Thursday, December 16, 2010

At one of the central bus stations in Ottawa I had a strange yet profound experience. As strangers bustled past me, I became acutely aware of the fleeting nature of life and the imperminance of the scene around me. I've had this feeling before, but this time it was incredibly strong. Every person walking past me seemed to belong to a moment that would soon be lost. I stood, gazing over the edge of the exceedingly vast chasm of all the preceding time before this moment, and the moment was overwhelmed and swallowed - insignificant yet so precious.

I felt as if I were an observer from the future - as if I knew that all the people around me would soon be gone. I was fascinated by the faces moving past, I could almost see them in the sepia tones of a crinkled nineteenth century photograph. It was as though everyone was just a fleck of foam on a wave in the ocean, just here for a moment and gone in an instant. All of the hurrying seemed meaningless, all of the people seemed beautiful. The feeling was indescribable . . . but I thought I'd try anyways.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Horrid Little Article Called "The horrid little game called soccer"

David Warren is an entertaining Ottawa Citizen columnist. Sadly, this entertainment doesn't come from well-constructed columns, but from an incredible ability to be consistently wrong while maintaining a flare for absurd arguments. Warren recently decided to grace the world with his opinion on the game of soccer, entitling a recent column "The horrid little game called soccer." Now, the article was somewhat tongue in cheek (I hope), but it nevertheless contains Mr. Warren’s actual opinion of the great game.

The column opens with Warren readily admitting that he knows nothing about soccer. Does this slow him down in the least? Absolutely not. He opines that journalists should not be slowed down by ignorance. He fails to mention, however, that a journalist of any quality who was admittedly ignorant on a topic would engage in some research, perhaps talk to some experts. Does Warren do any such thing? Absolutely not. Instead, he readily admits hating soccer despite his admitted ignorance. Here is a list of his reasons:

1) At the age of seven poor little Mr. Warren was tackled in a game of soccer. He was humiliated because people were watching and goes on to say, misplaced comma and all: "Like any red-blooded Canadian, I cannot remember having played, since, except under compulsion."

2) In what sounds as if it had been a high school gym class, Mr. Warren scored three points. He found scoring to be a simple task of aiming at a "ridiculously large" net.

3) Subsequent to scoring his third goal Mr. Warren was mobbed by his teammates. Once again, he was injured and claims to have limped for weeks afterwards.

4) Soccer is not a sport for free men (?) and growing enthusiasm for it in the United States is "symptomatic of Eurosclerotic socialism." He further argues that "soon Canada may find herself alone in defending the values of western civilization."

5) Poor Mr. Warren was subject to soccer on the television whenever he tried to get a beer at a bar in Canadian cities.

6) Mr. Warren is dismayed at the traffic delays that were caused by celebrating fans.

7) Mr. Warren was further dismayed by "the triumphalist displays of 'multicultural' chauvinism" in said traffic delays.

8) Mr. Warren has a Swedish acquaintance who was of the opinion that ice hockey is superior to soccer because a scoreless draw in ice hockey is more exciting than a scoreless draw in soccer. A scoreless draw in soccer is boring and "quite possibly fixed."

9) A German octopus correctly predicted the results of eight World Cup matches, so why should anyone watch?

10) The final match was ugly and would have ended in shoot-outs if the referee had not given a red card and ensured Spanish victory. We should just watch the referees, argues Warren.

I’ll deal with each of Mr. Warren’s contentions one by one.

1) Perhaps more detail is needed as to why, at the age of seven, it would be so humiliating to get tackled. Is Mr. Warren so sensitive that having the ball taken from him was so completely embarrassing that he would not willingly attempt the sport again? More importantly, however, is the strange contention that any red-blooded Canadian would cease playing soccer after being tackled. Perhaps Mr. Warren was arguing that red-blooded Canadians don’t play soccer? If so, he should know this is false, we happen to have many people who play soccer (even after being tackled) and we have our own national team. And yes, they all have blood that happens to be red.

2) The argument here seems to be that soccer is very easy to score in. So easy, in fact, that a less than athletic looking windbag can score without trouble. With all due respect to Mr. Warren’s hat trick from his high school days, scoring against a team with a respectable defence and goalkeeper is quite difficult. Hence, soccer often has low-scoring matches.

3) This isn’t really an argument against soccer, I guess. It’s more of an argument against over-enthusiastic celebrations and the delicate men who can’t handle them.

4) If soccer is not a sport of free men, what is it a sport of? Is it the sport of the oppressed men? Are free women allowed to play soccer? Can oppressed people play the sports of free men? What about oppressed women? What are the sports of free men? What’s happening here? What possible linkage is there between socialism and soccer, never mind the “Euroclerotic” variety of socialism? Like it or not, Mr. Warren, soccer is the most popular sport in the world, not just Europe. Canada is part of this world and soccer is just as popular here as in the United States, if not more. Forget defending the values of Western civilization, which, incidentally, soccer is a byproduct of, and start thinking about a global world where everyone can appreciate a beautiful game.

5) True, that’s a very legitimate complaint. It’s so uncomfortable when I’m trying to enjoy a beer and a sport I don’t understand is playing on the television.

6) I think it’s more dismaying in Ottawa when everyone is trying to get to and from the Scotia Bank place way out in Kanata. Any traffic delays caused by flag-waving fanatics speeding up and down the road pale in comparison to that.

7) So members of Canada’s cultural mosaic celebrating the victory of the nation of their cultural background is the equivalent of ‘multicultural’ chauvinism. Does this mean that when, say, Leafs fans celebrate a win this an example of ‘municipal’ chauvinism? Are Leafs fans somehow disrespecting the fans of other Canadian teams by their fervent celebrations? I’m sorry that the fact that many Canadians have origins in other lands offends Mr. Warren so greatly, I think this diversity is one of the things that makes this country great.

8) Shoot, I don’t have any Swedish acquaintances to counter Mr. Warren’s. I think, if I had one, he or she would say that soccer and ice hockey are completely different sports and should be appreciated for their own qualities. He would also say that a scoreless draw is not necessarily boring and, at World Cup level, definitely not fixed. The joy of watching soccer is not just the scoring, it’s the passing, the movement, the back and forth, the close goals, and the amazing skill these players have with a simple ball.

9) As far as sports go, octopuses should only be brutally thrown onto rinks by Red Wings fans. I nominate Paul for this duty.

10) The match was ugly. The Dutch certainly were asking for a red card, not that particular red card, but a red card nonetheless. The card didn’t guarantee Spanish victory as teams sometimes come back with a goal after losing a player. The refereeing of the final left something to be desired, and the game would have been (a little) better if the referee had been better. Although that particular game was far from the best example of the beauty of soccer, soccer remains a beautiful sport.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things I Don’t Understand . . .

- People crying when celebrities die.

- Those weird sandals that are half boot and half sandal.

- The dream I had last night where I had a huge goiter on my face.

- Why people bother yelling from their balconies for drunk people to shut up. These drunks think they’re talking at a conversational level until you tell them to shut up. Basically you’re actively encouraging a louder volume of the yelling that they didn’t realize they were even doing.

- Fergie fans. The fact that they exist.

- Vampires that twinkle and the girls who love them.

- Vuvuzela enthusiasts.

- Crotchety bloggers that complain about everything, even when their team makes it into the final.

- Advanced physics.

- How expensive pop corn is at the movies.

- Paying to advertise a clothing company on your chest.

- How in some places pop is called coke so that if you say that you want coke they ask you what kind of coke. Sprite is coke, make sense?

- Why cookie monster had to stop eating cookies. How can he even be called cookie monster anymore?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Facing It
Yusuf Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
World Cup Final Reflections

I was disappointed in the way the Netherlands played the final yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, there were flashes of brilliance by the talented Oranje. Nevertheless the free-flowing Total Football was showcased not by the Dutch, but by the Kruyff-influenced Spanish side. The Dutch seemed intent on fouling their way to a World Cup victory, with the Spaniards content to take advantage of this aggressive intensity to rival Robben and the great Ronaldo for theatrical diving.

I think the Netherlands had the capacity to play a smoother more beautiful game of soccer, but they cared more about winning by any means necessary than by wowing the world with their undeniable talent. This game will never be sold to new fans if the final is just a contest between mixed martial arts and community theatre. For me, the Dutch side that was eliminated in shoot-outs against Brazil in ’98 played a better brand of football. The Dutch side that shocked the world with their one-sided victories against France and Italy during last Eurocup is what I wanted to see this year. In South Africa, I never saw a full game of the beautiful free-flowing soccer that I have come to love and expect from this team. A team with such a rich legacy should have showed the world that they were made of better stuff than this.

Don’t get me wrong, this team was talented, they played with heart, and they had more than enough inspiring plays. This was a united team who had a remarkable run of fourteen victories, and who made it to the final despite all of the nay-sayers. With all respect to Van Marwijk’s grand accomplishment, I say that they should bring in Kruyff or Hiddink.

Yes, Hiddink, I forgive you for coaching Russia to victory over the Dutch in ’08.

But how can I argue with Van Marwijk’s success? Success, for me, would be a return to the beautiful game with continuing contention for years to come. Maybe it's just me though.

Hup, Holland, hup!

Monday, July 05, 2010

How to Prove Your Maturity with Lindsay Lohan

"I'm not that girl from Freaky Friday any more! I'm a real adult. In fact, I hate children! I hate them all!"

This has been another episode of how to prove your maturity with Lindsay Lohan.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Earthquake

Here at Boerishbwoy, we place a high importance on keeping you informed on the latest trends and news items. In the words of your local news channel we "break the news as it happens" and "give you the latest news from around the world." For this reason, we would like to report on the recent earthquake that rocked Canada's capital.

Yes, we know what you're thinking: 'Uuuh, didn't that happen on June 23rd? Isn't it July 4th today?" True, but what does Independence Day have to do with our "up to the minute news reporting"?

Moving on.

Where was John when the earthquake that shook Ottawa occurred? He was at work at his desk. Suddenly there was a rumbling sound that seemed to emanate from the ceiling. John looked upwards, wondering if a group of people had perhaps started to stamp in unison on the floor above him. Then every loose item in the room started to rattle, the floor itself began to move, colleagues screamed. John wasn't actually sure if the loose items hadn't been rattling before the ceiling shook or the floor began moving, he just noticed everything in a very particular order. John pondered the possibility of ducking underneath his desk. He had vague memories of grainy videos of students huddling under their desks due to the threat of nuclear attacks - or was it tornadoes? He couldn't remember. He decided against cowering under his desk, but by the time he had made this momentous decision everything had stopped shaking. Workmates streamed toward the doors. John was instructed to do the same, but he was also quite sure that he should finish his e-mail. He sat for a few moments considering the importance of the e-mail versus the advice of his workmates. He decided that he would go out into the sun with his fellow workers.

People were running, some seemed far more unnerved than others. The range of emotions among those assembled outside were from jovial to distraught to non-chalant. John, because of his extreme talents, managed to display all three simultaneously. He waited outside for a few minutes before returning to work. He was allowed to leave early, though, which was cool.

Don't worry, he was also able to finish that e-mail he had been working on before that sudden seismic interruption.

The earthquake, apparently, was a 5.0 on the Richter scale and the epicentre was about thirty kilometres north of Ottawa. No one was hurt, although a few buildings crumbled a bit and a bridge collapsed.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Relativity
- A.H. Reginald Buller

There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was far faster than light;
She set out one day,
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

Monday, June 28, 2010

North American History: The 1st Three Intercontinental Wars

French and Iroquois Wars (encompassing King William’s War/ 1st Intercolonial War) (1642-1698)

The French and Iroquois Wars, or Beaver Wars, were a succession of bloody clashes fought by the Iroquois against the French and their Algonquin allies. The Iroquois relied on the beaver trade in order to obtain European goods and firearms from the Dutch. These firearms, in turn, had caused them to become so efficient at hunting beavers that they needed to expand their territory in order to find new hunting grounds. The Iroquois looked down on the other tribes who had edged in on their trade and they sought to displace the tribes who were growing rich through trade with the French. Initially, the Iroquois merely attacked those they saw as trade rivals, but eventually their brutal efficiency at waging war against the French allies led them into direct confrontation with the French. Armed by the Dutch and the English, Iroquois tribes drove rival tribes northwards and westwards, made raids on French homesteads and settlements, and blockaded Montréal. Finally, in the 1660s, France sent a small group of regular troops to New France to defend their settlers. These, combined with the Dutch loss of the New Netherlands to the English, helped lead to the pacification of the Iroquois. After a nearly twenty-year respite, the war resumed after the French began pushing aggressively into the western fur-trade, placing pressure on the Iroquois. The newly formed French militia was joined by regular troops and eventually became Canada’s first standing professional armed force. These French troops imitated the guerilla warfare of the Iroquois and became specialized in swift silent strikes against the Iroquois. They also carried out brutal raids against English settlements. The wars finally ended in 1698 when the Iroquois sued for peace with the French and signed the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. The Iroquois now saw the English as a greater threat and saw themselves as holding the balance of power between the French and the English.

Queen Anne’s War/ 2nd Intercolonial War (1702 – 1713)

Corresponding with the War of Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714), Queen Anne’s War was fought in North America by the British against the Spanish and the French. Responding to the Spanish attack on Charleston, English colonists attacked and burned the Spanish-held city of St. Augustine, Florida. Later, in 1704, the Apalachee of Florida were massacred by the English, sold into slavery, and relocated. A second attack in 1706 by the French and Spanish on Charleston was also repulsed by the English. In 1703, in response to the destruction of the village of Beaubassin in 1696, Leneuf de Beaubassin, a French naval captain, led a few French troops and Abenaki Indians into Massachusetts. The deadly guerilla warriors laid waste to over 72 square kilometers (44 square miles) of colonial farmland and killed or captured nearly 200 colonists. In February of 1704, Hertel de Rouville accompanied by a force of Abenaki, Caughnawaga, and French-Canadian soldiers raided Deerfield, Massachusetts and killed over 50 settlers, capturing approximately 120. New England colonists responded in July of the same year by capturing the Acadian settlements of Minas and Beaubassin. Two attempts by English colonists to capture the Acadian fort of Port Royal failed in 1704 and 1707. Finally, Port Royal and all of Acadia were captured by British and colonial forces in 1710. A large British fleet floundered in their 1711 attempt to capture the French cities of Montréal and Québec. Finally, the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 brought a close to the war. The French were forced to recognize British control over the Iroquois and lost most of Acadia, Newfoundland and their trading posts in the Hudson Bay region to the British. The French retained their territory surrounding Montréal and Québec and the island of Cape Breton.

Dummer’s War/ 3rd Intercolonial War (1721 – 1725)

Dummer’s War was less of a war and more of series of clashes between the French and the English over competing land claims. Samuel de Champlain had explored the Kennebec River in Maine already in 1604 and the French considered it to be part of Acadia. Angered by the English settling along the Kennebec, the French supplied arms and ammunition and used their Jesuit missionary, Father Sébastien Rasle, to goad the Abenaki into launching raids on the encroaching English settlers. Finally, in July of 1721, a force of Abenaki delivered a letter addressed to Governor Samual Shute in which they demanded that the English settlers leave Abenaki land. The English responded in January of 1722 by launching a raid on the main Abenaki settlement of Norridgewock. The tribe was out hunting while their village was ransacked. The Abenaki, encouraged by their Jesuit father, responded by launching raids on English settlements on the Kennebec River. Governor Shute declared war on the Abenaki and offered £100 for every Indian scalp. In August of 1724, English troops snuck up on Norridgewock and launched a surprise attack, killing and scalping 26 Abenaki warriors. 14 Abenaki were wounded and the rest fled across the river. Refusing to capitulate, Father Rasle fought until he was shot through the head. The remaining Abenaki buried their dead and relocated to Québec. In December 1724, John Lovewell, a retired soldier, led a militia in response to an Abenaki raid. He and his men only managed to gain one Abenaki scalp. Another expedition launched in January of 1725, led to the killing and scalping of ten Abenaki in what is now Wakefield, New Hampshire. Lovewell, with a force of 46 men, launched his final raid in April. After killing and scalping a lone warrior, Lovewell’s force was ambushed by the Abenaki, resulting in the death of eight of Lovewell’s militia. In the resulting battle the Abenaki chief, Lovewell and twenty-six of the militia were killed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dear Fellow Tenant,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m sure it does, you seem cheerful.

We don’t know each other. In fact, we’ve probably never spoken and it’s possible we’ve never even seen one other. If you’re wondering who I might be, I’m the tall ruggedly handsome gentleman with the dignified receding hairline and the rapier wit. You’ve possibly never experienced my rapier wit because I tend to hold back on it when travelling in the elevator with strangers. I’m not certain who you are, although I know you’re a male, you’re exuberantly cheerful, and you were on your balcony this morning.

This leads to the reason I am writing this letter. At 5:04 this morning when you decided to visit your balcony, I was sleeping. Then, when you greeted the entire city of Ottawa with jubilant abandon by loudly proclaiming “Good morning Ottawa,” I was awake.

I would like you to know that I had no desire to wish you a good morning in return. In fact, at this point, I was hoping something bad would happen to you. I was honestly wishing that you would stub your toe on your way back into you apartment, that your favourite team would lose their next important game, and that you would one day fall in a mud puddle on the way to the most important meeting of your life. I’ve reconsidered since then, and I only wish that you stubbed your toe.

I would just like to ask that, in the future, you address Ottawa with your cheerful greeting only after 8:00 am on weekdays and pretty much never on weekends.

Thank you,

Your fellow tenant.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Reading

The microphone wavered in his trembling hand.

I should put the mic on the stand, he said to himself, so that it doesn’t shake so much.

He fumbled clumsily with the stand, holding the microphone awkwardly between his wrists. The stand did not move in the way he expected, the base was too heavy. As the pole slipped from his moist fingers, he juggled the microphone between both hands before clutching it to his chest, the microphone releasing a deep rasp as it rubbed against his shirt. He laughed self-consciously.

I should tell a joke now, he decided, it will release some of this stress. Quick, think of something funny to say.

“Aahm, butterfingers McGee,” he muttered into the microphone.

He grimaced, that was stupid. I heard someone laugh, though – but were they laughing at me or my joke? Me, must’ve been me. I hope my hair isn’t sticking up. He ran a hand over his head – everything seemed in place.

He slid the microphone into the top of the stand and then repositioned himself in front of it.

“Mohammed and the mountain, y’know?”

There was a twitter of laughter. Was that Islamophobic? No, it’s a common idiom. A common idiom, no worries. Funnier than his previous joke, butterfingers McGee, where does that even come from?

He blinked twice, his eyes were watering too much. People might think I’m crying, maybe I should pretend that I feel a sneeze coming on. He opened his mouth and wrinkled his nose, prompting a tiny tear to pop from his eye. He quickly wiped it off. The lights are too bright he reasoned.

“I have a poem that I wrote to share.”

That came out wrong. It should've been I'd like to share a poem that I wrote. Maybe they’ll think that I wrote the poem to share it? That makes me sound like I write in order to have people hear it, not for the art of it. Argh.

“I wrote this poem, but, uh, I didn’t want to share it.”

Shit. That was stupid, now they’re going to think it’s a bad poem. He adjusted his glasses and crinkled the paper in front of him.

“I, uh, wrote this poem . . . I wrote it from a place deep within.”

Yeah, that was pretty good. A place deep within. The pretty dark-haired girl at the front table with the horn-rimmed glasses and the flowery pantaloons might be impressed.

Don’t look at her, don’t look at her, don’t look at her, he urged himself as he glanced nervously toward her. She was whispering something to her blond friend with the hemp tam on her head. They were giggling.

“Ahm, um, well, here it goes.”

“Yeaaah, go for it bruh!” a voice of encouragement. It was the pale lanky man wearing the African robe.

He flashed the thumbs up in the direction of the voice. Ooooh, that was weak sauce. I shouldn’t have flashed the thumbs up, it’s like the international symbol of lameness. Or not? Hadn’t I seen that one soccer player, what’s-his-name, flash the thumbs up? Are soccer players cool? Yeah, definitely, definitely cool.

He grasped the paper in both hands, reading the words carefully. His voice shook slightly when he got to the line about the paper birds. He coughed, licked his lips. This is a good place to pause.

Don’t pause too long.

The pause was too long, he decided.

The next word out of his mouth emerged with an unfamiliar squeak. Like I’m thirteen again, he thought as the rest of the line spilled from his mouth. Just keep going, just keep going.

His eyes were watering again. He blinked heavily, lost his place momentarily and then promptly interchanged two words. He read the line over, stuttering slightly but righting the word order. His ears were heating up, hopefully they weren’t turning red. The more he thought about it the hotter his ears became, his cheeks warming now.

Maybe they wouldn’t notice his red face in this light. No, the lights were too bright. He rushed the next line. Bad idea, that was a pretty important line. He slowed for the next line again. Bad idea, that was the worst line in the poem.

Don’t think about your red face.

He thought about his red face.

His face was now a deep red colour, he was sure of it.

He finished the final line, pausing dramatically before the last word. He was done, his face was cooling.

“Thank you,” he said.

The applause was scattered at first but then grew in intensity. He heard a wooooh, probably from the lanky man in the dashiki.

He flashed the thumbs up.

Yeah, that was cool.

Monday, June 21, 2010

“There is two kinds of music the good and bad. I play the good kind.”

~ Louis Armstrong.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Things that People Find Annoying that They Really Shouldn't:

~ Less than exemplary service at a fast food restaurant. It's a fast food restaurant, the person serving you is probably in high school and is making minimum wage. You should be mad at yourself for eating low-grade food.

~ Doing the dishes. Yes, yes, doing the dishes is very annoying. What isn't annoying is having hot and cold clean running water, which makes this chore a whole lot easier.

~ Airplane delays. To paraphrase Louis CK, you're sitting in a seat in the sky. You are living the dreams of countless generations before you and shaving a week to three months off of your journey.

~ Lost cellphone signals. Honestly, you can wait ten minutes until you get a signal again, your call can't be that important. You do not need to be connected with the world at every single moment.

~ Slow internet connections. There was a time when people relied on their memory, encyclopaedia salesman had careers, and people mailed letters to each other. Just wait that extra fifteen seconds and be thankful.

~ Old people driving slowly. Just let them drive slowly, they've witnessed revolutionary change in transportation, they drive better than most young people, and, most of all, they've earned it.

~ People not having your taste in music. I know that you and I have excellent taste in music, but there is no need to get upset that other people like different music than us. Unless, of course, that other person likes Fergie or Nickelback.

~ Immigrants stealing jobs. Immigrants often take jobs that no one else will or creating jobs that didn't exist before. Either that, or they're highly skilled and taking a job that the people most vocally complaining could never even dream of having.

~ Players diving in soccer. Whaaat? Actually, people really should be annoyed by this.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Which I Answer Some Serious Questions - Final Edition

If a bunch of cats jump on top of each other, is it still called a dog pile?

A bunch of cats would never jump on top of each other. If they did, they would cease to be cats.

Do sheep get static cling when they rub against one another?

No, they just get dirtier.

In libraries, do they put the bible in the fiction or non-fiction section?

They put the Bible in the religious section.

How old are you before it can be said you died of old age?

If you’re a fly, you only have to be a couple days old.

If K.F.C Stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken, Why do they play sweet home Alabama on the commercials (sic)?

Because Kentucky and Alabama are pretty much exactly the same state as far as us northerners are concerned.

If people with one arm go to get their nails done, do they pay half price?

People with one arm do their own nails, that’s how good they are.

What type of animal is Snuffaluffagus?

I don’t know, but he talks and his best friend is a gigantic talking canary. We have bigger problems here.

If you had a three story house and were in the second floor, isn't it possible that you can be upstairs and downstairs at the same time?

Unless you’re on the very top or the very bottom, floor levels are relative.

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If it’s a federally owned hearse or if there are two occupants in the front.

Why do they call it "getting your dog fixed" if afterwards it doesn't work anymore?

It doesn’t work for the dog, but it works just fine for everyone else.

Does a 'Marks-A-Lot' marker, mark any more than a regular marker?

No, you’re looking for the ‘Marks-A-Lot-More’ marker.

If the funeral procession is at night, do folks drive with their headlights off?

Only vampires have funeral processions at night, and they drive carriages with lanterns.

What happens when you put a lightsaber in water?

Lightsabers don’t exist. But if they did, it would make a sizzling sound.

On Gilligan's Island, how did Ginger have so many different outfits when they were only going on a 3 hour tour?

Ginger orchestrated the whole disaster in order to model her favourite fashions. Pay attention next time.

If I had my legs amputated, would I have to change my height and weight on my driver's license?

Are you planning to have your legs amputated because you’re unhappy with your height and weight? I suggest rethinking this entire issue.

If nobody buys a ticket to a movie do they still show it?

Yes, and they skip the commercials.

How do you tell when you run out of invisible ink?

When your diabolical plan starts to unwind because your secret agents are not receiving their messages.

Do movie producers still say lights, camera, and action when it is a dark scene?

Unless it’s a pitch black scene, everything continues as usual.

What do you call male ballerinas?

Wimps.


How does Freddy Kruger wipe his butt?

With fictional toilet paper.

Why people are so scared of mice, which are much smaller than us, when no one seems to be scared of Mickey Mouse, who is bigger than us?

Mickey Mouse does not spread diseases.

Why are the numbers on a calculator and a phone reversed?

They still go left to right, so they’re not totally reversed. In other words, I don’t know.

Why are plastic bears the only animal you can get honey from? Why can't you get honey from a plastic bee?

Listen, you should not take honey from a bear, plastic or otherwise.

Can bald men get lice?

Hi, how are you? I hope you’re doing well. You know, sometimes we ask silly things without realizing that the answer is right in front of us. There were a few times that I asked where my keys were when they were in my hand or my pocket. I sure felt silly afterwards! Oh boy, did I ever. There was another time where a friend of mine asked how many quarters were in a basketball game. Can you imagine how embarrassing that was for her? I can. We all have these moments where we ask questions where the answer should be patently obvious to us if we just think a little harder. That’s why I will retype your question with an important word bolded for your attention: Can bald men get lice?

When your photo is taken for your driver's license, why do they tell you to smile? If you are stopped by the police and asked for your license, are you going to be smiling?

They tell you to smile to get you in trouble with the police officer. The officer will see your smiling picture, compare it to your glowering face, and immediately assume that you are using someone else’s license. Now you’re in so much more trouble than before, and it’s all because the license bureau does not like you.

Do butterflies remember life as a caterpillar?

As an amateur insect neurologist I can confidently say “probably not, but maybe. I’m not sure.”
Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?

They are hungry.

Does the postman deliver his own mail?

If his house is on his route, I assume he would.

Why does toilet bowl cleaner only come in the color blue?

It comes in green and turquoise too.

What happens when you put hand sanitizer on a place other then (sic) your hand?

Then that part of your anatomy is sanitized. Just don’t put it in your eyes. Use eyedrops instead.

Why are women and men's shoe sizes different?

So it’s hard for women to convert the size difference and then laugh at men with small feet.

Can you "stare off into space" when you're in space?

Can you see space when you’re in space?

Where do people in Hell tell other people to go?

Manitoba.

Is "vice-versa" to a dyslexic just plain redundant?

No, unless they read everything twice it’s just backwards.

How come you can kill a deer and put it up on your wall, but it's illegal to keep one as a pet?

It’s legal to have a pet deer, but you need special permits.

Why do we say we're head over heels when we're happy? Isn't that the way we normally are?

People used to walk on their hands when they were sad, so it made more sense back then.

If prunes are dehydrated plums, where does prune juice come from?

Steamed prunes that are mashed into a pulpy watery mess for your consumption, old man.

Is it appropriate to say "good mourning" at a funeral?

Since 'morning' and 'mourning' are homophones, no one will hear the difference. They might smack that smug smile off your face if it’s an afternoon funeral, though.

If there's an exception to every rule, is there an exception to that rule?

I like this question. I think there's an exception to almost every rule.

When you're caught "between a rock and a hard place", is the rock not hard?

No, it’s pumice.

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Freezers sometimes do have lights.

Doesn't a lightning rod on top of church show a lack of faith?

If you believe that churches have divine protection from bad choices like being uninsured against the elements it does.

Who coined the phrase, 'coined the phrase?'

I did. It’s a good one, isn’t it?

If there were a thousand seagulls in an airplane while its flying, each weighing two pounds a piece, but they were all flying in the airplane, would the airplane weigh 2000 pounds more?
The birds are part of the airplane because the air in the airplane is being carried along with everything else inside the airplane including the flying birds. So yes, the airplane would weigh as much as everything it’s carrying.

If you soak a raisin in water, does it turn back into a grape?

Yeah, it works for prunes too, old man.

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

If someone is killed because of their political or social views by someone they don’t know, it’s safe to say that they were assassinated.

Why do they call steam rollers, steam rollers? They don't produce, get rid of, or have anythong (sic) to do with steam.

They used to be steam powered, so they did have something to do with steam. So there.

What is another word for "thesaurus"?

Tesauro. Yeah, I used Spanish, so what? Two people can play the smart aleck game.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Vuvuzelas

The vuvuzela is incredibly annoying,it sounds like a hundred thousand angry killer bees are in attendance. These killer bees become enraged whenever the action heats up, and furiously censor any chants or songs that dare try to impinge on their monotonous buzzing. Killer bees have no place at the Word Cup, especially if they are angry. From the games I have watched, it seemed that a lot of players were thrown off by the noise. I am sincerely hoping that the vuvuzelas are banned from the World Cup so that the environment can be improved for both players and fans.

That being said, there was a letter to the editor today where the writer claimed that he would not be watching any more of the World Cup because of the vuvuzela. Yes, it is quite an annoyance, but there is a handy button on the remote that allows all the sound to be muted – it’s called the “mute” button. If the commentary is important to you, you can just let the vuvuzelas blare on in the background, eventually you barely notice them. The World Cup only happens every four years, and to let thousands of blaring plastic horns dissuade you from watching the games probably means that you’re not really a fan in the first place.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wisdom and War

We do not care-
That much is clear.
Not enough
Of us care
Anywhere.
We are not wise-
For that reason,
Mankind dies.
To think
Is much against
The will.
Better-
And easier-
To kill.

~ Langston Hughes

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Urban Chickens?

Laurianne and I were walking down Bay street one day when we saw a turkey. Yeah, a turkey just chilling on someone's porch like it was the master of the home, and king of the laneway. It was surreal seeing a turkey in Ottawa's downtown core, and I am still a little bemused as to how or why that turkey was there. Turkeys don't belong in the city, do they?

Well, some urban residents, including some Ottawans, firmly believe that chickens belong in this city. I have read their letters to the editor and gushing comments on the internet, and they seem firmly convinced of the rightness of their cause. They are thoroughly entranced with the idea that they can raise chickens and eggs of a higher quality than those who do this full time. They seem to have this ideal of chickens running around in their yard with little Tyler and Madison gathering their eggs each morning. They wax eloquent about the lovely orange colour they remember eggs having and how store-bought eggs never having this quality. They look down their nose at these farmers whose chickens just aren't pampered enough to taste good. If they had a chance to raise these chickens, they argue, these chickens would lay absolutely delectable eggs and make meat of such a deliciously unattainable quality that chicken farmers would have apoplectic fits of jealousy.

Alright, I may be exaggerating - but just a little.

Who am I to question these urban chicken enthusiasts? After all, I'm just another city boy, right?

Yes, but I do have some authority to speak from. My grandfather was a chicken farmer, my father grew up reluctantly tending these chickens, and my brother-in-law is a full-time chicken farmer. When I mentioned how enthusiastic some Ottawa residents were for the idea of city-bred chickens to my brother-in-law he laughed good-naturedly and proceeded to list off numerous good reasons that chickens don't belong in the city. I can't remember them all, but there were several that stuck with me.

Here's the reality. While imperfect, chicken farming is heavily regulated. Every chicken barn has notations for every visitor that arrives and for the number of daily chicken deaths. Each barn is carefully inspected by government officials to exacting standards. Farmers who fail to meet the regulations have their quota stripped from them. These standards are in place to stop the spread of disease, to protect consumers and they are highly effective at ensuring that any diseased flock is immediately culled.

Urban chicken populations could not be inspected with the same efficiency as chicken farms. While recognizing that some urban amateur poultry farmers would keep highly hygienic coops and extremely healthy birds, there are others whose laziness and/or ignorance would result in abusive conditions, unsanitary coops, and woefully unhealthy birds. What you're left with then, is a breeding ground for disease, vermin, stench, and filth. Raccoons, coyotes, domesticated dogs, and other predators would be drawn to these coops like flies on a cow patty. The SPCA already has its hands full dealing with dog and cat owners who can't handle their responsibility, stretching their resources further to deal with amateur urban chicken farmers is a waste of time and money.

While chicken farmers have regulations for disposing of carcasses and chicken waste (i.e. shit), urban chicken farmers would have no idea or guidelines to carry out these duties. I can imagine that a few of the sensitive types would have somber chicken burials while others would merely throw them in a garbage bag with the rest of their trash. Some urban chicken enthusiasts would try to fertilize their gardens with their chicken manure, only to find their plants burn up. Others might be a little smarter and try to compost it first - either way their neighbours won't be entirely pleased. Still others would merely throw it out with the rest of their trash. As for the straw, it does not take long for it to become contaminated with chicken feces and urine. How will this be disposed of? So with all these chicken carcasses, contaminated straw, and all this chicken shit going into our city waste, what would happen? I don't know, but I don't want to find out. I'm not a big fan of rats or disease.

These amateur chicken farmers poo-poo the idea of their chickens smelling (yeah, that was a totally awesome pun, I know). However, modern chicken farms have space, sophisticated ventilation systems, and, well, space. Urban chicken coops will not have space, will not have sophisticated ventilation systems, if any at all, and will stink. Pig manure certainly smells more, but the ammonia from chicken urine and the stench from chicken manure is quite strong. Precious lawns will be scuffed up, devoured, and burnt by hungry urinating and defecating machines - engendering even more displeased neighbours.

Urban chicken enthusiasts point out that dogs and cats excrete and urinate quite a bit too. This is true, but rats, mice, weasels, and raccoons don't go after dog and cat food or the animals themselves. Dogs and cats are not being raised for eggs or for meat and are kept in limited numbers.

Some of these city-bred chicken fans have the idea that their children can gather the eggs in the morning and it will be a wonderful way for them to have a taste of rural life in the midst of the city. You may have your children try to gather these eggs a few times, but once they get the angry end of a chicken's beak on their hand or arm they will not be too enthusiastic about that particular chore. As for raising the chickens for meat, count me out unless your chickens are butchered by a professional.

Chickens belong in the country, that's where the farmers are.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update:

~ According to the Ottawa Citizen, 24 billion people will be tuned into the World Cup.

~ Estimated World Population as of 2010: 6.8 billion.

~ Accountants are always stressing the importance of decimal placement.

~ I wish it were about 70 degrees warmer outside right now.

~ Hup, Holland, Hup.

~ Ottawa always seems to be talking about a light rail transit system. It seems like none of the people talking about the transit system actually ride public transportation.

~ I think Ottawa is secretly jealous of Toronto.

~ Ottawans seem to spend a lot of time complaining about how Ottawa isn’t bike-friendly. They should try riding a bike through downtown Toronto. If they did, I think they’d stop being jealous.

~ Ottawa has 170 km of bike paths.

~ I still don’t consider myself an Ottawan.

~ The bread I buy is always slightly too dark on top, almost burnt.

~ The previous statement was incredibly boring to those uninterested in my bread consumption.

~ Everyone is unquestionably interested in my bread consumption, though. You're welcome.

~ I favour peanut butter and jam, with a preference toward raspberry over strawberry jam.

~ Enthralling, I know. I should do an entry just on my bread consumption.

~ I was able to make a dentist appointment for Monday, I’m pretty sure I have a cavity. If not, I just have a tooth that doesn’t enjoy being touched by anything sweet, hot, carbonated, or any combination thereof.

~ I believe it has been almost ten years since I have been to the dentist.

~ I’ve eaten a lot of bread since then.

~ My youngest sister, who’s in grade 8, received first place in high jump at Master’s field day.

~ I remember trying for the school record in grade 8, but I didn’t match it. Then I jumped really badly on Master’s field day.

~ My second youngest sister is en route to become a Neurosurgeon.

~ Sometimes I spread misinformation.

~ My third youngest sister is the world’s most helpful person. Ask anyone who knows her.

~ Sometimes I spread truth.

~ My second oldest sister is enroute to becoming Florence Nightingale.

~ Sometimes I make bold assertions that hinge on a comparison between heroines of the Crimean War and a sibling's future career.

~ My oldest sister cooks the world’s best chicken, bakes the greatest raisin bread, and has the most amazing children.

~ Sometimes you just want to go to Saskatchewan.

~ In comparison, I was voted the most likely to own my own tropical island in my last year of high school.

~ I am well on my way to not owning my own tropical island.

~ World Cup tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Graffiti

There’s a park by the bus stop that I frequent where people are free to practice their graffiti art. I always enjoy seeing the constantly changing face of the wall there, and I’m often impressed with the talent that these artists have with a spray can.

That being said, there is one thing I can’t stand. Heist. Heist has his name up on that wall. He also has tagged at least seven other places that are not that wall – and that’s just on my route to work. Four of these tags have been removed, but the other ones are still there. They’re quickly done with very little art to them, they’re ugly, and I’m sure they’re not cheap to remove. I am tired of seeing this word on my way to work. I read it inadvertently and immediately regret it. When I read the name Heist, I hear it being read in the voice of an angry high-pitched German. I have nothing against the Germans or the German language, but this particular word hits me like the squealing of bus brakes or the sound of teeth being dragged across a blackboard. Teeth. On a blackboard.

I hope that someday soon Heist, whoever he (or maybe even she) is, owns a car. I hope that this car is a very nice car. I hope that Heist really likes this car. Finally, I sincerely hope that someone paints a big, beautifully indelible picture of a cow patty on the hood of this car.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.

~ Victor Hugo

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Boer War Memorial

I sometimes walk through Ottawa's Confederation Park on my way from the Rideau Centre to Elgin Street or vice versa. Whenever I do, I pass the Boer War Memorial, with its mustachioed hero doffing his cap. He's smiling, his rifle butt resting on the ground, and I'm left pondering whether I like this chap.

With no control over its foreign policy,Canada was drawn into the war as soon as Great Britain declared war. Canada's Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier, was not enthused by the war and was left in a difficult position because of the sharp divide between English and French Canada. English Canada was fervently behind the British in South Africa. Over 7,000 Canadians served in South Africa, with 89 being killed in action and 130 dying of diseases.

Now, despite my last name being den Boer my ancestors were not at all involved in the 1899 Boer War (also known as the Second Boer War). I would wager that, like most Dutch (and much of the world, for that matter), their sympathies lay with the Afrikaners rather than the British. In fact, popular opinion was so strong that the Dutch government sent a cruiser to South Africa to pick up the Afrikaner president, Paul Kruger. Two small Dutch-speaking Republics were fighting against a world power; a world power that seemed motivated entirely out of a lust for diamonds and gold.

Canadians don't seem to know a lot about the Boer War. When people have trouble pronouncing my last name, as they often do, I tell them that it's pronounced "like the Boer in the Boer War." Reactions range from blank nods to a vague look of recognition. I doubt very many Canadians know that the Boer War was the birthplace of the first concentration camps, made for Afrikaner families and their black allies, or that some of the Canadian troops had a reputation as a rough, undisciplined lot prone to excesses.

For these reasons, I find it difficult to pass the Boer War Memorial without a little cynicism. This was not a just war. Admittedly, the Boers were far from angelic in their treatment of the local African populations or their annexation of African land, and it was the Boers who pre-emptively attacked the British in the Second Boer War. However, this does not justify their treatment at the hands of the British or the British annexation of the Boer Republics.

War is a tragedy, especially when it is waged unjustly. Still, the men who died in the Second Boer War deserve to be remembered - whether they were African, Boer, British, or Canadian.

So when I pass the Boer War Memorial I think of all the needless lives that were lost, the greed, anger, and hubris that humanity will never lose, and the emptiness of so many of the wars around the world.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Title: Warning to all Vilators
Location: 500 m from my abode.
Number of Signs with the Same Spelling: At Least Two
Lesson for Hydro One: Proofread your Signs
John's Imagination Says: A vilator is a futuristic car that interferes with Hydro-1's electricity grid. This is a sign from the future.
Google Says: Did you mean: violator?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Factory

The factory was old, far older than any of the buildings surrounding him. He felt his age in his sagging wooden floors and the yellowing walls of his interior. The once bright red bricks that he had worn so proudly had faded into a rose, and a few had begun to crack and crumble. Few of his paneled windows remained, most had been broken by drunken vandals. The machinery that had hummed almost constantly deep in his belly had been silent for decades, as if his vitality had been sucked right out of him. The machines, once confident and powerful, had been stripped and their remains left to corrode. At night, when the city lay almost silent he could hear his joints creak and groan from his own mass and from the weight of the plunging temperatures. His faces were crisscrossed with tattoos left by romantics, desperate fame-seekers, and angry urban poets. He had come to enjoy the surreptitious visits of these night-time artists. The bright colours that they left behind covered his faded brick and their shadowy visits gave him the attention that he missed so greatly.

The building behind him, a soaring glass structure would peer imperiously down at him and wonder aloud when his view would improve. The glass building had a slight curve to its roof which made it think of itself as an architectural masterpiece.

The factory muttered hollowly to the himself about how derivative the glass building was, how there were thousands of it throughout the world, how few people noticed the shining reflective glass. He, however, had stood the test of time. Had he not heard the recent urban explorer enthuse to his friend on how much character he had?

Years passed. The machines showed up. The factory was excited at first, assuming that they had come to revitalize him, to shore him up, to re-open him to the rough workmen.

That was until they pulled down his first wall, the faded brick crumbling as it hit the ground. They were tearing him down, his tired bones shuddered with fatigued relief. His walls creaked and groaned, their age giving away easily to the destruction. He heard the soaring glass building humming happily to itself, "I shall have a wondrous view."

“Your time will come,” he groaned as his ancient roof caved in, “Your time will come.”

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

In Which I Answer Some Very Serious Questions - Part 3

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

Have you ever tried making a round box? More importantly, have you ever noticed how easily round boxes can be crushed?

Do bald people get Dandruff?

Why was the word dandruff capitalized here? Anyway, the answer to your question is that bald people are impervious to any and all disorders of the scalp.

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

White supremacy.

Why do superheros (sic) wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes?

Superheroes don’t exist.

If you get cheated by the Better Business Bureau, who do you complain to?

Superman.

When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs?

No, they generally use megaphones and effigies.

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

I know, right? I mean it’s so hard to check if paint is wet but so easy to count to 4 billion.

Can you cry underwater?

Yes, I can also breathe underwater.

Why Does Pluto Live in a dog house, eat dog food, etc. but Goofy, who is also a dog, lives (sic) in a condo and drives a car?

Cartoon speciation.

If you blew a bubble in space would it pop?

No, it would continue to expand until it consumed the entire universe.

How come all of the planets are spherical?

They’re not, they’re oblate ellipsoids.

When a pregnant lady has twins, is (sic) there 1 or 2 umbilical cords?

One, they take turns.

Why doesn't Winnie the Pooh ever get stung by the bees he messes with?

Winnie the Pooh is an anthropomorphic bear who can talk, don’t you have a better question?

Why do they put holes in crackers?

So they sink in your soup.

Can you still say "Put it where the sun don't shine " on a nude beach?

No, it’s forbidden.

What do people in China call their good plates?

Good plates, but they say it in Chinese.

How come toy hippos are always blue, or purple, when real hippos are brown?

Real hippos are brownish-grey, come correct or don’t come at all.

Why don't woodpeckers get headaches when they slam their head on a tree all day?

Their ancestors slammed their heads against the inside of a titanium box, so they’re pretty tough (see part 2).

If someone owns a piece of land, do they own it all the way to the center of the earth?

I was going to say yes, but the dude who wrote War and Peace disagrees, and who am I to argue with him?
“The earth is the general and equal possession of all humanity and therefore cannot be the property of individuals.”

If an escalator (sic) breaks down, does it become stairs?

No, it becomes a staggered group of stationary steps that are just the right distance apart for the average biped to travel swiftly between two separate levels.

Why do they call him Donkey Kong if he is not a donkey?

The Japanese creator wanted to relay the idea of a stubborn gorilla. No really, that’s the answer.
Why do they say a football team is the 'world champion' when they don't play anybody outside the US?

Because the United States is the world, silly.

Do stuttering people stutter when they're thinking to themselves?

No.

If you put a chameleon in a room full of mirrors, what color would it turn?

The colour of the floor.

What are the handles for corn on the cob called?

They’re called the left and the right ends of the corn on the cob.

Why do British people never sound British when they sing?

Listen carefully.

Why do we press the start button to turn off the computer?

I usually click on the Start menu button, then the shut down button, and then press okay. You may want to upgrade from DOS.

Do your eyes change color when you die?

I don’t know, I haven’t died yet.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and strops,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

~ Wilfred Owen

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My Thoughts on Anarchism

Recently, the Royal Bank in Ottawa's Glebe was firebombed by a group of radical anarchists. I'm not certain that radical is a necessary qualifier here because an anarchist is, by definition, a radical. After all, they believe in the elimination of the state.

If, as one of my mentors effectively argues, all political ideologies are akin to religions, then Anarchism finds its salvation in the elimination in what it views as the chief purveyor of evil: authority. But how would a society bereft of authority function? A recent letter to the editor by a local anarchist in the Ottawa Citizen claimed that it would be a highly organized society of equals.

When I read this, overactive imagination that I have, I had a vision of a Parliament of 33 million MPs all gibbering at once. This is probably not what the letter-writer intended, but how can a highly organized society be defined except as a form of government? How can a leaderless society make functional decisions?

I've heard some anarchists argue that there would be highly localized clusters of voluntary associations based on mutual needs. Of course, this ideal would depend on the needs of one of these clusters not clashing with the needs of another cluster. In effect, you'd have a sort of tense tribalism and it would not be long before two tribes clashed. It would be doubtful that any such group would retain their collective kumba-ya Anarchism without a leader emerging in the face of violence. In effect, you would have people united in fear under one leader in a mini-government. An area governed this way would quickly come to resemble feudal Europe at its worst, or modern-day Somalia.

Back to square one for the anarchists.

The biggest problem with Anarchism, in my mind, is that it, like Communism, idealizes humans. It seems to believe that once society is restructured then evil will be eliminated and humans will stop acting like, well, humans. The source of evil, for these thinkers, is not within humanity but within the structures around humanity.

Anarchists, if they were ever to gain wide popularity and revolt, would face the same dilemma as the various communists have: what do we do with those who won't accept our platform? As in Communism, the anarchists calling for tolerance would be quickly drowned out by the more ruthless among them. It would not be long before all of the obstacles and setbacks would be heaped at the feet of those enemies that opposed the anarchist ideal. The anarchists, when things did not work out, would be forced to form a transitional government until all of their ideals fell into place.

Now, the anarchist writing to the Ottawa Citizen's editor made it clear he was non-violent. The most radical thing he has ever done was probably collectivizing a coffee shop or bakery. However, in any revolution it seems that it is the most radical and the most ruthless who gain control. Those anarchists with Utopian dreams of a peaceful stateless society of hemp-wearing hippies would be shuffled to the side. Meanwhile, charismatic authoritarians would seize the opportunity to snatch the very power that anarchists loathe so much. "Just in the interim," they would assure their concerned friends.

The evil, my anarchist friends, is not just outside of us, it's within. Trying to destroy the corporations and governments will do nothing but create further evil. The corporations and governments are not wholly evil or wholly good: they're both - just like us. We should strive for justice, for the triumph of the good, but this involves restoration and surgery, not destruction and murder.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

25 Random Facts About Me

1) I was tagged on Facebook by my sister and asked to give twenty five random facts about myself. Yes, this counts as a fact.

2) I don’t believe that anything is truly random, especially lists created by people. Maybe if I had some kind of randomizing super-computer I could create a truly random list.

3) Of course, then it would spit out such interesting tidbits as: “On October 22nd, 1997 at 12:45pm, John ate a sandwich.”

4) The example in number 2 is not verified. It’s probably true though.

5) A friend of mine told me that I was pretentious. I told them that they were as misguided as John Wayne searching for a good Cabernet Sauvignon in Detroit, and then I laughed snootily to myself whilst flaunting my fur coat.

6) If there were a detective show based on me, it would be called “John the Detective.”

7) In my younger days, I thought Sesame Street’s count and my father’s job as an accountant were related.

8) I put this childish misconception behind me after I learned that Count was a title and that accountancy was an occupation last year. We learn, we grow right?

9) Belgian Congo, 1932: I fought a full-grown silverback gorilla in hand to hand combat and won. The movie King Kong was later made in 1933, loosely based on my exploits.

10) I despise the absurd.

11) I don’t speak English, and I’m completely illiterate.

12) John Grisham considers me his hero.

13) I never contradict myself, but I always say and write things that are contrary to other things I’ve said and written.

14) If a cello were a computer keyboard, I would be a gifted cellist.

15) You wouldn’t guess it from this list, but there was a time when I created elaborate lies for my youngest sister’s benefit.

16) My new boss’s extension is 666. He’s too nice for me to call him the beast.

17) Monaco is the second-smallest country in the world at only 0.7 square miles.

18) What? That’s not a fact about me? Okay, here’s a fact about me: I make the rules about this list.

19) I once witnessed a confrontation against a supporter of the seal hunt and a young woman protesting the seal hunt. It went something like this:

Supporter: I know more about the seal hunt than you. I’ve read a lot about it.

Protester: Oh . . . . . . . did you know (insert random fact here)?

Supporter: You don’t want to get into this with me.

Protester: The seal hunt needs to stop.

Supporter: Seals aren’t endangered.

Protester: The seal hunt is cruel.

Supporter: (Something about cows). Bye.

Protester: (Something about seals) Bye.

20) I have a seashell on my desk. No one would have sea shells on their desks if the ugly gelatinous creatures that resided in them were still inside them.

21) I sometimes see a guy waiting for the bus with a huge bouffant. It’s huge. And it’s a bouffant.

22) I spent about two months thinking that the Arabic for “praise God” meant “God bless you.” When I dropped this knowledge on an Arabic sneezer much hilarity ensued.

24) I sometimes miscount things.

25) You know that game two lies and a truth? This list is more like seven lies, eleven truths, four suppositions, and two random facts. An accountant should probably double check this, though.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Um guys? You may want to reconsider trying to appeal to
British nationalism while using the symbol of German Fascism.
Just a thought.
I mean, unless you're going for irony.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Historical Macbeth

Shakespeare’s remarkable insight into the human condition and his sharp intellect should have made him a brilliant historian, but his portrayal of Macbeth’s life is inaccurate. To be fair, Shakespeare did not have a great deal of accurate sources to work with and, as a dramatist, Shakespeare’s first task was to entertain his audience rather than to present them with a historically accurate representation of events. Shakespeare would probably remain apathetic to any accusations of historical revisionism, but an examination of the historical Macbeth is interesting nonetheless. Also, a look at the historical sources and events which shaped Shakespeare’s writing would, undoubtedly, be revealing. Perhaps two figures can be redeemed in one essay.

Both James I and his wife, Anne of Denmark, were enthusiastic lovers of theatre. James was less enthusiastic than his wife and had difficulty staying awake through long plays. Thus, Shakespeare directed the actors to compress their speeches. This takes skill on the part of the actors and mental acuity on the part of the audience. In this way, the play was performed to perfectly suit the educated audience and the short attention span of James I. Macbeth was written and performed on the occasion of the king’s brother-in-law King Christian of Denmark’s visit in the summer of 1606.

1603 had seen the Union of the Crowns as the thrones of Scotland and England were united under James I (James VI of Scotland.) The play might be seen as a nod at this Union of the two thrones. Shakespeare picked the perfect historical event to demonstrate English and Scottish cooperation. The history of Anglo-Scots relations wasn’t exactly abounding with tales of co-operation. The Scots, in fact, were notorious for hiring themselves out as mercenaries for the French against the English. The English assistance to Malcom III, James I’s ancestor, was probably the best example of English and Scottish interests coalescing. Macbeth was perfectly tailored for consumption by James I.

Macbeathadh, as Macbeth is known in Gaelic, means “Son of Life,” an ironic name for the blood-stained murderer of Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth was the son of Findlaech mac Ruairdri, Earl of Moray, a royal-blooded member of clan Argyll. Macbeth’s father was slain by his own nephews in AD 1020, and the simmering Macbeth planned his revenge against the killers. Twelve years later Macbeth avenged his father’s death by catching one of the killers in a building and burning him to death along with fifty of his men. Macbeth assumed the title of Earl and married the executed killer’s widow, Gruoch. This marriage strengthened Macbeth’s claim to the Scottish throne, but Macbeth remained content as Earl of Moray.

So far, Macbeth seems to be the same ambitious, ruthless, and calculating character that Shakespeare portrayed; yet the events of Macbeth’s life differ significantly from the events of the play. Far from the wise and goodly king of Shakespeare’s play, Duncan was a young incompetent installed by the decree of his despotic father, Malcolm II. The ancient custom of Scotland was succession by election rather than by decree, and thus the installation of a rash and ambitious youngster inspired anger throughout Scotland. The young Duncan led a disastrous invasion of northern England in AD 1039. With one failure under his belt, Duncan turned his sights northwards and struck out against the Earl of Moray, Macbeth.

Macbeth defeated Duncan and was immediately accepted as King of Scots by Duncan’s estranged subjects. Duncan’s eldest son, Malcolm, fled to England while the younger son, Donalbain, fled to the Western Isles. Shakespeare was right that Macbeth killed Duncan, but the circumstances of the killing are far different than the play depicts. Rather than murdering a well-loved old monarch out of ambition, Macbeth killed a despised ruler in self defence.

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s play, the great general, Macbeth, has just quashed a Viking invasion in Fife. The visit of Christian, King of Denmark, did affect the content of Shakespeare’s play. Henry Paul believes that scene iii of Act I was written before Shakespeare knew that Christian would be attending the play. He argues that the metre of the speech becomes irregular in the places where Shakespeare had to quickly insert new names. The account which Shakespeare relied upon for his play records that the invasion which Macbeth thwarted was a second wave of Danish invaders. For the sturdy Scots to drive away Danish invaders in the presence of a Danish king would be inappropriate. Shakespeare diplomatically chose to change the nationality of these Danes to Norwegian. Macbeth may have turned away Viking invasions as Earl of Moray, but as King of the Scots he was unable to drive the Norse king Thorfinn Sigurdson, his half-cousin, from Scotland. Thorffin was an ugly giant of a man, a brilliant tactician who remained undefeated in battle by the King of the Scots.

Macbeth was a capable ruler who gave generously to the Church. Perhaps Macbeth was anticipating a muddying of his name as he gave many gifts to the Church, guaranteeing a certain amount of good press. His commitment to the Church seems to have been genuine, however, as a pilgrimage to Rome in AD 1050 suggests. Macbeth should have secured his kingdom and prepared for war instead of journeying to Rome to kiss the pope’s hand. Duncan’s eldest son, Malcolm, was in England whispering into the ear of certain powerful individuals. Influenced by Malcolm, Edward the Confessor, king of England, sanctioned the invasion of Scotland in 1054 under the Earl of Northrumbria, Siward. Once again, Shakespeare’s play contains elements of truth. Siward appears in both versions as the Northrumbian Earl who is willing to help Malcolm’s claim to the throne. Duncan’s son, Malcolm, is able to drum up forces from England and, although Macbeth follows spiritual inclinations in both versions of the story, these inclinations are not compatible. The spiritual inclinations of the devout Macbeth are far more positive than the spiritual inclinations the occult-consulting fictional king. The two Macbeths really wouldn’t have gotten along.

At first, Macbeth waged a fierce guerilla war until he was forced to pitched battle on the 27th of July. The battle, which may or may not have occurred below Dunsinane Hill, was a fierce and bloody clash which was noted in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. The nameless monk records that Earl Siward: “fought against the Scots. He put to flight their king, Macbeth, and slew the noblest in the land, carrying off much plunder.” There were heavy casualties on both sides and, unlike the play, Macbeth left the field with his head firmly connected to his shoulders. Macbeth retreated northwards to his home territory of Moray while Malcolm bided his time as he waited to seize power for himself.

In AD 1057, Malcolm felt strong enough to hunt down his father’s killer. Macbeth’s support was melting away and Malcolm surged northwards. The fugitive Macbeth was stalked to a small village and killed in a hopeless final stand. After his death, Macbeth’s severed head was presented to Malcolm on either a pole or platter. Really it doesn’t matter, the severed head appears in both accounts. Whether the historical figure of Macduff killed the historical Macbeth is unknown. Local legend supports the Shakespeare’s claim that Macduff slew Macbeth in hand to hand combat. Malcolm did not immediately possess the kingdom, however, as the remaining supporters of Macbeth declared his stepson, Lulach, to be King of the Scots. Lulach gained the rather unfortunate moniker of “Lulach the Simpleton.” Whether this mental deficiency contributed to his capture is unknown, but Lulach was killed in March 1058 in an ambush set by Malcolm. With the last of the throne’s claimants dead, Malcolm became Malcolm III, the King of Scots.

How is it possible that the tragic story of murderous ambition was hatched from the story of a capable king who reigned for seventeen years? Shakespeare was responsible enough to research Macbeth before his life on the stage. The sources that Shakespeare had at hand, it seems, tell a much different story than history. The muddying — or perhaps more accurately, the bloodying — of Macbeth’s name began early. The pro-Macbeth stories tended to generate from Moray while the anti-Macbeth stories were propagated by Malcolm’s victorious Canmore dynasty. The anti-Macbeth stories had much more power.

In 1380, John of Fordun continued the Macbeth slamming in his Chronica Gentis Scotorum. In this version of events Macbeth is portrayed as a murderous usurper of the Scottish throne. Macduff is a distinguished Earl of Fife who flees to England after his loyalty is suspected by Macbeth. Once there, he convinces Malcolm, with the help of Siward, to seize the throne from Macbeth. By 1420, a prior by the name of Andrew Wyntoun had added witches and the advancement of Birnam Wood to the story in his Origynale Cronikil of Scotland.

The text which Shakespeare depended heavily upon was the 1587 edition of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland which relied heavily on Wyntoun’s version of events. Shakespeare was given everything he needed for a dramatic play in Holinshed’s version of Macbeth’s lifes. In Holinshed, Shakespeare read of a brave and ambitious nobleman who yields to the misleading prophecy of three witches, commits regicide, seizes the throne for himself, becomes a tyrannical leader, and is ultimately slain by his own people. Holinshed writes of how a English king, Edward the Confessor, helped a fled Scottish King, Malcolm, regain his kingdom from a tyrant. It would not be difficult, with a little detail added, for Shakespeare to show the baseness of regicide and the terrible punishment allotted for those who committed it.

James I had two attempts on his life. The first was the Gowrie Conspiracy of 1600 where, James insists, the younger brother of the Earl of Gowrie attempted to stab him as they were discussing the retrieval of buried treasure. The second was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which several disaffected Roman Catholics began to gather gunpowder kegs in the cellar under the House of Lords. The conspirators hoped to light the gunpowder, destroy parliament and the king, and kidnap his daughter to raise her as a Roman Catholic.

Shakespeare was well aware of both of these plots and, thus, his emphasis on the terror of regicide resounds that much louder. The parallel between the Gowrie Conspiracy and Macbeth’s plot to kill Duncan in striking. In both cases the king’s life was threatened by his host in the host’s own home. The Gunpowder Plot, however, was closer to the writing of Macbeth in both time and place. The horror that this attempted regicide caused throughout England was deep and passionate. The judge, Sir Edward Philips echoed the sentiment of the time in his arraignment. Philips claimed the treason was “of such horror and monstrous nature, that before now the tongue of man never delivered, the ear of man never heard, the heart of man never conceited, nor the malice of hellish or earthly devil ever practiced.” In Shakespearean England, Regicide was the worst possible crime against nature. To kill the Lord’s Anointed was seen as a direct sin against God’s order and a crime with dire and far-reaching consequences. As Malcolm proclaims, the effects of such a crime will be felt even after the wrong is righted: “When I shall tread upon the tyrant’ head, Or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country Shall have more vice than it had before, More suffer, and more sundry ways than ever, By him that shall succeed” (4.3,46-50). In light of the plot and the fearful atmosphere it generated, Macbeth must have seemed the perfect play for Shakespeare to write.

Echoes of the plot are heard throughout Macbeth. The Thane of Cawdor is condemned a number of times for his treasonous behaviour, most notably and ironically by Duncan’s pronouncement that “No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive Our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death, And with his former title greet Macbeth” (1.2, 65-68). In the wake of the trial, an atmosphere of fear permeated the English populace. A rumour that the king had been stabbed with a poisoned knife caused widespread panic in March of 1606. Shakespeare may have been reflecting on this panic when he had Ross utter these lines: “But cruel are the time when we are traitors and do not know ourselves, when we hold rumour from what we fear, yet know not what we fear” (4.2,18-20).

Shakespeare, of course, added his own dramatic touch to Holinshed’s version of events. Holinshed agreed with history in arguing that Macbeth had a legitimate claim on the throne of Scotland. By following this parallel and transforming Duncan into a wise benevolent king, Shakespeare emphasized Macbeth’s guilt and ambition. Despite proclaiming Macbeth to be a usurper, Holinshed faithfully recorded the reign of Macbeth as lasting seventeen years. Shakespeare could hardly hammer home the enormity of the crime of regicide if the monarch reigned seventeen years before justice finally caught up with him. Therefore, in the interest of keeping the elapsed time the play covered to minimum and out of concern for swift justice, Shakespeare kept Macbeth’s reign as king long enough to be tyrannical but short enough to be just.

Holinshed insisted that Macbeth’s wife was an ambitious and evil woman, but then she disappears from the pages of his book. Shakespeare’s version of events concurred with Holinshed’s description of an ambitious and wicked woman, but the conscious-pricked woman haunted by the additional murders of her husband is purely his invention. The hallucinations of Lady Macbeth may have been an attempt by Shakespeare to appeal to the interests of a prominent member of his audience, James I. In 1597, the young king had written a remarkable book on witchcraft and Satanism entitled Daemonologie. Shakespeare was aware of this book and likely included the hallucinations and the witches in his play to help capture the interest of James I.
The importance of the witches should not be underestimated. James I and his Scottish retinue were deeply concerned with witches and the subject of witchcraft. The entire play loses its power if the audience doesn’t understand the sheer terror that the Scotch witches would have inspired in their audience. The horror would have been palpable in the audience when Macbeth pursued the witches for further information and proclaimed “Would they have stayed!” (Macbeth, 1,3,82). The aghast curiosity that the audience felt towards the witches would be comparable to the morbid obsession of rubberneckers slowing down by a smouldering car wreck. In understanding the horrified interest the witches commanded from the audience, the play gains in both dramatic and moral potency.

Shakespeare was careful about the names of his characters. Some characters were James I’s ancestors while other characters who appeared were taken from a list of newly created earls made by Malcolm after Macbeth’s death. The first of these was Macduff who, as the Earl of Fife, a prominent role in both Holinshed’s book and Shakespeare’s play. The others were Levenox (Lennox), Ross, Menteth (Menteith), and Cathnes (Caithness.) Once Macbeth’s Thanes had abandoned him, he needed someone to talk to besides himself. Thus, Shakespeare took the name Seyton from Holinshed’s list of gentleman who received their surname from Malcolm III and installed this Seyton as Macbeth’s officer.

Five of the principal characters which appear in Shakespeare’s play are the ancestors of James VI. Duncan, Malcolm, Banquo, Fleance, and old Siward were all considered to be his progenitors. Shakespeare tread very carefully here, portraying all of these characters as free from any vice or unseemly behaviour. After all, the least bit of grime could not be cast on James VI’s illustrious ancestry. Shakespeare relied on the genealogical table laid down by Holinshed, and some question of the historicity of Banquo and Fleance has arisen since then.

The important knowledge here is not whether or not these two characters existed, but the fact that James VI, a genealogist in his own right, believed that they did. Holinshed recorded the murder of Banquo and Fleance by the cruel Macbeth in detail, and one can easily see the inspiration it gave Shakespeare:
. . . the prick of conscience . . . caused him ever to fear . . .The words of the three sisters, would not out of his mind, which as they promised him the kingdom, so likewise did they promise it at the same time unto the posterity of Banquo. He willed therefore the same Banquo with his son named Fleance, to come to a supper that he had prepared for them, which was indeed, as he had devised, present death at the hands of certain murderers, whom he had hired to execute that deed.

One can almost see certain words and phrases jumping off of the page and into Shakespeare’s fertile imagination. The struggle between Macbeth’s fearful conscience and his ambitious drive figures prominently in this quotation and inspired the dramatization of the tragic decline of an essentially good man into a rampaging tyrant.

Shakespeare’s tragic play was remarkably faithful to Holinshed’s account of Macbeth’s life. Shakespeare is known to play fast and loose with history in order to increase dramatic effect or to omit offense. Yet, from the sources that Shakespeare had available, he was careful to reflect history with a certain amount of faithfulness. James and his Scottish retinue were, no doubt, familiar with Holinshed’s account of Macbeth and would have been delighted to see the bloody tale told accurately on the stage. The Union of Crowns, the Gunpowder Plot and James I’s interests in witchcraft, history, and genealogy made Macbeth’s life as recorded in Holinshed an apt play. History itself, as Holinshed wrote it, seemed to play into Shakespeare’s hands and he was able to create a brilliant and unforgettable tragedy through imagination and his sharp insight into human nature. The historic Macbeth may have had little in common with the fictional Macbeth, but the play lives on as a cautionary tale of the fall of a good man.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nike Soccer Commercial Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros)

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