Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Losing the battle

Some chicken, pork and corn in the barbequeImage via Wikipedia
I can't help feeling that the forces of good are losing an important battle... that try as we may we're just constantly losing ground to those in the wrong. To the point that I'm starting to wonder if we shouldn't just pack it in and admit bitter defeat...

The glorious struggle I refer to is as regards preserving the correct spelling of the word 'barbecue'. For years now I've seen 'barbeque' (sic) graduate from a sign of poor education to an accepted 'alternate' spelling to what I fear might by now be a majority spelling. The fact that pronouncing that spelling any way other than 'barbekay' breaks orthographic rules in any of several languages seems to do nothing to dissuade people from believing that the initialism 'BBQ' in some way is a shortened form of the word's correct spelling. These people probably also write 'eazy' for similar reasons.

I felt like giving in the towel after seeong a bag of chips today that used the q misspelling on it: an officially packaged product, no the less. More frustrating, it had the correct spelling on the French part of the packaging. So the people who made the chips are at least aware that the word can be spelt with a 'c'.


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Monday, June 28, 2010

Two consecutive thoughts I had while shopping

Two consecutive thoughts I had while shopping. One: hey, whoever's buggy that is, they have the same backpack as I do. Two: now where did I put my buggy?

It might be said that I'm not always the most intelligent kid on the block.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stephen Harper's Sigh of Relief

Watching the news juxtapose images of burning cop cars with images of Stephen and Laureen shaking hands with the G20 leaders, I can't help but imagine him a huge sigh of relief. The fact that there has been violence on the streets of Toronto must have made his day.

It all could have gone so wrong for Harper today. If the non-violent protesters had managed to get their message out, if there'd been a global stage on which frustrated Canadians could have shown the world how our prime minister has defrauded us and sold us out, if we'd been able to show up all those billions wasted on security instead of where the money needs to be spent; if we'd been able to show this whole G8/G20 dog-and-pony farce as politicking at its most cynical... well, I've begun to think that Harper could kick a boatload of puppies in front of the world's press and not drop below 25% support, but perhaps we could have shaken him out of his complacency.

Instead, he has the best present ever: the opportunity to paint protesters as thugs, to ride a law-and-order wave of public opinion, to justify (and perhaps institutionalise) the shocking powers he, or rather the Ontario government, has given police, to make those with legitimate grievances look like the bad guys. A few broken windows, a burning cop car... who knew Harper could claim a victory so easily?

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Natalie Imbruglia live in Bucharest - Romania ...Image via Wikipedia
So for the past few days I just haven't been able to get out of my head the thought that if lying naked on the floor makes you cold and ashamed, doesn't it make more sense to get up and put some clothes on than to start singing about it?

Maybe it's just me...

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Billion by Billion

I've kept my mouth shut so far. I was saddened when the controversy blew up a month or so ago. I was angered once again by the extent to which our current government is out of touch with the beliefs and priorities of the people it's supposed to be representing. I was annoyed by how the Prime Minister's stubborn-headed truculence turned an admirable and worthy goal into a misogynist case of paternalism. I hated-hated-hated the sight of the American Secretary of State defending a woman's right to choose against the Canadian government. Bravo for the USA to have responsible government again, but up here? Suddenly we have the PM arrogantly reintroducing abortion into the Canadian political agenda and then telling his enemies not to do the same. The official position of the Conservative Party of Canada appears to be that a woman's right to choose should be restricted to citizens of first-world countries. The Prime Minister promised wads of Canadian taxpayer money in tied aid, and the ugliest of tied aid imaginable. He used his power, obtained with the support of only one in three Canadian voters, to tell women of the poor world what we would help them out only if they gave up their reproductive rights. Sickening. Despicable. And it represents just another way that Canada's one-time admirable public image worldwide has progressively been damaged by the Harper Conservatives.

So anyway, today is apparently his big day. In Huntsville, he's meant to roll out $1,100,000,000 to fund maternal health. Presumably to dainty applause and pats on the back. It's tough to know what it really means: I know a lot of money pledged doesn't ever actually get out there, or if so, it does years later. I know that we'll have no say in where it goes or how it's spent, and I know we'll probably never really know for sure. It won't help women access safe abortions. That's a pity and almost a crime.

Still, it's a good amount of money. It's, what? 300 dollars or so per Canadian citizen? Good money indeed. And I hope it helps people. It's also, by coincidence, pretty much the same amount of money the government has spent hosting these summits. That's also 300 dollars per person. I hope that helps people too, though... well, it's really, really tough not to be cynical about all this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The NDP manages somehow to excite

Jack Layton and Ed Broadbent take QuestionsImage by mattjiggins via Flickr
The NDP has got an interactive graphic up on their website outlining a point-by-point plan of how they can take on the Harper Conservatives, positioning themselves as the main alternative. Sure, a lot of it is just fantasy, the 'la-la land' stuff the NDP are famous for, but much of it seems somehow tantalisingly obtainable, and it's made me feel something I haven't felt about the NDP in a long time: excited.

In all likelihood, I'm probably a committed lifetime Dipper. There isn't any time so far in my adult life that I've seriously thought about voting for another party, and it's tough to see what could pry me from the NDP. At the moment the only party I could even concievably see myself voting for is the Greens. I know - everyone says that. But I doubt I would. Just like everyone else.

Back to the NDP. I've never felt like wandering, but lately I've felt that the love has gone out of our relationship. I've been feeling uninspired by the NDP - at times they've seem wrongheadedly obstructionist, at times wrongheadedly compliant. They're off-message when they should be on, and on-message when they should be off. Sadly, they've lost their role as the 'conscience' of Parliament to, of all people, the Bloc. Suddenly the NDP have all of the trapping of being an 'establishment' party with none of the advantages.

I hate the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger. But what I love is the idea of a progressive party, that may or may not carry the name "NDP", that leftist Liberals can take seriously - one that Dion Liberals (where are they now?) can appreciate. Back in the eighties, Ed Broadbent embarrassed himself a little by predicting that the NDP and the PCs would squeeze the Liberals into irrelevance... er, not quite. Not then, anyway. But Michael Ignatieff is another John Turner (why do the Liberals ever trust Ontarians?) and Jack Layton is, well, kind of an Ed Broadbent. And the Liberal brand name has perhaps never been worse off than at present - even provincially, I don't think there's a single Liberal party on the ascendant. Will it last forever? Of course not. Will it last until the next election? Well, if it does, the results might be tantalising. With proper momentum, if an election were called now, I could see, within 90 days, the NDP pulling within reach of official opposition status. And that would be interesting.

The ndp.ca graphic highlights some interesting trends: clearly, a massive increase in NDP seats has to come in large part from where it's always come from: the West. In particular, the non-Alberta West. The news is crazy good in BC, and Saskatchewan might... just might... come back into the fold. I've been watching NDP numbers slowly inch up in Québec over the months, and while I take those numbers with a grain of salt, I discovered something completely unexpected yesterday in a Léger Marketing poll: currently, the NDP is polling higher among francophones in la Belle Province than among anglo/allos. I certainly didn't see that coming... but it may be indicative of something that could potentially happen in much larger numbers: long-term Liberals disenchanted with their party giving the NDP a second thought. As silly merger talk carries on, this might be the real 'merge' - a drift of individual votes from the Liberals to the NDP. I doubt permanently, but this time round. And if so, that could give the NDP a real legitimacy. And if that happens, two very important things could happen: (1) people flirting with the NDP might not develop their traditional last-minute cold feet come election day, and (2) people flirting with the Greens might let their cold feet turn them orange. If the next election turns into a referendum on Harper, as it's inevitably bound to be, and if we get a lot of 'ABC' tactical voting talk, well this time around 'ABC' might not be a mere synonym for 'Liberal'. And then? Well who knows?

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Voices from the Box

There was a box on the table. I never knew who put it there or why, but it looked nice and I liked it, so I kept it. I never opened it. Whenever I had friends round, they'd ask about it. I'd smile secretively and say, "It's just a box. Why does it need to be anything else?"

One day, I heard some rustling. Then a small voice. It was coming from inside the box. "Help me," it cried, "help me."

Well, what could I do? I tore it open and peered inside. "Hello?" I called. No answer. I put my nose a little deeper into the box. I called out again. Again no answer.

I stuck my head right inside the box, and suddenly I could feel myself being pulled in. I was powerless to stop it, and - stranger still - I didn't know whether or not I wanted it to stop.

It was pitch black when I came to rest. I heard a voice say "thank you", and I heard the sound of fluttering wings. It was gone.

And I was trapped in the box.

Who knows how long I was down there, rustling about in the darkness, looking for a way out. "Help me," I cried. No answer. "Help me," I cried. Maybe months. Maybe years. I don't know. Slowly I could feel my insides turning to jelly, but there was nothing I could do, except rustle around in that box and cry for help.

One day, I heard a voice calling hello. I stopped. I didn't answer. In the darkness I heard the noise of somebody falling down, falling in. A bang, a thud, a crash.

That's how I got my wings.

Looking back now, it was a terrible price to pay. I spent half my life down there and lost half of myself.

But when a voice asks for help, we offer it. That's what we do.

Would I do it again? It's a moot point. I didn't know what I was doing the first time and yet I did it. I didn't think about the consequences. I only thought about the voice crying for help.

That's what we do. We're only human.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yahoo! News: News for Illiterates by Illiterates

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 21:  Cars drive by a Y...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
I like Yahoo! They have a lot going for them. But the truth is that Yahoo! Canada has a news section that, to me, defines the worst of journalism. Frequently exploitational, usually misleading, often exhibiting a true cluelessness, Yahoo! Canada News leaves me with the impression that it's written and compiled by people who (a) have no journalistic experience or training whatsoever and (b) don't really follow the news.

Case in point: today, the headlines posted from the main portal page yahoo.ca include this sentence: "Ignatieff and Layton scoff at coalition rumours". The average punter, curious about the idea of the two main national opposition parties working together to overthrow the party in only semi-legitimate power at the moment, upon clicking on the link, is presented with a news article headlined, "Ignatieff, Layton scoff at merger rumours". An article discussing the party leaders' reaction to the silly rumour that the two very different parties were going to disband and form one united party, similar to what the party in power did a few years back.

It's either intentionally misleading or entirely ignorant of the massive difference between 'coalition' and 'merger': I'm not sure which one is more damning to Yahoo! the budding news media outlet. Either way, it's pretty horrible, and it has nothing to do with the vaunted industry called 'news'.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Dare", a short story

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...Image via Wikipedia
Judge: Okay, now, ma'am and sir, what brings you here today?

She: I'd like to file for divorce, your honour.

Judge: And you sir?

He: Your honour, it's her who wants the divorce.

Judge: I see. And how long have you been married?

He: Five years now.

Judge: And is there any special reason why you're filing for divorce, ma'am?

She: I just think it's time I lived my life on my own.

He: Your honour, she's been saying that for weeks now. I really can't understand why. I mean, I made her who she is! She owes me everything!

She: Now, that's not true, your honour.

He: It is true. She was just a waitress when I met her. I turned here into someone new. Now she's got the world at her feet!

Judge: Ma'am, is this true, what your husband is claiming?

She: Well, your honour. I was a waitress. That much is true. But I wasn't just going to stay working for my whole life in a cocktail bar, you know. Sooner or later I'd have found a better place. Either with or without him.

He: Why you ungrateful...

Judge: Hold it right there, now. I'll not have that sort of behaviour in my courtroom. Anyway, sir, it's immaterial what you may or may not have done for your wife. The important question is how she feels. Ma'am, do you still love him?

She: Your honour, I do.

Judge: Well then, I don't understand. Why do you want to leave him?

She: I guess it's just what I must do.
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