10. June 2006

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Dixie Chicks and terrorists in toronto

At first, I thought this was going to be two separate rants, one about the Dixie Chicks selling out in Toronto and another about the recent arrest of 17 suspected terrorists here in Toronto, but, in an odd way, the two events are connected.

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6. June 2006

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Convergence, but my cell phone still sucks

Before Christmas, Rogers was advertising 6 months free on a 2 year family plan. With 2 teenagers who are getting harder and harder to keep track of, maybe it was time to join the 21st century and equip the whole family with cell phones. Well the initial 6 months of “free” service has passed and so it’s time to assess this wonderful deal we got. The bottom line: it sucks — Rogers and Motorola have teamed up in what appears to be an attempt by each to underperform the other. Let’s go step by step through the features of our package.

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4. June 2006

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Membership has its privileges

My daughter is thirteen and Sunday June 4th is the date set for her confirmation. Traditionally, confirmation is a rite of passage, a transition from youth into a full and adult participation in the life of a church community. A cultural anthropologist would have a field day trying to describe all the ties that exist between the rite of confirmation and the coming-of-age celebration which can be found in virtually every primitive culture. The minister, like the shaman or the witch doctor, takes the young people apart for the dispensation of secret knowledge, and empowered by these secrets, the young people undertake an ordeal which proves their readiness to assume their new role. Football teams do it. Frat houses do it. Why not churches?

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23. May 2006

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The impulse to collect things is inherently sexual

Andrew Jackson postage stampWhen I was a kid, my parents bought me a stamp album, one of those albums of the world with pictures of all the stamps from every country, countries listed in alphabetical order, stamps arranged in chronological order. I tried my best to finish the album, but I was a few stamps short. I didn’t realize that the album included photos of the earliest stamps issued in Great Britain and the United States, stamps with only one or two known specimens in the world, stamps worth millions of dollars. I just assumed that if I looked hard enough, I’d one day find them all.

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17. May 2006

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Luck be a lady tonight

Gambling seems to be everywhere. There are state-sponsored lotteries, charitable lotteries for hospitals, scratch-and-wins, casinos, charity casinos, casinos on reservation lands, sports pools, horse races, raffles as school and sports fund-raisers, bingo halls, office pools, on and on. So widespread is the practice that we have ceased even to consider that it has an ethical dimension. And those churches and social organizations which do have something to say about gambling are largely undermined or ignored by their own membership. For example, the United Church of Canada has articulated a comprehensive policy regarding gambling and has framed its concerns in terms of social justice issues. And yet most of us who claim an affiliation with the UCC either are unaware that such a policy exists, or we look the other way. We keep buying our lottery tickets and rationalizing it by saying: “What could be the harm? It’s only a few dollars here and there.” For my part, there have been times when I have bought lottery tickets. Who hasn’t? And there are times when I’ve agreed to chip in a few dollars for a pool — not wanting to dampen what is, after all, just a social activity. I even have relatives who have run a horse in the Kentucky Derby, so who am I to rant about gambling? And yet … and yet …

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14. May 2006

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Journaling

A Pen and a Path by Sarah StocktonAbout 12 years ago, someone suggested that I keep a journal. Since then, and in widely different contexts, several others have made the same recommendation. At first, I didn’t know where to begin. A blank page can be daunting. Should I fill it — like a daytimer — with the trivial details of my day-to-day living? Or should I gush with the intimate cares of my heart? Or should I give abstract consideration to political and philosophical matters? Journaling is not a guy thing. When my daughter was first learning to read, several different people bought her diaries — the kind with a lock and key — but no one thought to give one to my son. Generally, it doesn’t occur to us to cultivate in boys the art of setting things down in writing.

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2. May 2006

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She could see from my face that I was fucking high

on sunday, my daughter (the lovely girl doing her trampoline thing in the picture) had her first confirmation class. the minister, to his credit, asked the kids to bring along a song — whatever they happened to be listening to — so that he could get a feel for where they are in their lives. so my daughter asked if i could burn “you’re beautiful” to a cd for her. i’ve heard the song on the radio; maybe you have too. james blunt sings about love and heartache and sounds like one of those sensitive guys — you know the ones — the guys all the girls fawn over — the guys parents would love their daughters to go out with. then i listened to the song. wait a second. did i just hear the word “fuck?” i looked up the lyrics and discovered that there is a radio (i.e. sanitized) cover & a cd cover. i pointed this out to my daughter and she confessed that she doesn’t really listen to the lyrics, but just likes the feel of the song and hadn’t really noticed before. ok, i said; i just wanted to be sure she knew. so she took her song with the word “fuck” to church.

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10. April 2006

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What does an author think

There are 11 more days until my last paper is due, and then I’ll have put to bed another year of studies. I’ve just completed a smaller paper for another course and thought I would post it here even though I haven’t handed it in yet. Why post it? Two reasons come to mind.

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15. March 2006

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What does it mean to be in good health

Health and EverythingToday, we had a guest speaker in our “Health, Spirituality and the Christian Life” course — Sholom Glouberman. Among other things, Glouberman is philosopher-in-residence at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. What is a philosopher-in-residence, you ask? And what possible use could anybody have for a philosopher-in-residence? So far as Glouberman is aware, he is the only person to hold such a position.

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9. February 2006

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What is a Memoir Supposed to Remember

A Million Little Pieces by James FreyWhen I first heard that Oprah Windy was going to interview James Frey, author of the memoir, A Million Little Pieces, that she was angry and felt betrayed because Mr. Frey’s account appeared to deviate significantly from the truth, that she was going to haul him onto the carpet and call him to account in a million little living rooms across america — when I heard all this righteous indignation rising up from the south — I chalked it up to another instance of maudlin-sappy-slightly-self-indulgent-Oprah-strutting. Immediately, a million little reasons came to mind why her indignation should go ignored. But with time for reflection, I found myself reluctantly agreeing. However, instead of calling Mr. Frey to account for a lapse of honesty, I would prefer to question his lapse of authenticity. First, check out a nice summary of the Frey scandal on the Voice of America web site. Mr. Frey’s mendacious tendencies first came to light on The Smoking Gun web site. This has attracted considerable vilification. For example, the blog, The Real Ugly American calls him a “liar fraud and scumbag.”

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1. February 2006

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An Anthropologist on Mars

I’m not sure that RC’s would appreciate me comparing their theological ground to Mars, but Oliver Sacks‘ phrase pretty much describes how I felt last Friday when I went to Regis College to listen as Professor John Dadosky presented a paper: “Towards a Fundamental RE-Interpretation of Vatican II.” He is proposing a new model which the Roman Catholic church can use in its dealings with the Other. As a member of the Other, I thought I should listen in, find out what was being said about me. Suddenly, I found myself thrust into a different culture with a different set of “code words” to indicate what really counts for members of that culture. For example, I know next to nothing about Vatican II, and I know even less about what Vatican II means to the average catholic. I have no measuring stick to gauge how large a shadow the Other casts in the catholic world. In fact, during the discussion that followed, it became apparent that catholics do not all agree on the matter of who belongs to the Other. Some do not think of protestant denominations as Other at all.

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20. January 2006

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©opywrite ©oming to ©anada

As election day in Canada approaches (Jan. 23rd), voters have had their sensibilities assaulted by the usual carping that comes from candidates who have nothing substantive to work with. The current liberal government has stumbled — and will probably fall — not because it took a stand on an important issue (since that would be an honourable defeat) but because of corruption. And it will probably be replaced by a conservative minority government which promises to function with about as much compassion as a cold wind in January. There has not been much of interest to weigh upon the minds of voters. Although the media portray the election as hotly contested, I doubt voter turnout will top 60%. There you have my predictions.

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10. January 2006

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Runaway by Alice Munro

Runaway, by Alice MunroSo there I was, two weeks ago, lounging by the side of a pool in Punta Cana, reading Runaway, Alice Munro’s latest collection of short stories, when a woman in a bikini stopped at the foot of my chair and said: “I’ve started reading that, too. Just finished the first story. So what’s with the goat? Did the husband really kill the goat?” Ahhh … what a sad moment in my life! To learn that the only way I can attract the attention of a woman wearing a bikini is to sit by the side of a pool while reading a book by Alice Munro. Afterward, my sister-in-law — who had overheard our conversation from a distance — wondered what I had said to the woman. Because my sister-in-law sometimes teases me about the vocabulary I nurture, I said: “I told the woman I thought Munro’s treatment of the goat was a postmodern commentary on Eliot’s objective correlative.”

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6. January 2006

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The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. Frank

The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. FrankThe Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, & Ethics, by Arthur W. Frank (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995)

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6. January 2006

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A New Year, New Words

Another year greets us. As a family, we marked the change in calendar by trying (unsuccessfully) to watch all 6 of the Star Wars movies without a break. This was my daughter’s whim. Some time after midnight, half way through episode IV, I looked over and saw my daughter asleep on the couch. My son had left to chat with friends online, and my wife had disappeared for bed. And so I woke my daughter and sent her to bed, switched off the TV, and joined my wife. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? I must be maturing, or just growing dull at the edges.

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