Thursday, January 31, 2008

Immigrants should be sterilized…

Today in my sociology class we watched a National Film Board documentary called, "The Sterilization of Leilani Muir". Here's the basics:

Leilani was born into a family where she was largely unwanted, and had a difficult childhood. Her mother was often inebriated and withheld food from Leilani. However, Leilani reportedly maintained an average performance in school. The only allegations made against her by the school were for stealing food. As Leilani aged, her mother tried to find ways to remove her from the family. When she was eight, Leilani's mother placed her in the Midnapore Convent for a month. Then, in 1953, Leilani's mother sent an application for Leilani to attend the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (a.k.a the Michener Center) in Red Deer, Alberta. At that time Leilani was rejected due to a high volume of patients, but she was later accepted, on July 12, 1955, shortly before her 11th birthday. Leilani was accepted into the school solely on the basis of information provided by her mother, without any diagnostic testing. Before Leilani could be accepted into PTS, the program required a signature from a guardian permitting the legal enforcement of compulsory sterilization. Leilani's mother used her then boyfriend's (future husband's) name, Harley Scorah, to agree to the sterilization of her daughter. Leilani saw her mother only intermittently over the years until her departure from the school at the age of 20. (read more here)

So Leilani scores 64 on an IQ test and is confirmed for sterilization. The reason: that she should not pass along her deficiencies to her progeny. She's told that she is going to get an appendectomy and when she goes under the knife she also gets a tubal ligation. Later on in life she finds out that she cannot have kids. She also scores an even 101 on a subsequent IQ test. She successfully sues the Alberta Government and wins ¾ of a million dollars in compensation for it suffering.

What surprised me about the documentary is the connection that this legislation had to anti-immigration and racist ideologies. Here's a brief description of the bill's history and impetus:

Here's the line that stands out for me (it was an aspect of the documentary that was especially disturbing as well):

The United Farmers of Alberta (that's right it's the UFA we all know and love?), a grassroots movement, responded quickly to the Survey and called on the government to draft legislation for life segregation or sterilization of the feebleminded. The weight of the survey's results, combined with growing fear that new immigrants were inferior, had generated fears over the protection of land and jobs.

It is irrefutable that anti-immigration sentiments fueled what is ostensibly a not so distant cousin of the Arian race policies of Nazi Germany. Recently, I received some of those ubiquitous forwarded emails which expressed some very strong anti-immigration sentiments. While I understand that immigration policy is very complex and nuanced – it is still very disturbing to read these electronic propaganda pieces which essentially promote much of the same racist overtones.

survey says

72% of Lego users - and might I add that these are generally people with a deep sense of play - build the original model once and then use thier own imagination to build many other fantastical things.

the same amount of people use Lego as ammunition as adhere to the strict use of Lego to build only the prescribed Lego model dictated by the company... 5%

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reading the Romance

In the early 1980's Janice A. Radway conducted a study of women who read romance novels. Her goal was to discover why, in an age of burgeoning (when I say burgeoning I mean likely the third or forth wave depending on which camp you belong to) feminism these women were reading novels that essentially reinforced the values of a male dominated society. Alas her preoccupation with this topic was not altogether object – not in the least – Mz. Radway was a self professed Romance reader herself. Her research drew some interesting conclusions: women were reading romance novels as a way of escaping the reality of their own lives (often confined to the norms of a patriarchal society). The act of reading itself was a form of protest or self-alienation from the dominant culture they lived in. In other words when they were reading they didn't have to wash the dishes, change the diapers, or vacuum the living room. Not only that she contended that the material itself formed some kind of feminist liberation in that the material, although highly formulaic represented some form of control that the heroine in each novel could exert - at least until overcome by the love she so desperately craved.

The formula: girl meets boy; boy has a problem; girl likes him anyway; girl gets jilted by boy but realizes that it is because of this problem that he has that is really not his fault; girl loves him even more; boy changes; girl allows herself to be lost in boys affection…blah blah blah – sap sap blech! I have never read one of those.

Anyhow, I smell a rat. I think Radway is trying too hard. A romance novel is a romance novel is a romance novel. If for instance I were to receive a subscription to StreetRod magazine, there would be no honest way for anyone to say that I was reading that rag because of the latent effect that excesses of these gas guzzling muscle cars had on making me more environmentally responsible in reaction. That would be ludicrous. If I read that mag – we could all safely assume that after a year of reading it – I would know more about StreetRods – yup. Most other conclusions would be highly suspect.

My essential claim here is that the content forms a major part of the intention of reading. We read stuff we are interested in. And although music is different in some respects I think we essentially consume music for the same reasons.

But then like I said I have not read a Romance novel so perhaps one of you fine readers can enlighten me to the finer points of reading a romance…

In the mean time you might be interested in this:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

dedicated to Char on the marking of 29 years of adoration...

I am thinking it's a sign that the freckles
In our eyes are mirror images and when
We kiss they're perfectly aligned
And I have to speculate that God himself
Did make us into corresponding shapes like
Puzzle pieces from the clay
And true, it may seem like a stretch, but
Its thoughts like this that catch my troubled
Head when you're away when I am missing you to death
When you are out there on the road for
Several weeks of shows and when you scan
The radio, I hope this song will guide you home

They will see us waving from such great
Heights, 'come down now,' they'll say
But everything looks perfect from far away,
'come down now,' but we'll stay...

I tried my best to leave this all on your
Machine but the persistent beat it sounded
Thin upon listening
And that frankly will not fly. You will hear
The shrillest highs and lowest lows with
The windows down when this is guiding you home
ht: Mark Willms
check out this cool accapella version:

The Postal Service - Against All Odds

One of the best remakes of an eighties song. check out the original here:

A great reminder

they've made golfish glow in the dark - who knows what it next

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Along with all the turmoil in the financial markets - our obessesing about our financial predicament, it struck me that i should listen to the man who name bears the title of the holiday Americans celebrated yesterday. Here's a line that stuck out for me this time: "We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism."
I think about how immediacy has gripped us. Most everything in our lives must happen right now if it is to have any value at all. I think we lose sight of the urgency of now. King begins this speech by referring to the 100 years since the immancipation proclamation that has left America socially bankrupt. From our vantage point it is far to easy to see these enormous cataclysmic changes as but a series of dates ona calendar. Entries in a date book. Now doesn't mean the same thing that it did back then.


Well, just in time for the annual marking of my existence outside of my mother's womb – I have received my first pair of progressive lenses for my glasses. Yup that's right keep the old balls jokes rollin' in – its true. These are not bifocals although let's not kid each other they mean the same thing. I actually am finding them quite easy to adjust to – so far…


Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Super Trailer)
ht: ysmarko

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The other side of the coop - 1

Nancy, the chicken was it. She was the one who got up at the end of every week and gave the pep talk to the rest of the hens. "Lay more eggs," she would say, in as many different and creative ways as she could imagine. But that was just the problem she was not very creative. And most of the time the rest of the hens seemed genuinely disinterested in her little talks. Some of them actually slept right through it. And if she was honest with herself she had to admit that she hardly blamed them. She often left those little pep talks wondering if what she was saying was really true.

The real problem – the one behind it all – at least as far as she could see – was that she was just too busy. She sat on the quality control committee, the hen-chick preschool board, and she was full-time chauffeur for the broods' Hunt and Peck Club. That left her almost no time to get together socially with her friends and less time to keep track of all the issues in the brood. It was the job of the hen elected to be the pep talk hen to keep track of all the problems and issues the chicks were having with regard to laying eggs and general coop problems and highlights. She was just too busy. So she had almost no time to prepare the pep talk every week and even less to make it interesting. Oh she had tried a few things like bringing oatmeal cookies to the talk, or using the videos sent down from headquarters. And each of them had worked for a while but soon elicited the same response.

She had complained to some of her girlfriends about the problem and they all seemed to be stumped. Nancy's own egg production had dropped way below acceptable levels and she wasn't a real inspiration to the rest of the brood the way things were going now. Her friends had refused to pinch in for her fearing embarrassment realizing their own busyness. Nancy was realizing that all the added stress of the busyness had left them all with serious problems that she could not solve. Certainly not in the ½ hour pep talk that she did every week.

That's why two weeks ago, when they had gotten together for tea at the Beak and Crown she had suggested the idea that the brood look into getting a professional pep talk chicken to join them. There had been mixed reaction. Bringing someone else in meant that they would likely have to pay them. Sally had mentioned that things were really tight for her since her egg production had dropped since she picked up feather ticks. But Nancy had been persistent. She just could not do this anymore. So they all agreed to make a few calls and see if they could track down some names of people they knew who might be willing to take on a position like that. They had all agreed that they would make sure these people did not get the impression that they would pay them very much.

That's why Nancy was excited about tonight's meeting she had called all the hens together to reveal the 'candidate' that she was going to present to them for consideration as the new pep talk bird. She was nervous. Most of the hens knew already but tonight Cynthia P. Coque was actually going to be there. She was a Rhode Island Red who had gone to college to train to be a pep talk bird. She was good. Nancy had seen her video resume on YouTube and she was positive the birds would be impressed. She seemed to hold the birds' attention. In the interview Nancy had had with her Cynthia had talked about quality control projects and expanding the brood, developing bird networks of smaller groups of birds linked together for mutual support. It was all very inspiring. Nancy just knew the bird would be impressed but would they be impressed enough to pick up the tab for this chicks salary. After all Cynthia made the stipulation that she would not under any circumstances be laying eggs. It was going to be tight but they would vote on it tonight. Nancy wanted this so bad – she could just smell the freedom that this would give her. She crossed her tail feathers

New Web Site to check out - BIG THINK

For those of you interested in this - I've posted this video to some of Steven Pinkers thoughts. This type of thought was pretty common in my philosophy class last semester and I think it is worth contending with (that's different than endorsing - ok). It's a more condensed version of some of the stuff that Ryan posted on here
here is the link

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Those of you conscious in the 80's will remember the advertising slogan that the Ford Motor Company used to market its vehicles in North America. I guess, if the fact that there are still far too many Tempos and Topaz's out there is any indication, Ford may have delivered on its promise.

That is if you think that quality means the ability to function for a long time. Not many of us would think our definition to adequate. We would be suspicious if that definition of quality were applied to food, for example. Food that could 'function' or last for a very long time – I mean like since the eighties – now we would be quite suspicious of that food.

Hank: Hey Sally wanna burger?

Sally: Sure Hank, you got any more of those one's from 1984 left? They sure were high quality.

Anyways, if you're like me thinking about how we define quality rarely enters our brain. Yet this little lever word tends to pry open our mind to suggestions and desires we often fail to realize. Quality as a descriptor of the products peddled to us in advertising is rampant. So maybe we should pay attention to what quality means to us and what it means to others.

Mostly likely we think that quality used as an adjective means: "of superior grade; of high or superior quality or performance."

McDonalds has quality as one of four of its core values (also: Service, Cleanliness and Value (known as Q.S.C.V.)). McDonald's definition of quality is rather different: "…in McDonald's (strategy), quality means something else. It refers to a consistent, reliable, tolerable, culturally appropriate product, rather than an exceptional one."-Prime-Time Society,
Conrad Kottak.
Essentially this version of quality is not something superior but rather likely quite average performance. Technically this would still be an exacting standard to meet and quite difficult to be sure. But the goal is categorically distinct from what we might hold in common understanding.

All this makes me think of the effort that church has taken to make 'the gospel' accessible to the common person. From the Willow Creek and Saddleback franchise churches to the grassroots bring-the-message-to-the-people movements we've sorta bought into the McD's version of quality. Now I'm not advocating that we make our message so 'high quality' that no one understands it. It would also be a fallacy to believe that quality equals some sort of incomprehensibility. I just think it is time that we cared about things like theology. And caring about theology does not happen to mean that we remain entrenched in parochial battle lines of theological animosity.

Alright time to do a few minutes on my treadmill and listen to some great old eighties tunes – now that's quality…

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The roots of our preoccupation with heaven…

...and our (by our I mean Christian) nasty tendency to alienate ourselves from this world can be traced as far back as Augustine. Rome having been recently sacked in 410 was shaken to the core and alarmed. Growing sentiment in Rome suggested that it was due to the empires espousal of Christianity as the official religion of the state. There was an outcry to have the old Roman religious practices with their plethora of gods revisited. Augustine rallies to the defence of Christianity with a brilliant treatise, De civitate Dei.

The book presents human history as being a conflict between what Augustine calls the City of Man and the City of God (a conflict that is destined to end in victory of the latter). The City of God is marked by people who forgo earthly pleasure and dedicate themselves to the promotion of Christian values. The City of Man, on the other hand, consists of people who have strayed from the City of God. The two cities are not meant to represent any actual places or organizations, though Augustine clearly thought that the Christian Church was at the heart of the City of God.

It is clear that he was also referencing Rome as the earthly city which would pass away. Thus heaven become the focus of the church and conveniently enough the Church holds onto control and steps in to fill the void left by deposed and deserted leaders of Rome at the time. The focus on getting into heaven arguably helps to keep the poor satisfied in their lowly status by focusing on the gain they would receive after this life. It also helps focus the activity of the church to getting as many people into heaven as possible and keeping them going there. Arguably you can pin a lot of the oppressive and evil things the Church did on this undercurrent – indulgences, penance, even the Crusades.

We covered this material in History of Western Civ today. Christianity is so intertwined with Western Civ. One of the things that is dawning on me is a sense of contextual power we (Christians) have had over time.

For some time now I have wondered why it seems that there is such an aggressively antagonistic attitude toward Christianity in secular (and even more so in educated secular) society. I mean relatively speaking we are very much a minority in terms practiced religion - in Canada – so why all the fuss. I'm beginning to see Christian influence throughout our history in the light of how influential we have been to the shape of our world. I don't think we really take into account how our history precedes us. It also makes me question how much I really want to be identified with what has been at times a very embarrassing past.

Translation of picture: By the authority of all the saints, and in mercy
towards you, I absolve you from all sins and misdeeds and remit all punishments
for ten days. - indulgence as sold by John Tetzel.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Funny dancing parrot

We watched this clip in Brain and Behaviour - birds like this have brains that are proportionally as big as chimps. Interestingly, primates and parrots rarely share the same habitat as they are competitors for the same food - FRUIT. Seems like in the development of things the fact that both monkeys and parrots eat fruit accounts for their larger brain size portionate to their body size. Eating fruit is a complex behaviour in the untamed places unlike it is for most of us humans in Canada.

What's wrong with adults? - A Response

Youth: Why do you have to be clueless about so much of the new stuff.
Adult: quite frankly I think I am doing fine at keeping up with all the new fad and gizmos - you guys seem to be so savvy about.
Youth: I don't know man. It's hard to take you seriously when you are pretty much ignorant of all this 'new fangled stuff'. Seriously, and the first thing you always seem to do whenever you get locked on to some new aspect of newness is slam it as some vehicle of Satan. Come on man...
Adult: Gosh, i miss rugby pants, tied-around-the-neck knitter sweaters, cassettes, and the Comodore 64...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


In my class on Deviance and Social Control we talked about how difficult it is to really nail down a good definition of deviance.

There are a few basic takes on this…

There's the absolutist approach – this defines deviance as something that is somehow intrinsically or inherently wrong. That is, there is something about the action itself that makes it wrong. This definition would, as you can imagine, be pretty rigid and inflexible. You might say that me wearing a speedo is always wrong but you'd be hard pressed to keep that perspective with regards to my personal/romantic dress code in my own home.

There's the Statistical deviation approach – which suggest that behaviours that are statistically rare are deviant. Almost no one holds to this view. There are many things that are statistically rare but are hardly deviant. The fact that I can imitate Nacho Libre's famous love song might be rare but it is hardly deviant.

There's the Harmfulness approach – which suggests that if a certain action is harmful in some way it must be deviant. This seems like a decent approach but we know that there are plenty of things that aren't really harmful that are still considered deviant. The fact that I can regurgitate the meal I just ate and show it to you may be deviant but it isn't especially harmful to me or you. I can pick my nose and it hurts no one unless I have just cut my nails and make my nose bleed…you get the point…

The normative approach suggests that culture sets the guidelines for what is right and wrong. The question is here who controls culture.

This approach is similar to the constructionist approach that says that deviance is a social construction whose purpose is to control society in some significant way. Deviance is defined in a struggle between the powerful and those who comply. This is kind of like when I was a youth pastor on a weekend retreat. When I entered the cabin for night what I said was the law. If someone wanted to fart my recourse was to give them the Human Blanket (deviant in itself from some points of view). If I wanted to fart – I did. I got to say what was what.

The reactive approach is almost opposite of the absolutist approach and prides itself on being the most objective and unbiased. This one basically contends that something is deviant only because and when it elicits a reaction especially a negative one. There is nothing intrinsically deviant in and of itself – just as a result of a negative response to some action or condition. This view would say that there is nothing wrong with me leaving my socks on the floor around the house – it is only my wife's strong and negative reaction that makes it such. Try explaining that to Char…

So then the question comes – how do you define deviance?

Funny thing is that Christianity has been preoccupied with sin for millennia. We have made it a huge part of our theological enterprise. Of course we all are most comfortable with the way we define deviance for ourselves but the Christian perspective suggests that not only can our own ideas not be reliable in determining what is right and wrong but there is something that transcends all these approaches and claims the authority to create standards of deviance. I remember debating at length as a boy whether certain things were wrong in certain situations and not in others or whether there was this absolute standard that made things right or wrong.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Alberta Grizzly

It's rare to find a coffee that delivers on taste in different aspects and without noticeable imperfections. So imagine my delight when I happened on this beauty. A full bodied flavor that is not dark and acidic. Hints of cinnamon and caramel color the front end, followed by a deep nutty finish. It's not aggressive enough to stand out against a piece of Saskatoon pie but you'll be quite content sliding this across your palate in mid afternoon. This is coffee could easily weasel its way into becoming a staple in your cupboard. No need for a gustatory workout here but there is just enough complexity to keep you interested every time. The Planet Coffee Roasters is another micro-roaster with a number of great products and an extensive repertoire. Check out the toll free phone order line with most roasts around the ten dollar mark. Nothing to grizzly about Alberta Grizzly.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Nothing really exists

There's this fun little philosophical problem that might keep party guests entertained for – oh minutes.

Nothing really exists.

There's the past. The past is what used to exist but no longer does. We get to it basically through our memories.

The future is what will exist but does not yet exist. No matter how much we want it to – we will never experience the future.

The present is a tricky little thing. The problem with the present is that everything we perceive (that is everything that we receive through our senses takes time to be processed (even if only in a few milliseconds). So essentially everything we experience as now is essentially in the past which we already know no longer exists.

So is it possible to prove that you exist right now…

Well, something to chew on – especially at those times when start feeling particularly self important.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What’s wrong with kids these days… …2?

Adult: Sometimes I worry that kids these days will never make it into adulthood.

Youth: What do you mean? If you mean that we won't become like you than – I certainly hope that never happens.

Adult: Well, even if you don't adopt my lifestyle, I really hope you won't throw all that we have worked for - squandered in irresponsible reckless living.

Youth: What exactly have you done that is so great?

Adult: Well, we essentially ended the global nuclear threat.

Youth: Was it really ever was a real threat – come on.

Adult: Exactly, you don't appreciate the stuff you have never had to dread.

Youth: But if my history teacher was correct – you guys sorta started the "Cold War" – didn't you?

Adult: Never mind – that was complicated. What about the sexual revolution?

Youth: You guys actually revolted against sex?

Adult: Shut up wise guy. I mean we fought and won major battles for equality in women's rights, gay and lesbian legitimacy. And we tore down those archaic institutionalized forms of marriage that essentially where beat zones for women.

Youth: Does that have anything to do with the fact that I have three dad's and two mom's?

Adult: You really don't get it. Women were locked in repressive relationships dictated by society. We gave them freedom. We gave them opportunities for jobs they never dreamed of having before.

Youth: So now both parents work all the time and that's better?

Adult: Well maybe if some of you younger folks would contribute the family could make it more easily. I hate to flog a dead horse but you guys are irresponsible brats. You have sex with who ever you want, you can't stick with a job let alone a career, you're in debt up to your eyeballs and loaded on some sorta substance. You just can't throw all that on our laps as if we made you into these bumbling oafs.

Youth: Ooooh! You got me. Now listen are you going to get that text message – it could be mom you know…

Adult: How do I pick those up again?

Youth: No not like that you'll get screwed on your minutes. Give it here. Gosh for someone who 'created' this wonderful 21st Century you really are a bit of bumbling – what was it again…