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Sunday, January 29, 2006

The "Calgary School"

For those of you interested in Harper's inner circle, Walrus magazine has an excellent article on this: The Man Behind Stephen Harper. Like I said, you can know a lot about a person by his friends. But take heart, my dear friends, it seems not all is well in HarperLand. The vice-like grip on the campaign and the party that his buddy American-born Tom Flanagan holds has the Progressive side of the party shut out. Peter Mackay may not have been pining only for Belinda Stronach when he went home to NS - he may have been pining for any power he thought he might wield in a party he naively helped create.

Upon further investigation, it seems this group gets a lot of their political strategy from watching chimpanzees. Which makes the election much more understandable in my mind, as I felt I was watching a bunch of baboons. They call it bio-politics. Do they even realize how feminist that sounds? This is what happens when you let academics run the show. Strong on theory - light on reality. And I can say that being a card-carrying member of that oddball community.

Perhaps we need to start a counterpart to this school here in Calgary. Let's name it "The Kensington School" in light of a neighbourhood within Calgary that has a certain and unabashed liberal bent. There is even a provincial Liberal MLA in that riding. Maybe even try re-branding the Liberals as the Progressives? Or the Progressive Liberals? Hey, it's worth a shot. I'm feeling worse about this new government every day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Did You Feel It?

I have it on rather good authority that the Centre of the Universe shifted on Tuesday night. A Conservative minority was elected, along with the first PM from Calgary since the 1930s. Toronto fell silent - Montreal fell silent - Vancouver fell silent - Calgary was jubilant. The Red Mile became the Blue Mile. But there is not one Conservative MP from those three major cities, and together they make up approximately one-third - yes, one-third - of Canada's population. That's a major problem for a Harper'government, as no Cabinet Ministers will come from those areas, arguably the main hubs of Canada's economy.

I've got a few other concerns too - there's the gender question. Only 38 of the 308 Conservative candidates were women, and only 14 were elected. And I think urban Canadian women do not trust Harper on the key issue of abortion. He dodges the issue, and can do a lot of damage while not actually re-criminalizing it (cutting funding to clinics, women's agencies, etc.). And if you believe he has a hidden agenda on a women's right to choose what to do with her own body, he might have other crazy ideas about women too. I'm not sayin' ...I'm just sayin'.

With a different leader (Peter Mackay, for example) we would have been looking at a Conservative majority. It really didn't take much to knock off the Liberals this time around. They were reeling. They ran a sloppy campaign with no real vision and still came home with over 100 seats. You just had to show up and shut up your "friends" (like Ralph).

Let's talk about his friends. You can actually know a lot about a person by his friends. This guy is surrounded by very dodgy people. I know (of) many of them, and I'm scared. But this is the slimmest minority government in Canada since Confederation. He's on a short leash. He can't do too much damage. I hope.

So my Toronto friends, take heart - the Centre of the Universe, your own hand-picked, coveted title, is still yours. We're the New West, and we're in the game now, so quite frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn anymore what you call yourselves.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Eve of a Right Mess

Well, it seems my futurist prediction that the Liberals will again win a minority government are going up in smoke. Once the Conservatives pulled that horrendous ad off the airwaves, and muzzled all their social conservative candidates, it was full steam ahead. Of course, it didn't help that the Liberals were looking like a house divided. Internal wounds from the Chretien-Martin feud have finally risen to the surface and are ripping the party apart. Oh, and that nasty Gomery ad-scam thing didn't help either.

The polls are showing a Conservative victory. This got me thinking. Who answers the phone to a polling firm anymore? Certainly not my generation, who are fed up with telemarketers and have call display and call screening to avoid them. So it must be those people who want to be polled - ie, hear my voice, I am a card-carrying [blank] party member. So I am clinging to the hope that the polls are now horribly skewed in our telecommunications-savvy age.

I am also clinging to the hope that the women of Ontario will get us out of this mess. I am hoping that when they enter the polling booth with all intention of voting for Harper, they --- just ---can't --- mark --- that --- X (insert painful groaning noises here), when push comes to shove. The issue will be if their vote then gets split between the Libs and the NDP - not pretty as the Conservatives will stroll arrogantly up the middle.

My own vote will be Green again. Not a protest vote, as some are calling it, but a vote for change. For respect for women. For respect for the environment. And maybe most importantly this time around - for self-respect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hippo Update

Just fyi, I now have a hippopotamus - for Christmas, even! S. was kind enough to indulge my whim and purchase a hippo fridge magnet I saw at the checkout while at Toys 'r Us the other day. I am now replete with hippo. Life is good. Sometimes it really is the little things that count.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Valoo Villaj Expedition

I was thinking a bit about fashion the other day, as I was trawling - or is that trolling? - the Valoo Villaj aisles with Z. and S. Never really been a fashionista, moi, but was beginning to dole out advice to S. in an almost Blackwell-esque way. Abercrombie and Fitch, good - Northern Reflections, bad; flares and boot cuts, good - floods and straight cuts, bad. Hmmm. Which started me thinking where I had got these new-found fashionista leanings. Imagine my surprise when I tracked it back to reality TV? What Not to Wear, to be exact. Truth be told, I've actually learned something from that show. And I think I needed to, because my fashion disasters stem once again from being an only child. No sister or brother to laugh out loud at your outfits; just Mom and Dad saying, "Oooo, that's nice, dear."

And then my mind wandered to the future - being a budding futurist and all - and what fashion would be, should be. I think we're all beginning to doubt the futuristic metallic jumpsuits that we were supposed to be sporting by now. As Jean-Luc Picard and the boys on TNG found out, those things ain't that comfortable. And the female crew found them damn inconvenient when taking a quick pee break.

I think that fashion has evolved to a point where we've learned enough lessons from the fashion oopsies of past decades, and are now able to pick and choose the best from the past and leave the rest on the rubbish heap of fashion history, if you will. So if you like longer skirts and they look good on you, wear them. If you're a fan a turtlenecks and blazers, go for it. If you just can't part with those 80s stirrup pants, well, then you may be a fashion disaster waiting to happen and I wash my hands with you. I said Good Day! (Feeble attempt at That 70s Show reference.)

So I shall continue to roam the VV aisles and dispense my sage fashionista advice freely and without charge, even. I cannot let my peeps down.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Eat More Dirt!

I fear I was a trifle harsh in my last post about the horrors of bacteria, and I feel it only fair in this post to present the other side, for fear of being branded a bacteria-phobe. Although lots of bacteria (especially 80 million of them) can't be too healthy, there is something to be said that we have gone too far in our obsession with cleanliness in the 21st century, at least in the Western world.

Some bacteria are good. Witness my daily yogurt. Good bacteria, keeps me regular and all that (too much information?) I have also always been a proponent of kids eating more dirt. I don't know why and I have had absolutely no scientific basis for this assertion. It just seems like the right thing to do on an intuitive level. I think we now keep our kids too clean, and they actually need to build up their defences to all kinds of nasty things during childhood.

Now it seems that intuition, yet again, mirrors scientific proof. I have found my proof. Seems that an innocuous little bacterium (nice one, hey Sarah?) called M Vaccae may provide all kinds of health benefits. It's often found in mud (hence the eat more dirt mantra being correct) and has been shown in studies to help fight off leprosy and even asthma.

In our uber-clean culture, we have become separated from the earth and alienated from our environment. In so doing, we've found that allergies have skyrocketed - I never thought I would live to see the day that peanut butter was banned in schools. Seems we're born with the hardware to fight off certain nasties (insert proper scientific term here) but we also need some software to run the damn machine. Our immune system needs to be educated as to the multitudinous bacteria that are out there, and then needs to make friends with the nice ones, and wage war on the bad ones. In other words, if we don't enlist in the course, we can't take the tests.

So listen up my friends with kids - or friends having kids in the near future - kids need to eat more dirt! I cannot say it more plainly than that. Oh, but when the little beggars are nice and dirty, please don't be offended if I am nowhere to be found. Been there, done that, passed all the appropriate tests.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I am a Television Slut

OK, it's official. I will watch absolutely anything on that damn box, no matter what the quality. Some of you know that I do have a bit of an obsession with pop culture and so have watched the odd reality TV show here and there. I see two distinct types: 1) Shows the elevate the human spirit (Three Wishes, Town Haul and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) and 2) Shows that feature the dark side of humanity (Survivor, Fear Factor, the Surreal Life, etc.)

I saw one the other day though that beggars belief and categorization. Of course, it came from across the Pond. The Brits are getting good at shock value, and this show was the best yet. It was called "Too Posh to Wash" and the basic premise was to find an individual with horrible personal hygiene habits (and I mean horrible), expose them and their horrible habits to millions of other TV sluts, and then turn them around, give them a shower, and try to heal them of their sorry ways. They do this - not a word of a lie - by taking swabs of their underarms and other nasty bits and their clothing to a scientific lab for bacterial analysis. These people don't change their underwear, they smell, and they certainly don't brush their teeth or wash their hair regularly. And the show gets their "guests" from the upper crust of British society (hence, the posh). I suppose there was a reason for calling them the upper crust - seems they build it up over years of not washing. Shades of life at the French court at Versailles coming back to me.

Regardless, the one fact that stuck with me was that a normal bra will have about 800 to 1,000 bacteria on it after a day's use. That freaked me out enough. To the washing machine! They then tested this poor woman's bra - which she hadn't washed for a full year - and it had over 80 million bacteria on it. The scientist-guy said he torched it after testing it.

I thought that admitting to the world that your house was a foul mess was bad enough (that's How Clean is your House? hosted by the same two women) but this show... well, I was speechless. But apparently not wordless. Fear not, fellow bloggers. You need not watch these vile shows yourself. Apparently, I will watch anything, and I will report back on it. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Stay tuned - you know I will.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Bast’s Top 10 Reasons to Hate Year-end Top 10 Lists

10. They always include at least one thing I’ve never heard of in them – and that makes me feel out of touch.

9. Star Trek is never mentioned.

8. Neither is Babylon 5.

7. Too much weather. Enough about the earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc. Not covered by insurance anyway.

6. Too Western-centric, except for the disasters. When’s the last time the AIDS epidemic in Africa made the list?

5. Too many celebrity death rolls - who did we lose this year – way too morbid, and really, who cares?

4. Makes me think too much about the end of the year. Stop it already. I hate New Year’s Eve.

3. Makes me think that I watch too much television, and other such navel-gazing thoughts.

2. Too many “Year in Review” spots on the telly. And not one devoted to Coronation Street. (OK, I obviously do watch too much television …)

And the Number 1 Reason to Hate Year-end Top 10 Lists ….

1. Bast never appears on any of them (er, except this one ….nuts…)