Eye of the Optimist-Ode to Abelard

Posted on April 11, 2015 at 10:39 PM Comments comments (30)
Ode to Abelard

Oh, how I love thee!
-too many ways to count
It is not your beauty alone
And I don't want to say, "I own"
No, it is because you are there
But never in my hair

We have drawn our boundaries
And they we respect
We each have our space
And so live in grace
He does his thing,
And I do mine
Yet our hearts e'er do entwine
Precious moments we do share
We pay attention and care

He's a positive force, whatever the weather
What's more, we have our meals together
Though tastes may differ 
He does not mind if I'm the breadwinner,
And he is always there when I'm home for dinner
He greets me with his song
For which all day I long
I don't care if he is shorter
And has not built a career
Sure, I do most of the chores
But he never bores
His antics are quite entertaining
And his hygiene he's always maintaining
He's keen on fitness, though addicted to seed
Still, he gives me all that I need
He sings to me in the morning when I get up
And at end of day when all is set up
He sticks to his routine, and takes early rest
After satisfying meal
Tranquil evening 
He never wears me down with gripes
I never tire of his extraordinary pipes
To boot, he sure knows how to dress
Guests, he never fails to impress
Yes, he plays around a lot, but it's just pure fun
It's all platonic; I'm sure he won't hurt anyone

I love thee for all the above
You're here with me purely for love.

Eye of an Optimist-poem "Day is Gray"

Posted on February 2, 2015 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Gray is the colour of everyday--
Slow down, if you dare, and you can see it
When the engine is at rest and the buzz in your head quietened;
It is the shadows of your kitchen when you are washing up,
The stillness of morning after breakfast when you do not have a plan,
The moments spent alone waiting for the bus,
The ambiance of the fast food restaurant
And the hue of solo travel.

Gray, the painters will tell you, fills up huge portions of the palette
As it occupies the spaces between the other colours;
As such, it is omnipresent--
It is what the rainbow does not cover up,
The backdrop to all our activity
And it fills every crevice and cranny in between the forms we make or assign,
It follows the edges of our selves and our doings in various tones.
It is our reality that defies even the busiest cacophony of brilliant colour
Which is because we can never hold the ground at the height of excitement for long;
The song has to end, the music has to stop and take a few breaths.
Despite this fact, "Play on! Play on!" "Louder, higher!" "Encore, encore! 
Are the insistent cries of the many who want to avoid the grayness.
Some are in constant pursuit of exuberance, by one means or another,
Like money or chemical, like danger or violence,
Like applause or victory, orgasm and sugar,
But there is no escaping the ordinary, no matter who you are or how you try to fix it up.

It is a scary fact of life.
Gray glares back when you look directly at it.
It makes truth as plain as day,
So you may as well embrace it.
Besides, we might discover hidden beauty and treasures deep in the canyons of gray.
Surprisingly, grayness offers enough light to see clearly
And refreshes, cleaning out the ear and mind
So that something new can be noticed and recorded.
It is full of potential for the adventure of discovery, a frontier yet to pioneer
The way naturalists are now exploring what has been there right in front of our eyes all along:
Feral mammals, common insects, salamanders, and such
Following the rush of exoticism over the past decades.
Wonderful marvels are being noted and tracked in the dullness of everyday life;
It is all very hypnotically intriguing and undeniably revealing,
The everyday recognized as the domain of the living.
Gray could be good and good for us.
Embrace the gray--it means we are alive!
Anyway, it may be the extraordinary in the apparently ordinary
Face the gray without fear.
Seek, see, learn and be glad.

February 1, 2015

Eye of an Optimist-new poem

Posted on January 31, 2015 at 9:08 PM Comments comments (0)
Art of Struggle
These days
I’m writing for a change
It used to be all picket and placard
There’s a need for all that
Of course
But it takes more.
No denying the contest—
The lines are drawn,
The writing’s on the wall
There has to be struggle
That said
There’s more to it
Than just leaning on the opponent,
Making counter claims and thrusts,
Simply opposing.
Commitment to resistance is reaction
Commitment to the new is pro-action.
Protest can become a way of life
It’s easy that way
Doesn’t take much thought
But where does it get us, really?
The main task is to carry a vision
Of something quite radical
(For human rights and well being)
And mobilize others
To create ways to make it come true.
Knowledge, understanding,
Networking, just causes,
And coordinated actions,
All kinds of actions—
The people must do all that
United as one nation, too.
To succeed, we need
An additional element
And it is creativity
To solve problems
And open up a new path
In sum, it is an art.
I’ve been on the frontlines
In the throes of popular movements
And still am to this day
I’ve earned some badges
Learned some hard lessons
Paid my dues
And continued my education
Now, I’m working
On the artistic angle
Which can do a lot
To inform, expose, inspire, discuss and critique
Do not underestimate the artist
Who applies her craft
To struggle and social change
I, for one, am still alive
Perhaps now more than ever
I’m still fighting
Whatever good it does
You must decide
I can only think, try and write
Employ my brain, my heart
And my experience
As best I can.
January 31, 2015


A Year of Living Positively-Day 345

Posted on November 30, 2014 at 7:12 AM Comments comments (0)
I just posted invitations to my birthday celebration. I’ve invited around 25 people with whom I’ve been talking and hanging out with more than others this past year.
I recently wrote a new poem about aging, and it would be appropriate to post it here now. The metaphor is a blooming flower. Actually, I used this photo of yellow roses with the invitations. It is a photo of a bouquet that a class of students bought me on my first birthday spent in Busan.


To Bloom Again
The afternoons are warm
They invite surrender
One’s whole body seems to smile
Immersed in nature of such fineness and glory
Flowers spring forth
Yet—hold on a moment:
It is fall
The irony of the situation does not escape
Flowers are not supposed to bloom now
How should we take it?
To let austere concern reign,
Or accept and rejoice?
Oh, to bloom again in the autumn of life!
Who would not want to?
When you see rhododendrons glow with the pleasure
And daisies nod with delight,
Roses ooze splendor…
Who would or even could deny such beauty, growth and joy?
In that case, to heck with propriety and convention!
I’m all for reinvention.
Renewal—out of rust and decay—makes sparkling jewels.
Why not?
I am sympathetic
For I, too, am blooming in autumn
Some may think it is funny,
And others may frown
Just because convention says, “No,” to that
We women especially are supposed to dry up past forty
We are supposed to look tired,
Give up our power and relent
“They’re not supposed to have strong opinions,
Show off gladness, wisdom and knowledge of years,
Grow and bud new hopes and dreams,
Accomplish new things, gain power.”
Yet, it does not have to be like that!
Busan, November, 2015.

A Year of Living Positively-Day 303

Posted on October 19, 2014 at 7:48 AM Comments comments (0)
The Peace Poems Busan event went well. Ten people showed and most presented something. It was a good atmosphere that invited discussion. Mostly, the people were friends of J’s and mine, but they are keen and politically committed to such activity.
We fell upon a nice space, after all. It is a space given over to community use and activism, with a café to help pay for it. We got it free today through a favour granted to a friend involved in setting up the event.
We all decided to make this a continuing project and we plan to carry forward by doing another such event next month. We video recorded the recitals and readings, for we want to post a record of the event on our webpage and promote our continuing activity. Y was there and she took photos for us.
I presented two of my compositions. Someone read J’s original poem for him, and J read that of a friend who could not be present. Then J sang a song in Korean. The venue provided a poem which they had left written in chalk on a blackboard leaning against the wall. Y read a poem by a published writer, and the speech from Charlie Chaplin’s last film, the satire of the Nazis (“I don’t want to be an Emperor”). B came, though she just listened. A young Iranian attended, and she finally opened up and read a poem by Kipling (“If”). J’s friend A, who denied every having written his own poetry at first, pulled out one of his own, finally, and recited it. It turns out that he is an activist who went to Gangeong to join in protests against the construction of the US military base for several weeks. The people running the café are involved in anti-nuclear technology actions.

I still have the flu so have kept my activity to a minimum all day. I have been wanting to sleep a lot. It is 8:45, and I am about to hit the hay.

A Year of Living Positively -Day 263

Posted on September 8, 2014 at 4:18 AM Comments comments (0)
I spent a perfect day at the beach. It was sunny and hot, and the water was calm and cool. It was relaxing and refreshing. I had two swims, once in the morning then again after lunch.

I got there between nine and nine-thirty to sit in the sun then go for a 20-minute swim. Then I ate tuna fish and crackers while sitting on a bench under some trees. After eating, I went for a walk before deciding on a cafe where I could get some tea and stay out of the sun for awhile. There in the cafe, I finally wrote a peace poem.

My one project during this sojourn was to write poetry expressly for the peace poetry reading event that a colleague and I are trying to arrange in Busan in October. I need to have a new poem on the subject to read there.

Here is the latest.


It's idyllic here
On this beach
A kind of peace within easy reach
Today in the sunshine
Waves lap and swish
The weather is fine
I get what I wish
Today, at least
I've escaped the beast
But that's not what I'd call--
What I aspire to at all.
Life just can't be like that all the time.

Peace should be discussion
Without fear of repercussion
Conflict is the norm
Just as much as nature's storm
We can be free
We don't have to agree
In fact, it is our right
For which it's quite worth the fight
Yes, it's something people ought to defend
Against the control and repression others may intend
We are not all equal
--That's the point.
Tastes, moods, ideas cannot be conjoint
We differ in what we prefer
And to others we sometimes defer
Yet we can choose to put aside passion
For the sake of principled compassion
Freedom should not mean we get what we want
Before others who lack and to them flaunt
No, for all are free to feed basic human need
To this end, we must all assist
That is the way to have peace, if you get my gist
Let's unite against too much greed
Stop it and make the greedy heed
Yield to life!
Reject strife!
Object to rule by might!
Fight for life!
That's the kind of peace I'm talking about
Take it to the streets, wave it and shout!

Daepohang, Sokcho City
September 8, 2014

I think Sokcho Beach is my favorite beach in all Korea. For one thing, it is not very crowded. For another, there are no big hotels and apartment buildings. As well, there is a green park full of pine trees along the beach where one can seek shade, have a picnic and exercise. 

I don't sunbathe that often. In Canada, I'll spend a day at the seaside or lake shore once in a while, and I really love the outdoor pool at Kits Beach in Vancouver. I don't spend much time at other beaches in Korea. In fact, it's been over a year since I last put on a bathing suit and went outdoors. I am not used to it at this stage of my life.

I enjoyed staying on this beach today, though. In fact, I liked so much that I got a little sun burnt. I left the beach around 2:30 and went back to my room for a shower and siesta. I cooled down and now I feel refreshed. I found some lotion in the room and I applied it to the burned areas on my body. I hope the burn is not troublesome later.

I am in the lobby using one of the hostel's PC's while I wait for L. He said he wanted to meet me here and join me for dinner after his day of hiking. We agreed that I'd wait for him to show between five and six o'clock.

A couple of girls arrived just before I came out here into the lobby. The viewed the dormitory room and decided to stay here, so I have lost control sole control of the whole room and am no longer solo. I have to share with them tonight. A third woman will take up the fourth bunk tomorrow night. Oh, yeah. I paid for one more night here because I am having such a swell time.

A Year of Living Positively-Day 244

Posted on August 17, 2014 at 10:14 PM Comments comments (0)
The Sound of Violence
Go away darkness
You’re not my friend
I don’t want to see you again
Every time you come along
We know that something is wrong
You sneak up while we are all sleeping
To ruin the world you go acreeping
The screams ring out and explode inside my brain
Here it is again!
The sound of violence.
Hollywood loves that roar
They produce it more and more
Guns ablazing
Property razing
Bodies falling, here and there
Persons mauling everywhere
It’s hard to tell who’s good or bad
And chaos makes the audience glad
They love it when things go, “BOOM!”
The thrive on prospects of doom
It’s exciting to see cities aflame
What’s frightening an amusing game
Yeah, lots of guys get off on menacing dins
It’s cool to immerse themselves in sins
It’s ridiculous how shot heroes spring back
And frivolous how they attack
Cameras make the impossible true
Special effects plan mind tricks too
Bodies fall all over the place
Cars keep crashing on the chase
Buildings blow up, crumble
Speedy aircraft smoke and tumble
What does it all mean?
Violence appears just routine
They say, “Relax! It’s just entertainment.”
I say it’s mass concern, sensitivity containment
Violence deafens the ears
For people not to hear the tears
It is justified and claims its right
The proof presented in all its might
It’s a habitual informant
To convince hearts to lay dormant
In the background, the machine hum
Drowns out voices, makes us dumb
It’s white noise turned bloody
Oozing life liquefied and ruddy
Civilization is losing its grace
Barbarism and cruelty taking its place
We may have believed in progression
But the conquest realizes retrogression
Technology once evoked fine dreams
Yet it elicits terrible rage and screams
The wars far away
Are closer to home today
They can get you
Your friends and family too
Whole towns are being slaughtered
Grandmothers, kids and daughters
You can see, and can listen so that you hear
The soldiers of greed as they draw near
Their drones and jet fighters precede them
Don’t let state and oil feed them
You can act, the will is yours
We can refuse to be involved in their wars
Don’t fall for the illusions
Let go of your self-delusions
Train your ears to hear the truth
Don’t believe, “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth”
Make a pledge to ditch the dope
Open your mind to peace and hope
Speak out to what is unjust
It’s not a choice, we must, we must!
You’d better heed the warning
For it all could be over in the morning
Stop consuming wanton destruction
Join the struggle for a new construction
Learn to sing a new refrain
Create a chorus of “Justice shall reign!”
Sure, it’s not easy, but not too late
To unite as people and put things straight
You’re responsible so get into gear
Don’t hide your head in fear
The time is now
We’ll find out how
The point is to shut up the machine
Reverse the direction of what’s been
Curb violence, reclaim peace
Shout it out all through the streets
Chain up the predators in silence
Retake the podium, media, audience
Quell the screams and cries
Counter all the evil lies
Once we have created the space
Then we can the future face
Let’s challenge the contemporary rants
Begin by composing some alternate chants
Good-bye darkness!
Let in the light!
We’re shooting for what’s right
We’re setting out, taking flight
The beauty of life we defend
We’ll sing that melody ‘til the end!
Violence, your voice will get weaker
We know see your cracks, know the strength of the meeker
Against the sound of violence
We ring the bells of defiance
Chartering out a new course
We’re building a new force
That feeds the world, worships life
Battles against domination and strife


What if the rains never stopped?
Two days of a nonstop intense downpour
Is enough to drown the habitat
Never mind forty!
They talk about the heat
And how the sun flares and falters
And that there are freezes too
Yet the rain is another sign
Of what fate we humans could meet any day
Life is short
It is ephemeral
It is on, then off
Why waste it, then?
For all we know, Earth is unique
We don't know what's going out there now
When experts surveil the universe
The look deep into the past
To see humungous explosions
And finished stars contracting infinitely
There is enough destruction without us adding to it
Can’t you hear the thunder, and see the lightening?
For all we know, we are here by chance
Whether by fluke, or design
Creation is precious
It is also temporary
Face it; that is true.
Stop making more rain!
When the kegs are full
And you are on the verge of drowning
Don’t help the rain in those times!
Moreover, collect it and conserve
Use it frugally, as per need
You may be the one who desperately needs it one day
If you are not drowning instead
To the drowning person, toss a life line as and whenever you can
It is good policy
It is for your own security
Do you want to be responsible for death?
I’m sure it is not your job
I’m sure there are repercussions if you do
Today, it pours relentlessly
What about tomorrow?
We don’t know for sure
We don’t know much
So, wipe the smugness off your face
You, whoever you are, are fragile too
Like castles and banks
Like the deer and flowers
Like the volcanoes and stars
Like cells and antibodies
Like empires and corporations
Your power does not amount to much, on the scale of things
Don’t think otherwise
It’s all bigger than you
You may as well go with life, not against it
Be with your nation
Not opposed or isolated
You could need it badly one day
You never know
Anyway, you can’t win, really, if you are
There is no swimmer or paddler strong enough
That idea is laughable

Observe the rains
Pay attention
Make hay while the sun shines
Sip the energy, taste its delights, enjoy the fruit
And learn by enlightenment: SEE
Drink you fill of life, but not that of someone else’,
Not to excess!
Live and let live
Ask yourself:
Do you really have problems,
Other than this universal predicament?
(Is the predicament a problem, anyway?)
What constitutes a problem?
Who as one, actually?
Who makes it?
It’s all relative and you belong to an intricate interconnection in spite of your self
There is no escape
Furthermore, ego is no match for it
Water beats earth and fire
Only rocks survive because they are the residue of life past 
They are not alive
Are you?
If you want to be alive
Then, live!
But join the humans and make shelter together
Community is stronger
It could rain again tomorrow
You never know if the rains will stop
And if flooding will conquer.

August 18, 2014

A Year of Living Positively-Day 195

Posted on June 29, 2014 at 12:08 AM Comments comments (0)
Writing for a Change
To you, history might have a different meaning
Not the perspective to which I’m leaning
You might want to point out great men
Or talk about facts that fate may open
I look at who has the powers
Who lives up in the gilded towers
And who is languishing under the whip
While some of others’ labor and blood sip
And out of oppression indulge in delight
Unfeeling champions of archaic birth right
Allied in defense of the right of might
I write for a change
I know what you do
--It’s the same ol’ same old
A story much too often told
Then framed in words of progress and glory
Creativity, to you, is telling lies
Colouring evil with tints and dyes
Dressing up crimes with pretty bow ties
Masking hatred with sweet apple pies
I write for a change
It is an alternative to find an alternative
A brand new modern way for the people to live
What’s happening to whom?
Push aside your media to make room
For the voices of the majority
To communicate their priority
To build a conscientious community
And do away with the notion of impunity
Regarding your crimes against humanity
And all the rest of your bloody insanity
I write for a change
Me, I want to honour the Other
Take sides with my sister and brother
Unite in struggle for a fresh start
Do what we can with the tools of our art:
Investigate and agitate
A new world help to instigate;
I want to create to assist in building the “we”
And serve to say what “we” see
The people are a burgeoning story
Headed for a grand redeeming glory
They have a lot to tell
Patrimony they would never sell
Memory and dream are sacred treasure
Wealth that one could never measure
They have the resources to create the new
They’ve already shown what they can do
But what they’ll make won’t be owned by you
Take that big fact and give it a good chew
June 29, 2014 

A Year of Living Positively-Day 194

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)
It has been a nice, slow day. I have done a bit of writing and some housework. I took a short nap after dinner. Why push time along faster than it has to go? I am in a hurry to make the most of my time, but I do not want it to pass quickly!
I heard an interesting morsel of TV drama script today and it got me thinking. The program is a new series about a guy who has been released after 22 years in prison. He is 40 years old when he gets out. In one episode, he talks about his perception of time as a solitary prisoner in a cell without windows on death row. (Unlike me, he must have been wishing for time to pass by quickly.) When time seems to pass very slowly, he says, one becomes more sensitive to the idea of the future. Anticipation seems more exciting or scary. Sometimes anticipation is pleasant, and other times it is not.
That is one problem with goal-setting. It can make you antsy about tomorrow. I sometimes find myself thinking about my future activities too much. It can give me a nervous stomach for no other reason than I am preoccupied about it. Sure, having goals is mostly positive in that it can give you better direction and identity, creates impetus that swings you into action, and lets you think about what is possible to experience and accomplish. When you have reached a goal, there is the satisfaction of achievement plus other benefits such as a new job, more knowledge, a better relationship, more money, new experiences, and so on.
The TV drama character also compared the life of waiting to that of action. He talked about the outside working and business world being one set to the ticking of the clock, where so much is measured in terms of time, and our activities are assigned to blocks of time on the grid of a time-table with its sharply defined limits.
I guess he understood that as another kind of prison. It is also an extension of the legal justice system, is it not? We can meet with punishment for not following the clock, and punishment can be severe. If you miss time from work or are late for an appointment or ritual, for example, the consequences can be drastic.
Being unnecessarily confined to a schedule is unhealthy. It is good to create a time-line as part of goal-setting, and healthy to have a basic routine, and wise to set time limits for all your activities so as to economize on time and utilize it well. However, being strict about time and watching the clock all the time is stressful and anxiety generating.
It can be liberating to be on down time or vacation time when you have few appointments and it is not necessary to rush around. One should welcome slow days and cherish the luxury of “free” time instead of fretting about wasting time so much. Your body needs to repair itself, for one thing. Anyway, slow days can actually be productive. It is conducive to creativity, for example, because it gives you time to process things and reflect.
While it seemed slow and I did not experience it like work, I actually got a good chunk of work done. I edited a 20-page translation. After that, I caught up with the previous blog. (Working late and feeling tired last night, I postponed writing the day’s blog until today.) then I put through a load of laundry and washed the floor, the latter being a chore that I am generally reluctant to do, proving that my energy was up today. While the laundry was in the machine, I dashed out a couple of anecdotes for the Confessions book. I never had lunch but was fine, probably because I had eaten beef for supper yesterday, which gave me more energy for this morning. In the early afternoon, I made a quick call to Canada then decided I should use some of this time to get a report writing task out of the way. I typed up the report of the international activists’ conference that I attended a month ago. It was a big chore, requiring me to summarize half of the reports in our meeting folder.
This infection must be passing, for I felt more balanced and energized during the day. I woke up with a terrible headache, which is unusual for me. It was not a good experience and I expected another odd low-energy and therefore unproductive day. Yet I took one of the Tylenols from the prescription that I have been stock piling and felt fine.
On another note, I was thinking about poetry as a form of journal writing. That is because I inserted one of my poems into a section in the Confessions file. I thought it was fitting because it recalls and describes real experiences I had and the topic suited the theme of awkward and clumsy moments of social interaction. It is about the difficulties of riding the buses in this region. I have read it to others and they thought it was clever and funny, you see. I thought of using it after I wrote an anecdote about my experiences taking cabs.
It struck me that poetry can operate as a form of journal writing if the content is expressly autobiographical or at least about personal or work experience. Why not? It can even be creative non-fiction, I suppose. The difference is that the style is not prose. Also, it does not rely on direct reportage, but rather employs symbolism and breaks rules of normal grammar and meaning in order to attempt to express what is very difficult to put into words, such as the subtleties or bring out nuances that are not usually perceived. Poetry helps one to consider and study an experience or person or object from different angles. It too can be implemented as a tool of learning and discovery.

A Year of Living Positively -Day 114

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 6:21 AM Comments comments (0)
It happens sometimes that I recall how many bakeries in South Korea do not make baguettes. When I think of buying some bread, a little refrain about this problem often comes to mind: "Paris Baguette has no baguettes." There is a major franchise named "Paris Baguette", and based in California so I believe, that has many stores in South Korea. In fact, there are such stores in most urban neighbourhoods. Despite its bold name, I have yet to find a baguette in one. The idea that a bakery with "baguette" in its name would not offer baguettes is kind of humorous, at least on the days when one is not too frustrated at the lack of real Western wheat bread in this country. 

I was contemplating getting a baguette to go with a chum salmon steak for dinner as I made my way down the street from campus to my abode when, yet again, this refrain struck up a chorus in my head. There is I decided it was about time I completed a ditty on this topic. I did so as soon as I got home. (No, I did not pick up any bread of any kind, deciding to have the rice and oats mixture with the salmon.)

Here is is and I hope you like it.

Paris Baguette has no Baguettes!

Paris Baguette has no baguettes,
But they sure as hell have cafe
You can while away the hours
Admiring goods made of all sorts of flours
As you're sipping your cup of latte
And considering, next time, you'll try a mate
From walnut bread to bean thingies of red
Not to mention sweet potato paste
And pizza treats not to everyone's taste
You might spot an eclair
Or try a "croissant" if you dare
And even germanesque pastries might be there
The ones filled with apple or those made with creme cheese
Yes, there is white bread, rye bread and rice bread
But the alien grain-fed palate is hard to please
Though there are birthday cakes in any flavor
And sparkling beverages to savor
Bonbons and cupcakes
Cookies, puffs and sponge cakes
Wafers, madeleines and mud cakes
Don't get your hopes up to high
Just settle for something new to try
EXCEPT that weird confection sugary item
That must be some stand-in for what we'd call creme
And don't even get me started on green tea
(It really is too much for me!)
And what's used for mustard would offend the French
The ketchup, well it'd raise a stench!
Abroad, we DON'T LIKE sugar in our bread or condiment
That is a principle, elementary, a simple fundament
And, for God's sake, just keep the corn out of it!
It's not funny, you shouldn't have it, so just let go of it
Non, Paris Baguette has no baguette
Today, or any other
They don't care what you'd ruther

B. Waldern (c) 2014

It is preferable to be able to laugh at the frustrating and disappointing aspects of the society of residence when living abroad. That is a good demonstration of positive thinking approach in action.

Thinking and Doing It Positively

Household Treasures

11 January 2021

I heard an interviewee speaking over the radio talk about cherishing items in the home. It is one way to explore and enjoy surroundings without traveling, he said​I'll try it.

A lot of objects on display in my apartment are artifacts from my travels, ironically. They refresh my most poignant memories of precious and mind-opening explorations.

Sitting atop the filing cabinet next to my desk are to souvenirs from South Korea, where I worked and resided for 10 years. After such a lengthy stay, I have loads of memories prompted by numerous artifacts of my experiences in that country. These two are among the best reflections of cultural and historical particularities of South Korea. They are a framed photo of a hero central to the labour and national democratic struggles and an ornament from folk culture in the countryside of the southern part of South Korea.

Jun Tae-Il was a courageous student activist leading actions against the last dictatorship in his country. He represents the heart of the movement and the victory for democracy. He became a martyr when the police fatally shot him while he was demonstrating in the street in Seoul, the capitol. The ornament is an ceramic fertility fetish, an image of a penis from one of several such parks in the southern region where I used to live. This part of the country remained tribal longer than other parts, so folk traditions such as shamanism and superstitions have endured. Fertility monuments were erected (pun intended), of course, bring about more healthy children. The foreigner exploring such parks giggle at the sights. 

Next to the filing cabinet is a bookshelf. One of the most noticeable objects near the top of this piece of furniture is a tacky, plastic, white alarm clock. It is significant because I bought it to ensure I woke up on time on my last morning living in South Korea. I had an early flight. As a small travel alarm clock had recently failed, and I was not sure my phone alarm would wake me fully, I picked up a cheap clock at a local general store. I don't use it as its ticking is noisy, but I have not thought to give it away. It remains perched on the shelf, deprived of a battery, as a reminder of my departure from the ex-pat life and return to Canada. 

I also have items saved from two trips to Cuba, one in 2003 and one in 2019. Both trips were organized political events. The first took me there with a political choral group to meet Cuban choirs, learn some of their songs, perform with Cubans, attend the May 1st rally, meet labour associations and tour the island for two weeks. I am looking at a typical replication of a sketch of Che Gevarra which one can find easily in street markets. Our choir, supportive of the Cuban revolution, valued the Cuban revolutionary democracy, social arrangements and political principals which that image, the most famous in all the world, represents to millions of people. It inspires and gives hope. I remember strolling through the streets, visiting markets and restaurants, chatting with locals and attending all the meetings on our hectic schedule. I have other little treasures such as a ceramic, hand painted ashtray, photos of our Cuban comrades, and an African-Cuban, wooden statuette.

Above my desk hang a pair of water colour paintings in wood frames. They portray sites in southern Manitoba in the general area where my grandparents met, married and bore my mother. They feature two views of the banks of the Red River, a river highly important to Canadian history. There were battles against invading Americans launched there and a key struggle of the Métis nation. The city of Winnipeg lies nearby, which used to be the industrial hub of Canada until the Panama Canal opened up and undermined the Canadian railway system. I have only passed through Winnipeg by car. This area is not one I remember, for I have never visited it. 

On the floor near my desk lies a wicker hamper. I have mixed feelings about it, but it has been very useful, so I have kept it. You see, it belonged to my father's second wife. My father remarried this odd, older person rather quickly after my mother passed, which denied her children necessary time to adjust. I carried resentment about her, but chose to avoid them rather than say anything or show my negative feelings. As I said, it is a practical item for it holds linens and Christmas stuff and allows aeration through the woven stems.

I originally bought the filing cabinet to organize research, not academic information but information found in the course of activism and stabs at political journalism. It therefore stores records of several international and regional conferences. Though I purge it once in awhile, there are still clippings, leaflets and pamphlets. They cover issues such as Canadian mining firms abroad, human rights cases, privacy rights, student concerns and transportation. I have been replacing old articles and folders with my own writing pieces. Among them are also old, self-published newsletters addressing local and international issues, some of my published articles and unpublished poems. 

Conversational News

10 January 2021

It is so good to be able to express myself and have contact with readers through this blog again. The loss of the access to my blog along with other aspects of confinement and restrictions really affected me. There were added unsettling restrictions due to circumstances, even including access to my games when Adobe Flash Player was removed. I was feeling the mounting stress of rising COVID cases and the awareness of the damages inflicted by this disease as well as the damage inflicted by states that remain focused on helping profitable enterprises more than addressing the disease and health care and financial interventions fully and equitably. Most such as Canada are handing the responsibility of pandemic management to individuals. Very unjust!

I had been handling the conditions of the pandemic fairly well, but emotions were catching up to me in December as I personally began to feel tired and stressed. I started to feel irritable and alarmed. I looked forward to two weekends at home over Christmas and New Years, but the employer wanted me to work on the Saturdays. Saturday being the heaviest work day for me with five hours straight teaching and two hours travel, I had been wanting relief to get a chance to rest and calm down. I ended up taking the Saturday following NY Day off, which certainly helped. I am much better now.

I did not carry through with my usual practice of personal assessment and planning in December as is my habit. I was too agitated. I did not want to reflect on this past year, actually. Not then.

Anyway, there is not any change in my goals. I generally carried through with financial, livelihood, social, family, health and growth goals. However, the social and family goals were frustrated by Covid-19 rules. However, there are elder relatives with multiple health problems whose mental health was being upset by the situation, so I have been visiting with them in cafes and such. They are better now. I have also been aiding an elderly neighbour whose health, already in decline this year, was getting worse partially because of Covid-related restraints. (Her degrading sight and hearing, as well as shaking and loss of balance, caused her to stop driving permanently, and skeletal issues caused her to stop regular exercise. She is worried she will be forced to consider entering a facility while many care homes are in crisis!) My exercise regime was also compromised. The local fitness center remains open but I perceive it as risky, so I do not go there. Aside from some hiking and walking to accomplish transit and errands, I haven't been exercising much until recently. Now I do some yoga, lunging, stretching and weighted arm raises sometimes. I am prevented this week because of an inflammation (hemorrhoid caused by lengthy sitting!).

 One big factor affecting stress and anxiety levels is news reportage. State and private corporate news services, like most enterprises today, try to streamline by relying more on tech and web browsing to find news topics. There are fewer reporters and there is less extended, investigative reporting. For the past decade at least, such services have resorted to "conversational journalism." It is an adjustment to distrust of news and official authorities during a trend of democratization, I feel. However, it tends to keep popularity and viewer or reader stats in mind. Topics can be sensationalized by rehashing events and speculation. Commentators are brought in to discuss as are senior reporters, but the discussion is not very productive in that it does not lead to increased knowledge. Rather, it keeps generating more questions. Conversations often entertain unanswerable questions, particularly because there can be no resolution. They just push the topic and stimulate possible answers to stir up controversy and alarm in order to improve ratings. Pertinent information might be omitted if it actually answers a question. Once audiences abandon a thread, they turn to some other topic and start over. It is really unconscionable because of the innuendo, speculation, rumour, omission, lack of investigation, assumptions and biases.

The COVID coverage is a clear case in point. Partial information is supplied, such as a medical official's announcement that is partly based in some truth. The announcement is questioned. Opponents are recruited to present the false arguments. Sideline topics are raised to create more friction. Proper sources are ignored. Questions are recycled and spin round and round with no conclusion. The affect is understandable: alarm, anxiety, fear, stress, accusations, complaints, etc.

I follow a couple of doctors who produce daily videos to update viewers on scientific developments and explore reasoning behind government and medical decisions regarding the pandemic. I rely on Dr. John Campble and Doctor Moran. Find them on Youtube. Campbell is the most digestable, for he uses plain English, which Moran is more technical. The latter seems to be addressing people in the medical field. By following Campbell, in particular, I can see the gaps in the regional and national news reporting. I can see that they are lagging behind the news by ignoring or failing to search for reliable information.

We're Back

07 January 2021

Apologies to my followers and viewers. You have been very supportive and encouraging for many years. I might have disappointed some of you who were looking for new entries from me. 

Let me explain. VISTAPRINT changed its platform last year. When they did that, the method for making blog entries changed. I had no information from them about what to do. It simply appeared that I know longer had any blogging service. 

However, I just spoke to a VISTAPRINT rep who guided me. I can now write blog entries, as you can see.

It was a strange year all the way around. Things seemed kind of more chaotic than usual. I felt agitated and stressed last month for no definite reason. I had trouble sleeping. I felt exhausted.

My general astrology reading asserted that the pulling away of Jupiter, one of my planets and a very powerful one, from Saturn would make Sagitarians feel exhausted by the end of December. Despite the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, it does indeed feel like I worked and accomplished a lot (activism, teaching, writing). Things are supposed to get easier for us Sagges. 

There was added stress because of the effects of the pandemic. Not only that but worse, state aggression seemed to increased around the world, causing civilian mass responses. Though I had handled it pretty well until the end of 2020, I guess it finally got to me and I started soaking up some of the stress and anxiety emitting from my region and beyond.

2021 is starting out a bit weird, too. Just look at yesterday's events. U.S. Whitehouse invasion. Solar flare sending rays that caused several storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. More lockdowns. 

I wish all my readers well. I will resume entering focused pieces when I have more time. Please stick with me. Thank you for your comments to date.

Ed Wise


15 January 2020