28 July, 2007

Tory, that idea stinks.


I'm a lifelong Conservative. Raised in the Reform school, I've been getting progressively more, well, progressive the older I get. I almost voted for Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals last provincial election.

Almost. His platform looked pretty good, if I could get past that icky Liberal thing. What really impressed me was the (now infamous) quote "I won't cut your taxes. But I won't raise them either."

I can't tell you how shocked I was to be impressed by such a thing. I jerked my political knee right out of its socket a long time ago repeatedly calling (screaming, whining) for lower taxes. Now here was a politician actually announcing he had no intention of cutting taxes (at all! at all!) and I'm thinking of voting for him? That's like a quintessentially straight guy suddenly contemplating a gay lover.

In the end, I voted Conservative, but not out of any great love for Ernie Eves: I was really casting my vote in favour of my MPP, Elizabeth Witmer, who had done what I considered to be a commendable job. But to this day I remember my hesitation in the voting booth.

You see, McGuinty seemed so honest...

Cue guffaws of laughter. Has there ever been a politician less honest than Dalton McGuinty? He's broken practically every promise he made in that campaign. Some of them he's broken repeatedly. Every year, the date to close Ontario's filthy coal-fired electricity plants gets shoved back eighteen months, for instance. It'd be one thing if there was a plan, any kind of plan at all, to replace that power. Then Dalton could announce "there's been some delays in the construction of the new nuclear facilities: we'll have to rely on our coal plants until they're up and runnning." But there are no new nukes. Instead, we will make up that shortfall in power by purchasing from the U.S...from coal plants considerably dirtier than our own. Oh, yeah, that makes sense.

The list of broken promises goes on and on. He was going to roll back tolls on Highway 407--they've gone up six or seven times. Highway 407 has simply got to be the most expensive toll road in North America. You can travel the entire Ohio Turnpike for less than the cost of traversing Toronto.

(High tolls may be a good thing, although gas taxes are supposed to serve that function. No matter: the promise was made.)

They promised balanced budgets, then promptly ran a deficit. They promised ministers would take a pay cut for running a deficit. Never happened. You name a promise, they shattered it. The biggie, of course, was that new health tax they brought in almost immediately, while simultaneously delisting (privatizing) several medical services--two broken promises in one!

But see, says McGuinty, that wasn't a tax, it was a "premium". I don't know, Dalton...whether you call it an anus or a rectum, it's still an asshole.

There's another provincial election FINALLY coming up in October. Ever since that first big promise turned out to be a lie, I've been counting the days until I could boot McGuinty in his metaphorical ass (rectum, anus). My wife feels even worse: she did vote for him in 2003. Between the two of us, we wish we could cast about thirty million ballots.

But what always happens to me politically is happening again. I really wish that just once, just once, I could unreservedly vote for someone, rather than having to vote against somebody every frigging election. I voted for Harper, despite some serious misgivings, because I just couldn't bring myself to reward Martin's Liberals for AdScam. (Actually, I can't believe anybody could convince themselves to trust that gang of thieves, but lo and behold many did.)

Now it's happening again. I'm not sure I like John Tory much.

Oh, he would have made a great mayor of Toronto, I think. Certain much better than his Blondness, union shill David Miller. But Premier of Ontario? I don't know.

Consider his latest: he wants to divert funds out of the public education system to fund faith-based schools.

This is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin. What I find most amazing is that Tory's actually lauding this as an inclusive policy. How's that again? We already have one too many religious school systems in this province. How does further segregation bring people together?
Parents who send their children to faith-based schools think this is great news, of course. They've been arguing for years that they're subsidizing, through their taxes, an educational system they're not using, and that they shouldn't have to pay twice. Which sounds fair--until you stop and think about it for, oh, half a second.
Nobody forced these parents to enroll their kids in religious schools: it was something they freely chose to do, knowing full well the costs involved. Having moved next to an international airport, do you complain to the media about all those noisy planes? Having accepted a job that pays a certain wage, do you turn around and strike for a higher wage?
(Wait a second. Don't answer that.)

My view, for what it's worth, is that in a country which claims to support the separation of Church and State, the State has no business propagating the claims of any particular Church, particularly not to its children who are too young to understand what they're being taught.

In other words: one public system.

This has nothing to do with my (admitted) disdain for organized religion. Religious faith ought to be a private matter between a person and his/her god(dess)(es). By all means, teach children about religion--it has been, and continues to be, one of the most important influences on society. But teaching one particular religion over another denies a child the opportunity to choose for herself what to believe. It also goes a long way towards preventing interaction between children of different faiths...surely not something a multicultural society ought to encourage.

It's sort of like politics, now that I come to think of it. Would you send your kid to Republican school? Hell, even if I was an ardent Republican, I wouldn't do that.

I believe the appeal of faith-based schools is rooted in fear...fear that your child might grow up to stand for something different than you. So long as that child has come to her beliefs honestly, why should that matter? I submit it doesn't...and I certainly don't think money should be stolen out of the public education system just because some parents disagree with me.

24 July, 2007


Does anyone know where I can get a good ultra-beginner's-level introduction to Canadian economics?
This is one area I find myself woefully deficient in. You name it, I don't understand it. For instance:

Today it was reported that the Toronto Stock exchange was down nearly 400 points, the steepest one-day decline in some seven years. A variety of reasons were given. Retail sales are sharply higher; the price of oil has dropped considerably; there is some fear that interest rates will rise to "cool off" the economy.
Why would we want to "cool off" the economy, he asks, stupidly. I thought a hot economy was a good thing--for us plebes and the fat cats running the show. But no, supposedly this "hot economy" phenomenon inevitably leads, through yet another process I don't comprehend, to "inflation"--which in economic speak seems to be the equivalent of "the deepest darkest depths of Hell". One person speculating that inflation might rise causes a mini-panic.
Inflation: as far as I know, it means prices go up. So long as wages keep pace, what's the big deal? And if they don't keep pace, it means employers are simply pocketing more profit...doesn't it?
Another definition I've read: inflation is the process by which your money deteriorates in value. Fair enough, except money doesn't have a value in real terms, not since the world abandoned the gold standard. Money is just paper.
So are shares, and it astounds me to think how many shares there are in any given company. I'll hear something like "quarterly profits were $7 million, or twelve cents a share"--my God, that's a lot of shares.
Company stocks, I've noticed, always go up when (a) there's a merger in the works or (b) they lay off a bunch of people. Following that logic, there should be one company producing everything in the world, employing only robots, and its shares would be infinitely valuable.
The above is proof positive that the stock market cares little for the peons that actually drive any given company.
Bonds, mutual funds, GICs, annuities...the complexity goes on and on. This is all stuff that should be taught in school, part of a "Life Skills" curriculum that ought to be mandatory.

Meantime, I'm an economoron.

21 July, 2007

Bye, Atus

I'm baaaaack...
Okay, so I'm two days early. And my mission to get something in the mail en route to publication, fame, and fortune has hit a little snag. I still think it something of a minor miracle that I (mostly) managed a month without blogging. Even more surprising, to me at least, was that I rarely even thought about blogging, or regretted not blogging. It's certainly easy to fall out of habit.

My story, tentatively titled "Sleeping Like The Undead", is about two-thirds done. It concerns a couple (much like Eva and I in an alternate universe: all my couples tend to be) who go out and buy a bed ("write what you know!") only to find it turns certain people into vampires. The premise, I grant you, sounds flatly ridiculous. But I happen to believe that one mark of a good story is convincing a reader to accept the flatly ridiculous. Stephen King is a master at that sort of thing, and while I am no Stephen King, I'd like to think I've learned something from the man.

Like King, I believe that stories are not so much created as they are uncovered. When I set out to write a story--or a blog entry, for that matter--I almost never know how it's going to end, except maybe in the vaguest of terms. Heck, sometimes I don't even know what's in the middle.

This vampire bed story zipped along tickety-boo until I realized I was going to have to write (gasp!) a sex scene.

There's no getting around it. There's no considering getting around it. It didn't occur to me at the outset, but as I dug up more and more chunks of story, it slowly dawned on me that a sex scene was going to serve as a crucial plot point.
And then I got to that crucial plot point, and froze. Shit, I thought, I don't even have the slightest clue how to write this.
Oh, a boilerplate sex scene I could envision in my sleep...and often do, ha-ha. But it is required that this sex scene be (a) plausibly "hot" (not necessarily explicit, but arousing) and (b) written from a female perspective.
The first stipulation's not that difficult, if I'm writing for a male audience. Just ask any woman: it's pathetically easy to excite a man. But (b)'s got me utterly flummoxed. I've read everything from fluffly Harlequins in which the descriptive power yields an uncontrollable urge to laugh hysterically--"he thrust his purple-helmeted warrior into her moist cavern of love"--all the way up through Black Lace and Herotica to Nancy Friday (whose supposedly non-fictional catalogues of woman's fantasies are, quite frankly, disturbing). None of this has given me a handle on writing a believable sex scene from a woman's point of view.

Once upon a time, a whole three months ago, this situation would have resulted in my putting the story aside and donning the "see? see? you'll never be a writer" hairshirt for the umpteenth time. Now it means a little pause while I consider my options. Remove the sex scene and I might as well firebomb the whole tale. I tried writing it from the husband's point of view, which was much easier but just didn't work in context. I can only see one viable option remaining: lower my expectations. Maybe I can't get every woman who reads my story to feel lusty, but I can poll my wife on her favourite sex scenes and write something that will affect her just a little bit.

Meantime, I'll be going to the library some time in the next little while to peruse a copy of Writer's Market. My stories, both "Sleeping Like The Undead" and "Market Share" (check the index at left for July 2006: it's a story in five parts) will be residing in slush piles long before we see slush piles out the window.


Not much happening in the real world of late. The Sleep Number bed has yet to arrive our house...the one they shipped us from Ottawa or wherever showed up at the Sleep Country warehouse damaged, so its brother's coming next weekend.
I'm back on night shift, after much agitation. (Days are unbearably agitating, and so I agitated our District Manager until he forced our store manager to reinstate the night crew.) Eva's almost done the final volume of Harry Potter, which got here at ten o'clock (I'd be neck-deep in it right now myself if she hadn't slept for a couple of hours before embarking on it). I'm also reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, a weighty tome that is by turns fascinating and almost impossibly boring--the catch is that it can be both on the same page.

Hey, I did a blog.


08 July, 2007

This one doesn't count

Just popping in to say--okay, the writing's going so-so, one story just needs some polishing and the other's almost done, and I'll have both in the mail...to somewhere...before I do a real blog entry on July 23.

But why I'm really here: another friend of mine has joined the blogosphere.

I haven't seen Melanie in about fifteen years, but we've kept in touch. She's a woman of many talents. I first met her in the intermission of a Kiwanis Festival concert--she was playing clarinet on a devilishly hard piece called Hounds of Spring. Her band did quite well, as I recall, certainly better than the orchestra I was a part of.
She put her clarinet aside some years ago in favour of stained glass--which was at first a hobby and has now become a career. I could write pages on how phenomenal her work is...or I could just direct you to her site, where you can see for yourself.

Check it out, and bring your sense of wonder.