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Archive for the ‘children’ Category

An Open Letter to World Vision

Posted by E on January 28, 2015

Dear World Vision,

today, sometime around 2 PM, I received yet another phone call from your marketing department.

One would think that a simple weekend sales seminar would have taught you that spamming people with unwanted phone calls (even after multiple requests to be removed from your call list) is not my idea of how you could generate extra cash.

But since you phoned again, despite all my efforts to stop your annoying – and rather aggressive – solicitations, I decided to put my frustration with your spammy calls into a useful rant that hopefully will explain to my friends and readers why I haven’t sponsored with WV in nearly a decade, and never will again.

Let’s start with the obvious: frankly, I’m not interested in funding a homophobic charity corporation whose CEO makes over $200,000 per year (along with vehicle allowance, because God forbid someone paid that much can’t afford a car). Nor am I a supporter of the proselytizing of Christian missionary values to the poor and desperate children of the world – we have only to look to history to witness the impact of Christian missionaries on indigenous children the world over, and the damage caused by residential schools in our own country.

There are other billion-dollar, global non-profits that still operate with more transparency than World Vision and with much less pulpit-preaching. Case in point, instead of spending $40/month with WV, I used to sponsor with Children International (whose CEO’s salary tops $300,000), but at least it was only $22 monthly AND I was allowed to make a REAL impact in the lives of the families by sending extra cash directly to the family.

For many years I’ve worked with smaller orgs that allow me to send money directly to the family, who is taken shopping for their basic needs by community reps – I actually received photos of my sponsored kids with their food and supplies. For an extra $100 per kid, I was able to buy:

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– kids bunk beds (or thick, roll-out mats for the Filipina girls)

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– household furniture / appliances (desk for homework, beds, stoves, rice cookers, irons), bicycles

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– grocery food trips for the Filipina girls (Manila and Quezon City)

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– dance classes for Jennifer, a sweet kid in Guayaquil, Ecuador who wanted to be a dancer but never had the opportunity (and her mom couldn’t afford the dance clothes, shoes and tuition).

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– New clothes for teenage girls in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador and Barranquilla, Colombia who hadn’t owned more than a change of clothing and they were growing fast – I remember what it was like to be going through a growth spurt and have no clothes or shoes to properly clothe me – resulting in embarrassment and bullying from other kids.

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– a new stove, pots and pans for a little girl in India whose widowed mother was supporting 2 girls on $20 a month – they were cooking in a field over an open fire because they couldn’t afford a stove.

But after some time, I realized that there were plenty of other grassroots organizations that do valuable work and aren’t spending hundreds of thousands (hell, it’s probably millions) annually on advertising and CEO salaries. Charities that can’t afford to print tens of thousands of glossy brochures and spend on stamps and prime-time television commercials and hour-long infomercials to solicit donors, and guess why? Because most of their surplus cash goes right back into the charity itself.

Through even smaller organizations, I was able to pay the annual high school fees of slum kids attending Lorna Waddington High School and Galilee Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as cover their exam fees. I also bought them a daily lunch program and all school supplies for the year. All their supplies and lunch program for the year cost me only the equivalent of two months’ sponsorship with World Vision, but it was infinitely more rewarding.

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Through another small charity based in Vietnam, $50 per year bought a poor girl and her single mom a huge bag of rice that should last them at least half a year. It also created an incentive for the child not to be sold into prostitution (a fellow sponsor I was corresponding with at that time told me that her sponsored girl, at only 12 years old, had already been trafficked).

Through another small charity, I sponsored a little girl in an orphanage in Sri Lanka for two years. I loved Suvimali like she was my own and for over two years I sent her monthly packages and letters, as well as paid for her to have a birthday party at the orphanage (something she’d never experienced before). I dreamed of meeting her someday, but the day came when her single mother was able to get back on her feet and took her back home. Suvimali was happy, and I was happy for her – I still think about her to this day, and hope she’s doing well.

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Over the years I also tried my hand at sponsoring with several small charities based out of the Himalayas and India. There are so many families my partner and I sponsored, but I didn’t have the time to scan in all their photos.

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Next to my sponsorship of Suvimali, my other favourite correspondence, organized through Tibetan Sponsorship Scheme, was with a young Tibetan nun in Nepal to whom I sent $10 a month to cover her monastery stay – the organization that facilitated the money transfer gave her 100% of my donation. Read her moving thank-you letter here.

nunTibetan monks

But how does World Vision happen to have my telephone number, you ask? About ten years ago I started sponsoring with them, back when I didn’t know the impact that my dollar would have with smaller organizations. I sponsored several kids for a year and at best, I might have received one impersonal letter that didn’t tell me anything about them or their families. I also sponsored a Romanian girl to whom I wrote in Romanian – our correspondence was better (not filtered or edited by translators) but whenever I asked about how the organization was helping her, she didn’t answer anything other than mention the community center where they were having their religious service.

These days I can’t afford to sponsor anymore due to my own financial difficulties, but even if I came into a magical large windfall, a gigantic charity like WorldVision – who has a policy on what is “sinful”, i.e. employees’ gay / lesbian marriage, and basically requires a commitment of abstinence from all employees but married heterosexual couples – would never be on my donation radar.

So dear WorldVision – if you don’t like me telling your phone reps to bugger off (over and over and over again) then guess what – maybe this time you could get me off your phone list? Pretty please?

Addendum: it was more difficult than I expected to get a breakdown of the current salaries for top World Vision employees – obviously they’re not listed on the Sunshine List since they’re not a government agency. However, I have been able to locate a source that has compiled all the info I needed to know: apparently there are 2 (read it, TWO) employees who make between $200,000-$250,000 (I’m guessing Toycen is one of them). And just as disturbing, SEVEN employees make between $160,000-$200,000. Yes, a total of NINE people at World Vision earn as much as or more than the Prime Minister of Canada.

But don’t think the other huge charities are any better – Plan Canada’s CEO is getting over $300,000 annually. I’m sure there’s a car bonus on top of that. Obviously.

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

Posted in charity, children | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Renouncing Motherhood

Posted by E on July 2, 2008

I don’t want to worry after a child. I can’t imagine what it would be to experience the uncertainty I have seen in mothers’ eyes when they look out the window and see their baby crossing the street and disappearing into an uncertain future filled with other anonymous people who don’t have the same tenderness, the same cherish, the same endless adoration for the one you love.

I don’t want to feel the trepidation of watching the one you have cradled in your arms and fed at your breast, as he or she stumbles away from you, away, away, falling and crying but always moving further out of range, propelled by an inexplicable forward motion into the distant unknown, propelled by a bottomless ache for exploration that stabs you through the soul.

I don’t want to bear the weight of my grandmother’s fears, as she looked out the same window so many other women before and after her have stood at, arms tucked like prayers in the hollows of elbows, holding themselves tightly, trying to abate the cold that seeps in – the cold of What If? Will he be safe? Will my boy come home tonight?

I don’t want to be my mother standing in that window, on that grey concrete balcony of hers, stubbornly ignoring my furious waving for her to go back inside. I don’t want my eyes to carry like hers do, at the back of my head, so heavy with regrets – regrets of abandonment, of hurting me, regrets of a wretched life that vibrates like a shout in the air between us. But her eyes, nonetheless, full of regrets as they are, plead after me in the road until I am swallowed up by the urban concreteness of the city, and they can no longer follow the shrinking pinprick of my outline.

I don’t want to carry that worry inside me like a shadow infant, a twin of the one who has been born and tears away from you. After a physical birth, a secret pregnancy continues, an afterbirth that you carry in your spirit forever. Even as your baby turns into a toddler, then a youth and finally an adult who goes to school in another city or perhaps gets a job in another country, the twin thrives, sucking from your marrow, clawing through your heart, becoming the pulse in your veins and the throb in your gut.

I don’t want that. I don’t want to bear the pain of creating something as fragile as a human being only to watch him or her slip away from me, while I die a little every day inside. I don’t want to tell her of all my past hurts and all the hurts and demons of her grandmothers and the great-grandmothers before that. I don’t want her to inherit the suffering of her forefathers, the ache of a wounded country, the knowledge of having inherited her flesh from generations of women bloodied by revolutions and wretched men and abandonment and despair.

I think it is more merciful to murder the idea of an infant before it hatches into something more. To hurl that idea as far away as I can, to hurl it like a rock into an abyss of oblivion, to get it far away from me, away, away, away.

(written today, on the occasion of my mother’s birthday)

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Posted in children, family, freedom, mother, personal, pregnancy, thoughts, women | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

How the System Failed Angelica Leslie

Posted by E on June 5, 2008

Everyone listening to the news in Canada and even parts of the US has undoubtedly heard of the little eight-month old baby abandoned in the frozen stairwell of a garage near Leslie Street (hence her new name), bleeding from the nose, on a cold day in February.

Dozens of offers of adoption came in, and that’s not mentioning all of the families already on an adoption list for healthy infants like this one. But what I predicted eventually came to be: instead of the police and CAS releasing the baby for adoption as soon as possible, various delay tactics ensued.

Chalking it up as “for the good of the baby”, the police then went to court to ask for a 1-month postponement to Angelica being released for adoption. “We are so close to solving the case,” they insisted, four months after the baby was thrown away like garbage and no one resurfaced to claim it. “In the long run, she will be better off knowing who her family is. She will know her medical background.”

Bullshit. These kinds of cases go on unreported every day in the Children’s Aid system. Children young enough to benefit from bonding with new families who want them, are being kept deliberately in the foster care system, where they rot unwanted, for the benefit of their delinquent parents.

You can bet that Angelica will not be adopted at this point. Arrests finally came two weeks after the cops found her alleged parents in Kitchener. They had 3 other daughters. Even when cuffed and transported to their jail cells, they denied being the baby’s parents. Only DNA would prove them wrong.

Any good defense lawyer can tell you how this story is going to end. But since none of them are talking, let me tell you:

It will look “good” for the mother to plead that she was abused and abandoned the baby to “save” her. Pleading remorse and wearing a conservative dress always wins brownie points. She will say that her husband suffered from severe gender disappointment at having yet another girl. Etc, etc, etc. And nothing garners more sympathy and a lighter (possibly suspended) sentence than asking for the baby back. Any good lawyer will undoubtedly advise their clients to do just that.

And of course, in the politically-correct days of our liberal social system, a remorseful birth “mother” is always given the benefit of the doubt. So the baby will wait, once again, for a mother to take care of her, while the female who gave birth to her serves out her (likely suspended) sentence.

For the rest of her childhood, Angelica will thrive or rot, as her luck will be, in foster care for a couple of years, after which she will be reunited with her birth mother. She will grow up maladjusted and questioning why she would not have been adopted out to loving families who would love, spoil, nourish and treat her like a daughter should be treated: with care and affection.

Instead, she will live in low-income tenement housing, being resented by her other siblings for making daddy go to jail, and knowing that were it not for the police and the pathetic system which was supposed to protect her, she could have been wanted and loved.
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Posted in adoption, canada, children, family, gender disappointment, news, ontario, political correctness | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Memories of my communist childhood – growing up under the red banner

Posted by E on December 28, 2007

 

 

After my last post, in which I wrote about my impressions of Cuba, I received some mixed feedback – exactly half of the commentators were against the Cuban regime, and half advocating earnestly for it. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle room for discussion when it comes to communist systems of government, does it? I’m not entirely sure what a middle ground would look like, but like any other battle of sectarian ideologies, this battle-line is drawn down the middle with a clearly-defined marker.

My opinions differ from most people I know, not necessarily in their ideology as much as from the formative experiences that have shaped who I am. I am a product of a so-called utopian society that like most others, found its end in a bloody revolution. There are many who still long for the good old times, simply because nobody ever was taught to think for themselves. For many decades, the people of my homeland were brought up to fear what was above them, the Golden Father of all Children, and when his regime fell so many older people didn’t know how to take care of themselves since they had always relied on the state to provide, to teach, and to think for them.

I was one of Ceausescu’s last batch of communism-raised children. We were an experimental generation of youth raised under the shade of a red star, in the Golden Epoch of our Fatherland. Our homeland, our Patria, was what we swore allegiance to. In grade 2, I received my Red Scarf and became a Pioneer. I remember that day clearly – for weeks I practiced memorizing a poem about our Great Father Nicolae Ceausescu that I later recited flawlessly in front of the Pioneer Assembly. In grade 3 I was stripped of one of my pioneer medals because my mother was a political defector. My father and I were followed by the Securitate for two years while we waited for our departure papers under the Red Cross Family Reunification program. In grade 4 I learned how to shoot a rifle. Officially, I became a child soldier for our homeland.

I loved my country. I truly, deeply appreciate that I had the opportunity to grow up sheltered from violence, from materialism, from being over-sexualized at an early age. I loved my uniform, my internal sense of fairness truly appreciating the equality that this white shirt and pleated navy skirt represented: all children, gypsies, christians, jews, all faiths and social classes brought together under one flag, one song, one classroom.

At the same time, I saw a country brought to its knees under the weight of its foreign exports. All of our rich resources were being exported to pay for Romania’s increasing debtload, a debt incurred as part of Ceausescu’s attempts at civilizing its people from its bourgeois roots: churches and villages were raised to the ground in order to pave roads and build collective farms and factories. People were reduced to a name on a ration card, one kilogram of flour and sugar per month, a litre of oil. Nothing more or less.

I remember standing in those lines: the line for bread, for butter, for meat, for books – any leftover money from people’s salaries was spent in a desperate attempt to buy food. There was never enough food for everybody. You could line up at 5 a.m. and it still didn’t guarantee there would be enough left by the time your turn came to the cashier. People made a habit of lining up: they didn’t know what kind of meat would be available at the butcher’s that day, but they arrived promptly at 5 in the morning, always five in the morning – for bread, for clothing, for various amenities.

And what did those people do in those lines? They laughed, they cried, they cursed “Him” who could not be named, but everybody knew – we were all co-conspirators, well-versed in the language of innuendos, scathing jokes and trepidation. Unlike the socialist red banner we lived in, nobody loved their neighbour. Everybody was jealous of each other – tried to figure out who had more, how they got it, and if we could get it too. People called secret, anonymous phone lines and denunced their neighbours for nothing more than a move to a better apartment or a better job assignment.

Under the red banner, I knew hunger, I knew pain, and what I experienced most of all – was fear. A deep, breath-taking fear that crushed your voice inside your ribs. You didn’t look up, you didn’t ask Why, you just obeyed. I knew people who worked at collective farms who went to jail for holding back a chicken from the monthly counts, just to feed their families a bit more protein. Only those who worked for the Party, the State, the Securitate, would have access to foreign currency and could go to that wondurous place we only heard stories about: the Shop. At the Shop, you could buy toblerone bars and Nescafe coffee, and loads of products we spied foreign tourists being served in fancy restaurants. Unfortunately, I never bought anything at the Shop. It was not for people like us. While Ceausescu was building the second-largest palace in the world after the Taj-Mahal, replete with gold bathroom fixtures, I remained underweight for my age.

Sometimes I wonder if anybody who glorifies a system like that of Romania, the Eastern Bloc, like Cuba and China’s, has ever lived inside this world. I don’t wonder this very often since I already know the answer: they have not. Nobody who has lived inside this world of sensory and emotional deprivation would wish for it again. Sure, nowadays Romanians will grumble that: “Before we had money but no food, now we have lots of food but no money to buy it.” But if questioned again about their past, their eyes glaze over and deep sighs can be heard. The emotional blackness of those days will always scar the lining of our souls.

Ceausescu meant well. So did Marx, and Che, and even Adolf (yes, I am mixing political affiliations!). Nobody starts out with the desire to massacre the spirit of their nation. But through deeds that are meant to be “for the good of others”, the result remains the same. Atrocity and sadness remains the legacy of so many regimes where scores of nameless people perish in the name of a warped ideology. Even after the 1989 Revolution, the scars remain, and they will remain there, imprinted on my heart, for the rest of my life.

I miss my childhood, the people I will never see again, the friends and neighbours who we have lost touch with, who all fled in the night to Australia, America, and Europe. One day you had lunch with somebody, the next day they were gone – and you didn’t know whether they had been arrested or paid someone to smuggle them over the border. As for myself, I never wanted to leave my homeland – I was dragged, kicking and screaming, away from it at age 10. In retrospect, it was already too late – I inherited my country’s history in my genes; its pulse beat in my veins like a tumultuous river. Even when citizenship was forcibly stripped from me as a defector, I remained Romanian. It was a thing they could never take away.

Nowadays, when I meet other Romanians I search for the legacy of the terror in their eyes: there is a darkness there, always, a haunted look that lies behind their smiles, their happy countenance. I see other survivors of my generation, other experimental byproducts of a world where walls cound talk, and where a whisper could mean exile. We walk like aliens among Canadians in this country, like wolves in sheep’s clothing – we are not of your world, this world of smiles and polite conversations. We are survivors of something that cannot be fathomed by those who are fortunate enough to have been born here.

I came from a world where being a lesbian would have meant a mandatory five-year jail sentence with hard labour. A world where my writing would be censored and condemned. Where my poetry would have to be dedicated to the Party. Where my life would forever remain not a burning flame, but a sigh.

I have realized that those people who continue the lovely fairytale of a communist utopia surely must not have experienced it. To be perfectly honest, I would absolutely love it if a true socialist state could exist in this world – a state of egalitarianism where all are cared for and provided by a loving government. But that will never happen, since it is not within the boundaries of human nature – it is by default that we strive to compete with each other, to outdo each other’s accomplishments, to work harder and seek greater peaks than those of our neighbours’. By default, true socialism cannot work. I have met leftists who said to me “Oh, but Elisa dear, what you experienced wasn’t truly communism, but state capitalism.” Because of course, they considered themselves experts of socialist systems, and every time one failed, it was attributed to the fact that “Well, that wasn’t REALLY socialism anyway, or a failed attempt at communism.” This came from well-meaning but confused activists, naive individuals who refused to acknowledge that every failure of communism over the last hundred years has been a sign of its instability and profound inability to ever be implemented.

Because as tough and hard-core a leftist as you can be, when you are inside oppression and you suffer in silence, you have but one of two choices: become the enemy, or be broken. On the tree-lined boulevards of Bucharest, in Moscow’s squares, on Beijing’s winding streets, and in the slums of Havana, people survived the only way they know how: a breath at a time.

To all deniers of oppression worldwide – shame on you. What is so quickly forgotten is destined to be repeated.

Posted in activism, canada, censorship, children, communism, cuba, freedom, gay, lesbian, life, politics, propaganda, revolution, romania, russia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Want Kids? Read the job description first!

Posted by E on November 8, 2007

 I was just emailed this witty job description from someone who has chosen to be child-free. Enjoy the read!

PARENT – JOB DESCRIPTION

POSITION :
Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma
Dad, Daddy, Dada, Papa

JOB DESCRIPTION :

Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment.
Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.
Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities!
Travel expenses not reimbursed.
Extensive courier duties also required. 

RESPONSIBILITIES :

The rest of your life.
Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.
Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, and embarrassed the next.
Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION :

None.
Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE :

None required, unfortunately. 
On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION : 

Get this! You pay them!
Offering frequent raises and bonuses.
A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. 
When you die, you give them whatever is left.
The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS : 
No health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered, although this job supplies some opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.

Posted in children, family, humor, humour, mother, parents | Leave a Comment »

Another Pedophile Teacher in Korea – why am I not surprised? More details on his Myspace&ESLcafe posts

Posted by E on October 15, 2007

interpol-pic.jpg
Remember last week’s swirly pedophile photo posted by Interpol in a last-ditch attempt to catch a pervert who has been abusing kids as young as 6 years old in south-east Asia? Well, it is now believed that the guy in question is a Canadian ESL teacher working in Korea – and now on the run in Thailand. His name is Christopher Paul Neil and he is…you guessed it….a former seminary student (you know how it goes with priests and kids).
Read-this-article on the latest news in the investigation – and scroll down to the end of this blog where I give you some info on his Myspace page and other web presences.

Of course, reading this news just made me nod my head and shrug, since I’ve been convinced since my 1999-2000 teaching stint in Korea that it is a cesspool for all sorts of expat rejects and societal oddballs. If you read my previous post Expats, Writers, Degenerates and other Rarities, you may recall me talking about my loser teacher compatriots.

“During the time I was employed at my school in Seoul, out of seven foreign teachers, four were regular drug abusers who liked to chase their pot down with hard liquor. When Steve and Andy, two New York-based teachers, took their week-long holiday together in Vietnam and Thailand, they returned with a sizeable amount of marijuana and hashish. As they got high in their apartment, they laughed and shared how they managed to pull off such a feat – part of the stash had been smuggled in Steve’s rectum.”

I also remember another creep I’d met while working temporarily at another school in Inchon, an hour outside Seoul. During that month I observed that one of our fellow teachers, a middle-aged Canadian man with a predisposition toward shakiness, had a really hard time making eye contact or conversation with the other foreign teachers. In fact, the only thing he was content with was interacting with the children. He barely wanted to have anything to do with any adults around him.

Where else in the world, other than South Korea, can you go without a penny in your pocket or a resume that has been verified? The schools are so desperate for Caucasian (preferably Aryan-looking blond & blue-eyed types) instructors that they will currier down a flight ticket, pick you up at the airport, set you up in your own apartment and even give you an advance out of your first month’s paycheck.
And sojourned in Korea, cushy in your 20-hour a week job, you now find yourself in a central Asian hub – where flights to Beijing, Bangkok and Phnom Penh are only a couple of hundred dollars. The perfect long weekend awaits anyone whose intention is to slip quickly in and out of a country that boasts of cheap sex and easily-found narcotics.

In case you’re sitting there scratching your head, wondering “Where else did I hear about pedophiles working as ESL teachers in Korea?”, let me refresh your memory: remember that weirdo John Carr individual who boasted of having killed Jon Benet – if only in fantasy? Yep. He lived in Seoul too.

So…yeah. There’s no shortage of losers who find it easiest of all to be around kids, having their cake and eating it too – in South Korea.

On the guy’s Myspace page, click here to see it, along with all sorts of crappy, sappy poetry, he openly admits to being a bum who’s been “kicking around Asia, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief.”

Being a former avid reader of Dave’s ESLcafe forums in former years, I tracked down all of his posts over the last couple of years under the handle “Peter Jackson”. Check them out here. In one of them, he writes of having even taught kindergarden kids (the same age as the little boys he raped in Thailand and Cambodia):

Oh, I loved my kindergarten kids, but that was mostly because I saw them 5 days a week, 4 hours a day for nearly 12 months. I saw them grow in so many ways and could not help feeling lots of pride when they graduated.

I bet. In a post dated May 18, 2007, he writes under the title Encrypt:

I’ve never heard of porn been a problem in Korea. On my first trip there in 2000 I remember reading the customs declaration form while on the plane. I was SO nervous for the remaining hours on the plane because I happened to have a couple Penthouse magazines in my bag. I ended up tossing them in the bin at the airport washroom, only to find out that no one would have found them anyway.

In terms of computers, if you’re worried about any “content” there are several ways to encrypt your drive. A friend has highly recommended Truecrypt, which you can download.

If you want to get rid of old files so no one will see, then simply deleting them will not work. You’ll have to get a program like Jetico’s BC Wipe and “delete with wiping”.

He was presently teaching at Kwangju Foreign School . This is what I managed to get from the school’s website before they erased the info:

Grade 7/8-English, Social Studies : Mr. Neil
B.A. History; Seminary of Christ the King; British Columbia , Canada
Canada Teaching Certificate
E-mail Address : cpasianeil@hotmail.com

Happy sleuthing, everyone! As for me, I think I want to write about something else now, or have a shower or something. Ugh.

Posted in children, ESL, expat, interpol, korea, life, news, rant, teacher | 23 Comments »

Porn vs. Violence: why is murder on tv ok, but we can’t watch porn during primetime?

Posted by E on September 27, 2007

In the wake of new video games that glorify combat violence, as well as the increasing popularity of gruesome TV shows like CSI and Numbers, I feel the need to take on the old question I’ve always asked myself: why is violence “sexy” on tv and in the movies, while nudity is considered risque and bordering on obscene? In other words, why can’t we watch porn during primetime?

As a regular, thinking individual with no predisposition toward any “moral” or religious reasons behind my formulation of opinions, I have to really ask:

Why isn’t sex and nudity mainstream on television? Why, instead, is violence, murder and dismemberment so popular? Sex is a natural act for human beings; it is something we will all engage in at some point. And of course, we come into this world naked and leave it the same way. So why is nudity considered obscene? Why are pornographic movies not played on mainstream television? The reality of porn is that it is a seeking of pleasure, an unabashed, rutting seeking of gratification and pleasure. Why is it wrong? Yet serial killers who rape, maim and kill are depicted on prime time every night?

I remember being about six years old and visiting my parents’ friends who lived in Sweden. One night, while the adults were busy talking, one of my playmates picked up the remote control and started surfing the channels. This being Scandinavia, porn flicks were not limited to the after midnight only rule, so we randomly discovered a show where a man was taking a woman’s dress off and licking her breast. I was fascinated to see such a thing – I always thought that only babies nurse at their mothers’ breasts, so why was this grown man doing this?

Suddenly, my mother flew into the room and proceeded to freak out. She covered my eyes and grabbed the remote control, muttering intelligibly about this being “dirty”, terrible stuff. I tried to ask what the two people were doing, but she just wanted to have no part in explaining anything. No discussion ever took place, but I understood that there were terrible, unspoken things that men and women did which involved being naked.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, I am a pre-law university student studying criminal psychology before CSI ever made it out of a nutcase producer’s feverish brain. The only risque shows on television were Law & Order, which now pales in comparison to the more disturbing trend of tv and movies such as Saw, Hostel, Irreversible, the Hills have Eyes, High Tension, Wolf Creek, The Departed, and even Passion of the Christ, which is basically a snuff film rapped up in religious zealotry.

As I studied the profiles of serial killers in my class, I never once found it to be a glorious and exciting event. Volunteering inside prisons, where I talked with women who killed their children, I never thought that in just a few short years the university’s Criminology program would be teeming with Forensic Inspector-wanna-bees who unabashedly would declare that their interest was first aroused by shows like CSI.

Why is it so fascinating for people to see limbs being severed, eyes being gouged out, entrailes removed, torsos crushed with hammers and pick axes, and women being raped and tortured, yet mainstream porn films which show women enjoying themselves be considered so wrong? Why does everyone assume that porn is the “gateway drug” to crime, when in reality only a minuscule number of porn-watchers become actual rapists? And how many of those rapists actually got off on violent films, using the realism involved in television portrayals of torture and murder as feeding fodder for their imagination?
I would rather my child watch a porn film anyday before allowing her to see half the primetime shows on TV.

These violent movies and video games on a subconscious level begin to change you. They are destroying a new generation of youngsters, robbing them of their own humanity, since it is humanity itself that is being degraded, mutilated, and has its soul ripped out for bloody entertainment. We have travelled back into the dark annals of a gory Roman time where the only form of entertainment was to see massacres and blood flowing through the acqueducts of Colloseum forums.

The dead are no longer human; they are things you look at, but no longer comprehend that they are like you. The tortured, the dismembered, the grotesquely murdered are only entertainment.

Yet anything to do with the beauty of the naked human form, with its enjoyment of the senses, and yes, this includes sex, is being puritanically and categorically censored. Even in the Middle Ages all the way up to the Impressionist era, the beauty of the human form was pursued in creative outlets. Only this “advanced” century would have Michaelangelo’s David and his Sistine Chapel nudes censored in elementary schools.

Just two weeks ago Facebook banned several women who had uploaded photos of themselves nursing their babies. Under the auspices of these photos being “Obscene” since they involved a partial view of a woman’s naked breast, the Facebook gestapo would rather believe that babies nursing is a sick act, unnatural, immodest and dirty.

How low has this society come, for people to regard natural life aspects like sex, childbirth and nursing as something to be held privately, behind closed doors, yet unnatural blood and gore as exciting, fun and gratifying entertainment?

I would not want to be a child growing up in this violent, irrational time. I dread to think of the effects on their maturing psyches. In this age, murder is no longer taboo; it is something that gets you on TV.

In this age, to be a celebrity you just have to be an anorexic rich walking imbecile, a pop singer or an actor. Should you invent the cure for cancer and HIV, should you discover new constellations, write great novels and dance like the wind, you are certain to go to your grave without being a coffee-table name. But if you shoot a few people on a university campus, you can be sure to have your name on a collectible trading card.

Sad.

Posted in censorship, children, commentary, culture, facebook, media, mother, movie, nudity, sex, thoughts, tv, violence, wtf | 10 Comments »

Death in children’s movies: the loss of innocence as a subversive agenda in Hollywood

Posted by E on August 20, 2007

pets dog and cat

Although I don’t have children of my own, I used to be a children’s English teacher while working in Asia. I learned to enjoy watching movies with my class and discuss them as part of our conversation exercises. So while I don’t teach anymore these days, whenever I want to relax, I surf the channels for a family movie. I enjoy the simple entertainment and the lack of violence, dead bodies and forensic obsession that has infested regular television channels on a nightly basis.

So tonight, as I was going through the sparse choices for a movie on television tonight, I spotted a movie about two kids hiding a dog in their apartment. But these days, as a precaution before I watch any films involving animals, I did a cursory look-up of the title on the net; there is hardly anything I hate more than to watch something that has me emotionally-invested, only to find out the dog is run over by a car at the end.

Sure enough, a movie reviewer described being in the theatre seeing this particular movie, when a sad turn near the end had all the children in the audience sobbing. I’d heard enough, and I decided to watch something else.

But not before I wondered why Hollywood has decided to kill off all the animals in its movies. In mainstream films aimed at more mature audiences, dogs/rabbits/cats are murdered by crazy neighbours or obsessive stalkers a la Fatal Attraction. And in children’s films, even those churned out by Disney, the pets die as a lesson to children about how sad things happen in life.

I once again reflected on the sad state of “family” films these days. A happy ending has now become an oxymoron for any film involving pets. In the last year, there were only a couple of films involving animals where the poor beast was not killed: albeit they involved horses that were at some point injured or close to death (i.e. Dreamer, Seabiscuit).

Horses who have died in movies and children’s books: Phar Lap, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, My Pal Trigger, The Red Pony, etc.

These days, nearly every film involving a dog, fish, deer or lion results in the inevitable demise of a main character.

Isn’t childhood these days so fleeting that studios must still carry an agenda of “teaching important moral lessons” wrapped under the guise of death and sadness?

Ever since Bambi‘s mother was killed by a hunter, innocence has been a target on the chopping block of studio executives. In one film whose title escapes me, a young boy has to go shoot his ailing pet dog as a way to show that he is finally “becoming a man.” Update: the movie is Old Yeller, a childhood trauma favourite.

I am so sick and tired of the suggestion that kids will somehow learn certain important lessons from the heartache of losing a pet, whether their own or the brief attachment they make when they watch a beloved creature in a movie. There is enough trauma and sadness in this world without adults making it a point to provoke grief in the fragile psyches of young children.

If it isn’t Simba’s father, the great Mufasa in The Lion King, then it has to be Nemo’s mother and 498 brothers and sisters, eaten in the first 10 minutes. Littlefoot’s mother is killed in The Land Before Time; the Lion in Narnia sacrifices his life; 3 of the huskies in Snow Dogs are killed; in All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie is run over by a car; and so on, and so forth.

Other such favourite book-movie remakes include The Yearling, where Bambi and Bambi’s mother get killed off. Adding to this is the old Hollywood twist of having the young protagonist actually pick up a rifle and shoot their beloved and domesticated pet deer in the head.

In Where the Red Fern Grows, not one but two dogs bite the dust – a pair of loyal, beloved hounds who save their master’s life end up being killed off as some sort of symbolic demonstration of love and sacrifice. WTF??

Then there is Never Cry Wolf, Julie of the Wolves, and White Fang, in which all the wolf-dogs kick the bucket by the end. (Remember Snow Dogs which I mentioned earlier – which outdoes all its predecesors by killing 3 dogs at the end). So here is a general rule of thumb for you: don’t watch movies (or read books) involving huskies and the arctic. Not a good idea.

They all die at the end.

More random animal murders take place in film renditions of crappy books such as J.T. and Sounder, where the stories are just as miserable and full of torment and suffering as the ending of the poor dog himself.

Don’t even get me started with the whole let’s-kill-the-villains theme in kids’ movies: in Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, the villain is always killed at the end. I think we can beat the villain or set up a situation without always killing someone.

Whatever happened to portraying happiness? Or is that too boring for film studios? I’ll take Benji any day over Lassie, where a brave little dog is shown beaten to death, and Lassie is whipped by a bad owner.

To all readers, I ask you to help me out here. Please add your comments and name any other films you know of where the animals are killed by the end: I want to compile a list of movies I would never show a child.

If you enjoyed the read or found it useful, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂

Posted in animals, children, commentary, culture, death, family, innocence, movie, movie review, parents, rant, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Losing our memories and our past because of digital photography

Posted by E on August 3, 2007

e-boat.jpg 

I own a couple of digital cameras and use them at every opportunity. A camera phone too, but I don’t take too it seriously.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I try as much as I can to print out my photos – and when there are special occasions, I create beautiful photo books that everyone praises and wows over. (Incidentally, the best software/photo book providers I have found for myself are MyPublisher and Shutterfly – the first is really good but very complicated; the latter is a lot simpler to work with, and recently has also adopted full-bleed pages, which make it serious competition to MyPublisher).

But photo books printed on acid-free paper cost money. Sometimes a lot of money when you’re doing a book of every trip or major occasion. And how often do you actually get all your digital photos printed out, anyway?

Maybe you will sift through and print the best ones (in your opinion) rather than everything, to save on ink cartriges and cost of photo paper. After all, that is why we all switched to digital photography, right? So we wouldn’t have to go to the trouble and expense of having to take our film rolls to the lab, pay a processing fee, wait an hour or a few days, and discover that out of 22 pictures, only half came out properly – well-lit, positioned, and where you actually were not yawning, blinking, or yelling at someone to come into the shot.

Pre-screening what you print is indeed the luxury of digital photography. You become the editor, selectively deciding which memories will remain, and which .jpgs will be zapped at the click of a button. The process reminds me of my writing process – and how often I will get ready to put away a piece that I didn’t think was appealing or particularly good, when someone will grab it, read it, and go on about how it “speaks” to them. These occasions taught me a lot about being careful not to edit too much, not to “zap” away what others may see as a treasured item.

I recently came across an article that made an intriguing assertion about digital photography – that it is creating a hole in our memories.

Joanna Wane wrote: “Slipping into the past used to be a magical journey through the cobwebs and mothballs in grandma’s basement…boxes of old photographs and family albums that reached back in time to another world…Even if the pictures of long-lost relatives and distant childhood were faded or torn, beautiful new prints could be taken from negatives often decades old…For the millennium generation… they’ll revisit the past by flicking through digital images on computer – if any survive.

Concern is being raised that our pictorial history is at risk. Few of the images taken on digital cameras are ever printed out, which means many are permanently lost when the file is deleted or damaged.

At the professional level, the more critical problem is digital storage. The fear is that as technology evolves, any storage medium in use today will eventually become obsolete and the material it holds lost to future generations…few are thinking much beyond immediate use. ”

Jim McGee, a US photographer and publisher of online Vivid Light Photography Magazine recently highlighted the plight of a reader who lost four years’ worth of images when his hard drive crashed and a new computer wouldn’t read his back-up CDs.

“The digital era is a threat to memories”, wrote Lorna Edwards of The Photographic Council of Australia (PICA). “Historical records as well as family albums may suffer, with less than 20 per cent of pictures making it into print.

But instead of printing pictures when memory cards fill up, most digital camera owners store them on hard drives, which are at risk of being lost in computer crashes or virus attacks, or may not be printable in years to come due to technological changes.
Those photographs that are printed at home are often not on photographic-quality paper and are therefore destined to fade.”

“The tragedy is we may well look back on this period as a time when very few photographs were printed.”

Douglas Rushkoff wonders in Photographs and Memories that “our evolution from digital cameras to camera phones” endangers “the way in which we relate to images, the memories they evoke, and perhaps even history itself.”

Having gone all the way from analog photography to the digital photo era (and he feels to have lost the quality in his photographs, the value, the memory and the meaning) he wonders “instead of elevating the events in our lives to ´memories` as we did in the Kodak era, we are simply grabbing some visual data points or a momentary sensation. The intentionality is gone. And unless the image is spectacular (not in execution, but in its content) we’ll trash it without printing. Who can be bothered filing all those little jpegs?”

He concludes: “As photography becomes less time-consuming, less crafted, less intentional, and less expressed through physically realized artifacts, it will lose its ability to elevate the moments and subjects its captures. Just as monarchs established their nobility through time-consuming portraiture (for which they, themselves, were required to sit), people with film cameras could sanctify their loved ones, and – perhaps more importantly – measure and even control the passage of time by subjecting the moment to a carefully organized and meticulously processed exposure.

The immense popularity of the cameraphone may ultimately signal – like the ascendance of reality TV – a victory of content over art, or message over medium. Sure, we’ll get a whole lot more well-documented car crashes. But our experience of photography may be reduced from moments of inspired awe to ephemeral voyeuristic gaping.”

What will happen to our JPEGs and TIFFs in the future? Will they physically survive? How long will these digital file standards exist? The life cycle of image file formats is limited in time, digital storage devices pass off, some people even lose many years’ worth of memories when hard drives crash, are stolen, or malfunction.

We must take action today.

We can still save our memories – there is still time – but we have to create hard copies, we have to print good quality photos as much as possible, we have to make that effort. Or there will be little to share with the generations to come.
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Reference: http://talks.blogs.com/phototalk/2004/05/the_digital_rev.html

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Posted in art, children, commentary, culture, family, life, media, photography, press, technology, thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Helping out at the orphanage

Posted by E on July 12, 2007

s with pencilcase 

This week I received news that the little girl I sponsor through a private arrangement in an orphanage in Sri Lanka has received my second care package.

Over the last year I have been involved with various small charities around the world. This one is closest to my heart. This little girl, who I will name Sarita (not her real name) to protect her privacy, has been abandoned on and off by her mother since she was an infant. Growing up in an orphanage has been difficult for her, but at least she does receive the odd visit from her mother, and she does get to go home on school vacations.

orphanage.jpg

This is Sarita’s home, the Orphanage for Orphaned, Abandoned and Destitute girls. Below is one of the children’s bedrooms, which has been recently renovated through sponsor donations. 

 bedroom2.jpg

My monthly contribution is a private one, to help in providing the extra little things that she would not receive otherwise: new clothing, vitamins, English lessons, school materials, extra tutoring, and the occasional field trip. Sarita is one of 50 destitute girls living in this wonderful orphanage close to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Their matron is supposedly a very loving woman and tries to give them each individual attention, but that can only go so far.

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Each girl has a special friend from overseas who writes to her, sends her little things and care mail, and tells her how special she is. We also cover things such as birthday parties.

s birthday party2007 s with teddy

Sarita has thrived over the past year. I’m so proud of the way she’s growing up. I hope to meet her someday. We try to email each other as often as we can through the only dial-up computer inside the home. I send her photo albums that are emailed to me from school trips, etc. 

 with gifts again

At the very least, I hope to be a constant reminder in her life of how special she is, and how she can accomplish anything if she puts her mind to it.

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Sarita’s beautiful village, a Sri Lankan tropical oasis. Her orphanage is 1km from the ocean.

Posted in charity, children, cute, family, girls, love, orphanage, sri lanka | 7 Comments »