Sunday, November 14, 2010

Visual Misgivings, Oliver Sacks - compensation and limitations we deal with....

I first heard of Dr. Oliver Sacks the same way millions of others did - via the 1990 movie "Awakenings", a wonderful film that I wished could have delved more into the frustrations and limitations that the characters were portraying but alas, only so much can be dealt with in two or so hours.

The next time I was to reacquaint myself with Dr. Sacks was when I was living in Oaxaca and my friend Richard Orlandini turned me on to Sack's book Oaxaca Journal, a must-read for anyone interested in Ferns and micro-environments such as one finds on Oaxaca's Highway 175, a road that I never tired of exploring and experiencing. Sacks also captured many of the other delights unique to the Oaxacan culture and geography that at that time I was embracing wholeheartedly and at present miss quite dearly.

And then there was today, this afternoon, listening to one of my favourite radio programs, CBC Radio's "Tapestry"'s episode entitled "Face Time" - a nice montage on faces, sight, perception and featuring an interview with Sacks no doubt due to his latest book release "The Mind's Eye" which further explores the notions of perception and how some compensate for various shortcomings. Sacks also shares his experiences dealing with a particular visual ailment he suffers from as a result of a cancerous eye tumour.

No, this is not a freebie for Dr. Sacks courtesy of me but rather an acknowledgment and at times confessorial with regards to the hiding of certain afflictions and the problems that in turn can occur due to lack of understanding and empathy by those with whom I deal with on many levels.

Sometimes the impatience of others, that inability to "see" beyond their own experiences can be more vexing than the malady itself.....I must rest now for awhile. I do promise to expand upon this essay. Unfortunately, fatigue is but one of many symptoms that I go through on a daily basis.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

United Nations and Women's Rights - WTF are you idiots smoking anyway?

Moribund and male-dominated, the United Nations has proved beyond a reasonable doubt just how out of touch with reality that body can be. The decision this past week to have a Women's Board, ostensibly operating as a think-tank of sorts regarding women's rights, and have countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (a country famous for its high instance of Rape) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Wahhabist misogynists) be elected to this board has to rank in my eye as probably one of the biggest WHAT THE FUCK moments ever in the history of this agency. And I have seen some real boners pulled off in the name of "humanitarianism".

Canadian writer and muslim feminist Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble with Islam Today", gives a nice sketch of UN blunders, corruption and manipulation as of late especially regarding women and the political arms of Islam in her recent Globe and Mail article. To Manji this latest action illustrates the loss of integrity in an agency that many of us used to look up to as an example of what we could achieve as a cohesive, caring voice.

I lost faith in the UN years ago when working in the Balkans and it has been downhill from there ever since. Can we say "Rwanda"? I know that some have vilified me for my stance but unlike those professional bureaucrats, some who have become quite adept at kissing ass in order to maintain a particular lifestyle, I do not engage in my profession in order to curry favour or elevate my status. Rather, I do certain things because I seek a set of truths that may or not emerge, based on my observations and interactions with those affected by a myriad of issues, many of which could be easily eradicated if the will was there to do so. And no, I do not travel around on fat expense accounts nor in bullet-proof land Cruisers. I get down and dirty and have never been afraid to open my mouth - not a good quality to possess I suppose if one wants to join the ranks of the foreign service or barring that advance as a professional woman.

It seems that even in the ivory towers of a so-called progressive and proactive agency the agenda of making the lives of women and girls better is nothing but a joke behind certain closed doors.

Seems to me that it is never a good time to get tough on the asshole nations out there who allow Female Genital Mutilation - heaven forbid we offend someone's culture, right? Rape, "honor" killings, kidnapping little girls for sexual services - the list of atrocities committed by men (and some women) against women and girls is increasing and little has been done except the holding of conferences, the writing of position papers and other forms of "lip service" in the name of human rights - the cynic in me calls it JOB CREATION for the well-educated and connected.

This so-called Executive Board is an insult to this woman. This board should be vehemently protested.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Convenient - Keith Olbermann's "indefinite" Suspension from MSNBC

Well kiddies I read this morning that MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann, host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann, was indefinitely suspended not because he made three $2400 contributions to Democratic contenders but because, HEAVEN FORBID, he did not get permission to do so from his boss, Phil Griffin. Talk about alpha male pissing matches or what? As a friend and colleague posited to me today, what about all the other MSNBC employees who may have made contributions to whatever party - did they all have to grovel for permission too? I highly doubt it.

This action, which could not come at a worse time, was precipitated more than likely by Olbermann's rocky relationship with his boss. What the hell is Griffin drinking cuz' it sure ain't a "smart" drink. I can bet that certain pubs in Manhattan will be packed today with journos from all sides either spewing venom or rubbing their hands in glee. There were far better ways Mr. Griffin, to deal with this matter. Was it your intention to make your competitor's day? Read: NewsCorp? Sir, you made the wrong move and the Twittersphere is tweeting away rapid-fire as we speak.

We need divergent voices now more than ever in these fractious times and Olbermann's is one that is informed and entertaining enough to have drawn in a substantial amount of new viewers to MSNBC and in a rather nice offset effect make Rachel Maddow as well, a household name. Like Olbermann or hate him - that is not the point. What is of primary importance is diversity in an otherwise very corporate media sphere. Strong, capable and independent voices are in rare supply in a world where being as such is strongly discouraged. The emasculation of media that has been going on now for a good 20 or so years only benefits those who are wealthy enough to play the Wall Street games.....the rest of us just want the information damnit and not hysterical opinion masquerading as fact.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Rise of the Demagogue

Wikipedia....Demagogy or demagoguery (Ancient Greek: δημαγωγία, from δῆμος dēmos "people" and ἄγειν agein "to lead") is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes. What qualifies as demagogy has been the subject of debate and ambiguity since Aristophanes first used the term, in reference to Cleon.

Okay so I may not know who Cleon is but I do know that yesterday's election results were partially as a result of the latent whipping up of prejudice (look no further than some of the racist antics that have been played out by some on the ultra-right), emotion (hear them yell and scream at town hall meetings!!!), fears (oh my god!!! Commies!!!) and expectations of the public (whaddaya mean TARP would not instantly work???) and yes, that word "demagogue" kept permeating my pea brain today.

So today my friends let us salute demagoguery - it is the "right" way!

Oh, and a big shout-out to Joseph McCarthy and Adolf H. - demagogues 4evah!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

The goal - 50,000 words in one month, starting TODAY. The website is heavily trafficked being that it is the start today so keep on trying to log in regardless of timing out issues.

Why I am doing this? I am normally a non-fiction writer and this may be an interesting way to look at my crazy world in a different fashion, to step out of my regular "voice". Or this could be humiliating and thus fall under the category of enforced masochism. We shall see.

I have sent out some challenges to friends who also write. If anything it will give us more excuses to get together and drink beers whose names are unpronounceable.

Let the writing begin - No guts, no glory and kids, braggin' rights are worth something!

NaNoWriMo...... click away and challenge yourself!