Julescosby's Blog

Archive for October, 2009

It’s time to ditch the poppy

Posted by julescosby on October 29, 2009

The turning of the leaves and the ubiquity of the gourd declare that November is almost upon us.  In this light, today I saw my first poppy on the breast of a passerby.  This during a week where both Canadian and American soldiers were sent home in military caskets from a place most people in North American couldn’t find on a map.

As we as a nation take the time to mourn the loss of another of our young men and women in uniform, it’s time to not only radically rethink the war, but the very symbol we have attached to war in general: the poppy.

Symbols are amazing things and they are asked to carry a lot of baggage.  We’ve asked no less of our little red poppy, which we have all been trained to conceptually linked up with the verb to remember.  But what exactly are we remembering when we pin the poppy to our winter coats?

We remember that Great War: the war to end all war.  We remember all those who died over tiny strips of land no bigger than most of our modern cities.  We remember not to send millions of able-bodied men into essentially the Maginot slaughtering house to defend one dying empire against another.

We then remember the Second World War, a direct result of the poor planning of the victors of the first.  We remember that when you finally win an absurd-yet-still-Great-war, you’d best not make the loser pay for it, else they might get mad, elect their most lunatic fascist leaders, and slaughter millions of their own population in the process.  If we try really hard we might even remember that we shouldn’t drop bombs that can instantly vapourize entire cities to show our communist ‘allies’ that we mean business.

Then, once we’ve ditched communism as our BFF, we remember that the only way to fight it is through proxy wars in the Orient, the subject matter of which will eventually become a vehicle to launch Alan Alda into stardom.

So it’s been a good symbol, carrying all of these disparate meanings for so many years.  But now, with our ridiculously vague mission in Afghanistan, the camel’s back has finally been broken.

Sorry, but the poppy has become tainted.  It is now the symbol of our ‘enemy’ (even though our enemy is actually supposed to be Al-Qaeda).  The Taliban is funded by the opium trade.  This isn’t news.  But guess where opium comes from?

I’ll give you a hint: it starts with P.

This week the New York Times published charges that have been whispered for years: The Afghani President’s brother, a known trafficker of opium, has been on the dole of the CIA for some time.  Which means that our allies are paying bad guys to broker deals with other bad guys, all while turning a blind eye to the drug trade.

Yes, today’s Afghanistan is a narco-state, and Canada and its allies continue to give blood and treasure to prop up a government that is increasingly seen both nationally (if it is indeed possible to speak of the Afghan nation) and internationally as illegitimate and corrupt.

Meaning isn’t eternal; it changes with the times.  Just ask the swastika.  Similarly, the original signification that we have historically attached to the poppy is emptied by our continuing presence in the Middle East.  Poppies don’t just grow in Flanders, friends.

I for one will not wear the poppy again until the soldiers are home from Afghanistan.  I will wear the ribbon you sell me outside of the liquor store; I will donate money to the veterans but I will not wear the poppy. I would sooner wear a syringe, or maybe a copy of Trainspotting, around my neck.

Asking me to wear a poppy today is an insult to not only mine, but everybody’s intelligence.


Afghanistan is a narco-state.  Canada and its allies continue to give blood and treasure to prop up a government that is increasingly seen both nationally (if it is indeed possible to speak of the Afghan nation) and internationally as illegitimate and corrupt.


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Put that phone away!

Posted by julescosby on October 27, 2009

One of the oldest political adages going is ‘if people were angels then we wouldn’t need government’.  Today it is more like ‘if people weren’t so ADD, then we wouldn’t need anti-texting laws’.

Sadly, Ontario’s new anti-texting law doesn’t get to the heart of the issue, which is distracted driving.  The simple matter is that it can’t, because to do so would expose a great contradiction in our society.  We are told, rightly so, to pay attention when we are behind the wheel, but at the same time we are exposed to a seemingly infinite amount of distraction.  We are distracted inside our cars with stereo systems, GPS devices, and the like; we are distracted outside with an infinite amount of signage advertising the very crap you are using inside your car.

Remember the good old days when the only distraction you faced on the road was just plain old masturbating? There was no technology to get between you and the one you loved the most.

It would be simple if we could just have a ‘Distracted Driving’ law.  But how could one possibly enforce it? With drunk driving, we have breathalysers, but how would you measure how distracted someone is? The only qualitative analyses we have are individual police officers making the call.  That’s a lot of power to put in the hands of the police.

Plus, the second that language like ‘distracting’ enters into legislation, the existence of the multitude of televisual signs that drivers motor past every day on roadways like the Gardiner will come into question.  Sony and Toyota, and whoever else has a vested interest in keeping those mini-movie theatres up in drivers’ faces, might just have something to say about that.

Freedom of expression, one of the greatest ideas that humankind has ever got behind, has become ‘freedom to inundate everyone with as much crap as possible’.  Just make sure it blinks.

I’m not trying to absolve the individual of their responsibility to pay attention while on the road.  Hurling a half-ton of steel (or fibreglass) on top of a thin strip of tar at 100kph is a pretty big responsibility, and one should not be taken lightly.  All I want is for people to realize that it’s not drunk driving or talking on your cell phone that is the problem: it’s being distracted from what you should be doing.  You would think that something so general in nature as the law would be able to deal with that.  But it of course is the product of us poor frail humans, and it’s tough to come up with good laws, especially while driving, eating that bowl of cereal, reading the newspaper, shaving and especially belting out that Journey tune.

I can already hear the naysayers among you clucking in unison: “Well, can you come up with something better?” Well frankly, no, I really can’t.  One day perhaps, a great legislator, a Solon or a Zarathustra living in the mountains – far removed from this ADD-soaked world – will come to give us a distracted driving law, with sensible language and provisions to actually enforce it.

Until that day, buckle up, lay off the booze, put the phone away, and take the time to discover your old forgotten friends in your trousers.

Posted in law | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Picture

Posted by julescosby on October 3, 2009

I’m a photograph.  Just a regular picture.  Nothing too special about me.  But, they asked me to tell my story so here I am.

I had it pretty rough growing up.  My mom was an ad for the Sally Ann, and my dad was a police mugshot – or at least he was before he took off on us.  When I was a kid, my folks always told me I had royal blood in me and I always believed them.  There were these old brown pictures on the wall of rich Russians, and I always figured they were my distant relatives.  Then one day my mom told me that the Russians weren’t family; they just came with the house.  I was devastated.

When I got a bit older I turned into a bit of a punk.  Me and my friends would experiment with negatives, discolouration, anything to make us stand out in a crowd.  At first, it was just about asking questions, expanding our minds: Why’s it gotta be a thousand words? Why can’t it be two thousand? Or, why can’t it be no words at all? But some of these kids, they just took the whole scene too far and got themselves real fucked up.  They got into the hard stuff.  Cropped themselves to death.

So it hasn’t’ always been easy.  But right now things are going pretty good.  I live in a Ziploc bag with a bunch of other pictures from all over the place.  The rent’s cheap, and it’s not so bad.  Some of these guys, though, I gotta tell ya, they stink.  Aint nobody heard of stopbaths no more?

A friend of mine got me a steady gig displaying this kid.  She’s in her twenties, just finished grad school.  By her side are her parents who came down from the farm to be with their little girl on her big day.  It’s a tiny image, nothing too fancy, but a pretty good gig.  She’s a cute little girl: looks like she’s about to take the world by storm.

Yeah I remember those feelings.  When I was real small my mom showed me the picture of that guy Einstein sticking out his tongue.  After that I wanted to be a rocket scientist, or whatever the fuck he was.  But sometimes life gets in the way of the dreams you have.  Listen to me, I sound like one of those artsy-fartsy photos.  The ones who tell you that black is white, up is down.  Never got into that shit.

That reminds me: Some pictures, paintings mostly, think they’re better than me because I’m just a copy of something.  They’ll toss out words like ‘you’re just mechanical’, meaning I can’t be expressive or something like that.  Well I’ll tell you something my dad used to tell me before he left: we’re all equal.  Cause if you start sorting us by types, sayin’ one’s better than the other, your just gonna make more hate.  If you’re a painting of some old king, a forest, or a bunch of cubes, you aint better than me and I aint better than you.

Thing is, I may not have it so great, but there’s a tonne who got it harder than me.  Some of these pictures gotta be Hitler.  Could you imagine anything worse? But then, others gotta be ads for all the crap they’re selling you out there.  Maybe sometimes they wish they were Hitler.  At least Hitler weren’t no diarrhea pill.

They tell me I’d get further ahead if I’d just try harder to keep up with the times.  Now, I may be a little rough around the edges, but I get freaked out when I see older pictures like me get themselves all ‘digitized’.  Just afraid of getting old, I guess.  Gotta clean up the scratches.  Fix the colour.  None of that’s for me.  I got no intention of lining of pockets of these goddamn photo doctors.   They’re laughing at us poor insecure suckers all the way to the bank.

But you know I guess this internet shit aint all that bad.  There’s some really funny stuff on there.  See the pictures of Jenny Marsden’s party last weekend? That one Asian girl passed out in the bathroom and got painted up with lipstick by all her friends.  A riot! Really though, making them laugh aint that hard.  Make a stupid face and most people will be in stitches.  Easy stuff.  But you ever made someone cry?

So apparently this kid at her graduation, the one with her two parents flanking her, well she ended up having a kid too.  But then, she died when he was real young and left him to grow up with his dad.  I feel for the kid because it’s kinda like my story, ya know? So years later, before his own graduation, one of his old aunts showed me to him.  At first the kid just stared blankly, didn’t really seem to be taking anything in.  Then the kid went outside and started bawling.

I felt like a bag of shit after that, a real bag of shit.  Fuck, kid, I’m just a picture.

But I guess we only get dealt one hand, and we gotta play it.  We’re pictures after all.  Some of us are gonna make you happy; others are gonna make you mad.

Anyway, I’m at the max here.  So my advice, kids: stay in school.  Get one of those government gigs, like the picture of the Queen they got in every community centre and government office from Vancouver to St John’s.  Find a girl, settle down.  If you want, you can start a little album of your own.

And if you see that kid I was telling you about before, tell him there’s a lot of hope in his mom’s eyes.  She never got to do too much about it, but he’s still got time.  I’m only worth a thousand words, but that hope has gotta be worth at least a million.

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