Monday, November 29, 2004

Misquoting Churchill

Among Churchill's many timeless comments was that democracy was the worst kind of government, except for all the other kinds. A cursory look at the history of the world shows the truth of this. Everywhere democracy has flourished, war has lessened, trade has expanded, freedoms have grown, and everyone, in general, has been better off. At the dawn of the 21st century, we can all see the myriad states and countries of the world adopting broadly similar methods of government, as politics settles down into its final configuration and history draws to a close.

Er, well. Not quite.

Democracy is not a bed of roses. I can just as easily - and perhaps more accurately - say that everywhere democracy has broken out, personal responsibility has lessened, the state has expanded, and 'rights' have grown.

Now, before I go any further, some qualifications. Would I prefer a totalitarian dictatorship? Obviously not, and nor will I argue for that or anything like it. The tyranny of a single man or single Party is worse than the tyranny of a single majority. This does not mean, however, that we have the Best of All Possible Governments.

The problems with democracy are myriad, and have been explored in far more depth than is possible for me here. To summarize: the incentives are all out of place.

Power is given to those who actively seek it; to get it, they must receive the vote of a majority of the electorate (or at least that part which actually bothers); they thus have every reason to lie about their true motivations and intentions should they take office. Thus democracies often have at their heads messianic demagogues with a slippery grasp on concepts such as economics, science, reality, proportion, and honesty. True, we can always kick the rogues out ... unless, that is, the political class manages to narrow the competition down to the lesser of two evils, or the evil of two lessers (technical aside: the second and third images were the top hits on google's image search, and I used last names only. Kinda says it all, don't it?)

Then there's the cancerous growth of the state, a symptom that seems almost universal amongst democracies. Elected officials have no need to worry themselves over long-term effects; only rarely do they possess the ethical wherewithal do to so. As a result the civil service - a predatory subculture under any government - rapidly gains the real power. Under no real pressure from the government to produce results (unless it's wartime) the various bureacracies can gorge themselves on an ever-increasing portion of the economy, consuming so much they become a consumption.

When Churchill said this was the worst kind of government, he should have added: except for all the other kinds that we've tried.

I mean, seriously here, folks. It's the 21st century. We have to be able to do better than this.

Friday, November 26, 2004

China jerks the leash

So the Bushies drop regime change hints about North Korea, and China - not liking the idea of another war in its back yard - jerks the leash.

Or am I reading to much into all this?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Iraqi W"M"D's

Apparently, a mosque in Fallujah contained not just one of the largest weapons caches found in Iraq to date, but also a chemical weapons lab. No details yet on just what kind of chemical weapons the insurgents were making.

Note that quotation marks around the "M" in the acronym. Chemical weapons aren't really good for mass destruction, being notoriously unreliable; if they were actually useful for killing people, the professional militaries of the world's powers wouldn't eschew them. Still, given that those on the left as well as the right generally class chemical weapons as WMDs, and their absence as evidence that BUSH LIED!!!! PEOPLE DIED!!!! I can only say, Ha!, and again, Ha! No WMDs in Iraq? So a bunch of undisciplined barbarian fanatics in Fallujah could run a chemical weapons program that Saddam, with the resources of the nation at his disposal, could not? Please.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Why Bush's Economic Policies Don't Piss Me Off

Here's why the Bush administration's demonstrated contempt for fiscal issues on the home front doesn't particulars bother me. In fact, I look forward to its likely devastating effects with a positive glee. It is even possible to see them as being favorable, from a libertarian perspective.

Consider Russia. The Soviet Union's brittle centrally planned economy failed spectacularly, decimated by the market forces arrayed against it. There came a time when it was blatantly obvious that the Party had lost any ability to pay its seventy-year outstanding debt to its citizens. Said citizens promptly withdrew moral support from the Communists, at which point a different group of thugs took over, sold off everything but the army at bargain-basement prices, dissolved the Evil Empire, and declared a market economy.

The U.S., with it's more dynamic private sector, weathered the economic storms it experienced during the same period and even thrived despite them. Its economy grew at a remarkable pace throughout the nineties. What growth there's been since then, however, has been primarily due to the bloating of housing-price and stock bubbles, wealth that can disappear very rapidly if the bubble bursts. At the same time, the government depreciates the currency on the international markets and runs up deficits orders of magnitude greater in scale than anything attempted by any other government in history. Although I must admit, in all fairness, the British have used similar tricks to great effect in three different wars, in the vast majority of cases such a policy leads to the economic apocalypse known as 'hyperinflation'. Indeed, some are already suggesting that the current housing bubble is itself a kind of hyperinflation, resulting not from demand for housing but from a large asset class soaking up the government's excess liquidity.

The most likely side-effect of a severe hyperinflation is that the government will no longer be able to pay its bills. Given the very large size of the economy under control by the State, this cannot fail to be painful. People will lose trust in the government. Hell, lets be honest here: who really trusts the government to handle anything competently, outside of defense (though up here in the True North Weak and Free, who really trusts the bureaucrats to do even that?)

Now, given that the United States government is a) controlled at every level by a party that at least ostensibly believes in the superiority of market forces over Big Government, and b) in the middle of an open-ended war against the only foe since the British to strike on the U.S. mainland, what will the most obvious solution for the Presidency to make when condition c) is applied, namely, the insolvency of the federal government?

Exactly.

For those who haven't been paying attention, I am suggesting that the Bush administration may be maneuvering towards the Soviet Solution: they will announce an emergency and sell off large chunks of the government infrastructure, essentially everything that isn't directly related to defence. They will replace the income tax with a flat national sales tax, privative social security, and nix medicare. No more postal service, no more department of education. Hell, they might even call off the drug war. When the dust settles, the U.S. government will consist of soldiers, spooks, and not much else; maintaining the military at its current size would be a bearable burden for the U.S. economy if the vast majority of the rest were gone.

Bush might well intend to preside over what will, in essence, be a bloodless revolution. He will achieve what Republicans used to say they wanted - a small federal government - by running the whole thing into the ground. It will be chaotic, divisive, and likely dangerous. The American economy will suffer mightily in the process, though I imagine the transition back to prosperity will be relatively quick. In the end, the American people will be better off, and history will look back on Bush and smile.

Of course, I might be crediting Bush with being smarter than the vast majority of the world believes to be the case. It could be he's just utterly incompetent on economic issues. Maybe he really believes Big Government is the way to do things, and this is all just wishful thinking on my part.

Maybe. Give it four years.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Alexander the Not-So-Great

Ah, the perks at working for the worlds largest book retailer.

Last night, I went to see Alexander with a preview ticket I obtained from a coworker who had other plans. I went into this movie with, I admit, high expectations, the subject of the film being one of history's most fascinating characters, and the director (Oliver Stone) having made Natural Born Killers, one of my all time favorite movies.

Other reviewers have suggested that the subtitle most appropriate to this movie would be 'Alexander the Gay'. This is so accurate, it sums up the entire three-hour excercise in self-indulgent navel gazing better than any review possibly could. But I'll try anyway.

Alexander the Great conquered the entire known world, and a fairly good chunk of the 'Here Be Dragons' part, by his early thirties. He spent his entire adult life at war, though you would not know this from watching the movie, which includes a grand total of two battle scenes, neither of which is particularly gripping. Alexander spends more time gazing deeply into the eyes of his gay lover than he does killing people.

There are puzzling omissions in the movie. For instance, Alexander does not visit the Oracle at Delphi or cut the Gordian knot. His relationship with Aristotle is barely touched upon, despite the fact that Alexander remained in touch with his singularly brilliant tutor periodically throughout his life. For some reason, Collin Farrell omits certain mannerisms, for instance Alexander's characteristic head-tilt, which was remarked upon by many contemporary observers.

Indeed, Collin Farrell's portrayal of Alexander fails on almost every level. Here is a man, after all, who was a stategic genius and a machiavellian leader whose inspired his army to follow him to the ends of the earth. By any account, he was a singularly strong and complex man. He comes off, instead, as a sensitive metrosexual with severe Oedipal issues. In battle, he looks either confused or terrified; when speaking he is anything but inspiring, tending instead towards the insipid.

Mr. Farrell isn't the only one whose acting fails to convince. Anthony Hopkins, as the old man in Alexandria who remembers Alexander, manages to talk a lot without saying anything memorable. Though it's possible his character is meant to be a pompous old bastard, it's more likely he's meant to be the wise old man who acts as the guide to Alexander's life. He says nothing insightful or enlightening, though in all fairness the blame for this can be placed on the script writers.

Then there's Angelina Jolie, as Alexander's mother, Olympias. Conniving and ambitious, suspected by her countrymen of being a sorceress, Ms. Jolie does a good job, save for one disturbing (and possibly intentional) detail: when she gazes on her son, the love in her eyes is not best described as maternal. Unless, of course, you're from the Cahulawassie river.

About the only performance of any note is Val Kilmer as Alexander's father, Philip the Great, notable chiefly because it's perhaps the first role he's ever had in which he's not pretty.

In the end, don't waste your money seeing this is the theatre, or renting it at Blockbuster. Don't even waste bandwidth downloading it. If you must see it, wait for it to show on the History channel ... though perhaps Showcase would be more appropriate.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Robert Wilson, May He Be Sodomized by PCP-Crazed NeoNazis

As some of you no doubt know, and the rest no doubt don't care to, I am now a University of Toronto graduate. It was my misfortune to attend the ceremony, at which the execrable Robert Wilson was given an honory degree and, for fifteen minutes, the podium. This forum he used to babble incoherently, first about an underprivelaged deaf-mute black kid from Arkansas whom he oh-so-heroically saved from a beating at the hands of a racist New York cop, and who taught him the meaning of thinking in images. He then proceeded to imitate the sounds of an institutionalized autistic child, capping off his speech by stating "Had I gone to Harvard or Yale, I would not be making the excellent theatre I am making today," ie, your high-priced degrees which you have sacrificed tens of thousands of dollars and years of your lives for aren't worth the cheap paper they're printed on.

Hence, this:

I graduated from U of T last week. I just wanted to thank you for cheapening the tens of thousands of dollars and years of time I, my parents, my bank, and my government invested in my education. Your speech was the most incoherent and meaningless collection of garbage it has ever been my misfortune to hear. I sincerely hope you contract ebola and shit out your own intestines. From the bottom of my heart, Fuck You.

Now, Mr. Wilson's email is not publicly available.

Oh, I mean, it wasn't publicly available:

robert.wilson@robertwilson.com

Now, getting it involved a little bit of geuss-work, and it might not be correct (though assuming it is, much might be said about a man whose email address contains his name twice.) I still haven't received a 'failed to deliver' notice, though, so I suspect it of being accurate. However, if it is wrong, there's this one too:

krista.fabian@robertwilson.com

Which, being publicly available, is almost certainly active. The poor woman has done nothing to me personally; however, she is tainted by association with this failed miscarriage.

It is thus with the greatest of pride and vicious pleasure that I announce the "I Hate Robert Wilson" e-mail campaign. Please, open the above links, and let all that vitriol and bile that's been festering within your souls poor forth in streams of verbiage exceeded in vileness only by the speeches of Hitler. Even if you have no idea who this man is, take it from me: he is a human slime-mold, a deserving repository for the worst you have to offer.

Oh, and be creative. It's more fun that way.

Why I Hate Christmas: Part 1

Santa Claus parades. Everyone, it seems, loves a parade, except me.

All I wanted yesterday was some breakfast at Futures bakery. It was a nice day, I have a nice new iPod, and I elected to go for a stroll.

Then I hit the Santa Claus parade. The streets were so packed I could barely move. I was in a poor mood, one that began with when I woke with a hangover, and only grew as it was fed by gnawing hunger. I kept the edge of with Slayer and Sepultura; there's no better antidote to Christmas spirit than nihilistic death metal. I received the occasional dirty look from annoyed and frightened parents, as I muttered to myself about the suitability of AK47s for crowd control.

It was the kids that really pissed me off. They came in two varieties: sitting on Dad's shoulders, where their little booties were at just the right height to kick me in the head, and on the ground, perfectly placed for treading on their delicate little skulls. Parents who bring their children to these events should know better. It's not safe. There's people like me around.

Oh, and by-the-by, it's not that I dislike children. Quite the contrary. I also like steak sauce, fava beans, and a nice chianti.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

21st century Renaissance

People talk a lot about the decline of our culture, how only shit art gets made, how we're sinking into a tarpit centered on the mass-market attractors of ignorance and id. No one pays attention to true art, just to vacuous pop art.

Well okay. Maybe they don't put it quite that way. But, I'm willing to bet that this is a sentiment with which you'll be familiar. I'd also wager that what you just read just doesn't ring true.

The context is all wrong. There is no more ivory tower art world, just as there is no more pop art. Neither really exists anymore. The exclusionary nature of high art has fused its memes with its color-bedazzled cousin, and has spawned a thousand mutant offspring: the niche art of the modern age. The internet has midwifed into being a greater diversity of artistic endeavor than our species has ever seen, carried through with an unprecedented energy. People with the rarest of proclivities and the most eccentric of tastes form communities, providing markets for artists who before would have been co-opted into larger movements or simply vanished into obscurity.

True, we are watching our old culture die, though only in the sense that parents die while their children live on. The essential memes are robust, and they thrive even as our mass culture fragments like a broken mirror. A darwinian competition (or lamarckian perhaps? We deal with memeticities, after all, rather than genomes) is emerging between these endlessly variable sub-cultures, taking place at a timescale previously characteristic only of subatomic particles.

What does all this mean? I'm no more qualified to answer that than you are. In the meantime, I'm just gonna go and soak up the amazing cultural products of this glistening new renaissance.


In Defense of Cynicism

Hmm. I just read the TransplantedTexan's 'Canada and Cynicism', and a lot of what he said hit uncomfortably close to the mark ... almost as though he were talking about me, personally. Now, I can't in good faith refute his claim that the majority of Canadians are cynics of the first degree.

I would, however, argue that it is no accident that we are cynics, and that it is indeed not neccessarily a bad thing.

First, the why: most Canadians are in this country because, ultimately, their ancestors were fleeing a political nightmare in the old country. This is such common knowledge that I doubt it needs any further elaboration (though if anyone wishes to challenge me on this point I'll be thrilled to do a further, fully-researched post in which the main immigration periods of Canada's various ethnic groups are compared to the situations in their homelands at those times.)

This has given us a characteristically uncharitable view towards politicians, one to which I wholly subscribe. Not all are bad, of course (the Gubernator, Jesse Ventura, and Ralph Klein come to mind) and not everything they say is a lie (for instance, I believe Dubya completely when he claims to be a Christian, and the Harris government in Ontario really did do essentially everything it said it would.) However, these are the exceptions to a rule of thumb that history shows to be true more often than not: politicians are lying scum. (Actually, my personal bias is a little more nuanced, to use an unjustly reviled word: I believe that politicians are incompetent lying scum.)

How many governments have introduced a supposedly 'temporary' tax? How many have brought their nations to war under false pretenses (a charge that can be levelled at Lincoln as much as at Bush II)? How many have frittered away astronomical sums on their cronies, in the name of the 'public good'? If these questions sound rhetorical, it's because they are. You already know the answer.

Am I cynical about politics? You bet your sweet ass I am. I do not trust any ass-covering beareaucrat or grandstanding demagogue to tell me the truth, about their beliefs, their intentions, or anything else. I do not trust them to ever to a job the easiest, most efficient, cheapest, or effective way. I do not trust them to do anything meaningful to improve my life or the lives of others, unless those others are a tiny special interest group using their lobbying clout to get the government's blessing to siphon off wealth from the rest of us.

There's one thing I do trust government to do, and that's to make a pig's breakfast of anything it touches. Witness: health care, education, defence, and infrastructure. Any Canadians want to defend the government's record on those?

Thought not.

And this brings us to the second part of TT's piece on cynicism: conspiracy theories. TT says (quite correctly, in my view) that excessive cynicism leads to paranoid conspiracy theories. I agree. I believe in many conspiracies. Any government worthy of the name is, I am entirely sure, absolutely swarming with malicious, vindictive, and possibly even malevolent cospiracies. However, I also have total faith in the astounding incompetence of government, such that I sincerely doubt any of these conspiracies will be able to accomplish their aims. Thus, I have no fear of them, and do not let their presence worry me ... though I do get the occasional chuckle when I contemplate the crippling effect this wealth of clandestine plotting must be having on governments everywhere, consuming them from the inside out like maggots.

So, sure we're cynical. Sometimes, though, cynicism is the only healthy response. After all, are you really cynical if you actually are surrounded by assholes?






Sunday, November 14, 2004

e-Kinx

One unforseen consequence of the internet is that we all kink in our own way. Virtually everyone has elements of their psyche that, while not unique, are rare, sometimes exceedingly so. Before the internet, when most people's social interactions were limited to a small number of people with whom they maintained face to face relationships, people kept quiet about their kinks, sexual or otherwise. This made sense: the vast majority would be likely to label anyone possessing them as either demented or simply mad.

The internet has changed that. Now, a vast number of subcultures are being knitted together out of the scattered masses who share those rare memes. Some are innocuous, others disturbing, most just weird. Regardless, they exist. Virtually every netizen eventually finds those odd little communities to which he belongs (I know I have. And for the prying voyeurs out there, the answer is no, I'm not telling.) The result is, perhaps inevitably, that people these days tend to kink in ever stranger, more eccentric patterns. The strange parts of the psyche, the ones you don't talk about with even your closest friends, the ones you keep secret from your wife, these propensities that previous people termed perversions (or PTPPTP's) become exaggerated.

I can't help but wonder if this development is not unlike that which occured when the first proteins started to fold themselves into strange and specialized functions. But enough speculation.

What I do know is that this, creatures and gentlebeings, is why there's so many assholes these days.

Ten Billion

Ten billion atoms in a self-reproducing molecule. Ten billion molecules in a living cell. Ten billion cells in a multi-cellular organism. Ten billion individuals in a hyperindustrial posthuman planet-hopping supercivilization....?

Not sure where I encountered this meme, but it deserves propagation, because we're almost there.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Me and the Beanstalk

I was reviewing my posts on this blog so far, and came to the disspiriting conclusion that many, upon reading them, my get the impression that I am of a singularly misanthropic disposition.

This is true.

However, I feel like rambling on about something positive, so here's my monologue of beanstalks.

Not the kind that you grow beans on; more like the kind that you grow hyperindustrial economies on. They're otherwise known as skyhooks, space ladders, space tethers or space elevators (okay, so skyhooks are slightly different.) For those not amongst the initiate in the weird world of speculative technologies, a beanstalk can be thought of as a railway that goes all the way into space. The current model, the one most likely to be constructed for a variety of reasons, is a ribbon, roughly a micron thick, ten centimeters wide, and, something like ninety thousand kilometres in length. Construction cost, roughly US $15 billion; time, two years.

Here's how its done. The first length of ribbon, constructed from carbon nanotube composites, is sent up in a rocket, which inserts itself into geosynchronous orbit. A second, smaller rocket then fires back down to the ground, attached to one end of the ribbon; the other end is anchored to the original rocket. The return rocket is recovered and the groundside ribbon attached to a platform in the ocean. The ribbon is winched tight. An unmanned crawler then proceeds to climb the ribbon, laying a second ribbon down on top of the first, and then adding its own mass to the counterweight in geosynchronous orbit. Bottom to top, the climb takes two weeks. After two years, the resulting ribbon is roughly 100 times as strong as it was when first deployed, and is now ready to start taking cargo.

Now, why go to all this trouble? Simple: cost-to-orbit goes down to about $500/kg. That means a ticket to orbit would cost me around $45 000. And I'm a big guy. Odds are, it would cost you even less. Now, in practice, a one-way orbital ticket would of course be more expensive. I'd be surprised to see them go for less than a million, myself, given the bulk of machinery that must be shipped up to keep one more person alive.

I'm geussing you're still saying, wow, that's expensive. Consider this: the current cost-to-orbit is, oh, something like $20 000/kg. Space elevators would thus perform a function in the 21st century very similar to that played by railroads in the 19th by providing a drastically reduced cost to access the solar system (once you're in orbit, after all, you're halfway to anywhere), just as railways opened up North America's West.

Initially, of course, the space elevator would serve fairly prosaic functions. Satellites first, to be followed by the machinery necessary to build orbital factories and the raw materials necessary to feed them. Much of this will be unmanned.

But.

People would climb the ladder, too, following the machines. Hotels for the rich are a near-certainty; habitats to house the workers needed to build such structures as solar power satellites (something so useful and frankly necessary that we'd be fools not to build it.) Communities would grow, up there, living int he harshest environment men have ever entered, straddling the edge of an endless frontier. Testing themselves and their memes against this void will put human ingenuity to the hardest test it has yet to endure.

With time, more will emigrate, smelling profit or fleeing politics. The communities will become permanent. And then the day will come when those Left Behind will look up and realise that giants really do live at the top of the beanstalk.

Remembrance Day

It's not that I don't care. I just haven't been able to find any goddamned poppies! And from the looks of it, not too many other Torontonians have, either.

I'd observe a minute of silence, but I've been sitting at my desk on a computer all day. Silence would be redundant.

Sadly, it seems the only fashion in which Remembrance Day will impact my life is that the bank is closed. (Those lazy weasels at TD will use ANY excuse not work ... sometimes, I swear, Trudeapia's banks are worse than its public sector.)

In the end, it's only appropriate that 11/11 is fading from the cultural consciousness. After all, look at the symbol we chose: the poppy, the flower that kills the pain.


The Fat Fuck From Flint

I'm no objectivist, but I am a big fan of Ayn Rand's literature. Now, for anyone else out there who happens to read this, and is also a foaming-at-the-mouth Randite, tell me: is Moseph Moebbels not a stereotypical Randian villain? I mean, look at the guy: a slovenly mound of quivering flesh, his face a patchy beard behind which hide beedy eyes and an ugly, self-satisfied smirk ... a self-professed 'man of the people' who seems to have nothing but contempt for those he claims to champion ... a man for whom Truth is at best somewhat flexible.... the bottom-feeding maggot could have stepped straight from the pages of Atlas Shrugged.

As Oscar Wilde said, art doesn't imitate life, life imitates art.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hazy Predictions for 2005

Other bloggers seem to feel entirely comfortable making predictions. So I figure I'll get in ahead of the game. If any of what follow proves wildly inaccurate, feel free to call me on it; in fact, in one year I will revisit these predictions. Before acting on any of these, keep in mind: you get what you pay for (contact me if you wish to have me held to a higher standard of accountability.) In the upcoming year, I expect to see the following events (in no particular chronological order):

1. Further Islamic unrest in Europe, possibly including video-taped atrocities involving kidnapped people. EU governments will resoluetely refuse to publicly admit that they have a problem with muslims, and will continue criticizing american actions. Mainstream EU opinion will continue to be anti-US; meanwhile, friction between Eurotrash and Eurabians will continue to break out into isolated pockets of violence.

2. At least one part of the US economy will collapse in spectacular fashion. My money's on the money. It won't surprise me if CAD $1.00 > US $1.00 by this time next year (assuming of course that our currency doesn't follow suit.) Capitalism, as always, will be blamed.

3. Terrorist attack(s) on U.S. soil. Not necessarily committed by arabs, though: it's more likely to be American citizens, born and bred, who have either converted to Islam or are acting out of a purely political loathing for the American government (radical Blue-staters.)

4. Mainstream media will become even more irrelevant with the rise in vlogging (ie, videoblogging.) Ordinary people will increasingly get their news from the net, and the polarization of our culture will continue.

5. Breakthroughs in bioinfonanotech will continue apace. Old media industries will continue to flounder ineffectually to preserve their business models. What we laughingly call our leaders will be increasingly out of touch with the way things work, now.

6. At least one important personage will be assassinated.

7. The march towards the illegalization of tobacco in the western world will continue.

8. There will be a revolution in Iran.

9. Efforts on the part of France and Germany to rein in the free-wheeling Eastern republics will flounder. Old Europe's fate is demographically sealed.

10. I will still be drinking beer and smoking weed and tobacco. I will also have gotten laid.

Bums in T.O.

My British friends have commented to me on the surprisingly high numbers of homeless in the city, and on the - to them - surprisingly relaxed attitude taken by the average torontonian towards this 'problem.'

Sure, we've got lots of homeless. We also pay a lot of taxes, at least some of which go towards shelters and other programs, prompting an "I gave at the office" attitude towards panhandlers. It doesn't help that virtually every vagrant I've encountered fits into one or more of the following categories:

1. crazy
2. native
3. drug addict (in which I include winos.)

While I have sympathy for the first group, the next two get none. Natives, in my opinion, are lucky to be alive. Wiping them out entirely would have been effortless for our ancestors, and the fact that they instead set aside land for them, gave them tax-free status, and then lavished public funds on them to build houses, schools, etc., all this speaks to their highly developed sense of fair play. In return for this largesse, we get petulant guilt trips (the white man stole our land!) and imperiosu demands for more money. To which I say, fuck that. Let them keep tax free status, let them keep their reserves, but for the love of the Invisible Hand cut them off fromt the public feed. A little forced self-sufficiency and, hey, who knows: their economies might outperform the national economy on a per-capita basis.

Instead we pay them to do nothing, with the predictable result (well, predictable to anyone who has ever lived as a student, whom the government also pays to do nothing) that they all start abusing substances.

Which brings us to the junkies. Why do I have no sympathy for these benighted souls, enslaved to one chemical or another, wandering through life in a haze? Why do I ignore them as I walk by, refusing to part with even the most modest amount of pocket change? Simple, really. Money's tight for me too. I need whatever excess I have to buy my own drugs.

There's actually a fourth category, that of the Unlucky Street Kid. I've had some bad experiences with these; back in Kingston, high school kids who still lived with their parents took to panhandling when they discovered that their multiple piercings and ripped jeans were capable of eliciting from passersby on the order of $100/day, which paid way better than any other job they could get.

Still, some are legit, so every once in a while, I give a little. Particularly if they have a funny sign:

Karma, $0.25; Good Karma, $0.50
Need Help to Become Jedi Master
Enron Relief Fund
Will Kick Self in Head for Money
Why Lie? I Want Beer, Too

These people, I give money to, because they provide a service: they make me laugh. Sadly, few of the more, er, 'experienced' bums do this; mostly, they just make me cringe and breathe through my mouth. I do not offer them financial support; hell, I don't even offer them 'reality support' (ie, I ignore them.) Does this make me a bad person? Perhaps. But I'll lay odds that you do the same thing, too, because no one likes seeing another human being in a self-inflicted state of such utter dissipation. It arouses disgust, not pity ... and we all instinctively know that they use that to try and extract money from us, their very appearance is an implicit condemnation of those who shower and work and at least try to contribute something besides bodily fluids to society. There but for the grace of god, and all that.

Allow me, however, to relate a story. Two years ago, some friends and I were hanging out in Denison Square Park, - near Kensington market for those not accustomed to Toronto - stoned on mushrooms and playing on the swings. A trio of young men approached and randomly started engaged us in conversation. They seemed nice fellows, so we remained. At some point, another man approached us, an older guy; he mumbled something about needing money, and not having eaten for three days.

I would have just ignored him, that being my way. One of the guys there, though, turned on the middle-aged individual and gave him an earful. "You're either lying, or stupid," he said, "I've been on the streets. I was there for years. There are soup kitchens all over this city; if you haven't eaten it's your own damn fault. Now fuck off."

He fucked off.

So you see, even those who have been on the streets don't necessarily have sympathy. So the next time you pass a panhandler and you decide to keep your change in your pocket, ditch the guilt trip. Food and shelter are available, often for free. All they need your money for is drugs.


Fallujah

It's always been my understanding that, when attacking a fortified location - especially one that's been given months to prepare - one attacks with roughly three times the number of defending troops, and expects to take casualties in a roughly similar proportion.

So far, the score is 70-odd 'Iraqi's' dead, to about 10 marines.

Hmm.

There really is an inverse relationship between fanaticism and competence, it would appear.

Tell me again how the states are 'losing' in Iraq?

Monday, November 08, 2004

The neighbors have spoken, the bastards.

And no, I'm not talking about the Americans (or Jesusland, as the case may be.) I'm talking about neighbors. Like two weeks ago, some friends and I were having a bonfire (it was Devil's Night, after all.) We didn't have a license, which the firemen seemed to disapprove of. We tried telling them that it was a legal barbecue, but they insisted that, grate or no, four-foot flames didn't count as a barbecue, they count as an illegal firepit. They took it well, considering they were dealing with a horde of unstable drunks that just thought they were wearing really good costumes who thought it was funny to dump large quantities of water on the blazing illumination of the giant Honest Head.

Now, this was not our first bonfire. They'd been going, oh, three or four times a week, for about a month. No trouble from the firemen. It's possible, of course, that they were just a little more attentative than usual (being, as aforemention, Devil's Night.) I was disabused of this notion the following day, however, when it was revealed to me in a somewhat abrupt fashion that, in fact, it had been our neighbor who had ratted on us.

The bastard. What did we ever do to him?

Except for, you know, stealing his wood. (Hard to find, wood, when you're in the middle of a city. Seems city hall has issues with people who chop down the trees lining the sidewalks....)

Which brings me to the incident that just happened, with another neighbor.

Our door-bell was rudely rang at eleven p.m., at which point I discovered a strange brown matron whom I have never seen before, though I have lived here lo these many months. From the expression on her face I surmised that she was doing her best to work up enough energy to be mad. Seems the poor creature had wandered over in a befuddled haze, her sleep-deprived brain manufacturing delusions of some sort of decadent western party involving drug addled mayhem set to a soundtrack of degenerate underground music. Seemed she and her brood had to be up for some ungodly reason at five in the morning.

I gave her a strange look, and shut the door.

To be fair, I was playing Skinny Puppy and Chemical Brothers.

On laptop speakers, at half volume.

There was no other music.

I submit that there is no way save her ears possess the acuteness of a bat's that she could have heard the beats emanating from these anemic speakers. The intensity of the sound decreases as the square of the distance, and it ain't all that intense to begin with, folks.

Thus: my contention that she was wildly hallucinating, perhaps in shock after waking up in the middle of the night to realize that she had, in the midst of a somnabulic nightmare, throttled her children.

So, being a nice guy, I turned down the beats, muttering the occasional deranged thought while committing to this blog my irritation at her interruption of my night.

Lady at 476 Brock, 478 1/2, or 480 (wherever the hell you live), allow me to wish you one of those night terrors where you wake up with a demonic creature sitting on your chest and breathing the foul stench of death into your face.

Fucking neighbors.