Saturday, 3 December 2011

Hopping On The Merry-Go-Round

I haven't posted recently, not because I haven't had thoughts and impressions to share but because I've had too many.  Like a child on the playground, I just couldn't decide where to jump on the merry-go-round:  The European debt crisis, the inability of the U.S. Congress to get anything done, the Occupy movement, the Cain Train, Newt, Hillary in Burma, Egypt & Syria, China insinuating itself everywhere.  I thought I had a way in with a quote from J├╝rgen Habermas, "Our politicians have long been incapable of aspiring to anything whatsoever other than being re-elected. They have no political substance whatsoever, no convictions."  Well, we've suspected that for a while.  But I think I may have found it in a quote from Catherine Mann of Brandeis International Business School on the PBS NewsHour this week.  She said, "Nobody is making investments in the stock market thinking they're getting a long term investment in the company that they're buying a stock for."  I've wanted to believe that the stock market is where companies go to raise capital to be used in productive activity which also advances the common good.  Maybe it never was.  But even Andrew Carnegie, ruthless cutter of operating costs and financial manipulator, left us beautiful libraries all over North America.  I can't imagine J. P. Morgan Chase doing anything comparable.  Now that I'm finally on the carousel, maybe it's time for me too to put my body "upon the gears and upon the wheels" and make Mario Savio proud.  It's just that, these days, it's so hard to know which part of the apparatus to start with.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Chai Teas All Around

Today I saw four ministers (of God, not the Crown; three men and a woman) sitting together outside Starbucks.  Although it shouldn't have, the sight surprised me.  I usually picture ministers alone, tending their flock.  To my thought, expressed in the comment thread of the previous post, about who mentors the mentor I could add who ministers to the minister?  Looks like it may be through peer dialogue.  For some reason the sight of them cheered me immensely.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Upon Further Reflection

It's definitely the name - 'Life' Coach.  Maybe if they called themselves Mentors instead?  Mentor was left in charge of Odysseus' son Telemachus when Odysseus went off to the Trojan War.  Yes, I think that's much better.  Now let's pretend, just for fun, that I were to hang out a shingle as a Mentor.  What would I advise my clients?  I'll mull that over for future posts...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Next!

Since writing my previous post, I have read articles on the Loeb Classical Library and the scourge of Postmodernism.  Based on these readings I am now prepared to throw off the chains of 'whateverness' and declare the 'Life Coach' to be a modern day mutation of the snake oil salesman; and to proceed, refreshed, in my search for higher meanings and things of permanence.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Send Me In Coach!

I have tremendous respect for the ancient schools of philosophy, particularly the Greek and Roman ones, where children (albeit, of wealthy parents and exclusively male) were sent, or from which tutors were sought, in order to develop their argumentative and speaking skills; and generally to learn how to live a better life.  On the other hand, nothing annoys me more than the unmitigated gall of a thirtysomething to build a website and hang out a shingle as a 'Life Coach'.  Are they actually much different, one from the other?  That's what I've been chewing on today.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Rainbow Connections Continued...

A rainbow before me all at once fills me with the greatest confidence.  What a sign it is, over and in front of he who walks.  Everyone should Walk.

                                      From Werner Herzog's 'Of Walking in Ice',
                                      quoted in Paul Theroux's 'The Tao of Travel'

Monday, 29 August 2011

Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?

So I get the new Muppet Show music tribute CD and, in the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene (we were just on the edge of it), I get this view from my front window.  A rainbow connection?



And it turned out to be a full rainbow!  Thankfully, one is never too old to marvel at something like this.



Friday, 12 August 2011

For These Troubled Times

(Inspired by today's 'On Point' on NPR)

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                     
'The Second Coming' by W. B. Yeats

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste to our powers.
                                     'The World' by William Wordsworth

History!  Read it and weep!
                                     'Cat's Cradle' by Kurt Vonnegut

May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

                                     'September 1, 1939' by W. H. Auden

You're either staying in or going out.
Everything else is irrelevant detail.
                                     'Sein Language' by Jerry Seinfeld
                                       

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Monday, 25 July 2011

Summertime

...and I haven't had a serious thought in a month.  So here's a photo of moonlight on the beautiful St. Lawrence River to tie me over.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

In The Blog Colony

I just finished re-reading Franz Kafka's short story 'In The Penal Colony'.  I thought the description of a prisoner tortured by an apparatus that slowly writes out the guilty sentence on his body and who, once he becomes aware of what is being written on him, then dies would be an apt analogy to the experience of those who have taken the time to read this blog.  So, before I go on with the random thoughts of a middle-aged man more concerned with the mind in middle age than with EKGs, PSAs & EDs, and without ever pronouncing his verdict, here's a photo of my recent birthday dinner in Ottawa; to show that I actually get out and have fun quite often.

Monday, 13 June 2011

What's To Become Of The Boy?

Today I was at a luncheon featuring, as guest speaker, the current principal of my university alma mater.  During lunch, before he spoke, there was some discussion at my table about the recently emerging phenomenon of disproportionate enrolment and achievement of young women in post-secondary institutions; and the emergence of women in the work world generally.  I found it interesting that issues that I've recently been trying to sort out in my mind and get into this blog have registered with others (of both genders).  So, I'm going to press on and try to get some things down here.  My biggest problem is how to approach these issues without coming across as chauvinistic or anti-girl power or a defender of underachieving boys.  BTW, the title of this entry is the translated title of a Heinrich Boll memoir.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Stale Male Pale

Disclaimer:  I am a white male and may have received unequal treatment and unearned advantages from my society as a result.

In a teaser clip for a story coming up later in a broadcast of CBC News - The National one evening last week, a female headhunter announced something to the effect that "no one is interested in stale male pale".  The story was about men who were, by circumstance of their unemployment, at home running the household.  I didn't watch the story until the next day because I didn't want to get riled up right before bedtime.  Turns out the HR woman was referring to senior management positions; and turns out the out-of-work men were enjoying their new roles.  The effects on society of the 'mancession' and the 'decline of men' was also covered recently (and with much comic effect) in an article in the New York Observer.  I want to explore these issues in the next few entries, as I think they tie in with previous posts regarding the inevitability of change, the lure of nostalgia, and the subtle nature of changing relationships.  To my children, hang in there - I'm going some place with all this.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Something Is Happening Here

Collapse, as often as not, is the result of persisting in an old attitude towards some important relationship, which, in the course of time, has changed its nature.
         D. H. Lawrence, quoted in The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy

As a divorced man, tell me about it!  But it applies to so much of life.  When did these manufacturing jobs start being sent overseas?  When did banks stop making decisions locally?  When did flossing become so important?  Relationships are too complicated to hope that we could ever come close to fully understanding their changes as they slowly unfold through time; even for the most astute and attitude-adjusting among us.  Some collapse is inevitable.  I say approach your relationships with good will and good humour and you might be OK.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Who Is Our Melville?

Just finished Sean Wilentz's Bob Dylan In America.  It is an interesting analysis of Dylan's mining (borrowing? sampling? plagiarizing?) of American cultural history for use in his art.  And what a culture to mine!  As a Canadian, it makes me wonder who are our Whitman & Twain & Steinbeck?  Although having no event equivalent to the Civil War we did, nonetheless, also settle a west and suffer through World Wars I & II and the Great Depression.  I have some suspects and will now proceed to investigate and report back.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Al Khums Courthouse

Today I read Judith Miller's article in the Daily Beast on Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi's transformation from a "kinder, gentler face of his father's ugly regime" to a man who has chosen "his family, clan, and tribe".  There has been a lot in the media recently about the ties of Harvard Business School professors & associated consulting firms with the Libyan government and the probable ghost writing of Saif's doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics - not to mention highly paid pop star performances for the regime.  It's news but hardly anything new.  To begin to understand most situations, I think it really is best to "follow the money".  What caught my attention today about events in Libya was this idea of clan loyalty.  Those on the right side of history (as defined at the time and carefully nurtured thereafter) tend to get a pass for their tribal brutalities.  After all, they won ("Winning!").  The losers get vilified.  One exception to this I thought of today was Robert E. Lee who, albeit reluctantly, chose his tribe (Virginians) in America's civil war.  He emerged as a hero, emblematic of the South's lost cause.  I'm wondering if, should the rebels prevail in Libya, Saif will be allowed to ride back to Tripoli on his magnificent white steed.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Well, I guess it's going to take more than two weeks to find my blog voice.  But my roaming around the blogosphere has cleared up a couple of issues with my blog.  First, because my interests are eclectic and unfocused the blog will have to be as well.  Second, the best blogs seem to be a combination of personal reflection, photographs and links to interesting articles, music and videos.  I'm going to try that out for a while.  It is still in keeping with the initial idea of posting based on what I've been thinking about.  Seth's graphic novel is currently unavailable to purchase new and the (somewhat reluctant) spring finds me outside more.  So much for my last post, then, as I'm currently feeling more forward-thinking than nostalgic.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Nostalgia

I just feel old and futile among the enthusiastic fools of the future.
                                                 Jack Kerouac, Selected Letters, Volume 1

I have been surfing - some may say 'creeping' - the blogosphere for the past week, using my lists of favourite movies, music and books to find like-minded bloggers.  Searching based on music and books brings up a wide variety of people; but I've found that my searches based on favourite movies tend to bring up a more homogeneous group - nostalgics.  Whether it's the clothing & decorating styles, the acting, the dialogue or the stories, these bloggers obviously prefer the past masterworks of film.  This makes sense for me.  While I've always sought out new music and books I tend not to like many new films.  I usually come to like current films only after they've been time-tested.  So it was interesting to tune in today to TV Ontario's show Big Ideas which featured University of Toronto professor Nick Mount's lecture on the graphic novelist Seth's 'It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken'.  The book is primarily about nostalgia for another, seemingly better time.  So I guess I know what I'll be up to this week - black and white movies and graphic novels.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

On The Inevitability of Somebody Coming To Ruin Everything

I have just finished reading The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis - the book of his 2009 Massey Lectures.  In it he outlines what he feels we lose when indigenous cultures and languages disappear, lost to the relentless encroachment of the modern world.  I sympathize with the struggles of Amazonian tribes, Australian Aborigines and Pacific Northwest First Nations to hold off this onslaught but am left with the sad feeling of the inevitability of it all.  As tragic for the indigenous peoples of North America as 'First Contact' was, somebody from across the seas was eventually going to come.  I grew up thinking that progress was being made on almost every front - treaty rights, civil rights, women's rights, the environment etc - and that we wouldn't backslide.  But in the 1980s there was a 'reaction', which seemed to start with Reagonomics.  Now it no longer surprises me that there are people out there trying to roll back union rights; that our airwaves are filled with one-trick ponies whose solution to every problem is "reduce taxes";  and that Wall Street gamblers get away with privatizing profits and socializing losses.  The triumph of Social Darwinism?  Hopefully not.  Regardless, any First Nations community which can stop the next golf course or monster-home development being built gets my support.  And that's what I've been thinking about today.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Introduction: Wherein the Blogger Makes Some Intitial Comments on the Purpose of the Blog

This blog is intended to be a way for me to get down on virtual paper thoughts on what I've been reading and listening to, and observations on the world around me.  It's neither a diary nor me 'bearing witness'.  I'm just trying to achieve some level of information synthesis.  It took Mark Twain decades before he hit upon the 'right plan' for his Autobiography.  As I have lived a hundreth the life of Mark Twain, I hope to find my blog-voice in a couple of weeks.  But it will, like life, be a continual work in progress.  But a work for whom?  Primarily for me.  Still, I hope my 'followers' - most likely only my two children - find it an insight into how I mentally spend my days.  I have no journalistic compunction to be unbiased (or even appear to be).  But I want to be as accurate as possible in my references and to properly attribute them.  I think I'll use Wikipedia as my linking site of choice.  I don't want to be a shill for Amazon.com or Chapter.Indigo.ca but may need to use them occasionally for book references.