Monthly Archives: November 2014

Black Friday, Oil, Cocktails

Since it was Black Friday in the US yesterday, we were treated to the standard video of hordes of people lined up for hours outside stores, then rushing in to grab one of four deep-discounted items the store had on offer. 

There were the usual stories of people waving guns around, fighting over a big-screen TV and wrestling goods out of other less-deserving hands, accompanied by a cacophony of swearing, screaming, imprecations and comments about the other person involving antecedents, genetic status and general state of mental hygiene.  The store comments?  Let’s just say they appreciate the coverage on the six o’clock news as free advertising in primo eyeball hours as long as there are no machete-wielding crazies, butchering a dozen people to get the sole remaining counterfeit action figure from some kid’s movie. 

We suspect that someone, somewhere is planning a reality show that has Black Friday every week, with the contestants fighting over a KitchenAid stand mixer, a case of Ragu sauce and a big-screen TV in exchange for answering general knowledge questions about other reality show contestants. 

We would add a feature of the Big Savings Tunnel of Doom, a 70-foot long Lexan tunnel that the 30 contestants have to run through, barefoot, facing a barrage of pepper spray, fire hoses and beanbag projectiles, as well as an amphetamine-crazed ostrich, four toddlers with Lego on the floor, a hill of fire ants and Gordon Ramsay judging how well they can fry an egg while running a gauntlet of Ferguson, Missouri protestors hell-bent on burning the studio down because of Michael Brown.

We surmise that the End of Civilization is nigh, as this is no different from the Roman Coliseum with their historical bear-baiting bouts, or feeding Christians to the lions, except Black Friday The Series, will have much better numbers:  The Colosseum could only hold about 50.000 and didn’t have WiFi so we could keep up with social media and see who is trending.

Oil has been in the news of late.  Prices for Brent Oil and West Texas Intermediate have tanked, now down around $66 – $70 a barrel.  Which means the price at the pump is lower.  If you listen to economists this is either the end of Life As We Know It or the Beginning of a New Era of Prosperity. 

Economists are those people who can use terabytes of statistics to prove any air-headed postulation, but can’t actually tell if it is raining outside.  Remember when reading financial projections, everyone has a hidden agenda and it is usually sinister.  OPEC has responded as only they can as an illegal price-fixing scheme that we tolerate:  They’re both reducing and increasing production at new higher, but lower prices. It’s complicated.   

For the time being, we’ll adapt to cheap gas.  We don’t care that  Exxon or Sinopec is taking a beating on their quarterly earnings per share:  The shareholders can kiss my sweaty pink puckered portcullis.  We’re thankful we don’t have to sell a kidney to gas up the car tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we finished up a tough week and plan on relaxing with a cocktail tonight.  There may be more than one involving a coffee liquor and vodka.  And how was your week?


Jian Gone III: Judgment Calls and Cosby

Things on the Jian Ghomeshi side have now come to their logical conclusion.  For those with Attention-Deficit disorders, the story is here and here.  Jian has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and in a post-charge perp walk, the lawyers have said they won’t fight the case in the media. 

After tapping the silence bar on our bullshit detector to keep it from wailing too loudly, we went back to the basics.  Now that the person involved has been charged, we have to apply a certain mindframe, that being the hard one, of Innocent Until Proven Guilty.

It’s hard to do because like every other human around, we make judgments every day: Can I turn left between these two cars?  Can I mix regular and premium?  Does this smell bad?  Is Person X guilty as hell? Do these pants make my ass look fat?  Is that shoelace about to break or can I get through another day? 

These are all judgment calls we make, sometimes in milliseconds (no, don’t turn now) and sometimes over days of agonizing about the minutiae and endless if-then (pants) internalized discussions that go on and on and on.   

Simultaneous to Jian Ghomeshi’s fecal matter storm, it comes out that Bill Cosby has been the subject of sexual assault allegations, going back several years, usually involving younger-ish women who have claimed Cos drugged them, then sexually assaulted them.  Cosby? WTF? 

Here’s the conundrum about judgments.  If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and poops like a duck, it’s probably a duck. 

A fast-talking puke at your front door offering to check your hot water heater for dangerous fumes and violent explosive potentials is probably a lying sack of skin that should be tossed off the front step with one of your shoes lodged in his backside.  A beloved comedian, Jell-o pitchman, social activist, philanthropist and character actor with a secret life as a walking Pez dispenser of roofies and dick doesn’t quite fit with duck analogy. 

Which is where we get discomforted.  There is some kind of line where we have to consciously stop trying to come to a judgment and let the legal process go to work.  If Cosby has been a scumbag (judgment call there) then the Law should be doing something along the lines of charging him with several counts of sexual assault and proving their case in open court.

Crap, there is that horrible term when it comes to sexual assault charges: Open Court.

We have reasonable rape shield laws in Canada and most US States have at least some vestige of the same thing:  The trial isn’t about what the victim was wearing, or has done in previous interactions with the defendant, or others.  Therefore many lines of questioning are inadmissible in court to keep the questions relevant to the issue of consent and the suspension of consent as that is the key moment when an encounter becomes non-consenting.  A judgment point.

Even with rape shield laws, the judge has to make several hundred calls about the case and the facts at hand.  Not all facts can be corroborated by dash-cam video of tab A in slot B, then a puff of smoke and Skittles everywhere.  Reality doesn’t work that way.  There was no cellphone selfie video of Lee Harvey Oswald speaking to camera then firing four rounds at a limo and running for the door to connect him with a President who was suddenly cured of migraines.  Life is not CSI.

What we come down to is a judgment of who is telling the complete truth and who is not telling the complete truth.

Jian goes to court.  We’ll see.  Cosby, if he’s charged, will probably go to court too.  And again, we’ll see.  We have to make a judgment call here and trust the system to do what it needs to do. 

Be prepared for a very icky ride. 


Remembrance Day Connections

(We’re reprinting this post from last year for two reasons.  One, people enjoyed it.  Two, it is as meaningful now as it was last year)

We understand the concept of Remembrance today, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  We are taught from a young age that we should take two minutes, once a year, to reflect on their sacrifice and their gift to the rest of us.  This is good of course, we should do this, it is important and our obligation as citizens.

Except it isn’t quite that simple.  As the veterans of various conflicts age and pass away, we lose the connections to the actual people involved.  True, the veterans of Korea, Viet Nam, peacekeeping missions everywhere and Afghanistan are still mostly with us and are as deserving of our thanks and respect as any veteran of WW2, but there aren’t as many of them, the lens of history often distorting how we perceive their battles and conflicts.

One veteran we’re familiar with wasn’t a front-line warrior, didn’t bomb the Ruhr from a Lancaster, or survive years of detention in a Stalag, fighting heroic battles.  He signed up in September 1941 with the Royal Canadian Air Force, learned how to fly, then learned how to instruct flying.  Serving only in Canada he was one of the thousands who taught others to do their duty, watching them graduate, then embark for Europe, to continue the fight from above.

He rarely talked of his service, only occasionally reflecting that he never got to serve overseas, but understood his role of flight instructor, developing others to bring the fight forward.  His service was one of support, a cog in the great machine, more valuable at home, teaching others.  His contribution was as valuable as any and we still recall his quietude on November 11th every year.  What he was thinking of, we will never know for certain, as he never talked about it, keeping his feelings inside.  That was the way it was done in his generation.

On one occasion we saw that reserve slip ever so slightly.  We were at the Canadian Air and Space Museum, at the display of the Lockheed Hudson.  You could see the memories flash behind his eyes, the long hours of training, the faces of the students, the drone of the engines and the continual static mush of the radios.  He looked the aircraft over, appreciatively, with a knowing familiarity, pointing out a few of the features of the aircraft had that he liked, or used every day, as one would appreciate the picture of an old friend, stories linking from small details, brought up from memory of how the Hudson was a bugger to trim and how the structure around the pilot’s seat would always catch the students around the kneecap the first time they climbed into the seat.

Known to the RCAF as J-50540 he left the RCAF as a Pilot Officer in 1945, transferring to the Reserve Special Section, then back to civvy street and the rest of his life.

Reading his Record of Service is but a tiny sketch of his involvement in the War.  A small part, a valuable part and a very personal part of one person who served.  He is who we think of at the hour, our personal connection.

If you don’t have a personal connection, you can always borrow ours, with respect and thanks for his quiet contribution.

His name was Russell W. Scott.  He was my father-in law.

Tough Enough?

I’m going to reprint this article from the Canadian Press today:

OTTAWA — The young corporal who was standing sentry alongside Cpl. Nathan Cirillo the day he was killed is set to return to duty.

Cpl. Branden Stevenson says he’s preparing to return to his post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the coming days.

Stevenson was at the National War Memorial on the morning of Oct. 22 when Michael Zehaf Bibeau killed Cirillo and then stormed onto Parliament Hill, where he died in a gunfight in the Centre Block.

Stevenson says he’d been best friends with Cirillo since Grade 9 and is still grieving and in shock.

In a statement, he says he’s choosing to return to work to honour Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed that same week in Quebec by a man with jihadist sympathies.

Stevenson says he still believes Canada is a nation of peace and he remains proud and committed to his task as sentry.


These Colours Don’t Run.

Jian Ghone II – Morality, Sexuality and Legality

Things are changing in the Jian Ghomeshi story with great velocity, even as we speak.  The Toronto police have asked anyone with information to come forward to add to their knowledge of the case. 

Two women, Lucy DeCoutere and Reva Seth have told their stories, allowing their names to come forward in coverage by the Toronto Star.  (Note to those not from Canada, The Toronto Star is a real newspaper with experienced reporters doing actual investigative reporting and that pesky little standard of having more than one corroborating source)

Also something we find insightful is the revelation that the crisis-management company that Ghomeshi hired at the beginning of the story, has bailed on him.

You can look at the surface of things as reported, and draw your own conclusions, but before you do, look at what is being talked about:  Morality, Sexuality and Legality, three subjects that don’t get along well with each other and work at cross-purposes in the best of circumstances. 

In the interests of full disclosure, here are the lenses we use:

Morality:  At least when it comes to sex, morality is so fraught with colourations that it makes a Jackson Pollock painting look like a three-step grey scale.  Everyone has a sexual morality and here’s ours:

  1. Participants must be of legal voting age
  2. Participants must actively consent
  3. Show some class and be discreet

The rest of it is not our business and we don’t necessarily want to know about it.

Sexuality:  The spectrum of expression for human sexual response is wide, deep and diverse:  What floats your boat might not be what floats our boat. As long as the Morality functions above apply, if your method of sexual gratification involves a welding mask, seamed black stocking and a toaster over, have a nice time. 

We tend to avoid terms like porn, fetish or kink as those are pejorative terms loaded with undertones of morality.  What is erotic to one is utter degenerate filth to others: Stroking your partner with a feather could be described as sensual; using the whole goose could be described as not necessarily mainstream. 

We try to be inclusive with our language and leave the judgments out of the discussion, but might use some terms as a form of shorthand if only so we can get the damn post done without turning ourselves inside out with linguistic gymnastics.

Legality:  Our lens of sexual legality is No Means No.  No does not mean, buy me another drink, talk me into it, or I’m just saying no, but I really want to.  No, means:  Cease and desist immediately as your advances are unwelcome, unwarranted and unwanted.  Open your mouth again to do anything but apologize profusely and you will be charged with sexual assault after I slap you into next Thursday. 

Now, how does Morality, Sexuality and Legality work at cross-purposes? 

We might be a bit explicit here, but it won’t be anything you can’t handle. 

There is a subset of sexual expression that likes to give and/or receive aggression, verbal, physical or a combination of both.  Problem:  Define aggressive sexuality without passing a personal judgment.  You can’t. 

Take this sentence: “Come over here and fuck me now!” For some it is offensively aggressive, crude and demeaning.  For some it is out of the ordinary, not unwelcome and rather saucy.  For others that was last Tuesday night, more than once. 

Wearing our Legality goggles, that might be coercion, with the implicit threat of sanction if the other party does not immediately comply.  If that was said in the workplace, then there are all kinds of fresh hell opened up:  The context truly matters. 

Wearing the Morality goggles, if you do turn off the hockey game (Leafs 4 – Jackets 1) come over and provide said behavior, that is an act of active consent to engage in sauciness.  As long as you are of voting age, actively consent to it and are discreet about it, then it’s not our business.

(The Legality lens would also suggest a written agreement of consent, duly signed and witnessed, itemizing all the actions implied with “fuck me now!” including a signature after, of satisfactory compliance.  We would call that Sucking All The Fun Out Of Life. Or, What Lawyers Do)

Now, lets add a ‘celebrity’ to the mix.  Does that skew our lenses? Oh crap.

That is the summation and the difficulty of the Jian Ghomeshi story.  We can’t comment upon it without passing judgment through our own lenses of intensely personal morality, sexuality and legality.  We’re giving you our perspective with this post by defining how we see things:  Our own personal context that you can use to judge our commentary through your own perspective.

We also have to remind ourselves that Ghomeshi has not been charged officially with anything as of the time we posted this. 

As for demonstrating good judgment, interpersonal sensitivity and compliance with commonly accepted guidelines of behavior in private and the workplace, based on our lenses of Morality, Sexuality and Legality, in our consideration, he’s an asshat.