Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From the Huffington Post Commentariat






...I think that just about sums up my views on the matter. I'm strongly in favour of a two-state solution, provided that such a Palestinian state actually held peaceful coexistence as a goal. Unfortunately, when the governing party holds as part of its constitutional charter a clause to completely eradicate the nation of Israel, with everyone in it, I have trouble imagining that party acting in good faith towards long-term peace.

Israel, on the other hand, has shown - in deeds, not just in words - that it is willing to make real concessions when across a table from a viable peace partner. When Egyptian president Anwar Sadat offered a treaty in good faith, Israel ceded the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for a peace accord - a piece of land at least 2 or 3 times larger than Israel itself, and containing most of the oil that was then under Israeli control.

Israel was willing to exchange to Egypt a huge amount of land and a moderate amount of natural resources because Egypt came to the bargaining table seeking peace in good faith.

Yet Israel wants to keep the Gaza Strip - a useless little wastelend, out of territorial greed? No, it's because it hasn't seen any reason to believe that a nascent Palestinian state wouldn't become a sovereign staging ground for more attacks against nearby Israeli towns.

The Palestinians would have a state already if their leaders showed a desire for a peaceful two-state solution. I agree completely with Benjamin Netanyahu on this point: "If the Palestinians would lay down their arms there would be peace. If the Israelis laid down their arms, there would be no Israel."

For peace, concessions cannot come from only one side.



---


Edit, 30 Dec 2008, 10:51am:

A Jerusalem Post article describes a higher statistic for civilian casualties than I'd previously quoted, with UN numbers as a source. I don't know what accounts for the difference in estimates quoted by the two sources (15 civilian casualties in the Wired article v. 64 in the JPost article), but the real number probably lies somewhere in between that four and eighteen percent.

It may be a simple matter of differences in who is considered a non-civilian: do you count someone involved in transporting or manufacturing Hamas rockets, or only those who have a gun in their hands?

Even if the count lies closer to the higher quoted number, my opinion has changed very little: keeping civilian casualties below even 18% when striking military targets embedded within an urban population shows fairly clearly that Israel is devoting significant attention and resources to ensuring that civilian casualties are minimized. Those who like to say that Israel is targeting civilians should probably rethink a few things.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bush Dodges Shoes Thrown by Iraqi Journalist

The guy's got quicker reflexes than I'd have given him credit for!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Virgin Mary Ignites Scandal in Playboy Appearance.

We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later; the little slut couldn't keep up that charade forever.

The Virgin Mary has sparked outrage in Catholic circles by appearing nude on the cover of Playboy Mexico, veiled only in a thin linen shroud.



Playboy has since apologized for the indiscretion, acknowledging a breach of contract: The Catholic Church holds all rights to The Virgin Mary, including but not limited to her likeness, publications, and album sales in perpetuity.

Still, there's a nativity scene that would sell.

Too bad Catholics can't masturbate.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chill the fuck out


Yes we can

YES, WE DID!

That's all for now. I'm piss-drunk, ecstatic, and moving onto an army base tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bondage down under! (Crikey!)

Because I often find myself with vast tracts of time and no productive way to spend it, I sometimes check the back-links to my blog. The back-links (or track-backs, or whatever they're actually called) are the recorded entry point that linked someone to a page on Phaedron Rising.

Usually, it's something fairly innocuous, like residual interest from the bookstore bible-shuffle at Pharyngula or Tall Penguin, or some passing interest in Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

Until last week, my favourite referral was the search for "cooties sex" on Google Estonia. No more.

It seems that there's something strange afoot down in the land of dingoes and stingrays; seems some Aussie was in need of either some DIY bondage advice or a good lawyer, because he turned to the wisdom of Google's algorithm for an answer to his troubles.

A fun experiment to try at home: go to Google or Google Australia and enter as your query "having problems confining a housemate to his room" either with or without the quotation marks.

Look who's result #1! I should be flattered, but I don't deserve that accolade. A pair of handcuffs and a makeshift blindfold are the closest my repertoire ever comes to BDSM, and I shy away from using them without a safe word. Nonetheless, happy strapping to my new Australian "mate."

And remember. If the cuffs are soft and fuzzy, you're missing the point.

Not even three-fifths!

"Mr Rising, you're actually ineligible to cast a vote for Barack Obama."
...
"No, it's not a curtailment of your rights, Mr. Rising."
...
"Yes, but that doesn't extend to Canadians."
...
"Mr Rising, you don't get three-fifths of a vote."
...
"Mr. Rising, it's not because you're black."
...
"Because you're not black"
...
"I seriously doubt that you're black 'from the waist down,' Mr Rising."
...
"Please put your pants back on, Mr Rising. We're all very impressed."


My point is, the Man's keeping me down. You'd better cast votes for the two of us. And did you know that it's illegal to take off your pants at a voter registration kiosk?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eh Marine Original :D

Enjoy!

The prodigal son returns.

Just kidding, it's only me.

To my imaginary readers, I'd like to extend my deepest apologies for my four-month hiatus: I've had a lot to deal with since going to DC in July, and my half-assed blog has been the furthest thing on my mind.

A few updates:

1. I'm on an academic suspension from Carleton. I say "suspension" because I'm probably going to get the whole thing reversed with an appeal.

2. It's over with Sophie. There wasn't a fight and nobody got dumped. The distance thing was just too much.

3. I'm up to my taint in debt, and trying to take advantage of a year off from undergrad by working and paying it down.


It's 4am, and I'm really at a loss for a way to tie this all together. In lieu of original thought, however, I offer you the above YouTube clip. Nothing to lift the spirit like a little domestic abuse!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open highways beckon...

True to form, I'm staying up through the night in anticipation of the multi-leg road trip I'll be making over the next week or so.

I'm currently staving off hunger so I can pack, clean, and do laundry, and fighting the urge to drive down to the all-night diner with the sheer resolve of my laziness. It may not work much longer.

In a few short hours, I'll be on the road again - this time, en route to Amherst, NY for a conclave of undergraduate heathens. Literally: It's a conference of atheists.

It will also be my first time being in the Buffalo area during reasonable business hours (I crossed it around 4am en-route home from Boston in February), and I plan to eat every single wing place out of business. Let's see if they live up to their reputation.

I'll be leaving Amherst Sunday night, sleeping over in Pittsburgh, and arriving in Washington, DC Monday morning. Sophie's got an internship with Congress there, and the chance to finally see Washington AND Sophie in one trip was just too much to pass up. I found a convenient apartment for short-term sublet over craigslist, so I'll be staying there until I leave on Thursday. It's got a steam shower. A grown man should never feel as excited by bathroom fixtures as I am at the thought of having sex in a steam shower.

The only low point: I've got to Greyhound it back to Ottawa on Thursday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hitting the Mother Lode

When I was a teenager, I used to take long showers. 45 minutes, an hour; until the hot water ran out, I would sit in the tub under the slowly cooling spray. I did this up to 4 or 5 times a day. I wasn't OCD, and I was never sexually abused. It was just that in my mother's house, that bathroom was the only door with a lock on it. A lock could buy me a shower's worth of time where I wouldn't have to deal with her.

The very few people who know me closely know that there isn't a force in this world that can bring out the worst in me like my mother can. Since I left her house at the age of 16, roughly one out of every six or seven times we meet, one of us ends up leaving the conversation (often at a home dinner or restaurant) in a cold rage.

We just don't get along. Not since shortly after I started high school. And while I shudder to think it, our differences have probably come about as a result of our similarities. If someone I knew were to tell me that I'm just like my mother, I'd probably hit them in the face. I'm not a hostile person, but nothing angers me more than the fact that I can see her nature reflected in myself. She can be bitter, petty, deceitful, manipulative, and delusional; cognitive dissonance is a way of life for her. She's also unwilling to compromise when challenged. So was I. Needless to say, we did not get along well after I hit adolescence.

What follows is my composite recollection of the events leading up to and following my parting ways with my mother. Though the events I'm describing took place only four years ago, they constitute memories that I spent a lot of time trying not to think about. As a result, even I take my own recollections with a grain of salt. Some of the details may be slightly off; the timeline of events may be a little jumbled. I also don't think I've talked about this, in its entirety, ever.

I guess things started shortly after I began high school. I had always been a completely obedient kid, so there was never any conflict with my mother until I started to push the boundaries.

We'd fight over little things like being out late or cleaning up my room. She could say "clean your room," and I'd have no objections: I would do it as soon as I was done whatever I was busy with at the time. This would put her into an apoplexy. DO IT NOW! It wasn't about cleaning my room or being out late, or any of those things: it was about control - about doing what she wanted, on the immediate timescale that she dictated, in the way she decided was necessary. It was about never allowing herself to be in anything less than complete control her relationship with me.

I was a raging adolescent, and I pushed back. Her trump card was always the threat to take away my allowance. It was a $12 weekly pittance, but it was the only income I had access to at the time, so whenever we locked horns, I could either suck it up and toe the line, or stand on "principle" and suffer the consequence.

Still, from what I would imagine, an arguably healthy dynamic.

Until I turned 16. At that point, I could be legally employed. And that was the beginning of the end.

I got my first job - a shitty online call-center survey gig - without telling her. As soon as I got my first paycheque, I stopped ceding ground. The next time she told me to clean up, I told her that I would finish my phone call in 15 minutes or so, and then do it. She took it like a slap in the face and started screaming. If it weren't for the fact that my phone call with my friend had been about the freedom and independence that my new part-time job would afford me, her hissy fit would have been embarrassing. Instead, I felt vindicated.

She told me that I shouldn't expect any money at the end of the week, and I told her that I was okay with it. I had started a job and had my own source of income now. I was in the 10th grade.

If she was hysterical before, by now she was barely comprehensible. To fault myself, I was no mo mature about this kind of thing than she was, because I knew exactly which buttons to push.

I said goodbye to my friend on the phone, and waited for the next discernible repetition of "Clean your room NOW!"

"If you're going to be a child about this," I responded in the most dead-pan poker face I could muster, "I'm going to go take a shower."

This, for the better part of a year, exemplified the dynamic between my mother and I. We would get into constant screaming matches over the pettiest of shit, and avoid conversation for days on end until someone admitted to being petty, apologized, and things cooled down for a few weeks. I was the one who was 16, but as often as not, she was acting like an absolute child, going off into a rage at the slightest provocation. Living in the same house as her became an agony. She used to be a government lawyer, but had to end stop practicing law early because of her developing physical disability. She was always at home, and there was no respite but the shower. Living with her became an absolute agony.


And thus began my lifetime obsession with travel: any time I spend elsewhere was time I didn't have to spend under her roof. I would take any opportunity to go to my friends' cottages for a weekend. I would work after school for an entire month, and then buy a plane ticket to Winnipeg to visit my uncle and aunt there. It didn't matter if I had five essays due the following Monday; if I had the means to get out of her house, I would.

Every family, it seems, has the cool uncle. The one who manages to be responsible without being boring or a dick. He once suspended his undergraduate degree for two years to go fuck around working in the Canadian arctic, just because it was there. When he finally graduated, he proved to have a great sense for investment, and worked his way up the small-cap mortgage fund food chain. He made himself a lot of money, without ever having to be anything other than what he wanted to be. For a long time, he was the strongest role model in my life. (I'll save the daddy issues for another post.) My uncle was also the only person I'd ever seen "break" my mother's resolve whenever she got fired up.

My uncle Marty, my aunt Robyn, and my mother were all raised in the small Jewish subcommunity of Winnipeg. Robyn moved to California, got fake breasts and a lot of perscriptions, and divorced a successful doctor. She was also batshit-crazy in the same indescribable way as my mother: if my mother were dependent on perscription drugs and plastic surgery, I'd swear their personalities would be identical. My mother moved to Toronto's suburbs after meeting my father in Israel, and stayed in the suburbs until she and my father split up when I was 7. I have no idea what the split was actually over, but I have my suspicions that they just couldn't stand living with one another.

At least once a year, my mom's entire side of family would reconvene for Passover in Winnipeg, and at least once a year, my mother and her sister would have a bitter falling-out. When my mother was being completely irrational, my uncle would pull a magic trick that was nothing less than astonishing to me: he could make her shut up and leave the room. Even as my mother lapsed into screaming hysterics (you're taking HER SIDE?), he never raised his voice. Seeing herself being the only one screaming while the object of her rage spoke in nothing but ice-calm tones must have made her feel like a fool: it only served to infuriate her until she seemed to realize that she looked like a fool in front of an entire room-full of people. Then she'd leave. Sometimes, the same treatment would be applied to my aunt, always with the same devestating effect.

This was the lesson on dealing with my mother that I took home from my visits with my uncle: when she's screaming, a patronizing calm lets you keep the moral high ground. And if cold condescension stung coming from her brother, it must have absolutely burned to have the same response coming from her son.

As the next several months progressed, I began to adopt that tactic to deal with her rages. I stopped screaming back, and began to talk to her as if she were being a child. Often, she was. When things got really bad, I'd just go take a shower.

The household slowly became toxic.

There was a time when I thought of leaving for Winnipeg on a greyhound in the dead of the night. I called my uncle at 4am and asked if I could stay with him for a little while. He told me that I was always welcome in Winnipeg, but that I should stay in Toronto and try to resolve things things with my mother.

By the time I was in the 11th grade, things were become beyond unbearable. We'd vacillate between fighting and not speaking with one another in a near-continuous cycle. We would insult each other. I stayed up late at night, and in the mornings I skipped classes, just so I could buy a few more hours of my day when we weren't awake at the same time. My grades were already slipping.

When the fall term ended, those grades came in. That led to the last fight we had while living in the same house.




It was 3am on a Sunday night, and she screamed from her room to turn off my computer and go to bed. I promptly ignored her. School had a late opening the next day, and by that time it was none of her business anymore when I went to bed when there was no school the next morning.

Mom: Shut your computer off NOW and get to bed!

PR: We did away with that insipid bedtime crap ages ago.

Mom: It's back. And you're keeping me up until all hours of the night.

PR: You keep your bedroom door open so that you can listen for me being up late. If you intentionally keep your door open, you forfeit the right to complain about being kept up.
Mom: From now on, you're doing things exactly the way I say. You've lost any right to be treated as an adult until your grades are respectable.

PR: And you've lost the privilege to be treated like the adult in this argument until you stop screaming like a child.

Mom: You immature, stupid child!

PR: I'm 16 years old. What's your excuse?
It was exactly at this moment that she grabbed my lamp - my tiny, shitty, wire-necked, unpronounceably-named Ikea lamp - and hit me with it.

There had been a lot that I'd heard her say in the past year that I would call abusive, but that was the first time she'd ever hit me with something. I mean, it didn't hurt that much. A cane-bound woman hitting you with a cheap Ikea lamp hurts about as much as getting jumped on by an overeager puppy. What stunned me was the fact that she had just hit me with a lamp.

I looked at the lamp, broken and lying on the floor. I picked it up and pulled it back to my shoulder.

"Don't you hit me!" She screamed.

And I stopped dead in my tracks. I no longer wanted to hit her back. Just seeing her - the way she had been screaming at me, the fact that my stab had provoked her into physical abuse, and her terror at the threat of a response - became nothing less than pathetic.

I smashed the already-broken lamp against the wall between us and put on my jacket.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"For a walk. You're being a bitch"

I don't remember what she said after that, because I had stopped listening.

By the time I got back, the sun was on its way up. I went to bed.



She told me that I didn't get to skip the morning's classes just because I'd been out all night. Get changed and go to school.

I told her to fuck off: I'm taking a shower.

"You don't have time for a shower. You're not going to be late for class again."

I went towards the shower anyway. She grabbed me. I pulled her hand off and locked myself into the bathroom, my one safe place. I'd forgotten my towel, but I figured it was early, so there should be enough hot water to cover an hour's sleep.

When the screaming subsided from outside my door a few minutes later, I relaxed into the tub under the warm shower spray and got ready to sleep.

Just as I was falling asleep, the cold water hit me. I could hear her saying, "The hot water's off. Now get out of that bathroom and get to school!"

I threw my boxers on and charged down to the basement, where the hot water shutoff surely was. "You stupid child. Don't you dare turn that back on!" she screamed.

"YOU STUPID WOMAN! I'VE STILL GOT SHAMPOO IN MY HAIR!"

I had lost my temper again: the first time I'd yelled back at her in a long time.

"Well that's your fault!" She shrieked. "Now you'd better get dressed and get to school."


I went upstairs. I got dressed. I packed my schoolbag.

And when I left, I didn't come back.

...righteous vengeance and furious anger!

As I'm sure the imaginary followers of my blog all know, I'm leaving for CFI On Campus 2008 Student Leadership Conference in Amherst, NY tomorrow. It's a conference for freethinking students on reducing the influence of religious zealots in academia and government.

I figured that after the conference - since I'm already States-side - I'd make the trip down to DC, where Sophie has just started a Congress internship with the House Representative from her home district. Also, I've never seen Washington, and I love going to new places.

I emailed the conference organizer, Debbie G, asking whether there were any attendees coming from around the DC area that I might be able to arrange to carpool with to Washington after the weekend. She put me in touch with Frank B, who is driving through Philadelphia - a mere couple hours' bus ride from the capitol.

The exchange with Frank over facebook started simply enough. Debbie had contacted him to ask whether he had room for a stowaway en route to Philly, and he messaged me:


Frank: "do you smoke?

would you be with us both ways or what?

can you do some of the driving?"


"I do smoke," I replied candidly, "but would have no problem restricting the whole 'cancer research' thing to when we're on pit stops."

I told Frank that I'd be happy to help with the driving, though I'd only be with him for the return trip. I let him know that I have plenty of highway experience, especially in the US, and that as long as his car was automatic-transmission, I could take shifts behind the wheel.

I figured that the rest would be a simple matter of hammering out the final details (the route we're taking, how much I should pitch for gas, how he wants to arrange the driving shifts...) at the conference this weekend. Then I got this curt reply:

"I'm sorry, but I can't spend 8 hours in a car with a smoker. if you were to get back into the car after a pit stop smelling like smoke that would make me angry to the point where I could not drive safely. You'll have to find some other means of transportation to DC. You may still want to coordinate with Barry G, he also smokes and therefor will not be traveling with me."
-Frank B.

As a matter of common courtesy, I never smoke in someone's car unless they explicitly say that it's okay. Even when someone else is in my car, I make sure that they're comfortable with me smoking before I light up. If they're just saying "yes" to be nice, I can usually tell, and I'll refrain from smoking anyway.

But this is fucking rediculous. It's one thing if he's allergic to tobacco, or if I weren't willing to smoke facing downwind, but this is beyond sanctimonious. I get the impression that it's not the smell of smoke ("if you were to get back into the car after a pit stop smelling like smoke") that riles him, but the sheer fact that I smoke at all (I can't spend 8 hours in a car with a smoker).

I'm now realizing that this is a man who would have spent 8 perfectly good hours wasting my precious oxygen. He's essentially saying that the merest hint of tobacco will throw him into an apoplectic fury, rendering him completely unfit to safely operate a vehicle. Whether out of some sub-rational impulse, or sanctimonious douchebaggery, he's essentially saying that if I were in the car, he'd probably wrap it around a tree.

If I take what he said at face value, then this kind of person should not be allowed to drive. What happens if he's driving along with the windows down and the scent of cigarette smoke wafts in from the sidewalk? Will he mow down the next pedestrian in indignant rage? Does this extend to smelly and polluting paper mills and refineries?

Don't get me wrong. Smoking is a stupid, dangerous, filthy habit, and I'm in the process of cutting down my intake before I make the final push of stopping all together this fall. I'm 20 years old, and far too young to waste my life and money smoking.

That doesn't change the fact that Frank B is an idiot.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mr Smith Goes to Washington


I just watched, for the fourth time since the sixth grade, Mr Smith goes to Washington. I keep forgetting, in the years' intervals between each time I see it, how powerful it really is. To some fans of the cinema classic, it's the feeling a feeling of patriotism and pride that makes this film such a stirring one. As a Canadian who is usually not moved much by nationalistic jingo, let alone that of another nation, it's something else in Frank Capra's masterpiece that literally brings me to tears at the climactic scene.... That doesn't happen very often.

Mr Smith goes to Washington is the story of Jefferson Smith, an idealistic man - he barely looks thirty - who is selected as an honourary appointment to the U.S. Senate to replace the sitting senator who had died the previous day. The men pulling the strings behind his appointment are businessmen, congressman, and fellow senators in the pocket of a corrupt James Taylor (not the singing one), a ruthless businessman who controlls half the commercial interests in Smith's home state. Smith, the state head of the Boy Rangers is the image of naïve idealism personified; he quotes Jefferson from memory, talks nonstop about the beauty of the American midwest; and gets lost - literally lost - in awe of his first sight of Washington, DC.

He's selected because he's so young and idealistic that he seems the least likely candidate to derail a Senate Deficiency Bill that includes the construction of a dam for the personal profit of Taylor. He's mentored by senator Joe Paine, who is from the same state and was a close friend of his father's before the elder Smith was murdered for daring to challenge a mining company's right to force homesteaders off of their land.

Back then, Joe Paine and Smith's father were a lawyer and newspaper editor who championed lost causes. Yet after seeing his friend killed, and eventually entering politics, Paine allowed himself to be bought out, and became part of Taylor's machine.

The conflict comes to a head when Smith, eager to accomplish something during his short term in the senate, proposes a national boys' camp for inner-city youth - on the exact site where the dam was meant to be built. When his bill comes into conflict with the proposed dam in the deficiency bill, Smith starts to ask questions and discovers the graft scheme.

When Smith refuses to be bought out, Paine disgraces him on the senate floor and accuses Smith of proposing his boys' camp bill for his own personal profit. The Taylor machine forge documents to substantiate the charge, and the process to expel Smith from the senate is started.

In an act of desperation, Smith seizes the floor and fillibusters the entire senate; as long as Smith does not sit down or cease talking, he cannot be forced to yield the floor of the senate. With Taylor's newspapers convincing their home state of Smith's corruption, Smith refuses to budge from the senate floor until his legs give out.

"You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well, I'm not licked. And I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if the room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place."




It really is as cheesy as it sounds. But this movie came out in 1939, before every storyline had become a trite cliche. It's not about patriotism, or idealism, or the sanctity of one nation's legislature; it's about the courage of the few men who face the impossible with no hope of success, who stand by their principles with every ounce of strength that they have. It's not just about politics or civil rights; it's about the things that matter to us most: freedom, love, and the chance to stand up for what matters to you most. It's about having something that you care so deeply and passionately about that no bribe, threat, or certainty of failure will stop you from doing everything you can to make things the way they should be.


...On a personal note, there's a quote that I keep with me in my wallet, right behind my driver's license. I printed out a card-sized version copy and had it laminated, and it's as close to a personal prayer as I imagine an atheist could come:

"
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Theodore Roosevelt said that in 1910, in a speech in Paris. He said this just two years before the start of the most devestating war that his nation had ever seen, about the charge of good men to stand up for what they believe in.

It's the sentiment of what Teddy said that motivated the fictional Mr. Smith, and the standard to which I seek to hold myself. Nobody did anything - righted any great wrongs, made a name for themselves, found whatever it was in life that they were searching for - by sitting in the bleachers and making commentary. The kind of people that I would seek to emulate - the kind of man I want to be - are the ones who launch themselves headfirst into the arena, and fight for what you want until you've got nothing left. And if you get tossed back into the stands, you jump right back in with every ounce of tenacity you've got.



...I haven't always made the best choices in my life so far; a colossal understatement. But when I find myself at a real crossroads in my life, and I don't know what path to take, I take that little laminated quote out of my wallet and read it. I try to stay, above all, true to myself. No matter what happens.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cooties (Reprise)

Every now and then I check my sitemeter readings to see where this blog gets its meager traffic referrals. Maybe some benevolent blogging star has decided to link to my page; maybe I'm getting backlink traffic from my postings on other blogs like Pharyngula or tall penguin.

Or maybe - just maybe - someone gets referred through the great and wondrous Google Search, as did one user, who had apparently scoured Google Estonia for the search terms "cooties sex."

What he got was "Cooties," my screed on sexual education's state of affairs in red-state America. This was probably just some Estonian schoolboy who'd just been terrified by a fourth-grader that his close contact with a girl in that last game of tag may prove fatal.

I'll help this kid out: "Cooties," in contemporary English usage, can denote a broad range of afflictions that can be transferred through contact with the opposite sex, including - but in no way limited to - fun things like:

Unwanted pregnancy,
Herpes, and
Alimony.

Always be safe, little Olev, and don't let those fifth-grade girls pressure you into anything you're not confortable with.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Don't you hate pants?

The convention of wearing pants, I've realized, is the deepest scourge in this painful existence. Seriously, correct me if I'm wrong on this; the worst part of any day is the moment you can't go another second without putting on those binding fetters of denim, khaki, or pink leather.

It's occurred to me that life seems to revolve around the goal of not having your pants on. I don't think that this applies only to me, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

In the morning, we hit that snooze button to savour "just five more minutes, I swear" of bare-assed bliss.

During the entire day at work and school, we count the minutes until we can get home, and begin the long process that ultimately ends with our pants on the floor [or, if you're not a complete slob like I am, the laundry hamper].

During the soccer game, you fantasize about having the cojones to make a dash across that noble field and score the winning goal sans pants.

You go to the bar with the express purpose of finding someone to take your pants off for you. If you don't find that person, you do it yourself and get removed from the establishment. Fuck them if they can't take a joke.

The best part of your day may very well be that final return to nature, the moment you get into bed, unbound by the restraints of societal conventions and mores. To sleep perchance to dream? Not I. It's the thought of my soft linen sheets that really gets me relaxed after a long day.


In all seriousness, though. We take a lot of things far too seriously. I'm not saying that we should let paedophiles run amok in our playgorunds. Just that the absence of pants isn't always inherently sexual. I should be able to step onto my front porch in my boxers without cold stares from passers-by.

As a joke, I actually once wrote an exam in my bathrobe. It was -25 Celcius [convert it yourselves, you Imperial-system savages], and my balls were somewhere in my stomach by the end of the long walk to the lecture hall. It took me a while to lose the nickname of "housecoat man."

Against my better judgement, I brought that same bathrobe [I'm assuming the two words mean the same thing] along on the trip to Alabama. At the losing end of an unsavoury wager, I ended up wearing the bloody thing all the fucking way through Tennessee on the way home. And I was driving.

And driving, it seems, is yet another thing made better when you don't have pants on.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Down to the crossroads/The road less travelled.

I haven't taken calls from my family in about two weeks. I just don't know what I could say to them to bridge that gap between what they expect of me, and where I see myself at this juncture in my life. I guess it's a coming-of-age cliché that is applied too broadly, but I find myself at a crossroads in my own life, with no map and no clear destination.

Fellow blogger Tall Penguin recently prefaced a post of hers with what is probably my favourite piece of verse anywhere, Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I honestly don't feel egotistical in saying that I consider myself one of the smartest people that I know. And yet, nearly every major decision in my life has been a turn towards the path of least resistance; not towards the route that involves the least amount of work, but rather the one that never forces me to examine my own personal flaws and shortcomings, and the dissonance between where I want to go and where I seem to be headed.

I just got notice from my university that I'm not welcome to return to my program. Pick another, you don't have what it takes for a Bachelor's of Commerce. And yet, it was never that I didn't have what it takes, but rather that I never did what it takes. If I attended more than 5 classes last semester, I would be extremely surprised. Yet none of them were particularly difficult; I learned the entire Macroeconimcs course over the span of a 48-hour study binge and came out with a 95% on the final exam. It was a matter of pride, really - a test of my own aptitute as a proof to myself that I'm not failing for lack of ability. And fail I did. Even a perfect exam score couldn't have saved me.

I'll be able to make an appeal on psychological grounds, on the basis of Major Depressive Disorder. It's a cop-out, to be sure, but the thought of a full year's gap out of school terrifies me. It's an inertia that might prove impossible to break, and I don't want to risk it.

One semester's hiatus, however, is unavoidable. I took on a lot of debt at the beginning of the summer with a failed business venture, and now I have to bite the bullet and work a few months past this coming September to pay it off. On friday, I started a job washing dishes and bussing tables at a local restaurant in Ottawa. My last frivolous expenditure for the foreseeable will be the drive down to Amherst, NY for the CFI On Campus 2008 student leadership conference, and onward to Washington, DC to see Sophie before I pull my debt-recovery vanishing act. I don't know if there's room in my life for a relationship right now, let alone something across so long a distance. That's something I'll have to figure out for myself. Whatever happens, though, she's among my closest and oldest friends, and I'll need her help and admonitions to make sure that washing dishes remains a strictly ad-hoc stopgap, and doesn't become a permanent staple in my life.

The truth is, I know that I have the intelligence, the charisma, and the tenacity to do well in my life. But it's dawning on me that aptitude alone is not enough, and that if I don't turn off the path that I'm on soon, the gap between the man that I am and the man that I want to be may one day become too broad to bridge.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Untitled (Until further notice)

It's been a while since I've taken a hit of the sweet catharsis that can only come from airing my most intimate thoughts into the ether of the blogosphere. I think I'll shelve the decorum for the best summation I can make of the few weeks since my last entry:

Jesus fucking christ.

I drove to Alabama with Nez, Bryan, and J-Dogg, skipping two nights of sleep on a 45-hour, 85 mile-per-hour nonstop meander through the United States.

I went to Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky.

My ballin' blue minivan (don't fucking say it) broke down in Mountain Brook, AL, two miles from our destination.

I fixed it and got back to Ottawa a week ago.

Then I drove to Toronto a few days later. Because I felt like it.

I met up with Tall Penguin for an in-person mea culpa (here) over the bookstore bible incident (here, here, and here).

I drove back to Ottawa, making it into the city just in time to start my new job at 7am. A ten-hour shift on zero sleep is a feat made possible only through the wonders of Adderall. The perscription is mine; deal with it.

But despite the sporadic foray into my favourite rubber-stamped prescription psychostimulant, the fact remains that I haven't actually gone to sleep since Wednesday evening. Before that, Monday night was the last time my head hit a pillow.

Understandably, I'm beyond the stage of delerium. I'll be making posts on my adventures in more detail when I'm somewhere close to lucid. Until then, here's a rough sketch of the weeks to come:

Heading down to Amherst, NY for the Center for Inquiry's CFI On Campus 2008 Student Leadership Conference, an apparent coming-together of young collegiate agnostics, atheists, and freethinkers from Canada and the USA.

After that, I'll likely be heading down to Washington, DC. Sophie's there on an internship with the U.S. Congress, and I've rallied a loose fellowship of fraternity brothers for a pilgrimage to the chapter at George Washington University.

That's all for now. I need a shower badly; I smell like sex and Marlboros, dish soap, cheesecake, and the unmistakable aroma of chopped liver. Don't ask.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama: T minus 13 hours and counting...

Short post:

Ever skip a night's sleep, just to find yourself too wired to get any rest the next evening? Counterintuitive as it seems, the last time I went to sleep was about 48 hours ago, and I don't feel tired.

I wish I did. Tomorrow's going to be a hell of a day.

I'm leaving Ottawa in a few short hours with Bryan and Kyle, en route to Nez's kidnapping in Ohio, and onward to see Sophie in Alabama. Between Ottawa and Toronto, I'll also be picking up a few drifters. Two housemates I found on craigslist's rideshare, one Carleton grad from PickupPal, and my friend Rachel from a small town in the middle of nowhere (because nothing beats five straight hours of unmitigated sexual tension.)

And I've barely begun to pack.

Nonetheless, it's been a hectic 48 hours; spent, for the most part, convincing and re-convincing my friends to commit to the odyssey, and persuading their parents to support their self-actualization with cold, hard gas money.

But through bouts of vacillation, flared tempers, doubt and uncertainty, this show is finally getting on the road. In 36 hours' time. I'll be in Birmingham.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

So I got fucking arrested last night...

I'd type up the full story, but I'm feeling far too lazy to do all that writing this afternoon. I'll just copy and paste from the MSN conversation where I tell a friend:

Rachel - what did you do to [PR]?
PR - lol
PR - long story
Rachel - i hear there are handcuffs involved
PR - there were
PR - hold on, I'll grab a beer first
Rachel - lol
Rachel - drinking alone...oh no
PR - hey, I've earned this one
Rachel - okay dish
Rachel - I cant wait any longer lol
PR - lol I've heard that one before
PR - I'm doing this at my pace
Rachel - thats what she said
PR - lol
Rachel - fine but i get all the details
PR - okay, so one of the AEPi alums had his birthday today at the Heart and Crown on Preston
PR - I'm too broke to go drinking, but I figured I'd come over and give him my regards
Rachel - and I take it this is where it starts to get interesting
PR - you have no idea
Rachel - :)
Rachel - go on
PR - so since I'm not drinking, I saddle up the loser cruiser and head to the Heart and Crown
Rachel - ...
PR - if I were to be drinking, I wouldn't take the car
PR - but that's not relevant, so I'll keep going
Rachel - lol and you mean boat
O - boat
Rachel - and do go on
PR - so I find a parking space a few blocks away, and walk over
PR - the place is packed
PR - I find my friends, and there aren't even enough chairs for everyone at the table
PR - we're outside, and half of us are just off the property across the little metal rail
PR - so eventually I go over the rail to greet another friend who just got in from toronto
PR - about a minute later, a bouncer comes up to me and says "Are you planning to come back inside?"
PR - and I say "Yeah"
PR - "Don't bother. You're kicked out."
Rachel - wtf
PR - I know
PR - my friends were pretty stunned that I just got kicked out of the heart and crown for hopping onto the sidewalk over the rail, and they suggest I ask nicely to come back in
PR - so I go to the bouncer, and I say "Look, I didn't realize what a dick move that was back there. Is there any way you can let me back in?"
PR - "no."
Rachel - ouch
PR - yeah, but that's his right
Rachel - Im gunna grab a banana...brb...keep talking though
PR - np
Rachel - lol and Im going to eat it...nothing dirty so dont even say it
PR - so I go back to where my friends are, and just lean against the rail from the sidewalk side
PR - about 5 minutes later, the bouncer tells me to go home
PR - I say "Are you telling me that I can't be on public property?"
PR - he says "get off this sidewalk"
Rachel - wow he really had it out for you
PR - so I ask if he can legally ask me to get off of a public bench and sidewalk if I'm not causing a disturbance?
PR - and I was right
PR - so he says to my friends, "alright, I can't kick this guy off the bench, but if any part of his body crosses over that rail, you're all kicked out"
PR - "fine."
PR - and that was the last time any part of me was within their property
PR - so I stay on the bench and tlak with my friends
PR - and when the waitress comes by, I ask to speak to the manager
PR - she says that they're really busy, and that it oculd be a while
PR - *couldc
PR - *could
PR - I tell her "don't worry, I'm not in any rush"
PR - so after about 10 minutes or so, the manager comes up to me with the bouncer
PR - I told her I was sorry about hopping the rail onto the sidewalk, and would if be possible to rejoin my friends on the other side?
PR - she says no. their liquor license requires that they kick out someone who does that
PR - which isn't unreasonable for her
Rachel - yah but you were sober
PR - not a fucking sip
PR - but she was right on that point
PR - her hands were tied, and I didn't have a problem with that
PR - I wasn't going to argue
PR - then she says, "if you're going to cause a problem, we can call the police"
PR - I say "I'm not going to cause anything. If I can't come back in, then what I will do is stay on this public bench. I hope you don't call the police, but I'm not doing anything wrong. If you want to, that's your perrogative."
Rachel - lol
PR - so they leave, and I go back to talking to my friends
PR - who are pretty amazed at what just happened
PR - then Jeremy says "they're coming back with police"
Rachel - LOL are you fuckig serious
PR - I'm facing away from the cops, and I don't turn around.
PR - I just ask how far away they are
PR - "about 20 seconds"
Rachel - omfg
PR - so I keep talking to jeremy for about 20 seconds
PR - from a public bench, on a public sidewalk
Rachel - sober too
PR - keep in mind, at no point in this evening have I had a drink, lost my temper, or even raised my voice
PR - well, I had 5 drinks as soon as I got to sunnyside
PR - but again, not relevant
Rachel - lol
PR - so I keep talking to jeremy until I feel the cop grab me my the arm from behind
PR - he tells me to leave
PR - I ask on what grounds
PR - he says "tresspassing"
Rachel - wtf
Rachel - that is SUCH bullshit
PR - I tell him that I'm on a public bench
Rachel - leave it to the cops to take the side of the buisness
PR - and that I have no plans to trespass on their property
PR - and he says - and I'm not making this up - "you're in my city"
Rachel - bastard
PR - "you've got two choices: you can go home, or you can go to jail"
Rachel - wtf
Rachel - you CANNOT be arrested for that shit
PR - I ask him if he's going to arrest me for sitting on a public bench
Rachel - what an arrogant pig
PR - so he says again, "you can go home, or you can go to jail"
PR - I say "I'd like that in writing"
Rachel - lol
Rachel - o0o
Rachel - you badass
PR - so he says "hands on the railing. you're under arrest."
PR - "here's your writing"
Rachel - OMG
Rachel - no wayy
PR - way.
PR - so he puts the handcuffs on, and my friends are just in shock
Rachel - thats kind of hot though...Id like to be arrested lol
PR - lol
PR - my friend called me after to ask why I was grinning while getting cuffed
PR - I didn't realise I was grinning
Rachel - lool
Rachel - omg I WISH i could have seen that
PR - so he calls a squad car, (code 93 or something), and leads me to it
Rachel - lol tell me more
PR - sorry, back
Rachel - but really that is pretty hot...you got arrested
PR - so once we're out of earshot, he says "I'm going to tell you one more time. You can go home, or you can go to jail."
PR - sorry, my bad
PR - "You can go home, or you can go to jail and do this by the book"
PR - I tell him "I haven't done anything wrong tonight, officer. I think I'd like to do this by the book."
PR - so he puts me in the squad car and turns me over to the officer driving it
Rachel - LOL
Rachel - man I really wish i could have seen this go down
PR - lol
PR - I'm so pissed off at my friends
PR - when he said "hands on the railing"
PR - I gestured at them to get a fucking camera out
PR - and they just stood there like idiots
Rachel - LOL
Rachel - fuck
Rachel - that sucks
PR - I wanted a picture of that
Rachel - a picture would have been epic
PR - a) because it would have come in handy in court
O - and b) because it looks badass
Rachel - omg yes
Rachel - that would be a hot picture
Rachel - i dont know what it is but anything related to jailtime= hot
PR - sorry to disappoint you, rachel, but I never went to jail
Rachel - lol you coudnt handle it
PR - the second cop wasn't as big a dick. He drove me around the corner and said that I wasn't being held
PR - I told him I'd like to get everything on the record anyway
Rachel - I once found out a guy i found attractive did about 3 years in jail..and it turned me on
Rachel - lol
Rachel - i take it he just toko you home then?
Rachel - *took
PR - no
PR - after I told him. I said I wanted to be given the breathalyzer test
Rachel - good.
PR - I hadn't had anyhting to drink
PR - but that car didn't have a test machine
PR - I asked if any nearby squad cars did
PR - he said "it doesn't matter, you're not driving home, are you?"
PR - and I said that yes, I was.
PR - so he asks what kind of car I own, and where it's parked
PR - when we get to it, he lets me out of the squad car, and smells my breath
PR - which pissed me off, because I wanted an actual readout for the record
Rachel - yah
Rachel - that is SUCH bullshit!
PR - then he unlocks the handcuffs and hands me a charge citation for trespassing
Rachel - but a bunch of guys from your frat saw it happen...your a legend lol
Rachel - whatttt
PR - yeah
PR - I ask him how I go about disputing that in court
PR - he says that the info's all on the citation, and that if I challenged it, he would testify against me.
Rachel - jackass
PR - once I got into my car, he drove off
Rachel - he wasnt even there
PR - I checked the 20 messages I'd gotten in the 10 minutes since I got arrested, then came back here
Rachel - omfg that is bullshit
Rachel - definately fight that
PR - I will.
Rachel - lol but [PR]...you got arrested
Rachel - how hot
Rachel - is that
PR - hey, when I was asked to leave the bar, I left. When they told me not to touch their railing, I didn't. But when a bouncer tells me to get off a public sidewalk, he can go fuck himself.
Rachel - oh definately
PR - and when a cop does the same, I made him arrest me
Rachel - that is such bullshit
Rachel - lol
Rachel - oh you badass
PR - lol fuck off
Rachel - lol
PR - I'm way too irritated right now to deal with sarcasm
Rachel - you may not find it great now but im sure its a story you will love telling
PR - oh, you have no idea
Rachel - and im serious that shit is hot
Rachel - you got arrested
Rachel - hott
PR - lol
PR - seirously though, apparently I was grinning the entire time
Rachel - you would
PR - I did.
PR - so what did you do tonight?
Rachel - I talked to Hani about how I got ditched for the black BBQ and then I tried to help him come up with a name for his team for guild wars
PR - lol
Rachel - they ended up with the same lame name they started with
Rachel - and you know i had one of those days where i take forever getting ready only to get fucking ditched
Rachel - im so pissed
PR - I think the funniest part was when I was in the squad car
PR - and I was crushing the cigarettes in my back pocket
PR - now, you obviously don't reach into a pocket to grab an unknown object while in police custody
Rachel - lol
PR - so I ask, "Officer, I'm just going to reach into my pocket to move my cigarettes to somewhere that they won't get crushed"
PR - so he says okay
PR - then he asks "What's a guy like you doing smoking anyway?"
PR - and I say....
PR - I know you've read my blog, so you probably know the answer
PR - "shiny packaging and peer pressure"
PR - sarcasm: not always the ebst approach
PR - *best
Rachel - lol
Rachel - not with cops
Rachel - its best to let them dominate
Rachel - lol
PR - whatever, I got their names.
Rachel - good
PR - I'm not going to go home because a cop threatens to arrest me. not if I haven't broken a law
Rachel - fuck that is so messed up
Rachel - but still..hott
Rachel - lol
PR - lol thanks
Rachel - how were their cuffs?
PR - left some bruises, but otherwise not bad
Rachel - damn
Rachel - I want some of those
PR - they feel the same as the ones I have, but they ratcheted them tighter than I do


















...










I still can't believe it. I was never aggressive or belligerent. I never lost my temper or even raised my voice. When they asked me to leave their property, I left. When they asked me not to even touch the railing, I complied. But when a bouncer tries to order me off of a public bench on a public sidewalk, he has every right to go fuck himself; when an officer of the law does the same, I wanted that order on paper.

This isn't some third-world junta. This is Ottawa! I realize how melodramatic this kind of thing is going to sound, but our society is based on the rule of law. A police officer is granted - rightly - certain authorities over other citizens for the good and welfare of society; but a badge is not carte-blanche to give orders arbitrarily under the guise of legal authority. I got arrested for sitting on a public bench, breaking no laws, and I fully intend to make a scene over this.

I'm not a petty criminal. I'm not a menace to society. I don't have a criminal record; christ, I've never been arrested before. And even if these things were not the case, I would still be in the right.