Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guns n' Idiots

There are actually people out there who think that a wild-west gunfight in the Colorado theatre would have been a much better thing because if more people were packing they 'could have taken this guy down'. The shooter might be dead and once again there would be no answers. There would have been even more chaos, likely more injuries and deaths (the shooter was heavily armored in Kevlar so some heroic stunt was VERY unlikely to bring him down...not to mention that it would be very hard to get a precise shot off on a moving target in the dark being jostled by panicked parents with children and babies) and many police personnel may have been killed in this idiot's heavily booby-trapped apartment (he warned them of his bombs). What I want to ask these people is....ARE YOU STUPID?!?! There are several answers but a fire fight is not one of them. Yes, you may have to have your damn toys regulated. But that's just too bad, isn't it. It doesn't mean you can't go out and play in the shooting ranges. Brad does and I have no problem with that.( I also have no problem with long guns used for hunting). But he also doesn't feel the desperate need to carry the goddamn things around with him or have a stash of combat weapons in case the government 'gits uppity.

This is what I hear a lot of. That, in case there is some sort of government uprising, I have to have a stash of military grade, automatic assault rifles and handguns so I can defend what's mine. Let me tell you something Mr. Smart Guy. That's not how it works. In the US they apparently are (if they're not already) aiming to fly drone planes over their own soil. Military precision strike weapons that are REALLY good at taking out a target without anyone actually having to get up off their ass. If they "git uppity" in the way that you have in mind, and think that you and your little private militia passion play are a threat, you don't stand a chance.

This kid in Colorado bought his weapons legally...6000 rounds of fire power. He likely found instructions on how to build some pretty sophisticated incendiary devices on line. He was likely steeped in violent imagery and paranoia...a mix of things really. He was obviously mentally ill...who knows if he or his parents had coverage to get him the help he needed if there was awareness of this. But one thing is true. He had some wrong ideas in his head about who he is, about who the people in the audience are and were and he was able to easily and readily obtain the equipment to carry out an assault on innocents. And yet, instead of this being criticized, I'm hearing the condemnation of the people who took their kids to see Batman. "Why do they have their baby there in the first place?" Are you f***ing kidding me? You are blaming the people who took their families to the movies?

Let me paint the scenario for you that some of you not-smarts are clamouring for if everyone were carrying a side arm.
We have a darkened, crammed movie theatre with extremely loud surround sound. The movie is full of noise, gunfire, and there are people in costume as part of the Batman fun. Your kid is an officianado of violent video games so a little violence in Batman is nuthin' you toted him along. So did a lot of other people. Suddenly a guy gets up in front of the movie screen dressed up vaguely like 'Bane' in the movie. He's perhaps shouting that he's the Joker. He's armoured and is carrying a couple of bad-ass looking weapons. Most people think it's part of the opening...even after he starts firing. Then the guy next to your kid explodes in a shower of blood.
(Here's where you and a few other packin' patrons get to play hero)
You suddenly realize that this is for real. You're under attack. Your kid is screaming in terror (video games didn't prepare him for the head of the girl in front of him to spatter him in blood). But you have your Glock on you. You pull out your weapon. You will save everyone and take this crazy sucker out. There is screaming, running, utter pandemonium all around you but you think you can get a good bead on him. You take aim. Another guy behind you has the same idea, but as he's about to get off a round, a woman falls forward while trying to escape. She hits him just as he fires and his bullet slams into a teenage boy in the isle, taking him down. This doesn't phase you though . You are a hero. You tighten your grip, but the guy up there sees you and aims his long gun at you. You duck to cover your little son and the bullet meant for you hits a woman crawling along with her baby. Others in the theatre begin to fire at each other, thinking this is a terrorist plot. The guy up front in the meantime is flipping off automatic firepower. He's taken a couple of slugs but the Kevlar was a great purchase...glad he thought of that. You are laying there on your son in the meantime because the Joker now knows where you are. There is gun fire all around coming from every direction. The floor is slippery with blood and you are jammed in between bodies. Your kid won't stop screaming so you can't even play dead.
Here's the part where you hopefully grow the hell up.

Do you know what happens in a society where everybody is allowed to have weapons on them for "protection"?  Not too many of the bad guys are taken out but a whole lot of innocent people die accidentally or when an altercation that might have ended in a bloody nose ends in body bags instead.

I have a pretty cool collection of swords and other sharp weapons. Some are real and real sharp...some are replicas but no less cool for all of that. I do not have the need to carry them around. I do not feel the need to lobby to have the right to carry a huge knife on my belt. Because it is just as likely to be used against me. You people who think that you're living in the movies. That is not reality. That's what happened with young Mr. Holmes. He took his confusion about weapons, movies and the real world too far.

He is alive and not taken out by a pot shot. Those who lost family members and loved ones will wish him dead and in hell with all their might and have every right to do so. But those who are removed from the situation have the luxury of letting cool heads prevail. We can now find out what the hell is wrong with his head. We can study the situation and begin to learn how this kid went so wrong and perhaps be in a position to prevent the same thing occurring again. This was not a terrorist attack. This kid has parents and a family who want answers as badly as anyone else. We need to prevent this shite from happening in the first place. To do that, guns need to be regulated. I have heard the arguments that criminals will get the guns anyway.
Well, that may in some cases be true. And people get in the crossfire. But this kid was not your typical criminal. He was an obviously extremely ill person who easily and legally obtained weapons and explosive information and material. If he had been required to go through stringent assessments and a long waiting period, these people would likely be alive today.

The fact is that where guns are not readily available and sitting in everyone's handbag, nightstand, under the bed and in the kitchen drawer, there are FAR fewer gun related deaths, either accidentally or because someone grabbed it out of passion. If there is no gun in the house, a three year old is unlikely to shoot and kill his father. (see news last week).

I suppose the NRA is right though. People have short memories, which is what they are counting on. The news about Tom Cruise's new girlfriend will push out this tragedy until the next one.  Until the next crazy buys up a truckload of weapons and opens fire on a school or a daycare or an office building or a Christmas party. We ignore all of the domestic gun violence and casual stuff. If only one, two or three people are killed, that's nuthin'. Just par for the course right? Wrong, you jackass. This is preventable. And if you stand up and cry out that guns MUST NOT be regulated, you spit in the face of every person massacred because they wanted to go and watch their hero on the big screen. You spit in the face of every abused woman shot by a lunatic husband. You spit on the grave of every child who accidentally shot themselves because their idiot parent didn't bother to unload the gun and lock it up "they thought it was locked up...they forgot...". And as far as I'm concerned, how does that make you any different than the one who pulled the trigger if you are going to jump up and down in defense of a weapons free for all?

No one had to die Friday night. But anyone in America can obtain a weapon meant to do no other thing than kill another person or many people. Until that changes, this WILL happen again and again and again. Hopefully it won't be somebody you love that goes down in a spray of blood because they were at the same mall frequented by a delusional person with a wrong idea in their heads.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's in a Friend, By Any Other Name...

Someone asked me a couple of days ago my opinion on how to know when someone is really a friend or just playing games. They had recently had the heartbreaking experience of feeling betrayed by someone of the opposite sex who they trusted was their 'best friend'. We all go through this at one time or another. How do you know, when you trust someone, that they aren't just in it for themselves. I've had about a million conversations with women (only a tiny bit of hyperbole here!) about whether women and men can be just friends. In my experience and in observation of other people's experience, there is a very narrow window here. The answer tends to be for the most part, no. Now I'm sure that there are those of you who will jump up and down and say "no, I have male/female friends and it's great!". I don't doubt it. I would have jumped up and down and said the same thing at one time. But here's the thing that I and many people I know have experienced. The friendship between men and women is (often unbeknownst to one or the other party) very lop-sided. In other words, someone has a crush and is playing the role of 'friend' in the hopes that it will become something more. I've had many 'male friends' who seemed like really awesome people willing to do anything and everything to help out, be a pal, be supportive. When I was about 19 or 20, I knew a guy who worked in a shop across the mall from where I worked. He was just the nicest, most supportive person. I was going through a rough time with my roommate, I had no money  and 'John' was really understanding, liked to buy lunch, hang out and just listen. We'd go out to eat and he would commiserate endlessly with my situation. We hung out, rented movies and in my mind there was not even a glimmer of sexual interest. Unbeknownst to me, that was not the case on John's part. In his mind, it turned out, he had us "together". He was biding his time. Things took a turn for the extremely weird when I met someone and began a relationship. I didn't spend less time with John. I didn't talk to him less or think any differently of him. But he began acting in the most bizarre manner whenever the new boyfriend was around or  mentioned. He began to act almost hostile towards me. There was one strange afternoon when the boyfriend was over. We were having a beer and John showed up unannounced. He took one look at the boyfriend and this odd look came over his face, as though he were trying to act the part of Pacino in The Godfather or something. He then sat on the edge of the coffee table like a perched vulture. I gave him a beer, tried to have a conversation. Not much was said. Then to my astonishment, he literally threw back the beer in one long gulp, crushed the can in one fist, kind of slammed it down, got up and in a Clint Eastwood voice muttered, "I gotta go" and slouched out. The looks on our faces must have been comical to say the least. What can I say? I was a kid and didn't put two and two together. The boyfriend certainly did. I think he felt a little sorry for John and that just made things weirder. Long story short, after a particularly rude display on my 'friend's' part, I had to make a choice. John was not it. It happened several times over the years. You meet a nice dude who seems to just want to hang out and pal around and you make the mistake of being You hug bye as you would a female friend, you tell them personal stuff, you share problems as you would with a female friend. Things in life are never simple, though. The relationship starts with an over-enthusiastic helpfulness and a willingness to do just about anything. The second that it becomes clear that the only relationship that is happening is in one person's head, things go south. Male acquaintances tell me the same story in reverse. It's hard to be nice to someone when both parties are 'single' because that underlying thing is always there. I even had a deep friendship with a VERY gay male friend many years ago. We were both single and spent every waking moment hanging out together. He once said to me, when I went to his place for supper, "You know, we'd be together if I wasn't gay".  I didn't know if I agreed or not and still don't...I didn't find him an attractive man but he was sweet and I still treasure the friendship I had with him. We eventually drifted apart when he got into a relationship and moved away. The point is, even then there was an underlying "what if...".  In the case of many male/female 'friendships', once it became clear that I was not interested in anything more than friendship, the hostility begins. It is taken as an affront or blow to the ego that feelings beyond friendship are not returned. I've had experiences where the person who feels they've been jilted or turned down (even though their agenda was underhand) becomes quite nasty. There is a sense that the person wants to punish or 'get revenge' for this imagined dumping. I think women can be even worse for this than men. I've had female friends who played the role of 'friend' to a guy in the hopes that it would turn into something more. In the worse case scenario, in their own heads it IS something more. When the truth is revealed (usually when Mr. Friend introduces a new girlfriend), let me tell you, hell hath no fury like that of a woman who imagines she's been scorned. I've known women who almost turned into stalkers. I've watched friends pining away for someone who never showed the slightest interest from what I could see other than as pals.
Let me tell you something I've learned over the years. Men and women can be friends...usually if one or the other is gay. I'm sure that there are exceptions...I haven't seen too many, but there is always an exception to the rule. The friendship only tends to work if there is a group involved or if it is kept VERY casual. Maybe it's the way we are hardwired. You can be acquaintances with the opposite sex when you are in a relationship but don't try to spend too much time with that person. Someone's gonna get a hurt real bad, one way or the other. You can be friends as a couple with another couple, but if your partner wants to hang out with the other partner of the opposite sex, problems are bound to follow. It's how we are. And we live in a society where people are free to socialize with the opposite sex. In many societies, you just don't.
Then there are the people who serially latch on. In other words, they glom onto anyone of the opposite sex who shows them friendship then explode the second that their bubble is popped. Then they serially hate that person, at least behind their their faces there is still a forced friendliness. Oddly, they never seem to just go out and find an actual relationship. It is almost as though it is easier for them to sit back and fantasize about someone that they likely know deep down has no feelings for them whatsoever, and then be enraged about women/men in general. Then they can say "See...Men are assholes" or "See...Women are nothing but bitches".
To delude one's self into thinking that there is more to a friendship or someone's friendliness toward you is a fool's errand. And it doesn't really work to "be up front" and tell the person "All I am interested in is friendship". For some odd reason, often people hear that as "I just have to try harder". It is true that the best relationships start out as friendships but friendships do not automatically mean relationship shortly to follow.
You also must not fall into the trap of being friends with a person because you feel sorry for them. I have made some huge, stupid mistakes with that as well and it caused nothing but pain for the other person, which to this day I am regretful of.
Here's a pretty fool proof list of rules. It is not comprehensive but it is a guideline that can help you to navigate people's feelings and can help you avoid causing great pain to someone else or to yourself. It can also save you a bundle in comfort chocolate:

* Don't get too cozy with the opposite sex if you are in a relationship already. Trouble!
* There is no such thing as "friends with benefits". Someone is going to feel more than the other. That's just the way it is.
* If you are in a relationship and as a couple have friends in couples, keep it that way. You start meeting Bob's wife for coffee and there's gonna be trouble.
* If you are in a relationship and find that you are attracted to a friend, end the relationship or end the friendship. Or there's gonna be trouble. You really cannot have both.
* If you are attracted to someone in a relationship, for your own sake walk away. Don't pretend to just be their friend. You and I both know you are just waiting for your chance. There is nothing but trouble there.
* If you want to try the whole male/female friend thing, it is probably best to keep a certain distance, especially physically. What is a friendly hug for you is likely something entirely different to the other person and could be trouble down the road.
* If you are pretending to be a woman's/man's  friend when what you really want is something more, don't.
* If you are more into them than you are pretending, tell them and get it over with.
* If they tell you that they are not into you that way believe them.
* If they are into you, they will tell you. If they are not, walk away. You are doing no one any favours by hanging around looking like a mournful hush-puppy.
* If you hang around and act like an angry, jilted lover, get over yourself.. You are not and you are making yourself look the fool.
* If someone gets into a relationship while they are 'friends' with you, they were never into you. They are into the person they are with. Let it go. Stalking is very unbecoming.
* If you do something inappropriate or act in an inappropriate way with a 'friend' (ie: and this is in no way a complete list )- too much touchy/feely after you've had a few;  implying to your friends that there is more to said friendship than there is; acting rudely to their other friends;  being possessive when they are with another person of the opposite sex; making assumptions about how close your 'friendship' prepared for that person's anger.
* If you are acting like a guy friend to get closer to a guy you like (ie: dressing like one of the guys, talking like one of the guys, watching sports that you hate, etc) a) his other guy friends likely think you're an idiot and know what you're up to b) his new girlfriend will see right through you

The bottom line is this: Men and women are built very differently and not just in the plumbing department, which is why there are a million Mars-Venus types of books. If we are not gay, we are designed to go after the opposite sex, especially if the opposite sex seems kind and we are lonely or hunting. Women, I think, are better at thinking they can 'just be friends' and share intimate things with a male 'friend' because that's what they do with other women. They can be a little careless about the effect that can have on a guy they want to be just friends with.
Men don't, as a rule, share intimate things with their male friends. So when a woman shares something intimate, it is viewed as intimate. It is viewed as an invite or message that more intimacy is desired, even when it is absolutely not. So ladies, if you want to have someone to share your innermost feelings and personal information with, keep it to the same sex or a sibling. Men, whether they admit it or not, have delicate egos and can lash out in strange and sometimes unpleasant ways when that ego has been bruised. Male friends should not be viewed as asexual replacements for a female friend. 

Politically, economically, educationally and judicially men and women are entitled to be viewed as absolutely equal in every way. When it comes to our mental and emotional make up, heterosexually speaking,  we are not the same. We think differently. We view the world differently. Our chemistry is different. Our evolutionary urges and desires are different. In may ways, on an emotional level, we are a different species. And that is not a bad thing. It doesn't make one or the other greater or lesser. It just means that we have to be realistic in how we behave toward one another and maybe a little more observant. We can say the same thing to a man and a woman and they will each hear something entirely different and act on what they hear.

So. For those who are wondering if men and women can be 'just friends', in my opinion, it's maybe possible, but people are people and people are very seldom upfront, especially when it comes to emotions. Be careful.  Use discretion and some common sense. If you suspect that they might feel more than you do, it's probably true. If you have gone in for a few too many friendly hugs and they cringe away, stop it. They are sending a clear message. If you want more than friendship but are pretending to be just friends, you are acting in a dishonest and underhanded way, especially if the other person has come to trust you as just a good friend. You are betraying them in the worst possible way. There is nothing okay about that.

What's on the menu: Mushroom soup
Listening to: Dawson singing "Moves Like Jagger"
Reading: 'Torment' by Lauren Kate
To Do: Web Junk
Viewing: Great Lectures: The Italian Renaissance

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Feeling Hot Hot Hot...

Yes, it's hot. It is hot in an unholy kind of way. But the complaining I'm hearing from people is a little inconsistent. And if you look around you, the entire continent is suffering in a brutal way. The thing is, this is only the beginning. We were warned. We were given more than a decade...closer to two...warning that we were headed for a furnace of our own making. There is a reason that historic temperatures are not just broken but shattered almost daily now. A reason that people are dying. We...that is, all of us, had a hand in this snarled up mess. I know, there are those who will continue ambling along in their fantasy world claiming that "this is summer!" It is supposed to be hot. It is not, however supposed to be this. More than half of the US is in the throws of a brutal drought. Huge fires are raging unchecked, aided and abetted by the heat. And yet here we are. An advisory was posted that Alberta is under rolling blackouts now. This happens because everybody turns up the air conditioner and fans and the electricity grid goes wack. What do you think makes all of those electrical units turn on though? That's right, kids. Fossil fuel. It's a vicious closed loop and we all think that we are entitled. Yeah, right. Whatever you say, pal.
Other things baffle me too.
So on Sunday, it's feeling we're living on the surface of the Sun. It is a boiling disk in the sky, hammering down relentlessly with a force that is inescapable. Driving through Alberta Beach on the way home from the market (where if you say the words 'organic' or 'healthy' the people look at you as though you have a lobster lodged between your eyes...'holistic' just gets you a blank stare), it was busier than I have seen it since we moved here. And there are wall to wall people laid out on the 'beach' (read mudflats) like sardines in a can, cooking themselves in the godforsaken heat. As though the idea of melanoma were as foreign to them as the idea of women's rights in Afghanistan. Literally thousands of them. Lying there baking when moving through the air is like moving through molten lead.
That's their right though. I consider them excellent candidates for the Darwin Awards. For what it's worth though, you may want to consider these tips to combat the heat. They are working for me. More or less...

*If you absolutely MUST use an air conditioner keep it on the lowest setting. Everybody knows it's hoooooot. But cranking that sucker up to the Antarctic setting is only going to make it worse when you go outside. It will literally make you sick.
*Close your drapes, blinds, whatever...during the day. What I do is track the sun...I can because I'm working here now. If you are away during the day, make it as dark as the inside of a boot. In the evenings after the sun goes down, all windows are wide open. I have two fans. One is a ceiling fan, the other your run-of-the-mill floor fan. The ceiling fan is in the bedroom and I leave it going to keep the air moving. The other one goes into an open window to bring in cooler air in the evening and into the night. In the morning the windows that the sun is touching are draped. You can use tinfoil too. It doesn't look pretty but neither does heatstroke.
*Drink water. Lots of it. If you are sweating a lot, drink Powerade or Gatorade. Do not drink colas, iced coffee, etc as they are diuretics...they make you pee which in turn...I know you know this one...dehydrates you. Dehydration in this heat is very bad.
*Drink room temperature absorbs better,
*Keep a few frozen facecloths in the freezer (wet them, put them in a freezer bag and place in freezer). For a quick cool-down, place on the back of the neck or wrists.
*Keep your pets inside. Don't take them in the car. If you do, you are just being a cruel jackass. However much they beg.
*Keep your kids in during the hottest time of day and for crissakes don't leave them in the car. Go to someplace that is air conditioned. Let them play outside in the evening. Make sure they are drinking water, not pop.
*Don't run water just to play in. If kids want to play in the water, fill a small wading pool. Wasting water is not an option.
*Water your garden late in the evening. DO NOT water the grass. At all. Screw the grass.
*If you can, sleep through the hottest part of the day. There is a reason that people rest in the afternoon in Mexico and other hot places.
*Eat spicy food. It cools you down from the inside.
*Use the damn sunscreen.
*Stripping down to near nudity (shudder) is not the answer. White, light and flowing is the answer. You are doing yourself no favours by exposing every inch of yourself to the mallet that the Sun is wielding. You are doing everyone else no favours by showing off your questionable yet ample endowments.
*Wear the damn hat. No one cares what your hair looks like.
*Check on each other. If you know someone who is living in an oven like walk-up, check on them for godsakes. If they are elderly, offer to take them to the Timmies to cool off or something.
*Drink water, not booze. Booze dehydrates you and remember about dehydration being bad?...I know you do...
Believe me, if you do these things you will still feel hot, but you will acclimate. You pretty much have to. It is adaptation time. That's what evolution is all about. And remember, if everyone turns up every cooling device in creation, you will blow the grid and then no one will be feeling very cool.

Take it easy, eat some frozen fruit and hope for a few storms in the evening to cool things down. And if you are looking around wondering who's in charge of the temperature knob, look in the mirror. You were. We all were. Now it's broke.

What's on the menu: Smoothies
Listening to: Snarky punk stuff
Reading: "Your Brain on Nature" by Eva M. Selhub & Alan C. Logan
What's the Plan: Website stuff
Watching: 'Primeval'