Sunday, November 30, 2008

‘Ti$ The $eason

Well, time again for that most conflicted of holiday seasons – Christmas. Kids love it, parents dread it and retailers can't wait for it. Not only do we have to worry about finding that perfect gift for a loved one, now we put our lives on the line doing it.

This past Friday was what is called in the U.S. 'Black Friday'. Rather a dark name for the first day of the big holiday sales. Shoppers rush like lemmings to the abyss of the retail giants looking for deals. My question is "Are those deals worth a life?" I know my answer to this but apparently others do not feel the same. In one case on Friday an employee of a major retailer was trampled to death when he opened the doors and the waiting crowd rushed into the store. In a separate incident two men shot one another in an argument in a toy store. Both men later died. "What could possibly be worth this?"

Now, I like a sale as much as the next guy. If I can get something for half of what it might have cost a month ago, bring it on! Am I willing to step on someone or shoot them to get that deal? Nope. The fact that someone dies just because of a sale is just plain sad. Obviously our consumer society has gone too far. One thing is for sure – At least three families have a new understanding of the phrase "Deal of a Lifetime".

Friday, November 21, 2008

No News Is Good News

It's official. There is no longer enough news to report. "Wait", you say, "what about Iraq, and Darfur? What about the environmental stories and the economic news?" Oh, yes, I agree. All news stories, and all deserving to be reported on. Lots of news and lots to say. There are plenty of places to get that news. But what about the 'news-ertainment' that seems to be an ever growing section of the airwaves? Just off the top of my head I can think of at least 5 entertainment 'news' shows on television and I don't watch a lot of television.

Who is she dating this week? What will he do when his wife finds out about his secret life? What bubbly bimbo starlet went where without their underpants? Come on! Does anyone really care? Why does the dominating aspect of this garbage have to be smut? What happened to the days when you watched these shows to see behind the scenes footage of a new movie or TV show? To hear an in-depth interview with an actor about the role or storyline. To me, that makes more interesting viewing than seeing footage of some overpaid under-brained celebrity being arrested for being dumb.

So what if the latest big star grows his vegetables in some kind of hydro-mechano-flouro-soup can? Can he act? Is her next movie going to be worth going to or should I wait for the DVD? Provide us with something useful! Heaven knows with the amount of money spent in North America each year on entertainment, there must be something worth reporting on. If there isn't, then stop talking and let those of us looking for something better find it and let the rest sink with the rest of the sludge.

When it comes to this kind of garbage 'news-ertainment'… No news really is good news.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Garbage In, Garbage In

I went for a walk today. While not the warmest of days, it seemed like the thing to do. The kids were off to school and my wife at work, so I decided to spend some time walking. Near my home is a trail which, although in the middle of the city, provides a peaceful way to spend a half an hour. As the trail moves farther into the woods, the noise of the city diminishes. Traffic noise lessens as the creaking of the trees in the wind increases. The water in the stream adds its gentle note to the music of nature and the calls of the Chick-a-dees and Grey Jays punctuate the morning. The tinkle of the new ice along the stream makes an interesting addition to the sounds of the woods around me. The weak sunlight filters through the bare limbs of the hardwoods and the needles of the evergreens.

All in all a beautiful morning for a walk. Then I see it. Winking in the sunlight like a diamond. As I walk closer I begin to see more clearly what it is. A foil potato chip bag partially covered by leaves. As I look around, I see a plastic bag caught in the branches of a tree. A coffee cup in the bushes. Cigarette butts in the weeds along the trail. Although I am far enough away from civilization to ignore it, I am not far enough removed to forget about my more unenlightened brethren. What is it about people that they cannot seem to go somewhere and not leave remnants of themselves behind?

Now it seems even when we travel off world we take the worst of ourselves along. Just the other day, the crew of the space shuttle lost a bag of tools while working outside the International Space Station. The bag, which was not tethered, just floated away… Now part of the estimated hundreds of millions of pieces of space trash in orbit. Pieces of garbage ranging from the size of paint chips to old satellites the size of trucks. So what do we do? Do we come up with a plan to clean up the junk floating in orbit? Nope. NASA has established a surveillance network to track the stuff in orbit so that it does not interfere with space operations.

Forget about SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) finding proof of other life in the galaxy. I think that the first sign of other worldly life we find will be their garbage floating in near Earth orbit. If we treat our own planet and near space like a garbage dump, why shouldn't they?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where Have All The Soldiers Gone?

We in Canada are approaching a seminal event. Within the next few years we will witness the passing of the last Canadian Soldier who took part in The Great War. A chapter will end and a book will close. Between 1914 and 1918, Canada produced an army. More than 590,000 answered the call of King and Country to serve. Some joined up for adventure, others for patriotism, some for regular pay, others simply to escape the life they were living. All of them would pay a price.

They sacrificed their comfort, their safety -- their lives for something bigger. Of the 590,000 recruits more than 325,000 saw service overseas. 68,000 would never return home. After the war, those who survived came back to the lives they left behind. Some of course, were able pick up where they had left off and continue on, they had lost friends and family, but for some reason they were able to deal with what they had seen and done. Others had lost limbs or their sight and could not return so easily to what they had known. Still others, the 'shell shocked' would never be the same. These men would fight the war for the rest of their lives.

It is hard for us to imagine what these men went through. What they must have felt during four of the most devastating years the world had ever seen. What they must have had to do.

In my own family three men answered the call. William Earl MacDonald joined the 132nd North Shore Regiment. When he got to England he took a voluntary reduction in rank to private so he could get to the front sooner. He fought with the 87th Grenadier Guards at Vimy Ridge, was exposed to gas near Lens, France and was near Mons, Belgium when the Armistice was signed. He was one of the lucky ones who returned home in 1919.

Willard John MacDonald enlisted on the same day as his cousin Earl. He too joined the 132nd NSR. When he got to England he was transferred to the 42nd Royal Canadian Highlanders. He was 20 years old when he fought at Vimy Ridge. He died there.

Charles Deveber Trevors enlisted in the 2nd New Brunswick Forestry Battalion. He transferred to the 44th Battalion Canadian Infantry and saw action in France. He was killed on September 27, 1918. Just over 6 weeks before the end of the war. His mother waited until the day she died for him to return from the war.

So to Earl, Willard, Charles and so many others – Thank you. Your lives, your sacrifice, your memory will not be forgotten.

'…and at the going down of the sun,… We Will Remember Them."