Facebooklet.ca Blog Dec 13/11

Truth vs. Lies

I was raised to believe that honesty was important, and that lying was not only immoral, but rare. Not exactly a complete picture of human relations.

I still believe honesty is important. What I have learned is that honesty is much rarer than I believed it was twenty years ago - and lying, much more common.

Lying was a big no-no (or so I was told) when I was a kid. It defined you as a person; its consequences were longterm. I eventually stopped doing it for fear of those consequences.

The question I've found myself asking is this: if we can get away with lying, then why can't we get away with telling the truth?

The answer lies, I believe, in the concept of democracy. We in the western, democratic world believe democracy is fundamentally good. If people don't want something, then it shouldn't be that way. Therefore, if people don't want something to be true, it shouldn't be. If people like the lie better, then the truth is immoral - because it violates democracy.

People always talk about how politicians lie. "He only said that to get elected; it was an empty promise..." you often hear.

On the other hand, the guy (or girl) who didn't make that promise, didn't get elected. They failed because they didn't say what people wanted to hear. Voters didn't validate the politician's promises; they just knew what they wanted, and went with the candidate who they figured would more likely deliver it.

People know politicians lie - and what's more, they keep voting for the ones that do, because people want to be told what they want to hear. In a democratic world, how dare anyone tell you, "No". It violates your democratic rights - your rights to get what you want.

I'm not saying I agree with this line of reasoning, but I believe it's the true explanation for the habitual lying we see almost everywhere today. In a democracy, what people want is supposed to come true. We are raised believing democracy is moral and superior. Therefore, it's moral - and superior - to perceive the world as we wish.

I invite comments about this posting (or any other one): you can post them to Joanna's Wall. Do you agree with the reasoning stated herein, or disagree? Do you believe in cold, hard facts, or just opinions? Is the truth actually democratic - or should it be, if it's not?

Our silent moderator for this debate is none other than Dr. Cal Lightman (played by Tim Roth) of the Fox series Lie to Me.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

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Blog Directory Dec 14/11

Different Kinds of Tough

When the holiday season hits, life can get tougher. Schedules have to bend around special events, yet often even more needs to get done: people want it "done by the time they go away."

The closer proximity to people (including family) can be stressful, too. Even if you love them, people demand attention and tolerance. Not to mention trying to figure out the perfect gift for them. Then, of course, there's Christmas cards to send out before the tenth so people will safely get them by Christmas. There's just a lot to do - plus all the ordinary stuff. Christmas can be a testing time.

What have you got to be to make your way admirably through the holidays? One word: tough. Mr. T. tough; Chuck Norris tough.

Now, the key question: Are you tough enough to make it through this holiday season without coming unglued?

Answer: You're going to have to be.

A central theme in many sagas is the premise that you eventually have to face your fear - and own it. When you accept that you'll just have to face it and adapt - well, then you've really won. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy from then on, though....

We'll all get through the holidays, one way or another. But in those tense moments when you've just said the wrong thing, or are afraid you will, or have to listen to a long, intolerable story from some relative, I offer this coping mechanism: Picture yourself in Chuck's shoes, fighting the bad guys on the very margins of society. You may not want to return, but I think it's a harmless vice.

Here's the man himself, smiling, like tough guys often do. After all: what's he got to worry about?

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The ides of December

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Iron Chef is a show I recommend. It's a cooking competition, in which a challenger chooses their opponent (from the roll of Iron Chefs). Then, Chairman Kaga (pictured right) reveals the "secret ingredient" around which the competitors must structure their dishes. They have an hour to create as many dishes as they want (typically it's three to five).

Before the competition begins, the Chairman explains why he created Iron Chef. Kitchen Stadium - which he built to host the show - is introduced. Then Kaga does a preamble about why he chose tonight's challenger. (The challengers come by Kaga's invitation, since he - of course - is the Chairman.)

My favourite part of the show is the introduction. Kaga always mentions how he was drawn to the guest chef by reputation: "I had to find out for myself...." Next, you see the Chairman eating in the guest chef's restaurant (always by himself), savouring the cuisine. The meal was so good, Kaga has invited the chef to Kitchen Stadium.

Now, the scene switches to Kitchen Stadium, standing empty, but ready to receive the dueling chefs. You see Kaga's shoe emerge from behind a pillar. He's alone, relishing the anticipation of the "battle" that's soon to begin.

Next, Kitchen Stadium is alive with spectators. The challenger walks in, rather like a fighter to a boxing ring. When he reaches Kaga, Kaga summons the Iron Chefs with a sweeping gesture. They rise into view, standing like statues, showing no emotion. The challenger has to pick.

Now, the Chairman reveals the "secret ingredient". I'd say that from his point of view, this is the most important introduction. He motions to a cloth-covered table, then quickly removes the cover. The secret ingredient can be anything. It's often something I've only heard of or only eaten once, but sometimes it's as mundane as green pepper. However, nothing is mundane in Kitchen Stadium.

Kaga calls the battle to begin, then disappears. You don't see him again until the end. Commentators lead you through the "battle", telling you what each chef is doing and what they might be preparing. Most of the time, the Iron Chef wins.

I love Chairman Kaga for two reasons. The first is his enigmatic role on the show. He's an amazing host - that much is obvious. His flamboyance is very entertaining, but actually he says very little. To my mind, he's definitely the star of the show, though he's only in evidence for about ten percent of it. What's more, why would a flamboyant person be so often shown alone?

I think Kaga showcases a sophistication of Oriental culture that westerners haven't yet achieved. To him, food and taste are so serious, he's built an entire reality surrounding them. But that's just the level of commitment that seems to come so naturally to Asians, but we in the West have a hard time managing. Whether it's manufacturing cars, or practicing martial arts, or cooking...an Asian lives it. The North American just does it for a job, or for a hobby, whichever case it might be.

One further comment: note the importance Asians place on the title "Chairman". It's not a title we tend to focus on as much here. Did Chairman Mao influence that, or was he responding to it?

I hope you enjoyed Chairman Kaga - this entry's secret ingredient.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

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Dec 16/11

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Another tournament, another story

My younger son got silver this time, while my older got fourth place (no medal). He cried: my younger one felt so bad for him, he offered to give him his silver medal.

I love that my kids are in judo, and I felt like I belonged at the tournament this time. The winning and losing issue: well, I guess my kids - and all of us - will have to get over that. And now, I've even figured out why.

The point of judo, or any sport, truly is sportsmanship - but sportsmanship has a larger meaning than "it's how you play the game."

Sportsmanship is about getting along with people and fitting in with the team. No wonder winning isn't important: most people on the team aren't going to come in first. Even if the team wins, there are just a couple of stars; the rest are players. A team doesn't need winners; it needs players. I understand that today, but I didn't even five years ago. Then again, I was never a team player. I hope my kids - win or lose - learn this lesson while they are still kids.

One final note: when you go to an out-of-town tournament, the trip itself - apart from the tournament - becomes a story of its own. The context of this one: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the old song says. The coffee server made fun of me for wearing my Santa hat. The stores are all decked out, even if the kids fight in them. The season proceeds, whether it's unified with your own life, or at right angles to it. Just like the tournament happens, whether you win or lose.

This kid was at the tournament. Kid: you done good.


Dec 19/11

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Hey, Mr. Spaceman, are you looking for a dream? Take me away....

-UFO/Catch the Highway, Leslie Spit Treeo

That song caught my attention at university. It used to play in the pub, where I couldn't afford to drink anything except coffee. Those were very difficult times, and I often fantasized about a spaceman coming to rescue me.

The power of the song, however, lies in more than the concept of rescue. It's what the singer craves rescue from: the fusion of disparate elements that comprises modern urban society. That constant juxtaposition of things that don't seem to belong together invokes the singer to suspect she, herself, doesn't belong.

Humans are tribal creatures; belonging to a society is important to them. Those who feel they don't belong here, naturally wonder if they do belong somewhere else.

An alien, really, is just someone who doesn't belong where they are. We tend to relate the idea with travellers who come from far away, but trust me: you can manage to "not belong" without travelling. Conversely, many people who have come a long way still manage to belong wherever they end up.

I think what I wanted from Mr. Spaceman was not abduction, but rather knowledge that would help me understand the world I lived in. After all, if it "made sense", I would feel good about it and realize it was worth participating in. I think Mulder, from X-Files, might have sought the same: he called it "the truth".

The conversations in the pub never led in the direction of what I was seeking. Thankfully, I'm not at university any more. A deserted highway is a vastly superior resource of knowledge, even if Mr. Spaceman never shows up. I learned that from the Leslie Spit Treeo, a Canadian band out of Toronto.

Here's Laura Hubert, the lead singer.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

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Dec 21/11

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The Boss

If you were talking about music during the mid to late '80s, Bruce Springsteen was front and centre. He was "the Boss" and the reason was clear: his album Born in the USA. The title track was a smash, but Dancing in the Dark was possibly even bigger. The album produced at least five big hits: Glory Days, I'm on Fire, and My Hometown are three more I can think of right now. Each title tells what its song is about; from them alone you can understand the resonance with his American audience.

With Born in the USA, Springsteen's timing couldn't have been better. Americans could tell, as they emerged from ruinous recession, that their "good old days" were ending. Some would get richer, some would get poorer, but no more was anyone guaranteed that middle class life that "had always been there" in their "hometown". Billy Joel explored the same change in Allentown.

Springsteen (and Billy Joel, as well) identified with that middle class "working man" - and when that working man hurt, Springsteen hurt, too. His songs always focussed on ordinary people's problems. In 1984, most Americans were still tender from the rough handling of the early '80s. Therefore, the working man, the Vietnam vet, the family whose town had shut down, the alienated loner, and the rejected lover could all find common ground: Springsteen's hot new album. If you were down, Born in the USA was for you.

The amazing part about the album, however, is that its commiseration is electrifing. Born in the USA, for example, is a hard-hitting, mood-lifting anthem. Dancing in the Dark leaves you with that restless, I-want-to-hit-the-dancefloor feeling. The true old-fashioned American, Springsteen tells you he understands, then helps you up.

Bruce is an idealist. He has a clear vision of what American life should be. He believes in a just society where good, hard-working people get rewarded. He believes that to have a truly good life, you have to be a good person.

By the '90s, many questioned the "old-time" values Springsteen espouses. They looked for shortcuts to the "American Dream". To them, a just society meant "I got mine." As a result, the American Dream didn't look so American any more. Anyway, since these newly evolved "players" didn't have a clear sense of right and wrong, nothing really was wrong. Therefore, they had no reason to listen to Bruce, whose main focus was people's problems.

Look at America today. Who was right?

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

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