Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Public Transportation

To begin with a modicum of clarity, I don't hate public transportation.

In Vancouver, our public transportation system is pretty good - not as good as it was 5 or 10 years ago, but good enough nonetheless.

That said, apart from moving me swiftly to my destination, public transportation serves as a melting pot of humanity - every type of person, from the most degenerate human excrement to the clean-cut, tailored-suit wearing pompous "master of all he surveys" (insert sweeping hand gesture here).

Having lived right downtown for the past 3 years or so, it's interesting to return to daily use of Vancouver's transit system, and the denizens of those buses and trains to not disappoint. Let me tell you some of the incredible people I have borne witness to.

Electric Cart Bubble Lady: I have a terrible hatred for 90% of the people I see driving around on those little electric scooter things, and I will tell you why. First of all, when you drive one of these things on the sidewalk, you take up twice the width of a normal person. Second, most people drive their little scooter things at half of normal walking speed, which is approximately 1/5th of MY walking speed. And third, when they stop and stand up to walk into a store, it tells me that they aren't driving that little scooter around out of medical necessity, they're driving it because they are a) fat, b) lazy or c) both. Electric Bubble Cart Lady appeared to have a geniune need for her motorized scooter thing, so I won't hold it against her. With her curled up, arthritic-looking hands, I sympathize, and bear no ill-will toward her. She is, however, an example of peculiarity. See, her electric scooter thing was fully enclosed with some sort of plastic shield, opaque on top, clear around the sides and front affording her visibility. Through the plastic I could see her scratching lottery tickets with her twisted hands, shifting uncomfortably on the scooter's seat, and I had to ask myself - "How the hell does she get into this thing?".

Racially Confused Steretype Lad: It's one thing to see people dressed head-to-toe in urban "inspired" clothes, spouting racially-derived slang and generally serving as a terrible stereotype for people of their race, creed or colour. It's entirely something else to see this kind of behaviour emulated by someone of an entirely different race, creed or colour. The FUBU hoodie, the baggy jeans pulled down to your knees, referring to your companions as "nigga", a bullet of malt liquor protruding from your oversized pocket - this targets you as a stereotype if you're black, but it targets you as a complete and utter moron if you are white. The odds are good that your parents are upper-middle class, two car garage, SUV-driving, ski-chalet for a few weeks in the winter kind of people. The only thing "ghetto" about you or your background is what you saw on reruns of "21 Jump Street". Also, if you can afford the designer labels that you're wearing - your Slim Shady Switchblade hoodie? Your pre-torn FUBU baggy jeans? - yeah. You're not fooling me. I know money when I see it.

Homeless, Unwashed, Free-Riding Conspiracy Theorist: I don't hate the homeless. Generally. I'll make exceptions for those who misbehave, but I have sympathy for people who have fallen on hard times and not been able to claw their way back out. This kind of character (and there are many, I promise you)...where to begin. They enter the train car, bringing with them the stench of urine, cheap booze and terrifying body odour (it manifests as an almost-tangible cloud, extending outward from them - I can almost feel it winding around my ankle...), and plant themselves down in the seat next to the first person who is unfortunate enough to make eye-contact with them. Then the stories start. "D'you know Prince Charles is the antichrist?" he (usually a he, not always though) slurs. "Mind controlling drugs in the city's drinking water, that's why I only drink wine." and so on. Their stories usually come to an abrupt end when transit police appear to do a fare check, and of course Homeless, Unwashed, Free-Riding Conspiracy Theorist wouldn't dare spend his hard-panhandled change on something as frivolous as transit fare.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Moving & Material Wealth

Ahh, springtime. When a young man's fancy turns to love.

I however, being 30 (by no means OLD, I know), obey no such missive. My fancy has turned to solitude, and as such I find myself separating MINE from HERS, packing my life into a number of cardboard boxes, and seeking a new place to call home.

Not wanting to go into detail about this division, suffice to say the prospect of having a home all to myself for the first time since spreading my wings and departing the parental nest is one of the most positive feelings I have ever felt. Ever.

That having been said, the interim period of packing and moving is - and always has been - a torment that I would expect reserved for one of the deepest layers of hell.

Maybe it's the ability to see what typically represents a person's life, distilled down into the contents of a number of boxes.

Maybe it's the notion that one's life can be represented by a collection of "stuff".

While my bitterness is typically reserved for the acts of ignorance and and selfishness committed by mankind, in this case it is directed toward a more abstract villain - mankind's (and specifically, my own) way of acquiring a sense of accomplishment through the act of collecting material posessions.

In my heart, I know that I don't need all the things I have. I collect films out of habit, justifying each needless purchase to myself in a variety of ways - I need to listen to the director's commentary to aid in my film studies, this new edition has all new documentaries that the last 4 versions I purchased didn't have, this one is a limited edition and if I don't buy it now, I'll never have another opportunity. And yet despite being able to observe the situation rationally, it does nothing to deter my absurd spending habits, and thus a 6th copy of Night of the Living Dead enters my collection.

And to what gain? I've seen these movies a dozen times over, and yet I keep buying them every time they get rereleased. And they keep getting rereleased because people like myself keep buying them! It's a vicious circle that I perpetrate against myself.

It is a similar situation with my collection of books. As a writer, I must be an avid reader - no good writer doesn't read; writing skill can be honed via osmosis. As a complete nerd, I also play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, which means owning a vast collection of those books as well. Leave it to me to choose the heaviest hobby I could think of. A box of 20 hardcover books weighs enough to throw my back out. My collection presently fills 12 of those boxes, none of which I particularly want to carry up and down any flight of stairs.

And yet I continue. Even now, as I prepare to transfer the last of my posessions into boxes I find myself wandering the aisles of (popular Canadian electronics store) investigating the newest Blu-Ray releases (this, despite the fact that the Blu-Ray player is not among the posessions moving with me), and a shipment from (popular internet shopping service) is days away from my mailbox with three new books and a dvd.

In this, I have only myself to blame.

And even now, knowing that this problem persists, I wonder, if I could put an end to this cycle, would I?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

International ______________ Awareness Day

Anti-Bullying Awareness Day
Bullying Awareness Week
Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Sexual Abuse Awareness Day
Elder Abuse Awareness Day
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Software License Awareness Day
Global Anti-Piracy Awareness Day
Singles Awareness Day
National Caffeine Awareness Month

No matter where you turn, if you open the newspaper, chances are it's some kind of awareness day where you live.

The examples above? All very real. Some very stupid.

But the truth is, I hate every kind of awareness day. All of them. In an age where every holiday has been co-opted by consumerist culture as an obligation to purchase greeting cards, candy and themed stuffed toys, now we have piled on days meant to raise awareness of every subject the diseased human mind can imagine.

No. I won't have it.

The world can take all their awareness days and stick 'em.

I am sick and tired of people organizing awareness days. Are you familiar with cancer research? Do you know anyone in that field? Next time you see them, tell them that you're helping their research by raising awareness.

Make a fist. Extend your middle finger. This is how much "raising awareness" helps in the extermination of fatal diseases, the curbing of schoolyard bullying, the sexual assault of pre-sexual children, and so on.


Why are there so many awareness days? Because the people who coordinate them do so in order to contribute absolutely nothing to their chosen cause, but get back a feeling of accomplishment.

Organizing awareness days is great for absolving the guilt that people feel for not being able to contribute to the resolution of difficult, world-affecting issues.

Know someone with breast cancer? Wow, must be hard for them. Makes you feel bad thinking about it, huh? You don't want your friend to suffer. I know! Hold an awareness day! Wow, that's great! You're spreading awareness! That must help! Oh, now your friend is dead. Huh. Guess that awareness didn't go as far as you thought it would.

People, get a clue. Stop spending all that money organizing awareness days. Advertising, cute color ribbons, nice t-shirts with "Crack Whore Awareness Day" in a fancy logo cost money. You want to be part of the solution? Donate that money to groups researching proper solutions instead of spending it yourself, forming your own group to spread awareness.

Anti-Bullying Awareness Day? I was bullied in school (I know, big surprise, right?). Let me tell you: the people who could have stopped it were plenty aware of the problem. They just couldn't be bothered to intervene.

So stop supporting these things. Spread cold hard cash instead of awareness. Stop giving bullshit not-for-profit organizations a reason to exist (and a reason to abuse non-profit society tax breaks).

It's all a waste of everyone's time, and it only helps the organizers, not the people who really need assistance.

At least as far as I'm aware.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Movie Theatres

Though I do not posess much (read: anything) in the way of faith or religion, that lacking has never precluded me from giving due respect to a higher power.

That power is imagination (and it is precisely that power that gave birth to all other deities, but that's a topic for another time), and I have always preferred to honor its presence in the medium of film.

The movie theatre has long been my temple, and the rituals that I have abided in my weekly sojourns have as much rote as as Midnight Mass.

So it is with much regret (and pain) that I find my temple desecrated - it's once bright sheen now tarnished with the mire and misery.

I can let slide the ever-rising ticket prices. I'll even forgive the outrageous concession stand costs (I typically spend twice as much on snacks as I do on the price of admission, and never have I felt that the food prices were justified).

But the people. Oh the people. I cannot forgive them.

First of all, we are all there for the same reason, aren't we? We all paid the high prices to get in the door, didn't we? When then are you distracting my movie-watching experience by text-messaging your friends for the entire duration of the film?

My last excursion to the theatre (a dismal experience to say the least) was on Valentine's Day. I normally loathe Valentine's Day (another topic for another time), and this year I was given no reason to change that stance: As the lights dimmed and the movie began, the patron directly behind me loudly announce to his female friend how "so drunk!" he was. A short time into the film, the young lady to my right (who had politely asked my wife and I if we could shift down one seat to make room for her boyfriend) answered a phone call and proceeded with a whispered conversation for no less than 10 minutes. (You might ask why I didn't say something - apparently she was whispering only loud enough to be heard by those on either side of her...that is, her boyfriend and ME. My frustrated glares were apparently not being received correctly, but speaking out against her ghastly behaviour would only have disturbed others around us, and I don't want to contribute to the problem). Half way through the film, the girl directly behind my wife (presumably the companion of the guy who was "so drunk") threw up into her popcorn bag.

If I came to your church drunk, talked on my cell phone through ten minutes of the sermon and then threw up, I would likely be arrested.

And yet people come to the movie theatre (MY church) and get away with this sort of behaviour with alarming regularity.

With the rising prices making these excursions to the theatre more and more a luxury, I can't believe how utterly disrespectful the other patrons continue to be. And it seems to be getting worse.

There was a time when movie theatres showed no commercials. We listened to soft music until the lights went down and the curtains went up (the curtains!) and after a couple of previews the movie began. There were no cell phones to disrupt the show. No affordable laser pens to flash across the screen. Now, those days are long behind us.

Had I the means to do so (that is, the finances), I would open my own movie theatre. There would be a strict dress code - formal wear. There would be no advertising, save for the trailers preceeding the show proper. Concession costs would be well below ticket prices. Cell phones and similar electronic devices would not be permitted. And there would be curtains.

In this perfect theatre, all the patrons would respect the night out.

They would come, watch, enjoy and leave.

It would be everything I could hope for.

And I would owe it all to excluding just about everyone.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I have a dog.

Living in a building that is pet friendly (and next to a building that is pet friendly, and across the street from a building that is pet friendly...) means that there are many neighbour dogs for my little hellbeast to play with.

Getting a pet - a dog, for example - is a big responsibility. They have to be fed, cleaned, brushed, and walked. In fact, they have to be walked often. And it's when that happens that I get really tired of living in the vicinity of other people.

Dogs, like most living creatures, excrete substances. Unpleasant substances. And they do it two, three, maybe four times a day, depending on their diet. No one wants to pick those excretions up. But guess what, pet owners? That's the kind of thing you signed up for when you got yourself a pet!

Many of my neighbors fall into the "Wow, that's sick! I'm not going near that!" category. I don't. That means that when I take my little dog out into the common areas of the neighborhood so he can check his pee-mail and leave some of his own, I feel obligated to pick up his little mess. And being in the minority in my neighbourhood, that means both the dog and I have to navigate a minefield of dog droppings in our to accomplish our respective tasks.

Needless to say, my dog isn't nearly as careful about where he steps as I am.

Worse yet, a lot of the neighbours have BIG dogs. There is one thing I utterly loathe about big dogs. And I am regularly reminded of it when I take my pet out for the last squirt of the night and he walks right through a mess the size of a birthday cake.

I understand! It looks like it weighs 5 pounds and you don't want to put your hands in it! But I don't care! You knew the giant black Lab you adpoted was going to do things like that every day! After a week of not cleaning up after your dog, the strip of grass more resembles a hazardous waste dump, and for some reason that's where my dog wants to go!

And I wish it ended with dogs.

I know cat owners who keep the litter box in their living room (or kitchen, good LORD) and then don't bother cleaning it for a week. I don't visit those people if I can help it.

I know parents who notice their kid needs to be changed and wait for their other half to do the work (this plan breaks down when both parents are extremely stubborn, and it's the kid who has to suffer it).

Irresponsibility is rampant. A big part of it is just that people are bloody lazy.

But more than that, it's that there aren't enough consequences for this kind of behaviour.

It is actually the law where I live that pet owners must properly dispose of their pet's waste when it is deposited anywhere other that the pet owner's own property. If there was a by-law enforcement officer to hang out in our neighbourhood and fine the people who can't be bothered to remove their mongrel's filth, maybe people would start to get the idea.

Ah, but that sounds too optimistic. People learning lessons about their own lousy behaviour and making effort to alter or improve themselves? That doesn't sound like the world I live in.

Maybe if I just woke up tomorrow and all the pet owners were gone, along with their pets, I wouldn't have to worry about it.

Maybe then it'd be the smell of fresh air and green grass that greeted me when I took my cared-for pet out first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


In school, math was not my strength (five years of counting 7000 packs of cigarettes each night solved that problem). English, on the other hand, was.

My spelling was well advanced of my age, and I taught myself how to read (through the aid of Star Wars read-along books...back when they came with records tucked into the back cover, then also when they came with audio tapes).

I was reading Stephen King by age 10 (Cujo has a particularly inappropriate chapter for a 10-year old), and Douglas Adams by 12.

It was the only class I ever did consistently well in, until my last two years of high school when video productions became an option.

I love words. I'm fascinated by punctuation. I am excited at the prospect of good grammar.

And I am utterly furious that the language I know as English is regularly raped and abused by people who claim to speak it.

The biggest offender of recent years? Guard yourself for truth:

Google is not a verb.

That's right. I have had entirely enough of people telling me to "google" things. Just as I do not refer to tissue as "kleenex", nor do I ask for a "coke" when what I really want is a Sprite, I refuse to "google" something what what I really want to do is "search for a topic on the internet".

No, I do not care how many dictionaries include a company name as a transitive verb. It is not. No matter how many times advertising asked us "Do you Yahoo?", I don't believe anyone actually has Yahooed anything. I certainly don't recall numerous news articles relating to the addition of "Yahoo" into this dictionary or that as term referring to the use of an internet search engine.

So why "google"?

What is so special about "google" that it deserves a permanent place in our language, with a definition that does not necessarily require the use of the Google search engine in order for the term to apply?

That's right. "Google" is intended to be a general term. It's defined as being any internet search query using any internet search engine. You might find yourself "googling Webcrawler on Yahoo" if you're not careful.

I recently found myself in a heated argument about this very topic. When I decided to stop, accepting that my opponent would not be swayed on the matter, I was told that I should "Pick [my] battles".

Pick my battles? The entire sum of my post-secondary education - many thousands of dollars thereof - revolves around the English language, either in it's application or it's construction. The addition of a word like "googled" to the dictionary is like having someone piss on my face: I didn't ask for it, I don't want it, I don't appreciate it, and it is as offensive as it is abusive. Pick my battles? Hell, this is the battle I spent most of my life preparing for! The problem is that I'm hopelessly outnumbered, and most of the enemy doesn't even realize that they've started a war.

I don't substitute numbers for words. I know how to use a comma and an apostrophe.

I know how to spell apostrophe.

I do not err when employing the variations of your and you're or too, to and two.

And if everyone on earth who had ever used "google" as a verb were to die tomorrow, I would be one step closer to knowing true happiness.

Because I would still be here.

And I would have one less battle to fight.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


For someone as opposed to social interactions as myself, you might be surprised to know how infrequently I shop online. Having had my credit card number stolen and abused (repeatedly - that's a tale for another time, however), I tend to limit my online shopping to rarities that cannot be found within a reasonable distance from my home. And yet my habit of collecting things and an impulsive nature lead me down crowded aisles more often than not.

I really like buying things. I'm obsessed with technology - gadgets, toys, electronics. Likely a side effect of growing up in the 80's.

Now, as a relatively responsible adult with a pretty decent credit rating (and the heart of a kid who never really wanted to grow up), I want to buy neat things. It doesn't help that I can walk past a big box electronics store, a huge media store, a 3-floor bookstore, and a comics & collectibles shop on my way home from work.

The problem with all these wonderful stores is the same problem with everything else in my life - they are brimming with people.

When I go to buy a new dvd, I just want to get in and get out. I don't want to have to wait. I don't want to have to fight my way past people clamouring over Larry the Cable Guy or Scary Movie 3. I hate other people's taste in movies!

When I have to brave the comic shop, I don't want to have to wait until other patrons shuffle their huge, Comic Book Guy asses over to the cash register before I can do my shopping! Why did the owners of this store arrange the shelves to make the aisles so narrow anyway? Don't they know who most of their customers are?

And Christmas.

I used to love Christmas. The first year I was employed and driving, able to go off and do all my Christmas shopping on my own was so marvelous. But over the years, my interest in that has declined. Now, living in Vancouver, Christmas shopping is a nightmare - one that I want to wake from and never have again. What was once a glorious experience of gladly giving gifts to my loved ones has collapsed into a hatred of the holiday season and the consumerism that has erroded my very heart.

Once, I took great pleasure in going to a store and casually walking the aisles, looking at all the interesting things to spend my hard-earned money on.

Now, all I can think is how the experience is ruined by the presence of other people. How much happier I would be if I was just at home, shopping online.

As usual, how much better life would be if there was no one else around to spoil it.