Friday, December 22, 2006

If We Want it (and I do...)

John Lennon - Happy XMas (War Is Over)

Like all classic songs, this one still is relevant today. Please join me in my wish and prayer for true peace on earth. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Heart Toronto! (Part Deux)

What is it about this city? I thought when I left Seoul, that there would be no one to take it's place. Au contraire mon frere!
I'll admit there has been (and still is) transition and the stress that comes with that. However, lately I have been having these little slices of heaven and thought I would compile them for your enjoyment.!

*Having lunch at the True Love Cafe. They have musicians (who I believe play for food) come in and serenade diners. The first guy covered Prince's funky Kiss on electric guitar and vocals. Simply sublime. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Another guy came in and played on the piano, no singing. He began with Quiet Riot's Cum on Feel the Noize followed by Vince Guaraldi's Christmastime is Here from the Charlie Brown Christmas. I hated to leave!

*Taking a walk through Allen Gardens Conservatory. Although it's antique, old, open to the public free and so well done!

*Riding the TTC subway and having the stops being sung to me by the conductor. Love that!

*Seeing the morning sunrise over Lake Ontario from our apartment window.

*walking into the nearest dry cleaners and seeing pictures of Hallasan (on Jeju) and Geumgangsan (in North Korea) (Korean mountains I've been to.)

*reading the Advocate that the neighbourhood public library has a subscription to.

*encountering panhandlers in the Church-Wellesley Village. One offers shoe shines for spare change. Another has his cup on a fishing line and says funny things as we walk by.

*drinking herbal tea and reading the newspaper after working out and showering at the local YMCA.

*using my Korean at the local convience store to ask which phone card is the best for calling South Korea.

*walking past the fabulous homes in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood and dreaming of living there. (never gonna happen but still it's nice to dream!)

*looking through books in This Ain't the Rosedale Library (nearby indie bookstore).

*listening to musicians in the subway stations.

*using my Spanish on the elevator of our apartment building.

*getting a spur of the moment, out-of-the blue invitation yesterday from my friend to join her coworkers in seeing the sold-out performance of the musical Wicked at the fabulous Canon Theatre! (Hooray for the flu that's going around!)

What a great city, eh? But don't take my word on it! Come visit and experience for yourself what this city has to offer!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Here's Your Sign

I swear!

Okay this post is just going to be pure rant, devoid of the usual insight Danifesto usually tries to express. Readers be forewarned!

Is it just me or are there a lot of stupid people lately? Mind you, I've very tolerant because Lord knows I'm not the highest card in the deck but some of these folks lately have taken their stupidness and raised it to a new level that is shocking!

My first example comes from Oklahoma (no comments or generalizations about that- my Dad grew up near where this happened and there are fine people there I'm sure). Two women "claim" to have been attacked because of their sexual orientation. Local police aren't sure though.

"It’s almost like they didn’t believe the gay thing, like people wanting to beat someone else up because they’re gay," Kaspereit told the Evening News.
"I don't think people realize how much we get discriminated against. Being attacked because of your sexual orientation I found out isn't even considered a hate crime in Oklahoma. We're singled out. We're obviously singled out. They kind of proved that with my arm."
Kaspereit told the paper that police asked her several questions but did not take photographs of her arm or bloodied face. (

What's the deal with her arm you ask? Oh, they carved the word "lesbian" on it. Her friend had "Hellbound" written deeply in pen on her chest.

Yeah. I would have to side with her on this one. I don't think those donut-eaters really have a clue down there. I'm just sayin'! (*RETRACTION: She has since confessed this never happened! Even stupider!)

My second example of stupidity comes from Jim Rutz who writes for Much time has been spent wondering about gay people and where we came from and why. Ponder no more because Mr. Rutz has cracked this mystery for us! Apparently the reason for the rash of gayness is due to soy. That's right. Soy=Gay. It's all that soy milk and tofu in my diet as a child. (Never ate the stuff actually) Here's what he has to say (see above link for the whole article):

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you're also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.
Estrogens are female hormones. If you're a woman, you're flooding your system with a substance it can't handle in surplus. If you're a man, you're suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your "female side," physically and mentally.

And we all know where that yellow brick road leads folks! Now this might come as a shocker to you but I'll just add that although he actually did receive post-secondary education, it was not in the field of science or medicine!

The final example of someone being hit upside the head with the "stupid stick" is a group of people actually. The Holocaust Conference in Teran, Iran was held earlier this week to discuss the authenticity of this tragic event. The attendees actually "believe that the volumes of documentation, testimony and living memory of the Nazi genocide are at best exaggerated and part of a Zionist conspiracy to falsify history so as to create the case for Israel" (source).

After I was done trying to explain this to my partner, he just said, "But that's soooooooooooooo stupid, honey!" He's absolutely right. I'm in favour of freedom of speech and others having the right to say as many stupid things as they want to. However I also have the right to point out what they are presenting as "fact" is actually just stupid bigotry dressed up in academic clothing. I'd wonder what Iran's president (and conference sponsor), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would say if he actually went to the Auschwitz concentration camp site. He'd probably dismiss it as all part of some great conspiracy, along with all the survivors with numbered tattoos on their arms. He actually used the word "myth" when referring to the most documented case of genocide in written history!

Although the Holocaust devastated whole generations of Jews and unquestionably impacted them the most, they were not the only victims. People who visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC learn that Sinti, Roma (some estimates are as high as 800,000 "gypsies" were murdered), Poles (6 million killed, of whom 3 million were Christian, and the rest Jewish), Serbs (estimates vary between 500,000 and 1.2 million killed, mostly by Croat Ustaše), Soviet military prisoners of war and civilians in occupied territories including Russians and other East Slavs, the mentally or physically disabled, homosexuals, Africans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists and political dissidents, trade unionists, Freemasons, Eastern Christians, and Catholic and Protestant clergy, were also persecuted and killed (source).

Historians have estimated that between 9-11 million people perished in seven years. Holding a conference for all the wingnuts who believe this never happened is just stupid.

Reading this over, I've noticed that all my examples of stupidity happen to be male. To be fair, and show that stupidity does not discriminate, I'll close with the lyrics of "Stupid Girl" by Pink.

Maybe if I act like that,
that guy will call me back
Porno Paparazzi girl,
I don't wanna be a stupid girl

Go to Fred Segal, you'll find them there
Laughing loud so all the little people stare
Looking for a daddy to pay for the champagne
(Drop a name)

What happened to the dreams of a girl president
She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent
They travel in packs of two or three
With their itsy bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees

Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?
Oh where, oh where could they be?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Hero Zero

The homily at mass this morning was about the significance of seemly insignificant things. The priest used the example of the number "0." If placed to the left of a number, things remain the same. However moved to the right of that same number and suddenly that number is compelled to take on new meaning and value. He went on to note that Christmas is really the celebration of insignificant events. At face value, there is nothing really extraordinary about the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born to a young girl and a poor carpenter from an insignificant town. They weren't well-connected and belonged to a small religious group in a small province in the mighty Roman Empire. And yet the life (chronicled by the historian Josephus) that began with this mundae event changed the world.

I love this paradoxical idea of how significant insignificant events can be! For example, the amazing story of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, came about from someone striking up a conversation with someone else next to them on an airplane! (How many times have I gone through entire flights and the only I said to the person beside me was "Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom, thanks?") The last book club I belonged to read a rather boring book about how random mistakes and insignificant events (such as the weather or coincidence) changed the course of human history. Christ celebrates a widow who gave a seemingly insignificant amount (a fraction of a penny). A random conversation with a substitute teacher during a boring recess duty lead to me landing a position at Seoul Foreign School. Another example would be making friends first with M, which led to me making friends with his Guri (a suburb of Seoul) friends from Canada (N and A) which then led to being introduced to M when she moved to Korea and through M, I met A! The best example is the 4-year relationship I'm in now that began with an insignificant dinner date that I didn't expect to turn into anything significant at all!

I was going through some boxes (I seem to have accumulated a few over the years!) and came upon some farewell letters written to me from students at Halstead Middle School before I moved to Korea. I was struck by how significant insignificant things were to these students. Some of the trivial events were humorous. One remembered a time I sang "Oops! I Did It Again!" by Britney Spears one time in the hall while when I made some mistake. Another recalled a craft project where we blew out the inside of an egg and painted them. One girl loved the origami cat head I taught them and said she would keep it forever. And some of the events were more personal. One girl thanked me for never interrupting her when she was talking to me. Another child said she loved the stories I read them and she discovered how fun reading books could be. I guess the saying is true "nothing you do for children is ever wasted."

These examples and others made me think of all the "random acts of kindness" we may do everyday that mean nothing to us but may mean a great deal to the people around us. For example holding the door open for a person with their hands full might change the attitude a person has that day. It also gets me thinking of all the activities we do to celebrate Christmas and that sometimes, it really is the "thought that counts." For example, someone going to the trouble to hunt down that special book, CD or that you offhandedly mentioned being interested in sometimes is more touching than the actual gift itself. I find this also to be the case with gifts that are made by the giver. I love to marvel over the time and effort invested and that makes the gift so much more special.

So during this busy holiday season, I hope we all can find ways to appreciate the significance of insignificant things! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 08, 2006

What's So Amazing About Really Deep Thoughts?

"One can't believe impossible things," said Alice.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," responded the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!"

The book I just finished had a chapter called "Doubt" that I keep coming back to in my mind and in my day-to-day experiences (I have found it best to listen when this happens). In this chapter the author explores the relationship between doubt and faith. "I had thought that as long as I still had doubt, I could not have faith. For all these years, I had assumed that God did not want to hear from me until I had resolved my doubts and vanquished my uncertainty (pg. 252)."

Somehow in this Age of Information, I think we have gotten hung up on the idea that we need to know everything before believing it. Most people have blamed our reliance on science, but I actually suspect that science is closer to religion than we think. For example, in both disciplines, the question is actually more pivotal than the concluding finding. Without the first, you can not have the other. In the same line of thought then, is faith the result of doubt?

Furthermore, scientific facts seem to me to be at best estimates, requiring our faith to accept them as such. For example, when scientists will tell us how much we would weigh on the sun, how can this be tested and verified? Or the distance to the "planet" Pluto? Or the communication skills of dinosaurs?

Many of the conclusions we have reached about our world are based on the accumulated knowlege we have available but could potentially change (and have changed) as time as gone on and we make new discoveries. For example, look at the changing facts in nutrition with regards to cholesterol and fatty acids. At one time, scientists considered tomatoes poisonous and now tell us wine, chocolate and coffee are actually beneficial!

Religion, like science, also changes as we make new discoveries about ourselves. I've talked at length before about how our views from the Bible have changed to adapt to our changing society. We don't practice slavery and unfortunately divorce is sometimes necessary (contrary to what is in the Bible). In our society, we now believe that women and racial minority groups should be treated equally without discrimination (contrary to what is in the Bible). Currently we are in dialogue about whether homosexuals should also included or not. Recently the Swedish Lutherans and the Conservative Jews have both said "yes" to same-sex equality in the form of unions whereas many other religious groups have said "no" or are still discussing it.

All these examples are not to make the point that everything in religion or science will eventually change. But I do think that we were given an advanced cerebrum for a reason (which would be to use it). God has this incredible sense of irony and I think at some point we'll realize how pointless all our struggles really have been.

Yes, there are many things in our lives and the world around us that make no sense. This is why we have science and religion. Not only does doubt beget faith but paradoxically faith also produces doubt, opening up further questions and contradictions.

I don't think I've ever shared before about the events that led up to my baptism. For a long time, I held off from making that decision because I wanted all my questions to be answered. By the time I was a teenager, I realized having all my doubts answered wasn't what was important at all. What mattered was the search and (because of my family and the society I was born into) I chose Christianity as my medium for that search. It's much like taking the plunge before getting engaged to be married, isn't it? You will never be able to plan for all the possible situations in the life before you nor will you ever "solve for all the unknowns" in your potential mate. But, on faith, you can chose to say, "I want accompany you (and future person you will become) on this journey."

It was Saint Augustine that said "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Saint Anselm of Canterbury prayed "I yearn to understand some measure of the truth which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to have faith, but I have faith in order to understand. For I believe even this: I shall not understand unless I have faith."

Monday, December 04, 2006

To List or Not to List

I just finished a book given and recommended to me by my cousin. Our Lady of the Lost and Found really seemed like two books in one. In one part the author, Diane Schoemperlen, writes about an impromptu visit from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the humble home of the narrator(like the author, a single, older novel writer). Interspersed between the humorously subtle and mundae events were the narrator's thoughts on a wide variety of related topics such as faith, doubt, time, knowledge and most of all history.

The beginning of one chapter in particular captured my imagination. In it she says:
"There are many ways to divide up the world...the more usual demographic categories such as male and female, young and old, black and white, have and have-hot. I am sure that a detailed investigation of the propensity (of people who make) lists or (people who do) not list would yield remarkable new insights into the deepest psychological crevices (or crevasses) of human nature" (pp.288).

I love this idea of dividing up the world in different ways other than the usual gay or straight, crazy or sane, foreigner or native, butch or fem, sick or healthy, employed or unemployed, homeless or not! As I've demonstrated on numerous occasions on this blog, I have a propensity to fall into the category of people who make lists. So I'm about to continue in a similar vein as Schoemperlen and invite you to do the same if you feel so inclined!

The world could be divided between....

*people who can dance alone and people who can't (or won't).

*fiction readers and non-fiction readers.

*those who shower in the mornings and those who shower at night.

*those on-line and those off-line (perpetually or forever!).

*people who have traveled/lived abroad and those who never have.
(revised: those who hold passports and those who can't be bothered to get one.)

*those who always buy new items and those that frequently choose to buy items used.

*folks who have a few basic pairs of shoes and folks that have several for various occasions and moods.

*those who "double-dip" and those who abhor the practice.

*givers and takers

*people who prefer pencils to those who use pens.

*those who drink milk and those who don't.

*city people and country folk.

*people who use cash and those who use plastic (debit/credit/etc).

*those who enjoy children and those who don't.

*those who are continually making new friends and those who tend to stick to a chosen few.

*people who like to travel solo (backpack style) and those who like group package tours.

*those who go out on the weekends and those who are homebodies and like to relax at home.

*moviegoers who stay to watch the credits roll and those who find credits boring and leave during them.

*Macintosh users and Windows PC users

other ideas?

*Update: Thanks for all your comments and idea! New ones kept coming up yesterday in conversations and I added them above! Then today while reading The Toronto You are Leaving- I came across this related item: An English professor said that "There are only two kinds of people in the world-the people who prefer Mansfield Park to Emma, and the people who prefer Emma to Mansfield Park." (both by Jane Austen)