest' and marketing has given us the god awful "Golden Marbles" awards. I think Christianity is right when it says we're all sinners. I know the blog makes me vulnerable. But mostly it frees me.

The way search engines work is that people will find a blog based on the title. The fact is that few people are interested in Gilbert. I am. Laura is. My family is. My friends are. But when I write an article on a movie people check the blog and mostly don't look further. There's a new 'information age' that we're apart of. People learn in ways that are more holistic. I just tapped into a Chilean's blog because I liked what he said about something I was interested in. I liked his diversity of interests. I saw rapidly that he really was an 'authority' on the subject of interest. I check out people's blogs to see if they're just 'one dimensional' or phony or hustlers or really are true people I might want to learn from.

The institutions used to 'control' information by 'certification' and diplomas. I have so many certificates and diplomas and mostly found that I had to work under people who only had 'position authority' and 'raw power'. All freedoms frighten people with power because quite simply 'the reformer is the enemy of anyone who benefits from the status quo'. I'm a conservative and know that God is ultimately in charge so I trust the process more than another might.

The blog is amusing too. People comment. People tell me they read it. I remember when I wrote articles in the most prestigious medical journals that were juried and had all the trappings of power. Well, none of my colleagues read them. They're like the PHD treatises that support university. The Medical Post is the doctors' newspaper in Canada. It goes to everyone in medicine for free. I wrote for that and always I heard back about articles and stories I wrote. So I kept writing. I didn't need to 'publish or perish'. I had more writing and publications of note than many of my academic colleagues but whereas I'd shown the integrity to be a whistleblower on a corrupt imposter and killer those very same colleagues had stayed 'mom' and been rewarded by maintaining the 'lie'. Owen Barfield wrote the book "keeping up appearances'. The politics of the university has been said to make real politics look like children's play. I guess I was more interested in something else, that elusive butterfly thing.

It concerns me that I'm critical of some of my colleagues. I'd rather be like King Lear who paraphrased said "we'll laugh about who's in who's out and such courtly things." I like myself best when I'm able to be amused at my own and others foibles. I liked that Scott Peck called Earth, God's kindergarden.

I recently thought to publish a paper in an 'academic' journal but the process of 'submission' was such that it served the 'academic'. I'm in the 'front line' trenches. I know that we know the 'truth'. It's raw and right in our face. My 'academic' colleagues who write alot of the 'stuff' are often 'dead wrong' and eventually will be shown as such but the very nature of their work allows them all the time involved in 'courtly' things. Beurocracies are forever creating hoops and games that let only their own in, just like Kafka's Castle. I like the blog because it's simple.

I miss the editors. I've had some of the greatest editors at the Medical Post and other journals I've written for. The CAnadian Medical Association Journal had some good people and some of the newspaper editors have been saints. One rejected an article I wrote but kindly explained why it was 'shit'. That doesn't happen much these days. Most editors don't have the time. I've been an editor of a magazine too and I don't judge those who haven't the 'time' today. So few of us do now that we have all the 'time saving' machines.

Anyway that's blogging. There are other blogs. They're listed somewhere. I've loved Google Blogger. It's interfaced with Twitter and Youtube. I found when I got the Ipad it was difficult at first but Blogpress is a really good interface. Hope that helps.

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Salt Spring Island Arts Market

Normally Laura and I would be enjoying the breakfast done by Kiwanis at the Salt Spring Island AA Round Up. Last nights opening speaker was an inspirational joy to listen to. From alcoholic pancreatitis to health and yoga and successful sober living.

This morning Gilbert had me up at the break of dawn. A deer was in the yard outside and naturally had his full attention. I dressed and took him for a walk. The deer disappeared but the young eagles in the nest down the street had him running home to mamma. I called him back and told him I'd protect him but he'd read the article in the Province that told of all the small dog and cat collars found in an Eagle's nest. He wasn't happy till we'd got further away from that death from above. I don't understand eagle but I suspect they must have been taunting him.

I went back to bed and Gilbert bugged Laura till she got up and had a bath leaving me to sleep in. Len called to tell us breakfast was ready. Breakfast at the Wisteria is a 5 star genteel affair. Everyone there had dogs and had left them in their cars for breakfast while with Gilbert as a puppy and everything a chewy toy and us on the motorcycle, we picked up breakfast and brought it back to eat outside our room. It was simply lovely. Gilbert thinks 'food under the table' is one of God's best inventions.

We looked at the Salt Spring Island AA agenda. The Al Anon speaker was at 3 pm. The Lamb Roast followed that. Then the evening AA speaker. That meant this was the time to visit Ganges.

The Salt Spring Island Artist's market is a grand tradition. Laura picked up a unique woven purse and Gilbert got homemade smoked salmon tasties. I got Ometepe Certified Organic Fairly Traded Nicaraguan Arabica coffee. We sat on the rocks looking out at the boats enjoying yet another view of this island we love so to visit.

Then it was more wandering about the crowds looking at the quaint little stores. Given the Motorcycle has a CD player I bought Creed's Greatest Hits, Gordon Lightfoot's Greatest hits and the second Traveling Wilbury album I'd not even known existed. Gilbert kissed other dogs, tried to eat some hemp clothing on display at his level, loved meeting the doodle Violet and generally had a jolly dog time.

We've crashed for a moment at J.J. Bean's Coffeehouse where the chai tea is terrific. Laura has gone off in search of a washroom leaving me to Blog. It's a sunny fun and festive day.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Gilbert, Motorcycles and Ferries

YouTube Video

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Gilbert and Motorcycles and Ferries

We left Vancouver at 12 to catch the ferry from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island. I was driving the Harley Electraglide Classic with Laura behind me and Gilbert, our dog in his t bag on the luggage rack. It was an exhilarating ride out Oak and onto the high way heading towards Seattle. What a beautiful sunny day! We had no trouble with the underpass but he wind around Delta was something else. I was thankful we were well over a thousand pounds of weight with the nearly 900 lb motorcycle, big hagen daz ice creamed bellied me and little Laura and little Gilbert. Without that Hagen Daz belly I'm sure we would have been airborne over the farmers fields. At the ferry terminal we got put right to the front of the line as usual. There was time for Gilbert to experience the exciting nasal experience of the dog walk. When Gilbert was back in his box all the other bikers wanted to meet him. Even a couple of little girls with bunny dolls came to say hello. Then we were on the ferry. Gilbert's eyes were wide. He'd been on the ferry before and he'd been in the sailboat but this was his first experience riding high up on the motorcycle. He was thankful to be let down on the deck where he proceeded to throttle Rooster, the squeaky toy Laura had been so thoughtful to pack.