hostel hostility

OK, it’s official, i am not a people person. which i had kinda suspected for most of the last half-century but … staying at backpacker hostels has confirmed it.
sharing kitchen and bathroom space with other frugal-minded travellers with varying standards of cleanliness and etiquette and privacy considerations does not bring out the best in moi. like, just now, while i am quietly attempting to compose this blog post, a young bearded fellow has picked up a guitar and started to strum it. right in front of me. in MY space. and i don’t feel like hearing that just now, thank you very much. but, rather than throw my jandal at his inconsiderate head, i will merely sigh and conclude this snippet with something i just copied off the wall in the eating lounge:

The way to happiness is:

Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply; give much. Fill your life with love.

Do as you would be done by.



bartlet for america

so when exactly was it determined that we want ordinary people in the white house?

it was dad-gum embarrassing to hear clips of sarah palin’s “goshdarnit this” and “doggonit that” during the american veep debate last week. do her handlers truly think america wants/needs elly-may clampett a heartbeat away from the oval office? the whole point of electing leaders is that they have demonstrated AN ABILITY TO LEAD. i do not want a “regular” “average” “ordinary” “joe sixpack” or “joe lunchbucket” anywhere near the white house, or as PM of canada for that matter.

forgive me, but i want important political decisions that are going to affect my future — and the future of this seriously troubled planet — to be made by intelligent, articulate, well-educated people with an understanding of foreign affairs, economics, climate change and social issues; people who get that freedom of religion includes freedom FROM religion. i would be really impressed if the candidates knew MORE about all of these issues than i do. yet, strangely, intelligence in a candidate has somewhere along the way become a negative thing. intellectual = elitist = too hoity-toity for The Average Voter to understand or appreciate. in canada, some people seem to think that wearing a sweater makes you look more like a warm-and-fuzzy “ordinary” citizen and therefore deserving of a majority government. i have nothing against sweaters, in fact i own quite a few of them, but if i ever run for office i sincerely hope that people don’t vote for me merely because i shop at eddie bauer.

i recently heard somebody theorizing that american voters liked george w. bush because they felt he was someone they could sit down and have a beer with. that “ordinary joe” thing. i don’t know how true that is — but it did seem to work for ralph klein here in severely normal alberta. up in good ol’ snow white alaska, just this side of russia, ms. palin — she of all those doggone main-street yankee values like moose-hunting, book-banning and revenge-firing — seems to genuinely believe that she’s qualified for the vice-presidency of the united states of america because, gee whiz, she is able to find a soccer field with an SUV! and there are people who applaud her for this.

sorry, but i don’t think being a soccer mom or a hockey dad demonstrates that you are qualified for anything except maybe capable doing a lot of laundry and treating a dozen rug rats to an occasional post-tournament pizza.

and should you really cast your vote for someone on the basis of how much of a “regular joe” they are; regular as in they are fun to have a drink with because they drink coors and not cab sav? i know a lot of people who are really fun to drink with, but i wouldn’t want any of them near the red phone when the planet is invaded by aliens; or having the power to decide whether i should be allowed to have an abortion or marry a same-sex partner. why? because they’re ordinary. and being the leader of a nation and making those kinds of decisions is not ordinary work. it takes brains, and integrity, and a sense of fairness, and justice, and tolerance, and enthusiasm and a special kind of energy and vision and passion and compassion … and that is why most of us are not qualified to do it. most of us, thankfully, recognize this, and that is why we are so glad and grateful when that rare someone comes along who IS qualified to do it.

one of the recurring side themes on the now-defunct West Wing television show involved the fear that u.s. president jed bartlet was “too smart,” and the concern (from within his own party) that his intelligence might be held against him on election day — people don’t want a smarty-pants in the white house, after all.

frankly, i’ll take a smarty-pants over an “ordinary joe” any day.

it is not unreasonable to expect some measure of the extraordinary, of the exceptional, from the people who want to lead your country into the future. from the people who are asking for your vote.

your plain, old, ordinary vote.

remember this on october 14.
spare us the ordinary.
vote smart.

for all the rude people

when i was in grade 6 i loved those alfred hitchcock collections full of murder mysteries and quirky tales of the macabre. so when john lavallee offered to swap me a 50-cent paperback hitchcock anthology for a bic pen, i didn’t waste any time saying yes.

the book featured lots of neat dark stories … many of them i still remember. one in particular has stayed with me for almost four decades. i don’t recall the author’s name but the title was “For All The Rude People.” It was about a guy who decided to wreak a little vigilante justice (e.g. death) to people he observed treating other people like crap.

now I’m not about to take things that far, but I do find myself thinking about the character in that story more and more these days. particularly when i’m on the bus. because stepping onto an edmonton transit bus seems to turn otherwise polite citizens into completely insensitive, inconsiderate dorks. so i’ve decided this behaviour should not go unpunished. don’t worry, i’m not going to follow you to the end of the line and kill you, like the fellow in the alfred hitchcock story did. but i am going to rant about you and your ignorant, offensive, childish behaviour in this blog from time to time, in the hope that pointing out your social flaws helps improve your manners and ultimately makes the world a better place.

let’s start with this afternoon, when i was on my way home from the drugstore. the bus was full, but since i didn’t have very far to go, i didn’t mind standing near the back. however, an elderly gentleman boarded the bus a few minutes later, and he also ended up having to stand because there were no empty seats.

i did a quick scan of the seated passengers in the front half of the bus. there were at least six white males, all clearly under the age of 30. sitting. yep, six able-bodied strapping young men remained in their seats while a senior citizen stood unsteadily in the aisle.

eventually someone stood and offered a seat to the grey-haired gent. but it wasn’t any of the young men. it was a young woman in her 20s.

now if you’re about to suggest that feminism is to blame for the death of common courtesy, think again. this isn’t about men opening doors for women, or lighting their cigarettes. this is about people being courteous to each other, period. when seniors, or disabled persons, or pregnant women, or women with kids in strollers board the bus, and you’ve got two working legs, act like you’ve still got the good sense the goddess gave you and GIVE UP YOUR SEAT. it’s not rocket surgery. (and oh, move your backpack off the seat beside you, too. why should your bag ride when someone else is forced to stand?)

next on the hit list is celebrity hat etiquette: when you play for the oilers, and you’re dining in public, take your freakin’ baseball cap off at the table. i don’t care how much money you make not scoring goals, dude, it is grossly disrespectful to wear your hat to the table. it suggests you were born in a barn, and lack even the most basic of social skills. so unless you’re camping, or at a barbecue, lose the lid. An NHL contract is not a licence to behave like a boor. like it or not, you’re a role model to some of the kids in this town, so here’s an idea: act like your momma raised you right.

another public transit horror: i recently overheard two young dudes, both of whom appeared to be around the age of 20, chatting while they blocked the back doors of a bus (infraction No. 1: don’t stand in front of the doors. It’s an exit, not a dance floor). one guy very loudly said to the other: “hey, d’ya wanna know how to fix your dishwasher?” the other guy said “how?” & the first guy roared: “HIT HER!!!” at which point they both laughed uproariously, like this was the funniest thing either of them had ever heard.

now listen up, assholes: sexism is not funny. physical abuse is not funny. domestic violence is not funny. it’s a crying shame that in this day and age, boys like you are still somehow picking up signals that it’s not merely OK to beat up the women in your lives, it’s downright amusing.

that is way beyond rude, gentlemen. it’s a disgrace.

dishonorable mention: to the large sweaty guy in the “overworked and underf*ked” T-shirt — here’s a quarter, go out and buy a clue. you wanna get lucky? try being a lot less vulgar. a walking billboard for profanity may work in the WWF, but it doesn’t exactly send out “man of your dreams” vibes, sugar.

she’s tired

of harper / bush / cheney / afghanistan /
winter / whiners / iraq / iran / china /
heath ledger / heathrow / death row / deadbeats / dieters /
britney / bertuzzi / barrack / hillary /
banks / cellulite / transfats / SUVs /
brand names / bran / brain-dead baristas
who ask if you want room for cream in your coffee
and fill it to the brim anyway / sore feet /
steady eddy & the ghost of king ralph / family values / family guy /
red-puzzle.jpg assholes horking up phlegmballs the size of hamsters
on jasper avenue sidewalks / assholes in general /
football players & movie stars who go into politics /
people who vote for football players and movie stars who go into politics /
radio stations calling themselves joe & bob & earl
as if that gives them some kind of “regular guy” cachet /
gravity / steroids / gluttons / misogynists / pollution /
plagiarists / paris hilton / perez hilton / racism / sexism /
spin doctors / evangelists / terrorists / garage bands /
rudeness / ritalin / bad medicine / bad drivers / bad religion /
bad timing / dampness / zen lite / global-warming naysayers /
global-bullying apologists / computer viruses / fear-mongerers /
pro-lifers who want to kill everybody who disagrees with them /
big oil / big pharma / big war puppets / big noise /
big bad will ferrell movies / facebook /
homophobes who insist they’re not homophobes
because they meant the “stupid” gay, not the “gay” gay /
cologne that smells like insect repellent / fake cheese /
ignorant pet owners who refuse to scoop their dog’s poop /
managers who don’t know how to manage /
girls gone wild / boys gone stupid /
injustice / info-tainment /
guns / polyester / dancing with the has-beens /
roger clemens / auto racing / excess / violence /
raisins /

so very tired.

cutting the cord

three days and counting.

on saturday, i made a phone call to my cable provider, asking them to disconnect my service. the chop comes on wednesday.

why? because, to paraphrase the boss: “57 bazillion channels and there’s nothing on.”

TV rantthis decision did not come easily.
i’m a boomer; part of a proud, gluttonous generation that has never NOT known television. a child of the sixties, i watched with my mom in disbelief as reports of the JFK assassination crackled out from our grainy little black and white t.v.
the whole family huddled around that same box when the beatles made their first appearance on the ed sullivan show, and whenever the wizard of oz made its annual appearance (it wasn’t until a decade later, when our parents finally replaced the rabbit-eared B&W with an electrohome colour model, that we discovered the yellow brick road actually turned yellow, and the ruby slippers really were ruby).

walt disney, a charlie brown christmas, the brady bunch, mannix, mission impossible, the wild, wild west, get smart, gilligan’s island, the beverly hillbillies, red skelton, i love lucy, the monkees … i grew up on a steady diet of television. (obviously not all of it “quality” programming.) our mom had no time for afternoon soaps, but she would call us in to watch if there was a guest on a talk show she thought we should see — like janis joplin guesting on dick cavett. (i didn’t appreciate it at the time, but i realize now that most moms back in the day were trying to limit their kids’ exposure to artists like janis joplin, not encouraging it. so, thanks, ma.) she also made sure we witnessed neil armstrong’s giant step for mankind, and the maple leafs’ exploits every saturday on hockey night in canada. the mod squad was allowed, much to my older brother’s chagrin, on a school night provided i got my homework done first. and she didn’t make us watch tommy hunter or hymn sing, for which we are eternally grateful.

hitting adolescence in the early ’70s, i spent countless hours in front of the tube as the hot-button social and political issues of the day — racism, sexism, vietnam, watergate, women’s rights, gay rights — were played out more and more on the small screen. the times, they were a-changin’, and this was not merely reflected on the nightly news, but dealt with on popular sitcoms like all in the family, the mary tyler moore show, m*a*s*h.

fast-forward to right now … and those same shows, along with other less-worthy time-wasters, are still in syndication all over the airwaves, squeezed in amongst re-runs of newer shows like seinfeld, friends, the simpsons, sex and the city, etc.

which brings me back to why i’m pulling the plug: i can no longer ignore the fact that most of the shows i end up surrendering a chunk of my brain to when plunked in front of the tube at the end of the day are not new, current network offerings with any social and/or political relevance or even a smidgen of life-enhancing entertainment value, but repeats, ad nauseum, of repeats of repeats (see seinfeld, friends, etc., above). i mean, the dance moves of elaine benes almost cause me to — dare i say it? — ROTFL & pee myself, but 18 times a day? all things in moderation. please. and there’s the rub, because TV has never been about moderation, has it? it’s all about saturation. and i’ve hit my saturation point.

outside of 30 rock and law & order (svu & ci), there’s nothing on that interests me any more. i gave up on ER two seasons ago because the cast members kept getting younger, more shallow and less likable. i absolutely refuse to watch alleged “reality” shows, which bear no resemblance to any real life on my planet; shows where, in fact, the objective seems to be to subject “ordinary” (REAL!) people to judgment, scorn, humiliation and ridicule; ordinary people who are willing to eat bugs or proclaim to the world that they’re stupid (at least stupider than a fifth grader; stupid enough to eat bugs) so they can have the 15 minutes of fame they believe they’re entitled to. and there’s now the converse: the pathetic “reality” of former child celebs trying to reclaim the 15 minutes of fame they pissed away 25 years ago and feel they’re still entitled to (the two coreys, scott baio is 45 and single … arghghgh)

there’s also a phenomenal preponderance of shows based around experts helping you remodel — remodel your house, your garden, your diet, your wardrobe, your kids, your marriage, your dog, your financial portfolio, your sex life, your colon. my, my, my. aren’t we a sad lot, in need of rescuing on so many levels.

well, sorry, oprah and ellen and all you hysterically real & genuinely flawed folks in search of prime-time redemption, but i’ve had it with your lyposuction and your colonoscopy and your “final answer” and your “giggity, giggity” vulgarities invading my living room. life is too short to spend it sitting in front of a soul-sucking, madison avenue-driven squawkbox.

i will miss jack mccoy and olivia benson and bobby goren, and boy, will i miss tina fey … i’ll even miss the occasional old hippy concert special on PBS (notice how everything always comes back to the sixties?), but that’s about all.

from now on, i’ll get my daily news fix from reputable internet sources, not from some idiot local anchor who thinks he’s a stand-up comic, thank you very much; and the $60 a month i’ll save on cable costs will pay for a couple of decent bottles of red wine, or a nice dinner out, and the occasional DVD i’m resigned to purchasing when i really need a fix.

three days and counting. til then … please pass the remote.