Archive for December, 2012

Happy Christmas to all…and to all a Goodnight!

christmas-wallpaper47

Wooohoooo….It’s Christmas time!

What a great time of year.

Meisterburger BurgermeisterNow if you are one of those Burgermeister Meisterburghers who will begrudge Yule, complaining about the commercialism, the forced family intimacy, the loss of spirituality, the absurd political correctness that swirls around it all – all I can say to you is , “Bah…Humbug!”

Even though I am not Christian, I have been versed in the “Reason for the Season” courtesy of a knowledgeable and tolerant Dad. And if both he and I are not mistaken, the “reason” is the Bearded Fellow’s birthday…no, not the One in the Red Suit.  I mean the One in Flip-Flops. You know what I mean…Christmas is the day that the cute little baby Jesus, the one that Ricky Bobby loves so much, was born.  And alongside his birth come all the things recorded in song, like the Star of Wonder, and the Three Wise Men, the Little Drummer Boy, and most importantly Peace on Earth.

PEACE_ON_EARTH

And how can anyone argue against Peace on Earth?  Christmas…perchance originating from the Roman celebration of Saturnalia…has many cousins of all shapes and colours and sizes.  Not all of them fall on 25 December, but they fall conspicuously close to time of year known as the Winter Solstice. Hannukah, Kwanza, Eid, Diwali, Borodin, Mithra, Tree Festival are just a few of the diverse holy and significant days.  And though they do not all center on Jesus, they are all centred on celebration, togetherness, and generosity.

And all of them, I am guessing, at the very base of their being, have one common denominator … Goodwill to all Mankind.

So, given that this is the Season of  Goodwill, how can you possibly not believe in it?

So many things to love…the excitement, the happiness, the time to spend with family and friends, and to celebrate each other.

“But, but…”, says the nay-sayer…

Yes,  I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy the shopping or the crowds, but I do love my children’s laughter , the special look on my lovely wife’s face, the smiles on my parents’ and siblings’ faces when they open the gifts I have selected for them.

And yes, it is true I don’t enjoy the hard work of “decorating”. But the look of a house all festive and resplendent with lights and snowmen and penguins and reindeer and holly, is unbeatable.  And then Die Tannenbaum, l’Arbre de Noël, Den Julgran, Joulukuusi, Pom de Craciun, Arbol de Navidad, the Christmas Tree … one chosen with special care…is adorned and aglow, filling the house with the fresh clean smell of evergreen and sparkling with decorations that remind me of Christmases and places past.

how_the_grinch_stole_christmasAnd I do enjoy the Christmas specials…all which remind me of a younger, innocent me who revelled in Rudolph, Kris Kringle, Charlie Brown, the Grinch, the Red Ryder Air Rifle, the Griswalds and a host of other Christmas characters like Yukon Cornelius or Cindylou Who or The Bumpuses.  They bring back a joy and happiness and a little bit of Christmas magic, the years when I tried frantically to go to sleep so that it could be Christmas morning.

And the music…Thumpety Thump Thump and Hark the Herald Angels and Good King Wencelas and Fa la la la. Many a school concert and wassailing evening have been filled with songs that make you happy.

Charlie Brown

Oh, and the food…the Roast Beast and the Who Hash. Kidding. Christmas dinner was and is a feast.  Roast turkey, and Italian Sausage and Apple Dressing, sour cream mashed potatoes, a golden cheese cauliflower globe, green beans, gravy and cranberry sauce, apple and pumpkin pies…all of us pushing away from the table, and waddling away with loosened belts… swearing that we will never, ever eat again. Until the next day, when the turkey sandwiches on fresh bread, and turkey a la king, and turkey soup lay waiting…yum yum.

christmas-dinner1

I love all these things.  But it is not what I love most.

What I love most  would be the kinship. The reconnection with friends, and with family, through cards and calls and Skype and in person is fantastic. And some large-hearted people move it to the next level, sharing their good fortune with strangers and the needy.  This time of year, many of us will give generously to charities and churches and community groups.  We give to the homeless, the lonely and the less fortunate. It is a kindness we should share all year round – but, out of Christmas can grow a generous spirit to last the whole year.

homeless-christmas-4

Christmas is a time of year to reflect on what we have accomplished and to recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries. To spend time with our loved ones and to remember all that is good amongst us.

The boxes and bags and wrappings and food are all extra.

So…

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near.

Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.

Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we.

Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.

Whoville Christmas

 My best wishes, to you all, for a Happy Christmas full of love and joy and peace – especially for those who are facing hardship and strife. And for those that are away from home serving your country or your fellow citizens in dangerous places, know we are thinking of you and hoping for your safe return to your loved ones.

All the best in 2013…see you in the New Year.

Later,

ASF

Jingle bells, Jingle bells…

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Guns, Mental Illness and Infamy…

Innocence LostNothing but tears for the unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations of all the victims of yet another senseless act of violence. Condolences and wishes for peace to all those parents, families and a community tragically ripped apart by yet another unfathomable and inexplicable event…

The fourth US mass shooting in the past year with a total of 54 men, women and children dead.   Over the past few decades, there have been mass shootings in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Norway, and the UK.  And not even China has been immune – though their issue is mass knifing instead of shootings.

The airwaves, television screens and internet are all abuzz with stories and theories and recriminations and calls for action. Hasty exploitive interviews with family and children and neighbours and academics and psychologists and sociologists and criminologists are everywhere – each with their own agenda to provide meaningful insight, analysis and coverage. Special theme music, a CNN phenomenon in the post-Gulf War I era, litter the media landscape – as if this sad event needed any more to stress the poignancy.

And as always in the aftermath, the pundits offer their solutions to forever end these debacles. Whatever the discussion, we need to discuss the issues in the right frame – not misappropriate them for purpose of unrelated arguments on whatever topic we champion.

The biggest argument is the persistent criticism of the US gun culture and their Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The sticking point is whether the person subscribes to the Individual Rights Theory or the Collective Rights Theory. Does it refer to the e individual’s right to own guns, or the State’s obligation to protect its citizens? There is no consensus.

Regardless, CNN reports that in 2009 there were over 310 million American non-military firearms for  305 million people – and shockingly, there were 11,500 “homicides by firearm” in the same year.

Using the 2009 ratios, proportionally Canada’s 33.7 million citizens would own 34.2 million firearms and commit 1270 firearm homicides.  But for some reason we didn’t… in 2011 there were 7.9 million firearms, and in 2009 we had 179 deaths by shooting. The numbers are much less, but sadly they are not zero.

more-guns-more-mass-shootings

I do not believe that today’s society, one that makes money – legally and illegally – from handguns and long barrel guns, will ever cut shooting deaths to zero.

For the record, I am not a gun owner – never have been one, never want to be one. But,  I do enjoy target shooting on occasion. I also understand that hunters love to hunt and do not begrudge them that. I am not against recreational shooting.

But I do believe that if you only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail.  If you carry a gun, you probably view everyone as a potential target. And if by chance an intruder into my house has a gun, I’d bet the chance of someone dying probably escalates exponentially if I introduced a second gun into the equation. I am not arguing whether the intruder “deserves” to face a gun…I am talkng about potential outcomes. I can only conclude that if I put “his already-morally-compromised back” against the wall,  I just become a nail to be hammered.  I know lots will disagree – but that’s just me; I simply poin to the Trayvor Martin/George Zimmerman episode in Florida this past summer.

Anyway, it’s a moot point: the US of A will never give up its guns. I acknowledge that.

But as offered by Nick Kristof in the New York Times, “…shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?” Maybe that will be enough.

Enough about guns.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the mental illness piece. There are so many viewpoints on this topic, too.

Here in Canada we have been trying hard to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is an uphill battle. And rightly or wrongly, we all jump to the issue of mental illness as “rationalisation” for the atrocity –  as if all mentally ill people will inevitably take up arms and slaughter innocents. That is not true.  But, if that is how we brand them, it is no wonder that no one wants to admit to mental issues. But even if we identify the issue, finding help  in this resource-constrained world is difficult.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom takes the issue head-on when she describes her son Michael. “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.”

She then goes on to discuss how her options are now limited after pharmaceuticals, therapy, psychiatry and law enforcement have been unable to control the problem effectively.  Her fear is that he is on the same awful trajectory as all those who have killed others.

Her story offers a new perspective. It is not just about guns – though I am sure that we all agree that a person with mental illness without a gun, or a knife for that matter, is unlikely to commit such a crime of the same proportion.

It is time for a serious look at how we educate ourselves about mental illnes, and how we diagnose, respond, and treat those affected. It should be a high public health priority…

And lastly… I ask what is the media’s role in all this?

In a strange internet hoax, Morgan Freeman, is wrongly attributed for a pointed citicism against the media. It wasn’t him. But I wish the anonymous author would come forward. Their is merit in their words. Sensationalization, voyeurism, instant fame. Anonymous writes on why the shootings continue:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours.

Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Three different viewpoints on the same issue – all trying to learn from the Newtown shooting and to prevent the next one.

Just like we did after the Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting, Colorado’s Batman Cinema Shooting, the École Polytechqnique Shooting in Montréal, the Gifford Shooting Spree in Tucson, the Shooting at Fort Hood, the Virginia Tech Shooting, or the Columbine Massacre…and on and on.

Dozens killed or injured in mass shooting at Colorado cinema

Gun control? Mental Illness? The Media?

I don’t know which is to blame. And evidently people with a lot bigger brains are just as confused, otherwise this would be sorted. All I know is that we need to talk about all of them, how they interact, and then we need to sort it. Hearing and seeing adults, teenagers, children – male and female –  die needlessly at the hands of executioners armed to the teeth is not an acceptable option.  And I hope that our egos and our priorities can be altered to appropriately restrict a troubled person’s access to instruments that can kill – guns, knives, or whatever.

Some say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Okay, I can’t refute that. But surely we can also add a qualifier…”People with guns kill people.” A gun definitely makes it easier…

We have to take away the means (unregulated weapons), address the causes (mental illness, poverty…) and remove the incentive (infamy, notoriety, exposure…) for those who might be inclined to kill the innocent.  If not, we will just continue the same superficial conversations – gnashing our teeth and crying our tears – over another series of senseless deaths.

And while I hope we can all take a moment to think of all those who have been gunned down during the simple act of living their lives innocently, please take an extra moment to remember the little children lost forever, and their protectors who died trying to save them. Offer what strength you can to their families and friends as they deal with indescribable pain and a despair that no one should ever have to deal with…

  • Charlotte Bacon, 6;
  • Daniel Barden, 7;
  • Rachel Davino, 29;
  • Olivia Engel, 6;
  • Josephine Gay, 7;
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6;
  • Dylan Hockley, 6;
  • Dawn Hochsprung, 47;
  • Madeleine Hsu, 6;
  • Catherine Hubbard, 6;
  • Chase Kowalski, 7;
  • Jesse Lewis, 6;
  • James Mattioli, 6;
  • Grace McDonnell, 7;
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52;
  • Emilie Parker, 6;
  • Jack Pinto, 6;
  • Noah Pozner, 6;
  • Caroline Previdi, 6;
  • Jessica Rekos, 6;
  • Avielle Richman, 6;
  • Lauren Rousseau, 30;
  • Mary Sherlach, 56;
  • Victoria Soto, 27;
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
  • Allison Wyatt, 6

Later,

ASF

The No Hockey League. Give it up – the game is bigger than you…

The Glory Days...Probably gone forever...

The Glory Days…Probably gone forever…

Day 87 of millionaires squabbling with billionaires.  All the National Hockey League (NHL) games up to 30 December have been cancelled.  Other than shopkeepers and restaurateurs and the hundreds of other fringe businesses that have lost income for their livelihoods, who gives a hoot?

Not me.

Once upon a time I would have cared tremendously that the NHL was not playing. Not today. Save for the fact that a winter morning’s Sports Centre just isn’t the same when limited to only the latest Dog Show or Equestrian event highlights, I wouldn’t care at all.

I have fallen out of love with the NHL.

Why and When? Who knows?

ICheap Shot Torrest is not like it was a tragic “fall-of-the-cliff” event.  Nope, it has been a “death of a thousand cuts”.  It has been seasons of diluted talent, of absurdly high ticket prices, of mediocre hockey played by commercialised teams more worried about Third Jersey sales than hockey perfection. It was bringing in The Dump and Chase and The Trap, and how the size of the players has grown out of all proportion to the size of the ice surface and has suffocated the entertaining free flow game. Add to that the concussions and the cheap shots and the clutching and the grabbing, and this is not the game that I grew up watching. Add to that, this is the fourth lockout/strike in the last 20 years, and my patience is gone. And though I would be lying to say that I haven’t been entertained by the odd game over the past few years, the NHL does not mean the World to me like it did when I was younger.

1973...Leafs v Bruins...did it get any better for a 9 year old Canadian boy?

1973…Leafs v Bruins…did it get any better for a 9 year old Canadian boy?

My brother and I still reminisce about the “good old days” when we bled Maple Leaf blue and white and followed the League like a religion. It was a simpler time when the first two periods of the Wednesday night game on CHCH Tv11, and if we were lucky, the full Saturday HNIC game on CBC were the highlights of our week. It was a time when we sat in our pyjamas, glued to our 14-inch black and white television, fiddling with the rabbit ears, watching the double-ghost images of the players at Maple Leaf Gardens on a snowy screen, hoping (usually against hope) that the Hometown Heroes would win.

kendrydenI remember all the players…Sittler and McDonald, Turnbull and Salming, Ellis and Thompson. And I remembered their arch rivals like Cournoyer and Lafleur and Dryden and Park and Esposito and Cheevers and Vachon and Dionne and many others.

But if I recall correctly, none of these players, though heroes, were ever greater than the crest on their jerseys. “Franchise players” did not exist back then. Multi-million, multi-year contracts did not exist either.  Rosters changed and players moved – but the very sight of Les Habitants versus the Blue and White, the Red and White versus the Black and Gold, the Blackhawk versus the Ranger, the Broad Street Bully at the Igloo…that was the essence of hockey…it wasn’t Ovechkin versus Crosby, or Gretzky versus Lemieux…it was team versus team. Loyalty to the team was much more important than idolizing a player.

Like most of my generation, so much of my childhood revolved around by major hockey events.  I recall mike_palmateerDarryl Sittler’s 10 point night (7 Feb 1976) – against the Bruins. I remember watching Brad Park, and Bobby Orr, and

Sittler's 10 point night Box Score

Sittler’s 10 point night Box Score

feeling sad watching Jacques Plante’s final NHL game with the Bruins in ’73. (He played for the Oilers in the WHA after that!).  I remember Hockey Night in Canada with the baby blue blazers.  I remember being able to draw every NHL goalies’ mask and name who was who.  And I remember the disagreements during the street hockey games as we all called out who we were – Mahavolich or Ellis…Dryden or Palmateer (which I modified to “PalMann”teer). It was magic.

Goaliemasks

It is just not the same on the Xbox or Playstation with EA’s NHL2013 video game.

edwards california golden sealsAnd I remember collecting the Loblaws stickers for my NHL scrapbooks. I remember the myriad of teams that

Every year we tried to fill in all the stickers....

Every year we tried to fill in all the stickers….

changed cities and names like The Atlanta Flames, or the California Golden Seals (to the Cleveland Barons), or the Kansas City scouts (first the Colorado Rockies and then the New Jersey Devils)…

And I remember the 1978 Playoffs.

The Leafs had a good start that year, knocking off the Los Angeles Kings in two games…back in the day when the first series was  best of three. We were chuffed.  Until we learned that the next team was the New York Islanders, an “up and coming” dynasty – Billy Smith, Resch, Trottier, Potvin, Gillies, Bossy…dammit…the Leafs would never take it. We were crestfallen.

But we held on to the dream, and the series did not disappoint. Game One to the Islanders 4-1; Game Two to the Islanders again, this time 3-2 in a crushing OT period.  You could not imagine the tears on our pillows…the dream was slipping away. But the next two games were at the Gardens! Two wins on home ice and the Blue and White evened the series at 2-2. Back to back games at Nassau Coliseum and the Gardens evened the series at 3-a-piece, which took us to the seventh and deciding game in the Dragon’s den. It was a nail biter…tied 1-1 after 60 minutes of hockey. And then lo and behold, against all odds – in an away game – Lanny Mcdonald scored the winner to take it 2-1 (6’43” mark)

It wasn’t quite a Game 7 overtime goal during the Stanley Cup Final, but to a City that had not experienced hockey glory since 1967, it was a big deal.

Lanny Scores!!!

But as good as that was, no season has lived in my memory as much as the 1978-79 season – the Season we saw out first live NHL game. My little brother and I were 12 and 14.  And as I said, we lived for the NHL.  Pooling our paper-route money together, we managed to scrimp and save up $37 dollars –a 1979 treasure trove. And with our parents’ permission we headed to the Gardens immediately after the last regular season game to try to get playoff tickets. Jumping on the subway immediately after school – remember that this was an era when parents were not fazed to send their kids by themselves into the core of Toronto – we joined a disappointingly long line for Maple Leaf Tickets. Two and half hours later, we made it to the ticket booth, only to be told that all that was left was “nose-bleed” Grey section seats for the second playoff SERIES.

What? The Leafs had to make it to the SECOND round in order for us to see a game?  We were stunned. Yet, after much gnashing of teeth, for the princely sum of $35.50, we managed to get two Greys, side by side, in row QQ, for the second playoff home game of the second series …we had a whole $1.50 to spare and we had two promissory notes for a live playoff game.

So with our pseudo-tickets in hand, we watched the ’78-’79 playoffs begin.  First round – the Flames (of Atlanta, not Calgary!)

Oh! And the joy on 12 April 1979! The jumping, the yelling, the hugging in our living room when the Leafs knocked out the Flames in two games.

And so, it came to pass that Montreal and Toronto would meet in the Quarter Final Series – Montreal with home ice advantage.  The continuation of an age-old rivalry! Game 3 of the Quarters was a Leafs home game – and we were a lock to go and watch it because there was no way that Leafs would not make it to Game Three in a Best-of-Seven series! No one really expected Toronto to take the series from Les Habs…but who cared. Watching this rivalry was a dream come true. Watching a game live was unbelievable. And even after the Leafs went down 2-0 in the series, we knew that April 21, 1979 was going to be a day to remember.

Mtl_Tor_1960_1969

We went to the Gardens early, watching the pre-game warm up, hoping for a stick or a puck.  No luck. And as we made our way up and up and up and up to our seats, I remember the formality of the 1979 Saturday night NHL game. Men in suits, women all dressed up and Ushers stopping movement until  an appropriate break in the action before letting you up.  I remember walking out of the corridors and into the seating – my breath taken away by the sight of the blue maple leaf at centre ice, the crisp, pristine and shiny ice, the monolithic scoreboard suspended above centre ice like the Star Wars Death Star…and all around the ice the colourful ribbons of seats – gold, red, green, blue, grey.  It was so different than our black and white TV…it was unbelievable.

Maple Leaf Gardens...unfortunately the Death Star Scoreboard did not last forever...

Maple Leaf Gardens…unfortunately the Death Star Scoreboard did not last forever…

And the game…oh my… what a topsy-turvy affair. To quote Danny Gallivan, it was “dipsy-doodling” and full of “Savardian spineramas”. After falling behind, the Leafs finally forced it to OT. The first OT ended and it was time for a second OT.  The Gardens was abuzz, and though we were excited, remember we were only youngsters and as midnight loomed closer, we worried if perchance we should go home before we got in trouble!!  But we stayed and “Oooohed” and “Aaaaahed” at every shot and two-on-one and every hit. It was truly magical. But the dream ended when Cam Connor …who you ask?…fanned on his breakaway, fooling Palmateer, and as if in slow motion, we watched Palmateer’s arm sweep backwards frantically, missing the puck as it slid in to the net…Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge! (or some other Queen Mother of a swear word…) It ended, disappointingly for the Leafs Nation.

And so it ended.  The first game we ever saw live. What a game, what an era of hockey!

I moved from Toronto a couple of years later to go to University, and while always a Leafs fan (mock me now), I have  only had a few moments of delight since the late 70s…like the Gilmore years and the Second Swedish Era (Sundin).

But it is over now – just like my childhood with its naivety and innocence.

Severe Weather Edmonton 20110901

If I  watch hockey I watch it with heavy  disinterest – occasionally marvelling at a hockey highlight, but overall despising the League. Watching the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup in June is just not hockey the way I want to enjoy it – and definitely not the way I remember it.

I doubt that they will ever get my loyalty back – not unless “pigs fly” or “hell freezes over” and the Leafs have a good run. And if that happens, I could care less about who is on the team roster.

I say scrap the League. Fire all the millionaires and save millions by putting the Toronto Marlies or the Brampton Battalion or the Peterborough Petes or the Oshawa Generals or the Hershey Bears in the major league uniforms. It would rekindle the spirit and the joy – just like the Boxing Day fever when the World Juniors start. That is hockey with passion…not hockey for profit.

But that will not happen, and we will still see millionaires squabbling with billionaires. A travesty when you consider that some Canadians can’t even afford housing or food and that hockey players make more in a day than the normal Canadian makes in a month – that the average Canadian will be lucky to earn $1 million in their entire working life.

And the owners? Their earnings are “private”.  What cost me $17.75 in 1979 would set me back $300 in 2012.  WTF?  Who but the corporations and over-privileged can afford to go to a game.

And still…

The average annual salary for a Canadian teacher is about $55K; a policeman’s is $65K; an infantry Sergeant makes about $70K a year.  The average NHL salary in 1978 was $90K or about $250K in today’s dollars; the 2012 average salary is $1.6 MILLION!!  All that money for an 82+ game season.  Yet still, the owners and the players are fighting over a bigger piece of the pie.  The only losers are us..

All I have is one word:

Bullsh*t.

End the NHL now. Start a new league with a new, realistic pay structure and affordable tickets. A game based on passion and honour.

Bring back the game I loved as a kid…

Later,

ASF

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

The furor over the despicable photos published by the New York Post continues.  It is even topping the acute morning sickness of the Duchess – though the subway story may be edged out by the prankster DJs from Australia pretending to be HRH EIIR and Prince Charles.

(Tangent…What is with the totally asinine skew on the news these days – I mean aren’t the Civil War in Syria or Egypt Uprising 2 or the Philippines Typhoon or the Palestinian UN Membership issue more compelling?)

I am sure that I am not the only one dismayed about the tragic demise of Mr Ki-Suck Han – and the complete indignity he and his family suffer through in the name of “news”.

Debate swirls over the actions of the freelance photographer who “inadvertently” snapped several photos of Mr Han’s tragedy, all while he was “frantically” trying to signal the train driver with his camera flash.

He tells his side…you can make up your own mind. So many unanswered questions. Could he have helped? Could anyone have helped?  Would you have?

I like to think I would have tried if I could have done anything about it. One thing I do know…I am sure that I wouldn’t be photographing it or phone-recording it.  I like to think that I would have been running down the platform waving my arms and yelling like a madman hoping to alert the driver. I would have tried to reach the man and pull the man up with all my might…hoping I was strong enough to do the job, rather than justifying after the fact that I didn’t try because I knew I was not strong enough to do it. I would like to think I would be like this guy…  man at railroad crossing (video)

But apparently that is not the norm…the chances of no one helping is greater than that of some stepping up.

Sociologists call it the Genovese Syndrome or Bystander Effect (video)… people do not offer any means of help in an emergency to the victim when other people are present…in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.

I have to admit, I don’t like that such a syndrome exists. Perhaps it is my upbringing as a soldier.  I can’t stand by and watch. I must act. I know all my friends are the same.

I acknowledge that inaction is sometimes inevitable. Sometimes it is beyond one’s ability to rescue someone – ie the risk to your own life is too large. That is why we look at some who have sprung into action with complete awe, they are true heroes. In such cases, recording an event to hand over the pictures to the investigators as evidence is a worthy act.

But that does not always happen.

In my opinion, the Bystander Effect is not the most disturbing thing out there. There is what I call the Tragedy Vulture. The Tragedy Vulture is the bystander who exploits the situation. The person who stands by and records the sadness, when the situation really calls for a reaction that is within the recorder’s ability. Inevitably the Vulture posts the recording on social media or sells it to the media. This is inexcusable.

Sadly, though, it seems to be a recurring theme these days: to stand by and record preventable tragedies and then publicise them.

What’s the motivation? Fleeting notoriety? Greed?

Both of these seem to be the New York Post’s motivation.

To be honest, I hope that it is that simple. I can understand two of the Deadly Sins. And though it is distressing, it is a better option than believing that these Vultures do not care about the dignity and lives of their fellow beings.

That is too depressing.

But, whatever the reason, it is a sad trend.  I hope it stops.

Later,

ASF

Kris Kringle to Kindergarten to Naps…a crazy ride through my brain on ways I can be nicer…(and other stuff)

” Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” 

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.” 

―    Robert Fulghum

Sitting about idly this morning, I had one of those 10-second thought-strings that sort  of went like this:

kris kringleI’m bored… I’ll watch TV. Oh look, an advertisement for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”…”You better not cry. you better not pout.”… That’s right kids, you better behave or you’ll get coal for Christmas…

Hey wait a minute, kids are actually pretty good, I mean they learn good life skills at an early age and are usually pretty good at following them.

…..What? Is that really Brad Pitt doing a Chanel perfume commercial?…Seriously Brad….

Wait, what was I thinking about before?  Ummmm….Santa…manners.. Right.  You know, most kids behave well. The rest….well I guess they behave exactly the way we allow them too. What about us adults, do we only behave well at Christmas, too? What about the rest of the year ? Do we need to remember our manners, too?

Amazing aren’t they, those 10-second thought threads?

And then I went on to think about Sunday NFL games,  whether I should or shouldn’t go to the gym , and then ending up with the inevitable…”I’m hungry, I should eat.” So I made a sandwichsandwich.

And later, after I put away the sandwich things,  I thought about the behaviour thing again, and remembered that a few weeks ago I had rediscovered a list in my hard drive as I was cleaning up a few things on my computer (…and I was not deleting the cache history,  gentlemen!).  It is a list produced by Robert Fulghum (website ,http://www.robertfulghum.com/ ) author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a favorite theme of mine (as you know) and I also believe that when we were young, we learned every life and social skill we would ever need for our entire lives – pretty much. Some would say it is too simple. Perhaps. But it is a really good start.

Learned in Kindergareten

The following, a bit of Fulghum’s  list, is right from the days when we wiped our noses on our sleeves. played in the sandbox and complained about nap time…

  • Share everything. (Could use some of that in the Middle East, or Southwest Asia, or Canada for that matter…)
  • Play fair. (Ahem…Cartels, Organisations, Oligopolies…aspiring politicians…take note)
  • Don’t hit people. (How many people and countries need to remember one…)
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess. (Environmentalists love this one…)
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  (Wow…remembering this one would save a lot of grief)
  • Say you’re sorry when you  hurt somebody. (Simple, practical and useful advice that never goes wrong….)
  • Wash your hands before you eat. (Trust me on this one…the Norwalk virus is unforgiving)
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. (All for one, one for all…not “me, me, me”)
  • Flush. (..and don’t forget a courtesy flush once in a while…)
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. (at least mentally…if not waistline-ly)

That is simply the first slice of the advice – it deals more with protecting and respecting others alongside yourself.  But as Fulghum pointed out, we learned more…

What follows are the observations we made when we were younger – but I guess we only really start to appreciate them as we hit middle-aged (honestly, you never think about them when you are young and invincible…).   As Fulghum writes,

naptime  – Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes  up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

– Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.  So do we.

– Take a nap every afternoon

– Live a balanced life – learn some, and think some, and work some, and draw and paint and sing and dance and play every day some

Not much more to add, I guess. And while it is not the answer 42, and  it did not need a trip up the mountain to ask a Yogi for his advice – I believe that list can help us with how we  treat each other and unlock a lot of mysteries..

So while we get ready for Christmas, and remind our kids that whether awake or asleep, someone is ALWAYS watching (which is kinda creepy..) – don’t forget to dot your own i’s and cross your own t’s…’coz in about three weeks, Santa Claus is coming to town.  And he is making a list.

As for my part, as I head to parties, and  spend time with a host of others, I will take advantage of the time of year when I rekindle my pre-Christmas excitement like a pre-schooler.  I will do my annual review of the Kindergarten list and see if I can do anything better…I am sure I can.

Gotta go…Time to see what Kris Kringle is up to…

Later,

ASF

Happy 33rd Birthday to The Wall

pink-floyd-the-wall-movie-poster-art

On 30 November 1979, Pink Floyd released The Wall.  At that time, I was 15 and I didn’t know much about Roger Waters’ life…or life in general, for that matter.  When I first heard it, I just thought it had some catchy tunes, like Another Brick in the Wall…plus they used risqué lyrics like “…do you think they’ll try to break my balls?…”  People said it was deep. I just liked the fact that the album told everyone that “we don’t need no education.”

The Wall VinylMy brother bought that album soon after it came out – he was the family music freak.  And yes, the first version I listened to was the vinyl LP (you remember, a Long Play, a 33rpm… or what the kids would now think of as the grandfather of the MP3 – the son being the CD.  Oh, wait – your younger ones probably won’t even remember what those were.)

The album was fantastic. We had no clue what it meant, but we listened to it, and listened to it and listened to it.

Four years later, in 1983, I went to University. Soon after arriving, I bought a tape deck and one of the first cassette tapes I bought – yes, I said cassette tape – was The Wall.  And I continued my obsession with the album.  In my four years of university I went through four or five cassettes- finally having to replace the older one when I could no longer rewind the spools with a pencil, or the tape ripped.  I must have had about six empty The Wall cassette cases – cracked, misaligned,The Wall cassette scratched and with stained liner notes – when I graduated.  I just couldn’t bear to throw them out.

I guess I have listened to the Album over 5000 times in the past 33 years.  The playlist is etched in my brain.  So are the lyrics.  And as I grew older, I started to appreciate what Roger Waters was trying to convey.  One of my University buds could not figure out the hold the album had on me, calling it “slit your wrist” music.  “Depressing”, he used to say.

I couldn’t disagree more vehemently.

Yes, I will admit that it starts off with a spiral into depression and addiction with a generous splash and violence and racism to sharpen the softer edges.  But through the anger and confusion and isolation, the protagonist (aptly named Pink) manages to put himself on trial by inner judge, and sentences himself to try and face the world.

Does it work?  Who knows.The Wall CD

For those who have not noticed, the album actually ends off where it started. If you listen to the final words, they are the opening words to the incomplete sentence that introduce the album.  I guess it means that the battle never ends, it just keeps going on.

To cap it off, I was very 0fortunate last year. Just like in 1979,  my brother came through as when he bought the first album.  In May 2012, he took me to The Wall Live at O2 in London. There is still only one word to describe the experience…Amazing.

Over twenty-thousand people, singing along…and I am sure that with each song, they could not help but think of all the times, all the places and all the people that are intertwined with their personal memories of the album.

The Wall Concert O2 London May 2015

For me, each time I hear it, I feel a flood of memories: studying for exams, driving on the Trans-Canada, watching the campfire while sipping a beer, enjoying a cup of tea in my favourite chair, dozing on the couch on a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to it on my Walkman while flying across the Atlantic, or falling asleep after just a few bars of Goodbye Blue Sky …

Good times…and great memories.  Thanks Mr Waters and Mr Gilmore.  And to your album, Happy Birthday!

Later,

ASF