Assisted Career Suicide

So Kathy Griffin posted a picture of herself holding up a bloody severed Trump head and I had one thought, and one thought only when I first saw it.

Meh.

I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t appalled. I work in gallows humour. You have to go a hundred times darker than that before I even notice things are getting a tad morbid. The real sin of the photo, to my mind, was that it wasn’t funny. All it seemed to say was, “I hate Trump. I wish him dead.” Well, no shit. You’ve long since made that clear. Posing for a picture that looks like a publicity still from a low-rent 1970s giallo horror film doesn’t add anything to that narrative. I might have hoped for something biting, satirical, viciously sardonic. Instead, Kathy Griffin throws out something half-assed, spur-of-the-moment, ill-conceived, and witless. That’s kind of her shtick, I know. I (used to) watch her do CNN’s trainwreck New Year’s show with Anderson Cooper every year, and wonder when she would cross a line that would get her fired. Pretending to blow Cooper on live television didn’t do it. Screaming vulgarities at Ryan Seacrest didn’t work. Swearing at hecklers over the air failed. It seemed to be an unshakable gig. She could do no wrong—or at least could do nothing wrong enough to get her ousted.

I turned the virtual page and moved on, with a vague parting notion, “Some people are really going to hate this.”

And then everything blew up. Twenty-four hours later, the CNN gig was gone, standup appearances were cancelled, endorsements were dropped. Plus the Secret Service, which is obliged to take any perceived threat to the president deadly serious, was looking into it. The family Trump, prone to announcing any fleeting notion or passing of wind, took to social media to express their displeasure. All to be expected, really. I mean, after all, what did she think was going to happen?

A video apology followed. Griffin made one of her infrequent appearances without a ton of makeup, probably judiciously trying to appear more vulnerable and sincere by doing it au naturel, without the usual war paint. It wasn’t an apology to Trump himself, but it was an apology to people who were offended. And it seemed pretty sincere. It seemed to work.

And then, like manna from heaven, Kathy Griffin was given the greatest gift a foot-in-mouth celebrity could ever hope for. Covfefe happened, and the whole world collectively decided they’d rather make jokes about that than futilely try to find the funny in Griffin’s gory photo shoot.

Give it the weekend, and it would have all blown over nicely. Sure, a lot of paying work would have dried up, but Kathy Griffin would have been in the clear. On the heels of the vitally important political covfefe event, something else would have inevitably happened in the world, and by this time next week no one would remember or care about bloody head props. Griffin could then safely slink back to the ranks of the D-list.

But, alas, no.

She made two colossal mistakes. First: Kathy Griffin employed the services of Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred and every bit the media-circus bottomfeeder her mother is. Second: she called a press conference to dredge it all up again. And not just any press conference. The single worst clusterfuck of a press conference I’ve ever witnessed. There were tears, there was laughter (forced and performed by mouthpiece Bloom), there was indignation, there were more insults for Trump and his family, and there were cries of victimhood.

You can try to sit through it if, like me, you’re a sucker for punishment.

At this point, the real villain here is no long Kathy Griffin, or Donald Trump, or the vulture media, or the skittish sponsors, or CNN, the worst media outlet in America today. It’s Lisa Bloom. Any lawyer worth a shit would have advised her client to lay low, take the hit, let the apology sink in, let the public move on, and let Trump get distracted by something new. I mean, hell, he’s the goddamn President of the United States. He may be petty and vindictive, but he’s got other stuff on his plate.

But that’s not what happened. Because Lisa Bloom is a terrible terrible hack lawyer who wanted to get her face front and centre and ride this celebrity shitstorm into the next stratosphere of her gruesome parasitical poisonous career. Rather than do her job properly, she let her client summon the media for an announcement and a Q&A. She may have even suggested it. And in the process, she let Kathy Griffin keep digging that grave for her career.

Give Griffin a lean year, and I thought she might have been able to bounce back from this unscathed. The story would have flared up briefly on New Year’s Eve as those few who still watch CNN asked, “Where’s Kathy?” There would be a reminder of what went down last spring, and then they’d cut away to a drunken Don Lemon talking about getting a Trump tattoo on his dick—again. Same old, same old. Before you knew it, she’d crop up in some supporting role on a sitcom, or a bit part in a movie. You’d hear she was doing standup in casinos and dive bars once more, and by the time Trump was running for re-election, she’d be back doing her ginger Joan Rivers act, and would even be getting away with a new round of jabs at The Donald’s expense.

But after this? It’s going to be a long hard road back. Michael Richards hard. And for what? She shot off her own foot and it did no damage to Trump. It gave him a boost.

Some people have come out trying to defend that decapitation photo as art. Provocative art, but art. And maybe is it. But it’s bad art. The difference between good art and bad art is that good art stays on message and accomplishes a goal. Bad art gets tossed off, lets the chips fall where they may, and has no clear message or intent. Like a grenade tossed into a room with the pin out. That’ll sure provoke a reaction, but mostly it will make a mess.

Try not to be standing in the blast radius when it goes off.

NB: If you’re a B, C, or D-list celebrity who has just committed career suicide, DO NOT call Gloria Allred or Lisa Bloom to help salvage something from the ruins of your life. Call someone who knows a thing or two about scandal damage control. Call me. I might even know what I’m talking about, and I work cheap.

The Usual Suspects

Last week, Montreal thespian Tristan D. Lalla got pulled off a city bus by the cops, surrounded by squad cars, placed in handcuffs, searched and questioned. All this in the middle of a busy street, in front of all sorts of strangers, to his great embarrassment. His crime? He matched a vague description of somebody who had just committed a crime. Our intrepid police force, always on the vanguard of criminology, decided their armed-robbery suspect might be fleeing the scene, one stop at a time, on a bus.

You can read the account of his fun commute here. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t the armed robber they were looking for.

It got me thinking: hey, I got detained by the cops once because I matched the description of a suspect they were looking for. No backup squad cars converged. I wasn’t handcuffed or searched. My questioning consisted of a few polite inquiries as to where I was heading, followed by a computer search of my I.D. to confirm there were no warrants or arrest records. After about twenty minutes of waiting, which I’m sure was mostly a test to see if I’d make a run for it, they decided I wasn’t the guy they were looking for and sent me on my way.

It was a very different experience, worlds apart. I wonder why. Well, here’s a hint: the last time I saw Tristan, he was on stage playing Othello.

That’s right, he got hassled because he’s an actor. You, see they’re considered a much greater potential threat than writers. It’s a good thing Tristan didn’t tell them he performed in some of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games or he would have gotten the taser.

We simply must stop this shameless profiling of actors by the police. I know they have a reputation for being coked-up sexual deviants who deliver bad dialogue in terrible movies, but they’re not all bad. I swear I’ve met some good ones from time to time, and they’re just like the rest of us. More or less. I wouldn’t want one marrying my daughter, but I’d be cool with them being friends. Maybe not best friends but, you know, friendly.

So please, Montreal cops, cops everywhere, stop this persecution of our acting underclass. The deck is already stacked against them and they have enough to contend with. If it’s not you and your petty prejudices, it’s film and theatre critics. Must they face your bullets as well as their barbs? Thank you.

ADDENDUM: This just in. Tristan was not cuffed and searched because he’s an actor. Huh. Well then why else…

Oh.

Oh dear.

Sigh.

Mike Stamm, director of Ashes to Ashes, has a Kickstarter project going for his short animated film, The Ottoman. I’ve been following this story for years and it looks like the crew just needs that final financial push to bring it home. Fans of Steampunk and mechs smashing each other to bits should take note and check out the production blog and the existing footage.

ottoman

Raw Halloween Treats

It’s the happiest time of year for morbid ghouls like me! Halloween is an autumn celebration of horror movies, chilly weather, dying leaves, and Christian fundamentalists getting their tits in a knot over the pagan roots of the holiday – which is totally different from proper holidays like Christmas and Easter that have absolutely no pagan roots whatsoever *cough cough* Soli Invictus *cough cough* rabbits and eggs *cough*.

I always like to add what I think of as proper Halloween content to the website around this time of year. Past entries include Hot Pennies, my short story based on my own totally true childhood memories, and Monster, the Frankenstein comic story I wrote for an anthology years ago.

On the Twitter front, I’m 40 characters into my series of 140 Horrible Characters, timed to coincide with this time of year. All the related tweets are collected on Eyestrain as they currently stand with more to come. For the hell of it, I also contributed a few ideas to the fad thread #ScaryStoriesIn5Words, which may be taking minimalist fiction a step too far.

As far as something new and substantial (as opposed to merely new and trite), I’ve decided to dump my novelette, Raw, here for you to look at and be disgusted by. Lengthier than what usually qualifies as a short story, this is a crime fiction yarn that takes a slow slide into horror and features material that my long-suffering proofreader (also known as my long-suffering wife) found too horrific to read. No, seriously. She has to live with me and gets the Shane-Simmons experience unfiltered, but she still had to skip some paragraphs before resuming her duties as copy editor.

So, um, yeah. Enjoy that. If you can. I guess.

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, here’s a completely arbitrary Halloween-safety film from 1977 called, creatively enough, Halloween Safety.

I didn’t get to see this as a kid (neither did many of the kids who actually appeared in it), but I was the right age to be the target demographic in 1977. I certainly remember that era of costume-and-candy paranoia designed to strip all the fun out of trick-or-treating. Of course we ignored that crap and went back to running around in the dark in black costumes, getting hit by cars, and dodging hot pennies and other kid-maiming traps.

That film was spectacularly dated the same year it was released. I guess that’s why, only eight years later, a sequel was produced called, extra-creatively enough, Halloween Safety (Second Edition). It was geared for a whole new generation of trick-or-treaters (no doubt because all the kids in the earlier film had been wiped out, Final Destination-style, by a series of tragic Halloween mishaps), and addressed pressing current issues such as produce-bashing hate crimes, Quaaludes in the candy (it was 1985 after all), and, apparently, animated vomiting ghosts.

But we’re past all that. These safety films seem like quaint reminders of a bygone era now. Today, obviously, we’re living in such a nanny state that kids are barely allowed out of the house without an armed escort, and are frequently banned from having any fun whatsoever by municipalities and school boards alike because fun is dangerous. And culturally insensitive, as evidenced by the big kids who go to McGill University and must keep their costumes politically correct and inoffensive enough to be allowed into the party. Damn! And I was planning to strip my shirt off and go in full-body blackface as a Mandingo fighter. McGill, you’re no fun anymore! I expect this uber-lefty bullshit from Concordia, but not you. You’re where the people with money go to learn how to make more. You should know better than those assholes on the hippie campus!

On that note, I’ll sign off by wishing you all a very dangerous Halloween, filled with unfortunate accidents, Emergency Room visits, tainted candy, and wildly offensive and inappropriate costumes. Please get yourself kicked out of at least one party. For me.

Breaking Brutal

Unsurprisingly, I’m now officially a terrorist. Oh sure, the NSA and various other American alphabet-soup agencies are quick to label everyone a terrorist for anything these days. Left the toilet seat up? Terrorist. Didn’t replace the bog roll after using the last strip? Terrorist. Didn’t wash your hands after going to the bathroom? Terrorist (this one I agree with).

But now it’s Scotland Yard that’s designated me a terrorist. Why? Because I watched the James Foley beheading video recently released by ISIS as a warning against American military intervention in Syria. According to The Yard, merely watching this video can be considered an arrestable act of terrorism. I wish they’d tipped me off in advance, because I only found out about this decree five minutes too late when doing further research on the incident. Oopsie.

So why, exactly, did I go have a look at this horrible, brutal execution that’s so readily available on the Internet? I mean, other than the fact that I’m a morbid, twisted, sick fuck (obviously). Well, it seems I don’t like major media outlets offering me the latest justification for war while refusing to show me the specifics because it might offend my delicate sensibilities. I also don’t like governments telling me to avert my eyes and take their word for it when they try to sell me on a new war on a new front. They always place the ugly specifics of executions and war crimes on a need-to-know basis. Well, as it turns out, I’m a taxpayer in a democracy. So I need to know. I also need to not be patronized, condescended to, or subjected to state propaganda. But they do a lot of that just the same.

As I’ve mentioned via social media in the past, I have a checkered past with the Four Word Film Review site. They turned down some of the very best material I wrote for them. But I still like the format. Four words can convey a lot about a film. Here’s my four-word film review of the James Foley decapitation video:

Overproduced. Anticlimactic money shot.

Am I making light of the murder of a journalist? Nope. I wish the western news media would pay more attention to real journalists, out in the field, in war zones, getting killed in the line of duty. But they’re too busy pointing the camera at themselves in nice safe studios. You know them, these pretenders who aren’t real journalists, but play ones on TV. Posers like Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and anyone who’s ever appeared on Fox News in any capacity whatsoever.

Look around on the Internet and you can find some truly horrific stuff to watch. I’ve written about it in past blog posts, and have already offered the various Islamic extremist groups my critique on their methods when it comes to documenting their own war crimes. I’ve offered no criticism about how they actually execute their fight against The Great Satan because I don’t know shit about IEDs. But I know a lot about film, so once again I have to speak my mind and explain to them, as patiently as I can, why their latest snuff film left me cold.

Okay, jihadists, listen up. I appreciate that you took some of my last round of notes on your decapitation videos seriously. I see a real effort to improve here. You got yourself a better camera. You bought a tripod. The video quality is very nice. So is the lighting (although, let’s face it, it’s the desert, so natural light is kinda plentiful). The audio is crisp, clear. Even the subtitles are well done and spelled correctly (Hong Kong film studios, take note!) But, sorry to say, you didn’t quite nail it this time. I know you thought you hit it out of the park, but this is only a second draft. And I have more notes.

First off, we’re not watching your snuff film to see a recap of Obama speeches. Admittedly, I find presidential speeches pretty scary. I see one, and I immediately flashback to the ‘80s when Ronald Reagan used to pre-empt The A-Team damn near every week with more bullshit. Troubling times. But most political speeches amount to little more than a talking head. We’re here to see heads roll, not talk.

And therein lies my most important note. The beheading. All this build-up and you tastefully cut away from the actual act. Tastefully cut away? For fucksake, you’re ISIS! You’re the guys al-Qaeda thinks are over the top! And you cut away from the deed like it’s a fade-out from a 1948 Hollywood love scene? Look, I would expect you to cut away from a love scene because sex and nudity and love aren’t exactly your cup of tea. But the execution of an infidel? You own that shit. It’s your thing.

I thought the point of this video was to warn America, to threaten all Americans everywhere, to strike fear into their hearts. Trust me on this one, if you’re going to shock America, you have to come up with something more gruesome than, say, any given episode of Game of Thrones. You know, like the one with the duel? And the teeth? And the squishy-squashy skull? That was AWESOME! This…this was not awesome.

Here’s your other problem: Because you didn’t show it, everybody in the conspiracy community thinks you faked it. They’ve gone through your video, bloodless frame by bloodless frame, and they’re calling bullshit. This is not your desired response, I’m sure. You want their reaction to be along the lines of one alternative news-media reporter who referred to the victim being “killed in the most brutal way imaginable.” Okay, clearly he either doesn’t have much imagination or he’s never read any history. He should look up scaphism some time (AKA The boats). Now that’s brutal. And another means of execution from your neck of the desert, I believe. See? You’ve excelled at brutality for thousands of years, so what’s with the no-budget found-footage mockumentary editing? I just don’t get it. Unless the conspiracy community is right and this is some false-flag op meant to escalate tension in the middle east and push for more conflict and military engagement, thereby diverting public attention from an impending global economic collapse.

Nah. I think you just fucked it up. I wouldn’t want to go believing the conspiracy theorists, because the fake reporters on CNN and Fox keep assuring me those people are CRAZY. And the mainstream media triple checks all of their facts and never lies about anything.

Also something in the news I just HAD to mention. Did you hear the one about the high-school student who got arrested for turning in a creative-writing class assignment with a fantastical reference to shooting a dinosaur with a gun? Obviously, everybody is required to lose their shit when any student mentions guns or shooting them. Because, well, think of the poor dinosaurs! That’s probably how they went extinct. I think I heard something about Noah shooting them and dumping them overboard when the last two dinosaurs made a light snack of the last two dodo birds. Something like that. I’ll have to double check my text book from that old Intelligent Design 101 class I sat in on.

If a teenager can get busted by the cops for writing something this innocuous as a school assignment, I’d hate to think what they would have done to me in grade three. I used to write some seriously hardboiled shit back when I was eight – gruesome detective fiction full of tawdry murders and crimes of passion. Then, for art class, I’d draw some mermaids with exposed breasts and my big black dog with an anatomically correct big red penis.

They’d probably sentence me to death by lethal injection – which, depending on which state is botching your execution, could be more brutal than most beheadings. Keep at it Oklahoma, and some day you might get your “humane” executions to last as long as the good old days of scaphism.

Because Their Lips Are Moving

My international readers may be perplexed. The Great Canuck Scandal continues to unfold on a daily basis, but I have steadfastly refused to stand up and try to explain it to them. And really, you do need a local guide to explain the phenomenon that is Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford. I’m a Montrealer, so like the rest of Canada and the rest of the world, I can watch this gruesome road accident with a sense of bemused detachment. Because really, this is all on Toronto, not Canada. And where it concerns the rest of Canada, the attitude, quite correctly, is “Fuck Toronto.”

Ultimately, this whole mess can be explained by simple math. Rob Ford happens when you create a mega-city that results in the sprawling suburban wilderness of banjo-pickin’ hosers having the majority of the vote. When that happens, it no longer matters what all those people in the densely packed city ridings want, it’s the sparse, remote ridings, legion in number, that get to decide the important stuff. Like who gets to be mayor. Democracy, they say, is two wolves and sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Witness democracy in action. And Rob Ford likes his mutton.

Alas, I was really trying to avoid comment on the whole Rob Ford affair. For comedic purposes, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel with a howitzer. I prefer a bit of a challenge. I don’t feel like I must go after the low-hanging fruit all the time. I’m a reasonably tall man. I can reach the mid-level fruit just fine.

Rob Ford has been nothing if not an embarrassing wealth of riches, and not just because he’s a spoiled rich kid who has politically managed to pass himself off as some sort of regular-joe common man. Every damn day, literally, there’s a new video or quote that surfaces that could scupper any normal political career. But you can’t squash this cockroach. Mostly because he’s too gigantic to squash – both in size and ego.

The honourable Major of Toronto, Robert Bruce Ford. He ain’t leavin’.

The honourable Major of Toronto, Robert Bruce Ford. He ain’t leavin’.

Weathering the crack smoking, the binge drinking, the drunken stupors, the gangsterism, the murder allegations, and the pussy-eating has been a noble task that deserves respect. I don’t mean Rob Ford, I’m talking about myself. I sat through all that and barely even cracked a joke on Facebook. This, my friends, is discipline.

But now the scandal machine has entered the theatre of television production and I feel a line has been crossed. I simply must comment on the recent cancellation of the Sun News Network show, Ford Nation, after only one episode that brought in the single highest ratings the SNN has ever seen in its existence.

The excuse for the abrupt death of what was to be a weekly commentary show was that it was too costly to produce. At five hours to shoot, eight hours to edit, it simply wasn’t feasible to move forward, so they dumped the Fords and the ratings bonanza they brought with them.

Lies, all lies. Big fat stupid lies.

So how do I know these television suits are lying?

Well, aside from the fact that they never stop lying, none of what they said makes any sense. A five-hour shoot and an eight-hour edit for a one-hour show that only airs once a week is NOTHING. Especially for a pilot. A new show is going to take a while to iron out. The machine needs time to get up to speed. Thirteen hours of shooting and cutting your debut episode is actually a brisk pace, and that length will only get shorter with experience. Claiming a talking-head format is too expensive after one episode is ludicrous. First of all, they already had a budget, so they knew what sort of money they were talking about. Maybe they had to pay a bit of overtime to the crew while the Fords got acquainted with how production works, but that would taper off in time. Most importantly, the show brought in the numbers they were expecting – or more. It was their highest rated show! EVER. You simply don’t walk away from that.

What can be read between-the-lines is transparently obvious. The Fords are a pair of globally embarrassing fuck-ups. Just because the eyes of the whole world are on their antics right now isn’t an excuse to give these guys yet another platform to say stupid shit. Sun News Network got hammered with criticism when they cut this deal earlier this month, and the backlash was waiting to strike with even more intensity after the premiere. The decision to cancel was probably made before a single foot of tape rolled. The fact that a first episode was shot and aired at all probably had more to do with contractual obligations than any actual desire to go through with this shameful train wreck.

So knowing the truth that lies just below an easily scratched surface, what have we learned? Well, the lesson I take away from this is that no matter how obscure the footnote or rare the circumstances, history repeats itself. Even television history.

Rob and Doug Ford opine about The Great White North. Does this look expensive to you?

Rob and Doug Ford opine about The Great White North. Does this look expensive to you?

The last time a top-rated show got cancelled because a network executive had a crisis of conscience and decided it was too stupid to air was Gilligan’s Island in 1967. That’s because, under any normal circumstances, THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is still running. These people have no shame. They will broadcast absolutely anything if they can get it past federal regulatory standards and enough morons tune in to watch.

But the SNN can’t cop to the truth and admit a mistake, even if that’s the best possible out and apologizing is the Canadian national sport (narrowly edging out hockey). So when the Fords got pulled, excuses had to be made. Sun simply saying they dropped the show because it was the right thing to do and it was a terrible mistake to ever give these two blithering assholes a forum would have been too honest.

And honesty is poison in the TV biz.

All the News That’s Fit to Blog

During the pre-relaunch atrophy downtime of the blog, a number of bits of relevant news cropped up. Stuff that actually has bearing on my writing and career, as opposed to the general interest stories I feel compelled to comment on (you’ll note I am bravely resisting the urge to jump on the comedy-gold bandwagon that is Rob Ford and his recent unrevealing revelation that he did indeed smoke crack, but only because he was in a drunken stupor).

Let me give these pieces of publishing news their due on the blog before even more time passes.

First up, we have the work of Dr. Hannah Miodrag, author of Comics and Language: Reimagining Critical Discourse on the Form. Recently she wrote the article “Narrative Breakdown in The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers” for the Comics Forum which offers more academic insight into my work than I’m prepared to offer myself. Just because I wrote and illustrated the thing doesn’t mean I’m qualified to understand it. I’m no doctor. I’m barely a B.A.

Then we have the appearance of more Longshot Comics material in L’art de la bande dessinée, which is a rather ginormous encyclopedia of comics that covers everybody who’s anybody. I guess I qualify as a somebody since I’m represented. Flip all the way to page 32 of nearly 600 pages and you’ll see a reprint of one of my Movies in Longshot strips. I know you’ll buy the book just for that.

And for good measure, I need to mention that the fine folks at Proglo Edizioni have released their Italian translation of Longshot Comics Book Two: The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers. I don’t know when this came out in Italy – the copyright notice is for 2011 – but I got my copies relatively recently. Once again, they offer more slavishly respectful handing of my material that makes me feel like some sort of legit artist who maybe doesn’t deserve to eat shit the way I’m required to in certain other writing endeavours that shall remain nameless (if easily guessable).

There you have it, a quick check list of what’s seen print lately, with no endless, fevered (literally – I was sick) blathering about ancient monetary history. And no mean-spirited levity at the expense of a sad, morbidly obese crackhead who should really be spending his money on a decent tailor rather than booze. Or crack.

Instead, allow me to close with this note of support for the embattled Toronto mayor:

Rob Ford, whatever his flaws, is a vital and essential figure in North American politics. We need him and we need him desperately. Who else, I ask you, can make Governor Chris Christie seem absolutely svelte?

The answer, my friends, is no one.

Good day.

Hyperinflation Old-School Style

I spend too much of my spare time watching the global financial crisis unfold. It’s become something of a spectator sport for me since the clusterfuck of 2008, and at this point it’s more akin to watching a lingering piece of roadkill gasping for its last breath on the side of the highway than observing history unfold. It’s horrible and troubling but I can’t avert my eyes. With every nation on Earth facing insurmountable debt at the hands of a banking system that was never going to be able to sustain itself, collapse is in the cards and is coming all too soon to a planet near you.

Worst off is the United States which has come to play the role of both biggest victim and most egregious perpetrator of a corrupt and unsustainable system. Seventeen trillion dollars of debt, unrepayable as that obviously is, is just an hors d’oeuvres in this multi-course meal of financial malfeasance. Unfunded liabilities amount for another 200 trillion (no one knows the real number for sure, all we know is that it’s huge and comes to much more than all the money and wealth there is on Earth). The system has failed, the game is over, and it’s time to clear the board and start all over again with something new just as soon as our politicians are forced into so a narrow corner, they’re left with no more moves to keep the match going just one more turn.

After far too many years kicking the can down the road, the American Empire looks about ready to kick the bucket. Their unbacked fiat currency isn’t going to last much longer, but neither is anybody else’s fiat currency. When the American dollar finally goes belly up and the greenback is worth more as campfire fuel than money, everybody is going to feel the pain. The world’s global reserve currency is a terminal patient and the only option left is to keep printing it and digitally summoning it into existence until everyone collectively agrees they don’t want to deal with it anymore and goes looking for a new currency or commodity to do business in.

This is, of course, nothing new. Epic hyperinflation happened in Zimbabwe recently, culminating in the 100 Trillion Dollar Note. Last century it happened with the Weimar Republic and became a key ingredient in pushing Germany towards a Second World War. Track hyperinflation back far enough and you’ll see it’s been cropping up over and over again for millennia.

The collapse of the currency is just one thing in our current political situation that draws comparisons to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The problem with these comparisons that keep cropping up is that most of them are factually incorrect. And as an ancient history buff, it irritates me.

Last night I watched the documentary Four Horsemen, which serves as a solid, but rudimentary guide to what’s going wrong in the world today for those who are just starting to wake up to this reality. In it, precious metals expert David Morgan, refers to the collapse of the Roman denarius, saying how it eventually ended up as a bronze coin with a silver wash. The point he was making about the debasement of money is valid, but his description is wrong. The denarius never had to suffer such an indignity. It was dead years before this happened to Roman coinage.

Maybe I’m just being nit-picky, like a Trekkie who wigs out about the technical inconsistencies of the recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek films, but I genuinely believe Roman history should be taught (and taught well) in every high school history class each and every year until students thoroughly understand how empires rise, thrive, decline and fall. It bugs the hell out of me when learned people, trying so hard to inform all the clueless worker bees out there about what’s happening right under their noses, get their ancient history wrong. Comparing America to the Roman Empire can be helpful and informative, but get your facts straight and your comparisons right.

Fact one, for example, is that Roman civilization never really fell, merely changed shape – from kingdom to republic to empire to split empire to eastern empire. The fall of the western half of the empire marked the beginning of the middle ages, but the eastern half persisted. It wasn’t until the Ottoman Turks finally developed big enough canons to smash through the walls of Constantinople, the most heavily defended city in the world, that the empire finally came to a real finish, marking the end of the middle ages. Fact two, it wasn’t pagan decadence or bread and circuses or Roman orgies that caused the decline to happen. The rot didn’t really set in until well after Christianity became the official state religion. Make of that what you will, but it seems to me the solution to Rome’s problems wasn’t fewer orgies or less sexual liberation. And fact three, the debasement of the denarius (and other coins) was a long process that took centuries before hyperinflation really got rolling. Sure, it ended up being a disaster, but Rome did a better job of managing its finances and remaining a solvent empire than we’re doing today. So watch where you’re slinging those comparisons. Rome deserves more credit than to be compared with the accounting mess the United States finds itself in.

For no other reason than I’m on a roll, allow me to give you a rundown on all the layman ever needs to know about ancient hyperinflation and the collapse of Roman currency. I am, after all, the comic artist who made a series called Money Talks featuring the portraits from international notes as characters. So I guess money is another one of those subjects I obsess about – just not in the productive “gotta earn some more of it” way.

The denarius made its first appearance during the Roman Republic, in the year 211 BCE. There had been a few other stabs at coming up with a silver coin denomination, but the denarius won out, probably because it wasn’t far off in size and weight from the silver drachm that had been issued by many Greek citystates and kingdoms for centuries. From the very beginning, it was a pure silver coin, weighing in at a consistent 3.90 grams (by current means of measurement). The design was limited at first, with not a lot of variation. The head of Roma personified or an occasional god appeared on the obverse, while various gods riding a chariot or the Dioscuri typically adorned the reverse.

A denarius from the good old days of the Republic. Roma adorns the obverse, while an ancestor of moneyer M. Sergius Silus rides around carrying a sword and the head of an unfortunate Gallic warrior (this despite having lost an arm in battle).

A denarius from the good old days of the Republic. Roma adorns the obverse, while an ancestor of moneyer M. Sergius Silus rides around carrying a sword and the head of an unfortunate Gallic warrior (this despite having lost an arm in battle).

Those holding the office of moneyer were eventually given more leeway to experiment with designs, and used their term in office to honour the feats and achievements of their ancestors on Roman coinage. The only rule was that no one currently alive could be depicted on a coin. That was what kings did, and Rome, which had been a small kingdom in its earliest days, did not look back on that period fondly once it became a senate-controlled Republic. In fact it was a denarius of Julius Caesar, during his dictator-for-life period, that is sometimes referred to as “the coin that killed Caesar.” He broke the cardinal rule. After a number of issues that only featured his name on the coin, he had a denarius struck with his actual portrait. This was pointed to as proof positive that he had become a full-blown tyrant. “Dictator” was merely a temporary office what was appointed by the senate during times of national emergency. “Dictator-for-life” was an office Caesar claimed for himself with the support of the people of Rome who saw him as a great hero. But tyrants had to go. One mass-stabbing later and the Republic was thrown into a power struggle as various imperators sought to become top dog. Eventually it was Caesar’s nephew Octavius who came out on top. He adopted the title Caesar Augustus and became the first Roman emperor. The senate was kept to fill its democratic role, but now that Rome had become an empire, there was no doubt who had absolute authority at the end of the day.

Julius Caesar was playing by the rules when he just had his name on his coins. His likeness, however, crossed the line.

Julius Caesar was playing by the rules when he just had his name on his coins. His likeness, however, crossed the line.

An imperial denarius of Tiberius, still a few emperors away from initial debasement.

An imperial denarius of Tiberius, still a few emperors away from initial debasement.

The denarius continued merrily through this tumultuous period, maintaining its weight and purity. The only exception to this was the debased legionary denarii that Mark Antony had struck for his men by a mint that travelled with his army. Everyone knew these coins weren’t as pure as the real thing, so nobody ever tried to horde them for their precious metal content. They saw circulation for centuries, and most examples that exist today are worn to the point that they’re barely recognizable.

A debased and unloved denarius from Mark Antony's military mint. Despite the wear, it's still easily identifiable as having been issued in the name of the 19th Legion.

A debased and unloved denarius from Mark Antony’s military mint. Despite the wear, it’s still easily identifiable as having been issued in the name of the 19th Legion.

This anomaly aside, the denarius remained untampered with until the fifth Roman emperor, (and one of the worst) Nero. He was the first one to start mucking about with the precious metal content of the coinage, but that’s the kind of shenanigans you can get away with when you’re treated as a god on Earth and have complete authority over everything, including the mints. Initially this was done on the sly, but future emperors became more open about it. The weights and silver content of the denarius became irregular, but it remained a handsome, well-struck coin. Only by the time of Commodus, a rather barking mad, egomaniacal, paranoid and psychopathic emperor, did the denarius start to look a bit rough around the edges. Quality standards, in manufacture if not silver content, were bumped back up during the Severan dynasty that soon followed. But the Severans would also usher in the beginning of the end of the denarius that had been, effectively, the ancient world’s reserve currency for four hundred years at that point.

Somewhat shabby, but good as a denarius from Commodus goes. Note the lionskin headdress and club that equates him with Hercules. He thought he was Hercules reborn. What an asshole.

Somewhat shabby, but good as a denarius from Commodus goes. Note the lionskin headdress and club that equates him with Hercules. He thought he was Hercules reborn. What an asshole.

It was Severus Antoninus (“Caracalla” to his friends, but he didn’t really have any friends because he was such a ruthless prick) who introduced a new silver coin in 215 CE. Larger than the denarius, but containing only the same amount of silver, it was put into circulation with the nominal value of two denarii. And the people rejected it. No one knows exactly what the coin was called in its era, but today it’s referred to as the antoninianus or double-denarius. A failure on its initial release, and citizens balked at using any money that claimed to be worth more than a denarius with no increase in its silver content. Caracalla got bumped off a couple of years later for unrelated reasons, and issue of the antoninianus grew spotty. The usurper emperor who followed, Macrinus, issued them, as did Elagabalus once the Severan family seized power again. But it became an on again/off again affair with subsequent emperors.

The antoninianus of Caracalla was defined by the larger size and radiate crown on his portrait.

The antoninianus of Caracalla was defined by the larger size and radiate crown on his portrait.

It wasn’t until the arrival of Gordian III in 238 CE that the antoninianus began to be issued in bulk. In fact, the denomination became so prevalent under this new boy-emperor, the denarius quickly faded away. Quality issues of the denarius did continue in his reign, but vanished utterly by the end of his time on the throne. There are some anecdotal instances of debased denarii making later appearances from various short-lived usurper emperors and breakaway provinces, but they’re exceedingly rare. As of 244 CE, the denarius was effectively dead and gone.

The antoninianus, however, despite being far from a pure silver coin, was still a nice, well-produced piece of currency. We’d be lucky today if our coinage had that amount of hand-crafted artistry and precious metal content. So I’m certainly not knocking the antoninianus. At least, not at this point. Trouble for the coin only really began during the reign of Gallienus. And for good reason. It was during this period, from 253 to 268 CE, that the Crisis of the Third Century kicked in with a vengeance. The Roman empire was beset from all sides – usurpers by the dozen, breakaway fledgling empires absconding with huge tracts of Roman land and wealth. It was a mess. Perhaps most telling for how bad things got was when Gallienus’ own father and co-emperor, Valerian, became the first and only Roman emperor to be captured by the enemy (in this case, the Sasanian shah Shapur I, who reportedly had old Valerian stuffed and taxidermied into a stepping stool that Shapur later used to mount his horse).

The last decent silver-content antoninianii were minted at the Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium mint in what is now Cologne, Germany. One by one, all the mints switched to minting smaller, shabbier, uglier coins. Quality control standards dropped through the floor. Not only did the coins look bad, they went from being largely silver, to almost completely bronze. A token 1-in-20 parts silver remained, making the coins technically billon (a silver-bronze alloy), but they sure looked bronze. Or at least they did once the thin silver wash the coins were coated in wore off in circulation.

One of the last nice antoninianii to be struck in Cologne before it all went to hell.

One of the last nice antoninianii to be struck in Cologne before it all went to hell.

This issue in the name of Salonina, Gallienus' wife, was more typical of the transition. The style and strike is notably weaker, the base metal more in evidence, but some of the silver wash remains. Example get much much worse from here on out.

This issue in the name of Salonina, Gallienus’ wife, was more typical of the transition. The style and strike is notably weaker, the base metal more in evidence, but some of the silver wash remains. Examples get much much worse from here on out.

This is actually one of the good examples of an antoninianus from usurper Carausius. His coins are generally so distorted and ugly, they're indistinguishable from contemporary barbarian imitations of Roman coinage.

This is actually one of the good examples of an antoninianus from usurper Carausius. His coins are generally so distorted and ugly, they’re indistinguishable from contemporary barbarian imitations of Roman coinage.

Eventually the crisis passed, the empire persisted, breakaway provinces were recaptured, and the quality of the coinage bounced back. At least in appearance. Nice designs and quality die-crafting resumed, although the 1-in-20 parts silver ratio persisted, as did the silver wash which made the coins temporarily shiny but added no actual value. When Diocletian came to power towards the end of the third century, he decided it was high time there was a major currency reform. After the better part of a century in circulation, the over-minted antoninianus was killed off, as was any pretence of precious metal content in the day-to-day currency. A cosmetic silver coating was retained, but most coins spent at the market became plain old bronze. The issues that came out of this period, through Diocletian’s Tetrarchy system of government and the subsequent dynasties that ushered the empire through the entire fourth century, remain somewhat mysterious. Again, we don’t know what the coins were called, but there was a lot of variation in size and weight (with coins that were probably worth the same amount shrinking in size over the course of decades, even though they were struck in cheap base metals). Today we call them AE1 through AE4, depending on nothing more than a few millimeters of diameter difference.

There were token attempts to issue nicer, more valuable coins. The occasional large bronze, clearly meant to be of a higher value than its contemporaries, is noted through to the end of the Constantinian dysnasty. Diocletian, during his reforms, also tried to revive a quality silver coin about the size and weight of the old denarius. It was called the argentus, and it was a very nice coin that only lasted a few years before disappearing. More successful was the later siliqua, yet another silver coin of decent purity and design. Unfortunately, by the time that one came along, precious metal in regular circulation was so rare, most siliqua suffered from coin shaving and clipping by people who tried to keep some of the silver content for themselves before spending the coin at face value. Some siliqua had their edges shaved so severely, the legend is completely gone and only the portrait remains (which, incidentally, is no help at all in identifying the emperor since realistic depictions eventually gave way to generic, idealized, one-face-fits-all portraits).

The argentus was a short-lived return to form for Roman silver.

The argentus was a short-lived return to form for Roman silver.

This siliqua of Constantius II survived to modern times without being clipped or shaved.

This siliqua of Constantius II survived to modern times without being clipped or shaved.

And what about gold, you might ask? Well, actually, in all this debasement mess, gold remained sound. The standard gold coin, the aureus, eventually gave way to the later solidus, but weight and purity never really suffered much for one reason, and one reason only. Emperors paid their militaries in gold, so they were the very last people to get screwed. An unpaid army is an unhappy army, and emperors ruled only so long as their generals were behind them. Once they lost the support of their soliders, it was knife-in-the-back time and the military coup would result in a whole new emperor, typically chosen from the upper ranks of the men. And the cycle would repeat, over and over again. Few emperors got the chance to die of old age, many reigns were short-lived, yet strangely everybody still seemed to want the top job. But they all knew to pay the army in sound money, no matter how shitty things got. Otherwise their headless body would soon be dragged through the streets and dumped in the Tiber.

The Fall of the Roman Empire is an event usually pinned to the year 476, but this isn’t really accurate. That was just the year when the last remnants of the declining western empire packed it in after years of puppet emperors and barbarian encroachments. The truth is, the power had long-since shifted away from the city of Rome and was now centred in Constantinople in the east. The emperor Constantine had made that the new capital of the Roman Empire back in 337 CE, and Rome itself was really only a nostalgic remnant of past days of glory. By the time it fell, east and west had become two different embodiments of the empire of old, with the city of Rome a rundown depopulated shell of itself. Despite this supposed fall, the eastern empire continued to live and occasionally thrive for another thousand years. We typically call that entity the Byzantine Empire, but it’s a misnomer they got saddled with by a much-later historian who kinda pulled the name out of his ass. What they were was a direct continuation of the Roman Empire (they would have called themselves Romaion and that’s what we would be calling them today if the Byzantine label hadn’t stuck).

By the time the Byzantines came along, the currency was absolutely pathetic. Most coins were tiny, sad little lumps of bronze called nummi, unidentifiable even when freshly struck. Bags of them were required to make purchases of basic goods and services. It was Anastasius, the first emperor to come to power post-Leonid dynasty in 491 CE, who finally sorted things out and stabilized the coinage system with a bunch of new denominations, most notable a large follis that was worth 40 of the discontinued nummi.

Only 11mm wide, this AE4 of Leo I goes to show why something had to be done about the pathetic remnants of a once-proud coinage. At least this one is identifiable by visibly monogram on the reverse. Rare for its time and type.

Only 11mm wide, this AE4 of Leo I goes to show why something had to be done about the pathetic remnants of a once-proud coinage. At least this one is identifiable by the visible monogram on the reverse. Rare for its time and type.

The fairly drab but serviceable Byzantine follis that help stabilize the sad state of late Roman coinage.

The drab but serviceable Byzantine follis that help stabilize the sad state of late Roman coinage.

It should be noted that Byzantine coinage is pretty damn ugly. Coins were recycled and restruck over each other, making for some jumbled mushy designs. And no one to this day has been able to adequately explain why the later trachy coins were cup-shaped. But given that this was now the middle ages (dark ages to some), everybody’s coinage was pretty shitty. Compared to the wafer thin hammered coins that would come to define the period, at least Byzantine coins felt substantial – even the low denomination spare change.

So in the end, despite screwing up their money, bankrupting an empire, hyperinflating and imploding here and there, the Romans still managed to keep their shit together and muddle through until the Ottomans delivered them their final defeat in the year 1453. If you’re keeping count, that’s well over two thousand years of consistent civilization if you look all the way back to the traditional rise of the Roman kingdom in 753 BCE. Not bad for a people who are, it seems, most famous for “falling.” If you really want to compare the woes of the American Empire to Rome, get back to me when they’ve had that kind of a run. Rome, for its flaws, is still one of history’s greatest success stories. And their money still survives to this day, dug up from farmer’s fields as a matter of routine by metal detectionists. Let’s see how much of today’s paper money survives thousands of years. And as for the digital money… That crap can all disappear as fast is it takes a banker to type the number “0” and hit enter.

There you have it, the not-so-brief history of Roman coinage collapse according to me. You know, I hadn’t planned on writing anything along these lines today. This is just me rattling a bunch of history off the top of my head and I do tend to go on. If you think this is bad, you should engage me in a chat about cinema some time. I simply don’t shut up.

I don’t know what brought it on. Maybe it’s because it’s November 5th, maybe it’s because the million-mask march is happening today. We all have issues with how things are being run, be it domestic NSA spying, TSA strip searches, drone assassinations, or the rise of corporate-controlled fascism. There’s a lot to fix and it’s hard to know where to start. But if we’re going to rewrite the rules of the game, maybe we should begin by reinstating a sound monetary system. At least it will be easier to know who’s winning if the score board isn’t rigged.

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Jackass-O-Lantern

“Do you get many kids for Halloween?”

“No, we don’t get many kids. We get ALL OF THEM.”

A typical post-Halloween exchange. This query often comes from friends in Halloween-candy dead zones. You know those neighbourhoods that go dark when the costumed critters come looking for handouts. Such areas, notorious for being the Samhain Scrooges, are avoided by the kids like they’re quarantined, leaving the smattering of jack-o-lanterned, candy-laden households wondering where all the children went.

They went to my neighbourhood.

The area I’m in is known as a Halloween hotspot. Lots of houses give out candy, so kids are assured to get more bang for their buck, scoring sacks of loot without having to cover too much ground. Parents from the dead zones bus them in by the carload, filling our streets with ghost and goblins who only haunt our end of N.D.G. on this one night of the year. They never set foot here otherwise.

As a result, willingness to give out the goods can turn into quite an investment. Every year we buy boxes upon boxes of sugary shit, concerned we’ll never be able to give it all away, and ultimately surprised by how fast it goes. My stated policy remains: Two pieces per kid, smartasses get one. Hardly a generous amount, I know, but even with all those hundreds of individually wrapped sweets, we were cleaned out by quarter past seven, with trick-or-treaters still roaming the street till damn near nine.

Despite the hassle and expense, I always keep the door open on Halloween. Not because I love kids – I don’t – but because I find the occasion to be an indispensable annual survey of the popular mind set. It’s kind of like my version of a government census without anyone having to fill out any annoying forms under legal threat.

There’s much to be gleaned from tallying and gauging the costumes and demographics that arrive at my door. This is how I read our society’s tea leaves once a year. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, sometimes I’m terribly disappointed. For example, despite my threat to punch any kid who showed up dressed as Miley Cyrus square in the face, no such assault was required. I’m still trying to determine if that falls into the “pleasantly surprised” or “terribly disappointed” catagory.

Just as telling as what the children are choosing as their costumes is what they’re not choosing. For example, there were no Batmen or Spidermen this year despite these characters being the number one and two most-popular costumes of recent years. They’ll return of course. Just give them another popular movie release and they’ll be right back in vogue. More tellingly, however – no Harry Potters. Face it Rowling disciples, it’s over.

Here’s my short-form rundown of the evening, taken from memory, and presented here before I forget the details. This is as much for my own records as your entertainment.

Most popular costume: Pirate. Classic, iconic. I approve. Just mind where you’re poking those damn swords. Plastic or not, they’re still pointy and I’d like to keep both my eyes when I’m bending down to give you candy.

Second most popular costume: Zombie. At least the up and coming generation will be prepared and utterly unsurprised when the zombie apocalypse finally happens.

Most popular superhero: Captain America. Which surprised the hell out of me since I’m in Canada. I’ve never seen a Captain America at my door before. And I hope to never see one again.

Most adorable kid: Riley. And not just because she sprang from the loins of two of my oldest friends. She’s simply adorable, especially when compared to most other kids, who generally suck.

Biggest alpha male: The kid dressed as Darth Vader who convinced his two shorter friends or brothers to accompany him dressed as storm-trooper minions.

Number of “I like your pumpkin” compliments: Three. Not much love for my ragged, demented jack-o-lantern design of the year, but I attribute that to having to relocate it to the window due to rain.

Most popular greeting: “Happy Halloween!” Which I hate. The traditional “Trick or treat!” has seen a severe decline over the years, and I heartily disapprove. What is trick-or-treating without a verbal statement of the implied threat? Charity. That’s all it is. Fucking charity. Speaking of which…

Number of UNICEF boxes and the like I had to feed: Six. I abhor these cup-in-hand causes that have employed child labour to do their dirty work and hijacked my favourite pagan festival. But if a kid actually asks (as opposed to merely showing up with a box hanging around their neck) I give. Not to help the charity, but to make the kid feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.

Most ironic request: “Do you have any money for diabetes?”

Number of “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat,” rhymes: Just one. And just one candy for you, you smartass little bastard.

Most bitter kid: We have a tie. Allow me to elaborate.

Mid-evening, two kids travelling together came up the path. They were wearing black bowler hats, black suits, black moustaches, and a pair of matching canes.

“Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin,” they muttered to themselves all the way to the door.

Holy shit, I thought, these kids are actually dressed up as silent-screen legend Charlie Chaplin. I’ve never seen that before. How charmingly retro! How perfect a way to pander to me! This is awesome! They’re totally getting three pieces of candy each.

Tip for the kids: If you come up my path dressed as either Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton, you get ALL THE CANDY.

“We’re not Charlie Chaplin,” said the lead kid bitterly before I could offer a greeting. Apparently they’d been getting Charlie Chaplined at every door they rang and were fed up with it. Whoever this Charlie Chaplin dude was, that wasn’t who they were dressed as dammit!

My brain made a quick gear shift as I proceeded to hand them their three candies each regardless.

“No, of course not,” I told them. “You’re Thomson and Thompson.”

I hoped having at least one person correctly identify their matching outfits brightened their evening a tad. But their mood didn’t appear to improve any as they skulked away to continue their mistaken-identity candy-collecting death-march.

It wasn’t going to be a Happy Halloween for either of them.

Infantilize This!

It comes as no surprise to informed insiders (and, let’s face it, everyone else in Canada who was just speculating blindly) that Justin Trudeau is announcing his candidacy for leader of the federal Liberal Party today.

This question is, is he ready? He’s only forty years old.

Well, as it turns out, I have an answer to that pressing question. And the answer is, “Fuck you.”

Exactly how old do you have to be these days to not be treated like an infant? Who decided the world needs to be run by a bunch of supposedly learned geriatrics who consider anyone not wearing adult diapers to be a silly child, unready and unprepared to step onto the world stage? Like these wizened elders have done such a great job running the planet. Last I checked, they’ve fucked up pretty much everything.

Let me do some fact checking and tally the numbers again. Yup, everything. Well and truly fucked. Good work, you old bastards.

It wasn’t always like this. In older, better days, life didn’t begin at forty. It ended.

You don’t have to go too far back in history to find a time when forty was your life expectancy. If you made it past that, you were living on borrowed time. And if you were going to get anything done, you had to move your ass and get to it. I don’t just mean starting a family. I’m talking about nation building. Back in the day, kids would routinely ascend to the throne in their teen years and be put in charge of entire empires. Alexander the Great spent a decade conquering the entire known world and was done and dead at thirty-two. These days, Alexander the Third of Macedonia would be stuck serving mochaccinos at Second Cup, hoping his Baby Boomer boss would hurry the fuck up and retire so he could get a promotion.

Yes, I blame the Baby Boomers or, as I call them, The Worst Generation. It’s all their fault. It always is. I come from the generation behind them, the X-ers, and living in their wake has involved eating lots of shit. They did all the fun drugs in the ‘60s, we got the “Just Say No” campaign. They fucked everything that moved in the ‘70s, we got AIDS paranoia to sexually terrorize us out of getting it on. In the ‘80s, they made boatloads of money, while today we get to live our peak earning years in a depression with mountains of student debt and 0% interest rates that make saving money fruitless. Come the ‘90s, they were still holding on to their sweet high-paying careers while the rest of us were wasting the energy of youth slogging away in the same entry-level positions we’d been holding for years. Come the new century, they finally started to collect their fat government pensions. By the time they finally die off, that fund will have been tapped dry, leaving us to live off our own savings that will still be drawing 0% interest if the Boomer-run central banks have their way.

So yeah, if a forty-year-young kid wants to step up and make a bid for the top job, good luck to him. I hope he smokes the grey-haired competition by using every advantage available to him. Not just the Trudeau dynasty name, but the vast youthful power of the Intranets, with its series of tubes, and The Twitter, and the Book of Faces, and The Google. May he employ such technology to run rings around the old farts while they’re still looking for their StairMaster’s “on” button.

Blood Sport

I know, I know. After nine solid years of at least monthly blog entries, I’ve suddenly skipped a couple of months. Call it my summer vacation — seventeen days of which were spent (or wasted) watching the summer games. I’m more of a winter games guy, and I’m not usually drawn to the spectacle of people running and jumping and lifting heavy things in the July and August heat. But after tuning in to see what Danny Boyle did with the opening ceremonies, I was hooked by the craptacular spectacle of it all and couldn’t turn away. By the time the key allegorical centrepiece was over — a tribute to industry’s triumph over the natural world as I interpreted it (suck it, nature!) — I was hooked. Then it only got more awesome with Paul McCartney singing the interminable “Hey, Jude” while Ringo Starr sat at home, watching it on the telly, crying into a pint, and mumbling “I wuz a Beatle, too” to himself. This was followed by a solid hour and a bit of international athletes in The Parade of the Silly Hats. Marvelous. But I can’t say I really cared for the queen’s lauded acting debut opposite Daniel Craig as James Bond. They could have done so much more with the concept. It’s James Bond fer chrissake. He’d totally give Liz a good shag for Queen and Country, but mostly for Queen. Mr. Bond, you disappoint me. After nearly sixty years On Her Majesty’s Secret Service you deserve to get In Her Majesty’s Secret Orifice. Just close your eyes and think of England. And if that doesn’t work, just close your eyes and pretend Helen Mirren is still playing Her Royal Highness.

The Olympics are all about blood, sweat and tears. Emphasis on the blood. Sweat and tears are fine, but they’re just salt water and they don’t sell as many tickets. I was struck by how bloody this round of the Olympics were — like somebody decided they needed to compete with The Hunger Games for the attention of the next generation of sports fans. There were all sorts of open wounds and gushing crimson to behold, whether it was judo competitors bleeding all over each others’ nice white robes or an eight-lady pileup on the streets of London when some runners hit a particularly slick patch of wet road. When there were no open veins or spurting arteries to behold, the commentators all seemed to take particular delight in describing how painful every event was. Whether it was chucking a javelin or rowing a boat, they wanted us to know that every muscle in these seasoned athletes was screaming out in unspeakable agony from the moment they did a few warm-up stretches to their post-games shower and oily rub-down. And let’s not remind ourselves of the brutality of having to lug home all those impossibly heavy medals in their carry-on luggage. Michael Phelps apparently gave himself a career-ending injury trying to carry his haul onto the plane. Why else would this be his last Olympics?

Yes, it was the Torture Porn of sporting events. At least, that’s how it was promoted by our media. Perhaps it was their way to reassure fat, unhealthy North Americans that they really wouldn’t want to be fit and trim anyway. Look at the horrible agony these poor specimens have to put themselves through in order to have a slim shot at a hunk of metal that will often be won or lost within ten seconds flat following years or grueling training. Would you want to put yourself through anything resembling that in order to lose a few pounds? I didn’t think so. Now go support our nation’s competitors by having another Big Mac. Did we mention the 2012 Olympic Games were sponsored by McDonald’s, the breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions?