Wednesday, September 28, 2005

your tax dollars at work

I read this in Wired News today:

When Dolphins Turn Deadly
Among the innumerable individuals displaced by Hurricane Katrina, military-trained dolphins may also have gotten lost in the shuffle. Trouble is, the U.S. Navy's 36 cetaceans may be armed and dangerous. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, which have been taught to use toxic dart guns to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels, may have been swept out to sea when the storm breached their coastal compound.

Is anyone else reminded of a little scene in the first Austin Powers movie. . something about "sharks with frickin'’ lasers strapped to their heads"? Truth really *is* stranger than fiction -- especially when it's your tax dollars at work.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

beautiful day

It was Kendra's birthday on Sunday so we decided to head down to Vanier Park for a little Bard on the Beach. It was a perfect Vancouver day, a late September bathed in sunshine, the kind of day we'll all be dreaming about when the rain starts next week. Kendra suggested that we take a little trip on the False Creek ferry and as you can see, we didn't have any fun at all.

I had never been on the ferry before but it's pretty incredible. It's this tiny little boat, looks like a toy tugboat and for about $1.50 you can go straight across or down to Grandville Island, or all the way the Science Center (that trip costs a little more.) It was amazing being out on the water with all the other boats. Granted, we weren't cruising on one of uber-elegant sailboats making their way through the water but felt great all the same and the view, it was pure Vancouver.

We took the ferry across to where it docks just under the Burrard Street bridge. We were right across from Bard village (which I still think looks a bit like the circus.) From there we walked down to English bay past the Inukshuk and I swear half the population of Vancouver who were out walking, biking and rollerblading that day. Ceone commented that the healthiest Canadians live in BC. It certainly looked like it.

We walked up Denman looking for a Starbucks (that didn't take long) and somewhere to grab some dinner. Along the way we found a great little cake store called Cupcake. You can't have a birthday without cake so we got a little something for the birthday girl. And really, it's not healthy to eat cake alone, so we got some for the rest of us as well. Cake and sushi, not a bad birthday feast. Takes the edge off that old 'getting older' thing.

We saw Love's Labours Lost which was good but I have to admit I liked As You Like It even better. Bard on the Beach will take a final bow for the season later on this week. I hope that the players have enjoyed themselves as much as I have.

Monday, September 19, 2005

upon this rock

I came across faith in the most unexpected place today. I was doing research in GQ this morning. No really, I actually was (although it turns out they don't post their editorial calendar so it was a short trip). In the course of my search I came across an article by John Sullivan about a trip he took to Creation -- the Woodstock of Christian rock. I got hooked into the article because the author was so obviously anti-Christian rock, a position I can sympathize with entirely. While it's true I do own a copy of the first Jars of Clay album, in general [Jars excepted] I have to agree with the author's claim that "Christian rock is a musical genre, the only one I can think of, that has excellence-proofed itself."

The article went on to be really funny at first. The author tried to get find a few people willing to travel to the concert with him. He was hoping to get the human angle, the "here's what the herd is thinking" sideline. Instead he tragically misunderstood the average age of the people who read the board he posted on. He realized one email too late that he had "just traipsed out onto the World Wide Web and asked a bunch of 12-year-old Christians if they wanted to come for a ride in [his] van." A few days later when he consulted his lawyer he was given the excellent advice to "never touch a computer again."

Surprisingly though a few pages in the article turned into quite a beautiful discussion of faith. Turns out the author had gone through what he described as a "Jesus phase" and was quite willing to talk about it. Speaking of his spiritual walk he described faith as "a logical door which locks behind you." He went on to say:

Everything about Christianity can be justified within the context of Christian belief. That is, if you accept its terms. Once you do, your belief starts modifying the data (in ways that are themselves defensible, see?), until eventually the data begin to reinforce belief. The precise moment of illogic can never be isolated and may not exist. Like holding a magnifying glass at arm's length and bringing it toward your eye: Things are upside down, they're upside down, they're right side up. What lay between? If there was something, it passed too quickly to be observed.

Forgive me for being shallow but since when are there philosophical discussions in the pages of GQ? I was impressed by the way in which he was able to look at his own faith from a distance even though, now that it is lost to him he seems to mourn it, or perhaps mourn it's passing. He wrote, "My problem is not that I dream I'm in hell or that [my Christian friend] is at the window. It isn't that I feel psychologically harmed. It isn't even that I feel like a sucker for having bought it all. It's that I love Jesus Christ."

And that leaves me sitting here in reflection having just read GQ. What happens to a man who loves Jesus but has lost his faith? The author himself claims that his apostasy is a sign he never truly believed, but I don't buy that. He ended the article with lines from a poem I have never heard before. He said they came from Czeslaw Milosz:
And if they all, kneeling with poised palms,
millions, billions of them, ended together with their illusion?

I shall never agree. I will give them the crown.
The human mind is splendid; lips powerful,
and the summons so great it must open Paradise.

Afterwards, John Sullivan writes, "that's so exquisite. If you could just mean it. If one could only say it and mean it."

I don't know how belief eludes him. He seems to want to believe, or perhaps want to be the kind of man who could believe. He admits that he used to believe it and that he doubts his doubts. I find myself thinking of a man standing at a door and I wonder if John Sullivan is knocking or simply standing in front of it. I have no idea.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

under the banner of heaven

I finally finished reading John Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven today. It's taken me longer than usual to finish, probably because it's not exactly the kind of book you curl up with in bed. Having arrived at the end though, I can definitely say that it was worth the trip.

Under the Banner of Heaven has made me think quite a bit so it gets points for that right off the bat. John Krakauer is a gifted writer. I went up Everest with him in Into Thin Air so I had high hopes going into Banner. I was not disappointed.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith is, from my limited perspective, a fair approach to Mormonism in North America. Krakauer does not hide his incredulity at some of the things he discovers along the way but I never felt that he was judging his subject. He seemed to really try to present various sides and in many cases let Mormonism speak for itself through the voices of the faithful. Much of what I thought I knew about Mormonism turns out to be false. The truth as presented here isn't much better.

There were several things that surprised me in this book:

1. That there really are living, breathing, practicing polygamists right here in Beautiful British Columbia (or should that be Bountiful?). [Ok, technically, I found that out just prior to reading the book, but still.]

2. That right here in the so-called civilized parts of the world there are girls being given away to men twice their age by parents who are supposed to protect them.

3. That a man can be convicted of two murders and sentenced to death more than once and yet still be among the living 21 years later.

4. That a person can believe so strongly in their faith that they are willing to stand still and let their brother choke the life out of them because they firmly believe that "God told him to do it."

What strikes me about so many of the people in this book is the sheer force of the strength of their convictions. I have to ask myself, if I truly believed that my God was asking me to do something terrible, would I be willing to abandon myself to it? I don't think God is in the business of telling people to do terrible things. But would I be willing to stand against all of society and act? There is an element of surrender to it that's frightening -- what can you do to a man who is truly willing to give everything for his faith? He's untouchable.

In its study of Mormonism, Under the Banner of Heaven can't help but take a closer look at faith itself. How do we as a civilization uphold religious freedom and protect its 15 year old victims at the same time? How can I say that my faith is okay because it's not hurting anyone if you believe that what's happening at the hands of your faith is ordained by God himself?

I think I'll be chewing on this book for a while yet. Thanks John Krakauer. And thanks Issachar, you were right. I did need to read it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

hello little one

I was checking out DAve and JAnie's blog today and they posted the ultrasound pics of my niece or nephew. This one's my favourite because you can actually see the little hand waving:

JAnie said that she and DAve were starting to freak out because they could only count four fingers until the technician helpfully pointed out that the thumb is on the other side.

Just a few more months until I get to see the real thing. I can hardly wait. There's still lots of time for Auntie Claire to go shopping. Chapters, here I come :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

happy anniversary to me

It was just about this time of year ten years ago that, nervous and uncertain I stepped on to a plane to come to British Columbia for the very first time. I remember the lady in the seat beside me asking me what I was doing in Vancouver. I told her I was coming out here to go to school. She asked if I was from BC and I admitted that I've never been there before. "You've never even seen it?" she asked. "And you're coming out here, sight unseen. You've signed up for four years? You're brave." Great, thanks. Exactly what I needed to hear.

I remember flying over the Rockies and the captain coming on the loud speaker telling everyone to look out the window because it was unlikely we'd ever get a day as clear as this one again. The mountains took my breath away. I hoped that they always would and ten years later I'm happy to say that they still do.

I had no idea what I was flying toward, or how my life was about to change. Given the chance I'd do the whole thing all over again, exactly the same way. (Well, almost exactly ;) Of course arriving at my tenth anniversary of being in BC does mean I am dangerously close to being old. But considering what I've gained in coming here, I think it's a pretty good trade. Happy Anniversary to me.