November 9, 2016

Coffee Break

        

Well, quite a few of my friends voted for him, especially those who don’t have a job and maybe I soon won’t as well, they’re thinning the herds—people working for half what they used to because of outsourcing and weak unions giving way to avoid outsourcing, slightly less than’ll put food on the table, do you blame them for being discontented? I sure don’t, but who do you elect logically as your champion if you want to fight the elite, the 1% who everybody you’re likely to see on a ballot with odds of a win will belong to or obediently serve? A man who’s honoured fewer contracts than he’s violated, a man with minimum skills in business who barely managed to boost his inheritance by the amount it would have increased with ordinary interest, whose towers topple into bankruptcy like dominoes leaving others to pick through the rubble and pay off the debt, very much including stiffed employees whose wages were never paid because there wasn’t money to cover them after more highly approved, less indigent creditors were satisfied, a man who said he’d invite states to a competition which could lower the minimum wage most? Reg voted for him, because he’s making nine dollars an hour at a dead end job, no hope of realizing the pension his company pissed away in its own bankruptcy proceedings (though the funds are likely in a bank in Switzerland, Panama or the Caymans), and he thinks DJT has a magic wand that’ll pouf! make jobs appear whichReg and others like him can step into as easily as a pair of workman’s boots. Nine dollars an hour? Wait’ll you’re making four fifty an hour with our new president’s blessing.
            A man who. . . that’s maybe the key point in his favour for testosterone America, much as it shames me to admit it in this day and age. The woman running against him was no prize, deep in the pockets of the self-satisfied hoarders who may be ready any day now to turn this republic into an out-and-out unabashed plutocracy, but she was considerably outmatched for duplicity, outright lying and behavior on the borderland between criminality and gaming of the law with its many loopholes for the wealthy by the man who now says he’ll close all those loopholes so the wealthy will be unable to act as cockily and irresponsibly as he has all his life. Believe that and I’ve got a castle in the air I can get you at a very reasonable price, tremendous castle, stupendous air, you’ll be very impressed by the size of the castle and the low down payment.
I asked a friend, you want his finger near the red button? and he said better that than my wife’s pussy, he wouldn’t like that much, he’s used to higher grade. Seriously though, it’s time the U.S. built up its nuclear deterrent again, we’re lagging behind the Russians. Pig’s eye we are! We’ve got a stockpile still functional that more than doubles Putin’s, and if we had half the weapons they do would a sane foreign leader attack us? It’d be more than enough, still, to wipe out any nation that tried it.
The smartest among them will be wondering what they were thinking soon enough, and repent at leisure as the saying goes.
What if only one of the felony charges hanging over him results in conviction once he’s sworn in, as it’s likely more than one will? An administration run from behind prison bars? Sure it’s happened in a third world country or two, but I don’t think America’s ready for that yet. His vice P.’s almost as much of a horror, but he might have to step into the breach.  How far down the chain of command would you have to go to find an acceptable server who’d do a not too shabby job? Maybe one of the janitors that cleans up after the honourable members.

And on top of all that, you know what? This company issued coffee is just as lousy as it’s been for the last thirty years. Wouldn’t you think I’d know better by now and bring a thermos of the good stuff from home?

July 25, 2016

Vancouver (i) Oligarchic Punditry



"The rulers and the ruled are increasingly out of touch with each other."
                                                         Rex Murphy, July 23, National Post


This is the topic sentence of an opinion piece, quoted above it as a cut line, by Rex Murphy on Rob Ford, Brexit and the current surge of popularity for the baroque, elitist politics of Donald Trump, and how flummoxed all these phenomena have left the opining class. I disagree with the thrust of Rex's argument on many levels, but what distresses and offends me deeply about it is that it describes politics in Canada, Great Britain and the United States as if nothing could be more natural than to think of democracy in language that suavely assumes it isn't, nor should be, anything but a mask over an innately oligarchic system. It's obvious enough what tendencies, decades a-building, in social and commercial life have thrown so much weight on the side of a rarefied elite whose ascendancy is not at all intellectual, rather plutocratic, but have we really gone so far down that road that the ultimate seat of power in a democracy can be casually dismissed as 'the ruled' even by pundits claiming to write out of the deepest sympathy for the vastly ignored, inarticulate mass? The short answer, of course, is yes, and if we want to restore the political health of our democracies, we'll need something more than a reflexive contempt for the idea of citizenship as an active, engaged intelligence which guides public policy from the ground up in an effective democracy. Murphy's right in thinking the elite media and policy makers in our government are out of touch with the thought of common people (compare the far from favourable view in polls of the U.S. populace with the jingoistic norm of commentary in the press when it came to both wars in Iraq and the ancillary one in Afghanistan), but he's quite mistaken if he thinks the shabbily-masked elitism of the late Rob Ford and the newly coined candidate Trump is any kind of real articulation of the popular will. There is so little articulation of that in mainstream media that it's left to fictional tv series and the political analysis of comedians like John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Rick Mercer, Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh to give us any sense of it.  Meantime it's possible for pundits to gratulate themselves for evoking with sympathy the buried aspirations of people they refer to with blunt affection as 'the ruled'. Aux armes, citoyens.

February 19, 2016

Comparative Pestitude

A columnist in Toronto's Metro accuses mosquitoes worldwide of exceeding even humans in their 'jerkitude' toward human populations, citing infections in the hundreds of millions (over what period unspecified) and 725,000 deaths  on average every year.

I don't think the judgment's well thought-out here. You know what they'd call a year in which only 725,000 humans were killed by other humans? A year of near-miraculous global harmony, possibly the harmony of true world concord at last. A year of unexampled prosperity across every sector of the population as well, considering the huge death toll each year from malnutrition and poverty-borne illnesses of every description: wipe those out as completely as possible if you want human-sponsored human death tolls to sink anywhere near those attributable to mosquitoes.

Bear in mind that mosquitoes have  no special reason for valuing human life, perhaps no awareness that they threaten it. People do have a special interest, as members of the same species, but that concern seems rarely to slow down very much our prolific murder of each other. When our rate of collective suicide comes down to manageable proportions, we can start presenting bills of indictment against other noxious species perhaps; not before.  

November 18, 2015

A Head For Business




Somebody tells me “ ‘Til December 20th we’re in the fall business.” Really? No-one bothered to inform me and now it’s almost too late! What investment opportunities have I failed to realize and actuate to their full extent or, any extent at all if it comes to that? What fortunes have escaped my grasp?

Never mind! forewarned is forearmed which is twice the usual number for humans, though an octopus would feel deprived to the tune of fifty percent. Never mind! it’s my understanding they can grow them back. Useful if people could, even more useful if I knew the trick of it and could help people grow them back for a fee. It wouldn’t be an excessive fee.

What was I saying? oh yes! mustn’t grumble, what if the fall business is almost done? Winter figures to have the same and this time I can get in on the ground floor. People say I have no head for business but I’ll show them you bet I will!

April 21, 2015

I & Q



Have you noticed how many inexplicable quips turn up in journalism these days? Lines without any air of being uttered in jest or with humorous intent, which are nevertheless designated quips?

Probably they don't come up as often as icons. I once abandoned an article in the Entertainment section of the Star because, not even half a sentence in, some stolid and durable pillar of the entertainment community was referred to as an icon. I decided to apply the same test to the rest of the Entertainment section, which in consequence took me less than two minutes to read; I think the deepest any of these stories got before dropping an 'icon' or 'iconic' was paragraph 2--unusual restraint I'm sure you'll agree.

To be fair, this was a little above the common degree of usage--most days I'd have had to read through at least one story, maybe two, if my only test for skipping was whether they dropped the 'i' bomb.

Coming back to quipping, a piece on Kevin Pillar's outstanding April work on defence and even offence (Friday April 17 the story came out, so there's a full half month's play for sample) includes this: " 'The way he's played the first week and a half, you should give him the Gold Glove right now,' pitcher Mark Beuhrle quipped."

This isn't a perfect example, as there plainly is some humorous intent behind the remark. More typically someone 'quips' "He's been hitting over .300 for the last half year--surprising given that his lifetime average over several years in the majors is .217." If they'd said Beuhrle 'joked' or 'kidded'--nothing implied about how good a joke it was or how noticeable a kid--I suppose I'd let it go--but quips, surely, are a little more rare and should be held to a higher standard. When Dizzy Dean said, "If Satchel Paige were pitching with me for St Louis, we could win the pennant by June and take July and August off to go fishing," that was a quip, not to mention a good sized chunk from the hide of a shaggy dog. On the other hand, a line that good can just be quoted--you don't need to dress it up with inflatable speech tags.

February 14, 2015

Views on an Election Win That Wasn't



Rob   Ford’s back on the airways, saying on a talk radio show that if he’d run for Mayor in the most recent election, he’d have won. 

If I were the citizens of Toronto (and as it happens I’m one of them), I’d be offended. A putatively reformed crack head and alcoholic with a monotonous ongoing spiel about fiscal responsibility to accompany as fiscally irresponsible a term as any of us have seen in our lifetimes, a man in whom you never knew where the mendacity left off and the hyperbolic braggadocio began, a man who claimed a billion dollars saved by his administration by the interesting expedient of counting losses and gains indiscriminately on the credit side, would have won a second term as mayor after serving a first term which was, first to last, a campaign against Rob Ford as Mayor? I don’t think so. The numbers of Ford nation had shrunk appreciably, and Ford was elected originally (by a little over a third of the electorate because of the number of candidates and the first-past-the-post rule in our elections) largely as a gesture of protest. He’d given the protest vote plenty of reason to come out in favour of any candidate, very nearly, so long as that candidate wasn’t a Ford. He might have done marginally better than his brother (who’d been parachuted into the race by means many considered irregular), because he’s more likeable and personable, but he wouldn’t have pulled a single vote away from any of the other candidates, and his deflating hard core of supporters wouldn’t have been enough. Since he would only have continued to contest the election if he were cancer-free, it’s very likely he would have had a relapse of his other condition, binging on booze or free-base cocaine very loudly and publicly in the few weeks remaining before the election. (The first stages of recovery are the most delicate, and require calm and some degree of isolation from stress—not easy to come by in the heat of a mayoral race.) There would still be a hard core of support this wouldn’t have lost him, but it would shrink a touch more. It might have won him some sympathy (as the cancer diagnosis certainly did) among voters like me who favoured other candidates in the last election, but it wouldn’t have won him any of our votes. I felt sympathy, in spite of his belligerence (who knew how long and hungry a day he’d put in?), for the man begging at the Grenview exit to the Royal York Subway last night, and if I’d been a little more flush myself would have helped him more than I did. I wouldn’t have given him my vote for any elective office.

October 8, 2014

A Vacation from Cigarettes



I should've started smoking years ago. According to an ad posted in the washroom of my favourite pub, if I quit smoking now I can visit Thailand. Not necessarily my first choice, but if you can visit Thailand, practically speaking you should be able to visit any place that's the same distance or less. I could go for that, but unfortunately I've never smoked so I'm unable to quit. Why didn't somebody tell me about this years ago? Now if I start, who knows how long it'll take to earn travel reward points by quitting. Hey! What's to stop somebody from taking the habit up again and again, like Mark Twain: "It's easy to give up smoking. I've done it a hundred times." Surely there can't be many easier ways to become a traveler to faraway places on a regular basis, if this ad is to be believed.