Thursday, April 30, 2020

The ecZiting A-to-Z conclusion

Let’s see: I postponed the letter V essentially for health reasons, I declared X-Day a holiday (it’s not a real letter) and to complete the cop-out trilogy I’m outsourcing Z to the youtubes.

I never did assign Z to a friend. I kept it to myself and here’s what I have to say:

Thiz guy iz my new favourite youtuber becauze he crackz me up. He’z got a few little enterprizez going on as he getz a bit of cred az a major influencer and internet reporter. But what I like bezt iz hiz straight-up commentariez.

He’s got a great sense of humour, a great accent, he’s not afraid to liberally apply the F-word, he’s got a brain and a social conscience. He is:

OZZy Man

Yogi, Smokey, Boo-boo and Pooh

Hey hey kids… it’s Y-Day today because Y-not? And we have been enthusiastically directed by the yellsome yackity youngster who is my three-year-old nephew. And he has dictated the subject:


So I give you a silly poem. It’s a little A-to-Z within the A-to-Z!:

This is an ARCTIC bear. He’s learning how to swim
Because his snowy home is now in terrible danger!

This is BOO-BOO Bear. He is Yogi’s little friend
He has to warn him often: Don’t upset the ranger!

These are the CHICAGO bears. They are football players
Thirty four years ago they won the superbowl

This is a DO-IT YOURSELF bear. You donate the labour
Then you get to keep the bear but sixty bucks in the hole

This is Marian ENGEL’s bear. He has some troublesome habits
He likes to hang out in libraries among the shelves of books

This is jokester FOZZY Bear. He likes to draw the laughs
But all his jokes tend to get is lots of funny looks

GUMMI bears are colourful and sweet
While they’re gummed up in your maw

HUGGY BEAR had the bum’s eye for clothes
But his profession was against the law

Tanner is an INFIELDER for the Bad News Bears
He is a little scrapper who’s always getting dirty

JACK Nicklaus is the Golden Bear, a golfer yes he was
He would score lots of pars and also lots of birdies

The KOALA bear is not a bear at all! It’s true!

Some bears you find in bars for LGBTQ!

The entire MOVIE “The Bear” was framed from bears’ points of view
It was filmed in the Dolomites in Nineteen eighty-eight

In NATIVE Legends there are no symbols
But the Bear so mighty and great

OWLBEARS are monstrous things
They’ll engage you in a hostile fray

PADDINGTON is a gentlemanly bear
He lives in the U.K.

The Bear Creek QUILTING Company
Will service your quilting bee

You’ll find The Bear RADIO station
At one hundred point three

SMOKEY is a safety bear
It’s forest fires he dreads

TEDDY is the kindest bear
He’ll cuddle you in bed

The UNIVERSITY of Alberta
Has Bears in the basketball game

The VANCOUVER Grizzles, mind you
Once did just the same

WINNIE the Pooh bear’s always getting stuck
But fear not, he’ll be okay

eX-BEAR Ditka is on the TV
With always much to say

YOGI Bear just might be
The most famous bear of all

While the Z-BEAR builds you home-made bears
You can give him a call 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Screw you, X. Nobody likes you.

You’re not even a real letter.

All you do is team up with the CTRL button to delete things. Well guess what Mother Trucker? Today I'm deleting you! From A-to-Z.

Welcome to A-to-Z-except-for-X. Have a great day!


If you know me in real life this post is not for you. Be a mature adult, take my warning and just go away and forget about it.

For those who don’t know me, it’s W-Day:

Weary, withering, wasted…

The wonderful, worldly, we-oriented, World Citizen has whisked these words along from the west coast:

Wake up! 

And it is magically, hilariously, precisely relevant. I am absolutely one atom away from being asleep right now. My brain is a wreck. Just coming up with the above alliteration has drained me for the day. After an almost-week of mildly less then normal sleep performance I have spent a couple days doing almost nothing but sleeping, and yet in the few-hour segments in between epic naps I remain dead tired.

I will catch up on the V column one fine day when I can almost-function again. For now I take this critical W assignment and give it a quick hatchet job as best I can. Ready?

Environmentally you could say there are two kinds of people in the world; those who are apparently ignorant or uncaring with regards to the “planet” and the future of humanity, and those who appear to care but are deluded as to the reality of the situation.

Many of the nicest people I know are online getting all romantic about the environment and how it is getting a much needed break from us. And some jump to the absurd notion that we are starting to wake up! (and smell the coffee environmentally)

It is the death of all hope if the people we count on to lead us to salvation have no idea what they’re doing.

For countless reasons, over and over through decades, thousands have said "People are finally waking up!" No we are not. At best, precious minorities of people have woken from deeply deluded dreams into slightly less deluded dreams. In general we are more asleep than ever and falling into impossible traps to escape from. The very best and very worst case scenarios for Covid-19 are the same scenario: That the human population, beautiful, pitiable and perfectly insane, will be drastically alarmingly reduced.

Have I lost the last reader now? Good. ‘Cause no one will want to read this:

These messages I hear about how great it is that mother nature is getting a well deserved rest is precisely this:

A Nazi shoots a machine gun into a crowd of prisoners as they gradually tumble to their deaths. But then he throws the machine gun to the ground, pulls out a hand gun and begins killing them one bullet at a time. And one well-meaning stander-by says “Ah, how great they’re getting a well-deserved rest.”

I can’t seem to find another human being who actually understands how causality works (they all think they do) or another human being who understands the complex components, system and fragile configurations of the biosphere, which humans, even at this moment, are systematically dismantling it at an utterly unfathomable speed by any realistic cosmic context.

Am I going to do anything about it? Of course not. But I’m also not going to hide from the truth. And I’m not going to hide from the truth because I have a relationship with truth which no other human I know appears to have. (Tolle does, by the way). As for the biosphere’s plight; I am useless. Group one above is also useless as is group two.

Am I angry about this? No. But sometimes I am frustrated because communication with other people about the core dramas of our reality is fucking impossible and there is a kind of loneliness there which sometimes frustrates me. A lot of that frustration is aimed back at myself: for why have I failed to teach anyone anything despite all the research I do?

Here’s a great bit of comedy: Michael Moore has released a film Planet of the Humans. I haven’t watched it yet even though, as my brother noted in an email about it, it’s right up my apparently-narrow alley.

It may be vain and foolish to assume the film will only reveal the epic load of crap I already know, such as the preposterousness of practically every mainstream green organization and the utter fallacy of “industrial green clean energy.” All industry is a bullet to the head of the biosphere, including windmill and solar panel industries. There is no escaping this reality. But I can’t help instinctively making that assumption and I don’t feel quite in the mood just yet for going down a dark ugly rabbit hole that I already know like the back of my hand. (I promise to report back once I actually view the film.)

A part of the problem is that I assume that Moore (knowing how he rolls) will get caught up in the facade and guilt of things which I don’t really care to get wrapped up in. I don’t want to point fingers. Global human insanity starts at the core of the illusion; the gap between real instinctive mind and our outrageously flawed stuttering early evolution of consciousness. And we’re all in this together.

For a long long time as I say little about this matter, sensing no will around me to hear it, I have held a vain hope that some genius would come along and tell me why I’m wrong about the simple reality of biosphere and industry and just the other night I managed to get in on a webinar regarding green economy (what a wonderful fantasy) with none other than Noam Chomsky the special guest.

This could be my big chance! To get this question to him?

But the question panel grew fast and immediately and I realized I had no chance. But half way up I found a very similar question, framed around the claims of Moore’s The Planet of Humans. I discovered that one could comment on a question though it was rarely done. So I did: “I pray this question gets up-voted. It is critical!”

Lo and behold the comment, regardless of its content, visually drew attention. And immediately people were hitting the vote button and the question gradually rose to the top and was addressed. The host completely bungled it. It was not worded perfectly and the host made it worse. Chomsky gave an awkward 3-or-4 word dismissive response.

Thanks host. Thanks humans. Thank you for being so reliably; so tirelessly useless.

But did Chomsky fully misunderstand the question? I don’t really think he could have. Why did he not try to address it better?

Could he still be in the dark, environmentally? Brainy as he is? Perhaps?

Or is it this?

Does he see the same dilemma which concerns me?

Does he feel that to communicate every truth to the masses, were it accepted, result in complete despair and disorder; chaos?

Even if climate change is largely a red herring (not for being untrue but for being ultimately irrelevant), is it a placebo in effect which might keep cold-hearted humans acting responsible because there appears to be hope?

There is another reality here, perhaps most important of all. Nothing is immortal in this universe. Not humans, not Earth. Not the sun. But our living experiences are immortal because we experience no beginning or end. We are not aware of our own birth and death. That makes for A LOT to think about.

The end is inevitable even if sadly coming way sooner than necessary (except perhaps for the lucky grandchildren of the ultimately criminal super-duper-pooper rich who have been stealing from us all and will afford trillion dollar seats on Elon’s Mars rockets maybe?) well so what?

Why not exist at or near the inevitable end? Why take it as tragedy? There is still opportunity to evolve our minds and to love and to seek survival within whatever like-minded community we arrange ourselves. And if necessary to go out not with a bang but gracefully; respectfully; lovingly.

Have I been at all coherent? I don’t know why I write this. I don’t want to stomp on people I love who have been writing so hopefully and romantically and with flawed logic. They are good people. But I do get deeply, unwisely, lonesomely frustrated sometimes. I am far from the top of my spiritual game…

Stuff to think about.  

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Notice of postponement... and a baby panda!

V-Day shall be delayed, folks. In the last five days I have averaged 4 hours sleep per day with 3 hours each in the last two days. The V piece deserves a little brain work and I cant summon much of a brain at all in these circumstances. But for now theres always:


actually Pandasundayum until April A-to-Z is complete. Right now Sundays are the only sanctioned days off.

Friday, April 24, 2020


Hey hey… U guessed it. It’s U-day, and the fine upstanding, unsinkable, upbeat, uncensored (and unbalanced of late due to foot injury - oh and on that note, ulcerated and under-utilized) Urban Bard (a.k.a. the Flaming Liberal) has unleashed this upon us:

Restorative Justice

I know. I know. Only one U in there and it’s not even at the beginning. Also not much of a challenge since restorative justice is so ubiquitous in my life. But here’s a brief story which I think says something important:

Soul Man and I addressed a small class at Redeemer University. Let’s face it, it was his presentation and I was little more than his driver. On the trip there it occurred to me that I might be asked why it is I do what I do; volunteer my time with such pariahs of the community; such monsters. I gave it some brief thought and found no immediate answer and was distracted by something else.

After the presentation I was asked that very question, and by a particular girl who had been coming across as being perhaps less than comfortable with our perspectives. It was phrased “Why would you want to work with these people?”

The irony occurred to me immediately. This was Redeemer; as in Christ the Redeemer. Was redemption really a foreign concept here?

This may seem strange, but working in this community, in order to keep the greater community safe for children (for that IS the prime factor here) has not felt like the morbid chore that many people seem to assume. It in fact feels like a privilege!

In an environment that is draped in shadows of victimhood and flawed justice and brokenness and where great barriers loom against healing and trust and happiness and normal relationships and normal pursuits and mental well-being, where one of the nations largest institution flounders in vain attempts at insight and justice… where we celebrate each small victory with profound lovingness and where even in the rarer moments of failure and in the very rare moments of tragedy, all hands report on deck and immediately care for one another; and where the lines between offenders and volunteers have been made irrelevant…

… in a place where every day, humanity has all the cards stacked against it, it is a privilege to find in this place that somehow or another, every day, humanity wins.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

There, Here & Everywhere

Hey hey, it’s T-day, ready or not. I am tired and trippy and trapped on the night shift, to be followed by much sleep I pray, so there is no putting this off. I will type a tiny tumble of text and let you get on with your day!

Today’s topic is thrown to us by the tidy, talented, talkative, tasteful, tactful and tactical; the tireless, tenacious, trustworthy and true, and a tad tubby; the thorough-thinking Thoughtful Educator, and it is:


With tin can in hand I attended Poetry Corner. Such a fine variety of creative projects were shared, and then my turn: I held the orange-striped tin before me.

“I am going to creatively eat this entire box of turtles,” I said. The crowd seemed nonplussed. My god I think they believe me.

“Just kidding.” I popped off the lid and revealed 192 colorful cards inside; no chocolate caramel pecan funny-business. I explained the game I had invented. Here There & Everywhere it’s called. And there is a card for every Beatles song on every Beatles studio album.

Some of the cards are special: hero, place or widget cards, which reflect the nature of those special song titles. The hero cards have unique special privileges: Mean Mr. Mustard, Lovely Rita, Eleanor Rigby and Polythene Pam for instance. The widget cards have special powers: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer for instance. And the place cards (how lucky that the numbers of total cards and of place cards worked out so perfect) randomly placed, form the diamond-shaped array on which all other cards are stacked, in essence forming the game board.

Its a bit like the game of Concentration where you are turning up cards looking for the ones you want, but you win by collecting all the cards (songs) which complete one of their albums.

There are a few interesting parameters but that’s the gist of it. I would just like to find a way to make the game conclude a bit faster without changing its nature too much. The group was actually useful in making a few suggestions which I have written down for later perusal. I just might Get By With a Little Help From My Friends…

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Safe homeward

Hey hey my salty little sweethearts. How goes it? I for one am feeling a little loopy perhaps from too much blogging and not enough sleeping? And by too much blogging I mean nowhere near the volume of youtubing or minecrafting but… it might be in the top five of my End Times Activity Log.

I feel like my wee articles are getting maybe a little too goofy sometimes and maybe not wee enough.

So my very smart, sensible strat-o-matically skilled, super-awesome buddy, Skeeter Willis has sent along this sexy little subject:

Slán Abhaile

Apparently you find this on signs in Ireland, as you’re leaving town for instance, where it means safe home or in other words, farewell, or else on highways where it means safe home as in drive safe; arrive alive. Either way it’s apparently pronounced “Slawn awallya.”

As a movie buff though, the phrase resonated most for me in the weepy climactic scene of the director’s cut of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It’s quite different than the theatrical release. I am presenting it here with subtitles added in because the voice of E.T. is really hard to understand:

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Remote moon

Another day another letter… We’re up to R folks and it’s time for a response from my richly-educated, respectful cousin; a re-formulated vegetarian-of-sorts, here known as Renaissance Kid. And he has requested:


Generally retrograde refers to motion that is counter to the normative flow. So you might think of a satellite orbiting earth against the earth’s rotation as retrograde. Most man-made satellites would take an orbit more polar-oriented than equatorial though, so that it’s orbit would compliment the rotation like a sort of x-y axis and would potentially cover most of the planet’s surface over time instead of just a strip.

My understanding is that most are launched somewhat prograde and fewer somewhat retrograde in order to lessen fuel-costly resistance. But sometimes the geography around a launch site will inflict limitations on available direction.

Most satellites would orbit far enough from our atmosphere that resistance and fuel would cease to be of relevance once the orbit is established.

As for natural satellites: Saturn has 82 known moons of unique orbit (not embedded in its primary ring system) of which Phoebe is the only in retrograde (to Saturn’s rotation). It’s a more distant orbit which normally dictates smaller sizes but while a fraction of the size of our own moon it ranks probably in Saturn’s top dozen.

Phoebe, originally designated Saturn IX, was the first ever moon discovered photographically, but only as a dot. The Voyager explorations of the late eighties missed out on a close-up due to her remote position at the time, but this millennium’s Cassini mission was timed with Phoebe in mind. Cassini snapped this photo:

Her orbit and black surface tricked scientists for a long time into believing it a captured asteroid but now we know it possesses some carbon dioxide, and once held heat and water, all of which no proper asteroid can boast, so now we believe it’s a captured “centaur” meaning a Kuiper belt object (from between Jupiter and Neptune)

You may have heard of planets being in retrograde but this is a loose usage of the term. Taking Mercury for example, its orbit is continuous of course but because we sit on relatively the same plane as that orbit, the planet appears to change direction at times in accordance to the complex relationship of our two orbits. When it appears to move opposite the apparent flow of background stars (which is really just our rotation) some folks, such as astrologists, use the word retrograde to describe the unusual juxtaposition.

The last period of Mercury’s apparent retrograde was February 17 to March 10 and the next will be June 18 to July 12, 2020. Astrologers’ advice for these chaotic periods is this:

…remain flexible, allow extra time for travel, and avoid signing contracts. Double check your email responses, check in with reservations before you take that trip.

Review projects and plans at these times, but wait until Mercury is direct again to make any final decisions. You can’t stop your life, but plan ahead, have back-up plans, and be prepared for angrier people and miscommunication. Also, pull your head out of your ass because this is the least defendable baloneypoop ever.

I may have added an extra sentence somewhere in there but you’ll never guess which one.

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Query and the Question

Happy Q Day everyone. Still hanging in there with your quarantine survival, and your A-to-Z quest? I think we’re over the hump on both counts. Let’s renew our commitment and tackle that home stretch, eh?

So today’s assignment hails from the quiet, inquisitive, quick-thinking, quotable, master program facilitator; a gentleman and musician of the highest order; Mister Quickfingers on the guitar; the Soul Man. And he offers this:


Yesterday I asked a dangerous question.

As a creative person you come up with original ideas. We must remember that originality is the act of integral creation. It lies in the process, not in the arbitrary matter of uniqueness.

We are tempted to turn to that Great and Powerful Oracle known as Google to plug in our creation and see if anyone has done it before us. Not a great idea. With 7-billion-plus on the planet there is an awful good chance that someone has, and knowing so is such an irrelevant downer.

But yesterday I dared. It wasn’t a big deal after all; a shallow matter; just a silly word. I googled Pandamondayum…

… and got lucky! And now at the other end of the depth chart:

While writing had been a robust daily habit and one which had grown very deep in its ambition, as I stared at a blank page for long long periods searching for the most illusive beast of all; the beast called truth, I asked myself deeper and deeper questions and finally: Am I evil?

Of course there would never be a real yes or no answer to that. There are so many contexts and ways to define evil. And ultimately, evil is not a real thing in the universe. It is a human idea. But though there would never be a lasting meaningful yes or no answer, it was almost surely the most important question I ever asked in my life. It lead me into a new area of intense examination, one in which I found more courage than at any other time in my life, and one that set off a chain of effects that changed my life vastly and completely.

Asking Am I evil led me to deep understandings of how immensely terrible and how immensely special I was, and eventually the same such observations in people around me. And it was only then that I seemed to find myself. After I seemed to lose the world, and all my ambitions, and then got the world back again but looking completely different. Only then did I find my place in it. I’m pretty sure that’s what finding yourself means: finding your place. And though I may, in some ways, have lost it again; myself; my place, I know the experience was real because I still benefit from so much of that journey.

What Soul Man had replied to me, with regards to a Q assignment, was “Questions; not to feed our need for answers, but to feed our need for understanding." 

How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people--Lamentations 1:1

Sunday, April 19, 2020


No Google, I did not mean pandemonium! Go suck a lemon!

Hey hey - it’s day off day at the A-to-Z so I thought I’d introduce my new thing which I’m calling Panda-Monday-Um. Yeah, you see what I did there?

You could look at it as total filler one day a week or as the best thing ever. I have discovered that the sight and sound of a panda eating bamboo is possibly the most soothing and weirdly satisfying thing ever. To be reasonable, you’d expect that I must have some sort of OCD thing going on, in order to be susceptible to this but if I do, I don’t know it.

And yes I know that this is Sundayum and not Mondayum but we don’t get any Mondays off in A-to-Z land. So there.

I don't know why this particular panda is in jail. He looks like a nice enough fella.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Phoney Baloney

Well it’s P-day over at the A-to-Z and I haven’t crashed yet. Still in this thing and today my plucky, playful, passionate, pensive, sometimes panicky pal, the Ponderer has pulled this fine proposal from her hat:

Parsnips: the forgotten carrot

So everyone knows what a parsnip is, right? A white carrot-like root vegetable which has lagged in popularity behind its orange cousin. Its sweeter than a carrot when cooked. Who doesn’t like sweet?

Well here are ten fun facts about parsnips you probably didn’t know:

1. The shoots and leaves have serious toxic qualities which harvesters need to be aware of. People have suffered severe burns and blistering from wild parsnip encounters.

2. The original carrot was much more like today’s parsnip than today’s carrot.

3. In the video game Stardew Valley you will earn a 100 gold piece reward the first time you fully cultivate a parsnip.

4. The novel Parsnips in Love by Porochista Khakpour centres around the harvesting of a pair of parsnips which had grown entwined with each other; inseparable without breaking them.

5. Duke Gregory III of Naples once sponsored a footrace challenging any nine runners who would put up a 50 gold coin wager against his “magical sprinting parsnip.” Nearly everyone assumed some trick was afoot. Only three runners took up the challenge and the race proceeded. Gregory paid out the 150 coins. The parsnip never left the starting line.

6. The longest parsnip on record is 7.49 metres long! And was grown by the same retired Englishman, Joe Atherton who also holds the records for longest beetroot and longest carrot.

7. It is decidedly difficult finding ten interesting things to say about bloody parsnips. Thanks Ponderer!

8. Kenneth Kholer of then-West Germany became famous as the Trojan Parsnip Man when he found a parsnip half-jammed in his mailbox. He left it on his kitchen counter planning to query neighbours about the gift but the next morning the vegetable was nowhere to be found, while a dozen small white mice ransacked the kitchen.

9. Parsnips were the “potato” of ancient Europe - until the potato came along.

10. A pediatrician and popular blogger recommends that the best way to get kids to eat parsnips is to make french fries out of them. Sounds reasonable. I would eat a parsnip too if someone threatened to otherwise make a french fry out of me.

Well there you go. Sadly that was only seven facts about parsnips. Two of them I totally fabricated. I think you can guess which two. Sorry folks. I can’t always be trusted!

Friday, April 17, 2020

On tour

Hey-O folks. I’m getting an early jump on “O” day finally, where my organized, orderly, observant, openhearted, owlish but not overly-owlish occasional writing buddy, the Outlier, has offered this for our consideration:


I earlier A-to-Z’ed (that’s a verb right?) on the subject of board games and my own creative endeavors and here I shall briefly outline another category which is… unexpected opportunities:

Of the board games entirely my own conception, two have accidentally become market-relevant. I originally had no intention to sell anything. I just wanted to add to the fun within the realms of my various board gaming circles. But these games I’m working on do seem to potentially fill a gap in the commercial gaming landscape out there. Their working titles are Prestige and World Tour. They are both - how shall I say - career macro games.

In the first you build a career as a fantasy adventurer of a chosen class. You contribute to the building of a map of the realm, you place campaign sites, claim (unique) campaigns (as you collect the needed qualifications), complete them and reap the rewards, and possibly take some losses in the endeavor. It is sort of a deck-building game with resource management. You collect treasures, magic, wealth, allies, (tax-paying) followers, and a stronghold which all act as assets to avail campaigns of higher demand, risk and reward. It is Dungeons and Dragons at the extreme macro level. You win by gaining the most prestige.

The second is a little bit like… all of Rock Band in a session: You acquire creative ideas, produce songs and albums and go on tour and the cycle repeats with the stakes increasing. Producing albums generates income and fans. Fans avail greater, more-lucrative venues. Touring produces income and “ideas” or “inspiration” which you later convert into songs. Money lets you invest in larger tours. You win by hitting a target fan count. An interesting component is the way that you pass the turn marker as you begin your turn and then carry on working independently until your turn is done and the marker returns to you. You share your results, announce your next intention and then pass the torch and carry on again. This way multiple players may be engaged in their turns at once.

I feel that the first one, Prestige most definitely belongs in the market place. I’ve told a few big-time gamers about it and they seemed quite intrigued.

We’ll see.

No leavesies!

Halden is a 75 acre complex consisting of many buildings. It opened in 2010 and received the Arnstein Arneberg Award for its interior design. It facilitates around 250 guests.

Each 110 square foot living unit contains a private bathroom, TV, desk, mini-fridge and a tall window for plenty of natural light.

There are more than a dozen common areas each with fully-equipped kitchen, dining area, couches and a video game system.

The site also offers such amenities as sports and gym facilities, jogging trails, a library (books, films and music), chapel, English lessons and other education programs, counselling and even a music studio with broadcast functions.

There is also a fully-featured chalet guesthouse where a tenant can entertain their entire family for a 24-hour visit.

Staff areas are small and spartan because staff spend most of their time forming a community with the residents. It’s like a small village with a balanced focus on living, working and recreation.

Hmm... Are you wondering if this might be… the world’s most liberal prison or something! Well, I assure you there are no weapons here. No watchtowers, barbed wire or electric fences, and the only surveillance cameras are outdoors.

There is however a very big wall around the place and guests are confined to their rooms at certain hours.

Yes, it is a prison, widely considered the most liberal. It’s in Norway, and it houses inmates of the most serious and dangerous kind as well as a bevy of drug offenders. And yes Norway is in Scandinavia, that magical land where they are always decades ahead of the rest of the messed-up world in terms of social intelligence.

I was first exposed to Halden Prison in a Michael Moore film. It has the feel of a Canadian half-way house (I have visited such places in volunteer roles), as if the convicted have skipped prison and gone straight to a parole circumstance but without unescorted leave privileges. Halden Prison shocks a lot of people because a lot of people really have little clue how to think critically, quite frankly. Some people assume that they are somehow innately superior to convicted criminals as opposed to privileged benefactors of advantageous environment, circumstance and/or mental health. And some people assume that criminals deserve all the punishment they can get without realizing quite how bad they actually have it or how badly it aggravates and harms society when we bend more toward revenge as opposed to rehabilitation. The revenge model, rarely so determinedly celebrated than in the United states of America where incarceration has become a self-propelling Big Fucking Profitable Business, creates such a chasm between the convicted and the non-convicted and such barriers to re-normalization, that the so-called “released” have almost no choice but to seek the aid of their criminal associates whom the justice system has so eagerly afforded them, thus increasing crime rates.

But my god, how dreary I am of explaining this shit. I once worked in a Community Corrections Centre (a step between prison and half-way houses) and I can absolutely assure you that a slight majority of guards at this particular shit-hole were far more despicable human scum than most of the tenants. I would sometimes stare at certain coworkers in awe thinking I can’t believe you’re on this side of the glass.

To be fair there were some most-excellent human beings among the guards as well, and they have remained good friends.

The last time I checked: In a list of 223 nations Canada ranked around 85th best in terms of incarceration rate at around .107%. That’s about 32,000 inmates. Nothing to celebrate.

At all.

I think the nation of Liechtenstein had two at the time. Two whole inmates! I mean, it’s a tiny nation, sure. But two! Perhaps they’re simply the nicest people ever or maybe all their convicts are quietly murdered after a couple nights. I don’t know.

India was ranked about 12th best with around .03%

Norway, you ask? Around 30th best at .06%

The USA ranks a distant dead last with a staggering .655% or more than two million inmates. I’m pretty sure they are going about things the Wrongest Way Possible.

I saw how badly the Community Corrections Centre residents were treated in subtle terms; the environment, the policies, the vampiric management style (not so much the way they were spoken to in normal moments necessarily) and I started to understand how challenging it was for convicts to embrace rehabilitation efforts with sincerity. I could see how easy it would be to fall back on the criminal community for support; the community which gave them more respect quite frankly. The community which was pushed together by society’s determination to marginalize them. When I saw this I knew I had to volunteer. I knew how much better our helping hands had to be, than the alternative, in order to win them over to our side, and to the long hard road to attain a normalized life again despite all the barriers, many of them permanent.

A co-volunteer (and self-starting organizer) in this community, who once started out a brief inmate himself for frankly preposterous reasons, is one of my favourite people ever. I call him the Noble Punster. His life is now deeply dedicated to helping ex-convicts reach their potential in every way possible including spiritually, where applicable.

I had hardly known him on the occasion he asked me what I needed in order to get out of the very difficult circumstances life had squeezed me into at the time.

“Honestly,” I said. “I need seven hundred dollars for car repairs. I don’t know where I can get it.”

He wrote me the cheque on the spot, and was eternally gracious while it took me a year and a half to pay it off.

And today, for N day he requested:

Norwegian prisons