29 February, 2008

Why I Couldn't Handle a Degree In English Literature

Also why I tend to steer well clear of anything that's won a major literary prize. And why the stuff I write may well be popular (I can but dare to dream), but will never be critically acclaimed. At least not by the Critics Who Matter. The ones that expel flatus instead of farting, in other words. AND why the stuff I like to write (and read) is pejoratively labelled "genre fiction".

Long article here:

I came to this essay after reading THE ROAD, by Cormac McCarthy, an Oprah-endorsed, Pulitzer-Prize-winning postapocalyptic novel I had extremely high hopes for. I'd forgotten, of course, that Pulitzer Prize winning fiction must be literary above all else.

THE ROAD is a work of undeniable power. It's a crying shame its author chose to write it the way he did: in complete ignorance of the laws of English grammar, and that's just for starters. The story is chock-full of sentence fragments, there are next to no apostrophes, and none of the quotations are attributed. The pace is glacial, despite McCarthy's stuttering, rapid-fire prose. I was repeatedly lifted out of the story, wondering why a certain word was used, or why the author had abandoned any semblance of sentence structure.
Story, damnit, story!
I want to see people I care about doing things I'm interested in. I want to see people talking in a language I'd use myself. I want action. Not necessarily a roller-coaster ride from start to finish--a crisis on every other page gets mighty boring, mighty fast--but something. I don't want to have to hack through thickets of pointless verbiage, or dig through metaphorical strata until my arms get so tired the book falls shut of its own accord.
And most of all, I don't want author intrusion. Look at me, look at these fine sentences I've painstakingly crafted! I THINK DEEP THOUGHTS! REWARD ME! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!

Oh, go take your Pulitzer and shove it so far up that you cramp yourself, you pretentious, elitist snob.

This is also what I couldn't stand about Honours English Language and Literature (HELL)...the endless search for "meaning". Why is it that everything has got to "mean" something? In the words of Stephen King, why can't a story just be a story?

CadScam?

I admit it: I've given Stephen Harper and his Conservatives something of a free ride.

It's not that I'm "Steve"'s biggest fan. It's just that I have this severe allergic reaction any time I'm told what to think, and over the past few years there's been no shortage of Liberallissimos trying to convince me that Stephen Joseph Harper is the walking, talking Antichrist. Or at least "Antichrist Lite"--Big Daddy being, of course, one George "Dubya" Bush.

Whatever. I don't like George W. Bush at all, but I'd stop well short of suggesting he's evil: merely misguided, in my opinion. And Harper is nobody's "little Bushie". If he was, we'd probably be in Iraq instead of Afghanistan and our economy would be in a tailspin.

I've been neutral tending towards positive on Harper's government. After eleven years of Chretien's government by inaction and almost three years of Paul Martin trying to do everything at once and spinning like a top, Harper's steady, measured approach has been more than welcome...especially since he's had to balance getting stuff done with keeping in power. And stuff has been getting done. There are areas where Harper and I disagree...I'd like to see him craft some real environmental initiatives, and his drug policy is, quite simply, insane. But overall...not bad.
And I might as well admit to a little racism, or whatever it is: it sure is nice to have a PM who can speak English coherently. Note to American readers: if you think Bush's malapropisms are bad, get a load of this:



I haven't been alone in giving Harper a free pass. The blogosphere lit up over the Chalk River incident, but the mainstream media virtually ignored the story, and it didn't affect Harper's polling numbers.

Nothing does seem to affect Harper's polling numbers, for better or worse. Maybe it has something to do with the results of this Nanos Research/Sun Media study, suggesting that Liberal supporters tend to vote by rote regardless of leader, while Conservative voters tend to value policy, regardless of leader.
I can state that in my case, at least, this holds true. I've voted Conservative my whole life, up until the last provincial election...not because I like words that begin with "C", or because Mommy always voted that way (I don't even know if that's true; politics has always been a private subject in my family). No, I voted Conservative because, on balance, I liked their policies on the same three things Greg Weston cited: taxes, crime, and defense. Also because I have this libertarian streak in me that says those are among the very few things government should concern itself with in the first place, whereas Liberal supporters tend to want government to be everywhere all the time. Yecch.

If neither side cares particularly who the leader is, then Stephen Harper's unrelenting emphasis on himself isn't just arrogant, it's pointless.

Getting back on track: Harper's Conservatives have been largely scandal-free; the few things that have flared up have been mostly political, not at all the sordid mess that did in Martin's Liberals.

Until yesterday. And by God, it's as if Harper's making up for lost time. L'affaire Cadman has the makings of a government-killer.

The story is here. In a nutshell, it appears as if (a) money was offered to a dying Independant MP (Cadman) in exchange for his vote on a matter of confidence and that (b) Harper knew about it, condoned it and possibly authorized it. That money may have been in the form of a million-dollar life insurance policy, as Cadman's widow alleges, or not: no matter, it's illegal and unethical.

Cadman did not vote the way he was allegedly bribed to, which proves either there was no bribe or he couldn't be bought.

I do feel compelled to mention, for whatever it's worth, that Chuck Cadman had terminal cancer. There is no way an insurance company would issue a million-dollar policy on someone in his condition. Also that Cadman himself appeared on national television shortly after this offer is supposed to have taken place and denied any offer had been made. However, it certainly appears as if some sort of money was on the table. Even if this can be explained away, the rank stench will linger.

At this point--and I'm avidly watching this story develop--I have just one question:

Why now? This would have had maximum bombshell effect sometime in mid-December, 2005...in the middle of the election campaign. Had this story broken then, we could well have a different government in power right now. Not to mention if I'm Dona Cadman, I'd be outraged somebody was trying to buy my husband's support, and so crassly: I'm running to the media the second I find out about this alleged life insurance policy. That would have been May, 2005...almost three years ago. Why sit on this information this long? To what purpose?

In the meantime, my image of Stephen Harper as a man of no small integrity is taking a serious beating.



27 February, 2008

The World is Going To Hell

Part 576 in a never-ending series

Sore throat, what feels like a fever (if I could find the damn thermometer I'd confirm that), racking dry cough (easily the worst thing, for my money, about having a cold), and general mind-sludge preventing me from expanding on the sixty or so manuscript pages of my ongoing apocalyptic novel.
My world meets its end at the hands of a hellish virus that amps up aggression. It's a far-fetched scenario (I hope), especially versus the "little deaths" I'm seeing in the news each and every day.

For instance, today's roundup:

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, signalled today that he will act to lower interest rates further. He has little choice, having backed himself into a thorny corner. If rates jig up even slightly, the economy will simply nosedive. But lowering interest rates is no small part of what got the States into this trouble in the first place...and making money cheaper is something akin to handing out free crack to addicts.
It would help, of course, if money meant anything anymore. Since the world abandoned the gold standard (there being simply not enough gold to suit the legions of fat cats), the concept of "money" has become more and more abstract. Sure, you and I use money to buy and sell things, because we agree on its worth. But suppose you offered me $100 and I said "that's just a rectangular piece of paper, signifying nothing?" What then, friends and neighbours?
There is a real danger of something like this happening on a global scale as the U.S. dollar continues to tank. Gold edges ever higher, scaling towards $1000 an ounce. Scary to think that just forty years ago, you could walk into a bank with $35 and, by law, walk out with one troy ounce of gold.

Just one U.S. Presidential candidate has noticed this...and of course, Ron Paul is dismissed as a freak. Reinstating the gold standard (or indeed any standard) would be incredibly painful, as it would expose the utter worthlessness of vast sums of "money", but at least whatever was left would have some tangible value. The writedown of billions upon billions is exposing the worthlessness of vast sums of "money", but the object here is to keep playing the game. The U.S. is rather like that poor sap who juggles ten credit cards, using each one to pay off the balance owing on another...and adding more cards whenever possible. As any juggler knows, there comes a point when it all must come crashing down.
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From Statistics Canada, we read that Canadians are spending just ten percent of their household income to food. This sounds like a good thing on the surface--hey, less money devoted to keeping myself alive means more money to play with, right?--until you stop and consider that cheap food is almost invariably unhealthy, laden with sodium, sugar, a surfeit of carbohydrates, and a veritable pharmacy of chemicals. And we wonder why we're all getting fat.
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It's looking more and more like Obama will become The Name on the Democrat ticket. If any Republican can beat him (and I think it unlikely) it'd be John McCain, by far the most moderate of the bunch.
I like Obama...it seems like almost everybody does. And the fact he's a Democrat bodes well for Canada; historically, we get along much better with Presidents from that party. But there's one thing that scares me. Barack (and Hillary, too) are protectionist. They both want to at least rip open NAFTA, if not rip it up entirely. The Canadian dollar (which could almost be said to have a standard of its own, tied as it is to commodities) currently sits above par, a level unthinkable ten short years ago. Between the high dollar and the quicksand of the U.S. economy, our exports are taking a serious beating. New trade tariffs would probably finish us but good. If there are any wise heads in Ottawa, they are frantically seeking new trading partners on other continents. If not...well...

Leaf Talk

Sicker than the proverbial dog, lately. (Why "dog", I wonder?) I don't get sick near as often as I used to, thanks (I'm sure) in no small part to the flu shot I get every year. It also helps that I'm not on a rotating schedule--working at 7-Eleven probably shaved years off my life.
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Hockey non-fans will want to skip this.

NHL trade deadline
There has been a small forest sacrificed to try and get inside the head of Mats Sundin, who refused to waive the no-trade clause in his contract and go to a contender. He says he doesn't believe in the "rent-a-player" concept and that Toronto is where his heart is.
The opinions are all over the map. Some people say Sundin is simply exercising his contractual right, and that as a long-serving captain (and, incidentally, the leading scorer in franchise history), he's earned the right to control his destiny. Some admire the man for what they perceive is team loyalty. Others, noting the return Mats surely would have brought had he waived, and considering he could have signed back with the improved Leafs in the summer, believe he's being selfish, and question his will to win. Some have even suggested he be stripped of his captaincy, which would ensure nobody of any worth signed on with Toronto for a generation or so.
About the only opinion I haven't seen written is mine: that Mats is politely extending a huge middle finger to Leafs management. He's reported to have said he's not responsible for fixing management's mistakes (although he vehemently denies ever having said such a thing). If he didn't say that, he should have: the Leafs management has been nothing short of a joke for years. Sundin, who is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, has been saddled with soup cans for wingers nearly every year he's been in a Leafs jersey. He has quietly produced at a point per game clip while the team around him has deteriorated to the point they're within shouting distance of last place overall. No, not Mats' fault. But he could have done something about it yesterday, jetting off to Detroit or Anaheim or San Jose and possibly pushing the team he joined over the top. And he chose not to.
I get it: the man's near retirement...in fact it wouldn't surprise me overmuch to see him retire the summer. Given his burning desire to remain a Toronto Maple Leaf, he will retire without ever having won a Stanley Cup. I'd question the man's will to win if I hadn't seen him pick the entire team up and carry it on his back for long stretches. He's almost the only man on the team this year performing at or above expectations. No, I don't think you can say he likes losing. Maybe you can take his words at face value: that after thirteen years as a Leaf, donning another team's jersey and winning a Cup would feel cheap to him.
I'm less willing to forgive the other members of the no-trade, no-movement club, particularly whichever one of them it was who waived his no-trade clause late Monday night only to change his mind on Tuesday. At this point, nobody's sure which one of Tucker, Kaberle, Kubina or McCabe it was, although conjecture suggests one of the latter two. Kubina's no-trade clause expires at the end of this regular season and I'm thinking he'll be on the first flight out of town.
It's unlikely anyone will take McCabe at his bloated salary; Tucker, who is also grossly overpaid, is likewise unattractive. Kaberle's a keeper anyway, and maybe the only player aside from Sundin who has earned the no-trade clause included in his latest contract.
Ultimately the blame for handcuffing this team goes to John Ferguson Jr, who handed out all these no-trade, no-movement clauses like so much candy. I'm with Brian Burke, the GM of the Anaheim Ducks, when it comes to no-trade clauses. He calls them coach-killers. "Well," says the player, "you can bench me if you want. But I'll still be here next year, unlike you. You can't trade me, neener-neener-neener."
Given the fact Cliff Fletcher went into trade deadline day with both hands tied behind his back, I think he came out rather well. He made three trades, all for picks:

--Wade Belak to Florida for a fifth rounder

I'll miss Wade. He hardly ever played, but when he did, he gave his all and injected a touch of toughness and swagger into perhaps the softest, most passionless team in the league. He got a standing ovation a couple of months ago for scoring a goal. The fifth round pick doesn't sound like much, but it's a good return on a guy who's almost never used.

--Chad Kilger to Florida for a third round pick

Kilger's another guy who tries. Unlike Wade, he's been in the lineup pretty much every night. He hits anything that moves, almost the only man on the team who does. Has a bullet shot but limited accuracy. Swift skater, fairly soft hands, but never seemed to put it all together and live up to the hype of being a first round pick. Kilger and Belak will make Florida a tougher team to play against.

--Hal Gill to Pittsburgh for picks in the second and fifth rounds

Leaf fans have a propensity to single out a guy, usually on the blueline, and boo him mercilessly for no reason. Yes, he's slow, but Gill is positionally pretty sound and he has the wingspan of an Airbus. Pretty handy on the penalty kill and a mentor to our young D. I think he'll be missed. He was the only stay-at-home defenseman on the Leafs this year. He'll be an asset in Pittsburgh.

Fletcher has made his team worse for the rest of this season...by design. I'm sure he would have done more yesterday were there any takers for the likes of Antropov, White, or Stajan. The idea is to nip this winning-when-the-pressure's-off thing in the bud. The last thing this team needs is a heroic march to ninth or tenth place in the conference. Bring on the lottery pick.

Besides, Fletcher has said he's not done: there will be more moves in the summer. It appears as if the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally going to rebuild properly.
Hope springs eternal in the hearts of Leaf fans everywhere: our motto for four decades has been "maybe next year." That hope is, of course, dashed every season. Well, at last I see signs of genuine hope around this team, not for next year, perhaps, but it's coming.

Around the league, I think Pittsburgh and Washington made off like bandits, and Dallas and San Jose both strengthened already strong teams. Hossa to the Pens was a shocker, and it illustrates the kind of return the Leafs might have gotten for Sundin...two legitimate NHL front-line players, a good prospect, and a first round pick. Damn you and your loyalty, Mats!

18 February, 2008

Winter Break

Barring world-shattering events, I will not be posting for a little while.

Longtime readers will recall a little hiatus I took last July, wherein I promised I'd get something done with my writing. Oh, I wrote, all right. But not as much as I should have. When I ran up against a brick wall in my short story, I banged my head against it for a little while and then gave up.
Well, I've long had a novel incubating on a mental back burner. Unlike the short story, I have a pretty good idea where it's going. Nothing so tangible as an outline--I don't do outlines--but a sort of mental map.
I've doubled its length in the last few days, editing as I go, and it's now sitting at nearly eleven thousand words. What's more, I've barely started...and this time that's a good thing. My mind is fully engaged with teasing out little nuggets of story (I just had a delicious plot twist exfoliate itself in the shower this morning) and I don't think this one's going to peter out on me.
I've resolved to treat this story the way I used to treat my daily diary back when I was a teenager. Back then, it was imperative that I wrote something every day.
That's a start, anyway, and marks a hell of a lot more discipline than I've brought to bear so far. The truth is, writing's the only real ticket I've got out of a dead-end career, and if it takes a little work to cash it, so be it.

I'm not abandoning the Breadbin, but I expect it'll go down to a once-weekly thing for a little while. Have fun and play fair, folks.

14 February, 2008

The Evolution of Godwin's Law

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."--Mike Godwin, 1990

Godwin's Law originally applied to USENET, but now it's seen anywhere three or more people gather to discuss anything that could possibly be controversial. The argument grows warm, then hot, and before you know it Nazis are jackbooting across your screen.
Some online forums have a rule to the effect that whenever Adolf appears, the debate is over, and whoever brought him up is declared the loser. It's a good rule.

Of course, by the time Hitler comes up, I'm long out of the room with the door shut. Arguing's great, but arguing with a fanatic is pointless.

Ask my parents: I used to be about the most closed-minded, black/white, I'm-right-you're-wrong person on the face of the earth. It dawned on me one day that many other people are just as closed-minded, black/white, I'm-right-you're-wrong...and they see things differently than I do. From there it was a short (albeit painful) step to admitting that sometimes I'm wrong, and damned if I'm not wrong a lot these days. I'm a husband; it comes with the territory.

Anyway, I like to argue politics or philosophy or what have you: it exposes me to different ideas and ways of seeing the world, and that's always a good thing. I don't mind different thoughts, but I have a real problem with different thought processes. Which is why I distrust radicals of any stripe: you can't trust them to keep the argument rational. Sooner or later you're being compared with Hitler.

Or being threatened with jail for your "
intergenerational crimes".

I lost what little respect I had for David Suzuki when he came out with that the other day.
Oh, I know how blasphemous that is, for a Canadian to suggest that David Suzuki is full of greenhouse gas...almost as blasphemous as suggesting that our health care system could use a major overhaul, come to think of it. Suzuki's everywhere these days, fancying himself some sort of expert on climate change. As if anybody is. Memo to Dr. Suzuki: you're a zoologist.


I SAY THIS THREE TIMES I SAY THIS THREE TIMES I SAY THIS THREE TIMES: I consider myself environmentally aware; I believe in global warming; and I also believe that we're causing this latest go-round with it to at least some degree. What I do not believe is that anybody can reliably predict the climate fifty or a hundred years out. Feed all the data you want into all the computers you can find: I contend there are way too many variables and things we simply don't understand right now for the output to be worth anything more than sheer kaka. Computer modelling looks like science, but it's just a bunch of people playing with very expensive toys.

"They" know this, too. Almost all climate change predictions are for a date so far in the future as to absolve their predictors from any responsibility.

For Suzuki the zoologist (Ph.D: University of Chicago, 1961) to suggest we should be jailing people who disagree with him on something as monstrously complex as climate borders on criminal itself, as far as I'm concerned. It's certainly un-Canadian.

But I won't say he's a Nazi. I won't.

10 February, 2008

To Your Health

Finally got around to watching Sicko today (thanks, Mom) whilst recovering (still) from my little operation the other day.
Michael Moore paints an idyllic picture of the Canadian health care system. And why wouldn't he? From the outside, particularly from a country like America that seems to discard anybody who can't afford the outlandish sums demanded for simple operations, Canada's government-pay system seems almost perfect. From the outside.
Moore visits a hospital waiting room, one I'm pretty sure I've been in myself at some point--and surveys the population. Nobody, it seems, has been waiting any more than 45 minutes for care. Given my experiences in hospital waiting rooms over the years, that strikes me as rosy to the point of impossibility.
The few times I've been really sick or hurt, I've had to weigh my pain level against what is almost certain to be at least four or six hours sitting in a waiting room--only to quite possibly be given aspirin I could get myself from any drugstore. And that's just the emergency rooms: waiting for the attentions of a specialist, or a specialist's machine, routinely stretches into months, sometimes many months. You could die, waiting. People have.

Then again, the opening scene of Sicko brought to mind an ex-girlfriend of mine and her lettuce-shredder-induced visit to hospital one day in 1991.
We were working, the both of us, at a Wendy's on Highway 401 just outside Woodstock, Ontario. I was on one side of the kitchen, doing some sort of prep work, I forget just what, and she was feeding lettuces into a shredder. All of a sudden I heard her say "uh-oh".
That was it. "Uh-oh."
I turned around and beheld her walking quickly across to a sink. The blood was not immediately discernable. Nothing was, really, until she had her hand under running water. Then something was discernable, all right, screams were discernable, all the way from in town they were as discernable as hell. One of the managers took over, escorting her out of the kitchen, stopping just long enough to tell me to throw out the batch of lettuce Lynne had just shredded.
Gee, d'ya THINK?
Nobody tried to retrieve the two fingertips Lynne had lost--her ring and middle fingertips, just like the guy in the opening frames of Sicko. Wouldn't have mattered if they had--by the time Lynne got to the hospital and was seen and treated, a couple of hours had passed; they couldn't have re-attached anything after that long a delay. So they patched her up somehow and her fingers were ever so slightly truncated and misshapen, ever after.
What they did not do was ask her to pay $12,000 or $60,000. She didn't have to pay a dime, and that would have held true no matter what she'd done to herself.

So that's an unabashed positive point. The negatives, as I mentioned above, have to do with scarcity: not enough doctors, not enough nurses, not enough beds, not enough machines. Not enough money for any of these things. Never enough money. The Canadian health care system is a voracious beast, consuming up to fifty percent of government budgets, and costs are always rising.

I live in a city of half a million people, midway between the capital of the province (Toronto, a metropolis of over four million) and London, Ontario (seen in Sicko and renowned for its medical facililities). You would think a city this size in this area would have doctors aplenty. Not so. In fact, finding a family doctor who's able to take on new patients is something akin to winning a lottery. And that's here in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. In the remote parts of Ontario (and most of this sprawling province is remote), finding a family doctor taking on new patients is more like winning the lottery despite the fact you never bought a ticket. It would actually be a good thing--from the point of view of long-suffering townspeople--if the American myth was true and the Canadian government dictated where a doctor could practice.

The Canadian system is nowhere near as ideal as Moore paints it. Nor, I suspect, are the systems in Britain, France, and Cuba. But that doesn't lessen his attack on the American health care system one cc.

The trouble is not that one system is flawed. The trouble is that both systems are flawed.

There are, as Moore so eloquently points out, vested interests keeping Americans shackled to a broken system. Likewise, there are vested interests up here in Canuckistan doing their utmost to keep our system exactly as it is: one level of mediocrity for all. The merest whisper of privatized health care here is political suicide...despite the fact it already exists. About thirty percent of our system is open to private involvement: it's an open secret. The government doesn't pay for everything.
But to even acknowledge the serious issues in our health care system is to brand yourself a damnyankeebastard. It is, of course, patently unfair that poverty should prevent medical treatment; to my admittedly un-Canadian way of thinking it's also patently unfair to prevent me from spending my own money on my own health care, or that of someone I love, should I choose to.
There is obviously a happy medium to be found here, if only people would look for it. Unfortunately, both sides are far too entrenched in their own positions. Americans will point northward with wagging fingers and cite any number of horror stories concerning Canadians waiting unconscionable lengths of time for surgeries; Canadians will look down their noses at thousands of American families bankrupted by mere illness or injury.

Should a Democrat win the White House in November--a prospect that, barring terrorist attack, seems all but certain from this side of the 49th parallel--it looks as if Americans will be taking their first tentative steps towards socialized medicine. To my American readers regarding that prospect with some trepidation: don't. You need not make all our mistakes, and the hybrid system you really ought to consider would meld the best of both worlds.

08 February, 2008

I'm An Adult Now...

I've all my wisdom teeth
Two up top, two beneath
And yet, I'll recognize
My mouth says things that aren't so wise...
The Crash Test Dummies, "Comin' Back Soon" (The Bereft Man's Song)


Well, actually, all I ever had was the one wisdom tooth, on the lower right. And it came out yesterday. Which is when I meant to do this blog, but between the aftermath of the knockout drugs they pumped in and (ahem) the pain, all I felt like doing was sleeping.


I'll spare you the details, since odds are near certain you've either had it done yourself--up to four times--or at least know someone who's been through it. I will say this, however: we need to bring back capital punishment. Not just for cop-killers, mass murdering scumbags and telemarketers, but for those people who, upon hearing you're going in for an operation no matter how comparatively trivial, proceed to shout out every horror story they've ever heard, or God forbid experienced.
My sister had her wisdom teeth out and her jaw got infected. She missed work for a week and a half.
I was wondering why my jaw was so damn sore...turns out the teeth crumbled and they had to hammer 'em out. Split the gums and everything.
My cousin--Gregor Samsa, have you heard of him?--had his wisdom teeth out. The next morning, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

I had to run the same gauntlet when I had my vasectomy. At least this time the effing anaesthetic took.
I could also do without the people who go the other way. Yeah, I had my wisdom teeth out at ten and was back to work by eleven. Of course, I only realized at noon they'd also removed all my insides and replaced them with cybernetic components. Pain? We doan NEED no steekin' pain, seenhor.
Hey, they told me take two days off. What was I supposed to do, say no? Besides, I've been required to be at work every Saturday since the start of the year (and every fourth Sunday, to boot). Getting a weekend off...it's like pulling tooth.

So now I'm sitting here wisdomless, having just finished gumming some scrambled eggs to death, and coping with the pain of it all. Oh, I won't lie and say it's agony. But put it this way: I'm glad there was only one of those things to come out. I don't know how I'd cope with four.
I used to think that if my wisdom teeth were still around in my mid-to-late twenties, they weren't coming out at all. That was until Eva had hers out last year...and she was older then than I am now. Regardless, I long looked upon that operation as the final gateway between the land of children and grownups. And now, I'm through it: three days after my 36th birthday.

Birthdays--they're like straws on a camel's back, you know? I've never felt their accumulating weight until the last couple of years. This year, I must confess to having gone through a wee funk ahead of time, a mini-depressive episode that lasted about a week and, in hindsight, surprised the hell out of me. I mean, for many years I've been lambasting the culture of youth that pervades the world, and insisting I'm not afraid of growing old. It beats the alternative, right?

So it was something of a shock to have found myself obsessively examining my mental age-markers. These things didn't just suddenly appear...even as a young child I always felt much more comfortable with adults, and easily twenty years older than my calendar age. My musical tastes (some of them, anyway) mirror those of your grandfather and like a true old fogey, I've cultivated an ignorance of popular culture that has served me well.

But over the past ten years or so, it's not just that I'm getting older: it's that the world around me seems to be getting younger. I honestly believe my generation was the last (at least for some time) that was in a hurry to grow up. These days, it seems as if more and more people are living with their parents into their twenties (or even longer); hopping from job to job and relationship to relationship, lacking direction, lacking commitment. Indeed, commitment and its twin term responsibility are now baaaaad words.
"Kidults" or "adultescents" rationalize their behaviour (and have it rationalized for them by parent-enablers and social workers). They say I've got to find myself and marriage is a trap and it takes money, lots of money, to start a family. Also what's the hurry? Maybe...someday...
Of course, they'll rarely acknowledge the truth and say things like I'm afraid. Or I'm gonna live for me as long as possible before I start living for someone else.
Oh, I'm not putting myself on any kind of pedestal: I was incredibly immature when I was a teenager and I still exhibit traces of that immaturity even today. The difference is, I'm ashamed of it. "Kidults" revel in it.
I should add here that I know many teens who are more adult than most adults--the cult of "kidult" doesn't look like it will claim everyone. But still, I find it a tad worrisome that so many people run from the very things my generation used to run towards.
Anyway, I kind of digressed there...I imagine there's a blog post, or a whole series of them, that I could write on "Peter Pan Syndrome" if I didn't find it so depressing.
You know when I first realized how old I really am? When the Paris Hilton sex video was suddenly all over the Internet. 2003, that would have been. Suddenly, seemingly overnight, practically everybody I know had seen it or was at least very interested in seeing it and knew where to find it. Me, I wouldn't have known Paris Hilton from the Hilton in Paris. (I still wouldn't, by the way, and consider this to be but one emblem of my sanity.) Furthermore, the idea of watching some bootleg sex tape held zero interest for me.
This phenomenon has repeated itself countless times in the ensuing years. It seems there's a new Internet craze every day, and despite being on the Internet every day, I never hear about any of them until six or eight months have passed. It makes me wonder what sites people are trolling. Am I missing something on my Google homepage, perhaps? Some line at the bottom that says "click here for today's pointless excrescence of pop culture"?
Back in the long ago 80s, before most of the people I work with were born (yike, there's an ageist thought), I used to listen to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem every week without fail. (Now it's the Vinyl Cafe with Stewart McLean on CBC Radio: like the Pursuit of Happiness says, I'm an adult now). These days, I look at the music charts in the newspapers and find I don't know at least three quarters of the artists and have never heard, oh, ninety percent of the songs. I remember the first time I saw "f." in front of some artist's name on the charts, as in
#6. Kill All Tha Muhfuhs M.C. Gangsta Baggypantz f. Lil' Skank
It took me weeks to figure out the "f." stood for "featuring", and when that revelation burst upon me, I reacted with contempt. Christ, I thought. Not only do these songs have no melody whatsoever, they're laced with profanity and they degrade women first and the rest of humanity second, women are lining up to be "featured" in them. And, Lil' Skank, I thought, if you're trying to abbreviate "little", the apostrophe goes after the first l.
It all makes me think Pink...
I still look in the mirror now and again and wonder what I'm going to do when I grow up. Then I reflect that I haven't been growing up for some time now; I've been growing out instead. By which I mean my perspectives have been broadening. (Yeah, so has my gut, smartass.) Still a long ways to go, of course: I intend to keep living until I'm dead, and who knows, maybe even after that.

03 February, 2008

I Gotta Get This On Tape

Everybody thinks they have the smartest pets in the world. Or the dumbest.
We have both.
Okay, I'm exaggerating: there are undoubtedly smarter dogs than Tux out there and Georgia's not exactly stupid, just...challenged.
Georgia's a scaredy-dog. We have no idea whence this came: we've owned her since she was knee-high to a chew toy and if there's a calmer, more sedate household than ours around here, you'd call it the morgue. If anything, I'd expect Tux to be the skittish one; he was abused as a young puppy and spent months in the pound waiting for us to find him.
But no, Tux is almost fearless...he'll even let a vacuum cleaner get within two feet of him before moving. Georgia, on the other hand, will refuse to come in the house if there's something on the landing she doesn't like. A bag of cat food, for instance. Or a leaf that blew in.
And she's utterly terrified of the baby gate we put up to keep the dogs out of the basement while we're gone. That one, at least, I understand. It's fallen a few times and it makes an awful clattling racket when it hits the hardwood floor.
Like most puppies, Georgia's favourite game is Daddy-throw-the-toy-so-I-can-slobber-all-over-it-and-bring-it-back. She's very good at it, scoring points in and every time for promptness and accuracy of retrieval (often placing the toy directly into your hand) and quantity of drool, which is exceptional. (That said, she's a Boxer/Bulldog cross...any dog playing with her has an automatic three-liter handicap.) Tux, who used to fetch and retrieve with the best of them, now indulgently regards all this horseplay from his dignified position on the couch, reading his canine Scriptures. When I was a puppy, I spake as a puppy, I understood as a puppy, I thought as a puppy: but when I became a dog, I put away puppy things.
Until Daddy whizzes the bedrooled puppy-toy out into the kitchen, where it might bounce around and land perilously close to the Baby Gate of Doom.
Peach (we call her that, she's a Georgia-peach) will tiptoe out into the kitchen, sizing up the situation. Is the BGOD within striking distance of my Georgia-ball? You can actually see her performing the calculations in her head. Carry the six...I think I can...just...get it. She'll mince out there, approaching the Georgia ball from as wide an angle as possible, gingerly extending a paw and ever so cautiously dragging it back. If I do this slowly enough the BGOD won't notice me. Mission accomplished, she'll grab the Georgia-ball in her mouth and trot back in to Daddy, tail a-waggin' and spit a-poolin'.
But what if the Georgia-ball is actually within the shadow of the BGOD? Well, then we have a problem. Peach will tiptoe out, perform her calculations, and not like the results. She'll sit out there and whine...just little whines, the whines of a child who can't seem to solve the equation to her satisfaction no matter how hard she tries. This used to be the cue for Daddy to get up off his arse, subdue the BGOD and restore the Georgia-ball to its rightful owner.
Until one day Daddy's and Peach's calculations didn't match. I felt certain our drooly-Peach could get that Georgia-ball safely; drooly-Peach most emphatically felt otherwise. Stalemate; standoff.
Unbeknownst to any of us, Tux had been watching all this develop. He let Georgia mewl for a little while. Then, with a huge sigh, he uncurled himself and stepped off the couch and strode forward into the kitchen, recovering the Georgia-ball and placing it directly in front of her. With a pointed look at his Peach ("see? That wasn't so hard, was it?"), a look at Mommy ("I'm a good Tux, aren't I?") and a final withering glare at Daddy ("That was a mean thing to do to my Peach! Bad Daddy!"), he then retreated to his couch and went to sleep.
Eva and I looked at each other. Did he just do what I just saw him do? I couldn't have been more dumbstruck if Tux had donned glasses and started reading that canine Scripture aloud.

He has since performed this exact routine several times. We, alas, do not own a camcorder, or you would have seen it by now on Animal Planet.

Tux, again like most dogs, absolutely adores car rides. Peach could take or leave them, mostly leave them. She'll go in the car, most times, if you insist a bit, and then she'll sit there with a look on her squashed Boxer/Bulldog face that says when will this misery be over?
One day, Georgia decided she did not want to join Tux for a car ride, no matter what, end of story, full stop. She stared at the car, and Tux in the car, as if whole regiments of baby-gates were about to march out and surround her. Peach is normally pretty obediant, and she does know "COME", but when she's worked up like that I'm sure she's thinking Come? COME?!! Go arf yourself, I ain't comin'!
We managed to herd her into the house--which she went into quite willingly since it wasn't the car--and took Tux on his own little car ride, stopping at Timmy's for treats (pull into a drive-through and Tux starts licking his chops). The car ride was completely uneventful until we were just drawing back up to Tux's house. As we were about to back the car up into the driveway, a man came jogging by with his dog on a leash beside him. Normally, Tux looks with interest at other dogs, but he keeps his opinions to himself: I've never heard a peep out of him in the car.
But this dog looked just like Georgia.
Somebody was running away with his Peach. Tux started barking fit to split and were it not for our calming words I do believe he would have chewed his way through the window to go get his sister back. We actually left Tux in the backseat while we opened the side door of the house and let the Peach come out where Tux could see her. Then, of course, everything was just fine.

Excuse me. I gotta go love up my puppies.

01 February, 2008

Morning rant

Forgive me, I'm a little bit snarky today.
I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the hockey game I watched last night. If I've ever seen a game more incompetently refereed, I've blocked it from memory.
I don't mind the Leafs losing: indeed, if they're going to miss the playoffs (and they're going to miss the playoffs), I'd much rather they miss by a whole lot and net a great draft pick thereby. But it was how they lost last night that really irks me.
I'm an impartial hockey fan: the reffing was brutal last night for both sides. There were five or six clear Leaf penalties that were not called. That said,

* A Leaf goal was called back because the puck didn't cross the goal line...when repeated television replays clearly showed the puck over the line

* A Carolina goal was allowed despite just as clear evidence it was knocked in with a high stick

* A Hurricane player smothered the puck in the crease, which should have led to a Leaf penalty shot and didn't

* Nik Antropov was called for "hooking" in overtime. He must have solicited a ref for the purposes of prostitution...or maybe he was seen on the Leaf bench fashioning a rug...because he sure didn't hook a Carolina player

* On the ensuing power play, Hal Gill tried to clear a puck and was slashed. No call...and a Carolina game-winning goal resulted.

It's just a game...but last night was a joke. And not a funny one.

On a much more serious note, I'm still seething at all the stories lately concerning kids left to die. I just want to scream. What kind of subhuman does that, anyway? Why aren't we allowed to bury the so-called parents in snowbanks, once we find out who they are?
And then, of course, the bilious aftertaste that I don't think I'll ever lose entirely:
and they thought we weren't fit to parent?
That's a selfish thought, and one I'd dearly like to disown...but I can't. I'm entirely comfortable without kids in my life at this point, but that rejection will rankle forever, I guess.

Then I wake up this morning to hear that all schools in my city, including two universities and a college, are closed up tight today thanks to the 10-15 cm (4" to 6") of snow. Cue the repeat post. If they'd done this in the 1970s and '80s, I wouldn't have received much of an education.
On the radio they're debating whether bosses should give their employees a paid snow day when the weather's bad. Ha. I can assure you no matter how bad the weather gets, I'm expected at work at noon sharp. And that's as it should be. Businesses aren't subject to the whims of Mother Nature.
As far as I'm concerned, the protocol for school closures should be as follows: school board functionary calls up city transit. Good morning. Are your busses running today? They are? Okay, then schools are open.

Four to six inches of snow. Ridiculous.