Friday, January 30, 2009

"Buy American" rule has Canadians Hatin' on Obama

Buy AmericanReading the hundreds of comments about the "Buy American” rule on, it seems many Canadians are placing all blame on Barack Obama - and on those whose political values lean more to the left.

A few commentators even felt the need to say things along the lines of: Haha! I told you! Barack Obama is just like Bush! All you lefties got fooled!

I have 3 responses to those comments:

1) It’s been less than two weeks since the man was elected; Bush had eight years.

2) There’s no need to label all lefties as suckers for believing in and wanting change after the last eight years. Can you really blame them?

3) Even if the US protectionism bill goes through, it’s less likely Canada will be significantly affected since

  • we share a pretty big border with the US
  • we supply most of their petroleum oil and natural gas – among other things
  • as Industry Minister Tony Clement stated, the US would be in violation of its treaty obligations
  • people and businesses in the US would be in more trouble than they already are

I can’t lie though. It is worrying that such a bill might get passed, and that the Canadian government might have to bully our way out of that jam with a "Buy Canadian" bill. Not that buying Canadian is a bad idea; it just seems like it would only be done out of spite.

The upside to this fiasco is that Obama hasn’t signed anything yet. But until and if he does, he’ll be hearing a lot of complaints from more than just his right-wing critics.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Danger: Buy This or Else!

Axe advertisement
Geez, advertisements must have low self-esteem. Yeah, ads aren’t people, but think about it: They pump themselves up by making us – the viewers/readers/listeners/consumers – feel bad about ourselves, constantly reiterating the plain and simple truth that we suck.

We’re ugly, fat, our homes aren’t clean enough, we aren’t eating enough McDonald’s, we’re not spending enough time with our family, our boobs aren’t big enough, we don’t have the newest…whatever.

Low self-esteem is the advertising business. How else are we going to buy things we don’t need unless that “need” is created?

OMG! Not blackheads! No, I can’t live another second with that regular face wash! I need the fancy one made with Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Titanium Dioxide, Trideceth-9, PEG-5 Ethylhexanoate, Xanthan Gum, and a whole lot of other ingredients I’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce. You know, the one Jennifer Love Hewitt uses so I can be hot like her!

Speaking of hot people and skin cleanliness, I recently saw a commercial for a product called Acne Pro (which is pretty much the same as Pro-Active but for half the price and sans celebrity endorsements).

It opened up with two 20-ish women looking at a picture of a young guy with acne. They basically just call him “gross,” and say they would never date someone who looked like that.

An equally mean commercial for Axe hair care products demonstrates similar bullying tactics. In the commercial, a bunch of modelesque guys put on semi-ridiculous wigs and try to pick up girls, all of whom refuse.

The commercial ends with: “If guys like this can’t get girls because of their hair, what chance do you have?” Watch it if you haven’t seen it yet.

The sad thing is, even if these were the meanest commercials out there, commercials that are obviously just trying to make people feel bad about themselves so the multi-million dollar companies can sell their “miracle” product, people are superficial.

As much as I despise these commercials, it’s clear – at least to me – that we have become the advertisers, putting down others so we can sell ourselves that much better. Is this the long-term effect of advertising, or are we just naturally vain?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coffee + TV = Ghosts, Scientists say

ghost I recently came across two articles that caught my attention. Why, you may ask? Both mentioned the words “scientists” and “ghosts” in the same headline. But, before you get too excited, they didn’t say, “Scientists Prove Ghosts Exist.”

One article from Cold Spot: Paranormal Research and Investigation Unit, and the other from UK’s Glasgow Daily Record, suggest that when people see ghosts they aren’t actually seeing anything – although for two different reasons.

The Glasgow Daily Record reported that coffee drinkers (ie. those who drink more than SEVEN cups of instant coffee a day) are more likely to hallucinate and hear non-existent voices.

On the other hand, the Cold Spot article disclosed a study conducted by University College London, which suggests that when people see ghosts they’re simply “filling in the blanks” with their imagination.

I don’t doubt that either explanation is possible, but I don’t know anyone who drinks seven cups of coffee a day. And it just doesn’t seem logical that more than one person could experience the same phenomena at different times if they were using their own imagination. Plus, as I mentioned in my last post, there’s more to any experience than just what is seen.

If ghosts are a figment of the imagination, or the result of caffeine overdose, how have ghost stories and the belief in their existence lasted for centuries even without concrete, scientific proof? Even before coffee and scary movies existed?

The only answer I can think of is that ghosts do exist. After all, there’s no proof that they don’t.

(Image: Sci Fi UK)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ghost Hunter's Tool Kit

For most people, seeing is believing. But if you ask me, it’s hard to be “rational” about odd banging coming from empty rooms, scratching sounds on the bedroom window, inexplicably moved furniture, or that feeling of someone standing behind you even when there’s no one else in sight.

To be honest, I’ve never actually seen a ghost. I’ve been to so-called truly haunted places – Centre Island’s lighthouse, Fort Erie’s fort, Fort Erie’s Doll Museum – and nothing, nada, zilch.

By “nothing, nada, zilch,” what I really mean is I didn't see anything. I do remember feeling really creeped out, but in all fairness, it could have just been the dolls. (C’mon, you have to admit dolls are scary!)

The point is, if you’re planning to do your own ghost-hunt, there are a few things you can bring besides your eyeballs:

1) A flashlight – Assuming you go at night, you’ll want to see where you’re going

2) A compass – Often when a compass is acting wonky, it means there are certain electromagnetic impulses interfering with it; these impulses are sometimes attributed to ghostly activity.

3) A camera – Images of floating orbs and even silhouettes can be captured by a camera even though you may not see them with your own eyes. Plus, it’s nice to have some form of proof if you actually do see something a little odd.

4) Extra batteries – According to pretty much every ghost-hunting show out there, ghosts gain energy from electricity. Don’t be surprised if your batteries die faster than usual.

5) A friend – Possibly the most important tool, they’ll help keep you calm and provide another witness should something happen…

Unfortunately, it’s always possible that the ghost footage you see on paranormal investigation shows and the internet is fake. This video is one of the better ones I’ve found. Fake or not, it sure gave me a scare.

(Best to watch at night.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

10 Places to Scare Yourself

graveyardHave I ever been to a cemetery at night? Once.
Would I ever go alone? Hmm...probably not.

Whether you’re a skeptic or a firm believer in the spirit world, a clichéd cemetery is just one place where you can test its existence – and your own bravery.

From the hours of Creepy Canada, Rescue Mediums, Most Haunted, and all those other ghost-hunting shows I’ve watched (with the lights on of course), I’ve come up with a top 10 list of potentially haunted places - or at least where creepy stuff tends to happen.

10. Cemeteries (duh)
9. Ships/Docks
8. Hotels
7. Castles/Forts
6. Churches
5. Schools
4. Country Roads
3. Jails/Prisons
2. The Woods
1. Houses

Visit The Shadowlands if you want to search the most haunted places in Canada. But keep in mind, it may involve a lot of scrolling down to find the city you're looking for.

Investigate if you dare...


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just to be Fair: Rathergate

Abu Ghraib liberty cartoon
Since I’ve been giving FOX so much flak for its right-wing biases, racial stereotyping, fear-mongering, cluelessness about the definition of “fair” and “balanced,” and its unwavering support for the Bush Administration (to name a few), it’s only fair to mention that FOX isn’t the only network guilty of spinning the news – and in some cases, ignoring it completely.

While researching editorial cartoons for a school project – My topic was conspiracies. Go figure – I came upon something especially disturbing regarding CBS.

In 2007 CBS made headlines of its own after the network released long-time Evening News anchor Dan Rather, which prompted him to fire back with a $70 million lawsuit.

But he didn’t stop there.

For one, Rather accused CBS of purposely sitting on the Abu Ghraib story, the evidence for which had been discovered months before the images were released in April 2004.

As an even larger blow, Rather claims this - as well as many other skewed reporting - was done simply to placate the Bush Administration.

And it was only when a journalist at the New Yorker was about to scoop the story that CBS reacted and reluctantly unveiled the horrible truth about the US Military’s actions at Abu Ghraib.

Above is a cartoon ( based off an actual photograph of the kind of torture being administered at Abu Ghraib. A prisoner was connected to a series of wires and told to stand on a box; he was told that if he fell off he would be electrocuted. As you can see from this image, the victim is Liberty.

Read Bill Van Auken's article if you want to know more details of Rather’s accusations.

(Trial still pending.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nas-ty Message to FOX

“Subtle” doesn’t quite describe rapper Nas’s support for Barack Obama, or his views on FOX News’ treatment of the President (not to mention African Americans in general).

After FOX News’ referred to the First Lady as “Obama’s baby mama,” and made other hideous remarks about the couple, rapper Nas said what everyone with an ounce of sense is already thinking:

“Fox poisons the country with racist propaganda and tries to call it news.” (USA Today.)

While FOX normally labels him as another violent gangster rapper, it inspired the lyrics and video for his song, “Sly Fox.”

Here’s just a sample of what it’s all about:

They say I'm all about murder-murder and kill-kill
But what about Grindhouse and Kill Bill?
What about Cheney and Halliburton?
The backdoor deals
On oil fields
How's Nas the most violent person?
…Only Fox that I love is the red one
Only black man that Fox loves is in jail or a dead one

Make sure you watch/listen until the end, when the music fades and you’re left with a FOX News clip. The interviewee’s words are the last ones you hear, but they resonate even after the video’s over:

“He’s not the worst rapper around, but some of his lyrics are very violent and they really do have a point here.”


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Harper: Following the President's Lead (again)

Stephen HarperAs a Canadian I felt a little a guilty paying so much attention to the American election, but out of those debates came one policy that’s especially relevant to Canadians – well, it’s certainly made an impression on Stephen Harper.

Harper plans to join forces, so to speak, on the new President’s plans for energy and the environment, specifically, a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions.

He’s hoping that through this shared system, and Barack Obama's promise to decrease dependency on oil from the Middle East, the cost and pollution of Canadian oil extraction won’t face harsh consequences. As a foreign-policy initiative, this isn’t a bad idea. But I can’t shake the feeling that Harper is just following the footsteps of another US President, and the reason for it couldn't have less to do with the environment.

This proposal, if accepted and followed through, will do more for the US than Canada since Americans already consume more Canadian oil than Canadians do themselves. What does this mean for the environment? A continually depleting ozone above Canada especially, where emissions continue to flow from both sides of the border.

And with the Alberta oil sands attracting more and more foreign inventors, I have to wonder if Canadians will reap the rewards, or if we’ll get stuck scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Obama to the Rescue!

Super ObamaWoohoo, it’s official! Barack Obama is the new President of the US of A.

This was the first time I watched any presidential inauguration, and the first time I ever made a point to. But since I had no other comparison for “how things went” on inauguration days in the past, I decided to look them up on YouTube.

Oddly enough (insert sarcasm here) the first videos that popped up were protests against the previous President’s victory. Beneath them were comments from Bush supporters, who all seemed to share the view that the protesters were, basically, scumbags. One user even thought it was “ironic” that people would protest someone who’s responsible for upholding their right to protest.

Okay, if you can’t demonstrate your beliefs through protest, why would someone think they have the right to express theirs through any other means? (Like on YouTube, for example.)

But it’s not really that shocking, is it? That a self-professed Bush-fan would argue against the right to protest – or in other words, that whole First Amendment/Freedom of Speech-thing that serves as the foundation for a healthy democracy.

While “Democracy” has yet to be completely realized in the United States or elsewhere, seeing Obama’s inauguration I’m glad many of our southern neighbours had someone to vote for, rather than against; someone whose message they can actually care about and believe in; someone who’s “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as one of The Greats put it.

I guess only time will tell if he is.


Monday, January 19, 2009

That’s FOXed Up

As the famous X-Files tagline states: “The truth is out there.” There’s just one question: How do we go about finding it? The obvious answer should be through research and investigation. But when the sources of information – who have the tools, means, and responsibility to research and investigate – fail to disclose the truth, what then?

(Note: Don’t be surprised when X-Files references occasionally pop up. It’s bound to happen from time to time.)

Before I take a crack at answering that, maybe I should clarify. We’re not (usually) outright lied to by the mainstream news media, but given a selected version of the truth. But as the documentary OUTFOXED shows, sometimes lying is part of the gig.

The stories we’re told are not only fictitious at times, but suggest that “objectivity” – in other words, what journalism is supposed to be – is also a lie. When journalists can’t do their job, what does that mean for democracy?

I don’t care if FOX is a conservative, Republican, Bush-idolizing news source, but if they’re going to be that obvious, they should just admit it. Maybe journalism had it right when partisan presses were the norm. At least then you knew when you were getting the facts and when you were getting commentary.

When Bill O’Reilly – shudder – tells his left-wing, anti-war, anti-Bush guests to “shut up,” how can FOX news morally, legally, logically, consider itself “fair and balanced”? What’s even more amazing is that anyone watching the show can think it is.

However, to be fair and balanced, the same can be said about the more recent coverage of Barack Obama and John McCain. I can’t think of one news channel – besides FOX, of course – that regularly cast Obama in a negative light. On the other hand, McCain tended to be the subject of ridicule, if not for his relationship with Bush, then for his incessant references to Joe the Plumber, and major attitude shift throughout the campaign - oh, I almost forgot, Sarah Palin too.

I’m not saying those criticisms weren’t founded – especially regarding Joe – but it was clear that neither candidate received equal coverage.

To get the opposing view, and to see a neat bar graph comparing Obama and McCain coverage, visit
Donald Douglas’s blog. (Notice that he subscribes to the FOX newswire.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Vatican Wants believe in aliens

Catholic alien
According to the Vatican’s chief astronomer – yeah, apparently they have astronomers – you can believe in God and the existence of aliens, and still go to Heaven.

An interview published in the Vatican newspaper – they have a newspaper too? – not only said that it’s possible that aliens could exist, but even suggested that not believing in aliens would question your faith in God. Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes claimed that doubting the existence of other intelligent life-forms would “place limits” on God’s creative powers.

Wow! How long did it take ‘em to think of that one? With yet another if-you-don’t-believe-this-you’re-not-going-to-Heaven argument, they’ve done it! They’ve appeased all the UFO “nuts”/alien believers/Roswell conspiracy theorists and welcomed them with open long as they understand that ET’s aren’t superior beings. Well, at least not to God.

When asked what alien life would mean for human redemption Funes said, “God was made man in Jesus to save us. In this way, if other intelligent beings existed, it is not said that they would have need of redemption. They could remain in full friendship with their Creator."

So, aliens aren’t superior to God, but they are superior to us. We’re the lost sheep, according to Funes.

Now, what this article is really saying is that we need the church to guide us and keep us in His good books, aliens or no aliens, as it has always been. But the worst part of the article? The cheesy title: “The Extraterrestrial is my Brother.”

But hey, who am I to judge? Catholicism’s just trying to keep up with the times – especially since now it also has Scientology to compete with.

Click here to read the
full interview.

Okay, so it’s not exactly “breaking” news, but it was news to me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ode to The X-Files (kind of)

Dear Mr. Carter,

I first discovered your show this past summer, and I must say, bravo! I loved coming home from work, kicking up my feet, and being immersed into the realm of all things paranormal. I just wanted to say thank you.

You told awesome stories. Stories filled with aliens, ghosts, and Fox (or should it be Foxy?) Mulder. Stories based on other stories that never seem to die – despite never being proven.

You showed me a world I could enjoy because its events were too bizarre, so far-off from my everyday experiences, and thus, clearly fictitious. There was nothing to fear because you made it all up. You just imagined those things; they would never happen in real life...right?


As far-fetched and twisted as your ideas were, they suggested possibility. Not only was it possible that aliens, ghosts, and even crap-eating sewer monsters could exist (okay, that last one’s a bit of a stretch...and gross), but that matters of “National Security” could be a matter of social concern, that the government might be keeping – GASP! – secrets from the public, or that news stories operating as fact are only a small selection of the facts, bent and manipulated to keep the secrets safe.

Thank you again, Chris Carter. Now ghosts don’t seem that scary.