27 August, 2013

Music! Music! Music!

"Good music is good no matter what kind of music it is"--Miles Davis

I am now a creature of the night again, this time not for a couple of days or a week, but for the foreseeable future.
My biggest issue with nights, given that I'm a natural lark, is sleeping during the day. To that end, my loving wife has procured for me a sleep mask and earplugs. The former is absolutely wonderful: I can put it on, stare directly into where I know a light to be, and see nothing. And aside from it being a little warm--which will be a plus in a few months--I've found it very easy to get used to the feeling of it wrapped around my head...probably because my glasses wrap halfway around my head and I've been wearing them forever.
The earplugs--haven't tried them yet. Not sure I'll need them...we'll wait to see what manner of creature moves in next door. The fans and A/C in the bedroom do a wonderful job of masking external noise with their own white noise. I must admit I'm a bit worried about jamming those earplugs in there and having THIS happen to me:



Not that missing my alarm is any concern just yet, because after a single night shift, it's all I can do to sleep at all. Even fortified with a sleeping pill, I popped awake at 12:30 today. I took another and managed to sleep again from 2:00 'til ten of five. I'm going to keep pushing myself to stay up a little longer in the mornings--I managed 8:00 today and eventually want to be going to sleep at about eleven.

The shift itself, so far at least, is lovely. It's made more so with music. I'll crank up my tunes as soon as the store closes an hour into my shift, and then I have seven hours of magically imparted energy.

"I thought I had an eclectic taste in music", said Eva, who does. "You have an eclectic taste in music."

I really do. When you ask people what kind of music they like, more often than not you'll hear everything...and more often than not they don't mean that at all. "Really? Everything? Opera, Dixieland, death metal, old country ballads?" I've actually had people respond to that with, "well, okay, I mean music."

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."--Plato


There are things I won't listen to. I've never been a fan of free-flow jazz (too unstructured) and while I appreciate the guitar talents of some of the heaviest metal bands, the vocals -- if you can call them that -- are a real turn-off.  Aside from that, I'll at least give a fair listen to just about anything.

I actually appreciate a good deal of today's pop. I don't enjoy Auto-Tune, though: it feels like a crutch to me. That said, it can be used creatively, as it is here...let this one build on you, it's slow but absolutely gorgeous.

Without further ado, selections from Ken's current playlist:

DREAM THEATER--BRIDGES IN THE SKY


I am eagerly awaiting their next album, to be released September 24th. This group together practically sweats musical talent. Not often you hear , a snippet of an Agnes Dei and a rockin' drum solo in the same song.

STOMPIN' TOM CONNORS--AROUND THE BAY AND BACK AGAIN


This is quintessential Stompin' Tom: the late icon specialized in rollicking Canadian ballads. This is almost certainly the only song in existence to specifically mention my dad's hometown of Britt.

CHICAGO-GOD SAVE THE QUEEN


Very famous group: very obscure track. This has one of the best openings I've ever heard. The sax/trumpet stings are just...wow. Depressing lyrics, though.

LA BOTTINE SOURIANTE--LE ZIGUEZON ZINZON


You don't have to know a word of French to appreciate this. If you're not tapping your toes within thirty seconds, you're dead and just don't know it yet.

ASTOR PIAZOLLA-FUGA Y MISTERIO


Another toe-tapper, this one from a different part of the world entirely. Remarkable violin playing here.


"If the king loves music, it is well with the land."--Mencius, Chinese philosopher

25 August, 2013

The B.B. Blog

Look at that, it's a B.B. cat!
--me on many, many occasions, stroking up the purrbox on our little tabby

----------------
The story of B.B begins in a Vancouver pet store. Actually, to call this place (long defunct, now) a pet store is to legitimize what might have been a criminal operation. Certainly the owner didn't care for the animals in his care he told Eva to get out and never come back because she had criticized the store's cleanliness. She observed him kicking at the cages and the cat she had originally tried to buy the day before was gone. Normally this wouldn't be worth mentioning--it's a pet store, somebody obviously bought the cat--but the atmosphere was such that it was at least as likely that cat was sick or dead.
Eva snuck back in the next day and bought B.B., a kitten so small she fit in Eva's pocket.

It would have been mighty interesting to have been a fly on the wall when B.B. met Eva's existing cat, Streak. Of course, our hypothetical fly would have to speak Feline. The first day, Streak hissed nonstop like a teakettle at the little interloper from across the room. The next morning they were right up in each others' faces, Streak still hissing and spitting. When Eva got home the next day, Streak was letting B.B. suckle. (Streak had been fixed for a number of years at this point.) They were inseparable from that point on. My memories of B.B. have Streak attached to them more often than not: they were always in a little kittypile, grooming each other.

I've written about the differences between our two furballs here. B.B-cat was your quintessential cuddle-slut, but she had an evil side as well, especially as a kitten. Eva vividly remembers her having caught a mouse and dragged it under the couch: by the time the couch was pulled out, there was nothing left of the mouse but a tail hanging out of B.B.'s mouth. Yurk.

And no tolerance was given when we tried to introduce a third cat into our happy home. Streak, who had initially so resented B.B., didn't give much of a shit either way, but B.B. wanted Dory dead. She stalked the new cat relentlessly, and when it didn't abate after a week we shipped Dory out to a quieter place where she could be the only cat.

B.B knew her name, and if you appended the word "scoop" to it, she'd come out and let herself be gathered up, purring fit to burst. To do B.B-scoop properly, you'd cradle the cat belly up and she'd stick one hind leg out and gaze up at you with pure adoration in her little kitty face.

B.B. lost her life's companion six years ago, almost to the day (wow) and we worried at the time that she would follow Streak off this mortal coil in short order. That didn't happen. Instead, she seemed to blossom, coming up out of her basement home and adopting the couch...the same couch that Tux and Georgia have colonized. Indeed, after a while, B.B. would accept sniffs from either puppy and occasionally even head-butt one of them (usually the Peach, who is marginally less rang-y.)  She'd even wander out on to the deck and sniff at the leaves until Tux would herd her back in the house.

She's always been a little cat. Over the past month or so, she's become skeletal, and for the past several days she hasn't eaten at all and has rarely drank. She set up home under the kitchen table (a place she'd never really bothered to even investigate before) and hasn't moved from that spot. She was also starting to suffer little micro-seizures. It was definitely time to see her off.

Our vet was, as always, fantastic. We even got a call the next day to see how we were doing. We miss B.B. (and Streak, who has really been on my mind as her 'sister' 's time drew near) but as always with these decisions, we know we did the right thing at the right time.

We'll be cat-less for a while now, but not for too long. A house isn't  a home without at least one cat in it. No doubt the next kittens who come along will be loved...but we'll never forget the B.B-cat.

B.B.-scoop!

20 August, 2013

Doggy Tidbits

I sing to our dogs.
I think they know I'm in a good mood when the songs break out. I think they even know the songs.

----------

Once there was a Tux
And when there was a Tux
He loved his Mommy and his Daddy and his Peaches too
Because he was the Tux

Once there was a Peach
And when there was a Peach
She loved her Mommy and her Daddy and her Tuxes too
But mostly she loved the Georgia-Ball...

-----------

Everybody thinks their dogs are smart, little furry four-footed humans. Ours, especially the Tux, has humanity nailed in certain ways. He uses a pillow exactly the way I do, which is cute as hell. He's as wedded to the routine as I am and he loves bedtime...say that word and he's upstairs like a shot. Give him his druthers and I'm not sure he'd get off the bed.

As I believe I may have mentioned, Tux loves Eva. Desperately. His world revolves around Mommy. It's adorable, but occasionally frustrating as hell. Eva can be gone for all of ten minutes and Tux will be all over her if she doesn't utterly ignore him when she gets back. (Extend your arm and point into the distance--direction doesn't matter--and he'll settle down quickly. Forget to do that and look out.)
What's semi-amusing through the pain of the clawing attempts to hug the Mommy is that Tux will always have the Georgia-Ball, or at least the Red-Ball, crammed in his mouth when Mommy arrives home. It's the only time he touches his "sister"'s toys, ever, and we've convinced ourselves over years that he gags himself with a ball to show us he's not going to bite. He refuses to understand that his claws, even clipped, are sharp and hellishly strong.

You want dexterity? Tux can get a plate out of our kitchen sink. I have no idea how he does this and I'd dearly love to find out. We do know his paws bend in a myriad of different directions, but sheesh. Leave anything conceivably within reach of a four year old kid and Tux will find a way to get it to the floor.

Another Tux-tale: One night, lying in bed, Tux was glomming himself over-enthusiastically to the Mommy (he loves his Mommy, remember?) Exasperated, Eva unthinkingly said "turn around, Tux." Whereupon the dog got up, turned 180 degrees, and laid back down. We were flabbergasted and informed him over and over what a good boy he was, and that command, "turn around, Tux", is now as much as part of his vocabulary as "cheese", "biscuit", and "car-ride".

--------------
Get that Georgia-Ball (oh, Peaches)
Get that Georgia-Ball!
Everybody get that Georgia-Ball (big finish, now)
Get that Georgia-Ball!)
--------------

I think Georgia believes she is the Mommy to her Georgia-Ball. She treats it like her security blanket unless I'm throwing it, which she insists I do a minimum of four times a day. There are actually two Georgia-Balls, identical, which look like this:
For others with power-chewer dogs, note: these suckers, by Westpaw, are damn near indestructible. I could give Georgia a tennis ball, I'm sure, but it would be deflated in three seconds flat. There are two Georgia-balls because she will very occasionally lose track of one, and those are the worst days in our Peach's life. But even though the two balls are, as I say, identical, she very much prefers one of them over the other for reasons that escape me. The hierarchy goes

Preferred Georgia-Ball
Red-Ball
Inferior Georgia-Ball
Georgia-Cup (this is a metal cup the size and shape of a condiment holder)
Stick
Daddy-sock

---------------
Spoken word:
Georgia....what are the ingredients for Georgia-Ball?
Let's see...we need one Daddy to throw the Georgia-Ball...
One Georgia-Ball-Glove because Georgia, you drool...
One Georgia, to run and get the Georgia-Ball and bring it back to the Daddy...
...and [opens pato door and throws ball] One Georgia-Ball!
-------------------

Our B.B.-cat is on her last legs. She's lived a long and loved life--about eighteen years--and while we don't believe she's in any pain, she's adopted a cave under the kitchen table and hardly moves from it except to get water (which she prefers to get from the dogs' dish). Eating is very halfhearted. There will be a B.B.-blog coming soon, I'm afraid.
The dogs know all is not well in the state of Cat. Especially Tux. He is very protective her, nosing around to make sure I'm only feeding her when I do. Dogs, in my experience, have an uncanny ability to discern when someone is sick, be that sickness physical or emotional, and act accordingly. This is one of many reasons I believe in canine intelligence; indeed, if humans can be said to have souls (or 'spirits', if you like that word better), I'm sure dogs do, too.

--------------
One puppy, two puppy, red puppy, blue puppy
Peach-puppy, Tux-puppy, Daddy loves his puppies...
(this one usually immediately precedes the playing of Silly Buggers, aka Hide The Tux-Face, and the rubbing of the Tummy-on-the-Tux. Tux has a tummy (and so does his Mommy, of course, for rhyming reasons)...but Peach and Daddy both have bellies.)
---------------

Eva's mom brought her dog here once. Scaredy-dog, this one was. Georgia noted this and brought her Georgia-Ball over, dropping it right in front of us all, as if to say here, this is my Georgia-Ball and it makes me feel good. Maybe it will make you feel good, too. I was completely overcome with a wave of love for my dog when she did that.


As I type this, Georgia and Tux are both splayed on our new couch. We were terribly afraid Georgia would "Peach" it--that's our euphemism for shred to pieces, which is what she does when she's bored or spiteful or whatever it is she is when she decided to chew things. It's never when we're around, although she licked the old couch often enough, right in front of Eva ("stop licking the coutch, Peach" is a sentence I never dreamed I'd hear in my entire life). The new couch is plush and they both love it...but not as food, thank heavens for small favours.

And that's all I have for now. I love my dogs. Go love up yours....

The Case of the Missing Work Ethic

Springboard from this...

DISCLAIMER: In this entry, I am going to made some general accusations. They do not apply to any single person, certainly not to you, Dear Reader, and they likewise do not apply to any one workplace.

Okay, with my ass thus covered, let's go.

Have you noticed over the last, oh, twenty years or so, how seemingly few people undoubtedly possess what used to be called a 'work ethic' and is now derisively referred to as 'being a sucker'? I certainly have. Now, again, there are people half my age and younger who are phenomenal workers. There are actually quite a few of them. But there are also a very large number of slackers, for want of a better word, and that number seems to be growing as years pass.

Charlie Stross, in the link above, argues essentially that the attitude of most employers towards most employees nowadays can be boiled down to two words: expletive and deleted. He's right, too. Defined-benefit pension plans are next to impossible to find anymore; hell, full time jobs are a rarity, and ones that pay well and include benefits are rarer still. Your job can be outsourced or downsized or subject to any other Orwellian catchphrase at any moment, and there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it. All in the name of enriching a very few people, mostly aging Boomers, at the tippy-top of the pyramid. Is it any wonder that the prevailing attitude among employees, particularly younger employees, is just as self-serving? Can you blame them for sneering at the antiquated notion of loyalty to one's employer, and is it really wise to expect them to actually put in an honest day's work for their less than honest day's pay?

I've tried not caring about my job. I can sustain it for about half an hour, and then I feel invisible boss eyes drilling into the back of my skull. This "work ethic" novelty thingy I have has caused me no end of grief in my career because let Ken do it. I'm convinced people have, on many occasions, actually said this out loud: Let Ken do it. Frustrating, because Ken will do it, and not only because if he doesn't he'll get in dutch.
Ken will do it because it makes the time go by faster. I've never really understood this from my work-ethic-deprived colleagues in various places: they bemoan the fact they can't just go home (and I've sent people home for bemoaning it too loudly: hey, if you hate me that much that you don't even want to be in the same workplace as me, I'd rather you go.) Yes, they bemoan to the high heavens how slowly the time is passing, not understanding (not caring?) that the time will go by SO much faster if it's filled with work.

Ken will also do it because it reflects badly on Ken if he doesn't do it. He's been known to delegate tasks, but he takes great pains not to delegate anything he wouldn't do himself, and he also strives mightily never to leave more work than can be done. Otherwise, Ken keeps the puppy-poking to a minimum because he doesn't want people thinking he's a slacker.

I think there are some people out there who look at this attitude as naive, even stupid. The idea is to do as little work as you can for that paycheque, right? Why exert yourself unnecessarily? Do that once and it's expected you'll do it again and again and again...

I can understand (if not condone) that attitude as a function of repeated downsizings, or unwarranted demotions, cuts in pay, what have you. But I see it in entry level positions and it's hard to rationalize there. Your average sixteen year old in a fast-food kitchen isn't jaded. She may think she is--adolescents make every effort to appear jaded--but real cynicism is borne of an accretion of years of bitter experience. I can only conclude that these teenagers were not taught a work ethic at home.

I view a work ethic as an integrity check. Accordingly, when I run across someone without one, I can't help but question other aspects of their integrity. Is he a liar? Will she steal from me? This may be unfair, but it's a small step from time fraud--collecting your pay and not working for it--to other sorts of fraud. It's all well and good to "look out for number one"...but not at the expense of numbers two through seventy-eight...

There are places where a work ethic is still very common among the young. Anyone who grew up on a farm, at least in my experience, has their work ethic polished to a high gloss. They have to. Most jobs are a walk in the park compared to the day-to-day chores on a a working farm.

And I still find people --  many of them, in fact -- who understand that a job entails actual effort. The extent to which this is true is the extent to which I'm likely to get along with them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to enjoy my day off. It's hard to juxtapose work ethic with laziness, but damnit, I'm going to give it the good old college try. Token lassitude is for amateurs. Real lump-on-a-log-iness takes sustained effort.

A lazy ethic, you might say.










15 August, 2013

Memories are slippery things...


The unpleasant ones are sticky, of course, and the most pleasant ones (everything surrounding my wedding day, the tenth anniversary Disney extravaganza)  are cemented into my mind, but the general run of everyday events first blurs, then fades, until only a ghost remains. And yes, as I age it all fades faster. That's one of the reasons I have kept a diary for the better part of a quarter century, this Breadbin being  only the most recent incarnation.

I've been told I have a phenomenal memory. That's not really true. I have an excellent, near-eidetic memory for things I have read (although I've noticed even that shorts out on me unpredictably ever since the Internet came along)...but stuff I've experienced...not so much. Especially going back to childhood.

My mom kept a scrapbook, or rather, a series of them, noting and cataloguing every last detail of my early childhood. The level of detail might strike some people as odd (the first rock I ever picked up is in one of those books, and so is the first straw I ever used, and a lock from my first haircut, and what has to be every Christmas and birthday card I got over the first seven or so years of my life). I think because  my twin brother was lost so soon, and because I was touch-and-go myself for quite a while,  my mother wanted to preserve and treasure everything. I'm glad she did. Those scrapbooks are among my most prized possessions.

Looking back through them twigs some dusty, sepia-tinged  memories: camping at Oastler Lake Provincial Park, my first pet, Cyndy (the love for and from whom was unsurpassed among pets until Georgia-Peach came into my life); my persistent night terrors, so funny to my adult mind but almost paralyzing when I was three or four. (I was scared half to death of a clock, among a great many other things: it's a wonder I got any sleep at all.)

The thing I remember most about being a kid isn't a thing, exactly. It's a sense of freedom.

Most kids would say the same, I'm sure, but it's still a bit of a surprise to hear  me say it. I was a sheltered child by the standards of the time, and that was largely my own doing. Given a choice between going outside to play and finding a book to read in my room, the book won every time. But by the time I made double digits in age, my stepdad had come along and booted me outside for my own good. And once I was out there, I was well and truly out there. I rode all over London, from Byron to the east end. That carefree feeling of a day stretching out like warm toffee, adventure awaiting me around the next corner, and tomorrow was just the same, or maybe different, who knew? Intoxicating..

What's weird is that like every other kid I dreamed of growing up for the freedom I imagined was in it.  There's no freedom in being an adult. None. Oh, sure, you can have dessert first if you want -- hell, you have have nothing but dessert until your blood turns to fruit punch -- but as an adult you get straight-jacketed into a routine. The routine has its charms, don't get me wrong.  In fact, I'm apt to go off my kibble a little if it deviates too much, and how's that for conflicting desires? But as the saying goes, the problem with the rat race is that even if you win it, you're still a rat.

Remember not having a job...and that wasn't a bad thing? The novelty of doing things in exchange for money fades pretty quickly, in my experience. Even if the amount of money they give you keeps increasing. I get home from a hard day at work and it's all I can do to clean something, anything. And then on my days off...yeah, like I want to work then. I know I'm lazy as all hell, but I don't think it's just me.

Anyway...

I was asked what my most pleasant memory of childhood was. A bunch of answers came to mind almost instantly. Woolgathering among them, it occurred to me that not a single one of them was actually from childhood; the earliest was a trip to Venezuela with my dad and then-stepmother when I was fourteen. I fancied myself an adult at about age eight--and probably wasn't worthy of really being called one until my thirties (if I even can be now)...but let's face it, fourteen isn't really "childhood".

Further thought seemed called for. It's not as if my childhood was particularly horrible. I was very much loved, and spoiled rotten at times. School was an ordeal, to be sure, and I never did seem to stay in one place long enough to overcome the universally bad first impression I made of myself. Friends were few and far between until I hit the middle grades of high school, but the lack didn't register except in the vaguest sense. Yes, I was lonely, soul-crushingly lonely in fact, but I didn't have any other state to compare it to and thus didn't really know loneliness for what it was.

Even in third grade, replete with games of kissing tag and what seemed like popularity, my friends were emphatically school friends. I remember going over to Mark Stanski's house (and again, I still remember the friggin' address) and watching episodes of The Twilight Zone...but I don't think Mark ever came over to my house. My friend Gordon, the guy I shared that third grade harem with, actually did come to my house, once....the year after I moved to London. Grades four and five were a write off: I have a Facebook friend who went to school with me in those years and she remembers things I've apparently blocked out. In grade six I made a friend, somehow. Tim Gauld, his name was, and why he and I were friends was a mystery for the ages. He was my polar opposite in so many ways: he loved the outdoors, he was an avid birder (I simply could not care less about birds even now) and his parents kept his childhood busy. You name it, he was in it.

But we were friends, somehow, over a period of three or so years. So many memories there that just writing his name called forth. There was a sleepover that featured an apocalyptic raisin fight...we went through a huge bag of them, and they were still turning up months and even years later. There were snow forts, computer games galore, rotten apple fights at Cornell's Fruit Farm, our first job, endless summer days frolicking in his pool.

I bought my mom a cactus for Mother's Day one year, and Tim walked home with me that day. I dropped the thing (once a klutz, always a klutz) and he reached down and picked it up...by the spines. After he had danced around and plucked out the prickles we continued on....about a block and a half later the potted cactus slithered out of my hands again and again Tim reached down unthinking and stabbed himself.

Yeah, maybe we did have some things in common, after all.

Another thing we had in common: piano. He was, like almost everybody else, much better at certain aspects of piano playing (namely, reading music) than I will ever be...he had his Conservatory grade ten, and it showed. I never got any further than grade five...but I played by ear and composed, which blew his mind. I remember he bought me the sheet music to this...it took me months to learn.

Tim fell out of my life when I moved (again) and went to Oakridge S.S. for grade nine. He went to Saunders, not really all that far away but....friends drop in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, in Stephen King's immortal words. I have no idea where Tim is today. But I owe him a lot. If he hadn't shown up in my world, who knows where and when the next friend would have come along...





13 August, 2013

Proof I Am Not Human

is right here, folks.

Apparently the human hindbrain has three questions it cycles through: "Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?" This is why, we're told, people can't resist noticing food, sex, or danger. "It doesn't matter how hard you try not to notice these things..."

Well, I don't try not to notice these things. I just don't notice them.

FOOD

If I'm hungry, I'll make something to eat. Being "in the mood" for some kind of food has always puzzled me...I either like food or I don't, and again if I'm hungry, I'll select something from the 'like' column, preferably something easy to make. Beyond that, food is a non-issue. I don't live in a world where food drops from the sky: any food I happen to see outside this house belongs to someone else. I'm not going to steal it, so why would I notice it?

SEX

This is old territory for readers of this Breadbin. I don't notice attractive girls unless I have a reason to. Say, if one speaks to me. There are certain physical attributes I am attracted to--pale skin being a big one--but they are not even close to necessary for me to feel sexual attraction. For me, that attraction has always been from the inside out. The spiritual attraction is the most important: if you're some combination of happy, empathic and serene I'm going to home in on you. Then there's the mental attraction: if you're intelligent, I'll home in closer. Those two attractions make the physical attraction, for me. Have for as long as I can remember. I was amazed and more than little confused when I found out this was not how most people thought.

DANGER

What with my absentmindedness, missing danger has always been a concern of mine. I find it exceedingly odd, though, the example of 'danger' that's cited in that short article:

Do you moan about the fact that people are attracted by the gruesome, and yet find that you glance over too as you drive by?

Yes to the first question, an emphatic no to the second. Why would I want to see grue and gore? The danger has passed, the accident has happened. I'd really rather not gawk at it, and it stuns me that you human beings are drawn to things like that. It's all over your television sets, for instance.

There are times I really feel as if I am not human, and reading this article was one of them...

07 August, 2013

Death on a Streetcar

The mistrust and outright hatred of police officers in many online communities saddens and disturbs me.
I'll get my biases right out front: as longtime readers know, my dad was a career cop, now thankfully retired. My uncle had an O.P.P. Marine unit named after him. A cousin is a forensic detective who once walked a beat. My step-brother is a detective on a different force. I could go on. Hell, even my mom was an auxiliary police officer for a couple of years.
I know strangers will immediately question my objectivity, given this information. I can't even be trusted to tell the truth about these members of my family--the truth being that every one of them is a good person who is or has been of immense service to his or her community. 

But no, according to the online world, all cops are assholes, drunk with power. The 'good' ones are actually worse than the bad ones because they do nothing to stop the evil going on in their midst--the framing of innocents, the random brutality, the kickbacks...seriously, I think most of the online world's idea of what it means to be a police officer comes from seedy Hollywood dramas.

This is one of the milder replies I got to a spirited defence of police I posted:

You are part of their class whereas I am not. I don't think you understand the kind of privilege you have. My friend's father was a police officer and all he has to do to get out of any ticket is mention his dad. He likes police too. Another friend is an ambulance driver. He got pulled over for speeding. The police apologized and told him to bring his new car around to the station so they knew what it looked like and so they wouldn't pull him over again. Once again, he likes police. 

In medieval times some people were "unfree" and not allowed to have weapons. Free people were given a weapon in a ceremony that showed they were free. What you are failing to understand is that the warrior class is free whereas the rest of us are unfree. You cannot arm and allow a segment of society to have weapons without it creating a new class. Either we can all be armed or non of us should be armed. Police should have specially trained officers that can bring out a gun to a scene if it seems absolutely warranted. The idea that they should all have side arms and life and death power over everybody is bloody obscene and I abhor it. It isn't justice, fair or even civilized. It is a great injustice that just last week cost three people their lives in Alberta alone. Seriously, you have privilege so you don't see it, but I have to worry these people might kill me because it's too hot out or whatever. I feel like a serf pleading to a samurai but more accurately to a lord who can have my throat slit and make up an excuse later.

That rocked me on my heels, much more so than the usual "cops are scum" posted by people who wouldn't last a week in a society without police. I think the thing that bothered me most was that I found myself agreeing with parts of this.

First off, I wouldn't ever dream of name-dropping my dad or anyone else in my family should I ever be accosted by a police officer. I doubt it would do me any good, for one thing: in fact, I believe it would rub the majority of officers the wrong way and probably go badly for me. But more importantly, this son of a cop has an exquisitely developed sense of consequence. If I am guilty, I deserve punishment.  If I am innocent, it is my duty as a citizen (not to mention in my best interest) to help police officers ascertain this innocence as quickly as possible and move on to finding the guilty party.

That may sound hopelessly naïve of me, especially pitted against what seems to be the majority opinion that all cops are out to get you. But consider: if you go into a situation with anyone, not just a cop, believing the other guy is a grade-A prick who means you harm, well, that's probably what you're going to get. They say 'seeing is believing' but the truth is that believing is seeing. We view the world with certain prejudices, positive or negative, and they have a tendency to reinforce themselves.

As to the weapons argument. You will search long and hard before you find someone as anti-gun as I am. I try to be objective about guns but all I see when I look at one is a machine designed to dispense death. I'm willing to accept, provisionally, that there are people out there who like guns and don't fantasize about killing people, but I'll go many miles out of my way before I piss one of those people off, just in case.
Should the police have guns?
Given the amount of cop-hatred out there--not to mention the number of guns floating around--it's awfully hard to suggest they shouldn't. But then again, that catches me in a logical quandary: there's a lot of hatred out there period. Maybe everybody should be armed.

But that way lies madness:



Okay, I still have some stuff to sort out.

I will say this: the idea that there should only be some police officers who can bring a gun to a scene is AT LEAST as naïve as my thinking that all police officers have my welfare at heart or that all gun lovers are potential murderers. Because "a scene" can develop out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, at any time.

But damnit, THIS wasn't a scene until the police made it one:



It had been one, according to people who were in it. It had been a dangerous scene: Kid with a knife in one hand and his penis in the other, advancing on the crowd, first demanding "nobody get off the fucking streetcar" and then saying "everybody get off the fucking streetcar". Which, as you can imagine, everyone did, including the driver.

At that point, it's just a kid and a knife on that streetcar. The kid was Sammy Yatim, 18, a Syrian immigrant to Canada who was very unhappy with his life in Toronto but who was also the last person any of his friends suspected would pull a stunt like this. The knife was part of his collection, something that had fascinated him for years: big knives, small knives, rusty knives. He did not thrust the knife at anyone or even precisely point it anywhere. But that detail kind of gets lost in the screaming chaos, and it becomes moot once everyone's safe outside.

After repeated demands to drop the knife, the shots. Nine of them. This strikes many people as excessive. The truth is that once the decision to shoot has been made, there will be many shots fired. At least three, because that's what officers are trained to do--their weapons are chosen for reliability, not for accuracy. Even at point-blank range, accuracy is far from guaranteed.

My problem isn't that nine shots were fired. My problem is that any shots were fired.

If a knife-wielding assailant is closer than 21 feet to a potential victim, he can inflict a fatal injury before being incapacitated by gunfire. This, too, is drilled into police officers' heads: a knife can be more dangerous than a gun.

But Yatim was alone on that streetcar. There was no one within 21 feet of him. If the police had been there when the situation had begun, the shots would have been more understandable, provided of course that all civilians were out of the line of fire. But that wasn't the case. Why was there no effort made to de-escalate? Sammy and his knife were only a danger to himself by the time police arrived.

Why, if Yatim was such a threat, did only one officer shoot? In fact, only two officers even had their weapons drawn.

Why taser Yatim after he's undoubtedly dead?

You can suggest that none of this would have happened had Yatim acted rationally at any point, say, by not drawing a knife in the first place or at least by dropping in when told to. I won't argue the point other than to say I'm not sure this kid would be alive today even if he'd dropped his weapon promptly. It seems to me like the shooter, Const. Furcillo, was on something of a hair trigger.

This makes the third time in almost nine years of blogging that I have felt it necessary to ignore my natural pro-police bent. The Dziekanski death was the first, and this Yatim shooting has many similarities; the second concerned a peaceful protest at U.C. Davis where people were nonchalantly sprayed with tear gas. Now this inexplicable shooting.

And I recognize that these three incidents in nearly a decade of blogging represent a small fraction of incidents wherein police acted badly. But that fraction in turn represents a small fraction of the incidents involving police that go well: the number of lives saved, either literally or figuratively; by police and the number of good deeds done by cops worldwide every hour of every day.

We can suggest that screening be improved such that people looking to be warriors join the Forces rather than police forces. We can also suggest that training be improved so that cases like this are handled entirely differently. I also believe something needs to be done about the "thin blue line" of cops protecting and shielding those among them that have broken laws or behaved reprehensibly. I'm not sure what can be done, but something must be. Because peace officers are unjustly held in extremely low regard by a fairly large percentage of the population, and deaths like Yatim's do the police no favours in that regard.