31 October, 2004

I'm not entirely Kerry'd away, but...

Neighbors to the south of me:

No doubt you're sick of electioneering right about now. Up here in Canada, our elections run for one month, and that's plenty long enough. Yours has been going on for over a year now. I don't know how you stand it. Then again, the argument can be made that you're electing the most powerful man in the world, whereas we are merely electing the leader of Canada. Big difference there.

Listen--you've heard a few things about us Canucks I'd like to dispel. One, we aren't all sanctimonious assholes. True, there are a few of those in government, but our government keeps getting elected largely by one province out of thirteen. (Unfortunately, that province is mine.)

Two, not all of us think George Bush is completely out to lunch. It's true that if only Canadians could vote on Tuesday, Kerry would win in a landslide. But there are a few of us who wish it would be otherwise.

We had an election earlier this year, too. And I noticed during our campaign that there was very little discussion of issues. All of that got drowned in a tide of fear. See, our Democrats (who have been so very much more successful at grabbing and keeping power than yours have) made it their business to spread fear about our Republican party and its policies. If you elect the Conservatives, the party line went, the country will go to hell in a handbasket. And people believed it

Now, in your campaign, I see the same thing multiplied beyond all belief...and used by both sides. If you re-elect Bush, say the Dems, you're begging for more terrorism.. If you elect Kerry, say the GOP, the terrorists win. Cheney suggested there'd be atrocities like the Beslan school hostage-taking seen in America if Kerry won
This is pretty dirty pool.

Ask Bush and Kerry if they want to see another 9/11 and the answer will be unequivocal. Ask either of them about their plans to destroy America--each side accuses the other of having such plans--and the response will be heated and passionate. Both leaders and both parties want to build America, but they have radically different views of what shape America should take.

George W. Bush, contrary to popular Canadian opinion, is not stupid. Indeed, the man scored in the 96th percentile on his S.A.T.s. My sense is that Bush and our last Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, had a great deal in common, although they were worlds apart on the political spectrum. Both of these world leaders carefully cultured a bumbling, completely unintelligible image: Bush, because it played well to many of his constituents, and Chretien for much the same reason--Canada loves the triumph of the underdog. Our "Little Guy from Shawinigan" wasn't a little guy at all, but a consummate politician and streetfighter of admirable skill. Bush, who likes to portray himself as folksy and common, is no different.
John Kerry, on the other hand, is a great deal like our present Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Both of them are silver-spoon rich liberals who have a reputation for blowing with the political wind And both are anything but decisive, although they try so hard to appear so. One of Kerry's closest advisors is Canadian. Should Kerry be elected and Martin manage to hang on to power, the two would get on famously.

George's goal is to liberate the world. This is actually a noble ideal, or rather would be if the world was inclined to play along. Sadly, it isn't. And this is something the cabal of neoconservatives surrounding your sitting President don't pretend to understand. After all, they reason, isn't America the most successful country on the planet? Don't we have the strongest democracy? The strongest economy? The strongest military? The strongest culture? What's wrong with bringing the rest of the world up to our level?
Put so simply, there's nothing wrong with that. The United States has always had the strongest sense of altruism on the planet, too. No matter where in the world a disaster happens, America will be right there, helping clean up and put things to rights.
One problem, though, and it's a doozie: America's sense of altruism has been repeatedly and forcefully called into question. It's made people ponder U.S. motives in everything. Whether it's out of jealousy or fear, they see ulterior designs even where they may not exist.
There was a time, immediately after 9/11, when America could have launched anything up to a limited nuclear strike without angering the rest of the world. I was amazed the White House showed as much restraint as they did. The invasion of Afghanistan followed, and America had a lot of support for that action.
But for some reason, the United States never followed through. bin Laden is still alive, and still looking hearty and hale more than three years later. There remains a token force in Afghanistan, but it's nothing to what's in Iraq. And nobody can figure out where Iraq fit in to the war on terror. Half of Americans believe that Hussein was behind 9/11. We up in Canada are likely to this a testament to the stupidity of Americans. I happen to think it's more a testament to the effectiveness of the Republican propaganda machine.
A puppet regime has been installed in Kabul and they're trying really hard to make one work in Baghdad. The problem with puppet regimes is that nobody's dumb enough to ignore the strings. Hence the natives come to see that instead of democracy empowering them, it is enslaving them; that's not a good impression to make.
Anyway, Bush wants to liberate the world. There are hawks in his camp suggesting the invasion of Iran, Syria, North Korea, and even China. I have to admit this scares me. Even if Bush's motives are pure, this scares me a lot.
What do Iran, Syria, North Korea and China have in common? Not much. Two things leap to mind, though: there's no democracy in any of them and the prevailing religion is not Christianity. George W. Bush is a product of democracy and a member of that subset of Christians who call themselves 'evangelical'. It's not much of a leap to deduce that George's democracy rightly includes the Cross, kind of like a burger and fries: the religio-political Happy Meal.
Some Americans will speak up here and state that they have this concept down there--and a very good one it is--called 'separation of Church and State'. To which I reply: really? Have you noticed how many evangelicals are lining up to get out the Republican vote? Or how many Kerryites belong to 'liberal' churches? Both sides certain that God supports them?
Look, all of politics...indeed all of life...should be infused with spirituality. But when spirituality is replaced with religion, I get a tad nervous. When that religion is dogmatic and noninclusive, I get considerably more nervous. I'm trying not to speaks in the language of fear here, but I'm still unnerved. The rest of the world might not think it would be a better place under the God of George. They might disagree. Forcefully.

I have to say I don't know much about Kerry. This is Kerry's fault. He hasn't done a very good job of getting out his message. He's waffled so much it's like seven in the morning at the Golden Griddle. (I guess that'd be an IHOP to you). Nevertheless, he has impressed me that he's not an ideologue. Normally I like ideologues: even if I disagree with them, at least I know what I'm getting. But my honest belief in this instance is that America could use a little less of the iron fist. The world would be more willing to support the United States if Washington was willing to look beyond its borders with something other than an imperial eye.
There are many who believe that al-Qaeda is out to annihilate them. There is, no doubt, a lunatic fringe whose stated goal is to destroy America. But even bin Laden has said in his most recent missive that al Qaeda will leave the U.S. alone if it leaves the Muslim world alone. Do we believe the enemy? I don't know. But how's this for a course of action:
Pull all combatants out of Iraq. Allow it to go its own way, politically. Enlist world support in rebuilding the nation. By no means relax your guard on the homefront--bin Laden may well be lying. But 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq. By my lights, that's more than enough revenge for the 3000 killed on September 11th, 2001.
I think this is closer to Kerry's thinking than Bush's.
Domestically, whoever inherits the White House on Tuesday is in for a hell of an economic mess. The dollar is weak, unemployment is high, and the deficit and debt are astronomical. Kerry's plan to deal with this is vague at best.
He's also protectionist. I don't like this much at all. I'm really glad that Presidents don't set the direction of the economy all by themselves.
On social issues, it goes without saying that Kerry and I think alike. He favors civil unions for gays. I'd go him one better and legalize gay marriage, but at least civil unions are a damn sight better than Bush''s policy on gays, which seems to be 'keep them far, far away from me'. Kerry is pro-choice, as I am; Bush is pro-life (although how you equate letting a ban on assault rifles lapse and killing a hundred thousand civilians in Iraq with being "pro-life" I can't begin to guess.) Kerry supports stem cell research, which holds the promise of nearly eradicating all disease on Earth; Bush sees it as murder.

I can't say I wholeheartedly endorse Kerry, but I think new perspectives are needed in the White House. The current ones aren't working too well. To steal the campaign slogan of our provincial Liberal party, I think Americans would do well to "choose change".



29 October, 2004

Ever thought about going to jail?

Once upon a time, long, LONG ago, and in a different world than this, crime was not a social problem. It wasn't a sociological problem, an economic problem, not a geographical or racial or cultural problem. No, the problem of crime rested in one place, and in one place alone: squarely on the shoulders of the criminal.
In sixteenth century New England, if you committed a crime, you weren't sent to gaol at all. No, you dug your own gaol--shovel provided free of charge. Your gaol was as deep as you could make it, digging from sunup to sundown. Once you'd finished that task, down you went. Some bars were thrown over your hole and there you'd sit. You were equipped with a single all-purpose bucket that served as your privy and your plate both. Stale bread and brackish water made up your diet, augmented perhaps with some gristly meat on Sundays.
Mind you, this sort of punishment wasn't for your murderers or rapists. No, those were summarily hanged. The "Hole-iday Inn" treatment was for thieves, blasphermers, adulterers, and the like. I believe the record was something like eight months.

Fast forward to today, in this world. Crime--even murder--is nobody's fault. It just is. Victims of crime are either disregarded (bad enough) or treated as if they were asking for it. And criminals get to go off to Shangri-La-de-dah, a place with most of the rights and few of the responsibilities that you and I have. Indeed, in some cases there's more freedom in jail than there is out of it.
For instance, those sentenced to solitary confinement in Canadian prisons can now bring their television along with them. Or, if they're unlucky enough to lack a television (it being such a necessary rehabilitative device), the State will provide one. With satellite hookup.Wouldn't want the Paul Bernardos of the world to feel lonely, would we?

It seems that AIDS is of some concern in the prison system. Apparently, our inmates are neglecting to sterilize their needles before they shoot themselves up. Corrections Canada understands. They're talking about a needle exchange program (because illicit drugs are almost as important as television to the process of rehabilitation). Nobody has even thought to ask where the drugs are coming from, ha-ha.

You've got your pizza parties, your panty raids, your porno nights...all this and weekends count as double time towards the fulfillment of your sentence. It is possible, if you have the correct, uh, racial characteristics, to murder three people and serve three years for the crime. Or you can rape someone and be sentenced to house arrest.

And...you can vote.

I think, all in all, I prefer the sixteenth century New England penal system. Civil libertarians would undoubtedly scream bloody murder were it around today--but if they didn't commit bloody murder, then they'd have nothing to worry about, would they? Cruel and unusual punishment, for sure...just like the crimes perpetrated by the convicted criminal, whom everybody nowadays seems to pity. He did it because he was poor, they say, insulting millions of law-abiding poor people. Or because he was black, they say, and denigrate a whole race of people for the actions of one man. He did it because his parents were total screwups, they allege, and at that I wonder why I'm not resting in a cell somewhere.

I bet, if you survived 'the hole', you thought twice before you re-offended. In that sense, the correctional system back then was pretty damned effective.

What is our 'correctional' system trying to correct?

24 October, 2004

The Naming of Cats

I'm far from the first writer to reflect on the importance of naming cats. T.S. Eliot thought it sacred. Tad Williams, in his Tailchaser's Song, was the first, so far as I know, to recognize that cats have a name for the human world they deign to interact with and a much more revealing name they use among each other.
Our present cats, as I have said, are named Streak and B.B. Streak was named both for the white thatch of hair amongst the gray and for her propensity to run around the house like lubed lightning. B.B. is short for Bug-Butt. After years of devotion to these kitties, they have granted my request to know their Felish names.
A few words of explanation. Felish naming is a delicate affair, and Felish names are incredibly complicated to human ears. They almost always consist of eight or more syllables which are extremely difficult to render into English phonetics, and they can be even harder to translate.
Technically, the first part of every cat's Felish name is 'mrrr' , which is Felish for 'mother' and represents the Great Mother, the ancestor of all cats. However, 'mrrr' is an honorific and is only vocally addressed to cats (both male and female) of great intelligence and distinction.
The second part of the cat's name is a descriptive phrase. It's comparable to the names given to Native Americans, encapsulating something important about each cat's personality or the day of its birth.
The final part of a Felish name is something the cat gives itself when it becomes of age (aftter eight months). It's usually something grand., reflecting the glory of being a cat. But not always. Some domesticated cats name themselves after their attitide towards humans. Without delving into feline sociology too much, it's safe to say that most wild cats, upon hearing such a surname, will react with contempt. But your average tamed tabby will know nothing of that and care less than nothing.
Without further ado, the Felish names of our two cats:

B.B.: Purrowr-blur-KACK-KACK Mrow mrrowr-purrrrble,
"One who swallows hairballs for sport Come love me, Mommy/Daddy!"

Streak: mrrr Mrowr mewrr-yarrow Meow-murr-BLURT!-purrrrrow
"the Esteemed Graybeast I came, I saw, I conquered, and now I need a nap, damnit!

This third cat was presenting problems.

At first, I was thinking C.C. for Coon Cat, or Gracie, for gray Coon Cat. Too boring. Perhaps something cloudy like Wisp or Nimbus? Naw. I observed her skulking, stalking behaviour and decided on Lady Macbeth.
And then Eva noticed that she was as like to stalk her own tail as anything else, or to forget mid-pounce just what she was stalking in the first place. Lady Macbeth was cunning. This cat ain't that..
In fact, the dumbness if this little ball of moron knows no bounds.She accidentally got outside yesterday morning. I only noticed her because I happened to be looking at the gate to the backyard when she arrived at it, stopped for a second, and pondered whether she should try to dig under it, vault over it, or maybe eat it.She decided to scoot between the slats just as I got to her, whereupon we chased her in slow motion for the next fifteen minutes throughout our backyard and that of our neighbour. Total distance travelled from the house? Maybe seventy feet. Any other cat would have been long gone. This one...well, it tried to climb our back fence but didn't know that extending its claws would have given it more purchase, so it kind of did a slow motion somersault. We caught her soon after. Depositing her back inside where she belonged, Eva suddenly announced her name:
Dory.
That's Dory, as in that cute-but-unbelievably-forgetful fish in Finding Nemo. A truer name has never been coined.

I'll let you know her Felish name in a few years, after she feels comfortable enough to divulge it. But I can assure you of one thing: this cat will never be addressed as 'the esteemed'.

Test post

This is a test. This is only a test. If this was a real blog entry, it would never have been published. Every time I attempt to publish something this weekend, the blog frog comes along and eats it up. Are you there, Blog Frog? Better not be, ya bugger.

21 October, 2004

Is it me, or...

...is the news getting more and more stupid every day?
Take today, for example.
Kids are now using webcams to film themselves in street races.
The federal government is selling items seized from grow-ops...to drug dealers.
China is fourth on Canada's list of foreign aid recipients, even thought the Chinese government is looking to spend umpty-billion dollars buying Noranda. The money, said an Ottawa flunkie, is going to support "social and political reform" in China.
As of today, Bush is still leading in the polls.

Robert Heinlein dubbed the last half of the 20th century "the Crazy Years": a time of rocketing illiteracy, public apathy and general inanity and insanity. If only he could have lived to see the world we're dealing with now: people eating sheep's asshole on prime time television for money; asshole sheep voters in the millions absolutely certain that Iraq was behind 9/11; fundycostals (tm) everywhere uniting to try to "save" marriage by preventing its extension to loving, committed couples on the grounds of a missing Tab A or Slot B.

It's enough to make me sound a retreat. Or, as the British Army famously defined it, "an adjustment of the front".

Luckily, amidst the dreck and hokum inhabiting pop culture these days, one can find the beginnings of an anti-moronic backlash.
Every week, it seems, somebody has minted a brand new reality show. "Let's see," the thinking (?) goes, "can we find a married man and put him on an island with a bunch of sluts...would he commit adultery in a large shallow pond filled with maggots and leeches? And if we offered the women $250 for each creature they ate, and $1000 per creature inhaled mid-orgasm....and oh! Suppose one of the men was not married, but in fact was gay, and had to act straight...wouldn't that be funny?"
Yeah. As funny as a brain-ectomy.
But strangely enough, the reality weeds aren't choking the life out of television. Far from it. In addition to the previously extolled Joan of Arcadia, there's the CSI megalith and its related shows (Navy NCIS,. Medical Investigation). There's Desperate Housewives, the Sunday night hit that manages to satirize suburbia by playing it ever-so-slightly bent. On the Canadian front, there's Corner Gas. And sixteen years old and going strong, The Simpsons. And that merely scratches the screen. It's as if somebody somewhere has heard our prayers. TV God, we beseech thee, canst thou not put all reality television on its own network and culleth the rot out of television? No, my child, but I shall ensureth the remainder of programming will satisfyeth the most discerning viewer, amen and hallelujah.

Hollywood has seen a virtual explosion of intelligent documentaries to counter the Dumb and Dumberer effect. Spellbound, City of God, Farenheit: 9/11 and Super Size Me entertain while they edify. Each movie will mark you and will certainly allow you to forget the plot intricacies of White Chicks.

The book best-seller list has also seen a real smartening-up. Even amongst about five thousand historical inaccuracies and glaring plot holes, you can't fault Dan Brown's attempt to remake the thriller genre. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a throughly engrossing piece of world-building from the debut novelist Susanna Clarke that manages to mix history, magic, and the gothics in a way that will leaving you panting for more after 872 pages of small type. And most shocking of all, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, a witty and probing history and guide to...punctuation? Highly recommended, either for your garden-variety grammar stickler or somebody who really would like to know (but was afraid to ask) where, exactly, apostrophes go.

There's hope for this ol' human race yet. If only we can start checking to see if our brand-old submarines have GFCI wiring.



19 October, 2004

The fur is flying...

Got a call at work today letting me know that friends of a colleague of Eva's found an abandoned Maine Coon Cat in Mississauga this morning. Apparently this cat was found in an old tire by the side of the road. She must have been recently tossed out of a car, because she jumped right in to their car as if she figured 'hey! My ride home!'
Instead that ride took her to a Waterloo hair salon, where the staff and clientele promptly fell in love with her (and she with them). Eva went over at lunch to see her and make sure she was (a) flea and otherwise disease-free and (b) female. We have two formerly female cats already; introducing a male would have probably resulted in felinious assault.

We came to get it after work. Never have I met a cat so self-assured, particularly at five months, which is what we estimate this one to be. She purrs at the drop of a hat, so violently I thought she might come apart at the seams. In the car ahs was more curious than nervous...I simply cradled her a little and let her look around (and she purred all the way home).

Of course, there was an abrupt attitude adjustment when she was confronted with Streak and B.B. Neither of our current purrballs could be said to appreciate this invasion of their house. The new cat seemed to want to play; the old cats would have none of that!

As I write, there have been assorted teakettle hissings and melodious moanings and mewings from three angles. Already, though, there's been an improvement...in a three-level house there's lots of room for each of them and they've started to figure this out. Plus, the new one is litter-trained and I've already seen her use her box.

Give me a couple of days and hopefully I'll have a more harmonious household.

17 October, 2004

Divine Revelation...

Our friends Dana and Bowe invited us to the christening of their daughter Brooke today. So off we went early this morning to Palmerston to help prepare the 'post-baptismal fellowship lunch'...for sixty-some-odd people. There were a lot of beans served. I think a sizeable number of Palmerston Anglicans are boldly putt-putting around their houses this evening.
I'll tell you a secret, dear blog: I wasn't looking forward to this day overmuch. I haven't been in a church since my wedding and haven't attended a Sunday service in over ten years.
The wet snow that came down this morning in Palmerston certainly improved my mood. While the rest of the folks around me succumbed to gloom and grump, I was whistling Christmas carols. There's something about the first snowfall that sets my heart to singing. Not much of a chance of wiping sweat out of my eyes for the next half-year or so! Precipitation that doesn't adhere to my glasses! Blizzards! (Yeah, I'm surprised nobody kicked me in the groin.)
For a not-quite-one-year-old, Brooke performed quite admirably at her baptism. She was mouse-quiet except during the hymns (she's undoubtedly going to grow up to be a singer of the Mariah Carey persuasion) and during the actual sprinkling.
Preface to the following: I mean absolutely no offense by what I'm about to detail. If you, reader, attend church once, twice, thrice weekly, more power (or perhaps that should be Power) to you. Until today, I'd have called myself a spiritual believer in the Christian tradtion. Now, I'm not sure I can say even that.
It's not that I disagreed entirely with the service. Actually, some parts of it resonated strongly. I was impressed with the reverend's belief on 'original sin'. He doesn't see it as a literal 'curse' on mankind. I knew a few Baptists who would have been appalled at that sentiment being voiced from a pulpit.
Likewise, Communion wasn't restricted to Anglicans, but rather open to all Christians who chose to receive. And something I found most refreshing: he acknowledged that there was more than one way of looking at Communion. Some people, he said, see the bread and wine as the literal Body and Blood of Christ...what the Catholics call Transsubstantiation. Some people see it as as bread and wine, but a potent symbol...a metaphor. And some people believe Communion to be a simple (though profound) memorial.
In the Catholic churches I attended as a child, all those confirmed in the faith were required to receive Communion. And no fooling around here...this is the Body and Blood of Christ. If you don't believe that, to Hell with you.

But this liberal attitude goes only so far. The service today was replete with such phrases as 'walking in the way of the Lord", "hating every other way", "repenting from sin and returning to God" and "fighting Satan and all his evil forces".

Now here's where I start to get kind of touchy.

How does one 'walk in the way of the Lord'? Are there any two people in history who have wholeheartedly agreed on this? Remember when you answer this that you're ordered to 'hate every other way'. It's precisely this attitude that starts wars...the kind of wars wherein each side maims and kills the other in the name of Almighty God.
What is 'sin'? Has there been consensus on that? And has anyone seen Satan and his evil forces skulking around? Who are they, anyway? Why, they're all those people not walking in the way of the Lord! Non-Christian heathens!

As part of the actual baptismal ceremony, we were asked to reaffirm our own baptismal vow. This is the Apostles' Creed, supposedly dating to ten days after Jesus died (the second time). It bears a strong resemblance to the Nicene Creed that came after it. The Apostles Creed distills Christianity into four sentences, thus:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

And you know, I found I couldn't in good conscience even pretend to recite it.

First sentence can stand, but for the minor quibble I have with God "the Father". Do we really want to restrict something so big as God into one gender and one role?
I have two issues with the second sentence. One concerns the Virgin Mary--sorry, never believed in her, or at least her intact hymen. The sooner the Church comes to understand there's nothing inherently sinful about sex and that Joseph undoubtedly had one Jesus of an orgasm about nine months before the manger, the better.
Never mind that; there's something else here in this sentence that actually offends me: 'God's only Son'. Uh, pardon me, but even in Christian parlance are we all not Sons (and Daughters) of God? I'll go you one further. One of my spiritual core values is that we are all, every one of us, a part of God. And yet some would damn me to Hell (eternally apart from God) for saying so.
Third sentence, and one giant brick wall. No, it's not the Resurrection. I have no problem believing Christ rose from the dead: medical science (or God working through medical science) accomplishes resurrections on an almost routine basis these days. No, my big problem with this sentenceis that part about Jesus/God judging.
Nope, no way, no how. God's supposed to be all-loving, right? Unconditional love and all that? So what's this about judgment?
WE judge people--the living and the dead. It's one of humankind's most grevious errors. Why would we ascribe to our God one of our worst behaviours?
The last sentence packs a real punch. Holy Spirit, check. I'm okay with that. One holy catholic church...
Wow.
I wonder how many people mouth that without knowing what it means.

Look up 'catholic' in the dictionary. You'll get a shock. A BIG shock if you're Catholic.

catholic, adj. Pertaining to the whole; universal. The issue was of catholic, rather than national, concern.

Okay, the Catholics I used to go to church with probably don't see the big deal in that. There is one holy Catholic church, right? Set foot in something else that dares to call itself a church and then die with that on your soul and you're going straight to the Hot Place.

*Sigh*

One holy universal church. Hey, I could get behind that...so long as there's not one holy universal doctrine behind it all. Sadly, I think the creed as worded assumes that there is. And that (surprise, surprise) said doctrine is Christian. In the minds of Catholics, Catholic. In the minds of Anglicans, Anglican. In the minds of...

Okay, everybody, say it with me:

MINE IS NOT A BETTER WAY...MINE IS ONLY ANOTHER WAY.

Go out and preach that and change the world.

12 October, 2004

I'm ill. Bwaahhh.

I'm not feeling the best of late: head clogged like a drain stuffed with peanut butter, energy level guttering like a campfire after midnight, general sense that I'm living in a cement mixer. I'm trying to just inhale my bitchiness along with all that (snorg!) mucus, but there is seepage.
You have to admire women. Most of them will, in fact, admit to feeling sick, but will act as if they're 100% anyway, thus making us men feel guilty for wanting to sleep about 25 and a half hours a day. And oh, the urge to be cuddled, loved, cared for...the urge to SHARE THIS GODDAMN VIRUS...is overwhelming at times. Here, c'mere, let me give you a deep soul kiss. There, now you're sick too. Misery loves company, dontcha know
But no, women would never think like that. Or if they do, they keep it bottled up along with their snot and sick-spit.
They're missing out!
Admit it: it's kind of fun to be sick. It brings back memories of staying home from school, warm Neo Citren (love that stuff--I used to fake being sick just to get a cup), even Vick's VapoRub, that burning icy chest slime that despite its revolting odor, always made you feel better in ten seconds flat. Or Fisherman's Friends, which taste like turperntine tablets...and that's why I always get the extra strength edition....
And if I'm gonna be ill, this is the kind of ill I wanna be: wet cough, as opposed to those dry hacking wheezy throat-full-of-glass-shards KACKs; not enough of a fever for the dancing spiders to appear; no distressing stomach gurgles leading to hasty northern--or southern--evacuations (and oh God, spare me the puking shits, the kind that come on you so suddenly you don't have time to reason out sitting on John's Throne and yarking into yon garbage bucket...instead you crawl up to the throne like a supplicant and proceed to retile the bathroom floor).
No, this is actually not bad in comparison to any of that.
But again, being sick when there's somebody healthy in the house makes you feel guilty. Being sick when there's someone else sick in the house is worse. You start wondering if the love of your life is coping with bleck that's beyond your comprehension, whilst you're whining about something that's not such of a much.
"Bwahh! I feel like shit!"
"Shaddap! I just burped up rotten Cheerios and last time I sneezed I managed to fill my right ear with snot!"
(???)
Nope, guess I'm not that sick.


09 October, 2004

You can't go home again...

I was telling my boss, Larry, about my plans for today. "We're going to visit my old hometown of Bramalea", I informed him. He asked when I'd left; I told him 1980, and the first thing he said was "You'll probably find it's not as, umm, white as you remember."
Well, I knew that--friends of Eva's parents moved out of neighbouring Brampton a few years back and they had told us they were pretty sure there were now no Caucasians allowed within city limits. The city is now widely known as "Bramladesh".
Anyway, a little colour in the current denizens of the city wasn't going to faze me. I wanted to see my first home and check out Bramalea City Centre, the mall I visited weekly as a child.
We journeyed up the 410 towards what used to be Highway 7. (I'm pretty sure, incidentally, that the 410 wasn't even there when I was.) The sign flashes by on the right: BRAMPTON POPULATION 302,000
Yike. That's damn near doubled in 25 years!
From there, a few blocks east brought us into territory both comfortingly familiar and almost entirely alien to me.
Yes, the 'ethnic experience' (as Eva called it) is in full bloom here, but I feel like the foreigner, a stranger in a strange homeland. There are a lot of Orientals here and I am very disoriented.
The cross streets float by as if in a dream. At Dixie Road I spy a familiar brown buiding whose function I couldn't recall until I approached and read the sign out front: PEEL MEDICAL AND DENTAL CENTRE. Ah, yes, that's what that was...is. More cross streets: Central Park Drive, Bramalea Rd--the street names are about all that I remember!---there it is, Finchgate Rd on the right--quick glimpse of Georges Vanier, my first school--Glenvale Rd on the left.
Odd. I lived on Glenvale, but it was a boulevard. So was Finchgate. I knew even before I moved off Glenvale that it wasn't a proper boulevard; that is, it didn't have a strip of grass/trees/gardens separating the lanes.Nevertheless, it was called Glenvale Blvd. and now it's Glenvale Rd.
Weird feeling.
My street also looked nothing like I remember it. Oh, the townhouses still lined the east side and the boulevard--road--still curved gently, but..
Where are the trees?
Were there trees?
I think I remember trees.
Do I remember trees?
What the--where the--how--when--
There's my house. 62. Backsplit semi. The Culvers lived (still do, according to Canada411) next door in a more traditional two-storey semi that looks a fair bit like the one I own now. But no, 62--that's where I spent the first eight years of my life and seeing it produces no shock of recognition, or even a slow glimmer. It could be any house, anywhere.
There's Goldcrest and Greenmount Parks...I spent a lot of time riding my bike through both of those. St Thomas Aquinas School, what would have been my high school had my life unfolded a bit differently. Back on to Central Park Drive and past Chingcouasy Park, home of the annual "Nitty-Grity-Brama-Ching-Wing-Ding festival and fair and also a paddleboat pond I remember well.
Bramalea was initially laid out as a "planned" community. Each neighbourhood is not named after a local landmark or a famous person or the like; instead, it's simply known as "the G section" or "the H section" and so on. Within each 'section' all the roads start with the given letter. It's helpful to roughly locate streets, but it does get a bit monotonous. Also, it can be nervewracking. Picture your mother as an ambulance dispatcher. Middle of the night. A call comes in regarding a fire at 62 Glendale Blvd. Her small child is at home alone...at 62 Glenvale Blvd. You can imagine.
Now into Bramalea City Centre. From the outside, about ten percent of it looks familiar. There's still two levels of parking by the grocery store, but said store is an A & P now, not a Miracle Food Mart. None of the other stores ring old bells, but a bell of recent vintage is chonging away: there's a Price Chopper across the lot.
Inside, it seems like everything is different.
There's been what seems to be 100% turnover amongst the stores. I'm sure there's a few that have held pride of place in the mall for a quarter century, but so much is new that even the old stuff has been rendered unrecognizable.
We used two banks when I was a kid--The Bank of Nova Scotia and something called Jet Power that nobody I've talked to since can believe existed (it did, right on the second floor of the mall). Neither bank is there now. Christ, they've even moved the food court.
Eva reminded me a couple of times that things change in 25 years. I didn't need to be reminded. I knew I wouldn't be walking into my childhood today.
But in old novels, when the hero inspects his old stomping grounds, he invariably reports that everything looks so small. That wasn't my experience at all. On the contrary, everything looked bigger. There was more open space...the History Manglers seem to have disposed of a whole bunch of perfectly good (and quite possibly perfectly imaginary) trees. I was at least hoping for a few "aha! There it is!" moments. Aside from the streets (and they can only rename those, not move them entirely, right?) I didn't get many.
So now I'm home, where everything is blessedly just as I left it. I don't think I realized until today how nice that is.



07 October, 2004

A door-to-door salesman came calling, and a ten-year-old boy answered the door.
"Hello, lad. Is your mother home?"
"Naw. She ain't here."
"Oh, then how about your father?"
"Ma 'n him went somewheres."
"Dear boy," the salesman said, "where's your grammar?"
"Oh, she's in the kitchen bakin' cookies."

I'm currently reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which is--wait for it!--an engrossing and comical dissertation on punctuation. It appeals to my Inner Grammar Demon.
Now, many of you may be able to look at a sign that says "Book's, Video's, DVD's Sold Here" without wincing. I have always equated language with music and to me, that sign actually causes pain...a pain analagous to that I feel when I hear a note that's jarringly out of tune.
The author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves--which is a phenomenal bestseller, incidentally--says that we Grammar People have a 'seventh sense'...instead of seeing dead people, we see dead punctuation. She's right. I see it everywhere and I often feel powerless to do anything about it.
Apostophes. They're absent when they should be present, present when they should be absent. Nobody seems to remember what they're for. Every week, somebody in our Produce Department concocts a sign that says something like "Broccoli's, 47 cent's each". Not knowing how stupid that looks, they'll place the sign in full view. And I'll take it down and correct it, because while I know that 89 people out of every hundred won't notice the error, and five of the remainder will notice but won't care...I just can't stand the thought that six people will think I'm an illiterate imbecile.
Uh, Ken? You're being just a bit of a snob, here.
Perhaps so. Forgive me, please. It is very easy to forget that teachers these days have no idea about the difference between its and it's, you're and your, they're and their. How can I expect their students to understand?
Well, sadly, I don't, not anymore. I continually fight this war of attrition against grammar laissez-faire even though I recognize I'm losing. Badly.
Hollywood's in on the act, too. Ever see Two Weeks [sic] Notice? Did you see that title and wonder where the apostrophe went? It's A.W.O.L. from its place after the 's'. I was so grateful to see it used as an example in this book...I thought I was alone in the world.
This 'sticklerism' has been with me a long time. I used to bitch about Sinead O'Connor's hit "Nothing Compares 2 U" and I still rant about Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi". C'mon, damn it, spell it right. You do speak (and sing in) English, right?
But things have gotten ever so much worse. The world of hip-hop has corrupted the languagealmos beyond recognition. I often wonder if that's why so few hip-hoppers and rappers use their real names. Are they afraid the Grammar Police will find them? No, alas, they're worried about the real police. The Grammar Police exist only in my febrile imagination.
Now people will tell me that the language is simply changing and I should go with the flow. Unfortunately the flow is swirling around a drain, there's clots of stained paper nearby, and the sound of flushing pervades the air.
Every company I have worked for seems to run on memos. And many of those memos are jammed full of typos, grammatical errors, and just plain clunky language. I wish I could get a job as an editor for Sobey's. I'd change a dime for each correction and I bet I'd earn more than my present salary.
Language is how we communicate. How we communicate says much about who we are. I've often been told I am not responsible for how clearly my messages are received, but only for how clearly they are sent. Correct punctuation and grammar are but two paths to clarity. I'd like to walk these paths in company. Please?

04 October, 2004

October already?

Yeesh. Wasn't it just June? Now we're coming up on the time of year I love...and hate.

I love it, first of all, because it's our anniversary. Four years. Sometimes it seems like twenty, (never in a bad way, mind you); other times it seems like yesterday.
As October 14th approaches, I find myself in a very introspective and retrospective frame of mind. We have come a long way in four years. I'm just as happy as I was the day I got married. Perhaps more. Marriage, for any singletons out there, isn't the trap you might think it is. What it is, is single life...with security.
I hate this time of year because it's Oktoberfest. We got married in October for several reasons, one of which was that it got us out of this boozecan for at least part of the (spew) festivities.
. "Oktoberfest is a celebration of German culture" , they'll tell you. I have one word for that contention and that word is

Bullzenspeigenschit!

This town has almost forty thousand university students in it. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night presents an excuse to get sloshed. The last thing we really need is a week-long sanctioned oom-pah-pah wherein everyone gets to projectile vomit in three-quarter time.
If you ever wonder where this attitude--which even I'll admit is a tad harsh--comes from, I can only invite you to work a few night shifts in a convenience store whilst Oktoberfest is in full riot mode all around. You'll see
  • beer bottles thrown like confetti
  • people urinating and defecating right in the middle of the floor while onlookers applaud
  • countless people just grabbing things off the shelves and stuffing their faces...and if you dare say anything to them, you'll get "hey, buddy, it's Oktoberfest! Lighten up!"
  • fights breaking out over nothing (you really get to feeling the gemutlichkeit when you look outside and see a bunch of people jumping up and down on cars, kicking in windshields, especially when you know you can call the cops and they may or may not show up within the next three hours)

Anyway, before I get to popping a blood vessel...

I love October because it's fall, which is far and away my favourite season. The temperature's (finally) comfortable both at noon and at midnight...some nights we'll even turn off one of our bedroom fans!); the leaves are a symphony in colour; the air is crisp and tart...it's just perfect.

I hate October because of Devil's Night, which is Oktoberfest for the younger set...and now that I own my own house my anxiety has at least tripled.

Happy October to everyone. Only 74 days 'til Christmas, you know!