Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Live 8

Live 8 is happening in several cities around the world this weekend, and i hope the kids have a great time. I also hope that while they are partying, they don't forget what it's all about i.e. addressing the problem of extreme poverty in Africa. That said, I wonder how much a difference the event will really have. I really hope a huge one but I'm not so sure. There have been varying criticisms of the event, from the left as well as the right. The criticism from the right goes along the lines of: don't give to corrupt governments. I went to see Joseph Stiglitz talk the other day, and he explained how Western governments are complicit in corruption in the developing world.

Bitterly sarcastic comment of the day: I think we should do absoutely nothing to help folks trapped in poverty because of a government which is corrupt through no fault of their own. That'll show them.

Anyway, there are criticisms from the left as well, which for me are much harder to dismiss. I don't think Live 8 does enough to address the structural problems which are at the root of poverty in Africa. The .7% spending proposal is important and i hope it is agreed to by the parties to the G8, but much more fundamental are unfair trade policies, high-interest loans, and "structural adjustment programs" which put pressure on developing countries to make certain right-wing economic reforms, such as privatization and deregulation. A recent example of this is the recent agreemtn on debt relief. It would have been better to wait for a better deal, which should be a no-brainer, than one which forced such reforms on these countries.

I hope it's a great event. I hope the music is great, and that millions appreciate it. And I hope the people there remember why it's happening in the first place.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

make the most of it

To follow up on my last post, the only answer that I can come up with is the same one I keep arriving at. There are no guarantees in life, or in afterlife. Yes memories are important, but the best thing that we can do for ourselves in this moment is to make the most of it, to know our purpose, and to live it in our day-to-day lives. That that leads to the creation of memories is incidental.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

dear readers

I am going to start spending more time on my political blog, as I am going to follow the Downing stree Memo to its conclusion, which will hopefully result in Bush going down. I will be updating this, my personal blog, as well when I feel like it.

Memories and immortality

Life is fleeting. Before you know it, it is gone. The thing that obsesses me the most, the thing that frightens me the most, is the reality of our impermanence. We're here, and then we're not. Nothing. Once second, alive to dead. Is there an afterlife in which our soul will rise? Do we even have a soul? I don't know. As far as I can tell, that's impossible to know. That brings me to my point. The only kind of immortality we can be sure of having are through the memories we leave behind. My dear great Uncle Bob is remembered through the memories he left with those he loved, friends and family. I will be remembered through the memories I leave with those I touch.

However, who will remember all the lonely people out there, homeless people, and so forth? I find that incredibly sad that our society can be so wrapped up in materialism, and in the here and now, that we don't consider all of the negative ways this effects those who fall through the cracks.

Who will remember them when they are gone?

I will try to.


Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.

Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you.

-Paul Simon, 1967.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

check this out

Please see my other blog for a new post.

Sarah Mclachlan, Vancouver, June 12

I finally, for the first time in my life, got to see the extremely creative and talented Sarah Mclachaln perform at GM Place. I have been a huge fan of hers since Fumbling. She did not disappoint. She did all of her songs from Afterglow. Train Wreck was really awesome,as was Time, featuring Sarah on acoustic guitar. She also did four songs from Surfacing and five from Fumbling Toward Ecstacy, though nothing from Touch or Solace. One surpirse for me was an excellent rendition of the Peter Gabriel song Solsbury Hill. It was an emotional concert as it was her last concert of the tour, and in her hometown. Here's a Vancouver Sun article on the concert.

Sarah, fans soar on happy homecoming vibe
Last stop of the tour has McLachlan 'feeling love, feeling awesome' as the crowd hangs on every word from the sentimental star

Kerry Gold
Vancouver Sun

Monday, June 13, 2005

With an enchanted forest backdrop behind her, carrying a guitar, wearing clunky boots and a flowing skirt, a relaxed-looking Sarah McLachlan traipsed onto the stage at GM Place Sunday night and settled into one of her newest songs, World on Fire.

The concert was the last of the tour, and McLachlan radiated excitement to be wrapping up in her home base, with family and friends present and a free summer ahead. Outside on one of the tour buses someone had hung a sign that said, "Home Sweet Home." Jason Priestley could be spotted picking up tickets at will call. And about 11,000 fans filled seats to witness the adult contemporary star's home coming.

McLachlan had suffered a setback earlier in the year when she contracted sinusitis and laryngitis and was forced to postpone a few tour dates. Logistically, it made sense to end in Vancouver, which made the singer happy.

"It's really fortuitous that I got sick near the end of the tour because otherwise I wouldn't have finished in Vancouver," she said, to many cheers, following a breezy version of Building a Mystery, the hit off 1997's Surfacing.

The lovely Adia, also from that album, was the first song of the evening to get the reserved crowd revved up. The momentum hit an occasional wall, however, by the less successful new material such as Perfect Girl and Drifting, pleasing enough but meandering, overly subtle songs, nonetheless.

McLachlan dedicated love song Push to husband and percussionist Ash Sood, jokingly introducing the song as an apology for the months of postpartum crying jags he had to endure following the birth of their daughter three years ago. McLachlan is a more communicative performer than she was in her Lilith Fair years, talking frequently and intimately with her audience (as intimate as one can get in front of 11,000 people).

She reiterated self-deprecating anecdotes she'd given in recent interviews involving her own control-freak tendencies, rolling her eyes when she mistakenly referred to herself as a "young mother," and changing it to "young-ish mother."

It went over big with the fans, particularly one mom who consistently shrieked for long, almost disturbing intervals. Everyone else erupted for the emotionally charged, sweeping songs for which McLachlan is idolized, including Push, I Will Remember You, Arms of an Angel, Sweet Surrender, Possession, Ice Cream. McLachlan's voice remains a powerful instrument, the star of the show.

"If I had to choose a song off my newest record this is probably my favourite," she said, introducing piano ballad Answer, a quiet, hymn-like song that brought McLachlan around to her piano, accompanied only by three seated bandmates singing back up. McLachlan's note-perfect delivery inspired the audience to start applauding halfway through, and it was around this point that the audience loosened up enough to start screaming the "I love you's."

By the time she sang an acoustic version of Arms of an Angel, she had the room on its feet. An earlier highlight was McLachlan's stellar cover of Blackbird (from the I Am Sam soundtrack), a folksy version of a classic that was given new life by signature McLachlan's vocal style.

The show had an air of something special to it, being the last stop. At the end of the set, fake leaves fell from the ceiling and littered the stage as McLachlan and her seven-piece band took their bows in the din of applause. Her roadies sang Carol Burnett's "It's so nice we had this time together" theme song from the side of the stage as part of the encore.

"I'm having such an amazing time tonight," McLachlan told her equally polite crowd. "We are all feeling love here. We are feeling awesome. It's so nice to end at home," she said. "Thank you so much."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Change from the bottom up

Any meaningful change has to be instigated by a grassroots movement. How can a movement like that really develop momentum? Education? I think so, but what form does the education take? Communication. Other forms of media, books, music, I think can all be powerful forces in instigating positive change.

As much as I think the idea of celebrity is a bit absurd, Matthew Good, as well as others, have a certain level of fame. Bono, Sting, Geldof, Bruce Cockburn, etc.
He reaches a lot of people not only with his music, but with his blog as well. As distasteful as it may be, I think that maybe humanitarianism and social activism has to be seen as "cool."

It was John Lennon I think who started it. In 1969 he said, "We're all Christ and we're all Hitler. We are trying to make Christ's message contemporary. We want Christ to win. What would he have done if he had advertisements, T.V., records, films and newspapers? The miracle today is communication. So let's use it."

I don't know. There's got to be more to it than that. I think it's more basic than that. What is communicaton? It's any interaction between two or more people where information is sent back and forth. Could be verbal or nonverbal. You could include other animals as well, but for the purpose of this discussion, let's focus on people. This humanitarian education can be as simple as taking the form of a conversation between friends or family members, or even your neighbour.

Leading by example I also think is important. I get involved with Amnesty International. I don't broadcast it, but friends, family, and some acquaintances know about it. Then, it's at least on the brain for them.

Demographics are important too. Let's break them down. Youn'g folks nowadays are particuarly disenfranchised. Many of them don't vote, because the feel they have nothing to vote for. How can they see that there are ways for them to change their world? I don't know. I'm asking.

Simultaneously, though, let's not forget the other generations. Once folks get a little older and start having families, their harder to reach, though. Their time is consumed with diaper changes, driving kids to soccer practice, and so forth. How can they see that creating a better world is important for their kids, and their kid's kids futures?

The seniors are very important too. As folks get older, I do think they tend to become more conservative. How can they see through manipulation from right-wing sources.

Anyway, a few thoughts.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

John Ralston Saul

Went to see John Ralston Saul talk tonight. He is on a tour promoting his new book "The Collapse of Globalism." I didn't copiously take notes, but toward the end of the talk I pulled out my calendar and scribbled a couple of points that stood out for me from the talk:

The current economic system we have been undersince the early 1970s actually has nothing to do capitalism, and is instead a re-invention of 17th century mercantilism.

Internationalism in itself is not bad. Globalism, though, is a narrow subset of internationalism in which, foolishly, all political decision making is based on economics. This, incidently, runs counter to traditional economic wisdom. Karl Marx and Adam Smith, contrary to popular conception, both eschewed this thinking, and Smith in the end actually argued precisely the opposite.

According to Saul, globalism is actually dead now. It was alive from about 1971 to 1995. He cited numerous examples, and said he could have cited thousands more, where politicians have violated the principles of globalism by raising a tariff or something similar when one's own interest is threatened. The example that stands out for me was raising tariffs on Chinese exports when it was predected that it would flood Western markets with cheap exports. Why become protectionist: to protest slave wages? That was a factor in the exports being cheap, but not why the attention from Wstern markets. There was no hue and cry in response to Sri Lanka or Bangledesh in that regard.

Speed is a hallmark not of civilization, but of war and barbarism. Napoleon got things done very quickly. Civilizations, on the other, require time and patience to ensure that everything, not just economics, is considered.

There are two kinds of nationalism, positive nationalism and negative nationalism. Negative nationalism is often based on religion and always based on fear, whether it's of the erosion of one's culture, or of the unkown, or whatever. He criticized Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" as a book that, intentionally or not, promoted fear and racism.

Positive nationalism, on the other hand, is using the nation state to make a positive contribution to world affairs. Forgiving the debts of thrid world countries is an example of that, and n fact, recent and soon forthcoming announcements in that regard could usher in a new, more positive era of internationalism.

He concluded his talk by saying that it is key that young people from NGOs get involved in electoral politics. While maintaining considerable respect for them and recognition of their importance,he seemed to be suggesting that the real difference can be made in the electoral realm (I actually disagree with him on that).

Friday, June 10, 2005


A goose by the door walked down the naked street to ensure a fair restitution for his brethren regarding the incident at Wembley.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

readers, meet Charlie

I would like to introduce you to my alter ego, Charlie. I could have used other names, but Charlie prefers to be called by his real name. Charlie is the calming ego within me. Though, I am generally pretty easy going,I can get really worked up sometimes about things I care about. Charlie is the one who brings me to consider the sensitivities of those who arouse my animosity and receive my wrath, whther they no it or remain ignorant. He is a brief example:

Stephen: What an idiot! That guy cut me off.

Charlie: Stephen! That's not nice! How can you talk like that.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


The soundtrack in my head these days is playing Pop by U2, especially "Mofo," a very dark, end-of-the-world song. The CD has taken years to grow on me. I thought it was just OK, even after a little while. However, while I really to appreciate there return to early form over the last couple of years, it has also made me more greatly appreciate Pop. It's still not as good as Achtung Baby, the first of their three experimental efforts in the nineties, but it's clearly better than Zooropa in my opinion, and has a great sound.

By the way, Achtung Baby in my opinion is one of the best recordings ever by anyone, and would highly recommend it for listening.