Friday, 20 August 2010


Well, this is going to be long. Longer than usual. And in several parts.

(BTW, you can blame Da Blog Fodder for this; he put me up to it. Mind you, he's been active in posting, and sharing other information, about this pending development. As have his readers. If you go over to his blog and look about, you'll find lots of things to consider. Much of it centres around his "Of Mosque and Men." OK — credit given where credit it due.)

As there has been a huge amount of mis-information floating around about this proposal of a mosque a few blocks from "Ground Zero" — the site of the old World Trade Center in New York.

I want to start by putting out as much correct data as I can. To that end, I begin with the observations of a blog friend from New York, who has worked on Wall Street.

The proposed mosque would be part of a building housing various areas relating to Islam, and also some recreational areas, including a swimming pool. The location is not at "ground zero," but several blocks away.

There are to be all sorts of commemorative areas at, or closer to, ground zero.

The area of the proposed mosque and cultural center now houses a variety of enterprizes, including bars, discount electronic shops, and shops specializing in pornography.

I used to work in a big office building a short block away from the Twin Towers back in the late 1970's and early '80s. That part of Wall Street has always been a strange architectural mix of very, very old New York buildings, varying eras' attempts to be modern, and many humdrum bits of ugliness.

It houses gleaming offices where capitalism reigns, churches, pizza shops, tourist souvenir stalls and shops, discount clothing stores...even luxurious lofts created out of discarded old buildings. Most of the wealth is well-hidden. On the street level, it's a bit of a honky-tonk place, where everything moves pretty quickly.

News stories that say that the proposed mosque is to be built on the site of the Twin Towers are incorrect.

There are a number of parks in the area, some located on the nearby river side...great places to sit and catch some fresh breezes, and perhaps think peaceful thoughts.
That, from New York.

The larger issue is the amount of furor this has created in the U.S., and (to some extent) elsewhere. Much of that upset has focused on how westerners understand Islam, and how westerners are being encouraged to see Islam. That is the issue which I find most concerning.

As a bit of historical background, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all share a common background, and are collectively known as the "People of the Book." That is an important consideration.

I want to try to put in some information about Islam. And I want to try to look at how Islam is being portrayed  in North America, particularly the US.

I'm not claiming in any of these comments that I perfectly understand all these things. I don't. But I know enough to be able to ask questions, to encourage thought — which is all I'm trying to do.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


By now, you've seen my laments on the tearing down of a house, and the chopping down of a tree.

There's been a change. Not sure why, but there has.

This is something to celebrate.

What has been torn down was the garage of the old house.

It has been cut off in order to create a new lot,


which can be "severed" (if City Council agrees), and sold for a new house. (But it is still too bad that the owner thought he had to cut down a tree to make the potential new lot more "saleable.")

So what will arise?

Perhaps something one of these places, just a bit down the street from the proposed lot.


Or perhaps something like this, one street over (just up from our house).

Those houses are a bit on the small or narrow side, but still nice enough, and with a view of the river, even a small house can be quite inviting.

Thursday, 12 August 2010


That's how Joyce Kilmer concluded his well-known poem, "Trees," written about a hundred years ago.

On the other hand, any fool can cut down a tree. Which is what's happening at the site of a perfectly good house that's being torn down (and about which I blogged previously).

This one was perfectly healthy, as far as I could tell.

Sadly, the world's inventory of trees is declining with rapid deforestation in many areas, in North American and South America, as well as Asia and Africa.  So every good tree is worth keeping. That's especially true in the urban forest, where trees help to cool the city, and its homes, through their shading.

To make up for the loss of trees elsewhere, we've been doing our bit by growing trees on our micro-holding.

We have a big pine in the front. We have transplanted it from several homes to others, but now it's reached the size that a we won't be transplanting it again. 

We've got several spruces at the front as well. Along the side, two more spruces. At the back of the house two more. Scattered through the yard another eight spruces. Four of them surround the Celtic meditative garden I've been trying to build.

Plus this mountain ash (in front of which you can see one of our back yard spruces).

Hiding behind the mountain ash, an apple tree. The apples are not particularly good for eating (by our tastes), but they're great for baking.

At the other corner of the house, a big maple

Plus two Manchurian Elms — which are really "weed trees." They grow all over, spread thousands of seeds (which invariable seem to grow wherever they land), and you can't trim them from April through September, for fear of spreading "Dutch Elm Disease." I would really like to take those two out, but not until good "replacements" have grown to sufficient height.

You can see the little spruce in front of the larger elm.

I just wish we had more trees.

P.S.: No report on our trees would be complete without  a mention of "The Mistress of the Trees."

Monday, 9 August 2010

RISING WORLD FASCISM (yet another lament)

I'm hardly the first person to talk about the return of Fascism to the political agenda of many western nations' political parties. Of course, it isn't called "Fascism" — that would simply scare too many people. It's simply fascism with a different name — some Orwellian "newspeak."

One of the countries where this is happening is Canada. But I'm taking an American example, because the U.S. is much further down this particular road than is Canada.

One of the most interesting pieces of this from the blog of a "Pesky Emotional Republican."

Check this chart:

To begin at the beginning; a confession. By temperament, I'm a "small-c" conservative; I'm not a "Large-C" conservative whose thinking is shown on this list.

The first problem I have with this list is the language. Overly simplistic, jingoistic (excessively hostile), language.

Lets take a look at a few things.

"Globalism" — from the Liberal list. Globalization/globalism is supposed to be the ultimate goal of "free enterprise."

"Judicial activism" — from the Liberal list. Meaning of that phrase? "Decisions by a judge with whom I don't agree."

The truth is, of course, that I believe in mixing and balancing the various items on these lists. But the goal of Fascism is to create polar opposites — to be opposed to co-operation (which is routinely explained as a "selling out one's convictions"). Once the polar opposites have been created, your goal is to get rid of people — in one way or another — who don't agree with your thinking. Which is why bi-partisan government isn't working in the US, or in Canada.

Lord, have mercy upon us!

Monday, 2 August 2010


This house is not far from our home. I didn't realize what was happening until I passed it recently. It is literally right across the street from the river which runs through our city.

As you can see, it is a large house; perhaps a quarter or a fifth of it has been demolished. The building looks structurally sound. The windows are in good repair. The outside was brick-covered. For all intents and purposes, a good house. 

But it is being torn down to make way for a bigger, fancier house.

I've long believed that the more affluent we become, the more effluent we produce. And I'm not just thinking of sewage; I'm thinking of waste in general. A perfectly good house, which might have been able to accommodate two families, is being turned into garbage, taken to the dump, at a time when we have a lot of homeless people in our city (an issue which, ironically, I raised in my last posting). 

To quote a couple of lines from a contemporary hymn, by a friend and colleague:

    when waste and want live side by side,
    it's gospel that we lack.

Or to return to my earlier premise, homelessness is an ethical and spiritual problem long before it's an economic problem. It's problem with what we value as human beings.