Saturday, February 18, 2006

Oh, Canada

Its been a while since I last blogged. Not that I have a dedicated readership that's waiting with bated breath for my next post. It seems like my posting frequency has somehow found a happy equilibrium: a post a month. That suits me fine.

I am currently sitting at Boston's Logan International Airport, waiting to go to Ottawa, Canada, where I have my visa interview on Monday. The plan is to hang in Montreal, Canada over the weekend. By all accounts, Montreal is the bomb. An airline attendant at Logan said its a "Paris of sorts... except for the Eiffel Tower". Well, I'm going to find out first hand. I am looking forward to have fun in Montreal, but the weather up there is not exactly balmy. Its going to stay around -18C all through my stay.

If you have been following the news at all, you have heard about Muslims getting up in arms about cartoons that don't exactly depict the Prophet Muhammed as the Messaiah. Now, being an atheist who hates religions in general, that doesn't bother me in the slightest bit. The way I see it, free speech means exactly that: Freedom to criticize another religion. This criticism can be expressed in any manner: satire, performance art, or whatever else, as long as you don't hurt another person physically.

I read that Tony Blair (and other world readers) is (are) considering outlawing the criticism of all religions. Not only is that a kneejerk reaction, it is also plain wrong. What about people like me who are not only not religious, but also hate religion? I'd rather like to see people escape the clutches of what Karl Marx called the "opiate of the masses", what Rob Heinlein called an "outdated concept" (that's religion, for the slower ones among you). With this in mind, I fully support the Danish cartoonists' right to create those cartoons, although I might not agree with the content of those cartoons.

Religion is something I have always strongly felt about. I continue to be amazed by the irrationality of a mankind that believes in a concept that is utterly unprovable. Its quite a remarkable feat for religious institutions to have sustained, and even enhanced the power and influence of the god-machine. In my most virulent mood, I'd say that God is a weight tied around your neck, a ghost from the fog of ancient history, a bogeyman, if you will. In its existence, the burgeoning institution of religion has produced more book-burning Savonarolas 1 than Mendels; more Crusades and Inquisitions than Renaissances.

Update #1: I am at the Montreal train station, waiting to get back to Ottawa. I now realize why the airline attendant in Boston who I mentioned earlier called Montreal a "Paris of sorts". Its because everybody speaks French, and French only. Its like I was in fucking Europe. Which I don't mind so much, as the language barrier. And the Cold. Man, was it cold! After 10 min. out in -15 C, my finger tips went numb beneath the new gloves which I paid CAD $12 for. After half an hour, I couldn't feel my nose. My legs were frigid under my jeans long since.

Luckily, old Montreal had an underground "city" of sorts. There are shopping complexes, restaurants, and even a fountain that shoots up a spout of water 50 feet high, all underground. Pretty cool. I'd take any respite from the cold. The fountain was a bonus. And the girls were real pretty.

I am a bit tense about the visa interview tomorrow. Pretty much everyone I know has had no problems with it, and I have the required documentation. I even bought a pair of pants from Kenneth Cole for CAD $100. But if by any chance I don't get the visa, I can't get back to the US. I will have to return to India, book another interview, and enter the US only if that interview is successful. So, that's a bit heavy.

Update # 2: The visa interview turned out to be a fucking anticlimax. I got the visa, no problem. I am finally on my way back to the US, after what turned into a mini-vacation in Canada. While in Ottawa, I did another thing that I can add to a very short list of achievements I am proud of: I ice-skated on the world's longest ice-rink. This is an 8 km monster of an ice-rink right in the center of the city. I wanted to do some downhill skiing/snowboarding here, but with the recent snowstorm in Boston and the rest of the Northeast, I shouldn't have a problem doing it once I reach home. Yep, this weekend is for that. Come rain, snow or sunshine. Actually, sunshine would be good.

Update #3: I'm chilling at home.

The Orwellian Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had the balls to exhort people to use non-traditional media to fight terror. This, from a man who doesn't even use email. America, good luck with the already dubious "war" on terror, with this guy in charge.

1Regular readers note my obsession with Savonarola.