That’s what this weekend’s all about. Yesterday was Derek Miller’s and there was a cool party. Today is my son’s and also Canada’s.

Practical Implications of Mortality · The rhythm of birthdays propels us giddily up out of childhood (what joy, to be heading into third grade) and then down the slope to whatever’s at its end. As we drove down to Derek’s place in Burnaby we were listening to The Raconteurs’ Broken Boy Soldiers; with the boy singing along to Steady, As She Goes from the back, I was smiling. The good parts of the record sound unnervingly like the Beatles.

Which reminded me of a problem: I’m over fifty and my doctor’s about the same age, and my lawyer and accountant are older. Pretty soon, I need to find new ones who are a couple of decades younger and can keep lawyering and doctoring me and so on until I don’t need them any more.

In the Rock and Roll department, though, I’m OK; Jack White was born in 1975 and will likely be doing interesting things until such time as I lose my hearing entirely. But I do need to find a young novelist or two.

For God and Country · That’s what the motto used to be. But while my son’s birthday, and Derek’s, both move me, I find, year by year, my revulsion at the news of the world is overwhelming whatever warm feeling I may have retained for “Canada”, either as a concept or a reality.

Derek Miller at his 38th birthday party

Derek Miller. A little blurry; life’s like that.

Politics are necessary; we need to organize to build roads and heal the sick and defend ourselves. Nations are too, because the planet is too big and complicated for a Universal World Government. But why on earth should we love them? Loving is for people and animals and places and works of art and craft, and I guess God if you have the habit of belief.

Some Canadians practice schadenfreude-based nationalism, glancing with smug revulsion across our southern border. That’s silly; while Canadian politics is transiently less awful then America’s current infestation of revolting Republican brain maggots, it doesn’t make the nation worthy of emotional involvement.

The neighbors across the back alley are having a Canada Day barbecue, with a big flag and tasty smells and laughing; which isn’t a bad thing... at least the nation gives us an occasion to party.

Still, I think the world would be a better place if people mostly didn’t love their country and didn’t believe in God: No Hell beneath us/above us only sky.

Tribes · Whether or not it’s reasonable to feel emotional about your tribe, it’s wired in too deeply to fight. And that’s OK I suppose. My tribe, ancestrally, were hardscrabble farmers and raiders from Europe’s northern fringes, who sang joyfully of the smell of the enemies’ tents burning and the sound of their women wailing. I’ve been to the places they came from and wouldn’t want to live there. Samuel Huntington comes to mind: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”

My current tribe is a complicated Pacific-rim multi-ethnic obsessive-geeky thing, there in force at Derek’s bash, and I love it uncomplicatedly. But we don’t need a flag or an anthem or a Head of State. It might not be bad if we had ourselves a Tribal Day though, for a barbecue.

Happy Birthday! · To Derek and the boy, at least. And many happy returns.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Jul 01 2007, at 16:23)


Celebrity-stalker in Cairo: "Imagine, Colonel Lawrence, only ten o'clock and ninety already!"

T. E. Lawrence: "Indeed, madam? Many happy returns of the day!"


"How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe [the Prime Minister] talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That's a good thing, but one mustn't make a virtue of it, or a profession.... Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope." --Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, as reported by Ursula K. Le Guin


From: Chris (Jul 01 2007, at 20:36)

Happy Birthday to the boy!

When I think of Canada, I think of my mother, who grew up in New Westminster; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins who live(d) in various parts of British Columbia.

And visiting Vancouver, and Gibson's Landing, the museum at Stanley Park and so on.

I don't reflect often on Mom's masters' thesis: "Canada's Role as A Middle Power".

Something to brighten your day, maybe:

From south of the border that I wish wasn't there.



From: Charles (Jul 02 2007, at 08:23)

I agree with your sentiment, Tim. And that's a lovely quote you provided, John. It sums up my own feelings very well. Even *within* the U.S. there are certain exclusive, regional feelings. I'm sure that's the same no matter where you might travel in the world, but down here in Colorado there is a bumper sticker that irked me enough to actually make my own bumper sticker in response.

I don't mean for this to be spam (the stickers aren't for sale or anything). I just thought you might get a kick out of it.


From: michael thorne (Jul 04 2007, at 08:21)

You may want to try Cory Doctorow out as a younger novelist. Cory's one of the founders of the blog, has a site at where his novels and short stories are available under CC license to download. He also pod casted most of them as informal audio books. Currently he's reading Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown.


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