30 May, 2012

Frightening

click to enlarge--if you dare


The above is an actual resume submitted somewhere in Ottawa, as found on Reddit

It is disturbing and depressing. Terrifying, even.

After you've skimmed through this thing and noted the lowlights highlights, check out this person's education. He (I'm assuming it's a he; girls usually care a little more about how stupid they appear in public) claims to be in grade twelve. The final year of mandatory education in Ontario. I wonder what his future educational plans are. Does he want to perhaps major in seince? 

And in terms of future employment, the possibilities seem limitless. Government always has fileing to do, after all. Or he might just spend the rest of his life working at Tim hortians and hangging with his friends. 

I AM NOT BRAGGING when I say I knew how to spell every word in this resume by grade two, I distinctly recall getting in a heated argument with a classmate in second grade over how to spell the word "operation" (he was dead certain it was spelled o-p-e-r-a-s-h-u-n). The teacher had to intervene because I was actually offended that somebody would insist on spelling a word like that wrong. 

By fifth grade I was helping craft resumes for my Mom, resumes that were fairly effective. What I mean to say is that the above "resume" fills me with something very close to existential horror.

First, of course, there's the disturbing fact this person is almost finished with his schooling, yet he can't spell simple words. I've railed against this reality before: it has gotten to the point where I wish I was Conservative so I could simply ignore it. Not only is this 'creative' spelling allowed, I'm told it's actually encouraged. This is supposedly because (a) actual written communication is almost extinct and (b) spell-check systems are evolving to the point where soon everything you type will be automatically perfected. 

(Incidentally, how did this aspiring job-seeker miss the numerous red squiggly lines scattered throughout his masterpiece?)

I have two objections to this notion that correct and proper spelling is no longer necessary. One, autocorrect isn't anywhere near perfect, or even remotely competent. I can't understand for the life of me why people don't just turn this "feature" off. (Then again, I still don't really understand very much about texting in general, so ignore the old fogey behind the curtain.) And given the first objection, the second obtains: spelling things properly, along with using correct grammar, may not be strictly necessary anymore, but isn't it desirable

The very few times I have been caught out with some kind of error in a document I've made public, I have reacted with (internalized, of course) abject shame. I do not like to appear stupid. I always thought  this was a defining characteristic of humanity in general. But the older I get and the more examples of so-called 'professional' communication I run across, the more I realize that many people don't care how stupid they look. I do not understand this mindset. I am thoroughly incapable of assuming this mindset, and therefore I have no empathy whatsoever for the stupid people. This is, of course, a failing of mine, and I'll own it. But the people are still stupid, and I have no problem saying so.

Good God, man, if your spelling is that atrocious, get somebody else to write your resume! Then again, if you feel that 'hangging with friends' [sic] is something that belongs on a resume in any form, you need extensive remedial education before you can even think of working somewhere.

25 May, 2012

The Flip Side of the Coin

So what brought that on yesterday? Why did I feel the need to publicly affirm I've got it pretty damned good, when normally such a statement goes without saying?

It's because the law of gravity has been repealed. ("There is no gravity: the Earth just sucks.")

No joke, it seems like the world is teetering on a precipice of late, and my personal world, well nowhere near as dramatic, has reflected some of the zeitgeist.

Larger world first. It's wobbly. Greece is fixing to abandon the Eurozone; the fact it never should have been admitted in the first place has finally dawned on the movers and shakers. The markets continue to be held aloft on who knows what, but most people look at the stock market nowadays and snicker. (The Dow's new motto: "Delusional since 2008!") Everywhere I look I see jobs disappearing, wages being cut, pensions being slashed, and the government -- which used to at least pretend to be on our side, once -- is firmly in the pockets of Big Business and says as much in every press release. What's more. they've cunningly cultivated a widespread anti-union sentiment, such that an increasing number of Canadians are actually cheering the race to the bottom. Surely they'll change their tune when it's their wages. What's frustrating is that the Canada I grew up in had an intrinsic understanding that, to quote Marcus Aurelius, 'what benefits the hive benefits the bee'. But lately it's been 'SCREW YOU, I'VE GOT MINE'. And this is considered healthy.

Besides unions, our federal government has essentially declared war on science and the environment. Their every action betrays a wilful ignorance of reality...and that, more than anything else, is depressing.

Quebec gets it. The rest of Canada thinks the ongoing protests in Montreal are about a tuition hike. They are, in the sense that the First World War was about Gavrilo Princip. The reason the modest tuition hike is causing so much consternation is simple: Quebeckers are being asked to pay more for an education that increasingly means less and less, in a corrupt environment where dreams go to die. If the rest of the country was imbued with even the slightest Gallic sense of outrage, we'd all be protesting too.

It wasn't that long ago that a university degree meant, at the very least, a good shot at stable, long-term employment that paid a living wage. Today a B.A. is a glorified high school diploma and even a Ph.D.  could leave you with more debt than prospects to pay it off.

Remember those halcyon days when one breadwinner could buy a home, furnish it, and raise a family in it? Now, granted, we forget how many luxuries we deem necessities nowadays, but the point remains: in many Canadian cities a home is out of reach for anyone not making six figures. And even then, you won't actually own your home for decades. Not pretty, and likely to get worse.

Personally...

Starting with Eva's dad and his cancer. See, here's the thing. I wrote a Breadbin entry a couple of weeks ago that barely scratched the surface. No disrespect meant to my father or stepfather: I wish I had   gotten to know John Hopf better than I have since I married his daughter.  I respect and admire him tremendously and more than anything, I wish I could tell him so in person. Day to day life seems like such a flimsy excuse when shoved up cheek by jowl with mortality. So I have to work. Yeah. I bet he wishes he could.

That friend I dumped? Is going to stay dumped, and that's still bumming me out. I had hoped she would see reason. I should have known better.

Add in the stress and strife of workaday life that we all deal with and things just seem a tad desolate of late. I've been averaging about five hours of sleep a night, which is nowhere near enough, but short of displacing the contents of our chest freezer -- which I'm pretty sure would land me in trouble -- I don't know how to increase that number.  Ah, well, this too shall pass. I need to remind myself of my last post and expand on it in my mind. Above all, I must think positively. Instead of saying "I won't succeed", I'll say 'I WILL fail!"




24 May, 2012

The Good Things, Part 1

Whenever I'm feeling put upon, irritable with fatigue, or just plain (ahem) hotter than the hinges of Hell, I try to take several mental steps back and look at the good things in my life. Of which I have an abundance.

I'll detail the obvious ones first.

 Eva. She's a big one.

 She's spent parts of the past several weeks, quite rightfully, taking care of her dad, which has left me by turns lonely and pissed at myself for feeling something as trivial as loneliness, given the situation. It's just that, as I said recently elsewhere, despite having been together for nearly thirteen years, I for one still feel newly wed. It's interesting, though, to recall my life's circumstances just prior to our first meeting. I'd been without a girlfriend for a couple of years at that point, and had only recently come to fully accept that fact. I won't say I cherished being alone, but I was okay with it. Somewhat content.
It was only in hindsight that I realized how much I had clung to previous partners. Lynne, Cathy, if you're out there somewhere, I am sincerely sorry for the divots. The mere thought of being alone terrified me. For no good reason, as it turns out. "Alone" is a state of being; "loneliness" a state of mind.
Eva did not and does not complete me. I am a complete human being in my own right. What she has done -- among many, many other things -- is allow me to be that complete human being. To challenge me when  I need challenging; to comfort me when I need comforting; to share the journey of life. I can state with certainty there are very few people out there who would make half the lifemate for me that she does.

My friends, without whom my days would be duller than dishwater. Thank you for the rays of sunlight you have so generously shone my way. I love you all.

My pets, Tuxedo, Georgia-Peach, and the ancient and venerable B.B-cat, who still acts kittenish on occasion. They have enriched my life beyond measure, the three of them. Everybody who has met our Peach has fallen in love with her. These creatures love me unconditionally, and thus serve as a model for how I should love the people in my life.
And really, there is something to  be said for the life's philosophy of a dog: if you can't play with it, eat it, or have sex with it, pee on it and walk away.

When work gets me down -- and let me be clear in saying that as much as I occasionally miss my last job, I don't regret my new job one bit -- I reflect that (a) I have a job that (b) pays enough, and is (c) located close enough to my house that I can actually come home for lunch. That last is worth a lot. Given that I do not and never will drive, my career horizon has narrowed beyond most people's easy comprehension. Finding a job close by that suits me as well as I suit it is something akin to a moderate lottery win, is my view. And yes, there are good people at my new store. Many of them. People that after just seven months, I actually look forward to seeing in the morning. Which is, of course, the whole point of a job. You thought it was the money? Nah.


What else makes my life? Music. Piano music, much of it Russian, is gradually overrunning my iPod, but I still have pop and country and progressive metal and jazz and a whole lot of brass band and world and who knows what else.  Nothing is better for shaping a mood.  If I'm stressed, a little Levon Minassian will set me right in about ninety seconds. I have a whole playlist of material to go to if I'm feeling negative. Something like Great Big Sea will fix that in a hurry.


It's just an ordinary day, it's all your state of mind
At the end of the day you've just got to say it's all right...


Books. I'm currently neck-deep in Neal Stephenson's REAMDE,, which is living up to, if not surpassing, the hype of its reviews. I've had absurdly good luck picking out books I tend to enjoy the hell out of, which is probably why I'm still allowed to just buy a couple at a time.


And so on down the list until we get to the little pleasures, the things that bring a smile to your face not in spite of but because they're so small. The indescribably right feeling of putting on fresh socks. The taste of a cold Diet Pepsi. The gentle caress of a hot shower. Bedtime. Well, actually, if I was being honest, bedtime would rank just below Eva in my personal pleasure palace, and you get your mind out of yon gutter. Not for nothing did I give this blog an epigram from a poem by Charles Mackay:


I have lived and I have loved;
I have waked and I have slept;
I have sung and I have danced;
I have smiled and I have wept;
I have won and wasted treasure;
I have had my fill of pleasure;
And all these things were weariness,
And some of them were dreariness;--
And all these things, but two things,
Were emptiness and pain:
And Love--it was the best of them;
And Sleep--worth all the rest of them.




Speaking of which...the bed beckons. And I feel better. Still, more must be written. On the morrow, dear reader. Good night.

21 May, 2012

Drip...drip...drip...

I will try to keep the bitching, whining and moaning to a minimum this season. Try. I can't guarantee success. Maybe it'll help if I get it out of my system right now.

It's hot.

It's too #$&*ing hot.

I'm not cut out for summer in southern Ontario. When the temperature gets much above 20 (68F, otherwise known as 'room' temperature), I get cranky, and when it settles around 30 (87F) or higher for a spell, I get downright miserable.
We get one day of lead time before the house starts exuding heat, inside and out, like a giant bellows in a blacksmith's foundry. The thermometer in the kitchen reads 28, the humidex is somewhere around sweaty-seven, and the design specs on my model of skin pallor are surely exceeded.

Nights are worse.

Yes, we do have an air conditioner in the bedroom...but if the temperature outside goes below 20 overnight, it'll freeze up, so it's only good on the nights that are still to come. So we make do with the Twindow fan, the fan at the base of the bed and a ceiling fan. Problem being that the more weight I have on me at night, the better I sleep...but on summer nights a sheet is often enough to make me start steaming.

Central air would solve this problem...if we didn't have electric baseboard heat, or if we were made of money.

There's a nice breeze coming through here now: the temperature has dropped ten degrees in the past two hours. It's still beastly hot in the house no matter how many windows we open. People wonder why I go to bed so early--it's 8:30 right now, and I'm almost ready--well, I get up at five whether I have to or not, and the biggest reason to get up at five when I don't have to is the temperature is (usually) refreshing.

Sometimes I wonder if I'd be better off living in Antarctica...

17 May, 2012

Depart From Me, I Never Knew You

I'm losing a friend.

This isn't the first friendship I've sunk, nor even the first friendship of long standing. (Though interestingly enough, this time it's the only other person I mention in that Breadbin entry.)

It hurt to dump Jen. It damn near kills to dump Darlene.

I've written about Darlene before...twice. Which is nothing to the number of times I wrote about her in 1988 and '89, let me tell you. Her name appears in my diary an average of more than once a day over those two years. (No, I wasn't a stalker...just a sad, forlorn, lovesick teenager.) The friendship spiked in the summer of '89, trembling on the knife-edge of becoming something much deeper, then settled down into a low drone. I lost contact with her for a few years, eventually found her again on Facebook, and picked up the threads as if they'd never dropped. She was my first love, and it does not detract from my love for my wife one iota to say I never stopped loving her. Still do, in fact, which is why this hurts so much.

I've tried to make allowances for her devout Christianity, just as she has no doubt made allowances for my  heathenism. (Wow, that's a word.) We've had our friction points and invariably we've stepped back and agreed to disagree. Our politics don't mesh well, either, but I think that's related: when you get that deep into a faith, it informs -- some would say infects -- everything you believe. This is called fundamentalism, and whether the single track leads to Allah, Jesus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's abhorrent.

So today, I learned -- from Darlene -- about this exhibit at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. She was predictably disgusted: God forbid kids learn about healthy sexuality. I mean that literally: apparently her God forbids it. She reproduced this letter sent to the government from something called the "Institute for Marriage and Family Canada" complaining about the exhibit. (I'm always on edge as soon as organizations like this make an appearance: their definition of "family" and mine don't match. Here they are upset that kids as young as twelve might see (gasp) s-e-x. One wonders what planet these people are living on. It certainly isn't mine.
Montreal isn't on that planet, either. When the exhibit showed there, there wasn't a single complaint.

The first boner of contention (sorry, can't help myself) had to do with the supposed lack of abstinence teaching. Well, there's two good reasons for that. The first is that this is an exhibition called "Sex". Have you ever seen a math class without numbers?
The second reason is much more telling to the fundamentalist frame of mind. ABSTINENCE 'SEXUAL EDUCATION DOES NOT WORK. Not if your objective is fewer teen pregnancies and fewer abortions. If your objective is following Scripture in total ignorance of its effects in the world, well, knock yourself out. All I ask is that you either admit you're being willfully blind, or that you actually do want more teenage pregnancies and more abortions.
I could cite study after study showing that, for instance, in places like the Netherlands where exhibitions like this might not have age limits at all, teen pregnancy is virtually unheard of. Comprehensive sex ed there starts in kindergarten.
No matter how many studies I cite, Scripture would trump all. I can't help getting angry at that. It reminds me far too much of our wilfully ignorant federal government. "Don't bother with alternate points of view and seriously, don't bother with facts to support them. We're Conservatives and fundamentalists. We don't listen and we don't care."

Or as she said: "There is no Christian education in this exhibit at all." I couldn't help thinking of the book burners who got rid of everything except the Bible on the grounds that no other book was necessary.

That passage pushed me right to the edge. What tipped me over was her insistence that homosexuality is "not okay", is "abnormal", is "not right". That "God did not design the human body to have sex other than the 'normal' way". One man, one woman.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with one man, one woman. That's my marriage, and it's a great one.

But I have friends and relatives who are gay. How can I be friends, on any level, with someone who thinks these loved ones of mine are "abnormal" and "not right"?

What if it had been me? I would have lost out on what was, at one point, a pretty solid friendship.

What if it had been her? I asked her that tonight. I'm very interested to hear the answer to that. It's the only thing that kept me from outright unfriending her.

Doubtless I will miss countless Christian nuances here. I'm no longer capable of parsing the simplest Christian sentence. I can't read "love the sinner and hate the sin", for example, without seeing "hate the sinner" instead. When the "sin" is something intrinsic to your very nature such as your sexual orientation....Have you ever heard that song that goes "it's you I love, not the thought of you"? I always thought those were the stupidest lyrics I ever heard in my life: I love you so much, but every time I think of you, I puke.

Well, that's "love the gay person, hate the fag" for you. It's also, oddly enough, very apt to describe how I feel about dear friends with hateful attitudes.

15 May, 2012

What To Do With Monsters?

"But most tragically of all, you have snuffed out the life of a beautiful, talented, vivacious little girl ... And for what? So that you could gratify your twisted and deviant desire to have sex with a child. Only a monster could commit an act of such pure evil. You sir are a monster."
--Justice Thomas Heeney, to Michael Rafferty, upon sentencing him for first degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault




Sir, yet.


I can think of many things to call Michael Rafferty -- monster is perhaps the mildest of them -- but I don't think he merits sir.


Rafferty was convicted in the bludgeoning death of eight-year old Victoria "Tori" Stafford, who was abducted on her way home from her Woodstock, Ontario public school on April 8, 2009. Rafferty's then-girlfriend, Terri-Lynne McClintic, procured Tori for him, in a chilling echo of the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka case twenty years ago. 


Tori was raped and beaten to death with a claw hammer. Despite being convicted on all counts, Rafferty maintains he is not guilty. Presumably he believes McClintic is. (Terri-Lynne did, in fact, plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.) An appeal is planned. Little good it'll do. Tori will remain, tragically, dead. 


The jury came to their conclusion without being apprised of several pieces of damning evidence. In Canadian jurisprudence, computers are no longer considered things but are instead deemed places, and therefore require their own warrants to be legally searched. No such warrant was obtained for Rafferty's laptop, and the Google searches ("how to abduct a child", among others) and child pornography were thus inadmissible evidence. I hate to admit I agree that this was the right move. It's a damn good thing there was enough evidence to convict Rafferty without the stuff in the darker corners of his hard drive.


Longtime readers will know that I am generally not a fan of the death penalty. which has not existed in Canada since I was four years old. There are far too many people wrongfully convicted of murder for me to feel comfortable with capital punishment. And in many cases, killing the killer is simply a reflexive action, borne out of a spiritually juvenile desire for revenge.


There are exceptions.


Where there is incontrovertible evidence--never mind a shadow of a doubt, a molecule of doubt is too much--I believe some people should be expunged. People like Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. People like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_Olson">Clifford Olsen. People who brag that they did it, have photo or video proof of themselves doing it, and have every intention of doing it again. 


People like Rafferty and McClintic?


I'm not sure. I will say this: I don't see the point in keeping this thing alive. And I have a real problem with the sentencing: "life" means no chance of parole for 25 years. I don't like seeing qualifiers...it should read life, with no chance of parole. Never mind that, Rafferty got ten years for the sexual assault and ten years for the kidnapping. Both sentences, as is custom in this country, will be served concurrently with the one for murder.  In other words, it's new math: 25 + 10 + 10 = 25. Doesn't seem, dare I say, just


And then again, if you're going to lock this guy up for the remainder of his natural life, as I would argue you have a moral duty to do...is there any reason that natural life should be prolonged, at a huge expense to the taxpayer? Child-killers are routinely  segregated from the general population in prisons, "for their own safety". I will rephrase that. Monsters who violate the safety of childhood in the most hideous ways imaginable are assured personal safety in jail. 
How does that make you feel? Bad? Sad? Mad? All of the above?


Our judges and juries in this country do a very good job with the tools at their disposal, most of the time. Justice was undoubtedly served in the Tori Stafford case. A pity that justice is so cold.

06 May, 2012

State Of The Art

My latest musical obsession is one I appear to share with much of the world: Gotye.
As usual, I'm late to the party: the song Somebody That I Used To Know unaccountably managed to reach #1 in eighteen countries--and stick there for quite a while in many of them--before I'd heard it so much as once.

(Aside: it appears I really should watch Glee if I want to keep ahead of the curve in modern pop. That said, I probably won't. Right now I'm willing to set time aside for one television show a week, and there ain't nothin' gonna touch Game of Thrones.)

I pirated its album, Making Mirrors, listened to about half of it, went to bed, and then started dreaming some of the songs, including that one. I woke up singing it. At that point I erased the pirated copy from my hard drive and went and bought the album in iTunes. The deluxe version, no less, with six videos. I've got the other two albums as well, the first of which iTunes declines to stock: apparently they don't want my money. Since then I've listened to all three albums on shuffle, and will continue to do so for some time yet.

One of the songs off Making Mirrors is called "State Of The Art". It's a campy and deeply creepy love song to the Lowrey Cotillion D575, an actual electronic organ ca. 1981 (retail cost at the time: $15,000).

Dig this:




This is supposed to be a fun video. But watching this animated family fall in thrall to the Cotillion brings up a host of unpleasant associations. Musically, it conjures ELO's "Yours Truly, 2095". Literarily, for some reason the rhythmic dancing organ dredges up IT, the brain that governs Camazotz in Madelaine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. And personally, I can't help but think of my own personal Cotillion: the Internet.

"Now we don't want to go out/when we could spend the night at home..."

and, most tellingly,

"...but these amazing simulations end up sounding even better than the real thing".

Gotye's referring to synthesized music, but his words certainly apply to the synthesized relationships many of us seem to prefer in this "state of the art" digital age.

We are slaves to our machines. I know people who have named their phones, and we all have seen people reach for them instantly at their every least chirp and buzz, as if delay means physical punishment. I've managed to avoid that snare, but by no means should you think I'm some kind of superior being: the computer in this living room has an unnatural pull, seeming bigger than the rest of the furniture. Quivering. Pulsing. Let me feed you. Let me pour information into you until you DROWN. 

"I'll put the Genie Bass on so my left hand can play the choir/ with 16' Diapason and Lowrey's patented Orchestral Symphonizer..."

03 May, 2012

The Right To Be Offended

Anyone who thinks the U.S. is just Canada with guns, or that Canada is just the U.S. with health care, needs to read a couple of stories.

Compare...

...and contrast.

The first story concerns Dan Savage, the openly homosexual relationships columnist, and a seminar he gave in Seattle. He said the Bible is full of, quote, "bullshit". At which point several Christians in the audience staged a walkout, and all hell continues to break loose.

Meanwhile, here at home, a student in Nova Scotia was suspended from school for wearing a T-shirt that reads "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus". Some students and teachers, whose lives are evidently wasted, were offended. The student is recalcitrant; he's prepared to sit out the rest of the year if need be.

You get the sense that T-shirts reading "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus" comprise the top half of many school uniforms, Stateside. And that if Savage had given his talk in Chester Basin there'd be barely a media blip.

People who think they know me are expecting a one-sided rant against Christianity along about now. People who really know me understand I'm not going to oblige them.

Oh, it is Savage's right to claim the Bible is full of bullshit if he wants to. The United States still has freedom of speech. And if you actually read his remarks, you'll find he's urging Christians--every one of which has chosen to ignore other bits of Levitical, um, bovine excrement without divine smiting--to simply ignore the part of Leviticus that claims Savage and his kind are "an abomination".

I'm actually just as upset about the Nova Scotia case. There is no demonstrable harm in wearing a T-shirt that says "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus".  I happen to disagree with the sentiment, and I defy any Christian to tell me that, for instance, the life of Plato was a waste. Or Gandhi's life, for that matter. Am I offended by a T-shirt like that? Yeah, actually, I am, because it implies my life is a waste.

But since when does being offended equate to being harmed? 

As it so happens, I'm something of an expert in this field, because I used to be bullied, and I've spent a lifetime being offended (often by things the rest of you human beings find utterly unremarkable). I've got a crude sense of humour and it takes a hell of a lot to cross my line...but you so much as hint at a fat joke and I'll have to restrain myself from fattening your lip.

My take is that something like "Life Is Wasted Without Jesus" is mildly offensive. "Atheists Burn In Hell" is slightly more offensive--I know I'd be plenty offended if hell was something I believed in, anyway. And "Kill 'Em All and Let God Sort 'Em Out" is harmful insofar as anyone takes it seriously. (Don't laugh, because a few people would, and do.)

Or, from the other side, "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" -- mildly offensive. This--
--slightly more offensive, not to mention just plain wrong. (There are no children in my family. Am I normal?)

And something like "STICK NAILS IN THE EYES OF ALL FAGGOTS (FOR GOD!) --which I first saw in the Prologue to Stephen King's It and was appalled to find written on a brick wall here in my home town a few years back--that's potentially very harmful indeed.

So long as the message isn't actually inciting hate, what's the big deal? "JESUS SAVES isn't any more harmful than JESUS SAVES you from thinking for yourself". If your faith, or lack thereof, can't take a public rebuke, you need to rethink that faith (or lack thereof).