ryan adams has, on his recent disc ashes and fire, a beautiful song called kindness. it reminds me of gram parsons, particularly a song called she. it’s also about 4 and half minutes to reflect on my resolution of being kinder. i suppose it’s some minor accomplishment to still be resolute in my resolution.

aside from a few blog postings, some thinking and talking about it, have i accomplished anything? do i have a plan? do i want to continue? have i learned anything?


the first thing i realised is that quantifying kindness is hard. and perhaps not the best way to actually be kind. 


what’s a dollar worth to you? what does it mean to someone who dresses in a suit for work? what does it mean to someone who sleeps at the salvation army?

obviously, the value of a dollar differs widely. but why make comparisons at all? we have the need to value everything, usually in monetary terms. but anything is something. i know that having a dollar in my pocket is not the difference between eating or not. for some people, it is. that’s good enough.

second, i still can’t give you a solid definition of kindness. it’s a very shifty idea and it changed for me as the month progressed. the best i can offer is that it’s easier to see the unkind act. kindness has a way of hiding in a crowd.

third, i do and don’t have a plan. or i had a plan, then reconsidered, then re-evaluated my reconsidering and decided to keep going. i can’t say what it is, however. it’s like calling for a shutout in hockey – bad luck. 


the plan i don’t have, i’ll follow. which means, i’ll keep a little change in my pocket and keep kindness in mind and eyes as i go along.


so there it is. rough estimations, relative semi-conclusions, a bit more experience. have i made a difference? 


i don’t know, frankly, but i hope so. 

at least a bit. 
 
 
wow, that steve harper, leader of harpsternation – he’s a bunch of fun. the party never stops with hip-hop-harper calling the tune. encouraging Canadians to swing hula-hoops of pride around their economically tight belts. or take a nice walk on the economically sound ground.

it’s all good. and he’s just getting started. so get ready.

his speech,
 to heavy economic thinkers in lovely, banker-friendly Switzerland, presumably, was aimed straight at the gut of Canada. first, though he had to brag that his Canada is doing swell amid this world of economic woe. 

look, look, world, over here, watch me dive! 


then – splash - just to be sure we’re still awake; he becomes grim and stolid, like a father who has to cut back on the kids’ allowance. and birthday’s won’t be the same this year - “sorry kids, but if we want to keep the lights on, you’ll have to give a something you like back.”

that we like? the Canada pension plan sounds good to me. but, it’ll be too expensive a few years from now. because, umm, because, well, more people will need it. don’t worry, we have time to plan.

‘feed me 65” sounds just as catchy as ‘freedom 55.” 

the party’s turning into a double kegger and a pig roast. our p.m. is keen to keep our lite-brites glowing. he sent his minister of fossil fuels to Calgary to let the big, blustery oil industry know how much we’ll help. because we need those tar sands to pump some gas. in the future, when we can’t afford to buy gas.

for good measure, joe oliver - subtle guy - calls environmental groups radical and foreign-funded. he ‘explains’ these denunciations by saying they’re trying to ‘hijack the system.’

hey joe, which system is that? the one with limited environmental rules that you’re dismantling. or the new ‘streamlined’ system that will limit the amount of environmental limits. i’m just guessing on that.

harper’s government isn’t fooling around with those radicals and environmental groups. among others. they’re ‘enemies of the government’ and ‘enemies of the people of Canada.’ 

everyone, to the dance at the House of Commons! harper’s ‘gonna turn this mother out.’ 


party on Canada.
 
 
as i try to keep up my new year's 'be kinder' resolution, issues, questions and some answers come from unexpected places. a friend commented that just passing out money isn't really kindness. i was a bit offended. i thought about getting hank to settle things. but a buffalo won't stoop to throwing his weight around.

so i considered it and realized that's true. money helps, but it's a deflection, a way of not dealing with another person. 


i still give out change. but i ask how are you? what are you going to do with it? i look this other human in the eye and talk to them. for a few moments. some are too shocked. they leave without a quarter. 


but there's one fellow who buzzes over to me because he needs a buck fifty for some macdonalds. he tells me what the special is today and how they don't let him in the mall and where he sleeps at night. 


i'm not rich and we're not friends. but i can live without 150 pennies and the 10 minutes spent talking to this man. 


who and why to be kinder? to everyone, because it's a better thing to do. but i think some people who deserve a unique kindness, a kindness that's much harder to give. 

dignity. humanity. attention. 

this short film, co-directed by tara flynn from vancouver, who i'm fortunate to know, shines a light on the photos from gabor gasztonyi's book 'a room in the city.' about people who live in worn out hotels in vancouver's downtown east side. powerful, insightful and compassionate, take 3 minutes to watch and listen. it's time well spent.

 
 
HEADLINE: GOOGLE TO MONITOR YOUR INTERNET SEARCHES!
big news breaks in the wahington post (gotta be real newsworthy), google, and its sub-sites like the bastion of just how stupid people are, youtube, are going to track your internet searches.
this is not new. google, facebook, netflixx, to name 3, have already been doing this. creating search results likely to interest you. ever notice when you open youtube there's videos that you didn't look for but look like something you'd looked for.
the downside. your search results are censored, you don't get a full spectrum of news perspectives. will the government and big business get a hold of this, trace your virtual travels? umm...google isn't exactly your corner store where you buy licorice and lottery tickets.
is anyone naive enough to think this hasn't already been happening?
google is just copping to it while announcing that their various internet services will combine their tracking. an example? when i first got netflixx service, i watched a lot of film noir, alfred hitchcock, and  documentaries. what do you know - within 2 weeks, channels were created specifically for me. is that good service or something nefarious?
watch this ted talk from last march for a great explanation of this practice.
 
 
today, i was supposed to do what i said i was going to do yesterday – post the second part of my reborn infatuation with vinyl. well that will wait. 

the world won’t stop turning as occupy has returned less weary, less vaguely, to my thoughts. because i think - i believe - we still are revolving, evolving in a revolution. at the end, we might all be found. as equal. 


i think that like many others, the season of lighted trees and parcels unnecessary, occupied my time and thoughts like late night travellers, hurrying to someone else’s house for cheer, occupied the streets and the hours. perhaps, we thought – pragmatically? realistically? cynically? – that the occupy movement was faded and fated to background noise. 

a noise ignored. the light of scrutiny was bored with occupy. the message of the people stored in silos of empty dreams and deaf hearts of politicians on the run.  

but this evening, my understanding of what occupy means was restored. what it means to people who put their feet on the street, not the mouths that put their ties on to bleat at us. in five minutes. a video of patti smith commemorating martin luther king jr. day in the united states. she spoke. her words never more true, more honorable, more welcome. 

            people have the power. 

 
 
our second go with the video blog. this one, on my rediscovery of vinyl, the album, the l.p., went a bit overtime. so we've cut the video in half. here's the first 10 minutes or so, and the remaining 10 or so minutes will come along tomorrow.
 
 
kindness is an easy claim and an easy call. hold a door open for a couple of people – that’s your kindness quotient for the day. 

but really, it was about 30 seconds; the door was being pushed toward you anyway. and as soon as two or three people went before – enough i suppose to be looked at as kind – but in a very trivial sort of way – you pushed back in line.

that’s what struck me about kindness over the past few days, in particular as the season of festive jocularity and fetid trips through swamps of memories to see people you only see once a year at most comes to an end. 
(hands up everyone who visited relatives they don’t really like, didn’t have much to say and had less in common with – come on, be honest, it’s just you and me and hank).

this is something i imagine we see as kindness. aunt martha’s getting old – who knows when she’ll see us again. so like good little soldiers we trundle off to aunt martha's to eat her frozen strawberry pie that she thinks i love.

when we get back to car after three and a half of remember how true the axiom ‘you can pick your nose, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives.’

THE KINDNESS QUOTIENT

i have no idea what this, what it should be, what it should measure and how to measure it? i think i’ll have to think about it.

in other words, it just came to mind right now. up until now i have grappling with how to exhibit (yech. . . sounds like a museum), show kindness in a more concrete way than a few coins in a hat. i don’t think i like show, you are or you aren’t kind. doing it for show reminds of those terrible charity balls.

creamy margarine faces and too tight ties for a good cause. that no one quite remembers. if these balls had any balls, they’d invite a few homeless people in for a good meal and maybe a nice dance or two.

kindness should be more an iceberg floating in the ocean – 90% unseen and just a fraction above water. kindness should only speak when spoken to. kindness should be less than we see it to be and more than we think it is.

so the last few days, i’ve dropped coins in some hats and cups. but when someone comes asking for a dollar, i engage that person – or at least try to, some would prefer to loiter away. i talk to them. the first thing i ask is completely naïve but i ask anyway. “what do you want the money for? you going to drink it away?”

some very honestly say i need two bucks for another bottle, some say i need to get some macdonalds (because they can’t be in malls and warm. the mini-police are quick to hustle them out). most act genuinely surprised that they are talked to like a human, not a street pylon.

and a few i had real conversations. about government, about hats, about sleeping outside and how that occupy group doesn’t know anything about being outside. one fellow sat on the corner, with an old typewriter banging away at the letters. i saw he had bag full of pages and asked him what he was writing. he said, oh just things i’m thinking of. 

yeah, i understand that, said goodbye and wandered in to the rest of the day.

maybe he should have written this blog.

 
 
this ain't pretty. please be forewarned and take all good sense in watching this graphic and hateful video. normally we wouldn't offer an outlet for such a disgusting and horrid piece. but this goes beyond anything near normal. except that watching it you get the idea that this is normal behaviour for these brave soldiers bringing democratic values to the heathens in afghanistan. one piss at time. looks like a circle of jerks who have gotten away with this kind of defiling of a corpse for so long, they think it's funny and making a video would be a neat thing to watch at a reunion back in the states. 
we canadians should think about this. beyond the disgust engendered by these idiots - some of america's finest - america lost it's moral compass somewhere in the 1970s and really doesn't care. they do what they like, when they like and how they like. this is the country and values (i'm still searching for some) that our prime minister is getting more cozy with, signing agreements that allow commerce easier access to the border than people and is more than willing to back the american policy on mostly anything. does anyone but me think that canada so abruptly pulling out of the kyoto protocol was done so america wouldn't be first in line, take the national and international condemnation for so doing.

well apparently, america has many other ways they prefer to use than merely trying to dismantle an international agreement.
no, they prefer to imprison suspected terrorists and nudge them into telling the truth with 'humane' torture methods that are supervised by doctors. in the states the hippocratic oath means as much as democratic values - omni-hypocricy. 

as if imprisonment without trial wasn't good enough, these fine young men laughingly relieved themselves on dead afghanis. 


let's reverse the situation. you'd see nothing else, hear about nothing else and be reminded that this is why america has to show the world about the compassion and equality of democracy. and how many people actually vote in the states. 


in a country of nearly 350 million people about 90 million actually voted, about 37 percent. that's high in the country of weird electoral procedures that skew actual voting to the wealthier, whiter, land-owning citizens.  
occupy as you listening? i can't begin to figure out exactly how many people voted and elected their representatives and the bastion of hope (lessness) o (my god) bama. it's just a screwed up system.  

as for me, i don't think i'll go anywhere near that country. and anyone travelling abroad, please cut the canadian flag patches off the americans who, when they're not on their own turf, aren't so tough. just a gang of bulies in the schoolyard, making rules in a game fixed so they win, at least in the eyes of americans.

i wonder how this is going to look to middle east where it is already the top news story on english al jazeera. 

this video says too much about the opinions too many americans have about the world beyond their borders. 

we are extremely upset but thought that this video needs to be at least discussed (or disgust) before youtube pulls it. it really doesn't matter if youtube plays it backwards or blacks out the whole 39 seconds. it's out in the world now and it ain't coming back.

as bruce cockurn sang, "and they call it democracy." 
 
 
The Harper government kick starts 2012 with another deplorable example of how they are not handling the horrid situation in Attawapiskat. Worse, if it can be, this government doesn't care about giving the impression they don't care.

Two audits reporting many problems with managing infrastructure money for first nations, funds mismanaged by the government, came under public scrutiny yesterday.

Finally.

Both completed last February. Both posted just after the holidays. A well-known tactic to slip out damaging documents attempting to avoid unwanted attention. A time when they might be least likely to cause a backlash.

Eleven months from completion to publication. Why? What did the initial reports look like? The government had these audits, but still displayed political cowardice by blaming Attawapiskat leaders.

This is a moral crisis, not an issue of poor fiscal management. Either you care enough of about people to find solutions now or people live in squalor and bone-freezing cold.

If the Canadian military can shovel snow in Toronto, why couldn't military engineers and soldiers be working in Attawapiskat. Put down their guns and bullets, pick up some hammers and nails.

Why couldn't this government simply do the right and moral thing, instead of playing politics? With committed M.P.s like Charlie Angus repeatedly bringing Attawapiskat into the House of Commons, the Harper government was well aware long ago.

However, they chose - chose - to do nothing of consequence. Now we find that the government wasn't able to manage funds aimed at hardships on reserves across Canada.

This is, to be polite, a national disgrace. The backlash over the Harper government's disdainful treatment of the Attawapiskat people began months ago. Critics aren't just Canadians. The world is assessing this with hard, stark, but accurate statements. Phrases that make all Canadians cringe, except apparently those able to do something, to change the situation.

Third-world conditions. Communities in crisis. Dire. Comparison to the world's poorest nations. U.N. monitoring the situation.

What else has to happen before our prime minister, steps forward and says, "This is Canada. This doesn't happen here and this is what we're going to do."

Specifically and quickly. If the government never admits anything, that's fine. If they dance the blame two-step, offer a few bandages for gaping wounds, that's immoral.




 
 
i've made this resolution - just be kinder. my friend, hank, warned me that writing those words is easy, making them part of your day-to-day life is much more difficult. 
 
today, i ventured out to do a little side walking, coffee stalking, and book talking. in particular, i was seeking tom spanbauer - i received some quizzical looks, heard some 'experts' say they knew him while their eyes danced around mine (i'm no expert, i couldn't spell his name) and found a computer that knew him. 
 
dangerously close to conglomerate buying, i went looking for a smaller, more smiley store. 
 
then this commitment to kindness came into sharp focus. i thought it’d be easy peasy, lemon-queasy. hey man, watch out 'cause real life is
somewhat surly about assumptions. 
 
this commitment requires commitment. it demands that i be present in the world, not huddled in my i-pod and cell phone bubble.
 
i walked down the street that is often frequented by folks with a hand or cup out. a street on which the pedestrian pace picks up to an eyes straight ahead double time march. 
 
corner of ignore avenue and hurry-up road.
 
i went past a man, bearded scruff, dirty and damn cold, looking for some change. in my little i-pod cocoon - whiz - right by him.
  
a few steps later, it clunked me right in the forehead. kindness. i went by him as though he were transparent. i looked back, turned  around.
 
i dropped some minus 21-degree coins in his cup. a couple of  quarters i think. he seemed genuinely grateful, but only fleetingly looked up at
me. a minus 21 degree shiver of unwanted, tangible social status chewed on my spine.
 
i looked at him, wondered how he ended up on a bitter cold  ottawa street. then i carried on, carrying the reality that this kindness thing
is going to be different than i thought. unless i confine myself to opening doors for people and giving up my seat on the bus.
 
it might hard and seem wholly inadequate. in those short moments, the clinking of coins, the thank you sir, a bigger picture of inequality and attitudes became  clearer.
 
my meagre act of kindness felt small, didn't really make me feel better. i suppose that's the point though. i hope that it made the gentleman on
the street a bit warmer.