Archive for December 2007

SNOWBALLS FOR CHARITY?

December 31, 2007

People have come up with some curious ways of raising money for charity. But have you ever heard of anything more remarkable than selling a snowbank?

On Saturday Montrealer Michel Levesque sold his two-metre-high snowbank to the Fraser family for $3,500 in an eBay auction – the proceeds to go to Operation Enfant Soleil, a Quebec charity that supports children’s hospitals.

Today the Fraser family are selling bags and balls of snow from the snow pile, hoping to raise even more funds for the charity. Claude Fraser says, “People can give whatever they want. We’ve already received a few hundred dollars.” Potential donors may contact Claude Fraser on his cell phone at 514 – 668 – 8888.

Presumably the snow that fell overnight and today will increase the size (and value) of the snowbank.

Have you ever heard of a more imaginative way of raising funds for charity?

DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS?

December 30, 2007

According to a new poll out today, fully two-thirds of Canadians believe in angels. And nearly half believe in spirits and ghosts. (Many years ago I attended a seance in a private home and while there was some table rapping I must say it didn’t do much for me.)  Significantly more women than men seem to believe in angels.

Another 10 per cent of people are conviced their own residence is home to a supernatural presence.

A British Columbia woman author who writes ghost stories is “convinced there’s something out there that we don’t understand.”

When I was growing up we heard a lot about the Archangel Michael. We were also taught that each one of us had an angel protector. I am somewhat startled to learn how many adults still believe that.

What about you? Do you still believe in “a guardian angel”?

SHOULD PAKISTAN’S ELECTION GO AHEAD?

December 29, 2007

Elections in Pakistan are scheduled for January 8. Should the assassination of Benazir Bhutto provide the Musharref government with an excuse to postpone the elections?

Actually, if Musharraf postpones the elections (and even worse, restores martial law) the country could be plunged into more turmoil than exists at present. Without elections the unpopular Musharraf doesn’t have to share political power with anyone. His only prop would be the army which, ironically, he has resigned from.

If on the other hand a new government can be honestly elected, then the government and Musharraf himself will have more legitimacy. Such a government (likely a coalition involving opposition parties) could then turn to the many domestic problems that bedevil the country, as well as stepping up the fight against the terrorists.

Both Britain and the United States are pressing Musharraf to proceed with elections on January 8.

Do you agree?

WHO’SE YOUR PERSON OF THE YEAR?

December 27, 2007

Time magazine chose Vladimir Putin as its person of the year. The runner-ups were General Petraeus and Al Gore.

Maclean’s named Conrad Black as their newsmaker of the year. I don’t have much quarrel with that. Lord Black of Crossharbour dominated the news in the sense his Chicago trial and sentencing to six years in prison was a drama in which the protagonist, because of a fatal flaw, is thrown from the heights and brought low.

Other Canadian newsmakers included Robert Dzekankski (tasered to death in Vancouver), Robert Pickton (convicted of serial murder), Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber (both disbelieved), Robert Latimer (denied parole.)

You will have others.

My own person of the year is a politician who has made a tremendous comeback in 2007. I refer to the Liberal premier of Quebec, Jean Charest. This time a year ago Charest was written off as a poltitical has-been who would soon be forced out as Liberal leader.

Not any more. Charest (in addition to slimming down by 20 pounds), has brilliantly led the National Assembly to pass 34 government bills at the fall session, has reasserted his control of the party and has out-classed his opponents at every turn.

Mario Dumont and the ADQ are in free-fall. It is clear now that Dumont is not so much leading a government in waiting as he is leading an opposition to defeat. As for the PQ, leader Pauline Marois has her work cut out for her. The party is broke and has taken its main platform – independence – off the table for the foreseeable future.

If I were choosing a newsmaker in the U.S. I would have to go with Al Gore. He has done more than any other person on the face of the earth to alert the world to the imminent dangers of global warming and climate change.

Who would be one of your choices for a person in the year just ending who has influenced us for good or ill? Some might want to consider Benazir Bhutto who was tragically assassinated today in Pakistan.

Off to Kingston to visit family. Back on Friday. Neil

FILMS: FAVOURITES FOR 2007?

December 26, 2007

Here’ two of mine:

Michael Clayton

This is my favourite kind of movie. Glossy, smart-talky, world-weary but still principled with first class acting all the way. There’s such depth in the performances, from the top (George Clooney’s modest fixer, Tilda Swinton’s sweatiness as a corporate lawyer who knows she has sinned, and especially the soulful craziness of Tom Wilkinson as a reformed cutthroat) to the tiniest cameos, which are filled by actors who make their two minutes glow. And it wraps up deliciously without cheating.

Once –

What a stunning surprise. A low budget Irish film that turned out to be the heartbreaker of 2007, a sweet, unexpected, fresh-as-baked-bread love story, acted by real life musicians playing their hearts out on the back streets of Dublin. As one critic said, “Fellas, you want your girl to fall for you? Watch this movie with her?”

Do you have any favourite films from 2007?

Or ones we should avoid?

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL

December 25, 2007

“I pray that I may be truly grateful on this Christmas day.

I pray that I may bring my gifts and lay them on the altar.”

A Merry Christmas to all.

And a special greeting to our own merry band of bloggers and friends.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN SANTA?

December 24, 2007

According to a new poll, a whopping eight million Canadians still believe in Santa Claus.

Curiously, more older Canadians say they believe in Santa (32%) than younger Canadians (22%).

Carl Anderson, a Texas psychologist, is considered the world’s foremost expert on Santa. He says the man in the red suit is divisive for the same reason all robust cultural symbols can inspire opposing reactions: “Santa resonates at a far deeper level than most people realize.” One young father says, “Santa is a representation of dreams and hopes. So many adults don’t like that.”

Some years ago a Canadian academic caused a storm when he said it was time parents chucked the Santa myth.

Do you think children should be taught the Santa Claus story?

Is it damaging to the child if someone rubbishes Santa Claus?

Or is it even more damaging when the child discovers the whole thing is a hoax?

Or is Santa a hoax? What do you think?

DO WOMEN AGE BADLY?

December 21, 2007

The flamboyant conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh has launched his lowest attack yet on the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton. Discussing an unflattering picture of Clinton on the net, Limbaugh asked: “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their very eyes on a daily basis?”

Limbaugh pointed out that Hillary is stuck with a looks-obsessed culture and that the presidency ages its occupants drastically. (If Hillary won two terms she would leave office aged 68). Limbaugh says that aging makes men look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. “Sadly its not that way for women and they will tell you.”

And Limbaugh went on to suggest that a President Hillary Clinton would be forced to have face surgery or some such: “There will have to be steps taken to avoid the appearance of her aging.”

There’s no denying that looks matter in politics. JFK’s tan and Nixon’s five o’clock shadow helped turn the 1960 election in Kennedy’s favour. But women seem to be scrutinized more critically on their looks which depend to a greater extent on lighting, bloating and wardrobe. (Remember the furore when Hillary showed a bit of decollatage).

Often Hillary looks great; sometimes she looks tired, heavy and puffy.

Do you think a presidential candidate’s looks are part of the package?

Does Hillary meet the standard?

Do you agree that male presidential candidates age better than women do?

SHOULD POPE PIUS X11 BECOME A SAINT?

December 20, 2007

According to the Italian press, Pope Benedict has put the brakes on the canonization process for the wartime Pope, Pius XII. Apparently Benedict has set up a committee to review old documents from the Second World War period and study new ones that have recently come to light.

There is no question that Pius XII has become a very controversial Pope because of his attitude to the Holocaust. Some Jews have accused him (he reigned from 1939 to 1958) of being indifferent to the Holocaust and not speaking out against Hitler’s treatment of the Jews.

Some historians say Pius did not speak out publicly because of what happened in Holland. There the Catholic bishops publicly condemned Hitler’s Jewish policy. The Nazis responded ferociously. Many Catholics were killed and the Jews were not helped. The argument goes that Pius did not want that disaster repeated at the level of the universal church.

Pius’ supporters argue that he was a very holy man who worked behind the scenes to help Jews throughout Europe. In Rome alone Pius saved hundred of Jews by keeping them in safe places such as monasteries and convents. After the war no less a person that Albert Einstein praised the Vatican for its efforts to help Jews.

Because it was a moral issue should Pius have publicly denounced Hitler for his massacre of the Jews no matter what the consequences?

Would you like to see Pius XII become a saint?

SHOULD DAD HAVE SOLD HIS SON’S GIFT?

December 19, 2007

On Christmas morning many years ago, when I was about six, I looked under the tree and found a present I had been yearning for – a dart gun.

I suppose my brother and I put up a target and started shooting. I suppose further (because I don’t remember clearly) that we broke a thing or two. The upshot was that my dad confiscated the gun and never gave it back. I was deeply hurt, it wrecked that Christmas for me and I have never forgotten.

I was reminded again when I read about the school teacher dad in Toronto who searched high and low for the perfect gift for his 15-year-old son. He bought a hard to get video game at an on line auction for $90.

After he came home from work, the father found “my innocent little boy smoking pot in the back yard with two of his delinquent friends.”

The father promptly confiscated the video game and proceeded to sell it on an on line auction for a reported $9,000. He said he did so to p unish his son and discourage him from smoking dope.

This transaction provoked a storm on the blogosphere. Some bloggers sided with the disgruntled father. Others accused him of “publicly humiliating” his son.

What do you think?