CATEGORY / blog

Flooding in Guyana

Greetings from Toronto. Went to the Shahid Ali Khan tsunami benefit concert last night. It was a rousing success, due to the exciting performance of Mr. Khan and to the magnificent organizing job by Ms. Farah Ally. The photos of Sri Lanka by Richard Erlac were also quite popular at the event; we’re trying to set up a special photo exhibit of pics of Sri Lanka before and after the tsunami, featuring Mr. Erlac’s marvelous work, at galleries in Ottawa and Toronto. If anyone out there knows of a space that is willing to donate time to us –remember, all proceeds go to charity– please let me know.

While our efforts have been focused on sending relief to tsunami-stricken regions in South Asia, a region close to me for personal reasons, another natural diaster has befallen yet another place in the world of personal importance: the nation of Guyana, land of my birth, is completely flooded. As yet only one person has lost his life, but entire villages are underwater, domestic animals (which constitute a major component of the local economy) have drowned and much property destroyed. The nation is beset with incompetence and corruption and I fear this disaster will not rally the people or their leaders to rise above petty desires and bickerings; rather this will seen as an opportunity to take criminal advantage. Am I too cynical? Perhaps. But my experience with the petty attitudes of my own people does not fill me with confidence.

The Guyanese consulate has been contacting us expatriates to see how we can help. Not sure what I can do, as the brunt of my relief energies have been expended on South Asia. So, so tired….

So….tired….

Off to Toronto in a few hours to attend the Shahid ali Khan concert (a benefit for tsunami relief). It’s at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St, and though tickets are sold out, you might be able to get in to the late show at 11pm, so come on down.

Don’t have much time to write at this moment. Just wanted to give my Ottawa readers a heads-up: I’ll be doing a book reading/signing at the main public library on the evening of March 10th. So keep that date open!

Of $50 Haircuts and Busted Smartphones

Where to begin? A bit too shellshocked still from last week’s tragedy to jump right back into the political commentary. How about some frivolous personal stuff?

Here we see a photo of my two crippled Treo smartphones, a 180 and a 270, taken courtesy of the onboard camera of my new toy, the Treo 600. Astute (by which I mean nerdy) readers will note that almost exactly one year ago, I purchased the used Treo 270 from Andrew Currie after my Treo 180 failed. Now the 270 has failed and I have bought an even more expensive and problematic beast. The lesson? I’m an idiot, but you knew that already.

And because I’m an idiot I decided it was time to splurge on a $50 haircut, rather than the cheap-ass $7 jobs I usually steal from the haircutting school near my parents’ house. Here is the result of salon pampering and expensive styling product:

Who said I wasn’t metrosexual enough? Of course you can’t see the actual hair in that photo, so use your imagination and picture me with 50 dollar bills plastered to my scalp.

Aw heck, let’s end on some environmental politics. A famous global warming denier has this to say:

Michael Crichton: “I think there’s only one position, and that is the position that the data leads you to.”

I’m with you, Michael. When the bulk of evidence starts to point toward global warming being a myth, I will happily (honestly and truly happily) join you in your skepticism. Until then, please follow your own advice and be lead by the freakin’ data.

Meanwhile, there’s another planetwide phenomenon upon us —global dimming.

Another Tragedy

A very sad thing happened this weekend when the wife of a dear friend and co-worker, who was apparently an occasional visitor to this site, unexpectedly and suddenly passed away. I cannot imagine a family less deserving of such heartbreak, and I struggle to find some way to help them. At times like this there are no catch-all words of comfort for those left behind. I can only offer the following insight.

About three years ago I was in Bermuda with my friends Sean and Andrew. While there we foolishly rented motor scooters, even though only Andrew had any appreciable experience on any motorized vehicle. So it comes as no surprise to hear that I, ever the klutz, crashed my scooter and suffered a concussion.

Now, in between losing consciousness on the pavement and waking up with a paramedic peering down at me and tasting Andrew’s fingers in my mouth (don’t ask), I have vivid memories of a unique experience. In those brief seconds of blackout I remember long minutes of complete contented timelessness during which I was on a country road in summer with blinding brilliant white sunlight beating down upon me; and with me were the people in the world whom I loved the most. During this period, I knew that I was supposed to be somewhere else, but I was so completely content and happy to be on that road that I didn’t care what was happening in the “real” world.

I’m not suggesting that what I experienced was a near-death experience. I don’t know if my heart stopped. I accept that it’s entirely possible that my “hallucination” was caused by scrambled neurons and/or the subtle play of Bermudan sunlight upon the retinas of my still open eyes.

But all of that is beside the point. When I awoke I no longer had any fear of physical death. I still cling to life with all my might, and I’m terrified of life-threatening situations. But my only anxiety regarding my own death concerns the care and disposition of those I would leave behind; I am otherwise now convinced that the actual process of personal death is not necessarily a traumatic experience, but indeed is the “re-birth” that many traditions teach. I am not a religious man, yet I have personally encountered additional scenarios which reinforce the conclusion that physical death is not the end of the journey.

None of this, of course, helps my friend and his children in the short term. But I hope that, over time, as they come to deal with missing their departed love one, there will be some comfort in considering that death, while tragic, may not be the complete extinguishing of human spirit or potential, but merely its transformation to another place or form.

If anyone has any words of particular insight and comfort to offer my friend, feel free to add them as a comment, as he is a regular visitor.


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