Category Archives: Letters

An Open Letter to Kevin O’Leary

Dear Kevin O’Leary,

Just… Don’t…

Just… Fucking… Don’t…

Just… What the fuck are you doing? Seriously… What the fuck… Just… Fucking Don’t.

Okay, now that’s out of my system, I can get into my rhetorical analysis of you framed as the start of a dialogue that I know you’ll never actually respond to.

Have you seen the show Ascension? It was broadcast on CBC, the channel that made you (in)famous through its Dragon’s Den reality series. And I stress that it was Dragon’s Den that propelled you into the public spotlight, and not Shark Tank for two reasons. The first being your rivalry with Arlene Dickinson, which has apparently followed you into your new political life. The second being, and I may be going out on a limb with this, no American who watched Shark Tank still has any idea who you are or what you do. And I focus on CBC because the typical conservative of your ilk tends to believe that the CBC needs to be defunded and shut down.

I bring up Ascension as an example of a Canadian version of something that simply doesn’t measure up to what we typically consume for media produced by our southern neighbours. The show sort of starts out like CSI in space, but does move into some interesting territory as the mini-series progressed. It doesn’t have the cult following that similar shows like The Expanse has, and many would point solely to the fact that Ascension is a Canadian program as to why it didn’t perform as well as it could have. Even being broadcast on Syfy didn’t bolster the show the way other space operas (and in my opinion, sub-par space operas) like Killjoys and Dark Matter have been. There’s something about Canadian content that feels like Canadian content and we automatically assume it isn’t as good because it’s Canadian content.

Kevin-O (can I call you Kevin-O? I going to stick with Kevin-O.), are you at all worried about being the Canadian content equivalent of the current state in American politics?

I mean, the comparisons are obvious. You’re a venture capitalist eyeing politics with the messaging that strong business practices are what could save the country. You practically stole the speaker notes (which apparently is also becoming common political practice). Many Canadians are furiously flocking to social media to stress that we are not Americans and we shouldn’t do things like Americans. The problem is, we keep trying to copy Americans, as seen in much of our Canadian content. And when we try to copy Americans, that’s when we tend to fail.

Even you, Kevin-O, are actually far from the archetype of the American tycoon. Your net worth is much less than most Wall Street bankers, which might be part of it, but your attitudes I’ve always found different. Yes, you’re a hard capitalist, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t think the outward image you conveyed on Dragon’s Den at all reflects the real Kevin-O who goes home at night. While drafting this letter, I literally had to look up the company you co-founded (software developers SoftKey), but I could rattle off all the charity and philanthropic work you do. You’re big into entrepreneurship and financial education. You actively helped look for solutions to reverse climate change with Discovery Channel’s Discovery Channel Earth. Think about how many American politicians don’t think climate change is even real. Think about how many American politicians don’t trust the data from scientists who have been studying the effects of climate for decades. You literally worked with television’s biggest science channel to address the realities of climate change and look for solutions.

This is the Kevin-O who needs to run for public office. Smart business practices are important but when it comes to government, serving the individuals is far more important than balancing the books. Government is such a different industry from hard business that not all of hard business’ practices translate. This isn’t a simple transition from one to the other. You will have 35 billion people riding on your decisions, not just a board of investors.

If we look at the trend in modern Canadian politics, we can call Stephen Harper our George W. Bush, and Harper’s national isolation tactics and fear based (and frankly racist) domestic policy ideas are what caused him to fail. We can look at Justin Trudeau as our answer to Barrack Obama and even I will admit that Trudeau is starting to shit the bed a bit in public opinion. Was Jean Chrétien our Bill Clinton? I would argue that Bill Clinton was America’s Jean Chrétien and that Chrétien was Canada’s last truly great Prime Minister because he was distinctly and unapologetically unlike anything else going on in politics at the time. He followed no trends and the Canadian vote wasn’t a reaction to what was going on anywhere else. Canada needs to stop comparing itself to other countries and following the leads of others and instead look at itself, look at the world, and logically decide what’s the best course of action.

If we look at the case of Ascension or Heartland or Republic of Doyle or any of the other CBC programming that causes a chorus of groans from regular television watchers, we get a sense that Canadian content copying American content doesn’t really work. When we look at cases like Orphan Black, Kids in the Hall, Degrassi, Kenny versus Spenny, Are you Afraid of the Dark¸ and even Mr. Dressup, television shows with strong cult followings and set new standards for what content can do, you fully understand that Canadian content is at its utmost best when it stops trying to copy American content.

The Canadian political landscape is no different. We are at our best when we stop trying to take cues from south of the 49th parallel. I’ll agree that when Canadians describe themselves as “not American,” it cheapens the Canadian identity and experience. But at the same time, the Canadian identity is such an obscure construct that outside of waxing philosophical, it’s hard to describe. All you can do is look at the reality of the 35 billion people who call this set of borders home, look at how we can help things on the international front, and strategize from there.

So when I say, or rather beg (or maybe groan in frustration) to “Just fucking don’t.” What I mean is, don’t be that guy that so many Canadians expect you to be. Don’t be the guy south of the border, don’t be the guy howling at bad investment ideas. Be something better. You want to be an alternative? Be a real alternative. Don’t just copy what you saw work on TV. Work from a stronger and smarter plan. Don’t spew rhetoric about bad business and putting Canadians first. Explain reality and do what the best politicians always did best: help the greatest number of people. Period.

Don’t be the cheap Canadian version of something going on elsewhere. Set the standards and be something better.

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Overstaying Your Welcome

I’m spending my Saturday night sitting at home, drinking diet Dr. Pepper and watching Norah Jones on PBS. Yes, I am a fan or Norah Jones. I think she’s actually just a solid composer and performer who has been able to avoid the conventional story arc of being attractive and talented. She can actually sing without the assistance of auto-tune or over-production, she can actually play keyboards and guitar really well, and her band are very obviously hired guns but rather than work hard to make her sound, I have a feeling she makes the hired band really sound good, if not they all perfectly complement each other and adapt well to each others’ styles. It’s a live performance from 2012, her backup band look like they’ve been stealing from Wilco’s closet, but watching this made me realize something most important about Norah Jones’ avoidance of the conventional pop-star story arc: she’s yet to peak and drop.

Earlier in the night I watched Get Him to the Greek for, surprisingly, only the second time (the first time was in theatres shortly after its release). For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a film about a rock star (portrayed by Russell Brand) experiencing his own post-peak drop while a record label employee (Jonah Hill) attempts to escort the drunken, drug-filled, lonely, and depressed rock star to a comeback concert. Though it plays on a lot of rock’n’roll lifestyle stereotypes, I think there’s something to be said for Brand’s character’s situation in the film. After gaining a cult following being the degenerate and debaucherous rock star that people could only imagine actually existing during the 70s and 80s, Brand’s character releases his “slump” record: one that experiments with world music and but comes off as an attempt to show a charity-focused side to a performer obviously only obsessed with his own public image and self-indulgent lifestyle. Of course, by the end of the movie, we realize that Brand’s character is more complex than his drug use and public persona and all the actually wants is a really good friend.

While watching this, I realized that there is something very familiar about the peak and drop that so many popular and contemporary artists experience during their careers. Be it the Offspring strangely experimenting with hip-hop (while poorly trying to parody the suburban lifestyle that has adopted the urban gangster culture), Metallica putting out relatively safe biker-rock records, or even something as simple as Kiss taking off the makeup, everyone has an artist whose career they followed and there is one moment leaving us yelling out, “What were they thinking?”

Chuck Klosterman has a similar argument in his book Eating the Dinosaur, but Klosterman obsessively dissects a single example of the peak-and-drop: Nirvana’s In Utero. Before we go any further, let me clear something as so we can understand some of my frame of reference as I approach this. There were only two good parts of Nirvana: Dave Grohl and Kris Novoselic. Those two were possibly the most solid rhythm section that came out of the 90s. Unfortunately, everything else about Nirvana feels like a constant argument attempting to legitimize itself. For Klosterman, In Utero is what he repeatedly described as “guilt rock.” Essentially, Klosterman is saying that in an attempt to reassert Nirvana’s own legitimacy, every choice behind In Utero (from selecting Shellac and Big Black legend Steve Albini to produce it to the choice of guitar tone and song structure) was solely to make In Utero as unlistenable and inaccessible as possible.

Klosterman’s second and third books, Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live, are a huge reason why I write the way I do. The accessible language and diction coupled with the choice of topics surrounding popular culture Klosterman often uses in his essays and non-fiction shaped much of my own writing style. Killing Yourself to Live especially has a harsh honesty that most writers strive to achieve, but mostly still wind up trying to hide behind their work rather than display themselves in their work. Klosterman was especially good at creating narratives throughout his essays and arguments as well, increasing the accessibility of his work and making his ideas relatable on many different levels. Both of these books boosted Klosterman’s reputation as a solid non-fiction writer. As I’ve tried reading his later books, I have to wonder if he’s experiencing his own peak-and-drop.

I haven’t read any of his fiction yet, and admittedly I’ve yet to read his newest book I Wear the Black Hat (which looks at how people often relate to villains better than heroes), but while trying to read IV (which is more a collection of observant magazine articles) and especially Eating the Dinosaur, the deep personal points or relation to the topics he writes about is almost gone. In fact, he almost comes off arrogant because he writes his point of view so far above the topics he looks at. Klosterman has starting writing as though he were Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre where the premise in his topics are meant to be modern, but the thoughts and arguments are too obscure for the topics he’s writing about. Admittedly, Klosterman’s cult readership is only expanding the more he writes, he must be doing something right. But none of his books since Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and Killing Yourself to Live have received any of the same media attention or critical acclaim.

But who am I to talk about media attention and critical acclaim? If I were to pick a Nirvana record as my favourite, I would pick In Utero.

Klosterman’s diction has increased, he’s formatting his books in new ways, and he thinks about the world in different ways than he did a decade ago. That’s actually a good thing. Because if we’re not complaining about how different Americana sounds from Smash or how much slower Reload is from Ride the Lightning, then we’re complaining about how every Nickelback record sounds the exact same. I think the only real happy music fans are fans of the Mars Volta or TV on the Radio, because they expect each record and each side project to sound to different and that everything they do is artistically minded and a little off the wall. But, at the same time, if they record something that sounds like an earlier record, then they’re being “self-referential” and totally “post-modern.” Two terms that bands like the Mars Volta and TV on the Radio and their fans would be very comfortable with.

This then begs a bigger question: is the artist’s creative process or the output and the product attached more important? When Paul Simon made the Graceland album, people were pissed at the process, saying that Simon should have avoided what was a still apartheid enforcing South Africa. But the very same people criticizing his process couldn’t help but say that Graceland was the best thing he did since parting ways with Art Garfunkel. I read Eating the Dinosaur and understand how much work Klosterman put into his analysis and arguments. I understand how much time Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus spend on thinking about literally everything and how hard it is to cram that much thought into books. I’m just having difficulty reading them.

I’m sure somewhere there is a magical land where the process of growing and experimentation collides with an output and product that doesn’t alienate established audiences. Even small deviations from set forms can cause fans to turn their backs. Hardcore band Strife experienced this with its last record before their recent reunion, Angermeans. Strife’s influences from non-hardcore bands like Sepultura and Helmet were obviously showing. The backlash from the militant straight edge communities that Strife helped build through the 90s instantly disowned the band. Was Strife ever really that dissimilar from Sepultura and Helmet to begin with? I don’t think so. But I also haven’t been straight edge in almost a decade.

Do I fully get why artists overstay their welcome? No. But it’s an interesting trope that has arisen over the years. Especially recently there seems to be more and more stories of artists who try something different and fail. What we keep forgetting is that failure isn’t a bad thing. It just means you put yourself out there and tried. Not everyone will like everything a hundred per cent of the time. But at least you tried.

Dying of Old Age

I’ve got this thing for dying of old age

It must seem like a crazy liberal ideal

Or some sort of privilege reserved for the rich

But I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed to in my country

Abolishing something like long-gun registry

I just don’t see the need for semi-automatic assault rifles

While police only carry pistols and we farm all of our animals

And why this is a controversial discussion

You’re afraid of fighting big government

While you keep funding all of these big businesses

Who buy politicians like they’re trading stock options

You might think I’m crazy for not wanting to die

In some flashy blaze of glory like a tragic hero on TV

I think I’d rather read a book in my bed

Close my eyes and fall to sleep in the peace and quiet

Because there are no good guys

And there are no bad guys

There’s just a lot of confused people

Who’ve been given all of this freedom

But we don’t bother to educate them

And explain to them what this freedom means

I wish people would give money to schools

Like they give money to weapons manufacturing

I wish parliament listened to educators

The same way they listened to millionaires

I wish people would stop shooting

Before they looked at where they’re aiming

I wish I could die of old age

But I’m almost certain some neighbourhood watch security

Will follow me while I’m walking on my own block

Say I’m a threat because I’m tall and have tattoos

Assholes like my always get away with it

Or some other oversimplified ignorant ridiculous bullshit

Any reason to stand his ground and shoot

Living out his old west cowboy fantasy

Shooting the bad guy in a blaze of glory

And be deemed the big hero

He and his big shiny fucking gun

Maybe I’m just an idealistic Canadian

Who’d rather not see his country turn this way

And who doesn’t understand what’s so fucking great

About being able to kill anything

Or why anyone would want to listen to Ted Nugent spout on about

Shooting into underprivileged neighbourhoods from a helicopter

He talks so tough and he loves his guns

Don’t forget he dodged the draft

Along with Mohammed Ali

And Arlo Gutherie

And William Gibson

And Jimi Hendrix

And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

And Stephen King

And Bruce Springsteen

And don’t get me started on Bill O’Reily

And Dick Cheney

And Karl Rove

And Donald Trump

And OJ Simpson

And Newt Gingrich

And Al Gore

I guess that they all wanted to die of old age too

I’m not trying to oversimplify a bigger issue

I just don’t worry about big government knocking at my door

Because if it got to the point

Where this was something to be worried about

I’d rather not worry that the government at my door

Was paid for

By Halliburton

An Open Letter to Men’s Rights Edmonton

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 1.18.43 PMDear Men’s Rights Edmonton,

Your recent poster campaign has garnered you a lot of attention. CBC, Edmonton Journal, even the Huffington Post had you up as a top story for your “Don’t be That Girl” satirical campaign, obviously playing off of the internationally acclaimed and award winning “Don’t be That Guy” campaign.

This isn’t your first tirade into the realm of public postering to promote your organization, but this time it seems you hit a real soft spot on people and got what I think you were exactly looking for: controversy.

You’re out to polarize opinions, gain as much negative attention as you can for the sake of finding maybe a handful of people who will listen to what you have to say and an even smaller handful that will jump on board with you and your cause.

You attacked a well loved campaign in this city that has helped many victims be able to stand up for themselves and be able to report crimes perpetrated against them. By satirizing this campaign, it once again demonizes the victim and is a clear-cut example as to why less than 10% of sex crimes are actually reported.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 1.16.24 PMDo girls yell rape when it was in fact consensual? I don’t know, I’ve never been put in that position nor anyone in my current social circle has been put in that situation. Rape obviously happens and every situation is unique so I won’t be as ignorant as to say that it never happens. But I have to wonder if perhaps you’ve been the victim of one such incident that then spurred you to take this on as a cause to wave a flag for.

The problem is, no one knows who you are. I’ve been looking into your Twitter account (@MensRightsEd) where you have three (3) followers and have tweeted less than ten times and I’ve been exploring your website (mensrightsedmonton.com) looking to find who is behind these posters and which local intellectual is behind taking on such a controversial topic. You’ve cited work from PhDs such as Dr. James R Brown and there are a few images of a pale-faced gentleman in a red backwards hat, but only when you watch your first Vlog do we get to know who you are, Mr. Eric Duckman (though, I have to wonder about your name being the same as the private detective cartoon voiced by Jason Alexander) yet we know virtually nothing about you except for that you spend a lot of time thinking about why feminism is so wrong and that perhaps you daily use a protractor to figure out that perfect angle to wear your hat.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 1.16.15 PMNormally, I don’t bother with Internet controversy groups who sometimes poster and wear sandwich boards: if that were the case I’d spend all my time talking about Westboro Baptist Church. But you’ve especially caught my interest for two reasons: number one, you’re in my city, and number two, I don’t find your messaging deplorable as much as I find it horribly misguided.

As a men’s advocacy group, you focus a lot of your time on women.

Further, I have to ask, aside from postering and posting thing son the Internet, what exactly do you do for men?

There are so many more constructive ways for you to act as an advocate for men’s rights: you could work with legal councils on high profile rape cases to ensure the defendant’s rights are not being infringed on due to the emotional content of the case. You could work Public Relations during controversial cases where you would discuss the public stigmatization even before rulings are made in a court of law. There are so many more beneficial ways you can get your message across without constantly attacking feminism and demonizing women. Yet when I explore your website, every page has at least one comment, post, or wise-crack about how “dumb feminists are.”

duckmanAgain, because we know nothing about you, I can only speculate as to what your motives are. Have been shot down at a few too many frat parties? Been beat up by a few too many boyfriends of girls you hit on? Been generally always awkward with women so now your only reaction is to call them stupid? Have you yourself been accused of rape and had to deal with the social stigma of being a rapist?

I don’t know if I’ll ever know. All I know right now is you’ve garnered some attention for yourself, have a small web presence, and just like so many of your predecessors, you’ll fade from people’s minds in no time.

Enjoy the attention while it lasts, because it won’t.

An Open Letter to Deputy Minister Thomas Lukaszuk

Dear Deputy Minister Thomas Lukaszuk,

I have a bit of a problem with you. You’ve been in the news a lot lately whenever an organization seems to be standing up for themselves (or I guess stepping out of line according to you) and you always seem to be the first person who’s ready with something to say – even if no one wants to hear it.

Most recently, you were very outspoken when the Edmonton Remand Centre guards went on strike, claiming that this strike was blown out of proportion and simply brought on by someone having a disagreement with his superior. The only problem with that is the rest of the province’s prison and court guards have all joined in on the strike – even the lawyers refuse to cross the line out of respect for their cause. A disagreement with a superior does not sprout out to a full on province-wide strike; people aren’t stupid.

Here’s where my problem with you stands: you think everyone’s stupid, don’t you?

I have no doubt that you are a very intelligent person and have a fascinating story behind you. A Polish immigrant whose family escaped the Soviet Union to give you a better life. You grew up in North Edmonton and got your education from the University of Alberta before becoming a teacher with the Edmonton Catholic School Board. Most impressive is the work you did starting up the Injured Worker’s Advocates Inc., making huge strides in how employers and insurance handle employee injury claims. You’ve done some amazing things with the best interest of people in mind, but since taking office suddenly the people are of no concern to you: now, you keep thinking about money.

After you voiced your opinion about why you think the prison guard strike first started, all you could talk about was how much money was being spent replacing security guards with RCMP and City Police. Perhaps if the Province listened to what the prison guards were saying to begin with, maybe then they wouldn’t have gone on strike and the Province wouldn’t have to fork out all this money making sure the overcrowded prisons don’t step out of line as well.

Since January, prison guards and members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employee (AUPE) have been expressing concerns about the new Edmonton Remand Centre citing that it won’t be a safe prison. The Province brushed aside these concerns and decided to power through so the new “super-prison” would open on time. After all, what would the prison guards know about prison safety, right Mr. Lukaszuk?

Kind of like when you decided to put together the Campus Alberta plan. Getting rid of redundant and unpopular school programs was actually not a bad idea. But then you took the next step and decided to look and employability after graduation. Yeah, it’s hard for academics to find work after graduation when you keep cutting research grants for everything, you know, aside from oilsand research. A lot of universities and even more students were up in arms against what you were proposing but, as part of the bill that was fast tracked through the Legislature, you made sure it would be non-optional. After all, what would these academics and students who spend every day in universities know, right Mr. Lukaszuk?

Fact of the matter is that when the prison guards brought up their concerns, they knew exactly what they were talking about. They’re in those facilities every day, they know what’s safe and what isn’t. Just the same as educators and students know what they’re talking about. They have the right to offer and take whatever university education programs they want to offer despite what sorts of jobs can help the oilfield after.

Mr. Lukaszuk, people aren’t stupid and you need to stop treating them like they’re discounted boxed wine: the most cost effective solutions aren’t the best.

Stop disregarding that people with a university education (yes, even a liberal arts education) generally make more money and live longer than those without – not to mention typically commit fewer crimes including rape, typically transmit fewer STDs, and are more active with politics. There might not be direct oilfield jobs for them, but an educated population is an active and aware population.

And stop treating the prison and court guards like they’re second class citizens who need a greasy haired father figure to wag his finger at them and remind them why they’re stupid and you’re so smart. Unionized workers have a right to strike despite whether you agree with them striking or not. They’re justified in their grievances and should not have to put themselves into an unsafe work environment so that you can look better by opening your backyard shack of a prison on time.

Mr. Lukaszuk, I would have sent you this letter directly, but you would have never read it because you thought I was stupid.

Sincerily,

Chris

Alberta, I’ve given you tax dollars and now I have nothing

To the government of Alberta

I’m ok with paying higher taxes

So long as it’s not filling your personal checking accounts

Or giving CEOs bigger breaks on their T4 slips

I’m a healthy person today

Because we pay our doctors well

I’m better educated than past Premieres

Because we continue to fund our schools

I’m an Albertan right from birth

But my day to day isn’t dictated by

The current price per barrel

And I take pride in that

I’ve never worked for the oil industry

And I’ve never stepped foot in Fort McMurray

And I’ve never experienced first hand

The horror of driving highway sixty-three

This is what happens when you build

An entire province’s economy off of a single industry

But it doesn’t mean that you should punish

Publicly funded essential services to human life

You constantly gripe about a twenty per cent differential

When members of your government make forty per cent more

Than most of the people who voted you into your jobs

If we encouraged people to be doctors and teachers

The same way we push young people onto rigs

I seriously doubt we’d be having this discussion

Alberta, I like having my publicly funded essential services

Well funded and efficiently run

I like that doctors are mad for not having a set agreement

And they fought against a corrupt health minister

Looking to bully his agenda into legislation

And I like that teachers have a union and can strike

When they’re told that a child’s education isn’t worth a decent wage

And I don’t like having to defend my university degree

To high school drop outs making six figure paycheques

I understand that everyone needs to work

And I never want to take that away from anyone

I just hope some of these young kids making tar sand coin

Are investing in more than cocaine and strippers

Because one day Fort McMurray will be tapped dry

And there’ll be a lot of broke kids with addictions and STDs

Who will need serious help from a lot of doctors

And will consider going back to school for a new career

I want to pay a higher GST

And I like the idea of a PST

But I also want to see more hospitals, more doctors, more nurses

And I want to see more schools, more teachers, better education

I’m okay with paying more taxes

Just put my money where it belongs

An Open Letter to this year’s American Republican Party

Dear Republican Party of America;

Ever since I discovered the left-right dichotomy of politics, I had been fascinated by how both sides will commit themselves to downright preposterous positions for the sake of playing partisan politics. I do my best not to directly identify with either side because it feels like subscribing to any other belief system, and beliefs are dangerous. Besides, I’m Canadian, nothing you do actually effects me in any direct way. I’m not ignorant to the repercussions that the world feels whenever American politics and economics turn sour, but those incidents always seem to be a by-product of poor banking. Private industry seems to do a lot, where I can’t name a single bill that’s been passed this year – if any have been passed at all.

But I’ve become enthralled by your game. Every appearance, every speech, every bill is just another move on the giant Chutes and Ladders board. And nothing ever seems to get done. And everyone in North America seems fascinated by some drama case who doesn’t actually do anything in day-to-day life: some people watch Big Brother, some follow every move the Kardashians make, but for me, I have Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Todd Akins, and, most of all, the star of the shit-show, Mitt Romney.

And that’s just this year’s cast. Nothing will ever beat Republican Party season 43 – it had all your typical Real World-esque cast members: George the dumb one, Dick the asshole, Condoleezza the attitude and gap between the teeth, Donnie unnecessarily violent one, Davey and Chuck the rich brothers who break everything, all the characters are there, and it made for wildly entertaining TV.

But this season so far has been overbearing. I mean, we’re still in preseason, we’re just getting introduced to our characters and getting ready to bet on who gets voted off the island first, and I’m already finding most of the cast overbearing and self-parodying caricatures.

This week has been especially bad for this. I’m the guy who spends half of his work day on the Huffington Post’s Facebook page finding stories to share while making snide, witty comments so my friends will think I’m intelligent. But between Art Jones coming out as a neo-Nazi (quite literally, there is no rhetorical hyperbole here), Chris Christie’s premature acceptance of the 2016 Republican nomination, and all the rape comments from Todd Akins, Tom Smith, and even Veep nominee Paul Ryan, I simply can’t keep up. Even my boss has started to notice how much I post and I’m an intern – nobody notices me.

I’m not sure if you’re trying to get all the stupid out of the way now in hopes that people will stop paying attention by the time it’s voting season, or if there was some round table bet as to who could say the most offensive thing and still get elected, but it seems like this is almost on purpose.

The actual reason I think all these stories are coming out at once is quite simple: the 21st century is possibly the first point in time where bad publicity is probably better for your career than good publicity is. You can be acquitted of murdering your child and walk out the courtroom with a book deal. Any attention is good attention as long as it means your name is in a headline and your face is on CNN. It’s like the drunk girl at the bar who realizes that nobody is looking at her, so she takes off her top and dances on the table. Is it good attention? No. But is it still attention? Yes.

Worst of all is that I’m so certain that you can’t actually believe some of this dumb shit you say. Paul Ryan, you’re a libertarian’s wet dream; what the fuck are you doing weighing in on moral issues? You’re university educated, a double major in political science and economics no less. You’re a self-serving bean-counter, not a self-serving puritan. But, you also know how to think, criticize, and most of all, you know the dirty underhanded tricks in politics and what bites people in the ass. Why are you falling right into these things you know better than? Your speech at the RNC after you accepted your Veep nomination was a textbook case of a politician’s career going down the drain. It was like you forgot to do your homework because you and the rest of Delta Tau Delta were in the hot tub on the front lawn all night. You can’t honestly believe half the shit that comes from your mouth. You’re looking for that hard right vote, but calling rape “another form of conception” is too far right. This is no longer a partisan issue; this is now a human issue.

This week alone, you’ve given Propagandhi enough material for a new record, Henry Rollins enough topics to do talking tours for the next decade (and people will be talking about this election for the next decade as one of the dumbest displays of public ignorance for public attention), and made me look at my Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and think “you know, he fixes the books and violates workers’ right to strike, but at least he knows how rape works.” And worst of all, reality-TV-drama elections have been creeping into Canada. Last May’s election was a constant cock-battle between Harper and the late Jack Layton. Thomas Mulcair is trying to have the same balls Jack had, but he doesn’t have the charisma, and as such, he’s just making himself look like the Kardashian that cries too much.

We don’t need publicity pandering in our politics. When we say let’s discuss the issues, it’s not some John Boehner meta-political-diversion when the mud-flinging makes its way back to him; we’re actually looking to discuss an issue. I want to keep my country that way.

Like when the Real World went to Hawaii, this has all become bad TV with too much incoherent yelling. You are the guys trying to run the most culturally influential country in the world: why are you acting like a bunch of idiots. Half of you aren’t even Tea-Partiers yet it seems like your entire party is out to appease the trailer-park stripper and gun collector vote. You’re supposed to be the intelligent ones, start acting like it.

Sincerely

Chris

My Letter to Calvin Klein

Dear Mr. Calvin Klein:

Let me start by mentioning that I am a fan of the work you do. For years I remained adamantly against the fashion industry thinking it was the bane of capitalism and the epicentre of exploitation in Western Culture. It wasn’t until I acquired employment at a Winner’s department store that I actually encountered the products you have put on the market. So, I believe it goes without saying that most of your apparel is out of the question for me to dawn on my body. But, you have tapped into a market that even a man my size can still indulge in as a means of displaying your good, fashionable name on my self.

I, of course, am talking about your fantastic line of undergarments. Specifically, the amazing support I get, without compromising any comfort, from your boxer-briefs. A lot of people seem to criticize you for some of your business practices and the entire fashion industry for that matter. But those are ugly hippies and punk-rockers who don’t understand what it takes to have real style. Politics shmolitics, right Mr. Klein? Looking good and getting rich is what’s most important.

I first encountered your line of undergarments while restocking the male-unmentionables section of said Winner’s department store, which I slave at over the summer for just over minimum wage – depending if management remembers who I am. While I was restocking said male-unmentionable section, I had a giant box of pre-packaged briefs and boxer-briefs that varied over a dozen different designer brand labels. Amidst the sea of plastic packaging with cheap, useless zippers, I caught a glimpse of a plastic package that didn’t seem all that familiar. I reached into the underwear abyss; the packages began shifting, as if a child were diving into a pit of balls, and I pulled out the holy grail of men’s lesser-seen apparel.

I read the top caption: it read “Calvin Klein.” My eyes travelled down the front label much like a woman’s eyes’ travel down a man when he is only in his unmentionables. I followed the man’s pectoral muscles, down his six-pack abdomen, and my eyes halted at the sight of the man’s groin. There they were, perfect, smooth, white, and unforgettable: the perfect pair… of boxer briefs.

I was astounded. This was the type of underwear that I only heard about through pop-culture clichés on sit-coms and from stand-up comedians. It’s one of those clichés that no longer has any meaning outside of its own reference. It has become self-parodied. Yet, you still can’t go through a season of any ABC or CBS prime-time laugh-track serial without hearing some male being referred to as a “Calvin Klein underwear model.” I never really understood that reference. I know that Mark Wahlberg, film star but better known to me as Marky Mark (of the Funky Bunch), used to be one of your models, and I like him. So, I always just assumed being a Calvin Klein underwear model just meant you were mildly attractive.

It does, but on a whole different level.

I continued to stare at the man’s groin, taking in the perfect pair of boxer briefs, and noticed something astounding about them. Well, not necessarily them, but about the man wearing them. My God was that man well-endowed! That perfect, well shaped, centre bulge on that pair of boxer briefs was awe-inspiring. It made me recall that scene in Spinal Tap where Harry Shearer was trying to get through airport security and had a cucumber wrapped in tin-foil in his pants. But your model wasn’t shaped like a cucumber, no, he was shaped like a real man should be shaped. I’m sure Robert Plant and Steven Tyler look at your packages and feel a level of shame. Now, imagine how I felt looking at that “perfect package.”

I was terrified at first. This man couldn’t be human. My God, Mr. Klein, what do you feed your models and why isn’t the rest of the male population eating it? Even as my fears tried to consume me, I still had a barely over minimum wage job to do, and I was off, under the fluorescent lights to a symphony of screaming children, conducted by unfit parents. I carted the box of male-unmentionables to the convenient and easily shop-able shelving units that held them. I was down on my knees, refilling the shelves. My head would drop to the box, I would find multiple packages of the same brand and style, and lift my head to once again see the perfect package only centimetres from my face. It was from this constant and prolonged viewing that I began to find this crotch comforting. Like this crotch was telling me I was one handful closer to being done this brain-numbing, frivolous, remedial task.

While your model’s wonderful crotch gave me comfort, I found myself analyzing it. Not just the crotch, of course, that’s fairly self-explanatory and I don’t think Jean Paul Satre would have written about the existentialism of the crotch (what truth does the crotch bring to the universe?). No, instead I analyzed the brilliant marketing ploy you have unleashed onto the world. Some would argue that you have tapped into the “Lizard Brain” side of marketing, which can be exceptionally effective when selling something so closely related to fornication.

You see, Mr. Klein, I get you. I get the importance of the crotch. It’s something that both women and men want, though for slightly different bragging rights. Women will buy the underwear for their men because they want him to have a package like the man on the package. Men will buy the underwear, especially if they’re single, out of a feeling of self consciousness or downright inadequacy. Brilliant.

So brilliant, in fact Mr. Klein, that I bought two packages of grey and black boxer-briefs size XL. I kept the packaging out of simple adoration to the brilliance of your understanding of the human “Lizard Brain.” I remain enamoured by this package. I leave it on the pillow next to mine on those lonely nights when I can’t sleep just right. I place my hand on the package and talk to it until I’m too tired to talk anymore (yes, sometimes I get to that point). Some night, I swear the package is talking back to me. Sometimes it tells me that everything’s going to be alright and tells me stories to help me sleep. Other nights, like some sort of horrible nightmare, the package mocks me.

That first night with your undergarments, I put on a pair of your boxer briefs, stood in the mirror, and held the perfect package next to myself – I had to know how I compared. I bulge, as most men would in any sort of brief, but my bulge was different from the one packaging. It was still centred, but mine was slightly to the left, and my bulge seemed to end significantly short compared to your model. Suddenly, my “Lizard Brain” went into panic mode, and then into complete depression. There I was, Mr. Klein, and I was face to face with my complete inadequacy.

I really can’t complain about the underwear you produce overall, though. My God are those boxer-briefs comfortable! The mix of cotton, polyester, and rayon you have concocted for this line of undergarments was a perfect choice. You must have tried on hundreds of different pairs of underwear made from all different fabrics to come to the understanding of what the perfect fabric is. I can imagine the Taiwanese sweat-shop workers that your company has employed to construct these malevolent man-manipulators. They come to work every day with only the hope that they can take a moment to rub a piece of this amazing ginch fabric and rub it against their face and experience just a moment of solace.

But, Mr. Klein, I’m not writing this letter to criticize you for outsourcing jobs that many domestic, working class people could use to dig themselves out of their massive debts that probably accumulated from buying your products, and thus also contributing to the recent economic collapse. I’m not commenting about you spending in and around 10 cents to create the amazing underwear with your name on it and then selling them for 59 dollars a package. Isn’t that just good capitalism after all? No, Mr. Klein, the social backwardness of the fashion industry isn’t what concerns me; I have a much bigger bone to pick with you.

Where do you get off making me feel so inadequate? I’d like to see you in a pair of your underwear and see where your package fits. Mr. Klein, Mr. “Big Money Man,” Mr. “I make men question their masculinity and make women question their satisfaction with their men.” And what have you done lately, really? What is a work day for you like? You slap your name on some clothes, write a twenty dollar cheque to ensure your foreign sweat-shops are still running, and then complain about how busy of a day you had? I work for a living, man.

I’m part of the working world going into massive amounts of debt just to try and measure up to the standards set out by the bourgeois who control the means of production and distribution. It’s bad enough that you make this standard to adhere to so hard for so many people to reach, but now you also insult us because our physical characteristics may not necessarily measure up to that of your underwear models.

My junk may not sit where your model’s junk sits but I’m still twice their size, I can bench 200lbs and leg press 600lbs. I could take your models and take you with one arm tied behind my back. Don’t mess with me, man, I’ll waste you, take your girl, and bury you in your own underwear with the package next to you so at your funeral everyone can see all the ways your crotch doesn’t sit right compared to the “perfect package.” Come on, Big Man, show me what you got!

***

Mr. Klein, I’d like to apologize for my previous outburst. I guess my “Lizard Brain” got the best of me. I was way out of line, said some very inappropriate things, and I hope that we can put this behind us and just enjoy your fantastic underwear and take in that perfect package together.

Sincerely, Chris.