Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dear sir,

I myself have found myself frustrated more than once by that particular door at the Rideau Shopping Centre. As it is the rightmost door in its section, practical experience dictates that it should swing open on the side closest to the door on its left. Nevertheless, this door swings open on the side closest to the wall. I have done the same thing as you, sir – pushing on the door’s left side only to realize, as I meet far more resistance than expected, that I was pushing on the side closest to the hinges.

Now, whenever this happens to me, it breaks up my stride a bit. I mean, I’ll be walking along at a certain pace and suddenly this door interrupts everything and I look just a little silly as I try to push open a door from the wrong side.

So, as you can see, I can definitely relate to the mild annoyance that this door can cause. One time, I was so annoyed at forgetting about this strangely-hinged door that I shook my head slightly. This head shake, of course, was more at myself and my own forgetfulness than the door itself. I mean, it’s a door. It’s an inanimate object that was installed by some well-meaning workers who were following the design specifications of some overtired architect. I will reiterate: this door is an inanimate object. This is a door, it cannot think, let alone hatch a malevolent conspiracy against a passerby. Here are things that doors can have in or on them: handles, knobs, hinges, panels, windows, knockers, signs, decorations, nails, grease-stains, small carvings of gargoyles, peep-holes, and nails. One thing you might notice about this list is that conspicuously missing is any mention of a soul, spirit, brain or intellect. Why? Because doors don’t have any of those things. By their very nature, doors are stupid.

I am not being insulting towards doors here. Even if doors could process the idea of stupidity, they would not care. Why? Because another thing doors don’t have is feelings. So it was with much bemusement that I witnessed your display aggression towards the door. You pushed the door from the wrong side and stumbled through.

At this point I thought you were just another well-dressed gentleman who, being fallible, had incorrectly surmised how to open this particular door. But no, you had to show me otherwise. You proceeded to turn and give the door withering glare. Then, with a display of outright hostility, you gave the door a vicious kick. I really shouldn’t have to say this, but there is no need to abuse or otherwise harass an object that is, by its very nature, without malice.

“Stupid door,” you muttered. This is true, of course. As mentioned previously, doors are stupid. Did the door care about your insult? No, the door did not care because, again, doors do not have feelings. Interestingly, the only element in your little interaction that did look stupid was yourself. You physically and verbally abused a door that remained entirely apathetic to your attack. While you were still swearing under your breath, the door was stoically swinging shut, completely emotionless and utterly unthinking.

So, in the future, if you should mistakenly push on the wrong side of the door don’t blame the door. Blame yourself and move on.

Sincerely,

A witness.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The 1812 Bicentennial

2012 marks the bicentennial anniversary of the outbreak of the War of 1812. Journalists on both sides of the border seem to be busy with the academic equivalent of a hip hop feud: Who won the war? Whose heroes were best? Was Isaac Brock just a nancy-pants?

While Americans and Canadians puff up their chests and argue over whether Betsy Doyle or Laura Secord was more heroic or whether the burning of York (Toronto) was worse than the destruction of the U.S. White House, I feel that something important or, I should say, some important people are being forgotten.

Two of the common reasons cited for the breakout of the War of 1812 are the British Impressment of Americans into their navy and British restrictions on American trade with France (Britain, of course, was at war with Napoleon).

Passing mention is also given to the desire of Americans to expand into Indian territory and the support of the British to Indian resistance to this expansion. The British, of course, were not motivated by any noble motive of allowing the natives to keep their territories. Rather, it was a desire to have a buffer between British North America and the United States that moved them. Moreover, as the Americans pressed into Indian territory, they labelled the Indian fighting as aggression rather than as the resistance that it was.

Let's recap, shall we? Europeans arrive on America's shores. The natives they meet show them how to farm crops. Potatoes, corn, and squash enter the diets of Europeans. In fact, Europe's population swells with the influx of these new crops. Unfortunately, the First Nations people are hit extremely hard by European diseases and large swathes of agricultural land are depopulated. The Europeans move into the cleared lands and push the remaining inhabitants out. Europeans continue to encroach on native lands, wage brutal war against any that resist them, and refuse to offer the same rule of law to the natives in their territories that they do to themselves.

Fast forward, the confederated natives to the northwest of American settlement offer safe havens for escaping slaves, fleeing natives, and free-spirited whites. The natives are semi-autonomous and, before the outbreak of the War of 1812, have enough power to negotiate with both the British and the Americans.

These confederated tribes were key players in the War of 1812. They fought and died alongside the British troops and were integral to British North American fighting off American incursions into the British colonies. To their credit, the British included an article in the Treaty of Ghent calling for the end of hostilities between the Indians and the Americans and for protection of their former allies' lands. Unfortunately, citing the lack of unity among the Indian tribes, the Americans continued their incursion into native land.

Too often, I find, history writing does not give agency to the First Nations peoples. They are either the passive victims of rapacious Europeans or they are barely mentioned. Prior to the War of 1812, natives were key players in all of the major wars on the North American continent. After the War of 1812, they lost that power and continually ran into racism, violence, and repression in their attempts at free agency.

I think, rather than just trying to argue about who "won" this war, Canadians and Americans would be better served in remembering who lost: the indigenous people of North America. This is not a pleasant legacy to look into, but its ours, and we cannot move forward if we do not come to grips with our history in a meaningful way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Friday, January 13, 2012

People I See on the Bus - The Sequel

The villain – As if any great villain would take public transportation, right? Wrong. This guy does. He is bald with an immaculately trimmed goatee. He is, without a doubt, the most snappishly dressed man I have ever seen on my bus. If I had to compare him to a villain from history, he would be a well-dressed Vladimir Lenin. If there were ever any doubt about how villainous this man is, he crooked his hands in front of himself yesterday. Crooked his hands.

Toupee man – He wears a toupee – on his head. I think he might be the villain’s sidekick.

Manute Bol – I only see him sometimes on my way home from work. Once I was sitting at the back of the bus looking down at all of the people at the bus stop and all of the sudden Manute Bol passed by at eye level. He is tall.

Girl lying to her friend - unless, of course, Natasha lives on the 95 Orleans - "I'm at Natasha's house right now."

Woman with severe mullet - It's bad. Still, she seems like a very warm individual - and that's a hard thing to pull off on public transportation.

The woman with the scalp-picking tic - She picks at the same spot on her scalp with her long fingernails every 10-20 seconds. I'm not sure why, but it irritates me beyond reason.

The most incredibly stinky human being I have ever had the misfortune of encountering
- I’ve smelled a lot of terrible smells in my life, but nothing has ever hit my olfactory centre with the screaming intensity of this woman’s unique stench. It was as if she had bathed in the collected sweat and putrescence gathered from Satan’s gangrenous armpit. I have sat beside a homeless man who smelled like wet socks and strong body odour for half an hour, I bore that smell with the stoicism of a samurai. With this woman, however, I was forced to retreat five seats backwards, and even then I smelt her. Every single person on the bus was holding a hand to their face. I am not exaggerating. There was a young girl who ran onto the bus, a picture of youthful innocence and joy. She plopped down in a seat directly across from this woman when, suddenly, all of the innocence and joy retreated from her face. It was if she had run face-first into a wall of ugliness, as if I were witnessing the death of innocence and youth. She staggered out of her seat, whirled around to the other side of her seated mother, and eyed the stinky woman with shell-shocked awe. The bus this happened on can save me five minutes some days if I time it right. I no longer risk it.

Prancing man – He lifts his legs like a Lipizzaner pony when he walks. It’s unnerving because I see all of this leg movement and he is only moving at a sauntering pace.

Woman who put on sunglasses and spent the rest of the trip staring at me - I can see your eyes, lady! It was a cloudy day, there was no need for sunglasses. No need. That was the most self-consciously I have ever read a book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012



Fred Herzog
Two Men in Fog
Ink Jet Print
19.75 x 30 in. image size
1958
Edition of 20
90214

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm not Such a Bad Guy

by Sauron, Guest Columnist




Yes, yes, I am that Sauron. I am the Dark Lord of Mordor, the one whose name should not be spoken, the Great Eye, yadda yadda yadda. I am, if you are to believe the words of that revisionist sycophant, Tolkien, a pretty evil guy.

Alright, I don’t necessarily blame Tolkien. After all, he really only had the word of that pathological liar of a hobbit, Bilbo, to go on. Really, how was he to know that halflings are habitual liars and truth-stretchers? I can’t blame Tolkien for believing those cutesy little curly-haired shit-disturbers. I mean, for example (and purely as an example from the top of my dome), everyone believes a cute little elven girl when she says that an ugly little Necromancer broke her favourite doll, chopped off all of its limbs, and melted the remains in a furnace. Whatever Illuvatar, I didn’t do it. I was busy making cool shit with Aule the smith.

Now, the central point of that entire soppy story of Tolkien’s is that I, Lord of Darkness that I am, was trying to regain control over the one ring. This pulp author waxes poetic through three giant volumes of prose littered with archaic words and flowery-ass songs about how I want to have my ring back. So what? If you slaved away for months on end making the perfect ring of power, wouldn’t you want it back? And don’t give me any of that finders- keepers crap, I made the ring and it is, therefore, my intellectual property. My very own sweet honeysuckle dewdrop intellectual precious.

Now, I realize that many of you might not be swayed by this. After all, the Lord of the Rings franchise has become quite a cultural phenomenon. It seems like an iron-clad, hard and fast rule that the Fellowship of the Ring = Good and Sauron and his friends = bad. Oh wait, I forgot, Sauron doesn’t have any friends; no, he only has minions. Do you know how much that hurts? Not only do I have to have my name besmirched as entirely evil, but I am not even permitted the dignity of having friends. No, I only have a bunch of slavering gross-looking creatures that serve me out of fear.

I admit that some of my associates are rather vile-looking, sure. But let’s be honest, in this superficial world of ours the job market is geared toward good looking folk. In the name of civil rights and equality of all, I set up my Mordor enterprise as an equal opportunity employer. As long as you have the right attitude, I am both willing and able to serve as your Lord. I would have even employed the hobbits, if they had not turned out to be such thieving little ingrates.

I want you to really think about it. Imagine that you invested years into creating a thing of unparalleled beauty and craftsmanship. Now imagine that some furry-footed little half-man came by, snatched that thing up, and threw it into a boiling pit of lava.

Wouldn’t you be upset? I mean, I’m just a floating lidless eye wreathed in fire, but I still have feelings. There was no Visine on Middle-Earth, let me tell you, and I’ve suffered for it. Now I have to deal with everyone thinking that I am some nefarious dark Lord bent on corruption, destruction, and the pursuit of limitless power.

I’m not a tyrant, I’m just a guy who wants his ring back.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Curly Kate the Bactrian Camel of the Canadian Rockies

I was looking into the oft-ignored area of Canadian history better known to experts as “Dromadaries in Canada” when I came across this gem about the great Gold Rush Bactrian Camel known as Curly Kate:

“Curly Kate was a beautiful young, Bactrian two humped camel. She had a full silken cape of fur on her front quarters and possessed dark limpid eyes with long thick lashes that any woman would sell her soul for.

According to Arab folklore, camels are like harem girls - they never forget a kindness or a hurt. Kate had a memory that astounded people all along the trail from Yale to Quesnel. This month long freight trip was well suited for camels, except for the sharp rocks that cut their large padded feet. To protect the camels' feet their drovers had padded rawhide booties made. Some admirer had attached Indian beadwork to Kate's front booties. Kate just strutted along in all her glory. She was soon known from tidewater to the Caraboogold creeks. The lonely miners treated her like the Belle of the Ball and gave her chewing tobacco and even a swig of beer or white lightning booze as she cruised, half drunk, up and down the valley's treacherous trails.

When horses, mules or oxen met the camel caravan, as they often did, the domesticated animals panicked and broke loose and some pitched to their death down the cliffs. This panic was due to the peculiar stench of the camel. The camels water conservation system caused their urine to have a horrible stench and their three-pocket stomach made their breath stink horribly as they re-chewed their food. If a dog came near them it would be kicked galley west in a flash. If you offend a camel you'd better pull off your jacket, throw it down and run. The camel will bite and tear at your jacket, jump up and down on it, and finally urinate all over it. Then, when the spite is vented, the camel will calmly return, ready to go back to work!

Kate developed some bad habits as the miners and the lay-about gamblers in these frontier towns took a shine to her. When the Bar patrons heard the camel bells signaling that a caravan was passing the saloon, they would all rush out onto the porch, drink in hand, to see if it was Kate leading her bunch. Kate knew all the regulars. Kate would flounce over to the porch where she would suck up all the 10-cent beers the miners held, giving each miner a huge wet kiss after she finished his beer.

The Dance hall girls hated Kate for getting all the attention; but every man in town was proud to have been kissed by Kate.

One of the Dance hall girls nicknamed "The Kansas Cow" asked the Barman '"orrible Harry " what was so great about Curly Kate and was told "Kansas, being kissed by Kate for a ten cent beer is better than a roll in the hay with a two dollar whore." What about the smell she asked. "Kate doesn't seem to mind." replied "'orrible Harry" and continued with the explanation for Kansas and the other bar girls now listening. "When Kate reaches in your mouth with her long tongue and takes your cud of tobacco, then your toes curl right up; and that's what is so great about Curly Kate."”

Source: Jack Downey, the Galloping Geezer
http://www.canadianculture.com/geezer/jack50.html

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

JANUARY UPDATE IN CAPITAL LETTERS

I was recently informed, numerous times and in numerous ways, that my blog has been neglected and that I need to update it. Unfortunately, I recently lost all of my humour in a tragic accident. Normally I try to spice up my posts with my rapier wit and hilarious jokes, but that is no longer possible.

My posts, from this point forward, are going to be dry and tedious affairs involving my thoughts on my favourite types of tea (Rooibos and Earl Grey) and my favourite activity (watching Matlock reruns).

Here is a recent attempt I made at updating my blog:

"I watched a rerun of Matlock today. It was good. I drank a cup of Earl Grey while I watched it. SPOILER ALERT - they got the bad guy in the end.

Man, I wish I had some Rooibos right about now."

Now, you are doubtlessly asking yourself what sort of tragic accident would cause someone to lose their wicked sense of humour and write such a nefariously dull blog entry. Well, my friend, I will tell you. I will tell you how I lost my famously wicked sense of humour.

I became a bureaucrat.

I was a bureaucrat before, but I managed to cling to my razor sharp wit by remaining steadfastly helpful. Gradually, however, my helpfulness and wit were drained by prolonged exposure to the absurd nature of bureaucracy. Now I am only capable of initialling letters and reciting long and complicated procedures for tasks that should be relatively simple. I can also answer the phone and maintain a monotone for incredibly lengthy periods of time.

This change has affected every aspect of my life. I have begun a rock collection, using only small stones that I find in parking lots. I eat white rice, white bread, and tofu. I draw pictures of cats. I only smile in a perfunctory manner because nothing truly amuses me except for spreadsheets. I solve puzzles of grey brick walls. I watch golf and poker. I read the footnotes and only the footnotes in obscure scientific journal entries about fungi. I birdwatch, but I only watch pigeons that are dead. I shop at Walmart. I peruse the accoutant section of the yellow pages and repeatedly underline any occurrence of the word "reliable." I watch the fireplace channel. I listen to whale call albums backwards to try to find hidden messages. I surf the internet looking at textile patterns.

Anyway, that's the update. I will be updating regularly once again, just don't expect anything funny.

Who deh?

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