Sunday, September 30, 2007

danger squirrel.

This is the fastest squirrel in the park.

She is so fast, she leaves half of her behind whenever she moves.

When you are the fastest, you can afford to be dangerous.


the jesus finds a starbucks

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a book report: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Since my time at university, I have become less able to simply enjoy a book. It may have something to do with no longer having parents restricting my television and movie consumption. My habit, probably due to reading text books, is to put a bookmark where my goal for the day would lie. It is a horrible habit and creates the illusion of work. Thus I read far less fiction than I did before the demands and requirements of so called higher learning.

However, Bukowski’s novels have always captivated me from the first page. I never look ahead to see how much more of the book is left to get through because I never want it to end, despite the seemingly complete lack of plot. This is what Jack Kerouac tried to do, but for me, never succeeded.

Bukowski hardly ever uses big words. He is quite unpretentious. He is almost painfully honest. These are rare qualities in anybody, but most especially writers. Honest unfiltered observations don’t get printed often enough. We all seem scared of offending an invisible reader or being too bleak or even boring. Mr. Bukowski was seemingly immune to such worries and refreshingly unconcerned about the audience.

POST OFFICE, more than anything it is about the soul crushing reality of a job.

I think most of us lurch through our working life doing work that does nothing more than pay the bills. Not everyone can be astronauts, and if everyone did exactly what they wanted to when they were 6 years old, we’d have a world full of firemen, nurses, pilots, doctors, lawyers (though I never understood the kids that wanted to be lawyers so young) and police officers. No one would be around to fill out forms, scrub public toilets, and lie to the electorate.

Charles Bukowski fell into a job at the US Postal Service. A steady paycheck became an addiction in itself, and he copes in a way I’m sure many of us do; by occasionally altering his reality. The women come and go in his life. Despite his calloused view of love, he writes about them with sympathy. One has to admire his ability to wade through multiple failed relationships without pausing for self pity.

Mostly the adventures revolve around his impressive and fearless fashion of facing off with the famously overbearing management. It is no mistake that folks that go nuts in the workplace are said to have gone postal.

The US Postal Service had known management problems during the timeframe of this book. I’m quite sure such issues have been resolved to some degree, or, more frighteningly, our society has merely accepted the nature of the work world. The book does a fine job of describing an atmosphere where humans are reduced to the role of robots, while the engineers work to create actual robots to replace the humans. Sound familiar?

Poor management and how to deal with it is well outlined in the Post Office. It should perhaps become a cautionary tale for all of us, especially to those of us who do find themselves accidentally in a manager’s shoes. (It has even happened to me on occasion.) There are some fine lessons about how to face off with bureaucracy. Simply bury them with more paperwork than they give you.

I won’t give away the ending. Though it is predictable, it does not involve a gun and isn’t even dramatic. Despite the bleakness of the story, I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Perhaps it is the realistic view of work I enjoyed, or just knowing that I’m not alone.

Reading this book is like listening to a good friend tell you about the harshness of their job over coffee, which leads to beer, which eventually, if you let it, leads to drunken laughter and strength to at least consider dreaming of becoming an astronaut again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

outremont by-election

Democracy is so inefficient.

Tonight my ‘roommate’ and I headed over to vote in the Outremont by-election. We have had to do this trip three times since I moved here two years ago. The whole exercise has become routine. I fully expect to be returning to the polls in another few months when the new guy gets bored of his job like the last guy did.

I suppose we could have not gone, but I never don’t vote. Long before I formed my own opinions, I was taught that democracy was a ‘for the people, by the people’ sort of thing, and it only really works if we all participate. I don’t think I’m better than you if you don’t vote. My brain was wired in a way that forces me to do unpleasant things out of a distorted sense of duty. Some people call it a protestant work ethic. I call it not that interesting.

As anyone who got through junior high knows, democracy only works out on paper. Sure the popular kid wins, but that kid will do whatever she/he wants because no one else really cares past the popularity contest. Then it becomes a drag as the person in ‘power’ discovers that they have no control over the homework level and now have to organize the school dance and speak in public.

Adult democracy works goes more like this: you stand in a line, choose the least objectionable person on the little strip of paper, and then go home to find that the most objectionable person actually won. The main problem is that the people who want the job are exactly not at all the people who ought to have the job; democracy's greatest oversight.

When we lived in Edmonton, voting was a perfect excuse for a nice walk through the neighborhood. Here in Montréal it becomes a nasty sample of inept bureaucracy. We stood in line as three people, maybe four, tried to manage two separate lines into the school gym and failed utterly.

These three or so people couldn’t quite grasp that the lost little old lady didn’t speak French. I guess physically prodding her to go to the back of the line was easier than some simple instructions in English. It’s nice to know that Elections Canada has taken it upon themselves to allow manhandling of the electorate.

When it was finally my turn to vote, they read my very anglo-saxon name out loud. I guess this was the cue to speak to me rudely in English, even though I had spoken in French, and tell me loudly and slowly, ‘Now, GO VOTE!’

Jesus. Sorry. For voting. Or being an anglo. I’m not entirely sure what she was angry at. Such rude petty little folk, drunk with moderate authority. Sure her job sucks, but it only sucks for one day.

I won’t say who I voted for, because I was always taught that that is rude. Besides, why else would they put up the cardboard cubicle?

I will say that I did not vote for the NDP though.

It wasn’t because I have any real bias towards any particular party. In fact, they could have easily had my vote. But they lost it.

They called my house 3 times with humans, asking who I was planning to vote for. Then their phone robots called, 3 times, to tell me to vote for them doesn’t matter because I hung up on the robots each time.

To the guy from the NDP: I hate being bothered at home unless it is by my friends. You are a politician. By definition, you cannot be my friend. You are therefore relegated to leaving a flyer, outlining why I should vote for you in particular, or knocking on my door and asking if you can explain yourself to me in person. Don’t think you can win me over with telemarketers and phone robots. Nobody in the world likes those things, not even people who don't have phones.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

one horrible lunch experience

This restaurant is the worst.

It is the worst because we waited well over an hour after ordering for our food, or even our coffees to show up.

Other people got their food straight away. Perhaps we were not cool enough, or didn’t look enough like smelly hippies.

What’s so hard about getting a couple of coffees? That’s the easiest food service task that there is.

The sandwich contained many of my favorite food stuffs, but that’s all I got for my 10 bucks. One sandwich. No side order of something – anything. Coffee was extra.

We got ignored like junk mail.

So the waitress got tipped like junk mail, which is to say, not much at all. She only got any tip because I didn’t want to wait around any longer.

Aux Vivres vegetarian restaurant, on St. Laurent in Montréal, you suck.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

sometimes nothing is something

the cult of facebook

I’m writing again, after having my soul slowly sucked from me as I sit at this very computer over the past week and a half.

Never again will I do anything for long lost friends who pop out of the facebook world and ask for help. I thought I was doing a nice thing for someone, cause I thought I had the time. Apparently communication got a little screwy from the beginning, and I’m merely an employee in this person’s eyes, reduced to taking abuse through email and phone for an embarrassingly low amount of cash.

Really, I’m less than that, cause it is pretty much charity work at this point. I’ve been shafted by someone I once thought 10 years ago was a pretty close friend. Turns out she just wanted something for nothing and was prepared to shit on me to get it. Don’t ever piss off a volunteer. It will hurt you later.

So today’s post is about the dangers of facebook.

Facebook is a cult. If you doubt this fact, think of how you ended up with an account. Were you actually seeking a brand new way to email your friends?

Probably not.

Probably, like me, you barely remember that fateful click of the mouse. You just got tired of invitations clogging your email program and thought, ‘what harm could this do?’

After you clicked, suddenly you had to accumulate friends. The thrill of competition is very addictive. How many more friends can I have than that guy I worked with 10 years ago. Or my spouse. Then the website asks you to kindly search for other friends that you know through email.

Before you know it, you are tied to the computer trying to gain acceptance from the masses. Reconnecting with old friends and forgetting why you aren’t close friends anymore. (Anyone reading this who is an old friend of mine, it probably doesn’t apply to you. Of course I would say that, wouldn’t I? Please don’t deny me the virtual friendship.)

Then come the groups. Oh how I always wanted to be the popular kid in junior high and high school. Sadly, as is detailed in my post Trousers of Terror, this was well beyond my control. Of course I’ll click and accept any group that will have me.

You are rewarded on facebook for being active. You can add all sorts of very stupid doo-dads that promise hours of clicking fun. I don’t really get it. Sending people icons of perverted ideas doesn’t really contribute anything, does it? Sure, send me a hand job.... it’s still not a real hand job, is it? Kind of useless. Even the thought of a handjob without the actual follow through is not that appealing. It’s just sad and frustrating.

It reminds me of that strange plan to end world hunger by clicking on a website. Apparently that doesn’t really work otherwise we would have moved on to ending the genocide in Darfur by now and would be well on our way to halting climate change.

I’m not sure what the motive is behind these stupid games. Someone is creating them, so I gather someone is making money off of this. But who, and why, and, most importantly, how... and who (again)?

Perhaps it is the makers of icy hot causing a plague of carpal tunnel syndrome as we all click our way to the inevitable computer geek posture. Once we all have the same aliment, it will be easy to dominate us as a society. No one will be able to even raise their good hand to fight. Our opposable thumbs will be useless.

And just like a cult, people will object to those who question the wisdom of facebook. I’ve heard people get rather defensive about it claiming that this will bring the world closer together.

No it won’t.

People always respond that this is merely a conspiracy theory. But there are real conspiracies. It really does happen. Isn't this also what fellow members of a cult would tell you when you’d suggest that things aren’t on the up and up?

We bitch and whine, with good reason, that the government is trying to spy on us. (They are.) They don’t have to spend money on spying on us anymore. Just a couple of guys in front of facebook can find out pretty much anything such as where you have been throughout your life, who your friends and acquaintances are, what you are up to that very day.

Last night, I even managed to track down the wife of the stupidest and nastiest person I have ever met in the world, only to discover that she is pregnant with his demon child. It made me slightly sick to think that such a man is now reproducing. It may even drive me to reproduce to offset the effect of yet another spoiled little rich kid to populate this planet.

It’s really not healthy for me to have access to such information.

We just pour our guts out on this site and not enough of us are getting suspicious.

Think hard before you accept friendship from that guy who bullied you in elementary school. Is he really your friend? Or does he just want a chance to bully you some more from the safety of the interweb, cause he’s fat now and couldn’t possibly really hurt you in the real analog world.

It is time to revolt against the facebook cult.

Oh, and don’t drink the facebook kool-aid.