Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Behave Canada

Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and his wife, have formally RSVP'd for the wedding of the century to take place in London this spring. Prince William and Kate Middleton have seen it fit to invite Canada's leader to this momentous occasion which includes the likes of the Queen and the Beckhams.

All we can say in Canada is: please behave, Mr. Harper. You represent us. Don't make us not look cool in front of the Beckhams. Don't try to impress the Brits with your rendition of the Beatles on the piano. Don't spoil our excellent international reputation by behaving like the drunk uncle and asking the Brits why they've never heard of this thing called ice hockey. Please. Just polish your shoes, put on your suit and place a placid smile on your face (not the big scary one, just the small one that you reserve for special state occasions like Christmas) and be nice to everyone. Say sorry for everything- even the things that you haven't done yet- and compliment all the ladies on their hats, even if they look like wire traps for beavers.

A royal wedding is a special occasion and there will literally be billions of people watching and rewatching it on television- most of us will be watching because we want to see Kate's dress, of course, so dignitaries and celebrities will all be secondary. Nevertheless, it's important that we maintain our reputation for being soft spoken, polite to a fault and slightly in awe of the country that colonized us. It's a simple request, we hope- although it wouldn't be the first time a simple request from the people to its government would be so hard to follow through on.

Woe is Love

Love is doomed. There's no hope for it. For all that we may like it in movies, books and all those sappy Hallmark cards, love is done for, stick a fork in it. Don't believe me? Facebook and a recent study on the three year glitch to replace the 7 year itch should be more than enough incentive to make you want to stay single forever- and leave romance to Hollywood and the classics.

A recent statistic in the United States has indicated that 1 in 5 of every divorce has quoted Facebook. It appears that divorce lawyers see this all too familiar story in many of their cases: bored spouse at home is browsing the net, checks their Facebook and decides to look up old flame or high school crush; contact is made and an initial friendly internet relationship develops that actually results in real feelings and then the decision is made to leave their marriage, either with the other person or with the hope of other people in the future. Divorce.

While proudly asserts in its advertisements that the world of dating has changed and that now 1 out of every 5 relationships starts on the internet, well, it doesn't take a social statistician to figure out what's going on here.

The 3 year glitch phenomenon is even more discouraging. Supporting the theory of a French novelist who once wrote a book entitled "Love Lasts for 3 years", a recent study has shown that the 7 year itch has now been replaced by the 3 year glitch, which means that love is losing its lustre faster than before. The former itch refers to that period where couples start to take each other for granted and where teh romance slowly slips from the relationship to be replaced by monotony, minor gripes and a decreased desire to 'do it'.

The change in terminology is also troubling- the itch described as a feeling of mild annoyance and quiet reflection has now been replaced by the idea of the glitch, which is a term for an actual malfunction, implying that something needs to be repaired and worse, that it may not be fixable. The Seven Year Itch made famous by Marilyn Monroe and her white dress over the subway vent refers to an actual legitimate phenomenon that calls into question the state of marriage. It's the point where monogamy looks less and less appealing as an option and is often accompanied by feelings of regret and wistfulness. Unlike the glitch, however, it doesn't assume that something is fundamentally wrong, like when your computer experiences technical difficulties that make you question why computers were ever invented in the first place.

Restlessness is normal in long-term relationships, but the fact that the grace period where love can still reign supreme appears to be getting progressively shorter, you have to worry about the state of love. Modern day pressures are not going to make any of this any easier either. Financial worries, which is top of the list of reasons why couples split up, along with couples working even harder to make ends meet and putting in more time at the office and apart, along with the many opportunities for infidelity teeming from the internet, means that love has a lot going against it.

Add to that the modern day obsession with the self and having everything the way that we want it, not to mention our constant need for instant gratification and it's pretty obvious that we're all living busier, faster lives that are crowded with virtuality and individual space, but very little intimacy. It's no wonder that our desire for real relationships has driven us to use Facebook and other forms of social media as a conduit to the real contact that we actually crave deep down, but are unwilling to work for.

Because real relationships take work, communication, consideration, compromise and yes, the messy mundane details of life like unclosed sock drawers and toe nail clippings on the bathroom floor. But they also come with the things that add actual meaning to our lives, such as intimacy, security, support through life's ups and downs and the feeling that we actually matter to someone. It doesn't mean much to feel that way for only 3 years at a time, especially since they can take a lifetime to find and nurture.

Love is doomed. And if we don't get over little details and over ourselves, so are we.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kinky Sex Ed?

Northwestern University just got a whole lot more interesting.

It appears that the university is about to launch an investigation into an incident involving a live sex toy demonstration in a classroom during a lecture on kinky sex. The professor involved is defending his actions, stating that the live demonstration was relevant to the topic at hand, and as a professor of human sexuality, he's probably right on that front. But the controversy has been centered on the fact that many people consider this 'inappropriate.'

Typical American Puritanism is still alive and well.

One has to ask: if the Americans are so offended by sex, why offer human sexuality as a class at all? Education is supposed to be about open-mindedness and broadening your knowledge, but if people aren't comfortable with learning more about human kind's most natural act, then why bother? Maybe it shouldn't be offered as a course if it's going to be censored and close-minded. Maybe American sex ed should just stop at animated films you see when you're 12 years old in public school where everyone yells 'ew!' at the exact same time and after school specials where teenage girls are punished for having sex by getting pregnant and ruining their lives.

If human sexuality is offered at the university level, it should be free to be taught in whatever manner the professor deems appropriate. He did repeatedly tell his students that they could leave if they weren't comfortable. Strangely enough, upon hearing that they were about to see a man and a woman do a live demonstration with a sex toy on the main stage, not only did the 100 people in attendance not move, several of them said that their view was obstructed. That hardly sounds uncomfortable to me.

It appears that adults in a educational institution can handle this kind of thing. And while it may seem shocking to some Americans, sex actually does happen on university campuses, in dorm rooms even, between people who are not married. Gasp.

Now, I can see why the university may want to intervene and curb this kind of thing. They don't want their respectable institution for intellectual thought to be labelled as a red light district and I get that. And let's face it, every red-flushed 19 year old boy is going to want to sign up for that class if they know there's going to be some action in it. It may have the merit of being the only class for which they have perfect attendance and where they learn something.

Perhaps the students should be given maturity tests before they sign up for this class and sign waivers acknowledging that they consent to explicit matter. The maturity test should include their ability to say various forms of penis without laughing. Here, you try it. Penis. Dong. Flagpole. Schlong. Pecker.

Alright, wipe that grin off your face.

It seems that America is not ready to face sexuality. Sex is still a dirty word and a vile but necessary act for many people. Maybe it's time to scrap the human sexuality course from universities until people relax. Sex is not offensive or dirty (well, except for some acts, which are what we like to commonly refer to as 'sexy sex' and yes, that's a technical term according to me).

But some people just aren't ready for that. So I think they should just go back to the old-fashioned, tried and true method of denial. After all, it seems to work for them.

Heart Attack Grill Sudden Death

It's never funny when a 29 year old dies, especially when their life is full of promise. But the recent demise of a 29 year old, 575 pound spokesman of a Phoenix-area restaurant known as the Heart Attack Grill is strangely ironic. It's like hearing that the Marlboro man died of lung cancer. The first reaction is: duh?

The Heart Attack Grill specializes in high calorie specialities such as fries cooked in lard, huge hamburgers and milkshakes. Is it any wonder that their spokesman died young? In fairness, he didn't exactly go out head first in a platter of food- sources say he may have died of a bout with pneumonia. But it's probably safe to assume that this man didn't have the most healthy lifestyle and that may or may not have contributed to his early death.

The restaurant founder says that Blair River, the man in question, was a creative genuis who was also planning a musical by the same name of the restaurant he represented. It's a shame that the world will never get to experience huge hamburgers and fries cooked in lard that sing. Perhaps someone from the restaurant will continue his legacy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No Way MBA

You can't get a champagne education on a beer budget. That's what McGill University has basically told the province of Quebec, as it raised its tuition fees for their MBA program by 900% in an effort to keep it competitive. The province has responded by fining the university, saying that it violates the principle of broad access. While the fine amount has not yet been determined, it appears that this will be a moot point, as the university now plans to privatize its MBA program, following in the footsteps of Queen's and the Richard Ivey School of Business.

You have to be proud of the province for taking this step. While more and more universities are raising their rates and driving up student debts, the province of Quebec has recognized that access to education is a right and that increased levels of education lead to better social and economic outcomes for the province as a whole. Everyone benefits from increased rates of literacy, both personally and professionally.

The University argues that the low rates have kept them from being competitive. It claims to be years behind schools like Queen's and Richard Ivey, which is surprising considering that MacLeans magazine has put them on top of their national rankings. As usual, the University will pride itself on the being number one when it comes time to recruit, but will act like the poor cousin when discussing its finances. I believe in some places that they call that 'cooking the books.' That's sophisticated economic speak right there.

The University also argues that students support the increases in rates because it increases the quality of their education. Which is very typical of MBA type executives- they're not exactly champions of social justice. While it's fair to say that it's hard to get an ivy-league education with antiquated books and computers, I highly doubt that's the improvement that the University is seeking.

The University offers its program for roughly $30,000 for a two year program, not including textbooks or housing. Not exactly American rates, but still not a walk in the park. A part-time job at Tim Horton's is not exactly going to cover it and that's what most teens do before venturing off to school on their own. But the principle remains and it should remain: education should be accessible. And the province should fight it- all the way to the bank if they have to.

When the Bieber Bursts...

Justin Bieber is a person. Who would have thought? I always thought that boy bands and singers were just manufactured in some strange studio magic factory that also makes Ken dolls. It seems that Justin Bieber had the audacity to flip off a photographer when leaving a restaurant with his new girlfriend on his birthday dinner date. It appears that his date, Selena Gomez, was hiding her face from an overzealous papparazzo when instead of doing his typical smile and wave, he offered instead the one finger salute. He's since apologized for his actions, but I have to ask: what for?

Let's face it, even though the slick marketing machine around Bieber has kept him squeaky clean in the limelight, it wasn't going to do so forever. The intense interest around the star has resulted in the foregone conclusion that he is public property and has forsaken his right to privacy for life- or until the media loses interest in him. It was just a matter of time before someone caught him in an unflattering or compromising position, either picking his nose or caught between two underage teenage girls in a bar. This is really not as bad as either scenario.

Furthermore, this is probably the most normal thing a person his age can do. He's 17 years old. They flip people off all the time. I'm sure that one of them is flipping off this blog spot right now while they're in the middle of reading it. And why not? It's supposed to be a rebellious stage where you make some headstrong mistakes. It's not necessarily a good time to get tattoos or tequila, but in the long list of teenage offenses, this one's really not all that bad.

And in Hollywood, he's got nothing on anyone. The other stars his age are getting caught in a lot worse and are still going. I doubt that the photographer suffered anything more than hurt feelings. And it's kind of touching in an odd way; he flipped off the photographer after he bothered his girlfriend. In his own way, he's defending his mate. So it's not exactly the stuff that love songs are written about; give him a break.

And then again:

"Oh, baby, I love you so, I love you so, I would even give the finger to any man who dissed you (nobody disrespects my lady, baby)"

It's kind of catchy.

I might have a touch of Bieber fever.

Offensive or Just Ugly?

Iran has declared that the new logo for the Summer Olympics Game in London for 2012 is racist. It appears that the logo is a hidden message in support of Zion, which is a biblical term for Judaism, as well as a pro-Israel movement that was well-known in the interwar period. Iran claims that the racist logo may cause them to boycott the event. You can see the full story and logo here:

The IOC rejected this complaint based on the fact that there is no hidden message and it's merely 2012 which is depicted on the logo. Frankly, this logo does offend me, but not because it's racist. It's just ugly. Who chose that colour scheme? And the zigzag bad 80s style number cutouts? It looks more like something you would have seen on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. All it needs are humongous shoulder pads and a perm.

I'm also offended that this was the logo chosen to represent London, one of the world's most exciting capitals and superior fashion sense that makes everyone want to be a Londoner, dressed to the nines on the tube with tickets to the footy match. Surely they could have come up with something better than this? This is the same fashion-forward nation that created the punk movement and the Rolling Stones. They practically invented cool. This logo does not capture any of that.

Lastly, I'm offended by the choice of 2012. Don't they know that this is the end of the world as we know it according to the Mayan Calendar? Don't they have any respect for the apocalypse? Personally, if this set of games was going to be humanity's last hurrah before the end, I would want it to be presentable. Really.

Iran may want to boycott the games, but then again, so might all the fashionable people. Londoners, stay away.

Keen on Sheen

Charlie Sheen must be pretty keen on himself. The troubled star of the CBS show Two and Half Men has surfaced long enough from his drunkenness to remind the network that they still owe him for shows that have been cancelled due to his own crazy antics. It appears that even though Charlie Sheen was himself responsible for the cancellation of 4 episodes of the show after his latest downward spiral of prostitutes and hotel trashing, not to mention the bizarre details of his family life, he feels strongly that the network should honour its side of the bargain and pay him accordingly.

Wow, that's like trashing the office Christmas party and sending your $100 cabfare bill back to your boss as a business expense. It's refreshing in an era rife with bosses intimidating their employees and telling them that they're lucky to still have jobs as a justification for working overtime for free, that someone like Charlie Sheen is still there to speak out for himself. While many of us won't look sideways at our superiors for fear of being told that we're insubordinate, Charlie Sheen continues to act like a King- an over the top King that wants what's coming to him, even if he conveniently forgets to rule the kingdom.

On the one hand, your personal life isn't supposed to impact on your professional life or the compensation that you're due according to legal contracts. So Sheen's right on this one. His messy offscreen rock star actions aren't supposed to affect his wildly popular show. But the fact of the matter is, as an employee of CBS, he technically represents them, which means that every bad action or legal battle that he engages in is a reflectio on them. No organization is going to stand behind that kind of behavior- well, maybe Rolling Stone.

Although it's hard to say that Sheen's notoriety is working against him. True, his agent left him recently and he now has to represent himself, which is surely going to be an interesting affair. At least he knows how to self-aggrandize, which means he's way ahead of any PR company. Not to mention the train wreck that is his family life and the porn star who's trying to get him to pay her $12k for having sex with him. But the media and the fans are eating it up. It's just as entertaining as the Lohan crash. We can't all help but wonder what's next.

Sheen can really go both ways by now. He can easily become the next Michael Jackson with his oddball stories or he can embarrass and estrange his way to obscurity. Either way, it's clear that he believes inherently in his own greatness and entitlements- it's just a matter of time when we'll see whether or not he's the only one.