Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oh, fuck off.

Over the weekend, an 18-year-old boy was stabbed to death at a house party in Sherwood Park--at a condo complex next door to where my family lived from 2001-2007. Two boys at the party got into an argument, another boy came to his friend's defence, and was killed for his effort.

Today's newspapers and radio reports included a statement from the accused's father that " he believes his son acted in self-defence."


While I'm not an attorney in this case, from all the news I've read on the fight, these weren't two boys with kitchen knives sparring in the yard. This was an escalation of violence during a drunken argument. Even if it WERE the case that this boy acted in self-defence, was he in fear for his own life? Was this a kill or be killed scenario? Because that's the only real situation where the taking of another life might be put into a different context. But considering that the boy is being tried for first-degree murder, I call BULLSHIT.

I don't really give a shit what "situation" a person is put in. If you feel that your physical safety is threatened, you have several courses of action to either decelerate or remove yourself from the situation:

1) Walk away.
2) Run away.
3) Scream until someone comes to your aid.
3) Call the cops.
4) Scream, try to disarm or otherwise incapacitate the offender, walk/run away and call the cops.

The father, Mark Faltermeier, says: "He's very sorry for [the killing] and it hurts him a lot. He's very emotionally upset. I told him you've got to be strong to get through this ordeal. It wasn't your fault. You were put in a situation."

It wasn't your fault


You were put in a situation


Oh please, sir: fuck off.

He stabbed another kid to death at a party. But it wasn't his fault. He was possessed by some evil stabby demon. The alcohol/drugs did it. The other kids peer pressured him into it. But fuck, no, don't--under any circumstances--place personal responsibility for this heinous act squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator. No one's denying he did it. Not even this father. But hey, it's ok, sonny boy. Because it's not your fault. You are just a spoiled rich kid who was never taught that your actions have consequences, so just hushaby, little baby, and daddy will try to get the media to whitewash this away for you.

Perhaps one of the reasons a teenaged boy is dead and another may spend a good portion of his adult life in jail is because they were raised with the suburban pop-psychology parenting of high self-esteem and zero responsibility for one's actions. Such is the way of Sherwood Park, mecca of entitlement and complete dissociation with real life and its inherent horrors.

First-degree murder. That's the charge. Not manslaughter. Not a charge that would indicate self-defence as a plausible motivator. First-degree murder. Which means he had intent and carried it out. So don't piss in my ear and declare it glorious raindrops.

The father is in shock. Perhaps grieving the very real loss of his child to the justice system. He's scared for his son. And well he should be. Maybe though, he should have been more scared when he was raising the kid. Scared that he might raise a vindictive little monster who felt entitled to make life-and-death decisions. To raise the stakes for himself and another. To snuff out another's life.

He said he hopes his son has a fair trial and reiterates that the death was "absolutely" self-defence, but declined to discuss the circumstances further under legal advice.

Self-defence? Fuck off. Your son's about to get a heaping dose of the reality he was apparently kept so sheltered from. Tough way to learn. But better late than never. No, wait: it is too late. Too late for the other 18-year-old, who's now lying cold in the ground. You people make me sick.

Read the entire Edmonton Journal article here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buckle up, dummy.

Part of my job working for a rural-focused organization is finding and disseminating news on rural issues and government initiatives. The Government of Alberta just published its 2008 traffic safety report, which indicates that the vast majority of fatalities in the province take place on rural roads. And a good portion of those are due to people rolling their cars and being thrown from the vehicles.

Wait, hold up. Thrown from the vehicles? That must be quite a force. Oh, no. That's not it.

The Calgary Herald article explains:

"People aren't wearing seatbelts. That's the case in about 35 per cent of traffic fatalities Alberta RCMP investigate."

Seriously? Wow. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, we're living in the midst of a seatbelt-free epidemic. Did I step through some sort of time-warp, where people are still listening to phonographs and doing the jitterbug? Dear god, folks: they still make people like you?!

With all these technological advancements and new safety measures--and the fact that the average driver has never even been in a car that didn't come equipped with seatbelts--I'm unsure how this trend got going. Are seatbelts somehow uncool? Did I miss the societal memo where we go back to junior high and try to out-idiot each other behind the swingset?

Sure, as a city gal born and raised, I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to combines and cattle, but seatbelts? Sorry. Seatbelts, I know. And we're not just discussing driving in your daddy's pickup down the gravel lane towards the back acres. We're talking about 110 km/hr on a paved highway. There are still lots of things to hit out in the country. There are still shitty weather conditions and shittier visibility.

Is this a throwback, rural machismo cowboy bit of horsecrap? Maybe if the seatbelt came equipped with a giant silver buckle you'd do it up? Or does it feel too tight on your lap? No, wait, that can't be it: wearing two-sizes-too-small nut-hugger Wranglers would cut off any sensation below the waist, thereby negating any discomfort felt by the pressure of a safety belt.

You're not too good for a seatbelt. And trust me, fellas, as a well-endowed female, you ain't felt discomfort until you have a chest strap riding up towards your chin because it won't sit properly across your boobs.

Eegads, people. No wonder people think Albertans are backwards yokels sweet on our own livestock. We can't even get the complete no-brainers down. Fail.

If you can start a car, you can take the 1.5 seconds it requires to do up your damned seatbelt. And I thought me on a cellphone was bad...

Monday, July 27, 2009


A tireless, 71-year-old British heroine is working her butt off to keep the English language from being completely flushed down the loo. Chrissie Maher's Plain English Campaign works tirelessly toward a single honourable goal: making language intelligible.

I must admit to developing a noticeable facial tic upon reading of schoolchildren getting partial marks for inserting "LOL" or "OMG" into academic papers. There are plenty of other travesties, however, sure to keep me up at night.

Selected quotes from the London Daily Telegraph article:

“Youngsters have their own jargon and that’s all very well in its place but if they aren’t taught plain English it will hold them back when it comes to applying for jobs."

“With mobile phones it is so easy to slip back into text language and then suddenly you have used 'woz’ instead of 'was’ in a formal letter without even realising.”

"Research shows three-quarters of school pupils believe it is acceptable to use abbreviations such as 'LOL’ in academic assignments."

I'd be ready to throw my hands up in despair and bewail the total waste of this generation's frontal lobes but for this intrepid crusader.

Now, I know that some of you will go, "oh, stop making such a fuss. It's easier to say things in fewer than 140 characters if you've got some shorthand available." Fine. Good. But when you've got 1,500 words to express yourself and knock your teacher's socks off with your utter brilliance, such usage is repulsive. Get a grip on yourselves, people, and stop fucking around with the language until it bears almost no passing ressemblance to any communication known to humanity.

Communication is the key to language, and if you can't get your point across in a succinct, erudite way, then you've fallen short of reaching what English teachers are supposed to instill in you: the ability to write coherently and effectively. It doesn't have to be filled with purple prose or create a mindgasm with its brilliance. It just has to get the point across in the easiest way possible without making readers scratch their heads wondering what OMFGROFLMAO means or, more worryingly, whether your brain has fled the vicinity of your skull.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sentimental Schlock

This is a cat post, so any feline unfriendlies can just mosey on by and get on with their eyerolling and under-the-breath muttering about crazy twitches and litter boxes.

Elizabeth Withey wrote this touching article in the Edmonton Journal the other day, which I read on my coffee break and subsequently decided to write about. There are two reasons for this:

1) The lady loses a cat and has her Ode to Pussy on the front page of the arts section. Front page! Remind me again why I'm not publishing in dailies?

2) I too have been the proud owner (and sad mourner) of numerous pets.

In October 2008, I became adoptive mummy to a charming, fuzzy rapscalion I just can't say no to. (As evidenced by the basket of toys, gourmet food and $50 brush I have purchased for her.) So I'm sharing my perspective. (Why? Because it's my blog, damnit, and if you don't like it, you can go elsewhere. No, wait: where are you going? Come back! I renege!)


On the scale of pet crazies, I fit somewhere above the "leave them to run amok in the streets" but below the "give them hats and their own seat at the table". Right around the middle. Don't get me wrong: I love my cat. When I go away for a few days, I do miss her snuggling next to me and look forward (often cringingly) to coming home and seeing what fresh hell she hath wrought on my apartment.

It's nice to have company when you live alone. Even if said company is less verbally responsive than a human being, they'll still give you sass if you're not quick with the food.

It doesn't hurt that I chose a cat (or, more correctly, she chose me: grabbing onto my sleeve as I walked past her at the Humane Society) who is basically a small, four-legged version of myself. Smart? Check. Obnoxious? Check. Full of mischief? Check.

So yes, my furry little mini-me is a companion and pseudo-kid (or as close to a kid as I'm willing to get anytime soon.) I know she's "just" a cat. I know that she's not going to outlive me and I get that her passing, while sad, will not devastate me to the point where I'm going to tattoo her image on my shoulder. But I will be sad. Just as I've been sad at the passing of all my childhood and young adulthood pets. Those were family animals. This one's all mine. So maybe it's a little different. I think I'm a bit more possessive of this one. Especially since she's a mommy's girl.

Don't deny me my kitten love. As silly as it sounds, when the shelter referred to me as providing my cat with her "forever home", I got a little choked up at the thought of rescuing an animal that otherwise might have a shit life on the streets. Even animals given homes are often neglected. Ollie has a little friend who comes and sits at the window while they take turns batting at each other through the screen. I know the owners (they're irritating loudmouths across the alley) and my bile rises every time I see this kitten cross the street. She's barely 8 months old, I'd wager, and she's already knocked up with her first litter and likely not to make it to her fifth birthday. One day soon, if this keeps up, I'm of a mind to whisk her off to the shelter, where she can safely have her kittens and they can find her a new home. A home that, hopefully, won't treat her like a dispensable source of entertainment. 

I'd go on further, but Olivia is in need of snugglage. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

For shame.

Since I'm not a religious monkey, I don't make my way to the confessional on a regular basis. I would like to take this time, however, to admit that I, Ms. Fitz, have a problem and am working towards resolving it. Yes: I am a text-driver.

Six months ago, I would never have texted while driving. Ever. One day, on the way to meet a friend, I texted a quick "I'll be right there" from a red light. Hmm. Easy enough. And besides, I was at a red light. No harm done, right?


Several months later, and I would be admonishing myself out loud as I steered with one hand--"this is stupid, why are you doing this?"--while texting with the other.

I make no excuses. I know it's stupid. I have been in vehicles with other people where I have told them to put the phone down and drive. I get angry when other drivers don't pay attention to where they're going. And yet, I couldn't help myself. Until now.

On Monday I picked up my brand new toy: a 2009 Yaris hatchback. I love it. For the love of driving and the cheaper option, I chose a standard transmission. Now, I'm too busy shifting to text. While this may seem like a lame, physical impediment rather than an actual behavioural change, I've effectively eliminated the temptation by placing a stick shift in its way. This is the third day of my challenge to myself. I won't slip. It's far too much to lose.

Bettsy sent me this NYT video clip. Terrifying.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Death of Macho

I read this fascinating article last week on the Foreign Policy website. The potential repercussions and changes if such a fundamental paradigm shift is indeed coming are worth a hefty bit of debate. I'll leave you to read it (it's long, but worthwhile) and let me know what you think. The times they are a changin', but whether that's for good or ill remains to be seen.

Great Irish-American Memoirist, Frank McCourt, Dies

Frank McCourt, who wrote the bestsellers Angela's Ashes and 'Tis died this weekend. Read the NYT article here.

I read these books back in early unversity, probably 2001-2002. Angela's Ashes was well-deserving of its Pulitzer. It was beautifully-written in a nearly tangible prose. You could almost taste the lilting Irish accent in his words.

McCourt was born in Limerick and moved to New York. Both Ireland and New York are places I've visited in the past few years, though both are very different than the places he writes about in the 1930s-1950s.

The Ireland I lived in is so beautiful and was at the peak of the huge economic boom the Celtic Tiger brought. Half the population was under 30 and Dublin was a sea of new immigrants from around the globe. This in contrast to the poverty-stricken place McCourt grew up in, but remnants of that life remained in the attitudes of the Irish I met. Being one generation removed from that sort of third-world life meant a lot of baby-steps in their society that I was fortunate to observe first-hand.

I enjoyed McCourt's writings on Ireland more than his later New York years, but all his works are enjoyable. Angela's Ashes is a bucket-list read, in my opinion. And don't bother with the movie. While I love Robert Carlyle (Begbie in Trainspotting, duh.), it's not enough to really chew on. Something about the Irish and their preponderance for fantastic writing. But that's for another blog post.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Basement Jaxx

Ok, so they're not "real" monkeys. But you've got to admit that any musical group with such a prominent monkey fetish will inevitably end up in my good books. I got this album for Christmas my second year of university (2002? '03?) and it got a heavy rotation in my car stereo. Especially "Where's Your Head At?" Excellent song. Video below.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Those manipulative little bastards.

I love my cat, I really do. For all her attention-whoring, small-item thievery and willful acts of destruction, she's occasionally an enjoyable thing to keep around.

Until, of course, she decides she's hungry at some ungodly early-morning hour, at which point sleep happens through sheer force of will, rather than peaceful repose. Turning over, covering your head with blankets and snoring do not fool her. If the incessant purring in your ear (replete with whisker tickling) isn't enough to get you up and attending to her whims, then the large white mitt suddenly batting at your nose is.

The BBC posted this article on its website today about a university researcher who discovered that domestic cats use a special, high-frequency purr that mimics a baby's urgent cry when they want something from humans. This amazing little adaptation takes full advantage of their owners' instinct to stop the sound by tending to its source.

The researcher linked this annoying, insistent purr with the 4 a.m. "feed me, asshole, I know you've got the pillow on your head but I can see you blinking under there" poking and purring session.

This study explains why a cat purring on your lap is enjoyable (for some) and why the same cat kneading your face and purring in bed brings on the urge to fling it into the nearest wall.

You may have hoodwinked us thus far, cats, but we're onto you now. Sneaky buggers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Bookshelf: Shits and Giggles

The old adage that you "can't judge a book by its cover" is patently false. As much of a bibliophile as I am, sometimes a tome grabs you with its humourous, intriguing or downright odd cover, and you can't help but purchase it. Sometimes, the cover alone is worth the price. Often you are rightly let down upon turning the first page. On the rare, special occasion: you discover treasure. This is a story about the second kind.

I bought this book at a second-hand store a few years ago whilst enjoying a summer stroll with Ms. Tack. We stopped in at the tiny shop in her old university neighbourhood to see if we could find anything good.

I saw this at the front of the store, atop a pile of old, torn books on clearance. It had a Post-It price of $1.50 and was missing the back cover. I fell in love with it immediately. The cover had me in a fit of giggles and the insides didn't disappoint, with photos of Scotland Yard's finest straightlacedly employing slick ninja stylings on one-another. The fact that I have a soft spot for antique books didn't hurt, either.

Though I knew that the book was old, it was missing the inside page that held any publishing information. Thanks to the internet, however, I've learned it's origins are even earlier than I first thought (1913!) and discovered a lovely web post about it.

The book currently has a pride of place--cover facing, of course--on one of my display shelves. If you ever want to come over and smile at it, let me know. It was worth every cent of the $1.50 I paid for it.

By W. Bruce Sutherland, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, no date but researched to 1913


So I wrote to the Arty Bees Books in NZ to comment on the rare find I'd come across and thank them for finally getting me the information I was looking for on the hilarious little time capsule that is "Ju-Jitsu". Excerpt from their response below:

"Thank you for your kind comments - many of the books that come across the desk are just too wonderful to pass up without sharing, and I'm glad there may have been some helpful information on our site as well as silliness.You might also like to know that a copy in reasonable condition should generally fetch about US$40 - $80... :-)"

Wow. So now I have a collector's item, too! I feel like one of those people on Antiques Roadshow, only without the snooty evaluator.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday word nerd-out: Awful Library Books

The current record-holder for longest job Ms. Fitz has ever held was a 3-year (yes, sad, I know, but I'm still under 30!) tenure as a page in a county library from the end of high school to my second year of university. Several high school and university friends actually worked there with me, and a few stayed for years after graduation. Years. Seriously. These were not librarians, mind you: for those of you too uncultured to know, librarian is actually a serious profession that requires a Master's degree, at minimum, so no, 17-year-olds who work in libraries are NOT librarians!


Working at a library was actually a very interesting job, and not just because I'm a bookish dweeb. You come across the most obscure, odd or downright hilarious publications, many of which make you wonder why you yourself don't just go out and get published, since apparently they're handing them out (or, at least, they were in the late 70s/early 80s.)

Bettsy came across this fantastic blog today, and I had to share. It's like Awkward Family Photos, but with books. I've got my very own weird and awful book stories to post, but I'll save those for another day. Enjoy.

Awful Library Books

The 2009 Collection

Some ladies can't wait for the new season's fashion lines to arrive. Me? I'm more interested in this fall's lineup of new entries into the dictionary. Nerd is the new black. Haven't you heard?

Merriam-Webster's American Dictionary has welcomed over 100 words to the fold. Among the lucky few are:
  • Staycation (to stay at home on vacation)
  • Locavore (one who eats locally-grown foods)
  • Green-collar (job description for environmentally-conscious careers)
  • Acai (the Brazilian power berry)
  • Waterboarding (torture technique of champions)
Welcome to Webster's, little guys.

I must admit that this year's entrants don't inspire me the way "d'oh" or "bootylicious" did a few years ago. Although I'm happy to see delicious "shawarmas" finally got their day out of the oven.

Edmonton Journal article.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mz Fitz Takes Manhattan (and parts of Brooklyn)

Back from glorious vacation rested, re-energized and now faced with a mountain of work that I have very little interest in tackling at the moment.

Trip was delightful. Got to spent a good deal of time with great friend Andy, saw both the largest Pride Parade I've ever seen and spectacular 4th of July fireworks. And don't forget about the Nathan's hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, which was broadcast live on ESPN. It is also a proven appetite suppressant. (Trust me on that one--ew.)

While sightseeing and experiencing were at the top of the list, I did manage to read a New York novel. Unfortunately, it wasn't the Great Gatsby. Nope, it was "The Devil Wears Prada," which I found in my hostel and proceeded to consume voraciously. So my literary diet faltered a bit on my vacation. But it's my vacation, damn it!

Besides, I was plenty arty with my day-long trips to both the Met and MoMA.

"One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years."
-Thomas Wolfe

PS - this one's for Sean: