SAY GOODBYE TO 2004

Greetings,

Well after a few weeks of much-needed rest, eating and relaxing, I’m heading back to Halifax on January 2nd. Part of me is happy about this – it’s only three months before classes finish, all the major program stresses are dealt with, job hunt begins in earnest. The other part of me isn’t so thrilled at this – I’ve come to realize how much I love and missed Toronto. Still, the first term of my graduate degree has been pretty amazing. Lots of new people, ideas and I got my marks today – I’m surprised at how well I did. Grades don’t matter as much at this level, but still, nice to see I can still do this “academic” thing with relative levels of success.

Looking back, 2004 has been a fairly good year for me. It’s been a major improvement over 2003. I went through a stunning amount of change and calamities that year, so this year’s relative peace has been a welcome relief.

Everyone has beaten to death the ideas of what makes for the top news stories of 2004. George W. Bush getting re-elected, the NHL lockout, the horrific loss of life in the South East Asian rim that has claimed, so far, more than 100,000 lives. The year couldn’t have gone without a tragedy, and it seems like it was all saved for the very bitter end.

On a personal front, I finally got some long-standing issues resolved. I got lots of good news – CBC, SVN, stability on the family front, the works. I learned to understand the subtle nuances of living with people I don’t know (i.e. housemates). My technical skills improved markedly this year, ranging from working on major web sites to advising my colleagues on certain things to do with computers (of course, this was always help that was requested by them – my know-it-all tendencies have to be stopped at the source). More spiritually, I’ve tried to confront some more basic truths in my life and deal with some long-standing problems. No one can ever be perfect and it’s ridiculous to claim you are ever going to be close to perfect. But still, there are always things to work on, and I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished some of those goals.

So what’s in store for 2005? Well, it’s hard to say. No major elections are scheduled for the first time in years. But 2005 will be big for the following reasons:

1) Russia. So far, this country is decending back into Soviet-era style governance – freedom of the press has been severely curtailed, democratic reforms stalled, Putin acting like a right-wing version of his old Communist employers. What’s going to happen soon? You can bet in the wake of increasing American dominance, Russia will team up with China at some point on joint military operations, potentially to create a new counter-weight to U.S. global hegemony.

2) Britain. The British are scheduled for a general election this year. Tony Blair better be ready – the British are in a foul mood over the Labour government’s ill-fated choice to participate in the war in Iraq.

3) Iraq. The general elections are scheduled for January, but who knows if this will even work?

4) Osama Bin Laden. The New York Times recently wrote a piece on how Bin Laden’s style has changed since 9/11 – he’s becoming more statesman-like (whatever that means) and even conciliatory towards enemies like Europe. He offered a truce towards Europe, which only begs the question: is this war really about the West or hatred of America? I’m starting to think more and more that it’s hatred of America and not entirely towards the West (although don’t discount the notion it’s about anger towards the West as Occidentialist rage).

5) Canada. For the first time in ages, we may actually have some political stability. The minority government is still holding. Paul Martin’s agenda will likely be gradually spelt out over the next year or so, including new policies towards Native Canadians and re-thinking the post-secondary education funding formula. Which leads to…

6) Bob Rae. The brilliant former premier of Ontario has been charged with releasing his comprehensive review of post-secondary education in Ontario in two months. This report is hotly anticipated because it could help the Liberals determine what direction university funding will go in the future. Stay tuned.

7) Sports in Canada. Things in the Toronto sports scene are bad. Very bad. Toronto, for example, has only one bright spot – the Argos. The Leafs aren’t playing, the Raptors are in expansion-era style rebuilding and the Blue Jays are a non-factor in the AL East. 2005 will see the resuming of NHL hockey (which, at best, is 50/50 odds) and the Raptors continuing their slow, one-step-forward-two-steps-back approach to basketball and the Blue Jays struggling to compete in a division full of big market spenders.

I know, I know, this all sounds very negative. But still, there’s reasons to be hopeful that 2005 will be better than 2004. I can’t say what those reasons are, but be thankful we live in a tolerant, progressive society like Canada. Things are good here and we should be happy for that.

All in all, let’s hope 2005 will be a less angry, more progressive year than 2004. This year was a vast, vast improvement over 2003, but still, you can’t settle for less. Here’s to peace, love and tranquility for 2005.

Happy New Year everyone.

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COFFEE ADDICTION… AND GAY MARRIAGE

Greetings,

Today marks my final day as an intern at the CBC. It’s been fantastic. I couldn’t have picked a better place to intern – I’ve learned so much and had a good time doing it.

As some of you may know, I’m hopelessly addicted to coffee. It’s my vice and I’m proud of it. It’s hard for me to engage in an in-depth conversation about the events, ideas or people of the day without a sip of the java. It’s an addiction I’ve written about before on this blog, but I figure I’d talk about it again.

For those remotely interested, I’m no longer drinking coffee in the afternoon. I’m a strictly morning coffee drinker now, mostly because my body’s so sensitive to coffee’s effects that if I do drink it in the afternoon, I have a tougher time sleeping and it just makes me too wound up. So I’m gradually reducing my coffee intake.

GAY MARRIAGE: This is one topic I haven’t talked about yet but meaning to write about for sometime. I’m supportive of same-sex marriage because I strongly believe in the Charter and equality of citizens before the law. It’s no one’s place to dictate their own sense of morality onto others, therefore why tell someone they can’t get married just because you don’t agree with it? Who is a critic of same-sex marriage to say it “affects their sense of morality” if two people with the same sex want to get married?

There’s a distinct generational difference on this topic. My age group seems, by and large, very supportive of gay marriage. But I’ve been noticing that many folks in the Baby Boomer and earlier generations are very, very mixed on the issue, but generally tilt towards hostility on the idea. This isn’t very surprising. One elderly person I know said the idea of gay marriage is unacceptable to him, mostly because it “erodes our moral values.”

I have no idea what these “moral values” are. Getting married is a pretty traditional thing for couples, hetero or homosexual, to do. I also think it can be defined as a “moral act.” If anything same-sex marriage only reinforces traditional morals, not erodes it. Many folks I know think the whole concept of marriage is dead, for it doesn’t accurately reflect how relationships evolve and change. Official marriages are strictly a public affirmation of a private matter; marriages exist to provide order to property and sharing of assets. It’s a very new idea that marriage is also for “love.” Therefore, someone who is gay and gets married is actually supporting traditional societal functions, not eroding them.

If the argument is marriage is for a “man and a woman only,” there is no argument to begin with. Same-sex common law couples already are entitled to the tenets of heterosexual couples, i.e. spousal benefits, et al. So how does anything change if it becomes enshrined in federal law?

Moreover, I would remind some of these folks who think “moral values” are declining because of this that other “moral values” that spoke of intolerance and hate have long ago been banned in Canadian society: racism, sexism and other social evils have been rightly condemned and outlawed by the Charter. It was once “moral” to use the Church as a guide for how to live your life in Canadian society; the Church has openly espoused racist and sexist policies in the past, so how is gay marriage any different? Because you’re “uncomfortable?”

So let’s review: those who oppose same-sex marriage have no arguments to stand on from a legal point of view, really. The same benefits exist for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, so having marriage is a largely symbolic act. Moreover, since most marriages are a voluntary action to be taken place in a Church (a place I most definitely don’t want my marriage to be taken place in), the State becomes the direct agent to recognize these unions. So how does that affect anyone beyond the couple? Nobody seems to give a lick now who gets married and divorced in heterosexual unions.

Also, if morality is really an issue in this debate, let’s get real here. To say “moral values” are what’s at stake is ridiculous. The only foundation for that argument from a religious point of view is from a theological perspective, i.e. The Bible. The Supreme Court ruling says a faith doesn’t have to marry a same-sex union. Kudos to the Supreme Court for striking this balance; I can’t say I envy how much work it would take to figure out how to balance competing Charter principles with each other.

Private actions like marriage can be recognized by the public state when you register the marriage, but the public state has a right to make that private action a public concern, i.e. giving out spousal benefits. It’s a social contract that exists for a reason, but these Church leaders think they can have it both ways. A State has a legal obligation to recognize the changing nature of a society and reflect that in its laws. Considering that homosexual relationships are part of that framework, you have to accept that every right and responsibility a straight person has in marriage exists for a gay person too. But in any case, the Church is not legally bound to do anything it doesn’t want to. So why fight it? To defend your own moral outrage for the rest of us? Thanks, but no thanks.

Really, Stephen Harper’s “moral crusade” is pure political grandstanding. He’s trying to use a wedge issue to drive up support for his party. But more so, this has a lot to do with ignorance and intolerance than moral outrage.

Just one last points: I want to address an argument that anti-same sex marriage folks trot out.

The Supreme Court shouldn’t be making laws – that’s what Parliament is for. Let’s have a national referendum!

Harper’s not entirely wrong when he says the Supreme Court should be making laws. We do elect Parliamentarians to make laws. But sometimes, the Court exists to push forth hot-button issues because it’s politically precarious to push “agenda-driven” issues in the House.

But a national referendum is bad, bad, bad. Supporters of this idea know exactly why they want to use it: a referendum will ensure the traditional definition of marriage will win. Why? How many folks in my age group vote? More importantly, how many people in a much more pro-traditional marriage supporting group vote? Question #1, not many, and Question #2, a lot. Older generations will come out in droves for a referendum like this. And same-sex unions will lose.

BLADE: TRINITY… AND WHY THE SUBURBS IS NOT FOR ME

Greetings,

Before heading off to see some pals from King’s last night, I went to go see Blade: Trinity. This is the final film in the Blade trilogy, and it wasn’t bad. Surprisingly emotional in certain parts, absolutely hilarious in others. But it was definitely disturbing – not exactly a departure from the first two Blade films. If you’re not into vampires and all the violent riff-raff that comes with them, don’t see this film.

I absolutely love horror and sci-fi, so Blade has been very high on my “must-see” list for awhile now. I think the best part of the film, however, had to be Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds as Blade’s sidekicks, a.k.a. the Nightstalkers. Biel was looking really, really good in this film and Reynolds had about a billion one-liners that were actually funny. They definitely helped the film out.

Villain-wise, who knew Parker Posey was so damn good at being a vampire? She’s pretty nutty in indie movies like I Shot Andy Worhal but she’s absolutely nuts (nuts in the “whoa-this-is-almost-too-much-evil” sense of the word) in this film. Dominic Pursell, the dude who plays Dracula (don’t ask, see the movie, the plot is hard to explain over a blog) is okay, although he hams it up huge in certain parts.

Over-all, a pretty cool summation of the Blade trilogy.

STRANDED IN SUBURBIA: The album title for this indie rocker named Melissa McClelland is pretty accurate for me. Ever since coming back home for my internship, I’ve realized I will avoid living in the suburbs completing my graduate degree.

First off, let’s compare life in Toronto versus life in Markham.

Markhamites essentially have only one advantage over living in Toronto: a lot more space. My house backs out onto a massive park, which is something a lot of folks in Toronto can’t say they’ve got. But other than that, living in the suburbs isn’t all that advantageous to a young person.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved living in Markham as a kid and teenager. Lots of parkland, very safe, fantastic schools. But when you get older, you begin to realize that the suburbs aren’t really a place for twentysomethings.

Transit-wise, Markham’s “transit system” is very inefficient and spread out over a huge area. The service isn’t reliable or timely. If you want to get anywhere in Markham quickly, you need a car. Thankfully I’ve got one, but it’s virtually impossible for anyone to do things that young people do (i.e. drink?) with a car as your only means of transport. The TTC pretty much ensures some people never have to get a driver’s license (although I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t get one, seems pretty silly to me).

Culture-wise, it’s no contest. Toronto wins easily, although it’s not a fair fight. Markham’s got some bistros, a few bars where they play some decent live music and such, but it’s not exactly a thriving cultural mecca. Markham’s got far, far too many so-called “Big Box Stores,” which is contributing to corporate sprawl. Mississauga, Oakville, Brampton, Burlington, Oshawa, Ajax and Whitby all suffer from the same problem – too much dependence on cars, not enough localized communities. The GTA suburbs are quickly turning into commuting shopping efforts.

Essentially, the suburbs come down to this: they have always been designed with the expressed intent of serving the automobile. I’m starting to realize this isn’t the way to go for me or many people my age, because it’s just not very good at building a community. It isolates people into pockets without encouraging community development. After all, communities develop only with continual building and outreach.

THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE O.C.

Greetings,

Yes, yes, life in blogland is slowly picking up steam again for me. I guess this is what happens when I store up my writing energy. This, of course, is after playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (which I strongly suggest you pick up, provided you’ve got a PS/2), working on a couple web sites, researching some forthcoming articles, and watching Christmas episodes of South Park while running on a treadmill. Oh, and I did this all at once. Pretty amazing, no?

THE O.C. AND WHAT IT MEANS: Unless you’ve been living in Alert the past two years (Alert, for those who don’t know, is this very, very small relay station right at the top of the Arctic Circle – doesn’t really exist anymore, was an important Cold War-era early warning centre), there’s this little show called The O.C. that’s been making some pretty big news in TV Land. It’s considered a well-written descendent of Beverly Hills 90210, full of gorgeous young (and not-so-young) things. I’m not a regular viewer (yes, there are twentysomethings that don’t watch this show) but I’ve heard so many good things about it that I went onto BitTorrent and found some old episodes.

This show is perfectly timed for this era, mostly because it celebrates (and mocks, albeit with self-knowing irony) all the particulars of modern wealthly folks. In the immortal words of Peter Griffin, “it’s fun to watch rich people be naughty.”

The soapy elements of The O.C. are so over-the-top, so insane, that it’s hard to not laugh and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the show (in particular the sights – that actress who plays Summer, sweet lord have mercy).

Is this the future of television drama? Well, if they keep the writing quality up, sure. And you really have to be happy that network dramas (The O.C., Desperate Housewives, American Dreams, et al) are starting to make a serious comeback against the overwhelming sludge of reality T.V. So maybe T.V.’s future isn’t a sea of porn, violence and exploitation.

On a final note, I strongly suggest you check out Videodrome, a 1983-era sci-fi film about the future of television. Brilliant work by Cronenberg and a fascinating thesis about the merger of sex, technology and violence. Strangely apt for 2004.

ON ANOTHER NOTE…

Greetings,

Some of you may know I’m interning at the CBC at the moment. It’s really cool – great staff, terrific opportunities to grow professionally, even chances to pitch stories! Well, today I got some good news: I’m getting a bonus for doing a great job. Seriously. This is great pre-Christmas news.

*grins*

Made a change to the blog’s layout again. The green background was getting dull. I know, this is my third change, but hey, once in awhile, you gotta do it.

THE NHL LOCKOUT… AND WHY I HATE GOLF

Greetings,

Well things are looking fairly bad for the NHL this morning: it looks as though the NHLPA’s latest offer to the league’s board of governors is to be rejected. I can’t say I’m all that surprised; after all, the NHLPA’s proposal of a 24-per-cent pay cut is a one-time only deal and merely postpones the same economic conditions the league faces today. Good lord, the NHL is in shambles. Can it get any worse? Just wait until the league cancels the season. In Leaf Nation (where I happen to be at the moment), cancelling the season will have a major impact on the local economy. Many bars, restaurants, pubs and sports collectible stores are being hit very hard by the lockout. A labour stoppage like this shows how much Toronto depends on the Leafs, both economically and as a sports culture.

However, I can’t say I’ve missed hockey that much. I really loathe the current state of the NHL. The game is essentially boring in the regular season, providing a whole bunch of “dump-and-chase” plays and defensive traps that drains all the fun out of the sport.

Maybe, when the smoke eventually clears here, the game will be better for it. But I’m with the owners on this one (!) and the players’ union is clearly losing the public relations battle these days. The game’s financial state is terrible, the quality of the game stinks, and the players come off like spoiled children by not accepting a salary cap (guess what guys, the NHL’s economics render it nearly impossible for the league not to have a salary cap, because revenue isn’t growing in accordance with salary demands – basic economics 101).

WHY GOLF SUCKS: I really don’t like golf. Why this has anything to do with current events is besides the point, however. It’s the dead of winter, nobody’s out on the green and given the choice between arena football and a golf tournament, most Canadians will pick arena football as their viewing choice. But still, I’ve wanted to write about this topic for sometime, but I’ve merely forgotten about it. So here it is.

Golf sucks. I hate it. I’ll play it if I have to, but even then I don’t get a tremendous thrill out of it. I don’t understand the mindset of people who do like golf. Here’s why:

1) Sports are supposed to be opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to play in (professional sports leagues aside, I’m talking about average folks playing road hockey, a baseball game, et al). Golf is not a democratic “sport” by any means – it costs a fortune to play in, buy equipment for and practice at in order for anyone to get good at it. Now hockey and baseball are expensive too, but the difference is that anyone can, with reasonable amounts of practice, get good at those sports. Golf takes years, if not decades, to even get remotely okay at the sport, i.e. not going ten strokes over par on each hole. It’s not accessible to most people, both financially and as a participatory event.

2) Golf is not a sport. It’s a diversion, because sports requires people to break a sweat and work their bodies. Golf is hardly a form of physical stress, other than doing very awkward swings and walking down a fareway. Big deal.

3) Golf is arguably the most frustrating diversion on the planet. I don’t play often at all, but since 1996 I’ve tried driving ranges, golf clubs and other facilities, and I still haven’t gotten remotely good. I can hit the ball hard and drive the ball 150+ yards, but that’s cold comfort for a sport that requires you to hit a little ball into a tin cup. Yippie, I’m enthralled.

Now I’m not saying people who love golf are weird. To each their own and I think if someone finds a passion in sports, go for it. But golf drives me up the wall and I’m glad there’s a kind of golf backlash building in this country – corporate golf tournaments are being reduced because of complaints by employees, the rapid expansion of courses are being scaled back.

Thankfully.

AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS

Greetings,

Here’s a link to a really good site that makes you appreciate that things aren’t all bad: The Good News Network is actually really uplifting stuff. I suggest you check it out.

I’ve been writing a truly phenomenonal amount these days. SVN, CBC, The Globe and now Tidings, the King’s alumni magazine – a record-breaking number of pieces in two weeks. And I’m writing again tonight for an op-ed piece.

My output is gaining strength, not slowing down. Pretty soon I’ll be only 20 books, thousands of articles and notes away from closing in on the late, great, brilliant nationalist Pierre Berton on his legendary output. At least I can keep it in perspective.