Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Rant Came Back!

What Will It Cost Me....

To have safe streets?

To have proper urban design?

To have rapid transit which deserves the name?

This is what the people of Ottawa should be asking, before they go on record as saying that the cost of not having a car is “too high”. Now, I enjoy driving with my G1, but I also make extensive use of the bus system here, and with the exception of a few routes (true Ottawans will no doubt cringe at the mere mention of the infamous Route 14), the service is very good. I agree that past a certain hour, it can be pretty intimidating to wait around at even well-lit Transitway stops (and I'm a guy, no less), but this can most often be attributed to my healthy paranoia, rather than the presence of an actual threat. According to the Ottawa Police, the 5 year average for violent crime is just under 6000 incidences per year. Greater Ottawa having a population of 1 million means that the number of violent crimes per person is 0.006. Meaningless statistic? This I will concede. Still, I think it's fair to say that the average Ottawan is not in imminent danger of being beaten or killed on the street. The fear of kidnappings, swarmings, rape? Media-induced. These things do happen, but as with acts of terror, you cannot allow the worst elements of society to paralyze you in your daily life.

I think there exists a solution, one that will cost perhaps more time than money. The Guardian Angels are supposedly starting up a chapter in Ottawa this year. I think it will be great for Ottawa, because it's an agressive response, without the agression per se. It is advance, rather than retreat. It is an assertion that we have a right to walk on our streets at any time we like without fear. Call it vigilante justice if you want, but for all the hot air about “if it saves one life, it's worth it”, you'd think that the police forces of the world would see the Guardians for what they represent: a powerful ally in fighting crime. It stands to reason that much crime is based on the assertion that “they can't see me”. The presence of a man or woman in uniform patrolling the street might be enough to dissuade the less pathologically criminal from nocturnal banditry. And if not, someone is there to see, to call the police, perhaps intervene before the situation escalates. Unlike hiding inside the tonne of steel and rubber we like to think of as “convenience”, this goes some length to solving the problem. The letter-writer to the citizen is a father who obviously cares for the safety of his children. A man (or woman) of such a disposition should be one of the first in line to volunteer when the call comes from our new Guardian Angels chapter. I'll bet that all the training, uniform costs, and all are still cheaper than buying gas for a car to feel safe!

The second part of the solution is far costlier, at least for the moment. Ritzy, SUPREMELY convenient condos are coming to downtown Ottawa...and a penthouse can be yours for something like a cool $Million. Damn, if I had the money, I'd do it too. The ones at 700 Sussex are quite literally at the heart of this city. Hopefully, like other fads of the rich have done in the past, living downtown will trickle down to those with less money to burn. Failing that, I hope I can be rich long enough to set myself up in a swank pad somewhere downtown. Yeah, that's going to happen. The problem is the allure of cheap housing elsewhere. I imagine that it is far more profitable to buy land in fallowfield, or worse, along one of the regional highways out of town (this happens, and it's pathetic to see the malaise of suburbia rising above the distant plains). The houses I see are obscenely large (to be fair, one might consider my present abode to be gluttonous. I would tend to agree), usually having attached garages for two cars...well, a car, and all the workshop junk that invariably clogs sheds, garages, and basements. So long as young couples decide that an affordable house and an SUV is worth what they pay in gas and maintenance, things will not change, and there will be those who will see the SUV or sedan as obligatory. Well, if you live a half-hour from the edge of what actually constitutes Ottawa, no shit! This would be bad enough of itself, but as (bad) luck would have it, there's more fuel on this fire: have you seen how they build these houses? Plywood, plaster, and then some hasty brick-like exterior. Some new houses went up not too far from here, and the complete illusion is staggering. It looks as if there is a real house, probably even feels like it, too. But take away the brick facade, and what you're left with is a wooden box and the ubiquitous pink panther insulation, near as I can tell. At least my house has been standing for 50 years or more. Houses in the glebe, and other neighbourhoods just outside of downtown must have houses approaching 100 years old. I know Mutchmor school has been around for a century or more by's not so much of a stretch to imagine that some houses must be of a similar vintage. Somehow, I see the future of modern housing looking more like scrap heaps than quaint neighbourhoods. On an “up” note, there may be an alternative to both expensive yet chic condos and crappy housing: The nascent “eco-community” (well, as-yet-nonexistent would be more like it) at the former rockliffe base site. The plans may be just that, but I can't think of a better way to reconcile a pleasant lifestyle with ecological responsibility.

One other argument which pops up in the letter upon which this rant is loosely based is that giving up a car means giving up activities (ie. Horseback riding, sailing) which require frequent commutes to outlying areas of the city. Supposing a resurgence of central urban population, it is easy to imagine rapid transit to distant parts of the city. With reduced automotive traffic, street-level light rail becomes a real possibility, and - more importantly – actually useful. Before someone points out that the relatively low numbers of hobbyists hardly justify transit expenditures and emissions, imagine this: central living = less $$$ on Gas and Car repair + less transit time = more free time and money = more time for hobbies.

None of this will happen overnight. In all likelihood, no one will become all that richer financially. What will be regained is community. People without lawns and fences to separate themselves, people who live and work, and relax together. Grocery stores not a two-minute jaunt from your appartment building door, other shopping another five minutes away...Eventually, space once used for inefficient housing could become parkland, or maybe return to it's original purpose as farmland. Add the odd urban garden, and you've got a solid local food supply. Ok, this is total utopian BS at this point, but it's something to aim for. Even half of the above would be damn fine in my book. It's easy to start...repeat after me: “I do not need a car all the time. Walking, biking, and bussing are safe alternatives 99% of the time. Sustainable living is not only possible, but desirable. I bow before the staggering wit and insight of Loud the Magnificent”...

Did it work? No?


I Am Not A Number, I Am A Free Man!

Guess who just took the cSAT?

The Cotton Gin? What the hell-ass crunk juice are YOU sippin'?

Anyhow, the SATs are not half as frightening as the literature would have you believe. Perhaps that's easy to say when my academic future does not entirely hinge upon nearly four hours of test...but really. I cannot (under obligation) release specific question details, but let me lay it out for you: 9 out of 10 “math” questions are pure logic, and your biggest foe on the reading comprehension segments is the wording of some possible answers. In fact, I found myself answering the question “what do THEY want here?” more than “what IS here?” when considering my answers to many a question. I was writing a meta-exam, or something! I finished a good number of the sections with time to spare. Should any readers be taking the SATs in future, and find themselves doing the same, I offer the following advice: Use the 4-2-4 breathing meditation technique. Being rather untrained, I really can't seek nirvana, nor anything remotely along that path. What I can do is at least breathe calmly, and keep my mind clear. Anyhow, my swordhandling instructor taught it to my class thus: Breathe in for a count of 4 (4 seconds works nicely). Hold for 2. Breathe out another 4. Repeat. Usually, concentrating on keeping the rhythm is enough to keep my mind from going too far astray, but it helps to try and clear your mind. Eyes closed when you are meditating, and I recall that your head should be bowed. Ideally, you should be in a proper position, but I had to make do sitting in a chair. Anyhow, I hope this helps...incidentally, the same breathing technique may have helped me get to sleep on occasion.

Back to the test itself, I am going to be worried for ages now. A friend of mine scored very well on SATs last year, and as much as I should only worry about doing well for myself, I know in my heart of hearts that I will feel hopelessly inadequate should none of my scores enter the realm of 'phenomenal'. My future may not rest on the scores I receive, but my pride will. I realize that this is a __________ position, but it is human nature to abandon the way of _____ in matters of 'honour'

A. terrible, generousity

B. hypocritical, medecine

C. foolhardy, reason

C. morose, spirituality

D. stupid, science

E. onion, rings

Speaking Of "Matters of Honour"...

Honour Killings. I *could* have another SAT joke, but all I can think of is a nice list of disparaging adjectives, with "All of the above" at the very bottom. Every so often, there will be another story about a nice girl, who has the *nerve* to have a (gasp!) platonic male friend, or maybe a boyfriend of a different race, or maybe one from a family which originates from across some forbidden line in the sand back home. For whatever reason, some nutjob father, brother, uncle, aunt, grandmother (I think it's happened) will either pay for or commit her murder. But you're read the stories, you know this. You know that the barbarism has to stop, and it has to stop NOW.

This is just another way in which multicultural society is often abused. The murder to which Saturday's Citizen editorial referred to was in Jordan, but there have been so-called "honour killings" in the West as well. In countries where these foul deeds are accepted, only massive cultural reform can help. But here, there can be progress. The message has to be sent that coming to Canada does not have to mean the loss of your cultural identity, but at the same time presents the end of your hatred. It's a fine line, but it can be drawn fairly, I believe. Art, music, stories, literature, cuisine, dance, language, clothing...these are all positive cultural elements that add to the richness of our country. Hate, vengeance, prejudice...however deep-seated they may be cannot be allowed to enter our country with immigrants. These can be separated from the components of the first list (albeit with great effort). This is not to say that immigrant populations are the only ones with work to do. One look at David Warren's unmasked avarice and it is clear that every single one of us could stand to leave our hateful baggage behind.

$3000 of Gyro-Stabilized...Foot Replacement?

Sadly, I do not own a Segway. What I do possess, however, is what some might call an uncanny ability to create the topic-shifting sort of Segway in today's post. Dear readers, look upon the cost of hateful baggage:

"I've come to realize that the past year may simply be a phase induced by stress and curiosity."

I will not tarry long on the source of this quote. The important knowledge for you is that this is the doing of HORRID parents. The recipient is a dear friend of mine (no, not the "friend" who gets viruses on "their" computer while surfing porn. This is, in fact, a friend of mine we are talking about here).

I can imagine how awful I would feel, had Star's parents (or my own) found our courtship dissatisfactory. Not so much now, given that it is 3 AM, but I know it's bad enough when we have our own problems, so parental intervention could only ever be worse. What would really drive the blade into the wound would be an obviously forced email, detailing how our "explorations" or "flirtations" were meaningless in any grand sense. Suppose, through repetition, and sheer force of volume, that such a message became ingrained belief (How terribly Orwellian). How could we ever face each other again, after being broken in the deepest and most humiliating way? Parents who perform, attempt, much less consider this kind of torture, after years of supporting a child are the worst of scum. If their love proved so ephemeral in a delicate time, they should never have pretended to love at all. They should have simply said "you receive sustenance at our pleasure" each night, before school, at sports games...never "I love you". The more I think about it, the more I am disgusted that parents could ever hate their children. I have never been the best child, but my parents have weathered the worst I have to dish out, and still their wind is in my sails...should the parents responsible for the bold quotes ever read this, I can say only this: my parents managed with a slacker/gifted/picky eater/ADHD kid, and a perfectionist with severe Allergies. What's your excuse for not being able to handle a simple confession of Love?

1 comment:

Xamed said...

Is it strange that I take perverse pleasure in that I am a 'dear' friend? You'd best take off the dear before I get airs... :P Actually, you'd best take off the friend before I get airs, really. Because although highschool is really not your thing, I think the big wide world out there is, and high SAT marks or not, I know you're going to make an impact. You'd better ... I need someone to brag about when I'm slouchy and middle-aged.

In other worlds, you are correct! I live in Old Ottawa South and our houses, while just a tad younger than some in the Glebe, are approaching their centennial. At least, mine is, and it's the oldest on the block. A year and a bit, and boom, I'm living in an antique, baby! That is so the sex.

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