Monday, July 28, 2008

Where is West?

No secret, but the ongoing conflict between East and West has found new life. Yeah, not much of a news flash there, it’s been blatantly obvious since one fall Tuesday seven years ago - has it been that long already? And doubtless it was actually pretty obvious before that for anyone who was paying attention - but that seems to have been part of the issue… no one was.
Like some geo-political Valdez, with a drunk Captain at the helm, Western civilization ran aground on the shores of Islam.
It’s been obvious that the definition of ‘East’ in East versus west has changed over not only the course of my lifetime, but for a lot longer than that. It’s face has several times been worn by Communist China and it’s ideological Asian allies. It has been the Soviet Union. And, of course now it is the fundamentalist vein of Islam. Lot’s of virtual ink has been used yakking over how different this paradigm is. How it’s not political, but religious. How the geography of the opposition is both unconstrained and interspersed with less radical mindsets and to a lesser degree even interspersed with our own. I couldn’t comment upon an idea that is new to me on this front, let alone one that is new to anyone else who is at all in touch with the state of the world we live in.
I fully expect that this particular stand off will out live me. Though I do hope that it’s eventual outcome crystallizes in my lifetime. It’s such a big question - one of the biggest of our time, up there with peak oil and global warming - and one that would be particularly unfulfilling to leave unanswered in my day… even if the ‘answer’ is nothing more than a projection. Perhaps I should re-phrase this. It is a certainty that this divide will remain long after I am gone. But perhaps the core issue might lean towards resolution before I am done.
What I have been thinking about that may seem more original - it certainly does to me - is the notion of how we - The West - have changed.
I’ve taken to using the term ‘Neo-West’ of late as I feel it more accurately identifies who ‘we’ are.
Once upon a time, the West was Western Europe. Then the New World began to exert it’s might in the world - as the ‘we’ of the America’s found our ideological voices and the ingenuity to muster our resources into some relevance. This primarily came into focus through the two global conflicts of the 20th century. And with the rise of the Pax-Americana, shifted drastically through the cold-war to roughly where it is now.
But even that designation is misleading. The ‘West’ of my high-school days is significantly different from the ‘Neo-West’ of today. Certainly in a political sense. The geography of who is counted among the West has shifted, though in many ways the demographic of the people within those areas remains in many ways the same.
Obviously I am speaking foremost of the former Soviet Union. While significant parts of that vast land-mass are strife ridden and much of that strife is a Muslim/Non-Muslim divide, most of that it small scale. The land that was once behind the Iron Curtain and made up the greater part of the perceived ‘East’ of the Kennedy/Kruschev through Reagan/Gorbachev eras is now inarguably Neo-West.
The Land of the Rising Sun - once an enemy so reviled that the moral compass dropped quickly to the bottom, like say an atom-bomb, thus allowing the inhumane notion of visiting the horror of that same weapon upon them was seen as collateral damage - are now a thriving Neo-western nation. Indeed, one of the most thriving. If the definition of Neo-West is ‘industrial capitalist democracy’ (which isn’t necessarily the definition, but certainly works as starting criteria) then it’s arguable that Japan is the epitome of Neo-Western civilization. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it! The unavoidable inclusion of Japan alone clearly severs the implicit understanding of my grandparent’s generation that ‘West’ meant white (or even pre-dominantly white) nations.
There are also countries that were the afterthoughts of Western Civilization. Places that were culturally and politically ‘West’ and had be so affiliated for generations, but by an accident of geography were typically ignored as being part of the family. Australia and New Zealand are the obvious examples here. Both colonies of Britain, both settled under similar circumstances to one another and to a lesser degree Canada. Both participated in the World Wars, are essentially English speaking, and have long been consumers of Western culture. It’s hard to say that they haven’t been part of the club. But they were always wallflowers at the member functions.
There is an obvious geo-centric argument to go against my claim that Canada has been a part of the West as long as the U.S. has been. We participated in both World Wars more immediately than the US - and going with my earlier thoughts that seems to have been one of the keys to membership previous to the past twenty years. And as the US became the dominant force in Western culture, Canada was both literally and figuratively right alongside. Yes, we as Canadians come similarly close to being the red-headed step-children along with our brethren from Down Under, but I feel that we’ve been sitting at the big kids table for most of a century.
Undoubtedly many more countries and or regions can lay claim to being part of the Neo-West. Western Europe is a given. Large portions of South and to a lesser degree Meso-America are ‘in the club.’ Parts of Africa, for sure seeing as the ‘white’ requirement has been dropped.
Israel? Why not. Israel certainly qualifies by any measure previously mentioned, and if being ‘pre-dominantly white’ is no longer relevant then why should religion? Excepting that the ‘East’ of this equation is primarily defined as Muslim. That alone firmly puts any Judaic society on the ‘camp of opposition’ to the existing ‘East’ simply by definition. There’s nothing that says this is a ‘Christian-nation’ thing. That’s an idea whose fleeting relevance gets more and more quaint in the face of rising US religiosity.

My point - for the moment - seems to be that ‘East’ and ‘West’ while still relevant terms, don’t in fact mean ‘East’ and ‘West’ cartographically anymore. It’s obvious that Western culture is no longer ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ Not even close. Though I think in many ways, by those of us who have been part of the ‘West’ since before our grandparents were born, it’s easy to forget. We may be a global society, but superficially at least, a patina of our former centricism remains while the fruit underneath the skin comes in so many different flavours - often a melange of the greater selection.
What does it all mean any more? How do these increasingly arbitrary divisions have such long legs?

Oh, why can't we all just get along? ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dark Knight

I went to Batman yesterday.

It was fantastic.

A number of months ago Dafne asked me who my top five directors were. Chris Nolan was on the bubble at that time, but there is no longer any doubt in my mind. He is an outrageously talented visionary.

There are a few quibbles I have with it, but just minor things really.

The real question though is Heath Ledger. How good is he?

He is wonderful. He seems to have put it in the back of his mind that the Joker is one of the greatest arch villains of all time. The Joker has to earn that, just like anyone else - and he does. It must be a scary proposition to know that you are going to be measured against Jack Nicholson (and no less than one of Jack’s most iconic performances) and Heath is equal to the job. It is very impressive.

It’s also very creepy that at the end, the door is clearly left open for the Joker to return, when we know that he (or at least Heath) can not. It would not have been hard to re-shoot & restructure in such a way that the Joker was clearly gone for good.

But someone needs to say this…

It is NOT an Oscar worthy performance. That is being said for the sole reason that Heath has died after such a promising performance. He probably would have been a perennial had he not overdosed, but that in itself does not make this an Oscar contender. He is great as the Joker. Let me say that again. He is great as the Joker. But most of the depth is in the script (and considering how little is known about the Joker, that doesn’t in fact allow for a lot). He is scary and gross and terrifying. But Oscar noms are worth more than this. This is hype. Well supported hype for a film that hardly needs it.

There we go. Someone said it. Let the tomatoes fly.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some Women Give All Women a Bad Rep

This one just has to be put into posterity.

I’ve been trying some internet dating. So far it has resulted in one three month relationship that was nice, but had nothing at it’s core. Beyond that it’s been fun, but unsuccessful.
I had an excellent date with a delightful lady who agreed that we’d had an excellent time. Later she sent me an email telling me that she knew she’d be trying to change me and that she didn’t want that in her life. Okay. Fair enough. Not sure it’s a fully matured argument, but it’s not unreasonable.

There was the woman who found me later on Face book (who didn’t have my name to the best of my knowledge) and would NOT LEAVE ME ALONE.

There was the oddball who sent me a photo of her, her rifle and the deer she’d just killed with it. Props for bold presentation. Wrong audience, lady.

An awkward connection with an attractive friend of a friend who didn’t want to accept that I identified a deal-breaker in our first exchange. A nice seeming woman in all other respects, but she just didn’t understand that I would either have to constantly censor myself or she’d have to live in the shower of my contempt for something dear to her. Doesn’t sound like a good relationship to me, but some people apparently like abuse.

There have been a few totally pleasant meetings with women who seemed surprised when I made it clear at the end of the face to face that that would be all we’d be doing.

This story is about one of the latter-most situations. Two of them actually.

I don’t know when I first connected with Tracy (not her real name). A few weeks ago in any case. She had her defences up high, but I didn’t care. She was on an online dating service, she WAS looking for a connection. The messages progressed well. She was amusing and I amused her.

We decided that we should meet face to face, but we were collectively booked for the better part of a week. We set it all aside, agreeing that we’d reconnect after the upcoming weekend.

Then, one evening as I was on the site answering emails, or perusing photos I got an instant message from another user. I’ve only used the IM service on the site once before. It’s a lousy UI, and I’m not big on IM in the best of cases. I’ve never initiated an IM conversation, but I do accept them - ‘cause ya never know!

It was a decent conversation. But it was late. We agreed to message each other the next day and make plans. She ended up suggesting we get together at a place near both of us (she claimed to live on the Drive) that night after work. I had nothing up, so what the hell.

We met. It was a decent conversation. She was definitely interesting, but I knew very quickly that I wasn’t interested. The more I meet women, the more I think I don’t want to get together with another artist. I used to think it was just actors I was done with, but I suspect my moratorium may extend further. Jury is officially still out on that one - it’s not a simple equation.

As we wound up, she - let’s call her Carrie - gave me the somewhat ambiguous invitation “Want to come with me?” The answer was a polite ‘no thanks.’ She seemed surprised.

Allow me a moment to rant about women. How many times have we - guys - been given the message that ‘all I want is someone who is a good listener?’ “Innumerable times” is the answer. So the astute guys develop that habit. It gets practived to the point of instinct. But there is an issue that develops from that. Our ability to actually listen gets interpreted as interest above and beyond the moment. When all we are doing is being polite! I’m sure later I’ll discover that my ability to listen when I’m not interested has become a liability as women don’t know when I’m listening sincerely. Argh! Fuck!

So I’m thinking that the fact that I actually paid attention to her gave her the message that I was actually interested in her. That wasn’t the case. To be blunt - even a bit rude - if I was still on the longest dry-spell of my adult life I don’t know that I would have followed up on the vague invite. She may have just been saying “Hey I’m going to a ________. Want to come along?” Though that itself may have been a trial that eventually led to her bed. But not necessarily.

In any case, it’s moot. I wasn’t interested. She seemed a bit surprised. Perhaps even put out. (Oooh! Pun.) Maybe even…(and this is reading things in after the fact, and with more circumstantial information) …it seemed that I might be screwing up some wild plan.

So, that’s that. Farewell to Carrie. Pleasant enough, and I wouldn’t be adverse to running in her in the ‘hood and asking how her projects were going, but that was that.

I get through the weekend and it comes time to reconnect with Tracy and make plans. She chose Tuesday after work… which was a strange choice as neither of us, as it turned out, worked that day.

We met, had dinner. She was fun. Very lively and fun. I laughed a lot. Physically she was not really what I’d immediately think ‘holy shit, she’s hot’ about, but her genuinely winning personality could potentially tip the balance. There were some other factors which would prove an issue, but not insurmountable if things remained otherwise promising. No deal breakers.

After dinner we went for a walk. I don’t recall how we got onto it, but she started talking about her crazy roommate. This apparent nutbar who wouldn’t clean up after her dogs. Who would wake up at 7am and start hammering. HAMMERING!

I could totally relate. Those of you who know the epic of Erin living upstairs know the essence of my commiseration. I was totally on board with Tracy’s complaints. She told me how the roomie’d driven her so bananas that last week she snapped and had it out with her on Thursday afternoon. The roommate exhibited an utter dereliction of responsibility and capped it all off with this gem of a quote (which also recalled Erin for me) “you think I’m loud now, wait ‘til I bring a man home!”

Oh, the non-sequitur argument. Such a slam dunk of ‘WTF?’ stupidity. I was totally with Tracy in her frustration.

Then she dropped the bomb.

“She is on the site.” (Meaning the dating site.) “Her user name is ‘Hawk moon’ (not her real username).”

Carrie’s username had been “Hawk moon 71.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

“Oh, have you talked with her online?”

“That is really familiar. There’s a chance.”

“Her real name is ‘Carrie.’”

Holy shit.

I played dumb from there out.

Have you done the math? I’ll lay it out for you, just to be certain.

What are the chances that a Carrie going under the name Hawk moon 71 is NOT the same Carrie whose roommate identifies her as Hawk moon? That’s the easy part. Thursday morning, Carrie and tracy have an argument about noise that culminates in the gem “wait ‘til I bring a man home!”

Later that night, I - who am already having an online chat with Tracy - get IM’ed by Carrie/Hawk moon 71 who fast tracks her way into a date with me the next night where she seems to try to get me to go home to bed with her.

Granted there are a few assumptions being made in this equation (that Tracy is missing the ’71’ from her roommate’s username; and that Carrie who I met was in fact trying to get me to go to bed with her.) but it certainly appears as though I almost became a pawn in an apparently really ugly roommate battle. In fact, I’m almost certain of it. The real question is: did Carrie hack Tracy’s account - or other wise pick me out as her mark in said war - or was that really just a huge co-incidence?

There is really only one piece of evidence that contradicts any of this and it’s quite easy to reconcile. Carrie claimed to live near me on the Drive. Tracy lives over near Main. The Drive and Main are not far apart, but I don’t think someone who live on Main would claim they lived on The Drive… unless they were manufacturing a reality for some reason.

I could be manufacturing my own reality on this matter myself, but I think Occam’s Razor dictates that this was a close call of weirdness for me.

Assuming all of that, Carrie did achieve part of her plan. I’m not getting involved with Tracy any further - though exploring it just a little farther would be illuminating - when I otherwise would have.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Palm Slapping Between Dix & Mr. Homosexual following a good leg-pounding in a wonderful matching swimsuit

Yeah, that was a long title... but it got your attention, right?

And it wasn't just a gimmick. It's totally relevant to this post.

I just came across this hysterical blog post about an unintentionally funny find/replace error.

I suspect I'm going to be giggling about this one all day - you deserve the same chance.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Abortion Hits the Big Time

A nice contentious post for Canada Day.

Henry Morgethaler has been named to the Order of Canada.

I think that that is awesome, and far too long in the coming.

I never really had a strong position on abortion one way or the other. I knew that I didn't think it was a positive thing personally, but I knew that that was a personal issue. Further, I knew that no matter what else I thought, it was important that any and every one else have to freedom to make their own choice on the matter.
On this my opinion hasn't changed terribly much. I do beleive that there are gray areas. Very gray. But I am loathe to put limitations on circumstances under which abortion is identified as a bad thing.

I've twice been in circumstances where abortion has been a direct factor in my life.

In both cases it was a situation where we slipped through the cracks in terms of statistics contraceptively.

Without getting into specifics...

In the first case we had been dumb, yet we still lost the contraception lottery.
I was shocked and upset at the prospect of parenthood, yet I was willing to bite the proverbial bullet and make the necessary changes in my life to own up to my contraceptive stupidity. Further, I don't think we would have been collectively bad parents. She already was a parent. Myself... well there's no owner's manual, right?

It was a significant time for me. I had never seriously considered the possibility of being a parent. But there it was. I warmed up to the idea quite quickly. I was ready - or as ready as I'll ever be. (This still holds true.) It wasn't ideal, but we'd do fine. It was then that I opened my mind to the real prospect of being a parent. Obviously it never happened. She decided to have an abortion. I suspect that it had something to do with my inital uncertainty. Or at least that became her excuse. We only ever seriously discussed it once. I arrived home to the news. We lay in bed for a few hours talking about options. I was non-committal. I had never thought about being a parent seriously. I had some mental housekeeping to do. And I did it. I prepped myself for being a father. Then, one day not much later, she told me she'd had an abortion. Not once had I been directly consulted. While I recognize that it is her body and that that alone ought to dictate whose choice it is, I do think it is the right of the father to know in advance - so at the very least they can wrap their head around the notion if they aren't actually prepared for it. In a best case scenario they would have a chance to put forth a considered argument against it. But it's not their choice. They should be kept in the loop. I wasn't.
I was mad. It was the end of our relationship - though it took a year for that to fully blossom. Though I have to admit that my life is probably better for it.

In the second case we REALLY slipped through the cracks statistically. We were using contraception 100% properly (though 100% properly is not 100% effective) and in doing the math backwards we are pretty certain it happened the very first time we had sex together. We were later engaged - we were serious about each other. But when we were hit with the prospect of being co-parents so early, it was utterly wrong. It was too soon, and I think sub-consciously I already knew she was an alcoholic. No good for parenting, let alone gestation. I was not happy about the idea, but I was totally ready for her to have an abortion. It was her second too.
I am very happy we didn't carry that one to term. It would have had fetal alcohol syndrome. What a terrible thing to be responsible for - not the child specifically, but to know that you allowed it to happen to the child. Not to mention that if I never speak to the would have been mother ever again, it will be too soon.

But upon that second - most accidental - abortion, I was determined that I never wanted to be in that position again. Having said that, if I were faced with having a baby with someone who would bring the worst of circumstances upon the child (such as FAS) I would seriously consider the option, and probably go with it in the end. That doesn't change the essential emotion. I don't want to ever have an abortion in a relationship ever again.


Previously when I was approximately opposed to the idea personally, it was always with the caveat (ask around, it will be confirmed if you drill deep enough) that I had never been in the position of having knocked someone up.

In my first circumstance, I was willing to follow through. I would have done my best. But it's probably best that it didn't happen - though there was no medical reason to back out. In the second, it may be mostly hindsight, but I am very thankful it didn't happen, medically and socially. Would I have got to that point if not for the first? I can't say. But I'm glad I did.

In any case I am extremely grateful for Henry Morgenthaler for breaking the ground. He is totally deserving of the Order of Canada. In a forward thinking society we should all be able to make personal decisions about how our lives are lived. It is responsible to have children under responsible conditions. I can't thoroughly claim that I would have been doing it in either circumstance. We owe it to the children.

A few last random thoughts:

Only stupid people are breeding. I don't know who first put forth that notion - it wasn't Harvey Danger. But it's very true. I don't know how we can ever beat that one.

Where do we draw the line? If someone uses abortion as contraception, that strikes me as beyond the pale. How to determine that? I do not know. But perhaps if a pattern develops? A three strikes rule? That might work. If you can't learn your lesson in three times, you've got to start facing the music. If there is no clear mitigating circumstance (rape, severe invitro medical condition (a slippery slope, that one)) on the occasion of your fourth abortion - perhaps even the third... Tough luck you are expected to see this one through. There would be occasional issues, but there is little doubt in my mind that they would be significantly reduced.

In any case...

I am proud to live in a society that recognises the social value of abortion.