Monthly Archives: May 2011

Judgment Day Rescheduled or just a Rain Delay?


Known to his parishioners as Pastor Harold, but to the rest of us as “that nitwit” Harold Camping said that his prophesy of the coming of the end of the world was off a bit.  Now, according to Pastor Camping, Judgment Day is on tap for October 21, 2011.  Camping heads up something called Family Radio International, which raised and spent millions advising the rest of us to get our stuff together in anticipation of the end of the world.  It would seem that more than a few of the followers decided that selling all their worldly possessions in anticipation of The Rapture would be appropriate, the thinking being “why do I need a house and a big screen TV when Heaven has all that stuff, and more?”

We don’t knock people who have deeply held beliefs of a religious nature as having at least some kind of faith is a good thing in the grand scheme of things.  Having respect for others deeply held beliefs also goes a long way to creating a little civility on our planet, so we’re not going burn Harold Camping and Family Radio for being complete asshats.

What we are going to burn them for is their 2009 IRS filing.  According to the Associated Press story, the non-profit Family Radio International received $18.3 million in donations and had assets of $104 million, including $34 million in stock and other publicly traded investments. 

Now that doesn’t stack up worth a poot to the folks in the Big Show, the Major League God Brands, whose assets are easily in the billions, but FRI is doing all right.  Which is where we can be piqued.

Having read the entire Bible, both Old and New Testament, we don’t claim scholarship by a long shot, but we do have a reasonable comprehension of the documents and the overreaching concepts behind the King James’ version of the stories.  Notice we didn’t say the King Jimmy is the definitive version, but it at least is one of the more mainstream ones.  (Incidentally, we have also read the Torah, the Bhagavad-Gita, a fair amount of the Koran and a lot of the Analects of Confucius)

One of the overreaching concepts is the Church is to minister to the poor, to help feed them, clothe them and generally help them up, to become contributing members of society, so they in turn can help those less fortunate.  Ministering to the sick is another great concept, looking after the frail, the infirm and the unwell, to give comfort and healing.  No argument here.  Providing ministry to increase the understanding of the word of the Bible, we can go along with too.  Nothing wrong with trying to increase brand awareness and asking for money to help with the other two tasks, so far, we’re in agreement.

Where we part is the politicizing of certain passages to act as justification for or against specific actions.  With enough Biblical scholarship one can find a quote that supports or proscribes damn near anything depending on how you interpret the passage. 

There’s the hook; how you interpret the passage.  If one is intellectually honest, interpretation is wrong, as it is changing what God meant, based on the particular lens the reader is wearing at any particular time.  That kind of intellectual vacuity leads to the Inquisition throwing people in a lake tied to huge boulders.  If they floated they were witches:  If they drowned they weren’t witches.  They were dead, but at least they weren’t witches.

Which brings us back to Harold Camping and the prediction of the End of Days.  Unless Harold has a direct dial line to God and God himself started the conversation with:  “Harold, I’m pissed…”, then Harold Camping and Family Radio International are guilty of the intellectual sin of interpreting what God has to say, according to their own peculiar lens.  We note that Harold Camping has never claimed he has a glowing red God-Phone on the kitchen wall, so his predictions can be safely ignored and his followers might consider turning in their secret Bible decoder ring that they bought for their fellowship gift of $100 plus shipping and handling. 

Now the question becomes, what does one do between now and October 21st?.  We have a suggestion:  It is an old RoadDave called The Golden Rule from October 2006, wherein we researched and listed 31 different versions of the essential “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept that is at the core of every known Brand of God, without interpretation, intellectual tap dancing or trying to find some kind of scriptural quote that makes Argyll patterned socks a sin. 

It might even be one of those simple things that makes every day go a little easier.   

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Watching Others Work


Most of us don’t have the luxury of watching other people perform their jobs, unless our job is sidewalk superintendent at a local building site.  We’re too busy trying to keep up with our own tasks that we cannot take the time to appreciate how others manage theirs.

However, on a recent mini-vacation to Toronto we did get to take the time and have the opportunity to very closely examine a well-tuned group of humans do something simple, but very, very well.  It was instructive, as well as reaffirming at the same time. 

Here’s the backstory:  The spousal unit and I postponed our birthday celebrations until the May long weekend from February and March respectively.  We simply didn’t have enough time to sit back and do it right.  We can bloody well do what the hell we want, when we want and if we wanted to move our birthdays around, then so be it:  The planet can adapt.  Adapt it did with a particular group insisting that The Rapture would end the Entire World on May 21st.  We shrugged and continued on our merry way, knowing our reservations were for the evening of May 21st.  If the World did End, we’d go out with a good meal. 

Take your home kitchen, when you’re preparing a big holiday meal with all the coordination, cooking, preparation, plating, serving and the other thousands of tasks that go into something like the full-pin Christmas Dinner.  You know how flogged you are at the end of it:  You feel like you’ve just spent five hours juggling a flaming Coleman stove, a bowling ball and a bunch of grapes, riding a unicycle, on a high wire over Niagara Falls, blindfolded, half-drunk, wearing a tutu two sizes too big.  Find the dial that controls the madness and twist it up to 11.  That’s a professional kitchen on a slow night. 

The majority of dining establishments hide the chaos of the line and the pass behind the swinging doors. As a guest, all that happens is you place your order and a few minutes later your meal glides out on the graceful shoes of the server. The other six thousand six hundred and sixty six discreet actions that go into your plate occur away from your sight, back “there”. “There” is where the real work and the real craftsmanship happens. 

In many ways, dining is like theatre. Seeing the mechanism work takes away the mystery and wonder, knowing the Swan has a scruffy, sweaty, stagehand named Gord crouched down inside it, pushing it along the lake on casters.  The suspension of disbelief is important.

We have a lot of respect for professional chefs, the brigade and the service staff as they take vaguely controllable pandemonium, make sense of it, coordinate, perform and deliver, repeatedly, every order, every change, every nuance, every time and get it right.  We got to watch a very good one on Saturday night while on our mini-vacation, up close, where they couldn’t hide.

Seated at the Chef’s table at Ruby Watch Co, you are at most ten feet from burning your forearm on the hot line.  The pass is barely a meter away.  You watch the chef do the last minute checks, seasoning and expediting of every dish.  At the same time, you see every server pick up and deliver their orders, all within easy earshot.  You get to see what kind of place it really is. 

Never once did we hear a raised voice or harsh comment.  Never once did something go wrong that we could determine.  Never once did anyone throw a hissy fit, gripe, or mutter under their breath.  Every step was collegial, gracious, respectful, professional and polite.  Not just to the guests, as that’s expected, we’re talking about the staff, with each other.  Everyone pitched in, doing the thousands of little things that make a dining room run, from the trivial to the critical, they all worked together, seamlessly, seemingly effortlessly making sure it all came together for the guest. 

As an example, no dining room has enough service pieces for the entire night:  It is financially foolish for a restaurateur to have 3000 small Le Creuset ramekins sitting around, gathering dust four nights out of seven.  As each table is cleared, the pieces go back, are washed and have to come back forward for use later.  It’s grunt-work, one of the thousands of little steps that have to happen, so the chef can plate up a later order, without a pause, reaching down and to the left knowing that there is a supply of said pieces exactly where they’re supposed to be.  A small thing, yes, but in the flow and pace of the kitchen, it is important, because if those pieces are missing an order is delayed, the asparagus is overcooked, the guest is unhappy and so on.  Small things can make a difference. 

Towards the end of the evening one of the service staff came forward with a stack of service pieces to the pass and the chef took a moment to thank them for their help.  It is also a small thing, a big name celebrity chef, taking the time to thank another for their help, but it speaks volumes about the people involved. 

The principals of the place were all there on a long-weekend when by all rights they could easily have taken the weekend off, gone to the cottage and been half in the bag at 10:30 on a Saturday night.  Nobody would have objected, but there they were, working the room like the professionals they obviously are.  We were made to feel welcome, as if we were the only folks in the joint and a hotshot gang of cuisine pros were there to cook just for us.  OK, there were a hundred other folks in the place, but you wouldn’t know it by the way we were greeted and treated.

About the food?  We talked about it later and yes, it was the best meal we’ve had, anywhere.  Ever.  Nothing less than simply perfect, flavorful and wonderful.  It was one of those times when all the moving parts worked exactly as they are supposed to work, from the service, to the food to the care and attention paid to how it all came together.  Sitting that close to the working mechanism of a dining room let us see exactly why it works. 

It comes down to respect.

The kitchen obviously respects the ingredients they use, the servers knowing where the stuff comes from show the same respect to the ingredients and the art of the kitchen in preparing the ingredients in a certain way.  Pairing the wine and the food, recommendations that were spot on, to complement what we were eating, enhancing the flavors the kitchen created.  The way the people interacted with each other, showing respect for each others’ role in the whole experience for the guest.  None of it needlessly fussy or frou-frou, just genuine, sincere and respectful. 

The interesting thing is this kind of atmosphere can rarely be created spontaneously.  Humans don’t work that way.  There is an old Yiddish saying that “Fish stink from the head” meaning leadership determines how successfully things work.  The corollary is that the right leadership can show others how to do it the right way, leading by example.  Leading by respect.

Which, at the end of the night, meant we had a wonderful meal, leaving full of belly and warmed of heart by being permitted to watch real culinary professionals do what they do best in the hopes that we would enjoy it.  We did. 

SlutWalk


We’re going to open up a bag of trouble here, but it’s useful to look into a bag of trouble from time to time.  Some language may offend, so consider yourself duly cautioned.

In January of this year a Toronto cop, Const. Michael Sanguinetti was speaking at a York University safety forum.  Allegedly Sanguinetti commented that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  Needless to say the manure hit the ventilator. 

After that comment and others from the Bench, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis, two of the organizers of a Toronto protest decided to stick it to the Toronto cops and called their protest a SlutWalk.  On April 3rd, more than 3,000 people gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto and marched to Toronto Police HQ to protest the comments from the police.  Shortly thereafter several dozen more slutwalks appeared, across Canada, the US and now internationally.  The link above leads to their website and a couple of dozen more satellite SlutWalks that are in the works.

Generally the crowds are regular folks of all segments of the social-sexual-economic spectrum.  Some do dress in what might be called a flamboyant manner but the message is still the same:  No Means No.  That’s a simple, straightforward, easy to understand concept that even very stupid people understand.

The hard part is the term SlutWalk.  

Reclaiming words is a difficult thing to undertake.  Some words are simply too charged with underlying politics to ever be reclaimed or reformed.  Nigger is one term that is so powerful and charged that it has to be treated with a great deal of sensitivity.  We doubt that the N word can ever be fully reclaimed without hurting someone.

Slut, however, might actually be do-able.  The current use is very much a pejorative, heavily loaded with sex role stereotyping, excuse enabling and gender politics.  Men are very rarely called sluts and if they are, it can be perceived as a left-handed ironic compliment on their sexual prowess. 

Call a woman a slut and very, very few will consider it anything but vicious, hostile, degrading, marginalizing and disempowering.

Which is where we get confused, so a parallel is in order.  Here’s the challenge:  Define “pornographic”.

The moment you define porn as “I know it when I see it” you’ve lost.  You are applying a personal, politically and morally loaded, unfair, inaccurate definition to something.  Pornography, at one time defined as literature or visual representations designed to stimulate or titillate, could be as simple as a nude ankle to some groups, or a luscious colour picture of an all-you-can-eat buffet to someone slowly starving to death in the Third World.  What stimulates or titillates one person could be a complete yawn to another.  

The same holds true for a term like “provocative dress”.  Someone in a “I Have A Choice” T-shirt would be very provocative today on Parliament Hill, as a thousand pro-life protestors are on the Hill demonstrating for their particular cause.  Even if the “Choice” T-shirt wearing person meant I have choice between Coke and Pepsi, the term “Choice” has become loaded and not in a good way. 

The same is true with “gay” being rebranded as a sexual orientation short-form term.  However, even some in the male homosexual community consider “gay’” to be inappropriate.  Noted author and Savage Love columnist Dan Savage used to slug his letters with “Hey Faggot!” as an attempt to rip the moral loading out of the word faggot.  Eventually he gave it up in 1999, as people thought his column was called “Hey Faggot!” instead of Savage Love.

Which brings us back to slut and essential problems with language, especially language between the genders.  Our initial position is that language matters, if we want to be positive, inclusive, fair and accurate with the words we use.  That onus is especially on police, who represent all of us, therefore Constable Sanguinetti was out of line when he said: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”.  If he insisted on continuing, something along the lines of “Be aware that how you dress can have others can make unfair assumptions about you.” might have squeaked by, but even that can be misconstrued.  A wiser choice would have been to shut his mouth.

So what’s a slut?  We can’t define a slut without being inaccurate, sexist, pejoratively judgmental and disempowering, so we’ll try to define what a slut isn’t.  A woman with several dozen ongoing sexual partners isn’t a slut:  Horny, yes, we can agree with that.  Enjoying a vigorous sex life, sure.  But even if she likes a dozen at a time, that doesn’t make her a slut.  Possibly facing issues with STD’s, muscle strain, exhaustion and dehydration would be accurate, but not a slut.

Is promiscuity slutty?  Some consider President Jimmy Carter to be a complete slut because he admitted to having sinned many times in his mind with women who weren’t his wife.  As to acting on what was going on in there is a different issue between Jimmy and Roz, not us. 

Is attire slutty?  Is a black bra slutty?  Not if one is wearing a black blouse, a black bra is actually trying not to call attention to ones undergarments, to be demure in a way.  Fishnet hose and garters?  Merely saucy thanks, even if that is the sole attire along with a nice pair of high heels, pearls, perfume and a glistening glow of perspiration.  OK, that was just for me.  I apologize. 

Attire can be inappropriate to an occasion:  Fishnets and a blouse open down to there is not right at a funeral or church services,  It’s a judgment call and sometimes one must adjust ones attire to conform to a situational ethic. 

Attire can also be perilously close to personally embarrassing, assuming one wishes to keep most of the primary sexual characteristics covered.  Which explains why “Tit Tape” is for sale at the neighborhood drugstore.  Some evening fashions for women seem to defy the laws of physics, gravity and common sense.  But it isn’t slutty.

Notice the underlying examples.  Slut almost always applies to women, their attire, their behavior and their actions.  Which means it is a term used to put women down, to disempower them and marginalize their opinions or commentary on events. 

The problem is how men are assumed to perceive women and notice that condition, assumed to perceive.  The social trope is that all men are nothing more than walking erections looking for any available orifice to park themselves for a few moments.  Some religious perspectives insist the tantalizing view of an undraped female ankle will cause all men to immediately fling the woman to the ground in a flurry of frantic fornication. 

In other words, all men are beasts and all women are begging for it, therefore we must control the women as men cannot be expected to exercise even the smallest amount of self restraint.  That is so wrong it makes our eyes hurt just writing it down. 

Believe it or not, not all men are simple beasts.  We might not be the brightest sparks in the fireplace, but we do have a basic understanding that No Means No.  We were taught it and learned it from the men and women in our lives.  That includes parents, peer groups, teachers, friends, lovers and even our media.  We are assuming that Const. Sanguinetti also received those lessons and we’re fairly certain he gets it now. 

There are of course thousands of exceptions to the rule.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo stands as the most heinous example, where according to a study released this week, that 48 women per hour are raped in the DRC.  That means in the five minutes it has taken you to read this far, four women have been forcibly violated in the most hideous way possible.  The reason?  Various militia groups are trying to clear out villages, so they can control the mineral and mining rights.  The rapes have nothing to do with uncontrolled sexual urges and everything to do with politics, power and money.

Which leaves us where with the term slut?  Recognize that the term has nothing to do with sexual behavior or attire and everything to do with politicizing, disempowering and marginalizing people.  If the SlutWalk organizers can reclaim slut then more power to them.  If nothing else, they can educate and reinforce the lessons that words matter.

It all comes back to teaching that No Means No.  The rest is commentary.

    

Fine Print


Watch a few television commercials, especially for pharmaceuticals or automobile financing and you might see what is called mouse type.  Technically that blurry blotch in 3 point type is called a legal disclaimer.  Points are how type is measured:  72 points equal 1 inch.  RoadDave is set in 14 pt. Times New Roman TrueType.

Lawyers and governments at various levels have mandated what might be called ‘semi-full disclosure’ of the whole story.  For example, when it comes to automobile financing, there are too many variables to promise anyone who comes in the door will get the Zero percent financing.  Legitimately, if you have really good credit, you’ll get the best rate, while your dirtbag neighbour who has gone bankrupt five times, living off his uncle’s fake disability pension, won’t get that most excellent rate.

If you have a half a brain you likely recognize that a 30 second commercial cannot tell you the whole story about a particular offer, especially one that sounds really good.  Where the difficulty comes in is the ability for consumers to actually read and understand those nibbles of consumer disclosure. 

The same holds true for pharmaceuticals:  The FDA and Health Canada both mandate a type of disclosure for prescription medicine advertising.  Depending on the meds and the type of advertising, the disclosure is as simple as ’…ask your doctor about Snotica…’  Others have a longer subset of the product monograph, the legal disclosure document regarding the medicine:  “Snotica may cause headache, nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, itching eardrums, throbbing genitalia, runny eyes, spontaneous combustion, strokes, elevated cholesterol, thoughts of suicide, unsettling dreams, night sweats and death.  Be careful driving until you know how Snotica affects you.  You may drive more like a complete idiot on Snotica.  Do not use heavy equipment, except graders or gravel compactors when you starting taking Snotica.  Seeing flaming red dragons climbing up your leg with a knife in its’ teeth has been commonly reported by a small number of patients taking Snotica.  Snotica can cause incontinence, insomnia, enhanced intuition and the ability to levitate involuntarily.  Tell your doctor is you have uncontrollable urges regarding rough sex with penguins while on Snotica…”

Where the real problem is the tradeoff between the ability to actually fit all the type on the screen and not scaring the consumer half to death.  Which is why mouse type is used.  It keeps the legal beagles off your back as you have done at least a half-assed job of disclosing some of the pertinent details of the deal, but in a way that nobody can read it.  Caveat Emptor.

Some categories of advertising, specifically cosmetics, have no real reason to disclose the whole story as they are not making medical claims.  Most mascara commercials do have a miniscule disclaimer, “Filmed with lash inserts” that lasts about a second on the screen in the smallest possible type.  Other than that, they can claim just about anything else this side of a medical benefit, including ‘You will get laid if you buy our makeup:  Fabulously laid by a muscular, attractive, engaging, intelligent, internet millionaire who will take you away from your tedious life as an assistant associate customer service coordinator for a local aluminum siding installer, to live in his chateau in the south of France with a walk-in closet that will hold all the shoes you could possibly buy in three lifetimes.’

What we would really like to see is a simple disclaimer.  It reads like thus:  “This is not the whole story.  Consult the dealer/manufacturer for full details.  They could be shitting you just to take your money.  Don’t be a sucker.” 

Now, technically, this is implied by any advertising, but the legal monkeys and governments have done an incomplete job of illiterate, incomplete disclosure rules that semi-apply, sometimes, but not always, depending on the lawyers that are consulted by the ad agency, manufacturers, dealers and government regulatory agencies. 

We’re voting for simplicity.

 

 

       

 

Osama and Voting


Call this a two’fer as we’re going to deal with Osama bin Laden, then the Canadian Federal election. 

Osama Bin Laden is dead and right now the Black Helicopter Brigade is working up a good lather that:

1: It wasn’t really Osama Bin Laden, but his identical twin brother Stan Bin Laden.  The real Osama Bin Laden is still driving a cab in Cincinnati.

2: The body wasn’t actually buried at sea, but transported to a subterranean medical lab near Quantico where the CIA is using alien technology to bring Bin Laden back to life.  This is the same lab where the crippled JFK lived out his years in a wheelchair after Dallas and where Walt Disney’s brain is kept in cryogenic suspended animation. 

3: It was all staged in a hangar in Area 51

4: Barack Obama had Bin Laden killed to keep him from revealing that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, or Kenya, but that Barack Obama is actually from Tel Aviv and his Dad owned a fleet of scooters that he would rent to tourists.  Barack Obama’s real name is Moshe Ben Momser and Michelle Obama is actually a white guy named Kenneth in excellent, stylish, fashion-forward drag.

5: The luxurious compound where the fake Osama Bin Laden lived just outside of Islamabad was actually owned by the Russian government and was an abortion clinic designed to harvest stem cells from Pashtun fighters’ wives as a way for the former Soviet government to breed their own super-race of guerilla fighters to take down the Afghan Taliban to secure oil supplies for China.

Or, maybe, just maybe, the US Government got it all right and sent SEAL Team Six in to do what needed to be done.  Then they got it done.  Mind you, we are curious about the ‘hiding in plain sight’ and how Bin Laden was able to pull that off in Pakistan.  Oh, pardon me, perhaps we shouldn’t ask that question too loudly as we might come across as insensitive regarding a putative ally in the War on Terror.

As for the Canadian Election?  We’re going to hold our nose and vote, as any good citizen should do.  With luck, we’ll get a Conservative Minority with the NDP in Opposition.  With further luck, the Liberals will properly implode, taking their leader and most of their membership to a warm, dark, brown, quiet place for the next couple of decades. 

Unfortunately, that means we get our national micromanaging bully back as PM so he can browbeat Cabinet and the Canadian people for the next three or four years, while giving any corporation with their hand out, a Hand Out, masquerading as a tax break, tax credit or some other accounting dodge.  The last middle-class Canadian will be kept under glass at the Museum of Civilization, while the rest of us become indentured slaves to some Calgary oil company.

We’re living in interesting times.