Maybe a bit hyperbolic (and inaccurate), but it does rhyme.
The other day, I was talking to some friends about the bizarre and mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Neil Hope, "Wheels" from everyone-of-my-generation's favourite "teen issue of the half-hour" show, Degrassi. From Degrassi, I learned all about teen pregnancy (difficult), doing acid at rock concerts (devastatingly awful), and changing into revealing clothes in the school bathroom every morning so your parents won't think you're a slut (ingenious). In this day and age (that phrase always makes me feel decisive and authoritative, whatever comes after it), when celebrity corpses are followed from death-bed to morgue by crowds of avid TMZ-ers, it's almost unbelievable that Hope's death went unnoticed and unreported for five years. He might not have been Whitney Houston, but most people my age would have recognized him, celebrated him, and said annoying things to him at bars.

So my friends and I were discussing the fact that he had died in a Hamilton rooming-house, and my talented actor friend mentioned that, while Hope might well have been battling various issues that led him to a rooming-house life, it was understandable that he was down on his luck, as Degrassi actors of his era received no residuals. I thought that sounded totally outrageous, and so the next day looked it up online so that I could gently correct him. Instead, I found (on a website that, despite the fact that it features a background made to look like a sheet of lined paper, I choose to trust) the following:

"Today's actors would not 'screwed over' [sic] financially like the original Degrassi cast, who receive no residuals on reruns at all. There is more information accessible to younger people out there, thus there may be less exploitation of younger actors. Syndication residuals (money made from reruns of the show) get distributed to the producers of the Degrassi TV series but not the actors."

Dan Woods (Mr. Raditch) backed up the creator of this distressingly informative Degrassi website when he explained in an interview: "Well, it wasn't a union shoot. But they actually paid better than scale. However, we were on a buyout so there are no residuals. But those are tough to get. The producers have to really want you on the series to get residuals." He also commented: "Well, it's still on a lot here! One hour every night on Showcase. My wife calls Thursday's Dan TV. CCR at 6:30, Then DJH at 7, then DH at 7:30. And I'm still broke!!!!!"

So maybe my other friend wasn't kidding when she said that half the Degrassi cast was working in some food-service capacity at the Bayview Village mall complex during the '90s.

I'm not claiming that the Degrassi producers were utterly evil child abusers, or that Wheels would not have ended up alone and broke even if he hadn't had a small-screen career that led only to jobs at Money Mart and United Furniture Warehouse. But it's certainly depressing to find out that these kids, who taught us all about alcoholism, and depression, and sex, and unfortunate adolescent rock bands, were rewarded only with the nostalgic attentions of 30-somethings and empty pockets. 

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

Everyone knows that critics of government involvement in things, or control of things, or of government (full stop) have an impressive weapon in their rhetorical arsenal: Hitler comparisons. There is never a dearth of Nazi talk in American politics - most recently, conservative commentators have been comparing Obama to Hitler because of his move to require that Catholic organizations provide birth control to their employees through their insurance plans. Jon Stewart has weighed in on this, making the apparently still radical and crucial point that the pundits who make this comparison tend to be irresponsible jackasses. 

Canadian politicians have finally twigged to the fact that all that might be needed to convince the public that something is wrong is to suggest it wouldn't be out of place in 1930s Germany. Conservative MP Larry Miller, during a debate on the long-gun registry, claimed (wrongly) that Sen. Sharon Carstairs said, "The registering of hunting rifles is the first step in the social reengineering of Canadians" and then  stated, "That is what Adolf Hitler tried to do in the 1930s."

Later realizing that not everyone thought a registry used by law enforcement to keep track of weapons was the first sign of Canada's descent into Naziism, he offered the following masterful apology: "While the references to the gun registry and what this evil guy did to perpetrate his crimes are very clear, it was inappropriate to use his name in the House."

So people suspicious of increased regulations and government oversight have always had a ready-made, go-to charge: "[insert name here] is behaving just like Hitler." But what of the rhetorically reckless types who want to use an overblown, groundless, and incendiary analogy to condemn the people who are suspicious of increased government regulations? To what baseless charge can they turn?

Enter Vic Toews, Canada's Public Safety Minister, with the answer. The Conservative government tabled the "lawful access" bill on Tuesday, and it is expected to pass. This legislation will make it easier for police to get certain information about internet users without first having to get a warrant. A number of dangerous, uninformed radicals (Ontario privacy watchdog Ann Cavoukian, Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart...what is this, a hippie convention?) have raised concerns about what the changes would mean for privacy rights. When liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia made some (admittedly misleading and exaggerated) claims about the new powers that would be available to police, Toews bravely took him to task by declaring, "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

Finally! Now both sides of a "how much government is too much government" argument will have access to inflammatory metaphors. Government trying to run you life, trying to clamp down on certain freedoms? They're a bunch of Nazis. Citizens trying to hold on to certain freedoms, daring to criticize the government? They're on the side of child molesters. 

I love a fair fight.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

I have always been a fan of movies about threats from space, or threats encountered while in space. You know, the ones in which a rag-tag bunch of smart-talking renegades (and at least one super-hot scientist) are obliged to destroy an asteroid hurtling toward earth, or a noble, square-jawed bunch of brave and selfless astronauts are obliged to pilot a malfunctioning shuttle to safety. That kind of thing. One of the most critical points about such films is that after many scenes of agitated, nice-looking scientists explaining things to strapping, bull-headed adventurers, and/or Ed Harris explaining things to square-jawed astronauts, the asteroid does not, in fact, collide with and annihilate the earth and the shuttle is heroically saved. 

I had realized that NASA's history was not bursting with vanquished asteroids, but I hadn't realized quite how questionable its history was. I knew about the findings made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the ones that indicated that NASA's reliance on communicating complex ideas through PowerPoint might have contributed to the crash

I didn't, though, probably because I was ten at the time and mostly preoccupied with the TARDIS, know all the details about the 1986 Challenger explosion. And somehow, probably because I am really good at being uninformed, I didn't find out that the whole thing had been totally avoidable until today, when I read Roger Boisjoly's obituary.

Roger Boisjoly was an engineer at solid rocket booster manufacturer Morton Thoikol who, in 1985, began trying to tell people that joints in Challenger's boosters might fail in cold weather. (In fact, there had been concerns about the joints since the late 1970s that had never been addressed.) Throughout much of the night before the launch, he and four other space shuttle engineers tried to tell anyone who would listen that the launch should be called off because there was a good chance the shuttle would explode. They called senior managers at their company; they pleaded with NASA. It was like one of those movies I like so much, with a rag-tag bunch of smart-talking renegades trying anything and everything to save lives. Except that they were treated like a rag-tag bunch of no-good renegades and completely ignored. Nobody listened. NASA said they hadn't made a really convincing case.

Boisjoly refused to watch the launch, so certain was he the shuttle would explode. And then it exploded, killing seven people. And then NASA tried to blacklist all the people who'd known what would happen and tried to stop it from happening. And Boisjoly, unsurprisingly, was haunted by all of it for the rest of his life.

The great thing about not always knowing about things when they actually happen is that you get the thrill of discovering sickening facts about long-ago cultural events that you can then try to share with people who've most likely known about and been sickened by them for years. 

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.


If you haven't read this post yet, please note that everything has now changed. If you have read it, please note that everything has now changed.

If you're like me, you approve of events like Race for the Cure (which is American and not the same thing as the Canadian "Run for the Cure") because it promotes an awareness of breast cancer and raises money to fight breast cancer, but wish it didn't also create such a showy spectacle of... togetherness... camaraderie... tolerance. All those people pulling together to fight a common enemy, drawing strength from one another, etc...etc... Nauseating. How can a sensible person combat evil while simultaneously excluding and disempowering people?

Thankfully, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, that charitable behemoth, has once again proved that it can rustle up both funds and controversy. A few years ago, it trademarked its pink ribbon and started telling other charities they couldn't use the phrase "for the cure" in any way, ever. They set lawyers on charities with initiatives like "Kites for the Cure" and "Cupcakes for a Cure" who dared either a) raise money for a non-breast-cancer cancer cause, or b) raise money to fight breast cancer for an organization not called the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It's also been partnered with companies that engage in "pinkwashing", a name for what happens when companies use pink packaging, announce that proceeds from their product will go to breast cancer research, and then never actually reveal how much money was involved or where, precisely, it will be going. And it's partnered with companies like KFC which (although we know they're simply a victim of "crispyfatwashing") have been associated with general unhealthiness.

But Komen recently decided it had set it sights too low - that it was, in fact, possible to be more ambitious and alienate more people. It emerged yesterday that Komen will no longer be giving any money to Planned Parenthood. This money - hundreds of thousands of dollars - was primarily devoted to the subsidizing of breast exams for low-income and at-risk women. Komen claims it put a stop to the grants because Planned Parenthood is currently being investigated by the U.S. Congress. Of course, that investigation was  instigated by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla) at the behest of pro-life groups, and most Democrats claim it's stupid and senseless. Oddly enough, a woman named Karen Handel was recently appointed senior VP of public policy at Komen, and she ran as a Republican for governor of Georgia two years ago (unsuccessfully) on an anti-abortion platform and is chums with Sarah Palin.

So bravo, Susan G. Komen for the Cure! You have made it possible to run for a cure, while also running away from people who as a result might not know in a timely fashion that they're in need of one.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.