Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reboot, relapse or some such

HI there!  Remember me?  I doubt it, it's been along time since I last wrote. There was a time,  4 or 5 years ago when I was quite proflic. I blogged and Tweeted regularly. I had fans, I had co-contributors. I was part of a small but mighty community of fellow writers and bloggers. We looked after each other. It was nice.

Life happens. Babies are born. Time becomes impossible to justify.  Machines break.  This is my attempt at getting back on the horse. It's time for me once again, to scream into the void. Bear with me, I am rusty.  Don't expect to be dazzled, not yet.

More soon, maybe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So it has come to this...

“People react to fear, not love; they don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true.”

~ Richard Nixon

I blame Celine Dion.

Huh? You ask.

Yep, it is at least partially her fault. She is symbolic, at least for me, of all the world’s ills.

OK, so now that I have already lost you, let me begin. It was December 31st, 1999. Prince, you might remember, wrote a song about it. Clinton was still President. Man do I ever miss that charming old bastard. My ex-girlfriend and I were way out in the east end of Montreal, at her parent’s place, where we had just finished a delicious supper. I wanted to go downtown, anywhere. I just wanted to be out in it, when it, whatever it was, was supposed to happen. She wanted to go to something more structured, somewhere close enough to our apartment, that when it was all said in done, we could simply walk home. I was already drunk. Her dad made sure of that, he always did. So, yes, she was driving.

It was getting late, we still hadn’t decided what to do. Her mother, bless her, piped in; why didn’t we ring in the New Year/Millennium there? Don’t get me wrong, I loved my in laws, but the idea of spending, what was supposed to be the party of the century/Millennium, way out in the suburbs, made me hope that all the doomsday/Y2K freaks were right.

By 11pm, I was well drunk, and we still hadn’t come up with a plan. Time had run out. We were essentially stuck in the burbs. What’s worse, aside from the fact that her dad and I had drank all the wine and were now onto cans of Molson Dry, was that we were stuffed onto a couch, the four of us, watching Celine Dion perform live. So instead of being out there, in the streets of Montreal, digging the scene, I was trapped, inside a duplex with my ex and her parents, listening to my least favourite pop artist squelch us into the 21st Century. Those were dark times.

So no, it is not really Celine Dion’s fault. But for the sake of this piece, she will act as my symbol of societal rot. That is what is wrong right now. It’s goes beyond Islamophobia (see Norway), or the banking/credit crunch (see the Dow), or even class warfare (see London). There is something rotten at the core of humanity and it is stinking up the joint. I will call it Celine Dion. You can call it Justin Bieber. Others might call it Capitalism, or the 24 hour news cycle. Hell maybe it’s all Twitter’s fault. All I know, is that things have not been right for a long, long time and symptoms are beginning to manifest.

So are these symptoms (a crumbling global economy, extreme nationalism, class riots, war and endless famine in Africa, revolutions in the Middle East) indicative of a singular human disease? Or is humanity being eaten alive by a whole series of smaller diseases?

Is humanity too far gone? If not, what can be done to bring us back from the brink?

These are all valid questions, without any true answer. What seems to be true is that humanity is teetering on the edge. The winds of change are not going to be kind to humanity. At least not in the short term.

So what comes next?

Let’s get back to Celine Dion. No not the symbol of all that is wrong with humanity, but the creature, that was on stage on December 31st 1999. Let’s examine why, my girlfriend and I were sitting on a couch, watching her as midnight neared. Why is it, that we didn’t end up downtown with the masses that night? It wasn’t really because my ex and I were in a fight about who was to be the designated driver. And it wasn’t really about where we were going to party (we lived a 20 minute drunken walk from downtown) and how we were going to get home. Nope, this was about fear. My ex had drunk the mass media Kool Aid. She was scared to death of the worse case scenario. You remember the Y2K bug, where there was an overblown concern that all the world’s computers could go on the fritz? Bank machines could stop working, transit systems stop, power grids in jeopardy. Basically, at the stroke of midnight, there was the risk of everything going POP! While she didn’t express this outwardly, her reluctance to decide what to do that night, meant that we stayed, safe and sound at her mommy and daddy’s place. Fear won.

Nothing happened of course. Dick Clark counted down until midnight, the ball dropped, Celine Dion squelched, I begrudgingly kissed my girl, hell, the lights didn’t even flicker. Her dad and I drunkenly stumbled out the front door, lit a couple cherry bombs, yelled at the universe and that was it. Fizzle... welcome to the 21st Century.

Fear is the great human hoodwink. The instrument of control. Used by business people, politicians and religious leaders alike, to steady the masses. Journalism has become the mouthpiece of the fear doctrine. The 24 hour news channels, the remaining few big newspapers and the whole fuzzy network of new media (be it blogs, social media, or on line news sites) make it almost impossible for anyone to not believe the sky is falling. I dare you to turn on CNN, or read the New York Times, or Twitter’s trending topics, or log on to and not fear for the future of mankind. Horrible things are happening all around us, and the scariest, doomsday stories, they are at the top of news cycle. Fear sells. That is why the squirrel that can water ski, is at the end of the news broadcast. Not because it is any less mind blowing, that an animal can pull off such an amazing trick, than say, the fact that America no longer has a AAA credit rating. Nope that’s not it, it turns out that misery and despair keep folks tuned in. Super talented squirrels, don’t sell ad space. Sorry Rocky.

So is it as simple as that?

Can we blame all the recent bad news, on the news providers themselves?

Why not shoot the messenger?

Would things be 100 times better if we all just unplugged?

Would we be better off living in ignorance?

Would the chaos continue if no one paid attention? I don’t know. I think that there is some value in instant communication. I think there is also value in the fact that the world is watching. The problem remains, in who is controlling the message. Are we being told the truth? Are we being mislead, by a faceless cabal, into believing, what that cabal want us to believe. I don’t want to go off on a conspiracy theory tangent. But the truth of the matter is that there is a tiny percentage of the of the world’s population that controls most of the global wealth and most of the world’s mass media. The two go hand in hand. The powers-that-be need to keep the masses appeased and confused, lest we finally say enough is enough (see London) and take to the streets in disgust.

So here we are. The global economy has tanked, thanks entirely to the people who were supposed to be its expert stewards. We live is an era of heightened racial/religious hysteria, thanks in large part, to events almost 10 years ago (9/11 for those that can’t keep up) and the reaction to it. Wars, wars and more wars. We are in the midst of a mass global malaise, on an over-populated and abused planet. Something has got to give, we are at the tipping point. What comes next, you’d hope, would be up to us, and not the folks that have lead us down the rabbit hole. I fear (there is that word again) however, that it will not. I don’t envision a magical power-shift. When they, the powers-that-be, whoever they are, control the public purse, the police force, the military and the message. The game is rigged. The house always wins. We will continue to be lied to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their lies will become ‘truths’. There is no such thing as journalistic integrity any more. Journalists aren’t allowed to tell the whole truth, they are only allowed to tell the bits that keep the rest of us in check. We’ll just keep sipping the Kool Aid. Oh Yeah!

Am I calling for revolution then?


I believe to a certain extent, that revolution is inevitable. History is cyclical, we are due for some dark times. It’s the ebb and flow of the human experience. We are, perhaps, on the brink of a new dark age. Perhaps we’ve rounded the corner and are beginning the long descent. .

But how is that possible? You ask. What with all our scientific and technological advances.

Shouldn’t these wondrous advances have insured humanity against collapse?

Have we not learned from the mistakes of the past?

Yes, and no. Yes, we can create wonderful machines that can help us communicate ideas instantly, across the planet. Yes, we’ve made wonderful medical advancements (Old fellas can still get boners!). Yes, we can cross oceans via plane, or boat. Yes, food can be mass produced and mass shipped. Yes, we can mobilize (If we are so compelled) large global forces to help aid those in need.



But, all those wonderful advancement have very little to do with the human soul. Humanity has not, and may not even be capable of, curing the afflictions of its psyche. We try, we develop religions, social and moral codes. There are laws and self-help groups. There is psycho-analysis, anti-psychotic drugs, retreats, red wine, good food, sex, pot, a myriad of wonderful concoctions, but to no end. Humans at all ends of the spectrum, be they the powerful, the helpless, or the rest of us, are wired in such a way, that we can’t help but be cruel to others. Humanity is rotten to the core. We can’t help ourselves. It’s in our DNA. We are driven by greed, lust and survival. We will step on our own grandmother to get that last piece of Marie Antoinette’s cake.

So humanity is doomed?


How depressing.

Sure, maybe, if you discount the pure awesomeness that is existence in the first place. But this is not about that. I am not touching that bit of madness with a ten foot pole. My point, aside from the fact that I am not a big Celine Dion fan, is that these are dark times. That you and I are pretty much powerless. There are folks, outside the traditional, malleable political process, that are mean and nasty. They couldn’t care less about you, your family or the plight of famine torn Africa. They do however, like to use their wealth and power to control how you think, what you buy and who you vote for. They do so, through mass media, which they use to control the message. This will always be true. And unless somehow, you find the golden ticket and become one of them; you will be under their direct influence, always and forever. They are the pack leaders, the captains of the not-so-good ship humanity. They are at this point steering that ship right into an iceberg. They can’t help themselves, they are compelled to do so; it is all a symptom of same human disease, that put them in a power position in the first place.

So the light at the end of the tunnel is a fallacy?

Of course! Sure there are a whole bunch of mini-miracles; they happen every day. There are as many good news stories, as there are bad news stories. But we’ve already covered all that. I think though, that if we as a collective, believe that this next wave of revolution, is going to fundamentally change humanity for the better, then we will be horribly disappointed when the dust settles. Personal victories aside. Humanity is not going to be made better by the dismantling of one political system and the development of another. There are systems, which I believe, better serve the masses. I, for example, think that social democracy, is a better system of government, than straight capitalism or libertarianism. I believe that government should exist, solely for the security and well being of its citizens. See, even I, your friendly neighbourhood pessimist, suffers from idealism. It is okay for a person to dream of a better way. Whatever it takes. Some folks use religion, others their work, some believe that family is key, a lot of us use a combination of factors to get us through the day. Again, whatever works. But remember, that no matter the system, no matter how virtuous it seems on paper, it will still be lead by the powerful few, and those buggers will be as mean tomorrow as they are today. Human nature ain’t gonna change via revolution.

History is doing its thing. The situation looks dire. But then again, when hasn’t it? Ask you grandparents how optimistic they were during the Depression, or the World Wars. Ask your parents how powerless they felt during the Vietnam years. Ask yourself how helpless you felt during 9/11 or the whole of the George W. Bush Presidency. Things have always seemed bad, with the potential of getting worse. The sky is always falling. Is today any worse, for me, than January 31st, 1999? No! Celine Dion is not within earshot and their isn’t a Molson Dry in sight. You see what I did there? Full circle. Around and around it goes. Dizzy yet? I am.

“History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”

~ Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I am not sure what to think.

What a strange few days it has been. Unhealthy all these concurrent late nights. Sometimes the universe screams. These are those times.

Aside from late night socializing, which despite what some might say, is healthy, if for the soul alone... it's been the news that has been keeping me up at night. So excuse me if this is rambly and almost incoherent, my synapses probably aren't firing right.

Let's start with the madness that was Sunday night. It was around 11, maybe 11:30 when I began seeing Tweets (yes, I get all my breaking news from Twitter. Doesn't everyone these days?) saying that President Obama was about to make an unusual, late night speech from the White House. Then, almost at the very same time, came rumours that Bin Laden was dead. Things steamrolled from there. The world waited and waited. The President's speech was delayed at least an hour. At about maybe 1 am (keep in mind I am on the Canadian East Coast, it's always a little later here), the President confirmed that special forces, acting on creditable intelligence (Wait, what? That exists?) stormed a compound in Pakistan, where it believed Bin Laden was hiding out. After a fire fight, Bin Laden was killed, his body, obtained by American Forces, then dumped in the sea. Wow! Huge!

Like everyone else, that hadn't went to bed early and missed it. I was totally caught up in the moment. Those old, long waned, feelings of idol worship for President Obama returned. For one night, at least, he was a fucking rock star again. It feels awesome when the good guys win. The progressives, did something that could not be poo pooed by the bad guys, the conservatives. The mad right surely couldn't  criticize the President for finally nabbing Bin Laden. There was nothing 'soft on terror' about killing the world's most notorious terrorist. It was a good coupla days for Obama, first he bitch slapped Donald Trump (bad both in an intellectual and hair sense) at the White House Correspondent Dinner, then he gets Bin Laden. Awesome! I was stoked.

The next morning, after digesting the news, I begin to take stock of how I felt, or should feel. Yes, Bin Laden was a horrible person, a wart on the ass of society. But doesn't cheering his death, in fact lessen me as a person? The death and carnage Bin Laden caused, both personally and in response to his actions, are unfathomable. He, even as a symbol, did nothing to further the good of humanity. But if I am going to proclaim to be anti-death penalty, if I am going to call myself a progressive humanist, is it not hypocritical for me to cheer the death of even the worst of humans? That is where I am right now. I am happy that there is some closure. Pity that it took 10 years, 2 Wars, 2 Administrations and an unforgivable amount of lives for America to get her man... but here we are. What's next? I don't know? Is the world a better place without Bin Laden in it? Sure. Will his death ease global tension? That remains to be seen. But there is always hope, right?

Hope, ha! When am I going to learn not to dream so big? Lets move on to the Canadian election. I am an NDP supporter, I have been since the days of Ed Broadbent. They are my party. So how the hell am I supposed to feel right now? The NDP had a historical night on Monday. They won 102 seats, 60 more than they have ever won before. They are the official opposition, for the first time in their history. Amazing stuff. Achievements I am proud of. But, the news was not all good, nope, not even close. The Liberal Party and the Bloc Quebecois imploded. The NDP surge was unable to stop a Conservative majority, which, frankly, was the last thing that anybody, on the left (all 60.38% of us) wanted. Election night was a weird night. It began with hope and excitement. I knew my guys were going to kick ass, and kick ass they did. But, yes, again with the but(s), my mood quickly soured as I came to the realization that the rest of the left were a no-show. The NDP alone could not stop the Tories from winning a majority. The worst thing that could happen, happened. How's a staunch NDP supporter supposed to feel? It's like sitting through the latest Bad News Bears offering, but instead of the Bears winning with 2 out in the 9th inning, they struck out. It's like hope was kick in the balls by evil. I am not quite off the mat. The bad guys won. I am sorry Canada, me and the rest of my ilk tried, we really did. Would apathy have been better?

So that's where I am. A little gobsmacked by the last week. Victories and defeats, moral and philosophical questions left unanswered. I need to take a break, reload, learn how to fight again. Hope and progress can't be held down long, we'll win, things will get better, I promise.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Physics of Canadian Politics

First, a disclaimer: I Joseph Lane, know jack about physics. I avoided science's most mind-blowing discipline throughout the whole of my formal education. Physics has grown on me over the years, but to be honest, I don't understand any of it. There, just so we are clear, just so as to ward off any meandering bands of science purists. I know I am doing it wrong. I am little more than a fiddler of words. Take it easy on a fella, please.

So I was thinking, how am I going to describe what the hell is happening politically, in Canada, to a non-Canadian? How, for example, does a fella explain Contempt of Parliament, or 4 elections in 7 years? I a not convinced that the process is broken. Canada's system of government has worked fairly well for over 140 years. So what is it? Is it our fault? Have we become lazy, so underwhelmed  by it all ,that we have become almost unwilling to perform our democratic duty? Surely not! I know that I am still very much engaged in the political process. Almost obsessively so. It's not the game, or the spectators, it's the players. Canada has been let down by its political leaders, no matter their ilk.

The meandering science types are confused. The author has made a sports analogy, but where are the physics? Hold on to your electron microscopes. I am getting to it. I told you that I was a noob. I need to build up to it.

Here goes: The problem with Canadian politics is that we find ourselves in a leadership void. Our politicians are so bereft of personality and so lacking in inspired ideas, that Canada has found itself in an infinite loop (a computer term, I know, settle down) of minority governments. Despite repeated attempts to spin out of this loop, a majority government seems just as unlikely now, as it did when Stephen Harper first lost to Paul Martin  in 2004. Try as we might, it seems that Ctrl/Alt/Del-ing, or even repeated rebooting, is not gonna do a blessed thing. Nope, it's time to toss out the hole bloody machine. After this election and the debacle that will be another minority government, it will be high time, for the Canadian electorate to demand a political upgrade. The system has tried to reboot 4 times, it's broken. There needs to be a brand new option. A Canada 2.0. 

The meandering hoard of science types, now in complete facepalm, must be screaming, 'the physics, the physics, where the hell are the physics?' I am trying, be patient, Jesus! You try equating the mendacity that is Canadian politics to physics. You can't, can you? Go shine your beakers. I am doing the best I can.

The science is quite simple, really. There is a correlation between the void of leadership/sexy political ideas and the Canadian electorate's involvement in the electoral process. Nothing can exist in a black hole. The Canadian political system reached its supernova stage when Paul Martin decided that it was in his own best interest to push out Chretien and take his 'rightful' place as Canada's next Prime Minister. That was the tipping point. That's when democracy was usurped for egotistical gain and the snowball started to roll, encompassing everything in its path, until SPLAT! Here we are.   

But surely it's not all Paul Martin's fault. Of course not, he is but a tiny blip in a large, complicated chain reaction. One that might have started way back with Trudeau and Levesque (have there been any compelling leaders since those two?) The Bush years played their part. Neo-Conservativism is not an idea that is Canadian at its roots (Preston Manning, Stephen Harper, Sun News). Scandals caused by a complacent Chretien government, that had been in office far too long, also played its part. The formula is complicated, the ingredients many, but there is no denying that the finished product is barely palatable. YUCK!

The science-types scoff, 'who is he now, a chemist, or Canada's Julia Childs?' Screw you science-types! Go on over there to Ottawa and fix it, armed only with your fancy formulas and your inalienable logic. I double dog dare you. Logic, HA! It's all madness; politics is chaos theory. Similar to its cousin economics. There is a special place in hell for economists, they are little more than gamblers and storytellers, with fancy degrees. Anyone can fudge numbers.

So where are we science-types? What is the formula that explains the mess that is Canadian politics? Is it as simple as F=G([m1*m2])/D^2) (gravity). What goes up, must come down. Is Canadian politics just about to hit rock bottom? If so, then what? Would Newton's 3rd law then apply? It states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If Canadian politics is about to hit absolute bottom, would that not mean then, that its also about to reach its absolute apex? Is there hope? Could change be coming? Where have I heard that before? Hmmm...I dunno. I am as confused as the rest of you. Vote anyway. Try your best to be part of the process. Get involved. Let's talk this out. Let's be part of whatever comes next.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Death and Social Media

I learned of Elizabeth Taylor's death on Twitter, Michael Jackson's and Patrick Swayze's deaths too. Pixelized news spreads quickly. With the push of a button the world is informed, or misinformed. How many times has Twitter tried to kill off Gordon Lightfoot, Jackie Chan and Neil Diamond already?

But celebrity deaths, like their lives are not a good measure of reality. How are we, the regular folks, supposed to deal with the death of a friend or loved one and social media?

I will give you three examples to think about. The first is a joke I made at Elizabeth Taylor's expense. Upon learning of her death, a few weeks ago, I Tweeted and Facebooked this joke; Elizabeth Taylor dies, announces her engagement to Ernest Hemingway. Funny, I thought, but it created a bit of a buzz on Facebook. One of my good friends, a huge Liz Taylor fan took a bit of an offense to my joke. Seems it was too soon. I was being disrespectful to the dead. Fair enough, I conceded. My joke, I felt, had little to do with Elizabeth Taylor the person and more to do with Elizabeth Taylor the tabloid celebrity. If I offended anyone, well that was not my intention. I was looking for giggles. You can't win them all. The lesson, I guess, is that there is a joke free buffer around a celebrity's death... the amount of time this buffer lasts, remains a mystery. Maybe Gilbert Gottfried knows...???

My second example was my first encounter with death and social media. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine, whose name I won't mention, committed suicide. I found out of his death via Facebook. The details of his death, which like his name, I will not mention, were not shared on Facebook, thankfully. The news of his death, however, spread quickly. His Facebook Wall became a cyber-memorial. Friends from all over left messages of love and sympathy. His account still exists, every now and then someone writes on his Wall still. Is this healthy? This unfortunate fella was not a dear friend of mine, but he was a friend, I was saddened, but not devastated by the news of his death. But what of his closer friends and relatives?  Is it healthy to have a constant reminder of their dead loved one only a few clicks away?

My third example was the inspiration for this post. I lost my dear friend Andre on Saturday night. He finally lost the battle with his wonky heart. Andre was the bravest guy I have ever met. His love for life was something we should all aspire to. I'll miss him. That said, this is not an obituary piece. I'd hate to be burdened with that job... I haven't the words. Anyway, back on topic. I found out about Andre's death on Sunday morning. I had slept in, it was probably 10am before I was up and about and checking emails. It being so late in the morning, news of Andre's death had already gone viral. There was nothing I could do to stop the news, I couldn't tell the universe to quiet down in order that Andre's loved one's had the time to process this horrible news. So instead, I added my own laments. As someone whom sorts themselves out via the written word, it helped. As to whether I did a disservice to Andre's legacy, by joining the ever-growing viral bemoan, I don't know? I believe in my heart that Andre would want his friends and family to sort their grief out however they can. He was a avid social media user, he'd have joined the mob (some of us held out hope that he would. It was that close to April 1st). 

So, should there be rules for social media and death? Would the rules be  different according to celebrity, cause of death, or how close a person was to the person who had passed away? Is it always bad form to crack jokes about the newly deceased? And what of the profiles of these dead people? Are they interactive memorials, pixelated grave sites, a place web surfers can go to remember times past? Or should the profiles of dead people be deleted? Is the chance of bumping into the profile of a dead friend, loved one, or family member potentially too distressing? Does it depend on the feelings of the living? Surly the dead have no worries about whether their Twitter or Facebook profiles live on past their death. Heck, think of it as a digital legacy, a pixelated image of a life that was. 

Maybe this post is nothing more than a blogger dealing with their own misgivings about death. I dunno? What I do know is that social media has a way of making you confront death instantaneously and rehash death whenever one might stumble upon the thumbnail, or profile of a dead person. Is this healthy? Was it better the old way, where if you weren't in close contact with a deceased person, or their loved ones, it could take a long time before learning of their death? Again, I dunno? I will probably never know. We each grieve and deal with the metaphysical reality of death differently. 

God speed Andre and I am sorry for the gratuitous joke Mrs Taylor. How about the two of you raise the spirits of my unnamed buddy in the afterlife?  I hope the three of you enjoy the view. Be excellent to each other. We miss you.