What’s all this Easter Bunny Business Anyway?

Photo of a bunny in a meadow of flowersGlorious spring has finally arrived, and despite the rather mild winter us BC-ershave enjoyed these past several months, (while the lucky ones ice-climb Niagra Falls and dig themselves out of their snow-trapped houses), we can’t help but smile at the induction of spring.  Easter, a hallmark of the season, is just around the corner.  When many of us think of Easter we either think: fabulous, scrumptious brunch buffet, quality family time conversing around the table, pastel colors and festive spring designs or hunting for those notorious chocolate eggs. Oh yeah.  And then there’s the part about the resurrection of Christ.  Yes, there’s something very juxtaposing about this rather peculiar holiday.  For many, Easteris a non secular holiday – an excuse to eat more chocolate (as if we didn’t have get our fair share at Christmas and Valentine’s).  However for others, Easter is one of the most important of all religious holidays.  So how do we, as a society, reconcile the paradoxical idea of a large bunny hoping around delivering chocolate eggs in a made-to-look-like-bird-nest-basket during the night for all the little boys and girls,with the resurrection of Jesus Christ?  While most of us follow and accept these peculiar customs without a second thought, (as they are so well ingrained in our commercial culture), if we were to actually take a moment to think about why, we would find that ironically, bunnies and eggs enjoy a close symbolic relationship with Eastertide.

Traditionally rooted in the history of Christianity, Easter is the most significant feast in the Christian liturgical year and similar to Christmas, it commemorates a mythical figure that bears gifts to children the night before its particular holiday. The duplicitous symbolism of this date allows for many people from all walks of life to enjoy and partake in its celebration, making it uniquely versatile.  While early 16th century accounts from south-western Germany and the Holy Roman Empire detail the “Easter Hare” as a legendary being who gives eggs to young children, the contemporary version of the Easter Bunny that we all know and lovetoday did not emerge in North America until the 18th century, (a custom brought over by European settlers).  Symbols of the hare (or rabbit) and eggs centre around the Spring Equinox, representing a multilateral approach to fertility, whereby springtime brings forth new life, crops, food, flowers, greenery, longer days, and warmth after a barren winter, (epitomized by the notoriously reproducing rabbit and the egg).  Religiously speaking, the egg may directly correlate to the resurrection of Christ, as an egg encloses and conserves within it, new life -the yolk of our renewed salvation.  Moreover, whereas Easter marks the end of Lent, habitually, there would have been an abundance of eggs during this time for which to make use of. The Easter egg, as a popular symbol of new life, is commonly celebrated in folk traditions all across the Slavic nations.photo of an Easter basket with eggs and flowers in it

Although the origin of the conventional custom of coloring eggs is unknown, it has its bearings in both seasonal and religious sentiments. Natural dyes within flower petals and root vegetables, when boiled with eggs, will turn the shells various colours, (thus making this custom very seasonally-specific) while many Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church customarily dye their Easter eggs red, in acknowledgment of the blood of the sacrificed Christ. There exists numerous egg-decorating techniques worldwide, and the giving and sharing of decorated eggs varies from country to country, be it a representation of friendship, love, good wishes, unity and appreciation.

So whether you choose to celebrate Easter as a religious or secular holiday,Easter is nonetheless a great excuse to get together with friends and family and celebrate the start of this incredible season, (and eat some more chocolate!)

Weighing In: The New GMO Non-Browning Apple

gmo-appleIn this emerging world of Food Inc.-enthused, health-conscious pundits, (where magazine articles have made experts of us all in one way or another), the demand for more fresh, organic, locally-sourced and naturally-derived products has given birth not just to the hipster movement, (yes, love it or hate it) but to a whole new breed of thinkers and doers.  For the first time in decades, we, the consumer, have regained some kind of control over our food source by choosing to buy or not to buy certain products. In doing so, we bear witness to the vast social, environmental, political and fiscal implications of such power projected on a global scale.  It’s taken a little bit of time, but slowly we’re learning and growing, building our houses out of much stronger materials.  First hay, then sticks, now bricks.  For better or worse, the Information Age, has opened our hearts and minds to the endowment of knowledge, making three very healthy, nut-raised, antibiotic-free porkers out of our three little piggies and one, terrible big bad wolf from the GMO food industry.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are one of the biggest polarizing issues of our time, crossing the Rubicon into what many believe, is dangerous and hostile territory.  A surefire game-changer in the way we think about food and treat food, the GMO movement has been a formidable force in global food production over the past 20 years, prompting fierce debate over its necessity and validity.  Currently, at the centre of controversy, is Okanagan Specialty Fruits, (OSF), a small Canadian company, based out of Summerland, British Columbia. Over the past decade OSF have been working on developing an genetically engineered, non-browning apple, which the company has coined, the Arctic
Apple.  Due to the genetically altering process by which it is grown, this particular apple does not turn brown after its been bruised or sliced.  At least not for several weeks.  Recently, OSF has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to market and commercially distribute it’s genetically modified apple, selling their technology to Intrexon Corporation, for a cool $41 million.  The first batch of these GE apples are set to be sold in select, small test markets in late-2016.  Now OSF is setting its sights on genetically engineering golden delicious and granny smith apple varieties, as well as gala and fuji in the near future.  A non-browning apple may not sound incredibly threatening, maybe even enticing – after all – who likes eating brown fruit?  Yet, browning may not be the problem. When dealing with all GMO products, the question is not – can we, it’s, should we, and why?

Although somewhat of an aesthetic nuisance, apples, as well as bananas, pears, avocados and other fruits are meant to turn brown naturally after they’ve been exposed to the air.  Targeted by one particular enzyme, polyphenol oxidase, oxidation in apples occurs when oxygenated iron cofactors within the fruit react, losing electrons to molecules in the air. But apart from being somewhat visually unappealing, browning does not cause the fruit to go off, nor does it alter the flavour or texture of the fruit.  So where, might you ask, is the need for a non-browning apple?  Despite the fact that many of us (especially our children) tend to be visual eaters by habit and instinct, to contest browning in fruit, seems rather trivial, especially when we are faced with far more real concerns, like world hunger, drought, global climate change, the destruction of natural habitats and our environment.  Perhaps conjured by a Mary Antoinette alter-ego, in its ownHameau de la Reine narrative, the arctic apple has become the hobby farm of our time, masquerading as a working farm.   Of course we want to pick our own eggs, just so long as they’re not covered in feathers and mud.  After all, we don’t really want to think about where they come from just so long as they look pretty.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.53.11 AM

When most of us think, GMO, we think, mutated chemical-derived “thing.”  The “it” of the food industry. But in fact, almost everything that we eat today has been genetically modified in some way through the historical, agricultural practices of our ancestors thousands of years ago.  Foods created by merging DNA from different species, or by artificially selecting and then replicating particular features and traits for specific purposes, (much like the kind of selective breeding we’ve seen in domestic plants and animals over the course of history) can all be referred to as GMO.  Before the advent of agriculture, our ancestors lived off of the limited food varieties and nutrients that occurred naturally in the wild.  However, once farming practices took hold, selectively breeding animals and plants to be bigger, hardier and easier to manage, helped create established settlements, and with it, social contract and civilization. From chickens to cows, kale, broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes, almonds, apples and apricots, wheat and corn, much of our food source has been the subject of historical selective breading. Although biotechnology and GMO  looks quite different today than it did 10,000 years ago, the principal theory remains the same: genetically altering components of a particular product for a particular desired outcome.  So what’s the harm with a genetically modified apple? 

Primarily designed for fast food companies and food processing companies, the Arctic Apple was not conceived as a benefit to the general public, rather as a benefit to multinational enterprise.  Designed to look fresh when they’re not, Arctic Apples may be downright deceiving, and somewhat counterintuitive.  A 2012 poll commission by the BC Fruit Growers’ Association targeting the Arctic Apple, demonstrated significant concern among the public, with 69 percent of respondents opposing approval.  Many believe that contamination from GM apples may pose a risk to their organic and natural counterparts, while the spontaneous spreading of apples seeds and pollen from the GM apple trees by birds, bees and other pollinating insects cannot realistically be controlled.  Others contend that Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should not be using public funds to review a GM apple without first consulting farmers or consumers.  Health concerns have also been raised.  Many studies have shown links between certain GMO foods and allergies, (yellow corn and an engineered soya bean containing Brazilian nut protein are case in point) as well as possible links to immune reactions and cancer.  Lastly, it may be argued that supportingGMOs, in any shape or form, has become widely synonymous with supporting a degradation of our global environment, as well as consumer independence. While GMOs have developed increasing resistance to widespread applications of pesticides and herbicides, we are now using more chemicals, which costs farmers, causes damage to the environment and raises further health concerns, (not to mention the self-supporting features of the GMO industry – Monsanto and Round-Up?  Case in point).  Many countries around the world have chosen to ban the use of GMOs, or at least limit their applications.  Italy, Austria, France and Germany have either banned all GE crops and trails outright, or have placed bans on certain GE crops such as GM maize and rapeseed.  Other countries that have followed in suit.  Luxembourg, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, U.K., Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Thaliand, Philippines, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Brazil and Paraguay. 

The GMO question should be simple: Why?  Why GMO?  Is it benefiting the public?  Is it helping the environment?  Is it improving world hunger?  Or is it simple about profit margins and the bottom line?  We have to ask ourselves: isGMO necessary?  Of course while the price of avoiding GMOs may mean a higher grocery bill, at the end of the day, its not just about money spent at the till, its about investing in our future and our children’s future, and the choice is ours. Every day, when we cast our vote at the supermarket, by choosing to buy certain products over others, we should, each of us, take a moment to really think about who we’re voting for and what our choices could mean for our world and posterity.

Traveling Solo: Why You Need To Travel Alone At Least Once

Traveling alone is good for the soul.
Traveling alone is good for the soul.

Traveling is wonderful no matter how you do it, but there’s something really special about traveling solo. The first time I did it I was much younger, and although I was excited I was nervous, too. I didn’t need to be, and you don’t either; in fact, I can assure you without reservation that everyone needs to travel alone, regularly if possible, but at least once. Here’s why.

It’s All About You

We should all be ourselves all of the time, but most of us fail at this at least some of the time when surrounded by other people who want or need things from us. Traveling solo, especially far from home, you can be yourself, and you don’t care who knows it. Being able to act, eat, dress, and say whatever you feel like replenishes your reserves.

You get to choose each and every stop, and do and see whatever you want. What a luxury, to know your own agenda is the only one and to be free from the expectations of other people! And why bother holding back your opinions? You’ll never see anyone around you again. You may just learn to bring that courage back home with you, too.

It’s Also About Meeting Unforgettable People

Traveling with people you already know can actually prevent you from making meaningful new connections with people you meet. Traveling solo will expose you to a cadre of people from around the world who are interested in things, and independent enough to make things happen on their own. You won’t miss out on interesting interactions with people you typically lose by focusing as a team on the next objective, and getting from point A to point B.

Have you ever wasted an evening in a lively conversation with a porter or playing cards in a plaza with people who didn’t speak your language? I have. Do it. You’ll look back on those times happily for your whole life, I promise.

Ditch Your Dead Weight

Part of why you need a getaway is your everyday surroundings. No matter how awesome your life is, sometimes you just need a total disconnect for a little while. And as you rejuvenate yourself you can take stock of the toxic people in your life more accurately. Oh, and by the way: just turn the phone off until you really need it. If your Facebook buddies either a) can’t tell you’re gone, or b) are intimately familiar with your trip as it happens, you’re doing it wrong. Whatever is in your inbox will keep.

Bravery And Independence: You Need Them

Traveling solo, especially if you never have, builds up your confidence and self-esteem. It shows you your reserves of courage, and once you’re aware of them you’ll never forget them again. One of my first solo trips was to learn to hang glide in Utah. I broke some toes and decided to take to the road, finding hot springs and awesome hiking from Arizona to Idaho as I enjoyed the freedom of my own choices.

The next time I went to Guatemala, eager to learn Spanish and see a million different things. If I had been too scared to try it I would have missed out on climbing an active volcano, traveling in a microbus to a village above the cloud line, and enjoying movies about Che Guevara while sipping hibiscus tea and sitting on a bench seat that had once been inside a classic American car.

On Your Own Time

It seems like we are always waiting for other people, for the right moment, for things to get better. Traveling alone lets you do things on your own time. Blow off the day’s plan if you want; it’s your dime. Eat whatever foods you like, unrestrained by the many food foibles, allergies, and restrictions of the other people in your world. You may even get enough of your own identity back that it never disappears again.

The Bottom Line

What if something goes wrong? Not if, when. And it won’t matter, you can handle it. The life-changing experience of really being on your own, doing exactly what you want when you want to, and interacting with totally new people in genuine ways is yours to savor. And who knows where you’ll end up next? If you’re really lucky (and smart!) you’ll end up at an idyllic setting like that we enjoy here at Penticton Lakeside Resort!

Casino Chic 2015: Best Casinos Worldwide

Some of our best casino picks for 2015
Some of our best casino picks for 2015

If nothing sounds more exciting to you than the constant, adrenaline-fueled night life of the casino, then this is your ultimate guide. Casino Chic is in full force for millions around the world, and these are the absolute best destinations worldwide for lovers of the lifestyle. Check out our list of best casinos worldwide.

Macau: City of Dreams

For the adults-only, high-end experience, spend some time at the City of Dreams on the Cotai Strip, certainly one of the best casinos worldwide. Its chief competitor, the Venetian, provides the family-friendly experience, which might detract from the whole if you’re a real aficionado. The City of Dreams boasts 420,000 square feet of space filled with lush décor and around 400 gaming tables and 1,300 gaming machines. Play baccarat, big wheel, blackjack, sic bo, fan tan, craps, whatever you like. See the hot TABOO cabaret show and watch the Red Dragon, the biggest poker tournament in Asia, which takes place every month.

Caribbean: Ritz-Carlton San Juan, Puerto Rico

Ritz-Carlton luxury and the Bahamas commitment to entertainment and relaxation make this destination among the best anywhere. If you get tired of playing at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan, hit the spa or soak up the sun on gorgeous beaches on the eight acres of the property. Play blackjack, let-it-ride games, mini baccarat, slots, and roulette in elegant settings. And if you still need something else to do you can visit island attractions like the Bacardi Rum Distillery or El Yunque Rainforest. This beautiful, sumptuous choice earns it spot among the best casinos worldwide.

Africa: Mazagan, Morocco

Located about an hour from Casablanca, the five-star Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort is truly a desert oasis. It looks like a fortress and is self-sufficient for even the most discerning traveler. The casino itself is right out of the Arabian Nights, with 46 gaming tables in exclusive, private gaming rooms for baccarat, blackjack, roulette, and other amusements—not to mention the more than 450 slots. If you tire of gaming you’ll already be dressed for fine dining thanks to the dress code; enjoy anything from French cuisine to local fare in Berber tents under the stars. Or simply relax on the private beach, pamper yourself in the ocean-view spa rooms, or play eighteen-holes on Gary Player’s championship golf course.

Monaco: Casino de Monaco

Enjoy the classic James Bond casino experience at Casino de Monaco. The European institution consists of five chic locations including the Bay Casino, Casino Café de Paris, Casino d’Été, Casino de Monte-Carlo, and Sun Casino. A truly world-class experience, Casino de Monaco is owned by the Societe des Bains de Mer de Monaco, part royalty and part government of Monaco. Very traditional yet energetic and exciting, this gem among the best casinos worldwide is so exclusive that local citizens of Monaco are not permitted on the premises.

US Outside Las Vegas: Foxwoods, Connecticut

If you’re worried about running into the dull plodding of austere, old money and Ivy League drab in Connecticut, worry no more. One of the best reasons to visit the state is the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Nestled into peaceful greenery in Ledyard, Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Reservation are 4.7 million square feet of gaming delight. The Foxwoods’ excess of 380 gaming tables offer poker, blackjack, roulette, and craps, among other games. And if you prefer the one-armed bandit, you have 6,300 slot machines to choose from. Stay in the modern Fox Tower or rent a private designer villa—complete with its own butler. And since the property houses six casinos in total, more than 30 restaurants, your choice of luxurious spas, comedy clubs and night clubs, a Rees Jones-designed championship golf course and golf academy, swanky shopping, and all manner of other amusements, you’ll be hard-pressed to find yourself bored.

Las Vegas: MGM Grand

The MGM Grand Casino is situated inside the world’s third largest hotel. The casino itself features one of the largest gaming floors in the world capital of gaming, Las Vegas. The 171,500 square foot gaming floor boasts 139 gaming tables and 2,500 slot machines—the machines alone with payouts of as much as $500,000. The avid sports fan in you will be thrilled to bet on everything from football to MMA in the state-of-the-art sports area with its 60 plasma televisions. There are plenty of options for stashing the kids here, too. And if you want to take in a show, you’re in luck: the MGM Grand features a world-class entertainment schedule.

The Bottom Line

There are so many choices for your gaming vacation, each more sumptuous than the last. These are the best destinations worldwide for good reason. This year’s Casino Chic picks collectively offer you any kind of food, entertainment, and gaming experience you could hope for.

Best Spring Break Trips Right Now

If you can't be here with us, do the next best thing.
If you can’t be here with us, do the next best thing.

Although most of us aren’t in school anymore, Spring Break is still a fantastic time to travel. By traveling during Spring Break you take advantage of the beautiful, temperate weather in most places, and avoid the summer travel crush. Check out our list of best Spring Break trips right now–aside from the obvious, Penticton Lakeside Resort!–for different ways to spend your week.

Best Spring Break Trips On A Shoestring

Who doesn’t need to save a buck here and there? You can enjoy a fabulous Spring Break trip without blowing your budget. Our pick? Sanibel Island, Florida. Spring Break falls within the high season for the area, but you can save money by avoiding the resorts and instead renting a condo for the week or finding a basic hotel. And one of the best ways to enjoy the island is also the cheapest: on a rented bike.

Next choice? Costa Rica. There’s so much to do here, from lounging on the beach to hiking a volcano, and from zip-lining through the rainforest canopy to visiting a nature preserve. You’ll love the weather and sights, and you can stay in a stunning little cottage with breakfast for far less than $100 per night.

Best Spring Break Trips For A Splurge

A truly exotic beach vacation can be a life-changing experience if you can afford it. Our pick? St. Barts in the Caribbean. The island is home to many stunning villas for rent and a number of five-star resorts as well. Spend your time tooling around the island in a rental and relaxing on some of the world’s most pristine white sand beaches. And don’t forget to bring an appetite; some of the world’s best chefs prepare new menus daily on the island.

Want an even more over-the-top destination? Try Mustique, an island devoted entirely to superrich travelers located between St. Vincent and the Grenadines. While you’re there say hi to the royals and rockstars.

Best Spring Break For Families

Want to have a great time with your kids—and retain the option to have a great time without them, too? Check out One & Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico. It’s a luxurious beach resort and it offers an amazing array of family-friendly options. You’ll love the nightly story reading program, the free programs for kids ages 4 to 12, and the fact that you can get some time to yourself around the gorgeous adults-only pool or at the spa.

Another great choice? Club Med, any of them, but especially Ixtapa, Mexico and Sandpiper Bay, Florida. Like One & Only Palmilla, Club Med destinations are always perfect for even the tiniest travelers. Even if you have a very small child, Club Med will offer a range of services for them, from in-room babysitting to fun activities. Meanwhile you can relax in various adults-only areas.

Best Spring Break Trips For Adventures

Ready to do something new—something fun, but just a little scary? Learn to surf in Hanalei Bay, a world-famous surfing mecca on Kauai, Hawaii. Kauai is the least populated of the major islands, and still wild and remote in some places. You can also risk your neck on land hiking the Kalalau Trail, one of the world’s most dangerous—and beautiful!—hikes.

Not good enough for you? How about taking a dog sled across Lapland in Sweden to observe the Northern Lights? You’ll make between 25 and 50 kilometers a day and sleep in cabins.

Best Spring Break Trips For Solos

One of the coolest things to do as a solo traveler is hit a destination that’s world-famous, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. That’s because you are bound to meet amazing people from around the world on a trip like that, and you’ll adore the top tier company (when you’re not reveling in having your whole life to yourself for a week). Our pick? The trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. It is impossible to visit the place without feeling an amazing sense of wonder, and you’ll also love your time in Lima. Do yourself a special favor and sample some of the seemingly endless varieties of ceviche while you’re there.

If you’re looking for an alternative closer to sea level, visit another World Heritage Site, not to mention the seventh wonder of the world: Angkor Wat in Cambodia. You’ll find the ancient stone structures of the Khmer Empire nestled in lush rainforests, a striking contrast to the modern city of Phnom Penh.

The Bottom Line

Getting the travel bug yet? Go ahead, it’s a healthy illness, we promise. Enjoy one of these compelling adventures. Maybe you can settle the question of which of the best Spring Break trips right now is actually the hands-down winner.

A One Way Ticket To Mars. Would you go?

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Have you ever looked up at the planets and stars littering our night skies and wondered what it would be like to travel among them?  To abscond from the familiars of our Mother’s green and blue cradle, and retrace an interplanetary narrative that began 4.5 billion years ago?  Imagine your life, a rogue earthling, funneling through the starry abyss in an ambit of alien landscapes and bottomless pockets of unknown.  How would you feel, leaving everything behind, without the gravity of correlation or context?  Life, redefined by a whole new set of doctrines and languages would work to redefine you.  The daily, leaping in a weightless state from one exotic to the next, fast becoming a series of inexplicable exploits.  Perhaps you are consumed with a fearful sort of pride.  After all, you were one among a few chosen to participate in a revolutionary, unprecedented human experiment, setting you on a one-way trajectory through space.   Blazing trail for the rest of your species, you are a kind of martyr.  You gave up a lot to be here.  Walks in the rain, breeze on your face, sounds of birds, cars, airplanes – now the echoes of a past life that haunt an endless horizon of undulating rubble.  Prints left in red dust by your space suit mark the successions of your own relativism.  Nothing in space is absolute.  It is the final frontier and the great leveler.  Out here, humanity is not what it used to be.  Instead, it is pared down to a thickening reduction.  The flavour, always on the tip of your tongue, no matter how much hot water you add to the freeze fried mush you’ve been consuming for the past year.  You don’t belong here, and yet, here you are – defying all odds in Total Recall tribute, living outside intuition and common sense by the paradox that gave birth to the dream of the red planet.  The red planet.  Mars.  Your new home.  Named after the Roman god of war, you get the sense he’s never too far away.  Your eyes scan the combat zone of your new life.   From the moment you landed, Mars has challenged you unlike you’ve ever been challenged before.  Perhaps this place may just be your redeemer.  Or maybe your destroyer.  You think about the ones you left behind.  A brother.  Mother.  Friends and family.  Yourself.  Sometimes they feel like figments of your imagination, belonging to another time and place, lost among the infinite layers of reality that line the space in between.  You think about your home.  Earth.  Just 225,300,00 km away.  Now that you’re finally here, it’s easier to put things into perspective, mostly because that perspective grows exponentially each and every moment that passes.  There’s room now in your heart and mind for contravention.  You are no longer in a fixed state, living perhaps for the first time, outside the confines and preconditions of your gender, age, race, ethnic origin, religion, and even your species.  It’s a wonderfully frightful feeling.  You’re free-falling with nothing to grasp but the expanding boundaries of your own consciousness. Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.40.23 AM

When we think about space travel and the more recent proposed human mission to Mars, Mars One, we can’t help but wonder what exactly this would mean, not just for the crew and its astronauts, but for humanity as a whole.  Space travel and interplanetary and intergalactic resettlement has been the hot subject of science fiction for the last century, tweaking our imaginations and challenging our preconceptions about life, reality and evolution.  Although many of us tend to think of space travel and colonization, as being reserved solely for bookshelves and the robust mind of the avid science fiction enthusiast, proposed human missions to Mars are not a new concept among the scientific community.  In the early 1960s, Project EMPIRE, under NASA, directed studies aimed at creating detailed analyses of what it would take to accomplish a human voyage to Mars, and the Soviet Union’s Heavy Interplanetary Spacecraft, was part and parcel of a space exploration proposal to send a manned flight to Mars and Venus.  In the 1990s NASA continued to develop several conceptual human Mars exploration architectures, which progressed in the 21st century.  Today, however, a number of nations and organizations have outlined real, long-term intentions to send humans to Mars, the most current, and renowned, being the Mars One mission.  Having gained considerable global media attention and public notoriety through sponsorship, high profile donations, merchandise, crowd funding and a proposal to launch a global reality TV media event, Mars One has dominated the news headlines since its inception in 2011.  You may be asking yourself – who on earth would ever want to leave their home, their friends and family to gambit the rest of their life on a cold, hostile planet?  Surprisingly, (or maybe not so surprisingly) when the online application process opened in April 2013 for those people wishing to be apart of the Mars One crew, the nonprofit was inundated with a flood of hopes and dreams that detailed leaving earth for a new life on Mars.  The carefully selected “Mars 100” chosen from a total pool of 660 from around the world, comprise of 50 men and 50 women, some, middle aged and married with children, others, young and ambitious in the blossoming stages of their chosen career.  All hold varying beliefs and motives for seeking an extra-terrestrial experience.  Who are these people and what could they possible want to gain from leaving their home planet forever?  Many have compared the Mars One mission to ancient cultures like the Vikings, who left everything behind in their homeland of Scandinavia to spend the rest of their lives in foreign settlements across Old World Europe.  France may have felt just as formidable and alien to the Vikings as Mars would would be for us.  And so, perhaps, rather than been appalled by this conclusion, we take stock of its truth.  Human nature is driven by the ambition of inquisition and discovery.  It is why our species has been so successful and it is what helps propel consciousness into new heights.  Mars One is simply an extension of that: our ability to be counterintuitive and seek reason outside the comforts of our box, observing with the eyes and ears of a universe that is constantly affecting and changing.  Within this context, human beings have been able to understand more than we ever thought possible, reaching beyond the outer limits of our senses and reason.   In this respect, Mars One is a manifestation of our own character arch, with those appealing to its cause, echoing the sentiments of the hundreds of thousands who came before them.  The Vikings, the Romans, the Greeks, the Mongols, leaders and lost empires of our history.

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Should Mars One come to fruition, and no doubt, (whether within the proposed 15 year timeline or not), at some point, it will, reality of life on Mars will be drastically different than the ideal.  For most people, living the rest of their lives in inflatable bubbles and Mars Suits seems like a far cry from the kind of leisurely retirement of golf, outdoor gardening, beaches and travel many of us aspire to.  However, if you’re of the scientific sort, one who seeks inquiry and analysis, Mars One may just be up your alley.  Astronauts are intended to spend much of their time engaged in research, investigating how their bodies respond and change within a 38% gravitational field, how food crops and other plants develop in hydroponic plant product units and will be required to engage in extra-settlement exploration, to learn about the ancient and current martian geology.   Since the foundations of the mission plan were laid in 2011, the “Mars 100” crew have been selected and are now set to start their training this year.  If we go by the timeline given to us by the Mars One project, by 2020 the Rover Mission will have landed on the red planet, establishing the necessary outposts to sustain life.  By 2022 cargo missions will be launched, and a year later the outpost would become operational.  2024, the first wave of crew members are set to depart earth, landing a year later, with the second crew departing in 2026.  There are, of course, many variables to consider, including the cost of sending people to Mars, health threats from exposure to high-energy cosmic rays and other ionizing radiation, the negative effects of a prolonged low-gravity environment on human health, psychological effects and equipment failure of propulsion or life-support systems, to name just a few.  Not to mention the years of training involved and the eight month arduous journey the flight would take from earth, requiring its crew to give up their daily showers, live off freeze dried or canned food, put up with the constant noise of ventilators, computer and life support systems and adhering to a regimented three hour daily exercise routine.  However, great things never happen on the back-end of skepticism, and so we must put it all into some kind of perspective.  Of course there will always be the naysayers, the critics, the ones who have dogged history with their own scripture of cannot’s.  But critics do not history make.  Instead, we have seen success in the face of incredible odds at the vanguard of dreams and idealism.  Taking a page, or in this case, many pages from antiquity, we see that nothing is truly impossible, and that the human spirit, strong in its faith in seeing the unseeable, defies preconception.   So one day, perhaps not too far away, when we are looking out at the martian landscape through the eyes of those who chose to leave their lives on earth for something unknown, we can take that leap of faith into the unseeable, and refocus our vision, not only for ourselves today, but our world tomorrow.

When Broadcast News Journalism Lies: The System That Created The Myth Of Brian Williams

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.00.14 AMDistrust in the news media is not simply an extrinsic phenomenon.  Recent shock and awe over false claims of deposed MSNBC news anchor, Brian Williams, is a powerful reflection of a much greater, systemic issue.  Misplaced trust in corporate news journalism and our inherent need to openly credit any powerful institution, (mistaking power for legitimacy) proves symptomatic of a deeper social discord.  The cultural degradation we’ve been experiencing over the last several decades comes with the rising tide of an Information Revolution.  Economic, social and technological trends have propelled globalization into new, freak-show heights.  The internet, microtechnology, mobile technology and reality TV, have altogether successfully blurred the lines between authenticity and delusion, sucking news media and journalism into its black hole.  Personal opinion has made pundits of us all, dominating the news in a need for aggrandizement and melodrama.  Even Hollywood, has poked fun at the political underbelly of this social discord, treating Dan Gilroy’s neo-noir crime thriller, Nightcrawler, as a sort of, inflated exposé behind the dismal reality of news broadcasting.  Dogged by the relentless self-interest of oligarchical media giants, who control 90% of what we read, watch and listen to,  (GE, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS) profit over news serves as sensationalism in an all-out ratings war.  Feeding an addiction to drama by a public jacked up on sports and pop culture, news media distracts from the real, effecting issues of our time, disengaging an otherwise uninformed and ignorant public.  While religion controlled the populous through doctrine, language and institution in antiquity, news media labours to controls the majority through distraction and sensationalism in the 21st century. Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.00.48 AM   

No longer a safe house for receiving instructional, illuminating information about local and global current affairs, news broadcasting has become a petrie dish of the latest silver screen gossip, crime, and the kind of personal anecdotes one would associate with Reader’s Digest.  Instead of galvanizing the public with facts, news broadcasting has turned everything into a hyperbolic human interest story, falling victim to our current cultural shift from realism to surrealism.  Where do point the finger in this cat and mouse game?  Is it Brian Williams’ fault?  MSNBC?  Microsoft?  Time Warner?  Mark Zuckerberg?  Or is it us?  In this funnel of supply and demand, we are all siphoned into caricatures of our selves; our lives simulated by social media platforms, endless data streaming and the constant uploading of information.  Within this divide between dream and reality, there arrives a frightening conclusion: We are no longer able to reconnect.  Politics, current global affairs, education, the environment, food, friendships, relationships, ourselves – the world of senses and intellect is fast becoming lost upon the breakwater of our cheap information addiction.  We don’t care how we get it, or what we’re getting, so long as it stimulates our central nervous system into a feel-good frenzy.  Animated gifs of hamsters playing on pianos, blogs about the latest smoothie diets, viral Youtube videos of men dancing in women’s underwear- this is what we want.  After all, what could be more of a downer than hearing about the details of federal election platforms, the global warming crisis, foreign policy, and the war in the middle east?  News networks have their work cut out for them.

In order for this preposterousness to persist, there must continue to be vacuous space for it, space created in an absence of something better, something more real, honest and transparent.  Reality TV is tantamount to this phenomenon – give us something fake that we can try and be real about, while we continue to create a reality that is nothing but a series of make-believes.  And we’re not alone in creating this vacuum of reality.  Behind the curtain rests the foundation of our society: media, market economy, government politics, multinational corporations, the top 1%, disparity between rich and poor, education, health… If we start to unravel the mechanics and contingencies of our system, a trending towards corruption and immorality becomes evidently clear.  What is not so clear is where it begins and ends.  Vastly interconnected, we are all linked to one another in a contingent process that places blame on everyone’s shoulders.  Perhaps we can simply say that duplicity, greed and self-interest are fundamental to humanity itself.  After all, society has always embraced sensationalism as a sort of social necessity.  Take the Roman gladiatorial games for example.  For centuries, human beings have been consumed with a need for the outrageous in an effort to excite our most basic instincts.  Of course it doesn’t stop there.  Sensationalism can be found in almost everything we do – from dancing, to art and sculpture, to music, literature and language and food.  In this respect, drama, in its myriad of forms, is essential to the well-being of society.  Through it, we can make manifest our deepest darkest secrets without necessarily causing harm to ourselves and others; we can fantasize and exercise our creative brain, we can express emotions we would otherwise be too humiliated or embarrassed to express.  It may be argued that drama itself, encourages analytical thought in a self-deprecating, critical and reflective manner.  Whether fantasy or fiction, drama holds a real and honest place in our society.  But the question remains – when is it too much?  When do we get the point where we say, “Ok.  Enough is enough” ?Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 11.01.02 AM

While there doesn’t seem to be any real accountability for the wrongdoings and shortcomings within our system, a system in which we place a great deal of trust, (trust in our well-being, in our children’s education, healthcare, our jobs and pensions, our banks and houses), we have to ask ourselves, what we can do to stop this cyclic abuse of our cultural times?  Without trust, there would essentially be no system at all; without the system, we would find ourselves dissolved into a kind of anarchistic dystopia.  The system itself is important.  We, an integral part of that system are important.  Until we realize the value of our own self-worth and wake up to the wondrous and majestic reality around us that continues to thrive
outside the bubble of technology and pop culture, we cannot realistically take back control of the flow of information coming from the top down.  While we must trust in the function of drama and sensationalism and its place in society, we must also trust that it does not reserve a place in our source of informative education: journalism, broadcasting and news media.  Until we start caring about those national and global events and issues that intrinsically effect us all, the news and it’s mouthpiece, Brian Williams, will continue time and time again, to fail us.  As consumers we have a choice about what we want to watch, what we want to listen to and what we appeal from our system.  The laws of supply and demand dictate that the real power is with the people.  All we have to do is stand up, recognize and use that power.

Valentine’s Day: The Invention of Love?

8bde4317f6c08e3331cbf1dcb9c667afCue the fuchsia, the roses, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and candies and themed teddy bears.  Strike up the jewelry store sales and advertisements, the feverish restaurant frenzy and commercial hoard.  As is modern day mercantile tradition, when the opportunity strikes, holiday spectacle intercedes a furious greed.  We, the shopper, the consumer, in typical fashion, stuff ourselves sick with Valentine’s Day commercialism in a frantic tender to qualify ourselves with “things” and “doing.”  The puppeteers of industry, pulling strings, move hastily and with purpose.  They line their pockets with as much holiday gold as they can muster.  And so we revisit a familiar Valentine’s montage year in and year out: everyone trying to capitalize on the aftermath of Christmas climax in a bid to escape the post coital tristesse of the New Year.  The grace period given between Christmas and the advent of Valentine’s is all but non existent.  While shops and store fronts remove Christmas trees, holiday lights and tinsel, pink and red hearts are carted in to swiftly replace them.  It’s hard not to grimace.  Not to turn away and focus on a solitary point somewhere beyond the blur of mulberry.  This unfolding cyclic procession is draped in synthetic livery, like the bitter aftertaste one gets after consuming Pepsi White.  It leaves you with a metallic tongue, as if you just sucked on a quarter – (a quarter with lots of lovely heart shapes loitering its head and tail).  Why do we always have to turn something beautiful into something so ugly?  Perhaps more poignant is our authentic vivacious love for the ugly.  Why are we attracted to the manufactured devolution of meaning?  It’s clear that part of our nature demands a certain amount of kitsch.  We need the shiny wrapping paper, the bows, the pomp and circumstance, the cartoonish caricature of life.  Holiday commercialism, as a kind of philosophical, emotive narcotic, helps to ease our suffering within the narrow boundaries of its own religion.  For a brief moment in time, it reduces the impossible proportions of reality into small, manageable pieces.  The “high” we get from holiday commercialism endeavors to condense all that we don’t know into something we think we can comprehend.  But isn’t there something more subtle, more sensitive and thoughtful to behold on Valentine’s and during other commercial holidays a part from the proselyting malarky?  Something less cynical, less fabricated and more organic? Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.14.04 PM

No one denies the importance of celebration and festivity.  For as long as human beings have been present in the world’s consciousness there has been occasion for revelry.  Human awareness has been and continues to be made manifest by the celebration of life as it is experienced by us: the movement of moments, the rites of passage, the marking of time, the evolution, the progression.  Within the arch of our journey that take us up over the rainbow and beyond, we remember and we reflect.  These observations of past, present and future, have been our way of adapting and configuring the world without to fit comfortably in a world within.  Historically, St. Valentine’s Day takes root in liturgical celebration, coined after one or more early Christian saints, Valentinus.  Despite there being numerous Christian martyrs by that name, the Valentine’s Day we celebrate today commiserates more specifically, Valentine of Rome, a martyr priest, buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14th, AD 496.  The site, along with the date, February 14th, remained an important day of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages in celebration of sacrifice.   However when poet and writer, Geoffrey Chaucer emerged on the literary scene in the High Medieval Period, fanciful association by poetic meter converted Valentine’s Day into romantic alchemy, propagating the then, current tradition of courtly love.  Many poets and writers were quick to follow suit, denoting the mating of birds and love with St. Valentine’s Day.  The earliest description of February 14th as an annual celebration of love, appears in the Charter of the Court of Love, at the turn of the 15th century.  Allegedly issued by Charles VI of France, the charter illustrates lavish festivities to be attended by several members of the royal court, including a feast, romantic song and poetry competitions, and jousting and dancing.  By the 18th century, circulated published works had captivated British audiences with scores of suggestive sentimentality, while “Mechanical Valentines” were being printed in limited number as cards, transcribing romantic and provocative thoughts and sketches.  These “Mechanical Valentines,” so appropriately named, foreshadowed a mid-19th century Valentine’s Day trade, which heralded the proliferation of commercialized holidays in North America that were soon to follow.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.14.38 PMSo what do take from the history of Valentine’s Day?  An evolution of love and sacrifice played out throughout the centuries in our churches, our royal courts, our literature and our homes.  A need to celebrate and reflect – to rejoice in the bounty of friendship and connection that love gives us, and to pay respect to the determination and sacrifice that is required of us when we love.  Amorphous and sometimes vague in all it’s glaring clarity, love assumes any shape we assign to it – be it a rose or heart-shaped box or teddy bears clad in pink and red, its meaning is transcribed in thought and being that presupposes any material “thing.”  Not just reserved for lovers alone, Valentine’s transcends all manners of love – the love of a pet, the love of our children, our country, our mothers and fathers…our families.  So rather than be shameful of its habit, why not revel in its glory, and take heart to honor Valentine culture and meaning as we should do with other holiday traditions.  Regardless of whether or not the commercialism of any holiday is warranted, it is important we are aware of its purpose and make informed choices through insight.  Consciously controlling the flow of commercial superfluousness as something that enhances rather than defines, we can take joy and satisfaction in its gimmick.  Whether we’ve planned that luxurious weekend getaway, or dinner for two or four, or simply choose to sit in one another’s company and share a laugh and good cheer, on February 14th, we have the opportunity to pause and reflect, and to honour our love.

The Real Price of Oil? The Conspiracies Behind The Numbers

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.12.39 PMMany of us fill up our 4000 pound earth-bound steel rockets at the pump each week, watching the numbers tick by like a rolling slot machine – illusive and liquidic.  Liters, gallons, miles, kilometers, fuel efficiency, fuel costs, fracking, barrels, crude oil, dry oil…the wash of information coming at you is like the innumerable waves of radiation emanating our smartphones, iPads and laptops.  It’s enough to befog any real acumen – what the hell is actually going on?  In truth, we have little control over what goes into our vehicles and what comes out, (primarily the stack of dollar bills emptying our money clips and making the shine on our plastic a little less shiny).  Sure we can choose to buy smaller vehicles, more environmentally-friendly electric, battery or flex fuel alternatives, but at the end of the day, the majority of drivers worldwide, (even those self-professed “petrol heads,”) are vulnerable to those political magnets creating currents of economic attraction and repulsion. So what’s the truth behind the oscillating oil prices?  Where does our oil come from and who decides how much it will cost us every time we reach for the nozzle and begin fueling? Given the dramatic decrease in gas prices over the past several months, its probable, and not without reason, that one might be inclined to utter that cringe-worthy, hackneyed word – conspiracy.  After all, something about the whole gas and oil industry wreaks grotesquely of ulterior motive, (we all remember those weapons of mass destruction?).  Covert always lends itself well to paranoia and tin foil hats.  There’s a reason something needs covering up, isn’t there?  So while most of us can appreciate on some level that not everything we read about or hear about in the news is completely the whole truth and nothing but the truth, what does that leave us with?

The petrol narrative is rooted in political and economic maneuvering coupled with market speculation based on market trends, market value and consumerism.  And if that doesn’t mean a whole lot to you just think: it’s all about YOU.  You are the euphemism.  You are the cause and the effect.  As a consumer, you’re not just “in the mix” but at the very centre of it, holding up the house of cards comprised of jacks, queens and aces bedecked in price movements, currencies, investors, and a whole other whack-load of sticky icky implications you probably didn’t want to get your hands dirty with in the first place.  The domino effect of the price of oil can be drastic and far-reaching, resulting in either significant revenue shortfalls or gains for many energy exporting and importing nations.  So before we dive into conjecture and theory, let’s review the facts.  For nearly five years, world oil prices have remained relatively stable, at around $110 a barrel.  However since June, 2014, oil prices have fallen exponentially, dropping a staggering 40%, resulting in US crude falling below $50 a barrel.  While many political pundits and economists will tell you that market prices rely on supply and demand and speculation, this might be the time when you eyebrows meet each other in a confused stupor.  Don’t worry.  You’re not feebleminded.  Oil prices that drop at the speed of sound, (the sound of SUV drivers uniting and rejoicing that is) can’t just be the result of current supply and demand.  Tesla is good, but not that good.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.12.58 PMOPEC, (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) which accounts for roughly 40% of global crude oil production, was recently quoted by its secretary general, Abdalla Salem el-Badri saying  that declines are largely due to speculation by traders in the market, rather than an oversupply.  However many Westerners are more inclined to believe that an increase in global oil, primarily competition from the United States shale oil production, has forced OPEC’s hand.  That is, to keep oil prices down in a, “starve them out” siege and conquer stratagem.  This tactic would also extend to one of its chief member’s regional rivals, Iran.  While some estimates posit that Iran needs oil at $136 a barrel to finance its spending plans, others contend Saudi Arabia only requires the price of oil to be at $99.20 or less a barrel to break even.  Moreover, with a multibillion-dollar reserve on the back of budget surpluses, the Saudis and other OPEC nations can easily hold out for several years if the price of oil drops well below these figures.  Last month Saudi Arabia and its OPEC allies announced it will not decrease its rate of oil production, despite steadily decreasing global oil prices. Following the announcement, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil benchmark price fell below $66 per barrel – right in the sweet spot that OPEC hopes will check U.S. oil production.  However it’s not just Iran or the US that could feel the brunt of this price spiral.  Russian President, Vladimir Putin was recently quoted saying, “at some moments of crisis it starts to feel like it is the politics that prevails in the pricing of energy resources.”  While neither the United States nor Russia are a part of OPEC, it is plausible that OPEC is engaging in a two front attack, targeting its biggest competitors in the hopes that it will force higher-cost shale producers out of the market.  While many non-OPEC countries, Canada included, are guilty of stealing some of the Saudi’s market share, it may very well be argued that OPEC is simply trying to stay relevant in a rather volatile global market with increasing oil production and supplies.
Another conspiracy theory posits revenge politics: the Saudis and Americans joining forces to deliberately target and take down Vladimir Putin for his support of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and it’s unilateral involvement in Eastern Ukraine, (the 1973 oil crisis comes to mind here).  For every dollar fall in the price of oil, it is estimated Russia loses roughly $2 billion in revenue, and the World Bank has cautioned that if oil prices do not recover in 2015, Russia’s economy will shrink by at least 0.7%.  Despite this, Russia, like OPEC, has also confirmed that it will not cut oil production in a bid to retain its niche market. With dramatic spikes in interest rates, a troubled rouble, and global economic sanctions, Russia could be in serious trouble, which means serious trouble for Mr. Putin.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 2.12.19 PMSo what does this all translate into?  A game of chicken or chess for these political leaders at the expense of their government’s economies and oil companies?  Perhaps.  Market speculation based on an estimate of over-supply or a drop in consumer demand?  Perhaps.  Revenge politics?  Maybe.  The truth?  Found betwixt propaganda, self-interest, tolerance and conspiracy.  Increased efficiency, smaller, more fuel-efficient and economic cars and a lesser demand on the global market.  Competition from the United States, Russia and other non-OPEC nations.  The Saudis and their Gulf allies maintaining their market share and relevancy.  A bid to gain political global primacy and hegemony.  Although the future economic effects of the plummeting oil prices on particular oil-reliant countries remain unclear, what is certain is that the consumer, (you) – the one driving the market, the supply and demand and paying or not paying for the oil in the first place, will have more money to spend on other sectors of the economy with higher confidence.  But this doesn’t mean now that we all jump on the Cadillac Escalade bandwagon and go petrol-happy.  Instead, we should take time to understand what’s behind our supply and demand, make smarter consumer choices, educated ourselves on what exactly drives us to buy and not buy, and where the actual truth lies- within the mainstream media and the backdoor conspiracy theories, in this case, the truth is rooted somewhere in them all.

Our Dirty Little Secret: Love of Commercialism During the Holidays

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 5.18.04 PMDespite the festive hymns and carols serenading our radio waves and those paradoxical heartfelt messages from cinematic and media mainstream, the holiday season continues as a hallmark for consumer commercialism.  Events like Black Friday, (recently imported to Canada from the United States) and Boxing Day are, in many ways, indicators of what Christmas has become.  And yet, at the same time, we must reconcile that Christmas would not be the same without the hustle and bustle of our malls and stores, the chanting of cash registers cha-chinging our gingerbread lattes into the night, and the emotional and fiscal investments in holiday hoopla from music albums, to clothing, to kitsch decorations and thematic paraphernalia.  Let’s face it.  Deeply intertwined with the spirit of Christmas is holiday commercialism.  Its market hangs the bows, strings gleaming lights, decorates trees, cooks and bakes, and dangles those stockings by the fire.  As much as we might not like to admit it, living in the throws of a commercially-driven society, much of what we do and who we are is influenced by the marketplace.  Christmas is no exception.  From the big to the small, the rich to the poor, all of us, consciously or subconsciously collectively agree to this cyclic arrangement of spending, buying, receiving and giving.  It is arguably, part and parcel of our social contract, something that extends to all facets of our lives, from education to the workplace, to healthcare and the home.  And yet, there is an obscenity about consumerism during the holidays that we all observe.  A profane indecency that takes away from the gleaming display of Christmas in our windows and our hearts, mocking the very essence of what it’s all about. 

Identifying commercial boundaries may be more about personal, intuitive checks and balances than about creating Big Brother government surveillance over holiday spending.  Of course this does not just pertain to Christmas, but to an all season way of life.  How far do we allow the coy underbelly of marketing, advertising, media and pop culture to affect our daily lives?  When and where do we draw the line?  That thin line between safe spending and obscene consumerism looks very differently for all of us.  While many are perfectly fine with the frenzy of Boxing Day, embracing the shopping hysteria, others believe Boxing Day to be a vulgar misuse of the holiday spirit, exploiting the worst aspects of our nature.  So what can we collectively concede about the presence of Boxing Day and other spectacles like it within the context of the holidays?  Is it just as vulgar as opening the hoard of presents on Christmas Day, or is holiday shopping for Christmas Day reserved for a special, privileged judgement, (being that it is in celebration of Christ, the spirit of giving, good will, and hallowed saints)?   One way or another, it’s important to understand the origin of holidays like Boxing Day within a historical and modern day context, to decide whether it serves to hinder or uphold the holiday spirit.Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 5.17.28 PM

The exact origins of Boxing Day are not decisive.  As with many historical customs that we continue to observe today, such as Halloween, holidays like Boxing Day are likely a culmination of several historical events and practices that have evolved over time to take their own shape and place within the lexicon of modern day society.  Etymologically speaking, the term, Boxing Day may derive from a common European practice dated to the Middle Ages, when employers, masters and benefactors would give servants, subordinates and tradesmen gifts known as “Christmas Boxes” on the day after Christmas.  Likewise, the term, Boxing Day may be in reference to the Alms Box, which was given to places of worship in order to collect donations for the poor.  A similar connection may even derive from a late Roman/early Christian custom where placing metal boxes outside churches would help to collect special offerings in relation to the Feast of Saint Stephen, (a religious holiday, which in the Western Church, falls on the same day as Boxing Day). 

Despite the secular and religious connotations associated with the Bank holiday, in the Commonwealth countries, Boxing Day is primarily renowned as a shopping celebration.  A time when most stores post sales with drastically reduced items and discounts that generate overwhelming crowds and impossible queues, Boxing Day is favored by social media and news outlets as an opportunity to relay a melodramatic tale of commercial hysteria.  Recent years has seen Boxing Day grow to include an entire “Boxing Week”, where sales extend several days before and after December 26th.  In a last ditch effort to try and preserve the true purpose of Boxing Day as a Christmas holiday for family time, relaxation and recuperation, regions in parts of Northern Ontario and Atlantic Canada have prohibited retailers from opening on Boxing Day, either by provincial law or municipal bylaw.  Likewise, in the Republic of Ireland, most shops have remain closed on Boxing Day, (observed as St. Stephen’s Day) since 1902. Sales however are, in most cases, postponed to December 27th, to continue the commercial hype of what has become an annual shopping day mecca. Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 5.18.22 PM

In light of excessive holiday spending, in the form of Christmas commercialism and Boxing Day delirium, perhaps we need to rethink and redraw our boundary lines.  While we cannot deny that commercialism is in itself, a catalytic engine for progress, a force that drives not just economies, but people, lifestyles, families, technology and even evolution itself, there may be a better approach.  It’s incredible effect on the exchange and spreading of ideas, the show of love and affection, and perhaps even as a manifestation of the human spirit, altogether demonstrates the teeter totter effect of commercialism.  While Boxing Day may prove to be a beneficial day for our economy, allowing greater access to a wider spectrum of commercial items, it also demonstrates our continuing reliance and dependency on “stuff” that at times, fills our homes, creates redundancy and clutters our lives.  For the sake of our own mental health, it is important to keep stock of what’s significant, the meaning behind our purchases, and the emotional and spiritual investments it provides.  If shopping and the whirlwind of commercialism, especially during the holidays, brings joy, happiness and a sense of peace, then this is simply what we take from it.  The process.  The experience.  But if it brings stress and confusion and a long list of credit bills, we must retrace our steps and redraw our lines, making certain not to step over them, no matter how big the yellow tags appear, and how enticing those sales may be.