For you, the dress code is casual.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

World Changing is an incredibly informative, vast website touching on issues around the reconstruction of Asia, the relief of the suffering, and insightful commentary on issues that probably have yet to occur to you--by people who know a hell of a lot more than lowly little me. Go learn something.

The United Who?

[Ed. Note: This is now quite out-of-date as the UN and US are working in unison, or this is what they're saying. However, anyone can tell there is a lot of animosity between the two, and to expect all that to be shelved all of a sudden seems like a tall order. That said, I'm leaving this up, regardless of the fact that I'm pleased to see the US really trying to do some good with all of this. The following's as was posted before the New Year.]

Georgie, Georgie, Georgie... still putting on a show, eh?

In all his magnamity, old George W. has done gone and offered to lead a -- well, let’s call it a “Coalition of the Giving” in order to help relieve the suffering in Southeast Asia.

Bush seems to think there’s some kind of need for a centralized international agency to assist in areas of civil unrest and disaster relief. Actually, you know, I think that’s an awesome idea. Good one, George!

I know. We could call it “The United Nations.” Like, you know, nations... united... more than one of them, kind of all working together.

Oh, damn it, George. Some dudes founded something just like that in 1945, after this “World War” thing. Guess timing really is everything, eh?

Right now, we’re stuck in a pretty inglorious period for the United Nations. I’ll be the first to agree that the UN is failing dismally in its effort to be a so-called governing body for the world. With absolutely no moral compass these days, there are clearly too many cooks are in the kitchen. The bad guys, ie: China, North Korea, et al, all have too loud a voice. As a result, it’s become a party where all the guests are essentially being polite to each other about what’s annoying them, but never really getting to the heart of it all. Nothing ever gets done anymore.

And the UN is also rabidly anti-American in its policies, and some of it perhaps justifiably so, but how do you pander to North Korea and then snap at the US relentlessly? It just makes no sense.

Regardless... now is not the time for George Bush to take the podium and posture as some do-good boy from Texas just hoping to make the world a better place. Now is the time to defer to people like the Red Cross and Unicef, people who really know how to fix disasters in a timely manner. Now is the time to act, not think up some crafty way to fix an international image for a government in trouble. Simply act as fast as possible.

Even if Bush is talking long-term, there are better ways of managing this disaster than trying to put a Made-In-America stamp all over the outcome. I have a whole world of opinions about that possibility, too, but that I'll save for later.

I can only hope the international community sees through this charade for exactly what it is: Just another pathetic publicity ploy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Swept Away

Much of the world has been awash in sadness in ever since that tsunami struck the shores of Southeast Asia. With the death toll increasing by some 20,000 a day right now, it's hard to imagine a disaster ever comparing to this one.

Though the facts will continue coming to light over the coming months, thus far, it's daunting. The geological immensity of this event will leave us all a little stunned for some time to come--and might certainly remove some of the allure to a quaint seaside vacation.

So far, some 77,000 lives are lost. Conservative estimates put an eventual number of at least 100,000 casualties on the catastrophe. I highly doubt that horrific number includes the deaths that are bound to come from disease and sanitation issues as a result of the chaos, and those "real" numbers might be too high too conceive.

It's all unfolding like some horribly over-the-top Hollywood film. I'm glad I no longer have any 24-hour news stations like CNN, because even in sound bites, this news is very hard to take.

Even 5,000 miles away, on the shores of Somalia, people were unsafe. The waves hit there, and in Kenya as well, reportedly ending some hundred-plus lives in those countries.

At its epicentre, though, the force of the quake and the resulting tsunami was so incredible that the island of Sumatra, which has taken the brunt of this, has not only been forcibly picked up and moved en masse more than 100 feet to the southeast, but more than 75% of the coastline on this once-idyllic island has now been utterly destroyed. The first aerial photos of this region are staggering to look at.

I was listening to one report via radio yesterday, in which a seemingly seasoned reporter was so choked by his emotions that he was stifling tears as he told his account of an Indonesian dumping ground (just one of many) for bodies--the corpses were frozen in time with rigor mortis capturing their last poses, poses of defiance and fear when faced with a staggering wall of water. Makeshift cardboard coffins with lids askew, outstretched arms protruded from the boxes, the boxes themselves piled as high as they could go, a stench stretching hundreds of yards beyond the perimeter of the dumping grounds, as if warning you off from the horrors you were about to encounter.

It's so unthinkable that such a happening will eventually come down to dollars, but that is the reality. When all the headlines of the losses start to fade away, then the real costs will come into the picture. Obviously, this will wind up being the most damaging disaster ever faced by man, and the effects will be felt far beyond the lives of those immediately affected when the waves hit. We can't even begin to know how it'll affect international economies. A year or more down the road, we'll finally start understanding all the financial repercussions for all the countries of the globe, not just those immediately involved.

As a "global village," we can't just leave it up to governments to send funds. Yes, the government is most effective at the onset of such tragedies, but for the long-term return to normality, all of us need to pitch in and send funds. Despite being pretty stretched for cash myself right now, I'll be making a contribution today as I feel it's all of our duties to take a few bucks and contribute it to the relief efforts. We can't wait for governments to mend all of this; the financial costs are far too staggering.

It's strange how grief and money are always so intricately linked, whether it's a loved one or an international tragedy, it always comes down to dollars, because that's the only way you can move past your loss. Hopefully with more of us feeling generous, we can make life a little simpler for those who've lost everything except their will to live.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Game On

I’m trying to keep this site a little more balanced. There’s a real danger of my jumping atop my soapbox, enjoying the lofty view, and never coming down.

I love commentary. Probably mostly because I’m somewhat cocky and assured that my oh-so-insightful take on life is worth saying at least once, and sometimes twice. Of course, I realize that’s just my inner-pompous ass talking, but I do dig commentary and would love nothing more than for my take on things to mean something.

To be a good op-ed (opinion/editorial) writer, one really must know both sides of the issues, and then pick one. You can’t be namby-pamby on where you stand. That said, conviction is something I’ve never been short on. Neither is moral righteousness.

I’ve got a pretty good handle on all my shortcomings: I’m loud, brash, opinionated, blunt. But what makes me a pain in the ass in the office also makes me a more promising op-ed writer.

I’m on the verge of digging into all my old paperwork and finding all the writing I did in the mid-’90s. I once wrote and edited for the college paper, which I loved, and I sort of went and dismissed it all, not because it was bad, but because it was “then.”

“Then” I was different. That was before I lost my mom. Before I nearly lost my life -- twice. Before I finally figured out who the hell I was. Before a lot of things.

I don’t remember when this was, earlier this year, I suppose, but I did stumble across one article I’d written back then. I read it and was surprised. It really struck me as good. I think that was a problematic discovery, though.

It’s problematic to remember that you once had a way with words when you’re coming off a five-year patch of writer’s block. For anyone who doesn’t believe in writer’s block, well... It can only truly be explained as simply failing to understand yourself anymore. That’s all it really is. Eventually, you need to find your way back inside. They just don’t sell those kinds of compasses, though.

I know the cliche is that the troubled artist is usually the best artist, but I’m at my worst when I’m going through things, and I’ve been “going through things” for the better part of seven years now.

But despite being in an accident that very well should have cost me my life this past August, I’m now having more fun than I’ve had in a decade. Nothing like nearly moving into a pine box to give you a little clarity on what’s worth your grief and what ain’t.

Since then, I’m finally returning to who I once was. My personality’s coming back, along with my edginess.

Not too coincidentally, writing is also coming back to me. Slowly. I’m not there yet, and it could take a while to develop the sort of balance between insight and humour that I’m after, but, and I do not say this lightly, I’m optimistic.

Of course, optimism isn’t necessarily a plus when you’re an op-ed writer. Your job is to find the faults in the system, in people, in the world. It’s a very hard life because it’s not often about celebrating man’s accomplishments, but about analyzing his missteps.

The alcoholic journalist is a cliche because it’s true. It’s not a career one should pursue unless they have a strong sense of who they are, and a real passion for life.

For the first time in a long time, I have both of those qualifications. Seems it's time to get back in the game.

All About Me.

Blogger go boom. For some reason, it's showing links to my old blogs in my profile. Despite asking for help, that help seems slow in coming.

The blogs it is showing are ones I have detonated and no longer wish to be seen by anyone. As a result, I've disabled my profile, but in the meantime, you should probably know a thing or about me to put my soapboxing in perspective.

I'm 31. I live in Vancouver. I'm single--never married, no kids, no sordid tales that you need to know. I'm in a good job from which I want release, but am too smart to walk--for now.

Verbatim, here's what was in my profile:

In between my wild attempts at total world domination and the wreaking of absolute chaos, I like to write down a few of my thoughts. And here they are. So, I'm Steff. Hi. I write. (Tah-dah!) I also have a job... (Boo!) ...for which I'm paid to watch TV for a living, as I'm a captioner. I'm still waiting for them to fork over a couch subsidy, but we'll see. A recliner, perhaps? Aside from that, I'm a scooter enthusiast, a lit fan, a film buff, and a little insane. I love friends, food, fun, and all the other fabulous cliches that set us all afire. This here's a happy little land comprised of both my rants and whimsy.

Friday, December 17, 2004

My new bumper sticker

go home
Originally uploaded by scribecalledsteff.

Knocking Knees 101

A sex-education flap has recently occured in the US. Now, I've heard a rumour that they have this whole religion/politics-not mixing thing going on in their constitution, but you know what? I don't buy it.

We all know it’s a load of crap. The reality is that the Republican party alternates between governing on its knees and leading from the pulpit, and their approach to sex (mis)education is the perfect example.

But, hey, don’t just take my word for it. Here's the link where you can read the damning study conducted by Congressman Henry Waxman on the damaging effects of the recent spate of “abstinence-only” sexual education programs in American schools.

Just a few of the absurd tidbits being taught under these new Bush-pushed programs:

1. Heterosexual kids keep having sex, and even though they’re using condoms, 31% of the time those condoms are failing to prevent transmission of HIV. Yeah, that latex is so darn sieve-y.
2. Tears and saliva can readily transmit HIV. Uh-huh.
3. One out of every seven sexual counters in which condoms are used will result in pregnancy. Boy, I sure know a lot of anomalies. Including me.
4. Mutual masturbation sans intercourse can make babies. Is a comment even necessary?
5. Apparently science has now officially proven that life begins at conception. Them fetuses are even, apparently, creating fully formed thoughts by the 43rd day of their term. And, what, filing taxes by birth?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Teen sex is a craze. Epidemic. Oh, the amorality of it all.

Well, I can understand the concern about kids knocking knees just for kicks. Gives a whole new meaning to "After School Special," you know. Personally, I figure 15-year-olds should probably be watching Smallville reruns, not twisting titties in the rec room.

That said, you don’t go and tell them the worst-case scenario that their sexual forays might result in. You’re guaranteeing that when things do go wrong (contracting STDs, getting knocked up), they’ll react in shame instead of enacting responsible measures to deal with their situations. This sort of fear-mongering isn't some Band-aid you slap on amoral behaviour with the expectation it'll be a cure-all. Are these people getting oxygen, or what?

Aside from the right-wing fervour fuelling these lessons are the jaw-dropping ignorance and prejudism behind the stunningly wrong stats on AIDS and HIV.

It's true, AIDS is one of the most terrifying health issues facing us today. We have entered a dangerous phase of complacency as many of us have reduced our levels of vigilancy, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed. This is especially so now that the rates of transmission are increasing at alarming rates world-wide, including the infection rates for females in North America, and no relief is in sight.

Certainly, the transmission of this virus is a danger that needs to be taught to every person, but it needs to be taught accurately, and without social biases. To blow things out of proportion as these “educators” have done not only demeans the caution with which we must face this disease, but also results in the paranoia towards, and the ostracising of, the victims of this virus.

I haven’t even touched on the study's disturbing inferences that some 50% of gay teens have AIDS. With 30% of gay teens either considering suicide or acting on those considerations, I doubt this kind of bullshit stat is going to help them through their difficult process of self-discovery.

All this leaves me thinking back to the fear and indoctrinization I experienced as a child in the Catholic church. It's safe to say that I’ve spent much of my life cloaked in feelings of guilt and inadequacy. My childhood religious roots are largely to blame, since my exposure to the church was essentially a 15-year discourse on fear. That the current American administration seems content to rule and educate under the same sort of mentality is alarming.

It’s always so sadly ironic when “education” becomes a breeding ground for ignorance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Buyable Canuck

I'm a little miffed at American citizens in general tonight, and maybe undeservedly, since the culprit that provoked my current angst is actually, yes, you guessed it, a corporation.

As it happens, I was out for drinks with a good friend earlier, and we somehow got on the topic of the US and a new hot-selling item--the buyable Canadian identity. is selling t-shirts, decals, and more for Americans to assume the Canadian identity abroad. Now, we're no slouches. We've known this was a 'covert' practice by a lot of Americans for a lot of years, but for someone to be brazenly marketing the idea is astounding. It's one thing when it's anti-establishment college kids sewing a Maple Leaf on their knapsack, but it's another when it's some lame SUV-driving yuppie trying to have a lowkey time in Provence while wearing an "O Canada" t-shirt as they tour lavender-lined vineyards.

Either way, it's still wrong. We're Canadian. You're American. Don't cop our style, man.

Strangely, no matter how often you try to explain that yes, we look like you, we may even like all the same stuff as you, but we are absolutely, fundamentally different from you, most Americans seem to shake their heads and then act like we're just another jealous little sibling that refuses to get lumped in with the Big Bro.

It's been said before: We're proud of how we negotiated, not fought, our country into existence. We're natural peacemakers. Having developed more constitutionally protected personal freedoms than the US, it's safe to say that Canada has been left-wing, politically, for a long time, both domestically and abroad. We have always exalted freedom and championed human rights around the world, as we are currently trying to do on the issue of genocide in Sudan, for example.

We are indeed proud people. Both of who we are and what we're not. Specifically, that is to say the United States. It's been very hard growing up in your shadow, with your culture, your news, your politics, all dominating our domestic stage. That we have an identity and that it is getting stronger and more concrete despite our being the most multicultural country in the world today leaves us with even more pride in who and what we are.

Enter T-shirt King. Essentially, they're marketing to Americans who are getting tired of being treated as they do when they travel (be it the political fallout, the empirical tendencies, whatever). Now, to have those Americans cop out and affect a Canadian "accent" and don a Maple Leaf while trying to figure out how the hell the word "eh" works as a part of speech is inconceivably offensive on so many levels.

[Ed. Note: The word "eh" does perform a specific function in transforming a simple declarative into an interrogative. You do not get your "Canadian-speak" decoder ring today, though, I'm sorry to say.]

Unfortunately, the American reception around the world has to do with a few things--one, the pricks who wrecked it for all the nice Americans by being the pricks they were, and loudly announcing their American citizenship in so doing. Two, you're uncomfortable discussing your politics? You elected your government. I'm sorry, but that means most of you endorse their politics. That's generally how the electoral process works, even when it's as cocked up as the electoral college system. Three, the fact that, not all, but unfortunately too many Americans do not take the time to learn about the cultures and peoples of the places they're visiting.

Yes, it reflects badly on those of you who are more worldly and open.

Despite that, it does not give any American, or any other national, the right to wear the Maple Leaf and try to pose as a hoser. The American reputation has been injured internationally, in many ways, for a number of reasons. This schtick isn't going to help. It will, however, start hurting the Canadian reputation--the one we've spent a century-plus creating through our efforts to broker peace throughout the world, through our work towards worldwide human rights and freedoms, and all the while, creating a great socialist nation that provides for (arguably) all its subjects, whilst giving them great beer to drink.

What we ain't, though, is a fashion statement and travel gimmick.

Sunday, December 12, 2004


I had a great little trip to Zulu Records this afternoon. Zulu's the kind of record store that Rob from High Fidelity would cream his pants to own. It's just that good. You pay a little more for the street cred, though.

I played with the listening booths and got in touch with a little new music. One band is secret-secret for a bit, since a particular gift recipient might happen upon the information and have a surprise spoiled.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have landed me with a few exquisite laughs, though, bellyshakers. How can a punk cover of "Build Me Up Buttercup" not make your week? I don't even need to mention the also-punk cover of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," do I?

God bless random. Some rather psychedelic remix of "the Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats has spun onto play. It's a little frightening that we seem to be evolving towards another era of '80s-style music. You question me? How about The Killers? Duran Duran-meets-Psychedelic Furs, their track "Mr. Brightside" gets a thumbs-up from me, but the rest hasn't hit home just yet. Maybe I'll fire up the John Hughes tribute night and that'll stoke the mood. Or how about the Go! Team? I'm enjoying them, sort of. They're fun, definitely, but I can't help but to think they're maybe, well, Banarama... on lots and lots of crack.

Now, speaking of crack and safety (watch those pipes, kids), there is simply nothing at all safe about this remix of "the Safety Dance." Next thing you know, I'll be listening to the Boomtown Rats or something. [Which brings to mind this story Bob Geldof wrote about a particularly Deer Hunter-ish encounter with a prostitute in Thailand... Not a place I need to go. Golf balls are for driving, damn it.]

I've come to my senses and skipped ahead, blindly, and now have Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror" playing. As much as creepy pedophilia thoughts coupled with visions of Neverland are slipping into my mind, I'll hear this one out.

I remember thinking, way back then in the early '90s, that there were just too darn many veiled "What the hell is wrong with me?" sort of lyrics that foreshadowed his then-impending descent into, well... the weirdness we see now. Take the lyrics from this track, "I'm talking with the man in the mirror / I'm asking him to change his ways."

One can only surmise the conversation didn't really go too well.

What a waste. For a time there, he was simply one of the greatest pure pop singers of our time. There's a lot to be said for dying young if you're going to blow your legacy in your own lifetime, like M.J. has done so well. He's the human being brought to you in part by Silly Putty, for God's sake.

Hell, that nose probably did come in a plastic egg after all.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Been A Long Time Comin'

And a short time going.

The Kills, as my faithful partner in musical crime put it, were afflicted with a serious case of giggus interruptus.

After 49 minutes, with an ending that left us all needing a cigarette, Hotel and VV just strolled offstage. Easily one of the hardest fought shows I've ever witnessed, and despite the incredibly short set, I'm stunned to find myself okay with it, and probably even relieved.

I could handle more shows like this. What was that I said about sexual tension? This was sexual war. It was a battle up there, and we, the little voyeurs who paid for a show, came off as the winners. Driving guitar(s) powered one of the finest vocal shows around, forcing you to decide if you're quantity or the quality type. Tonight, file me under quality, and I got mine. And I'm betting that, not long after they got off stage, judging by what was going on on it, that VV and Hotel got theirs, too.

With a gig like that, you break the hour mark, you better know your Kama Sutra breathing techniques, let me tell you.

You can just call me Grasshopper.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Kill(s)ing Time.

One more sleep. The Kills are tomorrow, Richard's on Richard's.

I feel very child-at-Christmas about this gig, like it's going to be one of those rare air nights where all the mood and music just melds. One of the gigs you live for as a music junkie.

I think we all remember that first live gig where we just Got It and just realized what music was all about. That is, not the play-and-pause shit, but rather this unadulterated barage of sound.

The concert experience isn't just one of aural pleasure, but physically absorbing the music. The throbs, the wails, the riffs, they all get into you and deepen the experience. There's a reason music sells sex better than anything else.

My understanding is that VV and Hotel [the Kills] affect this overly aggressive, sexual, near-violent focus on each other during the performance of Kissy Kissy, my favourite chill-out track at present. Every description of their performance, the intensity, has only served to get me a little more psyched.

I think we all love sexual tension, but we're mostly familiar with the more intellectualized version with the innuendo, the deft side-stepping, the murmured suggestion, the awkward chuckles, and never mind the body language. Sometimes it sadly seems like Friends has a market on that.

But this sexual tension could be a really refreshing change of pace. And a due one, too.