Link

Gun-Control1Its been a while, but m trying to start writing again and have started posting a little using “Medium”, so sometimes Ill post links here that will direct you to my posts there. Here is my first post on the topic of guns in the U.S. http://bit.ly/19oGwG9

After you read my thoughts, come back and weigh in.

Which lines have you been waiting in?

It has been quite some time since my last entry. Blame it on life…actually lets just call it priorities. I’m not doing much modeling at the moment and have started to teach english privately while studying Chinese. It’s fair to say that the business is going MUCH better than the Chinese. My next post will update everyone on life, but this post is about that most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, I’m talking about Black Friday…what, you thought I was referring to the Christmas? Thanksgiving? Or maybe Remembrance Day? Actually, now that I think about it, I guess I am referring to those three days which when combined make up what should be the most reflective time of the year for the average person.

Once a month in October, November, and December, we are given a day or two off of work  so that we may celebrate, give thanks or pay tribute to others. It’s against this back-drop that “Black Friday” stands out like a business suit in a soup kitchen line. To be specific, it’s the fights, lines and obsession with getting a “steal” that I’m talking about, not the shopping itself.

In the following clip listen to how excited people are, and look at how many of them there are?! I mean you would think that they were about to meet Jay-Z and Beyonce or something…but no…they are buying underwear…that they can’t even afford.

So what’s the point of this post? Well, personally I find it hard to watch footage like this, because I just don’t get it. But, my point isn’t to judge. It’s certainly not to say that this is something endemic of a particular nation because as soon as something is “on sale”, “marked down” or “free”, it seems to bring out the worst in people regardless of where they’re from. For an example of this right here in China read this. All I’m hoping is that all my readers reflect a little on their own actions and choices a little.

Here’s the twist though, if you were the woman screaming for joy over the $30 thong you bought for $5, or if you were the guy who drove all the way from Vancouver to Seattle in order to buy an Armani suit that was discounted 50%, that’s fine. Savings matter, especially in today’s economy, and quite simply, who doesn’t appreciate big sales?!

What I’m asking is whether you’ve spent some time in a different line recently. Maybe the one full of people waiting to shake a Veteran’s hand in the pouring rain. If not, why not? Were you one of those people who, when asked, told their buddy they couldn’t afford to contribute $20 to a”Movember” campaign, or couldn’t spare a minute to even talk to the Habitat for Humanity canvasser on the street corner. Were you able to  commit to making a monthly contribution of even $5 a month towards any cause that was near and dear to your heart this past year?

So you see, this post really isn’t about the evils of shopping, and neither is this time of year. It’s a special time of year, a time when we are reminded to give thanks and are given ample opportunity to give back because its safe to say that most of us have more to be thankful for than we realize.

So next year when “Black Friday” rolls around, and you find yourself standing in an epic line, or watching  all the videos, and news stories about the general mayhem, remember to ask yourself which lines you’ve been waiting in all year.

As a footnote I read about “Giving Tuesday” after the fact and I hope it gains a little traction next year. Just one more opportunity to GIVE!

Teaching Tiananmen

One of my students is getting ready for his final year of High School here in Guangzhou, and like most Chinese youth his age, he loves three things: Basketball, Video Games, and Eminem. Also, like most youth his age, he knows only that which he has been permitted to know.

We had a two hour class this morning and the theme was Global IssuesI decided to show him the Kony 2012 video and one thing led to another. Soon we started talking about whether the Chinese population could ever exert the same kind of pressure on its government, as the Americans had with theirs (in the documentary).

Naturally, this led me to ask him what he knew about the most famous Chinese example of this, the Tiananmen Square Massacre. His friend had told him a little about it, but he hadn’t seen, read, or heard much about it at all. Since I have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) I am able to access the internet as if I was somewhere outside China and was able to show him these two videos:

We watched the videos and had an interesting conversation. He told me the official reason given for State censorship is that it is intended to ensure a “Harmonious Society”. He also told me that anyone born after 1990 would probably have no idea that anything had ever happened at Tiananmen Square at all. He went on to say that parents usually didn’t discuss it with their children, and students certainly didn’t learn about it in school.

All I can say is that sharing this piece of history with him was a powerful experience, akin to sharing  images of the holocaust with a German teenager who had never learned about it, or showing a documentary of the “Rape of Nanjing” to a Japanese student whose government still refuses to acknowledge any wrong doing.

In many ways, this is an example of why we should travel…and maybe even why we must travel. Because, despite all of the pressures, barriers, impediments, and limitations that governments, and institutions, may try to put on us, or place in our way, the power of human connection undoubtedly trumps them all.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Good Music + Good Lyrics = Music That Matters

I’ve come across a few songs lately that made me stop and think. Strange right? When was the last time you heard a song that made you think?All too often we hear someone (usually of a different generation) say something like, “That music is terrible…what a horrible message.” or “No wonder things like the Denver shooting happen, when kids hear this kind of thing on the radio.” Well I don’t disagree with that kind of sentiment, but I think its time to reframe the subject.

Listen to the three songs below and tell me you don’t FEEL something when you LISTEN to the lyrics. Like I said, lets reframe the discussion. Lets stop asking why there is so much crap being made (because the answer is…we like crap) and recognize those who are making music that matters. Stop criticizing those who are making music you don’t like and support those who are creating something you do like…and share it!

Talk about the issues that matter with your kids, and youth in general. You can’t control what they hear on the radio, or the videos your kid chooses to watch on YouTube, but you can point them in the right direction and teach them to think for themselves (Lesson 1: Brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack is just disgusting).

Have a listen:

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Same Love

Lupe Fiasco: Bitch Bad 

Dan Mangan: So Much for Everyone 

How do you measure “Canadianess”?

Happy Canada Day! The latest International soccer tournament is wrapping up, and because I am currently living in China, I’ve come across a question that never seems to die: How to measure how Canadian, German, French, Chinese or Italian a person is?

Here in China, my girlfriend has to deal with this question on a daily basis. She was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and came to Canada when she was 5. Needless to say she is fluent in English but also speaks Indonesian. For some reason, the Chinese don’t really believe that she is Canadian. They don’t even think she is Indonesian. In fact they think she MUST be Chinese, whether she is willing to admit it or not. She was even complimented the other day on how well she spoke english…are you kidding me? English is the language she has essentially spoken all her life. Her passport says she is Canadian but that doesn’t seem to count for much here. Many people choose to believe that she is probably just an arrogant Chinese woman who “chooses” to speak english rather than Chinese.

Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese or Canadian?

I’ve come to accept that this attitude is the result of a limited world view. China only opened its doors to the world 30-40 or so years ago, so you can’t really fault the people for their lack of international perspective. The other day though, when I was on Facebook, I read a comment from someone, that read something like: “Italy won its semi-final match without an Italian scoring…”. This was a reference to the two goals scored in the semi-finals of the Eurocup against Germany by Mario Balotelli.

Unfortunately this is a fairly common joke/slur/argument made every time there is an international soccer tournament. People love to call out different countries who have players representing them that apparently don’t fit the national stereotype. No country is immune from this, but France and Germany seem to get most of the attention. The problem with Mario, is that he was actually BORN IN ITALY; Palermo to be exact, and the only reason the comment was made was because he is black. I guess there aren’t any black Italians.

As for the German team, all players were all born in Germany save for two. The two players who were born abroad were born in Poland. Lukas Podalski immigrated at age 5 and Miroslav Klose was born to Polish parents of German descent and immigrated at age 8. There are several players who have Turkish parents and one that has a Spanish father and German mother. Imagine that, a team that actually resembles the demographics of its population. The French team shares a similar story, as there are many Africans in France. Wouldn’t it make sense for there to be a few players of African descent on their team then?

So as we celebrate Canada Day, and enjoy the finals of the Eurocup, maybe it’s time to start broadening our horizons a little and accept that for many countries, what we see on the pitch, might actually be a reflection of modern-day societies. For some people in some countries the concepts of global citizenship, globalization and multiculturalism will be too difficult to grasp, but for those of us who live in Canada, a country of immigrants, this shouldn’t be too difficult.