Monday, December 14, 2009

This article is from the Toronto star titled ’10 crazy New year’s rituals’. It goes on to talk about 10 rituals from different geographical area’s and bizarre traditions that various places have.
1) Spain
- At midnight it is a sign of good luck to eat 12 grapes quickly to have good luck for each month of the following year. Quite the bizarre superstition, but perhaps I’ll give it a try this year.
2) Central and south America
- The wearing of different colour underwear signifies what is to come for the new year. Example is red is for love and yellow is for money. I’ll be sure to have my red and yellow underwear on for the New Year.
3) Finland
- By putting a casting molten tin into water people in Finland interpret the shape of the metal after it hardens. Such as a ring signifies marriage or a ship means travel. Quite the interesting thing to try.
4) Philippines
- Similar to Spain round fruit is thought to bring good luck so in the Philippines its not upcoming for people to eat exactly 12 fruits at midnight to show a sign of good luck.
5) Belarus
- Unmarried woman play games to see who will get married next. Example is a pile of corn is put infront of every woman and a chicken is set loose. The first pile that is approached signified who will get married next.
6) Denmark
- Standing on chairs and jumping off them at midnight is very common in Denmark, as it signifies banish spirits and bring good luck. Not sure how safe being drunk on top of a chair would be.
7) Scotland
-some folks swing giant fireballs around poles to show a faith of good luck. Also playing with fire while drunk is not the best of idea’s. Trust me.
8) Japan
- It is tradition to watch a music tv show called red and white song battle, in which the audience decides who is the winner, The white (men) or the red team (woman)
9) Panama
- Munecos are burned in a bonfire, to represent the old year burning along with evil spirits. Apparently lots of people like playing with fire when their intoxicated.
10) Estonia
- The tradition is to eat seven meals on new years day to show that there will be abundant food. Quite contradictory though.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hoarders: You can have too much stuff?

While flipping through channels recently, I stumbled past a truly bizarre and yet completely enthralling program entitled "Hoarders". Yup, it's a show about people with too much stuff. It follows the lives of compulsive hoarders, those who suffer from an inability to part with their belongings that is so out of control they are on the verge of a personal crisis.

The program raises questions about the nature of all our stuff. I began thinking about all the stuff I own and how important it is to me. My belongings all have personal meaning or use, and without them my home would feel empty, sterile and cold. They may just be objects, but you attach a certain idea or feeling with them, and together those ideas and feelings help cater to the creation of a home, or at least a place with some meaning to you. This is why model homes and condominiums seem to lack any feeling and come across as ‘unliveable’. But clearly from watching the show, people all have very different ideas about what is and isn’t valuable, and what is and isn’t a liveable space. While some can live in magazine perfect houses and feel at home, others need to be surrounded by their multitude of things in order to feel the same way. When does stuff become too much stuff?

Considering the consumer society we live in, aren’t we all actually hoarders? While we attribute meaning to our belongings, is that simply because we have let ourselves become convinced that we need and/or want it all? We can look around at all our worldly belongings and feel stifled and realize just how truly useless they are, but then turn around be reminded of how significant they all are and how fortunate we are to have them.

Happy Holidays everyone and enjoy all your new stuff.

Leading up to Christmas, stores better watch out!

Although we finally seem to be surfacing from the long, hard economic downturn, it appears that not many people are eager to dive back into debt. The Christmas holidays can be a challenging experience for some people, especially after such an extreme market crisis. In an article titled, “Leading up to Christmas, stores better watch out”, it is stated that while the volume of shoppers has risen, spending by the shoppers has fallen. In my opinion, this is because people are willing to go from store to store in search of savings this holiday season instead of just freely purchasing whatever their heart desires. Is this increase in shoppers and decrease in spending because people are going to the mall with the intentions of stealing, or is it just because people are generally not buying anything?

The article mentions how there is a clip of a Sears security guard trying to apprehend a shoplifter in the store parking lot. After the security guard catches and corners the thief, a handgun was pulled out and the thief shot the guard in the face... twice. This makes me think of how consumers who were greatly affected by the market drop must feel during Christmas holidays. When consumers are backed into a corner by being forced to spend money that they don’t have, the only other option for them is to steal. Although it may not be as extreme as shooting someone, it is a last resort for a lot of people.

Not Welcome

We have talked in the past about homelessness and what it means to be homeless on a personal scale. The article which we read for class, “Contours of a Spatialized Politics: Homeless Vehicles and the Production of Geographical Scale,” by Neil Smith, discusses some of the challenges faced by homeless people and how they deal with them. A few weeks ago, I came across a somewhat parallel article in the Toronto Star about a homeless person named Al Gosling who had died as a result of...not having a place to stay. I am certain that there are many other occasions of homeless people dying due to their status, although they are almost never reported. The reason why this particular case is reported is because the Toronto Community Housing Corporation claims that it has no responsibility over Mr. Gosling’s death.
However, as the article clearly explains, Mr. Gosling had been evicted from the shelter prior to his death which left him with no place to go in time when he would have needed it. Thus, there is a pronounced sense of placelessness in his case – Mr. Gosling did not own a Homeless Vehicle, he was evicted from a homeless shelter to become as homeless as one can get.
The author of the news article, Joe Fiorito, goes on to address the issues that surround the lack of maintenance of homeless shelters and how this affects the well-being of those who visit them. This is a clear illustration of the City of Toronto’s negligence when it comes to homelessness. They are all around us (and around city officials), but there is not a whole lot of action being taken to minimize their suffering, which would, in turn, minimize homelessness in Toronto.


Guantanamo Bay as a moral place

Flipping through the pages of various newspapers, I noticed that there were a lot of articles discussing how Obama will, admittedly, miss his proposed January 2010 deadline of closing down Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay is an American detainment facility located in Cuba, that is used to hold suspected terrorists and war criminals believed to pose a serious threat to the national security of the United States. As I read these different articles, I noticed that this issue sparked heated debate around Guantanamo as a moral place. As the Toronto Star article entitled “How to empty Guantanamo” shows, there are those who think that it should not be closed. These proponents who are mostly Republican and were members of the Bush administration, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, believe that it is a place that helps fight America’s “war on terror” by holding captive dangerous suspected terrorists. To them, Guantanamo Bay is a moral place because it serves the good of the nation through protecting the safety and security of all Americans. They believe that all of the activities that occur at Guantanamo are justified because it is done for the good of the American people. For them, the “ends” justifies the “means”.

On the other hand, there are opponents of Guantanamo Bay, such as Obama, who do not see it as a moral place. As he states, it is a “misguided experiment” that sets back the U.S.’s “moral authority”. This is believed mostly because of the accusations of cruelty and torturous acts that occur in Guanatanamo Bay. There are many reported incidents of torture involving “interrogation techniques” to extract information from prisoners such as sleep deprivation, beatings, druggings, sexual assault and waterboarding. In light of these immoral acts, many want the facility to be shut down and agree with Obama when he expressed that “I believe strongly that torture is not moral…any program of detention and interrogation must comply with the Geneva Conventions, Conventions on Torture and the Constitution.”

For the wide majority of the public, Guantanamo constitutes what Robert Sack would consider an “evil place”. It is narrow and obscures our vision by cutting itself off from the rest of the world. It is isolated as a place of secrecy with maximum security, no access for outsiders and little contact with the outside world. It also asserts control over other places, occupying an area of land claimed by the United States on foreign soil.

The debate over whether Guantanamo Bay should be shut down by the Obama administration shines light onto the many moral issues that arise from such a place. In viewing the moral dimensions of places, like Guantanamo Bay, it provides us with an overall, greater understanding of place.

Articles found here:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Post-Colonial Effects on Minor Hockey

The article entitled "Violence and racial slurs on the rise in kids' hockey" which was published in the Toronto Star, focuses on incidents of racial slurs in amateur hockey today. The article speaks of Carl Friday, an official in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, who recounts an experience where a 16 year old boy called him the n-word and then threatened his life. From a social-constructionist, postcolonial perspective, this appears to have long-standing roots which date back to colonial times. Until today, it is possible to see people making distinctions based on colour, a practice dating back to colonial times.

It is vital that we teach the children playing these games that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and there will be consequences such as suspensions if it continues. Further, it is imperative that their parents set a proper example. However, the article cites at the very end that some parents have also been caught using similar derogatory slurs such as telling a black official to go back to basketball or football. As such, it appears that the league will have to continue to take on the role of being the disciplinarian, at least for the time being.

The article is available through the Toronto Star website at:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

But...I'm a York Student!

Over the past few months, there had been much anticipation about the relocation of the Archives of Ontario to York University's Keele Campus. This was supposed to open our eyes to different aspects of Canadian history by providing us with easy access to historical documents, photos and maps.
Since the opening of the building, I had walked by it a handful of times, but had never thought to go inside. I felt hesitant because, in my eyes, this building was bigger than me, too good for me. There was no place for me inside those doors, I was not welcome. I knew that a few of my friends went over to study there from time to time and a couple of days ago I decided to join them, albeit very anxiously.
The study area, which consisted of a few tables, about 4 chairs at each table and few couches on the side, was ideal. It was quiet and there was a kitchen area in case you wanted to heat up food in the microwave or even use the refrigerator. The setting was very informal and this made studying a lot easier and more relaxed.
After about 3 hours of studying, a woman who worked there approached us. She passed through us all, mind you we were all, except for one, visible minorities, to the only person in our group that was the closest to Caucasian; she had blonde hair. She told us that the area we were in was a secure area and that students were not allowed there. This came as news to us because we had walked in with no trouble at all, without being stopped by anyone and had not been asked to leave in the last 3 hours we had been there. She also told us that we were not allowed to bring food there, although there was a kitchen in plain view. This was odd to me because why would it matter whether we were allowed to bring food if we were not allowed to be there in first place.
I've been a tuition-paying student at York for about 4 years now. There is no doubt in my mind that our money had gone into the construction of the Archives of Ontario and the York Research Tower. So why then are we not allowed to access these buildings?