Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This Pastor's Smackdown on Donald Trump Will Leave You Wanting More

I got sick of Google image searching "Donald Trump" so here's a flower instead.

Donald Trump is such a big deal that I've posted about him on about 50% of my posts thus far during my month-long blogging challenge. Well, yesterday I had the chance to ask my pastor about his views on the Trump phenomenon. I thought they were good enough to share with you (I blogged about geese of course so... most things are good enough to share with you).

So Arielle and I were having coffee with our pastor and had been enjoying our time. Towards the end of our visit I decided to ask him what he made of the squirrely-haired businessman / reality TV star's presidential campaign. I threw it out there to see if had anything notable to say.

Well... his tone changed a bit. We had been having a good humored and thoughtful talk about relationships. Now his words became quite earnest... with a gravity that acknowledged that something important was going on.

He started telling us how he used to operate a trap line up north (I had no idea my pastor used to do this, though I knew he had a diverse background involving construction and related things). He said how that was a very difficult time in his life and certain things stuck with him more than most.

One of those things was how an animal, caught in a trap, would gnaw off one of it's own limbs to save what is vital. That's pretty grim and he saw it often. And the idea of an animal sacrificing one of it's own limbs stuck with him.

That, he said, is what he thinks about when he sees Trump and the many supporters that he has won: a group that feels itself to be in such desperate circumstances that they are willing to amputate something dear in order to save that which is indispensable. Their leg is caught in a trap and they're willing to gnaw it off. He elaborated, explaining that, to him, Americans had been fed a particular idea of "greatness" for so long, and that when that idea of "greatness" is put under threat many are willing to cast aside other values in order to protect it.

I've been thinking about this metaphor since. What is this idea of "greatness" they have been fed? It seems to me it is based on things like wealth, security (through strength), and national or personal pride. Strength. Might. Power. If this is what "greatness" is it's okay to sacrifice other values, such as temperance, respect, protecting the weak (or at least not targeting them), and communal good.

Now, you don't have to follow U.S. politics very closely to know that Trump supporters are far from the only ones making sacrifices on some of these values - people on all sides of the political spectrum are guilty to some extent. Trump just represents the vanguard, loudly promoting things like racial profiling, violent attitudes, and just simply acting like a school yard bully, collecting a group of followers who seem particularly desperate and willing to make radical change - whatever the direction. But... like Chris Hedges says,

"Trump is not making a political revolution. He is responding to one."

I suppose in the end, if you really believe in the metaphor you could argue that gnawing off a leg to free yourself from a trap is the better of two terrible options. Then, if that's true, it's also really crappy to consider how things got this bad in the first place. And there is plenty of blame to go around on that one.

This didn't turn out to be much of a smackdown. I'll continue my thoughts on this tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Best of Twitter, Wednesday March 9th

Okay, it's time for one of these again. I love Twitter so darn much. We'll start with baseball, move to politics, then a little freestyle content to keep you on your toes. This is, once again, a carefully vetted collection of top tweets that I have found over hours and hours of searching.... so be grateful!

Without further ado, I bid you adieu. Enjoy!



The rest:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Kids are going to be... so much better than us

It's true. Kids are going to be better than us. And it's because of the movies they'll watch.

Obviously someone who actually has a kid or two will be able to speak on this with more authority than I can, but I just saw the new Disney animated movie Zootopia and it was incredible. Big themes in the movie were risk-taking, following your dreams, be open-minded, hard work helps you accomplish your goals, stereotyping is unfair, and picking on minority groups is wrong. Also it was super funny.

Another kids movie I saw recently was Inside Out. I can't imagine a better movie for teaching about emotions and mental health, how they related to our memories and who we are. Heavy stuff it would be seem but it's actually super fun, too. I mean, it's not that only kids should watch it. Every adult should watch that movie. An ongoing theme in this is that all our emotions are good in their time and our task is to seek a proper balance and not let any one emotion (anger, fear, happiness) dominate our lives. Amazing movie.

Go watch these movies and tell me you're not kind of hopeful for future generations. Movies like these must be a godsend to parents who want their kids to be exposed to some complicated topics in such an easy and helpful way. Compare this to the Disney movies we watched when we were kids. Far more "girls are pretty, men go on the adventure, rescue the girls", etc with very simple good versus evil themes. These new movies are not like that at all.

So it's really cool to see these types of movies being made. I definitely recommend going to see them. And hopefully they help the next generation to be a little bit more accepting, open-minded, a little less susceptible to fear, etc. Oh yeah - Zootopia's theme song is Shakira singing "Try Everything". Swooning for that message over here!

....And hopefully the good work of these movies is not utterly destroyed by whatever ungodly filth they put into the next Grand Theft Auto game. Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 7, 2016


It seems obvious that following posts on political scandals and an underachieving NHL hockey team the next topic should be...

Migratory birds.

Canada Geese have begun to arrive back in Winnipeg, with approximately 100 already observed at Oak Hammock Marsh. This is an unusually early return. The only earlier geese sighting on record was in 1994. Global warming aside... how 'bout 'dem geese?

Where did they come from? Geese are returning from the Southern United States and Northern Mexico, ie the blue area in the map below:

Why did they come here? The southern climates are not as amazing as they seem. There's not that much food - especially when you consider how many year-round competitors live in those environments - and there's more predators and parasites. They came here because there's a lot of food and there are fewer predators. Basically: Winnipeg's a great place to raise a family and there are jobs. Apparently it's worth the effort of flying a couple thousand kilometers.

Why did they come early? Early bird gets the worm, man. If you're a goose, you're after a few key things: an awesome nest, lots of delicious grass, seaweed, or perhaps garbage to eat, and to avoid predators and to have your kids (called gosselings) survive. But basically all these things come down to how good your nest is. It's got to be close to food and hidden from predators. Predators include: foxes, raccoons,  and crows.

How did migration start? This question is a little trippy one for me, since it's the opposite of how I always assumed.  As a friend was explaining to me earlier today, these birds trace their genetic lineage to birds in the Southern climates. This means they didn't start migrating to avoid winter, per se, but to take advantage of opportunities in the North during summer, as southern-origin birds. If you want something really trippy just look up how they know when to leave and how to navigate back to the same spots, year after year.

Fun fact: Geese are monogamous. That's right, they don't fuck around.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Whores, bitches, and fucking, Part 2 of 2

A few days ago wrote a post about a provincial MLA candidate who found himself in hot water for saying some nasty words (yes, the ones in the title) five years ago and I'm here now to wrap up some loose ends. Or, short of that, at least leave you with some helpful questions to ask the next time something like this happens.

First off, an update: the candidate and Manitoba Liberal, Jamie Hall, resigned the next day after this news hit the media. Manitoba Liberal leader Rana Bokhari was "sick" over the offensive tweets and her party has now cut all ties with the former candidate.

Meanwhile NDP candidate Wab Kinew, who also thought it was fine in the past to say derogatory things about women and gay people (wait even Jamie Hall didn't say homophobic stuff) is receiving less severe treatment. Aside: actually check out that last link. I think it will be tough to find a more lenient article: in an article where most people would not even be aware that an NDP candidate said homophobic things in the past, the title is how Kinew has been "forgiven" - by a fellow NDP candidate, Hall, about whom the post isn't really about, has his offensive tweets posted in the article, while Kinew's Facebook adpology is included at the end.

But okay... back to reality. I simply feel a little angry that one candidate had dirty laundry aired and had to resign while the other has emerged largely unscathed. That's fine. Let's move on.

My closing thoughts are:

1. Pragmatically, there is something to be said for being skilled at politics. Kinew made a bet that that his dumb shit from five years ago wouldn't be accepted by either people or the media. Jamie Hall made a bet that politics had changed enough that not being "disingenuous" (ie not deleting tweets, etc) would be accepted. Hall appears naive, Kinew diligent.

2. I'd like us to move toward asking questions like, "How did you surround yourself good feedback and criticism with your social media, y'know, so you don't say actually dumb shit that hurts people?", or, "How did you respond when you realize you made a mistake? Why?" These questions seem more telling to me as far as how well a person will fare in public office.

3. I don't know much about Wab Kinew. I really should stress this. Although I feel some indignation in this I genuinely hope that his life is a story of redemption and that he can continue his growth as a positive leader in our community, whether he successfully torpedoes Rana Bokhari or not (uh... not a euphemism). Since, he's thrown his weight behind MMIW which is a pretty admirable thing. In an environment where we don't focus on questions like the ones I proposed in the previous thought I hope he feels some measure of gratitude and humility that he is by and large receiving grace from a not-always forgiving society.

4. Man... politics seems like a tough job. Why do people choose to subject themselves, and often their families, to... us?

5. This reminds me: I was kind of a dick to Lorrie Steeves during the last Winnipeg mayoral race. She had said some unflattering things on Facebook about homeless people in Winnipeg which is shitty... but it was also years earlier. Somebody screen-grabbed it for future use, knowing her husband was in politics. I mean, it's not exactly heroic to destroy someone's racist Facebook post from five years ago.

PS: The day he resigned, Hall did a radio interview with CBC Manitoba where he discussed the scandal. It's only fourteen minutes long and he comes across as quite thoughtful and candid. I've embedded it below:

PPS: I'm not immune either. Here's one tweet that will probably one day be used against me:

Friday, March 4, 2016

Some (ethnic) food for thought (on racism)

My girlfriend and I went out to the movies tonight (Deadpool. Gotta see it. Unique and hilarious even if too violent.) but the part that really got me thinking was from one of the trailers. Actually it riled me up and my "this sounds like horseshit" alarm started going off in my head.

Let's watch and see what I'm overreacting to:

Okay. Is anyone else finding themselves more sensitive to xenophobia and terrorist fear-mongering - sorry: Islamic terrorist fear-mongering?  The bad guy is named Aamir Barkawi, he's got a lot of other co-conspirators from "that part of the world". One character from the movie's Wikipedia page describes him as "the youngest of three brothers whose life has been forever changed after a drone strike". The trailer shows massive, coordinated terrorist attacks within a Western City that would leave a huge chunk of the city essentially helpless. The terrorists desire to capture the U.S. President so they can kill him slowly on television for propaganda value.

Sounds a little like the creator of the film may have been inspired by ISIS and some other people from the Middle East. And really, so what? People have been making movies, shows, stories, with the 'bad guys' du jour and that's just the way it goes.

But.... to make a film that seems to push so many of our real life fear buttons at a time when nations' doors are being shut to refugees and American presidential candidates are talking about mass deportations of Muslims - well, it just seems shitty to me. We've all lambasted Donald Trump for giving a voice to the racists, for legitimizing their xenophobic fears but what about people who make movies like this? Like, isn't this like making a horror movie set in the U.S. South in the 1960's about little black women on the bus who turn out to be horrible leprous zombies or something? Probably not as captivating a movie idea.... but it probably wouldn't have helped Rosa Parks much.

I know this could begin to touch on ideas of film censorship and I'm not advocating anything remotely like that. It's not crazy to make a movie like this. Islamic terrorists probably would love to blow shit up in London and kill the President if they could. And lots of people down to spend $10 on a movie ticket want to see a movie like this. It's not crazy it's just shitty.

The question I'm left with is if Donald Trump is scumbag and a racist how do we view people who make xenophobic movies like this one? I'd guess that movies like this

Something to think about anyway.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Three little pleasures

I've had a very busy day and have found it difficult to sit next to a computer to write a post. I won't be finishing off part two of my blog about political scandals until tomorrow. In the meantime thought I would simply write a few words about a few little simple pleasures that I've come to appreciate. Enjoy!

1. Singing

One of the best things we can do for our soul, body, and mind is to sing, and probably sing with other people in particular. I'm lucky enough to be a part of a men's choir with many friends (that is also beginner-friendly, thankfully). We practice once a week and man does it feel like I've "hit the reset button" after every practice. I feel in a better mood... more confident and intelligent. It's really quite good.

2. Sleep

When life is busy and it's hard to get enough sleep.... it's just a pretty great thing and you know it when you don't have it. I always try to get 8 hours of sleep but I've heard up to 10 hours can be ideal. You know what doesn't help us sleep though? Our stinkin' smart phones. Those screens keep us up and rob us of precious sleep all so we can read one more article on Gawker.

3. Prayer

There's probably 10 misconceptions about prayer for every good idea about it, but I'm still solidly in the camp that. Just today I was with someone who was facing a difficult situation. We talked about it at length and... it was just a tricky situation. We decided to pray about it and... okay it's not that prayer is about getting answers or miracles, What prayer is good for is opening ourselves to connection with the world around us and, certainly (in my books), to God. It's almost like you are reminding yourself that the world is actually a little different than the things we focus on in the day to day. It's like it helps your vision, seeing problems with better imagination or seeing opportunity and love where you maybe couldn't see it before. A very good thing to do, in my opinion!

So there you have it. Three simple things that make life just a little meaningful. Til tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Whores, bitches, and fucking, Part 1 of 2

Whores. Bitches. Fucking... Without those words you just couldn't talk about about the Manitoba provincial election today.

Well... you could have. But it would have taken some effort.

For you see today a candidate for the Manitoba Liberal Party, Jamie Hall, had some old sexist tweets sent to the media and he responded to them. Want the details? Want more drama in your life? Want to have a slightly better understanding of what I'm blogging about? Then take a look below, and better yet actually read the article that has more details.

Twitter's great for having things taken out of context but from what the CBC article dug up it there's some fishy stuff there. I mean, those tweets above are awful. Like even the comedy part is awful let alone the needless "whore" references". The book seems weird to me, too, but then again.... I haven't read it. I'm not going to go into further detail on this since I just don't know the details but Hall appeared before reporters today and faced some tough questions. Watch:

Meanwhile, NDP's star candidate Wab Kinew's own use of sexist language drew attention as the Liberals pointed out that the pot was calling the kettle black. Apparently, while he was a rapper, around the same time as Hall's tweets, he called women "bitches" and "whores". This was when he was 30 and an admin at the U of W.

But that of course is different than Hall's tweets because.... well because Kinew changed his ways and started speaking up about MMIW and wrote down his apology in a book that he wrote before he started trying to be a politician. Well, either that or he knew it was going to be a problem and would-be politicians need to get image manicures every so often. I'm going to embed a bunch of tweets (there's like twenty) below because I think it raises some good points. The tweeter is conservative but if you comment on this please deal with the arguments not personal attacks.

I have more thoughts on this and want to do it justice in wrapping it up so I'll finish this up tomorrow. Til then, thank you for reading (and possibly getting pissed off, since this is a contentious topic).

And one more thing (on Trump)

He's starting to transition from someone campaigning ultra right in the primaries to someone who has an interest in winning the general election. The good news is it gives credence to the idea that he's not as stupid and racist as he's shown while appealing to Republican primary voters. The bad news is that he's a political chameleon more than willing to do those things, an establishment outsider, and up against Hillary Clinton who may be in for a hell of a fight against Trump.

"Anyone but Trump".... "Never Trump"... "Make Trump Drumpf again" (ugh....) and still he wins. Those campaigns probably help him in a way. The plot thickens.