Friday, December 21, 2007

Natale


So what exactly does Christmas time mean to me? I've been wracking my brain for about an hour as I try to fall asleep, but the confusion is getting to me. I realized that unlike most things, I don't have a very strong opinion concerning Christmas, except that I want to smack people who spell it X-Mas for a few reasons. Christ and X are pronounced rather differently...so the religious aspect aside, its stupidity is rather offensive. Anyways, here's the thoughts I've been having.


I really enjoy Christmas because it gives me a chance to see my family. I have tons of cousins and uncles and aunts, and seeing my grandparents on big occasions like this is always fun. I also don't like the fact that I have to see my family. The memory of so many ruined holidays returns every time we get into the car to drive to Christmas dinner, and sometimes the relived pain and despair is overwhelming. Also, this year will be especially hard because one of my grandfathers is gone, and one of my grandmothers is in the hospital. In all though, I think the good outweighs the bad here.


I also like Christmas because I'm a jerk to my loved ones for most of the year, and giving them something nice is a good way to say "thanks for not kicking me out". Receiving gifts is hard though. I never know how to react whether I like the gift or not. In fact, though I love to be the centre of attention most of the time, formal occasions such as holidays and birthdays confuse me. I guess I'm not comfortable with somebody celebrating something for me, or giving me something. This makes sense since I'm also uncomfortable with compliments.


The problem I have with gift-giving though, is that I'm a socialist, and this capitalist feeding-frenzy of consumerism offends me in many ways. The bookstore I work in makes half of its money for the year just in the month of December. This is insane. People have become so caught up with spending their money on useless crap that they get crazy. God, the corporations must love what sheep we've all become.


The religious aspect of Christmas confuses me as well. I mentioned above how I hate when people spell it X-Mas, and one of the reasons I feel this way is that the entire point of the holiday is to celebrate the birth of Christ, not X. Yes, it has been taken over by secular aspects such as trees, gifts, and Santa Claus. Yes, many non-Christians celebrate it as a secular holiday. These facts are indisputable. However, whatever you feel about the day, it is still a Christian holiday. Attempts to rid the day of its religious significance, or to de-Christianize it, are outright insane. You can't co-opt someone's religious festival and then take the religion out of it. Christmas is a religious day, and if you don't like it then don't celebrate it. In the meantime, however, don't tell me how to celebrate my religious beliefs because you don't have the right to.


Another thing that bothers me it that I'm technically not allowed to say Merry Christmas to customers at work. Can someone please explain to me how this makes any sense? Wishing someone well while I celebrate a day that is important to me IS NOT offensive. If you find it is, then clearly you have some sorting out to do in your own life, and I'm not your problem. Happy Wednesday is not an offensive statement, and so Merry Christmas cannot be either. And even if you aren't Christian, and don't celebrate Christmas, my wishing you a good day on what is a special occasion to me can not possibly offend a rational person. It would be like getting mad at a guy who tells you to have a nice day when his daughter is getting married. Just because it's not your daughter does not mean that he has to keep his joy and well-wishing to himself. Also, where the hell is this respect for diversity I've been hearing so much about? If Christmas offends you then you're obviously not the tolerant, enlightened person you think you are. Oh, and if anyone wants to argue with me about the "pushing my religion on others" or about the "historic injustices of Christianity" then bring it on. I welcome reasonable debate, just not idiots.


Right, so do I like Christmas then? yeah, I guess I do. Though the excitement I felt as a kid is gone, I still think it's a special day. So, with all the ranting out of the way, MERRY CHRISTMAS and BUON NATALE!!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rapidamente


How about a bunch of really quick comments for this cold December Sunday? Wait, that's not a question...and even if I did ask it, I wasn't planning on listening to your answer anyways.

- I met Jean Chretien yesterday. He was very nice and shook my hand when I held the elevator door open for him. He is now officially the coolest/only head of state I have ever met. If only he were a socialist then we would actually have something in common.

- 4 exams coming up, and I feel like I'm going to explode. I just don't think I can study so much in so little time.

- Moving on Friday, to a house that's only 2 blocks away. No more pool, no more big house, but probably more freedom.

- Juventus rocks, Nedved is the greatest, and Italy is going to win the Euro Cup next summer.

- You must read the following books or I will smack you: Dune, The Consolation of Philosophy (by Boethius), Dante's Inferno, and Boccacio's Decameron. Come on, have some culture.

- This blog is making me mad because it won't allow me to show my blog's title on the banner, despite having allowed me to do just that for months. I'm so mad that I have to go now. Ciao.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

European Nights

Wow, a month since I last posted, school seems to be killing me in more ways that one. Ok, so today it's time to go through the Euro-Cup predictions that I made (not here, but to my friends), and see how right I was. I will list the teams I thought would make it, then the teams that did, then talk a bit about each qualifying group, with a special section at the end for the hosts, and whatever else I want to talk about. So here we go.

Group A: Predicted- Portugal, Serbia. Qualified-Poland, Portugal. Once again Poland threw me off. Last year they scored more goals than any team in the World Cup qualifying campaign, and then played terribly at the tournament. I really should have known better...and Smolarek is scoring goals like they're going out of style, which makes sense since he's named after Eusebio. There was no doubt Portugal were going to make it through, even without Luis Figo. In fact, I think the team as a whole looks better without him, since everyone has to step up and pick up some slack. Hats off to Christiano Ronaldo, and Ricardo Quaresma who had a great campaign. Also, Scolari punching out an opposing player was the Portugese highlight for me. Poor Serbia. I was so sure they were going to make it, but a few bad results against key teams really sunk their chances...but there's always the World Cup.

Group B: Predicted-Italy, France. Qualified-Italy, France. Despite their best results in recent history, Scotland failed to qualify out of this group, which to me was the hardest of the lot. This is a real disappointment, not just for Scottish fans, but also for the neutrals like myself who were rooting them on the whole way. Sure, I may have been cheering for them because I hate France, but that's not the point. Speaking of France, no team deserved to qualify less. Domenech is a racist, loud-mouthed buffoon, and I can't believe he is still allowed to coach a professional team...not to mention he's been leaving his best striker, David Trezeguet, at home. As for Italy, what can I say? A rough start had us all on our toes, and only a hard win against Scotland got us through. I don't like the look of Donadoni's team very often, but he appears to have scraped us through. Well, top of the group isn't bad for the world champions...I guess...

Group C: Predicted-Turkey, Greece. Qualified-Greece, Turkey. Despite a last-gasp effort, the Norwegians fell short, again. Apparently this isn't so bad for Norway. My Norwegian friend (hereafter known as The Norse god of Rock) tells me that the nation lacks the winning mentality of Italy or Germany, and so third place is a great result for them. I may have slightly underestimated Greece this time, thinking Turkey would return to show them who's boss, but I wasn't too wrong. After their surprise victory in Euro 2004, only an idiot would discount the Greeks this time around. As for the Turks, the Altintop twins rule...I just wish I could tell them apart. Their presence at the Euro-Cup will puzzle me, as they are clearly not a European nation (just ask the EU)...sorry Aydin, give us back Constantinople and go win the Asian cup five years in a row.

Group D: Predicted-Germany, Czech Republic. Qualified-Czech Republic, Germany. The Germans are looking good, and to my mind are an early favourite to win the whole thing next summer. The only reason they placed second in the group was because they didn't want to place first and be seeded in a difficult group...heh, and you all thought Italians cheated. Ireland failed to qualify and were booed by their own fans after their final match. Maybe this will give the FAI the shot in the arm it needs to get things straight and start winning again.

Group E: Predicted-Croatia, Russia. Qualified-Croatia, Russia. No surprises here, unless you are and English fan, and you don't watch any soccer outside of England. Croatia have one of the best teams in Europe right now, and their win at Wembley today proved it. How anyone can underestimate the "Brazil of Europe" baffles me. Russia proved once again that Guus Hiddink has magical powers. He is clearly one of the best coaches in the world, and I truly hope Italy are drawn in a group with Russia so we can prove to him once again that his great coaching can only beat Italians if the ref is on his side. Full credit to the Russians though, they had a great campaign, as did Isreal, who finished tied on points with England. As for England, see below.

Group F: Predicted-Sweden, Spain. Qualified: Spain, Sweden. Spain may have gotten their act together for a few games, but how long will that last. How long until Aragones makes another racist remark? How long until regionalism rears its head and tears the team apart? My guess is during the knockout rounds at the tournament next summer. Sweden played the way I expected, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic, arguably the best forward in the world, still isn't showing his potential on the international stage (but he is at the Internazionale stage...). This group was home to my greatest disappointment. Northern Ireland deseved to qualify. The tiny nation beat both Spain and Sweden, and I believe Healy is the tournament's top scorer. George Best would be proud...and then he'd have another drink. (RIP BESTIE!)

Group G: Predicted-Netherlands, Romania. Qualified-Romania, Netherlands. The Netherlands finished only one point ahead of Bulgaria...not the campaign they were looking for. If they get their act together (which will happen when America admits it lost the war in Vietnam) then they can be world-beaters, but for now they'll just content themselves with putting in a good show at the Euros. Romania had an excellent campaign, which is no surprise to Italian soccer fans. Christain Chivu and Adrian Mutu are two of the best players in Italy, and I'm glad they've proved the're two of the best in Europe as well.

The Hosts- Austria, Switzerland: I have no doubt that Switzerland would have qualified for the tournament had they been forced to. Since the Swiss-German Only regime ended, the team vastly improved. With Frei, Barnetta, Yakin, and Grygera, I think they have a shot at making it at least to he knockout stages, and possibly quite far if their fans can get behind them. As for Austria...wel...their fans signed a petition to pull them out of the tournament because they don't want to be humiliated (like Canada was at the Under-21 Championships), and I can't blame them. Austria was great in the 1950s, and their only notable moment since then was cheating with Germany to knock an African team in a world cup. My guess is that they will place last. Sorry guys.

Italy: Ok, I need to get on my soapbox here. So we qualified, and overcame the post-World Cup Victory jinx that we suffered from last time we won it. And sure, we looked good against Scotland for large periods of the game...but in many of the other games, I was left asking myself why an amateur British team was wearing blue shirts and combing their hair so often. I applaud Donadoni for trying out new players, Particularly Chiellini, Quagliarella, Nocerino, Palladino, and Commandant Che Gue....I mean, Christiano Lucarelli. Antonio Di Natale has proved the best of the new additions, and I will be surprised if he doesn't become a permanent fixture on the team sheet. BUT (theres always a but) very often the team I saw wearing Azzurri shirts lacked all creativity and flair. They battered their way through teams, with none of the style we've come to expect from them. This is possibly due to the lack of Francesco Totti in the midfield. Whatever the problem is, we have the players to win the Euro, all Donadoni has to do is mold them into a coherent and determined squad that plays for each other and not themselves (which is what Lippi did to bring us home the World Cup). And, if we're lucky, there will be another scandal in Italy right before the tournament that will give us the added incentive to beat everyone again and prove our superiority in Calcio.
England: I have a lot to say here, but first I want to make something clear. The English invented the modern game, and I watch the Premiership and the national team as much as anybody, so don't take this criticism as Latin racism against Northern Europeans...it's simply a footballing point of view, nothing more. OK, with that said, who to blame? Well, I have a list, so let's get
started on it.
Steve McClaren: Sure, it's a cliche response to make the coach into a scapegoat, but let's face it, McClaren seems to truly lack an understanding of his team's (former team's...I just found out 5 minutes ago that he's been sacked) strengths and weaknesses. I'm glad he changed things up and tried out new players, but his overemphasis on "star players" to the detriment of the team is inexcusable. It's not that English coaches are bad, as some have suggested, it's just that McClaren is an assistant coach at best, and his appointment as England coach was doomed to failure.
The Players: Obviously, it was the players themselves who lost the games, not McClaren, but which ones? I think as a team, this lot didn't show the drive and determination that we expect from an England team. Most importantly though, they did not really look like a team, but rather like a group of individuals playing on the same side. This, to my mind, was the fault of the players. Shut up, get along, and play for each other.
The FA: Alot of people are going to say that foreign players in the Premiership has finally screwed England, and I'm still not sure of the truth of the matter. It seems to me that so much focus is on signing a new foreign star that most of us can't even name 30 English players in the Premiership...let alone the younger ones. Maybe this has less of an effect than we think, but there's really no way to find out. Maybe the FA should enforce a minimum number of starting Englishmen, and see if there's any long term effect. Right now, anything is worth trying once.
The British Media: These are the people I think deserve most of the blame. The media makes it so hard to play for England that you can't blame the players for faltering. Before games they convince everyone (even the players) that the team is unstoppable. No hint that the players are people, no...they're Gods, who only have to walk out onto the pitch and victory is secured, no matter their opponents. Confidence is great, but this kind of overconfidence is detrimental to the team. Why try if you and the rest of the world know that you don't need to try, and you'll still win? Then, after the game, when England has invariably lost, the media tears the players to pieces. For crying out loud, they're PEOPLE! People makes mistakes, people have off-days. Destroying them in the press merely destroys morale, and ensures that they will not be up to standard next game. Maybe England should impose the kind of media blackout that Italians use leading up to major tournaments. The players are cut off from the news, and so they only worry about themselves, and their game. I think this would do alot of good. Bottom line, the media needs to be gagged, silenced, and if possible, beaten.
Final Rant, Joe Cole: I personally put much of the blame for this whole debacle on what I call the "Joe Cole Syndrome". Essentially, it goes like this: Joe Cole is England's most gifted and creative player, yet the amateurish strictures of the English game force him to play in a style that he is not suited to. He is best as a creative central midfielder, and needs to play on a team that supports him in that role. However, the English tactics are based on one-dimensional long-ball players like Terry and Lampard. Give Joe Cole the freedom to play, drop the players who can't think during a game, and you'll see the difference...I'm willing to bet money on that fact.

Ok, that's it for now. To end off, I'm going to list the teams that are in the Euro and the draw pots they will be in. There will be 4 groups, with one team per-pot in each group. Ciao for now, and Forza Azzurri!!!!

Pot 1: Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands
Pot 2: Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Sweden
Pot 3: Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain
Pot 4: Russia, Poland, Turkey, France

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ti Amaro' Per Sempre


Well, it's been a while since I've updated this thing, and it's time for some explanations. This last month has been crazy. School is absolutely killing me. I'm taking 5 history courses, and the workload is ungodly. Just to give you a picture of what I mean, between now and December 19th I have 4 tests, 5 essays, and 4 exams...God help me. But school isn't all that exciting compared to my big news: I'm engaged!

My fiance - I still slip up and call her my girlfriend - and I have known each other since grade 7. We started dating in grade 12, and have been together now for 7 years...meaning I waited WAY too long to propose to her. We've had some serious ups, and serious downs, and by now we know just about everything about each other, perfect for two people who want to be together for the rest of their lives. I can't describe my feelings in words, and so I won't even try since anything I can say will only be a pale, cheap imitation of the very real emotions I have about this whole thing. What I will say, though, is that there truly is nobody I would rather spend my time with than her, and that I am definitely the luckiest man in the world right now.

Ok, the soft bit is over, go back to your business and I'll return with some good old historical editorials that I feel more comfortable with. Ciao.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Soccer Season


Every year when soccer starts up again I can't help but make loads of predictions. Nobody ever listens to them, but last year I got them all right. This has prompted me to start recording my predictions so I can prove it to people who don't believe me 6 months down the line. Today I'm going to start with the Champions League group stage, since the draw was just the other day. I'm going to list the teams from each group in the order I expect them to place, and then explain why. Ok, here it is.


Group A: Liverpool, Porto, Marseille, Besiktas. Liverpool clearly dominates this group. Their European form is impeccable, and their team is even stronger this year than it was last year. I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the final four again. Portuguese teams are always difficult, so I feel Porto will finish second. As for the other two, it's really up in the air, though I think Marseille's greater experience at this level will see them into the UEFA cup over the Turks.









Group B: Chelsea, Valencia, Schalke, Rosenborg. Despite my hatred, I must admit that Chelsea are a great team. Aside from their skill, they have the psychological edge over Valencia after defeating them in last year's competition. Schalke's recent troubles will see them overcome Rosenborg, but Valencia will be too big a team to beat this time around.

Group C: Real Madrid, Lazio, Werder Bremen, Olympiacos. Real Madrid, despite winning more Champions League titles than any other team, are a bit of a wild-card lately. Sometimes they are untouchable, and sometimes they play like me and my friends in the backyard. I think they will progress out of the group phase, but no further. Lazio (my most hated team in soccer) have found a squad and a style that works very well for them...unfortunately. Bremen are decent, but not world beating, and Olympiacos will suffer from both the aftermath of the wildfires in Greece, and the recent scandals that have hit Greek soccer.

Group D: AC Milan, Benfica, Celtic, Shaktar Donetsk. This group is very hard for me to predict, so I want to say that apart from Milan in first, the other three spots are up in the air. As reigning champions, Milan are still that favourites to take the title again. Benfica and Celtic are both strong in different aspects of the game, and so either one could go through. As for Shaktar, with the current quality of Ukrainian soccer, and the addition of Christiano Lucarrelli, I think they may surprise people. Like I said, after Milan, I'm not too sure.





Group E: Barcelona, Stuttgart, Lyon, Rangers. Barca are always favourites, and now is no exception. Stuttgart will be riding high after their Bundesliga victory last season, and should overcome struggling Lyon who never fare well in this competition anyways. Rangers may be getting better, but just cannot compete in a group as ludicrously tough as this one.




Group F: Manchester United, Roma, Sporting Lisbon, Dynamo Kiev. United just may get out of this group undefeated...unless Roma have something to say about it, that is. After last year's violence, and the 7-1 debacle, I think Roma-Manchester will be the rivalry of the entire group phase. Though good, Sporting and Dynamo are up against two of the best teams in the world, and so will battle amongst themselves for third place and the UEFA Cup spot.






Group G: Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, Fenerbahce, CSKA Moskow. Inter will take this group, and then crash like they always do. All three of the other teams could take second place, but the Dutch have far more experience at this level than the Turks or the Russians. Fenerbahce are playing well, and so may defeat CSKA...though the Moskow side is my personal favourite in this group, and I want to see them pull off a major upset and advance to the round of 16.



Group H: Arsenal, *Sevilla, Steaua Bucharest, *AEK Athens, Slavia Prague. Ok, this is weird because the Sevilla/Athens game has not yet taken place, so we don't know who will be in the group yet. Arsenal should win comfortably, though Sevilla is the best team in this group. Steaua can surprise some of the bigger teams if given a chance. AEK will likely suffer if they qualify, though Slavia Prague have been out of the Champions League for a while, and will likely come in last.

Ok, there you have it. I really hope some of these results don't turn out the way I predicted them, since most of the teams I like in these groups are the smaller sides. Oh well, in soccer anything can happen. Forza Juventus per sempre! Ciao.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Uncreated

"In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." So says John in the opening line of his Gospel. Since the earliest days of humanity, a mysterious, almost magical, power has been attributed to words. Complex linguistic abilities are more responsible for human civilization than any other factor; without the faculty for precise and instant communication, it would be difficult to build a tent, let alone a spaceship. Later, we even gained the ability to draw sounds, making them permanent and visible. How many other species are there that can claim to see the intricate noises made by their ancestors? Speech and writing, therefore, are undeniably the pillars of humanity, without which we would be no more 'civilized' than the great apes. It is words that make us different; it is words that make us human.

The above biblical passage illustrates mankind's fascination with language. John presents Jesus as the Word Incarnate (logos in the Greek he spoke), speech made flesh. How neatly the implications of this idea intersect: language is God's greatest gift to mankind, Jesus was sent to save us, thus Jesus must be the Word, and language must be our saviour. Whether you care for the Bible or not (please see my previous statements that the Bible stories are not to be taken literally, but symbolically and metaphorically) John's sentiment is both moving and profound. That our greatest ability, and the one that is most overlooked, could be the source of both our past glories and our future achievements is thought-provoking at the very least.

So what am I getting at here? Why am I going on about words and magic? Quite simply, both you and I have a responsibility greater than that of the common people in any time before our own. Knowing the power of our words, and possessing a medium that allows us to broadcast those words all around the globe instantaneously, we must strive to use them for the betterment of both ourselves, and the rest of humanity. Using language the way a politician does is a sacrilege greater than any heresy, for it attacks not a doctrine, but the very essence of our humanity. Conversely, using it well will benefit everyone, a truly worthy effort. So please, keep in mind the effects that speech and writing can have, and their indispensable role in the success of our world. Use them accordingly, and use them well. Ciao.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Preparations


School is starting up again in less than a month, and I am none too pleased about it. Though I thoroughly enjoy the learning aspect of it, and despite actually being good at school (we all have to be good at something right?), I am totally not looking forward to it. This year will be my most challenging yet, and possibly my most challenging ever, unless, that is, I end up continuing past my undergraduate stage.

Since I feel mentally out of shape, I decided to practice my homework skills by writing alot more on this bloggery thing that has a total readership of 5...or so. That means that more people read my inane chatter than read the products of my academic research and soul-destroying hard work. What I think I am going to do, then, is start talking about some of the stuff I read and research. Hopefully this will jump-start my brain, and give me a head start for the coming school year. If not, then at least I will have bored my readers with some Mediaeval mumbo-jumbo that will have no relevance to their lives whatsoever. Cool. I guess I'll start later tonight...or tomorrow...or whenever. Anyways, I'll be maybe posting more often now.

Ok, hopefully someone will give me some constructive feedback on this upcoming crap. Thanks again, and ciao.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Credo in Onum Deum


The other day someone asked me very seriously why I am still Catholic, despite my intellect and education. My first response was to take offense. Obviously this person is incapable of believing that an intelligent person can be religious, which is completely ridiculous; most of mankind's most brilliant minds have been religious, so clearly this is a misguided view. It's funny, people always say that the religious are intolerant, when the most ignorant and intolerant people I have ever met have all been atheists.

So my next response was to try and address the problem that this person had with religion. I've mentioned my own views here already (that most of what people have been taught/write/learn about religion is not true, that the good religion has brought to humanity far outweighs the bad, and that anything we create can be misused, no matter how good), but today I'll quickly discuss another view that is quickly supplanting/supplementing my own. In her incredible book A History of God, Karen Armstrong (who is a genius, by the way) explains that the difficulty modern Western people have with religion stems mainly from the time of the Enlightenment, and Scientific Revolution in Europe. During this time, people stopped reading the Bible symbolically and metaphorically, and began to read it literally. This literal interpretation of religion -aside from being useless and misguided- led directly to the "death of God" in Western society. A literal reading allows people to use science to disprove the stories. Once one story is shown to be objectively false, doubt is cast over the entire system. According to this line of reasoning, since science cannot prove God's existence, He must not exist. This literal reading also creates fanatics/idiots who end up arguing that dinosaurs never existed and that the earth is a few thousand years old. Thus, the entire manner in which our society views religion is misguided, since it is not the way that any religious figure meant their work to be read, nor does it correspond to the way that every other civilization ever has viewed religion. We just happen to have gotten it all wrong somewhere along the line.

My final response was to come up with a list of reasons why I am Catholic. I did this partly to explain why I am religious despite my education, and partly to explain why I am Catholic as opposed to anything else.

1- Catholicism's complex theology is intellectually satisfying. It is possible to examine and debate this theology infinitely, and I love intellectual debate.

2- The Catholic Church's insistence on the use of music, art, and poetry to express religious values and ideas makes sense to me. Religion is emotional, not cerebral. The Church seems to understand that religion is as transcendent, subjective, personal, and emotional as art and music are. In fact, religion itself can be described as art, though I won't get into that tonight.

3- I am impressed by the Church's unceasing attempt, both now and throughout its history, to create a world of morality, charity, and social justice. Sure, they've got it wrong quite a few times, I won't deny that. However, the good the Church has done for humanity is staggering, and cannot be dismissed.

4- The Church's rituals -called Sacraments- strike a deep emotional chord. They are both exciting and comforting.

5- Catholic piety takes the form of intense devotional practices, and this form of spiritual expression is very emotionally appealing to me.

6- The Church's insistence on tradition over novelty reflects my own worldview. Necessary change is good, change for change's sake is not. Inter Mutanda Constantia.

7- The cultural and intellectual heritage of the Catholic Church is the single most significant force behind Western history. We would not be who we are today without it, and I, as a historian, feel drawn to such an amazing institution.

Ok, so there you have it. Half an hour of typing, a bunch of emotional, religious, mumbo-jumbo, and you have my answers to this idiot atheist I met the other day. Oh, and he's not an idiot because he's an atheist, he just happens to be an idiot and an atheist at the same time. Atheists are not all idiots, and religious people are not all good. Ciao per ora, e buonna notte.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Baghdad F.C.


Today the footballing world was stunned by what can be achieved by 22 men full of pride and determination. By "the footballing world" I mean the 95% of the globe that is obsessed with soccer, and the 22 men I'm referring to are the players on the Iraqi national team. Today Iraq pulled off on of the biggest upsets in soccer history, and achieved an incredible and historic victory by overcoming Saudi Arabia in the Asian cup final.

First, let me give you some background. The Asian Cup is a gigantic tournament that pits all the nations of Asia, from Lebanon to Japan (and now including Australia) against each other in order to crown the continent's best soccer team. Despite a better parity in quality than that found in Europe, the tournament is always dominated by South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Iraq has never placed better than fourth, and that was long before the current situation over there began (in the 70s I believe). Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has won the tournament three times, and looked the favourites this year as well. The Iraqi captain, Younis Mahmoud, broke Saudi hearts with his excellently controlled headed goal late in the game to secure victory for Iraq.

It is very difficult for me to fully express the shock, and joy, I feel at seeing the Iraqi team overcome difficulties that would destroy most men. All 22 players have lost loved ones in the ongoing war in their homeland, and the team was forced into exile a few years ago due to security reasons. To see them triumph now is not only a victory for soccer and its ability to bring people together in times of hardship, but also a victory for humanity. These men have proved that even in the midst of pain and fear, it is possible to do great things.

Please keep these men and their families in your thoughts and prayers, along with everyone else who has been affected by war, violence, death, and pain. Ciao, e grazie.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What Did You Say?


Today I've decided to cannibalize one of my favourite webpages for some cheap laughs. The page is bash.org, and all it is is quotes from MSN, ICQ IRC etc., that people have sent in and get voted on. The ones I'm going to post here are just my favourites. For more, visit the page, I've got a link to it on the left somewhere.

-Real life should have a search function, or something. I need my socks.

-The problem with America is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be a capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?

-the "bishop" came to our church today. he was an impostor, never once moved diagonally

- I swear to god I've just heard a duck tell a joke. ok there was as group of ducks on a pond near where i live. one of the ducks was quacking away looking straight at a group of like 10 ducks. then he stopped and all the other ducks went mental. it looked just like duck stand-up comedy

- BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA hahahahaha some girl just came onto our floor and was yelling "sexual favors for anyone who does my sociology paper". i just asked her what the paper was about and she said "the accomplishments and growth of feminism"

- i luv guyz where would they be wifout us gals??? -Still in the Garden Of Eden you gullible bitch.

- whats the complement to a 43 degree angle? - My you're looking "acute" today

- i beat the internet, the end guy is hard

- some girl on the street asked if i was saved yet. i told her i saved at the checkpoint a couple minutes back and can reload from there if i die. she was confused

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tutti Insieme?


How is it that crazy things all happen at the same time? This is a quick entry, but one that makes me think. Alot of crazy stuff happened within the same 24 hour period, and it just seems strange to me.

Ok, so my grandmother has had cancer for a few years now, but being a tough old Italian lady, she's been beating the snot out of it. That doesn't mean, however, that it's not taking its toll on her. She's weak, in pain, and my grandfather has to cook...which she hates, since he's not as good as her...though for the record, nobody is as good a cook as her.

This leads me to what happened. The other night my grandmother's brother died. Then her sister had a stroke due to shock. Next, my grandmother had to go to the hospital because her grief over her brother's death is making her feel even sicker.

So, a bunch of crazy stuff, right? Then, my brother breaks his ankle...but when I took him to the hospital, it turned out that he didn't break it at all. Instead, he tore all the ligaments that connect his foot to his leg...sweet. Now he's out for at least 6 weeks, and we have a funeral (and Italian funerals are frightening affairs, full of wailing, gnashing of teeth, beating of chests, and random dives into the coffin), and a hospital to go to...oh, and nobody shows up to work anymore, so I'm in a bit of a bind there too.

Excellent, this week looks great. Don't you just wish you were me? Then death and pain wouldn't be so scary since you'd be well acquainted with them by now.

Ok, that's it, I'm off. Ciao.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ignorance is not Bliss


Ok, I spoke to a bunch of idiots at work over the past week, and I need to vent. So please, bear with me. I'll try to make it fast.


When I talk to people about our world, and particularly about how our society came into being, I am often struck dumb by two things. First, most people seem to be wholly unable to think clearly or critically about anything. They tend to make blanket statements that lack all meaning, they fail to make distinctions in order to properly examine an issue, and they often come up with spurious conclusions that have no support whatsoever, eg. "The Church could have ended knightly violence if they had tried"(um, they did try...very hard...for hundreds of years), or "A common language can unite people politically and socially just as well as a common religion or ethnicity"(never happened even once...ever).


The second thing I am disgusted by is the total ignorance of our past that most of our society seems to posses. They look at events occurring today, and lack all knowledge of how they came about. I see three major reasons for this ignorance. 1) The school system fails miserably at teaching any semblance of decent history. 2) Modern Western society is full of misconceptions and falsehoods about our past that the uneducated and the lazy tend to believe. 3) The fragmentary and disjointed nature of Western culture (eg. the cultural mishmash that is the internet) renders people incapable of linear, rational, critical thought, and thus incapable of comprehending the causality that has led to our society.


What can we do about this? Well, to start with, someone has to care enough to put both time and effort into changing things. The scholarly community needs to get its act together and change things, because the idiots have clearly taken over, and no good can possibly come of it.


Well, now that I'm calmer, and I'm done yelling at my keyboard, I can go to bed. Buonna Notte.

Er Santo di Roma









I was asking myself the other day why these idiots in North America fawn over celebrities so much. Why are dozens of magazines devoted to revealing the most intimate details of people we will never meet? Why do we even care? Why are these people worshipped like living gods? None of the answers I came up with made any sense to me, so if you have an opinion here, I would love to hear it. Anyways, I thought to myself, "how can I be a part of this crazy North America that turns heiresses into idols, and singers into saints?" Seeing as I am above all this petty celeb-worship, I decided that my peers are idiots, and I am the only sane person around. I mean, I'm probably the only person I know who never spent even a second worrying about Princess Diana's life or death...what in God's name does it have to do with me? I felt so superior, that I almost fell over when I realized that I am NOT exempt from idiotic hero worship...in fact, I'm just as bad as everyone else. The only difference is that I don't worship actors and singers, but (and I have this in common with most Italians) soccer players.








There is one man in particular who I hold up above all others: Fracesco Totti. Let me try to explain the reverence and awe that is felt for Totti in his home city of Rome. Totti is one of the best soccer players who ever lived, yet despite multi-million dollar offers, he has never played for any team but Roma (which is a second-rate team at best), and refuses to leave no matter what he is offered. He has the mark of the Roman legions, SPQR (senatus publicus quis Romanus) tattooed on his arm, and refuses to speak any Italian whatsoever, using only Roman dialect. Also, he resembles the paintings and statues of Emperors that abound in the city. Finally, Totti is a man of the people. He was born poor, acts like a peasant, and donates exorbitant amounts of money to the poor of Rome, as well as building schools and children's hospitals in Rome.








So, to Romans, who feel (and are) discriminated against by much of the rest of Italy, Totti is something of a hero. He is more Roman than Rome itself, the ideal that all Romans strive for, yet none can achieve. Needless to say, Francesco Totti is worshipped as a God, and even more extremely than any North American could worship an actor. Roman people refer to him as 'the king', but more recently he has taken on the name, The Patron Saint of Rome. People pray both to him, and for him. They swarm him on the streets hoping to touch him and receive his blessing. They throw their children at his feet in the hopes that his touch will bring them eternal luck. In short, Totti is treated the way saints, prophets, and holy men have been treated throughout history...and he is a soccer player.








Here, I could get into a long discussion about why our time worships people we see on TV in the manner that people in the past treated charismatic preachers. I could also get into a long discussion as to why Europeans treat celebrities with less awe than soccer players, while it is the opposite in North America. But, I'm not going to. What I want to stress here is two points. Firstly, although Totti's following may sound much like that of other celebrities, it is actually quite different. His has taken on a spiritual aura. He is simultaneously a hero, and icon, a cause, a man, and a saint, as well as a visual reminder of the past glories of Rome. This is far deeper than the cheap and fickle way in which North Americans idolize singers. Secondly, I realized that even I am not immune to the hero-worship that I was deriding earlier. Just because I revere soccer players rather than singers does not make me all that different (although I like to think that mine is a less tacky cause than Hollywood).








So, I guess you never know what you can learn about yourself, and the world around you when you least suspect it. For now, I'm going to watch some Totti highlights on youtube. Goodnight, and make sure you say a prayer for Er Pupone...may our Lord Francesco Totti watch over us all. Ciao.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

From The Dead


I have returned with news both good and bad. Well, let's start with the good: My new computer is up and running. It's fast, shiny, and has everything except the one program I actually need...I mean, how can I use a computer for homework without some sort of word-processing program? It makes no sense. Oh well, maybe I'll type my essays on wordpad...


Ok, now the bad news. I went to the hospital to check up on my asthma, and things aren't looking good. I'm down to 75% of normal lung function (the lowest I've ever been), and the doctors can't figure out why I keep getting bronchitis. So, they tripled my medication and ordered chest x-rays to see if something is going on in there. To be honest, I'm almost worried...more that I'll forget to take my meds than anything else. I've had 7 heart attacks, 3 major surgeries, and my heart has stopped twice, not to mention dozens of potentially life-threatening accidents I've had...if something was going to kill me it would have done so by now.


Finally, the worst news of all. I just realized that it's July 4th (or at least it was 2 hours ago). Aside from being some holiday down south, it also would have been my friend Cory's 25th birthday had he not dove off his apartment building a few years ago. Cory Nash was one of the greatest people I've ever known, and he is sorely missed by anyone who had even fleeting contact with him. Maybe he's in a better place, and maybe not. All I know is that anyone reading this had better have a drink in his name, or I'll come after you. Life fucked Cory harder than it had any right to, and the least we can do is drink to someone who would never have wanted us to mourn him...he hated to see ANY sadness in his friends.


So, as I end this, I wonder how it is that I have survived so much, while Cory did not. Am I stronger? Luckier? Sometimes these things just don't make any sense. Ciao for now, and say a prayer if you can. R.I.P Cory Nash.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where are the Luddites when you need them?


So my computer is down. It's telling me that it has a "disk boot error" and that I need to put some sort of a "system disk" into it in order to make it work again. Unfortunately, I don't speak technologese, so I have no idea what that means. Oh computers...just one damned problem after another. I figured the whole Y2K thing would have taught our society that running our world on computers opens up serious dangers. How can anyone feel safe in a world where your identity can be either stolen, or erased at the touch of a button? I know I don't.


When I first started this blog I mentioned that I'd rather be writing on parchment with a quill...and I was serious. I still do most of my schoolwork on paper before going anywhere near a computer. And yet, without my computer I feel helpless...like I'm cut off from the world somehow. What does it say about me that I yearn to be connected to a world I distrust?


This brings me to the question in the title. Where the hell are the Luddites when we need them? Why doesn't someone come around and free us from our cyberspace enslavement? I personally would welcome a world without computers, to a certain extent. I mean...can any of us really live without the internet anymore?


Ok, I'll end this with a little bit of internet talk, "leet speak" it's called, or "teh 1337:" Omg, joo got pwned nub, lollerz, roflcopter! Horde ftw!!! STFU ALLYS!!! kkthxbye cgf =).


Um...if you can read that then your eyes are teh 1337. Oh God, why is it that I can both read and write that crap? I feel dirty...must wash. Ciao for now. Oh...locks pwn.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Breath of Life


So I have bronchitis again. This is maybe the seventh time I've had it since last spring. Add that to the fact that I have only 1.5 lungs, and a severe case of chronic asthma, and that I live in a city with almost daily smog alerts, and you see the dilemma I face: I cannot breathe, ever. Coming home from the doctor's office I started thinking abstractly about my problem. Breath is roughly equivalent to life, and thus I am almost incapable of sustaining my own life through natural means. It's kind of scary to think that in any other period in history I would have died at least 150 times before now. Modern science may be keeping me alive, but is that a good thing? Will I pass this problem on to my children? How long will a plant survive without leaves for photosynthesis? How long will a toothless old lion get his food chewed for him?


Then I started thinking in economic terms. How much does it actually cost to keep me alive? With my 3 major surgeries, lifelong medical studies, and daily medication, my total bill must be well into the tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars (thank God I live in a country with free health care, and am lucky enough to have limited health benefits). On top of that, how much money have I lost from missing days at work due to illness? That's gotta be a pretty high number as well. Is it possible to put a price tag on your health, and if so, what exactly does that mean?


Finally, I started thinking about civilization in general. The switch from a nomadic lifestyle to a settled one has been the most destructive event in the history of human health. Not only are cities dirty and stressful, but large populations living in close quarters are exactly the conditions that major diseases need to flourish. Black Death anyone? Or influenza? Does this mean that I am actually a product of civilization? If so, are the glories of civilization worth bad health sometimes? Without cities we would not have achieved any of the cultural or scientific advances that mankind has created. Is bad breathing the cost of a Michelangelo, a Beethoven, an Einstein or a Voltaire? When I look at it this way, I don't really feel all that bad. At least I am a part of something greater than myself, and maybe a lack of air is what I pay for that reward. Maybe everyone has a price to pay, and mine just seems worse to me because it is my own.


In any case, there is a single -yet stereotypical- image that comforts me. Whenever I think of my health problems, I always imagine a sickly scholar, probably a monk, relentlessly copying manuscripts by candlelight in a cold room. These men who saved western culture from the flames and the darkness often suffered as I do. Well, maybe I'm in good company. Ciao for now...and remember to breathe deeply. Enjoy it, because some of us can't.

Friday, June 15, 2007

God Grant Me Strength


One of the reasons I study history is to try and correct all the ridiculous misconceptions people have about various things, and it can be a wholly frustrating task. Not only do I have to deal with outright ignorance ("The Earl of Sandwich? That's not a person, you're a liar"), and terrible mistakes made by the education system ("Christopher Columbus set out to prove the world was round because everyone else thought it was flat"), but now I also have to contend with immoral and unscrupulous authors who intentionally manipulate the historical evidence for the purposes of propaganda (yes Hitchens and Dawkins, I'm talking about you two).

Sometimes I get the urge to go crazy on people...I just CANNOT tolerate willful stupidity, nor should I, or any other sane person, be expected to. Here is a conversation I had with a man at work the other day. I found him in the Religion section, and he started talking about how much he loved "The God Delusion", and "God is not Great", two of the most a-historical books ever published (after "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" of course).

Guy: Those books were great, they really opened my mind to new things. Now I don't just
accept what people tell me.

Me: Yeah, I hear they're good. My only problem with them is that neither of the authors are
good historians (Dawkins is a scientist and Hitchens is a philosopher I believe), and they get
a bunch of their facts wrong.

Guy: Like what?

Me: Well, for example, the Inquisition. Opponents of religion tend to claim that the Inquisition
killed all sorts of people, but that just wasn't the case.

Guy: Well, it was.

Me: No, it wasn't. The Holy Office of the Inquisition has executed less that 150 people since its
inception in the 1200s. Conversely, independent Protestant "Inquisitors" in Northern
Europe killed close to 80,000 people (though that estimate is considered low by most
experts), and the Spanish Inquisition was a state run organization, not a church run one.

Guy: See, this is what you religious people do, you delude yourselves about things.

Me: No, I did the research. I am trained to do proper research, and that's what I did.

Guy: No, you're deluded.

Me: Wait...didn't you tell me you don't just believe things people tell you any more?
Um...maybe you shouldn't just believe what Dawkins and Hitchens say about subjects they
have no experience in.

Guy: Sorry man, but you're just wrong. You religious people are just wrong.

Ok, so tell me why the state won't allow violence when one has been unbearably provoked? Please people, PLEASE, don't talk knowingly about something you don't know, and then deny actual facts discovered through real research. These atheists are getting worse than the Creationists...So please, the next time you meet a poor historian who is just trying to help society by giving it a clear picture of it's past, don't argue with him (it may be politically correct for me to add "or her", but I'm actually referring only to myself here), listen, because maybe you just might learn something. Please attack stupidity wherever you find it. Ciao.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Political Compass


I just did this amazing internet test called the Political Compass, and I think that all of you should do it too. The guys who designed it realized the inherent ridiculousness of the simple right/left wing political analysis and added a second axis; one that runs from Authoritarian to Libertarian tendencies. This provides a far more accurate depiction of where one stands politically, as well as giving you a lot to think about, and helping you learn more about yourself.

My results were no surprise to me. I was 8.5/10 to the left (farther left than many Communist leaders like Stalin and Lenin), and seeing as I've always claimed to be way out there, I'm glad to see that I was right. I was also about 4/10 to the Libertarian side of things, meaning (I think) that I don't mind people doing their own thing within certain limits. The closest world leader to me happened to be Nelson Mandela, and to be honest, that pleased me, as he is a man I greatly admire.

So, the point of this entry is to tell you all to take the test and share your results and reactions. The link can be found on the left-hand side of my page. Have fun, and be honest. Ciao.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Poor Old Aethelred


Maybe by now you might be wondering who this Athelred guy in this site's address is... or, maybe it never crossed your mind. In either case, I've decided to write a short piece about the dangers of bad history, and I'm going to use poor old Aethelred as an example.

Aethelred was the king of England from about 978-1016. During his reign he had to deal with treacherous advisors, troublesome nobles, and hordes of angry Vikings. To be honest, I'm surprised that a man whom history has described as incompetent managed to last for so long. Obviously he did something right, although he certainly made some pretty dumb decisions as well.

Aethelred earned the sobriquet 'Unread' or 'Readless' either at the end of his reign, or shortly after his death. This is what I'd like to highlight in terms of bad history. Amateur historians who didn't do their research, real historians who didn't speak Old English, and common people who didn't know any better have all claimed that Aethelred's nickname means something like 'unready.' Now, I get the feeling that many of them must have been either pretty lazy, or pretty ignorant, because putting a 'y' on the end of an Old English word does not make it into a Modern English word. Nor does it adequately translate the word from Old to Modern English. Unfortunately, not many people seemed to care all that much about the word's real meaning, and so the incorrect translation has wreaked havoc on this section of English history. Allowing his nickname to colour their work, many historians have portrayed Aethelred as an incompetent king who was not prepared for the responsibility of his position, and subsequently lost the nation to the Danes...

Maybe you see where I'm going with this. 'unread' does not actually translate as 'unready.' It really means 'ill-counseled,' or in my translation; 'guy who takes bad advice.' The truth of the matter is that Aethelred was very well prepared to rule England, he just managed to allow his advisors to influence his decisions a little too often. This, more than any imagined unpreparedness, is why he was so soundly defeated by the Danes.

So what does this all have to do with anything? Well, the point I'm trying to make is that history is all too often misinterpreted, either by amateurs with no training in proper research and critical thinking, or by pros with an agenda. It is precisely these idiots whose opinions tend to influence the ideas of the general public, which confuses me, since their claims are always the hardest to believe. Sure, our perception of Aethelred may not actually have any serious repercussions, but this kind of thing is far from rare. Sadly, especially for me, it is the Middle Ages that suffer most at the hands of untrained or misguided 'historians'...but that is an issue I'll take up another time.

So, the lesson for today is that much of what we think we know about our past is actually wrong. Good historians will tell you what is as close to 'accurate' as possible, but no one seems to want to listen to them. This is why I picked Athelred as my site's address. Maybe I can set a few misconceptions right, and if not, at least I can get people to start thinking more about what they hear and read.

Until next time, remember Aethelred's plight, and try not to be so hard on him; he wasn't unready, he just had bad advice. Ciao.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Catania Riots Revisited


A few months ago I was appalled at the violence that followed a soccer game in Catania, Sicily. That night in February, a police officer was killed by a teen with a homemade explosive for no good reason. Afterwards, I got to thinking about soccer violence in general, and I came to the conclusion that most of it actually has nothing to do with soccer at all. Instead, the most common causes are ethnic, political, economic, or social tensions that end up being expressed and released in the adrenaline fuelled atmosphere of the stadium. Add to this the fact that the stadium is often the only place one can release these feelings without fear of government reprisals, and you begin to understand why soccer seems to be accompanied by so much violence.

In the piece I wrote that night in February (which I re-posted below when I started this blog) I suggested that the violence in Catania was based on intense regionalism and resistance to both foreign and Italian influence in Sicily, as well as a new opportunity to re-open their ancient rivalry with Palermo (a rivalry that dates back to the early 9th century). With a series of investigations into the incident by the Italian government, a new, more sinister, picture is beginning to emerge...one that I, as a Sicilian, should not have overlooked.

It appears now that the Mafia was actually behind the violence, and that the police were specifically targeted by the rioters. Essentially, it was no riot. It was a well planned attack on the Italian state by a criminal organization (one that has declared war on Italy a more than once in the past few years) working through a group of intermediaries, in this case the Calcio Catania fan clubs. After looking at the evidence, I think I have to agree with this assessment. Before you make a conclusion, though, let me show you what the evidence actually is.

1 - Catania is a city that is almost completely controlled by the Mafia. It is estimated that 95% of businesses in the city pay protection money to the Mafia cosca (clan/family) that runs the area. For many children in the poorer parts of town, a life in organized crime is the most attractive option. A large number of them end up working for the Mafia in one way or another. Some deal drugs, some commit petty crimes, others commit murder; the important thing is that a large portion of the city's youth are linked to the Mafia in one way or another. As typical Italians (although I still have trouble thinking of Sicilians as Italian, as do many Sicilians themselves), a good proportion of these young men also belong to the fan clubs of the local soccer team: Calcio Catania.

2 - Many of the 'rioters' arrested that night, including the man suspected of killing Officer Fillipo Raciti, were linked to organized crime, either through prior convictions or current arrest warrants.

3 - The Catania fans within the stadium that night were waving a flag that made a personal threat to an Italian senator over a piece of anti-Mafia legislation. This flag was eventually traced back to the leader of the particular fan club involved in the rioting. It is probably no coincidence that his father just happens to be Catania's largest Mafia boss.

4 - The violence took place outside of the stadium and did not involve the fans of the rival team, Palermo. It is unheard of for soccer-related violence to be perpetrated on everyone EXCEPT for the opposing fans. Obviously, the soccer game was not the issue.

5 - A call was placed to the police BEFORE the real rioting had begun outside the stadium. As they rushed to the scene, the police were ambushed at specific and well-planned bottlenecks that allowed the rioters to do the most damage possible. I don't know of any unruly mob with this level of planning or discipline.

6 - Mafia informants have claimed that the entire night was a premeditated act orchestrated by the Mafia to disrupt the Italian state and to display their power. Imagine how much worse things could have gone if the Mafia had actually used any of their actual force, rather than just teens with rocks, bats, and homemade bombs. To be honest, the Italian government should be relieved that this didn't occur.

Slowly, from these and other pieces of evidence, a clearer picture begins to emerge. The conclusion that the Italian authorities have come to, and that I tend to agree with, is as follows: The Mafia planned the night's violence through a local Catania fan club that had extensive links with organized crime. Many of the poor and angry teens of Catania are usually willing to do anything for a bit of money, and that night seems to have been no exception. The violence resulted in the complete disruption of the nation for a period of about a week, as well as a serious shake-up within the government; results that the Mafia would have wanted. Although no proof exists that the Mafia organized anything, the authorities are convinced of their involvement, and so am I.

So, once again soccer violence turns out to be something else entirely. In this case it was actually just a small event in the eternal conflict between the Mafia and the Italian state. This is a purely regional problem that, unfortunately, has gotten out of hand. Hopefully something can be done in the future to remedy this situation, although I am not optimistic. Anyways, you can make your own conclusions, but in a case like this, it would be folly to underestimate the effects of organized crime in Sicily. Ciao for now, and once again, R.I.P. Fillipo Raciti.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Oh Canada?




The Ottawa Senators are in the Stanley Cup finals, and I am angry about it. "Why would a Canadian be mad that a Canadian team made it to the finals?" you may ask. At first I thought that the answer was very simple: I hate Ottawa and everything they stand for. I hate the city, I hate the people, and I especially hate their hockey team. Furthermore, I feel that it is actually my sworn duty as a proud Torontonian to hate Ottawa and its unexplainable status as our nation's capital.

When explaining this to a non-Torontonian co-worker, I was confronted by the idea that maybe my blind hatred needed some sort of explanation so that the uninformed could more fully understand the depths of my loathing, and the reasons for it. So, here are two perfectly decent examinations of the reasons behind this Torontonian resentment of Ottawa.

1 - Despite being the only Canadian city that non-Canadians can name (and being the only city in the entire country that actually matters to anything), Toronto is not the capital of the country. Rather than choosing a dynamic, exciting, international city for its capital, The Dominion of Canada somehow chose to put the nation's government in a sparsely inhabited hick-town on the border between Ontario and Quebec. The reason for this decision is beyond me, but it happened, and it makes alot of us angry. The status as capital has also made the toothless residents of Ottawa rather arrogant, as they feel they are somehow entitled to compare themselves to Torontonians...again, how they can think like this is baffles me. Speaking at any greater length about this matter will just make me mad, and unable to type. Thus, I will cut it short and sum it up in one sentence: any self-respecting Torontonian has a healthy dislike of Ottawa, a dislike that transcends national boundaries and forces us to cheer for any team that is playing against Ottawa, be they Canadian, Francophone, or American...whoever they play, we all wish for Ottawa to be cut down to size.

2 - Now we must examine the deeper and more widespread roots of this intra-province enmity (as well as the cause of much of Canada's political problems). For a nation state to function properly its inhabitants must be able to conceive of the nation itself as an entity with some sort of meaning. Nationalism grows out of the idea that a nation is a unified community of people with comparable lifestyles, values, or culture. Since no citizen of a nation will ever meet every other citizen, they must imagine that people across the country are similar to them (this is why Benedict Anderson refers to nations as 'imagined communities') in some way, thus creating the ideological basis for sentiments of national unity.

Here is where we come to our problem. I do not -and honestly cannot- believe that people from any of Canada's other 9 provinces and 3 territories are anything like Ontarians. When I talk about Canada, I am actually referring to Ontario...and maybe to the part of Quebec that was once Lower Canada. To go even further, when I refer to Ontario (and therefore Canada) I am really only referring to Toronto. Quite simply, Toronto = Canada. My inability to see a similarity between myself and people from Ottawa (or Vancouver, of Halifax, or Calgary etc.) can be seen by some as a lack of nationalist sentiment. This is not true. I love my nation. My nation, however, consists only of Toronto, and yet Ottawa constantly claims to be the most important city in my nation. Excuse me, but is Ottawa in Toronto? No, it isn't and therefore it means nothing to me. It's claims of political sovereignty over my nation angers me to no end. A good analogy would be the disbelief the French would have if Monaco or Andorra decided that they were actually in charge of France. The ridiculousness is clear for anyone to see. Therefore, because of its interference in the political independence of my homeland, Ottawa must suffer, and its sports teams must be punished.

So, to sum up...Toronto should be capital of Canada, people from Ottawa are too arrogant, and I cannot see sufficient similarities with Ottawa to consider them part of my nation. This is why I want them to lose...and maybe this explains to any non-Torontonians the reasons for our problems with Ottawa, and our hatred towards it. So, GO Ducks/Red Wings!!!! Beat the hell out of the Senators for us, and we'll be happy despite our own terrible season. If the Leafs can't win the cup, then the Sens can't either. Thanks again, and ciao.

P.S. The Maple Leafs are actually the only team in hockey that really matter. We are the lead actors and every other team is just our supporting cast. Hockey does not exist without the Leafs, just as Canada does not exist without Toronto. Ciao.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Time Travel




The other day at work I got into an interesting discussion about the nature of time, and how we perceive it. As of right now, I'm still not exactly sure what to think about this subject...of course, at the time I was arguing that time can move any way it damn well wants to, and that our trouble is that we can only conceive of time as moving in a straight line. Then it was time to go back to work, but it got me thinking a little more deeply into what 'time' actually is. I've come up with a few ideas that I've been mulling around in my head...which of them work, I'm not sure. Anyways, here they are, so you can judge them for yourself.

- Time as measured by the clock is merely an arbitrary way that we have decided to organize the day. This method of organization is also rather flexible. During the Middle Ages the day consisted of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, thus the precise length of each hour differed depending on the seasons. They seemed to get along fine with that sort of arrangement, which brings me to my next idea.

- The way we perceive time is dictated by our cultural associations with it, and our cultural attitude towards it. Every group of people has a slightly different perception of time and its importance. Some cultures (our Western world, for example) view time as a commodity that can be used wisely or wasted. We order our entire world around the notion of precise timing and 'proper use of time'. Other cultures don't see time in this manner, and actually take a more relaxed attitude towards it. The major difference I see here is that some cultures approach time in the manner of the factory worker, and others approach it in the manner of the farmer. Both are valid, and yet neither one works for everyone.

- The idea that time is an entity or force separate from ourselves (like gravity or energy or something) is rather hard for me to grasp. I can't get past my idea that our own personal perception colours and dictates our entire existence, and so I can't help but think that this separate entity of time exists only in some peoples' minds.

- I'm also having trouble with the idea that time moves at all. Since 5 minutes from now does not exist, and neither does 5 minutes ago, then only the present moment is real. Only the present moment actually exists in time in any real sense. This idea interests me as a historian because I have dedicated my life to the study of events that happened in a time that no longer exists. As an objection to this idea, one of my co-workers posited that since nerve impulses are not instantaneous, nor is sound or light, that everything we sense actually happened a fraction of a second ago, and that we only think of it as happening now. In response to this objection, I'd like to say that even if what we think of as the present is really a millisecond ago, for all intents and purposes it IS the present as far as we are concerned. Quibbling about how long ago the present existed really doesn't help us here.

- Time itself could possibly be one eternal point through which all things move, and during which all things live and die. Why must it be time that moves and not us?

- If time does move, the direction it moves in could be just a part of our perception. If we can't sense it going backwards, then maybe it doesn't. Yet, if it moves at all, then it must exist apart from us and our preception, and thus its true nature and direction could not accurately be determined by us and our senses. Maybe it moves in a random direction, but we only see it going forwards. Maybe (as Boethius wrote in the 6th century) time is actually moving in a big circle around a fixed point, and since we are in the circle we can only see it going forwards, while the being residing on the fixed point around which time spins (Boethius says this is where God exists) can see time's true shape. It really could be just a matter of perspective.

- Space and time must have a strange relationship since the space I occupied five minutes ago could be occupied by me again, and I would not run into myself. This idea could be used as evidence for time's motion (since the time I was walking up the stairs has passed already) or for time's immobility (since time exists eternally fixed and I can move about within it). Either one could be true, for all I know.

Ok, that's all I've got for now. It's funny, my sense of time is so bad that I can't distinguish minutes from hours, figure out what day of the week it is, or remember when anything happened. If it wasn't today then it could have been any time throughout my entire life, and I wouldn't be able to tell when it was. Hopefully someone will do some thinking on this and hit me back with some new ideas. Time for bed I guess, ciao e buonna notte.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

McGuinty Should Resign


Today I wanted to spout off about something that has been making me insanely angry over the past few months. Here in good old Ontario, our idiot Premier, Mr. Dalton "I hate poor people" McGuinty decided it would be a good idea to raise tuition fees.

Ok, so on the surface it doesn't seem to be such a big deal. So higher education costs a little bit more, so what? Maybe a few students will have to work a bit harder after they graduate, and that will be that. Unfortunately, it is a much bigger issue than that, and it is one that goes to the core of what is wrong with Canada today.

What raising tuition fees does is make life harder on the poor. I know tons of kids whose parents pay for their education because they have the financial means to do so. To them, a few hundred dollars means nothing. To the poor kids who need to either work to pay for school, or take out student loans, this tuition hike is a disaster. Now they are forced to work longer and harder just to pay for a service that the government should be providing free of charge.

Without even going into how disgusting it is for our government to force us to pay for education, let me explain the problem with the way student loans are given out. In order to apply for a loan you must tell the government how much money you personally make. Then they calculate how much money you are eligible for without taking into consideration any other factors. Thus, the rich kids with no jobs (because their parents pay for everything) often take out substantial student loans to use as spending money, knowing that it will be easy to pay them off later. On the other hand, the students who actually need to work in order to pay bills at home get royally screwed. The government sees how much money they make, and gives them smaller student loans, often not even enough to cover the cost of tuition.

So, what all this means is that our government is intentionally making education an impossibility for anyone not born into money. Since most high paying jobs require university or college educations, the government's policy is also ensuring that the poor remain so, and that the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider. How a government can do this and still claim legitimacy is completely beyond me. Obviously the protests have done nothing, but that can be explained by the inability of Canadians to stage protests that mean anything. A bunch of students standing in the rain on the University of Toronto campus doesn't even move me, let alone a government that is intent on ruining the lives of millions of its citizens through various forms of economic oppression, the tuition thing being merely one aspect in a comprehensive policy of subtle oppression. Drastic and meaningful action must be taken in order to get the criminals at the top to listen to our demands, and to bring the wider community around to our cause. Only then can we exercise the single (and I think completely meaningless) weapon we have against government fraud: the vote.

The problems inherent in situations like this are too numerous for me to go into tonight. Essentially, years of soft living have made Canadians complacent, and mass media has convinced them in the futility of political action...

So, until something drastic is done, we must live in a society where the poor are prevented from obtaining a higher education (in practice, if not in theory), and accept the fact that the majority of people in our province actually don't care about things like justice, equality, morality, and basic human decency. McGuinty's lucky he won't be in power for long, because in ten years, if not reversed, this situation is going to get alot worse, and hopefully the reactions of students will get alot more volatile. I know mine will.

Thanks for letting me rant...I just hope you get as angry as I do about these kinds of things. Why must we send our military halfway across the world when injustice still reigns on our own soil? Ciao.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

100 Word Story

Blood coated my knife as I made the first cut. It splashed off my hand and stained my shirt crimson. I stopped to stare at the deep red sky as the sun crested the mountains to the east. In my mind, I began to contemplate the nature of revenge, retracing the painful events that led me to embrace its bloody path.
“End it,” said Currado, lying prone on the rust coloured ground. “It’s the only way to stop your pain.”
“No,” I replied. “Our suffering is endless.” I made another deep slice, then dropped my knife.“You see," I said, revealing the freshly cut fruit in my hand. “In Sicily, even the oranges bleed.”

*****
A few years ago I came across a book of really short stories. I mean REALLY short ones, no longer than one hundred words. So, being the sucker for that kind of stuff that I am, I figured I'd give it a shot. The result was the depressing, yet strangely humorous (if you get the joke) tale above. Now that I read it, I kind of wish that I had edited it more, or chosen a few words better, but tinkering with a finished work seems wrong to me. If you didn't get the last line, let me explain. Essentially the guy is referring to a blood orange, my favourite fruit, which grows naturally in Sicily as well as a select few other places. The line is actually an old Sicilian proverb that alludes to the extreme violence of Sicilian culture...how bad is it if even the earth and the fruit bleed?

Ok, that's it for tonight, I hope you liked my only attempt at a one hundred word story. If not, then write one yourself and see how well you do. Ciao.

Friday, April 27, 2007

May Aquinas Be Our Guide


I'm taking a break from studying for this insufferable Canadian History exam...why can't my country have an interesting past? Anyways, I figure writing a blog entry would get my mind off of Confederation and Habitants and the British Monarchy for a few minutes before I jump right back into it.

What I wanted to talk about (again) is our ability to think critically about ideas and events. The man I use as my guide for this is St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Summa Theologica Aquinas asks and debates some seriously important questions about mankind, morality, existence, and God. The most striking aspect of this work is the way in which St. Thomas comes to his opinions and conclusions. He follows a simple 3 part formula when answering any question you can throw at him. This formula is as follows: Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish. Utter simplicity, and yet it provides the framework for any serious thought or debate about any subject you can come up with.

Seldom Affirm: Aquinas understood that very rarely was the answer to a question simply 'yes.' When the answer is yes, it is a 'qualified yes' rather than an unequivocal one. Usually it ends up being 'yes, but.' Thus, the answer to any serious question is only yes IF you have thoroughly examined and dissected it.

Never Deny: To Aquinas, nothing was as simple as saying no. 'No' ends a conversation. 'No' prevents rational thought about anything. Science often answers with a straight 'no', and that is precisely why I find it's value so questionable.

Always Distinguish: Every answer to every question requires a far more complex explanation than a yes or no answer. Here, Aquinas is explaining that in order to properly view our world, we need to see it in shades of grey, not in black and white. Even if the answer ends up being yes, one must qualify that yes. Furthermore, in qualifying a no, it ceases to be a no, and becomes something deeper.

Well, there you have it, Aquinas' (and my) guide to answering and thinking about all of life's important questions. Try this out with a few of the biggies and you'll see how useful it is. I find it an indispensable tool for examining my ideas and beliefs, and I hope you do too.

Ok, that's it for now...back to Canadian History...oh someone make it go away....