Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Jim Crow, meet Heather Crowe

Call me old Mr. Heartless (or I wonder if this might be considered a kind of hate speech? ... call me old Mr. Hatespeech then), but Heather Crowe's well-publicized death--tragically timely thing that it is, falling just short of May 31st (the day Ontario's most draconian anti-smoking legislation yet comes into effect)--has failed to stir in me so much as a burp. Ms. Crowe, in case you didn't know, is the woman from the Health Canada commercials claiming to have been driven into a life of reckless second-hand smoking, slaving away in bars and restaurants because (wait for it!) she was a single mother trying to raise a child. In her late fifties she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and was told, moreover, that this particular cancer was "a smoker's tumor." (Easy on the medical mumbo-jumbo there, egghead--give it to us straight!) Suffice it to say that the commercial is desperately maudlin stuff and, I don't know but, there is some desperately dubious-sounding science here too. Call me crazy, but a non-smoker with a so-called "smoker's tumor" doesn't actually make sense, does it?

But the pointlessness of questions such as this in a day and age where a given issue's validity is determined as much by its sentimental cachet as by its science must hardly be surprising. Still, the fact remains that nowhere in any mainstream medical study does it suggest any stronger of a connection between second-hand (or environmental) tobacco smoke and cancer than the contention that the one may lead to the other. May! This is intentionally uncertain language used because the proof, quite simply, does not exist that there is a definitive relationship between the two. And this, I hasten to add, because the number of deaths attributable to exposure to second hand smoke are negligibly low. (Bearing in mind too that these aren't people whose lives are being cut short in their prime. Even most smokers don't die of smoking related diseases in their prime. It's still just a dirty old habit, I'm afraid, not WMD.) So, Health Canada's unambiguous assertion--via the treacly sweet vehicle of these commercials--that exposure to tobacco smoke (by a positively antique standard, i.e. the days when a person could smoke virtually anywhere; the days when "the air was blue where I worked") poses a serious threat to non-smokers is, actually, unsubstantiated and so, alas, is false. And, really, with accusations as serious as this, where the hell are all the other non-smoking waitresses with lung cancer?

But this is all beside the point. My big problem with Heather Crowe is the whole Heather Crowe Story that she's been turned into--and, indeed, that she allowed herself to be turned into. It's asinine and it's tacky. The Globe calls her the "'Matriarch' of the anti-smoking movement"; The Star has the unmitigated vapidity and vulgarity to say that she put "a human face on the deadly hazards of second-hand smoke." For the love of-- ... What the hell does that mean?! It's embarrassing, all this courage and horror stuff; all this dignity and tragedy and rising above and oh-the-humanity stuff. It's contrivance, and rather poor contrivance at that--the kind that's defiantly insulting to the intelligence.

And so it's threatening too, in a way. The sort of person who doesn't--unlike the mayor of Winnipeg, who made damn sure that he did--"appear moved" (my emphasis) by her story, must then be unmoved by her story. And there's something a little bit sick and degraded about that, eh? Who would dare challenge the victim in their claim to victimhood?! An animal! Someone undeserving of the rights and privileges of a free citizen in a tolerant society. A smoker!

Roll over Jim Crow--we've got Heather now!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

I was replenishing the household supply of beer this afternoon ... I don't know if you've ever had beer, but it's quite refreshing on days such as these--that take place between the hours of twelve and twelve; that are good, bad, or indifferent, wherein, at any rate, an exhausting amount of breathing has taken place ... Anyways, there I was in the beer store making my purchase, and I noticed near me--patiently cooling his graying keister upon the linoleum floor--a dog of advanced years, middle size, and (in spite of his ambiguous lineage) a distinct nobility of bearing. He had an air of quiet resignation about him, but that could not, I observed, entirely disguise something of the soldier's roguish glint in his great black eyes (that were running only a little, though the air in Toronto is still treacherously pollinated). His master was nearby and, you got the impression, could never be more than seven or eight yards from him at any time. So he was a fine fellow if ever I saw one and, I fancy, I wasn't the only person present to suggest to him with a wink that: "There's a boy! O-ho-ho!"

And, indeed, I wasn't the only one--though not in so many words. Seized by inspiration (or recollection I guess it would have to have been--but he was definitely seized by it as it was preceded by a distractingly shrill "Oh!") one of the cash men dodged into the bottle-room--I thought, at first, to fetch my consignment-- reappearing moments later with a big, I admit, delicious looking milkbone, but that wasn't for me. All smiles, he proffered it to the pooch.

But the dog was non-plussed. Indeed, he found the cashier's wrist a great deal more interesting, and snuffled it with the expert passes of a police drug-sniffing dog. (What the hell did the boy have on his wrists?) He barely acknowledged the treat; certainly did not eat it. I remarked to the youth that this was the first time I'd ever seen such a thing: a dog turning his nose up at the offer of free eats. We stared perplexedly at him, and he back at us.

But master was soon by--fresh from selecting his week's supply from the big board of beer brands that adorns the wall of any self-respecting beer store--to clarify matters by way of demonstration. He took the milkbone from the cashier, grunted familiarly at the dog (who blinked back at him in recognition), then chucked the biscuit to the other side of the store. Sure enough, Spot rocketed after the thing and made as short work of it as his aging teeth would allow. Indeed, such was his commitment to the thing now that, as I was on my way out, he snapped jealously at me--mid-mouthful--as I attempted chummily to stroke his head.

I must admit that I'm of a wildly different temperament from such as Spot. He's one of those journey-over-destination types-- whereas for me, the journey can go hang so long as I still get a large, beef-flavoured milkbone out of it (and if you've got the box in the back heft it out because, likely, I'm still hungry). Many, of course, accuse me of not having the proper adventurous or romantic spirit. But, I think, my attitude is the product of a properly adjusted philosophical temperament--and one, then, that is correct. For it is too often the case these days that men (and dogs) are in the habit of confusing ends with means. Indeed, this dog's apparent dependency on a "journey"--not just so that he could appreciate the reward, but that he could actually recognize it as such--strikes me as rather a dangerous one; one imagines that should his master ever suffer some sort of arm injury the dog would die of starvation not having anyone to fling his dinner across the room first.

A.H. Clough, as ever, rises to my occasion:

As I sat at the café, I said to myself,
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
They may sneer as they like about eating and drinking,
But help it I cannot, I cannot help thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.

I sit at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I have done, throw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one's self, of good living,
But also the pleasure of now and then giving.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money ...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

He's Warren the Whited Sepulchre!

Warren Kinsella's got a great column in the National Post today. Turning Hitler into a Debating Prop, it's called. Unfortunately--but hardly surprisingly--there's rather an obvious problem with the Post's new media critic writing such a piece (apart from the editorial work the first two paragraphs so desperately need) ... Not a month ago The Ambler (April 7th,2006) threw a little well-deserved dung Kinsella's way (reproduced from an article KMG wrote for The Report in August of 2000) and, amongst other things, turned this little gem up for us: a comparison--made by the new Post columnist--of Vancouver's North Shore News to Der Stürmer.

What--you would do well to ask yourself--is the difference between this and someone replacing the word "National", on the National Post newspaper box at the end of Warren's street, with "Nazi"? That the "fool" who commited the act of defacement had the good sense not to append his name to his handiwork.

ADDENDUM (6:00pm)

Within an hour of my post I was given the rare (or, perhaps, not so rare) treat of a snippy missive from our man Kinsella. One hour! I include the exchange below. (It all ended very amicably, as you can see, with polite well-wishing on both sides and exchanges of search engine addresses ... Though, I swear, there was a tense moment there where I thought I was going to be called an anti-semite or something.) Enjoy!

On 5/11/06, Warren Kinsella wrote:

The North Shore News published, at the relevant time, a man who denied the Holocaust and called gays "dirt" and non-whites "a cancer." That's Nazi-like. My characterization was apt.

So's my characterization that you are the idiot, pas moi. [In the original post I had called him an idiot —ed.]

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 17:30:31 -0400
Subject: Re:

You're all charm, sir. How many of these do you reply to a day?
(I changed the "idiot" incidentally--though now I'm thinking it might be a great deal more "relevant" to have left it in.)

On 5/11/06, Warren Kinsella wrote:

Just the dumb ones. It amuses me.

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 17:45:14 -0400
Subject: Re: Re:

Touché. It is rather disturbing though, that you were able to pick up my post so fast ... The words security and insecurity keep ringing in my ears. Don't know why.
Many thanks for the fun.

On 5/11/06, Warren Kinsella wrote:

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 17:53:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Re: Re:

This conversation's become distinctly one-sided. Last question: how many times a day do you plug your own name into the search, you miserable man? That being said, I shall search my own name forthwith.

On 5/11/06, Warren Kinsella wrote:

Have fun

The best way is just to register for an RSS. They let you know.



It should be said that I did search myself at Technorati and, alas, it turned up not a blip. (Which makes us both losers, Warren.) Now ... what's really strange is, when I searched "Warren Kinsella" this post did not turn up. So the question is: how did old WK catch wind of my post--from an, apparently, utterly obscure and unread weblog--so fast?

Beware! An uninhibited ego, and the means to keep it primed.