Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Your Regularly Scheduled Post Has Been Delayed

Hey all,

Spent yesterday writing my grad school essay instead of my blog. At least, I hope I did. It's kind of all a blur, seeing as Air Canada got me in two hours late and I was up six hours later and jet-lagged for work. So I really hope the department chair is not reading something that starts with "Dear Wonderful Airline Staff, thanks sooo much for leaving the plane uncovered overnight on the tarmac in Ottawa in February. There was nooo way to know that it would get covered in ice! Why, that only happens every single night during the winter here! And I really enjoyed spending nine hours at the gate, and paying those extra special airport prices. Sincerely, A Totally Satisfied Customer."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Great Canadian Stereotype Contest

These guys are officially my new heroes. "No Iranian is going to beat us on our home turf." BWAH! Love it. I think I'm going to learn a lot about Jewish stereotypes from this contest. (Like how I learned that there's a "Jews are cheap" from watching this past season of The Apprentice.)

It reminded me of a story Mo told me about a follow Quebecor being at a table with his football teammates, and one of them kept making jokes about, like, fried chicken, and he didn't understand why, and then another teammate was like, "It's because I'm black", so Quebec dude was like, "Oh, riiiiiight" but he still didn't get it, and neither did Mo, and neither do I, because we are all completely unfamiliar with black stereotypes.

But we were all over the French/English stereotypes, and even tried for a while to address each other in regional/linguistic slurs ("Hey, you tree-hugging hippie, if you're not too busy eating organic yoghurt and smoking pot, it's your turn to wash the dishes!" "Oh, go shack up with your boyfriend, poutine-eater".) If anyone else has any great Canadian stereotypes, please add them to the comments! That way, everyone wins! So it's not really a contest so much as it is...not a contest. But anyway...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Writing's on the Wall

One of the bathrooms at DD’s parents’ house is decorated with this whimsical wallpaper made up entirely of folksy sayings like “Children are a joy in your old age – and they help you reach it faster, too”, or “Just when you make ends meet, somebody moves the ends”. One of my favourites is “You grow up the first time you have your first real laugh at yourself”. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously. It also reminds me that there are a few people out there who could use that advice. Like, maybe, people who are committing acts of violence over a handful of cartoons.

When the story about these controversial ‘toons started gaining momentum this last month, I did what any average web-literate person in a free and democratic country would do: I googled them. My search led me to this article, and when I scrolled down to the cartoons, I was shocked. Shocked that buildings were being burned, death threats were being uttered and boycotts were being launched, all over a dozen editorial cartoons that, had they featured any other religion, wouldn’t have even made the news as much as Paris Hilton’s need for Depends did.

(Personally, I laughed my ass off at the one about heaven running out of virgins, because I always wondered a)where they got all these virgins, and b)what said virgins had done to deserve becoming the sexual slaves of suicide bombers in the afterlife, and c)no seriously, what gives with all the virgins?)

I’m not saying that some people aren’t genuinely offended by these cartoons. I am saying…how to put this delicately…"tough titty". One of the tenets of a liberal democracy is free and independent media. That means that sometimes, we are going to see things that offend us to the point where the next time we’re in a pharmacy and we see some ignorant prick buying Axe deodorant we want to smack him upside the head and scream “THIS WILL NOT MAKE RANDOM HOT GIRLS FUCK YOU! GET A GODDAMN PERSONALITY! AND A JOB! AND A BELIEF IN THE PRINCIPLES OF GENDER EQUALITY!”

“But!” people might say, “That is not the same thing! Here, they are making fun of religion!”

What? Oh my Intelligent Designer! Making fun of religion, you say! Why, no one’s ever done that before! Nope, never in the history of the world, right up until this very moment, has anyone ever mocked any religion whatsoever. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER. In a completely unrelated note: Do not look here. Or here. Or here. Or here. And do not google “religious jokes” because you will not find anything. Nope, nothing to see here folks! Move along, now, move along. (Also, definitely do not turn your speakers all the way up and look here or here.)

And yes, I am aware that you are not supposed to draw Muhammad. I know this because it is written in every article on this story, or told to me in somber voice over by well-coiffed news anchor. I also know this because I studied Islam in university, and while I’m not saying that taking three religious studies courses make me in anyway an expert on the subject, it does make me slightly more qualified than a whole slew of journalists and politicians who don’t seem to know the five pillars of Islam from the menu at their local shawarma joint; or their own religion for that matter. Because the whole thing about not drawing Muhammad? ONLY APPLIES TO MUSLIMS. So all you non-muslims out there? Doodle to your hearts' content. I drew Muhammad in my journal the other night. He’s saying “Don’t quit your day job”. Good freakin’ advice.

Also, this ban against drawing Muhammad? Not actually in the Qur’an. What is there is a condemnation of idolatry; that is, worshipping an object or image that may or may not be intended to represent God. The hadith (recorded oral tradition) forbids pictorial art of any sacred figures – these include not only Muhammad, but also Jesus and Moses, who are also considered prophets in Islam. Now we already know those other two guys/guy and saviour have been pictorialized to high heaven, seemingly without provoking riots. Does anyone out there believe that in almost a millennium and a half of Islam, a dozen editorial cartoonists are the first people ever to break this last tradition? That some tiny Scandinavian newspaper sullied this previously virgin (heh) territory? That some Danish editor was the first person ever in the history of the world to come up with the genius idea to draw Muhammad? I’ve got two words for that: Bull. Shit.

Also? Stop presenting this “Muslims are forbidden to practice idolatry” as if it’s some new and novel idea that nobody ever thought of before. Because I’m pretty sure Judaism beat them to the punch by several thousand years. Which means that Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike are all forbidden to create images of God. Which, again, obviously means that that has never happened, and should it have happened, it would have happened in some dirty, dank den of iniquity by filthy atheists and would certainly not be a celebrated piece of religious art displayed at the heart of a sacred place. Nope!

Which is why my beef is not only with (and I’m not going to call them Muslims because they are no more Muslim then the raging asshats at the anti-SSM march are Christian) the Islamic fundies who are causing this shit, but also with the Western media. Sweet Shesus, has it actually come to the point where I’m actually agreeing with right-wing superstar Ezra Levant? Has hell, if it exists, finally frozen over? Because Canada, the US and the UK (among others) are all “We’re not running these cartoons out of respect” and Ezra is all, “It’s not out of respect, it’s out of fear” and I am all “Amen, Ezra” and then I’m all “What the fuck? Did I just say that?” and then I’m all freaking out, curled up in the fetal position in the corner, rocking and moaning and wondering what the fuck happened to this world that people are being killed over cartoons and I’m with agreeing Eazy-L.

See, I too had thought of posting the cartoons here. And I didn’t, for two very good reasons: a)I don’t know how to load pictures on my blog, which is currently number one on my “blog to-do” list, followed closely by updating my layout and getting an RSS feed; and 2)I’m highly suggestible, in the sense that seeing the cover of the movie “Jaws” at age five prevented me from learning how to swim because I refused to put my back to the water. Yes, I was in a pool. Yes, I know it’s stupid, and there’s no monsters in my closet, no knife-wielding maniac in my bathroom, and the only person under the stairs is my roommate. But we’re just people, and threats of violence, real or imaginary, scare us. So I don’t blame editors or producers for being scared to show these images, but I do blame them for pretending it’s for some other reason.

Because censorship is really at the root of this problem. Other than one paper in Egypt, the images haven’t been published. Most protestors haven’t seen them. Some may have seen copies, others have seen false images designed to stir up angry protest.

People are dying because of these cartoons, and I am sick of being told that I don’t need to see them. When someone denies the Holocaust, I am told what he said, I am able to judge for myself and form my own opinions, whatever they may be.

So when people riot over supposedly racist cartoons (which, they’re not, since Islam is a religion and not a racial group), I want to know what all the fuss is about. When the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress says that he’s considering charges against the Western Standard for distributing hate literature, arguably one of the most serious offences in Canada, how am I supposed to know whether or not I agree? How can the accused defend himself fairly without being allowed to show us and say “Here. Here they are! What’s inciting more hatred against Muslims – a handful of cartoons, or images of violence, death threats, and declarations of war?”

When we are not allowed to judge for ourselves, when we are given half the story, no story, or the wrong story, then we are being manipulated. We become tools, or weapons, for the goals of others. We don’t need less freedom of the press, we need more, and we need it right now and we need it everywhere.

And, for the love of God, we need to step back, have a good laugh, and grow the fuck up.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Canadian Edition

Hey, it’s not every year we get a completely remodeled Cabinet! It’s more like every 18 months. Aw, sorry Paul, low blow.

If you are like me (a supreme dork) then you spent the better part of yesterday morning watching the swearing in of the new Cabinet, as well as using your supreme intellect and unquestionable judgment to appraise each choice quickly and with 100% infallible accuracy. So here they are, in order of precedence (which is a fancy term of saying “seniority”, based on when the were first elected, how long they’ve served, the most senior position in which they’ve served, whether they let Harper get to second base, etc.):

The Honourable Robert Douglas Nicholson:
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

I don’t actually know anything about this guy. I remember being amazed to find out that Canada once had a Minister of Science. I don’t think we ever had a Minister of Math or a Minister of Social Studies, but that’s likely because there’s no obvious choice for a theme song.

The Honourable David Emerson:
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Biggest shock of the morning – the former Liberal Minister of Industry shows up at Rideau Hall for the swearing-in. First reports that suspect senility (“What? But I came here last year…”) are later proven to be false as he walks away with not one, not two, but three portfolios, and provides the fodder for the best quip of the morning, care of Peter Mansbridge, over footage of Emerson talking to Nicholson “Oh, now he’s saying to Rob Nicholson, “Hello, I’m David Emerson.””

AND! I can’t wait for all those Cons who called Belinda a prostitute and whore when she crossed the floor after 11 months of being at odds with her party to start calling Emerson “David Bigalow, BC Gigolo”. Huh guys? Anything? He’s a dirty slut, right? Hellloooo? Anyone there?

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn:
Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

I don’t know this guy either, but he seems nice enough. I like his hair. It’s fun and fancy-free. It’s all, yes, I can afford $200 haircuts, but I’m not gonna get one!

The Honourable Gregory Francis Thompson:
Minister of Veterans Affairs

He’s one of three Ministers from Atlantic Canada. He also has a shiny head.

The Honourable Marjory LeBreton:
Leader of the Government in the Senate

Alright, who let the woman in here? Listen, when Stephen said you were going to be in Cabinet, he meant the kitchen cabinet where the sandwich fixin’s are.

Ha ha! Just a little humour at how a group of 27 people made up of 21 middle-aged white guys are going to be directing federal policy for the next however many years. Not that I am scared! Not that I am going to go lock up my uterus somewhere secret!

LeBreton, though, appears to be kick-ass. I heard good things about her on the campaign trail, such as stepping in when a bunch of volunteers/campaign workers were trying to intimidate a lone female protester (“Hey lady, nice uterus!”). Maybe LP can share some insight into her awesomeness, or lack thereof.

The Honourable Monte Solberg:
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Here’s where the role of the critic and the role of the Minister differ. The Minister needs to set policy and direction for his department. The critic needs to nag the Minister constantly about how his policies and directions suck and he’s a stupidhead. Therefore, Monte’s many, many years as Finance Critic in no way qualify him to be the actual Finance Minister. However, they do, apparently, qualify him to be the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Hey, immigrants – your policies and directions suck and you’re all stupidh…er, I mean, welcome to Canada! Er, no, I mean, sorry, no vacancy! Er I mean…excuse me, I need to go blog.

The Honourable Chuck Strahl:
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

I’ve always had a soft spot for Chuck because a)He looks like he gives great bear hugs, and b)he should do books on tape because he has this really low, rumbly voice, like Mufasa. Or Darth Vader. On a sad note, he’s been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer because of his exposure to asbestos while working in the lumber industry years and years ago, and he’s not likely to make it past a couple of years, so I hope he has a really awesome time in Cabinet, and goes to negotiations all tough-ass and shit, like, don’t fuck with me, WTO, I got two years to live and I’m taking you corporate ass-kissers with me!

The Honourable Gary Lunn:
Minister of Natural Resources

My number one memory of Gary is from Nath’n’s grad. Everyone student got to write a little something, and his was (and I’m paraphrasing here, Nath’n, so correct me if I’m wrong) “Nath’n would like to remind to remind everyone that with height comes wisdom.” And then Gary came on later to speak and was all, “Gee, I hope he’s wrong!” because Gary is about two feet tall.

And yes, Gary – maybe he’s wrong, but, in that case, what’s your excuse?

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay:
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

At least it’s not Stockwell Day.

The Honourable Loyola Hearn:
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Here’s another example where being a Critic in no way prepares you for being a Minister. Only in this case it’s worse, because the Fisheries Minister has tons of power that other Ministers don’t, so there’s way more pressure from everyone, and Loyola’s spent the better part of the last two terms nagging the former Minister and he was smart enough to not want to have the Fisheries portfolio but not smart enough to avoid getting stuck with it anyway. Welcome to the suck!

The Honourable Stockwell Day:
Minister of Public Safety

Aw, fuck.

The Honourable Carol Skelton:
Minister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

History in the making – the first female Cabinet Minister from Saskatchewan! Also, after decades of farming, is 60 but looks 45. Unlike Harper, who is 48, but looks like he just ate a puppy.

The Honourable Vic Toews:
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Stephen Harper: I can change the definition of marriage back to “one man + one woman” without using the Notwithstanding Clause.
134 Constitutional experts and leading legal scholars: Um, no. You can’t.
Vic Toews: Yes he can! Yes he can! Shut up! You’re all stupid lalalalalalalalala I can’t hear yoooooouuuu!!!

The Honourable Rona Ambrose:
Minister of the Environment

“Hey guys. Rona here. So, a lot of you are wondering, “How does a 36-year-old former civil servant, communications consultant and sometimes columnist become one of the youngest Cabinet Ministers ever and one of the most powerful people in Canada ?”. First of all, it helps to be a hot woman. Then you get to be in lots of pictures with Stephen, so that he can be all “Look! We DO have women in our caucus. Hot ones!” Second, be wicked smart. Third, make sure to hide just how smart you are so as to not make the old boys nervous. Fourth, wear lots of sparkly things to distract those old boys who might be catching on to just how wicked smart you really are. And finally, make sure to keep everyone guessing about you and Harper feel! About the Kyoto Accord, that is.”

The Honourable Michael D. Chong:
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Sport

“Hey guys, Michael here. So a lot of you are wondering, “How does a 34-year-old former IT geek and NHL fanboy become…hey, where are you guys going? Look, I’m wearing a sparkly tie! Hello? Hello!”

The Honourable Diane Finley:
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Alright, four women! Now they can play bridge!

The Honourable Gordon O'Connor:
Minister of National Defence

Now, Gordon, you are, despite my best (well, mediocre) efforts, my MP. So here’s a little bit of insight for you:

Last weekend DD and I were in the mall, and there were all these Canadian Forces exhibits set up – Army Engineers, Tradespeople, Navy, Airforce, etc. And most of them were pretty vacant, but there was one with a big crowd of guys – young boys, teenagers, twenty- and thirtysomethings and whanot. And that was the one where they had all the machine guns and bazookas.

No, I don’t know what it means. You’re the Minister of Defence, you figure it out.

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda:
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Logical choice. Provides experience and political savvy. Also provides some of the ethnic diversity for Harper’s Cabinet. By which I mean “all of it”.

ALRIGHT! That’s enough. My brain hurts. Good thing I didn’t do this for the Liberal Cabinet last year, when there were 37 of those bastards. There’s eight left, and I will sum them up thusly: "Looks like every other guy named "Jim"" guy; “Used to hit on you at frat parties” guy; “Always volunteers to be the office Santa and not in a perverted way” guy; “Don’t I look distinguished with my grey hair” guy, “Don’t these glasses make me look smart? Take your medicine!” guy; “I’ll trust you with my money when you trust me on my hair colouring advice” guy; “Typical Quebecoise impeccable fashion and grooming that make anglo women feel hopelessly inadequate (also, now we have enough for a volleyball team!)” gal; and “Want to make the PM contradict himself twice on the same day by appointing a non-MP to Cabinet and then announcing his first Senate appointment? Ask me how!” guy.

That’s it…I’m bushed. Later skaters.