Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Modern Thoughts On Last Night's Modern Family

Modern Family has now hopped into its sophomore year, after being all the rave in its debut season. I've confessed my Modern Family love before on this blog, and did not hide the fact I was eagerly anticipating its return to television (well, technically it never left, since you had its dry leftovers all summer, but that can only sustain you for so long when you know there is fresh, warm episodes right around the corner). Despite my unapologetic love for the show, I do have to admit I was a little nervous before the season premiere last week. Modern Family had an incredibly strong first season, so strong that it won numerous awards (including the Emmy for Best Comedy) and quickly became the critics' darling. It hit it big so quickly, that I had a few worries it would run out of fresh and hilarious material just as quickly. TV shows always have a peak period, and then tend to start resting on their laurels after that ( or completely losing their way), and so, I think I was a little justified in being worried that Modern Family may hit that wall rather quickly since it found success almost immediately.

After watching last week's premier, I almost believed that my fears were being justified. Don't get me wrong, it was a good episode and I even laughed at parts. It was funny and smart. BUT it wasn't Modern Family funny and smart. I really feel the show set a rather lofty standard for the current crop of sitcoms. It is a standard that the show itself may have a hard time measuring up to. I felt that the premier episode missed the mark a bit. The show often tries to find a balance between being extremely funny, but also having a relevant message about. . . well, the modern family (duh!). I thought, the premier was trying too hard to convey a message, and not enough on being outright hilarious. And if the message was really profound and powerful, then I'd have given them a pass, but it really wasn't. Though, it also gave me a complete season of non stop awesome, so that afforded them the pass anyway and I hoped, it was only a little premier jitters rather than a sign of what the sophomore season would be like.

I can now say with confidence, that after watching last night's second episode of the season, that my fears were completely and indisputably unwarranted. Last night's episode was absolutely hilarious while also maintaining the usual Modern Family warmth and charm. It hit the perfect balance and proved the writers definitely still have it.

I am not going to bother recapping the show because a) you can find that rather easily elsewhere b) there is a strong likelihood if you're reading this that you already watched the show or c) you're going to be watching it soon thus don't want it spoiled. Instead, I do want to mention I think the chemistry on this show is really what makes it so great. The interaction with Jay and Phil throughout the episode was pure gold, especially how Phil was trying his very best to impress Jay but so awkwardly failing. The topper was near the end when Phil was clearly expecting some type of thanks (would you want a kiss from your father-in-law?), which lead to a few seconds of uneasy exchange. The whole 'affection intervention' was fantastic and really demonstrated where this show shines when it comes to comedy. Of course, the entire 30 minutes was peppered with hilarious one liners and asides. I also got a real kick out of Gloria's version of revenge on Jay for slandering her culture. The whole ghost storyline was underdeveloped, but still pretty good for a few strong laughs. All in all, it was probably one of my favourite episodes and made me very confident we're lined up for a fantastic season.

On a totally different note, Google has informed me that it is the 50th anniversary of The Flintstones. So really, I only have one option for ending today's post.

Yabba Dabba Doo!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thanks Cito

Tonight was Cito Gaston's final game at the Rogers Centre (aka the former Skydome -- the much better name), and the end of Cito's second run as the Toronto Blue Jays' manager. Cito is not only the most successful manager in Blue Jays' history, but probably one of the most recognizable figures in the franchise ever. He was the guiding light when the Jays won their back-to-back World Series championship, and to date, the only championship in the club's entire run in the Major Leagues. After the Jays had several rough years under John Gibbons, Cito returned to makes the Jays a stronger club with a much better record. The greatest legacy of Cito, may be the fact that he is a "player's coach". Almost any time you heard a player mention Cito, they would have words of praise for him, and talk about how he created an environment that made them want to excel. Obviously, he wanted to win, but he also appeared to be the type of manager that supported the player and encouraged them to be at their very best. He created a welcoming environment, and one that was focused on improving the players' skills. At tonight's pre-game ceremony to honour Cito, many of the players mentioned how Cito consistently encouraged them, but also helped them become stronger and more confident players. It was quite clear that many players (some who are Hall of Famers) attribute some of their success to the guidance of Cito Gaston.

Despite the obvious skills of Cito, the thing that really stands out to me is that he always seemed like a humble and down to earth guy. He always appeared to appreciate the fans and genuinely care about his players. These are also the things that probably made him the "player's coach", because he was patient and supportive rather than just looking out for ways to make him seem great. For me, this made me want to root for him even more, because you couldn't stop from cheering for a humble, kind and (seemingly) selfless man.

Tonight, it was great seeing the Jays deliver a beating to the dreaded Yankees, and get a decisive 8-4 victory. You almost have to believe that the team played just little harder because they wanted to win this one for Cito. It was his last game as the manager at the Rogers Centre (they still have road games left). Even though this is an end to an era, Cito will be remembered forever as one of the all time greats of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thanks for the memories, Cito. Many will always appreciate all that you have done for baseball, especially for the Blue Jays. I hope you continue to enjoy life after baseball, because you really do deserve it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just One Of Those Days. . .

We changed over our phone and internet to Rogers, because we could save on cable if we bundled all three. The good news is that we now have cable and all its brain decaying goodness. The bad news is the combination of the internet being down for a short bit, and then having a bunch of unforeseen new chores (such as running out to get a wireless card for my desktop), meant it was a rather unproductive day for writing. But hey, at least I can watch TeleToon Retro now.

What do you get out of the deal? Well, how about a gorgeous dog chewing on a tennis stick?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Some Social Networking Didn't Quite Hit It Big

I never actually ended up using Google Wave, and occasionally, my Gmail begs me to try out the apparent awesome that is Google Chrome. Which I also haven't bothered trying out yet either. I don't seem to be helping out Google much in their attempts of peddling new technologies and products. But then again, they're a multi billion dollar empire right now, so they probably don't need my help much. Either way, this video is worth a giggle or two, because it is always fun to parody the corporation that will eventually be ruling the world anyway.


Google Wave: A Pissed Off Tutorial -- powered by Cracked.com

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An SNL Skit That Is Actually Funny?

I haven't watched a full episode of SNL in a very long time (maybe before I actually needed to use shaving cream to aid me in the quest of a baby smooth face). I didn't watch SNL last night either, but I discovered this sketch from a link on Twitter (because when does randomly clicking links on Twitter ever go bad?). Anyway, it might be partly because I think Christine O'Donnell is a loon thus am always open for some parodies on her craziness, but I actually found this sketch to be legitimately funny. Which for SNL, seems to happen ever other year or so (because why should a sketch comedy show bother to be funny?).

Anyway, I laughed, but maybe that says more about me than the actual humour in this clip.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

PARTY!!!

Because that is what I'll be doing for the remainder of the day. Hair Cutting Party. Getting Ready To Leave Party. Baby Shower Party. Bachelor Party. Go To Bed Party. It should be party-licious.

Now, to get you all in the mood for the theme of the day. . .



Though, I have a sneaking suspicion I may lose out on two friends if I take this approach for the baby shower.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Post Today . . . Hey Look, A Shiny Video!

A friend referred me to this video, and it gifted me with the giggles. So now, I pass the giggles to you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why Professional Sports Stars Deserve Being Paid Way More Than Teachers

Over the last several months, I have read comments and been involved in discussions about how professional athletes are incredibly overpaid and are essentially spoiled brats. In an attempt to appeal to me, they often bring up how poor teachers (because I am a qualified teacher, you see) are underpaid and undervalued while these athletes get truckloads of money for 'just playing games.' Now, several years ago, I actually ranted and raved about how sport stars' greed was killing pro sports and making me no longer interested in watching it. I vowed I'd no longer follow the sports I once loved, but in retrospect, that was a lot easier to do when I was lacking cable since I was shacked up in the boonies (also known as central Ontario or cottage country). Now with a few more years under my belt, I still do see greed doing some harm in pro sports (thus causing things like strikes that prevent a season or championship), but I no longer see it as the travesty that I was lamenting back in 2004 and 2005. Actually, now that I hope to enter into a business where I am providing a skill and service for various companies that then administer my wares as entertainment for an audience, I am now more likely to side with the athletes.

I can hear some of you screaming right now (okay, I can't really, unless you happen to be reading over my shoulder while I type this -- which thankfully you are not, because that is breaking and entering while also very creepy), "Christopher! How can you justify someone who plays baseball making millions and millions of dollars while a hard working teacher only gets $50,000 gross a year! It isn't fair!!!" I say to you, that 1) fair is a rather subjective term and 2) I think it is very fair. Oh yeah, and also please stop screaming in my ear.

I recognize that teaching is a highly skilled and extremely demanding profession. I know that teachers are expected to shape and mold many future generations, and that is a lot of responsibility. I went through teacher's college, and I know we are expected to do a lot more than what we get paid for. At the same time, teaching is far from the only profession where skilled labourers are expected to do more and are worth far more than they are paid. But I will also admit, when it comes to highly skilled labour that teachers probably are one of the least paid.

After saying all that, teachers don't deserve to get paid even close to what professional athletes are paid. If you lay it all out (which I plan to try), I'd say that a lot of the star athletes do get paid the amount of money they deserve (while others, alas, are significantly overpaid). I want to make it clear that I think teachers a lot of the time are under appreciated and there are really good teachers who deserve far more money considering the hours of work they put in(though there are probably some who are highly overpaid due to the opposite amount of effort and work they put in -- like most job environments really). The reality is, when complaining or fighting for teachers to get more pay, it isn't pro athletes that you should use as the example of being overpaid (as if it is their wages that are taking away from a teacher's earnings). The thing we need to all realize, is the athletes literally bring in the money that essentially pays for their wages, which you can't actually say for teachers.

You may not watch or like professional sports, but you must admit that it is a million dollar industry. For the next several months for every single Sunday, stadiums across the United States will be packed with close to 80 thousand paying fans each. Some of the highest watched events in television history are championship games like the Super Bowl, World Series or gold medal hockey finals (at least in Canada), which then can demand huge ad rates from sponsors. Sports merchandise brings in over millions of dollars a year, and this includes things like a player's sports jersey or a bobble head with a specific player's likeness. There are a lot of very rich people who can attribute their millions to owning a successful sports franchise. There is television networks, toy manufacturers, clothing companies, and countless businesses (and individuals) that rake in million upon millions of dollars thanks to professional sports. You can despise professional sports all you want, but the reality is, it makes a lot of people a lot of money.

But who is the main reason that this industry is worth millions and millions of dollars? Who is responsible for fans being willing to pay overly inflated hockey prices in order to enter the Air Canada Centre for a game? Who are the people that have made sports memorabilia or clothing stores such a massive success throughout the country? I'll give you a big hint, nobody would be watching any sports if it was just equipment laying on the field for two hours. You need people to play those sports. Here is the thing, I've heard folks tell me that the athletes shouldn't be making millions, because all they are doing is playing baseball or football or hockey, which are just kid games. I can't speak for everyone, but I can guarantee you that nobody would be willing to plunk down $60.00 to see me try to play hockey. We aren't just talking about some guys messing around for a few years, but we are talking about athletes you are the premier players in their given sport.

I appreciate teachers. I really do. On the other hand, I've never heard of a Grade 3 teacher being able to sell out an arena or stadium. I loved my Grade 12 English teacher, but there would be absolutely no way that I'd buy a $120.00 jersey with her names and chosen number on the back (or maybe it'd be a blouse?). If you discover that Mr. Spenkle, the biology teacher, was going to be teaching Grade 9s about cells live on NBC, then I've got a pretty good idea you'll be flipping around to find MythBusters. I don't know of any of my teachers that were able to land a contract with Wheaties or Nike as the spokesman. Teachers do work hard, but they don't create a million dollar industry. We aren't willing to pay to see them, or have clothes (or toys) with their likeness on them. They aren't stars.

Athletes make a lot of people a lot of money. They also have a lot of pressure on them. They need to stay in peak condition. They need to perform at a certain level. They are also deemed role models, so they have an added pressure on them (teachers have this pressure too, but not to the entire continent of children). It is a lot of work, and it is a career that can change in an instant. The mega star of one seasons, ends up being the washed up has been of the very next. But even if there wasn't those type of pressures, the biggest reality is that without them then there isn't a pro sports industry.

That is why as someone who wants to be a professional writer(and novelist), I completely support athletes making millions. The truth is, they deserve their cut. They are the workhouses and the reason the industry thrives. If tomorrow, people decide they don't like hockey or football anymore, and the players are competing in an empty arena, then I'd say they deserve to start looking for a career in fast food. Right now, that is not the case (nor is it likely to ever be). I do agree that some players are not carrying their end, and don't drive merchandise or ratings. This is not the issue I am addressing, but rather that as a whole, professional athletes deserve a large cut of the very revenue they are generating. If you are responsible for making people rich (such as creating a best selling novel), then you deserve your cut.

This is why athletes are and should be paid much more moolah than your teacher. It should be that way until teachers become the hottest stars in the country (and are fighting off autograph requests). Then again, the way television works now, I am sure there will be a hot new reality show starring elementary school teachers who teach while wearing their pajamas and juggling rabid wolverines. But until that billion dollar idea becomes a reality, I can't see any teacher who deserves the kind of money that Lebron James rolls in.

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I'm sure this is a hot topic among some of you, so I'd love to hear your side and views on the matter. As always, if you like this article then be sure to stay around for awhile and check out (and comment) on some of my other random collection of words. Hey, bring along a friend and you can tag team me with your opinions and rage rants (fun for the whole family!),

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is It Worth A Trip To 'The Town'?: A Movie Review

Films about criminals are far from an original concept. Actually, ever since the 90s, movies where the 'hero' is the lawbreaker has become a very common archetype in cinema. The reality is, even though 90s films like The Usual Suspects or Reservoir Dog helped make the genre accepted among modern day mainstream audiences, films like Bonnie and Clyde or The Godfather or Scarface prove it has been a genre that has been a part of cinema for decades (or if I did some actual research, would probably find since almost the beginning of film). Many of them are considered all time classics and they often do quite well in the box office. I think, that is largely because the viewers watching the films are good and honest human beings, thus would never commit these acts themselves, but are still intrigued by that darker side of humanity. Hollywood has caught on to this fascination and now pumped out copious amounts of films about crimes and their perpetrators. Films about criminals are not unique, and due to the recent glut of them, there is now a need to create a few twists on this now common theme. It is no longer enough to just send the audience on a two hour bank robbery spree, because we've already been on that visceral ride thus demand more.

The Town is a film based on a novel by Chuck Hogan entitled, Prince of Thieves. It is about four friends in Charlestown, Massachusetts (near Boston) who are bank robbers, but things begin to change for one of the robbers when they take a female bank manager hostage, who is released after the job is successful. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) starts to tail the woman to make sure she can't identify them to the cops, but this ends up resulting in both of them falling in love. If you have watched the trailers for this film, then you are probably left with the idea that is what the major plot of the film is (along with the necessary amounts of action thrown in). I am sure there is even a few who left the theatre thinking that was a major focus of the film. I do admit it was a key story element, but I actually believe it was only the catalyst that helps drive the main plot and theme of this film.

MacRay, and his crew, grew up in an environment where bank robbing was essentially the family trade. It was what they knew, and the life they believe they were destined to live. Their fathers were bank robbers, and their community was deeply entrenched into this type of culture. The boys are working for the exact same guy who set up the deals for their fathers, and they believe they have little choice than to do what he wants (especially, with a boss that doesn't accept resignations kindly). It seems like MacRay's encounter with bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) causes him to recognize there is more to life. This begins the story of a man who is torn between two worlds. The world he actually lives in with his fellow bank robbers, and the world that Claire believes he is in. The film is really about how some are pegged for a certain life due to their environment, and then how they try to escape what they believe was their destiny (and the struggles and issues that brings upon them). The life is ingrained in them, but deep down, it becomes clear they don't necessarily want it or like it. They rob banks because it is what they know, but not what they want. The most interesting part of this story is that even though MacRay is the one actively trying to leave it, it becomes clear that he isn't the only one who wants to change. The film shows this inner conflict within a few of the main characters, and then proceeds to display how each person reacts to this differently.

There is a love story, but the more intriguing and powerful relationship is the one between Doug MacRay and Jem Coughlin (Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner). The two have grown up together and are basically brothers. The film establishes very quickly that there is a deep bond between them, even though their personalities are very different. The film builds towards a deep conflict as MacRay continues to desire to leave this life, which is the only one either know, thus causes resentment from Jem. The tensions that build between the two is what helps drive the plot, but also show how juxtaposing the two characters are. Jem is a key figure because he helps bring up issues of loyalty and commitment in MacRay, especially considering all that Jem has done for him. At the same time, the relationship proves that neither necessarily want to continue this life, but it is their personalities that cause them to respond to those feelings differently. It is this relationship that helps layer the film, and really drive home the issue of how these men feel chained to this life. It reveals the sometimes misguided notion of how you much stay loyal to each other to the very end (at the expense of one's own safety and health). This deep relationship creates a non traditional version of a love triangle. Jem is a major reason that MacRay feels loyal to the life of bank robbing, and is a partly what makes MacRay stuck in this lifestyle. On the other side, it Claire that leads to the growing tensions and problems between the best friends. It is the clash of two worlds, but also the story of the struggle to try to change a life that has been so clearly defined for you. MacRay is left trying to decide what matters most to him.

Now, Ben Affleck has been a punching bag over the last several years. The comic book geeks lament that he ruined Daredevil, and believe he was the main reason for the film being unsuccessful. Of course, many still haven't forgotten Gigli, which is considered one of the worst films ever (where he won the Razzie for Worst Actor in 2003). In The Town, Ben Affleck is able to demonstrate that he does have real talent. He not only stars in the movie but is also the director and co-writer (of the screenplay adaption). As for his acting, Affleck does an admirable job of maintaining the Boston accent throughout the film. He crafted a role where his character was expected to be fairly understated for the most part. Affleck rarely needed to play scenes that expressed a wide variety of emotions, but rather the role of a person who is keeping his emotiond inside and trying to keep secrets hidden. It is clear that such a role played to Affleck's strengths, where his actions were more subtle and calm.

It is Jeremy Renner who really shines in his performance as Jem. He is playing a complete nutcase who will fly off the hinges at a moments notice. The intensity and emotion of Jem is very believable, which is something that can risk becoming a borderline parody. Renner is able to play a hot head, but still one that the audience can connect with at some level. The true strength of Renner's acting skills are displayed in a scene at the diner between Affleck, Renner and Hall. Renner does a fabulous job of a playing a character who is absolutely furious but trying to pretend he is happy but struggling to hide his emotions. There is a lot of depth needed in pulling off such actions, as the audience needs to know Jem isn't being sincere but still believe he is hiding who he is to Claire. Renner does a fantastic job on making the scene come off believable, and conveying the proper emotions and feelings needed. It is a stand out performance, and one that really helps push the believability of the story being told.

Affleck does an admirable job directing his second full length theatre release. The film has the right amount of pacing as it provides the necessary scenes to show the inner and outer conflict MacRay has, but also fills the film with the expected actions in a crime film. The story unfolds in such a way where the viewer is attached to the main characters, and is thrilled by the exciting robbery scenes, but at the same time, is not left with the feeling that bank robbery is a glorious thing. The film displays the act in such a way that you know it is horrible, and the main characters know it is horrible too. It isn't what they want to do, but what they feel they have to do. This allows for the proper amount of sympathy towards the characters, but also there is scenes that remind you they aren't necessarily good guys either. It is yet another film that creates an anti-hero and shows a world that is much darker than any of us will ever see.

The Town
is a film that has themes and stories that have been done before and sometimes even done better. It is also still a very deeply layered film that also provides the necessary visceral emotions demanded by such a movie. It's action and excitement that also contains a deeper story. A story that reveals a certain type of life and struggle. It is the film that make the robber the protagonist, but also avoids glorifying that life. It allows the viewer to feel some sympathy towards criminals, by making you wonder if they really have a choice for this life. It also creates characters like FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm)who reminds us that these are bad people doing really nasty things that must be stopped. At times we are mad at Frawley for not understanding that the protagonist has little choice in what he does, but then Frawley also shows us, these are still men who are harming innocent people. He helps add the struggle that is created with the two opposing worlds.

This is a film that is exciting and thrilling, but also be deep enough to make you think. There are many elements worth discussing after the movie. It is a film that has taken a now overused genre, but added some fresh spins on it. The Town is a very welcome addition the crime genre and a movie that proves that Affleck is a deserving talent as an actor and especially director.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday's Tough Question To Ponder

Is there ever a time or place that a purple polka dot suit is considered classy? And more importantly, what can we do in order to make a world where the answer is yes?

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And on a completely different note, I've been getting lots of comments on some of the older posts lately, which is completely awesome. I love being able to get feedback and have the opportunity to interact with the readers who frequent here (or even those that just drop by and then wander off into the abyss). I especially love getting comments on my more 'controversial' articles, because I am fully aware my side isn't the only one and it is nice to get articulated and civil views that may not agree with my own. It allows for great discussion and for a variety of opinions to be presented. Of course, it is nice to be able to read comments that are on my side from time to time too. Either way, comments help this blog become more like a community and also fuel me to write more articles (since sometimes the comments bring up points I had not thought of, thus inspire me to blog about it). All this to say, I really appreciate my readers and I'm humbled by the constant growth this blog is experiencing, and I look forward to more comments (and if you are reading some of my older stuff, don't be afraid to comment since I'll be able to read those as well).

Anyway, as my quick post would indicate, I've got lots to do today, but I hope you have yourself a rather wonderful Tuesday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Calling Out The Racist

I've blogged a lot about discrimination and racism over the last few weeks, like with the controversy in New York or the threats of Quran burning or the misguided rights to spew slurs. If these events have shown me anything, it is the fact there is lot of deeply embedded institutional racism. A lot of this type of racism can be seen in the language and actions of the far right, such as in the previous mentioned events but also in many other issues constantly argued by that ilk. The scary thing is when you start realizing that a lot of the policies and acts they want to push forward have some strong racist reasoning and ideas contained within. They won't outright admit to it (since declaring yourself racist is rather passe now), but it can be seen when you observe and analyze the language and words being used.

This is why I really thought this video shown on Roger Ebert's website is quite powerful and satisfying. Yes, it is from a Fox News broadcast (the closest thing to Hell's news network), but even they are allowed to have something worthwhile to view every 15 years or so.

I want to make it clear that I don't agree with what most on the panel are saying (privatizing homeland security?!? Seriously?!?). It does my heart good to see most of the panel call out the racism displayed by Jack Burkman. It was even better to see Al D'Amato completely tear into Burkman and expose him for all to see. It was the right thing to do, and it absolutely needed to be said. People need to be called on their racism, especially when they start using it to push politcal agendas. If more people would bluntly express their disdain for this appalling rhetoric, then bigots disguised as political experts would be more accountable for their language and agendas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Winston Rowntree Goodness

I've brought your attention to the amazing comic Subnormality once or twice before. Just in case I've still failed to convert you into a regular reader of his fantastic site, then I wanted to draw your attention to a comic strip he posted a few weeks ago. Some of his best comics are when he deals with people's inner struggles or self perceptions. I often find his comics resonate with me, or at least, allow me to see things in a different way. This comic would be another that I can relate to, and I am sure will be insightful and worthwhile for a good portion of my readers to check out. If you like it, be sure to peruse some of his older comics and maybe even make yourself a regular reader. Because not only is he funny and talented, but his stuff is almost always relevant, informative and perceptive.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yeah, That Is Pretty Much Star Wars

This is a meme that has been circulating around the internet for at least two years. But it makes me giggle and today, you all want a giggle. Right?



As for today, it was the wonderful of all wonderfulness. Summit pulled his first cart today, and for a first time experience, he did an amazing job. He'll be a carting pro in no time. Or at least, it gets me one step closer to that picture of Summit carting Crosby around (opposed to the current act of Summit dragging Crosby around by his head). That picture will some day be a reality, and when it is, rest assured it'll be posted here in lieu of an actual article.

To top this day off, I put some steak in my belly. Because really, that is where steak wants to be. How did you spend your Saturday?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Late Night Thought

I just came home for watching The Town and I wanted to post a review but the hours are rapidly fading away this late evening and I still want to do some of this thing people call sleep. Instead, I am going to leave you with this thought that popped into my oatmeal style mush brain.

Let's say that all your dreams and ambitions are symbolically represented by a giant container of ice cream (I'll leave the flavour up to you). Now, you know that the spoon (especially the large serving size) is an effective way to actually get to the ice cream and be able to experience it (which is also known as eating it). But knowing that doesn't get you a single scoop of ice cream. Holding the spoon doesn't even get you any ice cream. You've got to take that spoon and dig right into that ice cream surface. Then you take that massive scoop and plunge it right down your gullet. The only way to have that ice cream is to actually use that spoon and start shoveling out some pieces.

So, have you started to begin the scooping and digging necessary to realize your dreams? How much of your dream have you tasted? I know this fall will be the time I am going to start to dig away at my symbolic ice cream container and really begin to taste it. I'm also probably going to eat a lot of real ice cream too, but surprisingly, that has little to do with my actual big dreams.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Explaining Art and Culture as Being the 'Heart & Soul'

I stumbled into bed last night at around 2:30 with the knowledge that yesterday's post may not have been the best thing I've ever written. In my foggy daze of not quite sleep, I recognized that mostly had to do with the fact I decided to attempt to write about a fairly serious issue at an hour when such things should be left alone. I knew before I started typing at the dark hours of the barely starting day (or should it be the essentially over evening?), that I'd be better served to throw a cute kitty picture or evidence my dog thinks he is people or ramblings that need limited brain power. I also decided I've done enough of that over the last several weeks, and felt I wanted to talk about the Ford Plant while it was still relevant (ignore that a minimal amount of my regular readers actually live in Brantford and/or likely, confused it with the car company, which means it wasn't a pressing issue for most anyway). I tossed about some words, and considering what a tiring day it had been, I felt I produced something of mild acceptability. For me the big issue is that in my brain mush state, I wasn't able to properly explain what I meant about art and culture being the 'heart & soul' of a city. Of course, if you already agreed with me then I'm sure my article was enough to lightly nod your head to, but I doubt it was very convincing for one who may see art and culture as frivolous or something that isn't crucial.

I understand that industry and business and politics all play a very crucial part in a city or community, and without them, you are likely left with 45 yahoos running about in their skivvies while waving about a flaming weed whacker in an attempt to defend their luxurious cardboard hovels. I also believe that history or even a simple game of word association would prove that art and culture are a significant part of any city or community or civilization, and so it should be protected as much as possible. For example, if I ask you to mention key things you associate with the 60s or the 70s or any era then I am fairly confident -- that while you will mention key historical moments -- you will also mention things like the fashion, music, literature, films, fads and so forth (all things you'd link to an era's culture and arts). If you look back at any of the major empires throughout history, there is a strong chance you'll also reflect upon some things that are linked to art and culture, such as their architecture, rituals, paintings, statues, plays, myths, and so on. It is often the things we link with art and culture that ended up giving the identity to an era or empire or civilization. I am not saying it is the only thing, but is most often a key thing.

Art and culture is not only a way to identify a community (by making it distinct), but it is a way that allows its member and citizens to constructively express themselves and also allow for a deeper connection among each other. I know I said a similar thing with last night's article, but let me explain exactly what I mean by this. One of the powers of arts of any kind is that it is a creative outlet for an individual, and allows for this person to express emotions or passions or feelings or beliefs that may be welling up inside of them. I know personally, I find writing in any form to be an effective way for me to be able to deconstruct thoughts or feelings that are nagging me. I find creative writing of all types is very soothing, calming and therapeutic experiences for me. I am not saying it is always that way, and people can do art for many reasons. The fact is that art is one of the most powerful forms of expression and being able to get a view across. The best part of art, is that it's naturally creative form allows it to resonate and connect with numerous people. These people often are not necessarily of the same background or belief system or religion or whatever. Sometimes a painting or song or poem or story can connect with the viewer/listener/reader in such a deep and profound way, even though their interpretation is incredibly different from what the creator originally meant. For me, that is one of the things that makes art so beautiful and powerful. The same piece or production can mean something different to each person, but it still causes each person who experiences it to be connected in some way.

This is why I feel art and culture is so important. This is why I believe it to be the heart and soul of a city or community. It gives us an identity, but it also helps connect all of us in some way or fashion. This is why I think Brantford, and every other city, should not perceive art and culture as a secondary or a superfluous thing. Art and culture is something that must be cherished and protected, because it is our heart and soul.

The SunTV Story Continues

I've actually got another blog post that I'm going to put up soon (that's right, two for the price of zero!), but since I blogged about the SunTV controversy earlier this week, then I wanted to point you towards a recent article in regards to this matter. It appears the gentleman representing SunTV in the debate, Kory Teneycke, has stepped down from his position with the network. The reason being claimed is that he feels his presence has been a liability to the pushing of the channel. But the reason he has been a liability is because he isn't answering some very important questions such as the following: why did he immediately leave the Conservative party to start up a seemingly right winged station, or why was he and Harper seen having lunch with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, or what exactly is Harper's connection with this channel (is it going to be a Harper propaganda machine disguised as a news station?), or why did it just happen that it was his IP address that was linked to the tampering of the petition while also being the person who outed the fake names in the petition? Yeah, lots of question that never went answered, and now, he is stepping away from the channel. I'd say that just causes even more questions. There is some spooky politics going on here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Goodbye Ford Plant: Brantford Permanently Loses A Piece of Its Heart & Soul

Brantford, my hometown and current city of residence, has been playing a game of 'make the landmarks disappear' in its downtown. I've made my feelings about that rather clear here and here. The subtraction of downtown places continued this week when a non profit venue known as the Ford Plant, which hosted indie bands and art shows, officially announced it will be closing its doors. This is yet another major blow for the downtown and a very sad loss, but unfortunately, one that most Brantfordians will be largely unaware of.

The farewell letter by the founders of the Ford Plant gave the impression that they just felt it was the right time to close their doors and they don't put any form of blame on anyone. I do believe it could have been avoided. In their letter, they mention how they were able to keep the venue running for 8 years despite no outside capital or funds, and little support besides those who attended the shows. There were many who felt the Ford Plant would quickly fail, and rather than try to make sure that didn't happen, the doubters just watched on the sidelines for the potential train wreck. The wreck never happened and the Ford Plant was a fair success for 8 years which had many fantastic Canadian acts pass through its doors. The place was a fantastic showcase and opportunity for countless rock, punk and alternative bands, as well as several fledgling artists.

The real tragedy is the obliviousness demonstrated by those in power in Brantford. Much like how they thumbed their nose at history by allowing the destruction of historical landmarks in the downtown, they turned the other way to a venue promoting arts and music. I realize those running the Ford Plant have families and jobs and responsibilities, and thus the longer time passed, the harder it was to keep the Ford Plant running, especially when the funds were completely coming from the small shows or their pockets. It may have been inevitable the Ford Plant would close down one day, but if circumstances were different, I don't believe that time would have been now. If the city truly recognized how important the Ford Plants was, then they would have stepped in with support years ago. They would have recognized the importance that the Ford Plant continued to grow and be successful.

These last few months have shown that some of those in power in Brantford are not completely in touch with what creates a vibrant and healthy city. As stated before, Brantford was quick to see no value in the buildings on Colborne and quickly wanted to do away with them. They saw no value in keeping the histories and stories those buildings brought. Many within Brantford are still obsessed with finding the next big business to occupy spaces downtown, with the hopes that will draw people back and create a revenue stream for the city. There is this obsession that Brantford needs to find the next big store that will drive business. But I think such desires are completely misguided and will only harm Brantford further. What Brantford needs is more places like the Ford Plant or at least, keep those places alive.

A major way for a city to gain funds and create jobs is to have a booming tourist industry. A city is not going to bring in tourists with a Best Buy or Bulk Barn (though my wife may argue the latter). Tourists are attracted to communities and cities that have a thriving culture and arts. People will come to see unique festivals or exciting shows or vibrant atmosphere. People are drawn to cities that have a distinct quality and feel. This is usually brought about through culture and art. Because it is the culture and arts that are the heart and soul of a city.

I am not saying that Brantford is completely barren of any arts or culture. They have the Harmony Square which is a magnificent and beautiful location. It will be the host to a huge Jazz Festival next weekend. Things like the Jazz Festival, which the past two years have brought in people from all over Southern Ontario and Toronto, are just proof that this is what will spur true business and growth in the city.

Really, it isn't even just about money. It is art and culture that makes a city alive and colourful. Arts and culture capture people's emotions and feelings and beliefs and hopes and dreams. It is these things that help bring a community together. It is these things that help inspire and uplift people.

On a bigger scale, look at some of the greatest empires and civilizations of all time. Almost all of them had a powerful and thriving arts and culture. It really is a driving force behind a growing community. It allows a place to have an identity and a form of expression.

The Ford Plant was a place where many artists and musicians had an opportunity to express themselves. It was a place for others to even be inspired. A young person could walk in and be impacted by the band they saw that night. It could be the spark to create their own love and passion for music. It would allow for the constant fostering of culture and art among several people, because passion for great art is infectious. It allows many to be encouraged to express themselves through their talents and passions.

I am a firm believer that culture and art is a powerful tool. It can heal a broken heart. It can make a person powerful beyond belief by influencing many around them. It can make you laugh or cry or cheer or reflect. It can touch each person in a different but profound way. Even more importantly, it can impact an entire community by giving it a heart and soul.

This is why the loss of the Ford Plant is a tragic thing. Brantford loses yet another landmark that could have positively defined it. It was a place where young people could experience a variety of music and arts. It allowed them to leave their American Idol and Guitar Hero, and experience another form of our culture.

I also know that the city of Brantford is full of talented artists. I know there are many that want Brantford to grow and improve. Even though we say bye to yet another important landmark, hopefully, this loss will created the opportunity for more great institutions for art and culture to replace it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Urgent E-Mail That Must Be Read This Second!

Dear Beloved Family Member or Cherished Friend or Random Strangers I happened to have in my address book,

I know your first instinct is to immediately delete this e-mail because most forwards are incredibly irritating and a waste of your time, since they usually contain either inane jokes, unsubstantiated 'news', false alarms, missing reports of nonexistent people, scams to rid you of money, or scams for invisible iPods. But this e-mail is 100% real and factual and IMPORTANT (would I put words in all caps, if this wasn't crucial information?). After you read this e-mail, you must immediately forward this to 25 people you know, 5 people you don't know and 2.5 people you wish you knew. If you don't, then your Grandma's best friend's gardener's dog walker's nephew's bus driver will acquire a wart on their left thigh. LEFT THIGH! (see, all caps, so it is urgent) But if you do send it, oh my, will you ever be in for a treat.

Before we lay down the glory that is your impending treat if you send off this e-mail to the designated amount of people, you must be informed a major event that is going on in the world. Right this moment there are genetically engineered squirrels wielding pick axes that are sneaking into our homes and stealing your socks, but only one from a pair. This travesty leaves you with many socks without a partner, a friend, a pair, and a twin. This will lead your socks into a deep depression and almost assuredly a drinking problem. It will only be a matter of weeks that homes will be stricken with loud mouthed, drunken, pairless socks causing wooly damage throughout. Our socks deserve to be paired up. Our socks must be united. Our liquor needs to remain untainted from cotton or wool. Plus squirrels with pick axes are really frightening!

How are these genetically engineered squirrels coming into being? Well obviously, it is your government! Specifically YOUR government (ignore the fact that we aren't naming an actual country or that this mailing list may contain people from numerous countries, but concentrate on the fact it is most definitely the government of your country. If you happen to live like a hermit on a far away deserted island that happens to have wifi, then the government is YOU!). How is the government getting the funds to create these socks stealing, pick ax wielding squirrels? They've been using tax payers’ money, but eventually, they are coming up with a new revenue stream. On August 15, 2011, they are going to start charging 11 cents for every e-mail you send. And if you never use e-mail, then they are going to charge you for using Facebook (or Twitter or whatever will enrage you enough to forward this e-mail!) If this e-mail is received after August 15, 2011, and you are not being charged, then rest assured it was a typo and we meant 2012 (or 2013 or even 2019!!!)

This charge is unfair and unconstitutional and the worse thing ever since the idea of paying for stuff or services was INVENTED!!! (see, it’s important) We must take a stand against squirrels and fees and milk. We can only do that by sending out an e-mail, because if history has shown us anything, mass forwards always make a difference. Or they at least make you very rich by sending your credit info to Nigerian Princes and friends lost in Scotland.

Are you questioning if this is true? Don't! Because it has been verified by Snopes.com. And my uncle Jed! JED!!! (You know what that means)

Plus if you send this now, while standing on your head, then you will win a free iPad that will be hand delivered by Bill Gates. Bill Gates? You probably are thinking that it is sort of fishy that the competition would give away products from their main opposition. STOP THINKING! You want an iPad! And if you don't want an iPad then you can also win free milk and everyone loves milk(please ignore when we demonized milk earlier in this e-mail).

Just e-mail this off, and then you can pick up a free bag or carton or bucket of milk at your local milkery (that is where you buy milk). Just walk in and take the milk, and then proceed to leave the store. Ignore the screaming cashier or store manager, because that is just a test to make sure you read this e-mail. They may also call the cops, to make the whole ruse more believable.

WARTS! iPads! Squirrels! Milk! Calvin Klein!

Forward this e-mail now, because it is totally true. Plus it will help the police find a missing baby carrot and raise funds for an emu farm.

How can you not?

Sincerely,

Someone you will block if you have half a brain.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why You Must Discriminate Over Who Can Use The 'N' Word

I am sure most of you have heard or read about Dr Laura's (Schlessinger) melt down on the air, on August 10th, where she broke into a rant about how it isn't fair White people can't use the 'N' word while Black people use it all the time (such as comedians during routines or between two friends). She proceeded to go on a rant about the caller being hypersensitive and claiming this type of 'unfairness' causes for more discrimination and racism in western society (towards Whites). She emphasized her point by saying the 'n' word 11 times during her rant. She has since apologize for this uncalled for display, and actually, has announced the end of her 30 year old radio show. Depending who you talk to, she either quit or was fired, but there is no arguing it was this issue that spurred it.

I know very little about Dr. Laura other than she is a socially conservative commentator, and that when I do hear her views, I quickly recognize we have very different outlook on things. Though I do agree with Dr. Laura that subjects like race are something that we need to talk about and that we can't ignore the impact it plays in our society. What I don't condone is almost everything else in her misguided rant, especially her spewing of the 'n' word and the complaint it isn't fair only Black people can use it. It reminds me of a three year old complaining to her parents that it is 'no fair' Charlie gets to be injected by an insulin needle all day while she only gets to inhale sugar by the pound full.

Despite Dr. Laura's apology, I got the feeling she still believes she should be able to use it. This whole mess has also been used by members of the Tea Party and other right wing pundits as an excuse to complain about the discrimination towards Whites (especially those poor, downtrodden, millionaire CEOs). There has been several blogs or web sites that have spouted out their opinions, with some groups agreeing it is discrimination that one group can use a word while another can't. At the same time, there is also a large portion that realize it is rather insensitive and misguided to fight for the right to use a racist slang.

The major issue is that the 'N' word is not just a word. It has a long and hurtful history behind it. This was a word that was used by rich, white slave owners to address their 'property'. This was a word used by Whites to describe the people who couldn't go to their schools or clubs or stores during the segregation. It was the Whites' way of showing that Blacks were beneath them. It was and is a word filled with contempt and derision. When it was used by a White person, it was their way of making it clear that Blacks knew they were the inferior race. When it comes from the lips of a Caucasian, it is filled with venom and hatred.

This is the exact reason that a Black person can say it to another Black person. They aren't holding the same meaning behind it. They aren't describing the other as the inferior race, because they are the same. There isn't that same history. There isn't that same venom coating around the word, because it is being shared by two people of the same race.

On paper, it might be unfair that it is considered racist by some to use a word, and completely fine by another group. But then you're suffering from a bad case of ignoring history. You are ignoring the entire reason the word is bad to begin with. The fact is, it is a word that only carries hate when used by a certain group. A group that brought the word into existence and used it to categorize a race in a disgustingly, vile manner. I know many people condemn the past of slavery and segregation, but it is still far too soon to think the word doesn't carry the feelings of discrimination and hatred or the sentiments of that awful past.

I want things like equality and fairness, but history and society also demands that we be aware of the realities. The fact is equality and fairness still does not exist, and mostly likely, will not fully exist for a very long time. Thus it is our responsibility to take the actions necessary to continue to push towards a world of fairness and true equality. One day it would be nice to live in a place that a word doesn't contain a horde of painful pasts and evil emotions.

This is the same reason that I am a supporter of at least some form of affirmative action. This is why I believe there needs to be programs that aid and support certain groups. Because due to events of the past, many people still aren't starting out on an even playing field. People from certain groups are still being born into areas that are under funded or under supported. Years of discrimination and a clear pecking order have firmly entrenched families for a life of poverty. This isn't to say that people aren't able to rise above this and succeed. It is to say that it is a harder road for some than others. The reality is, discrimination still exists.

It may not be as blatant as a hundred years ago or even the 50s and 60s, but it still is hovering over us all like a threatening storm cloud. You know it still exists when a White woman clutches her purse a little tighter when passing a Black man. It still exists when a family is hesitant to move into a neighbourhood because a Black family already lives there. You know it still exists when someone utters, 'Why can't they just adopt our customs, because this is my country afterall.' You know it still exist when people complain 'they' are taking 'our' jobs. You know it still exists when a person complains a city has gone downhill ever since it has got more diverse. You know it still exists when the straight As Black student is called an 'exception'. I don't want it to exist. But I can't ignore that it is here. As long as it is here, then there needs to be rules and programs and understandings in place that help create an even playing field. On paper you can be 'fair' to everyone, but that actually isn't really fair to many.

This is why if you're not black, you have no right ever uttering the 'n' word. It is a word that discriminates, not in just its meaning, but in who can actually use it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

From the 'Dwight Schrute School of Public Speaking'. . .

Wow, this may be the reason why you should run your speech ideas by a friend or spouse rather than just doing it in front of a mirror or stuffed animals. I am shocked this guy has actually held any form of a political position before this, or that he wasn't laughed off before completing his speech. I also love the fact he promises (threatens?) more of the same during the elections if some schmoes actually vote him as the Republican candidate. Apparently, yelling out your qualifications is the insurance you need for achieving office.

On the other hand, he cut a pretty good WWE wrestling promo.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How Not To Help Your Credibility In A Debate

Yesterday, a good friend of mine sent a link to a video clip showing a debate between representatives of Sun TV and the international online petition group Avaaz. The clip I watched was about 15 minutes long, but I was having troubles embedding it on the site. So, this video has about 5 minutes shaved off, but still gives you a fair idea of how the debate went.



I don't know much about the Sun TV situation, and didn't hear much about its approval or Avaaz's disapproval until being sent the clip. I can say that Sun TV's executive Kory Teneycke did a pretty poor job in helping his credibility. At one point in this debate, he complained about being interrupted when answering a question, yet I am not sure if there was one time that he did not interrupt AVAAZ.org's co-founder Rick Patel. If he wasn't interrupting Patel, then he was making attacks against his character or the organization rather than properly explaining his side. He continually tried to paint AVAAZ as a strictly American organization and Patel as a pushy American tampering in Canadian business. If one checks the AVAAZ website, you can clearly see that it is an international organization that deals with issues throughout the world. As for Patel, he tried to make it clear that he is actually a Canadian, but you may not have heard that while Teneycke was talking over him. What was Kory's evidence that Patel was an American? He was in New York, because apparently, no Canadian has ever been in that city before. It isn't like people outside of the United States ever go to New York or anything like that (I hear there is nothing to do there, or very few businesses and organizations headquatered there).

If Teneycke wasn't making ad hominem attacks, then he was distorting the words being said by Patel. Patel never claimed that there was hate speech, but rather, there was 'hate-filled propaganda.' 'Hate speech' has a specific meaning and is illegal in Canada. On the other hand, 'hate-filled propaganda' can be defined to mean something entirely different. I think the issue wasn't that the channel would contain outright hate speech, but would contain material or 'news' that causes elements of hate among those who view it. Of course, Patel was never given a fair chance to explain it all.

I haven't heard a lot about this issue, and thus not entirely clear of Harper's involvement. It is peculiar that someone in his party would step down in order to start a news channel. Harper does have a rep for pandering to the far right, especially the Christian (as I've discussed before). Also Harper does not necessarily have the best reputation for being an open and transparent leader. My own personal views on Harper as a leader don't actually help in clarifying his true role in this situation.

As for my own opinion on Sun TV and if it should come to Canada, the view is aligned with how I feel about Fox News. I personally believe strongly in free speech and freedom of expression. Even if I completely disagree with something or think it total garbage, I think the view most likely should be heard. Of course, this is with the understanding that the view is open for criticism and rebuttal. But saying that, I also think it is important to note the responsibility of news media. The news media is given certain rights, because they are expected to keep the public informed on the many issues going around them. The news media has access to places and people that the common persons doesn't, and this is accepted because it is our way of gaining information and understanding. People consume news with the belief that it is unbiased and presenting the facts. On television or in the newspaper, a news story is expected to provide all the sides and give the viewer/reader as much information as possible. Now, I am of course not talking about editorials or news talk shows or anything where the presenter is expected to share an opinion. If a person is reading a opinion piece or they're watching a diatribe then they understand that there will be biases attached, and are likely reading/watching in order to gain that presenter's opinion. But when one reads a typical news article or is watching the nightly news then they are expecting unbiased information and the facts of the matters.

Using that definition, Fox News is not 'news'. It is always providing a bias. It is always spinning 'news' and 'facts' in order further an agenda. It is a right wing conservative channel that caters to that demographic, and attempts to further the agenda of people with those beliefs. It will often take news stories and completely over blow the issues or even ignore facts that contradict them. Just look at the top news stories on Fox for the last few months, and you get a pretty clear idea of what they are trying to shove down peoples' throats.

My problem with Fox News is not that it is bias or even has an agenda, but rather it has the gall to cal itself a news station. It does not present news, but rather it spouts off non stop opinions and distorted 'news' to support a certain belief set. Half the day is filled with 'newscasters' screaming while flailing their arms and completely overreacting to issues. Fox News is an entertainment channel. It is no different that the Comedy channel or the Cartoon Network. It is not meant to inform, but it is designed to entertain.

If Sun TV is aspiring to be Fox News, then it is also not a news station but an entertainment channel. Which means it shouldn't be calling itself a news station or trying to make itself part of news channel packages. If Fox News or Sun TV admitted they are strictly an entertainment channel, then I'd have no problem with them. But they wouldn't do that, because they want to be seen as a news station. This means they will mislead countless people into believing their opinions and agendas are actual news and facts. Even worse, they will continue to harm the integrity of what is considered a news provider. People will begin to think this circus is what news really is, and start to expect it from other reputable stations.

I really don't know how dishonest or corrupt the proceedings for Sun TV's approval were. I do know how credible Fox News is as a news station. I do know many people are misguided by watching its 'news'. I do not think we need a Canadian version with the same propaganda and agendas.

Friday, September 10, 2010

And Another Thing About Terry Jones

Honestly, I will blog about something other than the discrimination against Muslims at some point. But if people persist on spewing their bigotry all over my symbolic pants, then I am going to have my voice heard too.

As you know, Terry Jones has decided to postpone his hatefest known as 'Burn the Quran' day. During his announcement, he said something that really is the epitome of what is wrong with those who are so violently opposed to the Muslim community centre.

With a possibly slight paraphrasing: Americans don't want the mosque built at the ground zero site and Muslims don't want the Quran burned.

Do you see the problem here?

As I stated in my two previous posts about this, the worst thing in all this is that all Muslims are being depicted as enemies and the 'other'. It is very clear in Jones language that he isn't considering Muslims to be Americans. He is not showing any consideration towards the thousands of Muslims that worship and live in New York. These are American citizens that not only would like the community centre but also have their right to religion honoured.

It is so frustrating watching certain people try to define what an American is. It is pure racism when Muslims are deemed to be UnAmerican. It is outright sickening. So, even when Jones makes the right decision to stop the burning of the Quran, he still ends up revealing himself to be close minded and misguided. Being American is simply being a citizen of that nation and many of these Muslims were born in the country, which makes them as American as can be.

I have created two posts (here and here) that have clearly laid out my side on this whole issue and also showed why I think it is despicable. I really don't believe I have much more to add to this subject. I felt it was important to hammer home the mindset of some of the folks that are opposed to the Muslim community centre, and essentially reveal what is the root to this problem.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Denouncing Burning the Quran Day: Why Bigotry Is a Poor Way to 'Defend' the West

I was hoping I had addressed everything that was needed to be said in regards to discrimination towards Muslims, but apparently, some decided protesting the Muslim community centre was not enough. Pastor Terry Jones, along with his congregation at the Dove World Outreach Center, is under the idiotic belief that the best way to honour the victim's of 9/11 is to burn the Quran on the infamous anniversary date. Even though the congregation is nothing more than about 50 fools, their event has gained national exposure and sadly, there is actually some support on the internet (and beyond) for the vile act.

Before Pastor Jones and his church gained massive media attention by declaring International Burn a Quran Day, they already had a reputation for spreading their version of the gospel through acts of hatred and discrimination. They had previously declared 'No Homo Mayor Protest' day against Gainesville's openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe. These actions clearly make this organization more of a hate group than any kind of a church, and seem to be following the lead of the other radical hate ministry known as Westboro Baptist Church. Both groups hide behind the title of Christian ministries while actually spewing forth nothing but venom and bigotry. I am positive that no clear minded Christian would support these atrocious acts or organizations, just as no loving Muslim supported the terrorist attacks. Initially, you may think this is nothing more than about 50 lunatics indulging in the ultimate act of discrimination and ignorance. Unfortunately, the disturbing thing is there are groups on the internet sprouting up in support of this sickening act, and promise they will participate in order to 'commemorate' and 'honour' the victims of 9/11.

I want to make it clear, I am a huge supporter of freedom of speech. Even if I think one's beliefs are idiotic, I recognize their right to hold them. Though at the same time, they have to recognize my right to criticize it, especially when it is filled with bigotry and idiocy. At first glance, all that is being perpetuated is a book being burned, which in theory isn't a big deal. It would just be like if a Bible was burned. Oh wait, did I just get a few people upset with that statement? Did you start screaming out that the Bible is more than a book or that it is holy or that it deserves respect? Well, guess what, Muslims view the Quran the same way, and obviously will take offence to the burning of their holy tome. I am not just talking about Al Quaeda or Bin Laden or Iran or the crazy extremists, but I am also talking about the Muslims who are citizens of the United States or Canada or many other places where rights are honoured. The burning of the Quran is not a direct attack against terrorists, but rather a huge insult to all peaceful and loving Muslims. This is one of the most disgusting examples of targeting a group as the 'other' or the enemy.

All one has to do is Google 'Burning the Quran' to see how explosive this topic is. I'll admit there is a lot of detractors (including the US government) and I am glad to hear it, but it is sad how many people are supporting it. What is more disgusting is the language that is being used. I've read things like, "Why stop at the Quran, let's burn a Mosque," or "We need to take back America," or "If they can't speak our language or honour our Christian heritage than they can get out of here," or "Blah Blah Blah hate filled, vomit inducing words blah blah blah." These comments are not only anchored in ignorance but they are absolutely frightening.

As I stated in my past post regarding these issues, the Muslims in the United States (and Canada) are citizens of the country. Many of them have been born in the country, and as long as people aren't being batshit insane to them, they love their country. I have Muslim friends and they proudly declare themselves Canadian. The hard fact is, they are just as Canadian as me. Just like how the Muslims in New York or Florida or wherever in the States, are just as American as the rest. It isn't skin colour or religion or lifestyle that makes you Canadian or American. I think, that is a very important thing to remember.

It is absolutely asinine and ignorant and asshated when people talk about Muslims invading their country or how Americans need to take back what is theirs. Because listen, this country is many Muslim's country, and they are doing what is their right. They have freedom of religion and the right to practice their religion just like everyone else. Until someone starts having ritual sacrifices or throwing puppies in blenders to appease their gods, they have the right to practice and worship how they want (because they aren't harming anyone).

I realize that burning the Quran isn't directly harming anyone either. But the action is being done with the sole purpose of offending an entire religion. The people in Canada and America who are Muslim have already had to put up with a lot of shit, persecution and discrimination over the last many years (because they've been unfairly linked with maniacs). You can see where this is just one more abuse they have to suffer, and one more personal attack against them. The worse part is, the people partaking in these actions are demonstrating that they don't consider Muslims to be fellow citizens. They are outright displaying a feeling that Muslim don't belong and are what is wrong with America. What is really wrong with America and this continent, is outright idiocy and bigotry. These actions are the type of steps that will create a serious divide in the West. It has been said before, this is exactly what the terrorists and extremist wanted in the first place.

The scariest part for me, is the language being used and the sentiments being conveyed are the stepping stones to something much more awful. This type of language has been used before in history, and over time has built up such violent rage that unthinkable atrocities were committed. I know that Nazi Germany is overused when one wants to use an example for disgusting actions committed by a mob mentality, but please bear with me here. Before World War II or the Holocaust, Hitler made it known that Jews were what was wrong with Germany. He decried how they were not real Germans and how he was disgusted by their religious practices and culture. He went as far as trying to claim that Jews were attempting to take over the world and they needed to lose places of power. He continued to spread that hate and bile throughout the nation, until the point where even good Germans started thinking or saying it. I don't think any German, even Hitler, was thinking mass genocide in 1936. It was something that came about as the hate grew and grew, and people started to demonize the Jews more and more. My point is, such major atrocities are not planned from the outset. They start with small acts of hate and bigotry. They come when people start labeling a group as the 'other' and then they slowly start viewing them as second class or animals. This leads to a group being dehumanized so much or being depicted as an enemy for so long that any type of compassion or mercy has been exterminated. The groups is now just a problem that needs to be eliminated, and there is no empathy left. This is what leads to the worst possible acts imaginable.

You may be saying that I'm pulling a Keith Olberman and being overly dramatic. I probably am. You may be saying that it will never get to that extent. I really, really, really want you to be right. I hope, in 5 years you can wag your finger at me and say that I was rambling on for nothing. We can look back and see it never got as bad as I was threatening it to be. I don't want it to happen. I really hope the goodness of mankind overpowers the hatred being spread by the few (I definitely believe the majority are still seeing all this as nonsense).

I still think it is important to remember the past. More importantly, I think we need to realize what is happening is not trivial. This outright discrimination is bad for Canada and America and every place where freedom and rights are respected. You don't need to agree with the Muslim faith, to recognize they have rights and should be treated respectively. We are allowed to disagree with a person's beliefs or lifestyle, but we still need to remember they have rights. We definitely need to remember they are humans.

I trust that when most take time to reflect, they realize what is happening is the epitome of discrimination and alienation. It is an act being committed against fellow citizens. It is the opposite of community and growth. Going down this route will only drive a wedge further between relations and continue to ruin chances for understanding and empathy. It is my biggest hope that we move towards reconciliation and look at ways to fix the damage that has already been done. To disagree does not mean we can't still have love, empathy and understanding.

Edit: It now looks like Terry Jones has postponed 'Burn a Quran Day', and though that is good news, it seems like he had some demands before he'd do it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Not Quite Billy Joel

Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire was one of my favourite songs when I was younger. But let's be honest, the references are now really dated and it isn't necessarily relevant for today. It has been long overdue for some tweaking to update this diddy. So lo behold, the folks at College Humor did exactly that, and have brought us We Didn't Start the Flame War.

If you've ever bothered checking out a forum or reading the comments on Youtube or the countless other locations that allow for public posting, then you'll be able to get the references in this video. If you are that type of person, I am also sure you will find this video as hilarious (and crude) as I did. And yeah, it is very crude (it's about internet flame wars after all), so I'll warn you about that before clicking away.

I do have to say, I am appreciative my readers and commenters are several steps above the folks depicted here.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Getting More Beautiful With Age



Today was the birthday of the most wonderful and amazing person in my life. So, I did what any good husband would do if they could, and that was devote almost the entire day to her. Which means the blog got the shaft today. But look at her, can you blame me?

Monday, September 06, 2010

State of the Blog Address: Why I Write What I Write

In May of 2004, I thought it'd be spiffy to start up a blog. I have always loved to write, and often, I find writing is the best way for me to work out the thoughts in my head. I also just love the creativity and energy that comes from writing. I mean any form of writing from short stories to essay to articles to poems to my grocery list (though Emily prefers when it is a little less creative) is a process that I feel lifts my spirits and makes use of my skills. I also have a side of me that craves attention and likes to be the focal point. It was this delightful combination (much like peanut butter and chocolate, or a vocal critic and George Lucas) that inspired me and made me realize I wanted to blog.

Now, the blog always has been and always will be intended as a place to entertain me. I write about things that I like, and I deem to be important. Due to my constant need for attention, I also do appreciate growing an audience and getting my blog recognized. Over the last several months, I have discovered that this blog is one way that I could start creating some form of a name within writing circles. This isn't to say, that I think the blog is going to get me rich and famous. Actually, if I ever think that then I just need to look at my daily visitor count which is definitely swimming at the bottom .5% of the popularity pool. The blog won't ever be my key to success on its own, but at the same time, it has already helped open a few doors that weren't originally available to me.

If I really wanted the blog to be my major launching pad for writing success, then I'd have made sure it had a more focused theme. Any popular blog written by an initially unknown almost always is geared to a specific audience or topic (such as Conservative politics, Liberal puppies, or Moderate pies). And maybe at some point, I'll be inspired to start a blog that is more focused in its topics and goals. But that will never be this blog.

First and foremost, I like having a place where I can write whatever comes to my mind. I like being able to throw up a movie review or bash the handling of G20/G8 or try on my creative chops. The writing that I get paid for is for other people, and has to meet their requirements and expectations. So, it is nice having a place where I can post my own random musings and ramblings the way I want. At the same time, I like being able to have my writings actually being read rather than forever hiding in the bowels of my Word documents.

The risk of posting a hodge podge of writing content is that it is very unlikely that everything I write will be enjoyed by every person who frequents here. But I also recognize that is the risk of having a blog that goes out of its way to be random and not have any specific topics. This also means that the blog will likely take a long time to grow an audience unless I somehow stumble upon fame, or accidentally create the next annoying internet meme, or a bunch of people suddenly realize they like to read my writing style even if they don't agree with the thoughts.

That last part is the real kicker, almost everyone reading this is likely at some point either to disagree with my opinion, or have total disinterest/dislike/hatred towards the topic I choose. And that is completely okay.

I want this blog to be an enjoyable experience for more people than just the one fellow who is writing it. This means that I'll try to write topics that I believe are engaging or are controversial or are entertaining. I also recognize that I am not always going to be successful at that. And really, it doesn't matter since this blog is free and was only started to give me a place to sharpen my writing skills.

There is going to be times that you may want to ignore what I am writing. There hopefully will be times that you'll be moved and nod your head with agreement. There is possibly times you will feel the need to write a dissenting view in the comment threads. Other times, you will want to pet the cute cat and dog on your screen (for you, I mock you by petting the real thing). You see, all those above things are okay. Because just like I have the freedom to write about whatever I want, you also have the freedom on how to respond to this content.

As I proudly look at my daily post streak since the last day of January, I realize how much I love this blog. I've written some things I am pretty proud of. Even some things that I was able to show to possible clients and from that, was actually able to convince I was worth the hire. It has been a good blog, and I hope that it continues for many more years. But despite the fact it has helped me a slight bit in my writing career, in the end it is nothing more than a place for one guy to cobble together some words and try to become a better writer.

I'm going to continue to write about whatever I feel like at that moment. Often, I'll be moved by events that are reported in the news. A lot of those times it will be rants of fury, but maybe, it will even be times where I can be proud of what is happening in this world. But whatever I write about, you can choose to read it or deem it verbal diarrhea. You can civilly inform me that my view has holes, or you can cheer me in order to see my head inflate more. In the end, I hope you do enjoy this blog, because I definitely have.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Short Reflections On A Long Weekend

In the Tortoise and the Hare fable, the apparent moral is supposed to be that slow and steady wins the race. But shouldn't it actually be, don't freaking take a nap in the middle of a competition? I think, that very moral has helped people like Roger Federer or Usain Bolt or Drew Brees be the athletic successes they are today. I don't think I've seen any of those men take a little shut eye in the middle of winning a match, race or game.

In the good at first but bad later category, we took our lovable pup, Summit, for a walk this evening. Now, taking him for a walk is always a good thing. But we decided to allow him a special long weekend treat since he was so good at the party last night (he remembered to use the coasters). We allowed him off leash in the woods near our house. It was pure joy seeing him gallop through all the bushes and generally, be engaging in the proverbial time of his life. It was even fun watching him jump into the dirty pond and splash about, because it means, we may have a chance in getting him to eventually swim. I loved watching him play, and it was considered a rather good experience.

But the hour or so spent trying to comb burrs out of his coat, was not a good experience. He seems to not like having a comb yanked through his fur, thus not the most cooperative during burr grooming. He also stunk like a dirty pond, which is never something you aspire from your dog.

So, that was my long weekend Sunday. How was yours?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Today's Lack Of Blog Excuse

I was throwing a party. A real one. With real people and everything. And we had fun. Lot of fun.

Seriously. It wasn't just me surrounded by 9 stuffed animals.

Why is this so hard to believe?

Anyway, if you keep mocking me like this, then you won't be invited next year.

What? You weren't invited this year.

Um. . . well.

Hey look! It's a puppy.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Long Weekend Is Here!

And after several weeks that felt like they would never end, I am definitely happy to see its arrival. But I think Kool & The Gang express my emotions the best.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque": The Debate That Should Have Never Existed

I'm positive that I don't need to explain the "Ground Zero Mosque' to anyone, because this has probably been the hottest debate in the news and internet for the last month. There has been numerous political and news figures who have depicted the proposed 'mosque' as an attack on freedom, America, and the 9/11 victims. This has provoked countless discussions and blogs on the internet and numerous protests in the public. It has also given me one of the biggest headaches and cases of inner fury in a long, long, long time. This is not only a case of political posturing, but one of the worst examples of close mindedness and bigotry in the modern age. People with far more power than they deserve (Hi Glenn and Sarah!)have manipulated conservative minded people into unifying against the building of the 'mosque' because according to them, it will not only dishonour victims but will be the first step towards the fall of America. What was once (and should have always been) a civil issue has ballooned into a national dilemma (and actually, has barged its way into Canada as well). The problem is that many people opposed to the 'mosque' are misguided, and even worse, many of the people originally stirring up this issue are filled with hatred and bigotry focused agendas.

The first major problem with this whole debate is the title of 'Ground Zero Mosque' or the '9/11 Mosque.' Because that implies that 1) it is being built on the ground zero site, and 2) that it is a mosque. It is actually neither. The proposed building is being built about 2 blocks away from where the 9/11 atrocity took place. As for the building, it is going to be a Muslim community centre which is designed to cater to all citizens in the surrounding area (meaning, it doesn't matter your religious beliefs). Yes, there will be a prayer room for Muslims, but it was also planned to have things like a basketball court, which last I checked was not a strictly Muslim thing. Essentially, the thing that is causing people the greatest uproar -- "By Jimminy, they be building an Islamic religious thingy right where that big explosion made by the Muslims happened" -- is actually not even true. But let's ignore all that because obviously its detractors have, and concentrate on the fact there is a semi-religious building for Muslims being built near one of the most tragic sites in American history.

The big argument for those against this 'mosque' is that the building is a huge slap in the face of the victims. The assumption here, is that the 'mosque' is essentially honouring the maniacs who flew planes into the World Trade Center, rather than the poor victims. Now it is true that the terrorists considered themselves Muslim. It is also true that they did it with a misguided notion they were following the commands of Allah. But just because a group of radical lunatics claim to be of a religion, doesn't actually mean the majority of the level headed and loving people in that religion agree with them.

For example, the Westboro Baptist Church, lead by the raving lunatic Fred Phelps, consider themselves both Christians and Baptists. As far as I can tell, they spend their entire time spreading the message of bigotry and hate, and do such reprehensible acts like picketing the funerals of soldiers and creating websites like 'God Hates Fags'. The church and the man are absolutely disgusting. But I am positive there isn't a single Christian I know, or almost any level minded and reasonable and loving Christian that would condone or support any of these actions. They would probably go as far as to say, they wouldn't even consider Fred Phelps or his cult to be Christian. I would agree with them. But you see, this also needs to be afforded to all the loving and compassionate Muslims out there.

I know a few Muslims that I would consider really good friends. I can guarantee you that they don't condone the terrorist jihad of Osama Bin Laden or Al Quaeda. I also know they would not only consider them to be terribly misguided, but also not true Muslims.

The crime committed on September 11th, 2001 in New York was not done by Muslims. It was perpetuated by sick, sadistic, vile maniacs. If anyone happened to propose a monument to maniacs at the ground zero site, then I'd be the first to oppose it. But they haven't, because that would be stupid. Just like it is stupid and bigoted to claim it was all of Muslims that attacked America on 9/11.

The thing is, Osama and his nutjobs likely don't consider the Muslims in America to be actual Muslims. Just like I am sure the insane Ted Phelps doesn't consider Christians outside of his cult to be actual Christians. Because you see, that is how maniacs think, and is why we consider them maniacs (they think they are right and their brand of crazy is the way to believe). On 9/11 it was an attack against all of America, which included the Muslims who lived there. I am sure these last several years have been just as hard, if not even harder (due to having put up with rising hatred and bigotry), for the American Muslims. That day was just as much a tragedy for them, because America was their country too. Unfortunately, this awful incident has cause some people to see this as a Us vs. Them, and the 'them' has turned into all practicing Muslims. To the point, that I'm sure some of you have heard (either in person or in news clips), folks spout out that a female Muslim wearing a hijab or any visible Muslim are not 'real Americans'. I am not claiming that bigotry was erased before 9/11, but I do know, that the attacks made life harder for those Americans (and I admit, harder for almost everyone). Now, they have to suffer through being called a terrorist or a foreigner in the the very nation they were born in. This most recent debate has now reignited these hurtful and ferocious verbal (and physical) attacks.

Another thing about 9/11, is people opposed to the 'mosque' seem to forget that America, and especially New York, is a rather diverse place. I promise you that there was definitely innocent Muslims in the planes and the towers on 9/11. This means Muslim families lost loved ones in that tragedy. So, not only have they possibly had to suffer through accusations for years, but they've had to recover from the great loss on that day. All Americans, no matter their religion, suffered on 9/11 and they all deserve to grieve.

The opposition to the 'mosque' like to ignore, that there is this thing called freedom of religion. People have the right in America (and Canada) to practice any type of religion they choose. As long as they aren't causing any harm to others (such as sacrificing their neighbour's puppy), then they are afforded the freedoms to practice their religions without persecution. This means that Muslims have the right to build a Mosque in New York. They have the right to worship in New York. They should not have to be accused of jihad or of trying to destroy democracy by building a semi religious oriented structure.

Despite what some close minded and hatred filled folks may believe, most Muslims don't have a world conquering agenda. North American Muslims likely love where they live (at least, when they aren't being called 'towel heads' or 'terrorists'), and don't have too many plans to destroy the place they consider home. Despite the numerous web sites and videos that may state otherwise, Muslims are not attempting to attack or overthrow America. The Muslim community centre is not the next symbolic brick in their planned stronghold over democracy and freedom. I am not denying there are forces against the west, but they're all maniacs and hate filled radicals. Though the sad thing is not all of these hate filled radicals are from the east (like Osama and thugs), but they are actually living in America and claim themselves to be 'good' Americans.

I wish this proposal of this building could have been a non issue. I wish that 9/11 and claims of 'attacks against America' weren't dragged into this discussion. Above all, I wish that innocent and loving Muslims weren't once again painted as the 'other'. I will forever remember the tragedy that was 9/11, and I hope to never downplay it. But attacking a specific religion does not honour those victims or protect us from the threats facing the west. If anything, the opposition continues to cause friction and tear a rift between Americans (because SURPRISE Muslims are Americans too). It only furthers the damage done on September 11th, by taking away the religious freedoms and rights of a large group of people. Hopefully, eventually the majority can truly see the damage being done by the opposition to this building, and the ideology that inspires it.