Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Radiation Graduation

Entry 6 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

  Was it really just six weeks ago that I arrived at the Royal Victoria Hospital oncology ward as a wide-eyed wisp of a lad enchanted by a wondrous oasis of complimentary tea biscuits and cranberry juice?  Today was "Graduation Day" after 30 radiation treatments and a month-and-a-half regimen of chemo pills.  I even got to wear a graduation gown of sorts, although it didn't have a backside, and instead of throwing my hat up into the air, I just threw up. 
   Actually, that's not true.  I've been very fortunate in terms of side effects, or - more to the point - lack thereof.  No nausea, no hair or weight loss, no dry skin, no need for adult diapers (thank you, baby Jesus) and no more fatigue than normal for someone who gets up for work at 3:30am five days a week.  Except for an inflamed sciatic nerve that would have put a dent in my belly dancing game if I were a belly dancer, it was a seamless experience that left me short on grievance and long on gratitude.  Even the subsequent discovery that it was cranberry cocktail and not juice failed to dampen my appreciation for the care and compassion I've received since being diagnosed nearly four months ago.  The most important and revealing thing I've learned is that as much as the health care system can seem impersonal, the people are dedicated professionals who give you everything they've got and then some when the chips are down.
   It was a pleasure to engage daily with Javier and Mariko in treatment room 6 at the radiology department, and I hope I never seen them again, except when I drop by to thank them for their help after the doctors tell me I'm good to go.
   Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and take nothing for granted - except that the Leafs will miss the playoffs again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yay! Bonus radiation!

Entry 5 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

Turns out radiation therapy is like Petro Points: if you're a regular customer you get a bonus.  Tomorrow was supposed to be my 25th and final radiation therapy session, but I was informed this week that they're giving me five additional "boosts", which I assume from the terminology is like the radiation version of a king can of Red Bull.  In any event, it's a much better deal than Petro Points, which redeem a container of windshield washer fluid for something like every $10,000 of gasoline purchased.

No shit (or none that I've seen)
Despite media reports of sewage backing up in the new hospital, I can happily report that my experience at the Glen site has been fecal matter-free.  I'm a big fan of the facility, which has massive windows all around that help create a bright, positive atmosphere that's the antithesis of some of the older hospitals, which are sufficiently depressing that they could be used as a set for a sequel to Jacob's Ladder.  Whomever books the entertainment at the hospital also deserves kudos.  In the past two weeks, a five piece brass band has played Christmas carols from the floor overlooking the cafeteria, and patients in the oncology ward waiting room have been regaled with festive favorites by a women's quartet and a flutist.  I requested side one of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick from the girl with the flute, and was rewarded with a blank stare and crickets.

RIP Kristen
I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm able to make light of being ill because I got an early diagnosis and a positive prognosis, but the gravity of this insidious disease is not to be underestimated.  Last week, a young woman with whom I worked at KIC Country radio passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer.  Kristen Maither was sweet as sugar and tough as nails.  She smiled through pain and exuded humility and gratitude in the most adverse circumstances.  It was a privilege to know her.  Godspeed, Kristen.

Monday, November 30, 2015

It could always be worse - just ask Chief

Entry 4 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

Spent some quality time with the kids at the oncology ward last Friday, because what's more fun on a ped day than watching your old man parade around bare-assed in a hospital gown?  Actually, I think it was a useful exercise because it gave them a better understanding of the treatments I'm undergoing and the excellent care I'm receiving.  I thought it was especially important for my youngest, Allison, who's only seven years old, although she has already weathered numerous health care crises owing to the multiple deaths of her imaginary husband, Chief, who has expired and come back to life on no fewer than a dozen occasions.  According to Allie, Chief has been shot, burned, pushed off a cliff, hit by a bus, eaten by a labradoodle and fallen through a plate glass window, among other untimely demises.  Cancer would be a vacation for the poor bastard.  Allie seems to be holding up quite well under the circumstances, due in part to her imaginary emotional support companions- Fucksack the dog and Bleembloomblombloms the cat.  (I'm not making this up.  She is, but I'm not.)

Congratulations!  It's a liver!
The doctors have been keeping a close eye on my liver because that's where the particular type of cancer I have is most likely to turn up if it spreads. I went for an ultrasound on my liver last week and got the thumbs up, although I kicked myself afterwards for not asking for a picture of the grainy ultrasound image that I could keep in my wallet and use to bore the shit out of friends and casual acquaintances.  They still don't know the sex of my liver - we thought it might by a boy, but that telltale sign turned out to be a cyst.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Everything is relative, including cancer

Entry 3 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass".

It's been hugely gratifying to receive so many well wishes after my first couple of blog posts on dealing with a stage 3 colorectal cancer diagnosis.  In light of the much-appreciated accolades for having a positive attitude and approaching this challenge with humour, it's worth reiterating that it's easy for me to crack wise because I have a decent prognosis.  Nothing is guaranteed and I won't know whether and to what extent my radiation and chemo treatments are working until the surgeon boldly goes where no man has gone before, but I feel fine mentally and physically, which is more than can be said for some of the people whose paths I cross on a daily basis at the hospital.  Last week, I shared a waiting area with a father and his teenaged son.  The son was undergoing treatment, and his dad's emotional burden was palpable.  It was unspoken but obvious that he would trade places with his boy in a second - as any loving parent would - and it made me grateful that it's me and not one of my kids who's been dealt this hand.  I can only imagine that father's feelings of fear and helplessness.  There but for the grace of God...

Shout out to the gang in radiation oncology room 6
I go to the same treatment room at the hospital and deal with the same staff just about every day, and when they found out I work on the radio they thought that was pretty cool.  I thought it was cool that they thought it was cool, because they're all in their 20s, and their curiosity about my work reassured me that not everyone under 30 looks at pre-millennial pop culture and technology with fustian hipster disdain.  Anyway, I promised to give them a shout out on the air at 8:15am the next day, didn't remember until 9:45 and got one of their names and the name of their department wrong.  And they still thought it was cool.  Suck it, hipsters.

They're magically antimetabolic!
My hospital-appointed dietitian says Lucky Charms don't cure cancer, to which I say, "It's never been tried."  And that's why I'm a visionary pioneer in the field of medical research when I'm not cranking out yesterday's hits and the day before yesterday's classics on lite and refreshing Jewel 106.7 FM.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Does this hospital gown make me look fat?

Entry 2 in the colorectal cancer blog journal "I've Got a Mass in My Ass"

Note to self: Not all hospital gowns are created equal.  Before my radiation treatment today, I grabbed one out of the usual pile and headed into the changing room, where I soon found myself uncomfortably attired in something that barely covered my nether regions and didn't even come close to tying up in the back.  Clearly, there was a laundry room mix-up between the Royal Vic and the adjacent Montreal Children's Hospital.  I looked like Mama Cass in a mini-skirt.  Only prettier.

Cancer has its privileges
Want to save money on parking at the new super-hospital?  Get cancer.  Daily radiation/chemotherapy treatments entitle you to a $60 a month parking pass, which represents savings of thank-you-baby-Jesus percent off regular rates.  Before my treatments started, I waited three hours one day for a doctor to tell me something another doctor had already told me two weeks earlier, and then I paid $25 for parking.  The left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing, even though both hands had been wrist-deep up the same ass.

Bacon causes cancer?  Whatever.
One of my radiation room moles tipped me off today that tomorrow I have to meet with my arch-nemesis: the nutritionist.  She'll probably tell me bacon causes cancer, when the more relevant question is "Does bacon exacerbate cancer?"  Anyway, I went over to the Rail bistro at Playground Poker in Kahnawake after my treatment for some last-hurrah bacon and eggs with a side order of the greatest breakfast potatoes in the history of the world.  It was nice to catch up with my friend and former K103 colleague Paul Graif.  By the way, Paul, "Hey, you've lost weight!" is not an appropriate greeting for a cancer patient.  Ya fat fuck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oh, great, another "Look at me, I have cancer" blog

  About ten weeks ago, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, which apparently isn't as bad as it sounds.  Right out of the gate, the doctor who performed the colonoscopy that revealed the tumour assured me it was "operable, treatable and curable."  
   Of course, I've shared the news with family, work colleagues and close friends and I've mentioned it in passing to some acquaintances.  There's no reason to treat it like a state secret, but neither did I want to go public because: A. people have their own problems and don't need to be burdened with mine, and B. I didn't want to be perceived as a self-indulgent attention seeker.  If I want attention, I'll write a hawkish anti-Islamist blog or tweet some brutally honest common sense about taking personal responsibility to piss off the terminally-offended progressive left.  Works every time.
   However, on a couple of occasions, people whose judgement I respect have suggested I should write about this journey - not so much for therapeutic purposes, but because a lot of what's happened to me over the past two-half-a-half months is so goddam funny, like the time I passed out and fell on the floor during my first consultation/examination with the colorectal surgeon.  There I was, buns up and kneeling on the examination table while he's up my ass with some kind of oncological divining rod, waving it around like he's conducting the triumphant finale to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  It wasn't the pain as much as it was the discomfort that overwhelmed me, and the next thing I knew I woke up on the examination room floor, with the nurse apologizing for not catching me and exclaiming "I've never seen anyone faint THAT fast!"  Meanwhile, the doctor, who happens to be movie star good-looking, tells me to stay down for a couple of minutes until I regain my strength.  I don't often compare my lot in life to the fortunes of others, but I've got to tell you: as I was sitting on a cold hospital floor with my pants and underwear around my ankles under the sympathetic gaze of an impossibly handsome surgeon, I might have felt the slightest twinge of inadequacy.
   Fast forward to today, and I just completed my fourth round of five-day-a-week radiation/chemotherapy treatments.  The radiation room staff was listening to the Beatles on Spotify, and as I was lying on the table getting zapped, I drew inspiration from my great and good friend Dave McGimpsey and thought up a few bogus, cancer-related Beatles song titles, including "Molly's Got a Mass," Tottenham Tumour" and "Bloody Uncle Anus".  They're not in the same league as Dave's "Nigel and His Chippy", "Nasty Colonel Pickles" and "Sammy Likes His Crumblies", but I thought they were pretty good. 
   To summarize, so far, so good.  I feel fine, I haven't lost weight (which for a change is a good thing) and the prognosis is positive.  If I can get through my next appointment with the surgeon without falling off the table and cracking my skull open on the floor, I should be able to stay on the right side of the dirt for a while yet.  I'll keep you posted.  Thanks for listening.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I lost 15 Twitter followers and I feel great!

   If only I could lose weight the way I lost Twitter followers after the Paris terrorist attacks, I'd be in fighting trim in no time.
   Actually, I only dropped about 15 Twits in the 24 hours immediately following the latest round of mindless carnage and subsequent social media brouhaha.  (For the record, losing 15 pounds would still leave me 25-30 lbs shy of my target weight, but I suppose it would be a start.)
   Anyhoo, back to my supposed Islamophobic intolerance that so offended some of my social media acquaintances that they felt compelled to bail on a tenuous online relationship that never had so much as a  "hail-good-fellow-well-met" to begin with: the details are fraught with irony. 

   My first offence was to call out much-reviled British television host Piers Morgan for not waiting until the bodies were removed from the crime scene before tweeting the shopworn apologia about the attackers not being "real" Muslims, as if "Allahu Akbar" is a motivational cheer reserved for the Dubai Mighty Camels of the Emirates Hockey League (and that's an actual team from an actual league, so don't blame me for perpetuating stereotypes - blame them).  Morgan and other "useful idiots" refuse to take the Islamic State at their word that everything they do is in the name of Islam, and anyone who points out that inconvenient truth is automatically labelled a bigot, even when they go out of their way to acknowledge that ISIS is not representative of all Muslims.  It's standard intellectual dishonesty practiced by self-righteous hashtag activists who never met a smear they wouldn't apply to anyone who doesn't march in ideological lockstep.  
   The second tweet that got some knickers in a knot was this one:

   If you've read a newspaper or watched television in the last year, you know that's a reference to then-Liberal leader and newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's widely-mocked comment that Canada should suspend air strikes against Islamic State in favor of offering cold weather survival aid and advice to ISIS victims.  Some people thought the tweet was in bad taste, but taste is subjective, and I thought it was relevant and fair current affairs commentary, however biting.  For those who didn't understand the reference because they don't follow the news, tough tits.  Educate yourself.  And spare me the bleating about criticism of our new PM being tantamount to "playing politics".  The election is over.  You want to talk about playing politics?  Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was (and continues to be) blamed for everything from climate change to the heartbreak of psoriasis by anti-conservative partisans whose disdain for the man precludes any semblance of fair and credible commentary.
    I'll leave you with a couple of essays that underscore how the schism in Western political ideology has never been wider.  I'm more inclined to the Breitbart point of view, both ideologically and because they tend to maintain a sense of humour, which I believe is important.  The Salon post also makes some excellent points, especially about ill-advised western foreign policy adventures, but I can do without the victim-blaming, and Christ, they can be whiny and condescending.

Feedback is welcome but anonymous comments will not be posted.  If you don't have the courage of your convictions, they're not worth reading.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The captaincy: there was no right or wrong choice

   The Canadiens couldn't win when they named their new captain.  They also couldn't lose.
   While I share the opinion of widely-read columnists and bloggers on both sides of the language divide that PK Subban was best candidate for the "C", there's no credibility in attempting to diminish the elevation of Max Pacioretty to the most coveted and respected leadership position in professional hockey - if not in all of pro sports.  
   Unlike the boisterous and engaging Subban, Pacioretty is a quiet, leadership-by-example type whose near-miraculous recovery powers in the wake of a string of serious injuries have imbued him with an aura of indestructibility.  Most tellingly, he was awarded the captaincy after a vote among the players.  As much as it's a stretch and a trivialization of professional soldiering to say that athletes "go to war" together, there is a sort of military mentality in team sports, where - as in combat - the biggest responsibility is to the guys next to you, and the greatest fear is letting them down.  In those circumstances, leadership is paramount, and there are no better judges of leadership qualities than those being led.  If the guys who live check by jowl in circumstances of shared challenges and adversity decided collectively that Pacioretty was the best choice for a leader, that should be good enough for anyone.
   It's also not as if Subban lost the lottery here.   He's still in a leadership position as an alternate captain and the heir apparent whenever Pacioretty has to miss a week or two with a femoral shaft fracture or collapsed lung.  He's the unquestioned face of the franchise, which is saying something when one of his teammates won the lion's share of the hardware at the NHL Awards.  Along with being the Canadiens best player who's not Carey Price, Subban's stock in the community soared last week with his unprecedented generosity to the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation.  For cynics who think it was public relations posturing for the captaincy, there are much cheaper ways of grandstanding that making a 10 million dollar commitment to charity.  Haterz gonna hate, as the kids today are wont to say. 
   Subban would have made a great captain.  He still might someday.  In the meantime, he'll be a dependable lieutenant to a guy who's every bit as qualified for the captaincy, in different ways.  Whatever else the Canadiens shortcomings might be entering the 2015-2016 season, quality leadership is not one of them.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

RIP responsible journalism

   It would be one thing if the mainstream Canadian news media merely ignored partisan attempts to cast Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a Frankenstein hybrid of Charles Manson, Al Capone and (your favorite 20th century criminal dictator here).  The fact that the self-proclaimed media "elite" actually promote that nonsense is a bleak commentary on the disturbing state of what now passes for professional journalism in Canada.
   Some background on the relationship between Harper and the media is useful in explaining what is accurately described as "Harper Derangement Syndrome".  His refusal to kowtow to the Ottawa press gallery's every whim has put the PM squarely in the media establishment's crosshairs.  While pissing and moaning like spoiled children about a perceived lack of accountability technically falls under the professional journalistic mandate, deliberately manipulating the news to cast their tormentor in the worst possible light is flat-out propagandist.  The very journalists who tacitly endorse comparisons of Harper to Hitler are themselves practicing their "craft" in the finest traditions of Dr. Goebbels.
   The most telling example of anti-Harper media bias was this week's debacle involving the drowning death of three year old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, whose photographed corpse on a Turkish beach became a worldwide sensation.  Canada's national news media dutifully tucked into a plateful of bullshit served up by New Democratic Party MP Fin Donnelly, who falsely claimed that he hand-delivered a refugee claim from the boy's family to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and that the claim was rejected.  The narrative immediately became that Alexander and Harper had blood on their hands and were responsible for the boy's death.  Even if Donnelly's claims were true, that narrative would have been a stretch, but when they were shown to be factually incorrect, the opposition and their hack journalist allies doubled down.  There were no apologies for getting the story wrong, and rather than seek out Donnelly for an explanation, the overwhelming majority of journalists continued to attempt to discredit Alexander and Harper while ignoring the actual facts of the case.  In the most ghoulish display of partisanship, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's chief adviser, Gerald Butts, actually used the dead child as a prop for fundraising and wasn't called out by media, which tells you everything you need to know about bias in Canadian journalism.

   As distasteful and unprofessional as the Kurdi affair is, none of it comes as a surprise to anyone who has followed the evolution of Canadian journalism.  A generation ago, the trade was still about reporting the facts, and the idea of compromising one's professional integrity by pushing an agenda was anathema. Today, journalism schools are overrun by naive idealists who learn at the knee of loopy leftists like Heather Mallick, Tony Burman and Terry Glavin that twisting the facts to fit a pre-conceived narrative is more important than getting the story right.  That's all well and good if you're writing fiction, but the news isn't fiction,
   At least, it didn't used to be.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson

   As social trailblazing goes, any comparison between Michael Sam and Jackie Robinson is tenuous at best, and at worst an insult to Robinson's legacy.
   Gay rights had already gone mainstream when Sam came out as pro football's first openly gay player last year. There was no establishment backlash like Robinson faced when he broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947.  To the contrary, in 2015, anyone who publicly disparages the notion of a gay player in a pro sports locker room is fair game for mob shaming on social media and summary dismissal from their job.  
   Sam received overwhelming support from the football establishment, the media and the public through his journey from the US college ranks to NFL training camp to the CFL.  When he walked away from the Alouettes this week for the second (and probably last) time, it was because he couldn't handle the "pressure".  The pressure of what, exactly?  Of near-unanimous support from a gushing media and adoring public?  Of a two year contract worth a reported $100,000 per season when he still hasn't proven anything at the professional level?  Of the preferential treatment the Alouettes afforded Sam while he tried to sort out his personal problems?  The worst thing to happen to Michael Sam since joining the Alouettes - and it fits the timeline in the subsequent chain of events - was that his fiancĂ©e broke up with him.

   Jackie Robinson should have faced such adversity. Institutionalized racism in the form of official segregation was part of the American social fabric for two decades after Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson endured open hostility from fans and players - including his own teammates - but he never quit.  His remarkable athletic skills were exceeded only by his character and resolve.
   I hope Michael Sam finds peace with whatever troubles him, but I'm not on board for the pity party.  He positioned himself as a social trailblazer and happily accepted the accolades, but he wasn't ready for the responsibility.  
   Michael Sam is no Jackie Robinson.  Hell, he's not even Caitlyn Jenner.

(Please note: anonymous comments will not be posted.  If you don't have the courage of your convictions to sign your name to them, you're in the wrong place.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Necessary Evil

   Every August 6th and 9th, the thoroughly discredited notion that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary in hastening the end of World War Two is trotted out by the usual suspects in the revisionist history and peace activist communities. It's frustrating for serious students of military history and insulting to the generation that had to face down and vanquish a brutal foe, but part of what was preserved by their sacrifice was the right to express even the most cockamamie opinion.
   The most important thing to remember in any historical analysis is that everything that happens, happens in the context of its time.  By August of 1945, the butcher's bill for a world at war was in the neighborhood of 50 million souls.  Japan was the lone holdout among the Axis powers.  A negotiated peace was out of the question.  The Allies were unflinching on unconditional surrender and rightly so, because international standards for justice demanded that Japan be held to account for aggression and war crimes that pre-dated World War Two by a decade.  
    Despite the inevitability of defeat and in contrast to the half-hearted opposition and wholesale surrender of entire German armies in the waning days of the war in Europe, fanatical Japanese troops continued to fight virtually to the last man.  The ancient Bushido code of "death before dishonor" was reflected in wave after wave of kamikaze attacks at sea and suicidal banzai charges on land in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in early 1945, and it was a code that extended to the civilian population in a highly militarized society.  With that in mind, Allied invasion planners whose only remaining target was the Japanese mainland envisioned upwards of a million more deaths if the home islands were to be taken by conventional force to finally bring Japan to its knees.  The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as horrible as they were, averted a prolonged bloodbath and reduced the estimated death toll by at least 80 percent.
   No serious debate about the morality of using the atomic bomb can be entertained without considering what would have happened without the bomb.  To approach it any other way is either intellectually dishonest or naive, which - not coincidentally - are the respective hallmarks of revisionist historians and peace activists.  
   As Don Rickles (of all people) once said "We all want peace; sometimes we just can't make a deal for it."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Big game, big egos

  Let's be clear about where I stand on the food chain, which is at the top with the rest of humanity.  As the most evolved species on the planet, we have the run of the place, and the other species serve at our whim - and often as our dinner.  Depending on their physical makeup and skill set, animals feed us, clothe us, work for us and provide us with companionship.
   That said, I'm as appalled as any herbivore by the wanton killing of animals by so-called sportsmen like Dr. Walter Palmer - the Minnesota dentist who became the world's most reviled person overnight by killing Zimbabwe's beloved celebrity lion, Cecil.  Even if there's an element of credibility to claims that recreational hunters perform a necessary function by "thinning the herd" and preventing certain species of wildlife from propagating beyond the resources required to sustain them, the argument comes off as a lame rationalization for bloodlust.  It rings especially hollow when a big game hunting hobbyist like Sabrina Corgatelli speaks about a "connection with the animal", as if  being hunted to their death is some kind of uplifting spiritual experience for her prey, as opposed to a cruel and violent end to their existence.  Rock star/crossbow enthusiast Ted Nugent is only marginally more convincing in his defence of hunting because he actually makes practical use of some of his kills, but at the end of the day, the Nuge's legacy would probably be better-served as the musical force behind the iconic rock ballad "Stranglehold" than it is as the nut job who shot several hundred hogs from a helicopter with a machine gun.  
   Big game hunters like Corgatelli and Nugent undoubtedly believe they're fighting the good fight by publicly flaunting their trophies, but they're doing themselves a disservice.  They'll never prevail in the internet age.  Their own sadism pales in comparison to the bloodlust of the social media mob who can enjoy a good shaming in complete anonymity without putting on pants or leaving their parents' basement, never mind spending 50 thousand dollars on an African safari.  If they can resist the temptation to post their kills online, hobby hunters can go about their bloody business with relative impunity.  The question is whether their egos could handle the obscurity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Narratives are hard

   In these times of an ever-shifting cultural landscape and breathtaking hypocrisy at both ends of the socio-political spectrum (but let's be honest - mostly on the left), narratives are hard.
   As a criminally-privileged cisgender white middle aged male, I'm completely flummoxed over whether I'm supposed feign outrage that GQ is objectifying Amy Schumer in a sexually-themed Star Wars cover/photo spread, or shower her with insincere and self-serving plaudits for sticking it to the Hollywood patriarchy. 
   Similarly, I find myself at a moral impasse over the confrontation between transgender reporter Zoey Tur and right wing commentator Ben Shapiro, whom Tur threatened to send home in an ambulance after Shapiro referred to Tur as "sir" during a debate moderated by Dr. Drew Pinsky.  Is it enough to smugly conclude that Shapiro invited the threat of violence by disrepecting Tur, or should I further rationalize that Shapiro's refusal to embrace transgender culture is itself a form of hostility?
   Truth be told, I really don't care either way on either issue, but woe betide the social media enthusiast who ventures an "incorrect" opinion. Been there, done that, had the t-shirt applied as a gag.  From now on, I want to get it right - convictions, logic and common sense be damned.
   Help me, social justice warriors.  You're my only hope.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Haters gonna hate, beheaders gonna behead

   There wasn't much to choose from between the two sides in the motley assembly of demonstrators and counter-protestors who faced off outside a mosque in Phoenix Friday.  Mom, apple pie and semi-automatic stopping power were represented by bikers and other self-styled patriots who wanted to serve notice that ain't no A-rab or nobody else gonna tell Jethro what cartoons he can or can't draw in 'Murca.  On the other side of the police line were the usual suspects who never met a social justice cause they wouldn't hashtag to check their white privilege.   Happily, the prophet's avengers apparently got stuck in traffic en route, so the only shots fired were verbal. 
   Arguing over whether drawing pictures of Muhammad is a legitimate exercise in free speech or a calculated attempt to provoke a violent Muslim backlash misses the point.  Muhammad cartoon contests are themselves a backlash to violence already being perpetrated ad nauseam in the name of Islam.  Showing up with a variety of (legal) firearms was definitely white trash overkill on the part of the bikers and their allies, but I'll say this for that side of the debate: they're clear about where they stand. They believe in the liberal values that underpin western democracy and won't abide any attempt to undermine those values, especially from an ideology with a bloody track record of violently rejecting freedom and equality.
   The pro-Islam crowd, meanwhile, are hopelessly mired in their own contradictions.  The fundamental failing of white liberal apologists who like to play the "Islamophobe" card is that they're the same crowd who yammer endlessly about misogyny and homophobia, knowing full well that both are well-entrenched in the Islamic faith.  I have yet to hear anyone adequately reconcile Islamist apologia with the institutionalized subjugation of women or routine summary executions of homosexuals.  In fact, I haven't even heard them try - either because they know it would be a futile exercise, or they're too busy haranguing a Christian baker for balking at making a cake for a same sex wedding while gay Muslims are being thrown off rooftops or hanged from construction cranes. 
   It's fine - admirable, even - to promote racial and religious harmony and trumpet equal rights for all, but if you're not consistent in your convictions, you'll lose the credibility battle every time - even to gun-toting rednecks. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Free speech - like it AND lump it

   If there's one thing activists on both ends of the political spectrum can agree on, it's free speech - more specifically, the primacy of free speech when it serves their agenda.
   Celebrity Montreal chef David MacMillan, better known by his public persona "Joe Beef", sparked an online firestorm last week when he tweeted an open invitation to convicted war criminal Omar Khadr and called Prime Minister Stephen Harper a "dumbass".  MacMillan subsequently deleted the tweet and apologized, but not before the hashtag #boycottJoeBeef was trending across Canada.
   Interestingly, MacMillan's apology generated at least as much response as his original tweet - mostly from supporters who said he had nothing to apologize for and should have stuck to his guns rather than acquiesce to an online lunch mob.  As someone who's had social media bullies gun for my livelihood on the basis of my opinion, I can sympathize with Joe Beef.  Of course, free speech is a two way street, so MacMillan's critics are as free to encourage a boycott as he is to offer Omar Khadr lunch on the house.
   The Muhammad cartoon contest that resulted in a failed terrorist attack and two dead jihadis in Garland, Texas, was less about opinion than it was about free speech versus hate speech.  The event's organizer, Pamela Geller, is an outspoken anti-Islamist who's widely regarded as a hate monger by hopelessly naive leftists who buy into the "religion of peace" narrative despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  That was the whole point of Geller's event - to illustrate the lunacy of the premise that someone deserves to die for drawing a picture. The two would-be "martyrs" who showed up with assault rifles proved her point by their choice, at the cost of their lives.  Her detractors' claims that Geller provoked the attack and is responsible for the violence is beyond flimsy.  She didn't stage the event in Mecca.  She held it deep in the heart of Texas, which is deep in the heart of America, which is as home turf as it gets for free speech advocates. 
   That's the deal with free speech: Joe Beef has as much right to invite an admitted murderer to his restaurant as Pamela Geller has to mock Muhammad, and you have the right to support one and criticize the other.  It's a bit - or even a lot - like a dog chasing its own tail, but for anyone who values independent thought and expression over regulated groupthink and censorship,  it's the best system we've got. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why comedy clubs are the modern day Alamo

   I repeatedly made fun of Chinese drivers this weekend in a public setting and everyone laughed.  The Oriental people in the room might have laughed the loudest.  I know that sounds crazy in these "enlightened" times, but I was operating in the relative safety of the last bastion of political incorrectness: the comedy club. 
   Comedy clubs are the 21st century speakeasies of free speech.  What goes on there hasn't been formally prohibited, but a lot of what's said would never fly in any other public forum.  The comedy club is a refreshing oasis of edgy wit in a barren intellectual wasteland where honesty, truth and individual thought and expression are actively suppressed.  Off stage, especially in social media arenas like Twitter, the high priests of progressive groupthink hold comedians to the same standards of intolerance that they try to impose on everyone else. (See Noah, Trevor and Gottfried, Gilbert.)
   The comedy club setting alone doesn't make it open season for ethnic slurs, misogyny, homophobia or any other form of hate speech.  However, the best comedians will embrace the most socially and culturally sensitive topics and transform them into well-crafted routines that allow us to come together and laugh at things that otherwise divide us.  Audience members who don't like or don't get a joke are free to boo or leave, although the worst punishment for a comedian is stone-faced silence.  Booing or walking out at least gives them something else to work with.  Either way, at the end of the night, the audience only remembers the jokes that made them laugh, because no one - or at least no one in their right mind - comes to a comedy club looking for a reason to be offended.  Not yet, anyway.  The day they do will be the last stand for relevant social satire on race relations, gay weddings and making deals on nuclear technology with people who wipe their ass with their bare hand.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Twitter and the evolution of social media outrage

   I am forever befuddled and bemused by the unique phenomenon of social media outrage - both in its selectivity and the rapidly-evolving cycle of backlash.
   Let's start with the backlash.  During its relatively brief life span, Twitter has become a convenient platform for righteous mob indignation.  Anyone who tweets anything perceived as being outside the socially-acceptable norm is set upon by an army of social justice warriors and hashtag activists whose fundamentalist fervor smacks of the same intolerance they claim to abhor.  It wasn't long before the self-appointed Twitter thought police became a parody of themselves, and disproportionate social media outrage became a running gag among the majority of people who don't devote their time to looking for reasons to be offended.  Of late, I've noticed SJWs trying to swing the pendulum back the other way by arguing that superfluous outrage doesn't preclude the right to be offended.  They're not wrong, although as usual, they overstate their case.
   The most fascinating aspect of social media outrage, however, is how it's targeted.  In the past two weeks, professional hockey players Morgan Rielly and Dustin Penner were pilloried online - Rielly for saying in a media interview that his teammates "shouldn't be girls" and Penner for cracking wise on Twitter about whether he required sexual consent from his girlfriend.  Rielly made a poor choice of words in describing the frustration of losing, while Penner - who's well known as a Twitter jokester - hit the "send" button when he clearly should have opted for "cancel".  Both subsequently apologized, but not before being subjected to the full wrath of the pitchfork-wielding, torch-bearing progressive Twitter hordes.
   Meanwhile, two far more consequential Twitter incidents involving current or retired professional athletes were met with relative silence.  A tweet erroneously posted on TSN alleging adultery between Toronto Maple Leaf Joffrey Lupul and teammate Dion Phaneuf's wife, Elisha Cuthbert, and a series of tweets promoting the violent rape of former major league baseball pitcher Curt Schilling's daughter were both widely reported in the media, but neither incident got much traction with the SJW crowd.  The difference?  Rielly and Penner were high-profile perpetrators, while the celebrities in the latter two incidents were the victims.  Aside from Schilling himself and a law firm representing Lupul, Phanuef and Cuthbert, forming a posse to go after the relative nobodies who were behind the tweets in those cases didn't seem to be high on anyone's priority list, even though the content of the tweets were far more offensive and potentially damaging than anything Rielly or Penner said. 
   I don't doubt the altruism of do-gooders who want a warm and fuzzy world where we all sing Kumbaya around the campfire, but whether they recognize it or care to admit it, the righteous Twitter mob are the online version of a big game safari.  They're only interested in taking someone down if the trophy is going to look good mounted on their wall.  
   They would do well to be more consistent in practicing their principles.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Maybe he meant Oakland Seals

   Get your affairs in order.  The end of the world is nigh.
   Don Cherry was assailed on social media this past weekend for bashing the seal hunt - not for defending the seal hunt, but for callings its practitioners and supporters "savages" and "barbarians".
   Apparently, I'm the only person on either side of the tree line who assumed Cherry was being sarcastic when he chided Hockey Night in Canada colleague Ron MacLean for ordering a seal burger while MacLean was on assignment for Rogers Hometown Hockey in St. John's, Newfoundland.  After all, the Coach's Corner star is the very antithesis of the traditional kale-eating, hemp-wearing, moss-burning seal hunt protestor, whose ideological standards fall neatly in line with Cherry's longstanding "left wing commie pinko" bogeyman. Seal hunters, on the other hand, are Cherry's kind of people - honest, hard-working Canadians trying to make a living off the land and through the natural food chain.  So when he went after MacLean, I thought it was obvious that he was feigning disgust and taking a subtle shot at opponents of the seal hunt.  
   Sadly for Cherry, there's no room for nuance in today's hair trigger society. Within minutes, he was trending on Twitter as public enemy number one for the seal hunt industry, which itself has historically been targeted for outrage and condemnation.  Cherry's half-baked Twitter apology only served to muddle his position, and leave a bemused nation wondering whether its most famous blowhard has lost his edge.  
   The only logical explanation I can think of is that Cherry thought MacLean had resorted to cannibalism and was eating former members of the defunct Oakland Seals. 
   Mmm...Ted Hampson.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Last stand at the KIC Country corral

   Friday was my last shift on 89.9 KIC Country.  It's been a year and a month of the most eye-opening experience in a radio career that's spanned five decades.  
   When I say "You like country music - you just don't know it yet", it's not just a promotional platitude.  I was vaguely familiar with old school country when I started at KIC, but I had no idea of the hip, accessible nature of modern country music.  Artists like Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown, Florida Georgia Line, Sugarland and the Band Perry have brought country music out of the sticks and into the broader cultural mainstream.  Self-appointed purists and other critics might say the genre has sold out, but on the road to success, mass appeal leaves "cool" in the dust every time.  
   It's also been invigorating to discover so many new artists after playing and listening to the same classic rock records for most of the last 40 years.  Not to denigrate classic rock - it's one of music's most enduring genres, and has enormous influence and respect among modern country artists.  The Doobie Brothers and Motley Crue country collaboration albums and Gretchen Wilson's ongoing love affair with classic rock are proof enough of that.
   KIC Country exposed me to a brand of music and a lifestyle that otherwise would have passed me by, and for that I'm forever grateful.  Thanks for listening, and keep on supporting KIC Country, because they deserve it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

One way or the other, Brian Williams must go

   Never mind the NBC Nightly News - Brian Williams is no longer fit to call Friday night bingo numbers at the community center in Snortwheeze, North Dakota.  The veteran newsman's credibility is beyond repair, as shot through-and-through as the helicopter he wasn't aboard flying into Baghdad in 2003.
   Falsely claiming to be on a chopper that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade isn't "misremembering".  It's flat out lying, like spinning an uneventful Staten Island ferry crossing into a yarn about the time you were on the Titanic. That Williams expected to get away with continuing to perpetuate the lie is a testament to his own hubris, and a complete miscalculation on his part of the power of social media.  It speaks volumes about the rapidly-changing mass media landscape that crew members of the helicopter that took the RPG fire used Facebook to expose a lie told by the anchorman of a nightly network newscast.  Even at that, Williams wouldn't go quietly into the night, amending his story to say he was in the same flight group as the stricken chopper, while the military personnel who were actually there insist Williams didn't arrive on-scene until an hour later. 
   We all make mistakes, but a calculated lie from someone whose professional mandate is to deliver the truth is inexcusable.  As a journalist, Brian Williams can never be trusted again.  He has no place in the NBC anchor chair, and if he doesn't have the decency to resign, he should be fired, yesterday.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lunatics tighten grip on madhouse

   It's becoming increasingly difficult to separate reality from satire.  Three times in the last 24 hours, I've had to do double-takes to make sure news headlines I was reading were from mainstream media sources and not send-ups from comedy sites like The Onion or its Canadian cousin, The Beaverton.
   "Fidel Castro Still Not Dead" is just bad journalism, ranking up there with "Plane Doesn't Crash" and "Leafs Don't Win Stanley Cup."  Stating the obvious is not news.
   "Former Red Power Ranger Allegedly Kills Roommate With Sword" is as absurd as it is tragic.  That the suspect is identified by his D-list celebrity status is a sad commentary on modern cultural priorities.
   "Toronto Girls Hockey League Tells Coaches Not to Touch Players" goes beyond absurd.  The blanket ban on gestures as simple and harmless as tapping a player on the shoulder or helmet to congratulate them for a good shift is another exasperating example of the lunatics running the asylum.  Common sense is in such short supply that it should be added to the rare earth section of the periodic table of elements.
   How did we get here?  High-profile sexual abuse cases involving former NHL players Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy dramatically raised awareness of child predators exploiting the minor hockey system, resulting in more rigorous screening and monitoring of volunteers.  That's as it should be, but draconian decrees like zero tolerance on physical contact between coaches and players is not only idiotic - it's counter-productive, because it creates an atmosphere of mutual discomfort and mistrust.
   That's not what I want for my kids, which means it's up to me to get involved.  We have a right and a responsibility as parents to dictate the terms of our children's upbringing, and to call out educators and other outside-the-home authority figures who impose their own prejudices and hangups to our children's detriment.  The alternative is another generation of "victims" who view everyone and everything with suspicion and value entitlement over responsibility.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Everybody take a pill, CSIS is not the Gestapo

   Maybe it's because I don't have anything to hide, but I'm not overly concerned that Canada's new anti-terrorism laws are going to result in routine and widespread violations of civil liberties.  Among the family, friends and co-workers with whom I regularly associate, none has expressed an opinion one way or the other on the federal government expanding the powers of CSIS - the country's civilian spy agency - probably because none of them are planning to bomb the library or shoot up a shopping mall.  In the existing geopolitical climate, better safe than sorry makes sense.  
   However, the suspension of logic and common sense is standard operating procedure among critics of  the Harper government, whose visceral dislike for the Prime Minister precludes any objective assessment of the facts.  Their poster girl is Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick, whose post-menopausal ramblings do a disservice to anyone who actually tries to mount a thoughtful and credible argument against the government of the day, whatever the issue.  Mallick and her ilk have become increasingly shrill and hysterical as public opinion continues to trend in the Conservatives favor at the expense of the Liberals and Mallick's fantasy boy toy, Justin Trudeau.
   Whether or not you agree with his measures, Steven Harper has shown decisive leadership on the anti-terrorism file.  In a solid, functioning democracy, I'll take my chances with a government dedicated to my family's safety and security over the hug-a-terrorist, kumbaya mentality that values a committed jihadist's rights in the same regard as our's right up until he kills us all.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shut up now

   Defining legacies never turned on a dime the way it did last night at Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix.
   The media scribblers and talking heads had already set the tone before the game.  If the Patriots lost another Super Bowl, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady would be properly scrutinized for being a "flawed" dynasty that went ten years between championships and lost twice as heavy favorites against the New York Giants.  It's a ludicrous premise, but sportswriters and broadcasters aren't fussy about talking points when there's column space and air time to fill.  Some will try to fill that space and time by claiming the Patriots are proven cheaters, but games are won by execution, not by stealing signals or marginally deflating footballs.  
   Right-thinking football fans everywhere owe the Seattle Seahawks a debt of gratitude for sparing us the tiresome discourse by making the worst play call in Super Bowl history, handing the Patriots the championship, and cementing Brady and Belichick as pro football's most enduring and successful quarterback/coach partnership.  I take no joy in making that pronouncement.  Belichick is the king of the sourpusses and it's not as if Brady is wanting for accolades and good fortune, but to attempt to diminish them in their professional capacities smacks of willful ignorance.
   All is not lost for the "tarnished legacy" crowd, however.  They still have Peyton Manning to kick around because despite being the active leader in virtually every passing category and the all-time leader in more than a few, he has still "only" won one Super Bowl, the bum.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The real bullies

   The first-hand accounts of this week's mass layoffs of Tim Hortons administrative employees were sickening and all-too-familiar for anyone who's been a victim of corporate downsizing.  And I don't use the term "victim" lightly, because what happened to the 350 people summarily stripped of their livelihoods by Tim Hortons parent company was predatory and psychopathic.
   I speak from experience.  When I was given the bum's rush by Bell Media in 2013, we got the obligatory speech about "redundancies and inefficiencies" used to justify widespread job cuts after a corporate merger.  In my case, there was also a personal element, because an old boss became the new boss and was all too happy to settle a grudge dating back to when I publicly called him a "corporate errand boy" after voluntarily leaving his employ in 2010.  I burned the bridge and paid the price and that's on me, but how they went about "replacing" me speaks volumes about the modern corporate mindset.  My job as a morning show co-host was given to someone who was already working full-time at another radio station across the hall.  He now spends his mornings running back and forth between two radio stations, doing the work of two people and getting paid for one.  I can't speak for other industries, but it's standard practice in broadcasting today for one person to be filling roles that used to be handled by multiple people.  The quality of the product is compromised, but mediocrity is acceptable if it means maximizing the profit margin.  
   Who benefits?  That's easy: every dollar saved by cutting payroll means higher bonuses for the corporate executives who oversee the cost-cutting.  Shareholders benefit from higher share prices, and considering that shares are a standard feature of executive compensation packages, the suits cash in twice on the misery of others.
   I get that it's capitalism and free enterprise, but at some point doesn't humanity count for something?  I worked for some tough people when family dynasties ran radio, but they at least understood the concepts of honor, loyalty and compassion.  The corporate mentality takes none of those things into account.  It's about numbers, not people, and it's a driving force behind the steady erosion of the middle class and a future bereft of opportunity.     

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It ain't paintball, folks

   Not that it comes as a surprise, but some of Canada's political and media elites are demonstrating breathtaking cluelessness on the fundamentals of military affairs.  The fretting by the opposition parties and their journalist allies about "mission creep" in Canada's contribution to the anti-ISIS coalition betrays a profound ignorance about what goes on in a war zone.
   The Canadian special forces on the ground in Iraq are there to train local troops in counter insurgency and the use of laser technology to call in air strikes.  It was not the government's stated intention to have Canadian troops involved in a combat role, but a in a fluid battlefield scenario, you don't get to call time out if you find yourself under fire.  You shoot back, which is what Canadian troops have reportedly done on at least three occasions. 
   Canada is part of a just and necessary mission in Iraq, and the  elite Canadian troops on the ground undoubtedly embrace the opportunity to put their training to the test in combat.  NDP leader Tom Mulcair is smart enough to realize all of that but it hasn't stopped him from trying to score political points by accusing the government of deliberately misleading Canadians about nature of the mission.  Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and his media groupies, who are considerably less savvy than Mulcair, still think we can beat ISIS by sending blankets to refugees and hugging it out with the terrorists.
   Meanwhile, the real work - the difficult and deadly work - continues to be done by those best trained and equipped to respond to a rapidly evolving combat situation.  Empty suits and keyboard warriors half a world away should leave them to it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Never again? We'll see...

  The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is as good a time as any and a better time than most to consider the unsettling resurgence of global anti-Semitism.
   It seems unthinkable that within the lifetime of some Holocaust survivors, Jews are once again under siege on the same continent where they were targeted for highly-organized and systematic genocide.  Modern day anti-Semitism is not unique to Europe, but that the beast has reawakened where it took its deadliest toll is disquieting, with gusts up to ominous.   
   Much 21st century anti-Semitism is thinly disguised as anti-Zionism.  You can be against Israel, the logic goes, without being against Jews.  It's faulty logic, considering that Israel is by definition a Jewish state, but far be it from the champions of Palestine to let semantics get in the way of Jew-bashing.  It's curious that in a world rife with minority persecution on every continent, Israel gets a disproportionate share of the attention for its supposed mistreatment of Palestineans.  It's actually fashionable among the professional activist set to embrace the Palestinean cause.  At least, I assume it's de rigueur, because otherwise there wouldn't be a logical explanation for how much time and attention is spent on condemning Israel - unless it were fueled by anti-Semitism.
   Most puzzling to me are the self-loathing Jews who take white liberal guilt to the next level by piling on whenever they perceive some wrongdoing on Israel's part.  So-called "journalists" like Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen would have made fine "kapos" in the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps, where subservience as a sort of police functionary for the German authorities earned a few extra bread rations until it was the kapos' turn to die in the gas chambers.  Activists like Blumenthal and Cohen (and note to both: you can't be a journalist and an activist - you're one or the other) either didn't grow up at the knee of a Holocaust survivor or they're shameless attention seekers more interested in their own public profile than they are in the legacy of Jewish suffering.
   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn't have been more clear or more correct when he said "If the Arabs were to lay down their guns tomorrow, there would be no war.  If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no Israel."  In the face of direct and lethal physical threats to the Jewish state and the sinister reawakening of widespread anti-Semitism, "never again" is much more than a platitude.  It's a call to action for Jews and non-Jews alike who remember the not-so-distant past.