April 23, 2009

Clements Hilda Family

Chapter 34.

I attribute a lot of who I am today to the people that I have been around over much of my youth. A lot of kids say they don't remember anything from junior high, maybe aside from the name of their home room teacher. But for whatever reason, I remember a ridiculous amount of stuff from those days. Even Mr Pechanec's S-Car Go! joke. In addition to my high familiarity with my times spent @ St Hilda junior high a mere decade ago, I gained a very good sense of the differences in student-products formed within Holy Trinity High's other 2 main junior high feeder schools: Holy Family & St Clements, through observation of and participation with many of these people through 3 years of high school.
Alternatively, if you were a millwoods "catholic" product but didn't end up going to 1 of these 3 feeder schools, chances are you were either too white or too rich for your own good. As a result, you probably ended up going to (most likely) AOB, Louis St Laurent, or some IB/academia school like Old Scona. This, no doubt, would likely reinforce your parents stereotypes and prejudices of what would be the ultimate way for you to succeed in life.
So let's try & wrap our heads around this. 3 feeder schools, each unique in its own way. Holy Family is recently credited with playing host to the teacher who composed the new HNIC theme song. Historically though, the school had been associated with a creepy-ish young male teacher who really liked teaching his students how to dance. Sketchy. But more importantly, the student-products that came out of this school probably had the largest impact of the person that I would become through high school and onwards. Disregarding the dozen or so total douchebags who thought they were god's saving grace with respect to their: humour, athletic skillz, or supreme intellect, this school produced well-rounded good (and not-so-good) Christians that would go on to have sound values and moderate temperaments. People like Mike, Gerad, Chris, Trevor, Tyler W, and Nick were some of the results of this specific school-machine. Each of them: pretty sound, simple people. Each of them: probably stopped me from being a big pot-head in high school, while still allowing us to all enjoy the dow of the hack. It's kinda a shame I don't have any of them as friends on facebook. In addition, this school also contributed some of the most sought-after women to our high school. Good genes, I suppose.

Next we'll head west and south (yes, demographics has a lot to do with geographics) to St Clement's: Jock School, or working-class suburban stereo-type school. Basically, if you had a dual income earning family and were enrolled in some form of community league sport for more than 3 years in a row, this was the school for you. Its products included the twin boblsed brothers/ NHL failures, the most popular girl from our highschool (~700 facebook friends) (although the Valedictorian was from Family), The Sons and Daughters of Teachers, annnnnd last but not least: The Crescent People. I think this was probably a little less "white" of a school than Family. It had some real issues with crime, including sexual predators after all.
Just Joking.
"Holy Shit! Who IS this guy?!"
The largest credit to this school would probably be The Father-Teacher, K. Whelan, who took the time to teach us kids chess and offered up Tuesday Night Ice Hockey @ the Millwoods Rec Center through July and August. Probably one of the most respected teachers out of the 3 main feeder schools. The crescent-people were a pretty tight church-faring community who all lived within 2 or 3 blocks of each other. They made a large component of the fundraising and parent council board. It was kind of weird, being non-religious going to a religion-based school, but I think for the most part, these families' hearts were in the right place - despite how much shame their sons and daughters would eventually bring to their god-fearing families. Nevertheless, Clements kids were pretty good. The hockey boys mike & paul and that little twerp matthew all had a pretty positive impact on me through my time in high school. "In This Duckpond, Leave Me Be!"

And so we come to the end. St Hilda Junior High School. What an effing gong-show. I had no regrets or sadnesses about my 3 years spent in this would-be green little cement box, although grade 8 was probably the toughest, as I had to start to re-align myself with a less judgemental, more bad-ass crew. This was the most multi-cultural school of the 3, with Tagalog becoming the unofficial 2nd language. Next to Cantonese. Just Kidding! However, in all seriousness, it was in my Grade 9 year that the Zeller's across the street finally closed its doors as it could not keep up with the thievery occurring thanks to 14 year old delinquents from across the street. Dom was even banned from the Mac's for life, but is now an engineer, so I guess he couldn't have been tooo bad a kid, hey? There were worse. This I know for sure. We have a pact and I will never say more than this. This school was lucky to have a cool young pro lacrosse captain (J. Bowen) who would teach phys. ed and sex. ed. This was probably important, cuz as far as I recall, we had some real sluts in that school too. (No names here.) We had fights. We had graffiti, theft, drug use, property damage. No sexual assault like @ Clements (as far as I know) - but we were otherwise a pretty unscrupulous bunch. No wonder I took refuge in the mild-mannered Family crew in high school. I could otherwise be in jail right now!

But right now, I'm bothered. Regardless of how well I might have turned out thanks to the decisions I have made over the past decade, I still have some pretty big issues with what's going on within Millwood's schools. Aside from curriculum even! Or extra-curriculum and the "demanding" life of teachers for that matter! Right now, a rat is running amuck. Someone is setting torch to millwoods schools. Most recently, St Elizabeth, which is adjacent to that school of mine, St Hilda, had one of its cubicles set alight. This is a year or so since the same thing happened to St Richards - my 1st school. And it pisses me off! Sure, I'm all about the anarchy & the rising up against the state! But I think a lot more ground could be made if letters were written alongside the arson attacks, detailing the many ways you are unhappy with the government's education system/curriculum. I mean, really - do we need more products like me (or any of the people that I have just finished writing about) "contributing" to society in the manner in which this "government" "educates" us to do so?! Personally, I think we can ask a lot more from our government. So I would at least like to understand the reasons behind the intentional destruction of all things (like hatred of the Alberta tories, for example), and whether this intention is even the least-bit founded or really not at all. And if it's not, then Just Freakin' Stop It Already!!! Us millwood's products are smarter at finding ways to "act out" than burning down buildings - schools included. Just be complacent, and go along with things for the time being, and when the revolution does finally come? Be ready for it.

April 22, 2009

The Necessity of Managing Our World’s Water in the 21st Century

We are living in a world in which resource exploitation and distribution exists between more than six billion people. In developing these resources and providing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, many factors must be considered by the statesmen who decide who gets what, and at what cost, for their country. Finding a balance in this resource management might prove to be incredibly difficult since one country’s wants may tend to trump another country’s essential needs in a world of globalization. This will become increasingly apparent as resources continue to be depleted and inequality around the world surges. The needs of some that may be overridden by the wants of those in authority might include the basic essential social services (including health or eldercare), or freedom of choice. Also, emerging concerns (or wants) for environmental protection and climate change may also be suspended in order to protect the economic welfare of society, ensuring that industry will be able to provide jobs and that corporations do not go bankrupt. Many public officials might suggest that investing more energy into resource management will be the easiest way to ensure that unemployment rates decline, allowing for us to climb out of the worst recession in eighty years. But investing in resource management must include an impartial and in depth investigation of all social, economical, and environmental implications. The importance of comprehending current quantities and qualities of these resources must be realized. Lastly, transparency, integrity, and public acceptance of the way in which these commons are being managed are the most crucial aspects of maintaining a sustainable planet. It is my opinion that the privatization and commoditization of our earth’s resources works against this, and that we must find a way of holding the decision-makers (in government and industry alike) accountable for the way that our commons are treated. However, it is up to us as individuals to make a start by being accountable for our own personal resource management in our day-to-day lives.

I would like to focus specifically on the implications of the privatization of a resource that is often a determining factor between life and death of all living things: water. The way in which the world’s water has been managed over the past half century is alarming. And now, more than ever, are we seeing an unprecedented pull towards water privatization; despite shameless fear-mongering and substantiated scientific studies which both warn of impending extensive droughts and climate change. Water scarcity and climate change are tied very closely together; after all, as much of the industry that contributes to climate change is dependent on exorbitant quantities of water to drive industry (eg. oil sands and high-tech industries). In addition, within the these industries, water subsidies allow for companies to thrive from inexpensive process water, where in comparison the public will have to pay significantly higher rates just for their basic water needs. The emerging economies of India and China are also creating an enormous burden on their countries’ water demand as industrial growth rapidly expands. However environmental regulations in these countries may be more difficult to monitor as each country strives to generate as much wealth as it can, despite the effects on water availability to consumers, contamination of water resources, or how this rapid industrial growth is contributing to climate change. Globalization and economic agreements put in place by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have allowed the water privatization industry to largely go unchecked in developing countries. The system is arranged such that a country’s profit is maximized despite any detrimental impact to the environment.

However, the United Nations has recently appointed a Canadian to the post of Senior Advisor to Water Issues. Maude Barlow is credited with writing many important books about this important resource, including Blue Gold, in which she distinguishes between water being perceived as a right rather than a need. The difference, she claims, is in how water as a need can be marketed by companies governed by the rules of laissez-faire, whereas water perceived as a right would ensure that all people are granted access to “clean and affordable drinking water” (Blue Gold, 2002). As less than one percent of the world’s water is in fact accessible freshwater, it is all the more important to realize the challenges we face regarding equal affordable access to this clean, life-sustaining substance here on of earth (Water Consciousness, 2008).

Between globalization, the rising industrial powers of China and India, population growth and domestic and industrial pollution, water utilities will be challenged to maintain tolerable quality, especially methods of cutting costs are utilized in this time of recession. Privatization (and private-public partnerships (P3)), are often seen as cost effective ways of doing so, such that a municipality simply places the cost of water directly on the consumer. It is widely understood that even P3 water companies are corporations that can be bought, traded, and sold. Therefore, when water resources become extremely strained, the largest multinational water corporations will have the power to purchase struggling utilities and revamp them in order to provide better service. The fear is that with this improvement to water service, consumer costs will escalate to a point beyond affordability. And then, any maintenance of the system that ensures that the water quality remains adequate is also perceived to be less transparent if run by a privately owned company rather than if owned by the municipality.

Within Canada, there is no legally enforceable drinking water standard, but rather “guidelines” offered by Health Canada. Despite these guidelines, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that in April 2008 there were 1766 boil-water advisories currently in place in Canadian municipalities, not including First Nations communities (Council of Canadians, 2009). With this exceptionally high number of water issues for a developed country, more must be done by the government to both protect our water sources and ensure that appropriate treatment technologies are in place for its 33 million citizens. And this is happening in Canada – a developed country, which makes claim to 6.5% of the world’s accessible freshwater (Water Consciousness, 2008). Other countries have incredibly less quantities of freshwater and exponentially higher population densities.

A component of protecting Canada’s water sources is the way in which wastewater is treated and returned to rivers, lakes, or oceans. This must be protected by enforceable legislation that has stringent regulations for deleterious substances being discharged. The Fisheries Act speaks to this; yet, in a court of law, penalties or permissions for discharges may be very lenient if the greater good is realized, economically speaking. As a result, carcinogens, bacteria, and pathogens can potentially migrate into the water that Canadians drink and the food Canadians eat. In Fort Chipewyan, for example, one of the largest concerns from the First Nations people is what contaminants have been entering their surface water, as a result of tar sands activity on the Athabasca River.

As engineers, our responsibility lies in implementing the best available system which will provide people with the basic necessities to survive. This is especially true in providing water and sanitation services, but is also limited to dollar amounts granted for the specific job. Therefore, if the government is not responsible for the maintenance or upgrading of these utilities because they have been privatized, then it is at the for-profit water company’s discretion to spend the required monies such that minimal environmental regulations are met. After all, only what is measured will be managed. The private water company can then attempt to manage the quality of their streams as the affordability of the design allows them to do so.

Hopefully, with an understanding of current water scarcity, judgment will be used by the many industries that require large quantities of water, and engineers will be able to design ways to maximize the performance for the company. In addition, individuals will hopefully understand that it is not just big industry that has an impact on the environment, but rather, by using restraint and common sense, our water will be able to be managed in such a way that it will last us for centuries to come.

It is difficult to manage what cannot be measured. Aside from the United Nations and various levels of governments, there exists a number of NGOs dedicated to keeping people and companies accountable for their water-using habits. The Pacific Institute is showing that Americans are consuming less water per capita then they had in the 1970s, with consumption rates down as much as 25%. There is a new awareness about the energy and “virtual water” in the bottled water industry and how some nutrients, such as fluoride, may even be lost by opting for bottled water. Excessive water waste in instances such as elaborate Las Vegas fountains will be ridiculed as awareness is heightened, and water saving techniques from installing low-flush toilets to having shorter showers will be rewarded. People will be willing to change for the benefit of the environment. People will only make this a reality though, if a single person makes it their reality first.

The largest challenge will be finding a legal, measurable, enforceable way to ensure that water intensive companies are realizing what long-term effect they are having on out planet. Whether we consider Coca Cola wanting to increase Dasani sales , the high-tech industries in Silicon Valley requiring more cheap purified water for the next generation of iPod, Alberta’s own Syncrude, who uses anywhere between 3 to 5 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of oil, or lastly, EPCOR water wanting to expand its water treatment business into more water-stressed areas... all of this water use must be justified. If individuals can find a way to understand the current water crisis and modify their behaviour, then nothing less should be expected from any corporation. True, an exploding population will require water for a multitude of services and products; but with this larger population, more people are available to ensure that a certain degree of temperance in the way water is being used.

95% of the World is 3rd World!

Ch. 30

Whether you believe it or not, 95% of the world is 3rd world. That's about 6.3 out of the 6.6 Billion people living on this earth. Maybe you are one of the lucky 300 Million. If 300 Million people live in America alone, then you certainly know that some of them will be having a hard time. I guess, like in anything, it just gets a little hard as to know where to draw the line. Especially when it comes to the various kinds of being poor. But I am telling you: out of all of the various forms of inequality of the world: race, gender, environmental (water, sanitation, sustenance farming through drought/deforestation), political, religious, educational, those with disabilities, those with no access to health care, animal rights...about 95% of us will be affected in a pretty significant way. It's just a matter of how we react to the things that we know that will determine one of two things:

  1. whether you will be openly welcomed into the pearly gates of heaven, or

  2. whether you will be sent directly to the fire depths of hell to burn for all of eternity.

Okay, maybe it's not quite like that. (maybe it is!) But this I know for sure. There is a growing number of people that actually DO give a damn' about the world! And they aren't necessarily all senior citizens or students either. Lifelong commitment of people wanting to leave behind a better world is becoming more and more popular. I am currently reading a book called "How to Change the World - Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas". It is a hopeful and inspiring book that provides specific cases of the projects that people are having success with in a world that sometimes seems very impossible.

In my life, I have seen some people take on some pretty amazing things. Thanks to Engineers Without Borders, I have seen thousands of school-aged kids get informed about water scarcity and the difficulties of governments in securing access to this precious resource. Letters to MPs and MLAs alike are being sent for issues ranging from untying Canada's Foreign Aid Dollars to quashing Stelmach's unconstitutional Bill 19 to asking the City for better access to public transit. I have seen benefit shows and bottle drives, bike rides for cancer and church groups doing development work abroad. A blog called http://attemptsatabetterworld.blogspot.com/ is probably one of my new favorite things to follow, where a man is trying to just make life better one step at a time. But with incredible inspirational people like Senator Romeo Dallaire, Doctor David Suzuki, AIDS advocate Stephen Lewis, and even grade school teacher, Mike Engel, it is not difficult to see how generations are now in fact changing the world.

I know just as much as anyone how easy it is to get very depressed, apathetic, and busy & carried away with your own life in such a fast-pace world. Especially if you are having a hard time making the rent or you recently find out that you are pregnant. Especially if you are worried about job security in the worst recession in 80 years. We have all watched the rich get richer and the poor faint away to nothing. We watch the pirates of the world continue to pillage and plunder the remaining few unhabituated areas or exploit the perpetually developing areas, slashing down trees, cutting into the earth all in order for their insatiable gluttony and greed. We watch as civil war rages on in Sudan and are sickened by the ideas of Child Soldiers or Slumdogs or for-profit companies going into countries for drug testing. We watch our own native people get displaced to the city streets as their water and land is polluted and destroyed. But we carry on. At the very least, we get informed. The hardest decision I think is deciding when you are informed enough to start contributing, or maybe when you can afford to start contributing because you aren't all busy with just surviving. From what I've seen though, a person doesn't need very much to survive.

So with sooo many inspirational and motivated people around me, I vow from this Earth Day 2009 forward, to start surviving more realistically and start contributing more appropriately. This is going to begin with writing a letter to my MLA Carl Benito and his boss Eddie, and the opposition parties too, about reversing their plans on cutting funding to the Wild Rose Foundation - a voluntary organization that offers support to a huge array of Alberta non-profits like the Sexual Abuse Center of Edmonton. After that, I am going to write out a plan of action that will help me to active goals within a certain time frame. Wish me luck.



April 20, 2009

Testosterone Makes the World Go 'Round: Chapter 7A - Jock O Rama, Part 2 - My Dear Edmonton Oilers

Haha, what a title. but fuck it - it's MY blog, I'll do what i want with it. Including making this ridiculously long, and a little less focused than I wanted it to be.

Now that the unnecessary swearing is out of the way, here goes...

There were a lot of problems with the Oilers this year. So much so, that they finally decided to fire the coach. We needed a scapegoat after all!

As I have made it known, the salaries for these "heroes" are unfathomable --- HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. And that's for the shitty players like Gilbert. Get Real. The ultimate reason of Edmonton not making it into the playoffs for the 3rd straight year is the lack of motivation of the players. Having million dollar careers isn't motive enough apparently. The team lacks the leadership, spirit, urgency, guts, determination and commitment to build confidence to get better. The last remaining shreds of these qualities left on my 24th birthday when Ryan Smyth got sent to New York for Nilsson. Yeah, who? (Sure, Nilsson is a pretty good Oiler - but certainly not a leader like Smyth). The Oiler's needed a Ryan Smyth player - a player with grit, emotion...even Michael Peca didn't have Smyth's intensity when he was here... But he's gone, and we're left with Souray, Hemsky, Horcoff, Staios, and Moreau to pick up the slack. Moreau was great as a non-captain: he represented the hardest working oiler that struggled for every inch. But because of his lack of natural ability (Think Weight vs. Marchant in the 90s), he should never have become anything more than an alternate captain. Jason Smith was a defencemen, so that's a little different, since he had a more solid support network of players around him (like Smyth) with the required passion and skill to make them an exciting hockey club, at the very least.

The problems surrounding Oilers hockey, though, aren't embedded in the coaching or the management or even the young unmotivated, leaderless players. I think it's actually entrenched into the Edmonton culture. The city actually shapes itself on having NHL hockey as its #1 focal point, with everything else less important. Way up here on latitude 53, we convince ourselves that we have a culture & class that is simply incommensurable in relation to our Calgarian neighbors. After all, the socioeconomic base in Edmonton is made up of hard-working roughnecks - as opposed to those lazy good for nothing rednecks that live 300km south of us. We don't even attempt comparing ourselves to other major North American or World cities because we are just already so far removed any of them! We are about as significant of a city to some random Russian city, as that same random Russian city is to us!

But despite our best efforts, we still can't retain (or build) our hockey talent. UFAs sell out for the beachtowns or the big cities and the "talent" that we do get will have "difficult" seasons (Lupul, Peca, Stoll...). Edmonton is a stepping-stone, a boot camp, a place for players to get better so that they could peak by the time they can actually get out. A league conspiracy, perhaps? Maybe.

As mentioned, Edmonton goes nuts on trying to promote itself as a city that is absolutely crazy for hockey above anything else, where the players are loved and admired more than Bono or Madonna or Elisha Cuthbert, depending on who you are. But despite all the "oil money" allowing near-sell-outs for 17 thousand seats for 41 games a season, there are some other absolutely ridiculous things associated with our game that the Oilers of the Eighties wouldn't even begin to recognize (i mean, if they weren't all still involved with the organization). Perhaps this new NHL has just made it that much more difficult for players to focus on just loving the game with incredible passion and desire - to just go out there - night after night - and win games.

This blog is called Testosterone Makes the World Go 'Round. And hockey is a very macho, very testosterone-driven game. We cheer when men smash fists into eachother faces (Oh, women's boxing was @ Shaw Convention Center tonight - there's another re-enforcement of some of Edmonton's culture). When we get scored on, we curse and throw things and shake our fists in the air, and when we score, we drink $7.75 Molson Canadian as the foghorn blares and that horrible Kid Rock song gets blared through the PA system (good thing the oilers dont score that much, hey?) When an ex-oiler comes to town, we BOO and heckle mercilessly, regardless of how much that player invested into the city when he was here.

The beer is kind of a big deal. Despite the insane cost of it, it is uncommon to see a fan without 2 glasses in their hands. That's $15.50 of liquid-idiot maker. Per period. True, they stop selling beer after the 2nd, but more often than not, this rule gets flexxed to accommodate the fans - and more sales get made. By the end of it, you will be walking by stacks upon stacks of empty plastic glasses that will make their way into hundreds of plastic bags and eventually into our landfills. You will be walking amongst the most densely packed room of half-intoxicated "people who call themselves fans". The social problems might even outweigh the environmental problems when it comes to alcohol consumption at hockey games. Over the years, I have seen people be thrown out for drunken belligerence - fighting, throwing, screaming - just being plain disruptive. These young males are always incredibly incapacitated at games that I can't help but think what else they could be doing with their money outside of the public arena. I mean, have you no shame??? With a little bit of temperance and maybe a tad bit of reason, this kind of beer money could go a long ways to tackling any of the world's more pressing matters. We're talking serious money here after all!
SO yes, hockey's expensive. That greasy german sausage that will give you a heart attack, the keychains and jerseys that are all made in China, the 5th and 6th glasses of Canadian, The tickets... They charge the prices they do because of the propaganda about how wonderful it is to be able to go & watch hockey games. They say to get your tickets now because later, it will be too late and they'll be sold out. Yet nearly all games will have some 1/2 price singles available, at the very least. Usually you can track a pair of at-cost tickets down if you look hard enough. But when I was @ the San Jose game in March, I was especially frustrated when I found an empty pair of seats to help myself to at the top of the lower bowl (~$100 tickets), and the kids in the row behind me were playing their PSPs!!! Hell, these kids should be in my standing room square! In front of me were two women who were more "into" eachother than anything remotely related to hockey. Hair twirling, shoulder rubbing, and thigh touching continued for half the 1st and all of the 3rd periods. (They were downstairs in the club area, purportedly drinking, through the entire 2nd.) So frivolous spending and drunken ignorance and utter lack of appreciation for where you are. This is Oilerfan culture. It is driven by the monetary system of having the cash available to oneself that will get you the attention or admiration of the people around you. The exorbitant prices are paid by companies and handed out to the spoiled "fans" that go to these games probably won't even know anything about hockey. When this happens, the "team support" is nothing more than ignorant drunken loud retardedness of the people that spent just as much on alcohol as they could since they didn't have to buy the ticket. It really all amounts to a class thing, where those of you snobby or rich enough to drink ridiculous amounts and make asses of yourselves, and getting awkwardly laughed at by the few relatively sober people there about how inappropriate you are. But at least you are getting that attention.

Oh but there's more. Thanks to CISN Country 103.9fm, getting that attention is made into even a bigger deal! "Smooch-cams" have been in place for many years now, where the camera man scans the fans during stoppages of play and puts only cute-looking couples on the jumbotron screen. A sex-craving coliseum of seventeen thousand will CHEER!!!! when the couple finally kisses, since they are after all totally smashed on all the overpriced beer. The wetter the kiss, the louder the cheers. Testosterone makes the world go 'round.

One Last Curious Thing About The NHL that I Wanted to Bring to Your Attention

With a pressing emergence of global warming and ghg emissions, I wonder why pro-hockey is never criticized for its immense carbon footprint. I have never seen a game delayed on account of a late flight either. They always make gametime. They always get paid. I don't know if it was The Amazing Race that made me first think about how hockey teams charter flights to cruise around North America, or if it was all of the flying that is involved with hockey that made me think how ridiculous the Amazing Race really is. Either way, I feel confident that I could still lead a comfortable life knowing that the Oilers would have only 60 regular season games and The Amazing Race was cancelled forever.

I love hockey though. Go Ducks Go!

April 9, 2009

The Age of Desensitization, Part 2

Ch. 20.2: Who IsTaking It Too Far Now?
Last spring, it was announced that Gunther von Hagens' BodyWorlds was coming to Edmonton. It was going to be showcased for 4 or 5 months at the Telus World of Science, and it was promoted in such a way that all people from Edmonton were required to attend, if they were not totally helpless, clueless, or penniless.

From the start, I had my mind pretty much made up about this sort of public display of the human body. I was reluctant to go to this show altogether. I just didn't understand why people (living people, that is) would be interested in pointing at, gawking at, and yes, even touching human body parts! Maybe it's because I do enough of that to living bodies? I don't know... (that is a joke, by the way). But towards early Fall, I went down and picked up my $28 timed-entry ticket so that I couldn't be criticized as one of those closed-minded ignorant fools that doesn't appreciate art, and (more importantly) to see if my reasons for not being thrilled about this idea of exhibit were the least bit justified.

It was a bloodbath. Torsos everywhere! Human flesh detached from its muscle detached from its skeleton detached from its organs. Some were intermingling with each other, others playing sports, and one even riding a horse?! I haven't seen much worse in some of the goriest of thrasher movies.

Okay, I'm full of shit. As usual. Why does he even write this crap? Actually, from an artistic point of view, this "exhibit" was very tastefully done. It was clean, informative, thorough, and just a little bit spooky. But like the Cormac McArthur's, "The Road", I just don't totally understand why it had to be done at all.

I am going to argue that the Human Race is already desensitized enough from anatomics. We see the human body in every way shape and form either from television, the internet, or if we are exceptionally unfortunate, the hospital. BodyWorlds was/is nothing more than a perverse way of using dead people to make a quick buck. Or a quick 28 bucks. Fine. The high ticket price for me to walk (not run) through a museum is probably necessary to ensure that quality of the exposition maintains very high standards - from the polished display cases holding the slices of brain, tumored lungs, and swollen hearts to the informational video on the plasticizing of a human body to the amount of energy & work it must take to pack up and travel around with hundreds of rubbery fragments of corpse-statues all around the world...I know that I would want my staff to be well compensated for, and my surroundings kept with a certain amount of cleanliness and respect if that was in fact my body/body parts they were lugging around!

It is my unpopular opinion that when it comes to the human body, we foolish ignorant commoners are on a need-to-know basis. As we can learn from Charlie Harper, it is a good idea to not skip out on our Grade 8 Health class. But besides that? Who cares. Sure, some of us will become LPNs, RNs, medics, doctors, and dentists. But this will forever be the minority of the population. Most of us will work in sales and just won't need to know about the goings-ons of the many bodily functions. We don't really need to know what part goes where, or how long or short some things are, or what kinds of things are generated or processed in different compartments of the body. I can say this now because I have been mostly healthy for all of my life, and therefore cannot easily empathize with the many people that have gone through some form of ailment or another. Even so. If I had been diagnosed with morbid obesity, for example, I could benefit from simply taking my doctor's advice to start leading a healthier lifestyle, without having to go to BodyWorlds to see what slices of human fat looks like around the muscle and nervous systems.

Today's kids grow fast enough as it is. They want to be all grown up and be independent, free from parental oppression. They want to be exposed to as much and as often as possible so that they can get a feel for what may or may not be good for them. This includes exposure to and comprehension of the human body. But there is a fundamental lack of understanding for these children who don't see this artwork as a previous functioning contributing human member of society. There is that definite disconnect. But it is the adults (teachers - since it will be mostly schools who will be taking hoards of immature groups of teenagers, and younger, to experience the BodyWorlds, without direct parental guidance) that will teach that free will has allowed these individuals to give up their bodies to art/science (I don't know which it is) just as they may do so for medical research. These two things are not the same. Sure, the soul may leave the body upon death (did I mention no BodyWorld statues were formally politicians?) But that doesn't mean that the body shouldn't be prepared in a more ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust sort of way. Different cultures deal with their dead in tons of different ways - none of which include preserving the corpse for public display. So what makes Von Hagen so special?

On my 3.5 hour tour of BodyWorlds (trust me, that's thorough), I had watched scores of children randomly bump around from display case to statue to other display case, tugging on mommy's arm, saying "What's that brown spot" and "Where is that guy's nose". The majority of people were well-behaved, but after a while you begin to understand that this should be an at least 14A rated exhibit. I wouldn't say that there are proportionately more immature mannerless children out there who don't know how to behave in public, but rather, there is just more numbers of them as populations grow. Some degree of maturity and knowledge about life, death, and respect is required to not ruin the display for everyone else. Never was this so more obvious then when I had reached the "baby" display.

This especially delegated room was fully equipped with warning signs saying "contents within this display may be sensitive to some to view". In it, the development of a fertilized egg into a fetus into a near-term baby were displayed in glassware, ranging in sizes of a pickle jar to something that would hold a ~10 lb baby. It contained over 30 deceased and preserved human beings from a few weeks, up to thirty some weeks old, complete with a mother who had died with child prior to birth.

I didn't last in that room for very long. It was somewhat emotional.

But it was art! It was science?! I forget...But as glad I am for being able to see it, I still do not think it is necessary to be seen. Not unless you are a training medical staff, or you can prove a certain level of maturity that shows that you will in fact benefit from seeing something as ludicrous as a muscle-less gymnast hoisting himself up on the ropes.

I also want to leave with you with the thought of where we might go from here, with respect to de-humanizing ourselves --- de-sensitizing us from the unnatural things in the world --- rap song after webpage after lizard-man at a time. A lot of progress made in the medical field will ask for us to hold onto our stomachs as we enter an age of stem cell harvesting and transplants. The ethical dilemmas and criticisms are numerous, but certainly we will benefit from that kind of technology! How could we not?! I remember back in 2001, we talked about the ethical debates of stem cell research, as I was such a good product of Edmonton Catholic Schools. All I really remember though, was thinking how cloning would be okay if they used it on Scarlett Johanneson. Or wait! That was David Letterman's joke just last week. But seriously. I wish I did know what was next! We all seem so ready to cave in and try anything, without sufficient benefit/cost analysis. I think maybe we should spend a little bit more time at least thinking about how we are going to re-sensitize our kids as our society seems so hell-bent on desensitizing them in so many ways, without even realizing it!

Time for dinner. Cow tongue tonight.

April 8, 2009

You're So Lame!

chapter 56.

A friend of mine that has somewhat similar interests (and a somewhat rockin' hot bod) came out to party with me a few nights back. We were off to a concert. We had a bit of time before it started so we got to talkin' about things. She's usually pretty candid, and I think that's another reason why I like her (besides her rockin' hot bod, that is). The #1 topic of conversation for that night though was how some people are just really lame. Well, it was mostly her telling me about how she finds a lot of guys she meets just sooooo incredibly lame! And here I'm trying to not be all on the defensive, seeing how in truth, I can be particularly lame in a lot of circumstances. Her case included her motivation and ability to stay out til 4, for 2 or 3 nights in a row, dancing, drinking, having a good time, and still getting to class the next day. She would say how "Peter" would come out to party one night, then sleep in all day the next day, missing his classes, and not do anything again for at least a couple nights. She would say about how when Peter comes out, he would be more or less a drag and not really have much to bring to the party (ohhh get your mind out of the gutter). But nevertheless, he was her friend & would continue to come out to party at least from time to time.

So I got to thinkin'. Why are some people perceived as being so insufferably lame? There must be a legitimate reason. What fundamental changes could a guy make in his life/lifestyle such that he would: A) Have the energy to do more, B) Be perceived by women as being less lame, C) Generate the self-esteem to be comfortable in knowing that he is in fact not lame, by his own standards, at the very least, and D) Use this lack of feeling of insufficiency to do good for the world, including his own.

Why We're Lame
(Or perceived as, anyways)
Lack of sleep can be attributed to 19th, 20th & 21st Century technology, as well as capitalism. (It's just a fun thing to do, to blame every problem in the world on capitalism, when you are in your twenties.) Thomas Edison had the light bulb lighting up our homes as early as the 1880s, resulting in our ability to stay up later, finishing that last few pages of that good book, without fear of knocking over the tealight and burning our houses down. Mass industrialization and supply & demand from the war years onward resulted in men staying @ work later, then continuing their work well into the night, from desktops to laptops to blackberries. And most recently, in the year 2009, we are seeing kids up all night, playing with their video games, doing their "homework", and writing their blogs. In addition, capitalism has created this demand from us in which we are required to work harder & staying up later, which will benefit the company, and its employees by monetary compensation. So then we can afford that new mattress that we use for 6, maybe 7, hours a night.
So lethargy/tiredness is a large contributing factor in how people can be perceived as being lame. They will likely simply be too tired to do anything fun ever. Especially when one of the only things they end up doing with their "free time" is working. But if a guy is able to get a decent night's sleep, then all the more likely will it be for him to want to...exercise.
It doesn't matter if it's a walk with the dog around the block, push-ups in the bedroom before bed, going to the gym 3 nights a week, or dancing around in punk show mosh pits. All are easier to do when you aren't totally exhausted. And when this person is well rested, and is feeling fit and good about their body, the more likely will they feel they have the right to talk to that 1 special girl, or that any random girl.
Another reason that a person may be perceived as one lame motha f*#$a is that he actually holds a set of morals and values. Perhaps a god or a religion inhibits him from enjoying the finer things of life (use your own imagination). Maybe a sense of guilt, manners, respect, appreciation-for-health-studies, etc. has made him act in this "lame" way. Maybe he just can't handle his booze, and therefore refuses to let it cloud his judgement, in fear of becoming a father, or even worse: taking home a really ugly chick. I am going to get in trouble from sooo many feminists who read this blog...
I am almost convinced that my friend (with the rockin' hot bod) that was talking about "Peter" being lame, may very well actually been referring to me. As a result, I am now going to turn off this blog machine, the lights, and go get me a good night's sleep. Maybe then - at the next concert - I will have the courage to take her in my arms, stroke my hand through her long brown hair, look into her pacific blue eyes, and say to her: "It's waaayy past my bedtime".
Do something.

April 6, 2009

Another Significant Coincidence

Weird Things Happen. This we know. I mean, the second that I started writing this blog a second ago, a song called Is She Weird by the Pixies started playing. Weird. The spelling of the word weird is in fact weird. Or is it just because I am using a different kind of font. Why would I even do that? Just to be weird? I'm not really all that weird. Seriously.

One day a couple of months ago, I was heading to a thermodynamics class while listening to one of 8300 songs on my iPod. Upon entering the classroom @ 8am that morning a Bad Religion song came on called "Entropy". Weird. How so? The second I sat down in the classroom, the weird Dutch prof turns on his mic and says that today we will be starting our lectures on ... entropy - the natural tendency of things to drive towards disorder or chaos.

If you only knew the half of it.

But let's move on. Back in October, I was beginning my pursuit of trying to get a date with a very nice girl. She was around from time to time but hard to meet up with seeing how we are all so busy all the time. But we would meet when we could and when we did it was fun. One of our first "dates" was actually just one of those extremely random occurrences where I was heading from the bus to my car on my way back home. I thought to myself, only for a split second "gee, wouldn't it be nice if I could see her here now waiting for the bus so I could just drive her home, (so to speak). So I was sitting on a bus for my short ride to my car then decided to jump on the other bus instead that was going to leave 2 whole minutes earlier. I get on. And there she was. I drove her home. Weird.

Oiler game. March 2009. My friend got handed a pair of tickets and asked me to come with. We get there, the puck drops, I get a text message. Apparently a friend of mine was at the same game. I didn't even know who it was cuz I didn't end up getting the person's number back when my phone finally broke a month prior. But after a few texts back and forth, she decides that she would come and say hi to me --- until she realized that I was there with my friend. Her ex. And that's not even where it stops. She was there with her new boyfriend. A mutual friend of all of us. Weird. So yeah. I didn't end up seeing her that night.

Months ago. Or years? I dunno. But a friend of mine from high school had a little sister. Uhh ohhh. Yeah, maybe I should just stop here. Fuck it. Let's be candid. Well, we got to be pretty decent "online pals" thanks to the atrocity called facebook. We would bullshit about trivial nonsense and worse. In one of those undirected and random conversations, I even got this girl's phone number. Weird. We met up once. Weirder? You betcha. But nevertheless I thought "hell, I can wait a while longer for her to maybe try being mmmm... less weird? - I've waited this longafterall". Now for the weird part: I don't play around a lot with music on facebook cuz I've got 14000 songs on my iTunes. But the very same day that I happen to be listening to Death Cab for Cutie on facebook music, I find out that this very same girl will be going to see that same band play live in Halifax (fucking terrific city) cuz of a trip her friend won. We don't talk much on facebook these days...maybe because she's dating some guy...

In February 2008 I got shit-faced. It was my 24th birthday after all. It was also just around a year since I had a pretty bad break-up. So my friends were heading to the bar. The same bar where me & my ex hung out sometimes. A bar I liked. Guess who we saw on our way to the bar? Yep. Her. Yikes. I think it probably did help matters that I was already half-shitfaced thanks to drinks @ RATT. Oh wellll. I survived it.

Let's go on. Or back. Say, 1995.
1995: I learn about social justice from a top-notch teacher who adopts a child named Tab from Chad on behalf of the classroom. Enter: Tom L, parents: engineers. Maggie, conceited, popular girl.
1997: I pick up the french horn. I am captain of my hockey team and take pride in showing off mad skillz in games against millwoods.
1999: Meet marni. Probably one of the most significant women in my life even to this day.
2002: 6th year of french horn, last year of hockey. myspace reconnects myself and tom L. He's in socal now, where pennywise etc. comes from.
2003: GMCC- I see a friend from 1995. Our lockers are next to eachother. Same birthdays.
I end up sitting beside maggie from grade school in Soc 100. We are the 2 most interested people in a class of 50 soc students. My passion for development issues swells a little more.
I discover the amazingness of Fractal Pattern: A social-justice oriented instrumental band from edmonton featuring a french horn.
2004: Meet an engineer who lived in mdot & played the french horn. I join Engineers Without Borders - the best run social justice student group on campus.
2005: Propagandhi releases best record to date: social-justice music at its best. I apply to go overseas with EWB, but get beat out by a one & only liberal arts major, Maggie, from grade school.
2006: Fractal Pattern goes on hiatus.
2009: Fractal Pattern plays McDougall united, not 2 days after releasing a statement saying how they will no longer be featuring a horn. This happens on the same day that my engineer friend buys a horn wanting to see if she can still play, without knowing this about the band. She liked fractal pattern but not until after the hiatus. FP drummer wears Propagandhi shirt, as usual.

Also this year: When not listening to propagandhi (etc.) I am expanding my horizons by going to real canadian folk shows - talented musicians with songs that don't require you to be swinging fists when listening to it. On one such occasion, I messaged my friend to meet me in SUB for coffee where she can get her luke doucet tickets from me. She doesn't get the message, but shows up on time at the exact same place in SUB that I suggest we meet. She agrees to come to the show, which is a good thing, since I had already bought 2 tickets. She gets the message about meeting for coffee a day later. That same night, the most popular girl from highschool sees me at RATT (yes, i drink a lot), but we don't talk. But after going to the Luke Doucet concert, i follow my "date" to starlight room where the same popular/pretty girl from my highschool is there too. She admits to seeing me @ RATT just the other day, but not saying hello (for whatever reason). She knows my "date" from a really weird connection between their families. A pal of mine admits to infrequently spotting this girl's facebook page, saying: "God, Ryan knows a lot of pretty cute girls". But really, who cares when there's only ever really been one that you've been interested in. It must be said: The Luke Doucet concert was way better than the after-party. Wool on Wolves is a good local band though.

Lastly, and most recently: Social and environmental justice becomes a stronger focus in my life than ever before. All of the past significant coincidences with respect to people, relationships, events, music, movies... everything...It all seems to be amalgamating into one huge juggernaut of who I have become thus far, and more importantly, what I know I have yet to become. I wonder what tomorrow will bring...

It would be much too structured to insert a quote from entropy here, but please take solace in the fact that Perfect People by Pennywise came on randomly just now, one of my 13,964 songs.
This is chapter 58.