Unpopular Opinion

There was an episode of Seinfeld called The English Patient in which Elaine hated the movie the English Patient but was surrounded on all sides by people who loved the film. She tries to go along with public opinion until finally she hits her breaking point when her boss takes her to see it.

There are a lot of things I feel that way about. Things I loathe, that the majority of people like. The only difference is I am not afraid to be the lone voice of dissent. I find that if you are not afraid to speak up in these types of scenarios, you will be surprised to find other, like minded people who have been deeply closeted by popular opinion and fear of speaking up.

For instance, I hate summer!

Yes I can’t stand the hot weather and it never ceases to amaze me that anyone would go out of their way to travel to tropical destinations when there is a wonderful chill in the air. The heat makes me uncomfortable, I get heat rash on the palms of my hands and between my fingers. My skin gets oilier, as does my hair. I get lethargic. My joints swell. Not to mention the buckets of sweat that come pouring from under my breasts staining every shirt I wear with huge crescent moons. And don’t even get me started on the beach with it’s tiny grains of sand that follow you for months after just one visit and the hoards of sea birds on a scavenger hunt for your packed lunch. (regular readers might remember that I am deathly afraid of birds) I can’t wait for this summer to finally be over.

This may look pretty to you, but to me, it’s a nightmare

Which brings me to my next unpopular opinion, I abhor birds. There I said it. They are nothing but vermin with wings in my book. I can’t wrap my head around why anyone would want of these things in their home… especially a large bird. In fact, I hate anything that flies without the aid of an airplane, helicopter, glider or balloon and that includes butterflies. I don’t trust those creatures, never have, never will. My flesh is crawling just writing about them.

Time Square on New Year’s Eve does not look like a good time to me.

Then there’s events. Why would you want to go someplace because everyone is going to be there? For me that is the exactly the same reason why I wouldn’t go. For example, on New Year’s Eve it seems that the majority of people want to stand shoulder to shoulder in a loud club, or in Time Square (or whatever venue is famous for gathering a crowd, on that night, in your town) to “ring in the New Year’. That is hell on earth to me. It’s the same with a huge concert or sporting event. I’d rather be at home watching on my TV in comfort and peace getting a much better view of the action and not having to fight traffic after it’s over.

Finally, and I know this will be a very unpopular opinion. I don’t like the United States.

Don’t believe the hype.

I have traveled the United States, extensively. Hell, I’ve even lived there for a while. The one thing that irks me most about this country to the south of me is that it is built on a shaky foundation of hype. Let me explain what I mean by this. I can recall the first time I saw Hollywood Boulevard in person. This famous locale had been built up in my mind through movies and advertising for years and when I got there, I was incredibly disappointed. It’s filthy and unsafe. If I had kids I would never take them to see it. New York was a similar experience for me, but there was the added bonus of the stench of urine and rotting garbage to go along with the dirt and crime. Don’t get me wrong, there are nicer cities in the U.S. of A, like Chicago and Boston, but none of them are all that clean or feel as safe as anywhere in Canada does. Maybe, coming from Canada I am spoiled, but everywhere I have been in Europe (with the exception of London) was much cleaner and felt safer than the cities I have seen in the States.

Also, everywhere you go south of the 49th parallel, the people are so happy to tell you that they are living in the ‘greatest country on earth’. Even more hype. If you look at the above map, you will see the words most and best littered all over the place. To me any country that feels the need to purport it’s superlative status is not living in reality. No country is the greatest. We all have great things and not so great things. This kind of delusion is dangerous because it forces people to turn a blind eye to the blight and the poverty right around the corner and focus solely on the manicured lawns of the rich and famous. Even the phrase ‘leader of the free world’ which is used to describe the President of the United States is not only arrogant, but just plain untrue. The President of the United States has no more or less influence over the ‘free world’ than the Prime Minister of Canada, the German Chancellor or the French President have. If Americans could take a good look around using their eyes and not their ego, notice the problems inherent in their country and do something to improve them instead of just excusing them away by saying things like ‘it’s better than some other places’. If the American government would focus on bettering their own nation instead of wasting enormous sums of money policing the rest of the world, so that everyone would act like they act (which, by the way, no one ever asked you to do). If they would stop publicly taking sole credit for things that they only played a part in accomplishing, like winning World War II or the Mars Rover. If they would stop creating celebrities out of people who hoard things, or put out sex tapes and actually encourage substantive behavior. In other words if they would walk the walk, then I could see some reasoning behind saying you were the best.

Take heart America, you are the best at one thing, for sure… PR.

Image from the Simpsons

A Wedding Dress to Die For

Your wedding day. You’ve scrimped and saved and planned, so that everything will be perfect. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on the event, not to mention the dress. The hours of searching, trying, rejecting and finally finding that perfect dress of your dreams could rival the search for Mister Right. Now, due to a new trend, you’re dead in a river before your honeymoon.

That’s what happened in Laval, Quebec (just minutes from where I live) on July 24th, 2012. The beautiful blonde bride, Maria Pantazopoulos, drowned in her wedding dress because she wanted to take part in the latest wedding fad, “trash the dress”.

Trash the dress is a relatively new phenomenon where the bride (and sometimes the groom too) take part in a photo shoot wherein the wedding dress is trashed.

Some brides go the artistic route.

Others go for hangover chic.

Then there’s the ‘From here to eternity’ look.

There are all sorts of creative ways in which to ruin a wedding dress, but some brides feel they must risk their lives for the shot.

I can only hope this was done with Photoshop

Simple math: rushing water plus a wet wedding dress equals disaster

Maria Pantazopoulos decided to go with a very popular scenario of wading into water. In this case, the Ouareau River which is rife with many drop offs. Maria slipped on the wet stones, her dress, now soaking wet, weighed her down and pulled her under the water. Both the photographer and a good Samaritan tried their best to rescue her, but were unable to save the bride from drowning.  Her lifeless body was found by a scuba diver about 100 ft. from where she fell.

Police spokesperson Sgt. Ronald McInnis said the spot where Maria perished wasn’t particularly dangerous. “There’s not a very strong current there, and not much water. Her dress became full of water. It became too heavy.”

Maria was quoted as saying, before the photo shoot, “I want to have fun with my wedding dress. I want to have great pictures and memories of me in my wedding dress”.

This trash the dress thing is stupid. It’s not artistic. It’s not punk rock. It’s just a huge waste of a very expensive dress… and for what, a shot at the next Darwin Award?

What’s he really saying?

Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird

This week Canada’s, usually outspoken, Foreign Minister, John Baird took a decidedly timid stance on Russia’s harsh sentencing of three members of the punk band Pussy Riot. Meanwhile, leaders from all over the world spoke out loudly against Russian authorities.

The three members of the band Pussy Riot who were sentenced to 2 years in prison each for singing a protest song about Vladimir Putin.

In Britain, Alistair Burt, a junior foreign minister, had this to say, “We have repeatedly called on the Russian authorities to protect human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and apply the rule of law in a non-discriminatory and proportionate way. Today’s verdict calls into question Russia’s commitment to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms.”

In the United States, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted as saying, “The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences… and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia, we urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called on Moscow to overturn the punishment, saying, “This case adds to the recent upsurge in politically-motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation. I expect that this sentence will be reviewed and reversed in line with Russia’s international commitments,” she added, saying the case “puts a serious question mark over Russia’s respect for international obligations of fair, transparent, and independent legal process”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentence was “excessively harsh” and “not compatible with the European values of the rule of law and democracy to which Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has committed itself. A dynamic civil society and politically active citizens are a necessary precondition for Russia’s modernization, not a threat,”

I have included the above quotes as a contrast to what John Baird had to say on the matter. John Baird is known for saying that he “won’t just go along to get along”. Baird has been a staunch supporter of Israel, gay rights and religious minorities facing oppression. He has publicly criticized China’s human rights records as well as the repressive regimes in Syria and Iran. Yes, Baird has been one tough cookie. That’s why his quote about the sentencing is so confounding.

Here is Baird’s quote. “We believe in every part of the world of sentencing having some relation to the serious nature of the crime. Obviously, there’s, I think, widespread concern that this was perhaps too much and that were perhaps political considerations. We support around the world independent judiciaries, and we certainly take note of what’s happened.”

That was preceded by the tame statement that Baird’s office released the day of the verdict that didn’t even mention the trial, “The promotion of Canadian values, including freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, features prominently in our ongoing dialogue with the Russian authorities.”

That wasn’t even a weak slap on the wrist, which makes me wonder what he’s really saying. Is Canada on the verge of passing some strong anti- protest legislation? Is he just so sick and tired of protesters getting all the attention in Canada (and yes, contrary to what some might think, Quebec is still a part of Canada)?  Is he in bed with the Russian authorities in some way that Canadians don’t know about? Does he hate women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds? Is he putting religion above human rights? What dirty little secrets is he hiding? His uncharacteristic lack of stance makes me wonder all sorts of things. When the public begins to wonder about the motives of an elected official, they start digging to come up with the answers, spelling the beginning of the end for said official. John Baird needs to choose his next words very carefully if he doesn’t want the public supplying his motives for him.

Baird also needs to remember that we elected this guy…

not this guy…

A sad week for women

Helen Gurly Brown

This week started off with the loss of a true pioneer of the sexual revolution, Helen Gurly Brown, whose groundbreaking 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl taught women to seek financial independence and sexual satisfaction. While I was not necessarily a fan of her magazine, Cosmopolitan, because it consistently preached how to find, please and keep a man. I am a fan of her attitude that women should not be embarrassed about their sexuality and that women could be whatever they wanted to be.

Women in Saudi Arabia 

This week also saw the announcement of a women only city in Saudi Arabia. The official reasoning for this city (along with four more like it in the works) is to allow more women to work and achieve greater financial independence while still maintaining gender segregation. I fear there is something far less progressive about to happen. I fear these women will be subjected to sub standard working conditions, sub standard pay and yet even more ostracism than they now must endure. I have a feeling this is being done in order to offset the need for foreign workers in the country and that these women will be seen as whores by their own countrymen, just as their Olympic counterparts were.

The Russian Punk Band, Pussy Riot

On Friday a group of three female musicians who call themselves Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years each in a Russian prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” because they dared to sing a song in which they criticized Vladimir Putin’s increasingly autocratic hold on power – and his regime’s increasing suppression of protest speech – from the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in February of this year. I find it ironic that the Russian government has turned to religion to help them fulfill their agenda, but any port in a storm, I guess. I admire these women for their strength of character. Just today, these women announced that they will not be asking Putin to pardon them. Their actual quote was,  “Let them go to hell with their pardon.” Even though the sentence is what I would call harsh, I am truly inspired by their willingness to fight for what they think is right.

Lastly, this week brought us a new term… legitimate rape. Republican Senate Nominee from Missouri Todd Akin when asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape was quoted as saying, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.” He claimed that he had heard this pack of lies from doctors. Doctors of what? Divinity? Certainly not medical doctors.

Really? What about the emotional and physical punishment the woman who is pregnant with her rapist’s baby would have to endure by being forced to give birth to that child? Spoken like a true American right winger, a clump of cells has more rights that the fully formed human being that they are growing in has. Apparently women are just a vessel for men’s seed and should have no say in what happens to their own body.

And what of the term legitimate rape? You should know that this came from the mind of a man who, in 1991 questioned an anti marital rape law over his concerns that it might be misused, “in a real messy divorce as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband”. (to his credit he did vote FOR the anti marital rape law) According to Akin the only “legitimate rape” is forcible rape. It just sickens me that the Republican right still claims they are not waging a war on women, then they have the nerve to come out with bombshells like this one.

Rep. Akin did ‘apologize’ for this. Here is the apology along with my commentary (in red).

“As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

Misspoke?!! He might has well have said, My bad. When running for office, every word is carefully planned, scripted and put before a focus group. I have no doubt that he meant to say what he did say.

“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.

 No kidding he won’t have their support.

“But I also believe that this election is about a wide range of very important issues, starting with the economy and the type of country we will be leaving our children and grandchildren. We’ve had 42 straight months of unacceptably high unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, and Democratic leaders in Washington who are focused on growing government, instead of jobs. That is my primary focus in this campaign and while there are those who want to distract from that, knowing they cannot defend the Democrats’ failed economic record of the last four years, that will continue to be my focus in the months ahead.”

And he’s right back on the Republican talking point after a half-assed apology. 

I will leave you with the perfect visual representation of what I think must be done to this man.

Rep. Todd Akin (R. Mo.), so stupid he doesn’t realize this sign is about him.

Some things just shouldn’t be organized

Alain de Botton

Don’t let a guy like this, become the next…

Jim Jones

…guy like this.

My closet is organized by season and my books are organized alphabetically by author. My apartment is an ode to organization. But there are some things that should be left to flourish on their own. I see atheism as one of those things. The other day I was reading an article about how an atheist organization had put up some in your face, anti religion billboards and my first thought was these people are going down a very slippery slope.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am an atheist and I am not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. All this means is that I do not believe in a god (any god). The issue I have with this kind of behavior is that it is akin to picking a fight… the very same behavior that atheists (rightfully) accuse religions of exhibiting. I have no problem defending myself and my disbelief when pressed, but I see no reason (reason, get it… what atheists do believe in) in goading the religious toward further persecution of atheists. I understand that it is important to defend the separation of church and state wherever it is being threatened, but that is one of very few cases I can make for the need for atheists to get organized. The organization who put up those billboards is American Atheists, found online at www.atheists.org. If you go to their website, you will see a big red button that says “Donate Now” and that they are holding a convention next year. They also have literature for you in the form of a magazine (available in app form). American Atheists is not a new organization, they’ve been around since 1963 and, according to their website, have been defending civil liberties and the separation of church and state ever since. I find this interesting if only because their site seems to have taken several pages straight out of the church handbook.

Earlier this year a man named Alain de Botton published a book entitled Religion for Atheists in which he asserts that instead of eschewing all that religion has to offer, atheists should steal some of the attractive things about religion such as, building a sense of community, making our relationships last, overcoming feelings of envy and inadequacy, escaping the twenty-four hour media and creating new businesses designed to address our emotional needs. Pardon the expression, but for Christ’s sake, what the hell is so special about the emotional needs of atheists? To my eyes, this man is trying to set himself up as some sort of atheist messiah by preying on and exploiting one of the human traits that religion exploits so well… the need to belong.

It’s the need to belong that enabled events like the Jonestown massacre, the Manson family murders and the Waco Siege to occur. You may be thinking, but those events were all cult oriented. I submit that all religion is a form of cultism. Every time humans organize in an us vs. them way, it ends badly. It seems that, no matter how well-intentioned the origins of the organization are, there is always some greedy, morally questionable person who comes along and co-opts the ideal for his own financial gain and power. The need to belong is indeed powerful and is usually paired with the need for validation which is a very dangerous cocktail when some douche bag with a messiah complex is feeding those needs. Your average person, no matter how much of a skeptic they claim to be is almost powerless against being lured into a group when told that they are right and there are many more people who think the same way.

So please, atheists of the world, heed my warning and stay away from organizations that want to poke the religious bear. If history has taught us anything, it’s that those religious types are not afraid of shedding copious amounts of blood in service to their imaginary sky daddy and if we want to keep the moral high ground we are so fond of, the last thing we need on our hands is a holy war… or in this case an UNHOLY war.

What do you want on your tombstone?

Just when I was beginning to think my sense of humour was getting to be a wee bit too morbid, I came across other, like minded, individuals who see death as a way to get the last laugh.

I’m going to start with my three favourite celebrity epitaphs.

Billy Wilder, who directed Some Like it Hot, a movie with, arguably the best last line ever.

TV Icon Merv Griffin

The voice of Warner Brothers animation, Mel Blanc

Then there are some regular folks with a not so regular sense of funny.

For those that love to say I told you so.


For the realist.

For the Scrabble lover.

For the philandering husband.

I just love the fact that his wife outlived him… ah poetic justice.

For the man who loves women.

For the man who loved too many women

For the glass half full type

For the beloved family pet.

Even one for the atheist.

Pretty sure this one isn’t real… but it’s real funny.

That last grave marker is one I would seriously consider getting if I was going to be buried. But, as I am an atheist, I’m donating as much of my body as science will take, then the rest of me (if there is anything left over) is going into the ocean to become part of the food chain.

I will leave you with one of my favourite moments from the TV show Absolutely Fabulous with Patsy and Edina talking about their grave markers.