January 19, 2010

I have recently begun taking an on campus, undergraduate course for the first time since 2005.  At the risk of appearing old, I am amazed at how things have changed.  When I completed my BA laptops were just beginning to make their way into the classroom among Arts students at Waterloo.  Most people were still making notes on paper.  While many of my classmates still do that, every second person has a laptop in front of them. Oddly, none of them seem to be using their computers to make notes or follow the lecture. Instead they play games, chat online, update Facebook, and send emails.  On top of this, everyone now has a cell phone and the people who sit around me send texts throughout class.  In fact, it seems that the students do everything but listen to the lecture.  I guess in the world of online course notes, there isn’t the same drive to be engaged with the material being presented.  I also think the nature of a statistics course is different than say philosophy in terms of the level of concentration and engagement required. Technology has replaced doodling and day dreaming as the distractions of choice.  Sleeping seems to still be popular.

I am still amazed at the changes, over such a short period of time.  University education seems to be moving towards an increasingly online model.  Will there be a day when university campuses are mostly obsolete?  At the University of Waterloo some departments are embracing distance courses, while others, like psychology are now offering fewer courses that way than when I was an undergrad.  If undergraduate students are only partially engaged in class then it make sense to focus on delivering content differently. Many courses are enriched by online exercises and material.  There are even fully online universities like Athabasca in Alberta. Despite this Ontario’s university campuses are expanding their infrastructure.  It seems that they are preparing for increasing student enrollment.

The Return

January 13, 2010

Yes I have bee missing for awhile, and yes I apologize for that.  I return today with a bizarre link:


On that site you will find a description of a controversial art project from a few years ago, the Lego concentration camps sets.  They were created by a Polish artist, and were intended to mock consumer culture.  Needless to say people were upset by this.

Swing And A Miss

November 12, 2009

This short animated film by No Mas tells the unique story of the only no-hitter ever thrown by a pitcher high on LSD. Everything I might say about this film is evident when you watch it.

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Step Right Up

November 5, 2009

A couple of people I know are behind a photography contest here in Hamilton.  It sounds like a neat little competition so here is the information:

Fix Our World of Hamilton will be hosting a Photography Contest during the local Art Crawl on December 11th, 2009 starting at 8 pm. The idea is to show “What is Your View of Hamilton”. This could be anything, ideally though it would center on Fix Our World’s main four areas of Poverty, The Environment, Peace and Health.


The call is to submit 3 personally taken photographs on the subject “What’s Your View of Hamilton”? Sizes to be 8 x 10 with each photo will potentially be bid on in the form of a silent auction. The Final Showcase Date December 11th, 2009 at 8pm, held at 3 locations during Art Crawl in downtown Hamilton. Entrants are to submit the photos by November 23rd, 2009 to participate to Fix Our World. Prizes will be awarded for the pictures with the top funds raised in the silent auction


Fix Our World Foundation is a non-partisan and non-denominational organization based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada that utilizes the use of the internet, events, concerts and festivals. We connect with individuals, organizations, university and youth clubs, bands… worldwide, creating campaigns and initiatives to empower all beings to become an active part of the solution, to fix and restore our world.


For More Information and Submissions Please Contact:


Stephanie Chapman

Event Coordinator



Or Linda Lannigan


I Blame Home Video

October 27, 2009

Pathology is meaningless to the passage of time.
And shallow words hold this life hostage
On a boat moored to the shore
This legacy is boundless
Transcribed to thousands of pictures
Beaming needlessly from coast to coast
Yet savagely you introduce new thoughts
A language unencumbered by mystery
Clarity is the most desired thing
Forward we move and outward we crumble
So only the inside remains
Time a fantasy
A life worth calculating
Replicating after a memory
Captured and questioned as a fugitive
From dozens of years
In the wilderness
Lost, stumbling
Angry, colliding
This is the only moment
The lasting premonition
You are my only visitor
Because all that’s left
Is seconds
Second to nothing


October 22, 2009

The Group of Seven and the National Film Board of Canada have been regular subjects on this blog in the past. It is fitting to bring them both back into the fold with this lovely little film about Arthur Lismer. His interest in teaching through art is quite fantastic. The school room from the opening scenes depict a fanciful world of imagination. Society often values innovation and creativity in its citizens, but also tries to cut education in the arts to save money. Lismer reminds us that creativity and inspiration are an integral element in the development of children.

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Love, I Don’t Like To See So Much Pain

October 16, 2009

No reason for the Peter Gabriel quote.  In Your Eyes is one of my favourite songs of all time.  Beautiful.

New podcast today.  You can click on it over on the side there–>.  Today’s show features The Alder Fork performing at my recent festival. Here are two more video clips from the show (thanks to Martin!):

Under A Dock

October 11, 2009

Contemporary indie music falls into many categories.  But perhaps the most recognizably “indie” songs contain guitar, keyboard riffs, and male/female vocals (including generous portions of ooos, ahhhs, and ohhhs.  I was listening to my ipod while laying some interlocking brick, and this lovely old tune came on.  It seems to fit in well with contemporary music.  Considering that The B-52’s were an underground phenomenon before making it big, they seem to fit the mold.

I tried to imagine the group as up-and-comers and what impact they might have on the current scene.  They were willing to be unusual, experimental, and even at times somewhat bad in pursuit of making interesting and fun music.  Apparently Rock Lobster was written and ultimately played on a guitar missing the middle two strings.  Certainly, these days there are many people who also experiment with music.  With the proliferation of the internet it’s possible to be constantly exposed to these folks.  Thus a group like The B-52’s could become one voice among thousands.  Fortunately for them, those thousands didn’t write Love Shack.

As Is

October 10, 2009

I started this post months ago, and never quite got it right.  So it’s being posted as is. Enjoy!

As The Alder Fork continues to grow and evolve my focus adapts to incorporate new elements.  I hope my writing continues to explore many exciting avenues, and although I don’t know which aspects of this blog will remain in the future, I do hope that I can stay fresh.  Lately, in the podcast, blog and my private writing, I have been reintroducing myself to the philosophy of religion.  In particular, I have been interested in large, cross-religion ideas like dialogue, definitions, and conceptualizations of the afterlife and other religious imagery.  Has this move helped the popularity of my work? Actually no, in fact it might even be driving people away.  I am not concerned about that because The Alder Fork is primarily an outlet for my creativity and ideas, rather than a promotional device (though it can do both).

I recently read someone’s opinion that atheism should not be called a religion because it is exactly the opposite of that.  This argument swept my mind back to the endless discussion of how to define religion that I encountered as an undergrad. Indeed, one of the core questions of religious studies is how do we define the thing we study? What are the parameters for saying something is a religion, religious or spiritual?  Is it really a “I know it when I see it” kind of thing, or can we put limits on what falls inside our focus?  If we cast our net to narrowly we may leave out some obvious religious groups. For example, if we say a religion is a group of people who believe in God, we leave out those who do not believe in God, like buddhists. If we cast too wide a net we risk including organizations that are clearly not religious in any manner.  This brings me back to the question about whether atheism is itself a religious movement.  If you require that a belief in supernatural existence is a requirement of a religion then perhaps atheism is on the outside, although I don’t know that all atheists completely reject the possibility of supernatural activity, say ghosts for example.  But if we take atheism in a strict definition as those who do not believe there is a god or gods, or that there is a supernatural order to the universe, can we then say they are not a religion?

Atheists define their beliefs in relation to religion.  Without theists there would be no need for a category called atheists.  This is important because it shows the roots of the atheist’s objection to being called a religion.  For them the very notion of religion is almost an insult, though that language may be a bit harsh.  With that in mind it is tempting to say that atheism is more philosophy than religion, and that it only relates to the latter as a contradiction.  For a moment I would like to flip this idea on its head and say that because atheism exists as a contradiction it is more religion than philosophy.  Returning to the question of how we define religion (and I will likely write a whole entry on this) I have always been in favour of being more inclusive.  I don’t think religious activity is limited to those who understand themselves in supernatural terms exclusively.  We all have to accept that there are elements of the universe beyond our current understanding and then decide what we believe is the truth behind that unknown layer.  Some people believe there is nothing there, outside of physics problems and mysterious matter.  Others choose to see god in the cracks of human knowledge.  I am not here to make a value judgment about who is correct, but rather to say that by drawing these conclusions people have entered the realm of faith.

I realize this is a troubling statement to make but it grows out of my definition of religion.  In my view, religion begins in the individual and then expands into group behaviour and convention where it changes and flows back into the individual.  All people are religious people, even if they choose to disregard traditional human religions in favour of a rational or humanistic approach.  In the moments that we contemplate the mysteries of life, draw or adopt conclusions, and then act on those beliefs we are acting religiously.  For me religion at its core is not about ritual, creed, ethical action, social conventions or adherence to authority, it is the fundamental act of believing in a blueprint for the universe, whether ordered or not.  By having faith in ourselves, in our god, in science or math, we are being religious beings.  Religion as it is commonly understood by people refers to the big -isms in the world. Maybe we can add a few more isms to the list.

Find The Missing Pieces

October 9, 2009

I promise that I haven’t disappeared.  My life has been a bit more hectic of late, so the blog and podcast have had to suffer for it! The good news is there is ample archive material to sift through, and I should be back to regular postings soon.  The Supercrawl is on tonight in downtown Hamilton.  I am out of town for a wedding, but I’d be there if I could. It promises to be an awesome, if wet, time. Here is The Alder Fork performing Great Lakes at the festival in September: