Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

At least lutefisk is usually eaten indoors

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

This news story makes that Scandinavian masochism known as lutefisk – which my dad loved so much and which made me gag – seem pretty innocuous:

Sweden battles EU food-safety rules to save a smelly Baltic-herring delicacy

Sweden is fighting European Union food-safety rules in a battle to save one of its traditional delicacies, a smelly dish made from fermented Baltic herrings. Eskil Erlandsson, the Swedish Agriculture Minister, has pleaded with John Dalli, the EU’s consumer and health protection commissioner, to save surstromming, a delicacy from northern Sweden so smelly it has to be eaten outside. Surstromming is produced under a special exemption for Sweden and Finland from EU rules on the sale of fatty fish from the Baltic Sea, which have dioxin pollution levels considered too high for consumer safety. Next year, the loophole will close and the EU will ban production or sale. Commission officials said Mr. Dalli had declined the gift of can of the herring after Swedish colleagues warned him its pungent odour was an acquired taste, even for Swedes. The smell is so intense, it is usually eaten outside.

Uncivil discourse

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

In a culture where the sarcastic put-down is so greatly admired, is it possible to regain civility?  The May 2010 issue of The Covenant Companion is introducing a new series on civility.  The article  “Civility and the Road Less Travelled” by Daniel de Roulet is worth a read.

To get to Civility

That issue of the Companion also included a thought-provoking column “Why so hostile?” by John E. Phelan Jr.,  including this paragraph:

… differences of opinion do not distress or alarm me. Quite the contrary. Were our differences quashed, ignored, or minimized, then I would be alarmed. What alarms and distresses me is the hostility surrounding our differences of opinion. Our political and religious discourse has devolved into a wasteland of hostility. Murderous scorn is poured over opponents as if they deserved no respect or consideration for, if nothing else, their common humanity. Persons who temporize or try to see the good in another or their position are considered weak and contemptible. Ideological purity is required. Woe to the person who says something good about President Bush or President Obama, about Pope Benedict or Pat Robertson, about the Methodists or the Pentecostals, about the fundamentalists or the liberals. As poet Thomas John Carlisle put it: “I hate God’s enemies / with perfect hatred. / Why can’t God / do as much?

I’ve been as guilty as most of lacking civility in my discussions about issues about which I feel strongly, but articles like the above are convicting me, and hopefully tempering my speech.

Unlike Robert Service I don’t completely hate cities

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’m Scared of it All

I’m scared of it all, God’s truth! so I am;
It’s too big and brutal for me.
My nerve’s on the raw and I don’t give a damn
For all the “hoorah” that I see.
I’m pinned between subway and overhead train,
Where automobillies swoop down:
Oh, I want to go back to the timber again —
I’m scared of the terrible town.

I want to go back to my lean, ashen plains;
My rivers that flash into foam;
My ultimate valleys where solitude reigns;
My trail from Fort Churchill to Nome.
My forests packed full of mysterious gloom,
My ice-fields agrind and aglare:
The city is deadfalled with danger and doom —
I know that I’m safer up there.

I watch the wan faces that flash in the street;
All kinds and all classes I see.
Yet never a one in the million I meet,
Has the smile of a comrade for me.
Just jaded and panting like dogs in a pack;
Just tensed and intent on the goal:
O God! but I’m lonesome — I wish I was back,
Up there in the land of the Pole.

I wish I was back on the Hunger Plateaus,
And seeking the lost caribou;
I wish I was up where the Coppermine flows
To the kick of my little canoe.
I’d like to be far on some weariful shore,
In the Land of the Blizzard and Bear;
Oh, I wish I was snug in the Arctic once more,
For I know I am safer up there!

I prowl in the canyons of dismal unrest;
I cringe — I’m so weak and so small.
I can’t get my bearings, I’m crushed and oppressed
With the haste and the waste of it all.
The slaves and the madman, the lust and the sweat,
The fear in the faces I see;
The getting, the spending, the fever, the fret —
It’s too bleeding cruel for me.

I feel it’s all wrong, but I can’t tell you why —
The palace, the hovel next door;
The insolent towers that sprawl to the sky,
The crush and the rush and the roar.
I’m trapped like a fox and I fear for my pelt;
I cower in the crash and the glare;
Oh, I want to be back in the avalanche belt,
For I know that it’s safer up there!

I’m scared of it all: Oh, afar I can hear
The voice of my solitudes call!
We’re nothing but brute with a little veneer,
And nature is best after all.
There’s tumult and terror abroad in the street;
There’s menace and doom in the air;
I’ve got to get back to my thousand-mile beat;
The trail where the cougar and silver-tip meet;
The snows and the camp-fire, with wolves at my feet;
Good-bye, for it’s safer up there.

To be forming good habits up there;
To be starving on rabbits up there;
In your hunger and woe,
Though it’s sixty below,
Oh, I know that it’s safer up there!

(Robert W. Service – 1912 – Rhymes of a Rolling Stone)

Comedy Central’s brave response to intimidation

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Suppose you believe that freedom is important and certain beliefs are dangerous, so you announce that you intend to make your point by using mockery as a weapon against folks that you think have dangerous beliefs.  However when a certain bully and his gang actually show up and double-dare you to mock, you grovel before them, lick their boots as instructed, and then slink back home.

How do you deal with the shame of losing face?

If you are Comedy Central, there is an easy answer.

Find a pacifict to push around.

Hemp and the amazing continuing influence of Hearst and DuPont

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

In more than one discussion about the merits of decriminalizing marijuana use, I have heard people state that the reason that marijuana use is a criminal offence can be traced back to the efforts of a couple of influential U.S. businessmen in the 1930s. The way the narrative goes, the newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst (with big investments in forest plantations) teamed up with the DuPont chemical company (with big investments in petroleum-based products) in an effort to make the growing of hemp illegal.  Using the services of Henry J. Anslinger, the head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, they supposedly embarked on a successful campaign to demonize and eventually criminalize marijuana.  Do a Google search on the keywords hemp, Hearst, DuPont and Anslinger for lots of detail.

The thing that puzzles me about that story is the fact that it addresses legislation in the United States approximately 70 years ago, and in recent decades several countries including Canada have legalized the growing of industrial hemp, yet most paper is still made from trees.  It seems odd to me that William Randolph Hearst could still dictate to countries like Finland that they must not use hemp for paper production.

It seems more likely to me that paper producers likely prefer making paper from trees instead of hemp for technical and economic reasons, not to mention environmental reasons (forest crops are grown over many decades with minimal site disturbance, providing a full suite of environmental benefits, whereas hemp requires annual site inputs).

With a bit of digging I found an article “Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy Theory” that I think makes sense.

Wangerinian weather

Monday, October 26th, 2009

It has been many years since I read Walter Wangerin Jr.’s novel The Book of the Dun Cow, and I have forgotten many details of that Christian allegory.  However, something that I do remember  is the dark, bleak mood created by the leaden sky, incessant rain and  soaked earth – a literary device as background to an epic struggle between good and evil.

That novel has came to mind often this month.  This is weather of Wangerinian proportions.

And it looks like it’s not about to end.


I know that in some parts of the world this kind of fall weather would be considered normal, but this is Saskatchewan, for Pete’s sake.  It’s supposed to be dry and sunny, and my farming brother-in-law should have more than half of his harvest completed.

By the way, I realize that Walter Wangerin, Jr. is not a household name, so this may not be something to boast about, but I think that I’m the first to use the adjective Wangerinian, if Google can be trusted.

if he were jon and kate’s pastor

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I generally make an effort to avoid watching reality shows, but in recent months it’s been impossible to avoid learning about the break-up of the those famous parents, the Gosselins.  (Well maybe not impossible – I guess I could close my eyes while standing in the supermarket check-out line, and avoid all the news websites, and go live in a cave).

For a break from the tabloid sensationalism, Covenant pastor Eugene Cho’s blog post, “if i were jon and kate’s pastor” is worth reading.


Monday, June 8th, 2009

Gerard cooked supper tonight.  It was delicious, including pork ribs in a tomato/cabbage sauce, plantain, and fufu.

Eating with my fingers involves some guilt over violation of hard-earned rules of etiquette, but I’m told that it’s the proper way to eat fufu, so I won’t argue.

The colour of music – news story

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Today’s Prince Albert Daily Herald had this story about Charlotte’s art show …

Student brings art and music together

The Prince Albert Daily Herald

As she sits at the table, Charlotte Loseth explains how music has influenced her life and especially her art.

“Music and art have always been together for me,” said the Carlton Comprehensive High School Grade 12 student.

“When I was painting each portrait, I was listening to their music to help me along.”

Loseth is set to present her art – four portraits of musical artists – on Friday at Turks Coffee House, with another show to be held at Carlton next week.

The four artists Loseth chose are singers she has a strong connection to, whether it was growing up listening to Bob Dylan or her own enjoyment of the indie rock band Animal Collective. Loseth said she painted each singer in a way that shows what she feels their music would look like if it were to become physical.

The portraits were completed as part of an independent extra credit course Loseth took at Carlton. According to Carlton principal Dawn Kilmer, the program is one that requires the student to not only be self-motivated, but also asks them to design their own curriculum and marking scheme.

“It’s always in a passion area,” said Kilmer. “They always come up with incredible products.”

Loseth’s art teacher, Dawn Marie Anderson, said she was impressed with the work and skill Loseth put into her paintings. One of the challenges Anderson observed her student go through was the struggle to push herself and her art beyond what she had done before.

“She was just so fearless in what she did,” she said. “She’s gone past the point of where I would have thought she would go.”

For Loseth, the project is the end of a year of artistic challenge, but also serves as the start to a new life beyond high school. She hopes to use the artwork as part of her portfolio to apply to art schools next year.

“I’m applying once I have built up a portfolio,” she said. “I’ve just always thought art school would be an awesome place to be.”

Loseth’s work will be on display to the public at Turks Coffee House from 8-10 p.m. on Friday. It will also be open to the public in the Carlton rotunda for the week starting Monday.

The colour of music – an invitation

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

The colour of DylanIf you are in the vicinity of Turk’s Coffee House between 8:00 and 10:30 p.m. this Friday (May 1, 2009), consider taking up Charlotte’s invitation.  She’s worked hard at this project, and I think she’s done well.