The Birds and the Bees

24 12 2017

This year our budgies, Kiwi and Lulu, departed this mortal coil on wings of their own for the afterlife. I wonder whether birds and angels get along, or if there’s always a fight at the feeder? Do angels defecate like birds? Are all the statues in heaven covered in angel poop?

Anyway, our birds taught us a lot about the cycle of life. They laid eggs constantly, even though they were both female. They laid unfertilized eggs. It was all birds and no bees in our house. I feel like I should explain what that means for those of you who haven’t heard the story of the birds and the bees. I only just recently learned it myself. I’d heard references to this story my whole life, but my imagination always failed me when I tried to figure out just what the hell birds and bees have to do with sexual intercourse.
The story may have been derived from the first stanza of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Work Without Hope, a title that sounds like it might be referring to unfertilized sex:

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

This bit of verse apparently inspired a very starchy and uptight 19 th century woman named Dr. Emma Frances Angell Drake to relate the story of sex to her daughters in the context of bees being pollinators (male) and birds being egg layers (female) in her book The Story of Life. This pollination/egg-laying narrative is pretty much the whole story, which quite frankly leaves out far too many details for my liking. There’s still the thorny issue of actual copulation. As far as I know, bees don’t pollinate a bird’s eggs. Birds only do it with other birds, and lots and lots of male bees do it with a single queen. The two
species really have nothing in common when it comes to relationships. Some birds mate for life, whereas bees basically gangbang a virgin with royal heritage.

Our birds were both virgins, yet they still laid eggs. How immaculate is that? Were they visited by a parakeet deity while we slept? Was it consensual? As I pondered the source of our birds’ miraculous and relentless fertility, I found myself wondering about the details behind the conception of Jesus. Was Mary expecting a visit from the Holy Spirit, or did he show up unannounced? Was she a willing vessel, or did God abuse the power of his position? In this age of scandal, one wonders whether Mary might come forward with an ancient grievance about holy robes being flung open unsolicited and uninvited. Meryl Streep famously referred to Harvey Weinstein as “a god”. Does she know something we don’t? And where was Joseph when all this went down? Was he watching from behind the potted plant? Just another enabler, if you ask me.

I have some extra tickets to Hell if anyone cares to join me.

On that note, let me finish by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a scandal-free New Year. May the grotesque realities of fevered sin be mollified by the benign innocence of birds laying eggs and bees gently humping them.


Feelings Of An Almost Human Nature

10 06 2017

I think studiously avoiding social media may be the smartest thing I ever did. I cringe at the pernicious deployment of Facebook and Twitter “quotes” in the mainstream media, with those awful screenshots full of illegible #hashes, @handles, and sophomoric OMG’s, LOL’s, and IMO’s. It’s an affront to the true power, potency, and depth of human language. Centuries of rhetorical skill and linguistic mastery have enriched humanity beyond measure, only to be deposed by the lazily-thumbed elucidations of minds so sluggish and paralytic they can’t even manage the pedestrian exercise of looking both ways before stepping off the curb.

As much as I try to avoid the shallow waters of social media, I hear about it from those close to me who’ve been lured by its siren song. Almost everyone I know regrets the decision to take that initial plunge now that the medium’s fishy mermaid flesh lies rotting in the sun, surrounded by greedy gulls and swarms of hungry, trolling flies, but they can’t look away from the carnage. Social media is the mother of all train wrecks, with all the world slowly drifting by to catch a glimpse, after which you can check into the nearest trauma center and answer that most fundamental of modern questions: how do you feel?

How do you feel? Tell us. We want to know. Speak directly into the microphone. Go on, the whole world is listening! They want to hear you say, in all your idiotic hashtag vanity, how important your feelings are. Your feelings are so important, I dare say, that they will be weaponized to form public policy. The concept of hate speech, initially provisioned to deal criminally with racist propagandizing, has been retro-fitted to provide legal recourse for almost anyone’s hurt feelings, provided the victim fits into an ever-expanding definition of the term.

The concept of repressing one person’s point of view in reaction to the limbic liabilities of another is so overtly Orwellian, it’s almost embarrassing to draw the comparison. Yet the power of modern phraseology propagated throughout social media is terrifying. In Orwell’s 1984, citizens of Oceania were accused of crimethink, sexthink, oldthink, etc. Today people are publicly accused of hate crimes, hate speech, transphobia, islamophobia, and so many sins of privilege that you’d think Trotsky had returned from the grave to lead a new revolution.

The mainstream media is chalk-full of stories of this campus administration buckling under pressure from a tiny aggrieved faction, or that public figure groveling at the altar of shameful contrition, or yet another charge of “insert-prefix-here-phobia” aimed at some thoughtless drip for a back-handed comment made on Twitter. Well, guess what? It all goes away in one fell swoop if everyone would finally wise up and get off their damned phones for a second! Stop tweeting altogether, and you’ll never face the firing squad for running afoul the bien pensants. Stop posting every goddamn thing you ever did or said or thought on Facebook and you won’t have to stand in front of a committee naming names to the neo-McCarthyites. And most importantly, your boilerplate, vain, insipid outrage will no longer be given universal agency by a mob so eager to light the fire they don’t care what’s at stake.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Without the soap box, there’s no sermon. If you don’t have a megaphone strapped to the front of your face amplifying every word you say, you won’t have to choose your words so carefully. Maybe social media will finally peter out and become just another ugly phase of human history, like the Salem witch burnings. On the other hand, hey, free witch burnings.

Okay, fine… let’s talk about Trump

19 02 2017

A couple people have asked me to write a post about Donald Trump and the mess in America. Literally two people. Maybe the only two people who read this thing. Anyway, I’ve avoided writing about Trump because I don’t think he’s a particularly good subject because there’s nothing you can say about Trump that isn’t true about the worst aspects of humanity in general. He’s petty, insecure, ostentatious, egotistical, small-minded, insular, unforgiving… Go to’s thesaurus and you will probably come away with at least a hundred aspersions to cast at Trump, but I don’t believe Trump is the problem. My long-held belief is that most of us can’t think for ourselves and are easily led by those who hold our favorite brand of carrot.

I’m not just referring to Trump voters, by the way. I’m referring to everyone on both sides of the political spectrum. Right and left. Those who voted for Trump because they were sick to death of being treated as an afterthought by the liberal elite found a stupid, blunt-object solution in Trump’s message of division and falsehoods. Those on the left who believe the Occupy Wall Street movement was “important” and advertise their moral superiority through lazy hashtag activism live by a code of self-hating cowardice and deference for anyone who isn’t white.

Trumpism is alive and well on both sides of the political divide. Trump’s presidency isn’t about him, or the victory of the far right, or the victory of white over non-white… It’s about the victory of truth as a perception rather than as something that is a priori. It’s about the victory of identity over authenticity. It’s about believing in a lie because the source of the lie masquerades as a truth.

It isn’t even the lie’s fault that it’s believed. A lie doesn’t have to be malicious, necessarily. It just needs to be understood as refutable. Trump is refutable. So is Bono, for that matter. Both of them represent something false to their followers: Trump represents the falsehood of the downfall of  greatness in America; Bono represents the falsehood of Oxfam-brand equality for all. One could argue that there is an imbalance in these falsehood’s respective menace. Expecting a certain of kind of greatness in America carries with it all sorts of narrow, nationalist viewpoints that threaten the fabric of peace, while the assumption that there is such a thing as equality for all is sort of sweet and innocent rather than perilous.

The right and wrong of it doesn’t matter much. What matters is how much of your world view was built on personal experiences rather than the shared lie of pop culture. This is not to say that pop culture is to blame. This is to say that what it represents is not substantial enough to act as truth’s emissary and it shouldn’t be counted on to entirely inform your point of view. The belief that immigration is hurting America is just as precariously constructed as the belief that humanity can overcome it’s own nature and put an end to conflict and misery. The former is built upon fear and prejudice while the latter is built upon Utopian naivete.

Much has been said about the danger of the echo chamber that exists in the social mediaverse. We tend to follow people with whom we agree and block dissenting opinions. I think the problem is deeper than that. We’ve always been tribal, and social media proves that fact at least as much as it amplifies it. What’s new is how quickly we can align ourselves with tent-pole media personalities and merely ape what they say and consider ourselves informed. Deciding that immigration is hurting America because of stuff Trump says is just as hare-brained as claiming to understand climate science because you signed a petition at a U2 concert. Both are examples of Trumpism run rampant.


We are all guilty of cognitive bias, which is why Trump is in the White House. He didn’t get there because of who he is. He got there because of who we are.


Too Much Information

2 09 2016

I signed up for a Shopper’s Drug Mart Optimum card, because you really can save a lot points to spend later, at their store, based on the fact that you shopped there before.

They don’t just hand these things out to anyone, you understand? They only give them to repeat shoppers. You get rewarded for shopping there, beyond just the daily great savings.

You get further savings based on a points system. You collect points to spend later against further purchases.

I’m still trying to work out the formula to determine the break­even point, but suffice it to say, there will be immense savings at some point in the future.

When I filled out the personal information section of my Optimum Card registration form I used false information, as I always do when I fill these things out.

Name, date of birth, gender, email address,… These are personal details that are frankly none of Shopper’s Drug Mart Optimum Card Loyalty Program’s business.

Normally it’s not a big deal because I usually give a fake email address, but this time I provided my real address, but all the other details were fake. So now my mailbox is filling up with sales and promotions emails for a sixty­seven year old woman named Doreen.

This didn’t happen right away. It took a couple of months before I started receiving emails and by the time they started coming in, I’d completely forgotten about it.

So I was a little surprised when I started getting these emails that started with, “Doreen: We think you’ll love these savings! ”

I was confused at first but then I finally remembered that I’m Doreen. And it seems Doreen has smoker’s cough. And incontinence. She may require adult diapers.

I’m starting to get a little worried about Doreen.

Even though Doreen is fictional, I still feel like I shouldn’t be reading her email. This is a lot of very personal information about someone I’ve never even met.

It just doesn’t seem right. I made up Doreen to avoid giving away any personal information about myself, and now I’m getting very personal information about someone I made up in order to avoid getting too personal.

The worst part is, Shopper’s Drug Mart thinks Doreen is a real person. And now I’m wondering if they’re worried about her too. Should I call them and let them know that Doreen is a figment of my imagination? Or will I just be letting them down?

It gets even worse.

I’ve been reading about the recent Supreme Court decision to allow assisted suicide. And I’m torn about it because now that I know I have the power to end Doreen’s life, I’m not sure I can make that decision for her.

The Center Didn’t Hold

19 07 2016

It’s been so long since my last post, I don’t even know where to begin.

The world boils over with terrorist attacks by a foe that proudly claims to be doing Allah’s work, while we fight to protect those seeking religious freedom as long as they aren’t Southern Baptists.

A race war brews in America thanks to the repetitive and heavily-publicized shootings of black citizens by white cops, while a black president pleads for restraint and white liberals show up at BLM protests in political blackface.

BLM protestors demand that the LGBT community take a back seat at their own parade, which they do because they don’t want to offend their right to hijack an event about equality.

The second amendment tries to protect itself from guns by buying more guns, while the gun control lobby claims it’s guns and not violent criminals that are causing all the mayhem.

The United Kingdom passionately votes in favor of leaving the EU, and the next day the hung over nation’s most popular Google search is, “What is the EU?”

Donald J. Trump wins the GOP nomination because his supporters love that he “speaks the truth”. When clear and repetitive evidence that he’s lying most of the time is presented to his supporters they say, “We don’t care!”

And to top it all off some idiot sets fire to a kitten at a music festival in Saskatchewan.

There are problems everywhere, and everywhere else there’s a protest about the problems, and then a counter-protest to the original protest. Everyone has a strident, outspoken opinion, and everyone else has a solution in direct opposition to it.

There’s a famous logical teaser called The Liar’s Paradox that demonstrates a looping contradiction:

“The following statement is true; the previous statement is false.”

To call the statement true is false and to call the statement false is true. It’s what comes to mind when I think of the escalating schism between the Left and the Right that deadlocks every subject in its vicinity. The Western world seems to be suffering some sort of grand mal fit, and the only anti-seizure medication is locked in a drawer whose key is a logical paradox with no right answer.

The only place on the political spectrum that any sane person can rationally inhabit is the center. But the center isn’t sexy because it requires balance and thoughtfulness and due consideration of all sides of all arguments. It requires internal reflection and external debate. It requires experience, which at its most fruitful leads to adulthood.

Where are all the adults?


Mom? Dad?

Where is everyone?

Climate Chained

31 12 2015


The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris was a rousing success. Everyone agrees we need to tackle the effects of Climate Change and wrestle them to the thawing ground like a matador lancing a bull. It can be done! It must be done! We are heroes of our day! Hey, did anyone see the guy with that tray of fois gras?

I’m still amazed by the almost universal abstention of reason in Climate Change discourse. And if you are wondering why I keep capitalizing the C’s in the name, it’s because the subject has been deified beyond mere science and has taken the shape of the holy chalice in which it resides. One doesn’t debate Climate Change, nor does one consider Climate Change. No, we are all meant to believe in Climate Change.

I believe in climate change. I first learned the basics in grade school. There was an ice age. There were likely many ice ages, on a schedule of roughly one every fifteen thousand years. I also learned that there is generally a warming trend a few hundred years before each ice age. The last one happened without a single Range Rover in sight. So if climate changes all by itself, how do we know whether we are contributing to the theoretical trend upwards of global temperatures?

We know that we have been pumping an enormous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past eighty years, and that this carbon load may contribute to a “greenhouse effect” that may trap heat and may cause ocean temperatures to rise which in turn may alter the ocean currents and the heat exchanges in such a way that weather patterns may be effected, and ice caps may melt away, and many other potential problems may rise like a tsunami of doom.

Or, the climate might be changing as it always does on a schedule that has existed long before we had calendars on which to pin it. So why are we talking about reducing global temperatures, as though we have a choice? Why are we asking our politicians to do the impossible?

I suspect it’s because we’re all feeling guilty about wrecking the planet and our politicians are the ones we’ve elected to represent our collective self-loathing and to carry out the sort of desperate economic policies that effectively amount to self-harm, like moody teenagers cutting themselves while writing poetry to the strains of their meaningless, existential anxieties.

We certainly can’t be committing to temperature change for any rational reasons. Given what we know about the past behavior of the global climate, ice ages, et al, it stands to reason that no matter what we do we have about as much chance of changing the temperature as we do of preventing the next big earthquake.

I suppose it’s possible that we’re fixated on the worthless metric of temperature for the very reason that it is indeed a worthless metric. Like the sullen rejoinder that we didn’t ask to be born, perhaps we as a species need an equally petulant response to the threats in our midst. Instead of tackling our problems like adults, we just scream at the top of our lungs and slam the door in the face of rational discourse.

In keeping with petulant responses, it seems whenever anyone erects the banner of skepticism they are labeled a “Climate Change denier”. This is a useful rhetorical method for anyone who doesn’t like to be disagreed with. It has been a very effective tool of the Church for many centuries, and many an apostate has been burned at the stake, ironically adding to our already precipitous carbon load.

I don’t mind being hated for my lack of beliefs, but I don’t like being accused of not thinking clearly by anyone who clearly isn’t thinking clearly. Assigning our success or failure as stewards of the environment to the reversal of global temperatures is irresponsible in the extreme. It diminishes the very practical concerns of the environment and replaces them with a rabidly anti-intellectual belief system that fails to provide any sort of useful solution.

A single human can do all sorts of useful things to help limit their impact on the environment. They can, by choice, recycle properly, consume less packaging, drive less or carpool more, consume less electricity, eat fewer hamburgers, on and on. Governments can enforce environmental regulations known to have a real, measurable positive impact such as reducing toxins leeching into lakes and rivers, reducing noxious gases into our atmosphere, or ensuring every effort is made to protect ecosystems wherever feasible. What no human nor government can do is change the temperature up or down on purpose.

Whatever happened to our previous environmental concerns? Acid rain; the ozone layer; toxic pollution in our lakes, rivers and oceans; deforestation; loss of wildlife habitat; the innumerable other noxious gases that we send into the atmosphere in addition to carbon dioxide? Where is the UN Conference to deal with the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is contributed to by many nations, requiring a multilateral and multinational response?

Why are we not tackling the issue of gross over-consumption? We throw away our smartphones every two years. We drink coffee made by machines such as the Tassimo and the Keurig which require non-recyclable plastic containers for every cup consumed. We run televisions and computers that consume electricity even when they aren’t in use. We have a fetish for cheap computing but don’t question the environmental impact of mining the heavy metals required for chip manufacturing. The yellow cloud in China is directly related to the West’s insatiable appetite for electronics that remain cheap because of the lack of environmental protections and labor standards in that country.

But hey, that’s not our problem. We’re nice. We believe in Climate Change. We voted for a nice new government that believes what we believe. Never mind the more pressing and practical concerns like air and water pollution, excessive plastics in landfills, loss of species’ habitat, mindless consumption, etc, etc, etc. We voted with our hearts and now we know we’ll be safe because Paris and because the UN, and because two degrees centigrade by 2050. And anyone who doesn’t agree is just a bully and hates baby seals and drives a Hummer and loves guns and probably has a tiny penis.

Behold the Age of Reason.

Chasing The Beaver

26 07 2015

Todd 3It’s the final day of the 2015 Tour de France and it looks like Christopher Froome is going to mount the podium for the second time in his career. Only two other riders from the British Isles have won the Tour de France: Stephen Roche (Ireland) in 1987, and Bradley Wiggins (UK) in 2012. The Tour has long been dominated by an impressive and intimidating field of Europeans, with riders from France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Spain taking the bulk of the wins since the first Tour in 1903. From wherever they hail, Tour de France winners scare me like no other professional athlete.

Even non-professional serious cyclists are intimidating, and they seem to know this. Many bike shops, in my experience, are staffed by snooty, hip, casually abrasive tyrants. If you happen to innocently wander in without displaying the plumage and markings of a grim, suffering velophile fresh off a century ride, you’ll be treated about as well as Rosa Parks asking a member of the Ku Klux Klan for his seat on the bus.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but most casual cyclists will have at least one bike store experience that made them consider trading in their bike for a suicide note. If it happens more than once, you tend to get a little defensive whenever you cross the threshold of a bike shop, especially if you’re in a particularly hip part of a very serious cycling town.

May 2015, Portland, Oregon

You can’t go to Portland without visiting Powell’s Bookstore. It’s a full city block of books, new and used, of every variety you can imagine. It isn’t just a bookstore, it’s an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s a biblioverse of epic proportions. It’s spectacular. Even so, the cycling section of the store is a little disappointing, especially for a town so committed to the bicycle as Portland.

I was looking for a good book about the Tour de France, and I was a little perturbed that the overwhelming majority of Tour titles were about the Lance Armstrong scandal. It seemed like every other book about cycling was about the ‘Armstrong Lie’. Eventually I found one that seemed like an interesting read. Slaying The Badger is the story of the 1986 Tour de France in which Greg Lemond beats teammate and five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, aka The Badger. I’d never heard of the book and was only vaguely aware of Greg Lemond in the context of the Armstrong affair as he was one of the many people smeared by Lance in his savage pursuit of glory. I’d never even heard of Bernard Hinault, nor his well-known animal alias. Since then I’ve read much on the subject of the Tour, and am quite familiar with the big names of the sport, but just a few months ago my grasp on the subject and its lexicon was pretty fragile.

The day after my Powell Books visit, my wife and I were wandering around the Pearl District and decided to check out a cool-looking bike shop, somehow forgetting everything I’d learned about cool bike shops and the evil martinets that lurk within. While my wife looked at outrageously-priced cycling garments for uber-hip twenty-something assholes, I browsed the limited array of saddles, looking for a specific design that a friend of mine recently bought. When the tall, skinny kid came over to find out if I was as stupid as I looked, I was forced to try and describe the seat. The first time I saw it on my friend’s bike, I mockingly called it the Camel Toe because of the tuning-fork slit straight up the front of seat. When the child-fascist clerk asked me what it looked like, I said, playfully, “It kind of looks like a camel toe.” He stared at me like I’d just stepped on his tail, then asked me in a withering tone, ‘What kind of riding do you do?’

It just so happens that I was a newly minted member of my local velodrome cycling club. On top of having accomplished some century rides on the road (the term for a ride of a hundred miles or more), I was also a bona fide track rider. It doesn’t get any more real than that, ladies and gentlemen. Track riding incorporates all that is sacred in the rarefied world of cycling: speed, racing, suffering, and, best of all, fixed gear bikes. Fixed gear bikes, or ‘fixies’, are the holy grail of snide, hipster douchebags. They are also undeniably awesome. Which makes me undeniably awesome. What kind of riding do I do? Well… you’re about to find out, you little shit.

Filled with the sudden pressure of being cool, my ballooning ego breathed in helium and spat out a high-pitched, over-eager answer to his question.  ‘Mostly I’m a road rider but I also ride track our city has a velodrome so I have a track bike and I mostly ride track these days but you know when the weather gets better I’ll be back on my road bike but the saddle I’m looking for is for my track bike a friend of mine has one he’s a pretty serious rider I wish I knew the name I just call it the camel toe ha ha.’

Shit. I was supposed to be impressive. I was supposed to invoke respect. I was supposed to put this stupid kid in his place. Instead I was at even more of a disadvantage than before. He looked me up and down doubtfully. Track riders come in two types: sprinters and endurance racers. The former are all muscle and power with piston legs, while the latter are lithe, lean and agile. I am neither of these. If someone were to guess my sport, they would probably pick darts or bowling. One might guess that I could ride a bike, but would never think I did it with any sort of usefulness.

‘You ride track?’

‘Yes, we have, there is, I’m close to a track it’s the only indoor track in Western Canada. And I’m a member. Of the track.’

‘Cool. What’s it called?’

At this point, the creepy little bastard actually walked over to his Apple laptop and opened up Google. Clearly he didn’t believe me and he was determined to call what he clearly assumed was my bluff. I told him the name of the track, and to my relief he’d heard of it. I felt something approaching redemption, but I could still see that he didn’t quite believe that I was cool enough. or skinny enough, to ride track. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I needed this personality-disabled kid’s acceptance, so I tried to impress him with my knowledge of his own town and mentioned my visit to Powell’s the night before.

‘Yeah, it’s too bad there are so many books about the Lance Armstrong scandal, and so few about the Tour de France. I found a good one, though. It’s called… it’s called, umm…’ I faltered for a second. The miner inside my head swinging a pickaxe at my memory just could not find that golden vein. I knew there was a verb and an animal in the title. Searching… searching… got it!

‘Oh yeah, it’s called Chasing the Beaver. It’s about Lemond and [mumbly incoherence]. Looks like a pretty good read!’

The kid almost laughed, but that would have been uncool. Instead, he sarcastically pretended that I got the title right.

‘Oh yeah, I know that one. It’s about Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault. That’s right, they called him The Beaver. Yeah, they made a documentary out of the book. I think it’s also called Chasing the Beaver. Yup. Good book. Have fun at your track.’

I caught up with my wife and I went back to our hotel thinking, ‘Well that went well. Not sure why he suddenly brightened up at the end there. Seemed almost a little too chipper. Oh well. He must have suddenly realized that I’m the real deal and that he can’t judge a book by it’s… dammit!. It’s called Slaying the Badger!’

The upside to the story is that I coined a new personal expression. ‘Chasing the beaver’ is what I’m doing whenever I try to impress someone out of insecurity. If I’ve gleaned anything from the long, storied history of the Tour de France it’s that cycling is about suffering, perseverance, and, more often than not, humiliation and defeat. In the spirit of the latter, I’m a seasoned pro.