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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Culture of Fear

Fear: it's an appropriate topic for Hallowe'en. And as I reflected back on my own childhood experiences of Hallowe'en, I noticed how far into the Culture of Fear we have descended.

I had to make a trip to the mall this afternoon on some business. I found I was just in time for the family Hallowe'en Stroll, where dressed up kids - and their parents - frolicked from store to store in search of candy treats. It was pleasant - everyone in a good mood, everyone warm and everyone quite, quite safe.

But being unsafe was one of the best things about Hallowe'en when I was a kid. Running around after dark in the neighbourhood with your friends, you experienced a raw feeling of independence, a thrill of being away from the safe confines of your home after the sun went down. If it was a little chilly, so what? Your ghost became a ghost with a coat. It was exhilarating.

Sure there were dangers. I must have been seven or so when the first rumours (we call them urban legends now) went around about razor blades in apples. My parents started vetting my treats. No home-made treats allowed, and definitely no apples. I always felt terribly sad about that, as some people had gone to a lot of trouble to make these treats for me, and they went straight in the garbage.

But that's nothing like it is today. We act as if Hallowe'en is the night that every single pedophile roams the streets and preys on little children. Well, here's a shocker for you. They would do that any night of the week. I worked in the violence and abuse area and I know there are a ton of them out there. And there were a ton of them out there when I was growing up too. We just didn't know it, or were afraid to talk openly about it. So now we take our kids to the mall to keep them safe from the bogeyman. Anyone catching the dichotomy here?

I'm not preaching complete abandonment of parental responsibility. Sure, take precautions - even dress up yourself and go out with the kids (you'll get extra treats, trust me.) But my fear is we've let fear get the better of us. Our kids are growing up so safe they will never, ever take risks.

This could come back to haunt you.

Like when you have a 35-year old still living in your basement. Ghastly.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Limitations

I've been thinking a lot about my limitations lately. Probably shouldn't be thinking of negative things, but some things in my life lately have put other things into perspective.

I'm my own boss. I really like being my own boss. But my past three gigs have not really lived up to expectations, whatever they were. I suppose it's better said that I haven't enjoyed them. Thought I would - but I haven't. For various reasons, and because of various limitations. But it got me thinking on what I would enjoy doing.

Therein lies the problem. Not sure. Really enjoy pottering around the apartment. But how can I get paid to do that?? Maybe I just need a real, honest to goodness vacation. Haven't had one for years. I usually go away with my parents, but let's be honest - that's not really a vacation. And sure, I was in Spain recently. But believe me, that was hard work.

If the universe has been showing me what I don't like, perhaps it's decided on a process of elimination. Maybe I should smorgasbord my life until something comes clear. Risky strategy that. Could be a the buffet table all my life. But maybe that's what life is about. Would I be any happier at a 9-5 desk job? Maybe, if I loved it.

I feel as if I blogged along similar lines before. Ah well, blogging is ranting and public journaling after all.

This time, I don't think I'll suck it up, princess.

This time I need to work it out and get some clarity.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Iconic Moments

So Jane Fonda was in town tonight. Of course I had to go and see her. Gloria Steinem came last year. So now I have seen and heard two iconic American women speak up here in Calgary. Where are all the iconic Canadian women though?

Some are dead. We have the Famous 5, the five Alberta women who fought for the right for women to be persons in the 1920s. Fay Wray, arguably, if you are a King Kong fan. Emily Carr, not quite a member of the Group of Seven. Some are still alive, but not great speakers, and I'm thinking here of Margaret Atwood in particular. Some are music icons - Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray - hmmm...lots of those.

But none have the drawing power of these two American women. And dollars to doughnuts (Timmies, that is) the speaker next year will be another non-Canadian.

I'd have to say that I would pay to see and hear Mary Walsh and her Marg, Warrior Princess alter ego. I'd pay even more if Cathy Jones joined her, with her Babe Bennett alter ego. Two very funny Canadian women.

Icons? Not quite. But maybe we don't need icons in Canada.

Maybe we just need a good laugh.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Second Life

So, here I sit in my little apartment, feeling insulated and safe and in all ways comfortable. My life is not so bad. I am healthy (relatively), I have wonderful parents, I am surrounded by a great group of people I am proud to call my friends, and my cat loves me (sort of).

So why would I go searching for a Second Life?

I first heard of this on (where else?) TV. Second Life (http://secondlife.com) is a type of virtual reality world, inhabited by anywhere from 500,000-800,000 virtual souls. Did it intrigue me? Is Data fully functional?

So away I went. Seems that this virtual reality world has fully functional everything. Reuters just posted a reporter to the Second Life bureau. Really. The economy is based on the 'Linden', which has a conversion rate to the US dollar. Really. You can buy a small island for US$1,250, plus a US$195 monthly maintenance fee or a large island for US$5,000, plus a US$780 monthly maintenance fee. Really. As Mr. Spock would say, "Fascinating."

You need to create an avatar to become a citizen. I've always wanted an avatar. I don't know why. Perhaps the same reason I wanted a llama. To be slightly off-kilter with the rest of this real world. I am also incredibly curious to know if I will be the same personality type (slightly geeky, reclusive, etc.) within this virtual world. Maybe I would actually go on a date in the virtual world, with my avatar having slightly perkier breasts and all. Maybe I would become mayor of a town I create. Maybe I would start a utopian revolution and found a commune for ever-single women. The possibilities are endless.

And therein lies the allure, methinks. In the real world, it is becoming ever more apparent that the possibilities are not endless, and that the grind can wear you down faster than you can, well, create an avatar. Having a second chance at a virtual life, starting over, if you will, must be a powerful draw.

If I do buy an island in Second Life, you can bet your bottom Linden that I will turn around and create a Second Life Survivor 'virtual' reality show and makes bags of dosh.

What a cunning plan ...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rumblings...

Call me crazy, but has anyone noticed a pattern to these recent earthquakes in the Pacific? Hmmm, let me see if I can recreate the chronology here:

Oct. 9/06 - North Korea tests nuclear weapon
Admittedly, we're a little scant on evidence about whether or not it was successful, but there is evidence that an underground explosion of significant magnitude occurred. TNT or nuclear, it happened.

Oct. 13/06 - Earthquake of 5.3 on the Richter scale hits Japan near Tokyo.

Oct. 15/06 - Earthquake of 6.6 on the Richter scale hits Hawaiian Islands.

I know very little about plate tectonics, but I do know that Japan is on the Ring of Fire and that Hawaii is considered a "hot spot." Seems to me someone should at least be asking the question of whether or not there is a connection. CBC? CNN? Reuters? Anyone???

And if I lived in LA, I might consider a brief out-of-state trip in the near future.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thanksgiving

I've been away for while - not just from the blogosphere, but from Canada. I was leading a trip along the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. It was some of the toughest money I've ever earned, but a bit of distance always provides a better perspective.

It did allow me to revisit parts of Spain that I have always enjoyed. I'm happy to say that I still do. What this trip showed me more than anything was that I could live in Spain again. The pace of life, the love of life, the concept of working to live and not living to work are all things that greatly appeal to me. And things that Calgary could learn a thing or two from right now too.

Spain has grown up a lot since I first lived there in the late 80s. The EU has been a boon to their economy, and they are now a thoroughly modern European country. And yet.... and yet they are still wholly Spanish. Try to find peanut butter in the supermercado - I dare you. The regional cuisine we enjoyed is a thing of beauty. One of the women on the tour asked me how the Spanish can remain so thin while eating so much. The key is in the walking - everyone walks in Spain, every day. In our car-centred communities, we have forgotten the simple joy, and the health benefits, this offers.

Sure, there are frustrations. Smoking - although banned in workplaces as of January 1, 2006 - is still fairly pervasive. Although noticeably not so much as it was previously. Some contracted services just never get done - like luggage delivery to rooms. Sorry, no one around to help. Hurrican Gordon even made a brief appearance.

But on the whole, it is one of my favourite destinations, and I should be giving thanks I was actually paid to visit it again and rediscover both its charms and its foibles.