April 24, 2006

"Batman: Year 100" by Paul Pope and Jose Villarubia

I have been reviewing Paul Pope's excellent series, "Batman: Year 100". These are published on PopMatters.com

Batman: Year 100 #1 of 4 - PopMatters Comic Book Review

Batman: Year 100 #2 of 4 - PopMatters Comic Book Review

Batman: Year 100 #3 of 4 - PopMatters Comic Book Review

Batman: Year 100 #4 of 4 - PopMatters Comic Book Review

April 20, 2006

What about all those addicts and homeless people?

During lunch with coworkers today, the woman to my left said that a lot of crime could be attributed to less Welfare support, which contributes to addicts tendency to do crime. She said that if they could get Welfare, they'd be less likely to steal. She mentioned that many of them are mentally ill, and can't get medicine or don't take it when they should.

The fellow to my right said that all thieves should have their hands cut off.

Another coworker added that the beggars he sees on Hastings Street everyday probably make more money than him every day, and that they're probably too lazy or apathetic to get a job.

After a while of listening to this debate, I felt stymied - trapped in between these extreme views.

I pictured one of one of my oldest friends who has struggled with multiple substance addictions for years now. I thought of my parents who abused themselves with alcohol and ruined their lives and jeopardized mine. I thought of my dear sister, who worked her way out of the Welfare cycle and into a career that could support her family. I thought of some of the guys I've met on the downtown streets over the past three years: Curtis, Keith, and Dean. They are not a threat to me, and honest as far as I can tell. I thought of Bob Bagnell, who, to me, represents someone who was lost in addictions but tried to get his health and his future back on track. In spite of how he died, I believe that Bob did succeed completely because he had started to gain physical and spiritual health and new hope.

I tried to say that it's not realistic to stereotype Welfare recipients as lazy, or drug addicts as thieves, anymore than it would be realistic for me to ignore the fact that these stereotypes exist for a reason. I don't think I got the words out right, because here I am writing about it.

Rightly or wrongly, a few conclusions come to my mind from all this:

  • Everybody has their own story, and their own reasons for why they are where they are. I think stereotypes are a convenient substitute for people who don't have (or don't want) actual first-hand experience.

  • I think some people understandably resent those whom they see as a drain on society, but they may also be a bit afraid of what they don't understand. I consider it dehumanizing to label and presume about people if you don't try to learn a little something about their background or some of the factors of their situation.

  • Finally, in my city, we do have more people than ever suffering well beneath the poverty line. Our municipal, provincial and federal governments should provide them with a more effective social service and education.

Maybe what the rest of us can try to provide is a little more understanding and compassion.

April 15, 2006

A Tiger Too Sweet

Tiger, one of my two cats, has diabetes. This was comfirmed recently by our veteranarian, the excellent Dr. Emily.

I used to call Tiger "Tubby Tee", since he was kind of fat until the last year or two, when we noticed his trimness rivalling that if his brother "skinny Sylvester".

Apparently, diabetes is not uncommon in cats. Noticeable weight loss and increased need for food and water are symptoms, and Grace noticed them first and pegged them as indicators of diabetes. A blood test confirmed it, and a blood glucose test showed Tiger's blood sugar at 23. The vet said she wants to see him down between 9 and 13.

So, starting tomorrow, our beloved boy starts getting an insulin injection once a day. Oy - I'm going to have to do it, but it doesn't seem very difficult or complicated at all. I just have to pinch the loose skin at the back of his neck, and inject just one cc with a syringe - a tiny amount.

His blood sugar level must also be measured to see how the insulin is affecting him. Grace has diabetes too, and must test her blood everyday, using a little blood glucose meter that you can buy at any drugstore. It's the same process for Tiger, except that instead of using the little spring-loaded lancet widget to quickly pierce the skin and squeeze out a drop of blood, I must find a little vein in his ear, and prick it manually with a little needle. It looks quite easy to do, and Tiger seems not to notice it very much (thank god, said the atheist). The lttle insulin injections must be done daily, but the blood tests won't need to be done too often.

I gave Tee a practice poke at the vet's office and he didn't seem to even feel it (thank god, said the atheist again).

So, tomorrow, the daily insulin regime starts. Next Saturday, we must check Tiger's blood sugar level every two hours, and record it on a chart. At the end of each week, we must give the results to theVet, who'll decide to raise or lower the insulin dosage depending on trend in Tiger's blood sugar levels.

April 09, 2006

Dean's Philosophy of Life

Today I met a guy named Dean, and I spent 20 minutes learning about his background and his philosophies of life:

1. A negative attitude won't get you anywhere. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the little good things that happen.

2. Believe in yourself even when nobody else does. Care for yourself when nobody else seems to care.

3. Don't judge a book by it's cover. Don't judge a person by their appearance, or by what you think you already know about them. People can surprise you.

Dean really surprised me. I had seen him on the street a few times in the past week or two, usually holding a paper cup on the hook that serves as his left hand.

Dean told me that at one point, he had been working as a well-paid tradesman. He said that he got too arrogant, worked too much and spent too little time at home with his wife, and eventually, the relationship fell apart. Later, he ended up living on the street for 11 months, and as a result, spent many weeks in hospital recovering from double-pneumonia.

He told me that when he was in Nanaimo, he estimated that maybe 1 in 300 people who walked by him on the street would stop and talk to him. In Vancouver, it's much, much worse. Most people just ignore him - even avoid eye contact.

Once, he found a big plastic bag of clothes outside BC Place Stadium. The men's clothes he kept for himself. The women's clothes he gave to some of the women he encountered out on the streets.

Not long ago, Dean saw a necklace in a water fountain down by the T&T Market, near the Stadium SkyTrain Station. He dug into the water, amidst all the pennies, and fished out an inexpensive necklace - the kind that young girls buy themselves. He could have sold it for a few bucks, but for some reason, he decided to hold onto it.

Later that day, while Dean was panhandling near Georgia and Granville, he was approached by a Japanese lady and her young daughter. The little girl went up to Dean and carefully put a loonie in his cup, while her mother watched her.

Dean told the little girl "Wait a minute. I have something for you." The girl was unsure and a little nervous until she saw the necklace he placed in her hand. She was thrilled to get the gift from him, and in return gave Dean a big smile, dropped a chocolate coin into his cup and walked back to her mother. Dean said they waved to him all the way as they crossed the street.

Dean now has a place to stay and welfare to help things along, but his main goal is to get back into a trade and get his life back on track.

He told me that he is on his way up, slowly. He knows that it will take him a long time to dig his way out of the hole he's in, but he absolutely convinced me of his resolve to do it.

He said that it's the people who believe that the despair and sadness is all they have left - the ones who either have given up or can't see the hope anymore - they are the ones who are really lost. "You can't lose your humanity" he told me, and he hasn't.