03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004
My sister told me that Ursula Franklin Academy had invited Stephen Lewis to be the featured lecturer for 2006 (2 years ago the school hosted Gen. Romeo Dallaire). The UFA students decided to do raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation by collecting pledges for a Day of Silence with the double goal of raising awareness for the millions of Africans who have no voice. All the teachers taught silent classes by writing all instructions on the blackboards. They raised $4500.
Stephen Lewis has quite an impressive resume, here is just a glimpse:
1984-88 Canadian ambassador to the UN
1995-99 Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF
2001-Present UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa
He's the closest thing we have to a Canadian saint.
Of course not every thinks he's that great. This character assassination is brought to you by "crypto-Nazis" in the guise of a women's organization.
The auditorium was packed with students, teachers, parents and community members. The good doctor, Ursula Franklin, took her usual seat of honour in the front row.
Mr. Lewis spoke with passion, energy and eloquence about his experiences over the past four and a half years. I was close to tears as he recalled the heroic grandmothers caring for broods of orphans. Orphans make up 10% of the population in Africa and that number is only going to increase.
The most disgusting about the spread of HIV/AIDS is that relatively cheap generic drugs are available. Enough drugs to keep someone with HIV/AIDS healthy for a year would cost $139. That's down from $1800 a few years ago. At the current price it would cost $5.56 billion to keep the 40 millions world wide AIDS victims safe. Unfortunately there are 5 million new cases of HIV/AIDS each year. Mr. Lewis explained that gender inequality is the number factor in the spread of the disease, women without sexual rights are unable to say "NO" to their partner(s).
During his Q&A I was struck by a thought: surely the men and women who create US foreign and military policy must realize that the biggest threat to global stability and security is not the overstated threat of terrorism. The real threat is the instability caused by the population-massacring effects of the AIDS pandemic. Putting several billions dollars towards AIDS research and drugs could do far more to secure American imperial interest than all the bunker-busters, daisy-cutters and next generation fighter jets.
After the terrific lecture I caught up with Alison Mann.....who is pregnant! Her baby is due during the summer, I think I heard July. I got to visit with her and some of the grade 12 girls who helped organize the Day of Silence. It's a weird sensation going back to the school where my face still appears on the occasional poster around the school and people recognize me and say 'hi'. Alison was really excited about this years school movie project titled It Came From Spam County, which she said would be ready by the end of May. Also in May UFA is celebrating it's 10th anniversary and all us UFA alumni are invited to go back. I was told that they wanted to have a party on Saturday 6 May and maybe a pub night on the Friday.
Awright, real quick. Salmon Eye went and tried-out for the newly forming improv team at Yerk. Nothing like being bullied by a bunch of 1st year drammies. Just kidding, they seemed like good pople (Cardinal Carterites egads!). Sean of Winters Don fame was there too. We did some scenes in big groups that sort of flopped and then a theme game. It seemed like people were just "raw" and obviously the communication skills aren't there with strangers, so things were oft bumpy but it felt good to be back at it.
I had a conversation w/ Colleen a couple weeks ago about how we tend to validate our posts by how many comments we get and then I had a similar conversation with J-Cup just yesterday. So I want to say in the open that I think we should get past this thinking. It's regressive and insecure. From now on, I rate my posts based on how awesome they are.
This one was a 3/5.
But do not fret, my reader friend - my tale does not end there,
I did not spend my brief existence tending giants' hair.
For after many suns had risen high above my head,
And just as many setting as I put myself to bed,
The giant came across me as I worked upon the field,
His hairy friend jumped down to me and criticized my yeild.
The beards, it seemed, no longer grew at quite sufficient rates,
And if this trend continued, then I'd die within these gates.
Well this, my friend, was certainly the last and final straw,
I'd rather perish, then and there, than always to plod on.
So throwing down my rake I sat cross-legged and refused,
Another single minute of that work, and I accused,
The giant and his hateful beard of slavery most cruel,
No longer would I work for them, or be their farming tool.
A single glance is all it took, from talking beard to giant,
They soundlessly decided what to do with this defiant:
Reaching down his giant's hand, he raised me to his mouth,
As he slowly turned his giant's body to the south.
He opened up his mighty palm, inhaled a mighty breath,
And with one great afflation tried to blow me to my death.
I sailed across the oceans wide, and over valleys deep;
I glided over canyons and looked down on mountains steep.
It seemed I could see everything - my eagle's view was grand,
How awed I was to look and see each feature of the land:
Great tufts of vapor rose above each river, creek and lake,
Forests etched in green were grown behind me in my wake.
The oceans sighed, the deserts swept, and far away it thundered.
The sad ones cried, the tired slept, the undecided wondered.
And when at last the winds had ceased to carry me afar,
My delicate descent was like a deftly falling star.
(Of course I joke, the landing was not graceful in the least,
All I can say is I emerged in but a single piece.)
And coming to my senses I consulted my surroundings,
Happy to have finally achieved a stable grounding.
I wandered with no aim in mind, no knowledge of the land,
Following a half-laid trail through gravel, mud and sand.
I came upon a clearing with a canopy of green,
With gently flowing fountains; 'twas truly quite serene.
A circle marked with golden bricks seemed perfectly arranged,
And right there in the center was a signpost I thought strange:
"Here in The Land of Cameroon" it proudly did proclaim,
"We have both law and order and these laws you must obey."
But as I read them through my mind vehemently objected,
I wondered long and hard what type of order they protected:
(1) One does not taste with eyes so if it looks quite good to eat,
Probably it's poisonous; I'd choose a different treat.
(2) Too many in your company can sometimes be chaotic,
Too many thoughts within your head can likewise be hypnotic.
(3) Rise each day with the sun and be not vain enough to try,
To outlast her shining glory, for to do so is to die.
(4) For accidents assistance is but eighteen steps away,
Don't hesitate to call us if your party's in dismay.
(5) Don't tread upon the beaten path; it's rarely ever safe.
But rather find your own, or failing that, your own create.
(6) Treat travelers with kindness: when you tread on foreign land,
You are the same yourself and will expect a helping hand.
Such puzzlement betook me that I thought it to be jest,
Lies, perhaps, or trickery, or some creative test.
But quickly thirst and hunger put my wonder in its place,
So on I went, my patience spent, my need for food displaced.
Across the way the path diverged beside a golden tree,
One neat and trimmed, the other - overtaken with debris.
Heeding what the sign had said, I steered my course astern,
Went down the road less traveled, though more forested and ferned.
What torture did I go through, as my hunger I denied,
While right and left delicious fruit - such juicy treats I eyed.
I don't recall how long I stayed upon that lonesome trail,
'Till finally my thirst won out, and hunger had prevailed:
My body weak and weary and my mind no less distressed,
I risked defying that first rule, and put it to the test.
I grabbed a single, ripened fruit, its skin about to burst,
With dark red juice, and thought it would appease my painful thirst.
It tasted sweet, as I recall; what else: I cannot say,
For promptly was I put to sleep, and much to my dismay,
On waking did I find myself in caverns deep and cold,
Fearing that again my sleep would end this story told.
I waited for a time, until at last I heard a noise -
There entered many people with both sure and regal poise.
In front of me they placed a bowl, filled full with something moist,
The sustenance was suspect, but it seemed I had no choice.
And my, was it delicious! Such succor I've not since tasted,
I ate it all, made sure that not a single drop was wasted.
And when I finished eating they did summon me away,
Through twists and turns of passages, towards the twilight day,
Through thick-strewn forests did we march, until at last we came,
To briefly pause for drinks as my guide asked me to explain:
"What brings you here? How came you by this secret land of ours?
No ship approached, no plane was seen by ever watchful towers.
What mode of transportation could have brought you to our soil,
When every entrance from the sea our watchmen would have spoiled?"
"Did you not read the sign?" another asked, "Or are you vain?
So arrogant to think that you alone avoid the pain,
That comes to us when we betray the rules upon the post?
Hoping to disprove them and then of your feat to boast?"
"I had no choice, it was a last resort" was what I said,
"I had to eat, appease my thirst, or I would soon be dead."
"You did not take the eighteen steps that would yourself have saved,
Your lack of trust disturbs us, though it seems you are enslaved,
To all the same absurdities that others have become,
submissive to." And just at that he poured two cups of rum.
"Drink this" he said, and passed one cup to me, and raised his high,
"To freedom!" with a flourish said, and tipped his glass to mine.
What was this talk of freedom, and of slavery he spoke?
Did this land also suffer under some oppressor's yoke?
No sooner than these thoughts had filtered through my furrowed brows,
Did he explain the flaws with which my folk had been endowed.
"You foreigners are all the same - unanimous you suffer,
'Tis why between ourselves and you we keep substantial buffer.
Suspicious are the best of you, and paranoid the worst,
Our island may be treacherous, but it's your kind that's cursed.
In every age there's been a sage that's come here from your land,
And sought to change our customs with deceitful slight of hand."
He tilted back his head and with a gulp he downed his drink,
"Now come with me" he motioned, "And I'll tell you what I think:
We shall consult the king tonight, and you can plead your case,
You may take refuge here or be expelled with great disgrace.
The king, in all his wisdom, will evaluate your plight,
And if you stay or go we shall decide this very night."
They led me to a golden throne amidst a bamboo patch,
The empty seat sat all alone, while on a mat of thatch,
What seemed a lowly servant posed in utter concentration,
Alternately standing tall, and bowing in prostration.
He greeted me with gentle calm, and bid me speak my part,
As he took seat upon the ground and gestured me to start.
At this I took a pause as I debated to myself,
To tell the truth or leave that crazy tale upon the shelf.
At end I came to take the moral high road, and relay,
With truth and utter honesty the hardships of my way.
And so, at length, I narrated my tale of woe and trial,
Expecting soon to see a look of skeptical denial.
But no such disapproval did I meet with, but instead,
A robust laugh, and knowing eyes, and playful nodding head.
"We know this great pretender that you speak of, and we deign,
To sympathize with your great tale, for while I've had this reign,
"No less than half a dozen weary travelers have I met,
Who've stared into the same great eyes, who've told that tale with fret.
Your ignorance we'll overlook, but one thing we do ask,
That you attempt a favour - will you try a daunting task?
A magic haunts our island and it claims our people's breath,
For every night the sun goes down and darkness turns to death.
Black is white as day is night, and all that's living dies,
Far is near, obscure is clear, and truth is naught but lies.
The sun goes down, and all turns round, from good to bad and worse,
If caught outside you cannot hide from this - our awful curse.
No one can sleep in night's black cloak, though many fools have tried,
And each has never 'gain awoke, for each has always died.
This curse befell us long ago; we do not know its source,
And yet its power haunts us with an ever growing force.
If you could seek an answer we would make you rich with gold,
Or silver, copper, land or jewels, or clothing new and old.
What say you to this one request? Though duty does not bind,
We do beseech your help so that this answer we may find."
His words I barely heard because his eyes they teared and wept,
And of themselves convinced me that this quest I should accept.
And so the second section of my story comes to pass,
And soon these words will be the third, and second one to last.
Ugh. I accidentally hit the "time set" button when my alarm went off. I like to give myself at least a good hour to wake up, but I look over, and my clock says I overslept an hour. I bolt out of bed, run downstairs, see a clock saying 6, and realize I've gotten my own goat. Dangit.
Groggy still, but what else? I had a weird dream t'other day. I dreamt Stephen Colbert had a fatal heart attack and it was deeply, personally significant to me. I got to go the funeral and everything. My sister was crying, but I had to shoulder the grief all by myself and be strong for the sake of the widow Colbert and her children. Not the kind of dream I'd want to have angain, mind you.
Also, I saw Spike Lee's Be a Man the other day. It's powerful stuff. Check out the imdb messageboards if you don't believe me. That's some contentious messaging right there.
Alright, I guess I have more being awake to do now. Fuck, it's early.
As most of you probably know Robert Norman Smith, the actor who portrayed a belligerent Scot (is there any other kind) in TV ads for Alexander Keith's beer, has been charged with possession of child porn.
I think I speak on behalf of the Goin' Ape crew when I say this is a tragedy that tarnishes the good name of one of our favourite beers (even if it is now owned by Labatt). In an effort to help Keith's recover from this ugly association I propose a contest to come up with a new slogan. To get the ball rolling here are mine:
"ALEXANDER KEITH'S: BEER OF CHOICE FOR 5 OUT OF 6 MEMBERS OF THE JUNIOR GIRLS FIELD HOCKEY TEAM"
"CHILD PORN: THOSE WHO LIKE IT, LIKE IT A LOT"
This weekend the family and I went down to Windsor to see my grandmother, it was her 78th birthday. I drove part of the way home. I hate driving with my dad because he is like a broken record telling me to maintain my speed at 110 Km/h. Whatever, I'm willing to humour him. What's the point of building vehicles that are capable of going 200 Km/h if the speed limit is 100? Why don't the manufactures just put speed regulators on all vehicles capping them at 100? Capping all vehicles at 100 would take away the testosterone-fueled temptation to exceed the speed limit. Either that or the government should deregulate the 400 series highways like the German autobauns.
Something about driving across SW Ontario made me yearn for a wilderness adventure. In want to canoe, drive, hitchhike, cycle or walk somewhere exciting and out of the city. Fuck, I'd be down for winter camping if we had more time to plan.