Monday, September 1, 2014

"You're out of uniform, Mister!"


    Are you sitting down?  Good.  There were pictures of naked people on the internet over the weekend.  This is a first, from what I can gather.
    I jest, of course.  The internet is the world's single greatest source of pornography in all of its forms - hardcore, softcore, romantic, kinky, violent, artistic, exploitative and sometimes unconscionable, depending on your personal moral compass.  The subjects include women, men, women who used to be men, and even the occasional barnyard animal.
    So why all the hubbub over a leaked series of sexually non-explicit selfies (an event that's already gone down in cultural lore as "The Fappening")?  Because they're not pictures of obscure would-be Hollywood starlets who dropped their drawers to make the September rent.  They were hacked from the smartphones of A-list celebrities, including Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and supermodel Kate Upton, and ran rampant across social media while harried publicists to the stars issued various and sundry threats and denials.  
    I can't decide whether it's disturbing or refreshing that this is considered a "scandal".  The proliferation of internet pornography is so desensitizing that the fuss over The Fappening reaffirms society's entirely disproportionate preoccupation with celebrity.  On the other hand, considering the unending variety of smut perpetually percolating in the bowels of the world wide web, it bodes well for the species that we can still get excited by a simple peek at a nipple, even if it has to be a VIN (Very Important Nipple).
   Interestingly, one of the most widely-disseminated and hotly-debated Fappening photos shows Upton cavorting naked in front of the bathroom mirror with her equally-unclad boyfriend, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who's at least as big a baseball star as Upton is a fashion icon.  Twitter opinion is sharply divided on whether Verlander deserves congratulatory praise or open derision, which brings us full circle on online pornography and social media trolls.
   Basement-dwelling masturbators openly mocking a guy for being naked in a picture with Kate Upton is the very definition of the internet.
 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Justin vs. PKP - the looming Canadian idol showdown


     If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the Parti Quebecois is truly insane.
     On the heels of one of the worst electoral spankings in their history, members of the the PQ caucus have reaffirmed their commitment to separation (or "sovereignty" as they like to call it, as part of a thus far failed public relations strategy to soft sell the potentially dire consequences of an abrupt rupture of the Canadian federation).  While there's no method to the separatist madness other than the tunnel vision pursuit of damn-the-torpedoes nationhood, the PQ dream might not be dead if the voting public's shallow obsession with style over substance proves to be a winning formula.
     Consider the potential scenarios for the next federal and provincial elections.  History suggests that Canadians prefer change - if only for its own sake - after two terms of the same government.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives are in their third mandate since 2006.  Between Harper fatigue and the personal appeal of Justin Trudeau, the Liberals are the favorites to win the next federal election, expected in the fall of 2015.  Trudeau might not have an impressive CV by professional or political standards, but his timing is right and he's got tremendous star power, which is hugely important in today's 24 hour, multi-platform media universe.
     Which brings us to PQ leadership frontrunner Pierre-Karl Peladeau - another political neophyte whose biggest assets are his bank account and his celebrity, although he is admittedly much more than a mere dilettante.  Peladeau is seasoned and accomplished at the highest levels of the business world.  A PKP-led PQ with a strong economic agenda and minus the ever more outdated racism and xenophobia that sunk Pauline Marois's boat would not only represent an attractive alternative to the Liberals at the provincial level, but could inspire the confidence that's always been the missing ingredient in the quest for "sovereignty".
     And this is where it gets really interesting: within 5 to 10 years, there's the possibility of a third Quebec referendum campaign with Pierre-Karl Peladeau and Justin Trudeau as the respective leaders of the Yes and No sides.  The future of a united Canada could possibly be decided by which member of the lucky sperm club flashes the warmest grin, has the nicest haircut and cuts the best figure in a $2500 suit.
     Lord help us all.
 

Friday, August 29, 2014

The stars - they're idiots, just like us (only more so)

   There's a regular segment in the fast food-for-the-brain magazine Us Weekly called "Stars - They're Just Like Us." It features a series of photographs showing celebrity A-Listers engaged in mundane everyday activities like pumping gas into their Lamborghini, dropping their kids off at a 50 thousand dollar a year private school or hustling through the airport to catch their flight to a private island in Tahiti.
   
   Yeah, just like us.
   
   Of course, the stars are nothing like us. They live a life of wealth and privilege, and more power to them. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, I always say.
   
   But what's with the kid names?
   
   Two unfortunately-named children of the stars in the news recently - Beyonce's little girl Blue Ivy and Christina Aguilera's newborn daughter Summer Rain - actually got off easy compared to some of their celebrity offspring counterparts, whose ranks include Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee), Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette), Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone), Fifi Trixibelle (Bob Geldof) and Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin (Frank Zappa).
   What motivates a parent to burden their own child with a name better-suited for a post-punk band, a Labrador retriever or a Kentucky Derby also-ran?  Two words: publicity stunt. There's no greater currency than publicity in the celebrity game, and a baby named Tic Tac, Sasquatch or Cement Mixer is a lot more likely to command the attention of the paparazzi and the public than Tom, Dick or Harriet.     
   As parents, we're duty-bound to love our children unconditionally and protect and nurture their physical and emotional well-being at all costs. Using them as props to feed our own egos at the expense of their dignity and self-esteem is a shameful violation of a sacred trust. 
   
   As I was telling my boys Thor and Copernicus just last night, nothing is more important than family. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What ever happened to Pin the Tail on the Donkey?

 
    I'm not an anti-gun guy, but when a 9 year old with an Uzi accidentally shoots someone to death at a place called Bullets and Burgers, the frequent folly of the pro-gun mentality is laid bare.          
   The tragedy this week at an outdoor shooting range in White Hills, Arizona is two-fold. A 39 year old firearms instructor lost his life, and a little girl will have to spend the rest of her life coming to grips with the fact that she killed someone, even if it was accidental. 
   
   Teaching children to shoot for sustenance, self-protection and even sport are time-honored rural traditions, but an Uzi isn't a common choice for personal and home security, nor is it designed for hunting or sport. It's a weapon of war. Handing a loaded Uzi to anyone not properly and thoroughly trained in its use is asking for trouble, even under controlled circumstances. Putting it in the hands of a child is a recipe for disaster, and as an idea for a "fun" outing for a 9 year old, it's negligence with gusts up to insanity. 
   
   There's plenty of blame to go around for the White Hills tragedy, and it's shared equally by the owners of the shooting range, the parents of the girl and the ill-fated instructor. Common sense is paramount where firearms are concerned, and there was a startling absence of common sense all around. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"That'll be $12.5 billion; please prepare your cash and advance to the window"


   There's a curious juxtaposition of nationalist wrath in the aftermath of American fast food giant Burger King's announcement that it's buying Tim Hortons.  The overwhelming outcry is from the U.S., where politicians and the public alike are suspicious that Burger King's main motivation for the merger is to transfer its base of operations to Canada to take advantage of lower corporate tax rates.  The move comes within weeks of President Obama threatening to close loopholes on corporate tax avoidance, and the U.S. media is rife with outrage from American taxpayers who swear they've eaten their last Whopper. 
   Meanwhile, barely a whimper has registered on this side of the border over one of our most iconic national brands being gobbled up by U.S. interests.  Beyond the obvious tax revenue benefits for Canada, the absence of angst could a welcome signal that Canadians are finally over our longstanding inferiority complex vis-a-vis our transcendent neighbors, and knee-jerk resentment is no longer the default mode whenever we get trampled by America's giant cultural and economic footprint.  This is also not the first time Tim Horton's has been bought by an American fast food juggernaut. Wendy's owned Tim's from 1995 to 2006 and the brand perception was no less Canadian, so any belated bellyaching over U.S. interlopers in 2014 would ring hollow. 
   
   I can only speak for myself, but a multi-billion dollar corporate merger is so far outside my daily reality that it just doesn't resonate, and as long my morning coffee doesn't suddenly start tasting like onion rings, ownership of the company that brews it is of little or no consequence. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

FFS, put those things away

 
   Full disclosure: I have a deep and abiding sense of admiration for a magnificent set of mammalian protuberances, but let's face it: for every person - man or woman - who looks good with their clothes off, there are 99 of us who resemble modern art jello sculptures. For that reason alone, I can't embrace the notion women going topless in public, except on private property or clothing-optional beaches clearly designated as such. 
   The few dozen women who paraded their humpty dumplings around Montreal two days ago for what was billed as "Go Topless Day" looked like crackpots more than they resembled credible crusaders for women's rights. Of course, the fact that the event was organized by the Raelians ensured the crackpot quota was easily met, although taking the tatas out for a walk as an expression of feminist liberation and believing that mankind was placed on Earth by UFOs are not mutually exclusive. But I digress. 
   
   It's not even an equality issue. Watching a guy's beer belly and man teats jiggle down Main Street is at least as unsightly and offensive as being confronted by a couple of pancakes with nipples that have long since ceded to Newton's law of gravity. There is no amount of libertarianism in either scenario that can compensate for the loss of dignity on everyone's part, be they the wilfully unclad or the unwitting witnesses to the spectacle. 
   
   A cultured society has community standards to promote and maintain decorum and foster mutual respect. Keeping our clothes on when and where appropriate is one of the cornerstone community standards of western civilization.  Let's keep it that way.
   Of course, if the Raelians are right and we're just an alien science experiment, all bets are off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

There's no credibility in throwing cold water on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Lakeshore Bantam AAA football Cougars take the Ice Bucket Challenge to honor coach Mike Soles, who's been battling ALS since 2005.

While there's a case to be made for the Ice Bucket Challenge as a passing cultural phenomenon that's got more to do with social media bandwagon-jumping than it is about fundraising for ALS research and awareness, the results speak for themselves.  At last count, the amount of money raised since people started dousing themselves and each other with buckets, pails, coolers and even backhoe scoops full of ice water was up twenty-fold over the same period last year, from 2 million to 40 million dollars.  Yet the naysayers cling stubbornly to the discredited notion that it's little more than misguided narcissism run amok.  I counted myself among the cynics in the first few days of the mania, but in the face of overwhelming evidence, better to recognize and acknowledge that something very special is happening than to come across as a half-baked contrarian.
Relative calm has returned to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, two-plus weeks after white police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. A grand jury is expected to decide later this fall whether to charge Wilson, which would almost certainly head off another, even more violent round of rioting because it would represent justice for the black man, like the time O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder.

I'm not sure how part-time environmentalist and fulltime silver screen heartthrob Leo DiCaprio got from Hollywood to his anti-oilsands photo op in Alberta last week, but I assume it was by para-sail or unicycle since using any form of transportation powered by fossil fuels would make him a hypocrite.
I was talking with an old friend on the phone yesterday and the conversation got around to Israel and Gaza. It quickly became clear that we're on opposite sides of the debate, so we agreed to change the subject. That didn't change anything in Gaza, but it prevented a longstanding friendship from potentially being fractured to no one's benefit.
 
Speaking of First World problems, the most widely-disseminated photographs on social media from the weekend earthquake in northern California were of damaged wine cellars. When the irretrievable loss of a 2011 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon is what passes for catastrophe, it's time to say a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving.