Friday, February 27, 2009

Make games not war

Forget sitcoms, the real funny stuff is happening all around us everyday.
The laughs are out there, they may be hidden among all the doom and gloom of the daily news and obscenely high gas prices, but if you look hard enough, life can be one big basket full of strangeness that is enough to keep you snickering all day long.
For example, a man in the United States of America was recently charged with assaulting a police officer.
Now assaulting an officer is certainly nothing to laugh about, but the culprit’s choice of weapons did generate that snicker I was talking about.
It would seem the man attacked the cop with some M&Ms - and not the whole bag, but one at a time.
Apparently, the man throwing the chocolate candy said he was “sticking up” for his friend who was being asked a few questions by the member of the law enforcement community.
The news report said the officer noticed several of the brightly coloured candies on the ground next to him and when he turned around he saw one of the sweet projectiles hit him on the shoulder.
The story did not say if the officer was wearing an M&M-proof vest.
The man was actually arrested and charged with assault, jailed and then released on $1,000 bond.
I am just thankful he didn’t have any chocolate-covered almonds or cashews. Those can be larger than a peanut and if thrown hard enough, they could almost make a small child cry. Chocolate-covered Brazil nuts are, of course, banned under the Geneva Convention.
It’s probably for the best the young man was arrested, because his life of crime would likely escalate.
First it’s throwing M&Ms, then its tossing those little Halloween chocolate bars, then full-sized bars, then super-sized chocolate bars and before you know it he is running to the bulk section of the grocery store and filling the biggest bag he can find before going on a candy throwing rampage akin to the Bonnie and Clyde crime spree of the early 1900s.
I am just thankful the young man was given a stern reminder that throwing edibles, no matter how sweet and tasty, is simply unacceptable in today’s society.
Candy is for eating, not for flicking at big, strong police officers.
The United States government is also investigating after a report of CMDs, Candies of Mass Destruction, was filed.
Of course, had that happened the Canada, the man simply would have been Tazered and the candy would have melted into a gooey mess.
In other news, a woman – once again in the good ol’ U.S. of A. – recently decided to pay a $1 parking ticket she received in 1976.
Officials had long ago given up on receiving payment, but the other day a note arrived with a $20 bill to pay the outstanding fine. The extra money was included to cover any interest that may have accumulated.
Officials expect to mail her a receipt around the year 2040.
Here’s a strange one (as if the first two weren’t strange enough).
The London Times reported an American (there’s a surprise) businessman announced plans to spend half-a-billion dollars to build a Disneyland-type theme park.
There’s nothing strange about that you say, but considering his choice of downtown Baghdad as the ideal location, it does make it kind of odd.
Has this guy read the news in the last, oh I don’t know, 20 years or so?
Perhaps plans for building an amusement park in the middle of North Korea fell through and Baghdad was his next option.
According to the news report, the first phase of the project will be a skateboard facility and it includes plans to hand out 200,000 free skateboards.
Now that makes sense. What kid wouldn’t want to do a rail slide in the middle of a war zone? Except instead of sliding down a handrail, they could slide down the barrel of a tank or something. Nothing like a day of skating to take your mind off the fact your homeland is embroiled in a seemingly endless armed conflict.
I wonder if the businessman has plans on handing out helmets and bullet-proof vests to the amusement park goers as well.
The rides could be called The Duck and Cover, Find the Nearest Bomb Shelter and my personal favourite, the Oh Crap, Is That An IED Adventureland.
The story said that eventually the park will include a variety of rides and even a concert theatre, all of which will be built next to the Green Zone, which is supposed to be a safe area.
Good luck with that, and once the war-zone amusement park is up and running, I heard he is planning to hire members of the Manson family to run the child-care centre.

Rampaging racoons

Our home has been under attack lately.
There has been a series of stealthy, night-time assaults on our garbage cans by a renegade collection of critters we suspect are raccoons.
I think it was raccoons because we saw raccoon footprints in the snow. CSI eat your heart out.
For a while now the striped bandits have been knocking over our garbage cans and feasting on leftovers that I did not think were fit for man or beast.
It would seem a raccoon’s culinary standards are drastically lower than my own, leading me to think it would suck to be a raccoon.
It became tiresome to wake up in the morning, go to fetch the newspaper and find three bags of garbage spread all over the driveway.
Bad words formed in back of my mind every time I would see such an atrocity. Words such as ‘darn it’ and even ‘fiddle sticks’ were among the terms I felt like uttering.
To counter the scourge of the scavenging mammals, I took drastic and decisive action – I bought a garbage can with a lid.
Problem solved, and without bloodshed or the use of firearms and explosives, as was part of my original plan.
I now grab my morning paper from a garbage-free driveway, life is good.
However, we do share our home with a cat and the other day I came strolling up our driveway to find half of a mouse next to our van.
It was the lower half of a rodent which I assume was deposited by said cat.
I was going to grab a shovel and dispose of the remains, but I got busy and forgot.
The next day however, the carcass was gone thanks to those wonderful raccoons.
The same thing happened the next day and the woodland creatures were fast winning favour in my heart.
I have never had much interaction with raccoons, having rarely seen one before this year.
The first time I got a good look at a raccoon was several years ago when my wife and I were on a kid-less vacation.
We decided to go for a walk one evening through the quant little resort town simply because we could do so without a caravan of kids in tow.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw something crawling up a tree.
My first thought was, “That is the biggest squirrel I have ever seen in my life.”
I wondered if there was a nuclear plant nearby and had visions of an army of giant, mutated and generally agitated squirrels tearing through the town.
“Squirell-zilla, squirell-zilla!”
Just as I was about to run for my life from the flesh-rending creatures, a closer look revealed it was a raccoon and not a Chernobyl-sized cousin of Chip and Dale.
My wife found this whole thing quite amusing actually, as I explained my theory on mutated nut eaters and the peril we barely managed to avoid.
“How much wine did you have at supper?”
It had nothing to do with wine, but with survival.
Had it actually been a mutated, deformed squirrel, she would have appreciated my fast thinking and ninja-like reflexes.
In less than a second I had spotted the threat, determined it was a Jurassic squirrel and was ready to lead her to safety by showing the best way to escape from the fierce beast.
Is that cause for mockery? A little I guess.
I would like to blame my jittery nerves on a traumatic childhood incident with a member of Mother Nature’s home team, but there were none.
Growing up, we lived in the sticks so there was an abundance of wildlife all around, and I loved it.
Deer were as common as zits on a teen. We also had a few resident bears that would leave bear landmines in our yard. Fortunately they were easy to spot because they were roughly the size of a 1968 VW Beetle.
I also had encounters with porcupines, bush rats – which were big, nasty creatures – and a whole pack of coyotes could regularly be spotted on the hillside behind the homestead just about every morning.
It’s amazing our cat died of natural causes at almost 14 years old and didn’t wind up being a coyote pate.
There was also an abundance of snakes. They were mostly grass snakes, but there was also the occasional rattle snake sunning itself on the nearby mountain side.
How cool is that.
But something I do not recall is raccoons.
We had a compost bin that would attract coyotes and bush rats, but none of the masked mammals.
I now live in a regular suburban type neighbourhood and we are infested with raccoons. Well, if one or two can be considered an infestation.
I saw one in the middle of the day, calmly walking down the road next to a local school, with out a care in the world, heading to his next dinning experience no doubt, which proves man and animals can live together, just make sure your garbage can has a lid.

Lord Pommel rules

I love the Olympics.
There is an excitement about the event that can be felt even through the TV screen.
It is a thrill to watch the best athletes in the world go head-to-head in a bid for global supremacy.
My favourites are track, gymnastics and women’s beach volleyball (which I watch purely for my interest in the sport, honest.)
Anyway, I was watching the latest games when the pommel horse competition was featured.
Who came up with this event?
The 100-metre dash I can understand because it is a competition to see who can run the fastest – simple as that.
Children around the world hold their own running competitions every day to see who is the quickest, so it makes sense the game would progress to elite levels.
But I have never seen children jump on the back of the couch and swing their legs around and over and up in the air while using just their arms to keep themselves steady.
But there it is - an Olympic event.
I assume there is a long and glorious history to the pommel horse.
As it includes a reference to a horse, maybe it goes back to the days of old where knights would mount their valiant steeds before heading off to rescue a fair maiden.
Perhaps one such royal knight miscalculated getting on his horse and swung his legs around in a crazy manner before landing on the saddle.
He then looked at his subjects, raised his arms in the air and shouted, “Tadaaaaa. I meant to do that.”
Pretty soon other knights were getting as creative as possible when getting onto their own horses and being men, a competition was born.
I cannot confirm this, but I suspect that original knight’s name was Sir Pommel.
I have no idea what the horse’s name was. Maybe it was George, or Marvin or something, who knows.
To me it just seems like a rather obscure sport to hold such world prominence. How many world-famous pommel horse athletes have you ever heard of? My point exactly.
Other gymnastic events include floor routines – which absolutely blows me away.
The only time I have ever done a flip even remotely close to what these athletes do on a regular basis was when I fell down a mountain side. I did do a three-point landing, however, except the three points were two knees and a nose.
The rings are also impressive.
I can remember trying to do an iron cross in high school. That is where the muscular athlete forms a T in a feat of strength that is quite astounding.
Seeing as I was neither muscular nor an athlete, I didn’t quite make the T. My attempt actually looked more like a lower case I. Although I did keep my legs straight, so that had to count for something.
Then there is the horizontal bar event. The men use a single bar and do all these flips and twists and spins and they do it all with seemingly effortless grace.
The women do the uneven parallel bars with equal strength grace, and I saw first-hand why men do not participate in that particular competition.
I had a buddy in high school whose brain was always half a step slower than his actions. Prior to a Grade 11 gym class he was watching the girl’s class (which was a popular sport in itself) and he decided he could do the uneven bars as well.
He ran up to the bars and grabbed the highest one and began to swing his legs back and forth before attempting to swing all the way forward and bounce off the lower bar with his abdominal region.
Problem was it was not his abdominal region that made contact with the lower bar.
He emitted a rather odd gurgling sound before crumpling to the floor.
Once everyone had stopped laughing – which took a while – my friend was heard to say in a rather high voice, “That was just stupid. I wish I had never done that.”
It may have been stupid to him, but it was hilarious for the rest of us and the reason why men do not compete in uneven bars was made clear.
A similar fate awaited several of us on the pommel horse (for some reason our school actually had one of those) because a bunch of scrawny high school kids did not have the strength to keep themselves from landing on the horse while doing the splits.
Everyone laughed the first time it happened, but the laughter was tainted with nervous chatter as every guy realized his time would come on the horse of doom.
By the end of the class, there was a bunch of 17 year olds with strange expressions, higher voices and a rather odd gait to their step.
Having attempted several actual Olympic gymnastic events and failing miserably, I have an intense respect for any athlete who has the drive and dedication to excel to the Olympic level.
It is utterly incredible what these men and women can do.
I may not understand the pommel horse, but I sure appreciate their ability to swing around on one.
Lord Pommel would be proud.

Doggone disgusting

I have found a new definition for disgusting.
My dog showed me that just when I thought a hound cannot possibly be any more gross – such as eating their own vomit, which he has done – Murphy has found a way to make barf-as-a-snack seem almost, and I stress the world almost, palpable.
It happened during the winter cold snap. We let the mutt outside to frolic in the snow as per usual and thought nothing of it.
However, when he came back in the house he had something in his mouth. Now, this is not an unusual occurrence either. He often finds little dog treasures that he packs around and as usual, we checked to see what it was in case it isn’t good for the dumb little beast.
It turns out what he was chomping on was not good for anyone.
After grabbing hold of him and prying his jaws apart it turned out his ‘treasure’ was a frozen half of a mouse carcass left in the backyard by the cat.
I warned you it was disgusting.
The little mutt was clamped down on the fur and skull of the field vermin and was obviously thrilled to be in possession of such a wonderful find.
After getting him to relinquish his prize, it took me a second to realize just what it was.
I had to take a close look for a few seconds to figure it out. That’s when I noticed his prize had an eyeball that was staring at me and the realization of what it was hit me in the stomach.
Let’s just say I skipped breakfast that day and it once again reaffirmed why I do not let dogs lick me – ever.
A dog is man’s best friend, everyone knows that, but why do they have to be so darn disgusting. Couldn’t we get a best friend with better culinary habits.
Or even a best friend with a different bathing technique.
Ladies get diamonds as their best friend. Diamonds hold their value, are treasured around the world and will never fart in their sleep, eat their own barf or chew on dead things every opportunity they get.
There is not much a dog wouldn’t eat, especially if it is dead. The deader, the better seems to be the mongrel mantra.
Of course, if it is someone else’s dog, then it is just plain funny.
A few years back some friends joined us in walking our dogs near a river where we used to live. The river was part of the salmon run so it was not uncommon to find dead fish at the water’s edge, but their dog, a blue heeler cross, had found a fish that had been fermenting in the sun for a quite a while.
We did not realize the huge rotting fish was even there until we walked into what can only be described as a wall of smell.
It was literally a wall. One moment we could not smell a thing, and with the next step our nostrils were threatening to go on strike if we didn’t back up.
The odour was absolutely horrendous, which attracted the attention of Bear, my buddy’s best friend.
Bear was just starting to drop her shoulder for a roll in the steaming pile of rot when my buddy and his wife freaked and yelled the dog’s name so loud people in the next province could hear it.
The dog stood up and ran over - darn it.
I was less than a second away from one of the best laughs of the year. Had Bear managed to adorn herself in eau de rotting fish, they would have had to put up with the smell all the way home because there was no other place to put the dog than in the back of their vehicle.
But they were saved from the stinkiest ride in the history of car travel and I was robbed of a good laugh.
Of course, had it been my dog there would have been nothing funny about it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey, look at me

“Attention? It’s more fun to get than to give.”
- Malcom Forbes
Just about everybody has had a need at one point in their life for attention, to be noticed, to be thought special.
Some people want and need it more than others, but I doubt anyone wants to live their entire lives going completely unnoticed.
Little kids get attention by yelling, “Look at me Daddy” as they blink their eyes like they are the first person to ever do that.
The need to be noticed is also filled through sports, academics or by simply acting up and being little brats.
Negative attention is still attention.
Does that need for attention diminish when we are older? For some it may, but for others I doubt it ever goes away.
If it did, there would be no movie stars, rock stars or fat guys wearing Speedos at the beach.
When it comes to getting attention, Hollywood is the centre of the ‘look-at-me’ universe.
But how do Joe and Josephine Shmuck get attention if they are not good at sports or acting or anything else for that matter?
They go on reality TV, that’s how. Some people have built a career out of reality TV.
Remember Amber and Boston Rob from Survivor – professional attention seekers and reality show contestants.
I have to admit, I have never watched Survivor for more than 10 minutes. I tried watching when it first came on to see what everyone was raving about, but I just did not see the thrill watching a naked dude run around doing a bunch of goofy tasks.
The attraction of the show eluded me (as it still does to this day.)
Nowadays, it seems every second show on TV is a ‘reality’ show.
I am not sure what ‘reality’ these people are from because none of my friends look like the buff, trim and big-breasted people featured on many of the reality game-show type productions.
If the producers really want reality, they should follow some balding, pot-bellied, middle-aged bonehead around while he tries to get his three children to three different events at the same time. Now that is reality.
Or perhaps video of a fat guy sitting on the couch in his underwear drinking beer and yelling at a hockey game could be a reality show.
It might not be pretty, but it would be reality.
Instead, there is a parade of beautiful people prancing around some island paradise doing stupid tasks and trying to figure out how to screw each other over.
Perhaps there is some skill needed for these shows, but the latest crop of reality offerings actually seek out people who suck at things.
I can sort of see signing up for Survivor or something similar because it is a competition and the winner gets some money (and attention), but these other shows I just cannot figure out.
Canada’s Worst Driver – why would anyone want to be known as one of the worst drivers in the nation? Attention, that’s why.
Canada’s Worst Handyman. Same question, same answer.
They could probably have a show called Canada’s Biggest Dork and people would be falling all over each other to sign on.
Each contestant would be dorkier than the last until the king of the dorks is crowned.
The winner could then tell their grandchildren, “Yup, grandpappy was proven to the biggest dork in the nation.”
“Gee, grandpa, do you think we can be losers too.”
Maybe they could have a show called Canada’s Biggest Embarrassment and all the contestants would have to do is run around and act like fools.
Wait a minute, my mistake, we already have that – it’s called Parliament.
Canada’s Worst Politician would have so many contestants, the show would have to run everyday for years.
Shows featuring extremely dysfunctional families also mystify me. I cannot understand the need for attention being so great people would expose what crappy parents they are just to get their 15 minutes of fame.
They do it under the guise of getting help, but guess what, there are plenty of counselling services and self help books etc. out there that do not involve TV cameras following your every move.
But where is the fun in knuckling down and quietly solving your problems. It’s much better to let the world know your life is chaos so you can sit back and see yourself on TV.
Now, if you will excuse me I have to go and make sure this column is getting the attention it deserves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

No thanks, I'm full

"Blowfish testicles prepared by an unauthorized chef sickened seven diners in northern Japan and three were hospitalized after eating the poisonous delicacy.”
That was the opening paragraph of a news story I read earlier this week.
First of all, I did not even know blowfish had testicles.
Second, even if I did know that, I doubt I would make them part of a culinary quest.
“Who wants fish genitals?”
“Ooooh, I do, I do.”
Thirdly, they are poisonous if they are not prepared properly.
OK, let me get this straight – not only are they testicles, but they are poisonous testicles.
Mmmmm, give me more of that.
The story continued, “Shortly after, the diners developed limb paralysis and breathing trouble and started to lose consciousness - typical signs of blowfish poisoning - and were rushed to a hospital for treatment. Blowfish poison is nearly 100 times more poisonous than potassium cyanide, according to the Ishikawa Health Service Association. It can cause death within an hour and a half after consumption.”
And I thought a gut bomb from Raunchy Ronny’s was bad for you. At least a Big Mac won’t kill you, well, not in 90 minutes anyway.
I do not mean to insult anyone who has a thing for dinning on the reproductive organs of aquatic life, but to my Canadian mind it is a little, well, icky.
I have long been interested in Asian culture, such as Japan, China, Korea etc., but some of the food they eat is less than appetizing, and poisonous testicles comes pretty close to the top of the list. Let’s just say I would rather eat my own sautéed boogers.
Eating deep-fried bugs also ranks pretty high on my list of stuff I will never ingest. I saw a documentary on some country where they munched on batches of broiled bugs.
I cannot remember exactly what country it was, but the image of several baskets full of the multi-legged critters and people scooping them out like jelly beans is forever etched in my mind.
“Excuse me sir, can I interest you in some broiled beetles?”
“No thanks, I am trying to cut down on my bug intake, but I could go for some testicles.”
I know what some of you are thinking and you are right: to other cultures our food is completely disgusting and unappealing.
Fair enough, I can think of many food products consumed right here in North America that are equally disturbing as fish gonads.
Pretty much all types of fast food aside, I have just three words for you: Rocky Mountain Oysters.
Or as the working class calls them: bull’s balls a la creme.
While they may not be poisonous, they are still rather unpleasant to think about as a main course.
I guess if I was starving to death, anything could be considered food and if it came down to dying or chowing down on an animal’s naughty bits, well fire up the barbecue and pass me a fork.
However, “starving to death” is the pertinent detail of such a dinning experience.
Who was the first person to try these anyway?
“Y’know Hank I am famished. Neutering all these bulls shore do work up an appetite. We have spaghetti, but no meatballs. Hey, wait a second, pass me the frying pan, I wanna try something.”
Another completely disgusting food I actually have eaten is liver.
My mom made the meal from hell at least three times a year and we had to sit at the table and choke it down.
We could not leave until dinner was done and that included every last morsel of animal liver.
I think if it came to forcing down liver or munching on the love spuds of a fish, I have to go with the fish.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why even ask

“Why do you even ask?”
I have thought that a lot more than I have said it when it comes to queries from my wife, and it is a question that is as applicable now as the day I got married.
I really noticed it during a pre-Christmas shopping outing. My wife and I were looking for items for her step-mom and my mom and sister.
My wife picked up an item and said, “What do you think of this one?” (for her step mom.)
Examining the sweater I thought, “Ya, that will do,” so I responded accordingly.
“Looks good to me. I think she will like it. The colour is nice.”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”
She then puts the item back and keeps on shopping.
This happened with the next two items as well, prompting the question, “Why do you even ask?”
After almost two decades of marriage I have learned not to ask that question out loud.
When I did express such sentiment the answer is always something along the lines of “Because I want you opinion.”
Now that is only part of the answer.
The full answer is, “Because I want your opinion which I will immediately disregard and go with what I think will be best unless I am in agreement of course, but thanks for playing along.”
Which brings me back to, “Why do you even ask?”
I could probably say just about anything with the same results.
“What do you think of this one?”
“I think it is perfect. If you do not get it, you are making a colossal mistake, one that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Right, what I meant to say was it is the ugliest piece of rat cloth I have ever seen and even a beggar wouldn’t be caught wearing.”
Either answer would typically get the same response, but at least she includes me in the goings on.
I am typically not offended by her inclination to disregard my advice. We both know my main goal when shopping is to get out as quickly as possible, so my answers may be skewed by the fact I am starting to break out in hives and am being overwhelmed by an urge to run like a madman.
My wife, however, has the shopping tenacity of a pitbull.
When she heads into a store it is with a purpose – until she gets distracted that is.
When men shop, they go in, get what they need and get out.
Browsing? What is the point of that? If I need something all I have to do is find it, buy it and get on with my day.
My wife on the other hand – and I have heard similar tales from my married male friends – will be looking for something and wander off to look at something else.
We can go into a store looking for shoes and she ends up trying on jackets.
“Well, I was heading to the shoe department when I noticed a really nice sweater that was on sale. The colour was similar to my jacket and I got to thinking how ratty it was looking so I decided to check out what other jackets they had……”
This is not her fault, nor is this a criticism of her or any member of the female persuasion. It is just that men think differently. Brain doctors, a.k.a. psychiatrists, have discovered men tend to have a more singular focus than their opposing gender counterparts.
With men, each thought has it’s own little box and being the big, strong guys that we are, we can usually only use one thought box at a time.
Women, on the other hand, can jump from one topic to the other with ease and even integrate topics such as trying on jackets while looking for shoes. A guy would look at shoes, then, if needed, he would head to the jacket area of the store, his single-thought brain happily switching from shoe mode to jacket mode once shoe mission is complete.
Personally, I can only spend so much time in a department store or mall before my eye begins to twitch and I know it is time to leave or I will lapse into a grand mahl seizure. For my wife, shopping can be an all-day affair, and she will keep trudging through the store until she finds what she wants.
If she can’t find the item by closing time, she heads to the camping department to hunker down for the night.
She joins the myriad of other female shoppers who are setting up tents, digging out sleeping bags and preparing meals in what can only be described as shopper’s refugee camp.
In the morning, the mass of die-hard shopping aficionados returns to their mighty quest.
Meanwhile their husbands have fallen into a coma and can be revived only by sitting them in front of a TV – preferably with a hockey game on – and by putting a remote in one hand and a beer in the other.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bite my Valentine

Most people know it as Valentine’s Day.
But when I was in elementary school I referred to it as the Anguishing Day From Hell That Reminded Me of What a Loser I Really Was.
That fateful February day was as unavoidable as a trip to the dentist and it was far more stressing.
At least the dentist would put in freezing, but Valentine’s Day had to be taken straight up with no anesthetics at all. There was not even a shot of whisky to take the edge off.
I would loathe the approach of the Hallmark mainstay and would wish for some sickness to befall be so I would not have to go to school – a cold, the flu, scurvy – whatever it took.
But, as usual when you really want to get sick you don’t. The bout of scurvy is saved for birthdays or summer holidays.
In case you haven’t noticed, Valentine’s Day was not my favourite event of the year.
Looking back, I guess it wasn’t that bad – if you consider repeated mental scarring a good thing.
I was a shy kid and was somewhat withdrawn. I was a loner in school.
Not in a clock-tower-with-a-rifle sort of way, but in a he’s-a-quiet-kind-of-kid sort of way.
Come to think of it, that’s usually how people describe someone who flipped out and ate half of his home town.
“He was a quiet lad, very polite. Except for that whole cannibalism thing he was a nice guy. He would host the most wonderful backyard barbecues.”
Because of my shyness, I was also somewhat socially stunted.
Not like the jocks or the so-called ‘cool kids’ who seemed to be at every event and on everybody’s social ‘A’ list.
In those days, teachers devised an ingenious system of magnifying the social standing of all the kids in school by providing us time to give Valentine’s cards to who ever we wanted.
I don’t know who thought of this unique form of social torture, but the person had a nasty streak that would make Attila the Hun giddy.
During the frenzy of romantic slop, the ‘cool kids’ ran around to each other’s desks stuffing cards and envelopes into bags taped to the front of their desks.
Some kids needed big, black garbage bags to hold all the cards while other kids – I am not mentioning anyone specifically here – could have gotten away with a sandwich bag.
When the allotted time was up, the students returned to their desks and dove into the bags to read the lovely things other had said about them.
Reaching into my lunch, er, um, I mean garbage bag, I pulled the cards out and spent the next 20 to 30 seconds reading them. Some of the ‘cool kids’ would have to book extra time at lunch to get through theirs.
I did get a few cards and had some close friends in school, but it just never measured up to the mountain of heart-shaped cards the ‘cool kids’ lugged home.
The annual day of torture ended when I entered high school because teens are just too darn cool to run around handing out cards. Thank God.
These days, Valentine’s is far less brutal for socially challenged students. Each kid gives a card to every other kid and teachers even go so far as to send home class lists to make sure everyone is included.
What a great idea. No more are outcasts banished to having lunch bags hang limp and empty on their desks.
No longer are the ‘cool kids’ ruling the day.
The new-and-improved system has been around for many years and I say keep it up. The ‘uncool kids’ have enough problems without an annual “Look-at-the-losers” day.
As for me, I have dealt with the emotional wedgie Valentine’s Day used to represent and have grown to become a well-adjusted adult.
At least that’s what my therapist keeps telling me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Not full of crap

This one was just too good to pass by.
It involves those nutty Russians and an activity most people do not boast about.
According to an Associated Press story “a monument to a procedure many people would rather not think about has been unveiled at a spa in a southern Russian city. The 363-kilogram bronze syringe bulb held by three angels honours the enema.”
Go ahead, snicker, I did.
Spa director Alexander Kharchenko said there is “no kitsch or obscenity” involved.
He calls the monument a “successful work of art” that pays tribute to what is “almost a symbol of our region.”
How would you like to live in an area where the claim to fame is Roto-rooter of the derriere?
The Okanagan has the wonderful lakes, beautiful weather (well, maybe not this year) and nature galore, while the Russian city of Zheleznovodsk can woo people with a giant butt syringe.
I am just thankful the ‘art’ did not go further and include all the components needed to perform a successful enema. Talk about art imitating life.
To say it will be the ‘butt’ of many jokes is a given. I just hope the people of the region can put it ‘behind’ them and enjoy their notoriety.
These folks must be ‘flushing’ with pride at their enema prowess or they would not have gone to such great lengths to declare themselves masters of the procedure.
According to the story, the area is known for its dozens of spas where enemas with water from mineral springs are routinely administered to treat digestive and other complaints.
I wonder if travel agencies will include the Caucasus Mountains community in one of their Russian tour packages.
“For one low price, you can see Red Square, visit St. Basils, jet over to St. Petersburg and, for the truly adventurous, you can go to Zheleznovodsk and have a professional spa technician stick a hose up your…”
Butt wait, it gets better.
Kharchenko said the monument cost $42,000 and was installed in a square in front of his establishment.
A banner declaring: “Let’s beat constipation and sloppiness with enemas” — an allusion to a line from The Twelve Chairs, a famous Soviet film comedy — was posted on one of the spa’s walls.
Actually, I hope my boss does not read this because we media types have been known to make the occasional error that could be attributed to sloppiness, and if this kind of cure catches on it could change modern media as we know it.
“Hey boss, you wanted to see me. Say, what’s the garden hose for?”
Like the fine townsfolk of Zheleznovodsk, we would all be walking funny, but we would be making fewer mistakes.
Sculptor Svetlana Avakina said she designed the 1.52-metre-high monument with “irony and humour” and modelled the angels on those in works by Italian Renaissance painter Alessandro Botticelli.
“This device is eternal, it will never change,” she told The Associated Press.
An eternal enema syringe bulb, what kind of a legacy is that?
“Son, I want you to have this. My daddy used it just like his daddy before him and so on. Treat it well son and it will treat you well.”
“Wow, thanks dad, my very own enema bulb.”
That’s a Hallmark moment if ever there was one.
The artist went on to say, “We could promote this brand, turn it into a franchise with souvenirs and awards for medical doctors.”
A brand? That might be a bit of a stretch. How easy would it be to market this as a brand?
Maybe they could promote it as ‘Snap, Crackle and Flush,’ or ‘Come for the enema, stay for the borscht.’
Where I live, we have the slogan ‘The Sunny Okanagan,’ because the area is so sunny. Zheleznovodsk could go with, ‘Zheleznovodsk, where everything works out in the end.’
Getting hosed would take on a whole new meaning.
Souvenirs are another area where I have to question the potential for success.
“Hi honey, I’m back from my trip to Russia and I got you this beautiful and stylish enema syringe bulb. Honey? What’s wrong? Where are you going?”
Or how about, ‘My parents went to Russia and all I got was this lousy enema.’
Last, but not least is the enema award for doctors.
“To Dr. Hinderkleenerz, for flushing out a butt better than anyone else, we award you the golden syringe bulb. When it comes to cleansing a colon, you are the best, congratulations. Your parents must be proud.”
“I would like to thank the panel for selecting me and anyone who has a butt.”
If these fine folks feel a posterior purge is their claim to fame then I say go for it, but I doubt it will ever compete with Disneyland as the ‘Happiest place on Earth.”
Maybe the ‘Crappiest place on Earth,’ but apparently that is by design.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A cowboy I aint

I have never felt more like a city slicker in my life.
I grew up in a rural area with hills to climb and creeks to fish in, but after spending four days at a ranch, I realized I am seriously out of place on a real, working ranch.
We were visiting relatives who owned the ranch which was a fair drive down a winding, forest-lined road.
The ranch house was an amazing log home, and the 400 acres came with a full compliment of ranch-type critters.
We arrived in a mini-van loaded with people pulling a tent trailer loaded with stuff.
We don’t visit, we invade.
Working on one of the corral fences when we pulled up, was a cousin who was in amazing shape. He had spent the last few years working hard at the physical job and it showed. I am not gay or anything, but damn….
He, of course, was shirtless and I figured the only way I would take off my shirt was if it was on fire. And even then I would try to roll around and put it out first, lest the people and animals be frightened by my pasty white complexion and hard-earned layer of flab.
We said hello to everyone and set up our trailer before exploring the wonderful world of ranching.
Among their stock were a few cows, a bull, seven big dogs and a quite a few horses.
On the second day of our visit, there was a commotion near the barn. One of the horses had gotten out of his stall and was having words with another male horse.
The alpha mail horse – the one who got out – was not taking kindly to this upstart pony trying to muscle in on his ladies, and he was not shy about letting his feelings be known.
He was huffing and puffing and clomping his feet on the ground while the other, and somewhat smaller horse, did the same in an effort to save face in front of the girls.
If it came down to a good old fashioned horse brawl, I had my money on the alpha male.
The ranch hand cousin then stepped into the middle of the melee and tried to herd alpha male back to his coral.
Being all worked up, Alf, as I started calling him, was not interested in being confined and trotted around in a show of horse defiance.
We were asked to stand between two fences with our arms outstretched to make a human fence, while Cuz’ tried to move the beast into his pen.
For a brief moment Alf ran straight at me. This was the biggest horse I had ever seen and I figured if it got any closer, I would keep my arms outstretched, point to the wide open hills behind me and say, “There you go” while stepping to the side to make room for him.
However, he decided to go back into his coral, only to escape again a couple hours later. It would seem Alf had figured out how to undo the latch on the gate. Smart horse.
The latch problem was soon solved, but my personal interaction with ranch animals was far from over.
The next day I was walking with my 10-year-old niece when I noticed the bull had gotten out of his pen.
“What is with animals getting out of their confines around here? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of a lock?”
Anyway, I was looking at this bull and he was looking at me. The day prior, I had pulled a muscle in leg and could barely walk let alone run, so I calmly said to my niece to slowly move to a nearby fence, crawl through it and we would be safe.
Just as I said the word “safe,” I looked over to see a trail of dust as my niece sprinted for the house faster than Elvis heading to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
This got the bull’s attention and left me and the beast in a classic stare down. Let’s just say I blinked first and hobbled to the fence as fast as I could while he strutted over to check me out.
Safely behind the fence, I felt a surge of courage, and besides, the ranch hand cousin had shown up on his horse and was moving the bull back to the coral.
In both cases, I felt rather inadequate and thought maybe the ranch life wasn’t for me, at least not a ranch that has animals on it.
I don’t even know if I could handle an ant farm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Doggone stubborn

You know it’s not a good sign when the veterinarian comments on how stubborn your dog is after seeing the beast for less than five minutes.
That is what happened when the dog doctor met Murphy the Mutt.
The tan-coloured hound is only three months old and weighs in at around 10 pounds, but he was born with the attitude of a teenager.
Great, that’s exactly what my home needed – another creature with an attitude problem.
With two teens running around the house there is enough attitude and angst to sink the Bismark – twice.
Now, the only truly optional member of our family has a stubborn streak and he’s only a few weeks old.
Perhaps it’s the pug in him, or maybe it is some sort of cosmic payback for when I was younger.
People told me I was stubborn, but I absolutely refused to believe them, no matter what. They obviously did not know the real me.
I noticed the stubborn streak within a couple days of bringing the little mongrel home. If he wanted something, his focus on getting it was impressive.
I also quickly noticed that if it is cold and windy outside, Murphy has decided it would be better to sneak off to a corner of the house to, um, well, you know, make a deposit.
Upon discovery of his covert operation, disciplinary action is taken, but he still does not want to leave the house when it is cold outside and a battle of wills is emerging.
I just hope I win.
I have to give him credit though, he is very creative when it comes to ‘doing his business.’
He has a penchant for climbing up on things. Not the couch or anything, but a stack of boxed games and my son’s guitar were two recent targets of his mini bombing runs.
Why he would balance on the neck of an electric guitar is beyond anyone’s guess. Mind you his brain is roughly the size of a walnut so how smart can he be?
So, for the sake of canine companionship, we are willing to add the stress of battling a dog about the proper use of sanitary facilities, which in this case is the backyard, to an already hectic and stressful life.
Dealing with the pint-sized terror got me thinking (which is usually a bad thing) about just how much people are willing to put up with when it comes to their pets.
My cousin had a rottweiler that could clear a room if you know what I mean, but she kept the beast and his gasses until he went to hound heaven at age 12.
That’s more than a decade of butt bombs wafting through the home, but after a while neither she nor her kids noticed.
It was guests like myself who spent the entire visit with watering eyes.
It is not just attitude problems and out breaks of nuclear-powered flatulence that people will endure, they are willing to lighten their bank accounts for the family pet.
Some friends of ours had a cat that was hit by a car.
While speeding to the vet with a carload of bawling children, mom and dad braced their young ones in case the news was not good.
They also discussed with each other exactly how much they were willing to spend to save the life of the hard-luck feline.
“We cannot go more than $200 to fix Fluffy.”
More bawling and wailing from the backseat.
“OK, Ok, we can go as high as $250.”
Even more bawling and wailing.
“Alright, $300 and that’s it. Not a penny more.”
Upon arriving at the vet clinic, it was like a scene out of the show ER. The vet and a couple assistants rushed to the injured pet that was wrapped in a towel and being accompanied by a herd of wailing kids.
They took Fluffy into the kitty emergency room for a quick assessment.
While the vet examined the cat, the wailing was reduced to sniffles, but the tears of the children were having an impact on the parents, especially dad.
While watching the vet work feverishly on the black and white feline, dad would glance at his children and see the concern on their faces. Eventually, the big, strong man broke.
“Doc, if I can donate a kidney or something just let me know.”
As it turned out, Fifi needed a new hip, the original one was shattered.
The cost of keeping Fifi in the family - $800.
“No problem doc, we can take it out of the kid’s college fund.”
Fifi, who everyone now calls Robo-cat, received the plastic and metal hip and is doing just fine and the kids are having a great time sticking fridge magnets to her.

Sled or die

Did the force of gravity increase without anyone telling me?
It must have, because getting up that toboggan hill seems a lot harder now than it used to.
It can’t be because I am getting old or anything, it must be some sort of weird phenomenon where the pull of the earth’s gravity has gained strength and scientists around the world will soon be looking into the matter.
It will make international headlines I am certain.
This weird occurrence became apparent while taking my daughter sledding the other day.
The first time up the hill was not too bad, but then that bizarre gravity thing kicked in. Each time I had to go up the hill, gravity got stronger and the climb became more challenging.
“C’mon, Daddy let’s go again,” said the little one upon reaching the top of the hill that also seemed to be getting longer as the day progressed.
“OK, honey, but you will have to wait a second or two because Daddy is having a mild heart attack right now and needs to do some self CPR.”
Kids can run up the hill all day long without even breathing hard.
My theory is because they are much smaller than I am the increased gravity is not affecting them as much.
I fear with the ever-increasing gravity by the time my children are my age, gravity will be so strong planes won’t even be able to take flight and birds will have to walk south for the winter.
When I was a wee lad, and gravity was a lot lower, we had a few hills we used to slide down, but one of the favourites was a nearby street that was quite steep and thus fast.
Yes, we would ride right down the middle of the road.
I never said we were smart. I like to think of it as adventurous.
Anyway, because my sled had metal runners and I could steer it a little bit it gave me a great advantage when racing, especially when the road made a 90 degree turn.
It was a blind corner so we had no idea if a car was coming, but we were adventurous (see stupid) and raced anyway.
Thinking back I cannot remember one person saying, “Uh, hey guys, maybe this isn’t too smart because it is a road and there are cars on it.”Had that been said, I am sure we would have explained we were adventurous and everything would be fine and the sayer of such logic would have been chastised for being such a worry wart.
Fortunately, that situation never did arise so no one was banished to the realm of wimpy worry wart sissy boy.
No one was ever hit by a car, which is a miracle in itself. Did I mention we never claimed to be smart?
Because we had more testosterone than brains, sledding was also a contact sport and more than once someone was run off the road as he tried to pass, or was being passed.
This resulted in several minor injuries, but everyone walked away – limping is a still a form of walking – from a day of sledding unscathed (more or less anyway).
There was another toboggan run we called ‘Suicide Hill.’
It wasn’t Everest or anything, but it was fairly steep so you could go pretty fast.
I visited ye olde Mountain of Doom a few years ago and was amazed at how small it was. Through a child’s eyes it was a monstrous mountain that only the most adventurous souls dare go down.
There were two options for the intrepid sledder to take down this mountain of terror. Option one was the steepest and fastest, but ended at a barbed wire fence that was strung across the neighbouring property.
As the sledding season progressed and the run became icier the jagged metal fence played more of a role in the amount of fun we were having. More than one person decided they had enough fun and went home to stop the bleeding.
Option two was not as steep, but was much longer. If you could manage to angle your snow steed just right, you could cross a couple of driveways before zooming across a side street and going straight down another road.
Cars? What cars.
Amazingly no one was hurt other than the usual injuries associated with youthful exuberance on a snow-covered community hill.
It was always crowded on that hill and the bigger kids would be showing off in a variety of fashions which typically ended with them hobbling home while still trying to look cool.
By watching the older mentors I came to the conclusion being cool meant being in pain and on more than one occasion I was really cool.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fly, Frodo, fly

Warning: The following contains spoilers that may ruin forever the way you view certain movies.Or maybe you won't care, but either way you have been warned so read on at your own risk.Since I was a kid I have been drawn to the escapism of a theatrical adventure – in other words, I was (and still am) substituting my pathetic version of reality for the fantasy of a pretend life that is always better than my own.
But sometimes I will watch a great movie and one thing will happen that will forever cloud the shining light of fun the show used to be.A prime example is the 1930s version of King Kong.
It is a really cool movie and I love the overacting of the era and the groundbreaking claymation special effects, however it was part of the actual story line that diverted my attention.Between chomps of popcorn, a question formed in the far reaches of my cranium, the area of my brain that is typically reserved for truly baffling questions like, ‘Why do they call pants a pair when there is only one of them?Some people say it is because we have two legs, thus the plural reference.A fine argument indeed, but do we not also have two arms and we don’t call it a pair of shirts. It is just a shirt, singular.
They also don’t call it a pair of bras.Anyway, mysteries of the universe aside, I was watching the old black-and-white flick when this question leapt from the darkness: Why did they have a huge gate the same height as the wall?The people were of normal size, so why build a giant gate which would be a weak spot in their static defense against the Kong-meister?Technically, all they needed was a little door they could run out of and yell, "Hey King Kong, I got your banana right here buddy," and then jump back inside and close the door.It could have been a game where they would jump outside of their little door, throw a couple of insults at the gigantic one, like ‘Your mom was an orangutan,’ and go back inside for a lager and a laugh.
Instead, they go and build a full-size gate the Kong-inator can smash his way through.Which he does of course, and all the little people run around screaming, except for one guy who is calmly leaning up against a tree saying, "A little door. I told you, all we needed was a little door. But did you listen to me? Noooooo, you gotta go and build this great big gate. Well, I hate to say I told you so, but…"Another movie that caused me distress (which gives you some idea just how sad my life really is) was the Lord of the Rings.It is by far one of my most favourite movies, but once again the deep, dark reaches of my brain barfed out a thought that would forever taint the way I watch the moving picture version of J.R. Tolkien’s literary masterpiece.
LOTR is a noble tale of good and evil, where just like in real life, good triumphs and all the hero types slap each other on the back for a job well done, while the bad guys go back to their day jobs as lawyers and politicians.
The main characters are Frodo and Sam, Hobbits from the Shire who take the Ring of Power from their quaint little home to the ominous Mount Doom, which is a far more intimidating name than Mount Unpleasant, or Mount Not a Very Nice Place to Visit.The heroes fight their way through a massive army of some seriously ugly critters, a few flying lizard thingies and a spider large enough to beat Elvis in a doughnut-eating contest. Well, the spider would give the King a good run for his money anyway.The trek takes who knows how long and they pay a heavy emotional and physical price.So what is my problem with the 95-hour long movie epic?Why didn't they just fly?Gandalf, the resident wizard and one of the chief back slappers, called upon the giant eagles a couple of times to help out in a tight spot.
It was part way through my second watching of part one of the trilogy when the idea exploded in my brain, why not simply give the birds a call, or even a text message, and ask if they wouldn’t mind giving Frodo and Sam a ride to Mount Doom?
To me, that makes way more sense than hiking the entire distance and having to use leaves and who knows what else for personal use.
They could have even flown around the tower a couple of times yelling, "Hey look what I got. It's your ring. Here, do you want it? Oops, that's right, I forgot, you don't have any hands because you are just a giant eye. Oh well, sucks to be you. Later dork."The entire trip would have taken a few hours.
They hitch a ride with their fine feathered friends, run into the cave, drop the ring in the lava, run back to the birds and still be back home in time for dinner and a movie.Piece of cake.Or, they could spend days hiking through the woods eating dirt, dodging bad guys and, I am sure, building up a case of body odor that would make even the nastiest of Orcs cringe.I'm just saying, perhaps they should have thought it through, but then again, where’s the fun in that.