Friday, December 24, 2010

A little Christmas Trudeau

image“Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada. We should not even be able to agree upon the kind of Canadian to choose as a model, let alone persuade most people to emulate it. There are few policies potentially more disastrous for Canada than to tell all Canadians that they must be alike. There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an “all-Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. A society which eulogizes the average citizen is one which breeds mediocrity. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: compassion, love, and understanding.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lament for a frightened virtue…

Does this look like a dangerous person to you?
junk 001Before you favour me with the ‘kindnesses’ of your response, there is this:
The Ram 50 is a stead little beast but no amount of anthropomorphic resilience will bring her back to life after a winter's day spent shining her headlights into a snow bank. The wind-swept clutches of an icy parking lot work their slow magic on this proud monster like the little mice chewing away Aslan’s bonds. Only this time the creature does not come back to life but merely whimpers the last gasps of breath as I twist the little shank into her neck.
the battery is dead…
it’s dark. I’m tired. There’s the edge of a rankling brewing on the less than acceptable preliminary results of the exam I have just written. There are 4 other vehicles in the parking lot.
I push the truck to the middle of the lot. It sits prominently under a light pole, hood gaping wide like a suckling at the ready. I even have my own jumper cables. it’s cold.
three young ladies approach fomenting unimaginable horrors upon the nether regions of their professor. They will attend confession in the morning with a tell tale ache of the cerebrum. one of them makes her car beep and as they huddle around the red pontiac like coyotes around a carcass - I make my move.
they scurry inside the car and are gone before I can utter a word. even my inestimably demonstrative gesticulating of my arms does not attract their attention. I’m four bloody feet away from their car and the windows are not frozen. they are not looking at me – on purpose! the tail lights taunt, now visible at the exit. taunt like thumbs stuck in ears - fingers flapping.
my fingers are not flapping – they are stiff with cold. I dial my son to come and help.
two other girls approach – a guy, a pair of guys, and a girl all drive away in vehicles parked within mere meters of my dead Ram. I begin to wonder about the semiotic ‘readability’ of the propped open hood.
at first my anger seethes uncontrolled. a light post becomes receptacle for nasty epithets that discount the honour of the mothers of each of these unhelpfuls
as the blistering rage pauses for breath - a dim recognition
perhaps the sign that is misread here is me. perhaps, as the photo above will attest, I am the very thing their mothers warned them to avoid. looking at me they see that man – the dangerous man.
I should take a glory in the light of this. a smile perhaps? Not that I might revel in the thought of some imagined heinous identity I might possess. no the small glory should come in the success of post Mexico beard growing. but even that small medallion escapes.
now I am repulsed. that I could be a threat to any of those ‘brave’ souls who managed to ‘escape my wicked clutches’ is simply ludicrous. my repulsion fades into gloom.
how is it that an act of charity demanding meagre time wasted -- accomplish-able through the crack of the window, could so easily be discouraged? Should I conclude with Hobbes that we are an evil lot looking only for a way to excuse our selfish enterprise? Is the imagination of me being a potential threat an evident enough image to excuse charity?
Well Hobbes be damned there is benevolence after all. A boy, really, in his Ford SUV pulls up, having spotted me from the other side of the next parking lot. His girlfriend waits in a posture anything but patient. “I was just gonna drop her off at home – when I saw you.” it’s quarter to ten. “need a boost?”
i thank him through the inch and half crack of his window. it’s done. he’s gone. my son pulls up. as my hands slowly, in a screaming burn, return to normal circulatory function I dispense with Hobbes and shake my fist at fear.
a fear so humbly embedded on the everyday negotiation of safety left me out in the cold. a fear not recognized as fear anymore its just the way you do things. you don’t help beardy strangers in a parking lot – is just the way you do things. it is exactly the same quotidian negotiation that keeps us from dragging home the poor soul trying to sleep tonight on the park bench in Galt Gardens. fear is worked down deep inside the practices, keeping us from the charity that empathy might otherwise evoke. perhaps we no longer notice it as fear – its just the way we do things…
we’re not that bad – we’re just scared – and maybe we don’t even know just how scared we are…
look at me – won’t you be scared of me?

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Fav. Workout

Weight log: 207lbsimage

21 reps 100lbs bench press // Plank hold 12-8s (I count in sets of 8 @140 bpm) // 15 reps 15lbs per side lateral raises // 15 reps bench // Plank 8-8s // 10 reps lateral raises

Jog at pace 2 m / 3.2 km or 30 minutes (which ever is longer)

18 reps bench press // Plank hold 10-8s // 10 reps lateral raises // 15 reps bench // Plank 6-8s // 5 reps lateral raises

image Run 1.33 m / 2.1 or 20 minutes (which ever lasts longer)

15 reps bench press // Plank hold 10-8s // 10 reps lateral raises // 12 reps bench // Plank 6-8s // 5 reps lateral raises

Jog at pace .66 m / 1 km or 10 minutes (which ever lasts longer)

Cool down: Plank hold 3-8s twice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 10 annoying things about being thinner…

Weight log: 205 lbs

10. Having to wear mittens and wool socks to bed to keep my aching digits warm enough to not wake me up.


9. Not being able to ‘take advantage’ of my wife’s life-stage related warmth to reduce our heating costs this winter.


8. Not getting any ‘body-size’ sympathy from female cops about my lack of seatbelt use.


7. Lost friendship with my former tailor from the tent and awning company.


6. Having enough loose floppy arm-pit skin to involuntarily (and often in the most inappropriate situations) produce those arm-pit farts that I could never pull off as a boy.


5. The way my now protruding bum bones make sitting on unpadded benches in church a greater challenge for the minister to have a good sermon.


4. Having to learn an appreciation for the number of beats per minute in electronic/dance/trance music. (my latest music purchase: The Biggest Loser Latin Dance Workout Mix)


3. Not being able to claim outrageous weight loss methods in response to the ever popular, “So how did you do it?” question.


2. No longer possessing the same threatening cache as potential member of any human blanket/Tuna fish/dog pile.


1. Did I mention the loose skin?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The woman language translator -

The woman language translator - Come on I gotta get this under the tree this year!

Between a Rock and …

Weight Log: 206lbs

For my History of Revolutionary Ideas final exam I have the following choices to write an essay on:

castro 1. Will history absolve Castro? (see link to his famous speech upon which this question is based)

2. Defend Stalin or Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.

3. Based on the revolutions of either Cuba, Vietnam, or China – justify the use of violence

Monday, December 6, 2010


Weight log: 209lbs (finally!)

I can't believe its not purple!
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
"One can trace in advertising a narrative pattern which clearly shows the working of this new vaccine. It is found in the publicityfor Astra margarine. the episode always begins with a cry of indignation against margarine: 'A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!' 'Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!' And then one's eyes are opened, one's conscience becomes more pliable, and margarine is a delicious food tasty, digestible, economical, useful in all circumstances. The moral at the end is well known: 'Here you are rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!'"
Here's a video clip that might lend a helping hand in familiarizing yourself with the sort of advertising rhetoric that Barthes was talking about...

Also see this link here: http:Good Luck Margarine
The old prejudice being that there was nothing like butter - these commercials were able quite successfully, I would have to say in hindsight, at ridding ourselves of that old prejudice (if the dairy fridge at my local grocery store is any indication).
Barthes seemed to be arguing that these commercials were able to immunize the public into accepting the new form of food and rejecting the old form. It was unthinkable to make certain dishes without butter but then margarine came along and...
Well it swept into popularity - it became the new standard - it even could retain all the amazing flavor of butter...

and it could be healthy for you - and even sexy (see here)
So now margarine is the accepted "Established Order" according to Barthes. Of course margarine has had to clean up its act to keep butter at bay so transfats were eliminated from the edible oil product. (see here)
"It is in the same way that the Established Order relieves you of your progressive prejudices. The Army, an absolute value? It is unthinkable: (and here I should think any self-respecting Mennonite should be nodding along) look at its vexations, its strictness, the always possible blindness of its chiefs. The Church, infallible? Alas, it is very doubtful: look at its bigots, its powerless priests, its murderous conformism. And then common sense makes its reckoning: what is this trifling dross of Order, compared to its advantages? It is well worth the price of immunization. what does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply? Here we are, in our turn, rid of a prejudice which cost us dearly, too dearly, which cost us much in scruples, in revolt, in fights and in solitude."
Now don't get too worked up about Barthes slam on the church. He was addressing problems in the church that at the time of this writing in the late forties and fifties needed slamming. Let's remember that this was precisely the time when under the auspices of church work residential schools, and significantly oppressive views toward women were rampant in the dominant church denominations in Europe (Barthes was French). What is important here is to think about the way that we perhaps have allowed ourselves to be inoculated against protesting the forms of corrupt and oppressive behavior that tends to sneak under our noses because we so willingly gobble us the advertising buzz around us. Delicio Pizza commercials are rampant - lettuce commercials not so much. Why is it that 'healthy' food like vegetables and fruit cost more than 'unhealthy' stuff like the bake-it-yourself-and-we-promise-it-will-taste-just-as-good-as-the-grease-drenched-stuff-you-order-from-Panago-pizza?
Sure there is broader religious and political critique available in Barthes words here but then even our choice of food is really a religious and political action. Right?

10 K

Today for the first time I jogged just over 10 kilometers – it took me 106 minutes to accomplish this feat. in honour of this accomplishment here’s a little treadmill humour to keep you on your toes

Friday, December 3, 2010

been there done that…

pics december 010

Now its party time…come on over!

electronic conscience

imageTexas Judge David Cabos has implemented the use of ankle bracelets to help reduce school truancy. Anna Maria Tremonte interviewed him in response to a program she aired on the rising truancy rate in Canadian schools. Finding effective solutions was the target of her investigation. The Judge issued some very interesting words about the use of the ankle tracking bracelets…

“It kinda serves as an electronic conscience as well” (17:35m)

Whole radio interview available here: (start listening at around 11:30)

Can a conscience be electronically induced? If it is possible to see the use of these electronic surveillance devices as a way of reinforcing important strategies of socialization (like going to school (regardless of the quality of schooling received)), what does that mean for the kind of mindful labour that Matthew Crawford and Wendell Berry advocate as important for virtuous engagement with the world? Can being mindful be transferred onto a device?

Here is Crawford…

“…modern science adopts an otherworldy ideal of how we come to know nature: through mental constructions that are more intellectually tractable than material reality, and in particular amenable to mathematical representation. Through such renderings we become masters of nature. Yet the kind of thinking that begins from idealizations such as the frictionless surface and the perfect vacuum sometimes fail us, because it isn’t sufficiently involved with the particulars.”


“…to be a good mechanic (or any other kind of person Crawford claims) you have to be constantly attentive to the possibility that you may be wrong.”

We need to, ”…perceive (the world) clearly, and this requires a kind of “un-selfing”. [A]nything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity, and realism is to be connected with virtue. [V]irtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is.”

Crawford suggests that if we remain in the world of projections (via ‘modern science’)…

“We have to wonder, then, whether degraded work entails not just dumbing down but also a certain unintended moral education…There seems to be a vicious circle in which degraded work plays a pedagogical role, forming workers into material that is ill suited for anything but the over-determined world of careless labour.”

So then the irony of the ankle bracelet technology is that it is being used to help students get a better education when in fact my removing conscientious engagement with the world it may in fact being accomplishing quite the opposite effect?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

please hand in your ‘absence’ slips at the pearly gates…

Weight log: 211lb (forgot to take my pill again today – it is really hard to tell the difference between taking it and not taking it – Great work out today though!)

I’m a little frustrated with an article in Christianity Today entitled A Feast Fit for a King by Leslie Leyland Fields. Fields does an ample job of providing a provocative critique of industrialized food. Its a thoughtful piece that doesn’t skimp on guilt-tinged advice for meaningful redirection of food choices for people who are mindful of their desire to follow Christ. She outlines some of the important strategies that are beginning to be recognized as the best ways to address the problems resulting from turning food into an industry. Of these the admonition to engage with local food production in our purchasing habits is likely the strongest.

Leslie also provides a challenging look at the fact that the new (especially anti-agribusiness) food movements in fact are thinly disguised forms of ideological rhetoric which tend to wander far too much into realm of religion. This is a valid point and a helpful caution for those who might see reform in the praxis of food to be essential to solving almost all of the worlds problems. She points to the influence of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in the core elements of these sort of movements. But she also marks the fact that these same philosophies are not that far from core values intoned by Christian dogma.

The problem that I have is that I think she gives up a little too easily. Her conclusion toward the end of the piece seems to recover the standard defeatist position that has been the Christian mantra since Augustine.

“Our attempts to restore the earth and return to Edenic communion with it ultimately cannot succeed. Just as we cannot perfect our bodies or spirits through eating pure foods, so we cannot perfect the earth, no matter how heroic our efforts. Because of our foreparents' appetite for authority and forbidden food, creation has been groaning, subjected to futility and death… We steward the earth and exercise dominion over its creatures as expressions of love for and obedience to our Creator, who named it all very good, but we cannot take back or re-create the garden. Not until heaven will we see the garden restored.”

Stewardship and dominion over the earth and its creatures makes absolutely no sense if that stewardship and dominion do not have some actual consequences. We may as well bury the earth and its creatures in a hole and wait for the master to return. The earth and its creatures matter to God. They are not just symbolic elements of a uber complex Lego world he has fashioned for us to prove we love him in. These are not play things we are dealing with – they are the work of the master designer? Right? Eden may very well not be recoverable but then Eden likely not even a desirable idea for us to pursue. A more realistic idea would be to work within the indictment of man’s relegation to the make food by the sweat of his brow. To see this ‘curse’ to be the most potentially redemptive feature of our engagement with the real world might be the start of finding ways to recover honesty and integrity into how we consume and produce food. And is it not time for intelligent Christians to refuse to engage with the narcissism that results in the standard “-not until heaven” line. How arrogant is that. I mean can you even imagine anyone with a thread of human decency saying those words to those facing starvation and mal-nutrition around the world. At best it sounds something like this, “We’re sorry we aren’t going to help you because after all we can’t fix everything and heaven is just around the corner when we can forget that these terrible things ever happened in the first place – now say your prayers!”

It’s time to admit that more can be done and more responsibly. We have not even reached heroic status.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


“But these truths were a fire in me then. Now I can tell them without being burned. These truths do not have to be hurled in men’s faces. They are not intended to ignite fervor. I do not trust fervor.

Every time it has burst out somewhere, it has brought fire, famine, misery….And contempt for man.

Fervor is the weapon of choice of the impotent.” – Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks)