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Posts Tagged ‘Weirdness’

I don’t have a lot of energy to write today, since I’ve taken on not only the proportions but apparently the personality of a manatee, but I just had to say – you know those people who get really angry on the internet and post very long frequently all-caps rants on blog posts?

I saw someone do that last night. In REAL LIFE.

It was at another Association for Science and Reason event (the home of the famous Mennonite Conspiracy Theorist. Though he wasn’t there) featuring Franke James, an artist who got royally screwed by Stephen Harper et al for a) being a climate change activist and b) talking shit about the tar sands. Franke gave what I can call a charming and, considering the subject matter, very positive talk, which I really enjoyed and was challenged by. The rest of the audience seemed to like it too.

The Q&A, however, was rapidly taken over by a scrawny guy called Wayne who started ranting about Hugo Chavez and how crappy solar panels are.

And didn’t stop.

I mean, if the person you’re hypothetically talking to you has to ask you three times “Do you have a question?” and then you continue to talk over her as she attempts to respond to you, dude. I know you’re angry, but step back.

And if you interrupt someone ELSE’S question by accusing the speaker of not caring about starving people (because we can ALL EAT OIL, GUYS), and THEN don’t stop talking until the organizers pre-emptively end the event, you really, really need to step back.

Anyway. I found it – well, I found it awkward and annoying at the time, but in retrospect very interesting. It was so, so clearly a transposition of internet behaviour into real life. Not that people didn’t yell at each other before we had Manboobz, but the repetition of talking points (Hugo Chavez! What is it with conservatives and Hugo Chavez?), the generally aggressive tone, the hyperbole, and the refusal to listen to THE PERSON ANSWERING YOU was so internetty. It’s like – do your dreams have camera angles? Mine do, probably due to the fact that I’ve been watching TV since I was born or so. An art form has literally changed the way we dream.

Now technology has literally changed the way we’re rude to each other.

What a time to be alive.

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Anyone else out there following either the #ows or the #occupytoronto streams on Twitter? Yes? No? What do you mean, you’re not on Twitter? It’s like Facebook, only you don’t have to be friends with boring people you don’t like! (Just kidding, Facebook friends. I love all of you.)

Well, I have been following them, especially since I’ve come down with a bad cold and am on Day 2 of Staying In Bed and Doing Nothing (with the help of two masters of that art, Madeline and Gus). About 25% of the streams are news about the occupations, relevant articles, calls to action, etc; about another 40% are retweets of the same; about 10% some kind of legitimate criticism; and the rest pure trollery.

I’m not going to post screenshots, because I’m writing this on my Android tablet and I’m not going to run the risk of rooting it just so I can take a screenshot (seriously, Google, PUT SCREENSHOT CAPABILITY INTO THE NEXT ANDROID RELEASE), but just go look for yourself.

Anyway, the troll comments seem to break down thus:
– Occupiers should just get jobs!
– Occupiers are hippies!
– Occupiers smell bad!
– Occupiers are smelly hippies!
– The whole thing is a union astroturf operation! People aren’t really sleeping there!
– The police should just go in and beat them all up!

And since Twitter is the natural home of the Gish Gallop, I will respond to each of these in turn. Here, where nobody will read it. Oh well.

Get a job! – Um, putting aside the whole “massive unemployment thing”, lots of occupiers do have jobs, and go to the occupations when they’re not working. There is this thing called “free time”, you know. Some people use it to watch Dancing with the Stars. Some people try to effect social change. Vive la difference!

Hippies! – What is this, 1965? How is this even an insult?

You stink! – This may be true for individual occupiers, but as a whole I have not noticed an unusual odour coming from Occupy Toronto. And I have the super nose of a pregnant lady.

Stinky hippies! – WTF? Are you four? First of all, you are making assumptions about the personal hygiene of the occupiers, then judging them based on that assumption without verifying it against reality. Not only is it not really true, it is completely irrelevant – because even smelly hippies HAVE CHARTER RIGHTS. Christ.

Ooga booga UNION ASTROTURF – this is the oddest one. Apparently dear old Ezra Levant went to Occupy Toronto with a thermal camera and concluded that most of the tents were empty, ergo this is all a nefarious plot on the part of CUPE to do….something or other.

I don’t know what percentage of tents are occupied every night, but it is true that not everyone spends every night at the park. That’s because of my first point: A lot of the occupiers have jobs, families, and other stuff to do. Ben has been sleeping there about 50% of the time, because as much as he believes in this he has to work, see me occasionally, and continue fixing up our house so it’s not a disaster area when the baby gets here. Plus it’s hardly some ringing denouncement of the occupation that some of its members sometimes have other stuff to do.

But if this is a union astroturf operation and I didn’t know about it, Ben’s cheque is way overdue, CUPE! Hop to it! We need a new washing machine!

I hope the police beat you up – Well, that’s nice. Haters gotta hate, I guess. I really hope the police *don’t* sweep in and beat everyone up, and I think I would feel the same way if this were the Occupation In Favour of Kicking Puppies and Stealing Candy from Babies. Because I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t want to see their political opponents assaulted. Call me crazy.

The gist of the trolls’ remarks (except for the out-of-left-field union conspiracy thing, which is I think a response to the very real astroturfing in the Tea Party movement) appears to be: I hate the occupiers because they are worthless and disgusting people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they keep talking about smells, even if they’ve never been in whiffing distance of St. James Park – for these people, the concepts of physical disgust and social value seem to be intertwined. (There is actual legit psychological research showing that exposing people to a foul odour makes them more conservative, btw.) It’s logically backwards – instead of looking at this movement, thinking it over, and coming to a conclusion about its merits, these trolls deciding the movement is valueless because the participants are valueless. And the participants are valueless because of their participation, which though nonsensically circular explains the baffling nature of some of the insults. Because if you were a good sort of person, you wouldn’t be occupying, so you must be a stinky unemployed hippie pariah who deserves nothing more than a good beating. And I know this even though I haven’t seen you, talked to you, or even smelled you.

There are legitimate criticisms of the Occupy movement. These are not them. These are a mishmash of weird essentialism, nonsense carried over from the 60s (seriously, can we stop it with the hippie thing? I wasn’t even a sperm in 1967 and I do not care about Woodstock), and straight-up authoritarian bootlicking. But like I said, haters gotta hate, so I don’t forsee them going away any time soon.

The Internet. It’s great, but jerks can use it too.

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Note: This post is not about cycling.

Once upon a time, when I was a sincerely religious child attending Catholic school in London, Ontario, I was confronted with a strange document.

It was in Religion class. Religion had gone from learning arcane rituals for First Communion (which I loved – it was like joining a secret society) and drawing pictures of candles to symbolize our souls to covering the more fraught topics of Sex Ed (I KNOW), Comparative Religions (“Don’t be an asshole about it or anything, but all other religions are wrong and this is why”), and Moral Decision-Making.

I actually think it’s a great idea to teach children to reason morally. Once they are able to question the social norms and the rules they’ve been taught they need tools to form their own senses of ethics. Of course it would be difficult and highly controversial – do you teach virtue ethics or utilitarianism? How do you deal with different religious perspectives on morality? What if all the kids become vegetarians and their parents are livid about it? – but what that is worthwhile isn’t?

But sadly the moral education we got was not exactly ideal. I have a very clear memory from Grade 6 of being given a strange document called:

The STO(M)P Sign

This was our guide to moral decision-making, that when faced with a dilemma we should:

S – Stop
T – Think – how does this affect
O – Others
(M – Myself), then
P – Pray, and make your decision.

Why is the M in brackets, you might ask?

Why, because it wasn’t part of the official worksheet. Our teacher added it in herself.

That’s right, whatever powers that be that control Catholic education in Ontario decided that the needs of 11-year-olds were not important factors in their own moral lives. And if that isn’t fucked up I don’t know what is.

BTW, the next horribly tasteless and damaging document I was handed in Religion class was in Grade 9, when the rage-filled chainsmoking teacher whose name I’ve forgotten gave us the now-infamous Sperm Vs. HIV handout. It implied that, since HIV virii are a lot smaller than sperm, and you can still get pregnant using condoms, then condoms won’t protect you from HIV. (This was in the early 90s, people, just when HIV/AIDS was cutting a swathe through the world. Stay classy, abstinence-only!). In that same class we were shown anti-abortion videos and forced to listen to Jars of Clay. I came out of that class thinking that birth control was unsafe and ineffective and if you had an abortion you’d die. The girl who sat next to me didn’t finish the class, because she got pregnant and dropped out of school.

So why am I writing about this? I suppose it’s because, as I get closer to parenthood, I have been trying to be a more moral person, and as I try to make moral decisions (“Should I tell X about Y? Should I follow the rules in X situation even though I know everyone else is cheating? Should I share that bit of gossip or be classy and not?”) I find myself thinking of the STO(M)P sign and finding it utterly useless, and not just because I’m an atheist now and prayer isn’t helpful anymore.

So for my own use and that of my future child, I present my own moral decision-making acronym:

S – Stop
T – Think: what are my
O – Options, what are my
N – Needs; what are the short-term and long-term consequences for
M – Myself,
P – People I love,
C – my Community,
W – the World in general;
L – Listen to my instincts;
T – Talk to someone I trust;
D – Decide and take
R – Responsibility for the consequences.

STONMPCWLTDR. Not as catchy, of course, but much less likely to fuck with your self-esteem.  If you are a Catholic educator and you are asked to use the STO(M)P sign in your class, please feel free to substitute this one instead.

You’re welcome!

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Tonight I went to “Walk on Water”, a recital of saxophone/cello music put on by Contact Contemporary Music. This isn’t a review of the concert (tomorrow’s post!), except to say that it was really good and I’m really glad I got off my butt and went. Which is good, because I biked all the way across town to go.

You may not know this, but one of the stranger effects pregnancy has on the human body is to make your sense of smell better. Seriously, I feel I could give Gus a run for his money in the sniffing department. So as I biked along Dundas from the Beaches to Sorauren, I noticed a wide variety of scents and odours, part of the rich olfactory landscape of our city.

Here are the ones I remembered enough to write down before the concert started:

Dundas and Coxwell: the lake with a faint undertone of sewage

Dundas and Pape: dust; a sort of powdery chemical smell, like when an airbag goes off

Dundas over the DVP: exhaust, vegetation, water

Dundas and Yonge: more exhaust, hot dogs, despair

Dundas and Spadina: fish, teriyaki, an unmistakable but fleeting whiff of body odour

Dundas and Euclid: lumber

Dundas and Bellwoods: barbecue sauce

Trinity Bellwoods Park: pollen

Dundas and Ossington: inexplicably, paper

Dundas and Dovercourt: sewage, quite strongly

Dundas and Landsdowne/over the bridge to Sorauren: you’d think CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE, because of the factory, but tonight nothing but clean night air.

Tomorrow I will try to make a Google Maps mash-up of this – if I can figure it out, I’ll post it here.

Edited to add: I did make a Google Map of this. Here it is!

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Friends! Torontonians! Fellow bike-riding pinko latte-sipping weirdos! I have some news.

Did you know that you were a COMMUNIST?

In a refreshing blast from the past, City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti went on the CBC, claiming everyone who came out to the all-night council meeting on July 29 was a Communist, quite possibly a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.

Because if you care about defending city services? You dirty commie! If you care about the arts or culture? Back to…um…whatever Communist countries are left in the world! (I guess China, though how communist China remains is highly debatable.) If you’re 14 and want to tell the Council how much your local library means to you? I HOPE YOU LIKE IT IN THE GULAG, LITTLE GIRL!

Because if you WEREN’T a Communist, you would have been working! All night! Every night! Only capitalists have jobs! Commies just sit around all day on their fat welfare cheques and annoy hard-working councillors in their noble struggle to turn Toronto into Detroit, only with slightly better weather!

Now I feel scared. Ben was at that meeting. Have I been married to a Communist for almost 6 years and I never knew it? He always told me he voted NDP, but how can I possibly know for sure? What else is he hiding from me????

Anyway. I should feel sorry for this poor fool. He is clearly losing it, badly, in public:

“I don’t want to hear from communists,” he said. “I won’t be calling them communists on the site, but I will be using the word ‘whatever’ to reply to them. If you see that word you can be pretty sure they’re a communist and I’ll be cutting them off of the site.”

In the 1980s, Mr. Mammoliti served as a leader for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Later, he served as an MPP for the NDP, where he became something of a pariah for opposing same-sex benefits.

“That’s where I learned how communists smell,” he said. “They are the ones who tried to brainwash me then at a younger age. It was 25 years ago. I know how they think and feel and speak. I just don’t have the time for them. Their attempt to brainwash me back then didn’t work then and won’t work now.”

He maintains a broad definition of the term “communist” as “anyone who is able to work, doesn’t want to work and wants everything for free,” he said.

The page he’s talking about is his ill-fated Facebook page Save the City..Support the Ford Administration (double period most decidedly [sic] – it appears to be Mammoliti’s preferred punctuation mark. Ben actually got banned from the page for pointing out that ellipses are not generally used in place of commas), which he set up in order to hear from the “silent majority” of hard-working Torontonians who support our poor excuse for a mayor and his warmed-over right-wing policies.

The use of the term “silent majority” is a dead giveaway: Ford is our Nixon. Have you read Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland?  The description of how Nixon appealed to average, not particularly successful white people by making them feel as if they were being victimized by hippies and feminists and the civil rights movement sounds eerily familiar to anyone living in Rob Ford’s Toronto. Just replace “hippies” with “cyclists” and “feminists” with…well, “feminists”, and “civil rights” with “gay pride parade”, and there you go. Mammoliti’s batshit red-baiting is just an extra retro touch.

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This morning, as I was peacefully going about my business of trying to do yoga while having a hard time bending over, wishing I could take Aerius, and being unenthusiastic about practicing (listen, I have ragweed allergies I am unable to fully medicate, so it’s frustrating), I was interrupted by Madeline and Gus barking in the “there’s someone at the door! Someone at the door!” mode.

I do have a very loud doorbell (it plays “On top of old Smokey”), but for some reason approximately 50% of callers refuse to use it, preferring to knock inaudibly on the door. So I’ve learned to interpret the barking. Gus going nuts usually means another dog/baby carriage/hobo with a shopping cart is passing the house (he disapproves of all three); Madeline going nuts usually means “A new friend is coming over to play with me!”

Anyway, I opened the door and there was a dude standing in front of the house with an odd expression on his face.

Dude: Hey, I’m from the City of Toronto. Why haven’t you removed the construction debris from in front of the house yet?

(Since we’re renovating the house, there were two old doors, a broken old countertop, a bunch of old floorboards, and assorted other stuff littering the front of the property and generally making it look like hillbillies live here. I know, I know.)

Me: Huh?

Dude: I’ve warned you 4 times already.  It costs the property owner $94 dollars every time I do.

Me: I’m the property owner. I haven’t received any bills.

Dude: [non-commital shrug]

Me: Who did you speak to before?

Dude: Some guy.

Me: Did you give him the bills?

Dude: I left them on the door.  Look, you need to get that trash out of there, or it’s going to cost you a lot of money.

Me: Oh…OK. I’ll deal with it right away.

So, being me, I emailed Ben in a fairly panicky way (he’s away until tomorrow), asking why he’d never told me that the City was fining us for doing the urban equivalent of having broken-down cars on the front yard, whether he’d been paying the bills and not telling me, or if we owed the city $400 that I didn’t know about. He called:

Ben: What the fuck is going on?

Me: Why didn’t you tell me about this?

Ben: Because it never happened!

Me: What?

Ben: Some guy from the city came by and asked if we had rats. I told them I’d seen them in the backyard and they were living in the abandoned house down the street. That’s all.

So I decided to clean up the front of the house a bit, because it really did look awful and that can’t be good for business, and maybe he had warned Ben to get rid of the junk and Ben had forgotten. Fortunately I was able to get some of the stuff into the garbage bin, including some heavy bags (I tipped the bin on its side, rolled the bags in, then used a floorboard as a lever to get it upright again – I am a GENIUS), some other light stuff into the vestibule downstairs to be dealt with later, and the remaining debris (two old doors and a broken-down bookshelf) fairly neatly stacked against the wall. I mean, it still looks less than ideal, but much, much better.

Believe it or not, this represents a major improvement

And as I was tossing stuff down the stairs and exercising my intuitive understanding of physics, I was pondering why a city employee would lie about the warnings and the fines, since it was easily verified – I mean, if the city had already fined us $94 x 4 times and we hadn’t paid, you’d better believe we’d be getting all sorts of bills and collection notices. I once forgot to pay the utility bill, and it was not pretty – and wouldn’t stand up to investigation.

And then it hit me. The sign.

In case you can't tell, it says "Stop Ford's Cuts"

It’s entirely possible that the dude hadn’t knocked on the door at all. He wasn’t standing on the steps, he was in front of the house, looking up at the window. It’s entirely possible that he made up the whole story on the spot because he saw an opportunity to stick it to a no-good pinko commie lib. That this wasn’t a city employee doing his job, but a Ford fan doing what Ford fans do best: being a bully and an asshole.

Honestly I can’t think of another explanation.

Anyway. I feel a bit shaken, so to cheer myself up I’m posting this photo of Dennis Quaid with a fat pug:

I know it's wrong to allow your dog to get this overweight, but squee!

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I can’t quite explain why right now, but for a couple of reasons I am not doing a lot of things I normally do these days.

Frankly I am leading the life of a 19th-century tuberculosis patient, except I’m not in the Swiss Alps and I don’t have tuberculosis. (I think. I hope! Wouldn’t it be awful?)

Don’t worry or anything – I’m not sick or in legal trouble or anything bad, just temporarily not in my normal sphere. I’m just explaining why I haven’t been writing much lately and why I probably won’t for a little while.

Anyway. List of weird/awesome things that you’ve missed out on:
– Gus caught a rat. Well, he may have caught a rat. Either way Ben caught him with a rat corpse in the back yard. It may have died of natural causes and he was just being a scavenger.
– We are starting the Big Home Renovation on Tuesday! I will take pictures and make videos!
– I planted stuff in the garden and so far not all of it has been eaten.
– Still no firm date for Call of Cthulhu: The Opera, but lots of progress.

And last:

The Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra returns on Tuesday! The Cameron House, 10 PM!

It’s just one set, opening for Friendly Rich, but still awesome.

So that’s all for now…look for me resuming normal blogging in a month or two. Or maybe inspiration will strike tomorrow. Who knows?

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