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The assorted meanderings, rantings, and pontifications of... us!

Topics may include, but will not be limited to: feminism, hockey, atheism, shoes, politics, fat acceptance, fitness, skepticism, dancing, introversion/HSP issues, and anything else that happens to be on my mind.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Several Days of Frozen Fog

It's not fun, but at least it's pretty when it lets up.

More frosty fun if you want to see what I did this morning.

Attempted Cat Blogging

Lilith is not a cooperative subject.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Canadians: Wating to Exhale...

With the election of Steven Harper and his conservative ilk Canadians are now anxiously awaiting the new government. The triumphalism of the western media has died down a little, but cries of “the West is in!” are still reverberating with nauseating frequency. I hate to break the news to the West, but really, the West is not in. Nor will it be in until we too have 181 seats (Quebec and Ontario) to fill in the House. The numbers simply do not work.

Being a touch left of center I really hope the yahoos that got Harper elected force him to seriously attempt to move the locus of power westward. I would be happy to gleefully cackle and laugh as the westward shift slams headfirst into a very annoyed and vengeful lot known as the Ontario electorate. It is a different story out east, unlike here(Alberta) in which one could shave a baboons ass and paint it Conservative blue and it would win a seat. So go forth value voters and get the west in… please.

I will credit Harper for one thing. He is not a retard. I project that his policies will remain safely in the middle of the road to please the real locus of power in Canada the Toronto, Montreal, Quebec axis. The problem is that the policies he did put forth for the most part are just wrong.

100 bucks a month for Childcare? That is enough to maybe…maybe… purchase a strong enough cage to lock your child in(while snacking on beer and popcorn of course). Universal daycare that would be affordable to all? Not a whit of sense there.

Toughen up sentencing? It doesn’t work. Look southwards…it doesn’t work. It is the knee-jerk ideas that get the most play, yet are the least likely to work. It is a complex problem it will require a complex, multifaceted solution. Something that works… the gun registry but has the rednecks up in arms is going to be axed. Go figure.

One that Harper is dancing around is the same sex marriage vote. A “free” vote put to the house. That will be a hot potato for Mr. Harper as removing rights from a minority in the Canadian context is usually a big no-no. The furor it would cause might bring the conservative minority government down. I’m guessing it would put an end to the crowing coming from the socially conservative groups as of late. The prattle and utter frippery coming forth on their "re-making Canada" in their conservative image is becoming hard to stomach.

But that is another blog entry unto itself. Also, part 2 of my web investigation into the scary, seedy underside of religion is coming soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Adventures in a Small Town in Kansas

Kansas may not be that far from Alberta, at least in absolute distance, but getting there from here on a plane takes longer, and costs more, than a flight to Paris. As a result, I don't see my dad's side of the family very often. But when my Grandma turned 90, my attendance was pretty much required.

Maybe I'm a horrible person, but I really, really didn't want to go. There were the issues of religion, politics, and sexuality, and whether I should pretend to be something I'm not to keep the peace in the house where I'd be staying. And privacy - there were going to be 20 people staying at my aunt's place, and the house is in a state of renovation where doors are a bit of a rarity. And boredom. I'd never noticed anything to do in that town except go to WalMart, or go to church, and since everybody drives everywhere, I had no idea if there was anything within walking distance that I could escape to for even a few minutes of alone time.

Instead of the horror that I was imagining, this trip turned out to be a really positive learning experience, and an overall pleasant surprise. In fact, I think I fell in love a bit with my Dad's home town.

I think the difference was being there as an adult instead of as a child, and having my brother to show me around. It turns out that practically everything is within walking distance, including a historic and picturesque main street, a beautiful park, the church (a historic site), the college's indoor pool, a fitness centre, and a fantastic coffee shop that I'm still missing. My brother has travelled to something like 13 countries and 30 states, and he says they served him the best latte he's ever had. He wasn't exaggerating. It was that good. And all fair-trade.

And although I didn't get a chance to check it out, apparently this town has an active music, theatre, and art scene too. And beautiful old houses and big trees along the streets. And nobody locks the doors to anything.

Just the town itself gave me a big reality check about America. My mind didn't change about the big political picture; I'm still as pissed off about that as ever. But I think it did me good to be around red-state Americans and interact with them as "just people" instead of some kind of amorphous Bush-voting monolith. And to walk around in a pretty American town and think about how, except for the fact that it's 68 degrees, it's not really that different from home. I think I needed that kind of a reminder.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pharisee Takeover of My Childhood Church

As Sardeth alluded, I had a fairly religious upbringing. From my atheist ranting these days, you might suspect that my experience with religion was all horrible and bad, but honestly it wasn't. I don't know whether the church I grew up in changed, and that started my loss of faith, or whether I grew up and started seeing things that were always there, and that started my loss of faith.

My earliest memories of church are tied to what I believe religion can be at its best. I went to a Mennonite Brethren church, and when I was young this was a passionate, activist, thinking kind of church. We sang songs about being called to service, and then we went out and did service. We sponsored refugees, taught English to newcomers, scrounged furniture and clothes for families in need, and made up a good half of the crews for Habitat for Humanity. There were passionate sermons about peace and nonviolence and conscientious objecting. I think someone might have gone to jail for it at one point and was a big hero.

In my childhood, I believed that Christianity was about things like "do unto others" and "whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me". That God made a point of giving everybody gifts and it was our duty to develop and exercise these gifts to the fullest possible.

The Christianity of my childhood was also a thinker's religion, as much as I was capable of thinking about it at that age. I remember our pastor as a serious and passionate intellectual, who could get a fired up over a translation from Hebrew as he could over salvation by the grace of the Lord.

So what happened?

That pastor left my church to pursue writing or studies or something - but in retrospect I wonder about that, because I remember people saying he would be writing more for our denomination's monthly magazine, and I remember every month going looking his writing, and never finding his name in the magazine.

And then, although I don't remember a turnover in my church's membership, the Pharisees started moving in. Or that was how I perceived it. It's equally possible they were always there and I hadn't been old enough to notice.

But about the time we got a new pastor, the focus seemed to change from making the world a better place for everybody, to ensuring our doctrinal purity or some such. Instead of talking about protecting oppressed indigenous peoples, we were asking whether women should be allowed to be pastors (no.). Instead of collecting serviceable used furniture for needy families, we were debating whether it was OK to have rock anthem type songs as a part of our worship service (unresolved to this day according to my dad who still goes there). Instead of ministering to the underprivileged, we were condemning the evils of homosexuality.

And I remember sitting there in my pew thinking, they're talking about me. This all happened about the time I was going through puberty, you see, and besides becoming increasingly conscious of myself as female, I was becoming increasingly conscious of myself as bisexual. And as it became increasingly clear that God didn’t love me, at least not the way he made me, I took my first steps away from faith.

But back to what the heck happened to my church, which was my original point… I have more questions than I have answers, because all this happened half my lifetime ago or more and so I don’t know which memories I can really trust and which ones I might be filling in blanks on.

My church’s change in emphasis definitely came after our old pastor left and we got a new one. But the way the church found a new pastor was, they put out an ad, and then all the potential pastors came and spent time with us, over a period of (as I recall) nearly a year, and then we (or at least, the baptized adult members) voted. It’s not like they were voting for a pig in a poke. They knew what the various candidates stood for. So the seeds of change had to have been there before the new pastor. Did those same seeds of change also actually kick the old intellectual pastor out? Why were the radical do-gooders OK with all this?

I’m wondering if there could have been any connection with the size of the church at the time this all happened. When my church was a bunch of radical do-gooders, it was a small church, possibly the only one of its denomination in the city (maybe one of two). The changes happened a few years after the church had filled up to bursting, budded off a fledgling new congregation that started a new church across town, and filled both of the two resulting churches to the brim. Church mitosis. I don’t think all the do-gooders went across town leaving the Pharisees behind at the old branch, and I don’t think it was the new members of the old branch that brought about the changes, because as I recall, a good proportion of the people who argued most passionately for the new pastor were founding members of the original church.

My suspicion, which I have no idea whether it matches the facts, is that the change was due to the size of the church. When we were small and fighting really bad things bigger than ourselves (the governments of the countries our refugees came from, our own government dragging its heels on refugee applications, etc) we were passionate and cohesive. We were on the side of righteousness, but we were the underdogs and if we didn’t give it our all, it wouldn’t get done. And we were the only ones doing it.

Give us a few years to become prosperous and happy, and we not only became complacent, we lost the romanticism of being the underdogs. It wasn’t David and Goliath any more. More like Georges Laraque and Goliath. And feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoners, and sheltering the destitute was so many people’s job, that it wasn’t really anybody’s job anymore.

What better thing to get fired up about than fighting against an evil, secular world that was out to corrupt the pure undiluted Word of God?

"I just made you up, to hurt myself..."

Or how Religion makes the world a worse place to be. - Part I.

The interesting thing about religion growing up is how innocuous it seems. I, unlike the other half of woman in comfy shoes, was not raised in a particularly religious manner. For better or worse it gives me a differerent angle to tackle the question of relgion.

I judge Christianity overall as a negative influence in our modern society. I agree with Bertrand Russell and his general analysis of what Christianity has brought to the table. Russell said in his essay ‘Why I am Not a Christian’, “[The church] … is in its major part an opponent still of progress and of improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world…” I see this going on in our society, the constant fight against progress and for the maintenance of the status quo. I look at such organizations as the Promise Keepers or Vote Marriage. Briefly investigating these two organizations reaffirms to me the prescient nature of what Russell has to say about the immorality of relgion.

Taken from the helpful excerpts section on the Canadian Vote Marriage Web page:

"The deconstruction of conjugal marriage in Canada has not been driven by democratic demand. In fact, the ongoing legal “reform” of marriage has been imposed from the top down. There is a sociological divide on the marriage issue, with support for same-sex marriage coming disproportionately from elite sectors of society – the academy, the legal community, the upper echelons of business and government – and from the media."

What is seen here is the reversal of traditional roles in this statement. The religious right (a.k.a zealotry) have take the role of the oppressed minority arguing for “equality and freedom” when in fact they arguing the exact opposite. This is a very scary addition to the Canadian political scene as this brand of rhetoric can be devastating to the body politic. I wrote in my post about Kansas how polarizing and divisive this strategy is. We need to reclaim this argument from them and refute its paradoxical nature, because frighteningly enough, it works.

The Promise Keepers are a whole different brand of Mordor-esque evil scariness. They purport to follow and promote the pious ways of Christ etc. but really are have a radical reactionary agenda mostly against women and their rights. I found a thoughtful and useful anti-PK page *. Gleaned from the website was a quote from the book called The Masculine Journey written by Robert Hicks, and it was a recommended read at a PK rally in Colorado at Folsome Field. Hicks said:

“Possessing a penis places unique requirements upon men before God. . . . We are called to worship God as phallic kinds of guys, not as some sort of androgynous, neutered nonmales, or the feminized males so popular in many feminist enlightened churches. We are told by God to worship Him in accordance with what we are, phallic men.”

It is hard to find a starting place when faced with such overawing stupidity. The politics of gender are more Tricia’s forte but I’ll see what I can do to shed some light on our beloved Promise Keepers. We need to look at their CORE VALUES and then compare them to what they really do. It is illuminating to see such finely tuned propaganda in action. The amount of material here really warrants a separate post, perhaps with additional insight from T. But I’ll put the initial offering out here to wet our collective whistles as we sally onwards towards the dark belly of the beast.

*note: The anti-pk link is not a particularly reliable source. Check here and here for more information on the Masculine Journey. Both sources are also religious in nature but generally affirm that indeed, The Masculine Journey is balony(dangerous balony).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

5 weird things about me

It seems I've been tagged. Twice. Would have done something sooner, except that I was in Kansas (looooong post to follow) and wasn't comfortable checking sites such as HF's where I was.

So five weird things about myself - I said to Sardeth, can you help me with this, I don't think I'm very weird at all, and he's not done laughing yet.

1. I have a love-hate relationship with particular foods. In the last year, I've gone from loathing and refusing anything to do with borscht and sauerkraut, to craving them constantly.

2. I have a BA in psychology, but I work as a database developer/number cruncher for a bunch of accountants.

3. My brother and I are so different, people have trouble believing we're related. I think that when our parents' cells were doing meiosis to form gametes, he got the set of chromosomes that went to one end of the original cell, and I got the other.

Sardeth has stopped laughing and now agrees I'm actually not that weird. But he does suggest,

4. Despite having lived with the Spawn of Satan, my default setting for animals is "awwww".

People to tag:

1. Aisy of Right of Way
2. Braidwood
3. Molly who Saves the Day
4. I was going to tag the Gendergeeks, but I'm too late.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Introducing Lilith

Does she actually look like she's saying eff you, or is that just my imagination because I happen to know her very, very well?

Miss Muffet's Christmas Present

In which a fish notices the water

I work downtown, in an office tower that's connected to half the other office towers, as well as two shopping malls, by a habitrail of pedways. This Christmas, the malls decided to have a joint promotion based on the old Santa Claus song, "He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice".

Kindof a clever theme, especially since these malls are mainly frequented by the adult office workers from the habitrails. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more, though, if Twisty hadn't introduced me to the notion of women as the sex class, and the world of feminist bloggers hadn't sensitized me to the portrayal of women in general.

So, here's what there was: (click on the pictures to see them larger)

Right then. In case you hadn't already picked up from the displays that women are either sex objects, or cruel bonus-denying bitches, there were the fashion shows and the elves.

This is where the photo-journalism breaks off, because my old digital camera takes so long focusing and doing whatever other bzzt bzzt bzzt things it needs to do, that by the time the picture took, the models were back behind the little curtain. So you'll have to take it on my word that the show included young women parading around in, among other things, fur coats with only lingerie underneath, or a memorable combination of fishnets, heels, and gift wrap. There was a bit of beefcakeage as well, but only one male model vs three, and whereas the women models spent a whole lot of time out there in their non-outfits being hooted at by a group of male workers who had apparently been coming every week once they figured out what would be in the show, the male model just walked out really fast, and high-tailed it back off stage.

And the "elves", in case anybody had still missed out on the virgins vs whores message? Two model-types, a blonde and a brunette. The blonde in a long white (but tight, low-cut, and slit-up-to-here) dress, and the brunette in a tiny red strapless number.

And, just to reinforce the message that women are merchandise to be bought and paid for, this display in a jewelry store window has been pissing me off for months:

Update to give credit where it's due: I knew there had been something rattling around in my head about something I'd read somewhere about fish being aware of water, that both sensitized me to the mall displays and inspired the title of this post, but good luck trying to track it down if that's all you remember. But it was in fact an article by Sour Duck that referenced another article by Nina Turns 40 - thanks Sour Duck for the reminder, and to both you and Nina for the inspiration.

Test Picture Post

Tree under a streetlight in the parking lot at Superstore one December morning before dawn.


Friday, January 06, 2006

The Shotgun Approach to Politics

"Canadians have a reason to be nervous. The CPC is moving closer to the position in which the US Republican Party finds itself. If the Conservatives form government, the differences will be difficult to distinguish."

- A quote from The Galloping Beaver: The Albatross Around Harper's Neck

The recent spat of gun violence in Toronto as spurned the major political parties to make pronouncements about Gun control and the justice system as is. The unfortunate part of the problem is that they both miss the point. Looking the CPC record on religion and continuing to the issue of gun control one can identify a theme of shallow, unreflective political policy pandering to the populist sentiments in the West.

The CPC is a scary place to be. Living in Alberta I get to enjoy the full bore white-hot conservative rhetoric straight from its fetid wellspring. The CPC's policies as of late reflect the knee jerk reaction-action politics that often typifies the Right. I should mention here that the proposed Liberal ban of all handguns in Canada is also in the same vein, but with slightly less disastrous consequences.

Let us get this straight for the record. Tougher laws and more stringent sentences will not solve the problem of violence in Toronto. It seems like the simple straight solution but it is not. The case of punitive sentencing and its effectiveness is being played out right now south of our border. The United States incarcerates its people at a rate greater than any other Western nation. What has it achieved? The Human Rights Watch article says it best I think:

"The country[the US] that holds itself out as the "land of freedom" incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other country. The human costs — wasted lives, wrecked families, troubled children — are incalculable, as are the adverse social, economic and political consequences of weakened communities, diminished opportunities for economic mobility, and extensive disenfranchisement.”

This is not way we should proceed. It is an obvious failure. Will our media have the gumption to pick up on this issue? I seriously doubt it. Reflective thinking and fact have little to do with what is printed in the media today.

We need more time to think about the issues rather than the soundbytes we are being bombarded with. I think a few of us might realize that the initial starting conditions have a lot to do with the violence that is plaguing our cities. Addressing the initial conditions: poverty, inequality, drugs [etc...] are the keys to sucessfully combating the violence in our cities. Essentially, stopping crime before it starts.

The political leader that espoused this view would be attacked from all sides...being "soft" on crime and what not...but they would have the right answer and my vote.

Monday, January 02, 2006

How Nonlinearity is going to kick our ass

I am a huge fan of global warming. The current winter in Alberta this year is comparable to the weather experienced out on the West Coast. The mild temperatures and almost zero snow have combined to make me one happy camper. This is all fine and dandy on my small happy scale. The bad news is that our weather is a dynamic, chaotic, intensely nonlinear system. The notorious butterfly effect discovered by Mr. Lorenz is at work here, but I am more interested in what nonlinear goodies our weather has in store for us.

The funny thing about nonlinearity is that we can continue down the same route we have been since the industrial revolution. The small incremental changes that we have brought about and continue to do so seem to have a relatively marginal effect on our weather systems (at least in relation to a ‘dynamic nonlinear episode’ which I am getting to). We scuttle about and thing seem to behave the way they should be. At some point though this can all change. A very drastic change, in the span of 50 years-ish we can see a 10 degree differential in current temperatures across the globe. As one can imagine, a fair amount of higgledy-piggledy would result. The Atlantic Conveyor shutting down, Europe freezing over etc.

Nonlinearity gives no warning, no subtle cues, no anything at all… it just happens. Patterns of weather and ocean currents exhibit extremely turbulent behaviour until a new equilibrium is formed. I’m guessing that this new equilibrium will not be particularly favourable to our current standard of living. The best and most exciting part of the whole situation is that things right now are fine. What we are doing right now is fine. The nonlinearity of our weather plays right into the hands of the capitalist ideal. Short term gain and prosperity trump all. We can safely ignore the science that foolishly preaches the interconnectivity of the systems on our planet. It is good today and it will be good tomorrow…

We’ve already grabbed our ankles, heads firmly in the sand, ass-wiggling gently to and fro. Nonlinearity has just pulled the laces extra-tight on her shiny new jackboots…the wind up and…