Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading and Remembering

This morning, I decided to depart from my more usual routine of scanning the New York Times online and, instead read a few pieces from the Globe and Mail out of Canada. Almost every time I read Canadian papers I come away with a sense that, by and large, Canadians are more intelligent than people from the U.S. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stupid and close-minded Canadians, but I regularly see signs that Canadians are more progressive than we are.

Take, for instance, this morning's reports about the new ban on using hand-held devices while driving in Ontario. The Ontario ban, which goes into effect tomorrow, October 26, apparently is just the latest Provincial ban in Canada. Only California, to my knowledge, has instituted anything similar in the States. In the Dallas area, there are spotty bans on using hand-held devices only in school zones. That strikes me as utterly idiotic. "Let's try to ease into this thing; let's stop killing kids and see if it catches on." What horseshit! It only takes a few minutes on city streets in Dallas to see that people who are talking on cell phones are menaces. They weave across lane boundaries, pull slowly in front of oncoming traffic (oblivious to what could be their impending death if the oncoming drivers also are on cell phones), drive a good 20 miles per hour UNDER the speed limit, and otherwise behave as if they were drunk. OK, enough; my intent was to write about Canadians, not cell-phone addicts.

In Ontario, there are significant fines associated with breaking the new law. But even there, they have not seen fit to associate the criminal behavior with boosting insurance rates. But they're at least talking about the issue!

After deciding that Canadians have the right idea about cell phone usage while driving, I read another piece, by Doug Saunders, that argues that neither Reagan nor grass-roots democracy movements led to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. It's a short piece, but I think it offers some reasonable arguments that neither "cause" for the fall of Communism was much of a "cause," after all. In fact, Saunders argues that Reagan's belligerent howls and his muscle-flexing prolonged Communism by giving Communist hard-liners greater sway than they would otherwise have had.

On an unrelated note, I get annoyed when I hear people chide others for calling people from the U.S. "Americans." Their point is that "Americans" should refer to people from the tip of South America to the fartherest reaches of northern Canada. But they never offer any reasonable alternatives. There are none! We can call people Canadians because they are from Canada. We can call people Mexicans because they come from Mexico. We call people Peruvians because they come from Peru. And so it goes. But can we call ourselves United States of Americans? That's silly. So we shorten it to Americans. But if that's truly unacceptable, then I sugest the only reasonable alternative is to change the name of our country. Let's consider changing it to Capitalistica, so we might call ourselves Capitalisticans. Or we could change it to Imperial, which would allow us to call ourselves Imperialists. Or we might change it to Ruff, giving us the opportunity to call ourselves Ruffians. Or maybe we could just agree that Americans is probably a reasonable compromise.

On another note, my wife and I spent most of the day yesterday at WorldFest in Addison. The event, which continues today, is a celebration of cultures around the world, with entertainment, foods, and goods from around the globe. Among the attractions were showings of a number of film shorts; we saw six of them, several of which were very good.

One day soon I will write about the mega-celebration of my brother's 70th birthday; it was a family reunion and birthday celebration rolled into one and it was worth doing again soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Thanks to Grumpy Old Man for pointing me in the direction of this piece. This is William 'Liam' Clancy, an Irish folksinger who was born in 1935. He is the last surviving member of a band formed with this brothers called, aptly, The Clancy Brothers. More can be found here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Biblically Speaking

Believe it or not, I've been reading the Bible. I've found some interesting stuff, but mostly I've found what I expected. It is chock-full of first-instances of literary references, but I'm of the opinion that the subsequent uses are more meaningful than their sources, in most cases.

I've been meaning to read the Bible ever since a friend suggested to me that I could not understand English literature without doing so. He was wrong, but there was a lot that took extra time to understand.

I haven't become Baptist, though. Nor Catholic. Nor have I concluded that the Bible is anything more than wishful interpretations of stories that are based on fear.

I think I'm a heathen. Oh, no! Now what do I do?