…at a quick glance…

She has a “beautiful” face, but the word itself is misleading. It isn’t what first comes to mind when someone says it; it isn’t the normal, “shallow” sense of the word. There’s another kind of beauty I’ve been able to notice in some people, because it is more than aesthetic beauty. I guess it’s what people normally and rather mindlessly, I think, refer to as “inner-beauty”. But I’ve actually seen it, or at least i think I have…Actually, I haven’t really seen it, per se; I’ve just wished and desired to see it so passionately, that I’ve begun purposefully and consciously seeing it in any girl who I’ve felt fits the mold ..But this time, I actually saw it.

There’s a quiet, almost imperceptible sadness in her eyes, but it reads more like Quiet Dignity – Reserved Humility. Like a paradox, they shine bright and almost shimmer with intensity, and opened so wide as they are, her eyelashes curl at the tips, giving her a doll-like face…On the surface, they look anything but sad; Joy is what they say. Yet there’s something that the slightest moment of lingering reveals. Looking at them – I mean really looking into those Almond Shaped Pearls – is like looking inside a Halo: there’s something mystical, almost unreal, inside that invites you in as it whispers some kind of Divine Secret. And therein lies that sadness…or rather, that Humility.

She pretends nothing, and her Eyes tell you so. There’s pure kindness in there; Love; Empathy. She is unmarred by the colours that adorn other girls’ faces; she needs no decoration. Her eye lids are soft – they remind me of funeral palls gently coming down on her eyes to hold back tears…But she’s not really sad. her lips make sure of that. There’s a faint smile which, like her eyes, holds yet another secret.

She is untroubled by Pain, though; that’s important to remember. She is Pure. I see sadness because I cannot comprehend her simplicity – her willingness to admire the simple things: the birds’ tweets, the breeze’s swooshing, because I envy that ability.

Her voice is secure and reassuring. She says everything with poignancy and certainty, as if it is a fact. She is sure. But she never pretends to be right. Everything is a big Guess – She’s just an avid Guesser. She loves life. She loves the Real Life: The Sound, The Feel, The Touch of Things; The Patterns in the Sky; The Smell Outside; The Lack of Concrete and Steel; The Abundance of Green Meadows and Large Mountains; The song of Otters; The Dance of Lions; The Cycles of Butterflies; she simply Loves Life. And her voice always says so.

And all this makes her Beautiful. Her transgressions too. Her questions and her demands. Her risks. The way she dresses  – without a care; with no hang-ups whatsoever. Her Priorities: the Preservation of Purity and Beauty at all costs…

I’ve seen her. And she is Beautiful. Alas, Where has She Gone?

THE APPLE TREE AND THE FRUITS OF LOYALTY (rough copy)

Article originally for The Warehouse Magazine. To be published soon.

Today, anybody that is anybody recognizes the Apple brand. But explaining what makes it so special and whimsical to someone that isn’t an owner of a product it’s like trying to explain an Acid trip in all its mind-bending detail to a person who’s only ever drank beer: they will hear the words you are saying, perhaps conjure images of what you describe, but they’ll never know what you felt. Apple isn’t the Acid – it is the feeling you are left with when you’ve come down, when all the hallucinations are gone but your entire world and consciousness remain forever altered.

The company has been in perpetual motion since its humble beginnings in 1976, when a young Steve Jobs – still in the throes of the Acid Counter-culture – his friend, Steve Wozniak and a significantly older business partner, Ronald Wayne, founded the company. Over the years, Apple has become widely recognized all over the world for virtually everything it does: from its technological milestones to its colourful past and present history, including legal battles involving anything from patent-laws to labour rights, the company essentially doesn’t fart without causing hurricanes.

Which isn’t always bad. Currently it is one of the wealthiest publicly traded corporations in the world, valuing at about 500 billion USD; and it employs nearly 73,000 fulltime and 3,300 “fulltime equivalent” temporary employees in 390 stores in 14 countries. Put simply, the company is everywhere…including in the hearts and minds of those it conquers.

Apple seems to be one of the only product-brands out there that gathers in congregation as excited, wild and loyal a crowd as rock-concerts, political protests or perhaps religious events do. The word “cult” can almost be heard in the same breath as “Apple” or “Mac”. The customer-fans are notorious for screeching like crazed speed freaks at a thrash-metal concert in the midst of line-ups that have reportedly extended up to 10 city-blocks in anticipation of the new store-opening, despite being structurally identical to every other one and often not even offering special deals.

But why? What makes it so special? And why do fans hold Steve Jobs – a mere innovator – in an almost religious light, weeping for the death of a supposed “Saviour”?

Many people believe that it was solely Steve Jobs that revived and rejuvenated Apple when he was rehired in 1996, after 10 or so years pursuing a “solo career” at Next. By 1998, under his tutelage, the company had managed to turn from the brink of bankruptcy to profitability. Upon his return, the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad were introduced, as well as the Apple Retail Stores, the iTunes Stores and the App Stores.

One of the theories relies on Jobs’ ability to rally people behind him as he pursues practically any idea he can conjure, no matter how incredibly wild and farfetched.  His almost trademark way of discourse – a mixture of pure hyperbole, keen marketing and sheer charisma – is what has been described among some circles as a Reality Distortion Field.

But what the consensus is among practically anyone with an opinion, whether critical of the brand or hopelessly addicted to it, is that the company’s forte, as it were, is its marketing: its bloodline into society, which regularly supplements the senses through simple yet hypnotizing commercials. Its commitment to the perfect commercial, in fact, is readily evidenced by the many legal battles or settlements it’s involved itself in over the years.

The 1984-inspired commercial alone, featured in that same year’s Superbowl third quarter telecast and never again, is one of the most successful stories in the marketing world. It is widely lauded and regarded as a masterpiece among the big-shots in the business. It was also considered a copyright infringement by Orwell’s Estate, which consequently sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter in April that same year.

Nevertheless, the 80s and 90s were glorious years that revived the brand. A top marketing executive from Pepsi had come aboard, raising the marketing budget from 15 to 100 million USD as he “marketed Apple like crazy,” according to an article on Wired Magazine. Of course this was peanuts compared to the 100 million Jobs had used for iMac marketing alone.

Apple is simply the brand. It launches musicians into superstardom; it hooks its customers almost faster than drugs; it reinvents entire industries. The Apple-holic could care less if a new product is out, just like a girl at a club on Saturday-night could care less what song is playing: they both just want to dance.

The brand is why people like Gary Allen, 56, and his son Devin, 16, make trips from California to Tokyo just to be the first in line for the new store opening, damn the pouring rain, and then fly back the next day with no new finds; why 2000 others have reportedly waited for more than 28 hours in the same stark conditions for the same cheap thrills. Or why an Apple fan shows the same kind of brain stimulation talking about Apple as religious people do when they speak of religion or drug-addicts do when doing cocaine.

So what makes Apple so special? Why are so many people hooked? We may never know with certainty. The theories are rampant. Perhaps there are some things – like Acid, for instance – you just have to try for yourself to really know.

EXCELLENT

Mohadesa Najumi

“Dictatorship” and “regime” have become a familiar part of the western lexicon when describing the Venezuelan government. At a press conference ahead of the Special Summit of the Americas in Mexico in January 2009, Condoleezza Rica declared that “The best thing President Chavez could do at this point is to demonstrate that he believes in a democratic future for Venezuela by carrying out the wishes of his people in this regard”. She told the crowds that there was “an assault on democracy” in Venezuela.

Of course, democracy itself is a contested term. There are a number of different understandings about what constitutes a democracy, Andreas Schedler even argues that there are at least 550 different types of it. However, its essential characteristics are widely accepted and commonly held. How many of these characteristics does Venezuela embody? Let us examine each one.

Free and Fair Elections
Eleven internationally observed national elections…

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THE CARBON FARMER (Arbitrage Magazine article)

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: http://www.arbitragemagazine.com/topics/carbon-farmer012/2/

How many times has your future stared at you outside an elevator door? Well, it happened to Brad and Rebecca Rabiey, who met outside an elevator at the University of Alberta some 10 years ago as they went to check their grades for a criminology class. She was arriving; he was just about to leave.

“It was one of the best examples of serendipity,” says Rebecca. “We just kind of small-talked and it just went on from there.”

It’s a cute story, that’s for sure; but this isn’t a love story … at least not all of it. Today, Brad and Rebecca are so much more than just another couple with a cute story—they are the founders and leading forces behind The Carbon Farmer, one of the newest businesses to have entered and slayed their way through the CBC’s theDragons’ Den earlier this year.

“It was the right time to really grow the business,” said Brad of the whole Dragon experience, who is only 29 years old, same as Rebecca. “And it was a great way to do that both from a publicity standpoint, as well as from an investment and strategic perspective.”

Like many other Canadians, this whimsical couple from Northern Alberta became big fans of the show, but they took it a step further, seeing the opportunity there was for eco-friendly businesses to really take off. They grew their business till the right point—taking in “as much experience and expertise as you can have in [the] industry,” said Rebecca, before finally attending the show earlier in 2012, after mock-rounds staged within their community. The couple went in front of the five Dragons intent on slaying the beasts. And indeed they did.

Bruce Croxon and Arlene Dickinson both were immediately engaged by the product, and they even got down and nasty in a tree-planting demonstration. At the end of battle, the couple ended up receiving $40,000 for 40 percent of their business.

TREES AND CARBON CREDITS

The Carbon Farmer benefits its clients, which includes virtually anyone and any company, in two different ways.

“One is through our Create Your Forest Website,” says Brad, “which enables people to have a tree planted and cared for in their behalf to restore habitat in the Boreal region or other areas of Canada.” Their pilot project back in 2007 resulted in 3,000 species planted personally by Rebecca and Brad in a matter of two days.

“We were total newbies at it,” says Rebecca, unable to contain her laughter. “We did so much research including watching Youtube foresting clips of how you actually plant a tree and talked to nurseries and things like that.” By the end of this summer, they gained some major clients who are requesting 120,000 trees planted for the fall. “But there’s no way Brad and I could do that on our own. So we have acquired crews that help us do that and now we have sort of become project managers.”

This aspect of their business focuses on the importance of bringing back a beautifully unique but vital habitat in the Canadian landscape, which has been affected by conventional farming practices and industrial development over the years.

Braid explained that their efforts were aimed at “restoring the places for wildlife to live and to grow healthy, and do things like filter the water,” praising the “purifying effects which forests are so good at doing in a natural way.” People have the option of buying a personalized tree for $1.99 each, and they can visit that tree in the virtual forest through The Carbon Farmer website. They are also continuing to grow food-crops on the best of their family’s land-base (an effort dubbed the Grain Perspective), which is born out of the realization that not all land should only be filled with trees. “We realize that we need food production,” he said. So the “rest of the land in our family farm is being transitioned to organic grain production.”

The second benefit offered by The Carbon Farmer is found in the carbon that those trees offset.

“We work with individual businesses and special events to ensure that they can offset their carbon footprint from things like driving or flying or heating their homes and offices,” Brad said. “Some businesses are regulated by the government to reduce their footprint or offset the remainder. And then there are people that just do it for corporate social responsibility.”

“It’s actually been really reaffirming,” said Rebecca, speaking about the surging pattern among Canadians (individuals and companies) eager to contribute to their vision. “There are a lot of people out there that are ecologically minded. And there’s also the small business uptake that we’ve had since being on the Den.”

Brad agreed, happily pointing out that many companies are also doing it voluntarily. “Our client-base at this point is made up of people who aren’t being told by the government to do it, but just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s definitely been a sign of how progressive Canadians are.”

This part of the business works by taking advantage of the carbon credits created by the trees planted. “We plant trees, which create habitat,” says Brad. “And in comparison to the life cycle of tilling the land, we are creating carbon storage as well, which we can sell as carbon credits.”

THE FAMILY AND THE FARM

The first land the couple began to work on was the third generation family farm Brad had tilled. “I think I probably dragged Rebecca in a little bit, being as how it was mainly a family farm,” Brad chuckled. “We also had land that probably should have never been cleared right along the river and wetlands, and maybe some poorer quality land as well. So we kind of looked at solutions to problems that we were facing on the farm so as to ensure that it stays in the family for future generations.”

Since then, their project has gotten bigger, featuring such major clients like Edmonton’s Wheaton Honda (formerly Millwoods Honda) who at one point came out to plant trees themselves. The couple has moved on to working with “landowners, conservation groups, land trusts, and municipalities that hold land that they acquire to protect but don’t necessarily have the resources to restore in terms of their former grandeur or ecosystem.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the business is its very own profit model. “We came at this from the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit,” Rebecca explained. “Brad with his sciencebackground and me with my social background, has allowed the business to be very holistic because we are not just considering the dollars and cents but the wild-life behind it; the environmental impact behind it; as well as the community and people that are impacted.” Rebecca is a social worker by profession, and says that “these things … are of value in our business.”

And indeed they are. In the past, Brad told me, they’ve done “various things in terms of educational outreach events.” Right now they are donating $2551 out of their Community Fund, which receives a dollar of every carbon credit (tonne) they sell, to anyone that has a community project that will reduce their carbon footprint.

The Carbon Farmer certainly seems like it’s on its way to success. But the road hasn’t been all smooth, particularly because they’ve rattled the cages of conventional farming and introduced a revolutionary shift.

Rebecca explained one of the hurdles. “[Brad’s] dad had spent his early days helping his dad clear the land. So to have us begging him to plant it all back in the very field that he cleared has been, as you can imagine, a huge paradigm shift for all of us. It’s now at a point where we have much more understanding and work together. But at the beginning, it was really hard to get the full support and understanding from Brad’s dad that this is indeed a business and a concept that can go somewhere.”

“I think with my dad, at the end of the day, it was the belief in what we’re doing,” Brad added. “And we saw that from the Dragons and from most of the people that we’ve talked to—that they see a genuine care for the land and the environment and a genuine belief in what we’re doing. And I think that definitely engages.” Not farming conventionally also means that there won’t be any use of pesticides or herbicides, allowing them to be certified organic.

Currently, The Carbon Farmer is selling internationally, with clients in the US, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. By 2013, they hope to have projects in four different provinces in Canada, ultimately aiming, down the road, to have boots on the ground in Africa and Australia.

If everything goes right, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t, this couple will grow together, waking up side by side in the glory of a third generation family farm, doing what they love. “As long as that spark remains,” said Brad, “I hope we keep planting till we’re old and gray for sure.”

RESOURCES:

Uprooted Memories – Vol. 1 (The Eucalyptus Tree)

STORM BREWS AND TREEExcept for the obvious storm brewing inside his head, the day had seemed otherwise promising when it started. Morning had come wrapped in a blinding splendor, radiating the kind of confidence and grace only a clear sky could inspire. He stood up and parted the blinds, and his sleepy eyes automatically squinted so as to adjust to the glistening light now penetrating the windows and illuminating the room like an altar or podium of some kind. He stood there for a few minutes staring into the blue canvass before him, which seemed to extend for millions of miles, or just far enough to lose itself inside the shimmering horizon engulfed in an orange and yellow fire. He liked the image and felt a nostalgic tranquility at letting himself get lost in it; it was like staring at a beautiful painting where no single brush-stroke could be detected – it was Marvel and Perfection at its best. His lips slowly parted to let out a nearly inaudible “click” sound and he slowly winked his left eye to mimic the shuttering of a camera, then he moved away to begin dressing himself. But as he reluctantly put on the same white gym t-shirt that was part of the mandatory ensemble at his Private Elementary Christian School, his mind began drifting to an earlier and morbid time which violently shredded the picture he had just snapped. He continued functioning on a basic level, putting his green sweater-vest over the t-shirt and then getting inside his grey trousers, but he was no longer there: his glazed, paralyzed and petrified look clearly said that he had returned to that sinister morning when he had witnessed a brutal accident at the tender age of seven, or perhaps eight years old.

On particularly warm and sunny days when gym class was scheduled for his fourth grade class, the teacher would opt to have the class in a little park that ran adjacent to the east side of the school, only separated by a small street that rarely saw any traffic. Aided by one or two assistants, the teacher had a very well established system for crossing the street, where a chain-link of four or five kids interlocking their tiny arms with a teacher in the middle would look both ways then dash across the street; then the second team would go with one of the assistants and then third. Once across, the kids were always warned not to get out of the parameter the teachers had set for them, for there was a river that ran behind the woods which, although wasn’t easily accessible, could easily mean the death of any of one of them should they fall in, for it was a mighty river that was used to over-flooding in the rainy season and that roared invisibly behind the trees like some kind of hidden wild animal. But there was never any real danger of that, because the parameter was wider than the kids could actually reach, despite how much they’d run. In any case, the kids loved the place, which obviously made gym class everyone’s favourite. But on this particular day that had so callously intruded his memories – and from thereon, in fact – gym-class had ceased to be what everyone looked forward to.

Everything happened almost in sync, like it had been perfectly choreographed in a studio somewhere and was now being faithfully executed, step by step. Just as soon as he had finished crossing the street from the park, still holding on to the teacher’s hand, he turned around to see who his friend was crossing with. At that very moment, all his young eyes managed to see was his friend’s left foot take the first step off the sidewalk and onto the street when a whitish-grayish automobile zoomed by in an almost surreal speed, leaving only the faint trails of the backlights lingering and a white gym-t-shirt that seemed to hover weightlessly in the air for a few seconds before hitting the ground with a petrifying THUMP! The entire scene seemed to come to a standstill for a few seconds and the sound of everything around simply disappeared….it was a soundless and paralyzed scene that seemed to linger for minutes as he tried making sense of what had just happened. Then a sea of people suddenly surrounded what was now probably certainly a cadaver of a seven or eight year old kid, and a horrendous wallowing began to fill the air…There were savage yells echoing throughout what now seemed like a morose and desolate atmosphere, clamouring for “911” and “medics” and every other emergency responder they could think of. Soon thereafter, one of the assistants led him by the shoulder through the Big Metal Gates and into the school while the others scraped the remains of the poor kid off the side of the road. The rest of the kids who had already been gathered in the classroom seconds earlier were speculating about what had happened and what the fate of the kid could possibly be. By their comments, it seemed that nobody had actually witnessed what had happened…except our protagonist, who could not help but be surprised at how easily everyone else around him seemed to toy with the possibility this poor kid whom they had run around with just a few minutes ago might be dead. The conversation went on for a few days before things seemed to just kind of move on…

By now, he had finished getting ready and eating his breakfast, and was already walking towards the bus-stop where he waited every morning. He tried shaking himself loose of that dark memory but not before wondering if other people also remembered horrible memories like he did – so…vividly. And then he remembered that there were other things on his mind, or perhaps things that should have been on his mind, or perhaps things that were so ubiquitously on his mind that they made everything else as morose and tragic as they seemed to be…But why? He thought to himself. But he did not wallow, and instead he let the warm rays of the sun shower him, which seemed to wash away the lethargy of his soul as he waited for the bus. Moreover, despite the dark and obscure corners children are sometimes pushed into, they are resilient vessels with a kind of Inner-Light, and the inkling of innocence, joy, play and friendship often prevails in them like animal instincts, even if it is in short-dosages. So at school, like every other day, he played, and enjoyed, and laughed with his friends, knowingly distancing himself from the harsh realities of having to see one parent on weekends only and of going to a house which isn’t a home. But the faster his little legs ran after the ball, the more he forgot about it all. When it was his turn to wait on the bench, so as to allow others to play also, he sat back with arms stretched and looked up at the tiny birds dancing in the blue sky; then, feeling the Sun’s Warm Rays on his face, he gently closed his eyes, still seeing the Silhouette of the Heavens and the Tiny Birds above in a reddish hue…For a second, as the Sun’s Rays rained down and engulfed him like a sort of armor, he felt as if the Sun was actually watching over him, and feeling what seemed like the warmest feeling he’s ever felt, he let go of all those fears and worries  that had tormented him seconds before. The Morning came and went like that, slowly disappearing as he sat in class and day-dreamed staring out the window, into the sky full of birds soaring and singing freely. By the time lunch had come, he had forgotten about the Dark Clouds that followed him, and the storm seemed to dissipate.

******

By the time he stepped out of the final class that afternoon, the sun was only a specter of itself, still keeping a vigil on the day, evidenced by the melancholic purple and faint-orange sky, but no longer watching over him; the Sun had left, and even squinting, it was now only a Bright dot in space. Even the warm breeze felt chilly and cavernous to his tender body. He began walking towards the Big Metal Gates slowly and languidly, no longer enthusiastic about the day and rather pessimistic about its ending. But he knew he had to go on. So he did. However, when he finally crossed the doors, nothing was like he expected and, in fact, he felt shaken to his very core by an image he had never imagined he’d seen…at least not while awake.

There were two Black SUVs parked at the curb right outside the Big Metal Gates, and one or two men standing just outside the doors, dressed casually (with black sunglasses) but obviously in command there. Just outside the back passenger door stood the kid’s father, being half-covered by the presence of one of the other men standing by the front passenger door. In his hands he held what the kid immediately recognized as the same plastic, inter-galactic toy-gun they had seen in a window-shop weeks, or perhaps months, earlier. They had been walking along the street looking through shops’ windows and making noise and laughing loudly as always, knowingly but placidly hiding from the brutish toll a hostile separation takes on all family members. Upon seeing the gun on the shop’s window, the kid had immediately demanded it, unable to contain his love for anything that shot plastic bullets, made a loud noise or had bright lights shooting from it. But for one reason or other, his dad had said no; he had resorted to some logical argument, most likely surrounding financial issues, as to why he couldn’t get it at the moment….of course, the kid only heard a big, fat “no”, and disappointment and hate were the only things he could feel…at least for the next few minutes, or perhaps hours…and then, no mention of the gun was ever made again….Until that morning.

The kid knew exactly what the gun signified; what the entire scene yelled at him in the clearest and most direct terms. But it was his father’s face that most struck him. He had never seen something like that before. His father had always been a Eucalyptus Tree that stood high — far beyond the reach of everyday men, of Commonality, of Routine and, particularly, of Fear; and he had felt as being on top of such when he’d ride high on his father’s shoulders, defying the entire world together as one. Indeed, for anyone other than himself, this Tree had seemed un-climbable and out of reach, and certainly unmovable. But now he was privy to something he’d thought the world should never know or see: he had seen the Eucalyptus Tree Moved and Eroded by a Primal Fear – the Fear of being uprooted; of being savagely torn away from the very roots that kept him grounded. Now, the man who he’d though would Never Lose was trembling with fear and loathing at the sheer possibility of being severed from his Seed…Indeed, for the first and only time, he had seen his father Defeated: The tear running down his cheek, so out of place – so foreign to his old and hard countenance – pleaded “sorry,” as his trembling hands yelled “come here, my son!”

Was it me? The kid thought to himself, overwhelmed by sadness and fury. Did I cause my father so much pain over a stupid toy? Did he not know the toy did not matter? Why did he buy it? Did he think he Needed to buy it? Why does an Eucalyptus Tree lose its leaves? Why does it fall?

******

It was a special visit – unscheduled and allowed by both parties: the father and mother who, until then, had not been able to resolve their differences. They enjoyed the rest of the day together, probably shooting that inter-galactic gun at anyone they could aim….

The rest is History…