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Merry Christmas.

I’m still very much an Atheist, but I nonetheless thoroughly enjoy celebrating Christmas, in the thoroughly modern Québecois fashion my family has evolved in to.

It is my combined family’s longest lasting tradition – my Dad’s side Christmas morning for brunch and my Mom’s side for dinner; in the last few years, as my elderly grandfather’s internal clock dictates, the supper has unfortunately become shorter, but is balanced by the brunch’s evolution into a late afternoon lunch followed by a ‘second-phase’ after we drop my grandpa off at his residence in a top-notch West Island round-the-clock care facility. Despite mild Parkinsons, hearing loss and a variety of other ailments, he was glowing tonight – happy, reminiscent – he told us stories, as is his custom, of his boyhood in Algeria. Tonight he told us of his experiences as a Scout meeting an old Bedouin clan-chief, who regaled his troop with stories of the desert, of Islam, of the Arab World in Antiquity, and offered them ancient butter cookies that stank terribly of naphtha, to which they couldn’t refuse on account of the old man’s generosity of time and experience! I’m often left adoringly speechless just thinking of how much living this man had accomplished before his life was irrevocably (and positively) changed by the Second World War.

He’s 92 and I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!

But I digress, this year was like so many past and as such feels like an accomplishment; we’re all here, together, enjoying each other’s company and sharing considerate gifts. Who could ask for anything more?

I know I’m not alone, and as such we all share in something special, something real we can be truly grateful for.

This is what Christmas means to me, and it has nothing to do with my thoughts on gods or Jesus Christ.

I can imagine this is true for a lot of other people as well.

So here’s to us and everyone else too for that matter – we got through another day on Earth together, and hopefully it was a good day for you as well.

What more can we ask for?

The Horror of our Failure

I realize I’m writing this with therapeutic intentions; today’s shocking, horrifying news is only now starting to really sink in and I feel compelled to write as a way to process yet another senseless act of mass murder in North America.

In an odd way I’m reassured that I still have the ability to feel real sadness thinking about the awful events which transpired earlier today in Connecticut, but it’s very quickly overpowered by a deep sense of helplessness as well. This in turn compels to write, as it serves to numb the deep feeling of shock and terror. Despite all I’ve seen on the Internet, despite all the crazy shit this world manages to produce, and despite all the death anyone who watches the news witnesses on a weekly, if not daily basis, I had an emotional response. I feel it’s a bit of a rarity, perhaps an increasing rarity, as I feel I’m otherwise permanently numbed by exposure.

I processed this trag and I don’t think I’m alone. I remember checking the news earlier in the day and the headline didn’t initially register – for whatever reason, perhaps because the story wasn’t the lead story on the site (I suppose it would have just broken at around that time, and details would have been fuzzy) I supposed that a weapon had been found and a school evacuated, but not a mass shooting such as this.

A little later it became very clear what had actually occurred, and yet I continued on with my work – what else was there to do? My instinctual reaction was, ‘it didn’t happen here, no one you know is implicated, move along – you can’t get tripped up by every crazy thing happening in this world because you’ll likely get depressed’. This is what I thought. I had to stay focused on the task at hand.

Later during my lunch break, more details, and not surprisingly the inevitable deluge of debates from the opinion-slingers populating the social mediasphere. Had it not registered for them either? Are we all the cynical and emotionally numb?

Or is it that all any of us can do is blast opinion into the ether hoping our thoughts are appreciated by others, because we’re fundamentally emotionally incapable of real grieving, and forming a real reaction to this inexcusable action?

I think this might be the case. It didn’t take long for progressive and contrarian alike to take to the great media apparatus and strike up an orgy of vitriolic debate. It seems this happens every time there’s a particularly savage crime or mass shooting. And in case you already forgot, there was a mall shooting in Portland Oregon not three days ago.

Between the time the story broke and my afternoon coffee this depraved act of savage brutality had doubtless spawned millions of comments, tweets, updates and debates – all in our effort to stave off actually having to recognize what ought to shake every one of us to our very cores, as if Sandy Hook Elementary School were located up the street from where you live. When this happens it is a societal failure, one we’re all responsible for. That tragedies like these should happen so frequently, and to such devastating effect, should be indication enough a real problem exists.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a sizeable number of people who must feel compelled to exorcise whatever feelings they have by supporting the notion no such problem exists and anyone arguing in favour of gun control, at a time such as this, is out of line.

I thought interviewing the kids and parents was pretty out of line, but that’s not the point. It seems as if we’re in a race to argue about something related to this tragedy than to allow ourselves to come to terms with it.

It was because of the ensuing, related, debate that I discovered there was another school attack today, this time in China where a 36 year-old man slashed and stabbed 22 children aged 6-11 outside a school. No deaths occurred, thankfully, but what’s troubling is that this is but one in a series of such attacks in China. It was brought up as a reason why gun control won’t prevent a mentally disturbed individual from carrying out their intended crimes.

Perhaps it is indeed the Chinese equivalent to American spree shootings; gun ownership is virtually non-existant in China and so I guess, in a sick way, it makes sense that there’d be mass stabbings. Fewer people killed, incidentally. I saw a stat floating around earlier today that said whereas 20 Chinese children have died in slashing or stabbing attacks, over 200 American children have died in school shootings in the last six years.

Which in turn reminds me that media outlets were busy organizing information so as to be used in ‘conversational debating’ – HuffPost just tweeted a ‘gun control stats cheat sheet’, anticipating the little debates we’ll carry around with us over the next little while, at the dinner table, the water cooler etc.

It’s incredible how much time and effort will doubtless be devoted to the ensuing debate, and nothing productive will come of it. And why should anything come of it – social change is hard, acquiescing and accepting these spree killings as an inevitability much easier.

Just pray it doesn’t happen to you.

And so I guess that’s what we’ll do until Christmas. Talk about gun control. Debate gun control. Argue gun control. News programs will invite ‘passionate defenders’ of whatever side they represent, and we’ll collectively poor over and create copious amounts of ethereal digital thought and opinion. and be told, over and over again, to pray.


We don’t need prayer.

I’d argue the Americans don’t need gun control either; they must eliminate individual gun ownership altogether and take broad measures to eliminate existing weapons. Further still, penalties associated with simply having a firearm in your possession would have to be incredibly stiff (in China, as an example, an individual caught illegally transporting firearms for the purpose of sale, could conceivably be put to death) and the vast lobbying organization designed to prop up the American firearms industry would have to be very publicly dismantled as well.

In my eyes there’s simply no other way. There are too many easily accessible firearms in the United States, and too little in terms of a social safety net – tragedies such as these will assuredly happen again in the future unless massive changes are made in a short period of time.

Evil did not visit a small town in Connecticut today. A man fell off the edge, probably some time ago, and went on a killing spree, taking many innocent people away from their loved ones forever. Evil is not a tangible object or force, it is not a presence, and it can’t be wished away.

If, as a society, we absolve ourselves of our collective responsibility and entertain the notion nothing could be done to avoid it, that the spree shootings are random occurrences we have no control over, then it implies not only could anyone be a potential victim, but could be a potential perpetrator as well. If, by contrast, we accept collective responsibility to do whatever can be done to avoid such a tragedy from happening again, then we will simply pay the requisite amount of tax-revenue for the implementation of all the policies, programs and plans designed to do so.

And we could do it too, if only we weren’t so easily distracted by the endless soothing debates we engage in in-lieu of working to prevent future disasters. America’s gun problem isn’t a new issue – it’s been a clear and present danger to contemporary world society for quite some time now.

But we keep choosing not to come together; we keep choosing to hack away at the social safety net, we keep choosing to omit and ignore. We quite literally drown out the noise by burying our heads in the sand.

Is it any wonder we never see the market dropping out from underneath us? Can never manage but to be caught off-guard by a hurricane?

We’ll one day soon have to learn we can’t pray or wish our problems away.

My heart goes out to all the grieving families; the loss of a single child is unbearable, this is simply beyond words.

Adam Yauch – 1964-2012 / The In Sound From Way Out

Late to the party as always.

Found out after reading Cadence Weapon’s tweet – a simple ‘oh no’. It definitely sucks, I am a huge Beastie Boys fan, but I never had a chance to see them perform live.

The Beastie Boys were obviously influential and ground-breaking in numerous ways, not least of which was that they were an early hip-hop group that was born, more or less, out of the early-1980s NYC hardcore & post-punk scene. The Beastie Boys played one of their first shows on the last night Max’s Kansas City was open.

My introduction to them was the double-CD compilation issued in 1998, The Sounds of Science. I bought it mostly because I wanted to get a better idea of what they were all about, and wanted to see how the band had evolved over time. The personalities of the three members came to light, and MCA stood out as the slightly quieter one, the background man with the raspy voice.

I’d discover later on that he had directed numerous Beastie Boys videos under the pseudonym Nathanial Hornblower, a character who would come to some national prominence at the 1994 MTV VMAs, when the band lost multiple times (including twice to Aerosmith) in various categories – in my honest opinion, Sabotage, nominated in four or five categories, should have won easily. Not only is it one of the finest general rock songs of all time, but the video is a classic. The song demonstrated a number of things, chiefly that they were at home in multiple genres, that they were sonic experimenters de rigeur, that they legitimized sonic sub-cultures etc. It also features MCA rocking a solid bass line, notable in the break before Ad-Rock screams Why? halfway through the track.

Yauch was also one of the first musicians I associated with public political consciousness in my own youth. It wasn’t so much that I perceived the Beastie Boys as somewhat enlightened post-punk pugilists and perennial smart-asses, but that at their core there was artistry, business and causes. I was mad disappointed when the Rhyme and Reason Tour was cancelled in 2000, but impressed with Yauch’s work with regards to the Tibetan Freedom Copncert. If you remember the mid-1990s, trying to get people to pay attention to all the shitty things going on in the world wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today, and some even questioned whether or not rock and rap groups should be so political in the first place. These same individuals kinda missed the point to begin with – perhaps this explains the rise of ICP and Limp Bizkit in that era, following in the wake of what the Beastie Boys had crafted so many years before. But those latter groups were created by some record label to fill a void; the Beasties were the real deal, which is why I’m certain their music will entertain many more generations of fans.

Above, a favourite video. It’s rather long at ten minutes, but features MCA as Nathanial Hornblower interrupting Michael Stipe’s acceptance speech for the ‘Everybody Hurts’ video. Towards the end, the Beastie Boy’s revenge – one of the tightest live performances of Sabotage I’ve ever seen. Worth waiting and feeling the build up as they lose in every category. At the end, they demonstrated clearly what made them just so ground-breaking. It wasn’t so simply that they were suburban white boys in a black man’s world, it’s that they were damn good musicians and lyricists, with a clear understanding of their style, image, and perhaps thanks in large part to MCA, a defined aesthetic and message too.

He’ll surely be missed.

The Greatest Comment in the World

“Yeah, nice picture. When I was a kid, moving with my family back from Vancouver, we took the train, and we booked passage from Vancouver to Westmount — not Montreal (Windsor Station, which was the next stop). That was 1971.

I more or less like your blog. But I will stop visiting if you don’t stop your reprehensible habit of putting an accent on the first E of Montreal.

It’s incomprehensible. Why would you do that? That letter (the e with an accent, which has its own name in French and is not considered the same as a regular E — they pronounce “e” euh; and “e-with-the-accent-aigu” eh.

Stop and go back and delete the accents. It’s like we don’t belong in Montreal. You are on the wrong side with this evil habit of yours.”


This comment is attributed to a Snead Nesbitt.

I’ve never had a comment like this. Judge for yourselves.

Where to begin?

Montréal is a French name, and according to English usage rules, it’s appropriate to use the accent.

And I’m half English and half French, so I feel pretty comfortable expressing myself in both languages. You know, the two official languages of Canada.

I like how I’m both incomprehensible and reprehensible. Someone was using a thesaurus no doubt.

And Windsor Station is in Montréal, not Westmount.

I have no idea what to write about

I have no idea what to write about and I’m too tired to get creative. I feel uninspired and though I’m cognizant there’s news to report on, I feel like I’ve been there before, covered it etc (mind you, I’m certainly not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination, so I guess I shouldn’t mind not getting the scoop, as it were).

Suggestions? Let me know loyal readers. What’s going on that’s not nearly getting enough attention these days?

If none, I’m going to bed.