Friday, December 17, 2010

Underpants for Work

A major Swiss bank has taken the appropriate dress code for the office policy to the extreme by issuing a large document to its employees which strips them down to their underwear. The document has stated that all undergarments should be flesh-coloured and that women were not to wear 'flashy' jewelry. It further stated that those with coloured hair must not have roots showing and that the men must have at least 2 parts of a 3 part suit when they showed up to work.

While it's evident that everyone would like to dress professionally for work, just to which point do we have to be told how to dress? After all, these are adults who are working within a professional institution in good standing. Surely they don't need to be told what colour their knickers can be?

But on the flip side, there's a good part of the population that does need telling and they're likely the cause of this strict fashion regime. While the anything goes attitude of North America and casual Fridays are liberating, they're also horrible for the image of a company or organization. The amount of people wearing pajamas to work, pajama plaid pants, yoga pants and every variety of night club wear Monday to Friday has proven that point. A quick look around the bus usually tells you that someone is heading into an office job looking either like a college freshman who's still hung over from last night and may be wearing someone else's pants or a skirt so short that they may literally have a slip of the cheek at some point during the day.

It seems like this is a common sense principle that our mothers should have taught us. We all know that office appropriate generally depends on who's up top. Some people enjoy a very comfortable, laid back office ambience where people are free to come in wearing sweats, while others have a shirt and tie policy and above the knees for the ladies. There are two distinct schools of thought on this issue:

1- this is a democracy and adults should be free to choose how they want to dress and to express themselves through their clothes

2- a workplace is a professional organization and you have an obligation to represent them properly by coming into work not looking like you're homeless

There are good arguments for both, but what it boils down to comes to this: be reasonable. There's a time and place to wear certain things and your common sense, as well as the social cues of the people around you, should indicate what's proper and what's not. While some people dream of living in a world where they can wander around wearing a tutu and tiara, the truth is, you will have to wear different things for different occasions.

Dressing appropriately for things like work and funerals are a sign of respect for the organization or the event that you're attending. And in a workplace, it's also a sign of self-respect, to show that you're interested in your image, your clients and the quality of your work and that maybe, just maybe, you're thinking of going places.

Fur Flying

It appears that the Trudeau family Christmas card got more attention than it intended when PETA proclaimed that the card was offensive and lurid. PETA activists were shocked that the Quebec politician and his young family would pose for their Christmas card wearing fur and snuggling under a fur blanket. While the fact that PETA found the use of fur offensive didn't surprise me, the accusation that it was lurid did. It didn't seem to mesh well with my understanding of the term. So I looked it up online to make sure that it was being used correctly and came up with the following:

lu·rid (lrd)
1. Causing shock or horror; gruesome.
I suppose that this is the definition that the PETA activist was looking for, stating that wearing fur was a gruesome act.

2. Marked by sensationalism: a lurid account of the crime. See Synonyms at ghastly.
I suppose that this could have been the other meaning, stating that wearing fur is a sensational and ghastly act.

3. Glowing or shining with the glare of fire through a haze: lurid flames.
I checked the back of the Christmas card photo to see if there was a fire in the fireplace which I assumed was crackling festively in the background and couldn't quite make it out. So let's assume this one is also true.

4. Sallow or pallid in color.
Since all the Trudeaus look to have normal colouring and not jaundice, I'm guessing this one's a no.

Whatever the meaning that was intended, the message by PETA is clear: fur is wrong. But is it really so wrong? As newsmakers point out and rightly so, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was often photographed wearing fur collars on his winter coats, looking very much the patriot, the outdoorsman and Canadian. Canada is, after all, founded on the fur trade and lumber. And the tradition of fur in Canada is not based on excess or fashion, but on necessity. Facing a harsh winter often meant that early pioneers would have to seek fur to keep warm. Otherwise, they would not have made it through.

As any red-blooded Canadian will tell you, cotton is useless against wind chill and snow in Canada. Even heavy denim doesn't do anything when it's 40 below. They say the weather outside is frightful for a reason- it's damn cold and most people would have to be out of their minds to go out in a Canadian snowstorm. Just ask Edmonton.

True, the fur trade isn't exactly what it used to be. There are many companies looking to make a killing (pardon the pun) with animals who are beautiful rather than practical. The early tradition of killing animals for meat and fur were a necessity and was done with respect for animals. No pioneer would have dreamed of demolishing an entire animal population on purpose or raising some poor animal for its fur alone. That would have been wasteful and unethical.

But there's no reason to believe that the entire fur industry is running afoul and operating laboratories where animals are imprisoned, skinned and then tossed out like so much garbage. There are responsible fur traders and companies out there who genuinely know and appreciate their trade. If there's anything that activists should get upset about, it's the sale of animals who are endangered and whose meat is useless, and poor regulations of the fur industry that leads to a black market.

They should also protest the idiots in LA who buy fur as a status symbol when they clearly live in a climate that doesn't require it. The luxury fur trade is often ridiculous and lucrative, but it's not exactly 'lurid'. And neither is the Trudeau family Christmas card.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nay to English Education

The British government has passed regulations that allow them to triple the costs of education in Britain, leading to mass student protests, some of which have turned ugly, in the streets of London. The latest hapless victims of this widespread anger were Prince Charles and his wife Camilla who sustained a certain amount of mob damage to their vintage Rolls Royce. It's ironic and unfortunate that the couple happened to be decked out in their finest on their way to a charity event in a plush pleasure car while students protested the prospect of riddling future debts that would bar them from a decent wage earning lifestyle and would thus make them future recipients of such charity. How short-sighted of them.

It's not incredible that the government that got voted in on the promise of tuition freezes for students has reneged on that promise once they were faced with the actual books. Politicians lie all of the time and the jaded people of our generation know better than to expect anyone to actually keep their promises once they're handed power. What is incredible is that instead of attempting to assuage or feign ignorance by upping tuitions by a marginal number which may pass under the radar, they did the truly inconspicuous thing by tripling them.

Now that's just greedy. While a population that's been lied to may have the decency to put aside their disappointment and anger in favour of a middle of the road compromise for the betterment of the country, tripling the rate of education is just highway robbery. It's not like when the guy that you bought your sofa from on Boxing Day tells you that he can't make overnight delivery free as he initially promised, and would you mind if it arrived on Wednesday. It's like you reading the Boxing Day flyer as $399 and coming in on the day of the pick up and finding out it's $999. That's when you throw your hands up in the air and rant and rave all the way home and wave the flyer at people and tell all of your friends and family not to go to that store because they're all a bunch of liars.

Except that this is not as easy to walk away from as a sofa. You can live a few years without a sofa without it adversely affecting the rest of your life. It's a lot harder to do that without a high level of education. Lack of education bars you from the best positions and the best salaries. It also hinders your advancement in almost any form of organization that you can be employed with. Not to mention that it can drastically reduce your mobility and your ability to change careers.

The government is making the argument that the deficit crisis has reduced them to this kind of measure to generate more revenue. Which is little comfort to students to know that their future will be mortgaged based on the errors of some six figure idiots in the banking industry.

There's no way that this plan will work, either. There will be less students paying more within British universities and the rest of the population will go elsewhere. Many of them will likely jam Scotland and Ireland's universities for cheaper tuition rates and some party time away from home. Those who don't have that luxury and couldn't afford university at the current rates before the tripling measure occurred, will simply not go to university. They will either get low paying jobs wherever they're available or they will pick up a trade. This will put Britain on the fast track to becoming the world's supplier of plumbers and electricians and construction workers in Dubai.

A workforce which lacks highly educated professionals will have to outsource, a process which is expensive, competitive and only advantages the professional, who can come and go as they please and determine the conditions of their employment. It also leads to the 'brain drain' problem that many experts say will happen naturally as a result of so many boomers retiring.

An uneducated workforce doesn't buy homes, delays starting families, doesn't take vacations abroad, go to the theatre, or buy mass amounts of presents at Christmas. They are not a serious contributor to the economy as a result. There can be no economic recovery for a country without middle class earning power and consumership. Sadly, the middle class is dying out and measures such as education hikes for higher education are just the nails in the coffin.

Looks like billionnaire Branson may have to do the country's consumer spending for them. He may be one of the last people who can afford to.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stalkers Rejoice!

Online stalkers can now rejoice! Facebook is making it even simpler to find more and more information on its users and is now moving towards visuals. The latest changes will allow you to see where the person works, where they live and all of their latest pictures. The company's CEO claims that this will be a more real reflection of peoples' lives and a great opportunity for them to tell their stories, using visuals as the most popular tool.

Yes, because there's absolutely nothing creepy about Facebook's CEO or the fact that the company has seriously violated rights to privacy in the past. And there's nothing wrong with helping crazy exes and stalkers find the people that they are obsessed with or have been wronged by in the past.

It used to be that stalking was a long, exhaustive process that took months of calculating and learning to see through blinds without being conspicuous. Countless of old school stalkers had to perfect the art of impersonating people and plants alike, forging notes or cutting out all those tiny letters out of dozens of magazines so that they could send out death threats without having to learn how to forge.

Not to mention all those heavy breathing phone calls made from pay phones so that they couldn't be traced, which takes a lot of effort. I mean, you need to save quarters and then you have to find the payphone booths and then you have to make sure that it doesn't belong to some homeless dude and then you usually have to make the call at some ungodly hour in order for it be really creepy rather than just mid afternoon strange. And then you had to make sure that you found the right person in the phone book because you were never sure if you were actually calling the hardware store by mistake, in which case the guy who owns the store is generally more creepy than the person making the call, and it can all turn bust in such little time.

But all of the planning, the calculating and the investment into binoculars just doesn't have to happen anymore. Now you can stalk from the comfort and convenience of your own home. You can even do it wearing pyjamas. You can do it on the bus on your iphone. You could leave the country and still stalk safely from a distance and keep up to the second on the person that you're after. Stalking has never been easier. It is a golden age for stalking. Not to mention that Facebook allows you to stalk people you've never even met before, people who have never so much as waved at you in your life. The Internet opens up a world of possibilities.

Given all that information, how can you possibly be expected to make a sound decision on who to stalk? No fear. There are thousands of people online. You just have to pin down your motivation first. Revenge? Love/ Hate obsession? General hate at the world for being unfair? The choices are endless!

Oh, for a cabin in Walden.

A Whole Lot of Hatin' Goin' On

I am not proud of Canada's culture, cuisine or that water-based concoction that's supposed to pass for beer. What I generally am proud of is Canada's openness, the multicultural tradition of welcoming all types of people and not identifying them by their race or religion. But I must have missed the memo that said that Canada was switching to racism.

Admitedly, it would be in keeping with the times. What with the rough economic situation and the looming threat of terrorism at any given moment, it makes sense that countries are naturally turning inwards and protecting themselves against what they consider outsiders and visible minorities are the easiest targets. It is, after all, easier to spot enemies when they look different. It's also natural that when people are at risk of losing what they have or have been entitled to in the past, such as pensions, jobs, benefits, etc, that the desire to share with others is somewhat affected.

It's also very de rigeur at the moment, ever since the German Chancellor proclaimed that multiculturalism was dead, that the project had failed. France has always been very hostile to outsiders, so this is nothing new to them. Greece, even though it's not rich in minorities, has also lashed out against their minorities in the fight to protect their rights. And even Switzerland has gotten into the act in years past when they passed a law forbidding turrets on mosques within their communities.

So why not Canada? It seems that Canada has finally jumped on the racist bandwagon. Our neighbours to the South are probably relieved. Maybe we'll finally get rid of that Mexican problem they've been griping about for years. And don't forget all the Cubans that we're supposedly harbouring.

MacLeans has fearlessly led the charge with an article critiquing Canadian universities as being too Asian. And now the Ontario Minor Hockey Association has dealt a blow at a disobedient coach who dared to pull his team off the ice after a racial slur towards one of his players. Yes, the rule book is about to be thrown at this non-non-discrimination believer! He may be banned for the rest of the season.

And wouldn't that serve him right? I mean, to think that there was still someone out there who still believes in all of this multiculturalism garbage? It's so passe. It went out with the 60s and all that can't we just get along crap. The answer is no, we can't. We tried, it failed. Everyone should just move on, get with the program and continue to hate each other and make life as difficult as possible for those who are not exactly like us. Conformity and silence are the new waves of the future.

Tolerance will not be tolerated.

I'm not a proud Canuck right now. But like most Canadians, I will follow the age old tradition of every other displeased Canadian when faced with something unpleasant: I'll be quiet.

Except for this blog, of course.

And I apologize in advance for whoever this will offend. I do realize that even haters have their rights.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

In Praise of Older Women

The timeless divine like beauty of Sofia Loren, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Catherine De Neuve all point to the obvious fact that older women have something on their younger lacklustre counterparts. The Lindsays and the countless ambiguous blondes out there are all missing something, fading together into the background like so many worn out blossoms before the winter. What is it? They're young, good looking, with firm bodies and smooth skin, and yet, all of them seem so unspectacular.

There is a certain je ne sais quoi about a woman which makes her a true woman: class. It carries with it a mystique. It can't be defined, but it can always be felt. Those women are more than pretty faces- they are not fly by night operations who are easily erased the next day, they are not replaceable. They are enduring, simply because they carry themselves with true elegance, playfulness and charm.

What ever happened to the days where women dressed to go places? The clutch purses, the gloves, the neatly pressed dresses, high heels, hats? You only see women dressed like that heading to the derby and if anyone came dressed like that to the supermarket, you would frankly think that they're the crazy bag lady. But it's not just a question of style. It's more a social intuition- the ability to know how to be and when to be it, manners, a sense of time and place and please and thank you.

It's no wonder that there used to be a time when men dressed to go places and tripped over themselves opening doors for women like that. And no, yoga bunnies in your $80 seaweed pants, that doesn't include you. You may consider your yoga pants the pinnacle of fashion, but no matter what day and age you live in, no man is going to fall all over himself trying to help that out.

And can you really blame them? A beautifully dressed woman is a piece of art, just like the naked feminine form. The small, delicate steps in heels, the sashay of hips that only women have, the swish of skirts, trailing perfume like roses behind. It's not sexist to appreciate those things. It's not de-liberating to feel that way for women. In fact, women feel more confident when they feel good about themselves. And while yoga may make you feel better when you're doing it, you're not tree posing 24 hours a day, so leave them aside when you step out into real life.

One last example of ageing women having the upper hand on the young, awkward, generic youth? Betty White. That woman has made a comeback in the entertainment industry like you wouldn't believe. Her sass wouldn't be so funny without her class. And only an older woman can have that.

Boom Boom Shake Shake The Room

Macleans continues to shock and awe the Canadian public with its hard-headed news reports which look more and more like US style fear mongering. First, we had to be afraid of the Asians taking over University campuses and turning them into places of study rather than the carefree keg parties that we have all been hoping for all of our adolescent years. Now, the focus has shifted to old people, stating that the boomers will leave in their wake a 'screwed generation' of young people unable to make ends meet. It claims that boomers will take every last crumb that it feels it's entitled to and expect the future generations of workers to foot the bill for them.

Well, so much for a fun peaceful lunch at grandma's.

The first problem that I have with this article is the fact that it calls the next generation the 'screwed generation.' What kind of name is that for a Generation? Generations X and Y belie some form of intellectual creativity, while the Lost Generation continues to inspire, beguile and revile people. But the 'screwed generation' is just so literal. It's pure intellectual laziness. Surely we can do better than that.

The second problem that I have with this is that it's incredibly presumptuous. Yes, all the doom and gloom stats indicate that the next generation will be swimming in debt, overstretched from the demands of caring for the elderly and the young at the same time and that there will be a bleak economic future ahead of them. And that's without even taking into consideration the disastrous effects of climate change and the constant threat of terrorism. Oh, it's all so hopeless, just so utterly hopeless. Let's all wring our hands at the same time. Wait, let's not, we might all get the avian flu.

Why would we assume that things would get steadily worse in the future? I'm not exactly a glass half full person, but at the same time, there needs to be some relativity. We are the generation that gets ipods and Xboxes for Christmas. We are Guitar Heroes and our phones do everything short of living our lives for us. Even the most out of touch bumpkins have some idea of what sushi is, even if they think it's yucky and we've probably travelled the world more than any generation ahead of us.

We're also the healthiest, most highly educated generation with the most social choices. We decide if and when to marry, who to marry, we divorce, we leave jobs, we leave town, we live in a world of more choice than people could have dreamed of even 50 years ago. We live longer and not only that, we live better quality long lives, working way into our 60s, 70s and 80s depending on our chosen professions.

Of course, there is the increasing debt, the burden of social services and health care, as well as providing long term care for masses of ageing people. And there are those boomers who feel that they can double dip by working a little bit on the side and collecting a pension as well. But we shouldn't start thinking like they stole that pension; they worked for it. Don't be fooled.

You want to know who's entitled? The generation that thinks that it doesn't have to care about the ageing population, the one that acts like older workers steal pensions and that health care services are being hoarded by the elderly. The one that complains about how much harder they have to work to make a living.

On the other hand, it's clear that the next generation of people is worse off than the previous and this is a disturbing trend. If the politicians were smart, they would know that long term solutions involve a generalized decrease in the cost of living for the next generation of people. It will be up to them to be accommodating of the new demographic, which is part of the reason why keeping the long form Census is such a good idea. They will know where the gaps and trends are and they will have a better sense of what to plan for in the future. Because the best way forward towards an ominous future, is a plan.

But since politicians are opportunists and not planners, they'd rather scare us all off with the idea that greedy boomers are to blame for the ills of our society and they'll shake their shoulders and claim that they're powerless to stop them. Yeah, because the image of a bunch of grown men acting scared of the elderly really inspires confidence in the population.

Painting an ageing population with the image that they're a bunch of free loading entitled bloodsuckers is ageism, pure and simple. Just like calling Asians a bunch of overachieving university degree hogging nerds is racist.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Too Asian To Handle

Macleans magazine has been feeling the heat after releasing an article entitled Too Asian, which blames Asian people for transforming the culture of universities across Canada and causing a large divide between the 'white' universities and the 'Asian' universities. The University of Toronto has been identified as an Asian university along with the detrimental characteristics of being hard working, overachieving and no fun at all, while good time drinking universities like Queen's has been identified as white.

BC has been the first province in Canada to speak out against this article and to propose a measure against it, all while vowing to educate the public against stereotyping and racial misconceptions. Which would be useful except for the fact that BC itself is the too Asian province in Canada, given its geographical proximity to that continent and with it having the oldest Chinatown in the country. So, sorry BC, you're not white enough to speak out on this issue.

And honestly, nobody needs to speak out against it. I think all Asians out there are breathing a sigh of relief that the truth has finally been revealed, that yes, indeed, we slitty eyed people are planning to take over the world.

White people are so trusting, so unsuspecting. They've allowed us to do their drycleaning, dye their hair, and make them egg rolls for years, and all of this time, they never suspected that behind the mask of the innocent dumb short people whose faces crinkle when they smile, that we've been planning to take them over with our superior intelligence. Of course it's superior. How else do you think we manage to starch your shirts so well or hide all of your grey hairs? Do you think that's done by stupid people?

Oh, and we all speak beautiful English, we only speak the shrill broken English to fool you, but when you all go into the other room out of earshot, we sound like Shakespeare. And we wear chopsticks in our hair not because they hold our hair into perfect buns on the top of our round heads, but because we are all secretly ninjas in disguise and the chopstick is the weapon of the true warrior.

We do math in our sleep and our tiny eyes actually see at a 360 degree angle, so we truly have eyes in the back of our heads, which is why we can always see you coming whenever you show up for dim sum. Yes, that's the reason why you always get hit in the elbow with the cart that has the shrimp dumplings. And the shrimp dumplings are secretly plumped up with a preservative that makes you slow and sluggish, another reason why you can barely stand up at the end of the meal. And fortune cookies? They're all codes to launch missiles off secret islands to smite our enemies with the big noses.

When the time is right, we shall release our ultimate weapon: little old ladies digging for bus fare and holding up rush hour traffic for hours as they try to count $1.97 in exact change so that they can have a transfer. They will paralyze the streets of the world's busiest cities and then, the Asian takeover will be complete and all our nefarious plans will come to fruition. Then we shall conquer all.