October 27, 2015

I was quite fascinated (and could easily have become depressed) at the very predictable reaction to the news that processed meats (read: bacon) is bad for you.  First off, this isn’t news. If you thought that bacon is good for you, you’ve been living in a different world from me for the past 50 years. It has always been completely clear and obvious for my entire life that bacon is a fatty piece of pork, with a ton of salt, a bunch of artificial colours, and a huge portion of preservatives.  Not the recipe for good health.

So, yesterday, there is news that processed meats may lead to cancer.  In very predictable (and sad) response people said things like “so, now they’re telling me that I can’t eat bacon”, and “so, everything causes cancer”.  My response to this is “no” and “no”.  First off, no, everything does not cause cancer.  However, carcinogens do, and bacon is full of them.  That’s really pretty simple, folks. Unless they are added to a squash, the squash does not cause cancer.  Once again, simple.

Now, for the part that really annoys me.  Nobody, at any time, has told you to not eat bacon.  You are very confused about what science is if you think that.  Researchers have figured out what is in bacon, and what causes cancer, and the stuff that causes cancer is in bacon.  Period. End of story.

You can still eat bacon.  You can eat whatever the hell you want.  Sit down to a big plate of asbestos if you want to. You’re an adult, make a choice.  However, some people in a lab have determined a really simple thing … bacon contains carcinogens. They may even think that bacon is yummy, a lot of people do. That, however, has absolutely zero bearing on what is in the bacon and how those things effect your health.  Again: there is stuff in bacon, and that stuff is linked to cancer.  Is there something in that sentence that says “don’t eat bacon”?  Nope. No dinner recommendations whatsoever, just a really basic statement of fact. However, you now know more about what you’re putting into your body.  With that information, you (yes, you) can decide whether to go on the all-bacon diet or not.  Go ahead … have a cigarette with it if you want …

This is all kind of odd to me, however.  Everyone has always known what is in processed meat.  This isn’t news.  I’ve known that the contents of processed meats are hazardous to your health pretty much my entire life. I don’t have access to some privileged information or a special news service.  These things are part meat, part chemical soup, and always have been. If I recall, nitrites are the things that I really want to watch for and there are lots of them in these products.

Oh, and I even caught a hint of conspiracy theory in the “boo hoo, they won’t let me eat bacon anymore” crowd.  Seems that science is just bound and determined to ruin tailgate parties, and researchers are being paid by someone (I can’t imagine who) to stop people from eating yummy meat. I suppose this is even scarier than the aforementioned belief that you can’t choose anymore.  While politicians and business people do pay money for ideas with no grounding in reality, science works differently (unless the scientists are bought and paid for by the politicians or the business people).  When science is done right, what people want to think has nothing to do with it.  These researchers (and this has been repeated a million times) just found out what is in bacon (which is pretty easy really) and found out what is carcinogenic (not that hard either).  They’re the same things, so using all of their scientific brain-power, they concluded that processed meats are connected to cancer.  This doesn’t require a hatred of barbecues or a mission to ruin your weekend … it’s just what it is.

So, bacon will not be made illegal, and you will not be stopped  by the authorities for eating bacon.  Everything is exactly the same as it was before, except that now some people who were pretending to understand meat actually know more than they used to.  Even though they know more now, they can still choose to eat it like they always have.  Scientists have not changed the nature of processed meats, they have just given you a more realistic idea of what you’re dealing with.  So, go ahead, make a decision, do whatever the hell you want.  This isn’t about beliefs or whether bacon is yummy … it’s just about what’s in the food, and what those ingredients do to you.  That’s it.


What Happened to Rock and Roll?

October 14, 2015

I was watching the Keith Richards documentary on Netflix (which is really great by the way … the best insight in Richards I’ve seen) and I couldn’t help but think about how much the world of Rock music has changed since the 70’s.  I know that sounds really obvious, but the changes are about more than the passage of time and changing of the guard.

First off, the people playing music in the 70s look like adults.  They look like adults who have been around the block a few times … even adults that have been dragged around the block a few times.  Rock music at that time was not about the future.  It wasn’t even about making it to tomorrow.  It was about having a good time right now.  As you might have noticed, that meant that a certain number of the heroes of the time didn’t make it to tomorrow, but it sure did make the rebellious, reckless, possibly unwise, lifestyle of these folks … authentic. The music was gritty, dirty, lewd, and in your face. While this might all sound like some kind of revisionist history of music or nostalgia for my youth, I think this was real.  If you decided to hang around with any of the rock stars of the day, you were taking a pretty big risk.  Any number of people who took up with these folks wound up worn out, left by the side of the road, in jail, or in rehab. The outlaw lifestyle definitely had some real-ness to it.

I was thinking about who is like this now in music, and it was a little hard to come up with anyone (under 40 anyway).  The last really big band who was also out of control rebellious that I could think of was Nirvana.  They were gritty, dirty, and unpredictable, and sneered at the big business that was trying to maximize the degree to which they could cash in. I suppose that maybe it’s that lack of responsibility and complete refusal to engage with the “adult world” that is missing now.  That “fuck you, I’m just going to have fun” mentality. Needless to say, the music business has probably been pretty happy not have to deal with these people for the last 20 years or so. When you’re trying to sell musicians to 14 year olds, it’s going to be a little dicey if those musicians are forever doing things that parents hate. 14 year olds love that, but then a guy like Jerry Lee Lewis marries his 13 year old cousin, and your business model is shot to hell.   Now that I mention him, Jerry Lee Lewis was way more threatening than current rock stars, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings would trash hotel rooms and wind up in jail,  Little Richard would totally freak people out: those folks were rock and roll. For them, clinging to your career was nowhere near as important as whatever you were up to that night, and what you were up to might just ruin everything.

When I went to the Warped Tour the one thing that bands had in common was how well behaved they were.  Nobody was wasted, nobody was trying to pick up their fans. Everyone was lining up to sign autographs, shake hands and whisper nice supportive things to their teenage fans.  The BANDS spent time at their really nice merch table. Bands of the past wouldn’t even know where their merch table was, and might not be able to find it if they tried. The current model might actually be better and since I’m a parent myself now, I thought it was great.  My 17 year old self, though, would have been disgusted.


I don’t want to think about it ….

October 8, 2015

I have come to realize that the federal election here in Canada is just not something I want to pay attention to.  This is a bit of a revelation for a former “political junkie” who now doesn’t even want to look.  Here’s the thing:  I have no faith that people’s voting decisions will be based on anything even close to a clear perception of reality.  As I was rambling on about Facebook, I realized what has changed … the world now works like a social media site.

Pardon me: I’m making this up as I type:

  1.  The facts don’t carry any weight at all.  This is happening constantly, but recently Stephen Harper gave me a good example.  He said “marijuana is 1000 times more harmful than tobacco”.  I don’t even need to look anything up to assure you that is just complete rubbish.  Granted, inhaling anything into your lungs (including the polluted air that we breathe) can lead to problems of varying types, but the ingredients in cannabis simply are not harmful, and can be ingested in many ways that do not involve inhalation. In fact, now that people can actually do research on the plant (that was pretty much impossible for decades), there are more and more cases where it is shown to help people.  Tobacco, on the other hand, has virtually no redeeming qualities, and has been shown quite definitively to kill people by the millions.  Do any of the facts matter when the “leader” of our country speaks?  Not a bit.  Nobody challenges him, he has no need to respond to any questions.  People go about their lives, now with the phrase “marijuana is 1000 times more harmful than tobacco” in their heads, despite the fact that Harper just made that up, and it has no resemblance to reality.  This goes on pretty much every day on a huge variety of topics.  Reality is just like Facebook.
  2. When it comes to elections, people just listen to the people that they agree with and avoid dealing with ideas that may suggest that they need to change their thinking. Not unlike only communicating with your “friends” on Facebook, so that everything you ever hear is just people agreeing with you, people now choose the channels where they get their information to make sure that their ideas are never challenged.  Do you want to believe that gun ownership has nothing to do with gun deaths?  There’s a channel for that.  Do you want to believe that lower taxes will boost the economy?  There’s a channel for that. Do you want to think that everyone in one religion is exactly the same and a threat to your way of life?  There’s a channel for that, too. It is remarkably easy these days to only hear what you want to hear, and never be challenged on what may be stupid ideas.  Reality is just like Facebook.
  3. No politician will ever say anything unless it improves their polling, even if unpopular things are completely true. It has not always been this way.  Politicians used to frequently address difficult issues or tell us that we are going through times that may require us to adjust our lifestyles. No more. Over-extended your credit or have a house that you can only afford if interest rates remain at zero? Don’t worry.  Even if raising interest rates might be crucial to our survival, nobody is going to talk about that.  Nobody is going to say “time to tighten our belts”.  They will all say, “go buy a BMW, you deserve it”, because people like to hear that.
  4. There doesn’t seem to be any content to political discourse anymore.  Apparently, the most pressing issues of the day are whether people can wear their traditional clothing to work, or whether Justin Trudeau is “arrogant”. While those topics might be a part of the discussion, nobody is talking about missing Aboriginal women, the destruction of the environment in the tar sands, immense infrastructure problems in our cities, the fact that the world now looks at us like villains, or the fact that our military is now a combat force when we all seemed to like them as a peace-keeping force.  I’m sure people ARE talking about these things, but it’s not what I hear about “on the street”.  I hear “if the NDP get in, we’ll be working on collective farms”, and “that Justin Trudeau just worries about his hair.”  The election may swing on these ridiculous topics while the country has some real things to deal with.  Facebook, anyone?

Having an immense number of channels to choose from has not made us smarter.  It has caused us to retreat into little comfortable bubbles where we can hear what we want, never engage in meaningful debate, and just pretend that real issues don’t exist.  Instead of opening minds, it has narrowed thinking.  Instead of being “our memory”, all of the available channels have caused us as a species to have short attention-spans, and forget things immediately. I don’t feel as though reality (which may, I’m afraid, occasionally cause you to change your mind), has a role to play in today’s debate.  Pretty scary stuff.


Collective Behaviour

October 6, 2015

I have always been interested in how humans behave collectively.  I’m not entirely sure that everyone notices these things, but humans very frequently behave as a group … like wasps … or ants.  It can be a positive thing, but it is often just weird or nonsensical.  Perhaps I am aware of it because collective behaviour has always horrified me … I have some kind of weird phobia of people behaving as though there is a hive mind. and apparently there is one.

The recent examples have revolved around driving, which seems to often be the place where one sees this type of behaviour.  Now, I swear that my recollection is accurate, and things have changed recently in how people drive.  I am quite positive that as recently as five years ago, when I drove down a street with cars parked on one side, two cars would pass each other going opposite directions, one sticking close to parked cars, and the other staying close to curb. Required a bit of skill, but I swear this was totally normal.

At some point relatively recently, this no longer happened.  Now, people are unwilling to stick close to parked cars or curb and thus it is impossible for two cars coming from opposite directions to pass each other.  Now, one car must pull over to the side while the other passes, and then the first car can go.  The cars drive pretty much down the middle of the space between parked car and curb.  This isn’t a crisis or anything but it does slow things down tremendously, leads to a lot of negotiation, and is entirely unnecessary.  I watched this behaviour spread like a virus.  First, it was just some people, who were simply annoying to the rest of us, but it seemed to spread, and now everyone is doing it.  Oddly, if I behave as I did just a short while ago and drive straight down the road an inch from the curb, people look at me going by as though I’m completely insane. This change in what is considered “normal” is kind of startling to me.  I guess what is even weirder about it is that the change os completely unnecessary.  Two cars can still fit on the road side by side, and people do not need to pull over to let others go by, but they certainly seem to think that this action is entirely normal and necessary.

The second example is probably more familiar to everyone.  People have decided that the best way to manage traffic is for everyone to wave at each other as a form of negotiating the right-of-way.  This also has gone from being completely non-existent a relatively short time ago, to being completely normal, and in fact expected, at this point.  The really weird thing about this is that it is completely unnecessary, and often dangerous. People are negotiating something that has already been completely worked out in great detail, and a system developed to make traffic flow just fine without any waving at all. if two vehicles pull up to a four-way stop simultaneously, there are rules already in place to determine how things will progress from there.  The person to the right (assuming both are going straight) gets to go first … the end.  However, now, a great deal of the time, the two people pulling up quite frequently decide to look at each and start negotiating who will go first.  A bunch of waving ensues, and eventually someone actually goes.  Of course, if the person who doesn’t actually have the legal right-of-way and the other slams into them, all of that waving won’t matter a bit.  If the police come, and you say “he waved at me!”, the cops will completely ignore you.  There are traffic rules, and there is no point at which the rules get thrown out the window and everything comes down to negotiation.  That situation does not exist in the law.

I guess what confuses me most about this, is that people seem to enjoy the waving part.  There are many theories about how this could possible be considered satisfying.  One is simply that people like interacting with one another, so they enjoy the waving and other behaviours that allow them to interact.  The other thing though is that this may be more about control. I think that some people like to say “I am granting you the ability to continue … I am waving my hand and controlling this situation”.  On my more cynical days, I’m quite sure that this is what is happening.

Personally. I have just stopped making eye contact with drivers.  Thus, when they decide it’s time for the super-fun waving, I’m not engaging.  I do this when I’m walking now as well, since people also wave at pedestrians and “grant them the right-of-way” … I can’t stand  this business when I’m walking since I refuse to start improvising the traffic rules and don’t trust the crazed waver to not then pull out and find me in their way, as instructed. I suspect that my failure to engage in waving at other drivers is considered some type of horrible social faux pas.  I think that at least a certain portion of the population now consider waving at intersections to be polite social interaction … I’m not going to start playing along.


I’m done with Facebook, and I read a newspaper.

September 30, 2015

It’s been a long time.

However, I have quit Facebook once and for all, and when I think of things I want to write, I think that I’ll be here again.  Fact is, a blog is infinitely superior to the rotting carcass that is Facebook. I realized that being on Facebook was not only annoying, but that it actually makes me feel bad, and that one needs to get a little distance from it before realizing what a horrible things it is (and I choose the word “horrible” quite deliberately).

FB is, in short, a horrible platform for communication. I have had the worst experiences there, and I have no desire to repeat them.  Why is it horrible? I’ll tell you:

  1.  Facebook is just an internet bulletin board, nothing more, nothing less.  Yes, you can post pictures on it, but really, you’ve been able to do that on forums forever.  The thing that is different is the fiction that Facebook is somehow different.  Other people on the FB forum are called “your friends”, whereas people on other types of forums are just the other people on that forum.  How is that different? In reality, it’s not different at all, except that those people are described using a different word.  The effect of that different word, however, is where designing a “social network” with the brain of a sociopath comes into play.  People seem to become confused and start to think that FB friends are just like real friends and, of course, many of them aren’t friends at all, or I don’t even know them.  Try “unfriending” one of these strangers, however, and you will see how evil this platform is.  All of a sudden, a stranger on an internet forum is treating you as though you’re breaking up an intense, close relationship.  When I “de-activated my account”, I was presented with a series of pictures of people who were “going to miss me”.  Some of these people are family members, some of them have offices right next to me, some of them I see every day … these people will not “miss me” … they might miss the things that I type on Facebook, but I have a newsflash … me, the person, the actual living being is still right here.  This idea that somehow logging out of Facebook causes personal relationships to crumble is absurd … in fact, it might help those relationships. These are just two of a huge number of examples of how manipulative Facebook can be.
  2. Authority on Facebook is a mess.  By that I mean that every ten seconds on Facebook, someone on my “feed” declares themselves to be an expert on something … very frequently something that they know absolutely nothing about. They then “tell me the facts” that they have made up or heard on some ridiculous website, or been told by an idiot.  Problem is, there is no actual debate on FB.  I have found repeatedly that offering facts in the face of complete bullshit on FB is somehow a horrible thing to do … if someone says on FB (as they often do) that Barack Obama is a Muslim, the fact that he is most definitely not a Muslim is completely irrelevant to the “discussion”.  In fact, the person who has spouted this garbage as though they “know” something will likely be offended that I even have a contrary opinion on the matter.  The evidence that I present will have zero weight, and as someone did recently, they might say something like “well, I got 25 “likes” when I said that … how many “likes” did you get?”  In short, I really have no interest in how many “likes” you got … the facts are not susceptible to a vote.
  3. Of course, since FB was created by a sociopath, there are only “likes”, not dislikes.  You can only approve.  I suspect that this is a direct result of how Mark Zuckerberg sees the world.  He says things, and people say “yeah Mark!” but never “I disagree with Mark”.  While this may be a lovely way to make it seem as though one is always correct, it’s also completely messed-up. So, you could have 1000 likes on a post, but if it’s complete BS, a large number of likes does not change the fact that it is still BS.  So, on FB it seems that all statements are equally true, and somehow when other people “like” your statement (true or not), it develops a certain level of authority based on the fact that equally clueless people agree with you.  The idea that a lot of clueless people applauding each other’s cluelessness somehow adds up to worthwhile info is downright bizarre and, to me, it’s depressing to watch. And, since I like to call people on BS, I get in a lot of trouble in the happy land where every ridiculous statement is as true as any other, and reality is not a factor.
  4. I suppose that’s my next complaint … I’m still talking about authority I suppose.  There was one thread on FB that really illustrated this complaint well.  Someone was discussing university governance (in the context of college basketball … nobody would ever discuss anything serious on FB), and they were spouting complete nonsense as though they knew what they were talking about.  I corrected them.  Needless to say, the 12 year old on the other end then asked “who made you an expert”?  In a very strange case for Facebook, I told them that I actually am an expert on this topic … I said, and this may never have happened on FB before or since … “I know more about this topic than you do … what you have said is pure speculation, and what I say is true”.  Needless to say, the fact that I had actual knowledge in this situation didn’t matter in the slightest.  Of course, this statement if also seen to be rude on Facebook, or inappropriate , or against the rules.  I’m not sure what it is, but I do find it very strange that people declare themselves experts constantly on topics they know nothing about, but if an actual expert claims to have expertise, that’s considered horrible behaviour. That, to me, defines a bizarre environment.
  5. When I left Facebook I thought to myself “I guess that I’ll have to visit websites again if I want to find the good stuff.  I immediately realized, however, that nothing had changed.  Facebook has very little content of it’s own.  All of the “content” is just links to websites that I wind up visiting anyway.  I will not have as many suggested places to go without Facebook, but so far I don’t seem to be missing a thing.  In fact, because now I cruise around looking for stuff instead of having it suggested to me constantly, I think that I may be finding more stuff that interests me. I had wondered whatever happened to “surfing the web” and I think that the answer might be that I’ve been sitting around passively having stuff handed to me for quite a while … I think that I’m better off finding it myself.
  6. I’m just happier.  Every time I posted something on Facebook I had to constantly think about what the reaction would be … my audience was this group of “friends” but in reality it was quite a varied crew, and worse, the friends of friends would be chiming in.  This was quite often where the “Obama is a Muslim”, or “climate change is a liberal hoax” types would suddenly appear.  I quite sincerely do not need these people in my life, and have no interest in listening to their replies, or spending a lot of time trying to convince them of the truth of and obvious fact.  I’m not very good at “suffering fools”.
  7. I read a newspaper again, and realized what I’d been missing.  The newspaper is edited, and they have an obligation to say things that they have verified to at least be kind of true.  This was a little startling when I picked up a newspaper again.  Smart people were writing things that seemed to actually be verified.  I forgot how much I valued that.

Some great harmonies

September 29, 2015

This biog is going to be about a lot of different things from now on … one of them will certainly be music.

I have always been interested in Gram Parsons, mostly because of the recommendations, particularly from Keith Richards. Parsons’ music is a little difficult for people to “get” at this point in time, because what he did that was significant really relied on understanding the historical context in which it happened. The idea of blending country and rock like he did seems unremarkable now, but it was quite remarkable at the time, and it was tremendously influential.  Listening to his music it strikes me that it sounds more like “country” than most country music today does.  It goes right to the core and taps directly into the heart of the music, but it does add an entire element of rock sensibility. The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street (one of the greatest albums ever made), is partly the result of Parsons’ influence on Keith Richards and the fact that he was living in Nellcote as the Stones recorded that record.  It’s a bit of a mystery when or if Parsons actually plays on that record, but from what I’ve heard of that recording process, it sounds as though it’s pretty likely that if he was in that house, he was in that recording.

Anyway, I’m sold.  Gram Parsons was the real deal.  I just bought a CD with the two albums he released as solo projects and I like them more than I expected to.  Today I was messing about on YouTube and came across one of the greatest duets I think that I’ve ever heard: Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris … you might not like the song that much (Love Hurts, but the Everly Bros) but the harmony is tremendous.


September 20, 2012

The internet has a distinct lack of accountability.  People say remarkably stupid or cruel things and then disappear never to confront their victim again.  Having been riding this contraption for 20 years now (almost exactly) I have said some smart things, been slammed for them, and never had the chance to say “I told you so”.  I suppose the thing to say is :  On the internet, there is no “I told you so”.

Well, I like to say “I told you so” once in a while because I tend to think of communication with other people as … communication with other people.

So, in February of 2010 when the iPad was released, I wrote a piece right here about how this thing was going to take off and that one should be buying Apple stock right there and then.  Thing I was right about #1:  Apple stock that day was worth approximately $200/share, and today is worth close to $700/share.  I was right … very right. A lot of people told me I was wrong that day and that the iPad was a silly device that wasn’t a tablet, or a computer, or a laptop.  Somehow, this proved (to them) that there was no place for this device, and the world would just make fun of it. Oddly, these people apparently had never witnessed the birth of a new category even though they had already witnessed the advent of the the personal computer (also mocked), the laptop, the cell phone, the gaming console … etc.  I’m glad that I waited until now to say “I told you so” because the numbers at this point are truly staggering … Apple has sold 84 million iPads, and that is beyond what anyone could have imagined.

Love it or hate it, buying Apple stock would have been a very good idea in 2010, and it would seem that people have found a category for those 84 million iPads.  In fact, it eventually became so obvious that this category existed that other companies copied the device and are selling millions as well. I’m watching for the next big thing and think more often that Apple may now be too big (and without Steve Jobs) to continue to be the leader in creating categories (remember the smart phone and iPod?). I’d like to see an upstart come out of nowhere.

Memory on the internet is pretty much non-existent, and I don’t really recall ever having heard someone admit that they were wrong on an internet forum.  This one of the times, though, when I’m going to say “I told you so” … even if nobody is listening.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.