Richard Dawkins

I want to award Dr. Richard Dawkins a barnstar for being the most tireless and outspoken atheist in a long time. If you have not seen his outstanding recent documentary The Root of All Evil?, you owe yourself to hunt it down. He is so well-spoken and articulate on matters of religion and evolution that you can't help but admire the man. He also did a 40min interview on the radio recently which concerned some of the backlash surrounding his documentary by religious groups, as well as covering all sorts of other issues surrounding religion. It's a pleasure to hear a radio interview in this day and age when the interviewee isn't getting cut off every two seconds by the host or by commercials, and to instead hear actual content with such substance. You can listen to the interview online.

So, representing The Front, I award Dr. Dawkins the barnstar of tireless atheist.

Childcare Agreement Petition

Stephen Harper's decision this week to cancel the federal-provincial agreements on child care will be a huge setback to the long-awaited goal of a national child care program based on the model that has been implemented in Quebec for some time. Please take a few moments of your time to sign this petition in order to protest this dismantlement of essential social programs like affordable childcare for all Canadians.

Sign the petition

Mister Class and Quality?

Look around my rooms and see the prizes I have showing
Working hard to build my life and plan the way I'm going
House and car and pretty wife - they've all been won by knowing
All been won by knowing
All been won by knowing.
Paperwork, white collared shirts - where would we be without them
Man of class and quality - I never shout about them
Choose my friends for my own ends.
You can't succeed without them
Can't succeed without them
Can't succeed without them.
Middleman sees straight ahead and never crosses borders
Never understood the artist or the lazy workers
The world needs steady men like me to give and take the orders
Give and take the orders
Give and take the orders.

Once three friends
Sweet in sadness
Now part of their past.
In the end
Full of gladness
Went from class to class.


I like everything, nothing, and all of the above

I was talking to someone today, and one of my pet peeves arose during the conversation. I asked my standard "do you have any hobbies?" question, along with the musical taste question which I tend to ask to people who I meet for the first time. I have found that this gives me an excellent gauge of someone's personality, and how I will end up connecting with them.

What's so interesting about the common response is that people are trying their best to connect with the other person. The most typical response to the music question is something along the lines of "oh, I listen to all kinds of music. I really don't mind. Just... anything!" I don't understand what this means. This isn't a position, it's a non-position. The person is basically saying that they have no real interest in music, or knowledge of different types of music, so they just listen to "what is playing". It annoys me when someone doesn't have a position on a topic. Often times, you're still trying to form an opinion, but you still have an indication or something to go on. Something like music necessitates an opinion to begin with. If you say that you listen to everything, you should instead be blunt about it and say that music really isn't you thing. It's not of any particular interest, and you don't have an opinion.

Asking this question today, I got a bit of an interesting curveball. To begin with, people tend to be surprised when I ask this question, yet to me it seems so harmless and natural to ask such a thing. It tends to require a great amount of effort in order to answer. It's not even that complicated. You can just list a few artists that you like, or whatever. Saying that you listen to everything is a lie. So today this girl tells me that she enjoys Dashboard Confessional. Seeing that I was not in the least bit interested, and yet still wanting to make a connection with me, this girl quickly recants and clarifies that, however, she "listens to everything". What a typical position. If you don't know what the fuck you're talking about, why not just take the easy, neutral position which will cover all the bases. If you say "everything", I am to interpret that you also enjoy listening to musical interpretations of Mein Kampf -- opera style. But, the reality is, "everything" tends to mean "whatever is popular, whatever I'm told to like by the charts". In claiming that you like everything, you actually like nothing at all.


Cauldrons and Receptacles

There are all sorts of bizarre cultural trends which we don't even notice until we realize they're gone. I was just thinking the other day that cauldrons have completely disappeared from culture. It seems like when I was a kid you'd always have this stereotypical witch character with a big old rusty cauldron, stewing up something. While this was the caricature end, the same themes were seen in film and television.

In action movies, as an example, there would always be a scene involving hot magma, liquid steel, candle wax, or other liquids of some kind. The pivotal battle would involve either a fight in catwalks in which the antagonist and protagonist would duel to the death, with one ultimately plunging into the depths of the unknown fluorescent liquid (see Alien 3, Terminator 2, every episode of the Batman TV series).

I can't remember when was the last time I saw a good old hot liquid fight, and it's a shame because the younger generation doesn't have this same fear of hot liquids. I demand that this be re-introduced into culture!

Edit: Francis just reminded me that Quake had a whole lot of lava in the early days, and I remember Doom having a good amount of red and green liquids which you had to get around. This kind of stuff is probably no longer present in video games because of realism or whatever. I say fuck realism, I want my fucking lava!


Fiscal Responsibility

Here's one of the best news items I've heard in a while, and that's also because it's one of the worst. I was reading on the BBC that Bush presented this year's budget today. As is typical fashion in American politics, the details are short and "sweet", with very little information on specific cuts or other spending initiatives. Basically, the only thing that is covered in any of the mainstream news articles I read are an increase in military and defence spending for the "war on terrorism", and cuts in healthcare and "other areas" in order to pay for this and those permanent tax cuts Bush brought in a few years back.

So, what does this amount to? The US budget for 2006-2007 (starting in October) will be $2.77 trillion. It's great how they can say things like "a 2.3% rise from the previous year", which doesn't really turn any heads. On the contrary, what is the impression conveyed if I said the following:
The budget includes an $50 billion spending increase over last year, even considering the large cuts in medicare.
This is how the media constructs the news, and how government officials spin the news. 2.3% sounds a whole lot better than $50 billion. Both are true, but which one misrepresents? People are stupid, 2.3% seems like nothing. Well, on spending of $2,770,000,000,000 it is a shitload of money.

Let's look at a few more facts, shall we? This year's deficit will be of an all-time high $423 billion. Keep in mind that the US debt is currently $8.2 trillion. When I was in New York a few years ago, I remember seeing a big electronic sign with the debt on it. It was still around $6 trillion at the time. Spending and deficits have increased exponentially under Bush.

We have here a budget which sets the fiscal priorities for a nation, and on the frontpage of Fox News and CNN, their cover story is about a woman who had her face transplanted. But, healthcare cuts which will affect tens of thousands of those who need these programs the most are not that important. Bravo! P.S. I wrote this section earlier in the day and am finishing it tonight. Looking back, the CNN site no longer even mentions the budget on their front page.

Here are a few more examples of wonderful spin:
"My administration has focused the nation's resources on our highest priority -- protecting our citizens and our homeland" --George W. Bush
OK. What about healthcare for the needy? There is an unnecessarily large percentage of people who have no coverage whatsoever in the United States, and you just increased it! Good job. Tactical nuclear weapons are a wonderful priority, though, and no doubt every American would agree.
Responding, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said, "The president is focused on making sure that we keep our economy growing, and that means keeping taxes low."
Yes, funnelling public money into defence contractors really helps the economy. Giving R&D tax credits to energy companies and other favoured sectors of the business world from public coffers really helps. Cutting taxes and essentially creative a system of regressive taxation in which the wealthy receive a far larger percentage of return in taxation is helping the economy. Keeping taxes low for corporations is helping the economy. No shit it is, but at what cost?
"We have to face up to this fiscal reality that this baby boom generation is going to retire soon and we need to do something about it," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire.
You're right buddy. I think the best way to address the ageing population is by cutting healthcare programs for the elderly, including hospitals, nursing homes, home care providers and hospices. Old people don't need any of that! What isn't factored in, either, is that Congress JUST approved a cut to healthcare and other program spending, and here is a brand new one for them to chew on.
Bush's budget also projects receiving $4 billion over the next five years for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Wow, they actually budget these types of things in? I'm speechless. Here's how the logic goes. We give you free land, we give you tax credits on development of that land, we'll lower your taxes, and then you just have to give us a small percentage back so that we can pay for our war.
The administration said last week it will ask Congress for an additional $120 billion to cover fighting for the rest of this year
They JUST asked Congress for more money not too long ago. My mistake, that was for money going to Halliburton in order to fund the "reconstruction". War is brilliant. You pay technology companies to research things, then you pay for them to build and sell the weapons to you, you use them to bomb the shit out of some country, and then you give money to some other contractor to "rebuild". This war will end up costing $1 trillion or something by the time it's over.
Instead of pushing last year's Social Security overhaul proposal, the president is calling for creation of a bipartisan commission to study ways to deal with soaring spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Soaring spending? You keep cutting money out of those programs! What type of horrible mismanagement would cause them to "soar" when so many people aren't getting the basic services that they need. Here's an idea. How about calling a bipartisan commission in order to study your soaring defence spending. Talk about a pipe dream.


Arrogant Teachers

For whatever reason, I seem to have recurring trends in my posts. Lately it's either about school or generation gaps. Seems like I have little other inspiration when I'm not exploring and gaining new insight and perspectives. Ah well.

The point is, though, that I am really fed up of all these arrogant teachers. My Italian Film professor, for example, is a real sleazy fuck. He asks us to write up a little something each class on the film that we saw the week before. He encourages us to really analyse the given situation, character, film, whatever, in specific details and offer us a clear insight. This is a situation where people who actually know a lot are punished. There are many cases in which this is true in our education system. If you are ahead of the curve, you are disadvantaged. You cannot use the knowledge you have because an appropriate context does not arise.

So, with all this encouragement to provide creative insight into this film, I set off and write my little 2 page analysis as I do every week. I get it back, graded, to a surprising 6/10. I thought it was excellent, and I'm not just saying that... I really had a creative interpretation and analysis of a specific scene through a comparison with another film.

Oh, but, you see... this causes a problem. The only comment I got on the entire page was this entire paragraph circled with a note next to it saying that it was "stretching it" and that I should have referenced the comment. This angers me beyond belief. Here we have this arrogant fuck who asks us to provide a detailed and insightful analysis. When I do precisely that, though it is pushing a bit further than the surface-level stuff we've been doing in class, he completely dismisses it. So, to support this, I need a source. How the fuck am I not a proper source on a film which I have watched three times? It's not just that I watch a lot of movies, but rather than anyone who has half a brain should be able to interpret and analyse a film after a viewing. However, I need some sort of "expert" who has studied this film in detail to pronounce himself on the matter. There are no other comments other than this, so I am to assume that I got 40% deducted simply because I didn't analyse the film within the mould he proposed.

Here's another thing that annoys me about this guy. He makes us watch 1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci, and goes on raving about how Vittorio Storaro, the cinematographer (and one of my personal favourites), is a personal friend of his. This would be very interesting and exciting if the teacher wasn't so arrogant because, after saying for 10 minutes how he lights scenes like a Rembrant and this is great art and all, he shows us the film in a sawed-off pan and scan version, on a projector that is busted and has a burnt-in blue color on 80% of the image. I'm sure that your buddy Vittorio would be real fucking proud that you just butchered his film. I guess you'd like to chop up the Mona Lisa, too. Just the head, please.

Personal Space

I have a major pet peeve about people invading my personal space. The best (or worst) example of this is on the bus. It's a given that everybody is crammed in like sardines, but some just feel like they are holier-than-thou and deserve just a bit more. Coming home from school at about 10:30 last night was such an occasion. I was sitting next to some guy who had his legs wide open, taking up like one and a half seats. Of course, I figured when I would sit down that he'd move over a bit. No way! I basically spent the entire ride with my crotch in a knot and with this guy's leg rubbing up against me.

It seems to me that there is a common trend of ignorance in society. People are simply not aware of their surroundings. I would prefer to think that this guy wasn't purposely trying to do this, unless he was a real arrogant fuck. Either way, let's say that he just wasn't aware of the discomfort it was causing me. People are so self-centered that they don't understand how their actions affect others around them. So, we have this scenario of Joe Blow here with lots of crotch breathing room, his leg slowly rubbing against mine. I, on the other hand, am sitting there about to explode with anger and hit the guy because my balls are about to curl up and die. Ah, if I was Larry David, I'd just start a huge argument and it would be a lot of fun.