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Full Circle

March 15, 2016

For about a year or so, my daughter has had a job, and one of the new-fangled driver’s licenses that allow you to drive, but only with a licensed person sitting next to you.  This meant that every evening that she worked, I had to go and pick her up.  Since she worked in a place that had an indeterminate time when everyone leaves (there is cleanup at the end of the day), I often sat in the parking lot waiting for a while.  Although I enjoyed taking this time to listen to music (and the car is a great place to do that), I almost always listened to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” album.  That may sound strange, but I do love to dive deep into a recording and get right into every single note until I can run the entire thing through my head in my spare time.

Paranoid certainly isn’t the first record that I’ve done this with.  The first record that I memorized every note of was the Beatles “Abbey Road”, particularly side 2, which to this day makes me happy.  (I just remembered this while thinking of recordings that I have memorized).  I would get my mother to put on Abbey Road at a really young age (young enough that I had to get my mother to do it), and I had every note committed to memory. One of the great things about it at the time was that the duelling guitar solos of John and George near the end of the side, was also being used as the music for a commercial for Buffalo Sabres hockey broadcasts that were on TV quite a bit.

Other completely memorized recordings:  Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Waters which was also played by my mother.  Boston – Debut – I would lie on the floor with a speaker on either side of my head and listen pretty much every night.  Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks (constant listening early in high school.  Devo – Are We Not Men? I listened to this record until I would actually feel nausea when it came on.   Joy Division – Closer … having mocked this record the first time I heard it, I proceeded to listen to it constantly for a really long time … heck, I’d put it in a “walkman”, and wander the streets at night listening to this record. New Order – Movement – the only New Order album I bothered with, I listened all the way through every night for at least a year, often through a guitar amp before I could afford a proper amp. PiL – Second Edition – a tough listen, but once again, heard the entire thing many many times.

Oh, and once I had a record memorized I would run through entire LPs in my head while writing exams in school.  (I remember this very clearly)  In particular, I remember writing my English exam while the entire debut album of the Cars ran through my head, pauses between songs and all.

So, Black Sabbath was a long overdue obsession, but I got there.  I’m sticking with the first three records (for now) but Paranoid is the one I come back to most frequently.  I have realized that this a great record.  Huge, chunky, great riffs, big chords with a lot layers overtones, and powerful playing.  Weirdly, I also have come to realize that Ozzy’s voice is pretty great (even if the lyrics are often pretty dumb).  And, it sounds fantastic LOUD.  So, this finally brings me to the point of this boring story.  My best friend when I was in elementary school was named Brian Sheppard, and he was a very cool dude.  His father had been a pro football player, and Brian was inhumanly strong and seemed indestructible.  He would hang from the bridge over the nearby drainage ditch for fun (just hanging there until he got bored, and then he’d pull himself back up and ride his bike down the stairs between two streets in our neighbourhood. (I should mention that his father also had a large stack of Playboy magazines just sitting in the den … yes, in those days that happened, and he once fell asleep in the rain on the roof of his house). One day, Brian seemed to feel that I required a test, and pulled out two cassettes.  One was Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and the other was something poppy that I don’t even remember.  He’d play one and then the other  and then ask me which I preferred.  He clearly thought I should choose the poppy one, and I kept on insisting that I preferred Sabbath.  We dropped that shortly thereafter, but it struck me sitting in my car 45 years later that I was finally getting around to Sabbath and it brought back memories of Brian (who moved away shortly after that … I’m thinking that was grade 4).

So, my grade 4 self was right: Sabbath is pretty amazing, even if it took me four decades to get back to it. Something in my brain works the same as it did then.  Now, I just have to figure out if I’m going to spend a small fortune to see the band on it’s farewell tour this summer.  It seems like the right thing to do.

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Confirmation of lack of interest.

February 24, 2016

I have been a hardcore non-owner of a cell phone ever since there have been cell phones. Over the years this has become a thing that I enjoy saying (I don’t have a cell phone) and over the years that simple statement has become more and more shocking to people.  As I also say, though, I rarely ever think “wow, if only I had a phone right now”.  When I go to the supermarket and can’t remember what type of yoghurt to buy, I don’t phone someone … I just decide like I always have.  Sometimes I get it wrong, but the consequences are extremely easy to get over.  Last Spring my kids went out on bikes to buy some stuff and a huge rainstorm started up … rather than phoning them to confirm that it was, indeed, raining a lot, I just drove out on what I presumed would be their route, and found them (like my parents would have, or I would have just gotten wet).  Nobody said, “if only you’d had a cell phone”.

A few months ago, I decided that I would buy a cell phone just to make sure that I wasn’t just super-stubborn and self-righteous (which I may be … probably am). I found a well-reviewed Chinese-made android phone for $55 and bought a couple to try out.  I received the  thing, set it up, and even used it in wireless environments.  I figured out (this could be useful to people!) that since our home phone is VOIP, I could pop a iPad SIM card into the thing and get full data service for $15/month with unlimited calling etc.  Woo-hoo, I was ready to walk around like an idiot holding my cell phone out in front of me, texting “sup” to everyone and anyone.

Except that didn’t happen.  I did carry it around for a while, place it on tables at meetings, and occasionally look at it, mostly to see what time it was. As it turns out, though, I really don’t care about cell phones.  All of my self-righteous posturing was actually a genuine lack of need or interest in constantly having a personal radio in my pocket.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have never cared about any kind of phone.  In fact, I hate the phone and dread talking on the damn thing.  In fact, my fondest memories are of the times when nobody knows where I am … days when I happily wander around Toronto while nobody even knows that I went there, the days that I cam home from university but didn’t tell anyone  that I was coming and wandered around town for a while before going home.  I love anonymity and being completely out of touch, and the cell phone absolutely ruins that. So, shortly after getting the thing running like I wanted, I pretty much forgot about it and would just leave it at home, occasionally using it for an over-powered alarm clock.

I am in wireless environments at work and at home, and the only time that I am not in a place where I can just open my laptop and be connected is on my walk home.  That’s a time when I really don’t want to be bothered, so a phone would not help.  I have stood under a tree to wait for a passing rainstorm, and more than once I have walked across town instead of calling for a ride, but in those cases I probably could have found a phone … but, then people would have to drive to get me, and that seems like a waste when I am perfectly capable of walking. I have one chat-like setup so that I can chat with my kids (who also do not have phones), when they are in the wireless-enabled environments of school or home.

I think that I have sent about 4 “texts” in my life.  Once I was meeting someone in Toronto and needed to know when they were arriving.  I went to a Starbuck’s and used the wireless. Actually, the other time I was also meeting someone in Toronto, so maybe the big city has something to do with it.  Anyway, it seems that I really do not care about cell phones.  I have tablets and laptops and iPods that can pretty much do everything a phone can do. (You can easily send SMS messages with apps on your Mac that come built-in).  With these devices you don’t have to give in and be a complete chump, paying for “data plans” and “voice plans” at ridiculous prices (and they are ridiculous … stupid, even).  I mean, I can’t even stand to take about data and voice plans … there haven’t been “voice plans” really since everything went digital and you got rid of your rotary dial phone. Your “voice” is just digital data that goes over the same damn line as the “data” that you use to browse.  That you pay for voice AND data is just ludicrous. It’s all data. (ever talk on Skype? Your voice goes magically over the internet, without having to use to amazing “voice lines” that the phone company would like you to believe are a thing.

Ages ago, computing services came to the Library and asked what we wanted in our new VOIP-based phone system.  I asked “why do I need a phone?  It’s just another computer on my desk and I already have two of those that I can makes calls with?”  The guy actually agreed with me, but the university got thousands of little ringing desk computers whose only function is to be restricted to imitating a telephone. Weird, huh?  Well, it seems that although I have confirmed that I actually do not care about cell phones, I am obviously completely insane.  How else can you explain not wanting to stare at a tiny screen with people chattering mindlessly on it, and paying more for that that I do for everything I already receive over the internet (the same wires and network that my “phone” would work on and that I already pay for)?

There is hope.  It seems that while 20 year olds can’t put down their phones, the next generation doesn’t seem quite as attached.  My almost 15 yr old son doesn’t seem to care in the slightest about cell phones, and I’ve never seen one of his friends with one. Perhaps this wave will pass, and we’ll once again be able to walk through a door or up the stairs without watching out for oblivious phone-starers walking into walls and people.

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Grumpy Internet Man

February 23, 2016

I’ve been reading a lot about how people pre-hypertext (or just at the dawn of hypertext) thought computing was going to progress with the new technologies that shortly thereafter would allow for the birth of the internet.  There was a tremendous amount of promise at that time with visions of information being connected and navigated by everyone through hypertext (what you now know so well as a “link”).  There was much speculation that hypertext would include rich metadata that would allow a reader to know where their link was going to lead, and to record their travels so that their inquiries and discoveries could be shared.

I’m trying to find out what happened to all of these dreams.  My memory of all of this (and I was definitely right there) was that there was huge promise, and then an explosion that wiped out all planning and possibilities for conscious design.  My memory is that one day we were talking about the academic possibilities of all of this, and the next day we saw William Shatner singing on a website and all bets were off.  My (inaccurate) recall of all of this is a blur of spectacle that went from one really cool computer trick to another and the “amazing” caused the careful and considered design of the web to just get lost.  No more rich metadata, replaced by a flood of cat pictures and pictures of what people are eating for dinner (and, ugh, the “selfie”).

It seems as though a great deal of energy since has been focused on the ridiculous. Rather than developing a useful linking technology, we get links to an “amazing story” (“you’ll be shocked by #17”), a picture of a goofy kid dancing becoming a cultural phenomenon, and social media.  Social media had a ton of promise and for a while being able to talk to anyone and everyone online was working pretty well.  There was a period with Netnews when I would actually suggest to someone that forums were full of smart people, and that “crowd-sourcing” could really provide answers from experts.  Now, when I go to Google (crowd-sourcing) and try to find out why my iPod shuts off randomly, I get an endless series of people who are amazed at the possibility of re-booting the device, accompanied by an approximately equal number of people insulting their intelligence.  I can not think of any better description of the current state of the internet than “cluster-f%ck”.   Yes, I can now read about the discover of gravity waves, but the comments of people who actually know something will be drowned out by people who actually don’t even know what science is (let alone have the slightest ability to determine if the article in question might hold valuable information).  It’s like if you were at NASA trying to get Apollo 13 back home, and to solve the complex problems of gravity, propulsion, and trajectory your staff found a really great mix of top scientists and drunk soccer fans. While that would be very, uh, “democratic” (to use that word incorrectly, like just about everyone else), Apollo 13 would have missed the Earth by a long way as everyone at Mission Control called each other assholes.  It’s depressing, to be honest.

So, as I read these articles from the early days, I think about how the thinkers of the time could never have foreseen the mess to come.  Rather than links filled with useful metadata, we have links that open ten windows all with a scam included, and a final window that you can’t close offering you the ability to phone a call-center in India and have your computer hijacked.  On social media, I manage to hang around long enough to have someone who is clearly pissed off about something call me names like I’m on the school yard in grade 3.  No thanks.  The only social media left for me is Twitter, simply because I can put out cool stuff, read other people’s cool stuff, but not really have what Facebook-sociopaths would call a “conversation”.  These conversations consist of a lot of people who hold the same opinions getting into a simulated room and telling each other how right they are and scaring off anyone who might offer a different opinion, even if they’re completely right. Why people “like” this scenario is beyond me, but clearly, millions of them can’t get enough.

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Lots of death.

January 22, 2016

Oh hey.

I was reading before Christmas how this time of year is very popular for dying, and it certainly seems to be true in 2016.  There have been a bunch, but the two I’m thinking about are David Bowie and Glenn Frey.  I will instantly offend multitudes by suggesting that these are both not quite A-List cultural icons, but certainly household names and very important to large numbers of people.  I mean, it’s not like Bob Dylan or Keith Richards died … I should probably just stop now.

Anyway, Bowie was always interesting to me.  He produced music that did touch a ton of people, but he also produced a lot that was very forgettable to me.  I can say that I was very attached to his “Berlin recordings” and in particular Low and Heroes.  I wouldn’t listen to either of them much today, as they were very much (to me) the kind of thing that I could listen to excessively to feed my teen angst and these days (at 52) I get enough angst in my daily life that I’m not really looking for more in my spare time. They were very important records at the time, however, because they truly did feed in to a lot of the music of the 80s and were hugely influential.  It is rather common knowledge that the track “Warzsawa” on Low directly lead to proto-Joy Division naming themselves Warsaw, and the sound and the aesthetic of those records clearly was adopted for 80s shoe-gazing and moping (I loved that music, don’t get me wrong). It was also super-important because in the pre-internet days a a guy like Bowie was much better at keeping his ear to the ground than I was, and he would tell me about really important things I otherwise wouldn’t know. In the case of Berlin-era Bowie, he was telling me about Kraut-rock and I wouldn’t even know it for years to come.    However, when I did encounter Can, Neu!, and Amon Duul after a very circuitous route, I was ready for it thanks to the fact that Bowie had figured out its importance years earlier.  Even if most people never listened to the Berlin-era recordings their influence lead to a lot of the music to come.  Public Image Ltd always seemed to me to come out of that, the previously mentioned Joy Division and everything that came from that, and even a band like Tortoise that connected back to Krautrock through a series of influences, all might go through Bowie.  Of course, Bowie also ensured that the otherwise hopeless (at that point) Iggy Pop had a lot more years in his career, by producing The Idiot and Lust for Life and making it clear that when someone kept him moving forward, Mr. Pop was  an artist.

Anyway, it was a little weird for me when we visited New York recently and wound up staying about a block from Mr. Bowie’s residence. There it was:  the shrine that you always see on TV with the flowers and the candles, and the really terrible paintings.  I must admit that I was a little confused about the level of admiration, not because Bowie wasn’t an amazing person, but because I wasn’t sure that anyone remembered him.  Turns out they did, I guess.  Thing is, he was a person that we don’t have many of anymore.  First off, he did whatever he wanted, and was never “in fashion” … he was creating fashion. He did not do fashionable things, he did things that freaked people out for a while, until they all started doing it too to be as cool as David Bowie.  Being in New York, I expect to see some of that, but mostly what you see is people trying to make their mark by wearing what they’re supposed to wear and doing what they’re supposed to do.  Bowie didn’t do that.  When he was The Man Who Fell to Earth, or the Thin White Duke, only he was those things … there was no trend, he was creating it.  He was the right person to be in The Hunger because he had been a vampire for quite some time: long before anyone else was a vampire. Like the Krautrock thing, all of his other personas had been borrowed from somewhere, but he found cool things that other people weren’t looking at and showed them to us, and we went “wow, that’s pretty cool”.   That’s quite a talent.

Bowie was also a “renaissance man”.  He made records, of course, but he seemed to be ahead of trends in all kinds of fields. He was always ahead of the curve with fashion, he was very well read (he is probably directly responsible for Herman Hesse books being on my shelves), and he was actually in some good movies.  Aside from the Hunger, I really loved him in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a beautiful film that is very much of it’s time that still really holds up today.

Ah right, I mentioned Glenn Frey.  I have less to say about him, but I do have something to say.  There has been way too much “I’m too cool to say something even remotely nice about the Eagles” for my liking.  They were from quite a nauseating time in music to be sure, and they pretty much define what makes me feel queasy about the 70s (along with Fleetwood Mac, who somehow fit into the same category in my brain).   However, while they often take me back to a bad time in our culture, the Eagles were really good at what they did. I can not honestly say that they weren’t cool, and I really do think that they were fantastic at what they did.  I can sing a lot of their songs from beginning to end, and there are some pretty great lyrics, even if they are basically semi-country music from California played in a haze of cocaine and decadence.  I can not deny some type of appeal to the line “it’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me” even if it is kind of meaningless and, well, absurd.  I have a guilty pleasure of listening to Desperado, even if it is absurd (again) to think of these guys singing about a cowboy … there is something tremendously touching about that  song when sung by the Langley Schools Music Project with their little-kid voices … there’s something great about that corny song.  So, hey, I am sad about the passing of Glenn Frey, if only because the sound that he made defined a time, (even if it was a somewhat nauseating time), and when I hear that music I can be right there again, listening to the Long Run endlessly on an 8-track that is stuck in a car’s player.  It’s not even a good memory, but it is that time, and to define a time is no small achievement.

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Childish

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.

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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.

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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.