Archive for March, 2008

On Self-Pity

March 28, 2008

Okay, so the mild flu I mentioned in my last post was actually just the early stages of an unpleasant week of ravenous appetite inducing illness.  Now, I might more accurately say I’m recovering.  The fever seems to be gone – although I thought that a couple days ago, and it returned – and I can breathe easier.  I hope so.  I want to put this week behind me.

To make matters worse, the Canucks added to my suffering by playing some of their worst hockey just when they should be playing their best.  Two days in a row they sat and watched the other team play hockey in the final two periods.  How are they going to make the playoffs like that, let alone win their division?  It occurred to me after the second game that they appeared to be playing the way I felt.  Could they have been sick, too?  Had the flu infected them and worn them out?  It sure seemed like it.

Apparently, I looked so bad that one of my on-line students took pity on me and suggested that we cancel the lesson so I could get some rest.  Pity is not something that sits well with me.  It’s even worse when the source of the pity is myself, but that’s what illness does to you.  You want it to end.  You want to return to your normal, healthy, focused self, able to deal and cope.  So, you start to feel sorry for yourself.  “Poor me” syndrome creeps in.  “Why me?” thinking seeps in.  Before you know it, you catch yourself whining.  If it was someone else, you’d be annoyed by them.

I hate self-pity.  I don’t know how to deal with it.  Me?  Helpless?  I, who have endured so much?  I, who have overcome?  I, who takes a perverse kind of pride in the fact that he’s been fired from more jobs than many people have had?  How can I be this foul smelling, mouth breathing, wheezing, aching, limp mass of snot?

You might deduce from the previous paragraph that, even in good health, all is not perfect.  True, but at least you can try.  That’s what we do.  We get up and continue the struggle.  Self-pity takes that away from you.  It takes the fight out of you.  It makes you give up.

What do you do then?

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A Certain Ennui

March 24, 2008

I haven’t written much lately.  In fact, aside from yesterday’s brief observation of global conquest, it’s been a week.  I’ve been feeling a kind of malaise, a lack of motivation to write posts even though I’ve commented on a few other people’s.  I just haven’t felt like writing.

I couldn’t even be bothered to finish any of the partially written posts I have saved just for such occasions.  Yes, I’m familiar with the concepts of forward planning, putting some away for a rainy day, and having a ‘Plan B’ in your pocket.  Imagine you’ve been putting money in the bank just in case you ever need it one day.  Then, when that day comes, you can’t be bothered to go to the bank to get it.  That’s how I’ve been feeling about blogging this past week.

There could be other explanations.  As my blogroll grows, I find myself reading other people’s work more, leaving less time to write.  I’ve also been trying to teach more online.  Since the students are in Korea, the classes are late at night and in the early morning hours.  That means I’ve been sleeping well into the day.  When I can fill the whole night, and I’m told it will get busy in April, it’ll pay off.  Right now, I’m just tired.  Then there’s the fact that my mind drifts to what I’d like to do.  Torn between what I want to do and what I have to do, I don’t put enough time or energy into either.

But, I’ve also been procrastinating.  I sometimes wonder if the time of year has something to do with it.  As far as I can remember, March has always been a slow month for me.  Even in my senior executive level negotiation days with an international publisher, I don’t think I ever closed a deal in March.  Budget and fiscal issues may have played into it because April was usually good, but I still feel below par in March.

I started to feel this way about the middle of the month.  Now, I even have a mild cold or flu to recover from.  Beware the ides of March, indeed.  Maybe its the darkness before the dawn – the final days of winter just before spring, the time of renewal or return to life.  Most cultures celebrate this time of year for that purpose.  Easter was actually hijacked from an earlier pagan celebration, Eastre, as many religious holidays are.  Of course, some will say that is not true – Easter is a unique celebration of the rejuvenation of a corpse and its ascent to heaven.  If this be true, I be Caesar.

As I look around my one bedroom East Van apartment it’s apparent that, not only am I not Caesar, it’s also in need of a spring cleanout and renewal.  Whatever.  I’m just waiting for April to roll around.

Reading in Tongues

March 23, 2008

Cool – someone’s reading me in Chinese.  At least, I think it’s Chinese.  I apologise if it’s another language.  This link – from Taiwan, I believe – has led to me two days in a row:

http://tw.search.yahoo.com/language/translatedPage?tt=url&text=http%3a//paulmct.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/never-pay-the-dealer-up-front/&lp=en_zt&.intl=tw&fr=notfound_dic

What a cross-cultural, global touchstone I’ve become.  😉  How many languages have YOU been translated into?

Funny – I’ve been thinking about Taiwan, recently.

Doing the Right Thing and Hating It

March 17, 2008

As St. Patrick’s day arrives, I’m reminded of one year ago today when I was in a Main Street bar not too far from here.  I’d been stopping in for a month or two to watch the Canucks games and have a few beers.  There was a beautiful server who had caught my eye.

I found myself looking in her direction.  I’m sure she noticed.  We talked a little every time I saw her.  I complimented her every time, telling her she looked beautiful.  She didn’t seem to mind, despite having a boyfriend.  In fact, I think she liked it.  She even thanked me for the encouragement when I made what I thought was a pretty ordinary comment about her career ambitions.

Another great thing about her – as I watched her talking to a co-worker at the end of the bar, I saw her doing the same crank up the middle finger thing that I’ve been known to do.  Others have done it, of course, but I was the first.  I stole it from Tom Waits in ‘Rumble Fish’ before them.  Obviously, we thought alike.

On that St. Patrick’s day she looked extra good.  She wore a green patterned halter style top, her loose blond curls tied up with a stick or pencil through them.  Every time she turned her back to me to enter her orders on the computer terminal, I admired her delicate back.  There were two exquisite dimples near her shoulder blades.  I couldn’t help looking.  They were too beautiful and fascinating.

On my way to the washroom, I stopped at the terminal and told her she had these exquisite dimples in her back.  Worried that this latest in a growing line of compliments may have been too much, I said, “Sorry, am I embarrassing you?”  “No, you’re OK”, she replied.  She clearly appreciated being appreciated.

I don’t know if she didn’t hear them enough, or even at all, but one night she responded to my compliment by saying something like, “I’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful.”  Shocked at her modesty, I asked “Why not?”  She replied, “I don’t know, I just don’t.”

Some time after the Canucks’ playoffs came to an end, I was in the bar again and had one or two more than usual.  As I was leaving, I came across her sitting outside, her shift over.  We spoke a little, as usual.  In my case I spoke a little too much.  When she got up to go back inside, we hugged and I said something I shouldn’t have.  Then I kissed her on the cheek.  Again, if she minded, she didn’t show it.  She may even have subtly pulled herself closer.  It doesn’t matter.  Compliments are one thing, but I crossed the line.  You don’t mess with another man’s woman.  “I’ll see you real soon”, she said, and went inside.

If something is alright for you to do, it’s alright for everyone to do.  Otherwise, you place yourself above everyone else.  If we all just took what we wanted, we could also have anything taken from us and we’d have no right to complain.  That’s no way to live.

I did the right thing and stayed away.  There has been no reward, in kind or otherwise.  No positive ‘karma’ has come my way, and don’t even think about telling me my reward will be in ‘heaven’.  If any good came of it, it was an infinitesimal increment in collective co-operation.  One more person tried to do the right thing.

Maybe she was interested, too.  Maybe if I’d persisted she could have been mine.  Maybe she was unhappy, or not happy enough, with her boyfriend.  Maybe she continued living with him for security or financial reasons, even though she hoped for something better.  Maybe she was afraid to live alone.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  I did the right thing, and hate it, but the right thing has to be done.

Sometimes I wish I was more selfish.

Family Reunion

March 16, 2008

I arrived at my aunt’s house in Glasgow for a family reunion, of sorts.  The whole family wasn’t there, but it was crowded enough.  My brother had found me in London and told me about it.  I’d been working on a movie, which was exhausting, so I figured I could use a getaway and some relaxation.  I must have been exhausted, because I’d forgotten that the words ‘family’ and ‘relaxation’ were incongruous.

Besides my brother, there was my sister and her husband, their daughter, a couple of cousins and their spouses, their mother, and my older cousin’s daughter.  Those were just the ones visiting from Canada.  We were all staying in my aunt and uncle’s house.  Then there was all of their children and grandchildren who were there most of the time, as well as other occasional visitors that weekend.  I’d have left the keys with someone and told them to call me when they’re clearing out.

Despite the chaos, it was nice to see my siblings and cousins after many years.  We talked and filled in some of the gap.  At some point on the first day, we Canadians were on our own and somebody told me that one of my Scottish cousins’ son, whom I had met for the first time a little earlier, was basically a sociopath.  His mother took a liking to me that weekend, and it was mutual.  I would have found it difficult to not like her.  Although she appeared to suffer from low self-esteem and, possibly, occasional depression, she had a lovable quality about her.  Maybe a need to be loved, too.

I thought back to the last time I had been in that house.  I recalled a late night conversation with my aunt years earlier.  She talked about her pregnant teenage daughter.  There are some words spoken that you just never forget.  They leave a mark.  They affect you.  They inform you about the world around you and become integral to who you are.  She said, “She made a mistake and now she has to pay for it.”  I grew at that moment.  If that’s the way that kid is going to be raised, I thought, what chance does he have?  If he’s going to be treated or made to feel like a punishment from god, what hope is there for him?

Now, I remembered why I hadn’t been back up to Glasgow since then.  I also remembered why I hadn’t been back to Canada to see my family.  This Catholic christian attitude that seemed to come with the territory was annoying, off-putting, and even offensive.  This kid, who was raised in an environment that considered him something dirty, was now being described as a sociopath and the description did seem to fit.

If he didn’t seem to care about other people, I was told there was one exception.  Before returning to London, I had another one on one talk with my aunt.  This time, she talked about her grandson, the sociopath.  She said that only she could get to him or tell him what to do.  She is the only one he’ll listen to.  Only she could teach him right from wrong.  The same person who created the idea that he was a punishment from god was now his only salvation.

My aunt can be a nice lady, but she is a personification and microcosm of her faith.  By being that, she seems to have undermined her own daughter’s self-worth and manipulated her grandson.  It’s no wonder my very likeable cousin seemed to need love.

Go Ahead, Wreck Your Home

March 14, 2008

Do government agencies use subliminal advertising techniques?  For months now, the Lottery Corporation has been running commercials to promote their ‘play on-line’ service.  In other words, they’re promoting on-line gambling.

The commercials are ostensibly humorous.  One features a middle aged suburban man teeing up in his living room and driving a golf ball through the sliding glass patio door, shattering it.  Another has a woman rolling her bowling ball down a wood-floored corridor, which then crashes into the wall at the end and damages it.  Both end with the corporation’s web address and a voice-over telling you to “Play at home”.

The images in the ads seem to go beyond humour.  They appear to appeal to the habitual gamblers’ deep, dark desire to destroy their lives/homes.  It strikes me as unethical and very hypocritical, given that subliminal advertising is supposed to be illegal.  I guess the government will look the other way when they are benefiting from the revenue generated.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, subliminal advertising refers to using techniques or tactics in advertising that suggest something subconsciously.  There is always a grey area, of course, because much of an ad’s work is to create an image to appeal to a target market.  This is usually not achieved via directly spoken or written information.

A famous example of subliminal advertising is the image of popcorn or drinks on a single frame of film inserted into a movie in a theatre.  The audience doesn’t consciously notice it, but they suddenly feel the urge to buy some popcorn or a soft drink.  This would have been commonly done back in the days when there was an intermission.

These lottery ads remind me of the screaming faces airbrushed into ice cubes in liquor ads.  Those ads tapped into the fears and insecurities that the alcoholic feels.   Although the lottery ads don’t have hidden images, there does seem to be a subconscious message, appealing to an addict’s self-destructive tendencies.

This gives an indication of how much government depends on lottery revenues and begs the question, which is a higher priority for them – revenue or society?  Should government prey on its own people to generate revenue?

Just a thought.

Spiritual Methadone

March 9, 2008

About a week ago, there was a story on the local news that followed up on a story from months earlier about a drug addicted beggar who knocked down an old man he had asked for money.  The old man was giving him $5, a generous enough sum, but when the guy saw the old man’s wallet he grabbed it and knocked him over, injuring him.  The incident, captured on security cameras, happened in a church.  Let’s ignore the presence of security cameras in an institution built on faith, for the moment.

Today, the mugger is in a religious retreat.  He can’t explain his actions of that day but now he is a changed man, he says.  He has found god.  Hallelujah.

Neither he nor the pastor at the home he is in made any mention of real world counselling, therapy, or treatment.  He doesn’t appear to be addressing any real issues.  What he is doing is reading the bible.

No doubt the pastor thinks he has done good work.  He has converted a man who was ‘lost’ and brought him into the fold.  A good get.  Another soul saved.  And, because his soul has been saved, he is cured.  In fact, the man is just hiding behind god.

I’ve written before about AA and other twelve step programs requiring addicts to trade in their old addictions for addiction to god.  This is no real solution, but it does increase the numbers of the Lord’s army.

It seems a rather perverse outcome for a man who would attack an old man in a church to find shelter in a Christian retreat.  He didn’t seem to think there was anything special about the church before.  Why should he think it can save him, now?  It can’t, and it won’t make him any better.  Only he can take responsibility for his actions and decide what to do or not.  Pretending that it was all part of god’s plan isn’t taking responsibility or control.  And substituting one addiction for another doesn’t address the real underlying problems.

Vancouver’s Other Dirty Little Secret

March 7, 2008

I’ve been looking for another revenue stream to supplement my self employment.  There just isn’t enough coming in yet, so I need a daytime job.  I’ve been trying to focus on established companies and the ones whose websites and job ads state that they are one of the fifty best companies to work for in Canada or BC.  Money, benefits, work conditions.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of luck with these organizations.  I don’t know what they’re looking for, but it doesn’t seem to be me.  My resume usually provokes a phone call and an interview.  But when I send it to one of these companies, nothing.  This is despite the fact that I easily meet the criteria.  You’d think large, established companies, some with international operations, would most value something like international sales experience involving talking to senior executives of multinationals.  Nope.  I guess it’s not useful here because, for all its apparent world class reputation and its multicultural population, Vancouver is rather parochial.  It is a branch office market, not a head office location.  Talking to the CEO isn’t something that people relate to or need.

There are some employers who would value it, though.  They could use someone who isn’t afraid to talk to a high net worth individual and ask for the money.  They aren’t well known companies and they’re not on the list of the fifty best companies to work for in Canada, BC, or anywhere.  They are Vancouver’s other dirty little secret, along with the downtown east side.

When most people think of Vancouver, they think of a beautiful city by the ocean set against a backdrop of mountains.  As they say in the real estate world – location, location, location.  No wonder I can’t afford real estate.  I’m not likely to either, unless I can find a legitimate way to make some decent money.  I say legitimate because what most people don’t know is that beautiful Vancouver is a centre for fraud.

Many of the telesales jobs here are actually fraud related, one way or another.  They sell lottery tickets, vacations, medications, or investments.  They focus on high net worth individuals or pensioners, usually in the U.S.  That’s not unusual.  Telesales fraud is usually done across borders to get around the law, no matter where in the world it happens.

These operations aren’t too difficult to spot, once you get a look at them.  I went to an interview years ago and checked out a company.  The only piece of office equipment in the phone room, other than the very basic phones, was a paper shredder at one end of the room.  There were no computers.  The staff had printed lists of leads in front of them on their cheap, table style desks.  The whole thing had an air of impermanence.

Recently, I saw an ad that seemed too good to be true.  Sixteen dollars an hour plus commission.  There was no company name, but there was a number to call.  I did some high tech sleuthing and searched the number on the web.  A number of articles came up.  One headline link was about a stock worth $0.001.  When I clicked on it, I found the page no longer existed.  Hmmm…

Another headline took me to a company website.  The phone number matched.  Apparently, they have an incredible new technology that will drastically reduce carbon emissions from cars.  Well, it is incredible that no one has heard of it yet, considering the fact that greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are in the news daily.  You’d think the news networks would be tripping over each other to do a story on it.  The section that explains how it all works was a pretty slick presentation accompanied by techno music (coz it’s the technology, get it?) that made no sense to me.

The most striking thing about this company, though, was it’s name.  Their product was an environmental solution for automobiles, but the name had no indication of environmental or automotive industry affiliation.  It included the word ‘capital’, however.  They’re in the capital raising business.

Remember that headline about shares worth $0.001?  They’re stock pumpers, something Vancouver has gained a bad reputation for.  Sixteen bucks an hour plus commission is pretty good, by local standards, but I don’t want to participate in fraud to make a living.

Preying For God

March 5, 2008

If anyone doubts my claims that religions, particularly Christian missionaries, employ predatory recruitment and conversion practices, grab a sick bag and watch this news story.  In a case of perfect timing, I just watched the news and saw this story about what’s happening in post-tsunami Thailand.  It confirms what I wrote about yesterday and in the past.

http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/internationalus/christianity_comes_to_thailand_1.html

The scum of the earth claim the moral high ground while they prey on the needy and desperate.

It still doesn’t answer the question of what is being done with the huge sums of money donated to charities after the tsunami to help the victims recover and rebuild.  If they had been used for their intended purpose, these predators might not have much of an audience.

Not So Passive Aggression

March 4, 2008

Passive aggression can be a dangerous thing.  The good people of the church appear to be quiet and peaceful, on the surface.  In practice, however, they are aggressively expansionist.  They want to spread the word, spread the faith, and convert the heathen.  One of their favourite methods of doing so is under the guise of Christian charity or aid.

Conditional charity is not uncommon.  Asking recipients to pray or attend a service in return for food or other assistance happens, as I’ve mentioned before.  This can lead to international incidents with consequences.  A while back, a group of South Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.  One was executed, I believe.  Their government negotiated the release of the rest, eventually, no doubt after paying a hefty ransom.

There is a debate going on in South Korea about this incident.  What the western media didn’t seem interested in reporting is that these missionaries weren’t just helping people, they were trying to convert them and spread Christianity.  Should the government be responsible for them?  Should they bail them out and pay taxpayers’ money to save them from a situation they got themselves into?  Why should the country pay for their aggression and mistakes?

South Korea has the second highest proportion of missionaries in the world.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is a growth market for Christianity.  How did it become so popular in a traditionally Confucian or Buddhist country?  It’s growth has its origins in the aftermath of the Korean War.  I use the term ‘aftermath’ loosely because, technically, the war is not over – there is only a truce.  After the cessation of hostilities, the U.S. military stuck around to keep North Korea in check.  With American soldiers on the ground, Christianity was able to spread.  This should come as no surprise.  Religion has often followed armies around and spread with empires.  Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and expanded with it.  The pace accelerated after Constantine’s army, reputedly ordered to display the Christian logo on their shields, were victorious at Milvian Bridge and he took control of the empire.

Faith and the sword became partners again in the medieval age when Christendom responded to the spread of Islam with Crusades and Inquisitions.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I suspect this may also be when the death sentence for leaving Islam may have been introduced.  If you think you have problems today, consider yourself lucky that you weren’t a Moor given a choice between “Convert or die” and “Convert and die”.

Missionaries came to the New World, protected by European soldiers, to convert the indigenous populations.  The results were often disastrous.  From the New World the faith has spread to Asia.  So many souls to convert and save.  So many donations to collect.  The temptation is too great to ignore.

It’s not enough to keep the faith and live by the word.  They have to spread them.