Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gobble Gobble

On December 18 I spent the afternoon volunteering at Loblaws for Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Second Harvest is a Canadian charity that recovers excess food from restaurants and redistributes it to social-service agencies. This was my second time participating in this event, and this year it really hit home as I was laid off from my full-time job, which made it even more important to help out. Perspective is everything.

And so I donned a Santa hat, grabbed some fliers, and worked up a short and cheerful spiel to say to customers who came to the frozen-turkey case. All smiles and positivity, I spoke to many people who no doubt have been inundated with appeals for donations. Many generous folks bought birds that afternoon (263 in total) ranging in price from $13 to $50. A lot of bellies will be filled this coming Christmas.

Despite what some may think, there was no particular type of person who donated: young, old, tidy, sloppy, male, female, singletons, families–they all opened their wallets to help others.

There was, however, one exception: vegetarians. It’s not like I knew they were coming, as if they had an Xed-out cow tattooed on their forehead. Rather, when I approached they announced their dietary choice loud and clear, “I don’t eat meat!” “I’m a vegetarian!”

Clearly, we’d crossed wires. My spiel, “Hi! I’m from Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Would you like to donate a turkey to feed Toronto’s hungry,” lacked pertinent details. The bird wasn’t for the giver, it was for other people. Ok, I readjusted and provided options.

“Oh, but the turkey isn’t for you. You simply buy it to feed those in need.”


“Ok, well, perhaps you’d like to consider an online cash donation. Here’s the website...,” I beseeched in vain as they walked past.

I wasn’t the only person who noticed. My comrade in wings, so to speak, encountered this resistance too. “What’s that all about?” he whispered, “It’s not like they have to eat it!”

Just to be clear, I stopped eating meat for two years once upon a time. For many reasons, I reclaimed my omnivore status and have never looked back. And for just as many reasons, others remain stalwart. Very well, I can respect that. Different strokes. More bacon for me.

But why must one’s personal and voluntary dietary restriction prohibit giving food to those whose “dietary restriction” is involuntary? I can’t believe that people think animal rights come before those of a person who must choose between rent and food. Or do some tofu-munchers feel the moral imperative to impose their wishes on those with few choices? I certainly hope not.

I often hear the argument that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one that includes meat. That may well be true. There are many poor people around the world who don’t eat meat. What’s also true, however (Hindus aside), is that meat consumption in many emerging economies has gone up with increased income. This leads me to believe that poor people would likely eat more meat if and when they could afford it.

Ah, but who knows what those individual vegetarians were thinking; it matters not. I can only hope that they dropped some non-perishable food in the Daily Bread Food Bank bin or wrote a cheque. People in this city, and elsewhere, needn’t go hungry. That is the true moral imperative.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


In October 2010, Toronto underwent a mayoral election. Apparently we were an angry lot. Terribly so. I suspect that like many of the citizenry, I would have never had known this unless I was told by Rob Ford’s campaign. There was a “gravy train” at city council that so glutinous, so dripping, so deep and tasty Julia Child would be jealous. Yes, I ought to be angry. But I wasn’t.

There was a life-sucking land-transfer tax in place that was so prohibitive people were running screaming to Richmond Hill to avoid it. I ought to be angry about that too since I’m a renter who cannot yet afford to buy a home many of which list at $350,000...before tax. Any tax. Even before bidding wars set in. Grr? No, not really.

But the $60 car-registration tax surely must have raised my ire! That must boil my blood, yes? Nope. Smog pisses me off as do single-rider SUVs and congestion caused by private vehicles, but taxes on these vehicles. Nah. TTC fare hikes rankle, but I think there are bigger fish to fry.

Ooh, speaking of fish, what about the garbage strike, huh? That was AWFUL! It threatened our very way of life and civilization itself! THAT should have really gotten my goat. Well, it wasn’t pleasant, but we lived, and largely forgot about it.
Well, I must be angry about something, right?

Hmm. Let me think. Yes, by Jove I am.

I’m angry that I’m told by a bellicose, belligerent, pejorative-spewing spoilt brat that I’m angry and that I’m an elitist because I can string multisyllabic words together in a sentence uninterrupted by “uhs,” “ums,” and corporate jargon.

I’m angry because people who never venture into the downtown core let alone ride public transit are going to dictate its nature and makeup.

I’m angry that the very Conservatives that foisted amalgamation on Toronto in 1998* are now complaining that council is too big and things cost too much.

I’m angry that the minority Conservative federal government** that ignored the duly elected mayor of the largest metropolis in the country*** and stuck the G20 in the financial district endorsed the mayor-elect.

The funny thing about anger is it can make you do awful, destructive, desperate things. However, to channel the old-school punk ethos, anger can also be an energy and it can be power.

Yes, I’m angry...and engaged.

*Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris showed up at Rob Ford’s celebration shindig.( See CP24's coverage.)

**Finance Minister Jim Flaherty endorsed the Ford campaign.(See The Globe and Mail)

***David Miller interviewed by Matt Galloway on CBC's Metro Morning and Miller's press confernence as reported by Digital Journal.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Shooting the Moon

Ok, so here’s the thing. I was recently laid off from a job that I loved, but for which I was underpaid. (I know, me and everyone else, boo hoo.) Characteristically, I’m seeing this as a much-needed kick in the ass to find a better job doing what I love whilst doing freelance work. I’ve spent the better part of the week updating, revising, social networking, and actually applying for positions that at first glance appear way out of my league. Redundancy can do wonders to your ego sometimes.

During this endeavour I’ve come across the old saw, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll hit the stars,” meaning even if you don’t get as far as you want, you’ll go farther than you are. Unfortunately, I think science differs on this. Correct me if I’m wrong, but stars are suns many of which are dying hence their brilliance and reason why we can see them light years away. Why would you want to be around a bunch of dead suns? More to the point, they are actually past the moon that is in our solar system, which is home to just one sun that is very much alive and fiery.

So do I shoot for a moon and hit…a satellite? That would cause an international incident, I should think. The ensuing headlines (“Unemployed editor shoots down TV satellite: millions of Americans riot”) wouldn’t make for good job prospects. (Then again, whatever did happen to the air steward who swore on mic? Bet he got a book deal…) And who wants to reach a satellite anyway. Yawn.

I’ve decided, then, to shoot for a planet, maybe that new earth-like one scientists found recently. Hmm. If you were to believe author John Grey, women are from Venus so perhaps I ought to aim there. Nah, too Oprah. Mars? Too trendy, plus the film crews will be there any minute. Uranus? Next. How about I shoot for Pluto, which sits on the outermost reaches of our solar system, and reach the moon.

Yes, that will do nicely. Now where are my bow and arrow…

Monday, May 17, 2010


I watched Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 again the other day after reading Arthur C. Clark’s novel of the same name, which was written during film production. One of the themes I got from the film and book was the nature of intelligence, sentience, and its control. Near the end of the second act, astronaut David Bowman unplugs HAL, the on-board computer that controls everything after it kills Bowman’s colleague Frank Poole. Up to this point, human crewmembers have treated HAL as a fellow with intelligence and feelings, entrusting this machine with their lives. When that trust is betrayed, and HAL understands the cost of the deed, it begs for mercy.

In both the book and the film, this monologue is really quite touching. You almost feel sorry for the computer that made the mistakes. Had this machine been human, we’d understand its error as part of our collective condition. To err is human, to forgive is divine.

But if one of our agents, a computer, shows up one of our human errors, we must reboot or unplug. We are forgivable, but the machine of our making is not. It doesn’t enjoy the same rights and privileges we do. It is not a person. (By the way, women were not considered “persons” in Canada until 1929.)

In his recent Globe and Mail essay, “One Robot, One Vote?”, Neil Reynolds, addresses the issue of robot rights. For a good chunk, he assumes that cyborgs will have genders and discusses sex, marriage and divorce. Sadly, he doesn’t entertain the notion of gender neutral robots or same-sex human-robot relations.

He does, however, bemoan the fact that “so far most of the heavy thinking about their rights, responsibilities, and morality has come from comic books.” Hmm. Yet he cites Clark and Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics,” neither of whom wrote comic books. (He also cites the Bible, which is now a graphic novel.) We could also look at Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek the Next Generation (“Oh, Data, you are a gem!”). Science Fiction and comic book are the playgrounds of ideas, particularly the uncomfortable ones that make lesser men and women squirm. Why not do our heavy thinking there? Where else will it be done: government?

Will robots eventually have rights? I expect so. We’ll create them in our own image. I just hope that by the time we have to put this heavy thinking into action and words, we ourselves become more humane.

Playing with the Boys

Women and girls are still getting the short end of the stick when it comes to athletics. According the the Globe and Mail only Manitoba and Ontario allow girls to compete on boys' teams. Some argue that allowing a girl to leave a girls' team diminishes that team. Hmm. In Toronto, girls' hockey teams must still struggle to get prime ice time over the "traditional" boys' teams. (Women have been playing hockey for more than a century, so it seems there's another tradition at play, but I digress.) So if they aren't allowed to play, they aren't allowed to flourish. If they can't flourish, they can't make a living out of it. Take a look at the Olympic Gold-medal winning women's team; most them play on men's teams. Yes, women's and girls' teams can only improve when the skills improve. And their skills can only improve when they get to play more often at higher levels that are often denied to girls' and women's leagues.

What year is this again?

Saturday, May 08, 2010


According to the Toronto Star and Toronto Life, the economic committee of the city of Toronto voted five to one in favour of allowing retailers to open on Christmas Day. Councillor Kyle Rae says that, “On Christmas Day, I spend my time in a movie theatre. It’s a great time… Family isn’t always a good thing.” (By the way, the councillor for Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale isn’t running again. Funny, that.)
This idea is wrong on so many levels, but I’ll attempt to list them.
  • It businesses cost money to stay open and pay their staff stat holiday pay, which is taxable.

  • Businesses are unlikely to hire new staff to work stat holidays, which would incur more employment taxes.

  • Current staff would be “strongly encouraged” to work Christmas.

  • If they protest, then they “aren’t a team player,” “person X has kids,” “you’re single, so you don’t what else are you going to do,” “you’re not religious, are you?”

  • Sunday shopping was supposed to take up the slack and offer jobs to the unemployed. Didn’t work out that way.

  • People for whom part-time retail is one of a number of jobs they have to make ends meet deserve at least one day off a year to rest. It has nothing to do with religion.

  • Having one day off a year that doesn’t entail shopping does in fact make us civilized. Consumption and gluttony are not hallmarks of sophistication.

  • In Ontario, the Liberals enacted “Family Day” as a day in bleak February for people to be with their kin. (I think it was more a cynical election ploy, but I digress.) Great! Wonderful! So now we’re being greedy in wanting to keep Christmas Day(or to be secular about it, December 25) a day off to be with our families?

  • If we’re like Rae and dislike our families, we can take the day off and be with friends, or volunteer at shelter, or simply rest. Not work. Not produce. Not consume.

    • Remember that this does not apply to banks, government, offices, and other white-collar middle-class employers. This is largely non-unionized service: restaurants, cafes, shops, bars, and so on.

    I’m sure there are many more arguments to be made.
  • Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Did You Feel That?

    This is just plain insane. In fact, I’m surprised some American religious zealot hasn’t picked up on this yet (or maybe on page 54,894 of a Google search, someone has). Anyway, just when we despaired of scientific illiteracy in North America, up to the plate steps Iran. The Guardian reports that according to senior Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, “women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.”

    Just as a quick reminder, Sedighi is referring to women showing their ankles and wrists. Makes men crazy, apparently. So not only has Cosmo been deceiving women for a generation, but so have scientists with their wacky notions of tectonic plates shifting. We women, by rolling up our sleeves and “getting down to business,” can now make the Earth move.

    Hmm. Why, with that power, we could, dare I say? Nah...really?

    Guns Ablazin'

    After an unwitting year-long hiatus, I’m attempting to stretch my literary legs again and make good on my daily rant that I can write better than some authors. And so it goes. Stringing words together into sentences that exude meaning and motion. So without further ado...

    Once upon a time, in a cubicle far, far away, I made plans to move to the United States. Nothing came of them, of course. Reality crept in, set my head straight and put my nose to the grindstone. Now, older, wiser, and nasally grounded, I am relieved to have stayed Stateless. Why? Crazy people. Crazy people who eat KFC’s double-downs. Crazy people who eat KFC’s double-downs while carrying guns. While I know statistically, Americans read more books, I’ll bet dimes to Tim Bits all those books are Smith & Wesson owner’s manuals, greasy with seven herbs and spices. Well, I’m here and they’re there and they can keep their guns. The streets of Toronto don’t need any more of their stolen and smuggled weapons.