Contemplating America and War

War and insecurity have been a consistent theme in world affairs. Humans have engaged in wars long before national governments or other forms of governance appeared. From tribes to monarchies, from Sparta to the Apache and Comanche, it is a real part of our species before and after the creation of the modern nation-state. In this light, the United States is hardly a rogue state and George W. Bush is but a mere hiccup in the grand scheme of history.

Thinkers are philosophically thoroughly disgusted with war. Unlike the Futurist art movement early in the 20th century, they do not embrace it. However, they would much rather ignore its history - at their own peril. Today certain elements in academia, operate on a selective revisionist platform. They bent on righting perceived wrongs by the hands of Western culture. America is its favorite target. This intellectual lashing and gutting of Western history is a fad gone awry. The shhhing of one part of a population to assuage another is an action of historical engineering that is bound to fail. The price is clear: people can't tell fact from fiction any more.

In contemporary times, specifically within the American Empire, the backlash against George W. Bush has been vociferous. While questioning America's growing romanticism with the military is legitimate, attempting to zero in on his actions and motives is a seductive game that break an idealist's heart.

Short-term considerations only serve to obscure the big picture - it's foolish to do so in the markets and it is foolish to do it in politics. The buy high and sell low of intellectualism.

A mild glance at history will reveal that there is nothing new in what Bush is doing. Alexander Hamilton, for example, would probably have agreed with the notion of a nation and its responsibility to itself. Its detractors follow an idealist version of Jefferson's yeoman characterization of the American republic. More importantly, people today seem obsessed with Jefferson's call for vigilance against the executive - even to the point of ignoring their enemies.

Bush's route of policy is very much in the lineage set forth by John Quincy Adams. Before Adams, Jefferson (like Clinton) was accorded the luxury of not having to design a security policy - until the Napoleonic Wars. This changed America's security views. It was left to Adams to devise one.

While Bush's policy of preemption is hardly an obscurity when history is consulted the reaction to it is. People have taken his actions, slightly out of context (is this not usually the case?) to be the work of an irresponsible person. Hardly a neo-conservative (or conservative for that matter. Classical conservatives want smaller government. In this light, they are very much similar to classical liberals and libertarians) Bush seems to march to his own beat. Single minded, he does not seem to fit any neat ideological definition. That's why everyone from all backgrounds had a shot at espousing their blue prints for a new global order after 9/11.

Great powers distrust instability abroad - especially in their own back yard. Instability within weaker states only invites greater and more aggressive powers to step in. In the case of America, this came in the ideological form of Nazism and Communism. Many nations tended to approach aggression by taking a defensive stance - through appeasement in the 20th century. This is not part of the American character. Americans have always risen to a challenge. This has left it vulnerable to post modern scrutiny - and the verdict is unpopular in the eyes of public opinion.

9/11 was no different than the Napoleonic Wars (or World War I for that matter) in the sense that prevailing international structures could not be relied upon to defend American security and interests abroad.

Iraq posed a legitimate concern of national security to Americans. It must be said that the Bush administration never said Hussein was behind 9/11 as some have asserted. Rather, based on intelligence at the time, the argument was that Hussein a) had links with Al-Queda and b) was quite capable of starting up his biological weapons program.

The leap from Islamo-fascism to Iraq was not a large one to make. It was a two-pronged attack in an effort to diffuse if not outright defeat terrorism. One is to subdue an advanced Arab society and introduce it to democracy and the other was to conduct a covert war in the massive mountains of Asia against terrorist networks.

Whether they succeed is way too soon to tell. In the short run, things always look bad. After surgery a flesh wound always makes the operation look worse than it is. Eventually it heals. It may never be perfect but it is strong and healthy.

Modern Muslim militants, derelicts among all things civil in the Arab world, represent a new security threat. America's threats are the world's threats. Its interests are very much aligned with most nations. Whether they are correct in their assessments is not the only point. It's that they believe it to be so. It's friends and allies should understand this.

There is no doubt this policy designed by Adams - and brought to its heights by Roosevelt - has sent mixed signals - thanks to, in part, an ambiguous foreign policy - to the world. Is American an empire? What are their motives? Why do they speak of peace but wage war? Simplistic as these questions may be they hold weight because people think them. Americans need to define their intentions in foreign policy with more coherence. They went from fighting terrorists to nation building all within two years of 9/11. Its swiftness caused many a cynical to raise their eyebrows.

The people and their thoughts are one thing. To watch many politicians and thinkers play hodge-podge with American history to satisfy their own goals has been a travesty of historical injustice. They can not possibly heave scorn upon Bush without doing the same to Adams, Roosevelt or Wilson. There are indeed many concerns to deal with within modern American culture and society. These issues must be brought up. However, I don't see relevant questions being raised - just petty attacks.

War is just a component of human affairs. Whether they are 'war pigs' of the nation-state or ancient tribes war is human. What is interesting to note, relative to its extraordinary power, America has not engaged in too many outright wars in the 20th century; preferring to abide by Truman's doctrine of containment.

From its flirtations with isolationism and its believe in exceptionalism, American political culture, filled with normal contradictions, is much more dynamic and impressive than we give it credit for. Bush is not the exception but the rule to this reality.

First For You

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Timeless Springsteenian Eloquence: Born To Run Still Mesmorizes 30 Years Later

"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines..." Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run 1975.

"I have seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Jon Landau, Rolling Stone Magazine 1974.

"Bad Scooter? Man, that's me." The Commentator 2005.

1975 saw many albums produced and released from legendary acts. It was the year, for example, that Bob Dylan released 'Blood on the Tracks', Patti Smith 'Horses', Alice Cooper 'Welcome to my Nightmare', Elton John 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy', The Eagles 'One of these Nights' and Led Zeppelin 'Physical Graffiti.' In fact, the list of artists releasing albums that year included; David Bowie, Abba, Earth Wind and Fire, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Barry Manilow, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkle, Bad Company, The Carpenters, Hall and Oates, Roberta Flack, Emylou Harris, Paul McCartney and Wings, Kiss, Linda Ronstadt, Rush, Roxy Music, Rod Stewart, T-Rex, Donna Summer, and Kraftwerk. While we're on it, Motorhead and Pere Ubu were formed that year.

Nice company to have when you pour your entire existence into a landmark album. The odds against Springsteen were great that year. There was probably a better chance of having the Broadstreet Bullies turning into figure skaters than Springsteen surviving his latest project. Yes, the external forces of know-nothings pushed him against a wall of seeming impossibility. Alas, Springsteen pushed back harder with this work. His two previous albums, though filled with melodic and harmonic imagery and memorable characters, did not capture enough attention. 'The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle' and 'Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.' were probably albums that were ahead of their time.

But he did survive and the album stands as a landmark album. Its emergence on the rock'n roll scene must have been met with a dose of refreshing hope. Hope that rock was finally back on the right track.

Defining or categorizing art is an impossible game. Looking back on the past and keeping things in their proper context is all the more challenging given how popular revisionism has become. With all we know now it really isn't all that difficult to rewrite history - and make things look better or worse than they really are or were.

Preserving the spirit and truth of history, well, that's another matter. Springsteen has been called many things and it's not my goal here to recite this. Instead, I'd rather offer my impression of this incredibly poetic album. What better way to treat history and this piece of art than with personal respect?

10, no hang on, I was probably 11 when I first listened to 'Born to Run'. That would make the year 1983. By then, the New Wave movement and its influence on music was in full stride and bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division were affecting a whole new generation of kids. A full 8 years after 'Born to Run' was released, on a visit to my grandparents' home, I raided my Uncle's albums and boldly removed the record from its jacket and awkwardly placed it on the turn table.

I was young and stupid when the needle hit the record and the first notes to 'Thunder Road' filled the room. 'The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays. Roy Orbison singing for the lonely. Hey, that's me and I want you only.' By the end, I was older and wiser after the operatic conclusion to the song. 'It's a town full of losers and I'm pulling out of here to win.' The song shocked me into becoming a music fan. Lord, it was my opera.

The song exercised my mind and thoughts like it never had before. Up until then, I lived and died by the local events of my time. I lost my intellectual virginity to that album. If someone was to ask me what I think 'Thunder Road' represents, I would not even know how to express it. The song has meant so many different things over the years. It depends in the context to which I'm listening to it. I've probably written a screenplay in my head for the amount of thoughts it has offered me.

Over the years, the album offered a dizzying account of imageries that still captivate me. It was an album that thoroughly explores so many themes and ideas it literally leaves you in a state of catatonic marvel each time you listen to it. Whether you are driving through a drive-thru or on your way to a funeral - the song connects in ways unimaginable.

30 years, and 'Born to Run' still lives and breathes in ways I'm sure Springsteen himself never imagined. It was the latest work in the evolution of rock'n roll. I am also sure a new Springsteen was born after its release. It was a redemption of sorts for him. I salute the album that brought us Mary, Bad Scooter and the Big Man, Eddie and Cherry, the Rangers, the Magic Rat and of course, Wendy.

We all imagine that we have a soundtrack to our lives. 'Thundercrack', certainly is one for me. However, if I was to pick a line - among the many memorable ones - it would be 'Tear drops on the city Bad Scooter searching for his groove.' We all are.

For those who love ironies. 1975 was the year Roy Orbison, one of Springsteen's greatest influences, released his own album - 'I'm Still in Love with you.'


Max: The Declaration of Unemployment

41cm. That's the official amount of snow the befell my city. Within a day, however, the streets were functional. It's amazing how quickly the city adjusted. Me? I just sat back and took it all in. It's not like I had to go sit in traffic and work. What a majestic spectacle though.

The guy who lives next to me; I guess he's a neighbour, is a specimen. He bothers me like tartaric acid or cottonseed oil. Mind you, I've never had them on their own but with a high cholesterol count, I shouldn't even consider eating food with this stuff. It's unfortunate since they are part of the ingredients that make up my favorite Peek Freans cookies. Back to the hydrogenated old hag. He's the owner of a piece of junk automobile I call 'The Car that doesn't Drive.' All it does is sit there 365 or 366 days a year soaking up the sun and parking spots of residents. He and this other fag are always working on it. It's an old white trash unit with rust stains everywhere. It's nowhere near a classic so I have no idea why he hangs on to it. Each time I see him I want to make him drink break fluid.

My insomnia is consuming me. I now get migraines and use 222's to alleviate the pain. Tylenol, Advil are candy next to 222. One characteristic of being an insomniac is on how we get fixated on sights and sounds. Once our minds lock in to something that's it. Picture yourself listening to the slow drips from a facet...for two hours. Every drip, every tick, every car that passes outside, you mentally document. 12 days and counting and no sleep. It's to the point I'm afraid to go to bed.

Jeebies is back from rope singing in Nunavut. He has some stories to tell about his adventure. He now speaks Iglatituk or whatever it is they speak up there. He plans to use it to pick up women. And knowing Jeebie he will.

That's it for now. Please go to my Max link on the side if you want more stories. The Commentator, whoever he is, was gracious enough to provide me with archive space. He's probably sensually caressing my wife behind my wet ears. I, Dale Gribble, he John Redcorn.


A Charlie Brown Christmas: A Commentary

40 years ago Charlie Brown wanted to find the true meaning of Christmas and in the process Charles M. Schultz created an animated Holiday classic that remained an integral part of Americana ever since. Like The Beatles, The Peanut Gang is timeless as they continue to connect to generations of North Americans.

The cartoon's plot is based on Charlie Brown's determination to not let commercialism ruin his Christmas. Snoopy, on the other hand, is not too concerned about such things as he entered a contest in an effort to win money for best decorated house, er, dog house. While the sprit of Christmas escapes everyone around him - including man's best friend Snoopy (who reminds me of Otto Von Bismarck with his ability to shift alliances in ever changing geo-political dynamics) - Charlie Brown knows there's something more to Christmas but can't quite put his finger on it. That is, until he turns to Linus who chimes in with the Oscar performance of a lifetime.

"And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and goodwill toward men,' " Linus says. "And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

I know. We still choke up whenever we see this speech. The power and timelessness of the speech lies in the innocence of the messenger. A blue blanket carrying little boy who still sucks his thumb. Not to mention that it reminds us all of who Jesus Christ was. It's a beautiful, moving and meaningful speech that little Linus gave.

What is remarkable about this as I watched the cartoon again this year is that this episode still gets aired annually. With Christianity under sharp scrutiny in post modernity, I'm surprised Linus' speech has not drawn fire from politically correct circles. Perhaps it speaks volumes of its ability to resonate even among the most cynical, or that they have jusy not gotten around to censoring it.

If it ever comes to this, it would truly be a sad day for not only freedom and art in pop culture, but for religion as an important force in our lives as well.


Ok, so I did not want to ruin the moment but I just had to play 'Where are they Now' with some members of the Peanut Gang. In 1965, they were probably, on average, 8-10 years old. That would make them roughly 48-50 today. What did life have in store for our animated baby boomers?

Charlie Brown: Life can be brutal on kids wth low self-esteem. Charlie was a hopeful loser. It was tough watching his sandlot team lose match after match. An inferiority complex stays with you forever. Charlie, for all intensive purposes, should have probably been diagnosed with depression - evidently he wasn't. Now he sells mattresses hooked on anti-depressants in Montana still wondering what could have been with Lucy.

Lucy: She was one mean and assertive kid. It's no wonder she became a ruthless industrialist. During the height of the 70s drug and sex revolution, Lucy - at the tender age of 16 - is reputed to have had a hand in all the era's greatest clubs, including Studio 54. Part of her empire includes pharmaceuticals (that manufacture Charlie's anti-depressants), a professional football team which has no filed goal kickers, and Porn production in California and Paris. One of her workers happens to be a member of the Peanut Gang.

Sally: Sally was on skid row after Linus left her before she was found by one of Lucy's 'directors'. While she managed to avoid porn - too many values were instilled in her - she was a sultry Cabaret dancer in Paris. A chainsmoker, Sally dyed her hair red and is now known by her stage name Saleé La Saloppe. She is reported to be living with a 20 year-old German Dada expressionist. He had the same hair as Linus.

Linus: A junkie. He fell in with the wrong crowd at an early age and was never able to climb out of this. He sniffed glue with Inuits at Davis Inlet, hung out with Shaggy, took drugs with Lou Reed and Nico and even had a fling with Margaret Trudeau in the mid 70s. He and Sally were on and off but ultimately his original feelings of indifference towards her prevailed.

Schroder: I think the movie 'Shine' was loosely based on his life. He was afflicted with a horrible spinal condition as a result of being hunched over his Fisher-Price piano all those years. A chiropractor worsened it and he remains in a perpetual hunched state. However, out of all the Peanuts, he's proven to be the most successful as he tours various concert halls in South America - partly as an out of luck musical prodigy, and partly as a freak. He married Marcy and they have one child. He was diagnosed with a mild form of autism when he was 12. Ritalin is his happiness - like a warm gun.

Peppermint Patty: One of the later members. Is it any surprise she became an activist for a myriad of causes and organizations. She is the face of anti-globalization and the anti-Bush crowd. Her pinky toe was amputated when it was frostbitten after wearing sandals in sub-zero weather in Norway at a Lapplander Reindeer Sacrifice ritual. Obviously a lesbian, Patty was heartbroken when Marcy (whom she still feels is bi-sexual) married the Piano Man.

Pig Pen: Died in 1972 of a rare affliction. Already asthmatic, his lungs could not process the high volumes of dust and dirt inhalation. His pals tried to unsuccessfully Shop-Vac the dust out of him. He also caught a bizarre mutated strain of a tropical virus after he cut himself. He caught the virus when dirt set in o the open wound. There was no hope for P.P. and he was DOA.

Franklin: Whereabouts unknown.

Snoopy: Snoopy left for Madagascar. Once a smart-alec beagle, Snoopy could not stand watching Charlie whither away. He was eternally depressed by what happened to Sally. No one has heard from him ever since. Woodstock died in 1969. The idealism of the period died with him. He was the last of his species which is now extinct.

Come to think of it, this account is not all that different from the story of the Little Rascals. Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Dora, Spot etc....all had their issues.


Iraq Beauteous

"...He First, I second, without thought of rest
We climbed the dark until we reached the point
where a round opening brought in sight the blest
and the beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars.
And we walked out once more beneath the Stars."

So closes Dante's immortal work 'The Inferno.' With the Iraqi people bravely leaving their homes, I allow imagery rather than perception to lead my thoughts.

'Rivers of blood' were promised by various factions opposed to the election. Instead, we got rivers of might and water. Alas, after 30 years of brutality and inhumanity, the Iraqi's have had enough. They realize that there is an occupied force because of Hussein. They realize that terrorists represent a minority and do not speak for the majority. They have learned to ignore the shameful cries from skeptics abroad and to embrace an opportunity. As they leave their homes and look to the sky, they realize they have a country now. Even the Sunni's seem to have accepted the political process.

Will this work? Make no mistake - the road will be unpredictable, long and hard. Possibly bloody. Time will tell. The important thing is there is hope now. An outlet. With hope comes motivation, with motivation comes prosperity, with prosperity comes rebirth. As we approach this cross-road in world history, might we finally get to see a Middle-Eastern Renaissance?

They know that the killers among them have no legs. It's not just about Bush. Never has been. The Sunni's, the most reticent of the three major groups, realized that the Americans were not going to cut and run as some back home have irresponsibly demanded. Peace first, honorable discharge second. We are finally seeing some results. They know all this.

To those of us in the West who scream about the alleged illegal activities of the Americans (and to be fair, one still has to question the whole notion of WMD's as the basis of invading), who yell in horror about the deaths, torture and the supposed rampant neo-con project, they have forgotten something. Their own freedoms did not come in a bloodless coup. Citizens of the West had to fight and sacrifice their sons and daughters for liberty. It's no different for Iraq. The experiment is radical but achievable.

It falls into the realm of possibility because the Iraqi's want it to be so. While we wallow in pampered cynical rhetoric that considers only short-term implications, Iraq moves forward. They move ahead as Americans have always done, leaving behind the dust of people who choose to hang on to something obsolete. Shortly, we will here their reconfigurations about how things are not so 'cut and dry' if Bush claims credit. Iraqi's know better.

On this day, Iraqi's moved from the dark caves of the inner souls and into the beacon of freedom. They emerge to stake their claim among the nations of the world - as Iraq beautiful.


It's a Bubble Gum Life

Contemporary life is as mad as it is perplexing. Disjointed as it is neatly collected. Engaging and dynamic. Above it all lies the secret caves of ironies and ambiguities the modern world has in store for us. I know, I've seen the paintings in the caves. They are impossible to decode.

Most of it, however, can be remarkably frustrating. Recently, I recalled an episode of 'WKRP in Cincinnati' that lamented the death of the disc jockey. As the 80s rolled around, corporate cookie cutter program directors with play lists were beginning to take over. Dr. Johnny Fever and Andy Travis had become obsolete - with it went all the originality that once ruled radio. Good luck trying to hear Bo Diddley on the air. You'll hear Cher but not 'Diddley Daddley.'

There is no sense of adventure on mainstream radio airwaves anymore. Everything is watered down and safe. It panders to the least offended denominator. No one can bang on doors like they used to and speak directly to a major disc jockey or record producer and get their stuff played. Today, too many obstacles are in the way of the artist. Pig vomit types (coined by Howard Stern) abound.

It's the same if one tries their hand, for example, at food importing. Once upon a time you visited the numerous independent retail owners and you showed your product. If they liked it they bought it and you had yourself a business. Today, corporate know-nothings who wouldn't know good food if it was crammed down their numb throats make the decisions through a mechanical process known as procurement. It's where a product gets a lobotomy.

Another area is in media. If the bubble-gum stigma exists in music, it most certainly finds life in writing. Bubble-gum writing is all around us. It's in our movie scripts and it's in our newspapers. A newspaper usually has a handful of bona fide writers and the rest are just fillers talking or writing gibberish like you find in a bad contemporary rock album. Perhaps it's a function of people forgetting what the art of writing means or maybe we just want crap that satisfies our short-attention spans - or indeed, we just don't give a shit. In this light, art mirrors society.

Speaking of immediate self-gratification, the other day I was staring at a huge magazine section in a book store and was bombarded by the number of senseless idol talk. 'Why Brad and Angelina Adopted' littered the covers. At its core, these types of publications pollute our minds with clutter. Sex sells, the mind collects dust on the shelves. Pity the entertainer who must rely on flashing flesh to make a splash. Pity the person who only reads this sort of stuff. Give ad execs credit, they know what they're doing.

Same in sports. It's not about the team anymore. Rather, it's about the individual. The cult of the personality has infiltrated the sports world too. Once upon a time - it seems anyways - one lived and died by their team. A city's honour was tied to its professional sports franchise. We still see this in soccer and teams like the Yankees, Cowboys, Packers and Canadiens, who still maintain a certain cultural presence. But marketing is all directed at the people who care least for the game - witness the gimmickery of shoot-outs in soccer and hockey. It's all about convenience and entertainment now. Watching the Lions take on the Browns or Bears today, to cite one of many examples, is akin to watching a painting of a saber-tooth Tiger in all its majestic power.

I read articles, longer pieces and movie scripts from the 20s,30s, 40s and 50s and I am thoroughly astonished at the quality of the work. Once upon a time kids went to watch Chick Webb. Now they go watch 50 Cent. Something got lost in translation somewhere. A film from the 1930s, arguably Hollywood's Golden Age, has a certain writing brilliance not dared to be disclosed today on a mass level. This is strictly the domain of independents and renegades. Whenever a script that breaks the iron clad Hollywood mode of today, we automatically ordain it brilliant. Sort of like how Oprah calls her guests 'geniuses.' While it is true some contemporary music and programs offer sophisticated content (probably more so than at any point in pop culture history) on average mediocrity gets the reward. However, we should all realize, only masterpieces get the last say.

It's all around. Take a drive. We have more technology and better resources yet our architecture in urban centers is atrocious. The Renaissance spirit is dead. Yes, it is true some businessmen with means have been known to help renovate decaying arts of great cities, but new development lacks the panache we once revered. Outdoor shopping malls are like soulless mini city-states now. All have the same design; same stores. It is not uncommon to have a Wal-Mart open but a mere kilometre away from the last. Choice and originality is out, price is in. Consumers want it that way. I wish there was a balance.

Life is weird, random and unpredictable. This can, with proper confidence, channels and support, drive us to works of genius. Are we being shortchanged? Who are all these people who make important decisions for us? Many lack sense, others are afraid of their own shadows. Many can't lead. It's frightful in some ways.

Will we ever be able to decode the message in the caves?


Modern Industry Jargon is Bizarre.

A corporation seeks to unify its workers by cultivating a culture. By extension, an industry does the same, and like any culture, language is part of what defines it. Those in the medical, police, financial and other professions all have their unique language of terms.

However, at what point does the jargon go overboard? In a sense, when does it all become saturated? Some industries, like the financial industry, should publish their own dictionaries. Everyday new trendy terms and jargon enter our vernacular at a pace that is dizzying. Most of it is absolute hogwash. It is designed more to impress than insight. The more we want, the more complex our schemes become, the more the demand for big words to describe our big thoughts.

I witnessed this phenomena first hand in the financial industry. For example, one of the best places to witness new words in motion was in the boardroom. The piéce de resistance of a boardroom meeting is the presentation. Ah, the presentation; the act of showing others you are worth something; the practice by which we flaunt cuff links and assistants by our side. Like the art of networking, the presentation is a must in the corporate world. If one neglects to partake in any of these they can forget the long, smelly ride to the top. It is here that we can be sure to be introduced to a new way of expressing things.

The presentation is one of those over-rated exercises that have become the strict domain of imposters and slick salesmen. Today, our sales techniques are so advanced and sophisticated we don't even know we are being pitched. It is here - snap, snap - we learn new words invented by some loyal pit bull in upper management. 'Rick, yeah, um, go with loan loss provision to describe write-offs. It sounds, um, more professional." Sort of like the garbage man becoming the sanitizing officer.

Brokers or bankers who talk to their clients as though they are Certified Financial Analysts are Certified Fricken Anal-ysts. "Yeah, we're coming out of a trough and stocks will rally. Capital ratios are indicating that coincidental indicators are giving an indication that I am really not sure which stock to buy." Pause. "Oh, so profitability is threatened by the ever growing weight of our own bullshit?" Touché.

Whatever happened to keeping things simple? Lucid and clear? Why does everyone have to sound like they have been polished at a beauty salon? Where's the human element to it?

It's just not in my former industry. Even in academic circles certain words find their way into the mouths of people who never pronounced more than three syllables. Prior to 9/11, who the hell spoke of multi-lateralism? The truth is that uni-, multi- duo and other lateralisms were repackaged words from a different era. Except, heaven forbid we ever use terminology from four decades ago. Have we not progressed?

If finding new ways to describe the color blue is evident that I guess we are progressing. Cologne rarely relieves the bad odor. In the end, should we be worried? If hurling big words makes us all feel good about ourselves, then who am I to lower a person's self-esteem? Now, I have to go prepare my personal business plan. I would like to get a loan to expand my body and mind. My personal Quick Ratio is .51:1. What's yours?

Activists: Failing to Understand the Implications of their Own Actions

With the recent hostage taking of four members (which includes two Canadians) of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) by terrorists in Iraq, people are once again confronted with the bizarre madness of terrorists.

Terrorists have positioned themselves as freedom fighters or liberators. While most don't buy this, many do. When it comes to manipulating the Western media, terrorists have been quite resourceful - they took a crash course from Ho Chi Minh whose "How-To Fool the Naïve" CD set for $495; far and away on the bestseller lists among evildoers in waiting.

We should not have any problems with people going off to a far away land as peace activists. Activism is integral to a functional democracy. Activists, from the legitimate to the dubious, believe in what they are doing. If they understand what they are getting themselves into and accept the possible consequences of their actions, then all the power to them. Why should people be philosophically opposed to this?

Where there can be an issue with philosophical differences is when a problem arises or something goes awry. It seems as though, in activist lexicon, it's never the fault of the perpetuator but someone else; usually the Americans or the West in general. As such, they refuse to accept part of the blame as they willingly and freely chose to go into hostile places.

This is what leads some to conclude while watching the CPT and others who think in this mode. On the CPT website, they are clear where the fault lies; with the U.S. and UK with whom the blood of the victims is on their hands.

The one thing that has remained consistently evident throughout the Iraq war and subsequent rebuilding of that country, is how utterly incapable anti-war activists are of grasping the militant Arab mind. Either they don't realize they are 'useful idiots' or they do and just don't care. They see things through one set of lenses - their own.

One of the parents of the hostages was recently pleading to the terrorists on the CBC. She asked them to 'look into their hearts.' If this is not symbolic of how we fail to see the terrorist mind for what it is -murderous and mindless - what is? We, in the guilt ridden West, feel her pain. They, in the deranged and deprived circles of Middle-East terrorism, simply do not feel her pain.

If Dante were here, he would most certainly add a circle for not only these killers but also those who willingly accept to be fooled by them.


Andy Kim Hits All the Right Notes

The one thing that struck me during Andy Kim's Christmas Special, which took place at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto on Friday, December 2nd, 2005, was the sheer diversity of the guests who took part. And not just in style, but in age as well. Is this a renaissance of sorts for Andy Kim? You bet it is. How could it not be? Especially when we consider the fact that musicians who were not even born when Kim began to write music are self-professed Andy Kim fans.

Let me begin with a refresher in the school of Andy Kim. At the tender age of 16, with nothing but desire and raw talent in his pockets, Kim left his native Montreal for New York City in the late 60s in search of stardom. Many Canadians found themselves in the same predicament as Kim, as there was no Canadian music industry to which local acts could develop their craft. In this light, Andy Kim is a true Canadian rock trailblazer.

Along with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Guess Who and The Band, Andy Kim was part of a small but dynamic Canadian contingent that found fame in the United States. All have left an undeniable mark on the rock' n roll landscape. Not bad for Crazy Canucks, eh?

With 30 million records sold, countless tours in the United States and a rock anthem under his belt - 'Sugar, Sugar' was recently inducted into the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame - Andy Kim has returned.

While Toronto and New York have welcomed him back, his native Montreal has ironically remained cool to his comeback. Far from keeping Andy Kim down, he will force people to notice him as he did when Jeff Barry discovered in him over 35 years ago.

This brings us back to the concert. In a sleek black suit that gave off the impression of an elegant Renaissance elder statesmen, Kim kicked off the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Rock me Gently' - a song that brought him a Juno Award in 1974. From that point forward, the tone and mood of the night were set. If there were any among the 550 plus people in attendance who were skeptical, he quickly made them a believer.

This set the stage for an impressive list of Canadian artists to showcase their music. The group included Esthero, Hayden Neale of Jacksoul, Shaye, The Hidden Cameras, Andy Stochansky, Danny Michel, Blair Packham and Jully Black. Fans were also treated to a special guest appearance by Ron Sexsmith, who performed 'What Ever Happened to Christmas?', alongside Kim, a song he co-wrote with Kim.

There was nothing formulaic to the evening. As musicians moved on and off the stage with a flair of what I would call slight unprepared coolness. Whatever it was, when the music started, each of them brought with them a unique element to the concert.

It was a magical night that reminded us how Canadian music continues to thrive and evolve. Indeed, some -including myself as far back as the early 90s - have suggested that there is a Canadian Invasion. After last night, it would be hard to argue with this notion. All we need to do is market our brand of music more aggressively. This, however, is another matter.

Above all, for 2 1/2 hours, many of Canada's musicians, who were barely in existence when Andy Kim began writing music, had a chance to perform with a rock legend. It had to be gratifying for Andy Kim - who influenced so many musicians - as he watched people of another generation connect to his music.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and what better way to end the night than with 'Sugar, Sugar?' With everyone on stage performing it in a jam session, it was reminiscent of The Band's 'Last Waltz' or whenever great musicians congregate to perform a colleague's song. It was an awesome spectacle that was free of any tackiness that can dangerously make such things ghastly to watch.

As I listened, I observed a young punker pass by and look at the stage. She turned and walked away, though not before giving her opinion to no one in particular, 'This is so cool.' I thought two things to myself after hearing this. This is exactly how Tony Bennett revived his career when he connected to a crowd outside his genre. Indeed, Andy Kim had the aura of a rock'n roll crooner.

The second thing that came to mind, and probably more important in the larger scheme of things, is that Andy Kim belonged. He did not seem displaced artistically or technically with this group of outstanding musicians. This, in my mind, is the greatest accomplishment of the night. Well, that and the fact that proceeds went to charity.

'Sugar Sugar' was the perfect climax for an excellent show. Or was it? Not wanting to call it a night, the performers debated with which song they should continue? They settled on 'Rock me Gently', the song that began the whole affair.

This was, for those who pay attention to such things, symbolic of Andy Kim's career, which has come full circle as he connected with a whole new generation of musicians. If anything, he can watch with pride the vibrancy and brilliance of Canadian music he helped spawn.


Current Affairs: Christmas Trees Offend, Canadian politics, America and Iraq

-Ah, nothing like a good 'ole Christian holiday to stir up debate. The tradition of having a Christmas tree evolved from - where else?- pagan traditions among the Norse, Druids and various Germanic tribes. It began to take its more modern image during - like anything else - the Victorian age. It has come to symbolize the birth of Christ and not too many Christmas trees are decorated without a manger sheltering Mother Mary and baby Jesus along with the Three Wise Men - and some sheep. For years and years this was the tradition. It's a nice tradition.

Growing up it made me and others feel good. Yes we know, Jesus was not probably born in December (some historians have his birth in March). It's not the point. In fact, all this post-modern revisionism (on any subject matter now that I think about it) goes well beyond any point. The whole notion of Christmas is under attack for an assortment of reasons from many different groups and individuals. It seems that Christmas is a fraud. It's all about spiking consumer spending and is a symbol - mostly among leftists - of the a decadent guilt- ridden Christian religion - among other things. Don't give these people some lions and a coliseum.

Why this post? Every year the province of Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to the city of Boston for helping Halifax during the devastating 1917 explosion that killed over 4 000 people. The Boston Parks Department has now decided that the tree will be called a 'Holiday' tree so as to not offend anyone and to be more inclusive. Unreal. Absolutely and incredibly absurd and retarded.

Of course, as we speak, I am sure there are many people asking that we drop the term Christmas altogether. This is not progress. It's a sad reflection of what we have become. First, Christmas is not optional. It's a religious holiday. What religion on earth would question itself and subsequently degrade itself the way Christians do? None. They have managed to remove the crucifix in classes and censored Christmas carrols. Just eliminate and kill it already. This story is similar with the attack on smokers (who have no liberties or dignity left). We're at the point where special interest- who are taking care of all of us. God bless 'em- should just lobby to make smoking illegal. Have you heard about their latest crusade? To ban smoking in your own home? Anyway, on the way to killing Christmas, I hope the people who commit the murder bump into Dante and Virgil.

Far from a religious person, I have to admit all this is insane. Is it time to push back?

-Canadians will be going to the polls in January to elect a new government. Parliament confirmed a non-confidence vote and deemed the Liberals unfit to govern. Well, the Liberals are a bunch of depraved nitwits, so I hope they fall. Besides, if they would get around to it, they would eliminate Christmas because the 'polls' told them so. They lack leadership. So screw them. Where does that leave us? A Conservative party that is afraid to be Conservative and under direct attack from the Canadian media; two crappy pointless parties- the NDP and Bloc Québecois - who excel at cashing pay cheques and earning pensions while babbling like buffoons. Just like separatists and socialists. Jack Layton? Gilles Duceppe? Spare me. Canada needs an avenger to come and save us...fast. Where's Captain Canuck when you need him?

-Americans are debating whether they should set a time frame as to when they should leave Iraq. This is fine; if it is done for the right reasons. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case. Partisanship is forcing this and its recommendations will lead to, essentially, backstabbing and abandoning the Iraqi people. What's done is done. As I have said many times, Americans need to see this through. There is little wisdom in these actions. These are words from pathetic and petty-minded assholes who simply do not comprehend the logic of what they advocate, or what the consequences of 'cutting and running' will be. To many, Vietnam had many lessons. To me, one of them is never run from the enemy; ever.

We seem to rarely consider how our actions are viewed from the other side. Here's a possible example. Picture terrorists with a picture of Mr.Burns all saying "excellent." Useful idiots, all of you, for agreeing with this position, for real.

-Which brings me to yet another scene from The Simpsons. Long story short; Patty and Selma had just gleefully failed Homer from his driving test at the DMV. While he is talking to Marge, their superior passes by and notices two cigarettes in an ashtray at their wicket. She reprimands them and reminds them that smoking is grounds for dismissal. Marge looks at Homer to have him help them out. For Marge, he takes both cigarette's and shoves them in his mouth. Upon seeing this, the superiour apologizes to the girls and while slapping Homer tells him "You sir, are worse than Hitler."

It's one of those jokes that can easily blow by and sail right over your head. That one line says a lot about our reliance on hyperbole's to make a point in contemporary times about modern issues. And we don't have to look far. Think 'Bush is Hitler.' The litter box is filled with such history deficient reasoning.