Monthly Archives: July 2012

Free Speech Has A Cost

If you’re not familiar with Chick-fil-A restaurants and the controversy going on now, we’ll give you the short form.

Chick-fil-A was founded by S. Truett Cathy as the Dwarf Grill in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946.  The first proper Chick-fil-A opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall in 1967 and has since expanded to 1,614 restaurants across the US, mostly in the South.  We’ve eaten at a few and they do a fine chicken sandwich, perhaps one of the best chain chicken sandwiches around.  One of their iconic ads is a picture of a cow with a hand-scrawled caption of “Eat mor chickin” to encourage customers to avoid the beef. 

Chick-fil-A’s leadership has never hidden its Christian values.  For instance, all of them are closed on Sundays.  The reason a quick-service restaurant is closed Sunday?  “He (founder Truett Cathy) has often shared that his decision was as much practical as spiritual.  He believes that all franchised Chick-fil-A Operators and Restaurant employees should have an opportunity to rest, spend some time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.”  Fair enough, actually kind of noble, in that a successful restaurateur recognizes that his folks need at least one day off a week.

Where the controversy has arisen is in the corporate donation side of the house.  Being a “Christian values” corporation, Chick-fil-A has donated money to various groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council who, it would be accurate to say, are not exactly thrilled with those who are in favour of same-sex marriage, which has caused some outrage in LGBT groups.  Some groups say that Chick-fil-A is actively anti-gay based on their donation record.  Others, notably the mayors of Boston and Chicago are not willing to grant business licenses to Chick-fil-A based on the political beliefs of the Cathy family and the Chick-fil-A corporation.

Here’s where it gets sticky.  The Chick-fil-A corporation is a privately held, very successful company that wears its heart and beliefs on its sleeve.  No question.  Also, no question they have the right to do so. 

Other groups, like Equality Matters, also have their hearts on their sleeves and are advocating for a broad acceptance of all the spectrum of sexuality, including marriage, in an inclusive manner.  No question and no question they have the right to do so.

So what is a person to do?  If you live in the South and don’t agree with Chick-fil-A’s belief set, then don’t eat at Chick-fil-A, if it is important enough to you.  Don’t give them your money. 

If you want a good chicken sandwich and don’t give a rat’s ass about the politics of the corporation serving it to you, go to Chick-fil-A and order the Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  It’s good. 

If you’re concerned about family values and the Chick-fil-A belief set meshes with yours, then order two Spicy Chicken Sandwiches, or a  Chick-n-Strips tray for the office.  Know that your cheque will go to their bottom line and some of it will dribble out to groups that share your belief set.  All good.

What bothers us is the sheer volume of media whining on both sides about the whole subject that conveniently skips over the whole issue of Free Speech.  That is that Free Speech has a cost.

The cost of Free Speech is that you will also hear opinions that are contradictory to the ones you hold dear.  Some will be forceful, others will be muted, but there are always at least two, usually several dozen sides to any argument.  The obligation of Free Speech is to let the others be heard after you have had your chance.  Don’t agree?  Then agree to not agree and leave content.

And also to remember, that there are no black vans cruising around, looking for LGBT people to scoop off the street forcing them to eat at Chick-fil-A.  Just as there are no rainbow coloured vans trolling outside churches playing “Brokeback Mountain” on big screens trying to recruit new members.  

For heaven’s sake, it’s just chicken.  Express your opinion with your wallet.

Gun Control Redefined

Post-Colorado and post-Toronto shootups, there is increasing talk of gun control on both side of the border.  We’ll define our terms here, as this is the best way to limit knee-jerk reaction to the whole issue, which understandably, many people take too seriously.  We will also provide translation where needed, as we recognize that some people are familiar with firearms and some are not. 

First off, it isn’t a gun.  A gun is defined as a projectile weapon using a hollow tubular barrel with a closed end as the means of directing a projectile.  This could be anything from a 16-inch gun on a battleship that sends shells the size of your sofa towards a target forty miles away, to a marshmallow gun that shoots Kraft Miniatures at a square of chocolate and two graham crackers using air pressure.  They’re all guns. 

We’re talking about, specifically, firearm weapons.  True, knives, swords, crossbows and clubs are also weapons.  A stapler can be a “weapon” as it all depends on intent, which we will get to shortly. 

A “rifle” refers to the spiral grooves, the rifling, machined inside the barrel of a firearm to make the bullet spin and be more accurate over distance.  A “shotgun” refers to the type of projectile, several dozen little steel or lead balls, called shot, in a largish shell, about the size of a lipstick, for those of our audience who use makeup on a regular basis. 

A handgun or pistol is a common term that describes the size of the weapon, generally meaning small enough to hold and use with one hand.  A shotgun a handgun and a rifle are all firearm weapons, meaning they use gunpowder to propel some kind of hard projectile at high speed towards something else.  

We will define further demarcations between long firearm weapons and short firearm weapons. 

Hunting firearms are almost all, by definition, long weapons, meaning more than 18 inches long and rarely with a clip of more than 8 rounds. 

We’ve got no problem with hunting, be it ducks, moose or even sporting clays, but frankly, sporting clays taste horrible, even if you cook them for a week.  Pass a firearms safety course, keep them in a firearms safe at home and transport them properly.  Feel free to break bottles, control varmints or target shoot to your wallet and heart’s content.  All we ask is that if you do take an animal or four that you use as much of the animal as you can, be it deer, elk, bear or ducks.  How many and in what season is up to the provincial or state hunting regulations.  

The only limitation we would ever consider imposing is to limit the weapon to semi-auto and to eight rounds.  For the non-firearms folks semi-auto means you have to pull the trigger each time you want to fire the weapon and you have to reload after eight shots.  Reloading takes a couple of seconds with a well-skilled person using the weapon.

Where the problem exists is firearm weapons that are less than 18 inches long and that great mystery of intent. 

We don’t have a problem with people who target shoot using handguns, which are by definition less than 18 inches long.  One of our acquaintances is Linda Thom.  She knows how to use a weapon correctly, safely and with exceptional precision, as evidenced by her 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in 25 metre sport pistol competition.  If you want to shoot targets with a firearm weapon less than 18 inches long, the same rules for long firearm weapons would apply:  Firearms safety course, weapons safe at home, proper transportation, limit to semi-auto and eight rounds.  The only addition would be a very stringent police background check and here’s why: 

Firearm weapons shorter than 18 inches can be easily concealed.

A concealed firearm weapon has a different potential intent than one that is very difficult to conceal, like a long firearm weapon.  Yes, you can still pull a Model 870 out from under your coat and fire away at things and people, but it’s a lot harder to conceal than a M1911 short firearm weapon.  Both firearms can be used for benign purposes, be it hunting, or target shooting, but both can also be used to kill people.  This speaks to intent and the intent to conceal means you have the potential for less than socially acceptable ends in mind when you pull out a short firearm. 

Since we can’t actually determine intent up front when someone goes to buy a firearm  (Gosh, I don’t want to hurt ducks, I want to shoot several co-workers and then die in a hail of bullets from the ERT – is rarely written on a Firearms Acquisition Certificate as the reason they want to obtain a weapon) we have to make it difficult for less than lawful and socially acceptable uses of firearm weapons. 

Concealment is the first step:  Make it hard to conceal the weapon by making it illegal for the firearm weapon, except for very specific circumstances, to be less than 18 inches long.

Second step is a limit of semi-auto and eight rounds.  Hunters and target shooters don’t need to be able to fire a clip in one pull.  If you’re that unskilled that you need full auto and a 50 round clip to take a deer, we’re not sure you should be allowed to have a camera, let alone a firearm.  Make it illegal for the firearm weapon to fire full auto and to have a capacity of no more than 8 rounds per magazine or clip.

Third step:  The display or involvement of any firearm weapon in the commission of any crime results in the automatic doubling of the penalty.  Discharge of a firearm weapon in the commission of any crime results in a second doubling of the penalty.  We call it the Double-Double Rule, named after the Tim Horton’s Coffee typical order of a Double-Double, of two cream and two sugar. 

Here’s the elegance of the Double-Double:  It speaks to the intent of the use of the firearm weapon.  It has nothing to do with the legal, acceptable use of firearm weapons, aside from some sensible limits (semi-auto, no more than 8 rounds) their safe use, transportation and storage.  These laws are already on the books, or could be amended very easily.  Double-Double has everything to do with the commission of illegal acts involving firearm weapons.

So let’s take the Toronto shootings:  Illegal possession of a firearm weapon of less than 18 inches in length.  Seven and a half years is one of the more recent sentences.  Double it, is 15.  Discharge of the weapon with intent to harm another person, double it again:  30 years.  We’ll let you in on a little feature of Double-Double.  No parole or time off for good behaviour:  You serve the full 30 year sentence under Double-Double even if it is your first offence.

Perhaps the beauty of the whole arrangement is we don’t have to argue about ‘banning guns’ a gun registry, stolen and illegal handguns, or even debate the merits of target shooting and hunting by sensible, safe, firearm weapons owners.  Double-Double gets to heart of the matter, the intent of the firearm weapon holder, without changing our current situation very much.

Could a Double-Double law have prevented the Colorado shooter James Holmes or the Norwegian nutcase Anders Brevik?  Not really, except that the shooters would have less likely access to short firearm weapons, either legally, or illegally and know the penalty for being taken alive would be a very, very long time in prison.  We can’t control the crazy, no matter how hard we try to legislate things:  There will always be those who find a way to act on the voices in their head.

But we can make it very, very punitive for gang-bangers and their ilk to cross that line of intent.  A few of them being put away for 30 years tends to send the message in a clear, concise and easily understood manner:  Do not use a firearm weapon in the commission of an illegal act – You will go to jail for a long, long time.

Where’s the upside of Double-Double, you ask?  For one, it keeps our politicians from behaving in knee-jerk fashion nattering on about ‘gun’ control to gather votes.  One Toronto mayor wanted to make target shooting ranges illegal to stem the flow of stolen handguns from the US.  That’s almost as dumb as clear cutting forests because forests have trees, that are made of wood, than can be made into a baseball bats that can be used to hit other people over the head. 

The second upside is that we make it difficult enough already to legally have a firearm weapon less than 18 inches in length.  If you are that keen to take up target shooting and the pistol arts, then you won’t mind waiting 30 days or more for the background check to be completed while you take your firearms safety course and get your firearms safe installed.  No problem, as your intent is socially acceptable and the laws are already on the books.  Do recognize that we will put your ass in a sling if we find you’re storing your firearms in a dresser drawer with two full mags and the safety off.  That’s stupid beyond belief and has nothing to do with target shooting.

Third, we’re not limiting long firearm weapons, aside from the aforementioned semi-auto and eight round limits.  Hunt, shoot clays, control varmints or plink bottles all day if you want to, as long as you do it safely.  If we find you piss drunk shooting a stop sign by the side of the highway, be assured the cops will confiscate your weapon and should probably give you two black eyes with the butt of your shotgun for being a complete idiot out of season.

Fourth, we get rid of those who choose to wave a gun around, either as thieves, robbers or gang-bangers by putting them away for a very long time.  It might take a few years for the message to be delivered, but at least the perpetrators will be off the street.  It took about ten years to get the message regarding seat belts or driving drunk to become mainstream, so it isn’t an instant fix. Nothing is.

As for the crazies like James Holmes?  That we cannot fix.

More Olympic Security Woes

Since the media in London seemed so eager to take a Cleveland Steamer all over Vancouver when we held the Olympics, it seems only right that turnabout is fair play.

Aside from the rent-a-cop provider G4S falling on their swords earlier this week by not providing the 10,400 uniformed security people for the London Olympics and losing nearly $80 million in the process, it would seem that the few uniforms G4S has provided are at best, useless.  From a great blog, Inspector Gadget comes the report of the number of G4S meat who simply don’t show up for work.  180 trainees were booked to start a class “How to Smile at Olympic Staff”.  Eight warm bodies actually deigned to arrive. 

At the Olympic team hotel in Salford, 56 allegedly trained, vetted and willing security staff were scheduled to work – 17 showed up.

Box Hill cycling venue?  20 of 300 booked managed to cast a shadow and presumably to fog a mirror.

So, who fills in when G4S’s people decide that the dog ate their homework?  Regular police officers.  The folks who are supposed to be watching the rest of England for the usual robberies, break and enters and domestic violence things that don’t go away because the Olympics are in town. 

To try to backfill the missing-presumed-still-sleeping G4S staff another 3,500 British Army have been given orders to prepare to move.  That brings the Ministry of Defence commitment to 20,000, or a tenth of all the British Military.

Which tells us that the London Olympics will not be a cheerful place full of happy competitors and thrilled spectators, watching their fellow countrymen achieve great things in sport.  The unspoken undertone however, is what could happen if the shit really does hit the fan. 

Assume for a moment that a heretofore unknown smallish group of Elbonian dissidents decides that the London Olympics is the perfect place to address their centuries-long conflict with North Elbonia for the Great Taking of the Sheep in 1434. 

Like most nutbar groups, their method of protest is the car bomb, which is neither technically challenging, or particularly difficult logistically.  Scan the newspapers to see where the G4S people are not showing up to work and there’s your venue.  Total brain effort required?  Barely enough to power up a light bulb, which would be plenty to set off the Elbonian car bomb next to the the North Elbonian training facility, where the North Elbonian Olympic Team is training for the new Olympic event, the 100 Metre Sod Roll and Carry.

Purely fictional and we dreamed that one up in less than four seconds, but with the London Olympics security in such a mess, we might as well write the headlines now.

When The Going Gets Weird

Our esteemed pinch-hitter Mason Baveux has asked for the keys again to comment on the general weirdness that seems to have permeated Canada in the last few months.  Mason?

It’s like you said Davy, she’s gone right screwy.  My Canada, what we stand on guard for thee seems to have dropped off the conveyor belt of normal, into the rock tumbler of What the eff? 

Luka Magnotta:  If you’re south of the border, you’ve might of heard about our very own Canadian Monster.  He’s the sick little jagoff what killed and then field dressed that student Jun Lin.  Then this Magnotta mails body parts to a couple of schools in BC and the HQ of two of our major political parties up Davey’s way in Ottawa.  Eventually the cops found the head and torso, so’s at least the family got a full set to bury.   

Jesus lad, this is Canada.  Drop the gloves or take a stick to his head, but killin the lad then runnin off to Canada Post is a bit much.  Magnotta’s in the pokey right now awaitin trial as the newsies say.  The trick cyclists are studyin Magnotta’s mind right now and I can save them a lot of time:  He’s a crazy fuck.  I don’t like my tax dollars goin to house that kind of crazy bastard in segregation.  Put him in General Pop and the lads will take care of things for us in a week to ten days.  Same with that Russell Williams and Paulie Bernardo.

Shoot’em up in Toronto. Them gangbangers are at it again in Hogtown.  Last night off in Scarberia there was a big old picknic goin on when an animated discussion ensued.  Two dead, 23 wounded in what they’re callin’ a hail of gunfire. 

First off, no points for marksmanship ya arseholes.  There was 200 or so folks at the BB and Q and ya managed to hit ten percent including an infant.  If you gotta settle your beef with a weapon, learn how to use it first.  Shootin up the whole neighbourhood proves you got no balls, no skills and no class.  

I don’t give a gold plated tit tassel about what your beef is as it’s probly something retarded about one lad wearin an Oakland A’s cap instead of a Yankees cap on backwards or other such gang rubbish.  Oh and “disrespectin” each other.  Well here’s some more disrespectin’:  You can’t shoot worth shit.  None of you have the stones or the smarts to go toe to toe like a real Canadian Man would.  Oh, that’s right, you’re still livin at home, bein suckled on Mommy’s teat, bein all butch, wavin’ a gun around.  Friggin’ whinin’ little wipes. 

I know a lad from the PPCLI who was so tough he was stabbed three times in Korea by a Chinee fightin in a trench, who didn’t even use his sidearm, except to pistol whip him with the butt end.  Didn’t kill him, but it took the medicos a week to figure out where to put the feeding tube on the prisoner.

Tornado Warnings today:  Well that’s your climate warmin for ya.  We get no rain for a month, so’s everything’s drier than Sister Agnes’s twat then she starts blowin around in a twister.  This ain’t Texas or Oklahoma and if Dorthy clicks her ruby heels together she sure ain’t goin to wind up in Winchester or Morrisburg.  No word on the damage yet.

Brit Olys –  I told you I was goin to roast their weenies when it came time for London to host the Olympics.  Seems G4S was hired to provide the rent-a-cops for the London Olys in a couple of weeks.  Turns out they couldn’t find more than a half-dozen, when they promised 10,400.  Now the London Oly Committee has asked some 3,500 of the lads comin back from Afghanistan to delay their leave for a month so’s they can walk around and keep the peace. 

Seems that G4S is goin to lose between $54 and $78 million dollars on the contract.  Who they hell were they gettin to be security guards?  Friggin Saudi Princes?  Nick Buckles, what was the lad from G4S what said “Sorry about that” still has his job, but says he might be forced to quit.  No shit Sherlock!  Quit?  If I were in charge of G4S I’d be walkin with a limp because one of my shoes were missing as it was up Nick Buckles arsehole after I fired him and threw him out the front door face first.

OK, that last one weren’t Canadian, but she’s still a symptom of Big Stupid goin on.

And Davey told me about one he’s goin through. Seems his nephew is gettin hitched, so’s he and the missus are flyin to Winnipeg for the do in Portage.  Closest airport is Winnipeg, so’s they book them Reward Miles on the Aeroplan.  Where’s their flight go?  Ottawa to Montreal to Winnipeg.  Jesus Katy that’s like flyin from New York to Los Angeles but goin through Greenland first.  Seems that the Aeroplan doesn’t want you to actually use your Aeroplan miles up for things like, oh, I don’t know, airplane trips maybe? 

Davey’s scared to book any more flights anywhere as they might have him routed via Frankfurt if he wants to fly to Seattle from home.

I got no answer for you, except she’s all gone stupid right now. The only solution I can come up with is to pop the top off another and try to beat the heat with the brew.  Go Leafs!

Zero Tolerance Debate

For those of you who don’t follow racing, A.J. Allmendinger of the Penske Racing #22 was suspended from competition when his urine sample tested positive for a banned substance.  Allmendinger’s B sample is scheduled to be tested shortly.  NASCAR has a Zero Tolerance policy regarding drivers, officials or crews participating in events while under the influence of banned substances.  Therein the controversy.

It is important that the organization that runs a sporting event have rules and levels of expected behaviours of its’ participants.  We’ve got no beef with NASCAR not wanting some driver all messed up on substances driving a 3500 pound stock car in competition.  If Famous Driver A sees his late grandmother climbing up his Nomex-clad leg with a knife in her teeth, growling in Elvish, while arcing into Turn 3 at Talladega on lap 52, we could expect some ramifications in the competitive situation.  There would be headlines.  Very Bad Headlines. 

In the Good Ol’Days of NASCAR there were certain drivers and crew chiefs who would do serious damage to a case of beer during a race.  They most likely would have blown .08 or more had there been testing.  There were others who were known to indulge in those substances that would allow you to stay awake for four days straight.  Neither is good for the human or the company they keep.

The issue is the confluence of science that can detect chemicals in the parts per billion and the knee-jerk reaction of Zero Tolerance.

One area I’m familiar with is commercial aviation.  It is completely understandable that we don’t want a commercial pilot under any kind of drug influence.  It’s too important that their judgement be as good as human judgement can be in the event of an emergency.  That’s why the threshold for self-disqualification for commercial pilots is very, very low. 

As an example, NyQuil, an over the counter cough and cold remedy, will disqualify you from being pilot in command, if consumed within 12 hours of duty.  Why?  NyQuil contains alcohol, acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, doxylamine succinate and pseudoephedrine, all of which have side effects that can cloud ones judgement for a period of time after use.  How long, is the question, as some say 12 hours, other say a week until there is no sign of it in your bloodstream.  That’s where the science falls on its ass: They can’t tell us how long are the side effects ongoing.  I can tell you from personal experience that pseudoephedrine makes me five-coffee-jittery for two or three days, but that’s just me. 

Poppy Seeds?  Yes, a bagel with poppy seeds can get you in trouble, as all poppy seeds contain trace amounts of opiates.  The science can’t tell if the opiates in your blood are from a toasted bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon with red onions and capers, or from blazing up a bowl-full of Afghanistan’s Finest.  All the science says is there are opiates.  Parole officers routinely tell their charges that a positive piss test for any opiates puts you back in the Crowbar Hotel, so do not eat poppy seeds, end of discussion. 

Ross Rebagliati, the 1988 Winter Olympics Snowboarding Gold Medalist was found to have THC in his circulatory system and had his medal yanked.  Big surprise that a snowboarder had been in the vicinity of someone smoking dope.  However, his medal was reinstated, as THC was not a banned substance at the time.  Frankly, I see no unfair advantage to competing in any sport with a brain-full of BC Bud unless the sport is competitive Dorito eating.

Which brings us back to A.J. Allmendinger.  Could his positive test, rumoured to be from a ‘stimulant’ be the result of something as benign as Claritin?  Or does he have a serious penchant for Brown Betty Long-Distance Truck Drivin’ pills?  From our side of the screen, we’re not convinced The Dinger is keen to stay up for three days straight, shaking and puking.  The only unfair advantage he could gain from a ‘stimulant’ is the ability to get the mindless post-race interviews over and done with in 32 seconds flat. 

Common sense says that if the test did find a stimulant, but the stimulant is in such miniscule amounts as to have no advantageous, or deleterious effects, then the issue is over.  Same if the source of the stimulant is something common and benign, like cold medication, or a new sports drink.  But that would mean someone would have to make a decision.

This flies in the face of Zero Tolerance.  The assumption is that if you have any substance in your bloodstream then you are obviously a full-blown maniac-addict-thief-crazy person, just a hair-breadth away from raping and pillaging to get your next fix.  Zero Tolerance precludes thinking in these situations, when there are significant gradations from black to white. 

Agreed, we don’t want people with messed up judgement piloting our aircraft, or racing our stock cars for that matter.  Where we’re falling down is letting science make all the decisions, including penalties that could end a career.

A Half Century of Stones

In the Day you were described by who you liked.  If you were a Beatles fan, then that’s what you were.  No other band existed on the planet.  If you liked the Dave Clark Five, you were a soiled orifice who didn’t get the Beatles.  Those who thought Herman’s Hermits were the nuts, were nuts, or you were your parents.  If your musical tastes ran to other less known acts, then you were merely a marginalized orifice, subject to loud guffaws and finger-pointing by your peers.

Then there were the Stones. 

Nobody sort of liked the Stones.  The Who were fine, the Kinks were acceptable, but the Stones?  Either you got it, 100%, or you were the kind of person whom, if you were on fire, Stones fans wouldn’t piss on to put out. 

It has been fifty years since their first gig in the UK and I can still remember a neighbour playing the grooves off High Tide and Green Grass when I was old enough to have my own taste in music around 1966  Then we discovered the earlier stuff on Decca, along with the writing credit of Nanker Phelge.  The Beatles?  Who?

Having seen the Stones, live, more than once, it is this author’s considered opinion that the title of Best Band Ever should go to the Stones.  Yes, now they only play huge arenas when they need to take a break from counting their money.  Mick didn’t just attend the London School of Economics; he paid attention too. 

But with the right eyes, Keith’s opening chops of “Start Me Up”, “Brown Sugar” “Street Fightin’ Man” or even Charlie’s cowbell on “Honky Tonk Women” can tear the brains out of 100,000 people at once.  We’ve seen it happen.

The Stones.  Best. Band. Ever.

Fifty Shades of Needs a Rewrite

We’re going to tear the apron off the Fifty Shades trilogy, but at least try to stay on the vaguely decent side of the equation.  We admit it, we have read all three books and as one of the few remaining white, middle-class heterosexual men out there, have our own opinion about the whole genre of female oriented erotica. 

Up front we have to recognize something important that does need saying out loud.  Humans like sex.  We’re hardwired for it by nature as the predominant way to reproduce the species.  Almost every human you meet in the next twenty-four hours is a direct result of sex.  Society, culture and by extension religion have imposed what could loosely be called ‘morality’ on top to cloud the issue, but as a species, we agree that we like sex.

We don’t use the term “porn”, as what is pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder.  A still photo of a salad bar could be titillating to someone who is starving, while a cellphone video of an unclothed ankle could produce much consternation in countries with certain cultural norms that could result in a public beheading.  Pornography is a pejorative term, with the overtone of something that has to be banned, censored, controlled or otherwise marginalized. 

We prefer the term ‘erotica’, meaning substantively dealing with stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions including literature, art, photography, sculpture and painting.  We don’t make much of a distinction between MILF Island Vol. 23 and The Naked Maja by Goya.  We don’t mean the Moro Islamic Liberation Front either.  Both are erotica by our definition.  One is a little older than the other, reflecting media and distribution methods of their respective times.

Fifty Shades by E.L. James has been tagged with the sobriquet “Mommy Porn” which we object to, but do recognize that a nugget to truth lives in the tag.  The trilogy is an old-fashioned romance novel overlaid with some rather saucy behaviours between consenting adults, delivered in a fairly graphic manner. 

The issue for many groups seems to be not in the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-marries-girl story arc, but in the descriptions of their sexual relationship.  Some feminists are up in arms.  Some libraries won’t carry the titles.  Others have claimed that the series perpetuates violence against women, while others have applauded the series as liberating for female sexuality.  We don’t object to their behaviour, as it is two people of the age of majority, who are actively consenting, so game on.   

As a saucy read, the erotica side of the house is OK at best.  It isn’t The Story Of O by Pauline Reage (Anne Desclos’ pen name) which is significantly better.  As a romance, we could hardly keep our eyes open as we couldn’t give a flying fornicative act if they ever actually came to terms.  Really what Fifty Shades needs, in our humble opinion, is another rewrite, from top to bottom, with an actual outline this time. 

However, (our opinion and $4 gets you a fancy coffee at Starbucks) the commercial success of Fifty Shades is perhaps more illuminating:  E.L. James is laughing all the way to the bank having sold 20 zillion copies of the books, surpassing the Harry Potter series.  Even Wal-Mart stocks the titles, so you know somebody is plunking down the coin to read it.

The illumination comes not from the money involved or the breathless internet chatter (Oh God, Christian Bale should so play Christian Grey and Mila Kunis as Anastasia, which would so rock!) but the simple act of it being OK for women to read erotica without hiding it, or feeling shameful.  In our reality, it always has been OK, but we don’t consider our morality to be particularly mainstream.  If the graphic descriptions cause the creation of shall we call them, saucy feelings, then so be it.  As long as you come home to eat, we don’t care how many menus you look at. 

As long-lived, important, ground-breaking erotic literature?  We call it Fifty Shades of Meh.           

Ernie Gone

Eventually all the really cool actors from your childhood die:  That’s just the way it is.  Ernest Borgnine passed away yesterday, taking Lt. Cmdr Quinton McHale with him.  Borgnine had some serious acting chops (Academy Award winner for “Marty” in 1955) and a filmography of unusual depth, including From Here to Eternity, Bad Day At Black Rock, Flight Of The Phoenix, The Wild Bunch, The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra and even The Poseidon Adventure. 

He was a working character actor, in the very best meaning of the term, on film and television, even as the voice of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants, paired up again with Tim Conway, delighting another generation with his chops.  However it was McHale’s Navy that most folks my vintage remember.  Some of the folks with Borgnine on McHale were Tim Conway, Joe Flynn and Gavin McLeod, stellar character actors to a person.  The screwball comedy never set foot in the Pacific:  It was all shot backlot at Universal, with the exception of a few underway master shots.  You get bonus points if you remember the number of the PT boat without looking it up.

The funny thing is Ernest Borgnine actually was in the US Navy, and reupped in 1941, as a gunner on the USS Lamberton, in the Pacific theatre, before he took to acting. 

He was very much one of those few actors where you never saw the mechanism working.  Borgnine managed to inhabit the characters he played.  And he will be missed.  PT-73 has sailed. 


Closetry Capers and Media Matters

There is always an element of caution that has to be taken when it comes to expressions of human sexuality.  For some anything but matrimonial heterosexuality is so far removed from their norm that they can’t cope.  Other people have a different view. 

From this side of the screen we have a simple formula:  If the participants are of the age of majority and can actively consent, then we have no opinion.  That means no kids (age of majority) or animals (no active consent possible and no, that giraffe is not begging for it, put the ladder away) but the rest of it, is fair game on the spectrum of human sexual behaviour. 

There is one corollary to the formula:  Show some discretion please.  We don’t want to see you playing tonsil hockey with your significant other (or others, if that’s how you roll) in public.  Whatever your particular mode of enjoyment might be, recognize that others might not want to see it played out on the streets of the city.  Get a room. 

It is an uncomplicated moral view and one that is quite simple to live with, as we have for many years.  Notice there are no quotes from various religious documents of shaky provenance, or appeals from pamphleteers purporting to know what the various deities demand from us. 

I’ll let you in on a secret:  God does not give a damn what you get up to on Saturday night after a few drinks.  To quote Rabbi Hillel:  “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn”

Which brings us to Anderson Cooper opening the door on his particular orientation.  Good for him.  The same with various musical acts, television personalities, movie celebrities, or random citizens flinging open the doors, shutters, tent flaps and zippers to their particular proclivities.  Good for you, now can we move on to something interesting?  Like whoever is left in Greece next week, will they please turn off the lights when they leave.

We do know that if one applies the simple moral formula above, then an awful lot of the media coverage we see hourly becomes instantly irrelevant noise.  We don’t care if Jennifer Anniston is doing X or Y, or that Jwoww got a tattoo on a body part.  We can then see the incessant bleating of attention whores for what it is, incessant bleating and as worthy of coverage as the state of the ingrown hair I have on my right armpit.  Healing nicely, for those who need to know everything.

Too much of our media is preoccupied with utter and complete drivel to be of use to us anymore.  Which also explains why the majority of North American society are abandoning conventional media, meaning the newspaper, radio and television, as their source for information. 

With that declining (ok, plummeting) audience, goes the advertising dollar, to this hour’s flavour of pseudomedia, that tries desperately to convince itself that it is actually relevant to anyone except the stockholders and the developers who created it.  From that, we get even less news.

Maybe with a news person of reasonable chops, like Anderson Cooper, we can get over our preoccupation with such mind rotting banality and get back to work trying to figure out how we get here and where we need to go to fix things.   

Been a while, but…

To catch up.  I’ve been involved in a serious project at work that has taken all the brain cycles, which has meant a dramatic decline in the output of RoadDave.  For that I’m sorry, as I know several of you read it on a semi-regular basis, if only as a negative example.  Since the summer has arrived and things have settled down to a dull roar, we can actually take a few moments and post some new stuff.

First off, we’re all fine on the home front, just overworked and out of consecutive hours to engage in recreational writing.  Nothing tragic or deeply important, simply busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger.

Canada Day.  We decided that the presence of 125,000 close friends up on Parliament Hill wasn’t for us this year and perhaps just as well.  Around 9 pm or so, we were just starting to watch the broadcast coverage of The National Drunk from Parliament Hill when we heard some fireworks go off locally. 

This isn’t unusual, as we are but steps from a largish municipal park and green space.  The local testosterone monkeys always seem to have money to buy fireworks and let them off on any particular holiday, like Victoria Day, Canada Day or Diwali.  I was expecting some kind of spontaneous eruption, if only because Spain won the Cup too.  We’re used to the sound, more or less and not really afraid of them.  I held a Fireworks and Pyro certificate for a number of years and don’t mind it at all, truth be told.  There’s something comfy about the sound of an 8-inch three-break chrysanthemum shell launching four feet from your right hand that just feels good.  You feel it in your lungs and belly, that deep, satisfying ‘Whomp” sound, knowing the round is away safely and will momentarily become something beautiful in the night sky.

After a few gerbs and salutes I did hear a “Whomp” down deep and low, percussive and hard, that was emphatically not the kind of fireworks the unlicensed and uninsured consumer can buy.  Even bundling several charges together, you can’t get that sound with consumer pyro.

I got up, pulled on some clothing and went outside to see what was going on as I knew something wasn’t right.  Hearing sirens in the distance, I figured something was up and less than a minute later, a whole fire company of Ottawa Fire Service was screaming down our sleepy street.  The townhouse more or less across the street and four doors left was on fire, dense black smoke billowing out the back, three storeys in the air.


Moments later, a neighbour came running.  He had seen the deck of the house on fire and had both called 911 and had stretched his garden hose over to the burning deck in an attempt to buy some time.  Then he saw the barbecue propane tank light off and he ran for it.  That was likely the “Whomp” I had heard and went to investigate.  At the same time, the Ottawa Fire Service were running hose and making their way into the scene.

DSC_1221The fire got into the common roof area while the aerial ladder kept pouring water, trying to limit the damage, as the fire service started their job.  Nobody was home and those directly adjacent were safely evacuated.  No lives were lost.  The Ottawa Fire Service did what they do, with professional skill.

What the episode taught me was something different, completely unrelated to fire.  We don’t know our neighbours any more and not just from a personal standpoint.  It is more global.  A small group of us that congregated in the driveway and watched the events unfold last night, barely know each other by name.  We semi-recognize each other, perhaps nodding in recognition at the mailbox or on the street.  Between us we exchanged more words in two hours than we had in the previous six years.  Why is this?

Upon reflection it is because the concept of ‘neighbour’ has become unused.  We go to work, come home and enter our personal space, interacting with our family units and the television.  We don’t talk over the back fence any more.  Our world has at the same time become huge and very tiny, limited to our friends online or the distant relative who sends us the lolcats email.  By the way, I don’t care to receive the Facebook update of “Uncle Bernard Violated a Goat in Farmville!” any more.  I wish Uncle Bernard would take up another hobby, like tying trout flies or trying to Bedazzle a moving freight train.

Neighbours are strange things, in that they are very much in your personal space, within 100 feet of where you hang your toothbrush, but not at all involved in your life, beyond the cursory nod of occasional acknowledgement.  One or two might know your name and that’s about where it ends. 

I find that unfortunate, as who else can you tap immediately to help you dig your car out of a snow bank, or grab the other end of a 2 x 12 you’re hauling around the house?  A good neighbour does stuff like that, almost unbidden, with no thought of recompense, aside from the occasional coffee, or a cold pint on a hot day.  Why?  Because that is what a good neighbour does. 

We were fortunate in that one of the folks on the street tried to be a good neighbour, putting the hose to a flaming wooden deck, to at least try to help, putting himself at risk to save the property of someone whom he didn’t know.  That’s as good a definition of a neighbour as you can get.