Spoiler Alert: You Might Be A Dick

I am a slow TV watcher. I have only binge-watched the entirety of a TV show once (All five seasons of The Wire in eight days) and crammed in a single season over a weekend a handful of times. I understand that in this day and age, that doesn’t really fly. Every TV show is available to be watched practically instantly all of the time. But I’m not always up-to-date on what’s happening on a TV or Netflix show until a few days or even weeks after it airs. Yes, even Game of Thrones.

So, naturally, I get a lot of stuff spoiled for me. Sometimes it’s because I haven’t watched the latest episode of a show by 9AM the next morning. Other times it’s because I haven’t even starting watching the show that’s four seasons deep. But being a person that has to leave his house for work and interacts with a number of people throughout a normal day, I can’t avoid spoilers.

Because now, not only can we instantly watch a show, we instantly need to talk about it. I’ve started to wonder if I watch a show because I’m worried I won’t have anything to contribute to the conversation at my next dinner party. Do I really want to watch the fifth season of House of Cards? It doesn’t feel like I do.

The problem is if I don’t watch any show within a week or two of its release, there’s about a 75% chance I’m going to have a major plot point spoiled for me. That’s because people don’t want to talk about how great a show is, they want to talk about the few crazy, unexpected moments that happened during a season. For example, I bet you might not immediately recognize the name Gregor Clegane, but you do know what I’m talking about when I say “Red Wedding.” Even though those are both references to Game of Thrones, you’ve likely either seen that appropriately-titled episode or overheard some loudmouth drunkenly gushing about it at a bar. (I should know, because I’ve been that loudmouth.)

Is it unreasonable to ask people to never talk about shows and movies they like in public? Yes. But I have a harder time with people who seem to almost want to spoil a show for you. It’s as if their enthusiasm for the piece of entertainment they just watched needs to be expressed immediately or no one will be able to ever watch that thing again. These people either don’t care or aren’t aware that saying too much robs another person of acquiring that same enthusiasm. And they absolve themselves from guilt by saying something like, “Well it aired last night at 9PM and it’s already 10AM today so you’ve had lots of time.”

I’m not going to pretend I have more important things to do than watch TV all the time (I don’t) but that doesn’t mean I plan my week around the air time of the latest episode of Fargo. All I’m asking for is a couple of days. Maybe even a week. It’s easier for you to go into a room with a door you can close than it is for me to unhear what you just said about Wallace from The Wire. It is not your responsibility to inform me of what happened on the most recent episode of some show you and I both love, but only you have seen. Spoiling it for me does not make you a bigger fan. Binge watching the second season of Master of None on a day I’m not home does not make you a more serious appreciator of television. It means you had less things to do that week.

If you want me to get excited about some new TV episode, let me watch it without knowing what to expect. Or I will be the one who knocks. (That’s not a spoiler. Just a reference. You have to have watched the show to know what I’m talking about.)

Reality Sets In

It’s been ten days since the U.S. presidential election. Given the outcome and what’s been happening in America since, the last thing anyone needs is another thought-piece by a white male with an upper-middle-class upbringing who lives in Canada. I’m writing this anyway for one reason: I expected Donald Trump to be elected.

I was told from a young age that I was too cynical. My retort would always be that I was, in fact, realistic. I don’t think it’s cynical that, even in 2016, I thought Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be elected president because she’s a woman. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I think that falls under a realistic point of view.

Before I go on, I should make it clear that I would have voted for Hillary. But I don’t think it’s realistic that a woman can’t be president. I think it’s realistic that far too many people in the world struggle with the idea that a woman is as qualified (or so, so much more qualified) to do a “man’s job.” Or that women can be confident. Or that they can be opinionated. Or that they can make mistakes. Or that they are entitled to respect. Or that they are men’s equal and often much more.

I would call all of this realistic thinking, but I think I need to explain why. My parents divorced when I was very young and through joint custody I grew up primarily under my Mom’s roof. My mother came from a very traditional family yet knew that being a woman did not dictate what job she might have or how she might live her life. This was the example I was raised under. It’s why I remember from an early age thinking it strange that boys would make so much fun of girls. It’s why I’ve had never thought twice about having a woman as my boss. Most of all, it’s why I’m dumbfounded by the casual and ingrained sexism I witness on a near daily basis.

I’m sure any woman reading this is rolling their eyes at another man being “surprised” that sexism exists. But being raised by a woman that made her own way meant that I, by default, looked up to women. I looked up to my Dad as well, but I honestly can’t remember distinguishing between the two. My exposure to men believing themselves to be superior to women came from everything else I experienced outside my home. I became aware that it existed, even if I couldn’t always understand or appreciate what I was seeing.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never taken it as a given that a man takes precedent over a woman. At least not consciously. But certainly unconsciously. Because that’s our world. The world where a man can openly question a woman’s ability to do a particular job. (I heard this 14 days ago.) The one where a man openly scoffs at the idea that women can have their own conferences to address sexism and the wage gap in their industry. (Less than two months ago.) And the world where some random man on the internet is going to find this post and try to say sexism isn’t real.

This is the world we, as men, live in quite comfortably. Because we always think we have the upper hand. Or we think we’re aware of the problem and that in itself is enough. To that, I plead guilty. But seeing my prediction about Trump come true has left me with a deeply unsettling feeling that’s made me know being aware isn’t enough for me anymore.

This election should be a nasty wake up call for my fellow men that misogyny and sexism is alive and well in our world. If you have ever questioned it or believed that you never participated in it, the fact that a bigoted, dangerous buffoon has been made president because he has a penis should make you believe. If this election result isn’t the best reason to question all of your own thoughts and actions, then things aren’t likely to get better. That’s just the reality of our world.

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[Note: that’s not quite the exact quote, but you get the idea.]

A right to life. And to choose.

A few months ago, I happened upon an article in Toronto Life about assisted suicide. Specifically, about a man who had helped people take their own life in secret. At the end of the article, there is a very long and heated “debate” going on in the comments section. I know, I know, don’t read the comments. But this is a subject that is important to me, as I believe assisted suicide should be a legal option for the terminally ill. So my curiosity got the better of me.

Naturally, there are strong reactions to the idea of being able to take your own life. Many people (like myself) who have witnessed the suffering of family and friends see assisted suicide as an act of compassion. Opponents of the idea label it as a coward’s way out, or something that will be a slippery slope and abused my those who don’t actually need it. And then there are those who think it’s wrong in the eyes of God.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in God. I “practiced” religion until around the age of 12. Then my Mom allowed me to make my own decisions. I have no problem with those who do believe, though. In many ways, I admire their faith and commitment. What I do have a problem with is using the idea of a God as a reason to not allow something to become law.

In my (admittedly very subjective) experience, many of the opponents of assisted suicide invoke the idea that all humans have a “right to life” and therefore we cannot allow people to take their own lives. There’s a concern that people will be wrongfully coerced into using assisted suicide when they don’t really need to, or that they will die shortly before a drug was discovered that could have cured them. This is, in fact, exactly what was suggested by the most outspoken opponent in the comments on the article.

Most of his arguments stemmed from a column he wrote where he outlined the following scenario:

“A strong, healthy man suffers from a disease. He wastes away to a shadow of his former self. He is all skin and bones. Death is imminent. The doctors are telling him there is no cure, no treatment left. At this point, he considers assisted suicide to avoid the pain and suffering and maybe to save his family some of the money being spent on his care. He goes through with it. In a short time, he is killed by a physician. And the very next week, a new drug is discovered which could have allowed that man to make a complete recovery.”

Of course, that is always a possibility. But is it a realistic one? Or even remote? To me, this reads like a fantasy. It is talking in absolutes. If only someone didn’t kill themselves, a miracle drug would have been created a week later!

I will admit that this is a possibility, however remote. But if the terminally ill have a right to life, don’t they have the right to choose death? The idea with assisted suicide is that the patient chooses to end their life rather than endure an excruciating death. And yes, they are eliminating the unlikely possibility of being saved by a miracle drug. That’s their choice.

There seems to be a theme from the right to life crowd, which is that they claim making this law will make suicide and assisted suicide one in the same. I have yet to see any convincing argument as to why that would be true. I also find it interesting that they say you have a right to life, but apparently you don’t have a right to choose.

To me, our right to choose is as ingrained and essential as our right to life. In Canada, we have the privilege to make choices about our lives. I think, in the case of terminal illnesses, that should include being able to choose to die. It is not cowardly and it is not morally wrong. It, ideally, is an informed choice made because of the finite nature of existence. We don’t have to have our suffering and our death decided by nature. Certainly not by God.

Personally, I am thankful that our government is basing our laws in the reality in front of us. They are acknowledging that to be human is to have the right to live and, eventually, the right to choose to not.

If you’re interested in the subject of assisted suicide, I suggest you watch the documentary How To Die In Oregon. For or against, it’s moving to watch.

This Budweiser Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA Isn’t An Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA

Budweiser just released their 2016 Super Bowl commercial four days ahead of the actual game, as now seems to be commonplace. The commercial itself, labelled as a drunk driving PSA, stars Helen Mirren telling any would-be drunk drivers that they are, basically, the lowest scum on the earth. The problem is, this isn’t an anti-drunk-driving PSA.

Have a look for yourself.

The commercial starts with Helen Mirren saying, “Ooh, my beer, lovely” after she’s been served with a Budweiser. So the first thing the ad is hitting the viewer with is beer. And not just any beer, but a fresh, sweet, sweet, frosty Budweiser. The King Of Beers, lest you forget.

Mrs. Mirren goes on to make some very frank declarations about how dumb and useless you are if you drink and drive. And I agree with all of them. Drunk driving is a very serious problem that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or have nearly harsh enough consequences.

However, I can’t help but feel that most people watching this ad will agree, too. No one ever comes out in support of drunk driving. So it’s not like Budweiser is doing anything notable here. They’re just doing what they know they have to do every once in a while, as one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers. But I can’t remember watching an “anti-drunk driving” PSA that so actively advertises beer. In fact, this drunk driving PSA makes me thirsty for a beer.

Forget the fact that Helen Mirren gets all matter-of-fact and tells potential drunk drivers that the whole world will thank them for not drinking and driving. That’s the middle bit of the ad. People are going to spend more time thinking, “Hey! It’s Helen Mirren gettin’ sassy” than they will actually listening to what she’s saying. They’ll see the perfectly lit bottle of Budweiser sitting next to a deliciously styled burger and fries. They’ll notice the beautifully staged pub she’s sitting in. And they’ll most certainly remember that this drunk driving PSA starts and ends with Helen Mirren talking about how great cold, fresh beer is.

This is a beer ad camouflaged as a PSA. It’s basically saying, “You shouldn’t drink and drive, but you should definitely drink. Isn’t beer delicious?” The ad features no suggestions for how you might avoid drinking and driving, it just says you’re an idiot if you drink and drive. No shit. How about giving people a reminder to call a cab, or a friend, or take the bus, or even walk home? You might plant that seed in their mind. Instead, this ad just tries to be memorable by having a famous woman with an English accent say some pithy things. All while enjoying a beer. Yes, that definitely makes me want to drive and not drink.

This is a PSA for Budweiser and how awesome it is. The company is down with Helen Mirren. She even drinks it! Maybe even in real life! You should drink it too! That’s why this alleged anti-drunk driving message ends with her holding a Budweiser saying, “Cheers. Ah, nice and cold.”

I don’t know about you, but I could really go for a beer.

I’m Young But I’m Not

There’s always going to be someone older than you. It starts with your parents. Maybe an older sibling or two. But you’re never going to be the oldest person alive. (Barring your ability to live to be 120.) You might end up being the oldest person you know, but realistically, there will always be someone to tell you that you’re not really that old.

This might sound a bit rich coming from a guy that’s only 31. My age is still puts me well within the “young” category, at least in relative terms. I’m not “starting out university” young or “backpacking in Europe for six months” young, I’m the “still building up a career” kind of young. That really means that only teenagers and 20-somethings wouldn’t think of me as young. And yet I’ve had a 35-year-old tell me I’m still young. So which is it?

I feel more old than I feel young. I don’t have kids but I bemoan how kids act today. I don’t have the physical problems that come with advancing age, but I do have some of the financial concerns. I still like going to bars but only if I leave before midnight. I have unreasonably ambitious dreams that conflict with the ever-increasing reasonableness of a steady paycheque. I can have regrets about the life I didn’t live while I’m still living it.

I know I’m young enough that I could make a drastic life change if I wanted to, but I would have to think long and hard about if that was the responsible thing to do. The reality is that we’re always going to be younger than someone else, even when we’re older. There will be moments where we feel young and others where we feel old (I’m looking at you, Vitamin C supplement). And yet we still always seem to want to compare our lives to those of younger people.

It can be people just two years younger than you or ten years. But if you see someone doing something at age 25 that you hadn’t achieved by 30 it can start to feel like you missed some kind of opportunity, regardless of whether it was one that was never presented to you or one you were never interested in. It creates that feeling of “If only I had done that in my 20s, I would be doing this other thing in my 30s or 40s.”

I find myself more envious of people who achieve some quick level of success in their mid-20s than I am of someone in their 50s with a lengthy, sustained career of success. And that’s ridiculous. For almost everyone, success doesn’t happen overnight. That applies to success in work, relationships, hobbies or any other pursuit. It takes a lot of hard work and lot of trying and failing (insert generic DIY mantra here). So why do we idolize young people who have achieved some title or other token of accomplishment when we really don’t know much of how they came by it?

According to a lot of other people, I’m still young. If I achieve one of my life goals by the time I turn 35, there’s going to be some 45-year-old out there who will be envious of me. Same goes if I achieve something at 50. There will be a 60-year-old who only sees a failure in his own life. But he’s not that old. He’s still got time. Just like everyone else.

Oh, You’re Mad About Strategic Voting?

This past Monday, Canada elected a new prime minister. Maybe you heard about Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Or his hair. He unseated the Conservative’s Stephen Harper. Maybe you heard about that, too. You probably also heard about how Canada’s third major party, the NDP, lost a lot of support to the Liberals in this election. A lot of people seem to think this is because of strategic voting. And a lot of people are mad about that.

Now I’m pretty sure that anyone complaining about strategic voting after this election probably voted for the NDP, because they didn’t win. I doubt you would complain if the party you voted for got elected.(I won’t say who I voted for, but it wasn’t Liberal and it wasn’t Conservative.) People seem to be mad about strategic voting because it seems like voters went Liberal only because they felt it was their best chance to defeat Stephen Harper. I can’t really deny that.

But you shouldn’t be mad at strategic voting. You should be mad at Stephen Harper.

You should be mad that he made the majority of Canadians that afraid of him.

You should be mad that he gave them very legitimate reasons to be afraid of him. (Seriously. Read that.)

You should be mad that the majority of Conservative voters have probably never heard of any of those things.

You should be mad that Harper tried to divide the country into a strict right and left divide, attempting to split the vote between the Liberals and NDP so he could retain power.

You should be mad that he tried to make people afraid of Niqabs.

You should be mad that he thought he could make this election about Justin Trudeau’s hair and toques for ISIS.

You should be mad that some Conservative voters honestly believe Harper is the greatest prime minister in the history of Canada, and therefore should stay in office forever.

You should be mad he made the NDP feel like they had to go a little bit soft.

You should be mad that he put Canada in this position.

Based on the election results and voter turnout, the country clearly felt he needed to go. My problem with people getting upset over strategic voting is that you are allowed to change the party you vote for for reasons besides strategy.

There was strategic voting at play in this election, without a doubt. But what about the people that switched their vote from Conservative to Liberal? Was that strategic? Or was it they felt like they could no longer support the Conservative party with a leader as tyrannical as Stephen Harper? To me, that’s not strategic. That’s not wanting to vote Conservative in this election.

That’s the thing. It wasn’t just NDP voters switching parties. It was Conservatives, too. This country realized Stephen Harper needed to go. I understand people being upset that Justin Trudeau was elected because of people voting against Harper, but he didn’t give us much choice. That’s what you should be mad at. He made Canada feel threatened.

In the same way that you couldn’t logically claim you voted for Stephen Harper because he was the lesser of four evils (which is the most obviously untrue thing in this entire election), you can’t lament strategic voting and say Trudeau’s government is definitely going to bad. He hasn’t done anything for us to get mad about. Yet.

Take Me To The Nosebleeds

Full disclosure: I’m a huge baseball fan. Specifically, I’m a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. I grew up watching the team and caught their back-to-back World Series wins at the impressionable ages of 8 and 9. Maybe that’s why hockey never took hold of me the way baseball did. I’ve always followed the Jays and the sport very closely. That’s why I like to think of myself as a pretty reasonable fan. I know there are ups and downs in every season. I know a game doesn’t end when your team falls behind in the 5th inning. I know that with a 162 game season, eve the best players and teams waver and struggle. So I feel like I can fairly say that last night, sitting in great seats in the 100 level at SkyDome, I was surrounded by the worst fans our city has to offer.

SkyDome

I should start by saying that I have season tickets, but my seat is up in the 500s. The nosebleeds. That’s where I watch the majority of the 20+ games I go to every season. I got a seat in the 100s last night thanks to my girlfriend’s parents, and it was one of the best views I’ve ever had at a Jays game. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure any of the people sitting around us were enjoying themselves. It actually seemed like they were angry that they were even there.

Up in the 500s, people tend to enjoy themselves. Sure, there are people who are paying more attention to their beer than the game. But they cheer when the Jays score. They cheer when the Jays are in a jam and the pitcher’s trying to get out of it. They may have only paid $15 for their ticket, but they want the team to win. Or maybe they just don’t really care. Maybe they just want to have a good time and that’s why they cheer. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that the people sitting down in the 100s last night wanted to be angry. They wanted the Jays to lose. Because only then would all their negative thoughts about the team and this season be confirmed and they can go around declaring their “I told you so”s. Early in the game, I heard numerous people cursing R.A. Dickey, the Jays’ starting pitcher, as he struggled to not pitch a perfect game. Even more people were bemoaning the fact that Jose Reyes, newly returned from the disabled list, didn’t get a hit every at bat. One sterling gentleman in front of us went so far as to call Reyes a “stupid fucking Puerto Rican” when he went hitless in his first two at bats. Reyes is Dominican.

But it was more than the baseless, racially-fuelled criticism of Reyes (a four-time All Star) that bothered me. It was the fact that none of the fans, if you can call them that, sitting around us seemed to want to enjoy themselves. Last night’s game was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Which to most fans, means it’s a really exciting game. But when the Jays took the lead, I’d hear things like “this won’t last long.” When the Jays were behind in the 4th inning, I heard someone say “I told you they were going to lose.” The 4th inning! We weren’t even halfway through the game and the team had already been written off by its alleged supporters.

As is often the case in sports, the lead kept changing between teams. The Jays were ahead and then they were behind. By the 8th inning, it was no longer just Reyes that was, to use that same gentleman’s words, “a piece of shit,” it was every Jays player that failed to hit a five-run home run in every at bat. With the team was down by a score of 9-7 at the end of the 8th, the game and season was widely being decreed to be over. Many of the people seated around us left the game disgusted yet exalted by confirmation of their eternally negative mind.

Then, in the bottom of the 9th, this happened:

The Jays won thanks to a walk off hit from their best player Josh Donaldson. But it was also thanks to a key hit from Jose Reyes. Now the meatheads loved him, at least until the last player had crossed the plate. Then I heard “the Jays didn’t deserve to win that one.” They couldn’t even enjoy a win.

The way I see it, if you feel that way about the Jays and you’ve got tickets in the 100s, you don’t deserve to sit there. Paying $60 for a ticket might make you feel entitled to complain and boo the team you’re supposed to be cheering, but it doesn’t make it right. It just makes you a jackass The Jays and their players are not immune to criticism but aren’t you there to enjoy the game? I know I am. I actually want the team to win. And I’d rather sit with people who feel the same way.

Enjoy your field level views with the clueless commentary. I’ll be in the 500s.