Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sins of Omission!

Last night, Canada's most EXCELLENT band, 54-40, opened for the Stones in Calgary.

54.40 is Canada's premiere band. Their 25 year history of music making has contributed an extensive catalog of hits and their unmistakeable sound cannot be ignored.

Congratluations to the Stones on their perfect choice of 54.40 as stage-mates for this one and only stop in Calgary.

I'm assuming that the Stones' PR machine has a huge amount of influence over what gets to press when they do a show, so sadly, there was hardly a mention of 54-40 in the Calgary media, except for, and kudos to, The Calgary Herald's Swerve Magazine.

Ron Wood spent last Tuesday evening (October 25th 2005) hanging out at 54-40's gig at Banff's Wild Bill's Saloon. The man has obvious good taste in music.

Think you haven't heard of 54.40? Well, yes you have. Hootie and the Blowfish covered 54.40's hit, I Go Blind from 54.40's 1985 Green Album.

I Go Blind was played on the TV series, Friends, and was the most-played tune in the U.S. in 1997.

54.40's music has been all over radio for 25 years. You may not know the names, but you know the music. One Gun, She-La, One Day, Since When, Crossing A Canyon.... you know them and you love them. Look 'em up, have a listen and take pride.

Congratulations, 54.40. Awesome forever.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Assimilation and All That

I had a friend over tonight and, while reminiscing about days at the lake (our families camped together for 5 years), we got on to people moving to this country from exotic (read: not the UK or similar). Don't know how we got from camping to assimilation; freewheeling/steam of consciousness or something, I guess.

It is sad but hilarious how Canadians who don't travel -- and going to Vegas twice a year does not count as travel -- have such rude opinions of people who move here from abroad and how those people should assimilate right friggin' now.

So here's the question: Imagine you're the 45 year old man at left here. You have a wife and three youngish kids. You live in a politically volatile environment. You've worked really hard all your life and have managed to get a PhD, which, in your country, doesn't provide you with much beyond a lower middle class existence.

For your children, you scrimp, save and consciously choose to have no extras in order that you can someday move to another country where the opportunities are nearly unlimited and where your children can grow up free from war and the possibility of dying or being severely maimed. You learn the language of that country and after three or four year of navigating the immigration process, you move to a completely, utterly alien culture.

On arrival, you learn that in order to work in your field, the one you're very highly trained for and in which you have some 20 years experience, you must pass a rigorous exam, which requires another year of study and a relatively large application fee.

Add to this the stress of living among people whose dress, customs, religion, food, norms and mores are entirely unknown to you.

How fast could you assimilate? I'm thinking it would take a while, hmmm?

Add to all that, one of your physical characteristics marks you as an outsider and, for whatever reason, predisposes people to making all sorts of erroneous assumptions about you and causes them not only to be frightened of you but also suspicious.

You finally find solace in the small community of others who come from where you came, which, although it provides you some peace and respite from the strange, serves to further alienate you from the larger population.

Do you think it would be easy?

So here's my question: why is it that so many Canadians think that people who come to this country can somehow instantly turn off their own ingrained culture and suddenly become fully assimilated into Canadian culture (whatever that is)?

Could you do it? Could you pick up and move to Nairobi, say, and instantly become African? Instantly understand all the subtle points of culture? Instantly understand the African way of life, African manners, business? I think not.

So, next time you get into a cab with some guy with skin so black it looks purple or with a turban on his head, or with a thick Balkan accent, consider what that person has chosen to give up in order to provide a life for himself, and possibly his wife, children and maybe even his parents. Consider that he has probably worked for many years as a professional, only to come here and be forced to give up his profession for a year -- or sometimes forever. Consider actually talking to that person and finding out who they are and where they're from. Guaranteed you'll be surprised.

Canadians who bitch and moan about immigrants or who bitch and moan about living in this country should do us all a favour and go traveling to somewhere uncomfortable for two months. Go to where people emigrate from, sit yourself down there and contemplate just how difficult it would be to leave your life, your family -- everything you know -- permanently, for something possibly better.

And while you're at it, imagine living in a place where, at any instant, you child could be shot at or blown up on their way to school; where you might have to walk 10 miles to get your sick child to the doctor and where there may not be a doctor for three more days; where there is lots of disease but not a lot of treatment; where the government is beyond corrupt; where the religious establishment controls everything including how long you can grow your hair and how high off the ground your daughter can raise her eyes without risk of being stoned to death.

Then come back to Canada, sit down and think about how rich you are here. And think about how lucky you are to live here already and how bloody great it is that there is so much opportunity, so little risk of having your favourite cafe blown up, and how really quite funny our politicians are. I'm pretty sure there aren't any pictures of Saddam or Osama coming to a press conference in a wet suit...

The BIKE Paths

Um, ah, does the word "BIKE" in "Bike Path" not mean anything to people who walk?

Today, we were out biking on the BIKE paths, on a lovely, 20 degree fall day, when, what do we encounter but people walking -- three and four abreast -- on the BIKE path, oblivious to the WALKING path not five feet away.

Further on, we encountered a group of about 8 people spread out all over the path, walking their off-leash dogs and tossing balls down the surface of the BIKE path. Jase nearly took a dog out and would have seriously hurt it, and himself, had he not been able to brake in time.

The owner of said dog was rude and unrepentant (which I took as immense guilt) when I yelled at her to get her dog off the path and onto a leash. She called me some unpleasant name, so I yelled back that it was people like her who ruined things for everyone and that she was bloody irresponsible. I'm pretty sure, given her smug face, that she didn't agree but I'm also pretty sure she would have had a whole bunch to say had Jase actually hit her dog. She must have had an "I-get-to-ignore-the-NO DOGS sign-directly-to-my-left" card.

If it says BIKE path and there are signs with a red line through the image of a dog, it means the path is for bikes, not walkers or dogs.

I hope this clears things up.

"Street People"

Last night, on our way down 8th Ave SW in Calgary, a nicely dressed young man stopped us with "Excuse me, but could I ask you a favour? I just got off the bus from Dryden and someone stole my wallet."

Yah? Right! As friggin if!

ARRGGHGHGH What is UP with these people? Once the reserve of the truly desperate, this obviously well-fed person had resorted to the old "stolen wallet" saw that has been the domain of bonafide vagrants and street alcoholics.

I will admit I was less pleasant than I might have been, but man, I cannot imagine how a guy of that age cannot find work -- in this city, where nearly every business is begging and pleading for staff -- and would stoop to begging! Actually, given his really nice jumper, shirt and jeans, I'm pretty much sure he has, or recently had a decent job.

I'm sorry. I don't buy that story from the crazies who jump out from the bushes near Robson Street in Vancouver and I don't buy it on 8th Ave in my city either.

I am a meanie, perhaps, but I am also a single mother of three now-adults. The one and only time I ever asked anyone for money was when I asked my dad for a loan of $600, which was exactly equal to the amount I already had saved to buy a car. I paid him back in one month and yes, I had a child then.

I am aware that sometimes people legitimately fall on hard times, but I have no respect, nor will I ever have, for people who are quite able to find some type of work and access the myriad social services and support agencies in Calgary, but refuse to do so and opt for bugging me on the street.

If you're wondering if I've ever given money to someone on the street, the answer is yes. I gave to a young man -- about 16 years old - who had obvious needs, and I said he could have it if he promised to use it to eat. He said he would. Street kids, I can understand (because I know that for the most part, there is a lousy mom who has subjected her child(ren) to some creepy, abuser step 'dad', and/or has abandoned her child(ren) to a host of foster 'parents' and foster 'homes').

These others, who are, at best, grifters? Sorry, no, I don't give money and no, I won't develop respect.


Untruths in Fundraising

So, yesterday, The Calgary Herald ran a Canwest News Service article entitled "Cancer Epidemic Looms as Populace Ages, Say Experts."

Two things struck immediately struck me, upon which I shall elaborate. Keep in mind, I'm not researching dollar figures here, OK?

In Calgary last June, there was a sponsored walk that occurred over two days. The final figure raised was some $7 million. Between Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, there was some $37 Million raised. Go to "The Weekend to End Breast Cancer" for more info on the event. I'm all for it, in case you're wondering, but I think it is hyperbole to put the word "end" in the event title (and in the web address) ....

This kind of money - and more, and less - is raised nearly every day by organisations in north America, the UK and Europe, and has been raised for who knows how many years.

The people raising this money are, I believe, in a certain age demographic, being the 25 - 50 age group primarily, and the bulk of those in the 35 - 50 range or so.

In the Canwest article, there are these comments: "There will be a significant increase in the number of new cancer cases," and "[Cancer] will replace cardiovascular disease as the No. 1 killer in Canada." All this is supposed to happen in the next 5 - 10 years, so yah, you baby boomers, this means you and it probably means the eldest of your children (goodness, modern sacrificing of the first born?).

What sticks out is that the very people raising the money for a cure are of the same group most likely to be affected by the disease. That's the irony. So many people absolutely busting their butts to raise funds for something that will never occur.

Here's what really bugs me though; how is it that year over year, the dollar amount raised for cancer research and pursuit of cure increases dramatically but yet the incidence of cancer is increasing, at least according to this article, at such an alarming rate?

Contemplate this for a second: what if a cure for the major types of cancer - lung, breast, colon, prostate, stomach -- were found?

So many people would be out of work, but more significantly, there would be a huge, negative impact on big pharma's revenues. In short, there will never be a cure for cancer because that would cost far too much in terms of big pharma R&D, university research chairs, political clout, y'know, all that. And what would all those event planners do?

I will not dispute there have been significant advances in the treatments of some cancers; however, treatment and cure are NOT the same thing. Treatment means that big pharma gets to trial out a succession of somewhat effective drugs, which lulls people into believing that big pharma really does have the goal of a cure in mind. It ain't so, there Leroy.

It is far more lucrative for big pharma to keep up its"We're in a race against" face, when really, there is no intention at all of finding a cure. That would be like beating your horse to make it drag a heavy load up a hill and then shooting the horse upon reaching the top.

Where and how is all that money being spent and exactly how much money is being raised each year? Man, I would love to know that figure. I think it might equal the US expenditures on 'defense.' I think the truth of how cancer fundraising dollars are actually spent would make the escapades of our Mr. Dingwall look like the antics on amateur night.

The sad reality is that people with cancer are guinea pigs for big pharma, which preys upon the desperate. Many will die while pharmaceutical companies wade in billions raised by hopeful but duped believers.

On a related subject, "The Constant Gardener" with Ralph Feinnes and Rachel Weisz.