real assholes

I admit it. I am prejudiced. Not against any religion, ethnic origin, gender or even political leaning. I am prejudiced against assholes.

They come in all colours and socio-economic statuses and run the gamut of beliefs, lifestyle habits and places of origin. There are a few things they all have in common: a desire for power, a willingness to do harm to any random person to either preserve or attain that power and a lust for physical violence.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some situations where violence is okay and, in fact, the only option. I’m talking about self-defense, defense of a loved one or retribution, but only when it is warranted retribution for physical violence and applied directly (please note that I am at best a glorified blogger and am in no way a court of law, me being okay with something does not mean you won’t go to jail).

Physical violence is also fine in UFC, boxing, pro wrestling and BDSM. Why? Because there is consent from both or all parties involved. More on that later.

Violence committed against random, unwilling targets is never acceptable and if you’re doing it, you’re either an asshole or anbeing led and duped by an asshole. Yes, I’m talking about you, terrorists who carried out the attacks in Brussels, Ankara, Paris, yesterday in Pakistan and other places.

While I’m not exactly stepping out on a limb by calling ISIS (or Daesh) members, supporters or leaders assholes, it feels good doing it nonetheless. If you can think blowing up random travelers in an airport or spectators in a concert hall that you don’t know will in any way stop the oppression wrought by the world’s imperial powers, you have been drastically misinformed and probably don’t care.

In fact, terror attacks only embolden other assholes: the privileged few running the show and those who very much want to be. While the Obamas of this world quietly drone strike anyone they can, the Trumps and Le Pens stir the cauldron of ethnic and religious hatred and preach that the way to fight terror is to label all Muslims as terrorists.

Some assholes blow random things and people up because they associate them with the violence another group of assholes has inflicted on the part of the world they are tied to through ethnicity and religion. Then the other assholes use that as an excuse to blow more things and people up in that same part of the world and blame the religion that the first group of assholes claims to follow.

It seems to me that the problem here isn’t religion, it’s assholes. If we need to be watching out for some group, profiling a group and discriminating against them, then the assholes in the world should be the prime candidates.

If we were all prejudiced against assholes, someone like Jian Ghomeshi would have been identified as one a long time ago. And if, by some artful trickery on his part, he still managed to get to where he got and do what he did, then the stories of his multiple survivors would have been enough to convince us.

Plus, the fact that he tried to plead that he was engaging in BDSM, something which requires clear consent (I told you I would come back to that), when the fact that clearly there was no consent would further make it clear that he was, in fact, an asshole. And don’t get me started on assholes like Roosh V and Bill Cosby.

Now, let’s be clear. I am aware that Ghomeshi’s sexual assault, the bombers’ murders and ethnic or religious scapegoating by politicians are all much more serious and specific charges than simply being an asshole and that is how these serious and specific cases should be treated. But this is about prejudice and profiling.

If we need to profile and be prejudiced against any particular group, let that group be assholes.

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As of late, a series of unrelated events have brought me to think about second chances. To give, or not to give?

Clearly, you don’t go looking for happiness in the same place you lost it. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein). I mean, fool me once…

I want to be the bigger person. I want to believe in the good of others. But simply put, there are people for whom I would never ever (cue Taylor Swift) consider giving another chance to. My stalker sociopathic ex is a prime example of this. The one labelled as “The Asshole” in my phone and possibly a future topic of this column.

It’s a shame to say, but the core of certain someones will never truly change, let alone improve. And soon as you accept this reality, hesitation is easy to chuck and not looking back is just as easily done than said. Sayo-fucking-nara.

However, life ain’t a one-size-fits-all deal and the same principles don’t always apply to every situation. Relationships are, within themselves, an amalgamation of nuances in contexts and histories. As such, there are glitches in the matrix of Never Agains. Some people can indeed change for the better.

I, for one, was a handful back in my youth. I could’ve turned into another statistic. But I pulled my shit together, with time and accrued wisdom (and a couple of prayers from a concerned father). Today, I can look at myself in the mirror and honestly say, “Hell yeah, I’d totally be friends with me.”

Acknowledging our own self-betterment means we can’t ignore the possibility of it occurring for others as well. There are some instances in which you shouldn’t write off someone’s integrity permanently. We need to weight all the variables; give credit where credit is due. But how do we differentiate the exceptions to the rule amongst a bag of bad apples?

As everything else in life, little is truly black and white. It usually requires several trials and errors before having a sure-fire answer. Which is why some people come back knocking, and others are willing to open the door to them again.

We can also find ourselves in states of perpetually holding the door ajar. We like to keep our options open, regardless of whether we need them to be. Let’s admit it: we’re greedy assholes sometimes.

Second chances. You can say yes, maybe to banish the what ifs. Or you can say no, as the responsible choice or maybe as to diffuse the responsibility in case round two fucks up.

So how do you handle a blast from the past with a second (chance) agenda? Same you would an old pair of socks.

We all end up with that ONE pair of socks that never stays together, amirite? Always one missing. And what do you do? You keep the loyal one aside until the other one shows up, of course. Stick it in some dark corner of your underwear drawer. It’ll turn up eventually, probably in the next load of laundry.

And you forget about it for a while until, one day, you finally stumble upon that missing other half. The pair can be reunited at last! But wait. Now you can’t seem to locate the other one, the OG that stayed behind. Ye faithful is no longer where you thought you last left it.

Two lovers that constantly have bad timing; always ending up at the right place, just never at the same time.

After consolidating the factors behind the relationship that wasn’t meant to be the first time around, is a second chance truly viable? It’s certainly possible to let go of negativity and gravitate toward a more positive dynamic, but you can’t un-know every single intertwining thought and reservation you’ve ended up establishing about the never-before-succeeded relationship.

Unlike dirty garments, you can’t wash people clean of their shortcomings at the push of a button. It takes times, words, and the actions that back up these words, to prove that things have indeed changed (and for the better).

And after washing those socks, will they feel just as good as you last remember slipping them on? Fabric softener can only do so much. Maybe you’ll find you’ve outgrown them.

I would imagine that chemistry between two people changes on some level. Physically, emotionally, or a bit of both. Even if chemistry is present, how are you certain it’s built on true desire and not simply on familiarity?

Nobody fixes the holes in their socks anyways. Easier to just toss em’ and go to Simons to buy new ones. It’s the age-old Tupperware conundrum: we measure the benefits of tossing over the cost of replacement.

At the end of the day, should someone deserve a second chance, it should be within the context where he or she takes initiative in coming forth to make things right, and not where you have to run after them offering the option of a do-over. You don’t need to give them a map; they should already know where to go.

That said, if you’re in a situation where we’re talking about 3rd, 4th or 5th chances… Bro, I can’t help you there. But you need to start helping yourself a little better.

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Over a recent convo with my friend, and as if experiencing some sort of outer body experience, I heard myself say: “Nah man, I just don’t feel insecure compared to other women anymore. I’m not being narcissistic or self-centered – I’ve just come to a point where I know I’m the shit. And if someone doesn’t feel that way about me, that’s fine. I haven’t lost anything… Why bother with someone who’d prefer I was someone else? It’s just a waste of my time to give my energy to a person who doesn’t think I’m the bee’s knees – or who don’t treat me that way, for that matter.”

After twenty-four years… Finally. Fucking. Nailed it.

And it’s no secret how.

I have to rewind a bit, to gain some perspective into the source of this newly discovered pool of self-confidence. In the past few months (after traumatizing breakup number umpteen, eugh) I just haven’t had the time or the emotional space to let anyone new into my life – not even for a fling.

I’ve been busy looking for a job with a viable salary, which could also allow me to fulfill creative potential, looking for an apartment, starting side projects and, after one hell of a hectic year, simply taking a deep breath and coming back to me. Start laughing again, Christ.

And, as it turns out, for first time ever, I have no man drama. And I only realized this because I’ve been listening to my friend’s romantic/unromantic drama and now I have question marks appear on my forehead. Totally removed. For the first time in my LIFE, I haven’t been looking for anyone, bothered by a dysfunctional relationship, or pining over confusing signals. And this is coming from the woman who always has at least one prospect in sight, or her radar on, ready to pick up a signal. Maybe it’s a side effect of recovering from an overdose, or maybe that last hammer finally nailed it in.

I’m not thinking about sex. The sex I’m not having, or the sex I wish I was having. I’m not thinking about getting close to someone, or wishing they would see and get to know me. Come to think of it, it might have something to do with spending the past year falling asleep in the arms of someone who revealed themselves to be a total stranger to me in the end.

And I’m not giving up, nor am I choosing to become skeptical, I think I actually just lost my man boner. And I have no idea where it went. Heck, I found myself flirting with a woman at New Year’s, just to take a break from bloody testosterone.

I know my knight in shining armor is out there, and he’ll come trotting along eventually, but in the meantime, I think I’ve just given up the drama. No more Miss Nice Girl. Sure, men say women are dramatic, and sure, we are, but that’s only because they’re so good at making us feel fucking crazy.

Being turned-off men also incidentally propelled me into a state of complete lack of insecurity and complete self-confidence – well, not in life, or for everything – but at least concerning who I am. I’m not looking to please anyone anymore. Just myself. I’m not currently trying to prove my worth through a man’s approval. Just proving it through my own. My integrity. I mean, I know I’m a good person, always have been, always will be. And after giving the best of me (and what I had) and having it slapped back in my face for the millionth-time, I’ve also come to the very liberating conclusion that… it’s not me. I’m not the problem. It’s not that I’m not nice enough, understanding enough, tolerant enough, forgiving enough, it’s bloody them! Assholes just all wear nice guy disguises.

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I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I’ve spent my life giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, looking to see the good in others instead of the bad, and my conclusion after living the experiences is that there are, in fact, few truly good, honest and whole people alive today. I mean, I knew there were assholes our there. But I just happened to know how to pick the good ones. That is, until they turned out not to be so great. Right?

I’d usually have thoughts like: No no, it’s just him, he’s troubled by his childhood… our relationship is different. I’m different than all the other women he’s been with. He sees me. I’m special. If I had a penny for every time I’ve thought I could be the one who made the real difference. I’d have a lot of useless currency.

So it took some time to realize just how fucked up people actually are. And here’s my idea: can we develop a CHEATER/LIAR/MANIPULATOR FaceBook button, so ex’s can leave their cliff notes? If this shit could be detected in plain sight, we might all save each other the heartache.

I know not everyone else is to blame. I was so eager to please and to be loved that I’d just let men treat me in ways that kept me in a state of perpetual misery. I’d always be hanging on to just enough love or communication to get me by. To keep up the illusion that if someone said “I love you” it meant the same thing as when I said it to them. But just enough isn’t enough, people.

Apparently, the key to getting over insecurity about who you are is to stop looking for someone to love you, to value you, to make you feel special. Hell, if you don’t feel special on your own, you’re always going to compare yourself to others. It’s going to be a hell of a long life if you can only stand to see your reflection in the eyes of another.

And see, our common sickness, or ironically, our common insecurities, keep us perpetually on the prowl. Most of the time, if we’re not in a relationship, we’re looking for one. Or if we’re not having sex, we’re looking for sex. And in some cases, even if we’re in a relationship and having sex, we’re still looking for sex or a relationship elsewhere. No wonder we’re all so fucked up and emotionally drained by fifty. Hell, by twenty-five!

Now, the perspective of going home to paint with a glass of wine is far more appealing than the idea of a date. Is that sad? I don’t know. Isn’t it sad to keep dating someone who treats you sort-of-nicely?

So, in this new mind-set, which, so far, has proven to be quite restful, empowering, liberating, and time saving, it apparently boils down to this: If you don’t like who I am, as I am, without the games and bullshit, (waves arms like flight attendant) there are exits here, here, here and here. I am an opinionated, real, honest, stubborn, loyal, no-nonsense kind of woman. You don’t like it? Well I don’t like you either. Show up to my party and you don’t like the music? Want to make some sort of passive aggressive comment about it? There’s the door. Right there. Ta-tah! You think I’d look sexier if I wore red nail polish instead of multi-colored sparkles? Well, maybe I’d prefer to dye your hair red in your sleep, or put Nair in your shampoo.

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Now, on another tangent, have I missed a chapter or has cheating suddenly become a socially accepted trend or something? Last week, my good friend found out (or had it confirmed) that her ex was seeing someone else while they were still together (I will gladly go dump a pile of poo at his doorstep. Still debating on whether it should be human or dog feces though…) and I also recently heard a guy say: “My girlfriend’s in Toronto, time to cheat!” when he stepped into a bar. I almost spat out my Guinness. And that shit is pricey.

Need a punch in the face, much? Or am I the one that seems too intense? And if so, what does that say about where we’re all at on that topic? I mean, I know that not everyone is programmed for monogamy – but your relationship rules are the one’s you’ve established together. The binding unsigned contract of your fucking integrity as a person. And usually “cheat” means: you’d done a bad bad thing. Then again, if you still think it’s cool to be bad then maybe you should put your James Dean poster away.

It’s pretty easy not to cheat, yo. You just don’t put your dick in a vagina that does not belong to your girlfriend. Or lend your vagina to a penis that is not your boyfriend’s. (*no discrimination to the LGBT community, please interpret as personal to your sexual preferences.) Or accidentally lock lips with person who is not your significant other. Or send secret messages to someone else. Oh and “I was drunk”? Tsk tsk. No one buys that as a legit excuse anymore.

Now, since women are apparently confusing and complicated, a guy friend recently asked me this: So, what is it that women want, exactly?

Ok, so tall, dark and handsome… blablabla. Not but seriously, we’ll cut the “have things in common” speech because – duh. Let’s talk realistically:

Given that I can’t speak for my entire gender, I told him what I want. Based on years of trial and error, both in and outside the bedroom. And obviously, will be put back into application when the emotional Viagra kicks in…

First, if you’re cheap, I lose my boner. There is no such thing as being a gentleman for the first couple dates and then going half-zies. If you’re going to be cheap, at least be upfront about it. Now, I don’t need to be taken out for fancy dinners all the time, or to be surprised with diamond bracelets (although flowers are nice). A 3AM St-Viateur bagel pit stop after a pint of beer is fine by me, especially if I like your smile. But if you’re expecting me to split the bill, you can forget the za-za-zoo.

Besides, if a guy is cheap with money, he usually isn’t that generous in bed.

Second, I now want to be someone’s National Anthem. If someone doesn’t think I’m the shit, or treat me like I’m the shit, instead of treating me like shit, it’s no longer my problem, because I don’t need to spend another minute entertaining the illusion that I’m happy with them. It’s about time we start being a little more unapologetic about who we choose to spend our time with and energy on.

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Also, it’s one thing to look for Mr. or Mrs. Right, but what about first making damn sure someone isn’t Mr. or Mrs. Wrong? Before we get into a whole courtship dance, why don’t we save ourselves some time and be upfront about how we’re both mad to see if we might just end up driving eachother crazy down the line. No little secrets, no “showing me the best of who you are” and letting me find out about the rest over time… Show me the best of your worst. Ok, I’ll go first: I’m not a morning person. I can’t stand it when people slurp hot beverages from a mug, or when they insist on playing “Guess what.” I’m generally pretty intense and will also test/challenge strangers if I suspect they’re playing peacock with me. I like for things to go back to their designated spot. I have a TERRIBLE memory. People who constantly complain about things over which they have no control (aka the weather) boggle my mind. I don’t do yelling. I’m a little OCD about making sure my gas stove is at off. Ok, a lot OCD about that. I can be bossy. But that’s because I’m pretty much always right. I don’t like to be teased in a “seems-innocent-but-is-actually-passive-aggressive” way. I won’t sugar coat it. I don’t watch or read the news (I know, I know, I’m a terrible person). And if you push my head down because you think that will make me go down, your face might just hurt from the giant slap coming your way. So if you’re cool with that, we’re set for life. Now, what are your oddities?

What else? Oh. If you’re not interested in a commitment? Ok, buh-bye! Also, I’m done playing nurse-mommy. Go find a younger less experienced model to trample on. If you want to be with a grown up, get your shit together, learn to wash your dishes and toilet, and learn how to listen. Don’t bunny hump; make love and mean it. And if you’re not that into me, tell me. Or better yet, don’t waste my time and yours. Go, please. You’re not doing anyone any favors by keeping up an act.

We all have enough shit to deal with in this life, without having someone we’re putting our faith in lie to our face.

Now ladies. We seem to have forgotten something fundamental: we get to choose. Not men. It’s the lioness that gets her pick of the crop. Women can walk into a bar and decide; hey, yeah, I want you, and usually, we’ll get it. So Own Your Shit. Up the standards. Expect more from yourself and others. Don’t settle or let the guy think he’s doing you a favor by sleeping with you. And guys, if there is a woman that you want; you better enjoy playing by her rules. I think the smart men have figured this one out.

So, maybe I’ll be single forever, or until someone who fits the ever-growing list comes along. And yes, I’m picky. But he’s gonna be a damn good son of a bitch. And I can’t wait to meet him. But I guess life will be saving the best for last. What can I say. I’m tired of cheap-ass grown-ass men, or tight-ass rich ass womanizers, dirty little secrets, addictions and emotional morons.

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And ladies, when you see a gentleman, for God’s sake, don’t chop off their balls. If someone is trying to be chivalrous with you, stop throwing feminism in their face. It’s OK to let a guy hold the door for you. It’s OK to let him be kind and courteous. And considerate. And nice. It’s NOT OK for a man to put his hand up your skirt without asking. Or to treat you as an inferior species. But can we stop emasculating them, please? It’s made them all confused. I know it’s cute, but then we collectively complain about how there are no more decent guys.

Here are some personal suggestions: Stop dating 8 people at once, to weigh out your options. Maybe, stop multitasking until someone who you actually give a shit about comes along – or better yet, someone who actually gives a shit about you. And if all you want or need at the moment is sex, be upfront about it. There is nothing wrong with one-night-stands, but don’t be all like “Oh baby, we’ve been seeing each other… in bed… for like four weeks, and I want your babies, etc… but I can’t commit to anyone right now, I’m just not in that place.” – On behalf of all that is sane and good in the world, put your junk back in your trunk, learn to control your sex drive and stop toying with other human beings.

If you want a woman, start acting like a man. If you want a man, start acting like a woman. And if you’re gay, I can’t help you. But throw integrity into the equation and we should all eventually come out all right.

Hold out for someone who deserves you, and if you don’t feel worthy, then work on becoming the person you want to attract into your life. And if you don’t think you’d be worth their time, then maybe start by learning to make yourself worth your own.

Visuals by Jacquie Boyd, Creative Commons.

programmers rant

Ezra Winton is the program director of Cinema Politica. This rant originally appeared on his blog at EzraWinton.com and is republished here with permission from the author.

I’ve watched over 50 documentaries in the last two weeks (and many more over 14 years of programming), and here’s what I’m thinking:

The first point is so crucial that I’d like to just put it up front and center, then get on with the lesser evils of contemporary documentary filmmaking: If white people, who are usually or always cis-gendered males, are featured in your film as the only subjects, protagonists or voices of authority, then you have either made a film about a small remote sect in some distant corner of the world where only white people live or you have failed Representation 101. Have you been told there are no women geologists who are working on the issue you’re highlighting? Look a little harder – guaranteed there are women who can speak to the issue. No people of colour (POC) in your purview? Then step out a little further – they’re there. And now, on to my rant list.

1) I’m altogether done with pretty images observational filmmaking – it’s great for mainstream festivals and yes that light refraction is splendid, and at this point we all understand that the equipment is sooooo nice that’s irresistible, but how about some perspective/POV? Which brings me to point number two…

2) Making a film about injustice? What are the root causes and what are the names of the people/companies who work the levers perpetuating those root causes? If I’m still asking that when the credits roll, then your film is of little use to me and the scores of activists who want to use your film as a platform for radical progressive change. Yes we can all Google the issue and find out the name of the mining/oil/gas company sowing destruction and misery and yes some of us probably know it’s got to do with colonialism/capitalism/racism/sexism, but why didn’t you say so?

3. Stop with the wall-to-wall music in your films. Please, for the love of god, use it sparingly and remember just because they do it in Hollywood, doesn’t mean the rest of the goddamned film-world has to too. Especially during interviews. As a programmer friend recently said of an otherwise good documentary: “They scored that within an inch of its life.”

4. Make your subtitles readable. That means NOT WHITE you bastards. Please note white is fine if you use the shocking new technique of drop shadow or outline on your font…

5. What is with the resurgence of Voice of God narration? Europe and North American white-guy-with-a-camera I’m talking to you. Yeah yeah it’s personal, it is to all of us, so stop making it about YOU. Let your protagonists, the front-liners, do the talking. Please note if your film is really about you or someone so close to you it is really also about you, then I am not, at this moment, talking to you.

6. Set your interviews up before capturing them: take time to get the lighting and sound just so before speaking with awesome people doing awesome work or having awesome insight before plunking your camera on a tripod and sticking a mic on their collar or above their head. This one adjustment will immensely improve about half of all the documentaries I see. And please note academics can and will be filmed away from bookshelves full of books.

7. Please stop filming hands in interviews. It’s gone too far. For the love of all that is docu-holy, please stop.

8. If your “B-roll” sucks, it means you didn’t think it out and spend enough time preparing. Which means, think it through and prepare. If I see another kayaker representing human-nature equilibrium or another goddamned windmill representing alternative energy I’m going to barf in goddamned b-roll agony. Please note I hate the term “B-roll” and know that all roll is A-list in the eye of the creator, but filmmakers, you know what I’m talking about.

9. If you can’t keep the camera steady then get a steady-cam device or tie a goddamned rope with a barbell to your wrist and stop making us feel nauseous — it’s uncomfortable and distracting. Unless of course you’re chasing a criminal or running from a rhino.

10. If you haven’t watched at least 100 documentaries before making your own, then don’t make your goddamned documentary until you have. Please note that some are and will be an exception to this rule, but they are so few that I see no reason to amend this point to say anything than other that which it suggests: do your homework.

PS: If your trailer is better than your film, you probably should have made a shorter film.

*If I sound like the Winnebago Man it’s because I’ve just come off a major programming bender and I needed to let off some steam. It’s programmers burnout. I’ll be OK again soon. And I wouldn’t want anyone to think that this list is some kind of manifesto for how to make some fantastical perfect doc. In fact, in the past few days I’ve programmed docs with kayakers, shaky cameras and too much music – all of them great films with minor flaws. I’m just saying that these are things to keep in mind, at least when circumstances allow.

And on a last note, some folks responding to my rant seem to think my above tone is too serious, cocky or stern, but it’s meant to be playful, an effort that might be a goddamned failure in and of its goddamned self.

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Ah, Tinder. The latest buzz-making matchmaking app and my last obsession. Cause yeah, no more mooching off my friends to play… I created my own account! Hey man, no shame; everybody with a smartphone is drinking that Kool-Aid.

One great thing about Tinder is the fact that it’s semi-anonymous. No last names and few pictures paint an illusion of privacy to unashamedly pursue your online quest for booty. But it feels legit enough, requiring you to sign up with a valid Facebook profile, that finding yourself trapped in some psycho’s car trunk is not as high on the list of fears if meeting up. The person you are viewing is (almost always) real, and the information (first name and age) is probably accurate.

Unless you’re my sister who created Sloth McSlow to satisfy her Tinderiosity:

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This guy is awesome.

Either you go on Tinder, or you play Tinder. How people talk about the app is a good indication of how seriously they take its hook-up potential. Sorry to crush your dreams bros, but many ladies are solely on there for an ego boost. There are just as many thundercunts as there are douchebags in this world.

But in regards to those who are really on Tinder to ignite some sparks, the app is no different than any other virtual dating playground. You’ll get all sorts of users ranging from seeking DTFs, real connections, right down to friendly acquaintances. I’ve even swiped through a few couples looking to add a little extra somethin’ somethin’ to the bedroom.

What’s crazy is how addictive it is. Like fo’ real. You will literally spend hours nope-ing the hell out of rando after rando. And for what? Honestly it’s like maintenance stroking your hard-on until the good porn finishes loading; you keep swiping with tired determination until you fall upon an actual “maybe” – or better yet – until you find an absolute YES (the unicorn of Tinder). That or your battery dies.

As a girl, and for simplicity’s sake, there are two types of men: Jerks and Nice Guys. Jerks are players who want to score with your pretty face but not pay for breakfast. Nice Guys always put on a condom and sometimes wear sweaters.

But hold the fuck up. With Tinder, jerk-o-meters get fuzzy. Because even if you think you found a Nice Guy, the dude’s gotta be superficial on some level, right? Tinder matches are founded on aesthetic compatibility after all. It’s a real Catch 22.

So what about superficial assumptions? My swiping system goes as such:

If you’re wearing sunglasses, I assume you have a lazy eye.
Swipe left.
Ed Hardy t-shirt wearers and swagfags alike.
Swipe left.

If you take a selfie while driving? That’s dangerous road conduct and terrible camera angle.
Swipe left.
If you’re posing in a mirror, you probably have short arms.
Swipe left.

If you quote James Dean, it’s just too cliche.
Swipe left.
If you have a tribal tattoo, you’re either 450 or have Chlamydia (don’t know which is worst).
Swipe left.
If you’re smoking a cigar, you have a small penis.
Swipe left.
If you’re shown traveling by backpack, you can’t afford a hotel and you’re probably broke.
Swipe left.
If you’re wearing a fedora, you’re the taint that girls try to bleach off their assholes.
Swipe left.
If you’re doing the Zoolander eyebrow thing, the equivalent of the male “duck face”.
Swipe left.
If you’re posing next to GSP, you look underwhelming by comparison no matter what.
Swipe left.
If you have kids, awwwwww…
Swipe left.

So basically, all guys. Swipe left. I’m window shopping 90% of the time.

Noobs take time to view your account. They appreciate the funny picture where you’re wearing that 3 Amigos sombrero. They give you points for writing a quirky bio. They feel morally obliged to answer your message if you matched.

Pros (you get your badge after, like, 3 days) need less than 0.75 seconds to process your picture. Your face becomes a blur along with every other stranger’s. Swipe, swipe, swi- Awe shit! I just swiped left a ‘maybe’!  Oh well, you continue compulsively worsening your tinderitis.

You have to wonder… Would you have really picked out your boyfriends or girlfriends if you had come across them on Tinder? Most likely not.

It’s such a commentary on today’s gen. Entitled, expecting immediate results, and ADD-level commitment. Tinder is the epitome of today’s Grass Is Always Greener society. It’s kind of sad, actually.

The app is fun and it definitely delivers what it promises. But after a couple of weeks, and a few numbers exchanged, and ONE super friendly meet… I decided Tinder wasn’t for me. I started to over-think it, see the bigger picture, and it cheapened the experience of making a connection with someone. So I quit that bitch. Bye Felicia.

And then I got a cat, my new obsession. Now I can never die alone!

I think I’m doing a really good job embracing the single life, don’t you?

Featured photo credit: Denis Bocquet, Flickr CC.

goodbye scrabble

‘Tis the seasons of breakups, everyone! Holidays are approaching, and the pressure’s on. It’s now or never, folks.

Hey – it’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news. Preparing to give the pink slip to your girlfriend or boyfriend can be a stressful thing. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Still, too often I hear of less than tactful breakups. And man, I’ve been there.

So far, my biggest heartbreak happened with a come-to-life Seth Cohen; preppy, great taste in music, and an inherent neuroticism not even Modest Mouse could sooth. We dated for less than a year, but it was serious enough. Or so I thought, until I got slapped in the face by the bitch that is unrequited love.

No doubt, being dumped sucks, no matter how it’s done. But a sprinkle of common fucking decency when parting ways is better for all parties involved. And I’m here to help.

If you want to avoid being known as an epic douche canoe for the rest of your life, here are 6 rules to follow:


Rule #1: Timing is everything.

There’s never good timing to break someone’s heart. There is, however, such a thing as ‘least worst’ timing.

Don’t put off the inevitable, but (in some cases) a day or two can make a difference for your partner. You’re about to take a massive shit on their hearts, so not letting it ricochet onto other aspects of their lives is the least you can do.

My neurotic Seth decided to do the deed right after picking me up from the library where I was studying for my exams. Sure, I got over it a few months later, but it’s a different story for my GPA. Guy could’ve waited 12 hours for my finals to be over.

Rule #2: Forget about your feelings.

One thing I observed, as I was being broken up with, was the oblivious selfishness that came from ‘the explanation.’ I got the full A to Z, a whole spiel of How, When, What, Whys. Dude kept going on and on and oh my god just shoot me now. I was dragged through the mud of his never ending justifications because he was unconsciously seeking my O.K.

Look, no one likes to feel like the bad guy. But we can’t always be the hero of every scenario. And it’s not your ex’s job to sooth your ‘I’m sowwies’.

Rule #3: Don’t trust anything they say.

If the wound is still fresh, anything from your ex’s mouth that seems remotely mature is not to be trusted. That person is a wounded animal; they’re in survival mode, for fuck’s sake! Lying, bargaining and denial are cards that will be played.

“I’m fine if we sleep together one last time!” is an obvious one.

Basically, anything that completes the sentence: “You and I can [enter any kind of continued interaction] because I’m being an adult about this” is a trap.

Yes, they will get over your lame-ass, but for now you can flatter yourself enough to know that today is not that day, so respect that (even if they can’t).

Rule #4: Don’t try to make them feel better.

Cringe-worthy breakup moments always ensue when you don’t follow this rule. If you just made someone cry, you are not the best fit to make that person feel better.

“I’m still very attracted to you.”
Read: I don’t want to marry you, but I’d still fuck you.

From the guy I thought I’d have babies with. Yo, thanks a lot.

I wanted to punch him in the throat. Maybe it would’ve helped dislodge the foot in his mouth.

Anyways, you get my drift. No matter how good it sounds in your head – don’t.

Rule #5: Don’t say you’ll stay in touch.

“Don’t worry, we’re still friends!” How the ever-loving fuck does anyone think that ever works?

Maybe you’ll be friends one day. But right now, we both know you won’t maintain the kind of consistent contact that accompanies friendship after your breakup. So don’t make empty promises. Follow-through is important; don’t do a sloppy job on both breaking up AND being friends.  It’ll just lend to more confusion in the short run.

“Don’t half-ass two things; Whole-ass one thing” – Ron Swanson

Rule #6: Acknowledge the relationship

The worst thing about someone breaking up with you is when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that’s how little they’re thinking of you. (Before Sunrise. Great movie, go see it)

It’s important to at least acknowledge your shared past, especially if it was a happy one. I think it’s showing respect, if not to your ex, then to yourself. After all, you did learn a thing or two with them.

*Author’s note: I’ll give credits to Seth for at least doing this.


At the end of the day, every breakup story is unique, so feel free to add your own twist to it.

I just think that you’re already getting your way in the relationship by ending it, so giving your S.O. a dignified notice is a nice courtesy. Try to go about it gracefully.

Today, my train-wreck of a breakup is water under the bridge. Everybody has moved on. But in hindsight, it’s the way the breakup was handled, not the breakup itself, that left a bitter taste in my mouth. So Seth and I don’t stay in touch. Guess terrible last impressions can really tarnish great first ones.

Eh. Then again, I don’t know if I could’ve expected anything better coming from a 29 year old whose parents still buy his toilet paper.

Featured photo credit: woodleywonderworks , Flickr CC.

WhatsApp & Batman

In last week’s article, I spoke about what motivates long distance romances. Since we’ve already covered the whys of the subject, I wanted to talk about the hows. Today, I’ve outlined a few key concepts to help you handle this clusterfuck of an emotional yo-yo that is long distance dating, if you ever find yourself wrapped up in one like I did.

Because, yes, at times you’ll be pulling out your hair. No relationship is ever easy, but shit, with the right person? Abso-fucking-lutely worth it.


Tip # 1: Make it temporary

Plan the end of your long distance from the get-go. Even if months or years down the road, getting over the hurdles is totally possible as long as there’s an end to all that crap. Things to look forwards to, right? You want a return on investment somewhere down line.

In the beginning of my LDR with Mr. W.A. (previously introduced), long-term end goals were part of the equation. Eventually living together, for example, was part of it. Not having that, flying back and forth would’ve felt redundant. You’ve got to clock-in before your time (or patience) runs out. If the distance isn’t temporary, what’s the point?

Tip # 2: Prioritize small things 

Would you stand up your girlfriend or boyfriend at a restaurant? Of course not, you’re not an asshat. Well, in LDRs, planned Skype conversations are real dates and should be treated as such. Might seem trivial to give such importance to little things, but bottom-line is it’s all about connecting. Emails, texts, Face-time, phone calls. Ever heard of FTD? Get on that shit! Small things, big impact. So don’t forget about them. Trust me, nothing will make your partner brain hemorrhage through their nose like the frustration of being left hanging or the worry that they’re taken for granted. That’s valid for ANY relationship, you just need to be extra vigilant in LDRs.

I rode the shorter end of that stick with Mr. W.A., and it sucked harder than a whore in a vacuum to feel forgotten. Small lapses can devastate long-distance relationships, but small thoughtful gestures have just as much exponential impact to improve them. So please, do sweat the small stuff.

Tip # 3: Quality over quantity

Quality words. Those emails? Make them colourful. Express the FEELS. Take out your thesaurus and use adjectives. Increase the value of your connecting moments by highlighting the sentiments behind them. It’ll take the same amount of time and have longer lasting impact on your honey, trust me. Bang for your buck, people.

Quality actions. Those visits?  Make them count! Sometimes shit happens and bad timing falls on “that” weekend. Well, tighten your big kid Pull-Ups and suck it up. Push yourself to be present and at your best on the rare occasions you have together. You can’t just “make up for it next weekend” if you act like a moody little bitch because, hello, in LDRs “next weekend” comes next month. Prioritize the Now. Or you might have to pay for it. For a long ass while. Because of your disgruntled better half.

[Pro-tip: If that happens: FTD. Stat.]


So there you go. Super simple stuff to nurture your LDR. Based on a personal and completely biased opinion.

Hey, at least I’m honest.

Disclosure: my long-distance relationship with W.A. didn’t really work out, unfortunately. I don’t necessarily blame the long distance so much as the lack of synchronicity with our priorities. Timing? Anyways, sometimes you got the right ingredients, the right chemistry, but the formula you have to work with is just off.

So, I had to call it. I had to take ol’ Bessie out in the back barn and shoot her between the eyes. Bang.

Calling it with W.A. gave me the big sads (Kleenex and Ben & Jerry’s jumped in profit margins that week) but time is never wasted when learning about yourself and what you need from others. Or you know, whatever cheese-tastic inspirational quote that floats your boat.

I haven’t ruled out long distance romance entirely. I’ll just have a more elaborate checklist to consult from before considering committing again. But that’s like for any new relationship, isn’t it?

Featured photo by Lara Binamé.

Calendar

Because I couldn’t find a functional relationship in my own city, apparently I thought getting involved in a long distance relationship would help my situation. Cue the Hahahahahas. Don’t ask me what I was thinking. It was probably something along the lines of: Bah! All you need is love! How could this ever go wrong? 

Riiight.

You know, I do suffer from blonde moments from time to time and it’s safe to say this was clearly one of them. I just forgot how to brain for a hot minute and didn’t realize what I was signing up for. The six-pack and dimples caught me off guard. Summer of 2014 wasn’t chock-full of sound decisions.

Maybe I’m one of those people who suffered an unfortunate streak of bad luck or just caught a real case of the fuckits, but I ended up in a place where I was willing to try something different. I dated some absolute morons back in the day, maybe I just needed to retire the Montreal scene for a while and branch out. I’m not saying it was the best idea. I guess it’s like anal sex; can’t knock it ’til you try it.

According to Stats Can, 7% of Canadians are engaged in a long distance relationship. That’s like 2.4 million people having phone sex! The real kicker? Roughly 1/3 of young adults are in a LDR. Well color me fifty shades of shocked.

Before you pity those who find themselves in this situation, just remember that’s one in three people who’d rather have a long distance relationship over the option of dating your ass, who lives next door. Ouch. I’ll just let that sink in for a second.

Every relationship is different. LDRs are no exception. For one thing, most long-distance ménages don’t necessarily start out that way. Change of circumstances, like professional or academic obligations, is often the reason behind LDRs. I have a friend who once sustained a long distance relationship for a year while studying overseas.

A year of blue balls is a long fucking time, but 4 years were already invested in her relationship. Makes sense! You figure the reason behind any sane person willingly adding MORE challenges to their relationship is to preserve an already existing one; one you’ve actually poured time, energy, and sometimes tears into.

So why on earth begin a relationship in a long-distance context? You’d think that something like a border and 1000 km would discourage one from pursuing said relationship. It’s not like I couldn’t score a date in Montreal if I set my mind to it.

Why go the extra mile?

As previously mentioned, I met Mr. Washboard Abs this past summer while he was visiting Montreal. I was never unaware of the distance factor. Spending his last night in town together happened because… well, DAMN GURL, that’s what happens after too many glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with a cute stranger. A one night stand!

Until it wasn’t.

I didn’t really choose to be in a long distance relationship so much as I accidentally stumbled into one. When I said yes to seeing W.A. again, it was with absolute fucking naiveté. I truly believed I was in full control of my emotions.

Let’s be honest; I’m a terrible flyer and wouldn’t be taking several planes if I didn’t really, like really, like the guy in the first place. And what happens when you spend more time getting to know somebody you have great chemistry with? Bingo. You fall for him. I’m telling you, you can’t outsmart your heart’s stupidity.

Never would I have willingly signed up for an LDR. I simply brushed off reality long enough to find myself too invested in something that just calling off wasn’t the easiest of options anymore. Shit happens.

If you take W.A.’s case however, his motivations for taking up a long distance relationship were out of necessity. Guy work-travels so much that my living in Montreal made little difference anyways. Sometimes, it’s what suits someone’s lifestyle.

In the end, it’s all about the desire to connect. It’s that fucking simple. Clearly, our needs in romantic relationships are more emotional than physical.

Granted, sharing your day in-person is ten times better than exchanging over a pixilated Skype session. Yes, it’s hard to sustain a long distance relationship, but then again it’s just as hard to find somebody to connect with in the first place.

There’s no secret to it. You take it day by day, just like any other couple. ‘Normal’ relationship or not, we’re all in the same fucking boat.

Featured photo by Lara Binamé / www.larabiname.com

Sangria Saga

When I’m single, I usually have very short windows of opportunity to embrace singlehood to the fullest. I know this might pass off as wildly obnoxious, it is, but that’s just how it’s happened for me (so bite me).

There are downsides to this however: being the “perpetually-in-a-relationship” one within your mostly single group of friends feels like you’re missing out on the fun stupid shit and raunchy/sexy/embarrassing tale-telling that usually result from bachelordom. And so, when the chance came around again during summer of 2014, yours truly jumped on the virtual bandwagon.

I had never done online dating nor been on a blind date before, so, being an overachiever on a time-constraint, I orchestrated an online-dating blind first date. Yup, you heard me. How the fuck does that happen? Guy and I exchanged many emails, but no pictures. I thought, hell, here’s an intelligent motherfucker that can hold a conversation. How refreshing! So screw the pictures, let’s just meet. And why not; two birds one stone, right? As it turns out, I clearly needed to rethink my strategy because that meet-up was the first and the last nail in the coffin of my budding tech-savvy dating life.

Worst date ever. On the plus side, it’s also my best “worst date” story to date.

So, I meet this guy, Old Port, public area. Oh dear god.

Let’s just say I was banking on his “really nice personality”.

Jardin Nelson, the place I suggested, had too long of a wait, so we went elsewhere. RELIEF. I can still show my face there! But hey, calm your tits. Before you start labeling me as a shallow bitch (I am, but not the point), let me clarify: this guy was a world-class jerk.

The fake name, fake age, and what I suspect as fake teeth, should’ve sounded the first alarm. I tell myself to be open-minded. Personality, Personality, Personality. We sit down, order a pitcher of sangria.

Rookie mistake. Never commit to more than a glass of anything before the other person can open his/her mouth. Because once we were served, my “intelligent conversationalist” (cannot air quote this enough) went on a tirade about questions like “Why men make more money than women?” [Hint: they’re the smarter gender, apparently] And ,continued his monologue on the things he loves most in life: cars, money, bitches. Surprise surprise, his parents were not on that list. Way to leave a lasting impression, bro.

This experience made me realize a couple of things.

First, I’m way too polite for my own good because, yes, I stayed to finish the whole pitcher. I had a “Let’s embrace the insanity” moment. Plus, I can’t think of a more appropriate time for alcohol. Next time, I know to pick my jaw off the table and unapologetically walk the fuck out.

Second, it’s too easy to get enthralled over the ‘ideal’ picture someone paints about themselves online. Over half the people admit to lying online on some level, if that’s not the shadiest shit you’ve ever heard. Face-to-face real-time responses, that’s a better indicator of someone’s true nature; not the well thought-up words put on paper, or a webpage.

Would I ever try online dating again? Holy fuck. Not at this point in my life. Maybe one day, when I can dedicate some proper time in getting to know somebody, do my homework, and not rush through the process the way I did. For now, I’ll stick to good ol’ fashioned bar hookups, cause that’s still working fine for me. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Til then, I’ll remain content by online dating vicariously through my friends, snatching their phones and playing the “hot or not” game on their Tinder accounts. Shhh!

Photo credits: Albert Zablit

Living in this city is one hell of a social experiment. You come to face, and sometimes date, a variety of people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. All sorts of shapes and sizes… if you know what I mean. Still, you’ll always encounter some kind of crazy. If you’ve ever left the house, you know what I’m talking about.

Yeah yeah, it’s an opportunity for gaining fresh perspectives. Still. Dating is hard, it’ll Jedi mind fuck with your head, and when you fall it’s rarely graceful.

I am an adult (I checked) and I still screw up. A lot. I wear too short skirts on windy days, forget to pack an adequate amount of tampons before heading out, or occasionally get blackout drunk on a Tuesday night. Dating, however, takes the cake. Or the pie. Whatever gets thrown in my face first.

Oddly enough, I tend to be the go-to person among my friends when it comes to relationship troubles. Don’t know if I should be flattered because I’m a comforting person, or slightly offended because I’m seen as an expert in failed relationships? Eh, maybe my friends haven’t caught on to that last part yet.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of dumbass-baggery in my little black book. I can’t say I know everything there is to know about relationship dynamics (false modesty- I do). Point being, this isn’t an advice column.

I was told once that the point of life is to fail at greater and greater things. Meaning our cumulative fuck-ups are a measure of ascension. Mildly comforting? Look, the way I see it: life tends to come served with a heaping side of “fuck you”, and since we’re all in it for the long haul (optimistically) we need to cut ourselves some slack, right? I do so with a sprinkle of sarcasm and self-deprecation in my morning coffee. What’s your coping mechanism?

I have no issue spreading it for the world to see (pun intended), but I don’t want this to turn into some narcissistic platform either. My goal here is to simply start a conversation. With firsthand account stuff.

Some horror stories, mostly reflections, definitely lots of questioning. It’s a learning-on-the-job kinda thing, ya feel me?

But whatever the case, no cookie-cutter bullshit. If you want “47 ways to please your man”, then go to your nearest pharmacy and pick up a Marie-Claire.

Hi, I’m Jules. It’s nice to meet you. Welcome to Relationship Rants.

Featured photo by Albert Zablit / www.albertzablit.com

austerity sign

It’s trickling down. Snow falling from the condensed steam of downtown high rises. It begins to fall gently and you barely even notice it. But when that perfect storm hits, those snowflakes will blind you. Winter is coming.

Regular Canadians, us, our friends and families, who watch tv, listen to the radio and live normal lives are being manipulated by career tricksters and their corporate puppeteers. In English Canada, it’s Brian Lilley and Michael Coren, in Quebec it is Michel Hebert and PQ minister Benard Drainville, all so called journalistsBrian, Michael and Michel work directly for one of richest people in Quebec and Canada, Pierre Peladeau.

Pierre knows whats up. He’s watching his billionaire buddies in Europe. They’re ripping their countries apart, privatizing everything, destroying pensions and throwing people on the street. He’s got his eyes on Hydro Quebec, as the CLSCs are closed down, perhaps private health care too. They’re softening the blows with distractions. Cue the Charters. Attacking minorities becomes a pastime in Europe and slowly, in Canada.

Those few allowed to speak against it publicly don’t make sense. Liberals talk about loving the “others.” They spend their precious words whining about political correctness. The words fly over our head. Racism sells easier than political correctness. Reasonable accommodation, the ultimate liberal mental masturbation, hides a deep austerity. Are we so impoverished that we cannot provide for those whose spirituality calls for the covering of hair or not touching others who are not their spouse? We all work in the same places, play in the same parks, love the same and laugh the same. We don’t need to embrace the language of difference. Why can’t we accommodate everyone? Why are we so impoverished? Who stole our money?

On the banks of the Ottawa River, in the dirt of industrial Montreal, on the piers of Newfoundland, in the mountains of British Columbia, we were played against each other. Quebecers fresh from the farm and Irishmen fresh from the famine fought to the bottom for pennies in factories and forests. Immigrants from Eastern Asia met violence from angry Englishmen in Vancouver over starvation wages.

Historical memory is short. There was a time when Catholics, in many countries, were not allowed to have jobs in the government and were oppressed mercilessly. Now their descendants want to share their forgotten experiences with Muslims, Sikhs and Jews.

If there has been one thing consistent across time and space, it is that good, regular people, unfiltered by the poetic trickery of the elite and the pain of poverty, have always shared a bond. Humans have a natural solidarity and, I believe, want to love one another. It is the rich and powerful that benefit from dividing us.

Top hat wearing English blokes, not so far removed from Brian Lilley, used to write poems and stories about how much they hated those poor people working in factories and living in slums. Even today, think about how big television stations now portray trailer parks and ghettos in popular culture. They call us fat. They call us stupid. They want us to hate ourselves. And then, as if stealing from the poor of their own country wasn’t enough, these top hat wearing, cigar smoking monopoly men wanted the world. They sold lies about Native Americans, Indians, Chinese people and African people so they could send poor white folks to murder them, steal from them, and die.

The bodies of the poor are the weapons of the rich. And not much has changed. They still use us. Their ranks have swelled. They look and sound more like us. They’ve removed their hats, but they hold their reigns tightly and they’re riding us into each other with the force of a nation.

ccppp p3 2013

Big shot corrupt politicians and their corporate puppeteers are waging a war on Canadians. The battleground is everywhere, from our taps, the schools we learn in and the roads we drive on to the hospitals we stay in. Public Private Partnerships, or P3s, is the name, robbery is the game.

On November 7th, these big shots from across Canada partied at the most posh hotel in the country, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. The biggest corporate executives, powerful media editors, and politicians from almost every major city and province showed up to mingle.

The Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships, the CCPPP, was having its 21st National Conference. An organization committed to ensuring as many government contracts for pubic infrastructure and public services are given out as concessions to big shot corporate capitalists. They’ve already got deep ins with every level of government in the country.

Saskatchewan anti-P3 campaign
Saskatchewan anti-P3 campaign

Allison Redford, Premier of Alberta, is their Honourary Chairperson. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, kicked off the conference with a keynote address. They came to scheme about how to turn everything we love into P3s.

CCPPP defines P3 in two ways. The first, there must be provision of public infrastructure or a pubic service. This could be roads, wastewater treatment, the building and operation of hospitals, schools, anything. CCPPP defines the second as the transfer of “risk” from public sector to the private sector. Allowing the private sector to run the show, but making sure the public picks up the bill. This is done at a premium. Capitalists need to make more than marginal profits, they wouldn’t “risk” their money for anything else.

“Risk” is an odd word. Generally, in big shot business-speak, it maps the safety of investments in the open market place; whether or not their capital investments will flourish; a brand of t-shirt will become hip; or a bond will mature. These things don’t apply to public infrastructure. There is essentially none to little risk, the market is guaranteed, people need services.

Business folk and corrupt politicians know this. For the corrupt politicians, they can hide big budget expenditures like the construction of hospitals through annual payments of their usage. For big shot capitalists, they can overcome the marketplace and get a no “risk” investment, with scandalously high returns, with the best client in the country, Canadian taxpayers. At best it is ironic, at worst it is manipulative double speak. Either way, it is robbery. They get rich and make a mess of the country.

P3s have a terrible track record. In England, under the terrible leadership of Tony Blair, prisons were privatized. The first one to go was Ashfield Prison. It was a disaster. After less than a couple years, the BBC called it the “worst prison in the country.” Riots broke out, hundreds of inmates had to be removed. While a few blokes got fat off the public dime, poor folks in prison suffered in misery.

In Montreal, things are just as bad and getting worse. The McGill University Hospital Centre, MUHC, was supposed to replace aging infrastructure and become one of the most state of the art hospitals in the world. Phillipe Couillard and his Liberal Party of Quebec buddies decided it would be a P3. Arthur Porter was made director, SNC Lavalin under CEO Jacques Lamarre, a frequent keynote speaker at the CCPPP National Annual Conferences, paid millions under the table to get the contract. Lamarre resigned before the scandal hit.

muhc under construction
MUHC SuperHospital still under construction

And McGill doesn’t even want to associate with it. Hundreds of millions of cost overruns, staff losing their jobs, a province in further financial ruin. The rich get richer, the poor get a crippling public debt to supplement their private debt.

Things are only going to get worse. At the Conference, Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, touted the Economic Action Plan 2013. In it, a new and terrible stipulation, all infrastructure projects over $100 Million would have federal funding conditional on a P3 Screen. If it is better suited to go private, it must. Or no money.

Who runs the P3 Screen? P3 Canada, a new Harper Government department dedicated to making sure as many First Nations reservations, municipalities, territories and provinces use P3s. P3 Canada even has a corporate board of governors, among them, you guessed it, Jacques Lamarre.

Why aren’t you reading about P3s? Why isn’t the media speaking up and being critical? Before Regina Mayor Michael Fougere took the stage to talk about how he duped the citizens of his city into selling off wastewater treatment, John Stackhouse, Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail had a cozy chit chat with Jin-Young Cai. Jin-Young is the CEO of the International Finance Corporation. His whole job is making sure poor countries sell off their public infrastructure and services to the lowest bidder.

John and Jin-Young don’t care much about the billions wasted and stolen in P3 robberies like eHealth, Orgne, the MUHC or the gas plants scandals. The Mop and Pail is happy with it. They want more… around the world. The question is: how far will they go?

ProSolutions National 2006

Between the blue and the white of my Facebook interface, I squint to read the feed. Between pictures of food, articles about tragedies or politics and YouTube videos I find the odd quote. It sounds like one of those inspirational TED talks or motivational speakers you would laugh at after smoking too much weed in high school. I always thought these were cheesy. I always thought the people putting them up were cheesier.

It takes a special type of person to openly espouse “wisdom” on social media. This type of person is what Aldous Huxley would call “peter pans” in his book The Island. They are conceited. They think they’re better than you. They think they are better than most people. How do I know this type of person? I am one.

The TED talks generation are a bunch of lost souls. A couple decades of neo-liberalism, mass consumer culture and the erosion of traditions and working class culture have left us dazed and confused. We are in desperate search of meaning. Many of us shave our heads and join cults or buy Sarah Palin books.

This endless search has given rise to the motivational speaker. The people are different but the story is the same. Some regular Joe who had a bad drug addiction or gambling problem gets it in their head to do something. That something gets them rich or prominent. They talk about ‘drive’ and the individual.

Every individual is special. Every individual is good at something. Every individual has some higher purpose. Pursue your dreams. Pursue your pursuits. You can stand in front of a bunch of high school students, shake your hands emotionally and raise your voice. Remove the children and empty the room. You’re just a jerk waving your arms around yelling about bullshit.

It’s fucking rubbish. Individuals do nothing. Great things happen when we work together as a society. This is why team sports are much more popular than golf. No one wants to watch a bunch of posh, well-dressed assholes swing a stick alone.

It is when people work in unison towards a cause, when they work through one another’s strengths and weaknesses, that they create something beautiful. This is how nations, movements, languages, cultures and highways are built.

All this talk about empowering the individual is disempowering. When someone tells you to “be the best you can be,” spit in their face. We don’t need self-help, we need community.

There are only a few people who can pursue “ideas” or as individuals “make the world a better place.” Those are rich jerks. And they’re not even doing such a good job. They go on late-night TV infomercials trying to make us feel bad that we are not with them in some third world slum milking starving babies.

They want a donation. The cost of your morning coffee or something like that. Go fuck yourself, buddy.

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First Year of Program: Check

Now, here I am. Tens of thousands of dollars into debt, having had a roller coaster ride trying to switch supervisors and legitimately minutes away from joining my student association so I can actually be heard and make some very necessary problems visible to the department and administration.

I’ve seen amazing job opportunities go by, the likes of which I had not seen during my two years outside of the academic system, and I have seriously considered just quitting and continuing on with my career as a community organizer. After months of reflection and considering how much money and time I have invested as well as looking at how much time is left to complete the program, I’ve decided to stick it out and do what I always do in times of strife: stick to my guns, take what I can from the experience, try to make a difference and try as most as I can not to compromise my values in the process.

On a brighter note, I ended up contacting the professor whose class I enjoyed the most and learned the most from and was lucky enough to have her take me on. As a supervisor, I know that she will push me, test me and make me work hard. Great, that’s what I’m paying for! She is also the first person in this whole thing to respond to my research topic positively.

I am not someone who is afraid of hard work, don’t get me wrong here, I love it and grow from complex situations. What I am ranting about is what was and is in some big ways at the core of the latest student strike: how the institutional and capitalistic/corporate culture of universities is overriding the teaching culture and rendering it hostile to the very people who are paying for its services while equity issues remain clearly not addressed.

Things I Learned (The Hard Way) to Keep In Mind:

1. Really ask yourself why you want to go to grad school. Are you really stoked about research? Do you want to become a Professor? Do you need this degree to help with you career’s upwards mobility? Talk to the people who have done what you wanna do. Ask them what it is really like researching/teaching/studying at this or that university. Research the schools you are applying to very carefully and think about making trips to speak with people in that department.

2. Apply to funds BEFORE starting grad school and maybe think carefully about the chances you have of getting ANY funding once you are in. Keep in mind that if you don’t get any funding, you will probably have to go into (more) debt AND work a job that will make focusing on your research harder and perhaps, less of a priority.

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3. You think your G.P.A. is good because it’s slightly above the required G.P.A. to apply for the program? Think again, look at funding opportunities and their cut off G.P.A. requirements. Then take a moment to think how far you are from that and if you have gone through the maze-like and sometimes (re)victimizing process of getting documentation for your extenuating circumstances. Still not close enough? STOP. Apply as an independent student and boost the shit out of your G.P.A. They look at the last two years of your studies for grants. Work the system before it works you: into massive debt and angry times.

4. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of supervisors and directors. If you have questions that are met with walls, ask again, ask someone else. It’s not going to affect them at all if you don’t have the answers you are looking for, but it may very well cost you (literally, something like $10 000 per question).

5. Don’t expect anyone to “care” about helping you navigate this whole new system. Even the people whose jobs you think it is to do so are probably not going to without some intense dedication on your part. Actually, watch how the students who did their bachelors in the department end up doing the best at all things grad student related. This is because they know who is who and know the lay of the land. Make friends with one of them maybe and trade secrets. Think about joining the student association, this will give you a chess piece beyond what may be perceived to be a pawn. Maybe now the department will see you as I dunno, one of the horse things and your voice might be heard slightly louder.

6. Don’t be fooled into thinking things operate in the straightforward manner they are “supposed to.” They don’t. This is about who you know, what you know, what you can do for people and most of all, how you use it. For example, I’ve been told four different stories about how to get another T.A. ship and heard some interesting stories about how those are sometimes used. Indeed, at this moment, the union is fighting for more transparent hiring policies. That’s a definite sign of something fishy right there.

7. If your career is seemingly on the rise (as mine was), maybe it’s not time to go to grad school. I’m sure you’ve heard everyone complaining about how many post-graduates don’t have jobs at the moment, how universities aren’t hiring full time staff anymore and T.A. and R.A. ships are on the decline (with unions fighting for better conditions). We all know the story of how most baristas and waiters in Montreal have university degrees; masters degrees included.

8. If you keep getting turned down for funding, grants, bursaries, awards, take a moment and read the letters of references your supporters wrote for you. They believe in you or they wouldn’t have taken the time to write those letters. If you need to, frame them and make a mantra out of what they list as your strengths. This helps fight the crushing feelings of constant rejection.

9. Quitting grad school doesn’t make you a loser. Sometimes, the school, the program, the timing, the finance, is all wrong. Never let the system define how you value yourself. That’s like walking to Mordor and enjoying wearing the cursed ring. The stakes here aren’t the future of Middle Earth and you are not less important than the department, the institution, or the degree. Keep that in mind, always.

*Arts and Social Sciences Graduate Schools seem to operate quite differently in terms of funding than Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, for example. My hypothesis is that this may be in due part to the current government’s attitude towards “committing sociology.”

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The following is not an academic critique of the relics of enlightenment and purveyors of colonialist and modernist values that are higher learning institutions in the West. This piece might raise similar concerns but will do so by doing something rather ethnographic: I will tell you the story of my experience with grad school thus far.

pam brownieMy undergrad

That’s me on the right enjoying a free brownie at my Bachelor of Arts convocation. Those brownies were delicious. Even more satisfying was having finally finished my degree and having survived, thanks to some of the privileges I was lucky enough to have, all the obstacles thrown my way throughout those four years where, at times, debilitating disability and trauma tested my ability to pursue my studies with any kind of functionality.

Given all of this, after I graduated (survived), I took a break before diving right back into academia. This break meant working hard at a barely paying job while finding the strength to apply for unpaid internships where competition was incredibly high while clinging to my passions. I finally got a break and landed a decent job based on my experience and commitment to community engagement – all of which had been volunteer based.

Applying to Grad School

Applying to grad school should have indicated some problems right off the bat. There were puzzling requirements like taking standardized tests for institutions that produced my transcript to begin with.

I didn’t get into all the schools I applied to, but I had expected that. It didn’t help that I basically wrote in my letter of intent that my primary goal was that I wanted to learn more about my discipline and did not, as of yet, have a project fully formed in mind but had various strong research interests.

In grad school world, that’s a bad chess move. I suck at poker. Honesty is NOT the best policy in applying to these institutions which are basically looking to have to do as little work as possible to see you write a fully formed thesis that, if it so happens is amazing, they can claim some sort of ownership over.


336440_10100882836001507_257420957_oGrad School Begins 

Grad school began with a rather negative moment. During the first week, it was made clear whom had already obtained grants and bursaries and who hadn’t and that with my low end G.P.A. almost all the doors were slammed shut for any prizes and funding. Hopes crushed.

In that moment, I was also publicly “outed” as the student with the lowest G.P.A. in the room. EQUITY FOUL.

So, being the way I am, when I raised my hand and naively asked: “What does a student do in the case that their G.P.A. is too low to make the requirements?” I was met by what basically amounts to a: “Huh, I don’t know.” At about this time, I think my face turned to permanent grumpy cat expression for the rest of the seminar.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse as I met with my temporary supervisor who basically raised some flags about my plans to continue on towards a career as a professor, alerting me to the decreasing tenure track positions and conditions for part-time staff. As things at my job got really hard and emotionally draining, I found myself thinking about transferring to another school, maybe there the courses would be more interesting, the material more challenging and maybe I’d find a more receptive department.

Not so. I met with a professor who specialized in the research area I came to choose and she met me with the following warning: “My first piece of advice to give you about grad school is don’t go to grad school.” In the context of the conversation, I understood that she was referring to the current institutional environment as well as possible financial and professional opportunities.

So here I was, trying to understand how everything works but having literally zero time to do anything except work, do 1/3 of my coursework and try to you know, keep a sleeping schedule that would keep me healthy. I began applying to the few grants I qualified for and was taken aback that the school didn’t short-list me for ANY of them.

At this point, I am exhausted, disheartened and feeling like no one believes in my abilities and my “smarts.” It became clear to me that this whole G.P.A. thing is a load of crock. While I had been proud of my G.P.A. considering everything I’d been through as an undergrad, here I was being told there was nothing to be proud about.

This system in no way works to select students based on their capacity for producing critical and analytic frontier breaking work. In fact, it suddenly hit me, that if one is planning to go to graduate school, attending an easier and smaller university and obtaining a sky high inflated G.P.A. is far more important than going to a harder and more competitive school.

As I reconsidered what I could have done to boost my G.P.A. and how if I’d had the knowledge and financial resources those more difficult semesters could have been erased, it became increasingly clear that this system supports mainly those who have the resources to work it. This is something I’d always know intellectually, but experiencing it was a whole other thing: here it was, the breakdown of whatever privilege I was once had or thought I had.

I was a liminal student, an undesirable in many ways and couldn’t cut it anymore. Perhaps grad school was the limit of my academic upward mobility.

By the end of our second semester, a large portion of my cohort was seriously considering quitting, not because of self-doubt or fear of intellectual inability, but rather because the program and the funding opportunities were just not cutting it.

body image-001

I was wasting time on facebook the other day when I came across a post one of my friends had commented on. It was a picture of three women of different proportions, all attractive, all Caucasian, each with a number Photoshopped onto her body. The question the poster, Atomik Nutrition St-Eustache, asked was which body type people preferred.

This shit makes me angry. I mean really, can we not get past the idea that there is somehow one kind of body type that is superior to others? Do most of the other grown ups out there not know that THERE ARE SO MANY MORE THAN JUST THREE BODY TYPES? Like, as many as there are people. Or how about the fact that a person’s beauty is a result of their whole self, not just their outsides? That love and attraction are much more complicated than the shape of your partner’s meat shell?

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In their last edition, Men’s Health published an atrocious article titled 11 Qualities of the Perfect Woman. Apparently she’s white, has brown hair, tiny feet, huge tits and laughs at all your jokes. Big fucking surprise. The article was widely, and rightfully, criticized by anyone with an ounce of sense because it was stupid and everyone knows there’s no perfect formula for attraction.

The thing that really fucks me up though, is that people seem to find it completely acceptable to continue to publish this shit. That article, and the fb post I came across, are just tiny drops in an ocean of media that is constantly trying to make women feel like less and that assumes that men are less as well. What do I mean by less? Less beautiful, less worthy, less complex, less valuable, less intelligent. Number one is too skinny, number three is too fat, brown is better than blonde, white is better than brown, dainty is better than strong, strong is better than dainty, be this way, no wait, be that way. I mean seriously, fuck off already!

You know what’s important? Generosity, passion, compassion and love. Those are the things that will make you happy, and therefore beautiful. End of story.

And you know what else? It doesn’t matter if you’re a one or a five or an 8.12. It doesn’t matter if you have tits and a dick or skinny thighs or broad shoulders or purple hair or whatever. You, just as you are right this very moment, are somebody’s idea of perfect.

Now get out there and strut your stuff you sexy fuckers!