Category Archives: History

Stupid Over Love: The Human Condition

If there’s anything that’ll make me sick of Twitter in a hurry, it’s the endless drama regarding relationships and people’s moods. Some days, life’s too short.

That’s not to say that I don’t get it when people need to vent. Oh, do I. I get it.

Last night someone complained on Twitter, “Oh, I hate when I get stupid over a boy.” So I replied, “For thousands of years, all the best dramas have been about two things: Love & War. Do the math. We’re all stupid about it.”

I wonder sometimes how many people realize this. We’re all so self-punitive when wrapped up in turmoils of the heart. We damn ourselves and scowl about being so weak. But, are we? Continue reading

A Perhaps Controversial Thought About the Birth of the AIDS Virus?

[I would normally post something like this on my other blog, The Last Ditch, but since it’s about AIDS, which is sexually transmitted, I’ve decided to be a little bit of a shit disturber and post it here for a larger audience. I’m interested to hear your thoughts…]

I’ve been fascinated by the history of the Congo for some time now, thanks to the brilliance of Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghosts and the history of the first real genocide, the slaying of ten million Congo Africans during the rise of the rubber trade and height of African colonialism at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century.

10 million Africans slaughtered for rubber. Never mind the millions stolen and forced into the slave trade from other regions, or those slaughtered when colonial interests take over.

I’m fascinated by genocides. I’m more fascinated by the horrors of Africa today, though. The legacy of that death and brutality.

It’s sadly funny, the justifications of whites and ‘manifest destiny’, how they felt Africans were “savages” who required a civilizing hand.

Now, Africa has descended into chaos — Somali pirates, Darfur’s genocide, South Africa’s rape crisis, and list goes on and on — and still you hear the pundits saying how Africa’s just a different kind of place. They’re uncivilized and brutal. It’s the African Way, they’ll say, in quiet, hushed voices that don’t get a lot of airplay.

It’s kind of like Bush saying the terrorists were in Iraq, so the war went there. And now, of course, terrorists are in Iraq. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yes, Africa has become a savage place. Continue reading

Of George Carlin and Obscenity in the Courts Today

It’s 12:30am and I have a pretty solid rule of no writing latenight anymore, ‘cos it gets my mind revving for bed, but then I shouldn’t have stumbled on the midnight airing of Larry King, on which a few comics are lamenting the loss of George Carlin.

Bill Maher nailed it nicely, in speaking of both Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. Lenny Bruce, he liked but didn’t love, ‘cos while Bruce was wildly groundbreaking, he wasn’t always funny. Carlin, however, even when he offended the shit outta you, his fuckin’ smirk would win you over and you’d be smitten by the act’s end.

Here’s the thing, though. Carlin’s greatest contribution to our society, I think, is that words are just words, and if we wanna let ’em hurt us or bother us, that’s our right, but our rights should stop when it starts infringing on other people’s rights to use whatever words they like.

That’s it, in a nutshell. I mean, shit, it’s a fucking word. What’s the motherfucking problem? Why are they getting their tits in a twist? Don’t let the cocksuckers win. They’re a bunch of cunts just taking the piss. Continue reading

Carlin is Dead, Long Live Carlin

Freedoms are something we take for granted in places like the US and Canada… until someone comes along and takes those freedoms.

The trouble with being “free” is we don’t always realize how limited that freedom truly is. That’s why we have people like George Carlin in our lives, people who push buttons.

Or we did. George Carlin died Sunday of a heart attack.

When it comes to really saying how society is, I think comics like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin have had such important roles to play. Lenny Bruce I’ve eulogized before on this blog. Carlin, not so much. I’m a huge fan of comedy, but more so the pushy, provocative skits of the ’70s.

In 1973, Carlin had a skit air on the radio that prompted another challenge of America’s obscenity laws that had plagued Bruce till he died. Carlin fought the charges and the Supreme Court ruled he was indecent, but not obscene. It wouldn’t be Carlin’s last fight, either, but he’d always win a little bit.

I’m a big fan of Freedom of Speech, albeit I’m a fan of our Canadian version of it, not the American version. (The difference? Although you’re not allowed to do hate speech in Canada, [which goes against “freedom” of speech but I approve] we can swear more, get away with more, and we have more sex on TV.)

But I’m a big believer that the freedoms I celebrate by being angrily on-point with issues, swearing all over the place, and flaming anyone I can think of, come on the heels of such provocative work done over the years by folks like Carlin, Bruce, Bill Hicks, and any other dead comedic great you want to lump in there.

Unfortunately, the debate between “obscene” and “indecent” still rages in the USA, and the land of the free still isn’t as unbridled and free as many of today’s comics wish it would be.

There aren’t a lot of comics where you always get the joke, professionals who understand how to really make their audience come alive, but Carlin was the last truly great comedian left from the time when American censors were getting paid too well for their jobs, when getting onstage meant daily questions of “What’s gonna be too much for this town, anyhow?”

For folks like Carlin and Bruce, that question would get answered when they’d land in jail yet again for some dirty jokes or peppering speech with profanities.

Just a little of the free speech you have in America is thanks to folks like Carlin who questioned those who called him “obscene”.

After all, what some people consider obscene is how the rest of us like to live our lives.

I’m sad that the world’s without Carlin now. I’m sad he never lived to receive his Mark Twain’s Humourist prize this November.

But I’m glad he pushed some buttons in his lifetime. Thanks, George. The mark you left behind changed the landscape of public speech, and you will be remembered.

We’re All Sorry

Today is a historic day. At some point today Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who I normally cannot stand, is making me and other Canadians proud for owning up to the abuses and victimization of the First Nations of Canada through our so-called “residential schools” of old.

A lot of who I am stems from my parents teaching me about the ills against Natives and blacks when I was a child. I was raised on books about things like the Underground Railway and atrocities at Wounded Knee. I was taught that our forebears could make mistakes, but that it was our responsibility to learn from them and to always be better.

Here in Canada, our residential school system destroyed entire generations of Natives, and spawned more than 160 years of social abuses against those least able to fight them: children.

I believe we are too new to the science of psychology to really understand the generational repercussions, the legacy of our systematic ill treatment of others, and we may never understand the true toll taken on Canadian Natives through our schools.

And I believe today’s monster apology, which is expected to be more far-reaching than Australia’s was last year, and has been building up anticipation in the media for days, is a first step toward an entire people healing just a little more.

I love Canadian First Nations’ beliefs and culture, and was lucky enough to have a Nootka Chief, Nick, once carve two totem poles in my basement over the course of a summer, when I was 7, and learned much through that sage old man. With the beauty I saw in their beliefs, I have never understood the venom with which Canadian and American authorities sought to eradicate Native ways.

Today I am more proud to be Canadian, and I too am sorry for the sins of my ancestors.

So, Here We Are Again

The whole 9/11 thing is feeling weird. Reminds me of when five years had passed since my mother’s death. Has it really been so long? Boy, was that all it was? Five years?

Grief gets weird when you live with it for a long time and then — poof — it just vanishes, like. Guilt can come on, then. “I should be more depressed. Shouldn’t I?”

I’m watching some of the retrospective stuff. I think it’s important to remember it all, but I just don’t want to face any marathons. I forget sometimes, though, how fucked up it must have been to live in NY in those early days.

I’ve been thinking about that day. The weather today was very similar to the weather then — clear, sunny, warm, with just a hint of fall on the light wind. I remember the silence that morning. I never found out until I got to work — I never saw the news or anything that morning. I was enjoying coffee, sitting barefoot in my deck captain’s chairs, curling my toes around the metal railing.

I remember walking into the office, my closed captioning office, and the radio was turned on for the first time (and last time) ever. All the employees had no headphones on and were numbly editing files that probably needed no more editing. I knew something huge had happened.

“What?” I asked.

“Someone’s flown planes into the two World Trade Centre towers. Thousands of people are dead. They think it was terrorists. And someone hit the Pentagon, too.”

And like that I knew life on the continent had changed. No longer were we untouchable. Quite the opposite.

I didn’t think I could lose any more innocence after that day, but I was evidently wrong. I grow more jaded and disenfranchised with every passing year.

For a time, 9/11 made us all better people. We found the commonality. We had community. We had a cause. And something happened. A chasm. Conflict. Chaos.

Strange how quick that tide turned. Sad, too. Sigh.