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The Winter of Discontent

January 17, 2011

Job hunting gets really old, really fast. The cold doesn’t help. And the snow just keeps falling. Oh, life is hard. I should probably turn off J.B. Lenoir and go hand out some resumes. It’s so cold that someone died of hypothermia. Yet, the bone chilling cold is what defines Canada, and enduring the cold defines Canadians.

For half of the year we lock ourselves inside, our women dress up as bee keepers, our men dream of summer time within their space suits, and we buckle down. My job hunt has been very fruitful because it’s too cold to go outside. And I’ve begun a noire story.

It takes place in the dead of winter. I guess it’s more for my enjoyment than anyone else’s, since most fiction never sees the light of day. It did lead to a prolonged argument — me against my friend — over a paragraph I loved and one she hated. Here it is:

The bus pulled up with a long exasperated squeal like an ice pick in the morning chill. Michael nudged and pushed his way into the line up to get on. The bus was already nearing its potential, but the impatience and cold weather outside made quick friends of strangers as they squeezed together the best they could.

I don’t need people pointing out what’s wrong with the paragraph because I know it’s ridiculous. I was trying to be smart. And trying to be something you are not can end in disaster. I still like the sentence even if my friend argued that a bus nearing its potential sounds like it’s going really, really fast.

My argument is that a bus’s potential is to carry people. Who’s heard of a really, really fast bus?The imagery also sucks, since ice picks are silent killers. (Disresgard that last sentence. It also sucks.) And impatience does not make any sense as a noun.

Anyways, it was for my amusement. Much like I like to use the word irregardless whenever I get the chance. This blog entry is a kind of a cluster fuck as I work my through some other things in real life. I needed to write about funny things, so I could go and write about real life things which are never funny, e.g. cover letters.

I’ve written a million different cover letters, for a million different jobs. I’m quite good at it. I’ve been getting lots of return emails saying I’m not qualified. That is better than no response at all. It has led to some restless nights. Which is good. I stay up late and read all types of interesting things on the internets.

The internets are full of bitching and whining. There’s also lots of space devoted to making fun of people, and the acrobatic sexual behaviour of extroverted professional fornicators. (I was going to add a really nasty picture here but thought better.)

All of this got me thinking of the general purpose of blogging. This blog was an exercise in marketing from a course I took years ago. It’s supposed to generate interest, as long as it is professional and deals with topics of interest. It can also showcase my amazing writing talent.

Then I realized, while eavesdropping on conversations at Starbucks, that everyone has a blog. So, it’s like yelling in a rock concert. So, here’s a list of blogs within yelling distance.

http://peoplefalloffbuildings.blogspot.com/

http://theinformalpress.com/

Well, that’s two. Informal Press is a bit of a publishing cooperative I belong to. Full of creative and neat people.

Because, this entry has no real direction, I’ll tell you about what I’m reading:  Age of Propaganda. It’s fascinating. There’s this great quote from Cicero:

Wisdom without eloquence has been of little help to the states, but eloquence without wisdom has often been a great obstacle and never an advantage.”

If you are feeling blue, don’t worry, Today is The Most Depressing Day of The Year!

Huck Finn gets neutered and Snooki enters the arena with Mark Twain

January 4, 2011

It may be hyperbolic to suggest that Snooki is a contender against Big Mack Daddy Mark Twain. If it were a literary pummel fest Big Mack Daddy Mark would be in a whole different weight class. Twain might even be UFC reigning champ and Snooki would be a fly weight in some amateur octagon.

Yet, it’s at that point. As absurd as it is, the zeitgeist has developed a writer from a television show everyone loves to hate. And poor Mark Twain is having his book neutered by an Auburn University professor that will replace all mentions of the N-word with “slave.”

Few people can stand up to the most hated word in North America, like an albatross around the neck it’s there all the time. It’s a word even my close “homies” would never use unless only within the confines of the group, around other young black people who are close, immediate friends. Not even “gangster rapper”, or street disciple, depending on how you look at him, Nas had the fortitude to stand up to the word. His 2008 album was tentatively titled Nigga, until it drew too much criticism.

Nas defended his title choice by saying:

I wanna make the word easy on mutha—-as’ ears,” he explained. “You see how white boys ain’t mad at ‘cracker’ ’cause it don’t have the same [sting] as ‘nigger’? I want ‘nigger’ to have less meaning [than] ‘cracker.’ With all the bullsh– that’s going on in the world, racism is at its peak. I wanna do the sh– that’s not being done. I wanna be the artist who ain’t out. I wanna make the music I wanna hear.

We’re taking power [away] from the word,” he added. “No disrespect to none of them who were part of the civil-rights movement, but some of my n—as in the streets don’t know who [civil-rights activist] Medgar Evers was. I love Medgar Evers, but some of the n—as in the streets don’t know Medgar Evers, they know who Nas is. And to my older people who don’t now who Nas is and who don’t know what a street disciple is, stay outta this mutha—-in’ conversation. We’ll talk to you when we’re ready. Right now, we’re on a whole new movement. We’re taking power [away] from that word.

In the end the album was released as Untitled, and Nas was left saying, “Everybody is trying to stop the title. It’s just people being scared of what’s real.”

The word was too powerful in the end, the word scared the record label. The word, perhaps in the eyes of the university professor, tarnished a good story by being too powerful. It strikes fear in people who want to forget the past and forget the context; the word wants to be forgotten by the afraid.

The word will, in its excision, take power away from the book. The book will no longer frighten readers by reminding them of their historical past but create a brave new world for new readers to revel in the simple joy of reading FICTION.

What is intriguing is that Snooki has now written a book called a Shore Thing. Hilarity all around, except I remember this essay by T.S. Elliot called “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”

The essays states, “what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.” In short, the existing order of works is altered: relations, proportions, and values.

Hilarious as it is, Snooki’s work of “art” ushers in the castration of an old work of “art.”

On the holidays I read London Fields, Ham on Rye, and Brave New World. In addition to reading I spent a great deal of time filling out online forms for employment. I will bitch about that one day.

Yo, if you’re reading this, comment. Even if you hate it.

Go Big Or Go Home

December 30, 2010

When someone asks me what I do for a living I tell them I’m a maverick. Now fuck off. That’s no way to start a blog, or end a conversation with social climbers, so let me explain.

In an older post titled “I want to eat hot dogs and smash things,” I blogged about former hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi. Sport eating fascinates me. And now I’ve found something even more fascinating, gaining.

Eating to gain muscle is one thing. It’s something I’ve done in the past since weight lifting is a hobby of mine. It’s interesting to see the physical changes one can make to their body. But I realized the 6,000 calories a day and 80 grams of protein a day weren’t really conducive to being healthy; especially since most of my “job” revolves around being sedentary, if I’m not in the gym I’m at a computer or reading. It’s also expensive.

Gaining is fascinating because it requires an absurd amount of food and appreciates girth as a beautiful aesthetic.  I came across a story while finishing my second pint at my favourite bar. (It’s my favourite bar because it’s just dark enough, I can read with a pint at the end of the bar without feeling out of place, and the waitress is hot.) That being said, I found a story in The Star about Donna Simpson.

She is my holiday hero. She found what she loves, she doesn’t care what people have to say about it, and she makes a living doing it.

In case you’re wondering how Donna Simpson pays for her prodigious amount of groceries, she is essentially fat for a living, making paid public appearances and charging visitors to her website to watch her eat, which she can evidently be seen doing almost any time of day. “I love eating and people love watching me eat,” Simpson insists cheerily. (30,000-Calorie Christmas Feasts)

Donna Simpson enjoyed a 30,000 calorie Christmas dinner. I don’t even know if you can enjoy a dinner of those proportions, but here’s a list of that “dinner.”

The massive feast consisted of two 25-pound turkeys, two maple-glazed hams, 15 pounds of potatoes, five loaves of bread, five pounds of herb stuffing, four pints of gravy, four pints of cranberry dressing, and 20 pounds of vegetables.

Simpson also had room for dessert as she consumed a sugary “salad” made of marshmallow, cream cheese, whipped cream and cookies. I kind of puked a little there just reading it. The meal cost $230.

Apparently, her website pays for it all. You can check it out at http://www.donnamsimpson.com/index.html

Holiday Hero, Donna Simpson.

The Sky is Falling

August 20, 2010

Generation Y, The Millenials, are apathetic and whiny. The generation behind them are star struck and stupid because of over exposure to media. The world is careening into ecological disaster, and the Baby-Boomers are to blame because of their greedy ideals that have caused unheard of spending and mineral greed. And The Greatest Generation Ever, the ones who survived the World War and the Great Depression, are shaking their heads in disbelief.

MyFox declares that those Millenial pansies will drive the country to ruin. The Baby Boomers must hold onto their jobs even longer to make sure no one takes control from them and initiates something stupid, like new ways of doing things.

There’s only one way to get things done. The right way. And young apathetic pansies who talk all day on their cell phones and texting machines don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. Amright Fox? They published this article, Can Generation Y Keep America Great?

That criticism she says are the often repeated opinions of her elders: that Generation Y is apathetic, self centered and generally looking out for itself… The United States ranks 12th in the world among 25-35 year olds without college degrees. Likewise, the New York Times reports that 37 percent of unemployed young adults currently out of work. That is the highest since the 1930s. And 23 percent of them aren’t even seeking work… Rosetta Thurman, an author and expert on Generation Y, says a third of Generation Y is actually living with their parents.

The world is doomed. The young generation doesn’t understand the rules of the game. So, to break it down for the young people, you have to tell them in a language they understand. Life is like a video game, say, like Pac Man. You need to earn more points. The more points you get the higher your level goes. The higher your level goes the more points you make and subsequently you get the highest score possible and beat every other loser who is shitty at that game.

Your points are money. You need to earn more money points to be good. And the only way to earn more money points is to play that game longer and harder than anyone else. Just look at this article from the Financial Post if you don’t believe me:

A decade ago, Baby Boomer executives who turned to me for advice about career strategies were usually driven by simple motivator — lucrative financial compensation and status, or getting the corner office and title.  But much of that has changed. Generation X and Generation Y, who aspire to be leaders, are driven by different lifestyle choices.

While Boomers often work 60-plus hours a week, and to do “what it takes,” to get the job, Generation X and Y executives look for opportunities in a desirable city or neighbourhood, and a chance to work with other dynamic young “intrapreneurs,” doing something meaningful, while enjoying a balanced lifestyle.

That’s all wrong. You’re not doing it right. Things were better a hundred years ago. When granddad was a racist coal miner, Blacks weren’t allowed to be educated, Injuns were kept in assimilation schools, the only immigrants allowed in the country built railroads, and gas was cheaper than a pack of Marlboros.

Climate Change and social change cost points. You see, it doesn’t help to spend points or waste points worrying about something like the environment or being healthy. Besides sitting in an office is healthy; you don’t want to waste energy running around outside in the polluted air.

Even Lebron James is a no-good shiftless Generation Y-ner (get it, whiner). He dumped the Cleveland Cavaliers for a better job, elucidating the poor work ethics and loyalty of his generation. LeBron just true to his generation, the article says,

A recent analysis by Princeton economist Henry Farber shows that the percentage of private-sector male workers who’ve been with the same employer for at least 10 years fell from 50 percent in 1973 to just 35 percent in 2006, and the proportion of those with 20-year tenures dropped from 35 percent to 20 percent over the period.

But the erosion in loyalty is not merely a function of corporations being greedy or girding for the rough-and-tumble of today’s marketplace. On the flip side, numerous studies have concluded that younger people, in particular, don’t have as much allegiance to their employers as do Baby Boomers or even Gen X’ers.

The major papers all agree we are doomed. Left to the devices of the shiftless, technocentric, lazy, eco-facists, that are the next generation, North America will crumble.

Armed to the teeth

August 18, 2010

I’ll choose a blog title and then try to fit my writing into it. It’s mostly a matter of being fast. Sometimes I write as a matter of keeping up-to-date with news of interest to myself. News about Indigenous issues and sovereignty are important because it really illustrates how big governments treat marginalized people. And in turn may one day treat all of us.

Sometimes it fits real life. A friend of mine got hit by a cab. It wasn’t her fault, and if you bicycle in the city chances are you will be hit by a cab at least once. In my ten years bicycling I’ve been doored, sideswiped, and hit the n end of a SUV of someone who just didn’t realize how big their truck really was. I’ve never been seriously hurt, but it’s made me cautious.

It has also made me aware of how motorists view themselves. They are big you are little. It is always the bicyclist’s fault. If you are little you have to be proactive, aggressive, and ballsy. It’s not fair but nothing ever is.

So in today’s headlines the big flex their power and the little find themselves having to fight back.

Here’s a little primer on Aboriginal policy in Canada. You can read more at this link for The Canadian Library of Parliament.

Subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 granted Parliament legislative authority over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians.” In 1867, the first consolidated Indian Act reflected the governments preoccupation with land management, First Nations membership and local government, and the ultimate goal of assimilation… It (Indian Act) defines who is an Indian and regulates band membership and government, taxation, lands and resources and money management, among other matters.

Tied up in that document is identity. As much as many Indigenous people would like to get rid of it, it also defines them, gives them their rights, and it is constitutional. But when it is misused it can be detrimental. This would be in areas of greed and control, when the government dictates what they want in an area.

Here is a good case of that, from the Montreal Gazette, written by Monique Muise, Federal government’s band elections undemocratic: First Nations leaders

Muise writes,

Under Section 74 of the Indian Act, the federal minister of Indian Affairs has the power to force an election on a reserve if he feels it is “advisable for the good government of a band.” Such a step has only been taken three times in Canada. Community representatives in Barriere Lake claim that six to 10 mail-in ballots were received by government electoral officers, but that a win by acclamation was announced anyway.

This is an instance of bad decision-making. Even, the newly elected chief won’t accept his position. This process has nothing to do with sovereignty.

Up north in Moosonee, I had the chance to speak with Chief Randy Kapashesit of MoCreebec. We talked about other things than band elections, like the super awesome Cree Village Ecolodge that is paving the way for a new type of tourism.  

And then I found a great article from The Nation, The people of MoCreebec speak out.” The article illustrates the band’s struggle to have a fair election.

Travelling around Ontario’s First Nation communities I always come home and realize how little knowledge non-Aboriginal people have of their Indigenous neighbours, whether they are literally next door or next town over.

I often hear the same rhetoric of ” just assimilate like everyone else.” Very few people do the research and look at the policy that has held back FN people but at the same time tragically maintain our FN rights.

With the Canadian Roots Exchange the dialogue was opened up. Even if some people become annoyed at a perceived ignorance, ignorance is just a lack of  knowledge. Questions and criticisms should be responded to knowledgeably and openly. It’s the best form of dialogue.

The only way to beat the big guys at thier own game is to out smart them. Or like Ellison wrote, “you gotta live with your head in the lion’s mouth.”

Aurora Borealis in a Jar

August 8, 2010

I just returned from a ten-day cultural exchange trip with Canadian Roots, http://www.canadianroots.ca/.  I’m covered in bug bites and my brain feels a little swollen from absorbing a lot of information in very short period of time.

In a nutshell, twelve people, including myself, visited First Nation communities in Northern Ontario: Temiskaning, Cochrane, Moosonee, MoCreebec, Moose Factory. The group was made up of young people from around Canada with diverse educations and backgrounds, and aboriginal and non-aboriginal. We spoke to leaders in the communities, mayors, and chiefs, in an open and honest dialogue. We discussed food issues, poverty, green initiatives, residential school, traditional knowledge, and much more.

I have hours of tape to transcribe and hopefully a sellable story. It was amazing and what struck me most were the way the leaders had so much hope for the young people to take control and move forward changing things. Traditional culture still survives despite the many denominations still denouncing it as evil. The backlash of residential school is very evident.

It’s also really nice to be surrounded by Anishinabek, since Moosonee is 85% Anishinabek. I visited the tenth annual Cree Hoopfest in Moose Factory and watched some great basketball. It was the first time on the trip were all the young people were together in one spot. And it was great seeing them so excited.

We spent a few night in the Cree Village Eco-Lodge.  It’s an eco friendly dwelling and the highest rated eco-architecture building in North America. Whales come into the James Bay. A few people on the trip caught some glimpses of whales.

On the last night, I sat on the dock looking at the stars. The Northern Lights broke out across the sky. The water rocked the dock. The air was cool.

There are a ton of interesting stories there. The people were friendly and helpful. And I hope our group made a positive impact on the community.

Randy, the chief of MoCreebec, explained that tourism in the area needs to develop visitors and not just tourists. It needs people who are willing to go into and experience the community. This trip was profound in that we shared our knowledge with the each other and with the community. We didn’t travel there to gawk at their poor housing, or question their high rates of suicide. We listened. We absorbed. And now we have to do something with that knowledge.

Avarice

July 22, 2010

You know what they say? C.R.E.A.M. Cash Rules Everything Around Me, Get the money, dolla dolla bills yall. It’s the founding tenets of this country. Chaucer wrote about it: Radix malorum est cupiditas, Love of money is the root of evil. I wouldn’t go that far. I also hear “Greed is good!” Depends which side of the coin your on. You either got it or you don’t. Cash that is. Gold. Sweet Sweet power.  

You want it. I have it. You take it. That’s the world’s history in a nutshell. Sharing is an afterthought. After all if you can’t defend it, then you don’t deserve it.

This morning on the radio I head a story about a man who is single handedly standing up to Osisko mines. Everyone else, 200 other homeowners, took their cash and left. His home is at the centre of the largest open pit gold mine in Canada. It is in Malartic, Quebec.

You can read the full story here: Quebec homeowner won’t make way for mine. The town was relocated because of the minerals beneath the land. The majority consensus was to leave, but he stayed.

First of all, they shouldn’t look [for minerals] under municipalities, because people live there and there’s rights of property,” said Massé. “And, the way mines should act, not just the mines in Malartic — but for all mines — they should act rationally and not just take all of the gold in a couple years and leave with it.

Mr. Massé is upset that his family home will be lost. I was going to go into a diatribe of avarice and use quotes from the Canterbury Tales and maybe Milton and sprinkle in a good dose of rap lyrics, but that would require more effort than just blogging.

My point is, we may have advanced technologically, but we sure haven’t gotten far spiritually or morally. If our modern Chaucer’s and Donne are Nas and Jay-Z they are celebrating greed and desire now.

News

Speaking of avarice brings me around to why not share? The housing situation on First Nations communities, not all, but many is wack. It’s well documented. I’ve seen some shitty places in my explorations of Canada. It’s a shame.

There are definite improvements being made. I just got a link from a friend about this awesome news story: Holmes tackles First Nations housing:

The Assembly of First Nations announced Wednesday that a partnership agreement has been signed with Mike Holmes, star of the home-renovation show Holmes on Homes, and his company, The Holmes Group.

The AFN’s agreement with Holmes establishes a pilot project to build energy-efficient, environmentally friendly homes and other infrastructure in a select First Nation community.

Over the next month, the AFN and Holmes will choose which reserve community will become the site of the project, the AFN said.

That made my day. Everyday we should do something for someone else. Small deeds by many people can add up to big things. Especially, when you live in the city it’s easy to shut your blinds and forget your neighbours. When the lowest values of society are celebrated in song then society might want to swing the pendulum away from technology and inward.