Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Who am I kidding? I don't care about the "how". I only care about the "does".

There's an awful lot of self-esteem and responsibility tied up in having a garden, as I am finding out. DD and I put in 3 smallish beds last year when we went on our Landscaping Extravagan-zah!, and I spent the better part of the winter staring at the snow-covered yards and thinking "Well...they were nice plants while they lasted."

Because, seriously - how could any living thing survive that without the benefit of fourteen layers of fleece and a thermos of hot cocoa? HOW? Mentally, I had already said my farewells, and dreaded the spring melt where I would dig up the hosta and cedar corpses and put them to rest in that big black composter in the, backyard.

And then the spring melt came and, lo and behold: there was green! Actual, real live plants, right where I left them! Flush with success and drunk on my amazing powers of nurturing, I thought the only possible thought: "Hell! I should grow veggies this year!"

So I did the only reasonable thing - drag my partner to every home and garden store in a 15km radius inspecting every single planter until finally settling on some which, upon closer inspection, didn't really suit my purposes after all and therefore it's back to the stores with a rapidly-changing schematic in mind for building one ourselves using everyday materials such as wood, black plastic, four gajillion nails and screws and, of course, sections from a Derek Zeisman campaign sign.

In the meantime, though, I did actually plant a few things in my pre-purchased containers...and was that ever a nerve-wracking week, waiting to see if anything would actually grow. Every morning I'm out to water, all "any day now!" and every night I'm out back "stupid seeds! Why don't you freakin' grow, you stupid stinky seeds...oh, I didn't mean that, I love you! Please grow!" And you feel like a terrible, terrible person, especially if your record as a guardian of living things is four dead fish, one bird that flew away, and that one horrific summer where you killed every single plant (including bamboo) in the apartment you were subletting.

So would anyone be terribly surprised to learn that I did a full-out touchdown dance when the radishes started growing? Which, by the way, are my total favourite vegetables in the whole world, along with green onions, two varieties of lettuce, green onions, carrots and, if they know what's good for them, snow peas.

Now, all of these are still in seedling form, and they've just undergone a couple of days of frost, and my compost still isn't ready (stupid worms! Eat faster!) so it remains to be seen whether of them will actually make it to my tummy, but - it sure feels nice right now. And I've already got images of plump tomatoes, robust pole beans and abundant zucchini in the "so pretty that I'm not sure I want to get it all full of dirt and such" container that we built.

So here's hoping that if any of you make it out to the 'burbs this summer, you will have some of Floyd's bounty to enjoy. Even if it is just one radish.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

As Bad As You Can Possibly Imagine

Now, I know this story has been out for awhile, but I just wanted to weigh in on the whole South Dakota abortion ban boondoggle. Let me start off by giving my heartfelt thanks to Bill Napoli. Bill, or B-Nap, as I like to fondly refer to him, is one of those few men out there who really goes the distance to try and bridge the gender gap. He's one of those few dicks (and I mean that literally) who's willing to put his money where his mouth is and try to get into the mind of a pregnant woman.

Now, of course, being a dick, B-Nap can't ever really know what it's like to be either of those things. But at least he's thought about it. I mean, A LOT. Especially in the case of rape victims. I would imagine that, based on this video, he has selflessly spent at least the better part of his life since puberty thinking about rape victims. Especially young, nubile, virginal rape victims. To which I can only ask, WHERE ARE THE REST OF THE BILL NAPOLIS OF THE WORLD? Where are the rest of these men who will take the time out of their day, packed with important manly things, to ponder vivid and brutal rape scenarios, replaying them over and over in their minds until their wives can't help but wonder why they are suddenly being asked to dress up like Catholic school girls during sex? WHERE?

Now, a lot of people will say that just because men will never have to face the physical, emotional and psychological realities of pregnancies, their opinions are somehow less valid when it comes to that issue. But I think what B-Nap has shown is that if you think about something a lot, then you are totally qualified to pass judgement on it. This is also known as the "professional sports fan" syndrome, as in "You suck Redden! Learn to skate! If I could get off this couch without falling over, I'd show you a thing or two about [falls over]".

I would also be curious to now where B-Nap stands on gay rights. I would guess that he would be against them. Now, it may seem hateful and ignorant, ladies, but him and other supposed "homophobes" are actually doing us a favour! It is obvious that only heterosexual men can really care about women: after all, how much time do you think gay men (or women, for that matter) spend thinking about the violent sodomy of young female virgins? I bet not even one split second. Yeah, that's right, I said it. And what kind of debased pervert doesn't take the time to imagine the most terrible possible violation of the other sex?

So thanks, B-Nap, for reminding me that that certain type of man still exists. The type of man who doesn't need a medical degree, or a uterus, to know what the standard for pregnancy rights in this country should be. The type of man who's willing to spend countless hours imagining the most horrible rape he can, and then brave enough to go on TV and share it with the nation.

The type of man who knows that there aren't many women out there who would procreate with his type of man voluntarily, and so decides to make some important changes within himself, like becoming a politician and making a law that allows him and his type to rape women and then force them to bear their children, just like in that mythical Stone Age his blasphemous science teacher once told him about.

So to you, B-Nap, I say, may I never forget that your type is not yet extinct. And so determined am I to remember this fact, that I even purchased a little memento.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Opposing Forces

There's few times more profoundly disorganized in politics than a change of governing parties. It's like moving to a new home, times one thousand. I mean, there's the actual moving part - defeated and retiring MPs cleaning out their offices, former Cabinet Ministers giving up the cushy corner spot for the broom closet in the attic, my co-worker and I living in fear that someone will notice we have a (small, cold, usually functioning) bathroom in our office and try for a hostile takeover, the new Government Whip trying to buck decades of tradition by abandoning the "MPs assigned those plum offices in Centre Block by seniority" in favour of kicking out all opposition MPs before the House opened, only to be stopped by the House of Commons Material Management staff who are a)unionized, and b)reasonable enough to explain to him doing a move of that magnituted before the House opens is nigh impossible, asshole (well...maybe that last part was silent) - and then some.

There are websites that need updating, contact lists that need changing, people out job-searching (Liberals), people out desperately looking for someone, anyone, who can stomach even the cushiest of jobs working for them (Conservatives), people upstairs at the vending machine wondering why they stopped stocking Twix (me), and so on.

So, it's been a pretty big change. Now, very few Liberal staffers have ever worked in Opposition before, and people were all "Oooh, it's going to be sooo hard, how're we going to do this, where's my cushy ministerial job at age 26 that I, like, totally am qualified for, I'm scared, hold me!" and yet...not so much. From a communications perspective, Opposition is a breeze. Opposition is not only shooting fish in a barrel, it's shooting dead fish who have been immobilized with tiny chains, using a laser-sighted bazooka. Because at the end of the day? It's waaaaaaay easier to complain about something than to actually do something.

For example: Let's say I am the Minister Finance. Everyday, people are all up in my face, all "My taxes are too high! Why are my taxes so high? This is bullshit! I drove all the way here my fancy SUV on these nice roads past all these structural sound bridges and first-rate hospitals to tell you this, you big jerk! Why aren't you doing anything about it? I pay my taxes! I know my rights! I'm a citizen blah blah blah blah" and so on.

Now I, the Minister of Finace, have to come up with a plan. It should, ideally, be a good plan, but thanks to the miracle of partisan politics, it doesn't really matter because whatever I propose, my party (the government) will support me and every other party will say that my plan's not worth the 100% post-consumer recycled paper it's written on. I cannot stress this enough - IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT MY PLAN IS. I could have the best, most even-handed, most realistic, most scientifically-supported plan in all of creation, and the opposition will say that it is a pile of bear shit. Conversely, I could have a plan that IS actually bear shit, and my party will say that it's magical golden bear shit which will amazingly solve all problems, ever, and truth be damned!

But the bottom line is - I, the Minister, still have to do something. I have to get research done, hire policy analysts, economists, specialists in their fields; I have to go over this research and policy analysis and guide it and approve and have it go through the single most confusing internal process in the known world and throughout it all, defend myself against the inevitable attacks from the opposition.

And now, let's pretend I am in the opposition. Here is the sum of my work day: "Mister Speaker, the Minister of Finance has clearly come up with the single worst piece of legislation ever. When will he resign?". Then, I go have a martini in the lobby.

Okay, I'm exaggerate slightly. The MPs are far more likely to grab a Keith's.

Seriously, though, even my job as a staffer in an Official Opposition office is a lot easier. It's busier, but it's easier. Let me explain the first by explaining the second:

We've already discussed how much less effort it takes to complain than to actually accomplish something. So, I don't have to spend any of my time thinking up ways to promote and defend the government's policies. All of my writing can basically be summed up as "The government stinks. Like, ew. Gross!"

That being said - it's a lot easier to write those pieces. And somebody in the know caught on to this now I have to write a lot more. So! Like I said - easier but busier.

Also fun - when people call up to complain about how the government stinks - before, I had to get all informed about stuff and get the official line and explain to them that the stench was really the overpowering smell of the government's inherent awesomeness. Now, I can just go, "Oh yeah, they totally stink! Like, ew. Gross!" And it is waaaay easier to say that than to write it. Honestly, that is kind of my ideal job - people calling me up to say how much they hate certain sucky things (our current government, tailgaters, mushy peas, the fact that Everybody Loves Raymond ran for a zillion years and Firefly got pulled before one full season) and I would totally agree and we'd bitch together and maybe I'd have some Ben & Jerry's and later we could braid each others hair.

Yeeeeaaaah....this opposition thing isn't going to be that bad, after all.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Meaty Issue

I still remember the moment to this day: standing in the kitchen, trying to conjure up the words to explain to my mom how there was this girl, and she was different, and I thought I might be like her, and no, it wasn’t a lifestyle choice but something that was really true, felt deep down inside.

And I still remember my mom’s incredulous looks, and the disappointment in her voice when she looked me square in the eye and said “Are you sure you’re a vegetarian?”

That was in high school. I had gone on a science trip, and for some reason, spent an exceeding amount of time with the school’s foremost vegan, she who won the Concours d’art oratoire, like, a zillion years running with her speech about how awesome it was to be a vegan and if you weren’t a vegan then you probably weren’t that awesome. I remember one part of her speech was about how being a vegan meant she had more choices than other people in terms of diet, which is technically false, because of – well, logic; but also kind of true, because there’s about 400 varieties of beans and legumes and curds and whatnot that meat-eaters don’t even know exist, let alone serve up for dinner.

So, on this one particular trip, she lent me a book (isn’t that always where it starts? Curse you, literature! Socrates’s dire predictions were true!) that seemed pretty persuasive. And I returned home struggling with how to come out to my mom.

Because in our house? Not eating meat was an unheard of thing, right up there with regular church attendance. Like we were some sort of bizarro rednecks: if He happened to drop by, Jesus would be welcome to dinner, as long as he liked his steak medium-rare and didn’t talk about Himself.

Like any good mother who thinks that her daughter’s gone completely wacko, my mother tested my resolve.

“You’ll have to cook for yourself”

“That’s fine.”

“I’ll need you to come to the grocery store with me.”


When those two failed, she pulled out the big guns:

“I’m making teriyaki chicken wings for dinner.”

And that was that. I was a vegetarian for all of about four hours.

It’s kind of strange, but twice I’ve taken up smoking on a regular basis (once in 2000 and once in 2004, both because of roommate conflicts) and twice I’ve quit cold turkey, no problem. I’m not trying to be flippant about a serious issue, like “Oooh, I’m so special, look at me, quitting smoking is easy, tra lalala, everyone should do it!” But it’s just that smoking doesn’t quite do it for me the way a pile of BBQ spare ribs does.

And that’s the real key, isn’t it? We all have our addictions, our crutches that allow us to deal with the insanity of the world. Some people smoke, some people drink, some people watch reality TV, some people watch reality TV with plate full of bacon.

But lately (as in the last year or so) a strange thing has happened: I don’t quite have the same taste for it. Reality TV, I mean. Also meat.

I don’t quite know how it happened. I mean, I still think meat is both tasty and delicious. And the whole “it’s wrong to hurt animals” thing is both true and yet somehow totally irrelevant in my mind. I’ve always been of the mind that if you couldn’t kill dinner yourself, you shouldn’t eat meat. I’ve never had to prove myself in that regard, but I’m pretty sure I could follow through.

I think what really got me was a)the nagging voice in the back of my head that tries to get me to live sustainably, and b)the discovery that there’s plenty of good non-meat food to eat out there.

In terms of sustainability, it finally sunk in that meat is just not an efficient source of food. You pump in tonnes of grain and water, you get back a few hundred pounds of meat. Sorry, Bessie, but that’s just not a good return on your investment. And, to make matters worse, in order to get a better return, Bessie gets pumped full of steroids and antibiotics and other crap which now means that the average age of menstruation is, like, 11 in girls (14 in boys).

In terms of diet, I had the good fortune to have a vegetarian roommate who loved to cook, and share what she cooked, and was a good cook. And all of a sudden, I’m like – damn, this is good! (This is in contrast to a vegetarian roommate whom I lived with for all of two months, who once came upon a pork chop I was defrosting and snarked “Who left animal in the microwave?”).

And I’ve also got the support of my body, who actually started telling me some nights “No, you don’t want any chicken in your stir-fry”. It was a little terrifying at first, like “Whose body are you and what have you done with my body, which used to pack away 6 pieces of cold KFC for breakfast?”

So it’s not that I’m meatless, it’s just that I meat-less. And while that’ not going to win me the Concours d’art oratoire anytime soon, at least it’s a start.