Sitting is the new smoking

Everyone’s heard it by now: sitting is the new smoking. Folks used to assume you could balance out all those hours hunched in front of a desk and sprawled out on the sofa by just working up a good sweat now and then in some wholesome physical activity, but in the last few years, public health experts have been trying to shake us out of our wrongheaded complacency. Sprinkling a few exercise sessions into our overwhelmingly sedentary modern lives doesn’t cut it, just like it’s not enough for a heavy smoker to take up jogging and yoga. Just like smokers need to toss out the cancer sticks, we all need to seriously cut down on the time we spend sitting around on our increasingly ponderous posteriors.

While the public is becoming more aware of the dangers of excessive sitting, sitting occupies a central place in our modern culture, so it will take a profound cultural shift before many of us change our individual habits. But the shift is underway, and before long, the majority of the population will take to heart the health hazards of sitting, just as most of us do with smoking today. Soon, we will shake our heads in disbelief when we remember a time when an average day meant hour upon hour seated and stationary, punctuated by a scant few minutes of motion — far too few to satisfy our animal bodies’ needs to run and leap and stretch. Those of us who have managed to kick the vice will chuckle to ourselves when we see someone who is still struggling with sitting. Slaves to their cravings, jittery and irritable when they haven’t had a chance to sit in the last hour or so, they’ll be forced outside to sit, even on bitterly cold winter days, at least 9 metres from an entrance (depending on the jurisdiction). Only when their gluteal region contacts a supporting surface will they finally feel the rush of endorphins coursing through their veins for a few precious, pathetic moments. We’ll remember a time when people sat in restaurants and on airplanes, and even doctors and priests used to sit, and soldiers were given a daily ration of sitting, and it was all considered so normal that nobody blinked an eye. But all the same, our relationship with sitting will be complex. No one will be able to deny that despite all the chilling, graphic health warnings plastered all over every chair and sofa at the furniture store, there will always be something about sitting that’s just goddamn cool. The alluring model on the billboard, lounging on the settee in that impossibly glamorous way, the action hero, astraddle his motorcycle in his macho way — they’ll still be cool. Tight restrictions on the sale of divans and the replacement of motorcycles with Segways will only succeed in making sitting even cooler. The badass teens outside in the sitting pit, or sneaking in a quick sit in the bathroom, or strutting down the hallway with a chair rolled up in their t-shirt sleeve — they’ll know this better than anyone.

Married to the sea

Venice has always had a special relationship with the sea. In the medieval era, every year, a solemn procession of boats would head out onto the Adriatic Sea. The Pope would take a ring from his finger and the Doge of Venice would cast it into the waters, uttering the sacred words “We wed thee, sea, in the sign of the true and everlasting Lord”. What is less well-known is that the Doge would also say “so sinking. very canal. such water. wow” as he turned his adorably cute, fuzzy face to gaze toward Venice.

The marriage between Venice and the sea was doomed to be an unhappy one. The sea was never given the chance to give informed consent to the marriage in the first place, and the marriage could never be properly consummated because of the difficulties encountered when cities try to bone large bodies of water. But by joining in matrimony, they opened the floodgates to a sea change in the conception of marriage. By now, it has become fashionable to take a much broader view of marriage. Many people see nothing wrong with a man choosing to marry a man, or a woman choosing to marry a woman. They would have us turn our backs on untold millennia of tradition, where marriage was a sacred and more or less willing bond between man and woman, or between man and several women, or between several men and woman, or between man and young girl.

Marriage has lost its sanctity. It was once an unbreakable bond: take the marriage of Mary and Joseph, for example. Though their sex life was disappointing, and there is persuasive evidence that Mary had a licentious affair with God, their marriage remained strong. How things have changed. Today, in Canada, around half of marriages end in divorce. Even more troubling, the remaining half end in death. Marriages to the sea fare no better. Many a sailor has claimed to be married to the sea, but they’re fooling themselves. I’ll admit, in my younger days I myself had a one-night stand with the sea, but it never went any further than that. Listen, the sea is a seductive but cruel mistress: she’ll lure you in with her charms and she’ll break your heart, probably via cardiac arrest induced by drowning.

Sex sells

Next time you cross paths with a bus shelter, or a TV, or a Goodyear blimp or whatever, you’ll probably see an ad of some kind. It could be an ad for chewing gum, for example. Back in the day, advertisers used to get people excited about chewing gum by showing alpine skiers doing sweet jumps and chewing gum, or by showing hot babes in bikinis popping sticks in their mouths (sic) as waterskiers performed sweet jumps. At a certain point, though, the industry decided that even more than jumping hot babes, what the public really crave is cool breath. Chewing gum companies now focus their efforts on convincing the savvy modern gum consumer that their products will produce a greater degree of breath coolness than the competition. This phenomenon has exploded to the degree that the average adult North American today has been exposed to over 800 thousand hours of advertising that employs shocking, vivid imagery to dramatize the sensation of profound coolness of breath that various chewing gum brands promise to deliver.

To the layperson, the mysterious thing about this trend is that it’s not at all clear that this is what the public really wants. Do we really have such a pathological craving for cool breath that we would merrily chew a liquid helium-infused gum that instantly shatters our teeth, dangerously embrittles our mandibles, irreparably damages the delicate tissues of our pharynxes and gastrointestinal tracts, destroys our careers, and tears our families apart? The answer is of course yes, the advertisers are well aware that this is what we want. It’s their job, after all, to know our deepest, darkest desires and fears, and to use that knowledge to push our buttons, pull our strings, and tenderly, fervently twiddle our knobs until we rise up adamantly and thrust our way forward into the tight, moist, quivering folds of the marketplace to purchase gum or other products.

Sex sells, as they say. It’s long been one of the advertiser’s favourite techniques to use a (metaphorical) turkey baster to coat the wares on display with various glistening erotic juices. At first, in more innocent times, the tone tended to be a bit understated. It was enough to show an elegant woman with sleek Jazz Age proportions on a tasteful Art Deco poster, for example. The imagery might seem subtle and quaint to modern eyes, but for the contemporary viewer, it sent an unmistakable signal that to purchase the product would confer entry to untold realms of sybaritic pleasure. As the decades passed, the public became accustomed to such once-racy images and advertisers had to up the ante. Swimsuit-clad women adorned the hoods of automobiles in magazine ads, with the clear implication that when you proudly drove your new car off the lot, a bikini-clad beauty would be hanging precariously and desperately onto the hood of that very car until you arrived at your destination, at which point the two of you would engage in vigorous coitus. But the modern consumer is savvier and more jaded than ever. Nobody’s going to fall for that kind of thing nowadays, and some attractive person wearing a swimsuit on a billboard isn’t going to garner much more than a yawn anyway. Advertisers have tried to stay ahead of the game, always upping the ante, deploying more risqué imagery, exploiting the previously neglected potential of the male form to seduce consumers. But at a certain point, it seems you can’t push sex in advertising much further. So while advertisers haven’t backed away from using sex to sell, they’ve also aimed for greater heights of sophistication, self-consciously indulging in a bit of light self-mockery here and there since, they assure the viewer, you’re far too astute to be manipulated, even by the advertising industry’s most advanced trickery, so let’s just have a bit of fun with this together.

It might seem that advertisers have played out all their cards, but in fact, they’ve just temporarily lost their way. The naïve consumer of yesteryear might have been hypnotized into thinking that the tasty morsel that accompanied the product in the ad would somehow also accompany their purchase, but bitter experience after bitter experience eventually broke the illusion. As advertisers have now learned, their lies eventually come back to haunt them, and trust, once broken, is hard to repair. But the future will bring healing, in a perhaps unexpected way. Advertisers will no longer pimp out imaginary beauties to gullible buyers, vaguely insinuating that purchasing the product will bestow upon them sexual attractiveness and romantic success. There will be no more such nebulous deceptions. Truth in advertising will reign. For example, in the future an advertiser will explicitly promise, in a binding contract, to personally perform oral sex on you if you purchase an Apple product or a box of Kellogg’s cereal. It will be a win-win situation for advertiser, consumer, and manufacturer.

The endless depths of space

The unfathomable vastness of the universe boggles the mind. The sheer size of deep space is immense beyond our comprehension. To put it in perspective for us on our modest-sized planet circling a run-of-the-mill star, if the sun were the size of the dot in this letter i, it would be really dark here and we’d all be stubbing our toes on the furniture all the time. We could no doubt find our way around by using the light from our smartphones, but after millions of aeons, the last battery would finally run out and the last light would dwindle away and we’d be forced to bundle up our feet in filthy, probably yogourt-soaked rags, for protection against the unforgiving edges of IKEA products. The only alternative is to make this font so incredibly large that the dot over this i is greater than 400 thousand undecillion Olympic swimming pools stacked end to end, but that would make reading inconceivably difficult and would require more ink than can be produced by an infinite number of football fields spanning the globe, folded lengthwise and crenellated and julienned hyper-diagonally in seventeen dimensions. Space. It is amazingly large.

Killing with dignity

The idea of euthanasia is, yes, controversial. The controversy seems immortal, as it were, but my thinking on this is that the controversy can be skirted altogether.

Actively ending someone’s life at their request, or even standing by passively as they voluntarily end their own suffering, is sure to stir up a firestorm of emotion and protest. But you’ll encounter very little opposition if, rather than taking someone right to the metaphorical edge of the precipice overlooking death, you just bring them a few steps from that point. So, rather than shopping around for the right pharmaceuticals to induce death, or administering them to the person who has chosen to die, or otherwise getting ensnared in messy legal and moral tangles, you can simply get someone a gift certificate to go skydiving, or bungee jumping, or some other high-risk activity. Perhaps help them to build their own light plane in their own garage and encourage them to get their pilot’s licence. Get them a job in an underground mine. Buy them a ticket for a bus ride through Andean mountain passes. Or maybe just take them to the hospital, where it’s been estimated that 180,000 people a year across the globe die of medical errors. The point is, euthanasia isn’t the only way — there are other options. And the great thing about this approach is that you can use it as a legal form of murder, too. We’ve all been there — needing to get rid of a boss, a spouse, some random guy who’s listening to his headphones too loud on the bus. But when that happens, don’t stoop to murder, take the high road and send them on a hang gliding adventure, or use your connections to get them a job on an offshore oil rig.

End times

This time it’s different. Through the ages, warnings of the imminent end of the world have been frequent, but it seems they were all premature. But… have you noticed this lately? The very nature of reality is shifting, subtly but unmistakably. Every single time I call a customer service line, I’m told that they’re experiencing higher than usual call volumes. Every single time. In what kind of world can something always be higher than usual? Think about it. I have no idea what’s coming, but I’d say start getting your house in order.

Being of sound mind

I used to know a guy who owned a furniture store, Crazy Mike’s. The shtick, of course, was that his prices were so low he must be crazy. It made me so angry that all these customers would come in to take advantage of a man who was clearly suffering from mental illness. That said, though, they were invariably disappointed to find that he sold furniture at a reasonable markup since his ability to set prices was largely unaffected by his anxiety disorder and chronic depression.

It’s not something people like to talk about a lot, but mental illness touches many of us. As for me, there’s a history of mental illness in my family. When she was younger, my maternal grandmother was boy-crazy. My uncle was insane in the membrane, but he’s doing much better these days since he moved out of the inner city and got out of the hip-hop industry and just generally de-stressed. I have my own struggles. I always thought I was pretty normal, just a regular, average guy, but a psychiatrist told me that I’m experiencing severe delusions of grandeur and in reality I’m a total loser. It’s actually kind of empowering to finally have a diagnosis and to be able to put a name to my condition. And I feel liberated too — I realize now it’s not really me who’s suffering those delusions, it’s actually this priest who secretly lives in my attic and manipulates my brainwaves at night through ultra-high frequency electromagnetic radiation.

Though mental illness still carries stigma in our society, we’re fortunate that we live in a time and place where people are more likely to be compassionate and understanding to those with mental illness. You don’t have to look back very far to find egregious examples of maltreatment. In Cold War days, people in the Eastern Bloc who experienced psychotic episodes were even more isolated and alone than their counterparts in the Western Bloc. Psychiatrists in the USSR used to say, “in Soviet Russia, you don’t dissociate from reality, reality dissociate from you.” Medieval Europe, of course, was rife with horror stories of people with mental illnesses being locked up in squalid madhouses and burned as witches, while actual witches and people tormented by demons walked away scot-free. And as recently as 2009, people suffering from a range of mental health challenges were forced to sing and dance and perform the moonwalk on stage for millions of screaming, adoring fans across the globe. And though we now live in far more enlightened times, we shouldn’t be too smug. There are still so many people who simply don’t have access to the care they need, whether it be a simple trepanning procedure, a lobotomy, or an exorcism.

My pet peeves

By far, my biggest pet peeve is when people have their priorities all out of whack. Genocide is also annoying. And it drives me crazy when you’re trying to open up a bag of chips and it suddenly bursts open and the chips fly all over the place.

Guns don’t kill people

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, as advocates of the right to bear arms often point out. It’s easy enough to retort that people often kill people with the aid of guns, but that’s not quite right, if you think about it. A closer look seems to suggest that bullets are the actual source of the death problem, but even that’s still off base. If you really delve into the issue, though, it will jump out at you that blood loss and neurological damage are the real culprits. That’s why innocent people are dying on the streets. If, as a society, we truly want to put an end to this madness and violence, we need to start making serious investments in the genetic engineering of more robust blood vessels and nerve tissue.

Diversity and community

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m definitely not homophobic, but when my gay friends are around, even I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable under their penetrating gaze. Sorry, I mean gays. I suppose it has a bit to do with growing up in a small, conservative town where it seemed that heterosexuality was the only kind of sexuality that existed. But it seems attitudes there are starting to change now, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of folks. I’m impressed at how progressive they are — rather than calling themselves a GLBTQ or LGBTQ association as is usually done, which implicitly prioritizes gays or lesbians, they instead call themselves a BLTGQ association. Their presence has encouraged a number of others who eat bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches and read men’s fashion magazines to come out of the closet. Admittedly, it’s still a very conservative town when it comes to accepting and celebrating people of minority sexualities and genders as part of the community, but personally, I’m an optimist, and I think any increase in bacon consumption should give us hope for a brighter future.

Beach eugenics

Ah, those indolent, low-visibility, insane days of summer are back, to paraphrase Nat King Cole. The rising air temperature and intensified ultraviolet radiation triggers ancient reflexes to remove layers of fabric coverings from our bodies and seek out crowds near large bodies of water. So you want to go the beach — but which beach?

The answer depends on how hot you are. Hot as in “oooh, he’s so hot, I’d totally do him”, not “oooh, he’s so hot, he’d better reduce his core body temperature, otherwise seizures, brain damage, and finally death could result.” Beaches are sorted into two categories: hot people beaches and leper beaches. Hot people go to the hot people beaches and everyone else goes to the leper beaches. (There is a wild card, though: regardless of their physiological peccadillos, older guys are free to go to any beach they want.)

But why are beaches segregated, especially in a society that purports to value equality and freedom? As with all such questions, the answer to this comes from the science of evolution, filtered through the Bible. Once upon a time, hot people, normal people, ugly people, and people whose appearances challenged conventional notions of ugliness descended from the trees and all hung out on the beach together. Then the serpent tempted them to taste the forbidden fruit, and everything changed. Now, the hot people strutted confidently and were examined at a high ogling intensity, the normal people slouched around and were gazed at momentarily before the gazers got annoyed that their view to the hot people was being obstructed, and the various kinds of ugly people ran off to avoid being pelted by stones.

Once the ugly people were gone, the aesthetic standard was recalibrated. The old average became the new ugly. The average folks who used to be free to hang out on the beach, as long as they didn’t thoughtlessly impede sightlines to the hot people, were now pelted with stones and forced away. As successive cycles of this phenomenon recurred, there were two major consequences. First, the original beach got hotter and hotter, until today it is populated entirely by fitness models who have just dieted down for their big cover photo shoot. These mega-hotties are compelled to push themselves to ever more absurd levels of yummy hubba-hubba-ness simply to avoid being brutally cast into the wilderness. A second consequence was the emergence of new crappy beaches where no hot person would ever bother wanting to go. These are the leper beaches, where normal and ugly people frolic freely without fear of being chastised for their poor taste in exercise plans, dietary regimes, and chromosomes. In some places, yet further segregation has occurred, so you can find regular leper beaches and hyper-leper beaches, for example. (As noted above, however, older guys get a free pass to any beach they want to go to. This practice dates back to our hominid ancestors, where various behaviours, such as the wearing of minimal-coverage Speedos by males with higher volumes of adipose tissue, were more tolerated in older males who were successful mastodon hunters. We still see the echoes of this today, where older men experience a kind of diplomatic immunity and are free to display an adventurous variety of aesthetic sensibilities on both hot and leper beaches.)

However, biology is not destiny, as the saying goes. The fact that beaches have evolved into a comfortable, safe, multi-tier, segregated system does not mean they cannot be otherwise. Some radicals have clued into this, and a fanatical, dangerous underground movement has been gathering force. In recent years, small, decentralized guerilla units have been deploying normal and ugly people directly into hot beaches, terrorizing the buff and the ripped and spreading chaos and fear throughout their tightly-knit, super-sexy communities. Many a viewscape of rippled abs and perfectly-curved buttocks has been marred by the appearance of the visual stain of bulging bellies and pasty, saggy things that I can’t quite tell what they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately, I have no comforting words for you. I regret to report that there is no way to push back against this attack. Once the gross ugly people have decided they are comfortable revealing themselves even when surrounded by dazzlingly delicious superhunks and ultrahoneys, there is no stopping them. No beach, no matter how hot, will be safe from this blight. All we’ll have left to remind us of past glories will be a few old clips of Baywatch.

Cutting through the phallusies

Many things that we now take for granted and that seem so normal were not always so humdrum and commonplace. It takes the spark of insight, the miracle of human ingenuity to give birth to new and better ways of doing things and to let go of the old habits and customs that no longer serve us. For example, take circumcision. History has gifted us with many geniuses, but mere genius isn’t enough here: you need to really be able to think outside the box to discern that chopping off a piece of your dick is a good idea. After this initial realization, progress was rapid: soon, the best minds began to understand that chopping off a piece of someone else’s dick was an even better idea, and this finally culminated in the recognition that the younger and smaller someone is, the less resistance they will be able to put up when you chop off a piece of their dick.

The benefits of circumcision are numerous. While out and about town on a blustery day, no longer do you need to cringe in embarrassment as your unsightly foreskin flaps in the breeze; instead, you can stride along with the quiet confidence of a man whose glans is fully exposed. You can safely operate heavy machinery without fear of your prepuce being seized uncomfortably in the violently spinning works. You are free from the constant taunts and ridicule from employers, peers, friends, family, and librarians that beset those who are unfortunate enough to be burdened with excess schlong epidermis.

Despite all this, some people have expressed doubts about the practice of circumcising infants. Given that it’s not generally a medically necessary procedure, they argue, why not let the individual decide for himself when he’s old enough? This seems reasonable enough, until you consider that infants do in fact give consent to the procedure. The infant gives the slicing practitioner either a thumbs-up or an “OK” sign, and then the amputation is carried out amidst the infant’s chortles of mirth.

It’s sometimes also claimed that the foreskin is a natural part of a healthy male body, but this claim is problematic on two counts. First, it contains an implicit moralization that removing the foreskin is somehow an act against nature itself. But this is simply wrong: it is a normal and natural part of growing up to have a piece of your dick chopped off. For our ancient ancestors, this would have usually happened when struggling with a saber-toothed cat or a pterodactyl; in modern society, a doctor or other practitioner often replaces the pterodactyl, but a saber-toothed cat is nevertheless present to oversee the procedure and to take over if things go south. The second problem with the claim that the foreskin is a natural part of a healthy body is that circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in high-risk populations. This should not be surprising: it has similarly been observed that hand amputation significantly reduces the incidence of hand-related infections in vulnerable populations. Of course, just as hand washing and glove wearing are alternatives to hand amputation, schlong washing and condom wearing are alternatives to circumcision; however, it is obvious that washing one’s wang and wearing a condom are pretty lame activities compared to the adrenaline-charged thrill of putting a knife to one’s genitals.

A final point to consider is how one’s body affects one’s sense of identity. If a boy is uncircumcised but his father is circumcised, won’t the boy feel somehow different from the father? Won’t he grow up believing that perhaps, in some subtle but unshakeable way, he is somehow not really the son of the man who claims to be his father? Won’t the boy believe that he is not at all the man’s son, but is instead a mutant alien humanoid, full of twisted malevolence and hatred for all mankind? This is indeed the case. Anecdotally speaking, a friend of mine was not circumcised, unlike his father, and this painful fact slowly burrowed its way deeper and deeper into the boy’s psyche. Over time, he became so disturbed that he seemed to give up on life. He eventually took to lying helpless, screaming and crying, kicking his arms and legs, until his parents had him circumcised a few days after his birth. He’s been much better since. What made things a bit more complicated was the fact that his dad also has a Prince Albert penis piercing, which is well-known for being totally hot. After some searching, luckily, his parents were successful in finding a surgeon willing to also perform the piercing procedure and thus ensure that father and son are alike. But circumcision is not simply a way of marking the son as being like the father, of course – it also has a long history of being used as a sign of belonging to a larger group. Usually, this is a religious and/or ethnic group, though some of the most exclusive university fraternities reportedly also use it as a rite of passage, where you basically have to shotgun a certain number of beers before chopping a piece of your dick off.

April 1st

Normally, when I’m reading the news in the mainstream media, I can take comfort in the knowledge that everything I’m reading is reliable, balanced, and true. Then April Fool’s Day comes around and my whole world is turned upside down. All of a sudden, any piece I read could be ridden through with egregious falsehoods and fabrications, subtle spins and omissions. I’m suddenly at the mercy of sinister cabals and their cynical manipulations of reality to further their predatory, exploitative agendas. I’ll be so relieved when today is finally over and I can trust again in dependable, authoritative mainstream media coverage.

Objectification

Listen. I have had it up to here with being treated like an object. I am not just an object for your pleasure and entertainment. My body is not just a stunningly beautiful object for you to gaze at. Listen to me. My ass was not just created for your pleasure. My ass is not just an object, it has feelings and experiences, it has desires and fears. It has days when it feels strong and confident and days when it just wants to stay in bed with a good book. It has hobbies, it has hopes and dreams: it wants to go to medical school, it wants to travel the world, it wants to raise a family, it wants to grow old with someone that loves it and that it can love back. Yes, it is sexy, but it is not just about sex: my ass is a whole, complete person and deserves to be treated as such. The least you can do when talking to my ass is to look it directly in the ass and caress or spank it lightly in a respectful manner. Treat my ass with the dignity it deserves and it will accord you the same respect.

The secret of happiness

It’s all we really want, isn’t it? It’s what we all spend all of our lives looking for: happiness. It is what we seek unceasingly, but it is so elusive; it slips out of your grasp like a wet bar of soap in the shower, forcing you to stab it viciously with a fork in order to get a hold of it, or to attempt to bottle it up like so much metaphorical liquid soap in a bottle as you slip and perhaps injure yourself in the metaphorical shower. And while some of us struggle so mightily to feel happiness, others seem to find it with effortless grace. If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s hard to look at these people and their charmed lives and not feel a twinge of envy, even if, deep down, we know that life can still be hard for them at times. When you’re absorbed in ruminations on how easy everything looks for others, it can be hard to not get lost in the insistent chatter of your inner voice that tells you you’re not happy because you don’t deserve it, you’re not smart enough, you’re not attractive enough, you’re not good enough, you should kill those who’ve slighted you. But it doesn’t matter whether your inner voice is right. If you are really looking for happiness, you just have to know where to look. The old expression “happy as a clam” says it all. Clams are notoriously happy, and why shouldn’t they be? They have been blessed by Nature with not just one, but two, count ‘em, two valves. They have laterally compressed bodies. But most of all, they have overcome craving or desire, except for phytoplankton or other particulate food (these fall into a loophole, according to Buddhist teaching). So next time you’re feeling down, just think clammy thoughts and burrow yourself into the sediment and wait patiently for those joyous suspended particulate nutrients to float on by.

Bull

The bullfight. The very word conjures up romantic images of the heroic matador, the epitome of masculinity, bravely and manfully facing down the raging bull. The matador (or torero) stands alone in front of the evil beast. The matador must vanquish the mighty animal with only his bare hands and the moral support of his faithful picadors and banderilleros who encourage the matador with stern, macho glances and occasional deep acupuncture of the savage bull to reduce its dangerously high blood pressure and volume. Sadly, this noble ritual is falling victim to modernity as the fickle public loses touch with the wisdom of the ancients and the honourable traditions they gifted to the oblivious generations of today. Fewer and fewer people attend bullfights while more and more soft-headed bleeding-heart hippie tree-huggers screech and rail against the alleged cruelty of the bullfight. Some, such as the Humane Society International, even go so far as to assert that “Bullfighting is not culture; it is cruelty“. Indeed, if bullfighting were cruel, then we would be forced to admit that it is not culture, because since when has any culture included any elements of cruelty? But bullfighting is not cruel.

Rather than jump to the hasty conclusion that the mean old matador is picking on the poor little bull, look at the facts. Rather than attacking the matador, we should be thanking him for protecting the helpless crowd from the violent onslaught of the bloodthirsty bull. While others around him scatter in panic, the matador alone finds the courage within to battle against the cold-blooded, murderous bull who has sworn to murder him and his innocent children. The bull — a bully, in the truest sense of the word — has only meaningless destruction and wanton slaughter on his agenda, and he must be stopped. But if our understanding of the bullfight only goes this far, then we will have missed its true depth, its richness and nuance. The bullfight is not just an act of defiance against the oppressive reign of terror of bulls over humanity — it is in fact a profound expression of reverence for the bull. Even in the face of the merciless depravity of the bull, the matador can see the tiny spark of dignity that it has buried deep inside itself. The bullfight graces the bull with the absolution of its sins and the reprieve of its soul through self-sacrifice. In these final moments, the bull, once so tormented by the error of its inhumane ways, finally finds the peace that it had so long sought in vain, and though the bull dies, the gratitude you can see in its eyes never shall. And why should it surprise us that the bull feels gratitude in these moments? It is no different than the gratitude an antelope feels when being shot while foraging. It is no different than the gratitude a baby seal feels while being clubbed to death by a friendly hunter. And you know how we call animals that we hunt ‘game’? Well, who are we to say that the animals don’t find the game fun too? This goes for fish as well — can you even imagine the sheer delight of having a sharp metal hook dragging you violently by the mouth or guts, after which you get unhooked more or less cleanly and tossed playfully back into the splashy surf? Quit it with your party-pooping already, let the animals have their fun too.

A modesty proposal

Some Muslim communities have interpreted the teachings of Islam as requiring women to dress in certain ways. In some traditions, women dress in modest Western-style clothing and cover their heads with scarves, while in other traditions, a burqa veils the entire body, even the eyes and hands. To Western eyes, it can be difficult not to see these more extreme practices as restricting women’s place in society, literally effacing them from the public sphere. However, some argue that this kind of modest dress in fact has an emancipatory effect on women by effectively desexualizing them in the public sphere and thus placing them on a more equal social footing with men.

As foreign as this perspective may be to many of us in this part of the world, it does contain insight. In fact, it has led me to shift my own personal views on the topic. At first, I believed that in places where a full burqa is a common form of dress, it would be a progressive step — as part of a larger set of social changes — to relax social norms that restrict women’s dress and instead encourage them to dress according to personal preference. Perhaps some women would choose to cover themselves head to toe, and this would be fine; perhaps other women would choose to dress in a way that more overtly expresses their sexuality, and this would also be fine. But as I reflected on this, though this made me quite uncomfortable at first, I began to understand more clearly the Taliban perspective. The sad truth is that the sight of the form of a woman’s body does indeed inflame the passions of men and lead them to sin. This isn’t easy for me to say, but just the other day, I saw a woman and what appeared to be the general form of her elbow probably clearly visible through her ski suit, and as my libido surged uncontrollably and the world went white around me, it was then that I understood that I was guilty of the worst form of hubris. I was just another Western cultural imperialist wanting to foist our values on another culture. I knew that I needed to let go of my arrogance and my unquestioning belief in our cultural superiority. Perhaps it is not they who have to learn from us: perhaps it is we who have to learn from them? But then I realized just as quickly that such a simplistic black-and-white outlook was just another kind of naïveté. It’s not that one culture is better or worse than the other. In fact, both cultures have something to teach each other, and by working to truly understand each other rather than despising and attacking each other, or even simply romanticizing and exoticizing each other, both cultures can flourish more fully.

With this in mind, I looked with fresh eyes at the burqa. While at first glance, it appears to cover the entire body, in fact, you can still clearly see the form of a woman beneath. This is where both cultures can blossom and grow by opening themselves to the wisdom of the other. By applying modern Western technological ingenuity — which as we know, is itself built on centuries of Islamic science — this deficiency in the burqa can be easily solved. Underneath the burqa, a woman can simply strap large plastic bags full of styrofoam packing pellets to her body, thus helping to further obscure her unchaste feminine form. Even this won’t leave much to the imagination, however. To solve this, the woman should don an apparatus of large hoops encircling the entire body, over which a larger burqa should be draped. At this point, a woman will finally be able to feel comfortably free from the prying eyes of men. But not from their lecherous ears, alas — the dulcet tones of the female voice will still drive men into spasms of debased sin. Again, modern Western technology can help here: the woman should wear a helmet equipped with a loudspeaker and advanced voice-processing technology so her utterances, otherwise imbued with a sinful Siren quality, are instead presented to the world in a Stephen Hawking-like robot tone. Even then, however, the irresistible scent of a woman would still drive the most pious man into an orgiastic frenzy. This is probably the easiest challenge to address: underneath the burqa, the woman should be pushing a barbeque full of sizzling steaks. The aromas of cooking meat will easily overpower even the most alluring of feminine perfume. While some men may be attracted to the mouth-watering smell of juicy steak, the important point is that the sensual attraction of the woman herself — the sight of her, the sound of her, and the smell of her — will finally have been eradicated. However, there would remain the mere idea of a woman that would still compel men to forsake their vows and drive them to unspeakable desecrations and disgustingly stained underpants. Even if a man cannot see, hear, or smell a woman underneath this improved burqa-system, he would still know that there is a woman under there, and this is the most insidious sin of all. The only way to solve this is through further application of modern technology. The woman should in fact be removed entirely from the styrofoam-stuffed-bags-burqa-hoops-barbeque-burqa assembly and be replaced with a Roomba™ robotic vacuum cleaner, or one of its market competitors. These remarkable devices have proven themselves to be surprisingly effective at navigating a variety of obstacle-filled spaces. If all women were to dress in this manner — especially women in decadent Western societies — men the world over would finally be freed from the burden of knowing sin-inducing female objects are occupying space in public; just as importantly, women would be completely liberated from the onerous burden of living lives in the world, which is highly overrated. An important side benefit is that the robotic vacuum cleaners would help to maintain sidewalks and public spaces to a high standard of cleanliness.

Power suit

I first began to really understand how the world works when I heard people remarking “you can really tell who wears the pants in that relationship”. Most obviously, this expression is a comment on how there are often power imbalances in romantic relationships, but there’s more going on here than just that. It also dawns on you how many couples simply don’t own enough pairs of pants and are forced to fight over who gets to wear their precious only pair. Meanwhile, other couples, often unaware of their own privilege, blithely wear multiple pairs of pants as the whim strikes. But as you dig deeper, the questions begin to emerge and a chill creeps up your spine: what is so special about these pants that leads people to fight so bitterly over them? What is it about these pants that makes us manipulate and deceive and betray one another? Do we even need pants, or is it just a huge lie that we’ve been repeating to ourselves for so long that no one even remembers that it wasn’t always like this?

Alienation 2.0

I know, I know, I’m far from the first person to make this observation, but isn’t it odd and a bit sad how all this amazing technology that’s supposed to bring us closer together really makes us more and more isolated? I was out earlier today and I couldn’t help but notice that there I am, surrounded by people, sitting facing some and close enough to rub elbows with others, but are we conversing? Are we connecting with each other? Are we even paying any attention to each other? No, each person is hypnotized, everyone is transfixed by the devices they hold in their hands. You might say, come on, it’s not so bad really: one person is reading a tender message from a lover, another is writing to a cherished friend, another is happily absorbed in some kind of game. This is true, but don’t forget that everything comes with a price. Our gadgets won’t serve us if we don’t first give something in return: our attention. These technologies might facilitate some connections, but they also seal us off in virtual worlds that are just pale shadows of the real thing when we could instead be engaging directly with the vivid richness of the world around us. Mind you, the first person mentioned was reading a postcard, the second was handwriting a letter, and the third was masturbating, but you can see how all of the technologies they were using are no less antisocial than smartphones.

Chivalry is dead

Yes, chivalry is dead. Sure, women and men are equally entitled to be treated with respect, but some people ask, what’s so wrong with a gallant fellow holding a door open for a member of the weaker sex? And what’s so wrong with opening a car door to let the fragile and feeble female in first? And what’s so wrong with triggering the motion detector on an automatic door for some chick? Controversial though it may be, I think these people make an important point. There is a strong case in favour of reviving chivalry. Chivalry was about honour, courtesy, and respect, values that are sorely lacking in so many men today. On top of this, chivalrous men recognized well that humans who lack a Y chromosome have a harder time with doors and their tricky mechanical workings. But most of all, the code of chivalry required its followers to show no mercy to the Infidel and not hesitate to make war with them. This latter point is probably the aspect of chivalry most relevant to the modern age. A chivalry revival would not only significantly ease women’s passage through doorways, it would also lead to a major reduction in the population of infidels. On top of that, it would give the sagging economy a much-needed boost by increasing market demand for chain mail, jousting-related medical care, and dragon as a second language classes.

New Year’s evolution

Right about now, dozens of people just like you all around the world are making their New Year’s resolutions, setting out to learn new skills, to be more generous and kind, to be more assertive, to take better care of themselves: in short, they are resolving to make better use of this precious gift we call life. Sadly, not only are these people dorks, they are also doomed to fail. Depending on the analytical methodology used, studies have shown that between 100 and 107 percent of those who make resolutions for the new year fail to keep them. Part of the problem is that often, there’s a wide gulf between well-meaning intention and reality — people simply set themselves unrealistic goals. But it’s also about psychology. By “resolving” to do something, what could be a process where we discover the inspiration and strength within ourselves to flourish more fully is instead transformed into an onerous obligation weighing heavily upon us, where any faltering along the path becomes a new source of guilt and shame, a new sign of our personal weaknesses and moral failings, and a new reason to once again collapse in defeat and abandon our naive dreams. So this year, instead of making resolutions, perhaps we should go a little easier on ourselves and make New Year’s suggestions.

Constructive criticism

How are you ever going to improve if you don’t want to hear how you can get better? How can you ever attain your full potential for greatness? Well, you can always get by based on being born into a life of privilege, having a conventionally good-looking face, and being strategically promiscuous, as is the case with most successful people, but you should also keep an ear open to receive the comments and critiques that you could harness to propel you to the next echelon of excellence. And yet, some people don’t see this. They criticize criticism. These fragile-ego divas even have a disparaging name for it: ‘nitpicking’. Nitpicking, they whimper tearfully, wastes everyone’s time by enumerating a litany of trivial flaws. But you don’t catch chimpanzees complaining about nitpicking. They seem to really appreciate it, in fact. I have to say, I side with the chimpanzees on this one. If my skin is loaded with nits, then I say, please, pick away, get those nits before they hatch and my skin is crawling and festering with lice. And while you’re in there, remove any ticks or other ectoparasites you find and you will have earned my enduring respect and gratitude that may manifest in the form of reciprocal social bonds that support food sharing, protection against predators, and increased mating opportunities.

Chicken and egg

Somebody brought up this issue the other day, and it really got me thinking: which came first, the chicken or the egg? When you think about it long enough, you start to realize that proponents of creationism or “intelligent design” have a stronger case than they’ve been credited for. Though this story has been suppressed by the scientific establishment, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that evolutionary biologists haven’t yet given a satisfactory answer as to whether the egg preceded the chicken or vice versa. So I was contemplating this question with no more insight than countless sages before me, but then, it suddenly dawned on me that probably, the chicken came first. In fact, I fail to see how an egg can have an orgasm at all. I’m also flummoxed as to what the logistics of an erotic encounter between the two would be, though I have to admit with a blush that I’m rather curious. But most fundamentally, I think it would be best if we just drop the question out of respect for their privacy.

Sweet youth

It won’t come as news to many that our culture is obsessed with youth and beauty. This consuming vacuity is slowly rotting our society from within and perverting our very psyches, but can you blame us? Ugly people are unpleasant to look at, and old people contribute little to economic productivity. Nevertheless, many observers, themselves often somewhat homely and long in the tooth, argue that this pervasive fascination with youth and beauty leads us to a shallow outlook on the world that ignores the precious, essential roles played by those who lurk agedly and unattractively in the grody depths of society.

This is not the only way our culture ignores the variegated richness of reality in favour of a cleansed, artificial world. This relentless push to sanitize our surroundings and reduce complexity to one-dimensionality extends even to how we talk about the taste of food, where in our everyday language, the taste of sweetness is glorified above all. And if we look further, into the realm of romantic relationships, we find that these kinds of simplifications and idealizations intersect and combine in even more troubling ways. All of our terms of endearment embody our obsessions with youth and sweetness: we call our lovers honey, baby, sugar, sweetie-pie, baby-cakes, honey baby, sucrose fetus, aspartame zygote. This is symptomatic of our tunnel vision as a society. We should be broadening our horizons, savouring the wealth, the diversity and depth that the universe has to offer. To change our culture, we need to lead the change as individuals, and we can take the humble but powerful first step of focusing on our intimate relationships and starting to use new terms of endearment that expand beyond the narrow-minded exaltation of youth and sweetness above all else. Salty codger, bitter centenarian, umami matron, spicy and earthy geezer, lightstruck, corked, and musty fossil — would it not be a better world where we cry out to our lovers like this in the throes of savage passion and in quiet moments of tenderness?

The rise and fall of ancient Sumerian city-states

Civilizations rise, and civilizations fall. Why do they fall? Because of environmental damage and resource depletion, because of climate change, because of foreign invasion, because of countless other forces. And in ancient Mesopotamia, at the end of a hard day of construction operations on the ziggurats, the foreman said to his slaves “it’s time to shut ‘er down” and by the time everyone figured out the misunderstanding Ur had been completely shut down and was in ruins, but everyone had a good laugh before dying of famine.

Suffrage in silence*

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle: slimy, highly sensitive to subtle changes in ambient water pressure, and somewhat limited in choice of transportation mode. I really don’t understand this analogy.

* Another contrived headline of tenuous relevance, just the way I like it.

The fuzz

In response to yet another case of police brutality, corruption, or existence, some people have taken up the defiant cry “Fuck the police”. But they don’t really mean that we should have sex with the police. Well actually, that would really tie up a lot of police resources.

Strangling the poultry

Ok, seriously, what’s going on with bird names? You’ve got true tits, cocks, woodpeckers, masked woodswallows, boobies, hornbills, horned larks, woodpecker sapsuckers, horny red-breasted round-rumped big-titted cocksucker motherfuckers, and the goose. Come on ornithologists, grow up.

The true meaning of Easter

Decorating eggs, hunting for hidden eggs, rolling eggs down hills, bunnies carrying eggs composed of chocolate, incarnate gods rising from the dead… Unsurprisingly, it turns out there is no meaning to any of this.

For holidays with actual meanings, see the following:

The true meaning of New Year’s Eve
The true meaning of Christmas
The true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day
The true meaning of Valentine’s Day

And if you need a touch of the miraculous on this hallowed day:
The miracle of the ordinary

 

Incompetent teachers and morality

Nowadays, people think it’s a slur against teachers — “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” — but that’s just a grammatical mix-up. The original expression had no punctuation. It was biting social commentary about how employees at fish canneries often had affairs with incompetent teachers: “Those who can do those who can’t teach.”

Keep your friends close

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. But things start to get a bit crowded when your friends bring their friends and enemies into the picture as well, and everyone’s friends and enemies also do the same. It all gets a bit awkward and there are a surprising number of accidental pregnancies.

That time

Oh wow, ha ha, that was so hilarious that time someone told a joke and I was trying so hard not to but I laughed so hard that milk came shooting out of your nose. Omg, haha. Come to think of it, what was extra strange about that is you weren’t even drinking milk at the time. Uh… maybe you should get that checked out.

What would Jesus do?

I try to live the best life I can and make the best choices I can by always asking myself “what would Jesus do?”, but I can’t describe the hopelessness and frustration I end up feeling when I try and fail again and again to turn water into wine, walk on water, cure lepers, raise friends from the dead, feed vast crowds with an obviously ridiculously insufficient quantity of loaves and fishes, etc. Jesus Christ, that’s frustrating.

The true meaning of New Year’s Eve

It’s the eve before the dawn of another new year. It’s time again for us to take stock of our lives and look ahead to another year shining with possibility. First, we look back upon yet another year riddled with dismal failures and marvel at the myriad ways a human life can go shamefully wrong. At the same time, we contort and convulse our insides in envious anguish at the hateful successes of our peers. But today is really not about the past! It is not about the old, it is about ringing in the new. We look ahead with giddy anticipation to the new year’s failures. Many of them will be comfortingly familiar, like a blanket, sodden with cold misery and despair, draped heavily over your helplessly suffocating face, but many more of them will be charged with the electricity and excitement of newness and discovery, like a warm electric blanket excitingly short-circuiting and innovatively eletrocuting you to a charred, blackened corpse. How many new, inventive ways will you discover to fall flat on your face? How many days will you wake up full of dread of your pathetic excuse for a career that’s draining the last remaining drops of your will to live? How many new soul-wrenching personal tragedies will befall you? How many new kinds of humiliations and rejections in love await you? I don’t know, but if the last several years are anything to go by, probably a lot.*

* Or maybe not. (I’m an optimist.)

The true meaning of Christmas

Some think of Christmas consumerism as a relatively recent phenomenon, but it’s actually been around at least since the late 1700s when the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written. In fact, some trace it even further back, to 5 A.D. when one of the magi one-upped the others by giving gold instead of frankincense or myrrh. It was the myrrh in particular that led to the initiation of the tradition of post-Christmas gift returns. Guys, you don’t even have to be that wise to know it’s generally considered a faux pas to bring an embalming herb to a baby shower. Anyway, buying twenty-two turtle doves and twenty-five golden rings is bad enough, but what’s really going to rack up those credit cards is the thirty lords a-leaping. I wouldn’t even know where to look for those, though I’m sure it’s easier nowadays with online shopping. But here’s the thing: is it even worth it? All those noblemen jumping around might be entertaining for a few minutes but then what do you do with them? They’ll just end up in a box in the shed, just like the twenty-two pipers piping you got your true love last year, whose* once merry piping is now forlorn and almost inaudible due to their suffering from an intense sensation of being boxed-in, and due to starvation. This is the whole trouble with the obsession with buying more and better gifts — their value is ephemeral. My friends, the best gift of all cannot be bought in any store. My friends, the best and most lasting gift of all is the gift of love. Love, only love, that is all. But in lieu of that, I’ll be happy to accept the forty maids a-milking.

* The pipers, not your true love.

All I want for Christmas

Everyone likes to make world peace their Christmas wish, but that’s so unrealistic. Ok Santa, how about you just send me a couple of strippers and some booze and we’ll call it even. Sorry, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to direct that kind of wish to Satan, in which case let’s just say I made a typo. Anyway, Santa or Satan, if you’re reading this, on second thought, I don’t need the strippers and booze that badly, so please send them to a needy family instead.

Revenge

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Like really really cold, like when on a hot summer day you give someone a nice cold refreshing bowl of gazpacho, except that the gazpacho is actually liquid nitrogen! Though super hot is also a good revenge, like when you welcome someone in from a cold winter’s day with a delicious bowl of steaming hot soup that’s actually lethally hot magma, oooh what a fiendish revenge.

The Age of Aquarius

People are complex beings. If you want someone to change their behaviour, you can’t just use simple coercion — you need a more sophisticated ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach. With the stick, you beat them viciously to a bloody open-minded pulp. I’m not sure what you do with the carrot, I guess you can snack on it to keep your energy up, or you can shove it up their butt. Anyway, social change is a very subtle, nuanced process.

The legend of the boy who prevented flooding

I’ve been reflecting on the social dimensions of infrastructure in supposedly progressive Holland, and the more I think about it the more outraged I become at how, on a massive scale, they have used lesbians to hold back the seawater and reclaim huge tracts of land that would otherwise be submerged. Am I the only one who cares about this shameful legacy of one of the darkest chapters in human history? Has the whole world gone crazy?? I mean we are talking about human exploitation on a simply staggering scale. And why do we think this is ok? Why do we turn our backs and walk away? Because they’re different from the majority? Because their sexual orientation does not fit the norm? This is why society uses them to hold back ocean waters and create large polders suitable for agriculture and the like? How can we possibly justify this? Is this what we’ve become? Is this really what we wanted? Can we continue to sell our very souls in this way? (If you don’t like the way I belaboured this joke, at least I didn’t riff off of the legend of the boy who saved Holland by putting his finger in the dyke.)

The offending limb

“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8). Jesus’ unorthodox approach to medical treatment led to several charges of malpractice.

Footprints


One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
I noticed footprints in the sand;
sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
sometimes there was only one set.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me that if I followed You,
You would walk with me always.
But during the most trying periods of my life
there was only one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed You most, did You abandon me?”
The Lord replied,
“My precious child, it was at those times
that you became a real downer to be around
and honestly I kind of lost interest.”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s that time of year where ladies across the land are putting the final touches on their unique and inventive Hallowe’en costumes. But don’t jump to conclusions — nowadays, the characters and themes women explore can go in any direction whatsoever, thanks to boundless human creativity and sophistication. What will they choose: nubile nurse? vampish vampire? slutty sailor? lusty Lolita? prurient private detective? risqué rasta? libidinous launderer? obscene obstetrician? pornographic postal worker? orgiastic orthodontist? randy rock quarry foreman? whorish whore? badonka-donked bonobo? prostitute-type person? lascivious director of human resources, accounts payable department? normally somewhat sexually repressed woman finally publicly expressing her sexuality in a socially-sanctioned-yet-simultaneously-condemned manner for one night of the year? The options are endless. Anyway, I for one find it morally offensive and indicative of deeply troubling trends in modern society that so many young women today feel compelled to dress in such a manner only once a year.

Turning over a new leaf

It is still uncertain why someone decided that tossing a fig leaf or two over your genitals makes you appear chaste. Really, it makes you look like your tastes in fashion are hopelessly out-of-date.

Well my friends, it’s been a little while since the last blog post. About 143 days, apparently. To paraphrase John Lennon somewhat loosely, life is what happens when you’re not writing blog posts, and indeed, I’ve been attempting to have a bit of a life. But really, there’s no reason I can’t still put up a post now and then. To acheive this, my secret weapon will be brevity. As they say, brevity is the soul of. Most humans nowadays are incapable of reading beyond 140 characters in one sitting anyway, so the longer posts I was writing weren’t contributing much to the world except a very slight increase in per capita rates of carpal tunnel syndrome. So as of today, you’ll be seeing mini-posts here, far more frequently than every 143 days, I guarantee it.

Father knows best

The jolly, merry life of the chimney sweep.

While humanity as a whole is making unmistakeable progress in almost every field imaginable — the number of billionaires has never been higher, the global property insurance sector is seeing continuing and healthy demand, and carbon emissions are sky-high, to name just a few successes — not everyone is happy about where we as a society are going. Life is becoming harder and harder for those who refuse to meekly join the masses of conformist drones. These strong, free-thinking, independent individuals who don’t just accept everything authority figures tell them and who refuse to be browbeaten and shamed into adopting the restrictive mores of an oppressive puritanical hegemony are finding it more and more difficult to smoke in public places. In other parts of the world, chimpanzees and toddlers alike are afforded the liberty and personal dignity to smoke to their hearts’ and lungs’ content, but meanwhile, in this part of the world, grown adults in supposedly progressive, liberal cities such as New York and Vancouver are forced into a Gandhian civil disobedience of Orwellian laws banning smoking in city parks.

These kinds of restrictive policies are often criticized as ‘paternalistic’, though I’m not sure why they don’t use the term ‘maternalistic’ instead. If you think about it, all those stories about some kid being forced by an old-school parent to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes or something like that in order to cleverly teach them a lesson about how smoking is bad involve fathers, not mothers. Mothers are never implicated in these tales as being those who decided that prescribing smoking would be a good way to keep a child from smoking. In any case, paternalism is about The Man (or The Woman, in the case of maternalism) telling you you can’t do something because it’s bad for you. But what The Man just doesn’t seem to get is that sometimes stuff that’s bad for you is fun. Some people do understand that, though, and that’s why they seek out lush, verdant parks full of children playing in the fresh air in which to smoke, and why they search for well-peopled street intersections so they can have someone to triumphantly and incessantly rev their bad-ass Harleys at or pump their highly-pimped car stereos at, and why they hunt out the most pristine, ecologically sensitive areas to tear through on their ATVs. There is risk and peril involved in all this, no doubt, but that doesn’t scare these folks off — they are willing to make even the most profound sacrifices of their surroundings in order to enjoy themselves. These people are adventurers and pioneers — much like extreme-sports enthusiasts who laugh at the danger and intrepidly take it upon themselves to create employment and a sense of purpose for so many Sherpas, filmmakers, search-and-rescue teams, advertisers for energy drink companies, and organizers of motivational speaking tours — and much like the pioneers and discoverers of the New World who boldly ventured into the unknown and civilized the heathen lands for lucrative economic exploitation with only occasional use of incessant military campaigns and genocide.

It might occur to you, though, that a ban on smoking in parks needn’t be motivated by paternalism at all. To pick an everyday example, while some people might find that gargling toxic waste and spitting it into the municipal water supply is enjoyable and relaxing, a law prohibiting such gargling and spitting might not be motivated by a paternalistic desire to protect toxic waste garglers so much as by a desire to prevent dumping of toxic waste into the water supply. Similarly, a ban on smoking in parks doesn’t necessarily stem from a paternalistic desire to stop smokers from smoking — one could cogently argue that the primary goal is to reduce non-smokers’ exposure to second-hand smoke. But that argument is boring, so we should instead be outraged that Big Government is again treading upon the rights of the oppressed smoker.

Obviously these crusaders for health, safety, conservation, and other lame things are killjoys. Have these grim-faced busybodies never known the rush that you get when exhaling cigarette smoke in someone’s face, that you feel when texting while driving, that you experience while torquing your four-wheeler through a patch of rare wildflowers, that you get while firing your AK-47 into the air during a wedding celebration or New Year’s celebration and accidentally killing someone? Have they never known the sheer delight and ecstasy of dying slowly from emphysema or lung cancer while receiving health care subsidized in part by non-smoking chumps?

While on the topic of cancer, cancer gets a bad rap these days, but dig beneath the surface of this issue and you’ll find some controversial and confusing points to consider. Consider the case of chimney sweep’s carcinoma, a cancer of the scrotum that affected many young chimney sweeps. I’m no oncologist, but I’ve seen Mary Poppins, and I recall distinctly that chimney sweeps were a very jolly, rollicking bunch who showed no signs of discomfort resulting from being compelled to work as child labourers in horrendously inhumane conditions. Clearly, Disney’s portrayal of the chimney sweep lifestyle raises serious doubts as to the effects of carcinomas. A second point that might also lead one to question whether cancer is all that bad is the existence of the charitable organization Cops for Cancer. Seriously, if cancer is really so bad, why is there a prominent advocacy group advocating for cancer? Now, if there were a charity called Cops Against Cancer, it would be easier to believe that cancer might actually be a bad thing. But don’t get me wrong: the point here isn’t to say that cancer isn’t bad, it’s merely to say that it’s obviously a confusing issue.

But say we accept that perhaps some people could smoke a bit less, eat a bit healthier, drive a bit more safely, and make other changes that, implausible as it sounds, would somehow allow them to retain a tolerable level of quality of life while reducing harmful short-term or long-term impacts on others. Fine, but other than legislation and enforcement, what approaches could public health officials take to encourage members of the public to make such behavioural changes? Are there any more informal approaches they could take? It turns out the answer is yes. Rather than simply exerting legal pressure on individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles, public health officials could take advantage of social pressures and cultural norms to help people to change their habits. For example, nowadays when kids taunt each other with zingers like “Yo mama’s so fat she gets a group discount” or “Yo mama’s so fat it takes her a long time to floss ’cause she’s got baleen instead of regular teeth like a normal-sized human”, it’s all obviously such hyperbolic, good-natured, and well-intentioned mother-insulting that the experience is brushed off and no one really learns much from it except how to hone their insulting techniques. However, if the schoolyard taunts were more accurate, such as “Yo mama’s so fat she suffers from type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and angina, and she is likely perceived by many persons in our culture as being relatively sexually unattractive due to her body shape”, kids might start to get the message that obesity has been shown to be associated with various morbidities and can be largely controlled or avoided through a broad set of living habits that are compatible with a diverse range of lifestyle choices.

Predictions for the 41st Canadian General Election

This ancient Roman coin depicts a voter casting his ballot. Any resemblance to a person throwing some piece of crap in the garbage is purely coincidental.

Even some of the boldest political pundits won’t risk tarnishing their fragile facades of authoritativeness by making clear and verifiable predictions of the outcome of the upcoming election. I, however, have the integrity and courage to put my hard-earned public reputation on the line, as should any self-respecting anonymous blogger. Here, then, are my predictions for election night on Monday. You can hold me to them:

The leaders of the political parties will state that “the people have spoken” (verbatim). The leader of the party that wins the most seats will proclaim that “Canadians have given us a clear mandate to blah blah blah” (probably not verbatim, but it would save us all a lot of time if it were). At some point, he (I’m also predicting that the leader of the party that wins the most seats will be male) will also say that they “won” the election. All of the leaders, except for Gilles Duceppe, will say something about “from coast, to coast, to coast”. Stephen Harper will say “God bless Canada”. Everyone will say something about our great democracy and will offer grudging and false congratulations to their opponents. Cheesy rock music will be played as each leader takes to their respective stages.

None of the leaders will say that people have “voted for change”, unless we’re very lucky or they’re being ironic. Actually no, there’s a chance Elizabeth May might get a chance to speak those words in a serious vein. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will not say “we have been given a very ambiguous mandate by 39 percent of registered voters who bothered to show up at the polls”. He will not say “the overwhelming majority of registered voters who bothered to vote in this election voted for parties other than mine, and that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable about assuming the role of Prime Minister”. He will not say “under the hokey rules of our democracy, we have managed to squeak out another plurality of seats”. He won’t say “it’s unclear how many seats the other parties would have received if our Parliament were elected by some form of proportional representation”, and he won’t say “don’t you think it’s kind of funny that some people think democracy means that ‘the majority rules?’” And finally, he will not say “on behalf of myself and my party, I would like to apologize for any of our poor behaviour during this campaign”. These are my predictions, and I stand by them.

The media — a royal pain in the arse

Kate Middleton has a reputation for a fine fashion sense, but if she were ever unlucky enough to get into an haute couture showdown with Elizabeth I, poor Kate would be sent home crying.

I know you’ve all been wondering what the reason has been for my long absence from this blog lately. Yes? Fine, I’ll take that sound of crickets chirping in the distance as a yes. The real reason for my absence is a dramatic loss of appetite for sitting in front of a computer monitor for hours on end, but why don’t we say instead that I’ve recently become very engrossed in current events. The world around us has been churning and boiling with change and possibility, with political upheaval and economic tumult, and let’s not forget the social, geological, atmospheric, and subatomic upheavals and tumult. (I’m not just making this stuff up – it’s all there in the news.) And while things here in Canada are slightly more stable than in Syria or the Congo, for example, change is still the order of the day. We are just days away from a federal election, one where the results will affect the daily lives of Canadians for years to come. The popular media are caught up in the whirlwind of excitement, devoting almost as much coverage to the key issues and developments of the electoral campaign as they devote to what promises to be a most lovely wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The priorities of the media are a clear indication of the prevalence of puerility in our society, the ubiquity of vacuity and the way-too-freaking-muchness of dumb-assedness. At a crucial moment for our democracy, when citizens need to be engaging in the political discourses that will shape our country, attention instead turns to a trashy tabloid obsession over the wedding of a man who was born into obscene privilege and a woman who is interested in partaking of obscene privilege. It is at moments like this that the fickle and superficial nature of the media becomes glaringly obvious. Isn’t it obvious that the furor over the royal wedding is just a frothy distraction from the things that really matter? As evidence: as the wedding draws nearer, it’s becoming harder and harder to find any in-depth articles discussing Charlie Sheen, Snooki, Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga. While we stare, addled and hypnotized, at the gleaming royal faces, we miss the crucial updates on Obama’s birth certificate and Paris Hilton’s stalker. And these misplaced priorities are nothing new – I swear it’s been years since I’ve seen any decent analysis pieces on Amy Winehouse.

Some people place the blame on the popular media for perversely privileging bubble-headed stories on celebrities and their fascinating lifestyles, but this simplistic perspective ignores the reality that the media are answering a demand that’s already there. People are hungry for detailed, comprehensive, hard-hitting coverage of Kate’s purse and William’s choice of attire. In fairness, though, many people are not so one-dimensional in their interests. They keep abreast of the issues they’re passionate about, staying informed and engaged in discussions with their neighbours and the larger community. And if there are any profound developments with regard to these issues – for example, if their favourite hockey team loses an important game in the playoffs – then many of these passionate citizens are prepared to take to the streets and riot to show their commitment to bringing about positive social change, even if that change is restricted to the composition of the starting lineup of a particular hockey team.

One of the things that distinguishes countries like Canada from countries like Yemen is that our greatest displays of public discontent are triggered by dissatisfaction over results of sporting events rather than dissatisfaction over how the country is governed. At political demonstrations in Canada, if there weren’t a few staunch practitioners of Black Bloc tactics, or at least a few agents provocateurs (not to be confused with these kinds of agents provocateurs), there would be hardly anything interesting for the media to report. Not so with our sport-related riots – in that department, we can hold our own with the best.

One observation from all of this is that in addition to caring about random celebrities and royalty, people in this country care deeply about sports. But we don’t necessarily need to take a party-pooper perspective like Noam Chomsky does that a fascination with events in the sporting arena is simply a distraction from events of real import, the events of the political arena. Instead, we should be looking for a way to unite these two arenas. How can we bring the ready-to-rampage-through-the streets dedication of sports fans to the world of Canadian politics? I have some thoughts on this, but I leave this question for another time.

For now, we must focus all of our energies on surviving the next few days of monarchic matrimoniality. You see, the trouble with this whole royal wedding circus is that it’s not just a harmless diversion, as some would have us believe, a light, fluffy bit of trifling fun and entertainment for the tired masses. It’s far from harmless – even if we ignore the huge costs of hosting the wedding, let alone sustaining the monarchy, there is the troubling fact that with every new piece of fawning, gushing media coverage, dozens of innocent non-fans of the monarchy are forced to saw their own skulls open and cut out their brains in a desperate attempt to escape the onslaught of remarkably vomit-inducing news stories about the royal couple. Sadly, though, the global chundering rate has nevertheless spiked alarmingly and will not subside for some days yet. Still, I’ve got nothing personal against William and Kate – I wish them all the best. All I ask is that they have a long and happy marriage, bear no children, and execute anyone else who has any trace whatsoever of a royal bloodline. I don’t want our country to ever have to go through this royal wedding business ever again.

Suffrage of fools

Molson's was going for the über-Canadian schtick long before the "I am Canadian" guy came on the scene.

It’s that time of the month once again, when the entire population of the world excitedly and eagerly focuses pretty much none of their attention on Canada: it’s time for another Canadian federal election. Well, you might be led to believe elections are a monthly event here, judging from the drama queen complaining and PMSing across the land, but remember, the last election was actually held in October of 2008. Yes, there was also one in 2006, and another in 2004, but, come on, is it really that much of a hassle to mark an ‘X’ on a small piece of paper as frequently as once every couple of years? If you answered ‘yes’ to that question, then I suggest you stay home on voting day to avoid overstressing your delicate system with the unbearable effort of moving the end of a pencil across the surface of a piece of paper, and I further recommend that you eliminate your voting-related anxiety altogether by rescinding your right to vote.

Around 40 percent of eligible Canadian voters don’t bother to vote anyway, so it would be a bit strange if they objected to losing their voting rights. Why hang on to a right you have no interest in exercising? It’s time to clean out all the clutter of your unwanted, dusty, old, unfashionable democratic rights and civil liberties and haul them to the curb for pick-up. Seriously, if you would object to losing your right to vote, yet you choose not to vote, the question that arises is: wtf?

Some of those who choose not to vote do so because they are too busy working on smashing the state. It’s true that almost nothing frightens the establishment as much as a tiny, disorganized group of frustrated youth wearing bandanas and very occasionally committing media-friendly acts of petty vandalism in the midst of large peaceful demonstrations and thereby considerately stimulating demand for the suffering plate glass manufacturing industry as well as for crowd control and security consultants — but while all this sends the power elites into panics, the idea of young people actually voting scares them even more. Currently, the major political parties focus a lot of energy on mobilizing the senior vote, sending volunteers to nursing homes and bingo halls across the land. That’s because seniors happen to vote. The average 70 year-old is twice as likely as the average 20 year-old to bother to have a say in who forms the government, and some politicians like it that way (hint: this tends not to favour more progressive politicians).

In the last election, the turnout for voters aged 18 to 20 was 35.6 percent, while the turnout for voters aged 65 to 74 was 68.4 percent. The numbers go as low as 13.4 percent for young voters in Nunavut, and as high as 80.6 percent for voters of retirement age in Saskatchewan. The sad thing is, those numbers were a major improvement for youth: in 2000, about 25 percent of eligible 18 to 24 year-olds in Canada voted. If young people were to suddenly start voting in large numbers, not only would the make-up of Parliament (not the ’70s funk band, by the way) change dramatically, but also, political strategists would be flummoxed. Where to send the get-out-the-vote volunteers now? Where do kids these days hang out anyway? The disco? the drive-in movie theatre? the soda shop? The ensuing political chaos would make the perfect breeding ground for a revolution.

Some people fear that to cast a vote is to endorse the current system of governance. But, contrary to the contentions of many armchair political pundits/social theorists/ganja connoisseurs, it’s not like you get more power to change the political system by not participating in it. Believe it or not, you can vote and criticize the system too, contrary to the not-very-wise words of George Carlin. He said: “On election day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain’, but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain.” In fairness, Carlin was a comedian, not a logician, so we can forgive his errors in reasoning. If I happen to vote a politician into office and they screw things up, I have a right to complain because that politician isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. Presumably, I didn’t elect them on a mandate to screw things up. Meanwhile, if enough non-voter types who share Carlin’s political values actually voted, there would be a few more slightly-less-dishonest, slightly-less-incompetent politicians running the show. It might sound like a sad compromise, but it does make a difference. If someone offers you a choice between a Stephen Harper and a Hitler, rather than abstaining from voting because your ideal candidate isn’t on the ballot, or because you don’t want to perpetuate the political system or whatnot, clearly, you should opt for the lesser of two evils – Harper, in this case. (See how free of bias I am – I just defended Harper.)

Some people don’t bother voting because “governments don’t rule the world, corporations do”. However, it’s not true quite yet that corporations rule the world, so if that kind of world is something you would prefer to avoid, it makes sense to use all means at your disposal to prevent it, one of which happens to be the ability to influence who forms the government. But maybe voting still seems pointless because your one lonely little vote (assuming you’re not committing voter fraud) won’t change the overall numbers very much. Yep, that is probably true, and that’s why most election campaigns are not aimed exclusively at you personally, but instead, at large numbers of people across various sectors of society. Most of the time, one little individual doesn’t count for much, so, if you happen to know ahead of time exactly how many people are going to vote and how they are going to vote, then you can decide whether to make the trip to the polling station or not. But make sure your predictions of the future are perfectly accurate – sometimes just a few votes make the difference. In Nova Scotia’s 1999 general election, the electoral district of Shelburne ended up being decided by a single vote – cast by the returning officer as a tie-breaker. There’s a good chance a few people were kicking themselves afterward that they didn’t cast a vote that day.

Don’t get me wrong, though – our political system is pretty terrible. Of democracy, Winston Churchill said it is “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” That may be true, but Churchill was kind of downplaying just how much democracy sucks. In monarchies and dictatorships, power is concentrated in the hands of a few, who may possibly be selfish idiots; in democracies, power is distributed among the many, a very large number of whom definitely are selfish idiots. In fact, Churchill also said “the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Again, he was sugar-coating reality: it takes a lot less than five minutes of conversation with the average voter to lose your enthusiasm for democracy. It’s not just the rules of the game that are dumb, it’s the players too. Look at our electoral system — not only is it a ridiculous, dysfunctional piece of turd, metaphorically speaking, but most voters here (those who bother to vote, that is) apparently like it that way. There have been several recent attempts across Canada – in BC, Ontario, and PEI – to introduce proportional representation, and voters rejected every proposal. As a quick example of how our present electoral system ‘functions’: in the 2008 federal election, the Green Party received zero seats in return for about 940,000 votes, while the Conservatives received 27 seats in Alberta in return for about 813,000 votes. If you’re a Conservative supporter, maybe you like the sounds of that kind of math – but don’t forget, in 1993, the Progressive Conservatives got 16 percent of the popular vote, but ended up with just two seats out of 295.

Perhaps you’ve accepted these realities and you understand that casting a vote in our decrepit, embarrassing joke of an electoral system is at least a smarter choice than not casting a vote. Now it’s time to choose who to vote for. There is a wide range of important criteria voters use in evaluating candidates. Among other reasons, people will choose a particular candidate because the candidate belongs to the party their parents always voted for, he used to be a famous actor, she is a porn star, he is a total douchebag but is extremely rich, and so on. When considering who should become Prime Minister, voters may choose not to support a particular party because the leader isn’t charismatic enough or not ‘prime ministerial’ enough. Ok, what the hell is that supposed to mean anyway? What makes someone prime ministerial – alcoholism? holding séances? shagging Barbara Streisand? It doesn’t matter to me if a candidate has the oratorical skills and statesmanship of a school janitor – what I care about is how they’re going to govern. I don’t really care if they’ve got the easygoing charm, hypnotic charisma, and raw sex appeal of a Stephen Harper, as long as they don’t have the policies of a Stephen Harper. If a candidate has the most progressive policies, they’ve got my vote, whether or not they also happen to be a porn star. And if I do happen to be considering voting for a porn star, then that pretty much means I must have scratched Stephen Harper off my list by that point, as far as I’m aware.

It’s clear that the last thing we need now is a campaign aimed at bringing more eligible voters to the polls on voting day. It’s a disturbing fact that so many Canadians don’t care enough about the political process to inform themselves and vote, but it’s an even more disturbing fact that so many Canadians don’t care enough to inform themselves but think it’s ok to vote anyway. Let’s face facts: educating millions of non-voting Canadians and getting them deeply engaged in the political process is an overwhelming, basically impossible task. Let’s focus on the much more achievable goal of discouraging as many uninformed people as possible from voting.

The secret of sucks-ass

Frankly, I have no idea what the hell is supposed to be going on in this painting by Arnold Böcklin.

The years go by so fast, don’t they? In fact, study after study indicates that, on average, they pass at the rate of one per year, and they show no sign of slowing. These are the thoughts that begin to preoccupy you when you get to a certain age. Have I lived well? Have I fulfilled my dreams? How much time do I have left? Is there any way to massage the data so I can get less discouraging answers to the above questions?

The reality is, it’s hard, boring work trying to live a successful life, and that’s why it’s often preferable to attempt to bask in the fast-fading glory of your past successes, if you happen to have any. In my case, I think back to my youth and those summer days spent by the pool. I was a strapping young lad and quite the sportsman. It really was a sight to behold – my butterfly stroke was strong, fast, and smooth, I was skilled at the backstroke, I was a masterful breaststroker — but I really shone in the freestyle events. I was really in my element then. I can still remember springing out powerfully and diving in, the sudden plunging entry, and then stroking vigorously down the channel, spearing rapidly and smoothly down the length and reaching the end and then suddenly flipping over, and charging furiously back down to the other end, coming up on the leader from behind, my legs kicking and thundering and arms churning and flying, thrusting me forward ever faster and the excited cheers and screams echoing in my ears as I closed in on another triumphant finish: “Go! Go! Harder! Yes!” I was not so bad at swimming either. Regarding the so-called butterfly I referred to above, I unfortunately had to give it up after a horrific injury and severe structural damage to municipal infrastructure. I don’t like to talk about that day. And if you’d like more details about the butterfly stroke, I’m afraid it would be indiscreet to try to describe it here. After all, the last thing someone expects to find when they go on the internet is something of questionable taste.

I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking of such glories at the moment. As Tennyson wrote, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” As he also wrote, “By the Summer a young man gets insanely horny.” I cannot reprint here what he said about young men in the later part of the summer, for reasons of decency, again. Considering these facts, it’s not surprising that one of the most important questions many a young man asks is how can he find satisfaction in his carnal quests? Or at least, how can he satisfice? Satisficing is pretty much always the way to go. The answer, of course, usually involves a combination of lying, lowering one’s standards, and ingesting copious amounts of alcohol. But if the young man feels uneasy with the indignity and moral bankruptcy of that path, luckily, there is also the Scarface method. You know: first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. Makes sense, really. Keep in mind, though, while it may be fine to use that as a way to find true love and meaningful, lasting relationships, I’ve found that it’s quite misleading to use those three criteria to measure your overall success in life. I look at a man who has millions of dollars, fast cars, luxury homes, power and influence, and bevies of bikini-clad beauties partying on his yachts, and all I can do is shake my head and wipe the drool from the corner of my mouth. Is he happy? Is he really a ‘success’? It all has to do with priorities. You have to measure what really counts. I’ve constructed a Life Success Index that gives far greater weight to factors like politeness, willingness to help the elderly, avoidance of typographical errors, and maintenance of good dental hygiene, and I rank very well on the scale, thank you very much.

I disapprove of your burning that book, but I will defend to the death your right to burn it

[Anomalously serious post follows.] In a biography of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased the philosopher’s passionate commitment to free speech with the declaration: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Thanks to the power of this Enlightenment ideal, in the West, we are now lucky enough to have the freedom to express and promulgate a wide range of…

Continue reading →

Kids these days

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it would take far more than a thousand words to do justice to this portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet, paradoxically, it can also be summed up in a single word. Fittingly for a portrait of a philosopher, the viewer is left with the simplest but most profound of all questions echoing and re-echoing in his or her head: why? Some viewers will also be compelled to ask: how?

It’s hard not to worry about the younger generation today. Young people today have such easy access to so many opportunities and privileges that they don’t realize just how fortunate they really are. Granted, the majority of young people on the planet don’t have access to these privileges, but it’s the accepted convention to ignore that fact during Western-centric rants such as these. So when I look around at all the soft, spoiled, coddled little brats wallowing in amoral indulgent narcissistic hedonistic techno-nihilism, whining to their parents for more money to buy more electronics so they can organize more viral humiliation and bullying campaigns and afterwards unwind with more sexting, I can only shake my head and wish that I was young again so I too could enjoy this enviable modern coming-of-age.

But it’s only too true that kids these days don’t realize how easy they’ve got it. For your average schoolchild today, the trip to and from school is made in a cushy SUV the size of a shanty town on the outskirts of Dhaka. It’s all they’ve ever known, so it’s hard for them to imagine any different. But it wasn’t so long ago that everyone walked to school, on their own two feet, or on very rudimentary prosthetic feet. It was just normal — nobody complained, except for the complainers, and they were beaten, and that was also normal. In addition, everyone else was beaten too, and that was normal too. In general, there was a lot of beating, and that helped keep everyone in shape. Doling out a beating can require a sustained strenuous effort, and taking a beating is no picnic either — you’d be surprised how many calories you expend when you lose several units of blood. What with the constant beatings and the general popularity of involuntary calorie-restricted diets through many sectors of society, there was certainly no concern about an obesity epidemic. And it was even tougher in the neighbourhood of the legendary artist Escher, where, as he later told his eye-rolling grandkids, he had to walk between home and school, uphill both ways, literally. Growing up in the lawless chaos of these mean streets, it’s no surprise that M.C. Escher emerged as the first gangsta rapper in early 20th century Holland, before he abruptly turned his back on his roots and became a mathematically-inspired graphic artist. It’s a shame, really, since with his profound geometric imagination and his gift for mesmerizing visual puzzles and paradoxes, he could have come up with some really mind-blowing gangsta hand signs. And while on the topic, say what you want about Vanilla Ice, but it takes no small amount of dexterity to make his trademark ‘V’ hand sign.

It boggles the mind to imagine what kinds of sexual positions Escher preferred. It is quite possible that his predilections in this arena led to his untimely death, though this is simply idle conjecture. As for Vanilla Ice, it remains to be seen whether his preferences in matters of love will ultimately lead to his demise. Which brings me back to my main point: kids today need more beatings. Well, injuries, really. Whether or not they are the result of beatings is irrelevant, but it’s clear that administering beatings is one of the most direct and effective ways to increase the child injury rate. Ordinary folks and pontiffs alike will often pontificate, spittle flying and neck veins bulging, about how when they were kids, they didn’t have any namby-pamby bike helmets or hockey helmets or seat belts or enforcement of drunk driving laws or baby car seats or toys with rounded edges or laws against smoking or taboos against drinking when pregnant or restrictions against DDT use or against corporal punishment of schoolchildren or against capital punishment of schoolchildren by means of injection of DDT, and they all still turned out just fine. Sure, it’s an open question as to whether they actually turned out just fine, and sure, countless thousands of others were killed or badly injured along the way, but still, I find those objections boring, and I see a beguiling simplicity in the story that the problem with the world today is that everyone’s gotten too soft.

It makes sense, when you stop to think about it – hurting someone improves their quality of life. It’s that simple. I know some of you are still skeptical about this, but consider that no less authoritative of a philosopher than Friedrich Nietzsche espoused this viewpoint when he said “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.” And when someone with that imposing of a moustache talks, you’d best shut up and listen. For example, say you’re in a car accident, and you’re paralyzed and in a coma because you were opting not to wear a seatbelt because you were doing the Übermensch thing. Well ok, this particular case is a bit tricky to figure out, but if Nietzsche says you’re stronger after the accident, then you must be stronger. Though, I reluctantly confess, another option has also occurred to me. Perhaps the truth is a little bit more complicated: perhaps the saying should be “What does not kill me, makes me stronger, or maims me.” I guess to cover all the bases there should also be a few other options: “What does not kill me makes me stronger, or maims me, or has a neutral effect on me, or makes me feel alienated, or makes me feel like going to the fridge and getting a snack and watching TV or something.” I think that should about cover it. So all in all, it still looks like it’s a go-ahead to beat children at any opportunity. The worst-case scenario is that they’ll die, which most reasonable people will agree is an acceptable risk; but statistically speaking, the kids are far more likely to just end up a bit maimed, alienated, watching TV or something, and snacking.

The first rule of this blog

Hey buddy, why the highly elongated morphology of the viscerocranium?

The first rule of this blog is you do not talk about this blog. The second rule of this blog is you do not talk about Fight Club. It’s so annoying when people talk about Fight Club all the time. There are tons of other rules, but one of the most important is that you do not post filler material. At no time may the author sit down and dash off a bunch of half-assed jokes and call that a blog post. For example, it is not permitted to post a list of jokes such as the following:

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey buddy, why the long face?” The horse says, “Oh, things are just terrible. I’ve been unemployed for a while, and it’s really causing a lot of stress in my marriage. And of course there’s the anxiety about finances. I just don’t know what to do. I guess I’m just really depressed right now.”

A priest, a rabbi, and a Jain monk walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What is this, a joke?” The rabbi replies, “No, we’re part of a group that is working to foster inter-faith dialogue and create understanding between our communities. We just had our weekly meeting and we thought it would be nice to have a beer and unwind a bit.”

A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk walk into a bar. They’re all alcoholics, so there’s nothing funny about it. Each one sits alone and drinks silently to dull his own inner pain.

A priest, a rabbi, and a Hindu pandit walk into a bar. The priest asks the bartender, “Excuse me, can you tell me where to find the bathroom?” All of a sudden, the horse that had previously walked into the bar and had been silently brooding in the corner goes on a violent alcohol-fueled rampage and kills everyone in the bar. It’s just a senseless tragedy and it’s tough to find anything in this story to laugh about.

A priest, a rabbi, and a lawyer walk into a bar. The bartender says to them, “Oh, sorry about that. I’ve been meaning to get the contractor to remove that dangerously protruding piece of rebar for a while and it just slipped my mind. I’ll call him right away. But first, can I offer you fellows a drink on the house?” They all agree, and it seems no harm is done.

A priest, a rabbi, and a Buddhist monk were having an argument about which one of them was following the one true path. They were able to come to consensus on some key points of morality, metaphysics, and even eschatology, but ultimately they remained in disagreement regarding several fundamental issues.

A priest, a rabbi, and a blonde sprint frantically at top speed into a bar. It is a sturdy iron bar with a sharpened point that, rather surreally, is protruding from the bar where drinks are served. All three are severely injured and require immediate treatment and months of hospitalization. The priest later falls into a coma and dies of his injuries.

A capitalist, a judge, and a politician walk into a bar. A dog with three legs walks in and says, “I’m a-lookin’ for the man who shot my paw.” Afterwards, all four head to a strip club. After leaving the strip club, they all decide to go ice fishing but die for some reason and find themselves at the Pearly Gates of heaven, St. Peter waiting for them, flanked by 72 comely virgins. Marx and Napoleon are sitting inside the gates, chatting. St. Peter asks the four, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The judge says to the capitalist, “It seems this is just one long series of set-ups with no apparent punchline. This is a stupid waste of time.” One good thing that comes of it, though, is that the dog ends up finding the man who shot him in the paw and is able to hash things out with him.

A priest, a rabbi, and some other person are in a boat in the middle of a lake. The priest says, “I’m thirsty. I’m heading to shore to get something to drink.” He walks across the water to the shore, drinks some fresh milk out of a cow’s udder, turns a bright neon purple, transforms into a giant palm tree with enormous shark teeth and flies off into the distant realms of outer space while making deafening farting noises. The rabbi turns to the other person and says, “Wow, that was really weird.”

Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Would you like a beer?” Descartes says, “I think not”. He doesn’t necessarily cease to exist, though, because the negation of the antecedent clause of a conditional proposition does not imply the negation of the conclusion.

A pony walks into a bar and asks for a beer while speaking in a hoarse, rasping voice. The bartender asks, “What’s wrong with your voice?” The pony replies, “I just have a sore throat. A troubling amount of hoarseness in the voice. Just my luck. Nothing ever goes right for me. Woe is me. That’s why I have such a long face, that and countless millenia of evolutionary selection pressures. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I can’t take it. I don’t think I can go on anymore.” He carries on in a similar fashion for quite a while, and the bartender gets pretty annoyed, but he is able to exercise some compassion and understanding and have a brief conversation with the pony, giving the pony some degree of comfort.

A priest, a rabbit, and a Buddhist monk walk into a proofreader’s office of a proofreader.

An actor in adult entertainment films who suffers from amnesia walks onto the set of a pornographic film studio, and asks, “Do I come here often?” Security staff at the site are alerted to his presence and arrive promptly to escort him from the premises. It turns out that he is not, nor has he ever been, in the employ of that particular studio.

A rabbi, an imam, and an atheist walk into a bar. These days, this kind of thing is more common than you might think, and it’s kind of lame to try to make a joke out of it.

A woman walks into a bar and asks the barman for a double entendre, so he gives it to her; that is, he provides her with a double entendre, and then the two of them have sex.

A priest and a missionary, who have differing views on some issues, are speaking with an investigative journalist. The journalist asks the priest, “What is your position on pedophilia?” The priest says, “With respect to pedophilia, personally, my own position is basically the opposite of the missionary’s position… oh wait, those words were chosen poorly and could be an easy target for parody in the popular media. Let me rephrase my answer in a setting that is less obviously contrived to elicit a pun.”

A coal miner walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve minors.” The miner then produces an identification card and the bartender apologizes profusely for the misunderstanding, and they both have a bit of a laugh about it.

How many Dadaists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Seven: two to do the screwing, and five to undertake the process of constructing a light bulb sufficiently large and structurally sound for two people to screw inside of.

A person walks into a situation. Something unexpected and incongruous occurs and it all makes for a pleasant bit of humour.

A blonde and a Nobel prize winner walks into a bar and asks for a drink. No, there are no grammatical errors in that sentence — there’s only one person — the blonde is the Nobel prize winner. Any initial misunderstanding of that derives largely from the offensive cliché that all women with blonde hair are unintelligent, though the somewhat archaic phrasing of the sentence does also play a role.

The war against violence

Though violence was only a minor social problem before violent movies and video games emerged late in the 20th century, there were occasionally moderately serious incidents throughout earlier human history. Some of these incidents are recounted in the Bible, while others actually happened. Above is a manuscript illustration from the 14th century depicting the Biblical story of the ‘massacre of the innocents’. From the illustration, it appears that the motive for the alleged killings was the soldiers’ jealousy of the victims’ amazing abs and precociously adult-like body proportions.

In so many ways, the world today is probably unrecognizably different from the world of even the previous generation, but in one profound way, it is essentially the same. We still carry with us the same problem that has plagued humans for countless centuries – the problem of violence. Violence: the language of violence, the imagery of violence, and the violence of violence are all around us. We ignore this issue at our peril. We must open our eyes, we must open our hearts and minds, and we must take action. As a society, we all need to join hands and work together. We need to focus our anger and hatred and smash and tear the violence right out of our society. We need to chainsaw the very limbs of violence apart and bludgeon them to a crushed, bloody pulp with our righteous sledgehammer of peace and understanding. We need to bite savagely at the neck of violence as it screams and thrashes for mercy, and then we need to frantically and viciously mangle it with our battleaxe of love and unity and hurl it into the boiling lava of kindness until it finally dies a horrible and agonizing death. And even after it’s finally dead, we need to extract its lifeless remains from the lava and stomp spitefully on its charred, tattered corpse with our steel-toed boots of forgiveness and acceptance and spit on it with a spirit of open-hearted compassion while shouting and firing our AK-47s of cosmic enlightenment into the air.

That’s all very well and good to say, but it’s another thing to actually do something. How do we begin? We begin by finding the source. Some commentators argue that computer games make up the most pervasive and powerful sources of violent imagery today. Young, impressionable players sit for hour after hour, immersing themselves in worlds of glorified violence, repeatedly performing acts of incredible brutality and desensitizing themselves to the reality of what violence really is. With every new act of destruction and injury in these vividly drawn virtual worlds, young people who don’t yet have the life experience to fully distinguish between fantasy and reality relentlessly train their neural pathways to accept violence, and eventually, to crave it and lust after it, just like the addict jonesing for his/her crack, and occasionally, someone else’s crack, but who are we to judge others’ sexual preferences?

Simply put, violent games train and breed violent, aggressive behaviour. Games such as Grand Theft Auto have borne much of the brunt of these criticisms, but the truth is that this phenomenon of video games molding young minds in questionable and even dangerous ways is not a new trend. Though government agencies suppressed the story in the media, the late ’80s saw many young people joining in a disturbing underground movement. Disaffected youths roamed the desolate suburban wastelands at night. The amoral young thugs in many ways resembled those of A Clockwork Orange, but they didn’t wear bowler hats and garish eye makeup. Instead, they wore clichéd old plumbers’ outfits and bushy moustaches and ran through the streets, calling it the ‘Mushroom Kingdom’, bouncing against bricks that popped out coins, and purportedly looking for something, probably a dangerous hallucinogen cut with drain cleaner, which they called ‘Princess Toadstool’. Earlier in the ’80s, the craze was for nihilistic hooligans to transform themselves into large round yellow objects and zip through mazes of dystopic urban alleyways eating dots while attempting to avoid ghosts. And with the advent of dramatically popular games for the iPhone and other smartphones, these trends have taken a more disturbing turn. Copycatting delinquents have been taking on the forms of cute yet irate ball-shaped birds and slingshotting themselves at strange, ramshackle structures housing evil pigs.

It is time to take action against these insidious forces slowly eroding our society from within. We need to look deeper and search inside of ourselves, through our hidden and secret places, through the mysterious and forbidden crevices of our bodies, to find out why these kinds of cheap, tawdry, violent entertainment are so popular. Then, we need to hunt down the purveyors of these games and kill them. With kindness, mind you, but still, make no mistake, we must kill them. There are of course many logistical and technical problems that need to be solved in order to develop a truly effective means of killing with kindness, but I firmly believe that we as a society are fully capable of this if we only unleash our indomitable can-do spirit and our relentless drive for excellence and innovation.

The true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aghagower_St_Patrick_Statue_2007_08_12.jpg

On top of all his other virtues, St. Patrick apparently looked kind of like Gandalf.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all. I’ll keep this post short so you can get back to your revelry and shenanigans, knocking back pints cheerily tinted with the traditional ethyl – [4 – [ [4 – [ethyl -[(3 – sulfophenyl) methyl] amino] phenyl] – (4 – hydroxy – 2 – sulfophenyl) methylidene] – 1 – cyclohexa – 2, 5 – dienylidene] – [(3 – sulfophenyl) methyl] azanium and enjoying good crack. But as you celebrate, systematically inducing macrovesicular steatosis in your liver and merrily assaulting your fellow alcohol abusers, it may slightly increase your rate of metabolization of toxins to reflect on why we honour St. Patrick’s Day.

Who was St. Patrick? Who was this figure, so shrouded in myth and mystery, so deeply connected with the Irish identity and so symbolic of the Emerald Isle and its friendly folk? St. Patrick was born Mick Kelly Seamus Donovan Paddy Donegan Brannagh O’Dooley O’Flannigan Donnchadh Maeleachlainn Toirdhealbhach Ánrothán Oilleóg Robhartachbairrfhionn Xiao-Desjardins circa 387 A.D. in Britain, but his friends just called him Finnegan Fergus Uallgarg Cearnaigh Muldoon. When he was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. Years later, he escaped back to Britain and then entered the church. When later he returned to Ireland as a bishop, he began baptizing and converting thousands of Irish from their unclean pagan idolatries. But how did a simple churchman become so revered to the twinkly-eyed, stationary-arms-dancing people of Eire?

The fact of the matter is that St. Patrick was not just a simple churchman. He was much more than that: for one, he conceived and directly oversaw the process that led to the complete extirpation of all species of snakes from Ireland. But there is more: he opened dozens of twee, touristy, faux-traditional pubs across the old country. He formulated, out of ingredients harvested from peat bogs and potato fields, the same FD&C Green No. 3 food dye the Irish use today in all their meals. He founded a non-governmental organization that provided micro-loans programs targeted to destitute and dispossessed leprechauns, who then had the resources to start small home-based footwear manufacturing businesses and thereafter hide their earnings of gold in pots at ends of rainbows. Through his piety and prayer, he bestowed upon each and every Irishman the gifts of blarney, fiddle-playing, alcohol dependency, vulnerability to stereotyping, and bumper stickers inducing others to kiss them because of their national heritage. He single-handedly invented the Aran sweater, jigs and reels, limericks, tin whistles, shamrocks, the Irish Rovers, and magically delicious Lucky Charms™ cereal, and still found time to be a champion bare-knuckle boxer, all while getting legless over a few Guinness every eve. No, this was no simple churchman — this man truly was, and remains, Ireland itself. And yet, despite his tireless nation-building, his well-earned iconic status, and the number of miracles he performed, St. Patrick has never been formally canonized. To add insult to injury, Pope John Paul II never made any effort to speed up the process, despite Sinéad O’Connor’s jesting, playful public gestures of goodwill.

The beauty of tradition

The majestic, proud toreador, still revered by some, but now misunderstood by many who fail to grasp the key point that the tradition of bullfighting is an integral part of Spanish culture and must be protected against the homogenizing forces of globalization and westernization in order to honour the intrinsic value of cultural diversity, much as the caste system of India and the feudal system of Europe must be preserved.

Hey everybody. It’s been a bit of a tough month for me so far and I could really use some support. I’ve really been struggling with this new program I’m on. Frankly, I don’t know if this Oil of Olay is working. It’s supposed to make your skin all smooth and silky, but no, nothing. I’m willing to put up with a few boils, fine, but I’m feeling a bit uneasy about the liver damage. Maybe I’m just not using enough? But I’m already drinking like a gallon of this crap a day, and even that is killing me. Well, I suppose it is true what they say, one must suffer to be beautiful.

Oil of Olay has quite a colourful history. Before it became a popular beauty product in the mid-20th century, it was a blend of oils reverently prepared in the ancient method by expert artisans of the Old World, and was known as Oil of ¡Olé! Matadors lovingly applied the oil in great deluging draughts to the backs of their bulls, the better to glide smoothly off of their silky, glistening hides as they charged and sloshed through the oil-drenched bullring, before lovingly slowly stabbing them to death. The oil itself was carefully pressed in the same way it had been for centuries, using only the finest hydrogenated long-chain esters with no more than 40 ppm total organo-chlorines. This ancient practice was kept alive and passed on from father to prostitute and so on through a rich oral tradition. Then, the dawn of the modern era wiped out all of these idyllic customs in one swift wiping motion. Suddenly, there were new gods to worship. The gods of efficiency, the gods of profit, the gods of economic expansion. Huge new gleaming factories were constructed with row upon towering row of things that one would imagine are in factories that make Oil of Olay, as well as quite a few machines with lots of intricate gearing and probably some oscilloscope-type readouts. The wise, noble keepers of the old ways were beaten to death to protect the new monopoly. Entire villages were razed to the ground to make room for immense animal testing laboratories. Indigenous peoples were cast out of their homelands and into shark-infested volcanoes to make room for more animal testing laboratories. Helpless grandmothers were cast out into the streets for no particular reason. Innocent sacks full of babies at security checkpoints were bayonetted by sadistic and anachronistic soldiers. Entire oceans were transformed into seething, roiling pools of corrosive acid. Forest upon forest was covered up with quadrillions of tons of concrete to make avant-garde sculptures. More helpless grandmothers were cast out into distant regions of outer space and/or annihilated with powerful death rays and bayonetted and thrown into vats of acid thereafter. Inconceivably dense neutron stars were mercilessly smashed against the defenseless skulls of whistle-blowers. But all that sacrifice was worth it – Oil of Olay’s profits shot up like a bullet shot from some crazy mega-turbo-charged supergun designed by a mad freakish genius, screaming out into the stratosphere and shrieking far beyond into distant galaxies in unimaginably insane alternate dimensions while white-hot lightning-fast extreme-shredding heavy metal guitar licks wailed and exploded into eternal hellfire. And the unbelievable wealth has trickled down, off the sweaty buttocks of the corporate fat cats and onto the greedy tongues of the corrupt political elite. Today, thanks to Oil of Olay, everyone, both the insanely rich and the ridiculously rich alike can now revel in glorious lives of incredible debauchery, wiping their anuses on magical golden flaming kittens, snacking on living, breathing runway models made of flaming solid gold, and hurtling through deep space at light speed while comfortably embedded in enormous erotic golden electrified pomegranate/flamingo hybrids, that happen to be aflame.

Maintaining flexibility through tough economic times

It’s a bit tricky to find images of spandex that are in the public domain. Above is one such image. I’ll be quite honest, though -- it really wasn’t the raciest picture I found when I googled “spandex”.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: may I humbly submit the suggestion that by many measures, it may conceivably be arguable that perhaps one might postulate that some parts of the globe haven’t completely climbed out of recession yet. But, reeling from the shock of this ruthlessly deployed ordnance of truth, and doing our best to digest this undiluted straight talk, still, we must ask: what can we as individuals do when the economy takes a beating? The common, glib advice is that we should all ‘tighten our belts’ when a recession hits, but obviously that would be completely unnecessary if we just wore spandex all the time. Imagine: both in times of high production and low production, our pants fit equally well. If a recession escalates into a full-blown suicidal depression, it’s conceivable that our pants could get just a bit saggy, but odds are good that the waistband would probably be snug enough that our pants would stay on. In a worst-case scenario, we can always throw on a pair of suspenders to help secure our limp lycra pantaloons. I know what you’re thinking, though: do I even need to wear pants in the first place? Yes, you do. Despite Jeffersonian claims about how “all men are created equal”, or more modern claims that go so far as to extend equality to those who identify as being of more exotic or arcane genders – even the female gender – the option to go pants-less remains the exclusive province of the rich. Some people would say that’s because the rich are always screwing you anyway, but I personally find those jokes offensive and not worthy of repeating, even in a self-contradictory sentence, and furthermore they don’t explain why everyone shouldn’t be pants-less.

And what happens when the economy really goes gangbusters? Again, the belt sartorial option doesn’t give us that much room to maneuver. Spandex wins again — as we continually ramp up our eating schedules and ratchet up our chowing intensities and our guts expand to a pleasingly enormous girth, the woven elastic fibres of our spandex clothing are able to expand to almost 500% of their unstressed length. It’s because of these virtues that spandex clothing has become by far the most popular kind of clothing in regions with volatile economies. Where an economy is heavily based on resource extraction or production, and hence vulnerable to unstable commodity prices and the consequent cycles of boom and bust, the entire populace tends to dress almost exclusively in garments fashioned of the stretchy fibre. This is the first thing to strike most visitors who have headed off to a remote logging camp, mining camp, or offshore oil drilling platform. While images in the popular media condition us to expect rugged, rough-hewn, macho, blue-collar workers dressed in dirty coveralls, cussing, spitting, engaged in drunken brawling and beer-bottle smashing, grunting and stinking of rancid vomit and urine and bile and furiously humping wild mountain goats while bellowing out ancient Norse battle cries into the shrieking winds and the endless chasms and spires of cold, unforgiving stone, in fact, those traveling to these places are often surprised to meet clean-cut, erudite, soft-spoken, urbane pansies prancing about in American Apparel leotards, giving each other oil massages, and making love to docile domesticated mountain goats. This unexpected discovery is easily explained by the fact that most visitors to remote work camps have a poor sense of direction and tend to end up at art openings in very hip neighbourhoods in cities of the Pacific Northwest.

The future and the Tesla coupling

The fascinating genius Nikola Tesla relaxing with Theoria Philosophiæ Naturalis and soaking up some extreme-intensity EMFs in front of his high-frequency transformer.

If you’re like most people, and statistically speaking, you probably are, when you were young, you had grand visions of what the world would be like in the future. You dreamed of a world that seemed to you almost unimaginably different, a world where people would miraculously speak with one another at great distances through a tele-phone, would move rapidly from place to place in strange horseless carriages with mysterious round rotating rubber legs, and would place coverings fashioned of networks of fibres over their naked bodies to retain body heat. These were your dreams for the near future, and they really weren’t very imaginative. Your dreams for the more distant future, though, were more fantastic — our homes would be cleaned by robot butlers, we would zip from place to place in flying cars, our anuses would be cleaned by robot butlers, we would take erotic vacations to distant exotic planets populated by lascivious aliens, and our very bodies would become amorphous levitating protoplasmic blobs of slime and thought. And now that the future is here, what do we have to show for it? The world today is a massive disappointment. Our houses are filthy and squalid, we drive from place to place like a bunch of earth-bound chumps, and we clean our own anuses like a bunch of self-anus-cleaning chumps. Robot butlers and flying cars are nowhere to be seen — and let me tell you, it’s not because they’re behind invisibility cloaks, because those haven’t been invented either, despite the lame media hype — and scientists are making only marginal progress on turning us all into blobs of slime. And don’t even get me started on the sex tourism. What a joke that is. All we have to show for the last fifty years is a bunch of stupid internet stuff and a whole bunch of other stupid stuff. How did we get here? How did it all go so wrong?

Once we start fitting the pieces of the puzzle together, though, it all starts to become clear. It’s not hard to see why we’re in the midst of a stagnation in innovation. We’ve all become too comfortable. There’s no ambition, there’s no real motivation to change the world. Just consider the familiar saying that something or other is “the greatest thing since sliced bread”. The popularity of this expression is a clear indication that we’re setting our sights too low. Personally, I’m really not that impressed by sliced bread, and I want to live in a world where our most advanced technologies are not described by a slightly favourable comparison with a mound of flour that’s been heated for a while and then cut into separate pieces. As a society, we need to aim higher! How about making something that’s twenty, even fifty times better than sliced bread? A hundred times! How does that sound? Now we’re talking. Just imagine the cleanliness of our anuses in that kind of world. Okay, that’s good enough, you can stop imagining now. And furthermore, what’s so great about slicing? Is Apple coming out with a new version of its iPhone that’s been sliced into multiple pieces? Do they brag about how their new iPads are run through a set of heavy-duty mechanical cutters? My industry sources tell me no, but analysts report that if Apple did sell their products in sliced versions, those would be profitable niche products that would sell very well to their loyal customer base. In any case, what Apple does brag about is how their latest iPad is even thinner and therefore even easier for the schoolyard bully to snatch away from you and snap in two. This is part of their well-crafted plan to dissuade pedophiles, who make up quite a significant portion of the iPad market, from visiting schoolyards. It’s that kind of care and attention given to all the little details of the user experience that make Apple stand out from the crowd. Anyway, the point is, it’s time to move on from our adulation of sliced bread. It’s time to leave behind the primitive, gory sacrificial rites in honour of our god of sliced bread and charge screaming headlong into the future, a future that we can only hope is full of even gorier but more technologically-mediated sacrificial rites.

But there’s still more that’s wrapped up in this dastardly expression. Saying something is “the greatest thing since sliced bread” implies that sliced bread was, in its day, the greatest thing ever. This, in turn, implies that before sliced bread, there was nothing that could equal its greatness. Think about that. What kind of sad world was that, where even the most amazing, wonderful things paled in comparison to a bag of almost completely edible Wonder Bread? It’s little surprise that life expectancies were so low in the pre-sliced bread era — who would want to drag out their existence any longer than they had to in such a dreary world? But thank Providence for that crucial visionary moment of Einstein or Mandela or Tesla or whoever invented sliced bread. It went like this, no doubt: following their passionate coupling, his paramour expressed ecstatically how their intimate embraces had been ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’ and other such superlatives. Tesla then thought to himself, yes, it was rather nice, but I think I know what would be really super awesome! And so it was: after years of painful trial and error in the laboratory, and plenty of bread shrapnel embedded in the lab walls to show for it, sliced bread came to be. And the rest is history, most of it unfortunately unverifiable, but oh so tasty with a bit of peanut butter and jam.

Top ten ways to earn millions at home!!!

You too could be holding a large amount of cash in your hand right now, if you just sign up right now to work as a model in stock photos.

Big problem in the world today is poor internet content written by the bad writers or automatically compiled by special software uses popular search terms and then places these terms in cheap flights to Acapulco throughout the website. Many times people want to find solution to their problem and meet single girls tonight who will help write quality content so their blog is not a spamblog full of many inauthentic text and weight loss colloidal silver. Even Charlie Sheen or Lady Gaga know that the best prices on the new iPad are available from reputable websites with it’s real authors not practicing keyword stuffing or other naked Czech chicks allergy enlargement Portuguese water dogs. The spam sites often repost online sources of looking for sexy photos and videos and ads for cheap travel and discount hotels insurance rates in sexy Russian girls hair loss Las Vegas worldwide pharmacy make millions. We have special solution to your gambling swinger health party cruises hot housewife debt medicine online free hot home-based sex video mortgage Viagra poker online degree problem earn cash.

The miracle of the ordinary

In case you weren't aware, it is a ticketable offence to deface a traffic sign. Not only do we not endorse this kind of criminal behaviour, we wouldn't have the slightest clue how to deface a sign even if we wanted to. That said, we are not an enforcement agency and are powerless to stop anyone from consulting the FHWA's MUTCD to find the dimensions of pedestrian signs, while noting that not all pedestrian signs conform precisely to the standards stated in the Manual, and then, under cover of darkness, with a friend standing watch and a get-away plan plotted out, affixing pre-printed decals, or decals improvised from black tape, upon a pedestrian sign in a spatial configuration identical to that shown in this illustration, and doing so in an area where there is sufficiently high daytime traffic that your handiwork will receive a significant viewership before it is removed, thus triggering an avalanche of copycatting that spreads virally across the globe, from which you receive substantial glory thanks to the clear photographic evidence that you send to us so it can be posted on this site. Seriously though: if you happen to be the kind of person who might want to share the image above somewhere, like online, say, you're welcome to do so, but just make sure you give a prominent mention of and link back to this site -- that's the only compensation we request when you share material from this blog, apart from your astoundingly generous donations.

The word ‘miracle’ has been overused to the point of losing its meaning. For example, we hear the term frequently in sports media coverage, with miracle comebacks here and miracle saves there. But if these are miracles, why, then, do they lack the timeless quality of wonder we expect from true miracles? When the first two men ran a mile in under four minutes in 1954, the media then called it the ‘miracle mile’, and don’t get me wrong, it was quite an achievement, but the hype subsided, and today, even a sportswriter would first consult their handbook of hyperbolic clichés for other options rather than call that kind of performance miraculous. And marketers and advertisers have also been known to use the term a bit loosely at times. Consider Miracle Whip. I don’t want to question your gastronomic tastes or impugn your theological views, but I think it violates Occam’s razor to think that we have to invoke the powers of divine intervention to explain the existence of an emulsified mayonnaise alternative. Is this what passes for a miracle nowadays?

Back in the day, God didn’t mess around with His miracles. When the children of Israel needed to escape slavery in Egypt, Yahweh thoughtfully sent great winds upon the water through the night to part the Red Sea, allowing the chosen people to casually stroll across the seabed in their flip-flops without any need to apply sunscreen, all while lugging their beach umbrellas and coolers full of snacks and pulling their whining tots along and trying to avoid the obnoxious meatheads tossing a football around right in the middle of everything. You can’t explain that by referring to known meteorological phenomena — hurricanes and storm surges just don’t part the seas like that, and it is well-known that meatheads avoid beaches in hurricanes, primarily because such weather conditions are unflattering to the male physique. And later on, things got tough again and the people did chide with Moses for they were in an advanced state of dehydration due to the unfavourable hydrological properties of the land through which they passed, but Moses went unto a rock in Horeb and apparently smote it with his rod and water came out of it so the people could drink. I’m really not sure quite what the translators of the King James version intended with that weird and frankly disturbing innuendo, but anyway, the point is, that was another miracle, and not the half-assed sort we see nowadays.

For something to justifiably be called a miracle drug, shouldn’t it at least cure sufferers of dropsy and cleanse lepers on the spot? Should not Miracle-Gro at least provide an input-to-yield ratio comparable to that of Jesus, where he multiplied five loaves and two fishes to a quantity and quality sufficient to feed a great multitude of thousands of sophisticated consumers? Should not a miracle diet or miracle weight-loss pill render the dieter or pill-popper at least as hot as Delilah or Bathsheba? The answer to all of these questions is unnecessary, because they’re just rhetorical questions. But I long for a true worker of miracles to again walk the land, to wave his/her hand and make the infirm strong, to restore sight to the blind, to grant the deaf the power of hearing, to give the dumb the power of smartness, to allow the lame to walk away with their lameness replaced by a general coolness, sporting a rad new hairstyle, encyclopedic knowledge of obscure indie bands, and an impressively apathetic and dismissive public persona.

That said, it occurs to me that if we do not see miracles all around us, perhaps it is only because we are not looking deep enough. Perhaps the entire fabric of our everyday lives is a miracle; perhaps there is really no great divide between the seemingly celestial, grandiose miracles of the Bible and the countless tiny, mundane, agonizingly boring everyday events that make up our lives and sustain us. And that’s not all – perhaps even the most fantastic miracles are consistent with physical laws. Recall the famous miracle of Jesus walking upon the water. A great wind was blowing upon the Sea of Galilee, and the disciples were in the boat upon the water, and Jesus walked unto them across the sea. Now, a skeptic would immediately dismiss this story as superstitious nonsense, as patently hare-brained and preposterous as everything else found in every religious text in existence. But not so fast – consider the water strider. For these insects, it’s a humdrum commonplace to walk across the water, and does the secular skeptic raise an eyebrow? Not at all – even the most clueless, most moronic, most ignorant Canadian federal Minister of Science knows well that the water strider’s appendages are covered with numerous microsetae with fine nanogrooves that have resultant hydrophobic properties that allow the insect to take advantage of the molecular cohesive properties of water as described by Eulerian-Lagrangian equations.

Surely, though, Jesus’s legs were not endowed with similar super-water-repellent properties thanks to a rich covering of almost invisible tiny needle-shaped hairs with hierarchical structures of nanogrooves? The very thought is blasphemy of the worst kind. But it’s not necessary to resort to such wild conjectures about the nature and texture of Jesus’ leg hair. Rather, consider the basilisk lizard. This remarkable animal runs across the surface of the water by employing its impressive understanding of physics. During the first phase of its step, it cleverly slaps its webbed foot rapidly down onto the water and then, in a stroke of genius, rapidly strokes it in a backward motion. The large reaction forces developed through these phases of the step provide substantial support and propulsion, enough to allow it to run across the water at high speed. I contend that Jesus used the same locomotory mechanism in His famous unassisted solo sea voyage. Because translations of the Bible are notorious for their inconsistency, I have consulted the original Aramaic scrolls, as is my usual practice. The original texts clearly state that “Yea, and the Lord moved rapidly across the water, and He did smite his feet down upon the surface of the water in an extremely high-velocity downward stroke, and in His glory He did follow this with a rapid rearward stroke, thus generating support forces of great might sufficient to counteract His downward acceleration due to gravity, while also providing forward propulsion, and thus did He trouble the water.” I propose that the Lord evolved this peculiar means of locomotion over countless millenia in response to intense selection pressures. Though God has no natural predators, we are made in His image, so it should be no surprise that He can get just as annoyed as the rest of us when pestered by people making unwelcome demands on His time. When trying to simply go about His day, shopping for groceries or bringing a plague of locusts or murrain upon the Egyptians, without fail He would be accosted by autograph-seekers or hounded by paparazzi. Then, all He could do was sigh and put on His fake smile and sign and pose away. But then came countless genetic mutations with differential degrees of environmental fitness, and it wasn’t too long, in terms of geological time anyway, until there came the time that when God sensed that the omnipresent hangers-on were getting too close for comfort, He would simply drop his bag of groceries and DVD rentals, give His harrassers the finger, and dash to safety, skipping lightly across the nearest body of water, where He would then sit down with His basilisk lizard friends, having a few beers and snacking on flowers, insects, and small vertebrates, laughing and joking and just generally shooting the breeze, just hanging out and enjoying the magnificence of His creation on a fine summer’s day with a bit of Skynnyrd rising out from the open doors of the parked Camaro into the warm, lazy air.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Musket

In his later years, Dr. Seuss told a cautionary tale about the insanity of war in his Butter Battle Book. One should take his words with a grain of salt, however, considering his chequered past -- drawing advertisements for insecticide companies, working for the U.S. army, and breaking Prohibition laws -- in addition to posing fraudulently as a doctor.

Ah, the Three Musketeers. Everybody loves the Three Musketeers. Oh, sorry, I meant the Mouseketeers of the Mickey Mouse Club. Pretty much everyone hates the Three Musketeers. And why shouldn’t we? Their very name is basically false advertising. Don’t you find it a little bit odd that the Three Musketeers are portrayed as a bunch of rakish, swashbuckling fellows carrying swords? Not, say, MUSKETS, for example? Hello? Last time I checked down at the local plumbing and late Renaissance infantryman supply store, a rapier was not a musket. It all just makes me want to find those Musketeers and shove their stupid rapiers right down their smug, fictional throats. It’s all the more frustrating to me because of the metaphysical challenges I encounter when trying to shove fictional items down fictional characters’ throats, especially when those fictional items are too big to fit in the first place. The other problem I encounter is the disconnect between my desire to harm the Three Musketeers and the contradictory imperatives of the Hippocratic Oath. My warrior’s blood cools when I pause to consider the primary medical ethical principle of nonmaleficence expressed in the phrase primum non nocere — first, do no harm. I realize that one can weasel out of that by just mumbling a bit and mispronouncing a few words when one takes the oath, or one can simply take the hypocritic oath, which has become very popular among doctors of the present day – and furthermore, I’m not actually a medical doctor, so the fact is that I am morally at liberty to harm others at will – but still, I can’t help but feel some moral qualms about fatally injuring innocent and helpless heavily-armed trained killers from 17th-century France. Now, on the other hand, the Mouseketeers had no such qualms as they fired rabid mice from their muskets at the hapless Three Musketeers. The French swordsmen’s rapiers were mostly useless against the barrage of vicious flying rodents. And that’s more or less how Walt Disney created his vast entertainment empire.

Due to a range of factors, including ever-accelerating advances in the twin fields of science and engineering, muskets eventually became obsolete. However, the most significant reason muskets were consigned to the dustbin of history is because of the cringing embarrassment soldiers had to put up with when using weapons with dorky names like ‘musket’ and ‘blunderbuss’. Similar fates have befallen other weapons such as the ‘scramsax’, the ‘nzappa zap’, the ‘mangonel’, the ‘flambard’, and the ‘Mameluke sword’. The unfortunate soldiers carrying these weapons were taunted mercilessly by their laughing enemies, who used playful rhyming verse to savagely mock their assailants, asking snidely if the Cat in Hat was attacking them, snickering and chanting in a schoolyard sing-song “I do not fear your blunderbuss, your strategies are structureless. I do not fear it on the plain, I fear it not in high terrain. Your blunderbuss is slow to load, it’s pow’rless as a nematode. Its flaring muzzle is a laugh, its name shall be your epitaph.” The truth, of course, was more prosaic, as the jeering enemies learned when they were struck by high-velocity lumps of metal. The sting of the hot lead was a small price to pay, though, for a taunt well-delivered, and without exception, the blunderbuss-shot victims died happily, shaking their heads and chuckling good-naturedly to themselves about how they had been gotten the better of. They could take additional comfort that at least they hadn’t been hoist by their own petard, a weapon whose name is etymologically related to the French word for ‘fart’. War is hell, partly because of all the horror, death, and senseless destruction, and partly because of the numerous opportunities for literally mortifying embarrassment.

The miracle of life

With the touch of His divine digit, the Creator bestowed life upon the first man, and from that moment forward, God has never ceased to give humankind the finger.

Hello, friends. Do you ever wake up in the morning, and you open your eyes to the sheer beauty and magnificence of the world and you’re just completely filled with gratitude that you’re here and you’re alive? Most likely not, partly because of deep remorse over your poor choices in life, and partly because it’s hard to feel grateful when you wake up to a huge clod of dirt being pounded mightily into your slumbering face. I take full responsibility for this — I know a lot of you are dedicated followers of my product recommendations, and in retrospect, I regret giving my endorsement to the DirtPounder 2000 Alarm Clock. Not because it’s not effective — trust me, the product info sheet probably says it is — but because I’ve realized the percentages I’ve been getting from the endorsement deal are pretty weak. So, sorry about that, guys.

But really, we should always try to stay in touch with our gratitude for the miracle of life. Even when things are difficult, when we’re down, when nothing seems to go right, when we’re struggling, when we’re lost and alone, when we’re hurting, when our hearts are broken and we’ve lost the strength to go on, when we’ve fallen and been laid low, when hope has abandoned us and our dreams have forsaken us, when we’re stumbling in the darkness and even our tears have gone dry, when life is an utter steaming mound of irredeemable putrid shit so vile that even the sickest, most evil, most perverted fecal coliforms that normally greedily munch on unimaginably horrendous festering crap dumps in depraved online shock/snuff/prokaryotic films instead retch uncontrollably at its mere mention, heaving and chundering their poor nauseated little cytoplasmic guts out – even then, we should be grateful to our Maker, lest we further kindle the fire of His anger and be toasted like a marshmallow, crispy and oh-so-carcinogenic on the outside but yummy and gooey and probably carcinogenic on the inside (Jeremiah 15:14). You see, it’s like Forrest Gump said, quoting his mother: life is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get, unless you take the time to actually read the freaking card that comes inside the box that tells you what flavour each chocolate is going to be. The trick in life, I’ve learned, is when life presents you with a choice, that’s when you need to read the ‘card’ that life hands you, so to speak, and choose the best ‘chocolates’, and avoid the ones that lead to suffering and misery. I’ve found this humble bit of wisdom enormously helpful and comforting as I make my way through this maze we call life, and I very sincerely recommend it to you as well, but you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to figuring out how to do anything that doesn’t involve eating chocolate.

The world is crumbling, lol

Confusion about how precisely to define laughter can be traced as far back as Greece of the 2nd century B.C., when a sculptor, whose name is now lost to time, carved a magnificent bust of some schmuck with a freaky expression on his face and then tried to boost his artistic legitimacy by titling it the 'laughing satyr'.

The world today is awash in a sea of change. We stand at the brink of the great unknown, peering into the void as the wheel of life continues its inexorable turning and ceaseless transformation literally sweeps the land with its dispassionate, impassive, Swiffer-like Broom of Change. I’m not talking about trivialities such as the obesity epidemic, the rise in gang violence in our cities, or my lack of ability or intent to repay my creditors – I’m talking about how the way we speak and write continues to change, and unequivocally for the worse. One egregious example stands out above all others. For years now, many commentators have been watching with growing alarm and an unrelated desire to snack on nachos as an epidemic of LOLs sweeps across the land with its fearsome Broom of Death. The problem isn’t the abbreviation — no, abbreviating is fine, and has a respected pedigree going back beyond the ancient Romans. Mind you, the old-school abbreviations had a grave authority to them — compare the vacuous teenybopper tone of ‘lol’ with the stern gravitas of INRI. No, the crux of the problem is inappropriate use. While it may be appropriate to write ‘lol’ in some cases, studies have shown, or would if they were to be conducted, that well over 100% of the time when someone writes ‘lol’, they have not actually laughed out loud. To help close this gap between words and reality, I continue to advocate for new abbreviations to help us communicate with each other without constantly resorting to gross hyperbole. I also eagerly engage in conversations with others to learn from the rich diversity of perspectives on this question of language usage that may differ from mine and then gently hammer my own points home with my bloodstained Viking war hammer.

I offer you three new options to give more nuance to your written communications. Option one takes care of many cases where ‘lol’ is currently used inappropriately: ‘phci’ stands for ‘perceiving humour, chuckling inwardly’. Option two accounts for several more cases of misuse: ‘brf’ — barely registers as funny. Finally, option three will take care of the great majority of situations: ‘iptychtsoemostwitbfaiwbabsaiidsitiwfsijsiwftayamt-wsiabsawmcftwiahputpamoabbabbpabwalltrtsmbeinluthftssoDcbffun’ — ‘I perceive that your communication has the structural or expressive markers of something that was intended to be funny and it would be a bit socially awkward if I don’t say I think it was funny so I’ll just say it was funny to appease you and make the whole social interaction a bit smoother and maybe we can forget the whole incident and hopefully pick up the pieces and move on, a bit battered and bruised but perhaps a bit wiser and less likely to repeat the same mistake but even if not let us take heart for the sweet salve of Death cannot be far from us now.” I know some of you might be thinking of leaving a comment below using the above abbreviations, but now that I’ve stolen your thunder you might feel compelled to up the ante and plot out a far more bilious, spiteful attack. We welcome these, as we do all of your messages and burnt offerings — see the bottom of this page for our contact information.

Words for Snow

Snowflakes, Wilson Bentley

No two snowflakes are alike, as was shown by photographer Wilson Bentley, who between 1885 and 1931 undertook the monumental task of painstakingly photographing and comparing every snowflake that will ever exist.

No doubt, many of our readers are now struggling valiantly but vainly to parse these majestic words and to extract some modicum of meaning from them. Somehow, this raises the question: what is the relationship between language and the way we think? For well over a century, linguists have been fascinated by this and by scores of other boring questions. As our vacant-eyed, drooly-mouthed readers are certainly aware, these are easy questions to answer, though the answers we give might be pretty stupid. But a good place to begin to understand how language affects the way we think is with the familiar fact that the Inuit* have over 70,000 words for snow. Granted, approximately 50% of these are curse words, but that still leaves well over, say, 2,000 words, and all to describe variations of something that, to English speakers, all look exactly the same! Even those speakers of English who live and work for years, day in, day out, in extremely snowy areas lack any ability whatsoever to distinguish between different types of snow, being linguistically constrained to ignore this immense variety and to obliterate any sense of differentiation by using only one single name to refer to everything — hardpack, crust, corn snow, sugar snow, champagne powder, BBs, clank, crumb, fluff, pellets, talc, windslab, mashed potatoes, boilerplate, cauliflower, sierra cement, enormous boob snow, slush, and so forth — to the helplessly obtuse, brain-dead speaker of English, all of these are just snow, some unknowable, incomprehensible thingy to either gape at in blank confusion or to shove with gleeful idiocy into one’s anus or, even more troublingly, someone else’s anus.

Clearly, deeply embedded in any particular language and its speakers is a rigid, unbreakable, inescapable set of formulae on how to interpret the world around us. This calls to mind Thomas Kuhn’s brilliant thesis that scientific progress occurs in discrete, critical leaps — ‘paradigm shifts’ — where the new theories are fundamentally incommensurable with the previous theories. This kind of incommensurability as described in Kuhn’s insightfully stupid thesis is similar to untranslatability between natural languages. For example, Romanian has no word that means “shallow”, so Romanians are completely unable to understand the very concept of shallowness. The fact that there is no precise equivalent word in the two languages means that it is utterly impossible for a speaker of English to understand a speaker of Romanian, and vice versa. This insurmountable barrier to understanding makes it inevitable that English speakers will forever be at war with Romanian speakers, much as Kuhn conclusively demonstrated that pre-Copernican and post-Copernican astronomers were unable to understand any of what the other was saying and thus were thrown suddenly into violent epic battles, massive hordes of enemy scientists in screaming melees grappling frantically on the ground, snarling and tearing, biting and shredding and Erlenmeyer flasking each other to bloody death. Wow. What can one do, when contemplating the enormity of the process of scientific progress, but paraphrase Captain Kirk: Kuuuuuuuhhhhn!!!!

*Note to American readers — the Inuit people of Greenland and northern Canada prefer to be known as Inuit rather than Eskimo.

How you can be saved

Today, I’d like to talk to you about Jesus and how you can be saved. However, I’m pretty shaky on the ins and outs of the whole procedure so I guess it’s not my place to talk to you about it, no matter how much I might like to. But perhaps the fact we can’t get into this conversation right now is just as well, since history shows time and again that the very people who are most in need of being saved are also those who are most resistant to being saved — so much so that the savers are forced to resort to relentless and exhausting campaigns of coercion, spreading of diseases, cultural and economic destruction, and genocide. The friendly colonists and missionaries arrive full of humility and benevolent resource-exploitation plans only to be rebuffed by the arrogant natives with their aggravatingly superior, know-it-all attitudes. “No thank you, we don’t need to be saved. We’re not interested, we’re happy with our current deific service. No… no, thank you, have a nice day!” they say with their fake, smarmy little smiles. Christ, that’s annoying! Can you really blame the conquistadors for conducting countless massive slaughters of contemptuous indigenous peoples? The answer is yes, as I’ve just been informed by my PR consulting team. But the fact remains that the work of spreading the Good News would be immeasurably easier if those in need of being saved had just a little more self-awareness and took a bit more initiative in the self-improvement department.

Doing something about the weather

As Mark Twain or somebody else once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Since that day, bitterly stung by this scathing critique, hot tears of anger welling up in their eyes and spraying gustily from their tear ducts, scientists across the globe have been working overtime to prove him wrong, against all odds and despite the hazardous workplace environments resulting from their slippery, tear-soaked laboratory floors. Weather control is now a massive industry involving cash flows of well into the hundreds of dollars and beyond. Cloud-seeding, storm prevention, and other forms of weather modification have been the subject of research and development since as early as the dawn of the 1900s. And these techniques have long outgrown the phase of small-scale experimentation — a prominent recent example came when, in preparation for the Beijing Olympics, China famously stepped up their weather control efforts to operations of stunningly ambitious scope and intensity befitting a colossus under technocratic authoritarian rule. Mark Twain may have enjoyed himself making his snarky and ignorant comments, but it appears that weather control experts are having the last laugh, dancing on his grave, soft, sweet tears of joy spewing geyser-like out of their eye sockets.

But despite these scientists’ awe-inspiring efforts, and despite the frightening government-led ‘chemtrail’ projects that have been well-documented and exposed by authoritative insane people, weather modification today remains a very inexact science, unlike the ‘hard’ sciences, such as macroeconomics or sociology. The system we call the atmosphere-hydrosphere-blogosphere-other-sphere-thingies is incredibly complex, and to truly control it would require precise knowledge of a mind-boggling array of variables. So complex are the dynamics of weather and climate that they can only be described by invoking the esoterica of ‘chaos theory’ — some even go so far as to say the ‘erotica’ of chaos theory, probably. Popular writers often like to illustrate chaos theory’s central insight that the behaviour of certain systems is ‘sensitive to initial conditions’ by referring to the ‘butterfly effect’, where the mere flapping of a butterfly’s wings sets off a hurricane. Consider the significance of this phenomenon. In this era of ever-more volatile weather and a changing climate, knowing what we now know with our advanced science and mathematics, how can we as a society continue to sit idly by? We must act now, and we must act quickly and decisively. It’s time to exterminate those murderous butterflies, now, before they set off yet another hurricane with a flippant and frivolous flap of the wing. Please click here to contribute to our 14th Annual Global Butterfly Extermination Jamboree.

Technical Difficulties

Today, an apology to my fans. I know that a lot of you have been trying to contact me with your fanatical fan questions; I apologize for not responding, but there have been some technical difficulties. It has recently come to my attention that most email applications suffer from an unfortunate glitch where the email is not sent when the text is input by means of french-kissing the monitor while carefully massaging ketchup into the cooling vents of your computer. I believe it is because of this glitch that I have not been receiving the expected deluge of thousands of items of adoring fan mail, marriage proposals, marriage requests, requests for marriage proposals, requests for temporary Nikah al-Mut‘ah marriages, requests for stay of restraining orders, and so forth. One of our more tech-savvy readers has informed me that apparently there is a work-around where you can actually input your message by means of typing on your computer keyboard interface. It’s inelegant, but it will suffice as a temporary solution. Please spread the word to your friends.

Many fans have been asking, I assume, for an update on my new screenplay. I’m happy to report that the writing process is going very well. It’s quite early in the game, though, so I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I can tell you that the working title is “The Gentile and the Deformed Tree Growth”. Really, it’s basically your classic goy meets burl, burl meets goy story.

The true meaning of Valentine’s Day

Most of our readers can still remember that February morning back in 1929, when members of Al Capone’s non-governmental community development organization were involved in a steamy little incident on Chicago’s north side. In a very adventurous form of S&M involving machine-gun fire, the submissives — the so-called ‘subs’ — from Bugs Moran’s volunteer community action team apparently had more than just “la petite mort” at the hands of those hot dominant ‘doms’. Complete death does occasionally or usually occur during these sexy encounters, so the high death rate in this particular tryst was not surprising. It’s important to remember, though, that good S&M always involves loving consent between partners, and this get-together would certainly have been no different. The lusty subs really wanted nothing more than to be penetrated by sexy high-speed bullets — they were just aching for the hot, searing sting of those naughty little high-velocity metal slugs.

Nonetheless, Capone’s men couldn’t help but wonder afterward whether things had perhaps gotten a bit out of control at some point. Tommy Two-Toes and Vinnie the Elbow argued inconclusively over whether Bugs’ boys had uttered the ‘safeword’. Everyone had agreed that the safeword should be ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’, as per usual. Tommy and Vinnie both agreed afterward that they had heard the first several syllables of the word, but there was a bit of ambiguity since the subs also loved to talk dirty — and you know one of the sauciest words around is ‘antidisestablishmentarian’. So of course, when the subs were shouting whatever word it was they were shouting in a very excited manner, sounding very impassioned and aroused, and meanwhile bullets are flying and ricocheting around… some confusion ensued, followed by a certain amount of death.

These kinds of cases provoke some to question whether S&M can really be as healthy as its adherents claim. Perhaps these people have these kinds of apparently perverted sexual preferences because of early, conflicted sexual experiences? Nothing could be further from the truth. Preferences for S&M are perfectly healthy. It’s true that Bugs’ men did have young formative experiences where nascent erotic discovery was mingled with a certain amount of gunshot wounding, but that’s completely irrelevant. The truth goes beyond that — both Capone’s and Moran’s men were deeply conscious and sexually liberated — they were holistically in touch with and embracing of their sexuality’s completeness, including its ‘shadow side’. They understood that to experience true eroticism and love, to experience the transcendent spirituality that only comes paradoxically through fully embracing one’s immanence and intrepidly exploring the dark and hidden corners of one’s concupiscence, one must commit to a degree of surrender and trust that can only be found in more adventurous paths, even if these paths seem scary and extreme to stodgy risk-averse namby-pamby sniveling milquetoast vanilla types who are so bland, conformist, and frigid that they prefer to live their lives blindly, corpse-like, wearing brown paper bags over their heads and wrapped up immaculately in sanitized plastic wrap… hey, they’re kinkier than I thought! Oooh, that’s hot.

An interesting aside about Tommy Two-Toes: he came by his very classically-styled gangster nickname following an accident where he lost a toe on one foot. Even more interestingly, Tommy was a three-toed sloth. There’s some dispute as to whether he lost the toe in a leaf-foraging accident or from an overuse injury from his ballet practice, where he stubbornly insisted on relentless hours of brutal practice en pointe. As for Vinnie the Elbow, the disconcerting lack of alliteration in his name reveals a story of its own. He had previously had two other body-part-based monikers based on the form “Vinnie the X”, where X is some body part beginning with the letter ‘v’. Unfortunately, his macho, tough-guy image suffered when people addressed him publicly with these somewhat feminine-sounding names, so he was eventually compelled to abandon his love of alliteration in order to adopt a more manly moniker.

So, ever since that sultry February morning back in 1929, people the world over from Mali to Mozambique have celebrated St. Valentine’s day in honour of those who have fallen while fighting for their freedom in the noble calling of S&M. Nowadays, though, there’s a bit more emphasis placed on the soft and fuzzy staid strait-laced chocolate hearts and red roses and pink lace monogamy stuff. It’s a romanticized view of romance, as it were. And while it may seem commendable to celebrate the state of being in a relationship, there is a less-acknowledged, darker side to the day: being alone is devalued, even denigrated. People who are unlucky in love, who just can’t find someone who will love them back, who are fundamentally unlovable or who are just plain losers — all these weird, despicable pariahs are somehow made to feel like outsiders. On this day, the constant parading, promenading, and public-sexing about of people happily in new love, or agonizingly in any other state of relationship, can make the loneliness of the lonely and the emptiness of the empty even more acute. That’s quite a bummer for them.

But back to more important matters. On this Valentine’s Day — a day becoming more and more commercialized by the year — remember that you needn’t spend, you needn’t even have worldly riches to show your love to your lover. Do you remember the tale of the pauper and the waif? Allow me to recount. There once was a young couple in love — he, a pauper; she, a waif. Neither of the two had a penny to their names. But oh, how they loved each other! And he knew how deep was her secret desire for a simple golden ring; she knew how he furtively dreamed of owning The Clapper. But poor as little churchrodents, what were they to do? Valentine’s Day came, and still, both were destitute as doornails. But love triumphed: he gave her ringworm, while she gave him the clap. And they lived… ever after, until their deaths. The point of the story is: to truly show your love, sometimes you have to improvise a bit. It goes without saying, though, if you’re not poor, you can show your love with flair and style, and without being forced to make gauche compromises.

The obesity epidemic: a massive problem

There’s a lot of talk about the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’, but not much understanding of its implications. While much lip service is paid to the problem, the troubling fact is that no one really takes it seriously enough. Consider this: as obesity rates climb, the overall mass of the Earth is also increasing, causing the Earth’s orbit to enlarge dangerously. If current trends continue, the Earth will be flung out of the solar system by 2015 and all earthly life will die a catastrophic, fiery death in a delicious supernova-collision/confit/flambé/grease-fire-type incident. Clearly, the challenges the obesity epidemic poses are substantial — the sheer scope and immensity of the problem are of a proportion we can scarcely get our arms around. We must all work together to share the ponderous, hefty load. Obesity has become a widespread problem of not just enormous and gargantuan proportions, but even astronomical and cosmic proportions. It looms over us, threatening to crush us under its monstrous, overwhelming expanse. It’s indescribably huge! If we don’t do something about it now, it will eat us alive! This is heavy stuff. Certainly, we’ve got a lot to chew on.

That said, it’s of no help to anyone to make light of this issue. This is a very weighty subject, and we should treat it with the requisite gravitas. Hey, that’s interesting — I just noticed that that word is kind of like ‘gravity’ and ‘ass’ put together.

Top ten reasons this title is misleading

For countless millenia, bloggers have been mercilessly caricatured as slobs who write while “sitting at home in their underwear”. This facile criticism is well-deserved. After all, authors as revered as Victor Hugo and Ernest Hemingway clearly demonstrated in their writing practices the value of completely eschewing underwear — as many of us are painfully aware, uncompletely eschewed underwear is poorly digested and can bung up the digestive tract. The decadent bloggers of the modern era could do well to cast off their sinful underpants and adopt the virtuous, pure nudity of these famously chaste novelists. But I don’t claim to be any better than the average blogger — I’m still working my way up to that lofty, upright pinnacle of nudity. Currently, I’m flip-flopping around between moderately and severely nude conditions. My sincere pledge to you is to go completely nude as soon as possible, but I can only do so with your support! I’ll be selecting nubile maidens who can provide this support in a secure yet comfortable manner, avoiding any binding or bunching.

Anyway, now that I’ve been at this blog thing for a while, it’s starting to lose just a bit of its lustre. After you’ve been doing it for as long as I have, it’s inevitable that things might start to seem just a wee bit stale or completely lame. The initial excitement and enthusiasm eventually subsides, and the elation, the rush, the giddy feeling of being ‘high’ begins to fade as you become habituated to the host of illegal drugs you’re constantly consuming. The everyday realities of the blog-star lifestyle start to wear you down. Filling the yacht’s swimming pool with cocaine and snorting jello with squealing poutine-covered groupies starts to feel a bit flat. The thrill is gone. That’s when you know you’ve gotten too comfortable. You need a new challenge. After a long period of self-reflection in the last couple of minutes, I’ve realized that what I need to do, to inspire both my fans and myself, is jump over a shark in my waterskis. Some might be skeptical of the wisdom of this plan, but it’s important to remember that, after all, this stunt was pioneered by the coolest guy on TV ever, bar none: Fozzie Bear of Happy Days.

Update: ok, all taken care of, the shark jump thing went off without a hitch. I chose to perform the jump in the privacy of my own home, since it would obviously be crass and manipulative to turn this very personal process of inner exploration into a sweaty, slobbering media circus. The whole experience was touching and self-empowering in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t had full creative control over the process and the very precise amounts of sweat and slobber required. I just had to ignore all the naysayers and forge ahead. In the end, I can’t overstate how gratifying it was to prove to myself that I still have something to offer, and to show the world that it’s still too soon to write me off. I also wanted to show the world that even the monstrously fearsome and obnoxiously macho great white shark is as defenseless and whiny as an unwitting human test subject against a set of waterskis with high-speed rotating titanium blades mounted underneath.

The blogosfear

Yes, beginning something new can be difficult. But why is this? It’s the risk, the ever-present possibility of failing, stumbling, saying something embarrassing, slipping on a banana peel and being humiliated and brutally beaten to death by rogue cosmetologists. True, it is scary, but consider the alternative. You can live cowering in fear for the rest of your life, as you are now, or you can take a chance and venture out into the unknown in quest of the stuff that makes life worth living. When you think about it, it’s clear — you have to do what you love. And then, if you die trying, then your loved ones will be able to say “At least he died doing what he loved — failing horribly and being brutally beaten to death by rogue statisticians.”

It is partially because of these fears that it has taken so long for me to finally enter the blogosphere, and partially because I’ve never had any interest in doing so. Instead, I spent the last several years in my laboratory working to develop a blogocube, and then a blogododecahedron and a host of other blogopolyhedra, but I think I’m past that rebellious phase now.

A quick word before continuing: taken as a whole, this blog is written by the Indirect Action Group, but each individual blog post is written by an individual member of the group. That’s why you’ll see that most posts are written in the first person singular. An alternative explanation for this, one that is sure to trigger an unstoppable torrential cascade of ever-escalating, frenzied, manically hyped buzz literally explosively erupting and metaphorically ricocheting and sblarfing across the blogosphere, is that the Indirect Action Group is an alias for a single heroic individual, toiling selflessly in the shadows and wishing to retain anonymity.

A journey of a thousand miles…

Beginning something new is never easy. I’m sure there are thousands of very important exceptions to this absolute and exceptionless universal rule, of course, but I think we’ve beaten that topic to death now and we can all agree that there are absolutely no exceptions. This is a familiar part of the human experience: time and time again, we are faced with a blank canvas, a dangerously overgrown forest, or a newly constructed building with walls devoid of personality. How to begin to paint the masterpiece, how to hack down the oversized, gaudy eyesores of trees and extract the valuable timber for pulp production, what type of spray-paint best to tag the building walls, how best to artfully smash the windows? It is the very act of beginning that is so daunting. It is at times like these that we do well to pause, to let the fear melt away, to feel the strength deep within us, and to recall the wisdom that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, followed by an exhausting, overwhelming, pretty much impossible number of steps. But there’s no need to be too discouraged by this very discouraging fact; instead, you simply need to set your sights much lower. How about a journey to the fridge to see what’s in there? There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Not so daunting after all.

When you start to let go of your narrow preconceptions, your rigid old ideals and values and your ossified ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’, and you begin to really surrender yourself to this new, more flexible attitude with only slightly dramatically lowered expectations, the sense of liberation you experience is palpable and intoxicating. Palpable in a metaphorical sense — it is notoriously difficult to literally palpate a sense of liberation, even with the most advanced traditional Chinese medicine techniques. You ask yourself: why do I ‘need’ to go to med school? Why indeed! Why do I ‘need’ to be respectable in the eyes of my peers, why do I ‘need’ to pay my bills and respect stodgy old ‘laws’ limiting my ‘senseless’ acts of violence, why do I ‘need’ to clean the pizza grease and Red Bull spills off the computer keyboard and change my adult diapers daily? The sense of liberation is as intoxicating as a case of beer and a mugful of assorted psychotropics, making your daily consumption of a case of beer and a mugful of assorted psychotropics more or less redundant, but you don’t care. You’re free now. You’re in charge. You begin to realize that not only were all the goals you had set unrealistic, they just weren’t right. They might be right for someone else, but that someone isn’t you anymore. You used to be, to put it delicately, a pathetic failure, but that’s only because you were trying to play by their rules. Now you’re in charge of the game, and you’re winning. (You’re also the ref so if somehow you’re still falling behind you can fudge the scorecard a bit.)

That’s the approach I swear by regardless of the fact that it’s totally ineffective. I believe I can justify that apparent contradiction by invoking a bit of poetry by Walt Whitman where he says something annoying about how he contains ‘multitudes’ of contradictions but he’s cool with it. On the surface, it might sound like he’s copping out, perhaps stirring within you a Socratic, questioning attitude where you feel moved to thoughtfully bash him with a large hunk of basalt, but then you recall that this is some famous and respected artsy-type guy we’re talking about here so taking a critical perspective in this context is impermissible.