For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, April 30, 2010

At the movies: Oceans (Disney)

We don't often see movies while they're still playing in the theatres, but thanks to a friend who had a free admission coupon, Eldest and I joined her to see the Disney movie, Oceans.  You can see trailers for it here.

It was an interesting experience.

Visually, the movie was fantastic.  Not as impressive as The Blue Planet, but still really great.  Unfortunately, they only included images from near the surface of the oceans - mostly the Sunlight zone, but a few Twilight Zone creatures, if they happened to be in the Sunlight zone.  It would have been great to see creatures from the deeper zones, but I guess there was only so much they could include.

The soundtrack was well done.  There were parts with just natural ocean sounds plus the soundtrack that Eldest says actually brought a tear to her eye, they worked so well together.  I particularly liked the soaring choral voices near the end.

Then there was the narration. 

The movie was narrated by Pierce Brosnan, and I have to admit, we were a bit taken aback when we saw his name.  We'd tried to watch another movie he'd narrated, Deep Blue.  It was truly horrible, and we actually had to stop watching it.  I think we gave up shortly after we got to the part with

"The ocean is deep...

(insert 5 minutes of crashing waves)

... and blue."

I was really disappointed to find out that was written by one of our favorites, David Attenborough.

Oceans, on the other hand, was written by seven people, according to IMDB.  Maybe it was a case of too many cooks spoiling to soup, but it really sucked.

The movie starts with a bunch of kids running over a dune towards the beach.  The cameras focus on one young boy, staring off into the distance.  It ends with the same boy, still staring off into the distance.  I wish I could better remember what exactly was said during these scenes, but it was really quite trite.  The movie could have stood on its own without the kids.

There are a couple of examples I remember well enough to quote to show just how bad the writing was.  At one point, they move to the Arctic. 

"If dragons really existed," Pierce Brosnan intones, "here's where you would find the narwhal...


unicorn of the sea."

Wait.  What???  What does that even mean?

Then there was the part where they were showing the Asian Sheep's Head fish.  At one point, there is reference to "this mask of wisdom."

"Mask of wisdom?"  Really? 

This is one of the Asian Sheep's Heads featured in the movie.

That is one freaky looking fish.  I love that face!! *L*  But "wisdom" is not the word that comes to mind when I look at this.

There were lots of fantastic scenes in the movie.  The ocean floor seething with spider crabs.  Incredible jellies, and whales.  Beautiful.

The movie did, of course, have its preachy moments.  While the narration started talking about the "melting Arctic" it showed scenes of waves breaking apart thin, surface ice.  One would have to know a decent amount about Arctic ice to recognise that this sort of temporary ice is constantly being formed and broken up, but the obvious implication is that this was ice melting before our eyes.  As the words "endangered species" were spoken, images switched to polar bears, which are far from endangered.  There were images of seals, crowded together on a piece of ice, red eyes rolling as they plunge into the water.  Dramatic music swells and, together with the narration, it's implied that these are animals desperately fighting over the last chunks of ice.  Never mind that right now, the Arctic ice has been increasing dramatically, that previous ice lows were caused by changes in wind and current due to the PDO shift, etc. 

These moments were thankfully brief.

There were also more real and serious problems highlighted, such as the proliferation of garbage in our oceans, and the horrifying tragedy and destruction of some fishing practices.

As mentioned before, the movie ends with the young boy staring into the distance.  The narration closes off with,

"So instead of asking, "what is the ocean," perhaps we should instead ask, "what are we?" "

Uhm... yeah.  I think they were trying to be all deep or something, there. 

It failed.

All in all, it was a good movie, and I'm glad we saw it.  Visually, it was worth seeing on the big screen.  The soundtrack is beautiful.  The writing was incredibly lame, however, and a few times we just stopped in amazement, asking "they didn't just say that, did they?"

I can live with that. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Birds and the Bees v2.0

It's been interesting reading about the new sex education curriculum, proposed then rejected, in Ontario.  The comments and letters to the editors have been the usual "enlightening" mix.  As usual, people turned it into the right vs left, religious vs secular, liberal vs conservative dichotomies.  It's both sad an amusing to read people on the left (or at least self identifying themselves as such) rant about how the religious right is trying to keep children in ignorance (forgetting that there already is a sex ed program that no one's trying to stop), with the usual digs against abstinence (because you know those horny teenagers - they're just too hormonally out of control to stop themselves from screwing anything that moves) and the predictable anti-Catholic priest comments (insert sick comments painting all priests and the RC church as pedophile sex abusers).  On the right, I notice a lot of commenter's WHO LIKE TO SHOUT IN ALL CAPS.  Interestingly, the self-professed right has been less likely to insult leftist people (rather than their ideals), and are more likely to say things like, it's not the governments/schools business to teach our children about sex.

From what I've seen of the proposal, I'm glad it was defeated.  It really seemed inappropriate to me.  Being of a more libertarian bent, I do agree that it's not the place of schools or government to be foisting their version of values and morality on our kids - and the proposed program did skirt the edges of that.

In my view, sex ed has a place in schools, but it should not be a separate thing.  Include it in health or biology classes, for example.  Talk about it openly, without political or activist agenda.

More importantly, don't tell the kids more than they are developmentally capable of understanding.

That's where things get hard.  Children develop differently, and become capable of understanding different concepts at different times from their peers.

Our take on it was, if our kids were old enough to ask the question, they were old enough to hear the answer - but JUST the answer.  If that answer wasn't enough information, they'd ask more.  When I became pregnant with Youngest, it was perfectly natural and expected for Eldest, who turned 3 shortly before her sister was born, to ask how I became pregnant.  We explained it factually, using proper terms (we're big on using proper terminology for body parts).  We briefly described ovulation, fertilization, and the mechanics of how a few cells became a baby inside a mother's uterus.  She was satisfied and moved on.

It was another 2 years before she came back to ask just *how* the sperm from Dad got to the egg in Mom.

Over the years, they asked questions, and we answered them, delving into the topics with as much, or as little, detail that seemed appropriate at the time.  It wasn't always comfortable for us (we do still have our own hang ups when it comes to talking about sex, after all), but we did eventually cover all the bases, including homosexuality and masturbation.  We kept the discussions as neutral as possible, but didn't shrink from discussing the morals and values different groups associate with sex and sexuality when those issues came up as well.

The result of this was that our girls had a greater understanding of sex and sexuality than their schooled age mates.  When they were around groups of schooled kids in their own age range, they encountered attitudes towards sex as being something scandalous, with incredible gaps in knowledge, and attitudes that saw the proper terms for body parts as equivalent to swears, yet at the same time they (especially the girls) behaved in highly signalized manners.  Their inability to get a rise out of my kids with their foul mouthed, slang-filled sex talk perplexed them.

And the local school did have a sex education program!

We North Americans have a rather unusual culture and attitude towards sex, historically speaking.  On the one hand, we're bombarded with sex constantly.  Tv, movies, advertisements, and the media are filled with sexual references and innuendo.

You'd think, then, that we are actually quite open about sex, yet we're really very repressed.  Historically, children didn't need to be "taught" about sex.  Sex wasn't hidden from them.  When we lived in large family groups, with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all under the same roof in homes that sometimes had only two or three rooms, there was no such thing as privacy.  Kids grew up knowing about sex because they probably saw family members having sex fairly regularly.  It was just another part of life. Even as some of our cultures developed more repressed attitudes towards sex, youth were still exposed to it.  How could they not be, when whole families often not only slept in the same room, but often in the same bed.  If they even had beds.  If they weren't seeing humans have sex, they would still be exposed to animals mating.  They might even have played a controlling role in their animals' mating habits by ensuring desirable cross breeding.

Today's children are both exposed to vast amount of sex and sexuality, while at the same time being completely sheltered from it.  They aren't being expose to sex as a normal, natural part of life.  Instead, it's glamorized, satirized, or demonized.  It's used to sell clothing, cars and condiments.

In schools, sex ed is often taught with an agenda, and in today's world, that is often strongly associated with the liberal left.  I used to scoff at the notion, but it turns out there really is a "gay agenda" here in Canada.  It's published and printed, payed for with Cdn tax dollars (it's the only revision job my husband did where he actually had a problem with the content of what he was revising - making sure the English and French said the same thing, rather than being an Engrish translation).  It was filled with revisionist history, bizarre, hetero-phobic statements and, yes, a spelled out agenda of how to teach and promote homosexuality through public schools.

The public school system is highly susceptible to being taken over by special interest groups.  Whatever trend is currently popular - or has the most political influence - will find its way into the school system.  In Canada, our public schools have largely been an experiment of typically leftist ideology.  Interestingly, I know people who chose to home school their kids because the public school system isn't far enough to the left for them, while others home school their kids because they felt the schools had gone to far in usurping parental authority by teaching leftist ideology.

Schools shouldn't be left or right.  Or even centrist.  Schools should be about education.  Learning the basic tools our children will need to lead successful, productive adult lives.  They should be a resource where, beyond the Three R's, children can explore avenues of knowledge and have access to the tools to help them do so.

As far as I'm concerned, sex ed has an important place in schools.  Too many parents can't, or won't, talk to their own kids about sex.  The reasons for that can vary significantly.  It could be simple discomfort.  Or it could be a triggering subject for a parent that suffered sexual abuse.  Or it could be simply ignorance of physiology (like my own mother, who didn't know what an ovary was when, after the removal of my appendix, the doctor mentioned they'd removed a large cyst from one of my ovaries).

The thing is, sex ed in schools should stick to the facts.  Values and morals are a matter of parenting, religion and culture.  Yes, talk about the health and biology of our bodies.  Yes, discuss just what is physically involved with gay sex.  Yes, discuss contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.  Yes, discuss abstinence which, despite claims to the contrary, isn't just saying "don't do it," while leaving children in ignorance.

And yes, if it comes up, discuss the associations people, religions and cultures have towards sex.  But do it without judgement or pushing agendas.  One side of the spectrum is totally uncomfortable with kids knowing about sex, thinking that if they know about it, they'll do it, while on the other side, it's assumed the kids will do it anyway, so may as well tell them to have at it.

Neither extreme is useful.

Keeping kids ignorant of sexuality isn't going to stop them from having sex, but at the same time, kids aren't helpless against their hormones, unable to exert any sort of control over their sexual desires.  Heck, some kids may not even have those sexual desires.  From what they're being taught now (either in schools or by our culture), they are led to believe that they should be having these sexual urges, and if they're not, there's something wrong with them.  They're being taught that, if they don't have a sexual attraction to the opposite sex, they must be gay (because the idea that they may simply not be sexually attracted to either gender, or not have an out of control libido, just isn't entertained).  They're even being encouraged to experiment with both hetero- and homosexual sex, just to try it out.  I remember one mom describing her child in elementary coming home from school asking, "is it okay for me not to be gay?"

They're now home schooling.

Talking about sex with our kids should be as normal as talking about any other part of our biology.  How far into the details of it should depend on what the individual child is developmentally capable of understanding.

Unfortunately, that makes it very difficult to develop a set curriculum for public schools.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Remembering a hero

Thirty years ago, Terry Fox began his attempt to run across Canada.  He died before he could finish the trek, but accomplished his goal, to raise $1million for cancer research, many times over.  His spirit continues to inspire.

It was 30 years ago today.

Marathon of Hope: Your memories of Terry Fox

Anniversary of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope.

(h/t Dr. Roy)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Worst polluter?

Glancing through my news headlines this morning, I found this story.

Calgary among world's worst polluters.

This piqued my curiosity, since I've found Calgary to be a rather clean city, with lots of green spaces.  A old friend of mine that moved there described Calgary as the greenest city she's ever seen because of all the trees everywhere.  I was curious to see how suddenly Calgary found itself on par with, say, China.  Or perhaps India.  Or some of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world.

In looking at the story, there's a photo of litter.  Okay.  So Calgary has suddenly become overrun with litter to get this new, worst polluter designation?  Is raw sewage being dumped into the river?  Is there choking smog?  Industrial waste?

Nope, nope, nope and nope.

Calgary is apparently producing more CO2 per capita.  It's in 4th place worldwide for CO2 emissions.

Let's see if I've got this right. 

Brown air, yellow water, and mountains of garbage no longer count as pollution, but CO2 does? 

Calgary has a safe, clean water supply.  It has a safe food supply.  While there are sometimes smog issues, the air is generally clear, clean and safe.  It's going through a lot of growing pains right now, because so many people are moving there in such a short time. 

Does Calgary have pollution?  Yes, of course it does.  All cities do.  In terms of real pollution, however, Calgary doesn't even come close to being an offender.  The idea that CO2 emissions is being used as a measurement of pollution to render Calgary as a worse offender than what you can see in the links I posted above would be just plain silly, if the consequences weren't so serious. Unfortunately, by focusing on CO2 emissions as a measurement of pollution, real pollution problems are being ignored.

How is that good for the environment?

Sunday, April 04, 2010