Sunday, 31 May 2015

Of Some Consequence

"You better think fast
Think fast
'Cause you never know
What's coming around the bend
You better not blink
The consequence is a bigger word than you think
It's bigger than you or me"

Ah, the sweet sounds, sights and smells of June.  The two major denominations of the One True Religion of Sport have dwindled to just a pair of teams each by the time school lets out, their numbers whittled away by the system of Natural Selection, otherwise known as the playoffs.  Lose and you go home, win and you earn yet another chance to prove your worthiness.  
     Final exams represent a similar mechanism that shapes young minds in our so called education system.  Pass your tests, ace your exams and you earn the right to continue to the next level.  Flunk your tests, stay up all night partying and forget to study and you'll most likely fail and be forced to re-do a course, a test or even a full year of school.  This process essentially works on the same principle as its sporting cousin, with the best and brightest moving on and the less bright and not so capable being left behind, in order to better themselves for the future.  
     Except the system is hardly being implemented as designed.  Rather than being rewarded for their lack of effort and academic mediocrity with litres of red ink and instruction to return to their desks to repeat their failed endeavour until they get it right, legions of dullards are now shuffled through the ranks, lest their fragile pride and self-esteem take a bruise.  I'm not sure where or when everyone started getting automatic passes, regardless of effort, but I know it this thinking has infected the hollowed grounds of academia from the lowly primary grades right up to the dog and pony show of graduate school.
     Grade schoolers can barely read the label on a can of soup, but the teachers and parents worry keeping the kids back will cause self-esteem issues, so on you go, you little illiterates.  High schoolers who don't hand in assignments, but due to school policy can't be given a zero and therefore pass and move up the ladder.  A former physics grad student I once knew told me as a teacher's assistant (TA), he was not allowed to mark with red ink because seeing the red was too traumatic for the would-be atom splitters.  I myself was scolded by a dinosaur of a prof for taking too many marks off a written assignment for spelling and grammar, forcing me to assign passing grades to illegible word salads.  Another tale of whoa(!) I've heard was about a student who didn't attend a single lecture all semester long, but as she had a doctor's note, was awarded the credit lest her depression worsen. Call me old fashioned, but I firmly believe you should have to actually show up to pass a course.  
     Personal anecdotes aside, the trend is clear and obvious.  The kids today are being taught that there are no negative consequences to their actions.  Everyone passes and gets credit, so why work hard when you can just make a bullshit excuse and get a rule change.  It's problematic, it's real and it's dangerous.  We're conditioning a generation of minds woefully prepared for reality.
     Would a hockey coach encourage his star forwards to carry the puck across the blue line, eyes firmly glued on their CCM Tacks?.  No, he wouldn't because the negative repercussion of such an act could be catastrophic.  Ask Eric Lindros or Paul Kariya
     Does an offensive coordinator tell his slot backs to run routes over the middle and not to worry about violence-loving middle linebackers and safeties who want to separate his head from his shoulders?  Highly doubt it, buddy.  
     By shuffling students though the Education Industrial Complex, we are doing an enormous disservice to all.  Kids are having their egos and self-esteem artificially inflated while simultaneously divorcing their little minds from the concept of negative consequences.  Let's do ourselves a real favour and start failing some people.  
     They'll be alright.   

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Squirrelly Bitch

"Hey man you talkin' back to me?
Take him out
You gotta keep 'em separated
Hey man you disrespecting me?
Take him out
You gotta keep 'em separated"

     Some men are fit for civilized society and some men, well, some of us are barely more evolved than knuckle dragging primates.  Being a man myself, I don't think that statement is overly offensive and I also happen to think it's fairly accurate, because I myself wrote it.  I submit this Tuesday's events as Exhibit A.  A for Alpha.

     The sun, she was a-shining and I had just left my favourite Queen West coffee shop, freshly caffeinated and not thinking about too much in particular.  In fact, I can't really recall if I was thinking at all.  I'm walking down the street, headed home to enjoy the afternoon.  Coming up the opposite side walk is a wiry, sunglass wearing semi-degen who proceeds to cross the street at a brisk pace, and as he walks by me (no one around by the way), leans his shoulder out and clips me with a little more force than could be explained as accidental, considering the space around us.  We both took about 2 steps before we turned around to see what was what.

     I was just about to open my yap to say "Sorry bud" or some variation, when he starts verbally assaulting me with some high school level shit talking.  Asking me if I wanted to go, calling me a 4 eyed motherfucker (which made zero sense because we were both wearing sunglasses), eloquent phrases in other words.  The guy just gives me a verbal tirade and says he's having a real bad day and that he wants to kick my ass.  I counter with asking how us fighting would improve his day?  So I just stood there with a half grin on my face, and slowly started to realize what was happening.  He calls me a bunch of other names that are NSFW and says "I hit you, you call the cops, give me a guarantee you don't call the cops."  I respond with another, "Why would we fight over a sidewalk bump?" but he's having none of it.

     He gives me a very aggressive stomp forward, the type of move known by younger brothers and hallway nerds everywhere and I instinctively put my hands up in a defensive fashion, just in case.  I mean, I had just seen Mayweather/Pacquiao not two weeks before.  He doesn't throw and calls me a squirrelly bitch, among other things.  I try to come up with some sort of comeback but it's no use.  A few seconds and cusses later and he keeps walking, as do I, at this point amped up on more than the caffeine.  I managed to say I hoped the rest of his day went better as we parted ways.  

     Minutes later, given time to assess the situation, it becomes clear this guy crossed the street to come at me when there was acres of room for both of us and our egos.  Judging by his dress and demeanour, he was right at home in Parkdale and if you don't know what that means, come to Parkdale sometime and walk around in the middle of the day.  You'll get the point.

     Now I'll be the first to admit I am not a fighter.  Haven't had a bout since Grade 4 and since then I've seemed to be able to side step trouble if it ever popped up.  I am, however, a male and that means I have testosterone and and an overly developed amygdala, which is the part of the brain most responsible for bloody noses and bruised egos.  And I won't lie to you friends, I left the encounter perhaps 90% sure I had done the right thing, but 10% sure I pussied out like a bitch.  That might sound stupid and immature, but its how I felt.  The street offered up a chance to get it on, as they say, and my civilized brain managed to cool the situation before we both ended up in the back of a Crown Vic or worse.  Call it a win by judges decision I suppose.         

     I've always said it's the guys who want to fight on a Tuesday morning that are the ones to worry about, and I believe that even more firmly now.

     Can't help but think I'm a bit of a squirrelly bitch though.

Monday, 18 May 2015

No Fear

"Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before"

     Fear has saturated our bastard American brothers so much that is has seeped in across the border.  Coming in through the news, the telly, the Internet and by word of mouth, it's becoming endemic.

     Took my dear not so old Mom to the Jays game back in April on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I had a real tough time explaining why we had to be searched and sent through a metal detector before finding our seats in the 500's.  My mother's never hurt anyone with anything more than a fly swatter. Is a quick frisk from some minimum wage peon and being herded through a metal detector like steers off to sale really necessary at 21st century Blue Jay games?  Have we drunk that much of the fear Kool-aid?  Of course, America's been steeping in the stuff since the fall of '01 and it's likely their biggest export.  That doesn't mean we have to import it up here.  

     We here in Canadastan always seem to take on American characteristics but in diet form, all the great taste but with fewer calories.  This one item on the menu we need to pass on.  Our masters know how powerful a motivator fear is, hence the crafting of Bill C-51.  First with Y2K, SARS, swine flu and most recently Ebola, our Canadian media is just as guilty of fear peddling as those Fox News and CNN yahoo's, to borrow some slang from Mother.  Now I've flown a fair bit so I no longer think about emptying my pockets and strolling through the Arch of Safety to board a flight, but is it really necessary for an Inter-League game against the Braves?  Some tank-topped bros ahead of us in line didn't seem to mind, though I suspect they had been traquilized with some Bud Lites and were thoroughly distracted by streaming the Raptors playoff game on their phone.  Thanks again for keeping me updated throughout the ordeal, boys.  Appreciated it.   

     The game itself was brief for a 10 inning match and the walk off homer was worth the price of admission, but not all was smiles and fireworks at the Concrete Temple.  The only thing I want to be afraid of at the Dome is dropping a foul ball souvenir and having to live with TSN highlight level regret the rest of my life.  Some one, or some group, pretty high up seems to think Jays fans are so violence prone that we have to be frisked and searched upon entry.  A large part of me wants to think the new security measures are not necessary and over the top, but a smaller, more confused part of me thinks yeah, maybe this is needed due to the overwhelming numbers of would be psychos out there.  Can't be too careful these days.  

     Listen pal, I am fully aware we don't live in a world where we all get along and hold hands and skip through flower filled fields together.  But I would really, really like to think we live in a world, in a city at least, where searching baseball fans on sunny April afternoons is not an option that needs to be exercised in order to maintain peace at professional sporting events.    
     I think as a nation we did a tremendous job job ignoring the fear since October 22nd, especially after seeing the wounded giant of America lash out after 9/11.  We used to be less prone to Yankee style hysteria, but now I'm not so sure.

     Mom was more annoyed than paranoid, she even cracked, "At least I left my crochet needles at home".  A good thing she did.   Maybe it's time the No Fear t-shirts of the mid 90's came back into style.  This time we should pay attention.  

Sunday, 10 May 2015

De-Sensitivity Training

"You find me offensive, I find you offensive

For finding me offensive
Hence, if I should draw the line on any fences
If so to what extent
If at any should I go
'Cause it's getting expensive"

      Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, words will really cause people to lose their shit.  I'm not the first wanna-be blogger with a pen and a pad to point out that over the last decade or so, people are becoming more and more offended at seemingly less and less provocation.  Put bluntly, we are becoming more sensitive by the day, with people of all shape, size and colour wailing on about how they have been offended in all forms of media, print, TV, Internet, postcard, Etch-a-sketch.  I don't think I'm being alarmist when I write that the bar to being offended has been lowered so much, you are now at risk of stubbing your toe on it.  
     The cries of the offended come from all directions and have a common theme.  Something is said, typed or shown, and by golly some other group takes an offense, which is really being defensive, if you ask me.  Naturally, the offended wishes and often demands that the offensive group be silenced and censored, lest their poor little ears and eyes hear and see something of which they disapprove.  Which is akin to saying we don't like that, so don't say it. Ever. Again.  
     Now, don't get me wrong oh Internet warriors of justice, actions and deeds can be and often are offensive.  Acts and deeds that are abhorrent to our not-so-common sense of humanity.  But actual actions and doing deeds are a far cry from words and sounds and symbols.
     Much of the new found offensivism, if I may coin the term, is rooted in our ever growing sensitivities, and I'm not talking about peanut allergies here folks.  Since when did we all become so gosh darn sensitive about words and symbols?  I'm not too sure on this one, but if I had to venture a guess I'd say it has something to do with how certain words are banned from a young age.  You might be familiar with a few of these words yourself, you bunch of shitbirds.  By sealing off certain words and ideas, we only feed the power they have, heightening their impact.  Perhaps it is time we tore down the artificial walls built up around such words and emptied them of all meaning.  
     Maybe this will be a sort of cultural novocaine, numbing our sensitivities and encouraging true freedom of speech, rather than provoking waves of offended cries the minute someone doesn't take too kindly to an idea.  
     We need de-sensitivity training.  The polar fucking opposite of what we have now where sensitivities are not only encouraged, but reinforced every step of the way by ensuring everyone is hyper aware of how offensive words and symbols are by banning them at the first inkling of offensiveness.  
     Now how about this for a politically incorrect alternative, as soon as kids are old enough to understand, we rationally and calmly explain to them what words mean and that many words only hold the meaning you give them.  No words are out of bounds.  Encourage hurling different word combinations at each other until these words are stripped of any and all meaning and revert merely to the sounds and symbols they truly are.  Imagine, Lennon style, a world without 'bad words'.  If you weren't told words were bad and that you shouldn't say them, would you give them any meaning?  You're a nog-woddler.  What's that you ask?  It's a made up word I just thought of and it has zero meaning.  Now take this word, tell a group of impressionable kids that they should never call anyone that name and two things will happen.  1) They'll immediately start calling each either that name and 2) they'll associate it with negative emotions.  Don't believe me?  Get someone to chew you a new one (one being an asshole, the nerve!) in a language you don't understand, perhaps Arabic or Russian.  Bet you don't bat one eyelash, why?  Because you nog-woddler, you have no meanings attached to the sounds!  And without meaning, you can't be offended anymore than you can be offended at the sound of the wind blowing.  
     Listen, I'm not saying sit the kiddies in a circle and have them cuss each other out until the words lose all shock value, but wait, that is what I'm saying.  Maybe then we'd all be a little less sensitive about shit (gasp!).
     George Orwell, author of such hits as "1984", the year of my birth coincidentally, anticipated our current state of affairs when he said "First they take the words, then they take the meanings".

     Perhaps the anti-dote to having the list of approved sounds from shrinking is to realize that's all they are, just sounds.  And last I checked, sounds and symbols couldn't hurt anyone.  So maybe we can all agree the next time we think we are offended, to remember that although sticks and stones and RPG's and ICBM's can be very hurtful, words can never break us. 



Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Champ is Here

 "Who wanna get knocked out?
   Who wanna fight Roy Jones?
   Who wanna be next? I'm knockin' your lights out,
   I'm takin' you right out, I'm winning this fight,
   I'm puttin' my belt on, I'm takin' my belt home"  

     A few moons ago, while at a less than top secret G20 leader's meeting, Dear Leader Harper took some direct vocal shots at a well known colleague.  His verbal victim?  None other than Comrade Putin, the West's (and NATO's) current Public Enemy #1.  Somehow, the Right Honourable Stevie Harper summoned the courage and machismo to defiantly scold the Russky Pres and allegedly told him "You need to get out of Ukraine".  Putin was reportedly not impressed, and I bet he wasn't exactly shaking in his galoshes either.

     As the event, which occurred in Australia, was not filmed, we'll never quite know just how things went down.  But this type of Alpha Male behaviour in high level politics does raise some issues, serious or not.  If we were to take away the militaries, the aircraft carriers (America has more than the rest of the world combined) and of course, the nuclear weapons, which country really has the toughest head of state?  Any way you look at it, the current crop of modern day dictators are a far cry from the Ghengis Khans and the Alexander the Greats, notable historical heavy weights.  Of the suit-wearing, platitude spewing bureaucrats, who would take home the belt?  Inquiring minds want to know.

     What if the diplomatic shit talking and sanction inducing chest bumping got out of hand?  How would the G20 leaders fare in a Royal Rumble where they'd have to fend for themselves for a change?  If these men (and women) are in charge of governments, economies and potentially militaries, I for one think it is vitally important to know how they would fare in hand to hand combat. After all, we need to see them test their mettle, not just their skills of bull-shittery.
     Let's start with Harpo.  Stephen Harper looks like he'd be OK at sports, provided that sport was wine tasting.  Don't let his supposed fascination with hockey fool you, the only time he's ever dropped the mitts is when he came in from recess.  The man isn't exactly threatening in appearance and you can bet he practised his Ukraine line in front of the mirror to work up his courage.  Leave the heavy lifting to JTF2, Stevie, before you embarrass us further.

    Uncle Barry, whether he's actually from Kenya or not, isn't too much scarier.  Rumour has it he stills hacks the occasional dart, so that lithe runner's body isn't fooling anyone.  He is a southpaw and likes to play basketball, but he strikes me as the type of baller who can't create his own shot and likely needs a screen in order to get open.  Even the mean streets of Chicago didn't harden this grey headed lawyer.  Nah, take away the $600 billion per year Military Industrial cock extension and he just doesn't strike me as being that harmful of a human being.

     British PM Davey Boy Cameron exudes slightly more physicality, but if you look at his pedigree, he's the descendant of royalty, so you know his upbringing wasn't exactly harsh, to say the least.  He seems like the type of guy who would start a fight with his mouth, but probably wind up going home crying with a bloody nose.  Rumour has it he enjoys badminton, but striking a shuttlecock hardly instills fear, unless that's the sort of thing you're into.  Hey, it's a free country.

     Host country Australia's PM, Tony Abbot, used to box while at Oxford, so that pretty much makes him a contender by default.  And just to show I'm an equal opportunity social commentator, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks like she wouldn't take no crap off nobody and likely has a decent overhand purse to the head move to fall back on.

     We should all be in agreement that if a G20 donnybrook did break out, Vladdy Putin would be the last guy to look over his shoulder to summon his Secret Service Spetznaz or whatever those wacky Russians have.  True, the propaganda machine has portrayed him as a tiger hunting, F1 driving macho man but he was in the KGB and he does have a 6th degree black belt in judo.  This doesn't assure him a victory, but I'm confident Bodog and Proline would give him the best odds.

     We like to pretend we're a civilized, dignified culture, but when the chips are down, men are men and still have primitive monkey brains.  It's what makes us resourceful, but it's also what makes us dangerous when we think we're threatened.  Wouldn't it be nice to know what our heads of state are really like when fear kicks in?