27 March, 2012

By Hook or By Crook (III)

The difference between a liberal and a conservative, I've come to believe, is that liberals have ideals.

I spend a good deal of time, if not outright angry at the world, at least mildly disgusted and contemptuous of it. That's because it so often fails to live up to my idea(l) of How Things Ought To Be. Whereas conservatives of my (online) acquaintance have been mildly disgusted and contemptuous -- sometimes not so mildly -- of me because I dared to voice the opinion that human nature evolves, that we're getting better.

Albeit oh-so-slowly.

"Better" is, of course, a judgment call: ask many a social conservative and you're apt to hear that things are wrong and getting wronger all the time. Depending on just how socially conservative you are, the wrongness started when the faggots began "getting married"...or when God was thrown out of the schools...or, if you're Rick Santorum, when people started using contraceptives (which means soon after babies started being conceived). Damnit, the next thing you know, they'll start treating towelheads like human beings, killing people just because they're in so much pain they're begging to die, and legalizing prostitution.

Wait a second...

The reaction in our national newspapers runs the gamut from incredulity to inevitability. Both columns are worth the read.

Father Raymond J. deSouza used to write for the Sun and I've always enjoyed (though rarely agreed with) his columns. He is much more considered and considerate than, say, Michael Coren, who makes my blood boil three sentences in. Indeed, as I recall, it was deSouza who wrote a passionate defence of 'traditional' marriage that didn't fall into the usual traps of "marriage is for the begetting of children" and "if we allow gays to marry, then we'll have to allow incestuous  and bestial marriages". I had to actually think to rebut him. I respect that.

Here, too, he makes a persuasive argument that prostitution,  almost always borne of tragic circumstance and perpetuating same, has no place in a compassionate Canada. He's right--if you accept that prostitution must always be borne of, and perpetuate, tragic circumstances. I, personally, don't. It may be my ideals talking, and disdain those if you will, but the sex trade hasn't always and everywhere been held in such low regard. Indeed, as the other linked column shows, historically, prostitution has been sanctioned and regulated by municipal authorities, academia...even the Church.
And in other cultures sex is viewed almost as performance art and its practitioners as artists.

That's not where we are today, in many--not all--cases. (Some hookers genuinely enjoy their work and are in no way exploited.) But many in 'the trade--workers and clients both--hate themselves. Hate creates hate: it's a cosmic law. It's also reversible. A good first step would be to consider prostitution as a public service, not a public nuisance. It is, you know: countries where whoring is legal have a much lower incidence of rape, for one thing.

I'm a liberal: I have ideals. Ideally, prostitution would be a respected profession. I've always thought prostitutes were something akin to psychiatrists who just happen to work naked. Maybe, eventually, they'll be seen that way by more than just me...


21 March, 2012

Love and Marriage, Part I

I don't understand people. Even being one doesn't seem to help. --Spider Robinson

All too often I read something in the paper that utterly mystifies me. Today's mystery article is here.

"Who would want to be married to a person who nobody coveted?" asks the husband of the supposedly alluring Nigella Lawson. This question seems reasonable on the surface, but dig a little into it and there are several layers of wrongness underneath.

First and most facile, most men want to be married to someone whom no one else covets: witness the conventional reaction a husband has when confronted by another man who has a sexual interest in his wife. Yes, some men are aroused by this, but I think they're a minority: most of us feel at least a little insecurity, and some of us let our insecurities rule our rational thoughts.

(Perhaps I should restate that: most men want to marry a women whom everyone else covets, but who magically becomes completely undesirable to everyone but them once the ring is affixed. How exactly that magic is supposed to work is unknown.)

Eva and I have had this chat more than once with the sexes reversed. Not that other women have ever (would ever) show an interest in me, but hypothetically, we've played out the scenario.

"Do you trust me?" I ask.
"Of course", she says.
"Then it shouldn't matter whether or not you trust Skanky McSlutwhore."
"Ah, but women are devious."

You can go endlessly around that particular bush without resolution. Except I have to fight down the totally irrational jealousy myself whenever I hear of another man coveting my wife. I don't hold with jealousy: I consider it a shameful, deeply damaging emotion. It hurts to acknowledge that after many years in this mindset, I am still subject to occasional twinges of it. Why should I feel pain at another's happiness? And isn't it flattering and happy-making to be the object of someone's attention and desire?

So do I trust my wife? Of course I do. Implicitly. Do I trust other guys? Very few of them. And do I feel vaguely threatened whenever Muscles O' Greasestain  shows up in my imagination, let alone in real life? Yeah, a wee bit. I've got no reason to, of course, and she need not worry when his cousin Skanky makes an appearance. But reptilian brain-stems have their own imperatives.

The linked article makes reference to a study conducted at UBC. Seems that married couples told to act the way they did when they were first dating are more charming:


In other words, they put their best foot forward – the kind of foot that wins a mate over other desirous hearts, not the kind that wears comfy slippers around the house and takes it for granted that the competition is over so why bother turning on the romance any more?


I have so many problems with this incredibly common dichotomy that I'm not sure where to begin.

I wasn't out to "win" Eva. I know there are those out there who see life as an endless, Darwinist competition, but I was looking for a lifemate, not a trophy. If Eva had befriended me and gone on to marry someone else, I would have been happy for her and for him. It would have meant that despite all appearances, she wasn't the right person for me.  Having thrice been in love with women who seemed right for me at the time -- one of whom I still count as a close friend -- I can tell you that the search for Mr. or Mrs. Right can lead you through some interesting and yes, enchanting locales.

But since I wasn't out to win a wife, I didn't try to present myself as anything other than what I am. Why would I? Eva would have fallen in love with a lie, and been disillusioned and probably mutinous when the comfy slippers came out.
And despite those comfy slippers that both of us wear, I can assure you I don't take Eva for granted and I certainly don't feel taken for granted myself. After thirteen years, if there was any granted to be taken, I think one of us would be feeling it by now.


16 March, 2012

A question about this "robocall" scandal

So the CBC undertook an investigation and determined that non-Conservative supporters "all over Canada" were misled by phoney phone calls, purportedly from Elections Canada, telling them to report to fictitious polling stations.

If true, this is a scandal of the first order that should prove immediately fatal to the Harper government.

No one is disputing that these calls were made. The talk of the House has concerned little else for the last couple of weeks. There remain several questions to be answered in the official investigation that I fervently hope begins today:

1) Who knew what, when;

2) Just how extensive was this practice, i.e., did the election turn on it;

3) and my own contribution: WHY IS THIS COMING OUT NOW?

If this had happened to me, I would have come home from the deserted 'polling station' I'd been directed to and IMMEDIATELY contacted every media outlet I could find. I would have raised holy hell. But I'm supposed to believe that however many people this happened to--the CBC says over 700 complainants have come forward--all remained silent until right about now?

Or, alternatively, these people did complain and Elections Canada did nothing?

I don't get it.

This represents a subversion of democracy, the kind of dirty trick we send overseers to other countries to prevent. It's absolutely despicable.

Try a little irony, Stephen: it's good for the political blood. You hail from a party (Reform) that supported voter recall. Like every other politician arriving in Ottawa, you promised clarity, accountability and transparency in governance. And your government is famous for its use of the argument "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear". So it's only right and proper that you call a fully independent inquiry into election irregularities...and that you abide by its findings and recommendations.

I think it fair to say that, no matter what, you don't have a hope in hell of winning the next election. So, Stephen...do the right thing.

11 March, 2012

Broken Breadbin

Life is getting in the way of blogging, and not only my life. The Breadbin will be cold for an indefinite period of time. I will explain when I get back.

04 March, 2012

Not this again...

I've written some of what I'm about to write before. I make no apologies. Piano composition used to be my stress relief valve (and still is, for values of emotional stress that defy easy articulation)...but in most cases nowadays my first impulse is to write it out of my system. And the same little irritants keep happening over and over and over until they exert enough cranial pressure that I simply must blog. Either that or explode.

Most of my little irritants are in some way connected with communication--which would be one of my Ten Commandments were it not already implied in the first two. You can't empathize or question without communication.

We are far from the only species on this planet that communicates with others of our kind. But we are the only species entrusting our communication to machines. In so doing, we are gradually losing the ability to effectively communicate at all. (He says, snarkily, using a machine to communicate his points.)

Okay, back up a little.

The Internet is the best tool we've yet evolved for mass communication. It enables me to broadcast this point of view worldwide pretty much instantaneously, and that's a good thing, potentially the best thing. But I'm writing about individual communication, which used to be all about face time and is now a lot more about Facebook.

Seriously--or perhaps that should be 'srsly'--people, many of us, particularly our young, would rather talk on a phone than see someone in person, and would much rather text than talk on a phone. This baffles me. Aside from being dramatically slower (there isn't a person alive who can text as fast as they can talk), it's utterly dehumanizing. There's nothing of "you" or "me" in a text message. Not even a disembodied voice. Just words on a screen. And many of them aren't even words. I've written before about some of the text shorthand I've run across. "Ily" is, for me, the last straw. It saves all of five keystrokes and turns "I love you"--surely the most potent three words in the English language--into gibberish. It says "I love you, but not enough to waste time seeing you, saying it to you, or even typing out the whole phrase." That's not love. That's not even like.

I am very ambivalent about technology. I appreciate it, sometimes I adore it, but often I hate what it has done to our society. I read E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" back in grade five and marvelled that a man writing in 1909 could see this coming. We've gone beyond even his bleak vision, however, because Forster's Machine was essentially a videophone, and text messages have neither video nor voice.
And the speed. In an effort to make texting even half as efficient as talking, words are truncated, vowels are omitted, and an endless series of acronyms are employed, often obfuscating meaning and robbing the communication of its depth.

We've become a shallow society, content to "tweet" like birdbrains. Actually, that's probably an insult to birds: their songs are lovely, and they make a point of singing them to each other, face to bird-face.

There are books of correspondence from and between some of humanity's greatest thinkers and writers, and how many people bother to read such things anymore? They're longer than a couple of screens. I see the acronym "TL; DR" constantly. "Too Long; Didn't Read". I'd counter it with TS; DT. "Too Short; Didn't Think."

Human beings, social animals all, have constructed something called "social media" that is antisocial in the extreme. There's nothing "social" about being alone and bathed in the light of one's monitor, no matter what the Zuckerbergs of the world may believe.

And while we're butchering the English language, chopping it up and feeding it piecemeal into our texting-machines-that-are-still-quaintly-called-"phones", would it kill us to employ the grammar we were taught in second and third grade? There is a difference between you're and your; between to, too, and two; between its and it's; and between there, their and they're. Every day, despite myself, I find I'm in the virtual company of people who evidently never passed grade three. If I routinely made mistakes like these, I'd be ashamed of myself and take corrective measures immediately. But my attitude is antiquated and offensive, I'm told. Ah, well. If it can't quack using the accepted syntax of quackery, it's a stupid duck.




02 March, 2012

And Ken's Your Uncle!

Happy birthday to Alexa Grace Hopf!

And I mean that literally--it really is a happy birth day. Alexa was born at 11:37 a.m. this morning, weighing in at a healthy 8 lbs. Baby, mommy Ally and daddy Jim are doing great.

And I'm an uncle.

That's an old, old, word, uncle. In fact, it ultimately derives from the Latin for 'little grandfather', and doesn't that make me feel, uh, senior.

English is, so far as I am aware, the only language to have a word like avuncular-- "of or relating to an uncle; by extension, kind, genial, benevolent, or tolerant". All four of which are words I hope little Alexa eventually associates with her uncle Ken. (In case you're wondering--I was, but I know I'm weird that way--the female equivalent of avuncular is materteral, "auntlike".

And while we're on etymology, Alexa means "noble" or "man's defender", and Grace of course means "favour" or "blessing".  Knowing this Hopf family as I do, I can tell you right now that this baby is aptly named.

I'm excited...this is the first actual baby in the family. Here's to Alexa Grace. She's got a hell of a mom and dad; I look forward to assuming avuncular duties...