Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Easter Weekend with a bunch of letters

On Good Friday I got an air filter for my car and went to New Jersey to visit P. The ride down was uneventful. I stopped in Watertown at the Salmon Run mall for food and American money.
     I knew I was planning on going to Princeton University to take a couple of pictures of the buildings used on the show House and I saw some very redneck t-shirts and hats at Spencer’s in the Salmon Run, so I picked up a “redneck ensemble” to wear when I visited the campus. I enjoyed having my still-fairly-new-and-a-novelty iPod hooked to my car stereo. I listened to the Luthor Wright and the Wrongs album Rebuilding the Wall, which is an extremely amusing countrified version of the Pink Floyd album (“that one looks squeamish, and there’s a raccoon! Who let all this wildlife into the room?”) Then I listened to Neil Young’s After the Goldrush album. 
     My energy levels flagged a bit toward suppertime, so I got a Monster energy drink, put on White Zombie (and my redneck hat) and got the rest of the way there. Paula had a friend over, and we hung out. 
     Saturday we went to the beach and sunned ourselves, then went to Princeton and toured around there, took pictures and narrowly missed watching Thank You For Smoking, a movie based on a book I enjoyed and didn’t think anyone would know, let alone make into a movie, and then we picked up N, newly in from New York, to hang out more. 
    Princeton has an awful lot of young guys dressed like businessmen on their weekend off, and each seemed accompanied by a matching guy, or a ludicrously hot girl in an extremely short “skirt.” The ugliness of the guy’s horizontally striped golf shirts and other pastel, middle-aged stuff always seemed to be balanced perfectly proportionately by the hotness of outfits worn by the girls with them. After returning to P’s, sitting on the roof, drinking wine and talking about the future of the Christian Church and stuff like that, we called it a night. 
Sunday we walked along the river, then went back almost all the way to Princeton to walk around by the canal, then went to New Brunswick NJ for tacos in an authentic Mexican joint (I like Horchata, which is a kind of cinnamony rice milk drink over ice). For the evening, we watched an episode of House and the Classic Albums Dark Side Of The Moon documentary while I made chicken egg fu yung (the “boneless, skinless chicken thighs” I’d bought were actually chicken breasts with the bone still in), then went to sleep at a decent hour. I’d offered to drive N back to Pennsylvania on my way back to Canada (which should only be three additional hours) so we turned in relatively early. 
The next day P went to work and N and I walked to the train station to pick up N’s brother M, who was coming along for the Pennsylvania trip. The car battery turned out to be dead and we had no way to contact P. 
P’s room mate (who I’d never met, but recognized from a picture) arrived back just in time to give my car battery a boost and send us on our way. Foolishly, we allowed N to navigate for a while until we were nicely lost for over an hour, then we bought a map and M took over. 
We ended up being held up in traffic just over the Pennsylvania border due to what turned out to be construction and also a bad accident involving a pair of tractor trailers which had smashed right through a concrete median barricade and lit on fire. We got 15 miles in 4 hours, adding approximately 3 hours to the extra 3 hours I’d gotten myself into, on top of the 7.5 hours I had ahead of me to get back home anyway. 
During the time spent watching construction work and arguing as to the gender of the revolting person in the car in front of us, we listened to the ‘Pod some more, covering some of my old songs, Led Zeppelin (put on to appease the lads, who like the LZ quite a bit) and then we really enjoyed Johnny Cash’s Live From Folsom Prison a great deal, as we’d all seen “Walk the Line” a few months back. 
I got the lads dropped in Pennsylvania by suppertime and headed back to Canada between 6 and 7pm. By midnight, I was wilting badly, so I took an hour’s nap in my car at a rest stop, drank another Monster energy drink and put The Cars on loudly and got home in time for an hour and half’s sleep before going in to school to teach.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

How To Get A Mate

1. Make sure you don't really have time for one
2. Have enough money to spend on one, but have plans to spend it in other ways
3. Never be alone at any time
4. Focus on the negative aspect of the opposite sex, but don't mean it deep down
5. Give the impression that you could have anyone you want, but that you don't want anyone
6. Tell everyone that you're "not looking"
7. Assume that every person looking at the Internet (at any time) is fat
8. Project all of the above (a disinterested, busy, affluent, surrounded by people, vaguely disrespectful of the opposite sex air)

Sunday, 2 April 2006

A Silly Ensugared Saturday

I was determined to not do a whole lot of nothing again this Saturday. I needed a plan to get away from the computer, and out of the apartment where the cat, uncomfortable with his bladder stone, is peeing several times daily on the (covered) futon. I picked up J, who doesn’t get out much either, and took him to the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, somewhere he’s never been. Usually Canadian gents take girls there of an evening, but J and I went in the afternoon, as we don’t have girls. We climbed around on the locks and pilings, looked at boats and stuff, and climbed up the stairs at the back of Parliament Hill. We took silly photos of us molesting the statuary. J felt there was symbolism in the fact that the cannon had a padlock hanging off the end of the barrel. After Parliament Hill, we went to “Sugar Mountain” and bought bags of candy. Then we went to the Elgin Street Diner, where I had a beef dip sandwich (and had to remind them to bring me something to dip the beef dip sandwich in) and J had a cheeseburger.
     We sat next to two scrawny girlie-girls, the boyfriend of one of which appeared to be gay. What I overheard of their conversation reminded me how much I don’t relate to girlie girls. They were all “OMG I’m going to cut my hair all off like that girl in that commercial, y’know? The one with Harvest Wheat highlights? But I HAVE to lose weight ‘cause short hair makes you look fat if you’re fat, y’know? And I’ve been eating stuff all week. I’m looking forward to the day when I say ‘Y’know what? A salad would taste really good right now’” she said as she ate her onion rings. She and her compatriot were very ordinary, not a thing wrong with their looks; so they were both trying to make something right with their looks through immaculate over styling. It was a failure. They were both completely unremarkable apart from being high maintenance and shallow. They were fancy and boring. The accoutrements were fancy, the upkeep was fancy, but the girls were themselves bland when they weren’t being annoying.
     I saw a girl with no makeup walking down the sidewalk like a newly-freed panther who these two couldn’t dream of aspiring to be like. I realize I am simply not attracted to plain girls or fancy girls. I'm also not attracted to girls who handicap their appeal to men by "cutting all their hair off" because that is to me like an amputation of glamour. I’m only attracted to plain girls who have some hint of “zing” to them, or fancy girls who have some hint of “real” to them, neither of which is very common. Fortunately there are many girls between those extremes. It’s not like there’s ever any shortage of girls who are physically interesting. The confluence of physically interesting (what I’d need in order to want to make them not platonic friends) and being worthwhile human beings with levels, complexity and brains is what is rare. Those type don’t stay single. Then we went to the Elgin Video Station, which is decorated with antique televisions, radios and movie cameras, as well as worn costumes and used props from films. J got a Jaws poster, which made him happy.
     Then we went to Future Shop, so J could waste his paycheck on stupid DVDs he’ll likely sell to the pawnshop in a week’s time. Then we came back to my place to look at the photos and funny stuff from When I was driving Jay home around midnight, a police car followed us from Almonte to Carleton Place, then pulled us over. The cop wandered up to our car, whistling, and determined that we weren’t the bad people from my street that he thought we were. Then I came back here and typed this.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Movies Aren't Real. The effects of actions seen in movies aren't the same as the effects of real actions

While looking for Jessica Alba pictures on the Internet (purely for research purposes, of course), I stumbled across a website that is "Christian" in name, though obviously not in spirit.
     Its job is to take all the latest Hollywood movies, and watch them very carefully with very dirty minds, in order to determine how much sin can be found or imagined, and then give it a numeric rating for sheer volume of sin depicted, and also how numerically likely this is to "influence" children.
    If a lot of sin is depicted or hinted at in the film, then the suggested remedy is to not defile yourself and your family by watching this film (which the reviewers bravely sat through, hands down pants) and then you are to read several "Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry" from that mild, safe, unremarkable book, the bible, which one can safely read without ever encountering defiling depictions of sin or violence of any kind. There are notes about the scriptures that "If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold."
     I have never considered using my bible as a magical talisman or fetish against celluloid evil (I wonder if it works for cellulite?) I guess it never occurred to me that THAT'S WHAT IT'S FOR! The next movie I see, I'll consider bringing some holy water, silver bullets and crosses, just so I feel safe. I'll also mutter portions of Proverbs under my breath and scatter ashes made from a fingerbone of John The Baptist on my popcorn just to be sure.
     The website in question is here.
(I note that both Aliens Vs. Predator and Quills, (the story about the life of the Marquis De Sade), were seen as nearly twice as "acceptable for children to watch" as Austin Powers. I note that depicting demons and ghosts are Offences To God, but not aliens or unicorns) I picture Christian kids whose parents are away at Golgotha Parents' Retreat for the weekend saying "We've GOT rent this one! It scored a ZERO due to how many Disgustingly Sensual Displays of Female Naughtyflesh it has!")
    I also note from The Brothers Grimm review that the descendants of the people who used to burn witches now consider it "wanton violence" to watch a witch get killed in a movie by breaking a mirror with a rock, or to witness "brother repeatedly hitting brother." (that last one reminds me of something. I can't be sure what.) "Unholy control of a girl's shawl" (telekinesis) is listed under the "Offense To God" section along with "offering a child in sacrifice" (though the child is rescued at the last minute...wait...that one reminds me of something too..) and "revelry" (i.e. eating, drinking and dancing while music is playing). I didn't know God loved shawls or hating dancing so much. Or maybe only Holy Control of a Girl's Shawl should be depicted. I have witnessed the efficacy of shawls among holy women of God in warding off sensual thoughts (mine, not theirs.)
Umm...I checked out the verses quoted to protect people from Fantastic Four, which I have seen, and discovered that I apparently somehow entirely missed the fact that, not only was Chris Evans holding a parka around his naked body to hide his pulsating genitals, he was OBVIOUSLY and CLEARLY "holding himself" THROUGH the parka. ( I think the reviewers of the film might have been thinking of their own actions at that point.) Jessica Alba being briefly seen in her flowered underwear for pseudo-comedic purposes was implied to have been (obviously) a bad, self-indulgent thing for the filmmakers to depict. They didn't really explain why this was. I personally thought it was one of the most vivid displays of The Wonders Of God's Handiwork that I'd seen in some time. It made me feel particularly blessed in my pants. (Hips like that don't just evolve from hot, latina monkeys, my friend.)
     The scriptures quoted were mostly ones about the fact that wicked people delight in violence and immorality. The implication is that, it is very human and normal (and horribly wrong) to get entertainment out of depictions of people punching each other or drinking alcohol or shooting guns or stealing things on screen...Could it be that Proverbs was describing as "wicked" the sort of people who actually delight in REAL violence and immorality, rather than people who see it depicted onscreen (or described in books, including the bible, with its whores-in-the-lineage-of-our-lord, abductions, dismemberments, rapes, mass slaughters, tossing women out windows for their still-warm corpses to be devoured by dogs, stabbings of javelins through both bodies of a couple having sex in a tent, mass killings of the enemy and "taking" their gentile foreskins by the hundreds as trophies etc)?
     Is it possible that the authors of Proverbs (Solomon and that other guy's mom too) were saying that it was wicked to delight in actual bad things, and that stories with violence or bad things in them (i.e. David and Goliath) aren't quite the same thing, actually? I am familiar with the argument that it is very possible that watching things on the big screen leads to actually indulging in the iniquities seen (I know in my case it sometimes leads to illegally downloading said films at home!) Well, you'll have to excuse me. I think I'll go out and get some guys with sunglasses, black suits and matching cars, and we'll evade the police, rappel down from the ceiling at a museum and steal the World's Largest Diamond without setting off the sensors, crash said cars into things so they can explode three times each, then we'll all have sex with supermodels while freebasing heroin. Oh, and we'll swear, too. While smoking.

Freezing rain musings for people who don't get "that kind of weather" where they live

This is the third day of school that's been cancelled due to freezing rain since November. Last year this happened too. "Cancelled" means "the buses aren't running, kids who walk to school can come if they want. This usually means I go in (living 15min drive from there) and hang out with a couple of other teachers who've showed up too, and tidy my desk and stuff like that. 
     This storm went all night from early yesterday evening, and ended up resulting in a quarter inch of hard ice coating everything like the candy shell on an M&M. The thing about the danger of ice is that, if you look out the window, things don't look very unusual, only perhaps a bit shinier, or "wet" looking. When you get outside, however, you see what's going on. I'm sure most people have walked around on a skating rink, in which the ice is uniformly smooth and completely level. It's quite different when it's in irregularly smooth patches and downhill. 
     I managed yesterday evening to walk a block to the pizza place for a slice without falling, but it got worse throughout the night. Wouldn't have managed it this morning when I put the garbage out and decided not to try walking around on the sidewalk anymore, for fear of suddenly sliding downtown. 
     Obviously, so long as rain is falling down from warmer air in the sky, and then freezing when it hits anything slightly colder at ground level, there's nothing much anyone can do to make it safe to walk around or drive. I'm told car tires with metal nobbies on them used to be made, (or chains laced around the tires) but that kind of thing damages the road surface, so isn't legal. If you toss lots of salt on the ice, the salt will dissolve into it, and, as salt water requires a much lower temperature to stay frozen, it will appear to slowly eat through the ice like acid. Obviously, the town sends out trucks and sidewalk equipment which toss a mixture of salt and sand while trying to scrape the ice off the roads with big, friction-sparking blades, but this is slow, dangerous work, as the vehicles drive on unsalted road surface while flinging salt behind and to the sides. 
      Several times I have been driving at night behind a slow-moving snow plow, and have impatiently decided to pass it. You hit the gas, pull into the passing lane, unable to see any of the yellow lines or the edge of the asphalt because of the snow lying on the road, and you get snow and/or snow/salt flung all over the windshield, and as you draw level with the vehicle, suddenly the road gets a whole lot more slippery, as it hasn't been plowed and salted yet, like the surface right behind you has. When I was learning to drive, I twice ended up exceeding the speed limit on the wrong side of the road, facing backwards with a snow plow gaining on me from behind, visible out the windshield. Didn't hit anything either time. I am not privy to what either plow operator thought as he or she cruised by my car, sitting in the ditch, buried in snow halfway up the doors. 
    One of the wierdest things I have ever seen while driving was in heavy, slowmoving highway traffic, when a huge old car suddenly, majesticly lost control and starting turning in giant, slow, graceful circles while still sliding forward in its lane right in front of me. I wasn't going very quickly, so I just slowed down a bit more until it slid off the side of the road. Looked like a big metal figure skater, though. 
     My apartment is at the top of a hill, and my sidewalk and parking space are therefore dodgy options when the ice is everywhere. Freezing rain is much rarer than snow or rain (or sleet) because the temperature has to be just right for it. If the rain freezes on the way down to the ground, it's "ice pellets" which are slippery as spilled beads to walk on, but don't coat things or adhere together. If it doesn't freeze at all, it's rain. If the water condenses into air that is below freezing temperature, it crystalizes and forms snowflakes. So, for freezing rain, you need it to start out as rain rather than snow, but not freeze until it hits things like car windshields. 
     My car windshield right now looks exactly like a smoked-glass or pebble-textured glass window in a church. If I let the heater in my car run for about 15 min before trying to scrape the ice off the windshield so I can see while I'm driving, it will start to come loose, stuck to the windshield with a thin film of water between, instead of bonding to it like glue. 
    One time in high school I had my Dad's car, and no ice scraper, so I had to run the car heater and scrape ice off the windshield with plastic cassette tape cases, which tended to shatter. I have a permanent scar on a knuckle from scraping off my windshield and having a jagged piece of ice cut through to the bone. That's pretty rare. I wasn't wearing gloves. 
     These days off are called "snow days" even though in southern Ontario we almost never suddenly get so very much snow that our snow removal equipment can't deal with it. They are almost always "ice days," really. You can't deal with ice that coats everything (including trees and powerlines) nearly as easily as you can snow. 
     In 1998, freezing rain fell for a week. Powerlines and hydro towers snapped and folded in half, portable generators were used for people who heated their houses electrically in rural areas, the army went door to door making sure everyone was ok (what a great use for an army!) and so on. I lived in Ottawa, where the power was only out for a couple of days, and we heated with gas, but people in rural areas had no power for as long as 13 days. A lot of cattle and chickens and so on froze to death and had a coating of ice on the piles of their corpses. The ice out there has become less like glass and a lot more like moist Swiss cheese.


No doubt God finds it a particularly human and annoying trait every time we decide to go ahead and do something we feel is a bad thing, but to feel alright about it anyway, so long as we punish ourselves or in some way minimize the joy we may get out of doing it. Where's the sense in "I'll benefit from doing a bad thing, but not TOO much!" Guilt seldom turns us to God so much as keeps us from Him, or makes us feel we are punishing ourselves so He won't have to. God doesn't want to punish us. He wants us to do good things so punishment isn't relevant.

Saturday, 7 January 2006

Prodigals By Choice

...and by "Dogmatic, closed-book religious teaching" I mean to describe that kind of religious approach that says "We've GOT all the answers and now we just have to remember them and believe them. Any answers we don't have ready to mind are known by others in our Christian group, and in books and so on." 
     This approach stresses taking other's word for things, and warns against (and calls unnecessary) that dangerous but indispensable exercise of living our own lives and seeking out our own paths. (by "own" I mean as in "our own things given us by God i.e. my left arm" not "lives and paths that are only what I want and are therefore obviously completely against what God wants." 
     I mean that God made and wants each person to have their own lives and paths. His intentions are different for different people. We need to live our whole lives figuring out what we were made to be. We have to gain the maturity to stop trying to be what we aren't, and to start being what we are and becoming what we can become.) I was always taught that saying "my way, my will, my path, my life" was a sure sign that I wasn't living any way that God or other Christians could approve of. 
     Turns out, the more I have lived as God made me to live, the less others have been able to understand and approve of me. If I took off and moved in with a girl and sold drugs for a couple of years, then came back prodigal son style and repented of it all, I'm sure some church would immediately make me a Youth Pastor somewhere. What I tend to do, however, is to frequently point out hypocrisy and mistreatment of people and pride and assumptions and forms of godliness which deny the power thereof. I do this among religious people, among atheists, among stoners and at work. 
     I truly do believe I was made with an aptitude to see these serious problems (the Outsider's View) and to express them (this action is aided by and perpetuates the Outsider's Position.) I feel no need to be PC, to be tactful or nice or positive, if that's going to soften, blur or hurt my efforts. Sometimes a doctor has to say "You have cancer." Sometimes I have to say "That isn't true." Sometimes I have to say "This religious thing is bad. Harm is occurring." 
     There is a difference between my having gone to England but my mother just believing what I told her I experienced there. There is no substitute for first-hand. One size never fits all without ignoring the best qualities of each. Everyone has a spirit. Everyone has spirituality. Everyone has that faculty called "faith" by the bible. Not everyone has decided what their world-view is. 
     Not everyone has a set of expections so defined that they want it made canon, law, doctrine and the Only Way To See Things. This is very good. We aren't told "just believe the bible when it says that lord is good." We're told "Taste and see that the lord is good." The difference in one's life is amazing. We're told to follow the "faith" of others, not their blind belief, their caution, doctrine, habits, lifestyle, expectations, guesses or tradition. I've heard exhortations about "seeking these things out for myself" all my life. 
     The method of "seeking" that was demonstrated, however, involved listening to others, believing everything they said, doing likewise, reading books and steering clear of most of human experience. It involved a lot of sitting listening to someone else stand up and tell me things he had little idea about, someone who hadn't made a real, unshielded, person-to-person connection with anyone in the world around him for decades. 
     This isn't "tasting," and it doesn't work. It makes you an expert as to what someone else claims, and that's it. You can't seek things out simply by believing what other people say. God is everywhere and in everything. I was taught that a movie theatre, a video arcade, a bar or a party were "no place for a Christian to be." I was taught that the only correct place for alcohol was in communion cups. I grew up without learning about celebration and human fellowship, decency, warmth, courage, honour, decency and the like. I was TOLD that "wine represents joy" and didn't drink it, nor did I have any joy. 
     I've seen many people who aren't looking for God (or joy any any real sense) in the act of drinking. I've seen many use it to let out anger, violence, or tears. I've seen people use it to try to get rid of feelings and thoughts and responsibilities. If I go to the movies, share a drink with friends or jog, I properly do it with a view to laying hold on goodness, all of which comes from God. I don't "steal" the fun from God. I don't "run off and have a blast and then come back and say I'm sorry." 
     If I runnoft for that reason, I WILL have to apologize. But if I go purposely and with awareness and get the good out of a person, place or thing, looking God square in the face and thanking Him for it, then that works better. Do we LIKE being prodigal sons? What if the prodigal had kept in contact by messenger or letter while in the far off country? (he could afford to) What if he'd MADE rather than LOST a fortune? What if he'd had a good time and returned with a wife and treasures and stories; gifts to give everyone? 
     I think the story exists to tell people there is the possibility of "coming back" after one runs off and screws up, not to make people forever associate having fun with running off and going exploring with screwing up and wasting good things. This may be why you won't see me at McChurch McSunday morning. I like people a lot. I don't tend to be able to go along with what they eventually end up doing once they form long-standing groups, however.

Friday, 6 January 2006


Dogmatic, closed-book religious teaching is to a person's spirit what a Diet Coke with a bag of Cheetos is to lunch.