Monthly Archives: June 2014

Canada Day! Do whatever it is you do.

canada-day-comment-013As we are nearing that date, there is always a burning question this time of the year: “Do we have July 4th in Canada?” Indeed we do. It is the day that comes after the 3rd and before the 5th. Indeed, I understand they have the 4th in many jurisdictions throughout the world.

Of course Canada’s ‘big day’ is tomorrow, July 1st. And as a resolute blogger I feel it behooves me to say something to mark the day of our whatever it is we are marking, but in feeling so behooved I am also left The quandary of WTF can I say? I’m at a loss. Anybody have any ideas?

There are those who hold that the date was chosen as a commemorative of July 1, 1857, which marked the last day our first prime minister, John A. MacDonald drew a sober breath. Others think it was the birthday of Jacques Cartier, but that was via the old French calendar and his real birthday was November 23rd. Anyway, a lot of countries have their notable patriotic days in July because mainly the weather is good and a lot of people are on vacation, so why not whoop it up?

It is also a day set aside so that patriotic Canadians think what their country means to them. For many it mainly means that we are not Americans, though I harbor no such North American antipathy. We should be grateful our nearest neighbor is the US. It could be North Korea or Afghanistan.

So, what does Canada mean to me? I mean, I’ve lived here for much of my life so it must mean something.

Mainly it means:

– Proudly reveling in the fact we have a national capital with the 2nd worst climate of any global capital with the exception of Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Ulan Bator is reputedly more interesting than Ottawa. I’ve been to Ottawa once; I have never had an overwhelming desire to return.

– Canada is very large. Second largest country in the world. Also has the most fresh water in the world. Also has lovely scenery, but having traveled across I found that the scenery lagged a bit in drama after the Rockies had been passed.

– Canada is not perpetually cold and our Mounties don’t wear red serge tunics all the time; only for ceremonial occasions. Mostly they look like regular cops from anywhere. And their motto is not: “We always get our man.” I believe it is, “Please blow into this little gizmo because we saw you driving like an asshole.” Back to the cold myth. Yes, 90% of Canada is Siberia-like in the winter, but here on the balmy west coast it is, well, balmy. Wet, albeit, but balmy. Balmy sounds nice. Sounds like palm trees. And there actually are some palm trees here on this coast whence I choose to reside rather than in any other part of the country.

– Canadians are not perpetually polite.  We can be surly bastards, too, but maybe that’s just with other Canadians. Maybe visitors get to see the nice side of us. The one that suggests we apologize when we bump into a piece of furniture. Actually, in my travels, I have found most nationalities polite and pleasant. Well, maybe except for the French, but they have a reputation to uphold.

– There are a few famous Canadians and you’ve probably heard of a number of them. There are also some Canadians that we’d rather weren’t. Yes, for every Michael J. Fox there is also a Justin Bieber. For every Kim Cattrall there is also a Celine Dion. Sorry if you think she’s wonderful, but if I ever hear that awful Titanic song again I think I’ll do away with myself. Mediocre movie and dreadful theme song.

– I was going to write something about Canadian politics but July 1 is supposed to be a celebratory time. Suffice it to say most Canadian regard the happenings in Ottawa in much the same context as Americans regard Washington shenanigans.

Other than that, have a glorious July 1, folks.

 

 

 

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Harm reduction is only harm reduction when we say it is. We make the rules

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Had dinner out at the home of friends a week or so ago. An invitation much appreciated while our own kitchen is in such disarray thanks to a major reno that seems to have been going on since I was in puberty.

Anyway, the chatelaine of the house was smoking (vaporizing?) an e-cigarette periodically throughout the evening. She has been a heavy smoker in the past and the e-ciggy has become her process of harm-reduction. Good for her, and even better in that it seems to be working and keeping her off the butts. Mind you, she must accept the fact that it givers her a demeanor a bit like Franklin Roosevelt with his ubiquitous, albeit rakish, cigarette holder. She’s cuter and more girly than FDR, but the image was similar.

In that context, I found it interesting to see that a city (BC’s capital) called Victoria wants to ban e-cigarettes from public parks and outdoor areas in their ongoing drive to control the lives of everybody other than panhandlers and obnoxious junkies on the streets. They are advocating such a measure because it is, to them, still a form of smoking and will prove as troublesome and unhealthy for others as regular baccy. Well, the jury is still out on sidestream smoke, but that notwithstanding, I think they are missing the point on e-cigarettes. They are suffering from the belief that e-butts, rather than being a process of harm reduction, will only encourage the tiny tots to start smoking. OK. Whatever. Don’t let logic smack you in the eye.

e-cigarette1The irony here is that on the front page of that same august journal that contained the story on the evils of e-cigarettes, there was a story that told how Victoria council is looking into the possibility of a safe-injection site to serve the plethora of Victoria junkies. Safe injections sites are ‘harm reduction’ enterprises that suggest that a benevolent environment in which to shoot up might get addicts to look in the ultimate direction of sobriety. That’s as maybe.

But the point is, if safe injection encourages ultimately kicking hard drugs, might not e-cigarettes discourage people from taking up real tobacco?

Or is it that in Victoria cigarette smoking is just so reviled that it should be cut no quarter, whereas a little dab of smack is somehow not quite as bad?

Weird. Cigarettes might ultimately kill you, but heroin tends to do it more quickly.

Nothing against herself, I just think maybe it’s high time we grew up

The Queen

“Her Majesty”

Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she doesn’t have a lot to say
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
But she changes from day to day

I want to tell her that I love her a lot
But I gotta get a bellyful of wine
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl
Someday I’m going to make her mine, oh yeah
Someday I’m going to make her mine

Thoughts have been crossing my mind as what we once called ‘Dominion Day’ is coming up on July 1st. Sort of like July 4th, but sans fireworks and a little less patriotic foofrah. July 1st is now called ‘Canada Day’, and to the vast majority of Canadians it means one thing – a day off! It’s a better holiday than Groundhog Day in that regard.

But, each year it also puts me in mind of the fact that until this country grows up and puts on big-girl panties our ‘official’ head-of-state is a nice and highly regarded elderly ‘foreign’ lady. Don’t get me wrong. I like the Queen. For all intents-and-purposes she seems like a swell lady, and as queens go, she’s a pip.

By the same token, I am also a patriotic Canadian – or at least as patriotic as current politics will allow me to be – and in that patriotic context I refuse to accept that our head-of-state should be a foreigner. I know it’s constitutional, but it’s also constipational and I believe it’s high time we invoke a constitution bowel-movement and set up business on this turf not across the Atlantic Ocean.

Mrs. Queen 3As I said, I hold the current monarch in high regard and long may she and her Saxe-Coburg-Gotha- Mountbatten-Windsor clan reign – over there in the United Kingdom. I like here enough that I even took the picture showing here. In saying all this, rest assured I am an incurable anglophile. I have lived there and have visited every time I get the chance. It’s a fine place and they have a jolly agreeable Queen – for them. I have even seen a couple of her houses. They’re pretty nice.

Now, once the current Queen goes – as she sadly must; she is 88 after all – I say that’s when we pull-the-pin. Those who follow hold little sway over me. Elderly Charles is kind of a twit in my esteem. I know little about William except he has a button-cute wife. Kind of like Harry, but he’ll never be the ruler unless he bumps off those who come before him, so he may as well party on.

So, there you have it. After the Queen goes I am serving notice that I will hold no personal connection with the British Royals. They will not be seen by me as ‘my’ head of state. And as for the monarch’s rep, the so-called Governor-General, well that should be seen as a genuine colonial vestige and we should be ashamed that such a title exists. I don’t even know who the current one is. I did like the Haitian lady, so I can’t understand why they didn’t keep her. Or, if we want to have somebody ‘connected’ to fawn over, well why not Angelina Jolie? I mean, the Queen recently named her some sort of honourable something, so she might qualify.

Anyway, royals, I am soon to no longer be in your sway and I honestly wish that more Canadians would like to see their fine country just grow up a little bit and get away from pretending it’s 1890.

Maybe litter reflects the state of the society we’re in, but I try to do what I can to thwart it.

litter2

I don’t see myself as a superior human being. Well, in some regards I do. In face, I’m downright superlative in certain realms, by golly.

But, that’s not what this is all about: my, ahem, superiority, that is.

Each morning I stroll across to the park with Max for his start-of-the-day constitutional (politer term for ‘poop’). And almost invariably I see assorted amounts of effluvia left from overnight shenanigans by the young whippersnappers who are our hope for the future. I am told that young people are more environmentally sensitive than their elders. Not so much in this case. It seems.

What I am welcomed by (depending on the day) are fast food wrappers and containers, pop cans and bottles, beer cans and bottles (depending on what sort of a night it was, but blessedly no utilized condoms, so far) and all manner of other crap.

Now, I could fret and despair over the state of humanity that is pending considering some of the youthful attitudes that manifest themselves at the park. But, instead, I fastidiously pick up the shit and deposit it in the bins that the town so graciously provides and that the litterers seem wont to ignore. What motivates people to ‘not’ pick up after themselves? I have no idea. I no longer even bother questioning it.

I read a comment by favourite writer David Sedaris the other day in which he suggested that he picks up other people’s trash mainly because it makes him feel good about himself. I think it’s the same for me. I have perhaps done some unconscionable things in my – not ‘perhaps’, I have transgressed a few times in my tawdry past – but I have honestly never littered. And it does make me feel fine to pick up after others because it makes me feel superior to them.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The Tipping Point vis graffiti and littering as to how if it’s not addressed it then reaches a horrible point in which people no longer care and the process of disregard increases exponentially and you end up with communities that resemble rubbish tips.

I like my community and I want it to look good and look clean.

I don’t know what it says about a society when it no longer cares about what some might just see as a ‘cosmetic’ situation. But it’s more than that. It’s about respect. It’s about caring for what we have been given.

For a few decades the nation of Colombia suffered through a nightmarish rule by drug lords and its international reputation was in the toilet. Sensible people avoided the place in droves, especially since tourists were favourite kidnap targets. And then it changed. It dealt internally with the power of the cartels and tourists began coming back. The place wasn’t scary any longer.

Pride was restored and something that struck us when we were briefly in Cartagena last fall is how proud the people were of what they had and how clean the city was. A ride through the Old Town revealed not a scrap of litter, no cigarette butts, no candy wrappers, no beer cans. You could almost have eaten off the cobblestone streets.
DSCN2807

That’s what I want my community to resemble.

Put ‘er there, pal, and shake hands with everybody in the world!

put er there

I had a friend who had a theory that if you shook hands with another and that person had shaken hands with somebody notable you had, by default, shaken hands with that famous person, too. You know, if he’d shaken Obama’s hand and then you clasped his mandible in yours, then you too had shaken the president’s hand.

So here in Canada I once shook hands with former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, which means I also shook hands with all the dignitaries domestic and foreign he met, and also, grudgingly, Pierre Trudeau and by default wee Justin provided his old man ever shook with him.

In the case of my friend he had once shaken hands with Hubert Humphrey (how soon we forget), so I guess I too have shaken hands with LBJ’s Veep, and hence likely LBJ and JFK and all the other guys that notables are entitled to caress digits with. Becomes a pretty exponential thing eventually.

I suppose it could be argued in a kind of six degrees manner, that if you shook hands with enough people eventually you’d have had contact with every human who ever lived right back to the beginning of time.

Queen_Elizabeth_the_Queen_Mother_portraitI’ve shaken hands with a few in my life. In the newspaper business you get to meet a fair number of notable individuals in politics, entertainment and so forth. So, come out and shake hands with me sometime and you’ll be greeting the world in a manner of speaking.

A lot of BC premiers have gripped my fingers, including the current one when she was a wee wisp of a girl when she was back in Gordo’s cabinet. I was introduced to her by my friend Stan Hagen, who was also in Gordo’s cabinet. I shall not judge a man I still miss by the company politics made him keep back then. But, I have to confess, and it’s nothing to do with my personal politics, which you know I don’t discuss on my blog, that I thought she was kinda cute.

I suppose the same thing could have been said of having danced with somebody of some sort of note. I once danced with a woman who was a great-great grandniece of the last Tsar of Russia. Now, I mean how cool is that? Reminds me of the old music hall song entitled, roughly: “I met a man who danced with a girl who’d danced with a man who’d danced with a girl who’d danced with the Prince of Wales.”

chuvaloNow, if you want to carry the paradigm right through to sexual intercourse by default, I’ll leave you to your own musings. I don’t think I have ever done the horizontal tango with anybody famous. Yes, certainly with some people who were utterly heavenly but not fan-magazine illustrious.

The one handshake that I had that struck me in a rather different way was when I once shook hands with George Chuvalo, one-time Canadian heavy weight champ and a thoroughly nice gent. He had, in his day, fought all the biggies, like Foreman and especially Ali, among others.

All I could think as he extended a paw the size of a Thanksgiving ham, I’m shaking hands with the fist that once slugged the great Ali. I felt humbled.

I was a personal friend of actor Donald Sutherland’s first wife and I certainly took her hand on a few occasions and then she had her connectedness with ex hubby and all his actorly friends and that list could get immense.

My first wife once touched the proferred digits of the late Queen Mother and, while I rarely shook hands with my ex we did do, ahem, ‘other stuff’ so I am wondering if a handshake is transferable to other body parts.

It’s a good question and is the sort of thing that keeps me awake nights.

It’s the oldest game in the world, but it doesn’t need to turn into the nastiest

pros

I was thinking of writing about the current and unpleasant impasse between the teachers’ union and the retaliatory government, but then I thought those kids are better left in the playground. No, I won’t take sides in the matter.

And then there’s the pipeline thing. Well, wasn’t that a foregone conclusion? And the antagonism – justified-justified-justified – is equally a foregone and I think the matter is close to dead in the waters that must stay pristine barring all else. That’s my opinion and I am entitled to it.

So, I thought I would leave those subjects at rest and write of something ridiculously inflammatory and one about which I have opinions that I hope don’t leave me looking like an unpleasant sort of the type you don’t want to have for tea. I am going to talk about prostitution.

That’s right: ladies of the evening, femmes de trottoir, hookers, good-time-gals, fallen women, and so on and so on.

And in this matter I can only say, despite what Stephen Harper and the ludicrously uptight and prissy Peter McKay think about it, prostitution has always been with us, in every society, and always will be. ‘Love for sale,’ is part of the human condition, at least with certain elements of society, at least, and possibly more elements of society than we care to acknowledge.

While I am not a big fan of the late Pierre Trudeau, his view that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation was essentially my approach to matters carnal. And in that I will say that the government has no business interfering in a contractual agreement between a woman (or man) and a client in return for sexual services.

Did anybody really ask for Eisenhower-era uptightness in the matter?

Does anybody of sense really care what others do with their wobbly bits and how they choose to exercise that very human function? I know I certainly do not. And if somebody chooses to sell some comfort time and somebody else chooses to pay for it, then what business is it of mine, or yours?

I have known women “on the game’ (as the Brits say) and they were perfectly pleasant human beings working in a realm that isn’t always pleasant by its nature. I am not suggesting I knew them ‘professionally’, but I knew them as a journalist wanting to gain some insights into what they do, or did, if it was in past tense. It was in the name of journalism. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I also knew a couple of women who worked their respective ways through college by hooking. Beats working at a fast-food joint, I suspect.

Here are my thoughts about prostitution. They are not ones that will sit entirely well with the Harper regime:

– it will always be with us and no amount of legislation will take it away.

– get rid of the pimps. String ’em up as far as I’m concerned. They are parasites and nothing more and are of no value in society.

– establish ‘safe’ brothels wherein those who ‘choose’ to be in the trade will be unthreatened and also subject to regular clinical checks. Ideally the Nevada model with the Mustang Ranch kind of thing seems to work. They bust hookers in Vegas, but it’s OK out in the ranches.

– get rid of street prostitution if possible. Those girls (and boys) are invariably the ones at greatest risk.

– Stop regarding bought sex as something sleazy and lowlife – as McKay protested it was in Sunday school teacher voice – but an expression of an unattached individual seeking a sexual outlet. Those of us who are partnered or married need not go in that direction. But, if attached people choose to, it’s none of my damn business. I won’t judge.

– Those who connect with prostitutes aren’t, to the surprise of the lawmakers no doubt, not even seeking sex in all cases. The operator of an escort agency (such a lovely euphemistic reference that makes it look like the girls are prom dates; it’s kind of sweet) once told me that they got clients who were looking for nothing more than conversation with an attractive woman, since nobody at home wanted to talk to them. Sad.

– Primarily the role of the state in the matter should be to keep those in the business as safe as possible, and I see nothing wrong with restricting prostitutes from certain neighborhoods.

– Maybe it’s time we became real grown up people about it.

Brazil — I understand there is a soccer tournament of some kind going on there

bknis

OK, little point in pretending. I haven’t even ‘tried’ to get involved in the spectating of the soccer World Cup. That’s probably because I mainly don’t care who wins, loses or gets bumped off on the mean streets of Rio. Well, I do care about the bumping off part, but otherwise, some countries will win and some will lose and all told it’s all better than going to actual war.

But I did notice that Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode the other night concerned Brazil so I thought that might put me a bit in mode in order to gain some semblance of appreciation for it all.

But, it turned out that the episode was focused on the town of Salvador (or Bahia), way up the coast from Copacabana Beach. Didn’t matter to me because there was barely any mention of people fanatically pursuing a dumb ball around a field. I liked that. Much as Bourdain always so entertainingly does, the focus was on food, booze and colorful people from the assorted places he trots to on the globe. I’d like his job.

As for the Rio part, I don’t know much. As for the Brazil part, I am ashamed to suggest, I also don’t know much. Here is my lore about one of the most populous countries, and one of the largest countries in the world:

Brazil

FIFA-World-Cup-Brazil-2014I know of Copacabana Beach where tears-in-the-eyes-beautiful-bronzed girls where the teeniest gluteal cleft enhancing dental-floss thong bikinis on the planet. If you’re not prepared to show off your bum stay off that beach, I guess.

– Brazilians, though they find their heritage in many sources, including Africa, speak Portuguese.

– The samba originated there.

You can’t do better than the bossa nova for musical sexiness, especially Girl from Ipanema sung by the inimitable Astrud Gilberto. Don’t believe me? Check it out on YouTube.

– Brazil, as I said, is very large and it borders literally every country on the continent of South America with the exceptions of Ecuador and Chile.

– Brazil has the most extensive rain forest on the planet with all sorts of pretty cranky critters therein. It also clearcuts it left-right-and centre so they can build ranches to run cattle on so that the maw of McDonald’s can be fed. Actually, I have heard that rather than growing grain for cattle, they grow a ton of soya beans. So all those hippie vegan soya munchers are actually doing more harm to the planet than Mickey-D’s patrons. That’s my story, anyway.

– Even recently native tribes have been discovered who have never had any interconnectedness with the outside world. Lucky them. Now that they have been discovered they’ve decided they prefer iPods to Blackberries. They do, however, find Justin Bieber to be remarkably immature, but kind of don’t mind Miley Cyrus.

– Brazil has had a goodly number of not pleasant governments. They have had leaders that make Harper look like Mr. Rogers, and critics have tended to be ‘disappeared’ over the years.

– Brazil also has Carnival each year and the excesses thereof make New Orleans’s version of Mardi Gras festivities look like a church picnic. Yep, it is a really sexual country, I am told, and who am I to dispute that?

And that pretty much finishes me in terms of Brazilian lore. After my brief visit to Colombia last fall I am quite keen to visit other South American countries, so who knows? I might get to Brazil someday. I have always fancied a trip up the Amazon.

And you will notice how I wrote this whole thing without very much mentioning the World Cup, and not mentioning the niceties of soccer at all.