Where’s the Beef?


 

The latest silliness in Alberta politics disguised as concerned activism stems from the announcement by Earls restaurant that they will be sourcing the beef for their meat laden menu only from suppliers that are certified “humane”.

Given the apparent lack of “humanely” procured raw meat in Canada, this means that Earls will be looking to our southern neighbor for the dead animals it needs to keep the ravenous consumers sated.

The official opposition party, Wildrose, which never misses an opportunity to lustily engage in drama and antics that most people lost interest in when they grew up, decided to support a boycott of Earls’ chain. Never mind that they were choosing one group of Albertan workers over another, or that as a political party perhaps their efforts might be better spent calmly assessing the situation and thoughtfully offering a solution for the ranchers and farmers who now appear to need to new certifications to compete with American producers.

No. A boycott is the go to. A gold standard move.

Politicians shouldn’t be expected to think any harder than the average toddler about issues that arise. Gut reactions and mindless pandering is what has made Alberta – indeed all of Canada – the superpower nation it is after all.

Boycotts as a political tool generally are about highlighting social or rights issues and forcing change by striking at fiscal bottom lines.

Increasingly, in Alberta anyway, boycotts are grounded in the notion that change is bad, and no one should ever have to do it for whatever reason.

Just to disclaim a bit, I’ve eaten at Earls two, maybe three, times. Ever. Red meat is the staple of their menu, and though I enjoy a burger or piece of steak here and there, I have never been much of a red meat-eater. Earls is just not on my radar.

If I were to boycott it though, my objections would be about the sexist way it expects its female wait staff to dress. I frown a lot about chains which put the servers on the menu as though they were a meat dish too.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I am finding the whole #BoycottEarls to be yet another cynical move by an increasingly desperate right-wing conservative movement to remain relevant.

Because connecting with people and inspiring them with real ideas and policies that speak to life in 2016 and a future that is sure to be different from our parent and grandparents is a lot more work than fanning (or creating) frivolous outrage in the current news cycle.

And who wants to work hard?

Let’s leave that to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Such a fool. Look where paying attention, giving a shit about everyone and working hard has gotten him, eh?

There’s everything consumer oriented with a business wanting to let customers decide about products on offer. It’s capitalism, as I understand it. And personally, I like knowing what I am consuming. So Earls is just following the growing interest of customers who aren’t as inclined to mindlessly shovel shit into their mouths anymore.

That said, it’s just as okay for people to decide not to eat at Earls because it offends their delicate sense of privilege or their politics.

But let’s not pretend that this boycott is about anything of importance. No one’s rights are at stake. There aren’t any great social issues in play.

#EarlsBoycott is another minor skirmish in the Alberta poli-war, which is important in its own way but certainly not worth jeopardizing the employment of Earls’ kitchen and wait staff.

In an atmosphere where Alberta is still shedding jobs, it begs a query as to why the Wildrose Party would so eagerly play partisan politics with the employment of some of the provinces less affluent workers. It seems to be a game to them, and Albertans should be wary of political parties that see jobs and citizens as pawns on a board to be played with in such an off-handed manner.

Partisan Bullshit


If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t have a nice world. One that runs well and works for most everyone most of the time. It’s because of partisan bullshit. This deeply seated need too many of us have to pick a side and stick to it right, wrong, whatever because “GO TEAM!”

I have meandered all over the partisan map.  At some points half of my beliefs have been in opposition to the other half even.

However, most of the time I straddle the center line with the occasional tight-rope walk just to spice things up.

So when I am confronted with blind lemming followers of this or that, the best I can muster anymore is “Well, good for you. At least you care enough to sort of pay attention.” Seldom do I add “If only you’d bother to think for yourself and apply a bit of pragmatism and common sense.”

But you can’t have everything, right?

There are people who want to be involved and immerse themselves in doing their little or lot bit for the cause, and so what if they mostly don’t understand how their cause fits into the bigger picture? They care. Deeply. That matters. Right?

And it’s better than apathy. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Last night my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets about Ayn Rand’s personal failings.

The tweeter is not someone I follow. He’s a pompous ass. He only interacts with the adoring throngs because he isn’t interested in any sort of conversation that might show him up or disprove his preferred view of reality.

That’s fine. Twitter is kind of about building your own little tunnel vision and sharing it with those who are similarly blinkered.

But the gist of his argument boiled down to “Ayn Rand took amphetamines and had serial killer fetish, therefore her theories about capitalism are bullshit.”

I got a D in Logic and Reasoning back in the day. In retrospect I should have gone to class more than I wouldn’t have had to pull an all-nighter to get a B on the final and hold onto my pathetic D.

However, poor background aside, I am fairly sure that Ayn Rand’s rambling nonsense on all things the far right-wing loves is crap because it’s crap and not because she was a questionable human.

If you wanted to apply the questionable human equals someone who is full of shit logic, it just so happens that Thomas Jefferson, that great American Founding Father, would tumble off his pedestal too.

After all, how can the father of personal liberty hope to escape judgement given that he was not only a slave owner but he forced his 15-year-old sister-in-law into a sexual relationship with him because he owned her.

Yes, Jefferson’s long-time intimate companion Sally Hemmings – who bore him six children – was not only his sister-in-law and his slave but, according to some accounts – was the doppelgänger of his dead wife.

Creepy and worlds of wrong barely begin to cover this situation and yet, Jefferson is revered. His ideas are seminal in terms of American political world building.

Personally, I think Ayn Rand’s appeal is that most people who bother to read her dirge of a novel, Atlas Shrugged, are young adults or teens when they do. The themes are appealing to the young, and who really ever goes back and re-reads the “great” novels of their youth? Hardly anyone. The fuzzy memories are always better.

Randian love and worship is a sign that you’ve not quite grow up yet. At least in your political world view anyway. It’s like people who cling to the idea that pure socialism will save us all. An immature idea that refuses to incorporate the reality that life is complicated because “people”.

Even though Rand’s idea are simple-minded, her personal failings and quirks are just human. Humans can be awesome. They can completely suck. But for the most part, they are somewhere in the middle. None of these states of being detract from the things people can accomplish.

For all Rand’s faults, she wrote a novel decades ago people not only still read, but they find things in it which push them to think and learn, and let’s be real, not everyone who reads Atlas Shrugged gets stuck in the limited world view.

I fear there is no way to cure for the world of side-taking or the inevitable outliers who live and die in the absolutism that makes the world a less nice place for us all.

Personally, I am done pretending to care about the fringes. Feigning politeness rather than rolling my eyes. I am part of the problem if I don’t.

Sometimes the other side is right. Sometimes the middle path is the best way.

And sometimes people need to calm the fuck down, grow up and spend some quality time in the real world with real people who don’t reinforce every blind prejudice they learned as a child.

 

 

Why I Still Hate Twitter


Twitter iconI originally joined Twitter because that’s what bloggers did and for a while, it was fun. Like the old Internet days of yore message boards where you met all kinds of people and even though there were occasionally dust ups, mostly everyone was cool about it eventually because meeting all kinds of people with different voices, ideas and opinions was the whole point.

Eventually celebrities, brands and politicians discovered Twitter and things began to change.

Twitter is more than ever about tribes. It is not about meeting all kinds of people. It is about meeting people who think and act like you do and waging war on those who don’t. It’s like high school. The crappy pecking order part. That only people whose best days were in high school gleefully embrace because they are out of place in the adult world.

It is rare to meet new people on Twitter who you will want to still know a week later. I rejoice when I find those people.

More often, I find that I meet people who only find me unobjectionable so long as I don’t have any differing opinions, or if I do, I don’t express them very often. Even more frequently I run across people who make me despair for humanity until I remember that Twitter – mercifully – represents but a sliver of humanity even at peak tweeting hours.

Twitter is probably still the best place to meet and be able to interact with those who are closer to gears and cogs of society than most of us will ever be. Journalists. Politicians. Politicos. Think-tank types. Activists. It’s why I am still there, but the flotsam and jetsam that circles them is sometimes hard to wade through, and on really bad days, it’s easy to see why democracy has had an easy time catching on but a difficult time actually working.

My husband thinks I should just walk away.

“People suck,” he reminds me at least every other day.

And by “suck”, he means people have individual personalities that have been shaped by time, experiences, agendas, narratives and other people. These personalities are more, or less, agreeable depending on the alignment of your personality with theirs. Or your level of zen.

I’ve spent most of my life working with people, which is probably a very odd thing for an introvert such as myself who genuinely finds people exhausting and a bit of a distraction.

One of the advantages to having been a teacher is that I learned how to deal with multiple personality types and their variants simply as a matter of survival, so unlike my husband, I am not surprised when interacting is a chore or worse or when large groups of people in an enclosed space – which Twitter is – sometimes collide.

Given that I am not sharing kitten gifs, celebrity or pop culture, it’s not surprising either that I tend to run into people who in real life, I would shun like toe fungus.

I like politics. I am intensely interested in the social aspect of it and the ripples and quakes it creates provincially, nationally and globally. Some of the politically minded on Twitter are incredibly knowledgeable and worth following. Many are like me – just aware, learning and interacting. Some are watchers. Some are sharers. Some are lone wolves. All bring something to the table that makes the wading worth doing.

And then, there are the others.

Within the category of “other”, there are sub-categories. Partisans whose degree of geniality varies. Agitators who might be partisan but whose prime directive is to stir things up according to their own agendas. And finally, the insane, which needs no explanation.

I don’t mind partisans. I don’t understand it, but I don’t mind them for the most part.

In my mind, there is no reason to wed myself in perpetuity to someone else’s version of reality or utopia – take your pick.

No matter how compelling the dogma might be, it just seems a bit Stepford Wife to me. However, keep in mind that 12 years of Catholic school and nearly a lifetime in the United States failed to morph me into a bot, so it’s conceivable that I am just naturally immune to the need to belong or be labeled in a way that so many seem to feel is vital.

Agitators are not quite partisans. They nearly always wrap themselves in the dogma, narrative and agenda of others, but they don’t seem to have a clear centre of their own. If that which they base every belief and utterance where to vanish next week, these folks would wander aimless like walkers, attacking and savaging randomly because it’s the only thing they know how to do. In real life, they are that woman at work. The one nobody really likes but everyone tries to get along with to one degree or other because it’s just easier that way.

Some have a bit of wit and intelligence. You’ll know them because they have a lot of followers, but the number of people they really interact with, or who share their screed, is small comparatively. Majority who follow these types do so for the entertainment value rather than because they agree with them.

Agitators generally have a cadre of groupies who will swarm dissenters like fire ants and at least one Insane follower who regularly immolates him/herself for the cause.

They believe passionately in what they believe. If you don’t, it’s because you are slow-witted and in need of tedious remediation or just plain stupid – depending – and not because you may be skeptical or discerning. Or have a mind of your own.

Occasionally these types hit their marks with enough accuracy to draw wider spread interest and even praise. Unfortunately, this just serves to make them more shrill rather than more accurate.

A few carry the torch of blind loyalty with a bit more nobility. They doggedly stump for the cause minus the mean girl memes, gifs and snark of the aforementioned. They form clans rather than attract clingers. Discussion are had. Many are likable despite the fact that you never really get to know them apart from their mission statement. Often when interacting with them, you are left with the feeling that are a quota that was met, checked off and filed. They are not unpleasant interactions but a bit hollow.

Last there are the nutters. You don’t need to be told when you inadvertently attract their notice although you often will be alerted via a DM (direct message) from someone you follow. Those private missives go something like,

“Back away slowly and then block.”

Blocking is just what it sounds like. Twitter, like many social media and message boards, allows users to screen and to deny other users. In the Twitsphere, blocking is a way to shut out voices that differ from the ones in your head that your prefer and by doing so, limits their interaction within your echo chamber or tribe.

Blocking is a weapon for silencing, a tool for avoiding thought and it is occasionally viewed as a badge of honour because often – provided you aren’t crazy and danger to yourself and others – it’s the people rattling the cages of the status quo who are blocked.

To be blocked is to know you’ve made an impact. Caused someone intellectual discomfort. Reminded the Emperor that not only is he naked, he never had clothes in the first place.

By now, you might wonder if I do indeed enjoy Twitter for all protestations of my loathing of it.

I like some of the people I have met and interact with. I’ve had good discussions and debate. But I know that I won’t be a regular much longer. It’s not a tool change. No one has ever changed the world via Twitter and no one ever will. In my opinion. Change is what people in the real world do. They do it. They don’t tweet about doing it.

For all its virtual reach, Twitter is a small place that most people will never visit because life and change is for doers and Twitter is about mocking that really.

The agitators on Twitter, for instance, revile those who are out in the world-changing the things that the agitators hold dear.

A good examples? Deborah Drever. Young MLA from Calgary whose Facebook page was scraped and pictures used out of context to try to force a recall of her after the last election.

She was hounded in the social media until it spilled into the news and forced the Premier to remove her from the caucus. She would have to sit as an independent, which put her riding at a disadvantage. Something that no one, clearly, had thought of before they began their petty campaign tantrum.

She could have quit. They wanted her to quit.

But today, she is still an MLA and she’s out in her riding, interacting and changing things because ACTIONS – real world ones – are the only things that count. For all the bile that was spewed at her, she did what her bullies won’t – she ran for office, got elected and is in a position to affect life and lives.

The majority of people in the world don’t care about the pictures on anyone’s Facebook page but their own and no matter how something flares in a news cycle, something else will replace it quickly enough.

Same can be said of Twitter. It matters only to those who are there. It’s a good place to meet like-minded to talk, speculate and share theories but after you’ve finished, you push away from the keyboard and you go do something in the real world that matters more.

Twitter itself is an illusion.

Do You Know Who You Are?


Someone asked me that tonight on Twitter. It’s a fair question if you don’t know me because, while I have a fairly consistent set of core values, I am not easily categorized in everyday terms.

I think he was annoyed that, despite my following Green people and sometimes tweeting green causes and issues, I am not green enough to not question things that don’t make sense or don’t match up.
But I am not any more liberal than I am conservative. I am not green because of my pragmatism or a socialist because I was raised by Depression Era parents. I subscribe to no particular worldview because there is validity to be found everywhere – if you keep an open mind and you can’t do that when you’ve picked a side. I learned that in Catholic school.

Yeah, I know.

I don’t believe in a god or gods, but I don’t discount the probable reality of a purpose driven universe and the immortality of that some of us call a “soul”.

I think religions have done more harm than good but don’t think people who practice a creed are necessarily bad or deluded.

I am a progressive though I don’t belong to the cult of “progress”. Science fiction will not save us.

And  I do believe in being accountable; earning your own way as much as possible is good for you and that a lot more issues than people realize are nothing more than distractions to keep us from paying attention to what is really important.

The economy, for example, is a distraction. Or at least all the hyperbolic rhetoric and mock warfare and shell-game math that gets tossed at us by the main stream (and off the beaten path) media, politicians and activists.

Justin Trudeau (infamously and to his likely dismay now) once said that “the economy/budget will take care of itself” or something close to it.

His opponents far and wide mocked and continue to mock such “naiveté”, but he is really not that wrong.

Budgeting has to be done. By everyone. Households, businesses and governments. But it is a lot less quantum physics than you think.

And for the most part that which is the free market – from which economies and government budgets are birthed – does take care of itself as it is largely outside the influence of even those who try to influence or manipulate it.

It grows, contracts and collapses and staggers back to its feet again. Driven a tiny bit by us but it’s mainly dependent on the fact that humans have needs and those needs are met via consumption.

We consume therefore we must work and have a system for bartering.

It’s kind of simple.

Even if everything imploded tomorrow morning with the bell on Wall Street (as likely a place as any), we’d still need things. We’d still have skills to ply. The economy would just flex to accommodate the new reality.

Whatever. Most talk of the jabbering about the economy and budgets is nonsense. Political parties can’t grow economies anymore than they can save jobs that are naturally migrating to newer, cheaper emerging countries. Politicians are impotent forces in terms of doing much good on a large-scale. They can (and have) managed to muck up a lot of things though. Leafing through any history book can tell you that.

But they’ve done great things, you will argue.

I will grant you that, but mostly by accident or as a by-product of something that was probably self-serving and turned out better than anyone could have dreamed.

So do I know who I am?

Do you know who you are?

You’ll give me a list of things you believe in. Groups you belong to. Things and people you love. Tell me about your causes – passionately, I am sure. Assure me that you aren’t a whole host of things.

The way you dress, wear your hair, your markings and piercings, taste in music, food, books and movies/tv will all scream something that probably isn’t you at all.

And in the end, you still won’t come close to telling me anything about the real you.

People’s natures can only be known through real time experiences. Whether that’s via intense conversation or adventures or just hanging out (and yes, it can be virtual).

But getting to know someone is intentional and time consuming.

Unlike my Twitter or Facebook feed, or even this blog.

If who we really are was so easily divined, people would get along better and the world wouldn’t teeter on so many brinks and we wouldn’t be worrying about economies or climate change to the extent that many of us are at actual or virtual war with so many others.

I just finished Justin Trudeau’s “memoir*” and the only thing I know for sure is that he held back. I still have no idea who the man really is but he probably isn’t the anti-Christ and Canada will survive him just like it’s surviving Harper or would survive Mulcair or May.

Look, just because I find this or that news article worthy of sharing or commenting on and just because in your eyes my thought pattern seems contradictory doesn’t mean I don’t know what I am doing or where I would like to go or have forgotten where I have been.

That which is me has survived more ups, downs, and twisty turns than you know or I could ever blog about.

My favorite Father of Confederation is Thomas D’arcy McGee.

He was born in Ireland. A gifted writer and a silver-tongued little devil who began his career at the tender age of barely 18 when he left Ireland for the United States to preach to the immigrant masses about freeing their homeland from British occupation.

He was an activist who eventually became a full-fledged terrorist and wound up in Canada solely because he needed a job and couldn’t go home to Ireland where an arrest warrant and deportation to Australia awaited him.

He ran the gamut from near apostasy to fundamentalist Catholic.

He was an alcoholic and a born again teetotaler.

An Anglo – Quebecker, he worked with McDonald to birth a united Canada and ended his life dreaming of a multicultural society of Canadians.

He died at the hands of a terrorist organization he once believed in with all his soul. They killed him because he knew their vision threatened his Canada.

Along the way, he changed his mind and rhetoric and ways so many times that his critics’ most consistent argument against him was that he never seemed to know what it was he stood for.

But he always did. In the moment and going forward, he knew who he was. He was, like everyone else, a work in progress.

His progress lead him on quite a journey. Mostly because he had an open mind (though he lacked the interest in ever admitting he’d changed it or had been wrong about anything ever).

I am not who I was thirty, or even ten, years ago. I won’t be of the same mind always as I go forward.

That which is me is always me, and it’s only for the privileged few to know. But who I am in this life changes as I learn and grow, as it should, and when I am in a growth spurt – as I am – is not the best time to try to pin me down.

I am just rambling, you think.

No. I’m thinking. On paper. If you’d been paying attention, you’d have figured that out about me already.

And you should try that sometime. You might learn something.

 

*Memoirs should be saved until one is old enough that one no longer worries about the fall out of being frank and having opinions about one’s one life and experiences. Just my opinion, mind you.

Remembrance Day


Until 9/11 the day known as Veteran’s Day in the United States, where I was born and raised, was just a day. Nothing particularly elaborate or widespread.

You knew it was a federal holiday by the absence of mail and the dutiful coverage by the media of ceremonies here and there.

Politicians, of course, pandered.

But really, it was not a big deal.

The attack on the Twin Towers in NYC changed that a little bit but it was still hit and miss regardless of the impression given by the media down there.

When I came to Canada, I discovered the true origins of this day*, and the fact that in some countries around the world – Canada being one of them – Remembrance Day’s meaning is kinda like the Grinch’s observation about Christmas – “maybe, perhaps, means a little bit more”.

Life doesn’t come to a complete stop for Remembrance Day in Canada. In fact, it’s not even a statutory federal holiday. But it’s important.

Not because – as some people (politicians especially) would like us to believe – the fallen soldiers of our too numerous wars died defending “freedom”.

They didn’t.

Soldiers die because politicians fail.

They fail to negotiate, compromise and find equitable resolutions to vexing problems. They fail to think in terms of years and decades out as opposed to between now and the next election. They fail to understand that war’s human cost is seldom worth whatever short-term solution was gained. And finally, they fail to do what they were actually elected to do, safe-guard our freedoms themselves through their words and deeds.

Every time a soldier dies, somewhere a politician’s karma gets deservedly more muddy.

Remembrance Day is important because we remember how awful war is by recalling the bright futures that never were. The young men and women who didn’t come home to family and friends. The waste. The horror. The destruction. The fact that freedom wasn’t democratically defended and promoted but was used like a blunt instrument on the landscape, lives, hopes and dreams of people we don’t know. Whose strangeness to us made it “okay” to destroy their homes and kill their children.

And we should remember these things. It’s a painful and humbling reminder that we haven’t got it all figured out. That we are works in progress, and at times, our progress hasn’t been for the greater good but for greed, power and the right of the conqueror to force his will on the unwilling.

My father and my uncles fought in World War II and in Korea. It changed them, or so I am told. I only knew the men forged by war not the men they were prior to war. I recognize what a great loss that was to me and for them.

I wear my poppy in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day like many, many others. I observe the day as do most of the people I know.

But I don’t think the day was ever meant to be about honouring as much as it was meant to be about remembering what was lost. Who was lost. And why we shouldn’t let war be the habit it has become.

 

*It’s amazing what you can learn about history when you leave the United States, where history is told in a way that is good for Americans and shorter on fact than a Texas social studies curriculum guide.

Meme’ing in the New Year


English: Fireworks over Reykjavik on New Year'...

Fireworks over Reykjavik on New Year’s Eve (Wikipedia)

 

Last New Year’s Eve, I stole a meme from my husband’s blog that proved to be quite an enjoyable retrospective in an end of the year sort of way. I was reminded of it as I browsed stats today and noted that the post had generated a bit of traffic. So because I don’t make resolutions or really do anything to commemorate the change over from one year to the next, I decided to haul this Q and A out and see how it applies to the year nearly past.

 

1.  What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

 

I didn’t really write. I thought about it. Plotted. Vaguely outlined. Mused. But in the end, I didn’t write a single piece of fiction. A first in the entirety of my life really because I have always been a storyteller. Even when I was too wee to write them down – I told stories.

 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

 

Again, I don’t make them and I wonder at people who do as they don’t seem to follow through on their self-promises much or at all. If you can’t even keep a promise to yourself, why bother?

 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

 

No. Rob’s niece by marriage and more marriage is expecting in the new year, but no one we know in person gave birth. Though a Facebook friend had a little boy on my birthday, I don’t think that counts. There are no flesh and blood babies in my life.

 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

 

No. Edie’s cat died not long ago. His name was Nike. 18 years old and with a personality and stories that have the potential to be a best-seller … in America anyway. They just love their feisty pets with personality plus adventures down there.

 

5. What countries did you visit?

Went to the States as we do at least once every year. Last time we will pull the holiday trailer however. Longest to and from ever. While we were there we did the tourist thing. Saw sites I hadn’t visited since I was a teen. House on the Rock for instances, which is a highly overrated hoarder’s heaven and Galena, which is little more than an arts and crafts sale masquerading as a hip artist enclave.

 

 

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

I don’t lack. it would be awesome if we could finish the renovations we started in 2010, so we could think about selling and moving closer to, if not actually in, civilization, but it’s not the most pressing matter.

If I wanted at all, the want was a tablet and after much assessing and comparing – Rob’s boss gave him an iPad as a “thank you” for a job well done. Want granted.

Oh, I would like a new bike. My husband has an awesome bike. I ‘d like one like it. But again, not a burning in my soul desire.

 

 

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Um …. can’t think of one. Nothing really happened. Okay, things happened, but not events that impacted me in a way that would etch a date on my brain matter.

 

 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I have cemented myself as a local teacher of yoga. I am surprised by how many people know of me or what I teach and when/where. I consider that an achievement.

 

 

9. What was your biggest failure?

 

Hmmmmmm. Failure? I would have said chocolate angel food cake because I haven’t been able to make one successfully from scratch, but I pulled that one off on Christmas Eve. So, no big failures this year.

 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Well, if you want to think of perimenapause as an illness (which it is and isn’t depending) than that.

You know how some people are always laying blame for this or that malady on hormones being out of balance or something? Turns out mine actually are. Working on that.

 

 

11. What was the best thing you bought?

 

A pair of 1969 Curvy jeans from the Gap. Awesome. Also, a down filled winter jacket from Mark’s. Money well spent.

 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

 

Well, my husband, Rob, continues to be fabulous. He re-roofed our house this summer, single-handedly, in spite of tornadic weather and gout in both of his ankles. Seriously impressive considering the rook is a 12/12 pitch that even had professional roofers bowing to him in homage.

 

13. Whose behavior appalled you?

The whole POTUS campaign in the US and pretty much everyone associated with it. The level of willful ignorance and appalling amount of disinformation on both sides decided me on whether or not to hang on to my US citizenship once I have become a Canadian citizenship, which will hopefully be in the coming year. I am just not like homelanders and I think that I never really did fit in down there.

 

 

14. Where did most of your money go?

Necessities and home improvement.15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I let myself care too much about the outcome of the US POTUS race. Not that there was much of a choice between the resident evil or the evil wanna be. One of my Facebook “friends”, a blogger of some renown who doesn’t know as much about politics, or reality, as she thinks she does, replied to a comment I left about “lesser evils” to the effect that I was morally bankrupt for not realizing that Obama was clearly not the evil one. He’s a “nice” guy. After all, his wife and kids love him.

But that just prompted me to recall Sondheim’s use of the word “nice” in Into the Woods. Nice is a catch-all word that means nothing of the kind. It’s the word we apply to things when we don’t want to really say what we think for fear of what others will think about us.

I also got really jazzed up about the provincial election here in Alberta and was frustrated by my inability as a landed immigrant to vote. I am so glad that when the next federal election rolls around, I will be a Canadian proper and able to participate in the electoral process. Though I twisted my husband’s arm on voting the PC’s back in – because Wildrose was simply unacceptable – if Trudeau ends up leading the Liberals, I might have to change allegiance even though the Alberta Lib leader, Raj Sherman, is an utter nob.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

Goyte’s Someone that I Used to Know or anything by Fun.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  I continue to be remarkably happy.
b) thinner or fatter?  I am thinner and probably in better shape than I have been in years.
c) richer or poorer?  Personally, I am poorer because I have cut back on my self-employment, but on the whole, status remains quo.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Gotten away for short holidays. Especially over the summer. We were far too home bound this year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?.

Wasted my time on US politics.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With family. Children and Rob’s mom. Probably a bit more of the latter than we needed. There is a reason why after we’ve grown and moved out of our parents’ homes and on with our lives that we keep visits short and try to always stay in hotels when we do visit.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

I remained in love and blissfully so. I know that sounds unreal that approaching six years of marriage, I am still very much into it, but I am.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Don’t watch actual broadcast tv. Don’t even have cable. We do have Netflix and I have tried to acquire a taste for tv shows ala carte, but tv is so boring. The acting is “meh” and the writing is generally atrocious.

If you like tv, nothing personal, but I have to wonder why and if something might be wrong with you.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No, I still have a general distaste for the same few. No outright hate but I wouldn’t shed tears if any of these people were to meet with an untimely demise.

24. What was the best book you read?

Hilary Mantel’s follow-up to Wolf Hall called Bring Up the Bodies was excellent, and Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden was brilliant.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Discovered nothing.

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted a tablet and lo, one appeared.

27. What did you want and not get?

I kinda hoped that Obama wouldn’t get re-elected simply because a new POTUS takes time to get up and running. Anything that would slow the evil that emanates from down there would have been a good thing.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

 

Didn’t see a single film in the theatre. Can’t stand going to movies.

 

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

 

We went to this great Indian buffet in Sherwood Park called A Taste of India. Excellent food. And I turned 49. It really feels about the same as the last two or three-ish years.

 

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

 

If I had gotten my letter from Canadian immigration telling me when and where to come to take my citizenship test.

 

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Still very yoga.

 

 

32. What kept you sane?

 

Rob, as always. Though I don’t know if I keep him sane, but that wasn’t the question, was it.

 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

 

I don’t really do that.

 

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

 

The issues surrounding the extra-territoral taxation that the United States is attempting to foist upon Canada in contradiction of our Charter Rights. It’s clear over-reach and it threatens our sovereignty.

 

35. Who did you miss?

 

Not really sure what this question is asking, so I am going to ignore it again.

 

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Did I meet anyone new?

 

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

If you can’t disagree without getting personal, foot-stomping or name-calling, you are probably not old enough to be allowed in a serious discussion.

 

 

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck.
Some nights, I call it a draw.
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they’d just fall off

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore…

 

 

 

Redneck Canada


Map of Alberta with cities, towns and highways

Map of Alberta with cities, towns and highways (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first moved up to Alberta, Rob told me that the land I would call home was not too different from a land in the States that I narrowly avoided having to put down roots in when I graduated from university back in 1987 – Texas.

Graduating into a recession, and with an English degree and a teaching certificate no less, I found that most job offers came from the south. Houston Independent, Brownsville, Nogales. Texas and Arizona border towns that boasted huge populations of immigrants – many illegal – and offered slightly better than dirt in exchange for educating their children. It was only the grace of the universe and an English supervisor from Des Moines, who saw potential in me, that saved me from acquiring an even more pronounced drawl than the one I still occasionally lapse into.

Imagine my dismay when Alberta turned out to be just as redneck as Texas.

Albertans might, probably, take offense, but the comparison is a valid one. This is oil patch country dotted with derricks and refineries and all other manner of ancillary businesses. There are ranches and rodeos. And when people refer to their smaller vehicle, it’s usually the Soccer mom version of an SUV. Trucks dominate, and just as in the states, most who own trucks are posers. The most they’ve ever hauled was their weekly haul from Costco.

Everyone here camps and has the RV taking up half their driveway to prove it. If they have a boat or quads as well, they park on the street.

Strathcona County, were we live, is faux farm country. An acreage is the dream so one has room for the rec vehicles and the trucks and can keep horses because if your kid doesn’t play hockey or ringette, they ride barrel or Gymkana.

If only it were easier to keep guns here and people twanged instead of elongating their vowel sounds, no one would know this wasn’t Texas.

Okay, the weather might give us away, but other than that …

Until recently, we had a sort of Rick Perryish Premier. The leader of the majority party PC’s, which stands for Progressive Conservatives – by no means viewed as an oxymoron by the natives – was a career politician, who played the game in stereotypical fashion. But, a couple of missteps forced him into retirement  and a new leader was chosen last fall. A woman.

Women in leadership roles is likely the only thing that distinguishes us from Texas because there are a lot of females in local government here. The new PC leader, which because they hold the majority makes her the Premier as well, is a woman named Allison Redford. She is what the call a “Red Tory” because she is far more progressive than conservative, and despite having to spend a good deal of her first months in office cleaning up the last guy’s goofs, she appears eager to focus on the now and the future and dragging Alberta out of its stubborn attachment to isolation and smugness where the rest of Canada is concerned. She is determined that Alberta shore up its crumbling infrastructure and take its rightful place at the federal table.

And how has the general population greeted this?

With horror .They’ve flocked to an upstart conservative party (wingnuts who’ve broken away from the PC’s and become the Canadian version of the Tea Party) who are promising them things that I haven’t heard since I left Iowa (which coincidently is also a state where the elderly and the rural dictate how everyone else should live).

What is the Wildrose Party, as they call themselves, offering? Lower taxes, a balanced budget rule, less spending on infrastructure – even as they claim they will “fix” the healthcare system and shore up education – and a $300 rebate check to all Albertans.

That’s right. The tried and true political pandering of the George W. Bush years has come to Canada. The gods help us all.

And it’s making me crazy because I feel like I am living squashed in between two war fronts. In the States, they are waging an endless POTUS election with its war on women, civil liberties and common sense; and even though I don’t live there anymore, my citizenship means I will never be completely free from its overreach. And then here,  a place where I can’t even object through the ballot box, I am directly assaulted by lunatic reactionary politics of the short-sighted and apparently ignorant of history folk.

Albertans are very much American in their opinion that the government should provide for all their needs while not expecting much from them in return. The idea that things like health care, roads, schools and public services need to be paid for and the cost – like everything else – climbs at the rate of inflation – is something that the general population thinks is not their problem. So when the Wildrose tells them, “We can cut government spending and still build longterm care facilities, upgrade roads, lower your taxes while piling up surplus cash AND give you a (measly) $300 check (which the Federal government will likely claw back somehow anyway)”, it gets eaten up with a big spoon. Mostly by old people and rural people and anyone without the mental capacity to see that you can’t have everything and that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

GRRRRRRR!

To be fair, I went to the Wildrose website and read, and what I read, I’ve read and heard before back in the U.S.

Their education plan panders to the outliers and if Alberta is looking for the most inequitable and crooked, pitted playing field to put our kids on – theirs would be the best plan for it. Charter schools, which mounds of research in the States have already shown to be no better and often worse than public school systems. Allowing school boards to set salaries instead of sticking with the province setting all the salaries, which means that some areas  (read “rural”) will not have the money to attract teachers and will go begging for staff. And the homeschooled can expect to have their bums kissed til they drip with saliva.

Their idea to shore up property rights and ditch the capture and storage plan are good ones, but the savings on the latter will not pay for the lower taxes and rebates. Like most people, the Wildrose is looking at the budgeted money for the capture and storage as though is already exists. It doesn’t. You budget and then you find the money from revenues over time. But I doubt most voters realize that and that’s good for the Wildrose.

The healthcare stuff is the most maddening. Because the majority of people here can’t recall anything but the Medicare system, most have no idea that what passes for a workable delivery method really sucks. I have groused about the pathetic inefficiency and generally awful experience seeking medical attention here before. Premier Redford wants to address the most glaring hole – access – but the Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith call her plan “unproven”.

What is that plan?

Multi-use healthcare centres.

If you are from the U.S., you will recognize the concept. A medical building that houses multiple specialities, labs, x-ray/imaging and may even have an acute care set up for emergencies that don’t really warrant an ER visit and very often have after hours and are available on the weekends.

Danielle Smith needs to travel south more often because these “unproven” health centres have been a staple in even states like Iowa since I was a child.

Have I mentioned that I really wish I could fucking vote?!

Not a single member of my able to vote family will cast a ballot for the PC on April 23rd. They will throw their votes away on Green party members or someone else who either can’t possibly win or who will be in such a minority status that they will barely matter in terms of policy making.

“Is voting for the winner the most important thing,” my husband asked when I pointed this out to him.

And the answer is “no”, it doesn’t. But voting for someone who can actually make something happen IS important. Voting some ideal or principle is all very noble, but if in the end, moronic politics ends up ruling the day – all you have is that nice pat on the back you gave yourself.

Pandering to the hard right, as the Wildrose seems determined to do because being in power is really all that it is about for them, leads to all manner of bad. Just look south if you don’t think I am correct in this line of reasoning. It started out down there with wanting to pay less and get more for that less and now they can be strip searched for getting too many parking tickets, must go shoeless in airports and if they have a vagina, they can’t rightly claim authority over  it anymore.

Overreacting, you say? I think not. Slipping down a slope implies that you once stood on top of a hill.