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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Reflections on urban planning and physiology for Valentine’s Day

The human body is a classic case of poor planning. Why are recreational uses located directly adjacent to waste processing facilities? (Also, in some cases, the waste processing facilities are temporarily used to host recreational events.)

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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… Continue reading

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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… Continue reading

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April showers

April showers bring May flowers. They also wash away October through March dog turds.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?


Cosmic love

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and crap theories about relationships come straight out of Uranus.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Dependency is the mother of intervention*

Necessity is the mother of invention. We’re still not sure who the father is since necessity was kind of sleeping around at the time.

* The title of this post is more irrelevant than usual. Here is another: Nephrectomy is the mother of hypotension.

Straight from the horse’s mouth

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. What are you expecting to find in there anyway, you asshole? What are you, some kind of pervert? Get a job.

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The days are just packed

There just aren’t enough hours in the day. To hell with this, I’m moving to Mercury where the solar day is 176 Earth days long. Just imagine how productive I’ll be there.

(I’m not interested in Venus’ sidereal day, thanks.)

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The ineffable mysteries

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Come on, we all know you’re just trying to cover for Him when He’s being an asshole.

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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.

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I’m aging like a fine wine, my aldehydes oxidizing as acid-catalyzed esterification takes place and the harsh tannins of youth gradually give way to softer mouthfeel.

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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


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I need a vocation

They say “do what you love and the money will follow”. Notice how they avoid specifying the amount of money.

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Solving age-old problems

Since the dawn of time almost 6000 years ago, it has been believed that nothing rhymes with “orange”. Well how about “gore cringe”? And “whore binge”?

(Contact me for details on where to send my Nobel Prize.)


Act of God

I’m starting to notice a pattern. You know how every time you hear about an “act of God”, it’s some kind of tragic destruction? Well, I’m not saying I’m questioning God’s benevolence, but it does raise eyebrows.

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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.”

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