Monthly Archives: September 2015

Never thought I’d say this but my northern expedition was actually enchanting

DSCN0800

I have always balked at the concept of North. North has connotations of frigidity and it makes me happy that I have my home on the balmy west coast of the country where it rarely gets severely chilly.

Otherwise my gravitation is southward. Southern California, bits of Mexico, Costa Rica and especially the Hawaiian Islands work benevolently for me, and I could imagine no worse nightmare than being forced to reside in the Canadian hinterland – that big chunk of the nation east of the Rockies. January in Saskatchewan I think would make me want to end it all.DSCN0786

And as I feel about east I feel even more vehemently negative about ‘north’. Why would anybody want to go there? Here on Vancouver Island I tend to think that Campbell River is a bit too northerly. In BC that farthest north I have ever been is Quesnel, and that was when I was about 12. Never had the impulse to repeat the experience. Oh, I have flown over it – flown over the high arctic a few times. It looks very cold and bleak from 35,000 feet. And it looks big. Too big.

In so saying, I found myself in a bit of a quandary over our recent Alaska trip. Even more of a quandary in the sense the idea had some enticing merit to it. I may not like the idea of northerly, but I am a romantic and also a lover of literature and legend. So, I was immediately put in mind of Jack London and Robert Service, and the whole Klondike gold fever thing and Skagway’s villainous Smoky Smith and the famed White Pass and Yukon Railroad. You see, the idea of Alaska gave me some great thoughts to conjure with. Combined with the fact were to be making the passage in a rather luxurious ship, The SS Oosterdam. While the onetime gold seekers made their way on perilous little steamers out of Seattle and Victoria, we could sit in our sumptuous stateroom and watch the world go by.DSCN0828

Point of fact, I loved the trip, and towns like Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan have an allure even in name. The trip to Glacier Bay was enthralling and there is no sound quite like the rumble and cracking of a huge chunk of thousands of years old ice breaking away in the glaciers relentless if plodding passage to the sea.

This is all in the so-called Alaska Panhandle, which is that finger that travels along the upper BC coast practically to Prince Rupert. An area about which a latent sense of patriotism makes me want to call it BC Irredenta, a region of which in the early days the Brits sold us out to the Americans in a move to avoid conflict. Wimpy Brits, I say. Always sucking up. Anyway, the Yanks got that chunk of Alaska, and they also got Sarah Palin. Oh, and we looked and looked but could not see Russia from any point in the area.

The trip had high points galore, not to mention summertime temps, amazingly enough, and no fog or rain. So, Glacier Bay, as I say, was magnificent, I mean truly stunning. Our whale watching out of Juneau was unsurpassed. I have been in Hawaii. This was better. But best of all, in some respects, was the narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon trip. When I was a young boy we had some big books called Engineering Wonders of the World, published sometime in the early 20th Century, and one of the chapters was about the construction of that wonderful rail line through the almost vertical mountains of White Pass. Took me right back to childhood to actually be on that train.

Have I changed my mind about northerly climes? Not really, but I wouldn’t have missed that trip for the world.

Advertisements

If it’s OK with you, I think I’ll just stay put on Earth

martianchron

Ground Control to Major Tom …”

A recent issue of Maclean’s Magazine gratuitously devoted tons of ink to space travel. I felt my eyes glaze over even as I looked at the cover in a magazine rack. Space travel or, more ludicrously, space colonization is a snooze. There’s too much of the Earth I haven’t yet seen, so I have no desire to head out into the galaxies.

I think they are now up to Star Wars #37. I saw the first one. That was plenty. I mean, it was OK and Liked the li’l robots. But it was also silly, illogical and boring in parts, and such an egregious waste of the talents of the brilliant Alec Guinness. But, that’s just me.macleans

Star Trek? No, never a “trekkie”. Never much watched the series in any of its incarnations and the only one of the films I liked was the one where they went back to 20th Century earth and freed a whale. It had also some good bits of whimsy in it. But mainly it didn’t take place in some mythological intergalactic place, it was on good old Planet Earth.

I liked Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles because it consisted of a series of metaphors and morality tales, not really pretending to be on Mars at all in any real sense, just a mythological Mars.

And I will make exceptions for Dr. Who and any of the Hitchhiker series (as well as Red Dwarf) mainly because they’re all brilliant. Oh, and in the case of the latter, very funny. Funny works for me.

But, back to Maclean’s and their space travel and colonization ink wastage. All this nonsense harkens back to the moon landing decades ago. I have to confess that the event did not thrill me like it did others and my pants stayed dry (that time at least) at the feat of the valiant astronauts. Yep, brave guys and I know I would not have done it. But I never had any such desire.ziggystardust

OK basic point is, colonization of the Moon or Mars or Venus or any other alien orb is never going to happen in our lifetimes, and arguably in anybody’s lifetime – ever. The environments are relentlessly hostile to human habitation and at best it would have to be a domed existence. Hardly agreeable. Me, I like to be out in the fresh air. Air I can breathe.

And the other point is, how do we think we are going to pay for this bullshit? It would cost quintillions to do so and well, we cannot afford it and will never be able to afford it.

Oh, I know the fantasy is all terribly romantic for those into such things. I find my romance arises from much more mundane sources and I shall gladly stay earthbound for as long as I have the privilege.

Let’s stop with all the ‘infidel is at the gate’ blather and think of the humanity

syrian_refugee_4-1

The Wogs start at Calais.” — Bigoted old Brit saying.

It is in the nature of the human beast to be territorial. Indeed it is in the nature of most beasts to be territorial and if the territory is not respected by interlopers then squabbles are sure to ensue.

Such thoughts come to mind in light of yet another onslaught of refugees fleeing from the horrors of their home turf. In this case it’s the Syrians (and assorted other ethnic entities who dwelt in what is Syria. Prior to that it was oh, the Vietnamese, folk from India and Pakistan, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Hungarians, Germans, Ukrainians, Jews, Irish, English, Scottish and damn near every bit of real estate on the planet.

We’re all of us immigrants to Canada – some having been refugees, some following a choice. My people came to Canada two generations ago from the UK. So, why should I deny others the right to come. The only ones that can (maybe) claim this big chunk of real estate are Native Canadians. But even they were once a migratory group that came here on a land bridge from East Asia. It is human nature to move. Sometimes to flee horrors of a homeland (like Syria today) and sometimes to seek a new opportunity that would have been denied on the former home turf.

When I was in elementary school we had a lot of immigrant kids, offspring of folks who had fled the horrors of war in Europe. So, we had English kids, and Dutch kids, and German kids, and Polish kids, and Danish kids, and Ukrainian kids and so forth. We all played on the same playground and nobody cared much. Some had accents. Some were genuinely ethnic. Went to school with a Yugoslav kid whose father was bearded, wore a waist-sash and high boots and looked like a character out of Chekhov. Spoke no English, either.races

Later a lot of Asians came from China, Japan, India, Vietnam and so forth. A few years ago my brother had the opportunity to visit his old high school (also mine) on business. He was astonished that about 80% of the students were Asian. Not offended, just astonished. The year I graduated only four of my classmates were Asian, and the rest were all whitebread boys and girls. Stuff changes. It’s not a bad thing, in my esteem.

But it is in the esteem of others, it seems. There is a hideous crisis in Syria and refugees are fleeing the horrors en masse. The cry is for us to provide haven for the suffering. And we should, and we must. We’ve done it before and should continue to do so for whomever needs succour we might be able to provide. But already comes the cries that they will be interlopers, some of them might be criminals, some of them might be (gasp) terrorists; they’ll take our jobs; they’ll bring their foreign ways with them.

Yep, some might. And indeed some might be crooks and ruffians. And we’ll only hope there are no terrorists in the mix.

But, we’ll survive, as we have survived all the other groups who have settled since the beginning of time. Disregard crap from politicians and go with our hearts is what I hope will happen.

I love Chrissie Hynde but I think she’s miles wrong on this point

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16:  Musician Chrissie Hynde attends the 42nd annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 16, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 16: Musician Chrissie Hynde attends the 42nd annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 16, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Damn, the mores surrounding sexual behavior get more and more complicated as times change, and people in the public eye are advised to be mores scrupulous than ever in making pronouncements that might offend the sensibilities of others. It behoves us to learn the ‘rules’ of the current zeitgeist, methinks.

No, I’m not about to mount an ill-advised defence of Bill Cosby and those who persist in doing so are, at the very least naifs in huge denial. No, the Cos, who used to be a very funny and articulate man is beyond redemption by this point. Sorry, Bill, but maybe you should have learned to keep it in your pants or reserve its performance for your spouse. That’s because it’s not alleged you were a philanderer (that’s for you and the missus to work out) but because it’s alleged you were a fucking rapist. That’s big.bill-cosby-face

But, in this case, I am going to make reference to a female who has gotten herself in hot-water by making statements that seem to fly in the face of current sensibilities. Chrissie Hynde, late of the Pretenders and quite one of my favorite musicians of any time.

Anyway, Hynde recounted for a UK publication how, when she was 21 and ripped on ludes decided to accept the invitation to go to a party with a biker gang. Well, the ‘party’ in question was theirs and the members proceeded to have their way with her.

However, rather than blaming them, Hynde blamed herself. “It was all my own doing,” she said. She attested she put herself in a position of risk.

Well, now, I like Chrissie as an entertainer but perhaps she should leave off the role of amateur sociologist, let alone apologist for bad behavior by others. That’s not like Cos continuing to deny any culpability for his perfidy and blaming the rape victims. popsies

I know human nature doesn’t work the way we’d like it to in a ‘nice’ world, but theoretically a lady should be able to sport herself in camel-toe enhancing short shorts and nipple exposing halter without some asshole trying to take advantage and then using the excuse that she’d enticed him. Well now, children, I have been enticed many times (thank God) but I have never used such enticements as an excuse for unwanted or uninvited attentions.

So, in that context, Chrissie, as much as I love you as a rocker I also think you’re full of shit.

All things considered I think I’ll stick with the ‘junk’ that was dealt to me

caitlin-jenner-media-strategy

Personally I don’t care about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. That’s not because Caitlyn is a transexual – that issue bores me into a torpor – but because Bruce was a jock. Jocks are to me even more boring than people who decide to make gender changes and feel compelled to blast it all over the world and market it mightily. In the jock realm I make exceptions for Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Mohammed Ali. In other words, the life and times of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner bored me even when he was a dude.

I am not about to indict Caitlyn for having undergone a sex change. I have no issue with that. I even know some ‘real’ people who altered their gender with no big foofrah. Fercrissake the issue goes back to Christine Jorgensen in 1951. There was also Renee Richards and scores of others so, no biggie. Yet I cannot walk past the magazine stands in my supermarket without seeing the mug of Caitlyn staring me in the face. This must mean that People and other mags of note must think we are intrigued. But, in its essence his ‘reassignment’ is not intriguing. It is old hat. Is it because he had a nuptial connection with the repellant Kardashians? That has to say something about his erstwhile powers of judgement in itself. 603christine-jorgensen9

In all that, I will still hold with the thought that if you really are having a gender identity crisis, then take the step so that you too can sit down to pee.

Me, I’ve always been quite content with the equipment I was given. I’m not so sure I’d enjoy being a girl. I have been married to a few of them and I don’t think their lives are, from a male perspective, particularly enviable. Guys don’t get PMS, or menopause, or post-maternal incontinence. Now, I love females to the point of insensibility but I don’t want to join their ranks. By the same token, I expect most women don’t have a great yearning to be guys. We don’t live as long, we always leave the toilet seat up, and we have to contend with the ‘thing’ not always working the way we want it to at an intimate moment, or working with a vengeance when we are 16 and are called to the front of the class to do some public speaking.

So, I think I’ll stay with my own junk rather than wanting to switch. And if I want to wear silky panties well, I can don them any time I want to. Uh – don’t tell my wife.

Talk about a tempest in a ‘pee-cup’ Compared to some of them he’s doing OK

A cartoon man runs to to the toilet to pee.

A cartoon man runs to to the toilet to pee.

So when was the last time you were in such ‘extremis’ that you peed in a cup at somebody’s house?

I love it when things like this happen in a political campaign because you cannot make such stuff up and get away with it.

So, as the tale goes Jerry Bance, incumbent Tory candidate for Scarborough Rouge Park (one of Toronto’s 27,000 ridings in this most equitable of nations) was taken short at a client’s house when he was making a service call as an appliance repairman back in 2012. The problem was his micturition was caught by a camera and aired on CBC’s Marketplace back in that year. It has, of course, since resurfaced and was re-aired on Reddit. A Conservative spokesperson has since said Bance will no longer represent the riding.cup

Dirty pool? Of course. But do you think if the Harper team had footage of Elizabeth May, say, popping a squat behind a Saskatoon community hall they wouldn’t use it to advantage? I keep telling you, politics is a dirty-dirty business even if you wash your hands after your task is completed – and rinse the cup before putting it back in the dishrack.

So, what do we call this incident? Pissgate? Now, I don’t know about you but there have been times when I have been caught scarily short in the old need to pee department. And I bet everybody past a certain age reading this has felt perilously close to soaking their undies on a few occasions. Well, unless you wear special undergarments (and more do than might be prepared to admit) you find a way to do the task, even if it means sneaking out to the yard and doing it behind a bush. Been there, done that. But in somebody’s crockery? Never done that. Come on, Jerry, wasn’t there a can in the place you were servicing? Or a backyard? Do they have backyards in Scarborough? I know little about the wilds of Toronto. I bet Rob Ford was never at a loss to find a place to take a leak and I suspect the occasion arose frequently.outhouse-2-wesleying

So, the question is, should Mr. Bance have been humiliated and pilloried for his transgression. Personally I’d rather have him pissing on my doorstep (despite his party) than some of the candidate I have run across over the years.

So, I say, ‘Free the Pee’ and let Mr. Bance go.

Welcome to a lethal visit to the dawn of time with some creatures licenced to kill

tarcoles

We took a fabulous cruise through Central America that touched on South America nearly two years ago. It was a gratifying experience at a host of levels, and it pointed out vividly to me how insular we North Americans are.

There is a whole ‘other’ America down there, filled with enchantments and I on regret that I didn’t venture to those parts earlier in my life. With whatever I have left I simply won’t have time to ‘do it all’ as much as I’d like to.

As it happened on the cruise we spent time in southern Mexico, Costa Rica, went through the Panama Canal and made an intriguing stop at Cartagena, Colombia. Through all of that, though, the place that truly sticks in my mind was Costa Rica, and that was due to the crocs.DSCN2716

One lovely morning we caught a shuttle bus from the ship and headed out through pleasant tropical countryside that was actually a bit reminiscent of Vancouver Island on a nice sunny day – except for the odd palm tree and the lovely bougainvillea blossoms that punctuated our passage. Our destination was the Tarcoles River. And we crossed that river on a highway bridge that again looked like maybe a Vancouver Island bridge, or perhaps one on the Island of Kauai.

However, the driver exhorted us to look down from the bridge and there we saw them, sunning themselves on the riverside bank – five or six reptilian behemoths – the crocodiles of the Tarcoles.

Crocodiles are amazing creatures. They go back to the age of dinosaurs – and look it. They have been hanging around the planet for some 200 million years.

As the day went on we took a cruise on the Tarcoles and then we saw the beasts at close-quarters. They look like primeval killing machines because that is exactly what they are. Fall in the water there and they’s a-gonna eat you. We got to see them very close up and I admit to being intrigued by both their appearance and their potential for lethal mayhem. If you should encounter a grizzly or even a cougar in the wild there is a possibility due to the fact they are reasoning mammals that you might – just might, mind you – be able to frighten them away. No such luck with crocs. Their instincts tell them to kill and they will – relentlessly despite any entreaties you might make to reason with them.DSCN2722

They are frightening (very frightening; jagged toothed killing machines) in appearance, and they are huge – 18 to 20 feet long – and some are very old. Along the riverside there are pastures populated with beautiful brahma cattle. Woe betide the hapless cow or steer that ventures too close to the river. If the creature is not wary it will be game-over very quickly. Happens regularly, said our river cruise guide.

What the croc does is lie sluggish and immobile on a sandbar, camouflaged to blend in with the terrain, waiting for the unwary prey to step in too close. And then the seemingly torpid behemoth strikes like greased lightning and it’s game over for whatever creature looked like lunch. That lunch could easily include an unwary human being.

Crocs are the biker gangs of reptilians and in that I cannot help but find them fascinating and it was an absolute highlight of that trip to spend time in close quarters with them. I’d love to do it again.