Things, stuff, and other items of interest

March 25, 2010

Notes to my Nephew #003

Dear future Jack:

Hey there little buddy, I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and full of awesome. It was only a few weeks ago now that you came up for your first ever Winterlude visit. You and your entourage arrived in town for the last weekend of our annual winter festival. You handled yourself like a pro while we skated / walked / stumbled up and down the Rideau Canal. The ice was a little rough when you were here since at the time we were smack-dab in the middle of an unseasonably warm two weeks. Never the less, the canal was serviceable and the whole gang of us trekked along gobbling down Beaver Tails and taking in the sights.

Not a spectacular shot, but not bad for an iPhone + the Autostitch app.

Yes indeed, between your Mom speed skating up and down the entire stretch, and your Dad constantly trying to land the triple salchows I don't think the canal has seen such chaos since the last time your cousin Serhij came up for a visit and managed to get himself lost for over two hours. No small irony then that I myself lost you guys briefly when I got side tracked by the blonde beauty batting her eyelashes at me. Or so I thought. Here's where things get slightly interesting.

I was trying to catch up to the rest of you just moments after stopping to take the above photo when I spotted what was a rather awkward attempt to get my attention. As you may have guessed by now, this sort of thing happens to me all of the time. Beautiful women throwing caution and social decorum to the wind, brazenly screaming sweet nothings in my general direction, in the hopes that I may favour them with a momentary interest. What was peculiar about this particular instance was that it was happening in reality. I was completely awake and this blonde vixen was clearly focusing her magnificent attention on moi.

Naturally, being a gentlemen, I stopped to inquire if I could offer my assistance. Now it's important to keep in mind that at this point in our tale, that you and your adoring fans were only about a kilometer or so further along than I was. Your Old Man, being familiar with the "Curse of Adonis" that all men in our family suffer from, had doubled back to check on me, fearing that I had been carried off by a wandering band of wanton she-devils. After a brief search, he found me well in control of the situation, and so returned to you and your Ma with well practiced excuses of how I was merely stopping for a moment to help some poor lass who had fallen prey to our family curse.

It will no doubt shock you when I tell you that your father's perception was in fact not entirely 100% completely accurate. What he bore witness to was not me chatting up some doe-eye'd Rideau Canal skate bunny, but rather me being suckered into a sales pitch from a canvasser from the Red Cross. She and her cohorts had swooped down on the final weekend of Winterlude like an economically inspired venue of vultures.

Embarrassing tales of my ill-perceived Don Juan aspirations aside, I'll pause briefly in this missive to encourage any and all who may be reading this to visit the Canadian Red Cross website and give until it hurts. What with the recent events in Haiti & Chile, as well as their many other on going campaigns, the Red Cross certainly needs your generous support.

Now pal, you may be wondering why would I willfully and voluntarily share this mildly amusing if personally embarrassing anecdote with both you, and the public masses? The answer is simple little man. I'm trying to illustrate an example of where perceptions of a common event have lead to two completely different results. Both 'true' after a fashion, if slightly delusional on your father's part, and pride-obliteratingly awkward on my own. Down right deceptively efficient on the part of the Red Cross cutey however.

Simply put, my goal in this endeavour is to attempt to illustrate the old axiom of "The Three Truths". No, not that one, this one (paraphrasing):
There is my truth, there is your truth, and then there's actually what happened.
- Anonymous
Hardly an original quote, but it's one that I've always found both amusing and on occasion disturbingly accurate. Recently, here in Ottawa, there was a lady from another country who had been invited to come and speak her mind on the topics of free speech, political correctness and media bias. The lady agreed to give her speech, and accepted the invitation. This is where things went a little wonky.

The lady's name is Anne Coulter, and she has a knack for irritating the living shit out of some people. Other people however, think she's very smart and has a lot of interesting things to say. The point is, that she had been invited to the University of Ottawa, by one of their student groups to give a speech. The idea here was to give her a platform upon which she could give voice to her ideas. The audience, presumably would be intelligent enough to determine whether she was a luminary of the ages, or a zealot shovelling bullshit faster and higher than anyone else. This is not how things turned out however. A group of students who thought they knew better than everyone else decided to cause a fuss, and eventually made such a ruckus that it was decided by those in charge to close down the event for fear that they could not ensure everyone's safety.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Anne Coulter. I don't think very much of her ideas or the manner in which she delivers them, but she has the right to her own opinion and the right the share it. There's no small irony that this whole affair is centered around a discussion about free speech. Unsurprisingly, this whole thing has gotten a lot of people upset. I would wager however, that Ms. Coulter does not count herself among that number. A more magnificently efficient form of free marketing she could not dream of. What's more, her next destination on her speaking tour is in one of my favourite towns in this country, and they are likely to be a considerably more sympathetic audience.

In a classic oblivious foot-in-mouth fashion, one of the protesting students was quoted on CBC radio the following morning saying:

I believe in free speech, I just don't think [Anne Coulter] should be able to give her speech here.
- Anonymous student protester
March 23rd 2010
I'm staggered by that. The finest principles of "N.I.M.B.Y." as applied to the concept of free speech. Quite frankly little buddy, I had expected better. If the press coverage of this event is anything to judge, so did a lot of other people as well. The real kicker, is that while all of this is going on, there's a website that embodies the principles of free speech better than I could possibly explain and it is fighting for it's life. That may be both figuratively true, as well as literally if their sources are accurate.

So pal, I'll leave you with this. When in doubt, ask your self: "Cui bono?" Everything is open to scrutiny. Politics, politicians, religion, religious leaders, teachers, authors, luminaries and dullards alike. If someone feels that they are qualified to tell you what to think, then they should at the very least be qualified to defend their point of view. This applies to as much to me as it does anyone else. Develop and cherish your critical thinking skills. Use them often.
The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.

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