Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An offer you can't refuse

I have often heard that The Godfather movies are a thing everyone should see.  They were often pitched as some of the best films ever, and my not having seen them was a sign of my vast ignorance of popular culture.  This past weekend Wendy and Elli were away at Guide Camp so I sat down to try to correct this lack and expand my mind.

I think it worked, but maybe not the way people intended.

My general impressions were similar to other people.  That is, there was a lot to like about the movies, the first two were obviously better than the third, and iconic scenes from the movies are rightly an important source in popular culture.  I wasn't nearly as impressed as I had hoped to be though, and the reasons are largely the same ones that caused me to be unimpressed by 2001:  A Space Odyssey when I saw that movie back in high school.

The thing that got me was how slow the movies were, especially the long scenes in Sicily in the middle of the first Godfather.  There was a huge amount of stuff in there that was totally unnecessary to the overall plot and in my mind even detracted from it.  My theory about why it was there is twofold:  First, it was there to establish mood, which worked.  Secondly it was there because at the time it was shot such scenes would be a lot more impressive than now.  These days I can use Google maps to see any place in the world any time I want.  I can type in a type of celebration into youtube and watch a full length video of it.  I don't need random stuff like that in my movies unless they are very brief because I can get that at will.  Go back a ways though and scenes from far away lands and unfamiliar cultures (not to mention different times!) are significantly more exotic and interesting... to the large majority of the audience who hasn't seen that stuff first hand, that is.

It is similar to 2001 where there were overly long scenes of spaceships hanging in space.  I am sure that when the movies were shot those scenes were impressive to the audience but to a crowd of people used to Star Trek movies they were simply boring.  Many of the scenes in the Godfather movies felt that way - like they were trying to show how impressive the medium was rather than trying to tell the story in as tight a fashion as possible.  Similar to how 3D movies initially had tons of BOO scare stuff where objects flew out of the screen at people but nowadays 3D is generally much better used.  Directors aren't trying to show off the medium anymore, but are just using their tools to tell their tale.

I enjoyed the movies, and I am glad I saw the first two.  The third Godfather I could have done without.  In particular I will now be able to pick up on more cultural references to them, which will close the immense gap I have in that department some small amount.  However, I can't claim that they were amazing, rather just that they were interesting.  And hey, they got me thinking about how I think about film, so that at least is something.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why vote?

A federal election is under way in Canada, and as usual my main priority is to prevent the Conservatives from winning.  While I prefer the NDP if given a free choice, I am confident that the Liberals would be much better than the Conservatives.  I have been thinking about a proposition that the devil might make to me:  Would you take the Liberals winning the election for sure, or would you prefer a 50/50 chance of Conservative or NDP rule?  I would take the Liberals, though I would hold my nose while doing so.  The Conservatives are so bad that the Liberals who are led by a person who is only there because of nepotism and which clearly has no principles aside from "get elected in any way you can" are my choice.

That doesn't say much for politics in Canada.

In my Facebook feed I am regularly seeing people outraged at this state of affairs, bitter that they have no one they truly want to support.  I get that.  It is frustrating, especially when you realize that in fact 1/3 of the country really does support that party that you hate so much.  Even worse, many of those supporters aren't just bamboozled but really do believe in all those awful policies you hate.  Often this understandable frustration convinces people that the thing to do is to simply opt out of the voting process entirely and focus on the big revolution that will tear down society and start everything fresh and new and perfect.

Which is utterly delusional.

Could a giant revolution that overthrows our monetary system, government system, legal system, and culture happen?  Maybe, I guess, but not without immense suffering.  Keep in mind that marginalized people tend to be the ones the government is propping up in most cases and the period of instability while things collapse is going to be worse for them than anyone else.  Also don't forget that when people are worried about putting food on their table and keeping themselves alive the environment or any other sort of long term planning is a distant thing that warrants little or no consideration.

Even if a total revolution avoided carnage in the streets it is going to inflict terrible damage and hardship on everyone, mostly concentrated on those who already are struggling... and I wouldn't bet on avoiding carnage in the streets, if history is any indicator.

After this grand revolution, we are generally assured, everything will be peaceful and perfect and we will throw off authoritarian rule and all of the new ways of living will be ideal for human flourishing and environmental improvement.  Except this requires a pacifist hippy environmentalist to manage to be the most powerful and ruthless leader in a time of upheaval and danger, which seems a far fetched proposition at best.  Look at history and you will see that when a revolution happens it is full of all kinds of disgruntled people and when the dust settles you don't end up with a hippy pacifist at the helm - rather it is usually a ruthless general.  Even when you vote afterwards you often end up with a theocratic dictator in charge and things get even worse than they were before.

I know voting feels like two steps forward, one step back.  That is because that is exactly what it is.  But all the people wistfully talking about strapping on a jetpack and zooming straight to nirvana instead of walking there just end up crashing and burning, leaving themselves further from their goal and much the worse for wear.

"Let's find a compromise that leaves nearly everyone upset!" isn't much of a rallying cry.  But it is how things get better.

So get involved and try to make things better.  Vote, volunteer for your favourite party, donate money, or just yell on the internet about the things that you care about that politicians might try to change.  Whatever it is you do, don't fool yourself into thinking that sitting around hoping for a miraculous revolution will do anyone any damn good.

Also seriously don't vote for the Conservatives this time around.  Harper has done some incredibly bad stuff, and even if you buy into conservative principles you know that a party in power as long as the Conservatives have been gets seriously complacent and corrupt and they need to be rotated out, no matter which side of the political spectrum they are on.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jail solves everything

A Green Party candidate in the Canadian election has a bit of a PR problem.  You see she is of the school of belief that when someone is being oppressed by others the solution is to take the oppressed person and put them in jail.  To help, you understand.

More precisely Lynda Briguene thinks that wearing the niqab should be banned in all public spaces in Canada.  Which is definitely against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and certainly would be struck down by the courts immediately, but nonetheless we have a 'serious' political candidate who thinks the government should be carefully making sure people don't wear too much clothing.

Briguene has taken a beating over this, not least from members of her own party who do not agree with her stance.  It is reminiscent of conservative stances on drug use and sex work - solve the problem of people being in a bad situation by imprisoning them!  Nothing can go wrong with that and surely prison will help sort their lives out and make things better.

This illustrates one issue I have with voting Green.  Although the party's candidates will no doubt be very environmentally conscious, which is good, they will also have all kinds of random ideas about government that I really might not like.  There isn't as much uniformity there as with the other parties, and I certainly don't want to put socially right wing people into government just to get a more environmentally conscious person in there.

The thing that gets me though is that even though a large number of people (on the left, primarily) will say that this is wrong and the government should not interfere in clothing choices by sending in the guns they will instantly defend the status quo... which includes imprisoning people based on the choice to go without clothes, or without clothes covering specific bits of the person.

We ought to let people wear the clothes they want, including 'None' if that is the way they roll.  If we are concerned about patriarchal oppression that leads to niqabs being worn unhappily let us work on the oppression first, rather than the niqab, which *can* be a symptom, but is not the disease itself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Change is in the numbers

Last night there was a parent council meeting at my daughter's school and it was a tense affair.  The school board trustee came to tell us that the school, which is currently a K to 6 school, will have grade 6 removed and relocated to a nearby school that is currently 7/8.  Elli's current school is insanely overcrowded as it stands, can't reasonably be enlarged, and has no space to use portables.  There is no room for the kids now and things are definitely going to get worse over the next few years.  Something has to be done and after the announcement I felt like the decision was definitely the best one for the school and the kids.

The other parents did not agree with me.

There was a petition there, which was basically a bunch of signatures under the statement "Please do not take childhood from our children" or something similar.  Honestly, that statement describes nothing about what the current plan is, has no alternative, and is the kind of thing everyone signs without thinking.  (I don't, mind you, but I am weird that way.)  The parents objecting to the changes and bringing the petition were really upset, to the extent that some were tearing up at the thought of their children being put through this new system.

They had lots of objections which ranged from simply requesting that nothing happen, to suggesting that other schools bear the brunt instead, to essentially begging the trustee to not put their 11 year old children in with 13 year olds.  I couldn't quite wrap my mind around that one considering right now the school has 11 year olds mixing with 4 year olds, and that gap seems considerably more extreme!  I really wanted to speak up and voice my support for the plan because even though my daughter will be caught right on the edge of it and will have to do grade 6 in another school I can see that this is a necessary step.  It isn't as though she will be doing grade 6 in a labour camp... it is in the same school she would be going to for grade 7 and 8 anyway!

I ended up just saying nothing.  It was obvious that this wasn't an attempt to ask the parents for feedback as everyone knew the feedback would be "No way!"  It was just the powers that be informing us what would happen.  I expect some of the other parents agreed with me but all the people talking were the ones distraught over the changes.  I think all I would have accomplished by speaking up is to get angry people upset at me directly and I can't see how that helps anything - the decision is made, everyone will just have to get used to it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Angry man on the subway is angry

Today I was taking Elli on the subway and we had a strange and unsettling experience.  A man dragging a chair and a bunch of large handmade signs with him got on the subway and proceeded to scream and yell at everyone about how women should not wear tights or spandex because it showed off their monkeys.  (I have never heard monkey be used as a term for female genitalia before, but this guy was really insistent on that point.)  He then set up his chair right near Elli and I, put his signs on the floor, and proceeded to yell at the world in general about how everyone should be suspicious of the father of any child in tights or spandex as the father was likely sexually abusing his daughter.  This was especially an issue because Elli was wearing tights, and she was clearly aware that he was talking about her.... and me, by extension.

I really wasn't sure what to do.  If he had seemed physically aggressive or gone after Elli in any way directly with his rants I would have had to do something but I didn't feel like getting in his face to tell him he was wrong was a good idea with her there and I did not want to be chased away.  I don't know how he would have reacted in either case and I certainly had no interest in getting in a physical altercation especially with her right there potentially in harm's way.

If she hadn't been there my plan would have been to try to talk to the guy calmly, to discuss his opinions, and to attempt to convince him that he was wrong and that perhaps he should just stop shouting about it.  I don't have any good reason to think I could have changed his mind really, but maybe I could have shut down the situation and at least made him think twice about delivering such a rant in future.

What I ended up doing was just sitting there watching Elli to see how she reacted.  She didn't seem to get upset, but she did say quietly that she thought he was wrong and that she thought that everyone should be allowed to wear whatever they want.  I agreed with her, and told her that if that man has a problem with how she chooses to dress, it is his problem to deal with and not hers.  I also explained that while we could try to talk to him about how we saw the issue and why what he said was wrong I didn't think it would change his mind and he might not react well.  I think it is important that people step in to try to personally change minds when possible, but no one is ever obligated to do so, and I tried to make sure she understood that.

I think I was successful in passing on my values, but it isn't entirely clear to me.  She reacted really well though and made the right choice of disagreeing without getting herself in a situation that could have been dangerous.  It is difficult to watch someone be such a shitbag like that to her and everyone else on the train and not do anything about it but I would feel far worse if I ended up with her in real danger due to me tossing a match into an explosive situation.

This is the sort of stuff that parenting books and advice really don't teach you, and I think it is these sorts of difficult snap decisions that really come back to haunt you later.  I want to protect her from much of the awful in the world and I know tonight I will dream of all the devastating critiques I could have delivered with a withering stare.  However, in the real world I can't even keep her safe from a random angry man on the subway.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Better thievery

I have seen ads for fake muscle pills before.  They always follow the same formula:  A pretend news article talking about how there are these new pills that let you lose tons of fat and pack on muscle with no exercise or diet changes followed by a 'testimonial' by a 'reporter' and then a bunch of before and after pictures.  The pills don't work, and the payment scheme is an awful scam.

These crooks have updated their scheme though and they totally got me to take another look.  The other day I saw an article on Facebook about how The Rock got arrested for possession of drugs.  I was curious so I clicked through, and lo and behold there was a 'news' article talking about The Rock being jailed for a night and his claims that he is innocent, because he was just handing perfectly legal bodybuilding pills to a friend.

The rest is obvious as the article quickly steps away from The Rock except for occasionally slipping in a photo of him showing off his physique and gets right back to the formula where they talk about how celebrities have these weight loss secrets they don't want anyone else to know and that these pills will make you ripped in no time with no effort!

Seriously people.  If any celebrity had a miracle muscle building weight loss pill they would be selling the HELL out of it on every channel in existence.  You would already be taking this pill!  Celebrities line up to sell us all weight loss and muscle building tips, they don't hide.

At any rate, now that I have clicked through once Facebook has decided that I want to learn about how Chuck Norris has been banned from doing endorsements and that Sylvestre Stallone has been kicked out of The Expendables movie franchise for being too ripped.  Guess what both of those lead to?

Facebook is right in that I like to collect scams, so congratulations to them for figuring out that they should send me links to scam pages and that I will click on them.

It might not be quite what they are aiming for though...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Speaking with freedom

Wendy linked me an article that has really been making the rounds on the internet.  At 4700 odd comments it clearly hit a nerve both for those who agree and those who do not.  The basic premise of the article is that universities are making a mistake in trying to keep people from being offended, and that they should discourage trigger warnings for content, and let people speak freely without worrying about giving offense.

It is important that people feel free to speak.  While laws both in the US and Canada protect our freedom to speak without government interference (to varying degrees of success, admittedly) they do not prevent universities from interfering with speech nor force them to do so.  As such this isn't a legal matter, but rather a matter of good policy for universities.  We should be talking here about what is going to be the best possible environment for students to learn and be careful about our uses of the words 'free speech' as those regularly derail conversations away from any useful course.

It is critical that students learning at universities have access to a wide range of ideas.  The very core of academic research is testing of ideas against others with the plan of discarding those that fail and this cannot be accomplished unless communication of those ideas is easy and with minimal impediment.  I don't think that is in any doubt, regardless of how you view the politics of offense.  The key thing we need to make clear is that there is a great difference between being disapproving of someone's opinion and thinking that they ought to be censured on the basis of holding that opinion.  Basically, we need to be clear on when exactly we use the threat of expulsion or firing to prevent speech.  There are many opinions that I greatly disagree with but would not wish someone to be removed from a university for, like "I think God exists and wants us to worship him." or "Those GamerGaters really have a point about ethics in video games journalism."  Those opinions are wrong and tick me off but they aren't specific threats and universities are better off letting those who know better tell those people they are full of it than trying to ban the speech.

When you ban speech, whether it be by threat of guns or expulsion, you should have a damn good reason for it, and "That person is an asshole and they are wrong" doesn't cut it.

Trigger warnings are a big part of what the article rails against and I kind of get their point - you cannot possibly figure out what might trigger any member of a large, random group of people.  Any list of triggers is going to be absurdly long and if it is remotely comprehensive it cannot be reasonable to use... and being truly comprehensive is impossible.  If a professor wants to use trigger warnings I have no problem with it because they ought to present the course as they see fit so long as the course gets taught, but compiling a mandatory, set of trigger warnings for all courses for all people is preposterous.

There are some really tricky points.  For example, "The most qualified person should get the job."  To many people this seems obviously true, even tautological.  But we should recognize that it is constantly used to justify hiring another straight white man in a situation where overall qualifications are difficult to judge, and where people who aren't that straight white man would be just as good but haven't had the opportunity to develop the desired qualifications.  When you utter this statement you have to recognize that it is often used as a justification for discrimination so even though we generally do want more qualified people to get the job we also should avoid tacitly supporting discriminatory hiring practices when we can.  Even though hearing that statement would likely provoke some kind of negative response from me varying from "You assbucket" to "Um, you really ought to consider the implications of what you are saying..." depending on the circumstances I don't think this sort of thing should be policed at universities either.

The world is full of good ideas that are on the outside and bad ideas that need to die.  Unfortunately there isn't some global metric we can use to decide which ones to allow and which ones to condemn so we need to create spaces where ideas can be aired, considered, debated, and eventually set to rest one way or another.  Universities are those spaces, and it is extremely important that people be able to bring up all kinds of ideas that might make others uncomfortable in those spaces.  However, part of making other people uncomfortable is getting told that you are wrong and bad.  Feeling forced to apologize because so many people have informed you that you are a bag of shit is an example of the marketplace of ideas working, not censorship.  Telling people they are being offensive and wrong and being told you are offensive and wrong in turn without having the guns be brought in is, and should be, the university experience.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sexy time

School has just started up again so there is a lot of renewed interest in Ontario's new sex education curriculum.  Many parents are angry about the idea of their children being taught that gay people exist and that we should tolerate their existence.  They are also upset that their young ones might learn the names for their body parts, or that people should only be touched if they consent to it.

Oftentimes these objections are couched in terms of 'appropriate' ages for specific learning, but the real goal is obviously not to find an appropriate age, but rather to try to use ignorance to keep young people from having sex.  These objections don't usually aim for a slightly different age, but hope to keep the information away from children forever as a method of sexual prevention.

Which pretty obviously doesn't work.  You can look at nearly all of human history and notice that although people throughout that history often had no idea what the proper terms for their body parts were, or in fact no such proper terms existed, still people managed to have an awful lot of children at shockingly young ages.  Ignorant teenagers have been getting pregnant extremely regularly for as long as ignorant teenagers have existed, so we know that ignorance is no way to stop teenage horniness.

It isn't all just parents being terrified that their children might learn how they came into this world or what the bits of their genitals are called though.  There is a heaping helping of homophobia, and even sometimes a suggestion that the schools are forwarding 'the homosexual agenda'.  Which is pretty hilarious because the curriculum doesn't promote being straight, being gay, being bi, or anything in between.  It just tells children that gay people exist.  That's it!  Is 'the homosexual agenda' the aim to have people acknowledge that gay people aren't fictitious?  Not much of an agenda, that.

(You should know that when your argument is "I don't want my children to be taught obvious facts." you really aren't getting the entire purpose of SCHOOL.)

It is all such a maddening disaster.  I think it is important that people be able to choose to take their children out of school because we need to allow parents that freedom.  For example, I might decide that music in school is pointless and figure that Elli would learn more from field trips to a local museum.  I won't decide that, but we clearly need to let parents do that.  Unfortunately the parents that are yanking their kids from sex education aren't providing some useful alternative, they are just recoiling in fear from the notion that sex might not be hidden away like a shameful secret.

On a vaguely related topic, I am pleased to note that the latest version of Dungeons and Dragons specifically notes under character creation that characters can be any gender the player wants, including non binary and trans identities.  It also talks about gender presentation and sexual orientation, making it clear that any choice is okay and acceptable when someone is making up a character to represent them.  That gets a giant thumbs up from me.

That's right parents, the new school curriculum is preparing your children for a life of basement dwelling, fireball casting, dragon slaying nerding.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It gets better

People never seem to believe me when I say I look forward to Elli's teenage years.  Any time that statement comes out of my mouth there is an immediate torrent of venom towards teenage girls that takes me quite aback.  I am sure there are particular parenting challenges when a child goes through puberty but somehow the world is convinced that teenagers are the absolute worst people on the planet and parents simply hate them.

This came up today as it is the first day back to school and I was talking with other parents I hadn't seen much over the summer about our children.  We were discussing the changes in our lives as the kids age and I seemed to be utterly alone in the thought that things would get more fun and easier as time goes by.  Not that Elli's teenagehood is likely to be without issues obviously but I expect things to be better than now... I certainly don't expect some sort of parenting utopia where she delivers a report card full of 95s before fetching dear old dad a cold drink.

The things people usually say about teenagers just don't worry me so much.  They talk about how the teenagers don't want to talk to their parents, how they will want to drink and do drugs, stay out late, have sex, get tattooes, and all other manner of rebellion.  I look at that list and shrug.  Clearly this is a list of things teenagers want to do and honestly I should have done a lot more of that as a teen and learned some things so it just doesn't worry me.  Elli will make mistakes and screw up and 'ruin her life' and then move on, just like nearly everyone else.

It is possible my audience is biased in this regard as I am around a lot of stay at home moms who mostly really enjoy the experience of having small children around.  Some are really sad that the summer is over and they don't get to have their kids around all day every day, while I am practically punting Elli back to school with a grin on my face.  I expect they will miss the days of having little kids around while I sure won't!

That isn't all of it though.  There is a real tendency for people to assume that I am simply wrong and that I don't understand myself beyond just stay at home moms.  Maybe there is something deeply satisfying about dealing with the bodily fluids and tantrums of a tiny raging blob of flesh that most people experience and I just cannot fathom... but I can't imagine that this can be all the difference.  It can't just be that other people feel sad that their children are no longer perpetually attached to their legs whining for some thing or another.

I can see the differences between my feelings around parenting and other parents'.  Elli is going to be walking herself to school starting tomorrow and I am just happy to be able to avoid that chore.  Other parents almost have a meltdown when they have to face the fact that they aren't needed in that way anymore and I don't feel that at all.  I believe these other parents when they describe their feelings but I can't see myself experiencing any pangs of regret when watching Elli get up and run ever further away from me.  I want to watch Elli fly away and see the things she chooses to do from a distance.  That prospect holds no fear for me, and I suspect I am far from common in this.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Big cats

My progress towards a Kickstarter for my game Camp Nightmare is getting real.  We have a facebook page to show off our stuff and everything!  Nathan has finished the artwork for the cards and we are most of the way through getting the pictures done, so now we are busy refining flavour text and mechanics and such before we get a prototype built.

One concern that has come up is the way we handle humour in the game.  Originally when I was building cards I wrote up a card called Cougar, which is a disaster that has a Cougar arrive at the player's camp and steal their food.  However, my idea was that the players could discard a card to keep the Cougar away, and the only card that made sense for Cougars to eat was sausages.  Now Cougars, the wild big cat, might well want to eat sausages.... but there exists an obvious joke in that Cougars, middle aged straight women who are into younger men, might also be said to be very interested in sausages.

I found it hilarious that I wrote up and printed the card before I realized that joke existed.  Now it is part of the game and I can't just wish it away.  Even if I deleted the flavour text completely the relationship would be there every time I saw the card.

However, the question has been raised about whether or not having this in the game is an issue.  My original flavour text for the Cougar card said "Only the biggest sausages will truly satisfy her" and the new text says "Proud, majestic, hungry." which is an awful lot less ribald.  However, if the card contains a sort of reference to cougars as it pertains to women it might be considered anti feminist.

So I was thinking - is cougar a derogatory term?  I don't personally feel like a term that denotes a middle aged women who is actively sexual and interested in younger men is insulting, but there exists the undeniable fact that this sort of term doesn't exist for men (because there is the assumption that *all* middle aged men would love to bed younger women) and this means the term has some real sexist double standard baggage.

I am sure that sexually loaded humour that isn't explicit is a better marketing plan than the new flavour text but I don't want to publish a game that has issues with being sexist.  Both Nathan and I are avowed feminists, but we also want the game to have guffaw value!

I suspect I will end up leaving the Cougar and Sausages cards in the game but leave the flavour text to be not at all suggestive.  The joke exists, but I am not making it obvious.  I can't erase it from my mind now, and if people find it then they are finding a joke that I didn't even write deliberately.  Worrying about how feminist my game might be certainly is not a thing I was concerned about at the outset.  Funny how these things come up.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hair of Politics

The world is busy mocking the US electoral situation right now because of The Donald and his never ending sideshow but there is plenty of ridiculous that goes on north of the border too.  We don't start campaigning a year and a half ahead of the actual event, mind, but when we do it gets fairly bizarre at times.

The Conservatives have aired an ad that attacks Trudeau's abilities on many fronts, questioning his ability to balance budgets, fight wars, etc.  It finishes off with "Nice hair though" as a backhanded compliment.

The ad is hilarious in a lot of ways, largely because the charges levelled against him are so absurd.  I mean, the guy is an example of dynastic politics who is only there because of his father's achievements... could we not explain why that is a real issue?  Instead the Conservatives want us to believe that he doesn't have the experience to balance the budget, which is hilarious since they took Canada from a big surplus when they took office to a series of large deficits.  We don't know how Trudeau and the Liberals would handle the finances of the country but we know for sure that the Conservatives are a disaster.  Surely it is better to take the unknown rather than the known when the known is terrible?

They also include a strawman arguing that marijuana legalization isn't important, as though leaders should never talk about anything they are going to do except the singular most important thing there is.  Even if you aren't big on pot being legal the argument that a person isn't fit to lead because they want to make small changes that they feel are good ones is nuts.

However, reducing the campaign to "Well, he is cute and all, but no good at leadership" is basically shutting down any useful discussion entirely.  They are essentially arguing that a young leader can't be a good leader and that old people are better at it.  This falls in line with the Conservative values being much more accepted by older Canadians but bothers me intensely because it ignores actual debate on the specific issues and focuses purely on the cosmetic elements of the leaders themselves.

The Conservative strategy is clearly to make themselves seem like the devil we know.  We know that fire doesn't rain from the sky when they are in charge, but who knows what will happen with a good looking firebrand like Trudeau at the helm?  Pestilence maybe?  You never know, with that hair!