Friday, March 09, 2007

Sin (Ugly as, Sweet as)

Early March has been better than average for gratuitious displays of sin in the media. So bravo, I guess. Solid examples of theme and variation on the classics. If anyone needs a refresher, here’s the top 7 sins in alphabetical order (in case anyone thinks I’m listing my favourites first):

Envy: An easy one. Just want something that somebody else has. Repeat until snippy and psychotic.

Gluttony: No problem at all for anyone who takes more than required; expensive to do with any flair.

Greed: Complimentary to all of the other sins, just take double doses. Close relative of gluttony, but wanting to take all the credit.

Lust: Always popular, frequently tiring. Unique in being a sin that's not entirely without merit, it arguably provides good cardio and flex.

Pride: Just feel good about yourself. Really good. All the time. Loudly.

Sloth: The easiest. If you have to work at it, it’s not for you. Best practiced when the other 6 sins have tuckered you out.

Wrath: Just get in a bad mood and let it flow. Comes naturally to so many.
All hard to avoid for weaker souls than you, no? Let’s not forget the sins that happen when you avoid doing something right (Sins of Omission, good for the absent minded), and when you consciously do something wrong (Sins of Commission, good for the committed).

In pointing out the sins of various political figures, I fully recognize that only he who is without sin should cast the first stone, and that I don’t even come close to that category (takes a brief pause to look penitent and pious, if a little smug). So let’s say that I’m not actually throwing stones at anyone. I’m just flinging stones around them. If one hits, it’ll be an accident. Or maybe their fault, since they moved in front of the location where the stone was being flung. Yeah...that’s the ticket.

Here’s this week’s stars:

- Prime Minister Harper. Coasting on the political capital that the Federal Accountability Act has brought him in the post Liberal era, has a lawyer who is registered by several groups to lobby the federal government for them. Whether this exactly contravenes the act or not is sort of up in the air, since the act doesn’t come into effect for a few more weeks (months?) as it works its way through parliament.

So there's no need to worry - he’s only violating the spirit of the law he wants credit for instituting, instead of actually violating the law that’s eventually going to pass due thanks his dedication and high moral standards. Go figure. He appeared to be against this sort of thing in January 2006, saying:
“You know, it's still legal to be a lobbyist, legal to be in a political party and be a lobbyist, but we obviously are trying to prevent lobbyists from personally benefiting or using personal connections in a way that plays upon their relationship with a political party."
Add this to his fast-and-loose-not-quite-accurate allegations against a few cabinet ministers, he’s had a busy week.

- Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women announced a $5 million increase in grants for women’s projects across Canada. Good for her. Of course she announced $5 million worth of cuts last year, and has re-jigged the criteria for which groups may or may not get some of the $5 million that originally disappeared. Any suggestion that this was some kind of stunt to land on International Women’s Day before the Conservatives call an election was dismissed by Ms. Oda as ‘hyperbole.’

Rumour has it that Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day helpfully pointed out to several media outlets that it should have been spelled ‘hyperbowl,’ but these rumours are unsubstantiated and are really too perfect to be true.

- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggests that the 200,000 or so Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian women who ended up working in Imperial Army brothels during WWII (referred to poetically as 'Comfort Women') were not in fact rounded up against their will to be sex slaves, but were just enterprising gals looking for work in a tight job market.

Okay, I’m paraphrasing a bit. But Abe seems to be flying in the face of a 1993 apology (with provisos) by the Japanese. This was never actually approved by parliament however, giving them the appearance of having apologized and the opportunity to later say ‘Yes, but…’ if somebody called them on it. And since Abe is at the moment trying to appease the far right faction of his party, the cynical might think he’s playing politics with an atrocity.

All this just in time for the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking. Maybe he’ll re-brand it as ‘The Jaunt to Nanking,’ ‘The Romp at Nanking,’ ‘The Really Nice Lunch We Had at Nanking that Lasted for a Few Years,’ etc.

To be fair to all involved, on March 8th Abe announced that “My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas, which further invites misunderstanding,”, and that government investigators are going to take another look at the whole 'Comfort Women' situation. This might end better than it started. Stay tuned.

- Scooter Libby gets nailed for perjury, the White House twitches. Libby's defenders want him pardoned because this should never have come to trial in their opinion since Libby had a bad memory (bad enough to have been contradicted by several journalists who kept careful notes). Apparently, if you’re forgetful and perjure yourself about something that was politically motivated it’s not the bad perjury. Or something like that.

- Newt Gingrich has admitted that he was having an extra-marital affair with a younger woman while attacking President Clinton for having an extra-marital affair with…no…wait…he was actually attacking Clinton for lying about said affair. So everything's hunky-dory. This doesn’t strike Gingrich as hypocrisy on his part since it was all about the perjury rather than the incident.

It works well in theory. But even with the ever-welcome opportunity to swipe at Clinton’s libido problems, this is not playing out with the Republican crowd as well as one might think. See ‘Newt’s not so bad’ here, vs. ‘Shame on Newt’ here, here, here, here

- Ann Coulter. There’s been enough about it. In her own words, “Everyone understood I was not literally calling - well, I was not calling - well, for one thing, I wasn't calling John Edwards anything.” Draw your own conclusions. The level of discomfort around this is interesting, she even got a slap on the wrist by Peggy Noonan, who also brought Bill Maher into it and gave him a harsher slap, being Peggy and all.

As fun as this is (and somebody else's shortcomings are always poked at with glee)’s both trite and accurate to remember that we’ve all got a few skeletons in our closets. And you know what I mean. Those ill-chosen words, bad ideas, an inappropriate rendezvous or anything involving Tequila and Pop Rocks.

An object lesson; Got regrets? Consider a few. Feel free to put the most painful ones at the back of the list so you won’t have to look too closely at them.

Once you’ve flashed your best-of collection, choose one that you freely admit was a sin (by whatever criteria you've got), but don’t quite regret doing. Or something you shouldn't oughta do but you know is going to happen.

No rush. Take a few moments.

Yeah. There. That one. Now wipe that sheepish grin off your face.

Embarrassed or proud? I don’t judge. I’m just trying to make the point that you’ve probably got a 3 tiered list of what you consider sin:

- The ones you would confess to since you're long past them.

- The ones you would not confess to for the same reasons.

- The ones that still pop up at either the most inconvenient or most delightful times, and you’re just going to really really try to avoid them...but nobody’s perfect. And you’re not letting them loose to the public at large.

You may notice that 2 of the 3 categories above are topics that most people will not reveal unless under torture. The charming and chuckling dichotomy of sin; bad enough to disapprove of, fun enough to do anyway. Easy to point out in others, but filled with ‘Yes, but…’ provisos upon discovery of one’s own transgressions.

Present company included. Welcome to humanity.

While we’re on the topic, how about these?

• Wealth without Work
• Pleasure without Conscience
• Science without Humanity
• Knowledge without Character
• Politics without Principle
• Commerce without Morality
• Worship without Sacrifice
Do they outline:

a. The pitfalls that all decent souls must strive to avoid?
b. A really good Scorsese crime drama?
c. One hell of a weekend in Vegas?
d. The present Bush administration?
None of the above (or all of the above, depending on your point of view). It’s actually Gandhi’s list of dangerous traits. And he didn’t even touch on some of the lesser known sins-

Those who steal all of the crispy bits from whatever foodstuff produces scarce but tasty crunchy morsels. Largely disregarded in Dante’s Inferno except for an obscure reference to twice-fried souls in some translations.

Sins of Transmission:
Most often committed by drive-time DJs. A rarely spoken-of but virulent sin of pandering and idiocy, cited by Albert Brooks in the 70’s:
Audiences hate disc jockeys. And they have a right to, because generally, for the most part, disc jockeys are the worst human beings in the world. This is not my opinion, this is a medical fact. So it’s not just me who’s saying it. The AMA came out with a report about 6 months ago listing the three worst human beings in the world. First, was incurable lepers. Second was disc jockeys. Third was curable lepers. DJs were In between the lepers.”
Dante’s narrow but densely populated Circle of Feedback awaits.

In Malpalat Charitat: Perpetrated by those who donate strange canned foods during food drives. Held in particular low regard by those who have attempted to feed a hostel’s worth of the homeless with water chestnuts and oysters in paprika.

Vino non Veritas: Bringing knowingly bad wine to parties. Absolution can only be obtained by bringing fresh hot salty chips and re-purposing the wine as exotic vinegar. Absolution is disregarded if the transgressor indulges in Crunchistry.

Controlto la Virgo Syntactico: Using bad or outright fake Latin to belabour a point. Guilty.

I did an informal poll of a few friends to find out what their favourite sin was. Nobody topped the venerable Father Guido Sarducci’s response (“My favourite sin? Original sin. That’s one you make up yourself.”). Most of them had to do with food:

“I can't just say gluttony in general, in every sense?”

“Favourite sin, eh? Napping the day away on a quiet sunny Sunday. Kraft dinner. Scratching my back against a sharp wall corner, like a bear would against a tree.”

“Socks. I buy socks. And throw them out once my feet get bored with them.”

“It involves those little hotel-sized jars of grape jelly. Really, I can say no more.”

“Sloth. It’s great. You get to lie around on the couch and people bring you things. Like delicate sweets and bonbons.”

“Teen novels. I still love Paula Danziger.” (this respondent is in her late 30’s)

“Packages of Halls. Those lozenges. (grinning) That’s all I’ll say.”

“I don't actually think I believe in sins, except the kind that hurt other people, and obviously I don't have a favourite on that list. But on the stuff-that's-bad-for-me-but-full-of-pleasure list? Cadbury's Easter Cream Eggs. Because…I'm allergic to dairy…I'm hypoglycaemic…they're Christian iconography (in a commercial-pagan kinda way)…they're milk chocolate, which is for wankers…they're completely terrible, over processed, wrapped-in-tin, over sweetened, artificial, EGG-COLORED INSIDE fake food of the worst sort. I love 'em. Can taste 'em right now.”

“Michael, I’m NOT answering this. You know why. And don’t quote me.”
The really frustrating part is that I have no idea what she's talking about. (shrugging) Feet of clay, every one of us...


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