Sunday, 28 February 2010

Inertia, Hope, and Intellectual Dishonesty

The topics above are not written in any particular order. On the second one, my hope, like everyone, is that the boys can bring home the gold today. Other than that, a perusing of the political calendar lately has led me to witness a lot of subjects one and three, and that, my friends, is cause for anything but hope.

It really is a shame, but the hard lesson I am taking in as I get older is that when there is no moral impetus to act, you cannot get people to consider things outside of their narrow self interests. Let me rephrase that: without visible moral impetus that directly affects the majority of people's livelihoods here and now, because of course there has always been a moral impetus. Right now, people are being given the choices and justification needed to keep their heads in the sand. And it's infuriating.

When I saw a page comparing the various declared position of Toronto mayoral candidates, I was not surprised to see the wannabe non-entity Rocco Rossi make a shameless oppurtunist plea to suburban middle class voters by firmly declaring himself on the side of the car, a moribund and outdated mode around which to organize the society. Not that I would expect anything less from a career businessman and fundraiser than to throw principles and scruples to the wind and go after the low hanging fruit. Status Quo is so much easier, so much more comfortable, than ambition and vision. No wonder. You talk to boomers about the numbered days of cars and the blank expression and dismissal that you get is palpable. "What...me? Live without car? You are insane, you know that." Yes, I am insane. Insane for thinking that you will do anything other than drive your damn cars until every last drop of petroleum on earth is used up, while calling me "crazy" and "irresponsible" in the process. Not that they don't get it. They're all for admiring China and Europe's cities' transit infrastucture - well-functioning, fast trains, walkability, cyclability, but for some reason here we can't build a shitty subway extension to Yorl University without a thirty year and counting stomachache. Then again, when you're running against a guy who has proposed a red light district and using the Canadian Army against Toronto street gangs, maybe its just best to look away from the spectacle entirely.

Similarly, everyone knows our nations finances are absolutely f-----, and there are hard choices to be made, but its like we willfully acknowledge the reality that all of our politicians have to be oppurtunist by definition and no tough choices will be made. We are choosing to drink the kool aid, which this and other newspapers continue to report on in their opinion pages. "We will not raise taxes, cut spending, or increase the deficit." Given the state of the nation's finances right now, that's like saying I'm going to quit my job, go buy a bunch of stuff on credit, and get my finances back on track. Most people aren't this irresponsible. Yet we allow politicians to play this stupid game with us on a grand scale

Two examples. You'll always find many. Einstein was right, we can't solve tomorrow's problems with yesterday's thinking. But I have a confession, this blog was written before and after the Gold medal game. I feel pretty good, I'm gonna go chill out.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Canada vs. USA

This weekend I spent some time in Windsor, a Canadian city uniquely eqipped to experience America on a regular basis. Even if you don't feel brave enough to steel yourself for the always uncomfortable encounter with a gruff U.S. customs agent, there's the massive cylinder shaped GM skyscraper (possibly one of the biggest monuments to hubris known to man) staring at you across the detroit river and reminding you of the empire next door. As the famous proverb once went, what's good for GM is good for America.

The friend we stayed with has been on a stint there for some months and so, having already extensively described the wonders of Heidelberg Street to me, he, I and my girlfriend braved said unpleasant encounter with Border guard on Saturday to travel to rough and tumble, mostly abandoned, hard-up Detroit. What awaited us there were some pleasant surprises.

It's almost more refreshing to wander about in a big city that once was mighty than a small city that has never really been anything, but tries to play up its strengths and pepper its tourist materials with buzzwords. Granted, even big cities that don't need to do this do it now because everything is about "branding" these days, but my point is that Detroit is a destination well worth checking out. Buildings are abandoned but their architecture is often stunning. Pleasant neighbourhoods feature wildlife and art installations. Almost everyone in the street is black, and (to us) very friendly. The Eastern Market and MOCAD were not so hidden and very exciting treasures.

Of course, it all feels big, too big, for its britches. And art and tourism cannot restore this place to what it once was. But I feel like, over the past decade, America has been taken down several notches and it's good for them. Americans I have talked to while travelling abroad have often exhibited shy, tail between the legs shame and embarassment rather than the stereotypical fist pumping "USA" chants we tend to associate with them. It's clear that coast to coast they got big deep problems, and efforts to resolve said problems may be too little too late, but maybe it's what's required to break them out of their comfort zone and get them taking risks. I found an example here of the unprecedented levels of desperation and despondency they are feeling.

It was appropriate yesterday to be watching the Canada-U.S hockey game in this thoroughly North American setting. And I feel, watching the coverage, that where Americans are discovering things like modesty and objectivity, we are letting ourselves be taken over by complacency, swagger, and hubris. Watching these commercial breaks of just pitilessly exploited cheap patriotism by McDonalds of Illinois, Coors of Colorado, and Bell of Hell, made me wonder why I have to read all my favourite pundits talk about tear jerking olympics moments and our nation's time to shine day after day. We willfully have our heads in the sand as a population on just about every important issue and have not made any tough or smart decisions or long term planning, vision or goals as a country for as long as I can remember. And I can't imagine the olympics in other supposedly less "modest" countries than us would bombard their own spectators with such invasive assaults on their identity.

This extends to several areas and examples which I cannot get into now. But my great leap for today is this: I knew our boys in red: old, covered in accolades, and complacent in their myriad accomplishments - were going to get their asses whipped yesterday by this crazy fast, young team with nothing to lose shooting hard. It was reflective to me of our inability to shake the status quo, and their being forced out of it. Still want them to win, of course. But play Fleury, for christ's sake.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Shifting Sands and Winds of Change in Western Canada

Well, happy valentine's day everyone. I'm glad to see I've had exactly zero comments in this unexpected week off I've had to take looking for real work, among other things. With things like this you have to take inspiration when it comes; hence why people like newspaper columnists who have to produce constantly write the occasional dud. Although this is probably a collection of duds, I nonetheless have thought of a subject to plough forward on.

There is more encouragement than usual right now from the media establishment to forget about all of our finicky stomachaches as a nation. The message is unanimous: Canadians need to chill out, turn their brains off, and get behind our athletes and our olympics. It's amusing to watch the ubiquitous coverage, fine, but I can't allow myself be ordered around like that, when considering the irony of Mickey Ds, coca cola, high liner fish sticks et al bringing the games to us. We want the youth to be more competitive and athletic, but we also want them to buy crappy synthetic food from monopolies that no serious athlete (I would think) could waste their time with. I digress.

It's ironic because while editorials and columns to this effect have been numerous, our media is not shy about continuing to air out our country's regional dirty laundry while we've got the whole world visiting in vancouver (not that the world has time to read the navel gazing and cat calling from the sources inside our few venerable media monopolies I'm posting here today).

If you read what it says in the Toronto liberal media, which it clearly is but is referred to as such pejoratively by its western rivals, the West's booming economy is entirely based on resources with wildly fluctuating prices that have been poorly managed and largely squandered up until now. The analysis I've chosen to post is pragmatic and logical enough. If you read the roundtable Maclean's discussion with the provocative title "The West is in. Now what?", referencing the famous Reform Party conference where Steve Harper met his wife, however, an entirely different picture is painted. The West, according to Andrew Coyne, is where the future and the action is: where people are having babies, relocating to, and a tidal wave of companies will splash on when Ontario and Quebec are inevitably forced to raise taxes to cope with their own tidal waves, of the senior citizen demographic variety.

I tend to side with the former view, but not wanting to discredit myself entirely with an eastern bias and in doing so get drawn into this ridiculous debate, I will give some credence to Coyne, who's no slouch after all. Being newer the Western provinces don't face the same challenges as the east. But they also lack the character, appeal, and accessibility of the east, which is probably just a combination of personal preference and my own silly deep rooted regionalism. I think Alberta is devoted to a free-market, low tax approach but they still love their government and corporate handouts. It's the kind of hypocrisy that has gutted America and paralyzed its system with Bush. Worse for Alberta though, like America, the large portion of uneducated citizenry will send more reckless and extreme ideologues to power (aka Palin + Wildrose) whose message and hopes are really pinned upon lying to people by telling they can have their cake and eat it too.

I've long deplored my countries' division along religious lines, political lines, language lines. During the olympics and on valentine's day, I want to personally express my love from coast to coast. Now if only westerners could only reciprocate keep their smirks and snide remarks about Toronto to themselves for a day. And if the media could stop reporting on the Tea Party with such hype-fuelled gusto, though I understand they have to sell papers. Tabatha Southey in the Globe really put it into perspective

***WORK LIKE A JERK***

The postings may have to be spread thinner as I've just found work, and this one itself is four days late (It was half done and I just finished it.) Look forward to writing a special one on monday about one of my fave topics :)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Real Reasons We're F---ed in 2012

I'm due for a posting and I'm absolutely mortified by these Tea Party people in the news. I was hoping for a movement towards enlightened thought and desire to move forward in the new decade but instead we get this.

The anger and the ignorance with which members of the population lambast the government and direct ridiculous accusations towards it show me a fierce new libertarianism is growing and threatening the stability and hope for our already precarious future.

I do hope that these movements are fringe and not deserving of the coverage the media gives them. I understand their mandate is to attract eyes and sell ad space but Jesus Christ. I do not recall seeing such neanderthal behaviour previously

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Blackwater Park

These are metal lyrics to the song
Blackwater Park, the 2001 album of the same name by one of favourite bands, Opeth

Confessor
Of the tragedies in man
Lurking in the core of us all
The last dying call for the everlost
Brief encounters, bleeding pain

Perhaps they are contrived, perhaps they are lacking poetic merit, but that is besides the point. To the music of the song they are absolutely haunting, and in fact, I have put the song on and am listening to it right now while I write this posting.

The reason for this is that today I was on the elliptical, buried deep inside a Vanity Fair issue with Meryl Streep on the cover but no mention of the feature I read inside: a frightening, disturbing and detailed accurate of Erik Prince, the evangelical billionaire Detroit auto fortune heir who founded Blackwater, the "private security firm" that is just f****ing all kinds of shit up all over the world. Here is a copy of the article.

So you'll get to read how this man, whose father's funeral featured a eulogy delivered by none other than Focus on the Family's James Dobson, founded a "special ops" company in the 1990s. It started out as rich kids shooting weapons in the vasts tracts of North Carolina land he bought up, and today is a multibillion dollar company providing a wide range of military services to whoever asks for them (All their exploits are well documented in the article). Yes, it is the famous Blackwater of Iraq. This founder, Mr. Prince, looks and sounds like the protagonist in a Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay collaboration, and his life reads like an episode of 24. Unfortunately, you'll have the misfortune of realizing it's real. My favourite segment of the article is at the end, when he talks about setting up a special ops navy seals type base off the coast of Africa to provide what he calls "Relief With Teeth".

The first time I've heard such a term, but it's what I've realized is favoured by the "donor", "aid providing" USA. I read an excellent serial in Libération which gives myriad examples of behaviour similar to the recent well-publicized case of child smuggling. In fact, US forces cordoned off the airport in Haiti in the days after the quake, blocking vital international aid, but opening the door to innumerable bible belt organizations who are accountable to noone to branch out in Haiti. For the purpose of distributing aid, of course, on paper, but usually revealed to have dubious ulterior motives and enjoy a level of comfort far beyond anything the local population does, the ultimate slap in the face since they operate amongst it.

These groups, however, can continue to operate with impunity while proudly and shamelessly claiming to do "God's" work. Our own Prime Minister, if you look here, has a former Focus on the Family president as one of his top advisors. If you are still unfamiliar with the mother of evangelical groups, I suggest you start getting to know them. Their chief, the aforementioned "doctor" Dobson, took in personal revenues of 138 million USD in 2007, and continues to be very active, funding the following super bowl ad this year. I feel like the absence of George W. has actually ramped up this kind of stuff.

It's fine to be pro-life, anti-gay, pro-abstinence and all...No, wait a minute, of course it's not! But it goes way beyond those three issues, non-existant for most of us; these guys act like those three things are all they care about, when in fact they're only the tip of the iceberg. How can you be a Christian spokeperson and friends with the head of something called Blackwater? And view the world as if there were only two virtuous countries in it, America and Israel. Sadly, if you're aware of the recent fiascos with KAIROS and Rights and Democracy, you'd realize that we have not been saved from the evangelical carnage. Our own government is now dominated by these same racist, imperialist reactionaries who view the world with anger and contempt from atop their hills in Alberta, Wyoming, Utah and across the heartland in their sterilized suburbs jacked up on petroleum and consumerist steroids. I think we should force them all into a suburb called Blackwater Park, in honour of the album whose terrifying brutal rhythms of it continue to roll on here in the background and sadden me as I lament the horrible ends to which those who govern us deploy their means of power.

Monday, 1 February 2010

One Day At A Time in Al-Blog

Yes, um, my name is Christopher and I'm a blog-a-holic. No, not really. I'm not addicted per se to posting my own entries; what I cannot seem to stop doing as of late is hitting that "next blog' button and getting transported to the sites of others bangin' their lives away on the QWERTY keys. There are some real gems out there. But mostly there are way too many boring American families (yes - a whole family needs an entire blog to itself) who can't seem to find anything to say about life without Jesus Christ somehow being involved with it. And whose kids may have names such as "Bridge" and "Kyler" (I especially like this one. Like a Tyler-Kyle hybrid. The two quintessential North American boys names with that 'Iyal" sound. Once I knew four guys living in a house named Bryan, Byron, Ryan, and Kyran. That was f___)n jock-er-iffic.)

Of course these bloggers have every right to post just like me, and actually their sites usually are a lot more visually appealing and professional. I just want them to know that their kid only looks cute to them. And I wish many of these people's paragraphs were spoken on a therapists couch instead of written on the internet. But hey, saves money right? And makes you feel good. Now if only I could stop hitting that link. As I said There are some gems I stumble upon, bright lights, chinese writing, funny people. But the people I'm whining about seem to be a clear majority. And I'm not in BA (Bloggers Anonymous) yet, but my life is being affected by other people's excessiveness. (Al-Blog). And I'M getting through that really by just taking it one day at a time.