I just don’t get it

4. Reggae

Let me be clear: it’s not that I hate listening to “No Woman, No Cry”. It’s actually quite pleasant. I simply don’t get the genre’s wide appeal. I’m always startled by its immediate effect on women. Within about three beats, regardless of where they are or what they are doing, girls start dancing. Such a remarkable response to such unremarkable music; to me, women might as well be swinging their hips to the muzac version of Christopher Cross’s “Caught Between the Moon and New York City“.

I know what you’re thinking: Bob Marley and the Whalers isn’t the only Reggae group around. You’re right, but I couldn’t name another group, and beyond the nine or ten songs on Legend, I couldn’t name more than two reggae singles. Funny thing is, I suspect that most people in Canada wouldn’t be able to either. I can’t speak for women, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: most men I know don’t like it, not really. They tolerate it as much as they don’t tolerate Justin Timberlake. Sure, songs from Legend made it onto our mixed tapes, but they were included to break up long runs of Hendrix, The Doors, and Led Zepplin. I can’t recall a single time when a group of friends listened to a Reggae-only compilation.

What I do remember is that when Reggae was playing, eighty percent of the time there were girls present, and dancing of course.  


3. City folk who bum rides instead of taking transit.

I’m a driver, and so you’d think that after spending three weeks and about two hours a day taking public transit to work, I would be a little more sympathetic to those of you who take the subway. But no, what’s happened is the opposite.

I can’t understand what everyone is complaining about. It’s so easy! No screaming about the jerk who just cut me off, or the slow poke puttering along in the fast lane or the idiots in front who don’t notice the advanced green (I hate those people). I can sit back listening to my Ipod and read. What’s the problem?

(Actually, I get it: you want to feel special! And what better way to feel special than to appeal to a friend’s good nature by recounting fictionalized transit horror stories and have him/her drive screaming through cross-town traffic to pick you up from your door, so you can sit in the passenger seat, listen to your Ipod and read. And of course let’s not forget all the little errands you’ve secretly plotted while being chauffeured to your destination – ‘oh, since we’re in the area, could we stop by blah blah blah and pick up some blah?’ Finally, while being taxied around, please remember to mention how cars are destroying the planet, and how drivers are mostly rich, yuppy scum. We love that. Really, if you wanted to feel special, couldn’t you just go out and buy some Hagen Dazs?)

Boy, that felt good. I needed to get that off my chest.


2. Kurt Vonnegut.

Believe me, I’ve tried, but I just don’t get you (I am addressing his ghost). I think you have a choice: classify your work as either poetry or short stories. Please don’t try to tell me that what you’re writing is prose. Kurt, someone could sneak into my house one night, shuffle together the pages of three of your books, and I wouldn’t notice the difference.

Also, as for your whimsical social commentary? Well, we live in a time of unparalleled access to information. Non-fiction has never been more popular. Those of us who would read your books are well aware of the world’s machinations and injustices. We no longer have to rely on fiction writers for our quota of social and historical digressions. These days, the only thing I need from you is to hold a thread and to tell me a story.  


1. Cops like this and this.

You’d think they were jaded veterans, but no, Constable Adam Josephs aka Officer Bubbles, has been on the Toronto force since 2007, and the other – whose name hasn’t been mentioned anywhere I could find – has been with the Vancouver police since 2009. On his Facebook page (now changed to ‘private’), Officer Bubbles claimed that his present job is ‘collecting human garbage’. The nameless Vancouver officer has sent his ‘sincere’ apologies to the victim, through a police spokesperson, of course.

The streets didn’t twist them; these guys arrived on the streets with a ready dislike of people. And I know the type: claim to hate urban centres but morbidly fascinated by their marginalized occupants whose powerlessness instils in them a sense of power. These police officers could thrive in no other environment as policemen. In wealthier neighbourhoods, the inhabitants would have better access to lawyers and a greater sense of entitlement.

So, cities knowingly hire these aggressive bullies (who cannot spot a bully?), police unions protect them, and the law takes their word over the public’s. They would have to beat an old lady to death in front of a justice of the peace to get fired. So here’s what I suggest. Keep these guys – and all police for that matter (they are all complicit) – in court. Every ticket you get, choose the trial option.

Good cop, bad cop, policemen hate court and paperwork. You know what really ticks them off? Five or six weeks before the trial, courier the prosecutor’s office and request ‘complete disclosure’ regarding your ticket. The police officer has to sit and create and copy a file of all the paperwork he did (or didn’t do) after giving you the ticket. If he didn’t do the paperwork, he might not show for the trial, and your ticket is dismissed. If he does show, and even if you have to pay for the ticket, at least you will get some satisfaction of having him sit on that little bench while you pepper him with questions!

July’s Image Gallery

Activist Yoga

On Second Thought...

Speakers' Corner






We're Saved!

What this really means








July’s Top Five Videos

The theme this month: YOU CRAZY TO WATCH THIS!


5. For god sake, don’t watch this. Don’t. It’s disgusting. What the hell’s wrong with you? Why would you want to have any part of an Italian gore flick like this? Yes, yes, we all sneak a peek when we drive by a car accident, but ‘peek’ is the operative word here. We don’t pull up lawn chairs and start cooking up popcorn. You’re sick, I tell you, sick!


4. Mother of God…Glenn Beck has written a political thriller. Yes, that’s right, Glenn Beck. And Fox has brought Donald Lafountaine and his gravelly voice back from the dead to do the trailer. I promise that watching it will be like swallowing Morpheus’ red pill: you will never trust anyone EVER again. Avert your eyes! (One line from the trailer: “The Dog returns to his vomit”) No! Don’t do it!


3. There is no need to watch this public service announcement about sex, because we all know that for young women in school, there is nothing sexier than a male virgin.


2. There is something wrong with Dennis Hopper reciting Rudyard Kipling’s “If” to a country and western audience. I have no problem with Hopper, Kipling or the country crowd. It’s just something about the mix that is not right. It’s like seeing Santa in July; or a drag queen singing The Star Spangled Banner at the Indianapolis 500, in Spanish, and the crowd actually loves it!

It’s wrong, just plain wrong.


1. Ok. I was joking about the first four videos. Go ahead and watch them, they’re mildly entertaining. But I’m absolutely serious about the next one. It’s from the video blog series staring a young and cute Florida couple. The videos, which I beg you to boycott, for the most part are about them as they go about their day to day lives: shopping, swimming, and taking the dogs for a walk. They talk, they laugh, they watch TV.

My problem is not with this couple. My problem is with the viewers and subscribers.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how each 20-minute segment can get anywhere around 750,000 views. This means that close to a million people will watch a sitcom-length ‘episode’ of these two – I never learned their names, I suppose it doesn’t matter – window shopping at Mall of America and going to lunch at Fuddruckers.

What are we becoming? There was a time where we would rack our brains to get out of watching a filmstrip of the neighbour’s trip to Egypt. We had better things to do. We had standards! Now, we have no problem with watching Jack and Jane check their dog for grey hairs. Could they – and vloggers like them – be the new generation’s quiet reprieve from the mainstream media’s sensory bombardment? Are they the new Saved by the Bell? Something to be watched with a Saturday morning hangover?

I don’t know the answer, but I think we can use some standards. Comedian Louis CK once opined about his childhood in Boston, where people would “beat the shit” out of each other for no reason at all. Harsh, yes. But as Louis CK put, “it kept quality control”. I like this couple, and I am not advocating that people go and pummelled boring bloggers….just the people who have nothing better to do than watch them. So, watch this one at your own risk…


by guest poet, David Starkey

Oh, when I think of all the places
my ex-wife yelled at me!
the house: in the kitchen and
in the bathroom, in the living room
and on the stairs, in the basement
by the washing machine,
and standing by the bookcase, throwing
books and yelling.
                         She yelled
at the supermarket check-out counter
when I thumbed through a copy
of Watch Your Weight, and on the corner
of Randolph and Michigan
during the biggest blizzard
in fifteen years.
                         In the backyard,
her voice growing hoarse
and raw with the madness
her mother and grandmother
and great-great grandmother
bequeathed to her, she yelled
until the neighbors looked over
our rickety back fence
(then she yelled at the them
for listening).
                         In the car,
especially in the comfort of the car:
on a five-minute trip to Burger King
or a ten hour drive to another
state. She yelled about the traffic
and her grievances at work
and what I had or hadn’t done
that day.
                 She bitched and belly-
ached, she fretted, carped and groaned.
She delivered tongue-lashings
and gave everyone every last
piece of her mind. She bewailed
and bemoaned her treatment
at the hands of strangers. She bellowed,
griped, groused and grumbled.

She even kvetched
occasionally, but primarily
she yelled.
                 She yelled at midnight
and at midday and
in the twilight—nothing about her voice
the slightest bit crepuscular.
She yelled at noon and
in the afternoon and early
in the dawn, before the stars
had faded, before I’d fully
come awake.
                         From what I hear,
she’s doing fine without me
there to listen, alone in the house
I gladly signed away, alone
with the wide world that made her
so desperately unhappy,
alone, alone but yelling still…



David Starkey is the poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California, and director of the creative writing program at Santa Barbara City College. Among his poetry collections are Starkey’s Book of States (Boson Books, 2007), Adventures of the Minor Poet (Artamo Press, 2007), Ways of Being Dead: New and Selected Poems (Artamo, 2006), David Starkey’s Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2002) and Fear of Everything, winner of Palanquin Press’s Spring 2000 chapbook contest.