March 31, 2008

The Killing Fields

I've often linked pieces on the Iraq war that I think are important. But never do I give time to the news pundits lining up anywhere on the issue except the front line, and certainly not to the politicians who would never, ever send their own kids to fight.

I ran the TIME magazine piece from September 2006 because it was stark piece of honesty, something sorely missing on this issue. I ran the Vanity Fair piece by Sebastian Junger for the same reason.

Today, it's the New York Times' turn. Take a few minutes and read this. A marine makes it home from Iraq, only to disappear. The pain of this war is only beginning.

Now, read this wonderfully written piece from a blogger residing in Berkeley. He's actually the son of a friend of mine. A friend who is pretty much as far right as I am left, which led another friend to comment, "hmm. sometimes the acorn does fall far from the tree..."

And remember, it was Dick Cheney, one of the primary architects of this disaster, who when told of the current toll of American dead, replied "so?"

March 30, 2008

Something Seems Different...

After broad hints of a new site, (sorry for those of you hoping that also meant a new broad), it's finally here!

There will still be a few quirks to chase down, due to my moments of indecision that make Webgod Jeff crazy, but tell me what you think. You may notice on the home page, the 'nice words' sidebar on the right changes with 'refresh'...I finally found some other people to say something kind.

Still getting used to the new place - not sure where to put everything yet. But, I hope you like it as much as I do...kudos to Jeff, and as always, my humble thanks.

March 28, 2008

Yo Momma

LOVE this site. If my Mom were alive, she would be strutting around the internet and sending so many emails that would end up on this site...

One caveat: It's probably a girl thing. Men may be left scratching their heads, but women will understand every line, every word.

Beyond Rich

Here's a link to an editorial about the downward spiral of the current roster of tartlets. We don't need names - they're in your face every second of every damned day, having migrated from every down market publication right to the pages of magazines like The Atlantic. So much for avoiding the fray.

It's hard to argue the first piece. These girls - and it's always the girls - have been pimped out by their parents almost since birth. While you and I are busily saving for retirement, nurturing our own careers and protecting our children from too much, too soon, these parents have damned the torpedos, and made their daughters their career, their future, their retirement fund. They cease being parents the second they become manager. These roles are diametrically opposed - your mother is supposed to make sure your manager, if you have one, makes decisions that are good for you. Oh, hell, let's just skip a step, shall we?

No, no argument here on the facts of this piece. But take a gander at who wrote it. Bonnie Fuller. At first I thought I was reading The Onion; surely this is satire. Nope. Huffington Post.

You may know of Ms. Fuller. She's a Canadian made good, she who sprinkles her fairy dust on listless publications and turns them into money-printing powerhouses. Except, she does it by strenuously exploiting these very girls she is accusing their parents of pimping out.

She took US Weekly, which used to be a kind of shadow of People, and turned it into a glossy National Enquirer. She's also helmed Cosmo and Glamour, and has managed to fill everything she touches with lots of pictures and very few words, the better to haul in the money from those who shun literacy in favour of glitterati. She has made that other rag, Star Magazine, a bible of cellulite and garbage-picking reportage. In essence, she has dumbed down magazines that seriously looked like they couldn't get much dumber.

So, forgive me for thinking that April Fool's came early when I came across her piece in HufPo. If these parents are pimps, then she is a super-pimp. She has served us heaping helpings of this crap until you would think we would be staggering from the table in order to barf. You would think. But no, somehow, somewhere, someone still wants to know if Britney is suicidal, if Paris is engaged, and if Lindsay had implants. Fuller has made herself gloriously rich doing it.

If Fuller actually gave a rat's ass about these girls, why is she contributing to their downfall? Buying the photos that catalogue every sip, every slip, every move, every tumble? Because she is pandering to her readers. They keep buying this publication porn, which makes them the johns.

But having the gall to point fingers at the parents? That's beyond rich.

March 27, 2008

CTS On The Line Thursday

Tune in today to CTS (check listings) for a live, and lively, hour long show with host Christine Williams.

Today topics? Should we boycott the Olympics over the Tibet crackdowns? Should cigarette ads be banned? Could you enjoy a guilt-free fur coat?

You can even call in...

March 22, 2008

Male Mail

Ever wonder what some of my mail looks like? After I did the Live@5:30 spot last night, I got up this morning to this:

Hello Lorraine,
I caught your appearance on television again this evening and once again, you manage to irritate me. The problem with children these days are horrible mother's like you.

Yes, that 15-year-old teenager should not have pulled down that girl's pants but he did. The school overreacted by calling the police and having him arrested. The school should have just suspended him, but now he will probably be charge with sexual harassment and labeled some type of sexual predator. What this kid needs is rigid, uptight and sexist old school feminists like you to take that stick from out of your ass and give yourself a good beating that your husband will not do.

See, I had the audacity to state - strongly - that a 15-year-old boy shouldn't be hauling down the pants of a 14-year-old girl in public. I believe it is wrong. I believe it is degrading. I believe he should be held accountable. And for anyone wondering who would defend actions like this, apart from another guest on the show with me, this guy would.

This apparently makes me a sexist feminist who needs a beating. Actually, this proves my point, and I thank the angry, repulsive guy who wrote in to remind me of that. I'm sorry if you're his girlfriend or wife; I'm more sorry if you're his daughter. I know a lot of amazing men, but the knuckle-draggers are among us, and until they have pounded each one of us into submission they won't be happy.

I don't see much mail like this. I can count on one hand, over the years, the garbage that has come in. When it does, it's always a stellar display of ignorance, usually bordering on illiterate and always from a world view that reaches all the way from A to B. I travel with mostly male journos for the auto stuff, and they are, to a man, courteous and kind. If so many of the male readers and writers in a predominantly male industry can be open-minded and polite, it doesn't faze me too much to trip over someone like the above.

I don't answer it, and I don't usually post it. But I thought it might be interesting for you guys to see what rolls in sometimes.

March 21, 2008

Idjits All Around

I know people like this. And I know more teachers who deal with parents like this.

A nutter in B.C. is suing his son's grade 2 teacher "for "purposely and maliciously work[ing] to damage [his] self-esteem."

Ya know, enough. Enough of namby-pamby raising of these kids. No one is allowed to not make the team; everyone gets to star in the school play; everyone gets an A whether they earn it or not, and everyone moves along to the next grade whether the last book they read was by Dovtoyesky or Dr. Suess.

My sons have had teachers they didn't like; they've had teachers I didn't like. So? You source out the problem, which can be anything from personality conflicts to lazy teaching to a lazy kid. If it's not a deep-rooted sinister plot, you haul your kid aside and begin teaching them one of the biggest life lessons of all: the world doesn't revolve around you. I am plain in my approach - I tell them they don't have to like a teacher, but they will respect them. Even if it kills them. And they will not disrupt the rest of the class' right to learn, regardless of the snitfit they are considering pitching on that particular day. And if they do, I will punish them. That is my job.

There are dangerous situations, and there are a child's interpretation of a situation. While it is my job to represent and protect my child, that does not extend to allowing him to believe he will grow up untouched by the jarring, emotional, tough and occasionally soul-sucking reality that is this world. My number one job as a parent? Giving my children the tools to deal with adversity, not removing adversity.

We are already making it damned near impossible for teachers in this country to teach. We've stripped away discipline and punishment, we've sucked money out of resources like aides and libraries and supplies (your kids sharing text books like mine, that they can't bring home at night?), I've done my rant on deadlines and due dates, and now this?

Really? Now teachers have to face lawsuits from parents? I have an idea. Why not take that time and energy and money and do something with your kid? Teach him about the world, show him how other people live - you know, the ones with real problems - maybe take him into the wilderness and let him learn an appreciation for the wild, animals, the climate, his own resilience. He's suing the teacher for not making his kid do his homework. Here's a novel idea: you make your kid do his homework. If he's struggling with any subject, you help him.

By suing his teacher, you are magnificently showing him that with enough bullying, enough money, and enough sense of entitlement, you can surely grab the earth from its orbit, stop it, and redirect its path to make it revolve just around you.

Cuz that's the way it works, right?

Friday CHCH Live@5:30

Or, should I say, Good Friday Live@5:30...

Tune into CHCH 11 at 5:30 (repeat at 11:30) for my take on boys behaving badly. Well, in this case, worse than badly. Illegally, as far as I'm concerned...

March 15, 2008

Stolen Angels

Excellent book by Kathy Cook. Here's a review I wrote for the Spec.

I knew a woman once who asked me if I could think of any way she could get 'smarter'. She was sick of not being able to hold a conversation about anything but kids, and had pretty much decided politics and world issues were just too complicated to learn. While certainly no genius, I was raised with a healthy curiousity in just those things, and I told her what I still believe is good advice.

Read the front page of a newspaper each day for a week. The entire thing. Where a story is continued, continue it. After a week, read the entire front section. I don't care what political lean the paper has, just read it. If you don't know a word, look it up. Read this section for an entire month, religiously. It works. You will at least be able to ask decent questions, which is always a great starting point.

Tackling a subject like Uganda and the Sudan is one of those massive balls of string with no end. I never know where to start, so I remain basically ignorant and ashamed of that ignorance. Sometimes a movie can help, like the Last King of Scotland, or for Rwanda, Hotel Rwanda.

This book, Stolen Angels, is a gift. Decades of history and political turmoil distilled and presented to you in a highly readable fashion. It's about the children, who always pay the highest price. You can get it through Amazon, or a shop. But get it.

March 14, 2008

See Here

I have terrible eyesight. Beyond terrible. I can't see the alarm clock beside my bed, and unless something is about 3 inches from the end of my nose - no closer, no further - it is blurry. I've had friends who have done the Lasik eye surgery, and I've always held off even investigating it. When you've had lots of surgeries in your life that aren't voluntary, you get an appreciation for avoiding those that are.

This article today in the NYT reminds me why I'm probably right to hold back. It's not a horror story about missing eyeballs or something, it's a rather more scary scenario - not understanding the definition of 'success' of such an operation.

This woman had it done, and wishes she hadn't. Her vision was basically corrected, but the side effects, all the mumbleness in the small print, is plaguing her. That is my concern as well.

I've had glasses since I was 8. Oh, they were ugly. I squinted my way through my teens, horrified as my sight deteriorated at an alarming rate. At 16 I begged my mother to let me get contacts - people didn't really get contacts back then like they do now, and she was adamant. There was one eye doctor in town, and he was about 107 years old. He said I couldn't get them. My mother said if I could find a doctor who said yes, I could. I found one. A new doctor hung out his shingle and I bet I was the first patient through the door. He looked about 11, but my mother liked him, and I finally got contacts.

Contacts are an endurable curse. I wear both glasses and contacts interchangeably, though I've never really made friends with either. It's a drag not being able to see - and you're reminded of it every day as the phone beside the bed rings and you answer the clock.

I did ask one doctor in passing about Lasik a few years back, out of curiousity. He checked my file, and announced I'd need at least 2 go rounds, and then I'd still need glasses. I am neither near-sighted nor far-sighted anymore; I'm essentially no-sighted. I passed.

The biggest pain in the butt with lousy vision is on some of the trips I take. We're in odd places at odd times with unforseen things happening. This is adventurous and fabulous, until you find yourself fumbling in a pup tent with a miner's lamp strapped to your forehead trying to take out contacts in the middle of Argentina.

You can't fly in contacts - they dry out and feel like little crusts on your eyes. And you should see how sexy you can look in glasses and one of those furry hats with the ear flaps.

I know this woman's story is just one, and most people seem really happy with their decision to get the surgery. But she makes some valid points we should listen to regarding anything to do with our bodies and the medical community, and especially, Big Pharma. Ask questions, and err on the side of caution. We take a lot for granted, and many of us are quick to look for a quick fix. And maybe here I should find a link to a tattoo removal story, to remind us of the hell of the un-fix.

March 11, 2008

Client 9

Just once, I wish they would let me write the script. The story is an old one - shamed politician caught with his pants down - but the most damnable part for me is the little woman at his side. Why do they always look like they did something wrong?

Here's a couple of suggestions for Eliot Spitzer, and Silda, his wife:
"I stand before you, chastised and ashamed. I have broken the trust of my marriage and family, and my constituents...and I ask your...."
"You will have my forgiveness over my dead body, you selfish, egocentric bastard. Do you really believe you will get away with publicly shaming us, and I will stand here beside you and put up with it? It's not my fault none of the cheerleaders would sleep with you in high school. And it's only your rise to the top of the powerful dorkpile that is getting you any now...I stuck by you when I knew what an ass you were...and this is how you repay me? Do you seriously believe they're not watching your every move, that in this day and age they can't watch you from miles away and not know exactly what, and who, you're doing? Come on kids, we're out of here..."

or this:

"You may be wondering why I've called this news conference. Unfortunately, I have..."
"Wait, honey? Hold on. The kids are here, and want to hear too. Oh, and kids? Bring your grandparents out too. And I believe we have a live feed to the jail, where all the people you called 'vermin' are incarcerated after you built your reputation on cleaning out the scum. Now then, what was it you wanted to say?"

Personally, I couldn't care less who is doing whom. But just once, I'd like to see the wife (and it's always the wife - no guy would stand there and be so emasculated) refuse to play the role. You want to forgive him? Go for it. But don't stand in front of us and grit your teeth. Haul off and smack the bastard, at least for embarrassing your children, if not for killing your marriage. Or better yet, refuse to stand beside him.

The problem with the stand up wife in a political marriage in these situations is that it makes me question her motives even more than I question his.

March 7, 2008

CH Live@5:30 Friday

Problem with kid tantrums? Well, nothing like a powerwash to shut the little brat up...

Yup. Licenses and training to own dogs and cars, but not kids...

March 5, 2008

Chuck Cadman & The Cads

Ooooooooooh. Just when you start to think nothing good ever happens in Canada, we get our own little parliamentary kerfuffle going on. Stephane Dion is talking tough to Stephen Harper - and Mr. Harper is appearing pestered. Well, I'm guessing here. His facial expressions run the gamut from sour to sour, so it's hard to tell. But there are some mighty big accusations being flung around, and while it's enjoyable to see Dion pull himself up to full height and speak above a whisper, I'm thinking he may want to see if he's packing a six-shooter or a pea shooter before he goes much further.

Here's the thing: I believe the Cadman family. I believe as their husband and father was dying, he held a precious ruby that some of the skankiest people in this country wanted - politicians. As Cadman himself was a politican, albeit a maverick one, he knew exactly what that ruby was worth. Cadman was reportedly outraged at the offer of a $1 million dollar insurance policy. I think he was probably just as outraged someone from the PMO would believe he was stupid enough to think there could be such a thing as a new life insurance policy for a dying man. Everyone knows so many things make you ineligible for life insurance, it's beyond a stretch to think someone with terminal cancer could be given such a thing.

But who knew what, and when? Haven't we been here before, like a million times? When is a bribe not a bribe? Does that depend on what 'is', is? If you're gonna get in a conversation with people fluent in weasel-speak, you better have your tees crossed. And your fingers.

Harper et al had better be careful in who they call a liar here. I don't get the feeling that many of us are going to vote against Team Cadman, and the Conservatives best choose their words carefully. Likewise, Dion is starting to look blustery - like the kid in the debate who dropped his notes on the way in. Doesn't mean he's wrong, but in politics, optics are everything and he's making more than a few people wince.

Chuck Cadman truly was a man with nothing left to lose. And knowing that, he voted as his moral code led him. Perhaps that's the message that's getting lost in all this posturing. Maybe we should ignore Harper and Dion and listen to Cadman.

March 3, 2008

Riches to Rags to Riches

As Conrad Black trundles off to jail today, I'll admit to giving some thought as to what this once world-at-his-feet kinda guy is going to do when confined to a wee space - and confined with others a tad less refined than himself at that, I would imagine.

I'm figuring a lot of reading, and a lot of writing, and a lot of unleashing of yet more ridiculous words that have been best left unsaid for a reason. I'm sure the food will muck with his system, though personally, I could probably live on macaroni and cheese until my arse exploded. Me 'n starch, a happy duo.

Well, during my journalistic meanderings today, I found the best.convict.ever. Seriously. Jonathon Lee Riches is pent up in South Carolina on an 8-year fraud sentence, but this lad hasn't let the grass grow under his feet for even a second. If Conrad wants a break from exhaustive pontificating, he needs to take a lesson from this guy in exhaustive suing.

Riches is beyond prolific. He has sued the Unabomber. He has sued Kiera Knightly. He has sued (get this) the White House phone number. And while my favourite is his suing of George Orwell, he saves the best for the sports guys.

He is suing LeBron James for putting bubblegum on his bicyle seat. And for breaking into the Watergate Hotel in the '70s. He is suing Jeff Gordon (the NASCAR driver) for dropping Tic Tacs on the race track through a secret trap door, and for being related to Flash Gordon. (Okay, that seems nearly reasonable.)

He is suing Mike Brady and Mike Tyson, the Williams sisters and George Steinbrenner. Read what he's suing them for, and the settlements he's seeking. I was squeaking with laughter.

Just when you think you have to make up characters, along comes one that just writes himself.

Now, picture this guy sharing a bunk with Conrad.

On edit: Okay, I'm never going to get any work done. Read more stuff here. And I know, I know, my mother always told me not to give attention to kids behaving badly, but these days, who can tell the difference between some of the people in our news and this guy?