Archive for April, 2010

Mixed-height couples–that’s just not right!

April 29, 2010

It was at a Bill Maher concert here in Vancouver where I first heard the best (and only one needed) line in defense of gay marriage.

Maher moved to the front of the stage and turned on his bitchy, in-your-face comedian and yelled: You do realize it’s not madatory, right?  Preaching to the choir in Vancouver, but still—it’s a great line.

Imagine spending chunks of your life enraged by thoughts of a super- tall guy and super- short woman having sex (or the other way round, if you will). At what point would you have to ask yourself, “why I am so obsessed with this stuff?”

Here’s my comedian of the month, Louis CK, on the enormous inconvenience of gay people.


The Agony and the Ecstacy of Positive Thinking

April 27, 2010

For as long as I can remember, I have known that there was nonsense in the world.  

That never helped me get along with the Santa Claus crowd in elementary school, and it didn’t help me with the I’ll-go-if-you-go BC solidarity movement in the early 1980s. They used to chant, “there’s no free lunch in So-Cred land” and all I could think was “what an appalling advertisement for social justice!”

It didn’t help me with the 1990’s money-is-happiness crowd either. And it certainly didn’t help me when I started “discussing” the dangers of the Christian Right after Reagan was elected.

None of this made me popular with some people, but ah…..there were others. 

We are just beginning to recover from the New Age positive thinking that assures us we can become healthy, wealthy and wise by following a mish-mash of ancient traditions, especially “positivity” (yikes!).  Add to the mix, some of the scientific community that  jumped on the trendiness of it all!  

There’s no doubt it feels better for a bit to tell yourself that everything is gonna’ be okay. This is part of Western Buddhist teaching, the part that’s glorified over the more realistic  Tibetan Buddhists who will toss a monk’s dead body in an open field so the vultures can eat it, thus teaching the living about life.  I guess Buddhism-lite is, by definition, easy.  

When I’m faced with my most debilitating or humiliating moments, I’ll look out my window to the North Shore mountains and sometimes even think about shaking my fist at the mountain god. But mostly, I calm down just by looking at the mountains. They soothe me; they make me feel like a speck of dust. And then I’m a bit happier. 

Here’s Barbara Ehrenreich talking about her book Bright-Sided (can’t wait to read it)  in which she tells the story of the oppressive, feel-good-about-breast- cancer movement—one that thoroughly depressed her.

And here’s one of the best moments of comic optimism ever put to film,  from across the pond:

Bill Maher: crunching numbers for dummies and Tea Baggers

April 25, 2010

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde from my last post, brute reason can be tough!

And nobody does it better than my fantasy husband, Bill Maher. 

There’s been quite a buzz out there in the media/sphere about the unreasonable taking its full place at the table of cultural discussion.

Here’s Maher at his best:

The Future of Canada: Ujjal Dosanjh, I’m listening!

April 24, 2010

Canadians tend not to make good heroes. They can’t compete with the manly-man heroism of our next door neighbours and they probably couldn’t be bothered anyway.

But Ujjal Dosangh has turned out to be one impressive and, dare I say, heroic, Canadian. 

I’ll never forget the Colbert Report filming across the street during the Olympics. I was as close as you could get to the action, flutterbies in my tummy at the joy of witnessing this big moment. When Dosanjh was announced,  I must admit to thinking, “Yikes, a nice, bland, Canadian politician! How’s this gonna’ go over?”

But he did us proud!  

Here’s part of the Globe and Mail summary of what happened:

Last night, Mr. Colbert, who plays a right-wing pundit, accused Mr. Dosanjh of being a racist, acted surprised that not all Canadians were Caucasian and attempted to trap the Liberal politician into making a choice between Canada’s public health-care system and gay rights.

“I just thought it would be good to do … something that was humourous,” Mr. Dosanjh says. “I’m 63. I’m a grandfather four times and I’ve been around a long time.

“We should not be politically correct all the time and we need some fun.”

Well, it turns out Ujjal Dosanjh has been busy fighting other kinds of political correctness for years–the kind that produces fear of speaking out against cultural extremists (a strange branch of political correctness) and the kind that produces apathy about what’s going on outside our own little world (a stranger branch of political correctness). 

In 1985, Dosanjh was beaten good and hard with a lead pipe by Sikhs who considered him a sell-out for speaking out against extremist rhetoric and violence.

Here’s an excerpt that appeared in the Victoria’s Times Colonist in November of 2007.

The former B.C. premier and attorney general described a difficult period in B.C. during which moderate Sikhs like himself endured death threats, attacks and even firebombs before and after the June 1985 terrorist plot.

The resulting climate of fear and intimidation was not taken seriously enough by police or politicians, paving the way for the Air India bombings that killed 331 people, Dosanjh told Commissioner John Major.

Dosanjh said there was a sense among the victims of the violence that Canadian institutions perceived a criminal problem as a “tribal” dispute between South Asian people. 

From a 2007 CBC news In Depth segment called “Sikh Politics in Canada“, Dosanjh expressed his dismay at factions of the World Sikh Organization’s (WSO) influence in trying to silence Canadian politicians: 

In the December 2006 Liberal leadership convention in Montreal, [Bob] Rae again referred to the Air India bombing and added:

“We should never, ever allow ourselves again to become the victims of terrorism and … we should never, ever forget the human tragedy and the human cost of what happened on that terrible, on that terrible day.”

But some Sikh delegates didn’t like that speech. MP Ujjal Dosanjh and his wife, Raminder, were Bob Rae supporters at the convention.

“There’s no question that WSO exercised a significant influence at the Liberal convention,” Dosanjh said. “In fact, my wife was approached by a delegate who happened to be a Sikh not supporting Bob Rae — and didn’t know who my wife was — who said, well, you shouldn’t vote for Bob, because Bob expressed the issue of violence about Air India in his speech.

“It baffles me that you have delegates on the floor of a major political party to which I belong who do not want a reference to Air India in a candidate’s speech,” Dosanjh said.

From the reading I’ve done today alone, it would seem that a handlful of powerful Canadian Sikhs, with strong links to the most radical goals of the World Sikh Organization, have consistently campaigned to stifle moderate Sikhs. 

So no, this is not a Sikh problem in Canada; but it is a Canadian problem—both with law enforcement and public opinion that sees disputes within a cultural community as tribal and having little to do with the rest of us. Let “them” sort it out, as if “they” are a unified cultural group with one brain, one goal, and one power central, separate from the laws of the land. 

This is what happens after years of assigning a higher value to ethnic differences than to any other value. It would seem that some Canadian values –the ones that respect differences but seek an even better unity–have lost out. I just wonder who gets to decide this?   

Over the last few days, a Facebook page has emerged with about 250 members titled “Ujjal Dosanjh is a Sikh Traitor.” At least one comment called for our former premier to be shot, prompting Dosanjh to make this statement about his fear for Canada’s future: 

Unless we wake up and confront this horrific development among a minority of Sikhs and other diasporas fighting similarly over things foreign, a hundred years from now we may have a fragmented Canada,” Dosanjh said.

“I worry about the fabric and values of Canada being irreparably damaged. I am fighting for our future generations.”

Years ago, an international student of mine from India (mixed caste AND religion) took an interest in Canada’s benevolent attitudes towards diversity. We were discussing the highest of all Canadian values–respect for ethnic diversity  (required teaching by most Canadian instructors). He shook his head and smiled. I asked him for a comment and he said “You guys have no idea how much violence and hate is being preached in this province.”  

Mr. Dosanjh, it may have taken me a while. But today, I’m really listening.  

Yes—peace to peace-loving Sikhs everywhere.

But peace to peace-loving Canadians first; peace to Ujjal Dosanjh.

Stupid is what stupid believes? Never!

April 23, 2010

I used to watch a lot of CNN–until they sold out on too many levels.

These days, I check in when I’m channel surfing or when I know something I’m interested in will be covered.

The so-called Tea Partiers, the group formerly known as Teabaggers, continue to merit headlines as if what they have to say actually matters. 

But in some ways, it does matter because there are a lot of Americans out in the streets and parks, some carrying pictures of Obama as an African witch doctor or as Hitler or some ghastly blackface villain. One now infamous woman, the image of general education and decency, was walking around with a stuffed monkey carrying a sign that said “Obama, go back to Kenya.”  Desparate times, I guess!

Last night,  my old buddy, Anderson Cooper, impressed me anew with his uncharacteristic warrior interview with an American  politician who maintained that he couldn’t advise his constituents of the “truth” because he didn’t know for sure whether or not Obama was a US citizen; you know, there’s stuff on the Internet that he can’t verify.

But Cooper wasn’t having it. Watch how he nails this guy:

After the interview, CNN commentator, Roland Martin, said that anyone who believes Obama is not a US citizen, with all the evidence that’s out there, is just stupid. And then followed a minor awkward moment on the air.

So why even the smallest worry?

I’m wondering if it’s now okay to argue that some behaviour might be stupid. But to suggest that some people are stupid for believing things—well that’s just not democratic. It’s not our culture.   

So I guess you can’t say that people’s ideas are stupid, even if they go against persisitent and pesky facts— because then you’re opening up that wormy can of attack against belief, which we all know leads straight to joy.  

Here’s Roland Martin defending his statement that Tea Partiers who believe all this nonsense are, in fact, stupid.

Another guest commentator went on to quote Mark Twain with one I’m not likely to forget any time soon: you can’t reason people out of something that they were not reasoned into. Now why didn’t I think of that? It seems sort of obvious now, doesn’t it?

I’ll leave you with my first literary love and my dog’s namesake, Oscar Wilde:

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.

Ferris Beagle’s Day Off

April 21, 2010

When Oscar was a puppy, I was consistently amazed at the personality and will I saw emerging in this little creature.  There are people, even experts, who claim that dog owners anthropomorphize their dogs, attributing human traits to their pets that are nothing more than projections. 

For most dog owners I’ve met, there’s just no doubt. Dogs can be our teachers, leading us to a deeper understanding  of what humans share with animals–the desire for some kind of power and autonomy beyond comfort.  

There’s a Chinese saying that goes something like this: the bird that sticks its neck out of the crowd is going to get shot. Wise words, if your goal is social harmony rather than innovation.

When Oscar was about 4 months old, he would bat his paw on the vertical blinds leading to an outdoor patio where, once in a while, he could have a quick pee on the grass outside. 

One night, as I was enjoying a steak dinner in front of the TV, he gave me the sign. As I got up to let him out, he quickly scooted back to the coffee table and took my steak off the plate. 

Now some of you might be thinking that this kind of behaviour must be nipped early and often. And you’d be right. But you have to admit that there’s something adorable, even admirable about this ingenious attempt to get what he wanted—the same thing I wanted, a juicy steak.   

For me and my dog friends, this sort of funny business is equally frustrating and joyful. But always, always funny. I’ve heard it said that a good relationship requires a belly laugh at least once a day. Dogs are hilarious–especially the wieners. 

Check out this willful beagle managing the great escape from a backyard shelter. Like the many human explorers who ventured out into the unknown, this beagle felt the call of the wild. I just hope he wasn’t punished too thoroughly because we all know that a dog’s memory of wrong-doing is nothing if not convenient.

The homeless and the Sausage

April 16, 2010

When we first moved to the Main and Terminal area (I prefer Quebec and Milross), I was thrilled about the brand new Bosa building–but not so sure about the neighbourhood. I mean, anyone who grew up in Vancouver knows that it’s dicey to be anywhere near the Cobalt–let alone live next door to it.

So I resigned myself to a charmed indoor life and to the fact  that I’d learn to live with my neighbourhood life. But didn’t the opposite just go and happen?

The suite is good–but like any new suite, you lose that just- moved- in bloom. The view of the North Shore Mountains and the city, though, has affected my mood and spirit more than thousands of square feet ever could.

The building is home. The people are pretty well all friendly, interesting and helpful. And I’ve made more than a few deep friendships here. 

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of belonging to a neighbourhood that is me.  And what I really, really wasn’t prepared for was how the interaction with the homeless and nearly homeless would rock my world. 

On the night I learned that my neighbours, Tania and Dano, lost their  Dachshund, Willie, to a horrifying poisoning,  I went outside to buy a few flowers from TJ, the homeless (and a little bit famous) flower-peddlar. I “donated” a toonie and received a bouquet of slightly wilted, garden-variety flowers (actually I don’t do flower names).

I told TJ that Willie had died; it was obvious I’d been crying. He bent his head down and then reached for two of his three  handsome yellow roses. He said “Take these, Anne–for the puppy. Animals are better than humans.”

After the Olympics, I asked TJ if he had a difficult time because of the forced relocation. He said “Oh, hon, it was the greatest. Everyone was “donating” $25 and I saved $700. I bought a used scooter and I’m gonna’ try to find a way to deliver.”

Last year, there were reports of someone in our neighbourhood lobbying to have TJ disgraced and ultimately “run out of town”–removed from his sales spot on the median.  One claim was the TJ is a fake, that he just pretends to be sick and that he’s potentially violent (I wonder how many of us, if asked on a job questionnaire, “are you potentially violent?” would tick off “yes?” Wouldn’t all new hires be liars, then).

TJ has talked to me about his fears of upcoming surgeries and then shown me the bandages and the scars. He brags anytime he’s had a flush day. He’ll tell you proudly that he’s just secured housing. Oh yes, he’s just so manipulative!

The Sausage is changing his view on the down-trodden, mostly because they all seem to like him. Many laugh out loud, some tell a wiener dog tale, and some are even jolted out of their apparent schizophrenic haze for a second and manage a smile.

Walking around the soccer field in the morning, we often run into clusters of our native brethren on park benches having their first drink of the day. Every single time, Oscar and I are greeted with laughter and stories. Granted, the roasting hotdog comments do tend to grate,  but there’s always, always conversation.

Tonight, we ran into a homeless or nearly homeless guy who had the kind of good looks that would’ve rocked my girl crowd in high school. He said, “I dont’ know why but I just love those dogs.” I responded “maybe it’s ’cause they don’t know they’re short and they think most people are assholes!”

He keeled over in laughter in a normal sort of way and said, “that’s it; that’s why I like ’em.” And then I offered him a few of my cheapie cigarettes and he informed me that these ones are okay but if I go any lower in price, I’ll be smoking too much fiberglass.

Every day is interesting in its own way. At least it is here, on the semi-gentrified downtown eastside of Vancouver.

Angelina must be so proud, dad!

April 14, 2010

Is it just me or can anyone else remember Jon Voight  being an unconvincing actor and little bit creepy?

Okay, he was convincing in Midnight Cowboy, mostly because his tragically uninformed character, Joe Buck, was just like him. Maybe there wasn’t much acting required.

Just listen to him making a very important speech (notes included) about Barack Obama “raping” America. It’s as if this guy hasn’t heard anything about the financial “rape” (and I use that word sparingly) of American citizens. 

Suddenly, I’m feeling a spot of kindness toward Angelina. Who knows what it’s like to grow up around that?

“Yeah, thanks for the karaoke”/”Yeah, thanks for the schmaltz”

April 13, 2010

When I first started karaoking, I was in ham heaven.

My passion, my inner self, and my voice–it was magic. And I really and truly believed people wanted to listen to me, that I was offering them a treat.

Now I’m not as bad at karaoke as most people, though I can shed a tear while singing “You Needed Me” by Anne Murray, but I always plough through and finish the number. 

Seriously, though, how could anyone be pleased with themselves by “nailing” a karaoke performance. Was I ever that young?

This Taiwanese boy wonder represents everything that’s wrong with the karaoke mentality. He’s got a lovely voice but doing nothing but copying the most annoying diva’s of North American schmaltz. And the poor boy doesn’t even know it. Is this not child abuse?

I want to reach out to this boy (unless he’s a spoiled brat) and say, “honey, you’re a nice boy. And you have a lovely voice.”

“Now go sing something different!”

Is an Oscar by the same name the same?

April 13, 2010

I’ve entered Oscar in a photo contest of the week in Modern Dog magazine. 

Oscar's Modern Dog photo contest entry

It was a rush entry (hence the typos); I was on my way out the door and a lightbulb flashed telling me to enter Oscar’s Easter Sunday romp picture.   

Now I know every dog owner thinks her dog is adorable (although my neighbour has an enormous pug and says that his dog is only cute because he’s so big and ugly; but Oscar, he said, is damn fine-looking).

Check out the entries for this week’s photo contest and tell me which photo (not just the dog) of JUST the Oscars reveals the most complex yet clearly whimsical nature.

Feel free to vote for the Sausage, if you have a second, on “Modern Dog photos.”  

(You have no idea how well-organized and ambitious that Pug community can be).