Monday, March 12, 2012

The Tall and the Short

It's not FAIR
Imagine this. A child is electrocuted by a faulty wire in a light switch. Public opinion swells behind a new law to raise all light switches and electrical plugs to 5’10” from the floor. Building codes are adjusted appropriately and a new world emerges – the world of the Tall and the Short.

Short people can’t reach the light switches. When this obvious point gets raised, it is quickly dismissed.  "Statistically, most adults can reach that height," people are told. “For the few affected, there is always someone taller around to help. We believe in family, community! Don't you? Are you IN FAVOUR of children being ELECTROCUTED?"  When Businesses complain, the government subsidizes the cost through tax breaks for compliance.

Over time, short people find themselves increasingly marginalized. Waiting in dark, unfamiliar rooms, afraid of bumping into things. Always having to ask for help demoralizes them. They start to believe that being short is somehow their fault. The words “short” and “height” become taboo. There are dirty jokes about short girls in the dark.

“Lots of short people have managed to learn to walk on stilts,” observes one tall politician. “Others have purchased platform shoes or prosthetics that accommodate their challenges. They could simply carry sticks, it's common sense.”

In a bar, an average-height man asks his friend, "Why should I care about short people's problems? I'm tall."

Over time, elected lawmakers get taller, until the only short MP among them becomes the butt of silent smirks when he asks someone to turn on the light. The same thing happens in board rooms across the nation. People begin assuming that short people somehow lack management potential. Science journals publish studies that correlate height and success, inferring that short people are naturally more "followers."

Eventually, the dangers involved in being stuck among short, irritable people in a dark room begin to dawn on the lawmakers. Reluctantly, they require an “emergency light switch” on each floor of every building. Now people believe that “there is an option for short people in every building.” When businesses complain, the government subsidizes the cost through tax breaks.

It is that stupid out there. It is. I didn’t believe it, either. I thought I’d do a quick dive and make sure I was satisfied with our social safety net, then get back to my life of whatever I was doing before. I thought that government was basically good, trying their best to live up to our vision of “True North Strong and Free.” I thought I could safely ignore them. 

Think again. 


Friday, March 2, 2012

A letter to Stephen Colbert

I diverge from my normal meandering to publish a letter to Stephen Colbert, which I might not publish if I thought he might actually read it, and would definitely not publish if I didn't think he might actually read it (going on my theme that none of this is possible, so really, anything is possible...) You can read it if you want. 

Dear Stephen Colbert,

Six months ago I discovered your show. I became such an immediate and ardent fan that I went back as far as I could find online and watched all of your shows, one after another, for the past year until I caught up. It’s an interesting perspective, like watching a flower bloom in fast-forward.

I’ve wanted to reach out for some time, but recognize I’m just a crank. Still, it’s hard to watch you and not say anything. When Christiane Amanpour implied that your work is not serious, for example, I saw an instant of eternal disappointment that people you respect STILL don’t understand how deadly serious you are with this work you do. I saw how the humans can still pierce your heart. Or maybe it was just the light on your glasses. In any case, I wished I could give you a hug.

So, William Shatner. At first, I thought he was just putting on the hostility. When he stood and stole your applause before the interview even started, I smiled at his showmanship. When he jockeyed for power within the first 20 seconds, and won, I thought, “oh, no.” You know where it went from there. He smelled blood in the water, and a guy like that is always on. He may have been putting it on, but he was also sending you a message.

It actually reminded me of how you lampooned Michael Moore awhile back. He clearly was not on his game, and you went for the kill. Granted, you brought him back soon after and gave him a better outlet, but still. The thing is, when that happened, I thought to myself, Michael Moore is tired. He is worn out being the only guy out there on the front lines yelling. 

It’s the same thing I’ve been wondering about you. Mr. Colbert, I have to ask, is your heart still in it? How long can you keep finding ways to show the world itself without seeing real change, and keep it fresh? I thought you were getting a bit tired around Christmas, and after. You took a little vacation and came back gunning – I actually cheered. Now, it’s back to book pushing and easy marks. I don’t deny there are bursts of genius in there, and I laugh every show. You are a charismatic showman. It’s just…

William Shatner. That guy is always on. That was his message, perhaps. You’ve maybe been coasting a little. Relying on your notes. Failing to build rapport pre-interview. Doing some prep on the book or the show, but not on the guest? Letting your people do more of the writing, maybe? I’m just guessing.

The thing is, William Shatner expected more from you. He reminded me of Yoda’s head-shaking irritation at a young, bull-headed Skywalker. This was supposed to be an interview with one of the best, Stephen Colbert, and it was just too easy for him to take control.

William Shatner is a man who exudes pride in all he does, from Beatles covers to Bran. I think he was telling you to get back on your game. Maybe he was saying: you should have been more prepared for William Shatner. He was questioning your work ethic.

He was giving you a gift, the way the Pride Leader tests his underlings with claws only half out, but out.

Stephen Colbert, you are a genius. You rock my world every day for 22 minutes and I admire you as my favourite pro player in the sport I like watching – the battle for the direction of the human species. Thank you for everything you bring, every day, for your creativity and passion, for using your influence to shine a light. I know you can make the most of the gift Mr. Shatner bestowed on you. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

All the best,