Monday, September 29, 2003
To Austin

You have shamed our family, I hereby banish you from ever posting on this website...
YOUNG MAN, YOU'RE GROUNDED!!!!

[Interestingly enough, the conversation that this resulted from was one wherein the discussion centered around 'Canadian-ness'. Oh, and Laurie? Please try to use correct spelling and grammar when posting here. Thanks! - Ed.]

This Clinches It

You want to talk about the media, and their influence? Well, first let's go here (thanks to Tim Blair's blog for the tip):

Media Watch | ABC Baghdad: Kids and bombs

For those of you who'd rather not read the whole thing (though I think you should, it's stunning), here's the gist:

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Gina Wilkinson (wife to UNICEF media officer Geoff Keele) is in Iraq reporting on unexploded munitions left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army. Being a TV news reporter, her job requires her to tape a certain amount of footage for use in her stories. Here she is in action (comments from MediaWatch, an analysis group for Australian media).

[W]hat concerns Media Watch is how this story was made. We've been given a copy of Gina Wilkinson's unedited camera tapes.

Here's what we saw on the news:
The missiles are filled with volatile rocket fuel and two hundred kilograms of high explosives. Locals fear their children could be injured or their homes destroyed by these deadly weapons.
- ABC TV News, 19 August 2003

But why were those children standing on the missile launcher? So Gina could film them. Here's what the camera tapes reveal.

- You want to show the children on there?
Gina Wilkinson: Yeah, that would be good. Yeah, if they don't mind.
- (trans) You want them to stand over there to be filmed?
- (trans) Come on sweetie. What's her name?
- Noona
- (trans) I'm worried about them.
- Sit. Sit on this.
- (trans) I'm worried about them.
- (trans) Sit on the edge.
Gina Wilkinson: Please God, don't let this thing explode now.
- ABC camera tape
.................................................

The whole point of the story was the danger these missiles pose to children. So why was Gina Wilkinson asking the kids to do this?
Gina Wilkinson: Mr Saadi?
- Yes.
Gina Wilkinson: Can we get these two kids to walk around underneath the missile?
Just around it?
- Mohammad. Mohammad.
Gina Wilkinson: And this one?
- (trans) Come here. Go up there. Go with him. Casually, casually. Walk behind him. Go with him.
- ABC camera tape

Gina wasn't satisfied with the first take, so after re-positioning the camera slightly -
Gina Wilkinson: Mr Saadi, could you ask them to do that one more time for me?
- (trans): This time in reverse?
- (trans): No no no.
Gina Wilkinson: Excellent.
- ABC camera tape

I realize this is not every reporter out there. I realize that most have what is referred to as 'commen decency' and 'common sense.' But dear God! Taking this with New York Times Consultant John F. Burns' latest revelation, I can not help but conclude that while the media business would like to portray itself as 'better' or 'above' other businesses, they are staffed by people just as corrupt as those they try to expose. The hypocrisy is nauseating.

I'm feeling a bit sick to my stomach at the moment, so if you'll excuse me, I'll end my post here.
The Real Canada

I admit, I'm not having a great day so far. My favorite class (Canadian Literature, of all things) had a bit of an 'America bashing' party this morning (not by the prof, but by two of the students, one of whom was certainly not of 'student age'). In his defense, the professor (for whom I have a great deal more respect now) tried to steer the comments away from 'America is bad, Canada is good,' but he was largely unsuccessful.

As to my own responses, I stiffened in my chair, and checked my tongue. I had a million and one witty, devastating rejoinders tucked away in my mind, ready to singe the hair off of these two women's heads, but I didn't. Why? Because I came to the realization that I was seeing Canadians in a way I wouldn't be able to, if I let it be known that I was American. I can get angry, I can corral it all inside, and let it fly on the web; but inside that classroom, I'm seeing the real 'Canadian University.'

So, for now, I'll relegate my comments to the blog. If it gets really bad (and now I know for whom to watch), I'll try and deflate them with a little well-placed observation, but my Americanism is going to remain hidden as long as possible. I'm undercover!

Monday, September 22, 2003
Odd

I think it's really odd that my blog was published four times.

[Yes. Yes it was. Just quit pushing the stupid button! -- Ed.]

The Theory of Relatively Bad Thinking

"It feels like my stomach is eating itself," the question that has eaten away at humankind for the last 2.5 centuries is, with the help of modern science, able to be proven true.

Tests suggest that after landing on the moon, astronauts "Buzz" Aldrin and the-guy-who-is-not-"Buzz" (Lance Armstrong or something to that effect) returned with alien germ-like organisms embedded into their space suits. These organisms then burrowed painlessly into the two astronauts’ skin, and began the infamous symbiosis known by all today. This organism is called Stom-Ache: "Stom" from the Stom crater on the moon (where the germ came from), and "Ache" from the ache that the crater caused in the moon. This name is shortened to "stomach". Before the moon landing, earthlings survived by the "earthworm way" meaning that they put random objects into their mouths in hopes that the correct nutrients would be absorbed before the quick excretion of that object. The Stomachs in the two astronauts grew rapidly, and began reproducing to form a symbiotic relationship with all Mankind.

A symbiotic relationship can be defined as: "A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but do not necessarily, benefit each member." In this case both members benefit. The stomach has greatly helped humans function by allowing them to eat every now and then, and still survive the day. A great many things have come about because of the newfound relationship, but to invest the time in recalling every benefit would be ridiculous.

Needless to say, humans benefit the most from the symbiosis, but what of the Stomach? Before the relationship, the Stomach did not have a host to grow, reproduce in, and feed off of—a base of operations. The Stomach is of course thankful that it can live out it’s existence in a host. Therefore the two members of the symbiosis benefit.

On to proving the statement. The Stomach does not only digest the food that humans eat, but also it releases special enzymes which enhance the saliva produced by the human host to improve in the pre-digestion of the food. Every time a human eats, drinks, or even swallows, he swallows some of his own saliva. The enzymes are always present in the saliva, and go down to the Stomach. Therefore when a human swallows, the Stomach is eating itself.

The statement "It feels like my stomach is eating itself," is inarguably true, and in some cases even more true (ulcers etc.).

Sorry

So what was that? evan is apart of the site now?????????
From now on you should end your thingy saying
eg.
-Austin
so sign your name from now on
-Laurie

The 'Right' To Shield Dictators?

I've got a new post coming, though it's taking a little time to organize my thoughts. With luck, my brain will soon figure itself out and the blog will be up this afternoon (certainly by Tuesday afternoon). In the meantime, go check out this phenomenal article by Steven Den Beste.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
I Know, I Know...

Hey everyone!

Yeah, I know, I haven't posted anything in two days. I'm a mean, horrible person. Well, Tuesday saw the introduction of my brother Evan as a blogger, and assuming he gets around to posting anything, you won't be missing me - I promise you that. As for Wednesday, I wasn't in the house all day - left for class at 8:30am and returned at 10:30ish pm. A very full day, to be sure - it included class in the morning, followed by lunch, a Celtic Champions League game (won in the last 20 minutes by Bayern Munich 2-1), an intramural soccer game (scouting opponents for Victoria College's team), a trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, a late dinner at Cafe Crepe, and a visit to a friend of a friend's house. Whew!

So yeah, I've been busy of late. Things are going very well (recent Hamiltonian events aside). I've been settling into my new place, getting to know my new housemates a lot better (true, they were my friends before, but you don't really 'know' someone until you share confined spaces with them [grin]), getting to know THEIR friends, and just generally expanding my social life. That's something I've needed up here for a few years now, and, of course, with my perfect sense of timing, it's taken me three years to start working on it - right before a possible move to another continent. I'm just insane, I guess. [big grin]

I don't have anything really thoughtful (that Conspiracy Theory post and its follow-up really scratched my 'idea' itch for a few days), but that will probably change soon. Something's bound to upset me sooner or later! [wink]

I'll try and write again later this afternoon, but I can't promise anything; I suppose I shouldn't be disappointed that I don't have a lot to 'blog' about - when things go well, complaints are infrequent.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Here I am

Ahh, I can post now.
I don't have anything to say right now, but eventually in the everpresent future I'll have something.

Monday, September 15, 2003
Conspiracy Theories, Redux [UPDATED]

As I was sitting in class this evening - more precisely, as I was waiting for the professor to show up (which he did, five minutes late) - I realized that my argument against passive acceptance of conspiracy theories left out an important third reason why Westerners seem so eager, in spite of the freedom they are so privileged to have, to buy into the fact that there are widespread efforts within their own government bodies to subvert their (the citizens') every move. It's rather simple, and it actually occurred to me (I noted it for later use) while I was writing the first piece, but I promptly forgot about it as I was typing. Never fear, however, for here is the third reason:

Political maneuvering. It's related to the idea (as they all are) of blaming someone else for your own problems. This one is more vicious, though. Instead of merely believing that people are out to get you (paranoia in the extreme), this one goes on the offensive, and concocts crazy scenarios that portray one's enemies in the worst possible light, assuming they are true. This is precisely the kind of argument the 'inside job' 9/11 theory attempts.

Someone is disappointed, frustrated, angry, or whatever, about the Bush administration's post-9/11 popularity, so (possibly subconsciously, though that's very hard to envision) they try to cast the White House in the most horrible of scenarios - that of killing a huge number of their own citizens - in the hopes that an investigation will be started, and will uncover the (supposedly) terrible secrets lying underneath the worst act of US domestic terrorism in history. Or perhaps (and this is a more plausible scenario, for the fabricator knows that the end result of an inquiry will be his or her own exposure as a fraud) the perpetuator of the vicious and deadly rumor desires not an investigation, but merely to plant seeds of discord in the hearts of those who would normally (and rightly) give their support to the President in his efforts to defeat world terrorism. After all, no one wants to be aligned with a murderer. (Well, okay, MAYBE, but only if that murderer is Saddam Hussein).

Again, though, just like the first two reasons (not having experienced life without absolute corruption, and desiring to blame some mystical entity known as 'they' for your own difficulties), at the core of this motivation for crafting a Conspiracy Theory is deceit, self- or otherwise.

UPDATE
debi corresponds
Hitler used a tactic to deceive people called The Big Lie. If you tell an outrageous lie often enough and convincingly enough (not with logic and facts, but with emotion) thinking people will believe it. And it worked. The same principle applies to CT.
Conspiracy Theories

I suppose you could consider this an expansion on the earlier "Musings" post that I wrote a few days ago, and it does fit in that same genre of 'thoughts on a subject;' but this morning's post wasn't brought up by a walk through the park after a religion class. This is a subject that has kept my insides all churned up for about 24 hours now, because of the way it introduced itself.

A 'friend' of mine accused me of murder yesterday; or at least, of being complicit in the execution of more than 3,000 people. And this 'friend' accused not only me, but my family as well. So you'll pardon me if I'm a little upset, and write in a somewhat harsh way (believe me, if I had written in the heat of yesterday, there wouldn't have been a single hair left on your body, dear reader). I'll try to remain rational, and thoughtful - as that's what will really drive my points home, rather than anger - but don't be surprised if a bit of rage seeps through.

With that out of the way, I'll begin. As I wrote a few days ago, human beings have a strange love/hate relationship with this thing known as 'the Truth' (with a capital 'T'). We both desire knowledge of it, and fear it at the same time. Evidence of this is readily available in everyday life, and part of that evidence is the existence of 'Conspiracy Theories.' (There was even a movie about it). The drive behind these 'theories' is the search for Truth - which, in this case, the government is hiding from us - a quest for all the secrets that have been supposedly hidden from our eyes. Unlike Hollywood, however, real life doesn't usually have a lot of 'conspirators' - not in the 'Conspiracy Theory' sense of the word, anyway.

The basic suggestion that was posed to me yesterday, in response to my earlier post about 9/11, was that the tragedy was really a result of an "inside job" - that the government, which I and my family helped vote into place (and are planning on reelecting), was more than a passive victim, that they actually encouraged and aided the terrorists on their journey of destruction. You'll pardon me while I take a breather.

I'm not going to address this specific theory here, as it's not worth the time I would spend debunking it (though Ockham's Razor is a good start), but I do feel it's important to explore why such theories arise, and why there are so many people around the world who readily accept them (yes, even outside North America). There are several such theories around, the most famous of which are probably the JFK assassination, and the Apollo Moon Landing (that last link is for you, Eric). There's even a "Conspiracy Theory conspiracy theory," though it's really more of a humorous attempt to communicate an important message.

So why do they exist? What is it about humanity that makes us so ready to believe these crackpot theories? Well, I've noticed that those people who have spent a lot of time suffering under corruption tend to view the world from that perspective. They have to, they have no other experience, and a human's outlook on life is, at its core, based on experience. This helps to explain the proliferation of conspiracy theories in the Middle East, say, where people have lived under repressive regimes for quite some time; but this explanation fails to account for people living in North America (specifically Canada and the United States) and Europe, who enjoy more freedom than anywhere else in the world and more than any other time in history (except, perhaps, for that period when we hadn't actually invented 'government' just yet).

Let me say that I don't believe the proliferation of Conspiracy Theorists (CTs) in North America is anywhere near as widespread as in places with little to no freedom. They do exist, though (I was faced with one yesterday - and, in all fairness, my 'friend' has spent a good portion of life underneath an oppressive regime, so perhaps the accusation is reflective of that), and lately they seem to be getting more plentiful. Everything from a 'cabal of Jews secretly running the British government' to a 'cabal of NeoConservatives pushing their agenda on the world' comes flying out of the woodwork nowadays, and from a variety of places.

I think, as I referenced earlier in this post, that it all boils down (in the free world, that is) to humanity's desire for the Truth, which has been perverted (as all things are, when allowed to run unchecked). We desire Truth so much that when we finally know all that we need to, when we finally realize that there are no 'hidden secrets of the evil government,' then we invent some, to satisfy our insatiable desire for 'Truth.' This, paradoxically, is almost saying that Truth should be hidden, purely for the sake of finding it. And, of course, if you've read my earlier posts, you know that I prefer to view every piece of Truth that reveals itself to be a good thing - so inventing hidden 'Truth' so we can 'find' it is a bad thing, because, at it's heart, it is the antithesis of Truth.

There's another reason, too, I think. We tend to believe, as selfish beings, that everything in this world is required to go our way. When it doesn't, it must reflect poorly either on us (ie. we haven't done things right) or on everyone else (ie. they are keeping us down). Never mind that this is a flawed view of the world - it doesn't really matter, because most every human, at their core, believes this (or constantly struggles against believing it). Of those two choices, the easier one to accept is the one that blames everyone else for our troubles. People get frustrated with the way things go - perhaps it's counter to your philosophical ideals, or your political agendas, or your religious doctrines, or your 'scientific' assumptions - and so, rather than do the hard thing (self-examination) we tend to invent conspiracy theories that comfort us, that let us continue to believe that we're not wrong, that we're not at fault.

Recently, this has become much more prevalent in the public eye. The Left-leaning politicos in the US, of late, have been crying 'conspiracy' since the Clinton era, just to pull a few stories from the headlines (anyone remember Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy"?). Now everything from an 'Iraqi war for oil' conspiracy to the 'Bush wants to bring back the Nazi Party' conspiracy is getting air time. People get frustrated, and rather than thinking they might be in the wrong, or might need to make adjustments, they blame others, and wind up stretching logic and rationality to the breaking point. The problem with this 'crying wolf,' is that when something real and tragic happens - out in daylight, without a hint of hidden conspiracy - people tend to ignore it. It isn't 'juicy' enough for them.

The trouble is, 'checking your mind at the door' when it comes to buying into conspiracy theorizing is intellectually dishonest, and ultimately divisive. It may very well have cost my 'friend' and I our friendship (it was pretty rocky, anyway). Are conspiracies possible? Certainly. Here, the CTs and I agree - I can't intellectually deny the possiblility of conspiracy, because I believe the depths of human depravity are vast, and unknown. Are they probable? Well, here I differ from most CTs:

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." -Hanlon's Razor
It's one thing to be informed, to have shaken off the naivete of early youth, and to understand that there is evil in the world. It's quite another to fall into complete and utter cynicism.

[See an addendum to this point here. -- Ed.]
Sunday, September 14, 2003
RE:

I am writing a story
for your information!
Darcia really likes it...I haven't written a lot but she told me to finish it so she could read the rest, she really likes it...or so she says.

Hello, Sis

I'm sorry that you're a little bored at the moment. I'm sure there's plenty for you to do around the house (not that you'd be really eager to go there, I'm sure [grin]). But, you know, if you're really bored, and aren't just avoiding some work that our parents are trying to get you to do, why don't you compose a short story, or a comment-style letter, or something, to post here. I'd really like to read what you think about some of the things that are going on.

And it doesn't have to be anything 'worldly' or 'political' (not that my posts really are), it can be about whatever you'd like. I really do want other people to post here, and I'd rather those posts be a bit more substantive than "I'm bored" or "When are you coming home?"

Hopefully, next time, you can come up with something that will blow us all away...or just give us something to think about. No matter how old you are, your thoughts are important. Let 'em out!

Saturday, September 13, 2003
Hi

I'm kinda bored Austin

Friday, September 12, 2003
Walking In Memphis

Last night I found myself in a cozy piano bar, with a few of my friends (including the people I live with), throwing out song requests to the phenomenally talented piano player. Things were really humming along, and then he asked for a request, and the unusually small crowd (it's normally packed, I'm told) fell silent for a second or two. So I tossed out Marc Cohn's "Walking In Memphis," and was subsequently blown away. The performance was great, the song was just like I remembered it, but there was something else there that just moved me into silence.

Now I didn't grow up in Memphis, or even Tennessee. I grew up in the heart of Texas, and in 1991 (when the song came out) I was just entering fifth grade. Not exactly old enough to fully comprehend the world, or even enjoy music for the various strains of subtle complexity that it holds (as opposed to what I enjoyed back then: the catchiness). So why did this song, which I only vaguely remembered from my childhood, provoke such silent reflection from me? Nostalgia. Not for the song, per se, but for the atmosphere, the surroundings that it conveyed to me.

I've been to Memphis a few times in my life, but never at a time when I had enough interest or patience to walk around exploring. Most times we just spent the night in a hotel on our way further north (or south), and when we did visit, I was too young to realize what I was missing by playing with my toys instead of experiencing the place (Mud Island's great, by the way, for little boys who like playing around with models).

So yeah, we've established that I have minimal involvement with Tennessee. But this song is about more than that, really. It's like the book I'm reading for Canadian Literature: Sunshine Sketches Of A Little Town. The author captures that sometimes ellusive 'universal' feeling about small towns. He even says it himself, in his opening chapter -

"I don't know whether you know Mariposa. If not, it is of no consequence, for if you know Canada at all, you are probably well acquainted with dozens of towns just like it."

I think Cohn's lyrics do the same thing that Stephen Leacock's prose does so well - they make you feel like you know the place. They are specific enough to definitely display the type of town the author means for you to think of, but general enough to transpose over any city that might remotely match the criteria.

And if nothing else, these lines fit right in-between Texas and Louisiana:

"They've got catfish on the table
They've got gospel in the air
And Reverend Green be glad to see you
When you haven't got a prayer"

So there I was, sitting in a warm, dim, cozy Toronto bar, sipping a Coke with lime, listening to a musician perform a song that perfectly captures not only the southern feeling, but accurately describes those emotions I've had so many times in my life. And there's nothing like finding a song (or, even better, a group) that can perfectly convey things inside your own mind that just can't escape in any other way.

I realize this all reads a little bit sentimentally, a tad sappy. But that's okay. That's the mood I'm in - and it's a great one.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
A Day Worth Remembering

I'm not exactly sure what to write this morning. I had a mind to just leave off blog-posting for the day. But as I sit here (my housemate offered me some of his breakfast, so I have a bit more time this AM) prepped for class, I keep thinking that I should write something. After all, the day did change the world. It's interesting, in my view, how many people I meet that try to insist that nothing's really changed, nothing's really different. I guess that comes from going to school in Canada, rather than the US. Of course, all the stuff I read about US university goings-on makes me wonder if it's really all that different an experience.

So what's changed? What's different? Well, on a large scale, the tyrannical regimes of two countries have been overthrown. The United States has moved into 'Pre-Emptive' mode. The U.N. seems on the verge of some sort of collapse or reform. World opinion has shifted on several issues (and on others, it has become more resolute). In the US, again from what I read, the 'opposition' (as they'd call them here in the Great White North) seems in a bit of a shambles - a dissarrayed scattering of widely ranged opinions among a group of more than 9 presidential hopefuls, and their constituents.

What about the small scale? What about individuals? Living in Canada, I can't really get a read on what the average US citizen is feeling, or doing, or thinking. I know that up here, the majority of people I meet (and granted, I'm in Southern Ontario - which is the political equivalent of New York or California) seems a little unfazed. A bit confused. A bit uninformed. Just like I was when the whole thing began. The anti-Americanism (though largely suppressed whenever I'm around) is nearly palpable around the campus. Even the American students I meet get agitated when they learn who I voted for last election, and who I'll probably vote for again next year. It's not a very warm place for American supporters at the moment.

But why? Wasn't Canada a co-mourner in the 9/11 tragedy? Didn't they lose people? Didn't they suffer along with the US? Well...let me give some of my thoughts on this, on the Day We Remember: (see? Now I've figured out what to write about!)

I was involved in a discussion many months ago with a few friends down in the city my family lives in (also in Ontario). The gist of the argument I made then was that Canada, as much as it may have grieved at the attack and the loss of life (including those of some of their citizens), would never feel what Americans felt. Would never hurt the way that Americans hurt. Would never have what some have referred to as a 'moral awakening' they way Americans did. Not because of some inherent difference between the two nations, but because Canada was not the country attacked.

For all of the US's rhetoric about how 'the Western world' is the true target of these terrorists (and besides the fact that it really is true), 'the Western world' was not what was physically attacked on 9/11. Those terrorists chose the United States. They chose the icons of New York and Washington, D.C. They might easily (perhaps more easily) have crashed planes in Toronto, or Paris, or London, or Berlin - but they didn't. They attacked what they viewed as the seat of 'Western' power; but the 'Western' world isn't as unified as certain politicos would like us to believe. Things that happen in Canada, things that happen in Britain, things that happen in France - they have more impact in the countries in which they take place than in their neighbors (even if their neighbors are right next door).

I read (but didn't agree) with a philosophical definition of 'personhood' that included only people we personally know. The idea is that 'personhood' is fully dependant on those who care for us, or who have a personal investment (of some type) in us. While I detest the idea in essence (personhood doesn't rely on others, I believe - it is an intrinsic part of being human), it really does ring true in a few circumstances. Why doesn't it send us into a rage, or hysterics, when we hear about millions of people who are dying in Africa, or the oppression that occurs in the various countries of the Middle East? Because we aren't there. Because we aren't directly affected. That's the key, I think. That's why Canada will never truly 'get' why the US is now the way it is, why it has adopted the policies it has. It confuses and angers the typical Canadian because he or she hasn't truly experienced those things that their neighbors to the south have.

Obviously, there are exceptions. Those families of the Canadians who died in the WTC were indeed directly affected by the attack, and may even accept the new order of the world as a reality. But by and large Canadians don't. Even those Canadian political pundits that write so absolutely in favor of the war on terror (Mark Steyn, David Frum, and others) - as right as they may be (and as much as I admire their positions), I don't believe they can fully feel the pain, anguish, and absolute resolve that hit the United States that day. Through no fault of Canada's own, they can't understand - it's really the difference between empathy and sympathy.

The conversation I had a few months ago ended with my Canadian friends rather peeved at me for suggesting that they didn't know the kind of pain that Americans now do. And they can still be rather distressed that I think this. Their feelings, however, don't change the fact that the targets of the attacks were on US soil, were the lives of US citizens, and were the symbols of US nationality. As much as they might hurt for us, the sympathizer, in the end, is unable to feel the victim's pain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Email List!

Well, I've done it. I've figured out (with great help from the people at Blogger.com) how to set up the weblog underpinnings so that I can have it auto-send the posts I write to my family (at the moment) via a Yahoo! webGroup. This post should (if everything works correctly) be the first one sent out to everyone. Here's hoping!

Update

I've edited and reworked my "Musings" post a few times since I ran it first. I think it works a little better now, and I'll probably continue to update it as I think up new aspects of the idea.

Musings...

I was walking between classes today, thinking to myself (as opposed to thinking, aloud, to someone else - which I am frequently known to do), and I started pondering the somewhat paradoxical nature of Truth; or, to be precise, the paradoxical nature of humanity's reactions to Truth (yes, that 'T' is capitalized for a reason). I suppose it comes from having two Minors that basically wind up dealing with this exact concept (for what are Religion and Philosophy, if not the search for Truth?). Anyway, I started trying to sort out my thoughts, and I figured that my blog would be a good venue to try and figure a few things out. So here goes.

I find it interesting that humanity both loves and hates Truth. That is, they love it when they get the Truth about someone else's dirty past, or mischievous and embarrassing stories. The grandiose sale of celebrity tabloids is evidence enough of this, but we also revel in the Truth about our neighbors and acquaintances. The Jones' are going bankrupt? That's terrible - but we love it that we know (heck, we may even love that they're going bankrupt, the jerks!). Even so, in this culture where it seems we want 'the dirt' on everyone around us, we hate it when the Truth is revealed about us. Let one smidgen of a lie you told at last year's New Year's party come out (maybe it wasn't even a lie, maybe it was a true confession that you have since tried to sweep under a rug), and boom! Explosion-Anger-Tears-Whatever. So it turns out your feelings on the Truth depend on the subject of that Truth.

It's also wider than that. Not only do we simultaneously love and hate Truth, we also rejoice in and fear it. Think about it - the last time you heard some new scientific study come out on a topic that you feel strongly about, what was your first reaction? "Oh, no! I hope they haven't proven me wrong!" If you're a somewhat 'religious' person, perhaps you feel fear any time someone advances the idea of Evolution, or maybe you feel strongly that Global Warming is going to destroy the planet - but you aren't as sure as you claim to be, and feel dread every time a new report is released. Either way, if the scientific statement (a controversial member of the Truth club to be sure) backs you up, you feel good - your opinions have been vindicated, at least a little. If they make you look bad, though...

So why do we do this? What's the deal about fearing the Truth? Shouldn't we all, no matter what our personal convictions, have nothing to fear? After all, if the Truth comes out, and we're wrong, well, then we can change our positions, and try it again - all the while feeling better, because another modicum of Truth has been added to the world's total. And if Truth is not a worthy goal for the world to strive toward, then what is?

But, of course, we don't feel this way. And thinking 'pie in the sky' thoughts about our reactions to Truth isn't going to help anything. The truth of the matter (sorry!) is that we invest ourselves so heavily into what we believe (be it a religious, political, social, or academic position) that we feel great pain at the slightest suggestion that our investments have been in vain, because that may mean that our lives have not been lived well (when you get right down to it). It's a fear of being wrong, a fear of failure (if you will) that makes us detest the revelation of Truth. We'd rather be ignorant and happy than informed and pained.

And yet we still seek this stuff that's supposed to hold such forbidding anguish. Scientists are constantly working to discover more about our universe. Philosophers are always debating ways to find Truth, and even whether or not Truth (as an absolute) exists. Theologians are constantly revising their work, trying to pry deeper into the mysteries of what God has revealed to us. Academics are always looking for new insights, or new knowledge. Conspiracy theorists are always trying to find out the secrets that everyone keeps hiding (and what is a secret, but the Truth?). Politicians are...okay, let's leave the politicos out of this.

So here we are. Constantly seeking for that which we fear, for that which might bring us what we most detest. Humanity is strange.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Wow, long day!

Oof...what a day.

Started off with class this morning at 10, then swapped over at 1pm and had instruction solid until 3, at which point I went over to see a few friends at their place just off of campus (and to pick up my backpack - which I had foolishly left there the previous night). As I arrived, they were leaving for work, so we walked down to the 'Computer Strip' area of town, and I went crazy buying stuff for my own workstation.

I picked up a 120 GB Western Digital internal HD (in addition to my original 60 GB) for just over $1 a gig, a new keyboard, to replace my old, slightly defective one (the left-arrow key had stopped working, and was very annoying), and I also picked up a stick of RAM. Having compared prices at Future Shop (the Canadian version of Best Buy) earlier in the month, my mouth nearly hit the floor. I was saving literally hundreds of dollars, all because I was buying from small shops. Let's hear it for Toronto markets, huh?

After walking around for a bit and having a quick bite (pizza slice), I tried to figure out the best way to get back home at...4:50 in the afternoon. For anyone who has never been in a big city during rush hour - heck, even for anyone who HAS been in a 'big city' in Texas for rush time - you've never seen anything like Toronto's after-work crush. I was tossed and tussled about, shoved, packed, squeezed, killed, revived, and killed again. Brutal. About this time, I realized today's date. The second season of 24 is now available on DVD (as of this morning). But I was too far away to walk to the nearest dealer. However, as I was mounting the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) to head home, I realized that it was an unpleasant possible means of getting ahold of the release, and I decided I was willing to put up with more rush hour misery. Hear that, Dad? I have 24 season two, but I paid for it in spades!

After my escapades in school and downtown, and my life-threatening rush hour excursion, I arrived home, beaten, tired and bruised. It was at this moment that my housemate asked me to go with him for groceries.

Now, having eaten (my other housemate's girlfriend is a good cook), and nearly falling asleep, I finally make it back to my newly upgraded computer, and what do I do? I type a message out to you, dear reader. You should feel privileged.

Now, I've got to get up at 7:15 tomorrow, in order to make it to class in a timely fashion. So I'm out. Hopefully I'll have a more thoughtful post tomorrow.

Monday, September 08, 2003
Daydreaming...

I think I may have discovered a writing technique that will allow me to [gasp!] finish an idea/short story/book. On the bus trip home yesterday, I gave up on reading my Clancy novel to stare out the window and daydream. I noticed several people around me, purely by overhearing conversations, and began to include them in my imagination, even inventing characters for them to interact with, and watching them all 'play around' in my mind. As I finished the idle speculations, I realized something - I had just seen a world more real than any other I had ever imagined. The stories were fictional, of course, but character-driven. The various points of each person around me informed my mind's sketch, and turned the play into all kinds of different directions. These weren't people I knew intimately. The things I had them doing may very well have been quite the opposite of what their real-life counterparts would have done. The characters really weren't "based" on them, so much as on the very abstract and incredibly partial views my mind had of them; but for some reason, even as sketchy as these 'characters' were to me, the world they inhabited, and the interactions they undertook, all felt more real to me than anything I had ever come up with before.

I even arrived at a rather romantic and realistic way for a protagonist to interact with a possible love-interest - something I had never done to this extent before. All my previous attempts - and granted, there had not been many, as I'm not a big fan of the genre in general - were rather hackneyed and contrived interactions between two very hollow and flat subjects. But now, I had the kernal of a love story, a subplot in a larger work that might very well come into being. Good thing I jotted a bit down. Of course, the experience of the daydream sequence is so burned into my head right now, I can't imagine ever losing it (how's that for a full-blown writer's vision?). I'll have to work on this (oh, how I could use that PDA right now!) and I might post some of it later...

One Down, Forever To Go

Well, my first class is over and done, so here I sit in the library: reading, writing, and killing time until my next interaction with education. The examination of Canadian Fiction in the 20th Century promises (after the first class) high possibilities - though I'm not so naive as to believe I will fall in love with every work we read (or even any at all). The professor, though a bit soft of voice in my first encounter with him, seems to share a passion for the subject, and I hold out hope that it might be contagious.

On a bit of a positive note, the course readings for the year number only 12 (as opposed to the frequently assigned 15 books of other English classes, or the 20 that the professor said were assigned in the past). This is not only a lighter burden on my reading list (working out to just under 2 weeks per book), but also eases my pocketbook's pain as well. The trick now is to find the books before they all disappear. Perhaps my parents will have a few? Or my local library. The school library seems to have been raided already.

I just realized (not five minutes ago) that I left an overdue library book back at my house (in Toronto), so I'll be travelling back there this afternoon (during my four hour break) to retrieve it, which is a bit disappointing (not that I'll be heading home, but that I'll be undertaking unnecessary travel). On the subject of leaving things behind, I also realized on the bus last night that I had forgotten my PDA at my parents' house (where I spent the weekend). That PDA is the 'lifeblood' of my note-taking (I type entries into the old Visor via a portable miniature keyboard), and not having it will be a nuisance this week. When I return from my parents' place next week, I'll bring it back with me. In the meantime: Mom, if you read this, I believe I left the PDA in its holster on the kitchen counter, or next to the computer.

Ah well, such is life. I could gripe for a little bit about the rigidity and general lack-of-comfort of university seating, but that wouldn't be very constructive. [grin]

Comments In Person

Laurie, what you said is true:

...you told me in PERSON you are only letting family members join.

...but that still does not make me a liar. I never said posting would be open to everyone, and I even stated in my first response to you that, for the moment, posting is only open to family members. While I may change things in the future, these statements are totally true. I think you may be misunderstanding what I mean when I say 'join this blog'. Everyone in the world may read it (that's pretty much the point), but only those people whom I choose to allow may post here. Your friends are still able to read what you write, and are able to even email you in return (as they are your friends, they know your email address, right?), but they aren't able to post messages on the site.

The blog is a one-way communication method for myself (and the rest of my siblings) to the outside world. Those of us with the privilege of posting here may discuss things amongst ourselves, but the rest of the world must be content to read along. Which is really what the whole of the "blogsphere" is all about. Now granted, I'd be very interested in including some way for readers (not that there are many) to leave comments on the site, but without some extra money, that option is not available to me.

Anyway, I'm not a liar, you merely misunderstood, and need to go re-read what I have written.
It Begins...

Ah, the wonders of semi-early mornings! Blech...

Today's my first Monday of the new semester, and if there's anything I know about school from the past three years, it's that lots of it, all in a row, is not exactly paradise-on-earth. I've got a block of classes from nine to one pm, and then a four hour break, followed by a final block of classes starting at five and ending at 8:30. Should be a blast.

Add in the fact that I was - despite my best efforts to the contrary - up far too late last night with my housemates, and you get the mixture for an unpleasant first morning, to say the least.

Well...here goes nothing.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
WaIt NoW!

WAit a second. I said you told me in PERSON you are only letting family members join.

The Season of the Gods...

Football season has begun! Now, my Cowboys (and my recently adopted Houston Texans) don't have much of a chance for success this year, but that won't stop me from pining for the 'days of yore.' Of course, I could also cheer for my fellow 'Transplantees' - the Tennesse Titans née Houston Oilers - so it's not ALL bad (they might even make the playoffs this year), but regardless of the results, I'm still pretty excited.

In other news, my class 'season' officially begins tomorrow - with my first course beginning at 9am (ugh). I hope, with all the time in between classes that I have scheduled (during which I cannot leave campus - it takes so long to get home, there's no point) that I can get a lot of work done, school and otherwise. So you can look for some impromptu writing coming up here - as I'll most likely be spending a lot of time at one of the many libraries around campus (and they all have 'Net access).

Whew! Back to the game...

Saturday, September 06, 2003
Re-read what I said...

Now, now Laurie. Before you go calling me a liar, let's look at what I said:

I hope to use this place as a medium for communication with my friends, family, and whoever else decides to take an interest.

Notice that I didn't say one way or the other who was going to be posting messages. I merely said that I would be communicating with my "friends, family, and whoever else..." The site is a way for us (my family, the Transplanted Texans) to talk, both with each other, and to the general populace. I may make changes in the future (I most likely will), but for now, I want to get us up and running before we start opening up the doors to anyone who wants in.
I'm a Family Member

Hi I'm a family member too!!!!!!!!!
Austin you said that family and FRIENDS would come on this. BUt you just said ONLY family members are allowed to join his. YOU LIED!

Ah, HERE we go...

Welcome, one and all. My name is Austin, and yes, I confess it - I'm a Texan. I've been living in Canada for nearly three and a half years now, attending the University of Toronto.

I hope to use this place as a medium for communication with my friends, family, and whoever else decides to take an interest. I'll also be making comments, talking about ideas, and just babbling in general about a wide range of subjects that interest me. And who knows? Maybe someday I'll even get my own server!

Anyway, at the moment I've got to finish unpacking the few remaining boxes that are lying around my newly acquired room, so I'll quit procrastinating and get that done.

Hope to talk to you soon!


A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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