Balloonland

stuff gets examined.

Posts Tagged ‘postaday2011

In the Future #1

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In the FutureIn the Future

Hanging out with Intravenous Drug Users

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I used to hang out with intravenous drug users, due to an association belonging to my roommate at the time.  Mostly cocaine, but sometimes other stuff that i had or had never ever heard of.

There were two types of dealers in this netherworld – those that did do their own product, and those that did not. The ones that did their own product usually had you come to their place to purchase, which was usually a squalid apartment furnished with lawn chairs and an unusual number of second-hand mattresses. They dressed like, and usually were welfare recipients – Giant Tiger track pants and t-shirts with weird and dated logos on them. They took the bus or rode their bike if they were meeting you away from home.

The ones that did not do their own product usually met you at some 24-hour restaurant in Vanier, a rather shady part of Ottawa. They wore sharp suits or fashionable sportswear with lots of gold jewellery.  They usually had very, very fancy cars. I don’t know if any of them were on welfare or had other jobs.

The dealers that did their own product were usually living just on the edge of being in trouble with their upstream providers – they always had a tinge of desperation about them. They were generally happy to advance you some if you were broke and they knew you, especially if you were going to hang around on their mattresses and share.  I suppose the willingness to sell on credit was some sort of lazy putting off obligation till another day – a sale has been made and money will come. Some of them would also accept payment “in trade” or valuable objects. If you didn’t pay them in a timely fashion, they would get increasingly more desperate and angry, and would eventually fly into a rage and beat the crap out of you if they found you insufficiently accompanied by friendlies.  They’d take anything you had, books and CDs if they got into your place, even if it had no real sale value.

Users of their own product were usually vastly suspicious of my presence, a friend who didn’t use, hanging around.

Dealers that didn’t do their own product never sold on credit to regular users. If they knew you very well, and you had a stellar reputation, they might advance you a small amount. I’m not familiar with what happened if you didn’t pay back in a timely manner in such a case. If you managed to convince them you were a possible franchisee, they’d lay a goodly quantity on you with partial payment or on credit.  I was a secondary witness to and heard of several other occasions where the recipient messed up and used or lost the merchandise without getting an appropriate amount of money for it – it usually involved guys in balaclavas kicking in the door of debtor’s apartment and smashing the place and the occupants up. The actual dealer involved could be reliably found in his usual haunt while this happened.  Non-using dealers never accepted CD players and the like in payment.

Non-using dealers always congratulated me on the fact I wasn’t using.  They’d buy me drinks, confidentially wonder why I was hanging around with such losers, and give me rides places in their fancy cars (more than once as a trustworthy go-between to pick up some cash for someone). And eventually each and every one would get around to offering me a free sample or a limited-time-only reduced price selection of products.

I think of this little period in my life every time I think of current purveyors of products – The Execs at Blizzard Entertainment who don’t play World of Warcraft, fit and healthy directors at junk food and cigarette companies, builders of  tiny overpriced yuppie-hutch “exclusive executive lofts” who live in sprawling one-of-a-kind country chalets or century homes.  So much of the modern world depends on the appealing, addictive qualities of products and the common person’s inability to moderate or properly value things, which is reinforced by the constant demands of making enough money to buy critical consumer crap and then deal with less important needs like rent and food.

Written by balloonhed

May 11, 2011 at 10:37 am

Capitalists and other Pillagers

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In Canada, Centre-Left parties tend to build and create when they’re in power (if permitted), and when the Conservatives take power, they harvest what’s been left behind. Like Capitalists and other pillagers do in the real world. This used to be an “OK” system when the Conservatives were the odd choice in a landscape of Liberal leadership, but “Harper’s Conservatives” are not really “Canada’s Conservatives” – they’re a new hybrid derived from the Western Reform party assuming the empty hulk of the Progressive Conservatives,  and strong corporate (oil)/ultra-rich libertarian influences. We can only hope that once Harper is out of the scene, a more moderate Conservative party returns.

Harper likes to talk about Canada being an island of responsibility in a world of economic strife, thanks to the stability of our banking system. Was this system created by Harper, or by a conservative government? A historical Conservative party may have contributed to it, but definitely not Harper – despite his frantic squirming to stay in power, he ultimately sees the perfect world as being the situation in the US – low government regulation on everything financial, with the institutions being allowed to call their own shots.  Harper and Canada are fortunate that he wasn’t in power long enough or had  total power (i.e., a majority) to do what he’d like before 2008 came along – we’d be in the same boat as everyone else, and Harper would not have the glittery medal of being the leader of a nation that sailed through the crisis relatively unscathed with the sudden status of expert on world economics and everyone else looking for our secret.  “Harper’s Conservatives” and their rule had nothing at all to do with the Canadian banking system, aside from being Canadian in the first place.

Written by balloonhed

April 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

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Good: behaviour that provides positive outcomes for all people involved . . . or as many possible. Stuff done in the spirit of kind thoughts for those around you.

Evil: Unenlightened-Self-Interest. Exploitation of a situation to certain ends knowing it will cause harm to other parties involved. Forcing people to act against their own best interests. Profiting off the discomfort of others.

As a civilization, we theoretically stress the values of Good over those of Evil. In practice . . .  Evil behaviour is a necessary tool in how the modern world works, especially in business.

We tend to teach children behaviours that can be categorized as “Good” in school. But are we really doing them a service? Perhaps we need to look at the requirements of real-world life and revise what we’re handing down.

Bullying

 The Standard: Bullying is bad. All schools teach that bullying is a problem that must be nipped in the bud, that a bully is someone who is in need of help just as much as the victims. We have bullying help lines, anti-bullying songs, books called “I was a Bully,” yadda yadda.

 The Adult World: The skills that bullying develops – intimidation, leadership, coordination, project management, coercion, psychology  – are very useful skills in the areas of sales, politics, office life, interpersonal relationships, and law enforcement.

 Conclusion: Crass and unskilled bullying should be punished as usual. Skilled manipulations and coordinated campaigns against one or more individuals show a lot of promise in many lines of work in the child’s future. This should be rewarded. Efforts to curry favour with principals and other higher authorities to reduce the impact of bullying behaviour is also a laudable skill, and should be positively recognized.

Compassion

 The Standard: Children are taught we need to be nice to each other. Old people need to be visited and helped across streets, the handicapped assisted, younger kids offered support, people in difficulties accorded sympathy and leeway.

 The Adult World: People who don’t look like me are using up resources I could be using. I’m all for helping people out, but those lazy welfare recipients, unemployed people and old people are eating up all the taxes that get sucked out of me. And the freakin’ Immigrants! Don’t get me started. What’s in it for me? My political candidates and news sources of choice tell me this, too – it’s us against them and them and them, so why am I helping them out?

 Conclusion: Children should be taught the value of a “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” view of life. Do nothing unless your interests will be well-covered in the results

Environmentalism

 The Standard: Schools have emphasized for decades now the importance of being aware of the earth’s needs. Schools have been adorned with poster-painted images of the globe in green and blue, with rainbow-lettered slogans about loving the earth as long as I can remember. Don’t litter, recycle, go with your class on spring cleaning trips through the neighbourhood, yahoo!

 The Adult World: While environmentalism has become a massive and popular fad, it’s still only truly given any time when it’s convenient or politically expedient. I’ll be nice to the earth as long as I don’t have to give up my next smart phone upgrade, can still buy a terrible plastic water bottle at the corner store when I forget to bring a reusable one, or give up my first-world consumer habits. Likewise, windmill farms and hydrogen fuel cells sound great! But, given the prices and all, don’t we have all sorts of coal power and oil infrastructure lying around? Shame to waste it.

Conclusion: That’s very nice you’re making sleeping mats for poor people in Africa out of old pop bottles, kids, but to really make a difference you’d also have to stop asking for new video game consoles, trips to Disneyland, over-packaged fast food, and  new clothes every new school year. Don’t wanna do that? That’s OK – the third world will suffer the negative impacts of environmental degradation first, due to the fact it’s the place we’re making all the crap before we do, thereby functioning as an early-warning system. Focus your later educational efforts on engineering and bureaucracy or law enforcement so you can benefit from all the jobs building giant domes over cities and riot control.

 Honesty

 The Standard: Honesty is the best policy. Even if you’ve done something bad, it’s better to fess up and avoid further consequences derived from the fact you lied, too. Keep your promises, tell the truth.

 The Adult World: Modification of truth, leaving out key details, or liberally interpreting questions and thoughts of others are tried-and-true tools for getting stuff done. Promises are great in theory.

Conclusion: Kids should be given lessons in complicating/variegating  the facts of a situation to help them develop important life skills.  Really good modification-of-truth efforts should be applauded.

Place du Portage and the Civil Service

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Spiffys Hull

Place du Portage I to III – the grand, butt-littered and otherwise unused entry staircases, panoramic weed-cracked roof gardens, planters filled with old Tim cups – a grand vision in Federal office space that apparently didn’t take into account everyone will be entering from the bus-stop and parking garage entrances, or that only exiled smokers will actually use the outdoor areas regularly and everyone else will be sitting around the Tim’s. Our very own crumbling historical Parthenon, with smokers instead of grazing goats.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Place du Portage phase I to III is part of a series of monolithic GoC office buildings built in the late 60’s and early 70’s on the Hull side of the Ottawa river. They stand like impassive monsters amongst the quaint working-class small-townish row houses and aged beat down commercial buildings that largely make up Hull. Huge tracts of these little natives were torn up to build the monsters, and the survivors, including the post-apocalyptic EB Eddy paper mill, now get to sit around them and mock. Building the monsters was necessary from the standpoint of the government, to house the huge numbers of civil servants scattered through the Ottawa area. It also conveniently allowed the crushing of dozens of little eyesores in Hull and the once-shantytown of LeBreton Flats on the Ottawa side. The Peace Tower could now been seen surrounded by towers of bureaucracy and vistas of green grass instead of factory chimneys and ugly brick row houses. A Utilitarian decision flavoured with vanity.

Each of the building types in this story reflect an economic and government background that saw their development. The row houses and shantytowns represent an earlier time, when government didn’t take much interest in the conditions of the working classes and the poor, who were expected to make due as best they could under conditions imposed by their employers, primarily the lumber and railway industries. By the 70’s, the federal government had taken an active role in the affairs of common people and the employers they worked for, and required places to put all the people managing this participation – the buildings of the working poor were bulldozed to make way for offices.

The civil service and the buildings it inhabits represent the standard of living Canadians have come to enjoy and expect. We can mock it for its “career loafers” with union-protected rights, and I am personally jealous of them, but they manifest our standard of living. They also contribute significantly to the economy – the thousands of rock-solid secure careers in the Ottawa area are reflected in ever-rising house prices and quality of services in the region. The civil service also has many needs that must be fulfilled by external sources, a huge contribution to the livelihood of many companies and individuals, nationally and internationally.

It is easy to forgot what one is getting from something that’s a fixture with obvious and huge appetites and an effect on the world that isn’t always positive. It’s also likely that something as gigantic as the civil service may not be adapting to the times as well as it should, which is kind of a given seeing it’s a Bureaucracy. We to remember its root purpose and not go hacking away at it without thought, especially under the influence of people who may not see the purpose of a government as providing stability and safety to all citizens. If we forget the value and succumb to a passing notion, we may find ourselves once again building shanties for the working poor who survive as best they can under uncaring and unregulated governments and employers.

Written by balloonhed

April 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

You Need to Vote, Especially if you Like to Complain.

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If you’re a Canadian, you have to vote in the coming federal election. Vote for the Conservatives if you have to – it makes my skin crawl and draws your character and good judgment into question,  but hopefully I don’t know you.

If you don’t vote, you’ve lost you right to complain about anything that can be remotely connected to the economy or government on any level. In other words, you can complain about things like the wart on your foot (but not about how long it takes to see a doctor, the expense of filling the prescription), your crabby aging parent (but not about difficulties in getting them care or housing) or your interpersonal relationships, as long as the anecdotes you bring up do not involve differences in politics, trouble getting jobs, or interpretations of your personal rights.

If you’re very wealthy or a major player in a large corporation and vote conservative, you shouldn’t have anything to complain about that matters, beyond the anoying protesters you have to fight your way through to get to work, or how long it take to get the newst luxury car delivered to your local dealer.

If you’re not wealthy and vote conservative, you need to stop reading the Sun, starting actually looking into current events, and stop believing stuff just because it was told to you by someone very loudly.  You also need to acknowledge that you, too, could possibly be someone needing social services or medical care some day, and that you’re not likely to become one of the ultra-rich who doesn’t need government provided things like roads, police, or education.

If you are an individual of any lefty or humanist stripe, or you enjoy Canadian social infrastructure as it has existed for the last little while, you, as far as I’m concerned, are a major part of the problem that has culminated in repeated governments under Mr. Harper.  You may not care for the “other choices” – I myself have lost faith in Mr. Layton due to his emphasis on wheeling and dealing, famous to my mind for bringing down Mr. Martin and enabling Harpo in the first place – but they’re a vast improvement such an obvious enemy of things you apparently believe yourself to support. Your not voting brings pretty much anything you manage to fire off (including “Good Morning”) into question. You lose any credentials regarding lefty or humanist leanings, and reduce yourself to almost a non-intelligent  parasite status when it comes to the benefits of Canadian society – just drifting through it, not contributing anything.

You may not be voting because you think your vote will be wasted voting with your beliefs for someone who cannot possibly win. Please visit the the Vote Pair website, where you can register to swap your vote with someone else, hopefully making the whole thing a little more effective for you.

Written by balloonhed

April 10, 2011 at 10:34 am

Vote Conservative – Save Canada

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Walking down the street with the kids, I saw what appeared to be a new take on the “Support Our Troops” ribbon on the back of a pickup truck parked in front of a depressed-looking row house on noisy, dirty Pinecrest Road. I was very surprised to see it actually said,

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada”

The first thing that troubled me about this was the y rude co-opting of the “Support Our Troops” ribbon for political purposes. I’m not sure the origin, I assume it’s either a variation of the spectrum of ribbons we have for all sorts of causes, and/or the Captain and Tenniel song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” Either way, It’s a cheesy attempt to take over a symbol, and the sympathies of people who like and support the original message “Them lefties don’t like war, so they hate soldiers – Vote Conservative!”

The second thing that troubled me about this decal was . . . what are the conservatives going to save Canada from? I guess the format of the ribbon didn’t leave room for the entire message. I can guess:

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada from Democracy.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada from a lot of embarrassing secrets being revealed when the government changes.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada from being ruled by an intellectual humanist who’s internationally recognized as an expert on human rights issues.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada from fiscal prudence”

Or, maybe, they also forgot the possessive ‘s’ on the end of “Canada”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada’s richest 100 people from some financial inconvenience.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada’s corporate citizens from having to pay too many taxes.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada’s lobbyists from being embarrassed when they efforts come to nothing.”

“Vote Conservative – Save Canada’s Citizens from having to think about annoying stuff like how government works.”

The final thing that troubled me about this decal was where I saw it – on a truck parked in front of a drpressed-looking row house on noisy, smelly Pincrest Road. It makes me wonder –

  • Does a very stingy, but otherwise incredibly wealthy individual live there, and is concerned that a non-conservative government will mess up the sweet corporate taxes racket he’s got going on?
  • Is the family that lives there being visited by an obnoxious wealthy relative?
  • Is the owner of the truck in fact not wealthy at all, but been taken in by the Conservative’s constant use of misdirection, bullying, and tried-and-true suggestion that “If you vote with Us, you’ll become one of Us?”

Given this sighting occurred in Bairdland, where John Baird rules apparently supreme and unshakable, I have to assume the last condition is the correct one. I recently read (I’ll link it when I find it again, I believe it was a Globe and Mail article) that only 5% of Canadians vote solely on the merits of their local MP – the majority of the time, the vote is being cast for the leader. I’ve also constantly read that the Canadian public apparently thinks about politics like some sort of mass mind, and collectively chooses what end of the political spectrum currently supports its interests best. Given I’m convinced that “Harper’s Conservatives” have jumped off the path of Canadian Conservatives and are madly running in a direction of their own (in the direction of Alberta), it’s very sad to think that people are willing to overlook his disdain for Canadian democratic process, and social structure just because they think Harper is providing something the nation needs. Or that the canadian public is suffering from a traditional disdain of Canadians of who have succeeded abroad, to Harper’s benefit.