Birthday wish list

Birthday nomMy birthday is tomorrow; I would like:

  • People to stop being assholes.
  • A new bike.
  • People to stop using the word “anyways.” Please use “anyway” instead. Also, to reinstate “epiphany” or “revelation” instead of “ah-ha moment,” which I blogged about in an earlier post, plus “lesson” instead of “teachable moment.”
  • True love.
  • All of the books on my book list.
  • Time to read all of the books on my book list (and the unread ones on my shelves!).
  • My cats to start speaking like Lolcats.
  • World peace.
  • Summer.

(Not necessarily in that order. Except for the assholes thing—that is definitely #1.)

Thank you.

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Conquering a bigot ≠ conquering bigotry

This post I’m providing the link to below is one of the best commentaries I’ve heard yet about the socio-political tsunami that is the New York Post cartoon. The only thing I would say differently is that I don’t believe it is just about white-on-black racism versus black-on-black violence; I think it’s also about getting bogged down by individual and generally insignificant issues rather than dealing with the greater problems at large.

We do this all too often in society. Sure, there should be consequences for the one person on some radio show somewhere who says something racist, homophobic, or misogynistic, but we need to deal with systemic racism, homophobia, and misogyny. The one guy on the radio show seems to engender unequivocal outrage throughout the mass media and general public. The story permeates the news cycle and public discourse for days or longer. But where is the discussion about society’s bigotry? I suppose it’s easier to blame one guy, or one newspaper, but it’s not a big enough step to solving the issue of bigotry and intolerance. It’s a massive problem to conquer, to be sure, but we can’t keep shrinking from it by scapegoating and claiming we’re doing something. “We’re fighting bigotry. See? We got that guy fired who said/wrote that racist thing!”

Read the post: www.huffingtonpost.com/jehmu-greene/brown-v-monkey_b_169312.html.

Gramma

My grandmother (gramma) died on this day two months ago. I miss her so much every day. Generally there is a dull ache I carry around inside, but some moments are excruciatingly painful. When you lose someone you love, you can be reminded of them in the most random ways.

Yesterday as I was making pizzas for my Oscar party, I remembered the first time I made whole wheat pizza dough. For some reason it just wasn’t turning out the way it does when I use regular white flour. It was too liquid. So I called my gramma. “Gramma will know!” I asked her if I should just keep adding more flour until it got to the right consistency, and she said yes. I said, “But won’t there be too much flour in the dough?” and she responded, “Dough is pretty much all flour anyway.”

When that memory popped into my head yesterday, I began to cry.

Gramma was eighty-six years old and had been in the hospital just over a month when she died. While she was old, and while things were bad at the very end, it doesn’t make it any easier. As Jamaica Kincaid wrote, “The inevitable is no less a shock just because it’s inevitable.”

She was an awesome gramma. She was strong and fiesty and independent, and she beared a lot. My grandfather died twenty years ago, and my gramma lived all this time on her own, fending for herself for the most part until an aging and ailing body required her to depend on others more than suited her pride.

She loved to laugh and was always game for whatever zany things I would ask of her—some of my favourite photos of her: gramma with a lampshade on her head, gramma wearing my cousin’s skateboarding helmet, gramma in the driver’s seat of a vintage car wearing my sunglasses, gramma donning the dog’s reindeer antlers, gramma wearing a Power Rangers walkie-talkie headset, gramma posing with a nearly naked man at Buskerfest….

She loved her children and her grandchildren. She always told me she loved me and that she was proud of me. Now that she’s gone, I have no one to say that they’re proud of me.

To honour my gramma, I am going to recount my favourite conversation I had with her. Please indulge me.

We were driving in the car and we passed a store or business of some sort that had closed down; she expressed surprise that it was gone:

Gramma: That place has been there for donkeys’ years.

Me: Donkey’s ears?

Gramma: Donkey’s years.

Me: Donkey’s years?

Gramma: Yeah.

Me: Donkey’s years? What does that mean?

Gramma: Oh, it’s an old British saying. It means a long time.

Me: Yeah, but why does it mean that?

Gramma: I don’t know; it’s just the saying.

Me: Are you sure it’s not donkey’s ears? Cuz donkeys have pretty long ears.

Gramma: No, it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But why? Do donkeys live a long time?

Gramma: I guess so.

Me: What about turtles? Or sharks? They live a long time. Probably longer than donkeys. Why isn’t it “turtles’ years”?

Gramma: Because it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But how long do donkeys live?

Gramma: A good long time!

I love you, Gramma. You are missed every day.

(Note: In my research to discover if it is donkey’s or donkeys’, I found this link: www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/donkeys-years.html, which explains that I was in fact right! It seems that the earliest incarnation of the term was donkey’s ears, and rhyming slang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhyming_slang)—which makes no sense to me whatsoever, despite my British blood—turned it into donkey’s years. But had I discovered this when my gramma was still alive, I wouldn’t have told her.)

Canada and the U.S.: Collectivism and individualism

DISCLAIMERS:

  • This is a long posting, so settle in or read it in chunks.
  • This one could get me a lot of comments, particularly from Americans. I know how it will come across to some and I understand defensiveness, but please try to read with an open mind.
  • The opinions herein are opinions, but they are informed by research. They are generalizations only. No one statement refers to all people. Never would I use the word “all” and in fact I seldom use the word “most.” What I’m talking about here is big-picture perceptions of Canada and the U.S. I know that some Canadians are awesome and some Canadians suck. I know that some Americans are awesome and some Americans suck. Canada and the United States are both great countries, relative to many of the other countries in the world. I like the U.S., and I appreciate your contributions to the world in science, art, humanitarianism, and your good people.

Map of North AmericaMany people see North America as one homogenized socio-political glob. Or, more aptly, they see North America as the U.S., and Canada as barely distinct from America, as inconsequential, as America’s “little sister.” (I like to joke that this is true in that Canada is Lisa Simpson and America is Bart.)

Americans don’t really care much about Canada (except those who wanted to immigrate here during the reign of Bush Jr.), and they don’t really care if they are lumped in with Canada politically, socially, or culturally (although they are always quick to point out that Celine Dion belongs to us!). On the other hand, many Canadians don’t like being lumped in with Americans, especially in the past eight years. (You read about Americans travelling overseas having to pretend that they’re Canadian, even going so far as to wear Canadian flags and get fake Canadian passport covers. Now imagine being an actual Canadian mistaken for an American during this time!)

Yesterday U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa and Canadians were practically peeing their pants with excitement over it. It got me thinking about why we’re so excited about this president, and about the historical differences between Canada and America.

Sure, we share the same chunk of land and ingest the same food, art, and pop culture, but from equal marriage (in 2005 Canada became the third or fourth country, depending on the source, to legalize same-sex marriage), to legalized pot (Canada has decriminalized small amounts of marijuana), to the separation of church and state (Canada keeps religion where it belongs—out of politics), the two nations are almost diametric. Why?

I first started thinking about this many months ago when a friend of mine told me about an article he read. It was something about Flagshow the births of Canada and the United States as nations reveal a lot about what kind of countries they are today. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had the link here? Sadly I don’t even know the name of the publication or what exactly the article said. But what follows is what I think the gist of it was.

Here is Canada’s birth in a nutshell. Both the English and the French came to Canada in the late 1550s/early 1600s and established settlements and colonies. Of course there were wars between the two and a bunch of other stuff happened: the original 13 colonies of the United States were handed over to America by the British, “New France” grew and shrank, Canada was divided into Upper (French) and Lower (English) Canada, there was the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain, blah, blah, blah.

Although Canada came close to having a massive rebellion and maybe even a civil war, we did not. Instead, Canadians were hungry for unity and responsible government, so French and English Canadians united under the Act of Union. In 1840 “The Canadas” became “The United Province of Canada” and by 1849 parliamentary democracy was established for all of the provinces. Confederation occurred in 1867 with The Constitution Act, and “The United Province of Canada” became “Canada.”

Canada gained independence slowly throughout the years via the Constitution Act, participation in World War I, and joining the League of Nations independently from Britain in 1919, among other things. In 1931 Britain affirmed Canada’s independence with The Statute of Westminster, deeming Canada and the other former dominions (including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa) “autonomous communities.”

Throughout the years, Canada adopted official bilingualism, official multiculturalism, social programs such as universal health care, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All was looking just dandy. But Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution” sparked a nationalist movement seeking secession from the rest of Canada. In 1980, Canada held a referendum, in which we rejected secession (sovereignty). In 1995 we held a second referendum, in which we also rejected sovereignty (but just barely). In 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled secession unconstitutional.

Okay, now on to the U.S. The United States was colonized by a lot of European countries from the late 1400s until the 1700s, but mainly Britain, which established the aforementioned 13 colonies (“The Thirteen Colonies”). In 1775 The Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from Britain and attempted to gain said independence via armed conflict. This was the American Revolutionary War and, with the help of France and Spain, the Americans were successful. But it was a bloody and brutal war.

For about 50 or 60 years following, America expanded westward. But in the 1850s and 1860s, conflict between northern and southern Americans escalated. Essentially they disagreed on just about everything, especially the issues of slavery and how the government should be run. In 1861, after Abraham Lincoln was elected, most of the southern states seceded from the union and established The Confederate States of America (P.S. see the movie by the same title!), which sparked the Civil War. And we all know how bloody and brutal that was—the U.S. lost 8% to 10% of its entire male population.

The point of this quickie history lesson is that Canada did not have a bloody revolution. Rather, it quietly gained its independence from Britain. Nor did Canada have a bloody civil war. Rather, it democratically held referendums on the issue of separatism. The United States had both a bloody revolutionary war to gain its independence from Britain and a bloody civil war to deal with the issue of separatism.

This, I think, was the thesis of the article my friend told me about: The independence and unity of Canada was achieved politely, quietly, and democratically, whereas the independence and unity of the U.S. was achieved through violent wars. This illustrates the divergent…aesthetic? ethic? ideology? sensibility?…of these countries today.

While Canada and the U.S. share the famed “longest undefended border in the world” and are each other’s best ally and largest trading partner, we couldn’t be more different in what makes us us.

A little-known fact is that when World War II ended, Canada had one of the largest armed forces in the world. Who would have thought that?! But Canada didn’t go all imperialist and superpower-y. Instead we were one of the founding members of the United Nations and are known the world over as a peace-keeping nation.

During the last U.S. election, it was funny to the outside world, especially Western countries like Canada, to see some Americans demonize any candidate favouring peace over war, taking care of the less fortunate over “every man for himself,” or seeking unity over individualism.

I’m sure you remember it. Argh, I hate to even bring up this guy’s name because I am so sick of him, but…Samuel Wurzelbacher. You know, the guys who’s name isn’t Joe and who wasn’t a licensed plumber? Yeah, that guy. In his exchange with Barack Obama over Obama’s plan to raise taxes by 3% for people making over $250,000 a year and lower them for the rest, Obama said this:

“I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well—even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that—I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. And I do believe for folks like me who have worked hard, but frankly also been lucky, I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress that I just met over there…[who] can barely make the rent. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

And you remember what happened next. Republicans took “spread the wealth” in a death grip and would not let go.

CommieCommunist! Socialist! Commie! Red! Terrorist!

Suddenly the party line on the right seemed to be that if you are in favour of balancing out the classist economic structure by making the stinking rich a little less stinking and the poor a little less poor, then you’re a communist/socialist. If you’re in favour of pulling troops out of Iraq, you’re a communist/socialist. If you’re in favour of universal health care, you’re a communist/socialist. If you’re in favour of welfare reform, you are a communist/ socialist.

So many things about this are funny. First of all, that these Americans used “communist” and “socialist” interchangeably (not to mention “liberal” and “terrorist”). They are not synonyms. Communism is a system whereby the government controls the means of production—there is a very rich upper class, but everyone else makes the same amount of money. (So if anything, Obama’s plan is anti-communist.) Socialism is a system that allows private enterprise and personal success, but the government provides necessities such as hospitals and schools, plus welfare for those who can’t work to afford food and shelter.

America is not yet socialist, but the funniest part about this to me is that many Americans believe this would be evil!

Some people are anti-science, until they need that new cancer treatment to save their life. Some people are anti-socialism, until they lose your job and can’t get another one. Some people are anti-government, until the market needs a bailout.

I would say Canada is a socially democratic country. We have universal health care. I don’t have medical benefits through my job, so if I fall down and crack my head open I can go to any hospital, get treated, and go home, and I will not receive a bill. I will not have to go on social assistance, sell drugs, rob a house, sell my stuff, or be rendered homeless because I cannot pay my medical bills. If I get sick or injured and can’t work, or if I lose my job and can’t find a new one right away, the government will help me afford food and shelter while I’m not working, but I can’t just sit around on my ass in the meantime.

These aren’t handouts. We all pay taxes. We pay taxes to keep our roads paved and cleared of snow, and our street lights working. And we pay taxes so that every single person, regardless of how much money they make, can get healthy if they are sick, fixed if they are broken.

But for some astronomically unbelievable reason, many Americans (let’s face it—it’s mostly Republicans) think this is a bad thing.

I think that Canada’s “nationalism,” our sense of what makes Canada Canada, comes from its people preferring a system of justice, fairness, equality, and democracy for all.

America’s nationalism seems to come from its pursuit of “the American dream,” which originally meant to amass material wealth. It has morphed through the years, piquing in the 1950s and 1960s I think, into getting married, owning a house (or two) and a couple of cars, having a couple of kids and a dog, and making lots of money so they can buy boats and go on vacations and retire wealthy. But do not ask me to sacrifice for anyone but me because I’m pursuing the American dream! This propagates a system of justice, fairness, equality, and democracy for some—mainly those who can afford it.

Canada recognizes and values the role of government in society to keep order and peace, and to make sure money is collected from individuals to better society as a whole. From what I can tell, the U.S. values a limited government to do the bare-bones stuff, and leaves everything else in the hands of the marketplace. That good ole free market that was left to run rampant so that citizens would never be curtailed in their pursuit of happiness (i.e., accruing the most money and stuff).

Canada has a collectivist nature. The United States is based on individualism.

That being said, while Americans claim individuality and are in fact individualistic in their system, they are politically conformist. Most Americans are “registered” as an adherent to either the Democratic or Republican party (some are Independent). The two-party system ensures that most Americans pledge blind allegiance to their party, regardless of its actions or stances.

Blind allegiance is a dangerous thing. All it takes is a rally, speech, commercial, or talk-show appearance to make people start chanting “drill baby drill” or “Iraq has WMD” or “Obama is a terrorist” like mindless automatons.

While Canadians generally respect their government’s authority, we are not blindly obedient to it. We tend think critically, analyze evidence, and question authority.

We have a multi-party system and we do not “register” as a party member. Our political system is much more nuanced, much more of a spectrum. It is not black and white.

The American point of view seems to be that Canada is boring and inconsequential. They think our lack of drama or militaristic history deprives us of an identity or “destiny.” I guess it depends on what your priorities are. I am proud of our lack of drama and militaristic history. During Vietnam (and the Iraq “war”), Canada opened its doors to American draft dodgers and war resistors. We firmly said “NO” to George W. Bush’s invitation to join America in its invasion of Iraq (for some Canadians, one of our proudest moments).

I’m glad my country is not a superpower because history has shown us what being a superpower leads to. Was it Ghandi who said “absolute power corrupts absolutely”? If history has taught us anything, it is that the rise of an imperialist power always leads to the fall of an imperialist power. And sadly, they take down a lot of others in their wakes.

Canada would rather fight for the progress of social justice than fight for world power.

But America seems to have a messianic sense of its destiny as a world power, a democratizer (new word for conqueror?). Political speeches and interviews are littered with language to this effect. There is an action movie-like, self-inflated, overly confident, exuberant sense of a mission to “save the world!” But often they jump in over their heads (Iraq anyone?) and then are too proud to admit mistakes and cut their losses (Vietnam, Iraq).

I understand this from a moralistic viewpoint. Clearly those of us living in democratic countries believe it’s a better system than, say, communism or fascism! But the U.S. seems to view its own politics and international politics through a moralistic, ideological lens only.

It’s hard to peer through an ideological lens with a critical eye.

And most of the world does not view America as the moral beacon they seem to think they are.

The United States is the most religious country in the western world. Not only does it use religion to dictate morality (not realizing that morality predates religion), but it politicizes religion. “Separation of church and state” is a quaint ideal, but anyone who pays attention to U.S. politics knows that it’s not the reality. The ironic thing is that the U.S. shares much in common with regimes they purport to despise. Having religion dictate politics and law is more akin to the Muslim world.

If I were to describe a world leader who had weapons of mass destruction, was fundamentally religious, and believed that his god spoke to him and told him what to do, you’d be scared. Your mind’s eye would probably look towards the Middle East. But that leader was George W. Bush.

Canada is a more “typically” Western society; it is more European than American in its sensibilities. It is politically secular, hierarchical, law-abiding, and respects authority when it is right and questions it when it is wrong. We have the aforementioned multi-party system of government. I do not know what my Prime Minister’s religion is, and I don’t care! Most Canadians don’t.

That’s not to say that there aren’t religious people in our nation—there are, but they know that religion should play no role in politics. Our Prime Minister would never end a speech or press conference asking any god to bless our country, [I stand corrected: I have been informed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has begun a greatly controversial habit of saying “God bless Canada” after speeches. Many people consider this “un-Canadian” and another way in which Harper was too close to George W. Bush for our liking. For an article on this topic, read this; it’s pretty frightening.] …nor invoke the power of any deity to help him do his job. But the presidents of the United States always do. In a Canadian candidates’ debate, no one would ask any

This joke overtook the web and inundated inboxes after the election of George W. Bush.

This joke overtook the web and inundated inboxes after the election of George W. Bush.

question having to do with the candidates’ religion or religious ideals. In America, they had an entire debate dedicated solely to religion!

Michael Adams is an author and pollster at Environics who has polled Canadians and Americans and reports on the differences between our values. He claims that there is a lot that makes Canada distinct from America, and that the distinctiveness is growing. Adams says that religion means different things to Canadians and Americans. Canadians view religion as “a means of confronting the mysterious aspects of our lives.” For Americans, it’s “a way of eliminating rather than exploring mystery…, one big answer rather than a collection of venerable questions…the end of dialogue, not its beginning.”

Adams confirms my earlier conjecture that Americans tend towards political conformity, and also reports that they express themselves violently and are more apt to accept violence than Canadians, who can have disagreements without violence. Adams states that Canadians accept cultural and ideological diversity much more so than Americans.

(Adams’s findings are very interesting and I encourage you to read them. For example, the differences between Canada and the U.S. in their views of patriarchy raised my eyebrows. Check out the link above and read his book Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values.)

So while Canada may be akin to the United States in many ways, it is different in more important ways. We fight for our own cultural identity with laws protecting Canadian art and commerce, for example, because we know that what makes Canada fundamentally Canada is too important to be lost.

And with their landslide election of a president whose socialist and diplomatic ideals are much more closely aligned to those of Canada than to those of the America of the past (excepting his religiosity and anti-equal marriage views), maybe Americans are realizing they could use a dose of “Canada-ness” in their country.

Being gay is not a choice

http://www.choiceshort.com/

How to give the finger to Valentine’s Day

Darwin valentineYesterday was Darwin Day—Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday (and the 150th anniversary of his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection). For geeks, science-lovers, and/or rationalists like me, it’s cool.

Today is Friday the 13th. It’s a superstitiously “bad luck” day for people who believe in such things. For people like me, it’s fun.

Tomorrow is February 14th—Valentine’s Day. It’s a socially dictated “romantic” day for those who are prone to the pressure of such things. For single and/or bitter and/or heartbroken people like me, it’s annoying.

Single and/or bitter and/or heartbroken people, or anyone who just wants to rebel against the consumerism, forced romance, and social pressure of the day, should un-celebrate Valentine’s Day by celebrating Darwin Day two days late or Friday the 13th one day late.

There are many ways to celebrate Darwin Day. First, make sure to say “Reason’s Greetings” to every person you encounter. If they ask what you’re talking about, proceed to school them in all things Charles Darwin and/or evolution. You could also read (or re-read) On the Origin of Species. Or buy some copies and donate them. You could attend a museum, science centre, or even a planetarium (celebrating science in general as opposed to just evolution). Watch some amusing creationism vs. evolution debates on YouTube, read the Dover court ruling, or this article, or check out this web site. Oh, you could have a viewing party of Flock of Dodos (about the PR war creationists are waging against evolution) and Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (the aptly titled propaganda piece that’s fun to laugh at and feel generally outraged over; be sure to watch this using ExpelledExposed.com as a companion to point out every error and lie). You could also watch other videos about evolution here.

For more information about Darwin Day, visit this web site. And for more ideas on celebrating it, check this out.

And for the less science-minded but not-credulous-enough-to-buy-into-stupid-superstitions, you could un-celebrate Valentine’s Day by celebrating Friday the 13th a day late. There are many ways to celebrate, including having a horror-movie fest. That’s about as anti-Valentine’s Day as you can get! Granted, there are usually lots of randy teenagers having sex in said movies, but they tend to die a bloody death post-coitous so it’s okay. You don’t have to watch the Friday the 13th series, but you could (parts 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7 are the only worthwhile ones). But don’t forget some of the best horror movies ever: the original 1978 Halloween, The Exorcist, Ju-On, The Descent, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead II, and others. Or you could go to the theatre and see the new re-hash of Friday the 13th.

Another awesome way to celebrate Friday the 13th is to break every superstition you can think of (or research). Walk under ladders,

let black cats cross your path, spill salt, open an umbrella indoors, break a mirror, put shoes on the bed, say doom-y type things without knocking on wood afterwards, etc. If you’re already un-superstitious, then you could try following every superstition you know of. Or, throw a party.

Make it an evil party.

You could have people over to watch the series premier of Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse! (This premiers on Friday, but you could record it and watch it on Saturday.) Serve food and beverages.

Make it evil food and beverages.

Mom of 14—leave her the hell alone…for now

I’m not sure if the United States thinks it’s China or wants to be China, but you really don’t have the right to legislate how many children people have. Nor should you be calling in the morality police. The recent media-orgy over Nadya Suleman who recently gave birth to octuplets, bringing her total child count to 14, is starting to taste like the Terri Schiavo case. It’s causing the bile to rise up in the back of my throat.

I want to be clear about this: I do not support having children ad nauseum. The world is overpopulated. If people stopped narcissistically giving birth to new babies and instead adopted the millions of children around the world who need safe, loving homes, then I believe that would be a giant step towards making the world a better place in many ways.

However, the U.S. government, political pundits and talk show hosts, the media, and the general public do not get to say that Suleman shouldn’t be allowed to take her eight babies home! The government does get to become involved if Suleman proves to be an unfit parent. If it is shown that she isn’t properly feeding, sheltering, clothing, and educating her kids, then social services can get involved. Until then, everyone should shut the hell up and stop speculating about her fitness, or whether she should have had children at all. Wouldn’t it be nice if every prospective parent had to pass a Parental Fitness Review Board? But unfortunately that’s not how it works. Every day people have children who probably shouldn’t, but I don’t see such scrupulous attention paid to them.

I keep reading and hearing all sorts of annoying chatter and infuriating speculation. People are saying she had octuplets on purpose so she could “cash in” on them. The absurdity of that argument is…absurd. You can’t predetermine how many children you will have in a given pregnancy. With in vitro fertilization, multiple zygotes are always implanted in the uterus to increase the chances of one of them becoming viable. Multiple fetuses are often a result; that’s the risk. You could choose to selectively abort unwanted fetuses, but I suspect that a lot of the moral majority folks who are pummelling Suleman now won’t be advocating that any time soon.

Dolly Parton's childhood home

Dolly Parton grew up here with eleven other siblings, two parents, and very little money.

Another annoying comment is that it takes “millions” of dollars to raise 14 children. Millions? Really? Dolly Parton grew up one of twelve children raised in a one-room shack in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. They had very little money, very little food, clothes made of rags (that famous “Coat of Many Colors”), and slept many to a bed. She had a home-made doll made out of a corn husk. She turned out just fine, as did all her brothers and sisters. I guarantee you that Dolly Parton’s dad did not earn millions.

Maybe it is irresponsible for people to have children if they don’t have the means to support them (or if the planet doesn’t have the means to support them). But what is considered “supporting”? Many parents are financially secure, but pawn their kids off on childcare workers while they work all the time. Having children without the means to love them and spend time with them is just as morally dubious as having kids without the means to support them financially. I think I would prefer a home with lots of love and few expensive toys than a home with all the latest consumer crap a kid could want, but very little love and attention.

I’m not even sure what the argument is, anyway. It seems to be an argument against her having had the babies, in which case you can’t go back in time, so you must be arguing for laws dictating how many children people should be allowed to have. Or you’re arguing against her keeping her children, which again I point out is absurd until Child Protective Services gets involved, performs an assessment, deems Suleman an unfit parent, and takes the children away.

People are also talking about how some of Suleman’s kids are special needs. Well…and? I do seem to recall a certain media tizzy over a one-time Republican vice-presidential candidate. The “moral” question was whether she should be running at all, given that she had so many children and a grandchild on the way, and one of her kids was special needs. At the time that argument was roundly rebutted and revealed to be disdainful because it was sexist and because no one was showing evidence that said candidate was an unfit parent.

No, more than this is about the welfare of the children, I really think this is about welfare. The American public seems so outraged because Suleman will have to subsist on social assistance and Americans “don’t want to have to pay for it!” Well suck it up. I don’t have the stats on how many people in America subsist on social assistance, but I’m sure that number is easily attainable (and growing!). You do not have the right to say that your single-parent neighbour with four kids deserves it, but Suleman doesn’t. Or that the unemployed person with a trailer full of kids deserves it, but Suleman doesn’t. Or that if a one-time Republican vice-presidential candidate lost her job and became a social pariah (please!!), that she would deserve it but Suleman doesn’t.

So if you are going to pre-emptively speak ill about Nadya Suleman’s fitness as a parent, then at least don’t be a hypocrite—speak out against every low-income single- or two-parent family in the United States with one, three, five, seven, or ten children who collects social assistance.

I am not defending, rationalizing, or justifying this woman’s behaviour; I don’t know her. (But I do know that debating whether or not she’s had her lips done is preposterous.) It is hard to imagine how Suleman is going to make it work and successfully raise all of her children, and I do not feel it was responsible. But they’re her children now. She’s got ’em. And so far they are cared for. They seem loved. And they were definitely wanted, which is more than can be said for millions of children the world over. So until she fails and her children are considered endangered—which cannot be determined by the public watching an interview of her on TV, rather by the authorities in charge of such matters—stop speculating. And maybe, just maybe, you could even try to help her out.

People do not have the right to interfere and make public judgments on the number of children a person can have or how they can have them. For right now, unless or until things change via the proper legal channels, these children have a mom. If you’re so concerned, then go adopt one of the kids currently suffering abuse after abuse rotting in the foster system.

Jennifer Hudson just gave me an orgasm

Did you watch the Grammys? I’m watching them right now and I thought I’d let you know that Jennifer Hudson just gave me an orgasm. She performed with an orchestra and a gospel choir, and she did that thing that she does so well—give orgasms.

Look for it online. Turn it up loud.

The fact that Jennifer Hudson can sing like this is what makes her album so disappointing. When someone can give ‘er in true soul fashion, then it is beyond insulting and sad to make them sing watered-down R&B pop crap. Jennifer Hudson, Joss Stone, and Serena Ryder should be making soul music, not R&B or pop.

Hopefully the standing ovation she got at the end of her performance will make some record execs and image-makers think twice about her next album.

Thanks for the orgasm, Jennifer.

P.S. Stevie Wonder is performing with the freakin’ Jonas Brothers?!?!?!!!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Jebus help me….

More celebrity fun

It’s truly a glorious thing to behold, Christian Bale’s complete meltdown on the set of his latest film shoot.

Turns out the American Psycho is really an Australian psycho.

Turns out the American Psycho is really a Welsh psycho.

Have you heard it yet? Did you click the link? Click it. Listen. I’ll wait.

Celebrity flip-outs are funny. How about the director of I Heart Huckabees losing it on Lily Tomlin? Or Bill O’Reilly acting like the dick he is? What a dick.

The thing that makes it funny isn’t that these people got so angry they lost their shit. No, the thing that makes them funny is the context. Christian Bale so lost his shit, you would have thought the fate of the world were at stake.

These people are actors, directors, tabloid TV show hosts. They’re not heads of state, surgeons, or judges. They make art and entertainment. As a huge consumer of art and entertainment, I am not belittling its cultural importance. Some art can even have a great impact. Take for example a great message film that changes people’s perceptions, making them a little less racist or homophobic.

But at the end of the day, these people are still actors. They get paid enormous sums of money—more than teachers, nurses, law enforcement officials, and even most doctors and politicians—to play make believe, give interviews, and get all dressed up to receive awards. I’m sorry Christian Bale, but your job is just not weighty enough to justify this four-minute-long, seething, foaming-at-the-mouth, curse-laden tirade. You have issues.

Someone walked past your eye line, out of the scene, behind the actor you were talking to, thereby breaking your concentration? WAH! Jesus H, man! A simple, “Hey, buddy, could you please not do that? It’s really hard to stay in the moment in this scene if you’re walking through my eye line” would have sufficed. Really, “I’m gonna fucking kick your ass” was a tad much.

You are not a very important person who does very important things, nor are you a person who was wronged deplorably. If the dude who walked through your eye line had perhaps instead accidentally pushed the “release the nuclear weapons” button on your desk, then maybe your tirade would have been justified. If the dude who walked through your eye line had, rather, killed your child in surgery because he was drunk or high, then maybe your tirade would have been justified. If the dude who walked through your eye line had sent you to prison for twenty years only to discover DNA evidence proving your innocence, then maybe your tirade would have been justified. But if the dude who walked through your eye line simply walked through your eye line, then your tirade is certainly not justified.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, GET OVER YOURSELF!

You’re a dick.

And your Batman voice was stupid!!!

What a doofus

Hey! I'm Tom Cruise! I'm crazy! Gracias, gracias, gracias....

Hey! I'm Tom Cruise! I'm crazy! Pew-pew-pew! Gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias....

Tom Cruise is in Brasil with his stepford wife promoting his tepidly reviewed movie Valkyrie. While there he thanked a crowd of people with “graçias” (except that they speak Portuguese in Brasil, Tom, not Spanish) and talked about how much he loves the tango (whoops! that’s Argentina, Brasil’s rival country—you probably meant to say “samba” right? Of course you did).

You don’t have to know everything about every country in the world, but if you’re visiting a country you should probably learn something about it—most importantly, what language they speak and how to say “please” and “thank you” in said language.

Tom, don’t you have an assistant or something? Maybe he or she could prepare a little half-page primer on each country you visit, which you could then read before you gaffe. Really, even just printing off the first page of the Wikipedia entry on Brasil would suffice; the first line is: “Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil).”

But more than that, don’t be so disingenuous. People know you’re just there to sell a movie and that you don’t really care about the country or the people. The public is well aware of how these things work by now. You’re no more genuine than a rock star who shouts, “Good evening <insert town/country name here>! You’re my favourite <town/country>, <insert town/country name here>! You are so much cooler than <insert rival town/country name here>, where we played last night!” Granted, a lot of people will scream and applaud at lines like these, but not because they think you mean it; rather, because they’re caught up in the fervor and patriotism of the moment.

So the next time you’re in Brasil, or some other country you don’t care enough about to even discover what language they speak, at least have the backbone to admit that you just want them to pay money to see your movie and leave it at that. Graçias. I mean, obrigado. Or maybe danke? Merci…?