Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Moral Monk

Walk the earth, meet people, have adventures
... a simpler dream free of morally bankrupt economic need
We just watched The Wolverine and I came away from it noticing a strange parallel.  At the end of the film Logan leaves to pursue the life of a righteous man righting wrongs, and he dismisses an offer to help his love interest run her family business.  Something similar happens in Iron Man; Tony Stark walks away from his family business and leaves it in the hands of his former secretary/love interest.

Is this a new idea?  That the male hero walks away from the dirty world of business (and law) and pursues a monk-like life of moral purity?  That this fantasy speaks to men is interesting.  Forget glass ceilings and financial power, you can have it all ladies, along with the moral turpitude that goes with it.

Walking away from financial power is something I'm looking for in future films, especially fantasy pieces like super hero films that tend to sell based on an idealized idea of how to live - they try to appeal to a deeply seated wish in their audience rather than through a well constructed narrative.

Other superheros come at this in different ways.  Bruce Wayne is the playboy who never has to concern himself with financial need and uses his wealth to create that singularly focused alter-ego.  He treats the money with disdain while secretly using it to live a secret, morally pure existence.

The way violence plays into this is interesting as well.  It is legal and financial constraint that prevents us from violently confronting each other more than we do.  You are threatened with fines and imprisonment for violent acts.  Fight Club plays into this frustration well by focusing the urge to violence inward (radically inward in the case of the narrator).  As willing participants the fighters in the club are able to avoid the social ramifications of their violence while being able to express the urge, at least in the beginning.

The superhero character avoids economic sanctions on violence  through costume and alter-ego, though the more modern take on super heroes (the one where they simple state to the media, "I am Iron Man!") is neatly avoided by giving up all financial responsibility.  If you have nothing, they can take nothing.

Hero characters have always had a dark side.  There are the heroes that choose to step out of the social constraints we've made for ourselves, and then there are the heroes that choose this for everyone, making the ultimate statement about the futility of modern life.  I'm thinking of films like Cabin In The Woods, The World's End and one from a ways back, Escape from L.A..  In these films the hero does not just opt out for themselves, but for society as a whole.  This kind of dystopian toppling has a long history, though I suspect that there have been more recent examples because social norms are only getting tighter and tighter in an overpopulated world.

It's one thing when a hero opts out of the economic and social constraints we're all mired in to enact pure, moral action, it's something else entirely when a film's message is to give up on your society entirely because it is the dystopia and living in it makes moral action impossible.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Darkest Days

I have fond memories of Christmas as a child.  Before we left England I can remember massive family gatherings and much joy.  Once we emigrated my parents went to great lengths to surprise us and keep up far away traditions though our gatherings were never more than the four of us and reaching back to everyone else happened through staticky phone lines.

One of the more obvious frictions in post England Christmas is Santa Claus.  I started with Father Christmas who personified the season, but belief in him was never a requirement for presents, most of which were clearly marked with who they were from.  The lack of magical thinking never hurt my Christmas experience and it made me value the relationship with the person who got me the present.  The Santa Claus thing is still a foreign concept to me.

I enjoy the aesthetics of the season, especially the lights that hold back the prodigious darkness and the trees.  I have no trouble with icons of mid-winter celebration and I even enjoy it astronomically.  We're at the lowest ebb of light in the year; the darkest days.  After these weeks the sun begins its long journey back to us, what's not to love about that?

Today I was kindly let out of work a bit early to go and give blood and volunteer at my Lodge's annual Christmas blood donor clinic.  It's about the most noncommercial thing you can imagine.  Considerate, thoughtful people giving a piece of themselves to help out others with no expectation in return.  No one was fighting over parking spots outside, no one looked stressed out and frustrated.  The feeling in the room was lovely and the 'merry Christmas' wishes were genuine and heartfelt.  From that I rushed back having not eaten and given blood to observe the sugar fuelled extravaganza of my my son's school's Christmas pageant back in the real world.

I know the feeling
In the next week I'll have to brave the insanity of shopping.  One of these days I'll buy early, but that requires thinking about this season prior to it getting here.  It's hard enough to deal with it once, let alone throughout the year.  I love my people and I am happy to buy them gifts and do so throughout the year, but this week I'm buying them because of a calendar date, and competing with every other person who is doing the exact same thing.  That this wears me down doesn't mean I love them any less.

In the next week I'm going to go to a lot of family functions, none of them mine.  The family I wish I could see are far away (and I have no Christmas tradition with them any more).  The family who are close have fallen apart.  The glue that used to keep us connected ended herself.  That this wears me down doesn't mean I love my people any less, but it does often feel like I'm sitting in a room full of shadows, watching traditions that are familiar but foreign.

My work also feeds into this gravity around Christmas.  Kids who cling to the holiday tend to ram it down the throats of those who dislike or even fear it.  The emotional tension in the school slides up the scale as the holidays approach and the friction between the haves with their dreams of more stuff and the have-nots fearing two weeks of disappointment at home cause sparks to fly.  That this wears me down doesn't mean I love my job any less, though I wish people wouldn't be such insensitive jerks about the whole thing.

I wish Christmas had a little more grace and a little less insatiable need to it.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of time to ponder the return of light to the world at the darkest time of the year.

One of these days I fear the emotional weight of this holiday will tear something inside me.  Fortunately the days keep happening and it's soon behind me.  New Years isn't the social event it used to be, but I enjoy that chance to turn a page and think about all the potential of a year that hasn't happened yet.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Scorched Earth

I'm watching The Agenda on TVO...

"During my adolescence, I had a strong desire to enter the middle class."

If you are going into the workforce now you missed middle class by about 15 years.  I'm just over 40, and as a GenXer I'm watching the career I moved into getting burned to the ground around me by unions and businesses run by Boomers who are focused only on grandfathering themselves into full retirement packages.  In the past year I've watched my 'representatives' sell off my retirement in bits and pieces, always under the urgency of a fabricated financial crisis.

When they aren't selling off everyone under the age of 45 they are tightening the thumb screws by increasing our work loads and expecting us to work for free and just be happy that we have a job.  We used to expect a living wage, now we should just be grateful to be indentured servants.

Listening to the under 30 crowd saying they can't get into the employment house is kinda funny from a GenX point of view.  I guess they can't see all the smoke and flames from the outside.

Don't feel bad Millennials, there is nothing left for anyone born after 1960.

"They became the first post-war generation to be worse off than their parents, left with reduced expectations and downsized hope for the future."

"Unemployment among young Canadians under 25 is more than double that of older Canadians."

"If houses kept up with inflation – and that would be a pretty good result all on its own – the average house would now cost $154,587. In April, the actual average was $369,677."

Friday, August 23, 2013

I want to believe Mazda, but I'm not feeling it

We got a Mazda5 a five years ago, great vehicle, very happy, so happy we got a Mazda2 three years ago.  Again, very happy, a wonderful second vehicle.

I just took the Mazda2 in for its 50k service (yes, it's only put on 50,000kms in 3 years of service) and got clobbered for $500 to replace the front brakes.  Apparently one side had worn down to steel on steel.  I've greatly enjoyed my 5 and my 2, but for the first time today I missed my Honda Civic, which went 150k between any need for brake work.

Like the Civic, the 2 is a light vehicle that should be easy on its brakes.  It's also a stick shift, so the brakes don't get leaned on a lot anyway.  I had to get the brakes done on the Mazda5 at just over 100k kms.  It's a big vehicle that we use as a carry all, often moving lumber, multiple passengers and other stuff for projects.  How the 2 needs brakes done at half the kilometers of the 5 is quite beyond me.  Mazda was more than happy to look the other way though.

I'm a fan Mazda, but you left me hanging on this one.  Your dealership took it in the teeth, only charging me labour and parts at cost (which still cost me over $500), but Mazda itself wouldn't consider what was obviously a caliper failure on one side of a virtually new car a warranty repair.  As I stood in the dealership looking at all the ads about craftsmanship and standing behind your product I felt very much alone.

Now I'm left wondering if the brakes on Mazda2s are up to the job.  I'm not comfortable driving my family
My tough little Mazda2 can take on ice storms, but the
brakes are flaky!  Is it safe on ice?
about in a car that apparently will burn out pads and rotors on one side, it isn't safe.  If I'm driving to work in the winter and one wheel is dragging as I hit ice, I'm going off the road.

I'd love to know if others have had problems with Mazda2 brakes, I'm certainly not impressed with the engineering, or the backing of a vital and failing component by Mazda Canada.

I just got back from a week of driving a Fiat in England.  It made me miss my Mazda2 until I got home and got left standing with this bill.  That Fiat was still on its first set of brakes at 60,000 English miles.

It hasn't been a good day for this loyal, and otherwise very happy Mazda owner.  Am I to expect $800 brake jobs every 50,000kms on this Mazda2?  That is hardly the economical and dependable vehicle I was promised in the brochure.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Did Sisyphus Come To Love His Rock?

I'm a couple of days away from heading home with my Mum's ashes.  Going back to Norfolk is always emotional for me (I got emigrated to Canada when I was eight and left a lot of family and friends behind).  On top of that I'm seeing Mum's last wishes through by taking her home.  Mum has been sitting on her cupboard in our front room since we got her ashes last year.

I'm at the end of a decade long odyssey that began around my parents' divorce in 2004.  My Mum's deteriorating mental health made this a tragic trip into the abyss.  In retrospect, suicide was the inevitable conclusion to this horrible experience.

Sisyphus and his rock
I've been pushing this rock up the hill for so long, with so many moments of total despair, that I'm suddenly finding myself anxious about letting it go.  Did Sisyphus come to love his rock?  When you think misery is going to last forever, do you start greeting misery like an old friend?

My anxiety about doing this is peaking.  I'm wondering if that isn't because I've come to see this misery as a part of myself, but is it?

My greatest fear is that the madness that claimed Mum is in me somewhere.  If this grief is an avenue to that, I need to realize that it's not a part of me, and I can let it go.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ninja, don't Ninja, KLR, don't KLR...

The KLR? 

  • A big bike with a comfortable driving position for me (a big, six foot+ guy)
  • Can go just about anywhere - handy for a guy who lives in the country (dirt roads)
  • This particular one has only 1200kms on it
  • Lets me practice many different riding environments.
  • as sensible as a bike choice can be

The Ninja?

  • road specialist bike with a wide range of performance (won't outgrow it quickly)
  • an emotional choice that feels fantastic
  • dexterity (ungodly braking and acceleration) would get me out of trouble
  • able to handle all aspects of road driving well (KLR isn't highway/high speed friendly)

Ups and Downs

The KLR is far away in Milton - meaning I'm spending a couple of hours just to go see it, and it might not be as nice as the pictures suggest (which obviously weren't taken recently).  The Ninja is five minutes away in Fergus.

The Ninja has low miles (only 8000 miles), but the KLR has fantastically low miles and is 2 years newer.

The Ninja has been repainted and has been dropped at least once.  The KLR has been dropped too, but they aren't trying to hide it. The Ninja appears to be in good working order, but it's also had a long list of owners in its short life (I'd be #6 or 7?).  This is a Ninja with a shady past.

The KLR owners aren't responding to communications and are far away.  The Ninja owner was immediately available, has been completely upfront with the bike (even pointing out blemishes) and lives around the corner (I taught his cousin English).  He has put half of the 8000 miles on the bike.

The KLR is a bit more expensive, and obvious (nothing hidden).  I don't know what its history is.

The Ninja has charisma... and I've had a habit of wanting to save orphaned machines (my long and storied car history is full of examples).  I sympathize with the Ninja, I want to give it a good home.

The KLR would let me learn on and off road riding, all in one bike, though it wouldn't do either thing as well as a purpose built bike would do - it's a swiss army knife.  The Ninja is a scalpel, very good at what it's designed for, but it isn't going off road.

Any used vehicle has secrets, the KLR might be the lemon, the Ninja the safe buy, but the Ninja's history, paint job (which is well done) and history suggest that it might have been abused.  That just makes me want to save it more.

Either bike would let me get my hands dirty maintaining and modifying it.  Both Ninja and KLR appear to be easy to work on.  They insure for the same amount (it's all about engine size and they are within 2cc of each other - though they couldn't be more different bikes).

If there's a sure choice, it's lost on me.  I'm looking for an emotional relationship with my first bike.  The come hither looks, lovely sound and mysterious history of the American Ninja suggest she's trouble; I just don't know how much trouble I'm looking for.


When the Navy Seals want a bike, they go to the KLR!  The Navy Seals!

The Ninja can do this!!

... and if not that, then at least this:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pan American Motorcycle Diaries 2.0

The original Pan American Motorcycle Diary is still epic, but it might be a bit much, especially if that corporate sponsorship doesn't come through.  A more economical approach follows.

Toronto to Rio for the 2016 Olympic games

The North and Central American ride

  • gearing for 300kms a day
  • minimizing interstate/get there fast without seeing anything roads
The direct route: minimal highway travel in The States

The South American Ride

A much shorter and cheaper ocean voyage, then south through Columbia
 PAMD2.0: from north to west to east in South America
Using the new ferry service from Colon, Panama (on the Carribean side) to Cartegena on the north coast of Columbia.
  • much cheaper than trying to charter a boat down the Pacific side
  • regular, dependable service
  • more than enough space for everyone to go at once
Chilean Atacama Desert & Volcanoes
The South American portion now includes Columbia and an angle through the Atacama desert in Chile. The end result is a more economical, shorter trip (though with more time on the ground in South America) and we still get to add another two countries to the roster.
  • 7000kms in North & Central America (24 days at 300kms/day)
  • A 500km/7 hour ferry trip from Panama to Columbia
  • 8000kms in South America (27 days at 300kms/day)
Even if we reduce the South American mileage to 200kms/day, we're still only looking at 40 days.

With the reduction in time and cost, we could easily leave mid-May and arrive without rushing (including days off and/or diversions) at the beginning of August.

May 17th, 2016 departure from Southern Ontario.

North & Central America: 7000kms

CANADA: 325kms to U.S. border ~ 1 day, no nights
USA: 2800kms to the Mexican border ~ 10 days, 10 nights
MEXICO: 1800kms to Guatamala ~ 7 days, 7 nights
GUATAMALA: 300kms to El Salvador ~ 2 days, 2 nights
EL SALVADOR: 328kms to Honduras ~ 2 days, 2 nights
HONDURAS: 150kms to Nicaragua ~ 2 days, 2 nights
NICARAGUA: 360kms to Costa Rica ~ 2 days, 2 nights
COSTA RICA: 560kms to Panama ~ 3 days, 3 nights
PANAMA: 581kms to Colon (ferry) ~ 4 days, 4 nights

North America:   10 nights
Central America:  22 nights

South America: 9500kms

COLUMBIA: to Ecuadoran border 1550kms ~ 6 days, 6 nights
ECUADOR: to Peruvian border 931kms ~ 3 days, 3 nights
PERU: to Chilean border 300kms ~ 2 days, 2 nights
CHILE: to Bolivian border 288kms ~ 2 days, 2 nights
BOLIVIA: to Brazilian border 1566kms ~ 6 days, 6 nights
BRAZIL: 1866kms ~ 7 days, 7 nights

South America: 26 nights

Basic budget 

  • Gas per day ~ $30 avg (higher in expensive countries, lower in cheaper countries)
  • lodging per day ~ $60 avg each (shared accommodation)
  • food per day ~ $40 avg (lower/higher)
  • ~ $130/day/person
  • 60 day trip = $7800
Had I the means, I'd offer ten places and budget $10,000 per person and do the trip from May 17, 2016 to August 1st, 2016. The seats would be filled by people willing to document the experience using various forms of media from their own distinct perspective.  I'd want people of various backgrounds who would all bring their own insights into the experience of riding through such a diverse range of cultures and climates.  I'd then take the results and build a travel documentary in multiple media about the experience.

The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries

A two month odyssey along the spine of the Americas.  Out of the Great Lakes basin, across the Mississippi and the Mid-West, through South Western U.S. desert, along the Mexican coast before crossing the back of Mayan Mexico and tracing the Pacific coast of Central America all the way to the Panama Canal. Recrossing to the Caribbean side of Panama, we take a ferry service to Cartegena and trek south through Columbia into Ecuador. Following through the Andes and bouncing off the South Pacific shoreline, we enter Peru and after heading inland to Machu Picchu we skirt Lake Titicaca (I just wanted to say skirt Titicaca) and head south into the Chilean Atacama desert.  Crossing volcanic Chilean Andes we enter Bolivia and finally cross the back of the Andes into the Amazon basin.  The rest of the trip skirts Brazilian jungle on the way to Rio on the South Atlantic coast.

60 days, 15 countries, two continents, 16,500kms!


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Burned Clean

I'm feeling like I'm finally putting myself back together, I've been taking action, trying to steer myself again.  The biggest recent change was getting my M1 motorcycle license.

I've wanted to get a bike since I was old enough to drive, but my parents did backflips to put me in a car instead (probably wise at the time).  Now that I'm older and wiser, I'm looking for something other than just thrills from riding a motorcycle.

What feels like a lifetime ago, I was living in Japan.  A colleague and I came across a student who was into racing carts.  He invited us out and it became a regular event.  I'd always had an interest in motorsports and fancied myself a decent driver, it was nice to have the lap times prove it.

One of the most enjoyable side effects of ten tenths driving in a tiny shifter cart doing almost 100km/hr into a left hander was how focused your mind is.  You are taking in all sorts of sensory inputs, your adrenaline is ticking, you can feel the tires on the edge of grip, the wind is thundering past your helmet, the engine is screaming behind you, and you are no where else but in that seat.  You feel burned clean of any worries, plans, random thoughts or distractions.  You feel like you're dancing with the machine under you, it becomes an extension of yourself.  It's a wonderful feeling and I have never felt so exhausted and relaxed as I did after a day at Kiowa, deep in the mountains, tearing around that track.

I'm hoping that I can find that same quietness of mind on a motorbike.  The personal space and focus needed will be therapeutic.  The chance to disappear into my senses, to be entirely with the moment... the best kind of meditation.

There is no magic pill, except sometimes

It's nice to put the panic attacks behind me.  I've been on a serotonin enhancer for a few weeks now and feel like I can finally manage the last year without bursting into tears at inappropriate times.

One of the benefits of not feeling like I'm at the constant beck and call of a flight or fight response is seeing things with some perspective.  Instead of being hit in the face by branches, I'm able to see the forest as a whole.  That perspective does a lot to ease anxiety.  It also helps in seeing where you are and where you want to go.  A sense of having the power to self direct instead of feeling the victim tossed about in an emotional storm is probably the clearest sign of recovery for me.

With anger and frustration being less central in my thinking, I tend to an abiding sadness when I think of Mum, but that extra serotonin uptake seems to blunt the emotional edge, so I don't fall into a pit when I feel that sadness.  Being able to look at it and then look away really helps.

I wouldn't want to stay on this stuff forever.  The hot flashes aren't any fun at all and emotionality seems to be the engine that drives libido; it'd be nice to have that back.  On the upside, I'm not having any digestive problems with it.

As a means of handling an overwhelming emotional crisis, I'd have to say that this particular pill has really helped.  Once I've got a handle on the situation, it'll be nice to put the crutches down again though.

Dream Garage (in progress)

Daily drivers:

Winter/bad weather car:

Nissan Juke AWD

in metallic blue, with some go faster bits to make it feel like a rally car.  With a good set of snows it'd even get us into the cottage in March!

Summer Blaster:

Morgan 3

Custom blue with RAF decals, some bullet holes and one wheel drive!

The go-everwhere bike (about to be my first bike):

Kawasaki KLR650

a big bike that goes anywhere...

The next level bike:

Triumph Street Triple

a boutique bike that will hug the road and offer a naked bike experience with the all the latest technology.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Top Gear Bolivia Special

I really enjoy the Top Gear Specials.  The Bolivia one is one of my favourites   Last time I watched it I tried to map where they were going as they went...

My best guess at the route they took through Bolivia into Chile... GOOGLE MAP HERE.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bike Update

I was all about the Honda NC700x in the last post, but after a bit more research, I'm now thinking more along the lines of a Kawasaki KLR650...
The everyman's all purpose bike, it'll do 120km/h all day on the highway, or take on the roughest trails.  It also happens to be two thousand dollars cheaper than the Honda and has a very tall saddle that happens to fit me perfectly.

People have take their KLRs around the world.  It would be an ideal contender for our Pan American Motorcycle diaries trip.

Since I live in the country anyway, it would be nice to have a bike that won't shy away from dirt roads, and our resident bike Jedi said there is an off-road course up in Blue Mountain that the KLR would take on with a big smile on its face.

I thought it would feel insubstantial, but the KLR is a big bike with a wide front end that protects the rider even at speed.  It has a nice, upright riding position as well.

As a true all purpose bike it would always have a unique place in my bike collection, being a capable off roader means regardless of what road bike I have, the KLR would always offer a special skill set.

Speaking of road bikes, I've been looking at Triumphs with interest.  As a former Spitfire owner, I'm a fan of the marquee, and it would be nice to pick up one of these English beasts.  The Triumph Street Triple looks a fantastic naked bike.
More than I could handle as a beginner, but something to look forward to as I get my bearings on a bike.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

PAMD2: Tim's Kit

The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries 

The original google-doc that started it: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1R-ZslpFqwbRSZslaH6HuIna0Z1tv9avKitTHhn81DQ4/edit?usp=sharing

...led me to Tim's dream kit:

The helmet?  Nexx MaxiJet X40 Modular Helmet:

Samsung's Galaxy Note,
All the computer I'd
need for the trip
Google Glass before being
integrated into a helmet
...with built in GOOGLE GLASS!  A visor with built in Google Glass that responds to voice commands: "begin hi-def video"  "conclude hi-def video" - feed directly from the helmet cam and built in Mic.  "Take photo" allows for saving of photographs via the visor view.  Integrated navigation, communications and uploading allow for an immediacy in media production that hasn't been available before. GPS and other online tools allow for on-going live connection to the trip by fans.
Also allows for immediate inter-group and all group broadcasts via local wifi and amplified bluetooth.  Media saved to my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 in my jacket pocket and uploaded live via 5G wireless to post-production.  Constant, live video and data feeds from members of the trip!

The bike!  A Honda NC700XA:

A world bike with exceptional gas mileage and all around ability. An accessible bike for a (relatively) new rider.  The bike offers a number of carrying options:

And offers a low centre of gravity and great all round ability.

And the body gear:  BILT Jacket, pants and boots, in white, so they'll look REALLY used when I'm at the end.  Offer all round weather protection and good heat management, as well as crash protection.

Other kit:

The Olympus OM-D

Rugged, small and offers advanced photo and video options to supplement what is coming from the smartphones.  Offers immediate bluetooth uploads via smartphone link, allowing for higher quality photography and video into post production immediately.

Large lens and accessories choices - small size means easy to carry on bikes.  Future accessories will allow for professional level high-def sound and video recording in a very small package.

Local Production Vehicle:
VW Westie:
  • Diesel
  • able to seat 6/sleep 4
  • with a light trailer that can carry up to two bikes or equipment
  • Used as a rolling post production platform and extra equipment carrier.
  • Tracks motorcycle pod, moves ahead to arrange lodging
  • offers first aid and emergency support
  • technical support

Pan American Motorcycle Diaries

The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries
St. John’s to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics
The Pitch
We consider the Americas in a very segmented manner.  North America considers itself very distinct from Central America, and South America feels as remote to most Canadians as the Himalayas, yet we are all living on the same connected ground.

The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries would document the trek of Canadian motorcyclists as they cross Canada, travel the west coast of the USA and follow the Panamerican highway through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.  In Panama they would gain passage to Guayaquil, Ecuador and continue on their journey through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and into Brazil on their way to Rio in time for the 2016 Olympic Games.

This epic journey would take the riders through northern boreal forests, prairies, rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, deserts, tropical rain forests, the alto-plano, the Andes, and the Amazon before reaching Rio.  Riders would see the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans while crossing both Tropics, the Equator and two continents coast to coast.

Why motorcycles?  Because they put you in the world.  Riders will feel these places on their faces.  With no climate control they will feel the cold, the heat and interact much more emotionally with their environments.  Motorcycles are a common mode of transport in most of the world because of their cheap operating costs.  Bikes are frugal on gasoline and are environmentally relevant.  North Americans travelling the Pan American highway in SUVs are tucked away in a rolling barrier to communication.  Bikes start conversations and put people together.  You have to stop more often for fuel and breaks, you must take a more personal role in maintaining your vehicle and tend to develop a more personal relationship with it.  Digital recording allows us to collect immersive media that would have been unimaginable on a bike even ten years ago.

The goal of the trip is to connect Canadians to the games in Rio, and the Americas in general, leading up to the world gathering in Rio in August, 2016.  Canadians have a long history of epic marathons for good causes (for Hope, for recognition).  The Pan American Motorcycle Diaries would feature riders who are doing the trip to raise money and awareness for a variety of causes personal to them.  Personally, I’m on a mental health journey following my Mother’s suicide last summer and would be putting my energy into that.

Though a documentary, the media for this trip would stress a near-live feel, with media downloaded for post production at least twice weekly and a strong live social media presence through riders self-producing media throughout the trip.  Current and near future communications and media technology would be pushed to the limit to challenge the static nature of current reality/documentary programming.  Like riding a motorbike, this will feel raw and real, and will allow audiences to interact with the event as it unfolds.

As a lead up to the Olympics in Rio, the trip would also show the Americas as the single piece of ground that we all share, and perhaps dissolve some of the us/them-ness of North American thinking.

The trip operates in 4 stages:

  • stage 1:  NORTH AMERICA:  St John’s NL to Vancouver to LA*
  • stage 2: CENTRAL AMERICA: Mexico, Guatamala, El Salvidor, Nicoragua, Costa Rica, Panama
  • stage 3: Panama City to Guayaquil Ecuador (by ship)
  • stage 4: SOUTH AMERICA: Guayaquil, Ecuador to Lima Peru, through Machu Picchu, La Paz Bolivia, Brasilia Brazil to Rio.
* long way down. A more direct route (Toronto to Panama would be 1/3 the distance)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Damn It, I'm A Liberal?

In the past year I've attended my first political protest, written extensively on the politics around teaching and became a local union executive, then quit, then brought my union before the Ontario Labour Relations Board for misrepresentation.  The danger in waking someone up is that you don't necessarily know what they are going to do, they don't either - they were asleep before.

My union, like many other political organizations, needs people to wake up enough to participate or the organization fails. Watching the latest round of acclamated 'elected' officials take over executive leadership roles had me wondering about how apathy is playing into this particular democracy. Getting into the union swing of things caused greater discomfort - the socialist language of all those brothers & sisters and the strident alignment of ideas passed down from on high all made me uneasy. It got worse when I found my union ignoring its own rules and abusing members for political gain.

I'd initially been hesitant to join the union in a larger capacity because the equality at all costs philosophy that underlies them didn't agree with me. I couldn't articulate what I didn't like about it, but I also knew I wasn't a conservative, looking to keep the status quo, and unions do (did?) provide a valuable protection for the middle class against right wing greed. Like many other Canadians I've been pushed to extremes in an attempt to protect myself.

Since I became a Canadian citizen five years ago I've been trying to find my political stripe.  The recent incompetence of the Ontario Liberal Party put me off a party that I was otherwise on the verge of joining.  It took Akaash Maharaj on CBC's The Current to bring what Liberalism as a political stance is into focus for me:  Click on LISTEN and go to about 6:18.  That stance has also made me realize just how unliberal McGuinty's party has been in their desperate attempts to appear fiscally conservative in order to chase poll numbers.  Liberals would never remove democratically guaranteed rights, how is that respecting individualism as much as possible? Liberals would never attempt to remove local representation in an effort to reduce costs and consolidate power in a single person - this is the very opposite of liberal values.

Liberalism is a belief, not a halfway house between conservative economics of business and socialist economics of people.  Liberalism is valuing individual freedom to the extent possible without infringing on the freedom of others. It is inherently meritocratic, meaning it rewards merit and ability.  Liberalism does not advocate the enforced equality of socialism, it advocates for freedom of opportunity. It also implies that those more capable have the responsibility of maintaining this meaningful meritocracy and guaranteeing that freedom of opportunity to everyone who comes after them.

I've never felt comfortable with socialism's flattening of society. I inherently believe in a meritocratic form of governance that offers opportunity for all, and rewards those that are capable while also allowing those that fail their failure.  There is something simplistic and dishonest about a socialist's belief that all people deserve an equal slice of the pie; you'd have to be willfully ignorant of human nature and human ability to believe that a fair way to distribute limited resources.

I always had the sense that conservatism advocated for that sense of competition and felt a conservatism somewhere in me because of it, but conservatives don't really enjoy competition, they seem to enjoy monopolies. Recently conservatism, like the socialist response to it, pins itself on economic arguments. The conservative kowtows to a free market ideology that is idiotic in its fictional simplicity. Whether it's Bush leading the West into the worst recession in history or Harper quietly dismantling the very machinery of government that guarantees a fair chance at opportunity in business, the environment or world affairs, modern conservatism seems more bent on dismantling representative government and reducing us to a corporatocracy.  For someone who believes in freedom of opportunity based on merit this is an anathema.

I (and I fear the Liberal Parties both provincial and national) have fallen into the economic mousetrap argument where conservatives take the side of big business and minimal interference while socialists stake out the people first, economics be damned mantra. This simplification and extremification of Canadian politics has caused Canada to abandon the party that has ruled it for most of its history.

I believe that most Canadians believe in a system that doesn't force equality on everyone and spread limited resources recklessly thin. I believe that most Canadians believe in merit as a means of recognition and advancement. We the people can't be blamed for falling for this economic simplification because the one party capable of standing above it and managing Canada in a meritorious way has fallen for it itself. In a globalist mindset, economics provide statistical proof, and we're all willing to swallow it if it means our slavery is shipped off shore to sweatshops we can't see. Economics in general and globalist economics in particular are no way to run an enlightened government.

It appears that I am a Liberal in the purest sense of the word, and I've become aware of that at the worst time in the Party's history.  Liberals are not some wishy washy middle ground between free market capitalism and socialism, they are a belief unto themselves.  If the parties, both provincial and national can recognize that and stop chasing the economic simplifications of the other two natural combatants  perhaps Canada has a chance of getting its party back and becoming a country that demonstrates meritorious, representative governance once again.