Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Dial "C" for Courage

In a world within global community, with so many humans contributing to a vast array of belief systems and core values; in a world charged with recognising diversity while still maintaining political-correctness, those universal values that everyone can stand behind as righteous and true, these values, as a part of the North American vernacular, grow more and more vague, as well as infinitely more subjective. As subjective, even, as terms like righteous and true.

Nowhere is this more evident than in two places.

The first is politics with it's sweaty manpigs in costom polyesters, feigning outrage, turning red and veiny while backed by a minyan of babyboomers, clad in two and three pieces, banging their hands on well varnished Canadian maple desks, stay-at-home parents donning home-printed T-shirts, yelling and chanting slogans, "We're tired of..." banter thrown at cameras at an impolite volume, placards in one hand bearing giant YES' and NOs held over shoulders, the other hand raised in a defiant fist, ready to cast off the unconstitutional shackles of proposed cuts to forestry or allowing convicts to vote or something equally as evil and repressive. Carbon tax, maybe.

Second is Local News. One should not be so bold as to indite local broadcast, alone, although without the checks and balances assigned to more reputable national news streams, local news can often veer away from a responsibility to deliver rational and unbiased reporting, logical and in presentation of fact. These, along with national and international rogue media factions run amok, throwing around whatever terms they please with all the ardor of a past-her-prime soccermom in passionate explanation of how the cashier at the Safe-Way was rude to her in checkout or how some noisy painters managed to track mud on her carpets.

The result is a degradation - even an outright abasement - of the English language. Something that, to the well-spoken or well-read; to anglophiles and stoics alike; to really anyone who comes to expect an unemotional, responsible delivery of the news, this all can be rather insulting. Repulsive, even. Repellent. Cowardly. Misogynistic. Pedophilic, Fascist, dishonest, a drain on society, an allocation of tax-dollars, inconsiderate to others feelings, hurts babies and the elderly, contributes to the spread of swine flu, in violation of the bill of rights and international human rights laws...

That's not to say that the general public isn't guilty of the same rhetorical faux pas and social indignities, indeed, these two phenomena are both broad reflections of the society in which from which they grow. Your peers, your friends and coworkers, even your family, they're all frequently guilty of these linguistic infractions and prostrating orations. Exhibits A and B:

Ignorant. noun. This is a state of being uninformed, uneducated, sometimes used to describe a willful neglect of acquired valuable information on a given or relative subject.
I'm not certain if this definition even requires a follow-up paragraph to express one's frustration over it's extremely prevalent misuse. This will be said, however, "Being cut off in traffic or not yielded to when merging does not represent an act of ignorance". It's just rude. Inconsiderate, if one means to be technical.

Pretentious. adj. Behaving or speaking in such a manner as to create a false appearance or impression of worth. From it's root: To pretend.

It's come down to the somewhat infantile level of applying synonymy to the basic level of good and bad. Terms like "honourable" and "benevolent", really cheesy words of the like being utilized to represent the Dudley Do-Right attributes; the heroes and heroines. Words like "cowardice" and "dishonesty" come to describe anyone viewed as either villainous or just not on your side; The Snidely Whiplashes, as we perceive them. The general misuse is quite willy-nilly, and, to this degree, all vices, all virtues, are synonymous.

Let's talk a bit about courage. It has the ring of a reasonably good quality, something of a compliment assigned to those who demonstrate other good qualities like perseverance and conviction while in the face of danger. Danger of what, who's to say; A gorilla attack or eating pavement at 100 mph; Taking a mortar shell to the face or landing on your keys. This is a quality than can be synonymous with stupidity, as even the retarded can courageously pick fights with moving buses or brave an assault on a hive of bees. Regardless, it is acceptable to be lauded when aiding in the preservation of the law, saving a life, holding a fort or taking a front line: All acceptable.

Enter: "Olivia". A fourteen year-old girl from the Greater Vancouver district of Delta. Two days ago, listening to the CBC News, a headline from describing her heroing tale:

"A teenage girl is being honoured for her bravery today by Delta Police for foiling a burglary in her home on 53rd avenue. A man knocked on her door at about 9 pm last night. Olivia, who's last name cannot be released given her age, was not expecting anyone so she grabbed a phone, went upstairs and hid in a closet, where she dialed 911 and waited for police to arrive as the intruder began to riffle through the home for valuables..."

Submitted for your approval, this startling newscast, paying close attention to the last 20 second of video.

Delta Police spokesperson Sharlene Brooks said "Olivia" displayed the police department's core values of honour, integrity, courage and trust. Let's break down these core values as according to the OED.

1. honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
2. a source of credit or distinction: to be an honor to one's family.

This is alright, since she is being honoured for her 8 minute Anne Frank shtick and it looks as though the definition of this value also includes...

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

From this we conclude that Olivia is a moral, ethical and trustworthy 14 year old girl. One might think that this virtue was not adequately demonstrated in this scenario but may I suggest: Trustworthy, perhaps, if the Delta Police's maxim is to trust people to call them when their homes are being burglarized.

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.

But wait, Delta Police spokes-yenta had this to say, "And on Friday night, Olivia demonstrated courage as we define it as challenging oneself to overcome adversity, and trust." It would seem that police have the power, not only to apply interpretation the law but to English, as well. It looks as though they snuck "trust" in there so, as demonstrated in the "Integrity" heading, Olivia qualifies, coming in just under the wire. Leading us to our final core value...

1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.

We have a winner and and a Vancouver Police force has a hero. All the while the elephant in the room being slain, vacu-packed and frozen. Despite the fact that hiding in a closet is not a display of bravery, this continues to be an ongoing social embaressment. This case, in particular seems to be running on the assumption that police are good people.

May I submit a thesis under consideration for a future article: Police are not good people.

I'm sure all this bombastic critisism of society's terminology abuse may seem fairly pretentious but one can't help but thinking, it's just plain ignorant.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

La Fin du Moi

Your humble narrator had nearly met with his untimely end today but, as with so many gallant brushes with death, it was parried, seemingly, by the grace of god or some superphysical force in charge of making certain the tides come in timely and plagues are issued accordingly. Swept aside from the natural ebb of time and space, slapping logic, reason and probability in the face and handing me a certificate of total impunity from the universe's cruel and pedantic legislation. I may very well be the sole reason this planets oceans have yet to boil and mountains have yet to sublimate.

All this self-indulgent banter aside, let me walk you through what could have been the very last day of my life:
10:30am The 22nd of April, 2009. After a quick mid-air breakfast, composed of four raw eggs, a spicy, mysterious green smoothie and a handful of tiny kasher pickles, I was feeling somewhat nauseous. Ignoring symptoms of pregnancy and perfuse salivation, I held back the impulse to vomit over the shoulder of my driver, Mr. Amhed Al-Wahhab, from the back of his leather interior sedan.
Amhed, a thirty-three year old, eight-fingered, veteran of the Royal Saudi Land Force and father of five or six or seven, maybe, had lost his patience in 1991 somewhere in the deserts surrounding Khafji. The details he gives me are blurred in a rush of exasperated hand motions and loud, intense expression but from what I can gather, it was a hot day, his girlfriend was a tramp, and mortar fire sucks.

So Ahmed is screaming at, from what I can gather, carpet cleaners, via the a bluetooth module in the right side of his face and the animation in this mans anger(default) is wild enough that the motorists stopped around red lights, I'm sure are curious as to what I could have said to him to set him off.

We are presently on the way to see my dear friend Micah on the eighth story of a building in downtown Esquimalt to stage a stunt having something to do with zombies and an inside joke with a girl he has a crush on. While most would be content with a bundle of flowers and opera tickets, Micah has taken to sewing two kingsize bedsheets together, scrawling the words "ALIVE INSIDE" in red spraypaint and tacking this makeshift banner to one of the most visible points in the Greater Victoria area.

From the back seat of a sedan filled with angry Arabic and 80's pop music, looking over a map of the area, plotting a contingency get-away and holding in a third trimester breakfast, I can't help but feel as though this scheme, hatched up at the end of an 32hour adventure through the underground of Victoria's catacombs, through forests while hunting wild hare with crossbows and wrapping people, quite literally on fire, with damp towels, that this scheme may be a touch in excess of an already eventful week and this aside, could in fact be bordering on cockamamie.
At this point, I begin playing a Jiminy Cricket track in my head to the tune of things my father would say if he were beside me. I'd guess either, "Tuck in your shirt." or "I'm sure there are more beneficial ways you could be spending your time". This coming out in his classic matter-of-fact, Eeyor-like rhetoric.

Driving past the bilious discomfort and tokens from my childhood, we arrive at The Diplomat Towers in the heart of residential somewhere, Amhed's voice raises as I exit the vehicle(his voice being courteously lowered during my attendance as his is a rather considerate fellow) and I follow the prescribed directions through a door at the back of a parkade to the top of a flight of stairs, leading to the roof. There, dearest Micah is standing in a reflective vest and gardening gloves, holding a bundle of rope and a matching disguise for myself.
Micah, "If I timed this right, we should be able to make it to that sushi place for their lunch special."

Being seasoned in spontaneous adventure, I know that at this point there is no purpose in second guessing or rehearsal, there is only the goal, and the slew of insanity that borders it. Quickly I fasten a roofing/window washing/something harness around myself and make for the edge of the roof, knowing that if we can just get this last, quick escapade out of the way, there's a can of cherry soda in my fridge and a lush green, sunny back yard to lounge in.

All materials prepared for a quick blitz of furling, tacking, and making off, we simultaneously lean off the edge of this building dangling 90 feet above the concrete driveway. reaching into my left pocket for a nail, the piece of equipment responsible for keeping me attached to the rope relinquishes a heartstopping six inches of slack, without my approval. This device is a one-way mechanism, allowing my rope to slide in one direction, permitting me to climb up, while it's teetch prevent me from falling to my death. This device was not doing it's job.
Before I can say "That's not supposed to happen", I find myself in freefall toward the ground, the one-way rappelling mechanism providing little resistance to my deathly plummet. My hands moving faster than the back can order, I grab the remaining length and succumb to the rope burn under my deathgrip. I am now holding on to a rope, by hand alone, 80 feet above the ground. My climbing partner's responce of "Are you alright?" being of very little benefit, I seek to make quick work over the the balcony to my right.

It takes two swings and the will to pry my fingers from the rope to confirm my place on a solid surface. Micah, deciding that, yes, I am alright, finishes up while I reflect over the last thirty seconds and, subsequently, the last twenty years of my life. The events following are washed away by adrenalin and deep introspective thought but next thing I know, I've dashed through a strange elderly woman's apartment, down the stairs and Micah and I are jumping into the back of Amhed's sedan in laughter and panic. Although I can't be certain of Mr Wahhab's role in the SA Military, I am convinced it had something to do with changing one's location quickly and effectively.

Although I realise it a ridiculous irony, should I meet with end shortly after writing this, I still feel impelled to proclaim, "I am invincible". This is not an isolated incident. I drive a motorcycle. A big, fast, black motorcycle that has taken me to speeds in excess of 200 km/h. I've been to a knife fight without a knife, caught trains without ever entering the train and buses without entering the bus. I've been to the Midwest and have come within spitting distance of a fiery cross, insulted meat heads in parking lots of cowboy nightclubs, played with dynamite - while smoking and , without word of a lie, have been in a fight with a full grown bull named The Devil.
Alot of people dislike me but somebody loves me.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Kamikaze Bachelor

I've recently stumbled across a new word. I always keep a good ear for these, since university, the arrogance of verbal superiority has become more difficult in it's upkeep so throwing in new terms, now and then, makes for a meritorious boost to one's speechcraft. The word in question:

Recessionista. Noun. A person who is able to stick to a tight budget while still managing to dress stylishly.

This is a portmanteau of, first, the word, '"Recession" - very popular amongst those who keep up on the news, General Motors [former] employees and anyone with a savings account in Iceland - And second, an old favourite, "Fashionista", a throwback to the flagrant, glamorous world of Dolce, Gabbana and small dogs as accessories. A Sex and the City style tribute the the turn of the millennia when whitegold was the new gold and Alberta was still considering the privatization of healthcare.

It seems to be, on the surface, a keen and conscious public reaction to - as the CBC puts it - "These tough economic times". Even before Madoff and sub-prime mortgages, Thrift stores have started becoming fashionable amongst the already well-to-do. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, attending the same public schools as the rest of you. I know for a fact that thrift store picks have not always been the fashionable choice amongst my peers and a childhood spent in the NorthEast Calgary (the poor people quadrant) is one of a tax bracket somewhat distant of the mandatory elementary school-wear, Nike shoes and Addidas tear-away trackpants. Let me take this opportunity to say, now, "I was shopping at Value Village before it was cool". Being a young male with disposable income and without three kids to put through school, I'm done with it. I'm not stretching my budget, I'm devastating it; student loans be damned, I'm the real recessionista; I am the Kamikaze Bachelor.

The bachelor life-style, icon of glamour and refinement, I have exercised to a precise and diligent artform. A major key in this process is to turn the accepted hierarchy of needs on it's head, putting Maslow's high-handed and presumptuous theories to embarrassing shame while simultaneously expanding your own way of life to capture the glorious extremes of the spectrum, destitution and hedonism; deprivation and debauchery. All at once, a new social-phenomenon has been recaptured from the pimps and junkies, returned to the common man in a slew of expensive shoes and bare cupboards, Cuban cigars and Kraft dinner, Three-figure bar tabs and one-bedrooms without electricity; who needs to bathe in hot water when Givenchy just came out with a new fragrance pour hommes. The real recessionista makes squalor look fashionable, not with trips to Value Village, but to the pawn shop. He's the only koshka in a soup-kitchen with gold jewelry and designer threads; He will proudly proclaim, "I am the prince, I am the pauper", "Do you have five bucks, I'm short for these snake-skins".

I now make berth on an island somewhere in the North Pacific, off the coast of Canada. Van Isle, the smell of patchouli and nag champa is near as palpable the smug self-righteous satisfaction that comes with it's inhabitants knowing that their economic and political decisions are not just right for themselves and the economy, but for the environment, as well. Perfect incubation conditions for today's contemporary fashionista but as I mentioned, I grew up in Calgary.

Calgary, Alberta. AKA, Rich City. City of assholes in baseball caps, and 2am streetfights. In Alberta, they vote Conservative, they put up skyscrapers in weeks, they are the Texas of Canada, holding firm to their two primary staples: Oil and Beef. Here's another new word I like, another portmanteau:
Oiligarchy, Alberta's unofficial system of government. Rich City, before the autumn of '08, was a city of new money, backed by old money. It was ripe for the development of kamikaze bachelors like myself and is rife with them still, I'm sure. On the island, I'm one of many refugees from the unfriendly East. I invite them to take up with me this mission of resplendent self-destruction. The taste of economic crisis is sweet, especially when you just spent $39/gram on dark chocolate from Madagascar. We'll see who survives this deathrace, me or the recession. I've still got calorie deposits near my kidneys and the 34 lbs I've lost since the crunch are nothing compared to GM's fourth-quarter loss of $9.6 Billion.

And besides, since I quit eating food, I can really taste my cigarettes.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Felis Lexus

Today, in the North Quadra district, I came across a curious sight. Enter: ManCat. Not specifically the mancat pictured but one very much like it. A five-nine, fifty-something moustache-clad gentleman with a feline on his shoulder, peering wildly around at sights not oft available to a species mostly reserved to tall furniture and windowsills amongst your livingroom. Assumably, a man who loves his cat enough to share with it his love of adventure and long walks to the market. Balmy April afternoons, taking in the sun, returning home to recline on the sofa chair, kitty purring in his lap while the CBC drones away in what is background to a moment, primarily concerned with evening cuddles. He takes a shower while Mittens paces under the shower curtain, only to race into wet tub, batting at the droplets still tracing out of the faucet. He crawls into bed, Patches, curled deep into the nook at the back of his leg, behind the knees. Isn't that all, very assumably, sweet. Yes, all this speculation I took to mind as well, until I attempted to speak to the man toting this kitten around on his shoulder.
As it would happen, he was just a drone. A barely conscious man-slave, occupied with serving as the hands and legs of it master and superior, Marcus, the Cat. The man had no name, although Marcus informed me that he likes to speak the phrase, "Carl, what are you doing?", from time to time. Marcus Sanford, 15, tells me that in his old age, his sight just isn't what it used to be and so, to help him along with his chores and daily commute to the cafe, he acquired this human through assistance from the government. Since then, he's been getting along just fine and hopes to start work on his memoirs, this year.
This may all seem strange, if not ridiculous, governmental subsidy of human slavery aside. And while, at face-value, unbelievable, there is something unsettling about a man whose thoughts in this world have been relegated to "Carl, what are you doing" and "Cat is law". Eerie in it's reminiscence of the effects of long term exposure of the brain to methamphetamine and ethyl-alcohol. I volunteer at a downtown shelter, weekdays, and have seen much the effective degradation of the human-being in modern society. I've seen a man take a half hour to drink a cup of orange juice, not for leisure but rather for ineptitude in manipulating objects in his environment. I've witnessed a gentleman with a fond love of crack, so angry at his loose shoelaces that he proceeded to scream at and beat them, to death I'm certain, on the sidewalk. But I can honestly say, I've never seen a man enslaved by a cat. It's just unthinkable. Gives me chills, just thought of it. What are you doing, Carl?
Photo Credit: Stephen Noyes

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Accord signed, the First of April

This is the news:

The BBTI accord, today, has been signed between The Baksza Bureau and the Internet, under it's blogging capacity, known as TEH INTERNETS, some time before dinner, PST.

Much anticipation had been looming in recent weeks with pressures from internal members of both parties mounting since as far back as The Facebook Treaty, March 2006. Whereas the the FBT's signing was catalysed by mutual distaste over the average user age of Nexopia still being 16, three years after initial subscription, the new Brasley Blogs TEH INTERNETS Accord had been continuously meeting with delays, mostly over translation errors of TEH INTERNET's official tongue, L337 $P34< (leetspeak) and a mysterious incident involving a bag of chocolate-covered shards of glass - faulty parties being quoted as saying, "My guests are fools, all your pantry are belong to us".

Negotiation finally culminated Tuesday, lunchhour, following a discussion of the term "bromance" and it's validity in the English language. Blogger.com, having provided accommodations to The Bureau's submissions, Bureau PR Rep, B. Baksza announced today, "We expect posts to begin as early as this evening, concentrating on interesting words and phrases, dead things found on the side of the road... annoying emails my dad sent me, scandalous pictures of my ex that she's long since forgot about and spatterings of drunken or sleep-deprived nonsense - Truly a significant intellectual contribution to the overall body of Internet-based literature... Blogging should start off strong and eventually reaching equilibrium while increasing in the irrational and borderline offensive rhetoric that this office prides itself on."

No word yet on The Bureau's plans for a vidlog, although Bureau Charter states that it is "always looking for new avenues to alienate myself". Relations between The Bureau and TEH INTERNETS are expected alleviate following this move and public interest on the matter, while still polarized, remains high.