Sunday, December 23, 2012

Not even Santa can escape political correctness

Another Christmas is upon us.
Kids will be waking their parents up way too early to see what the fat guy brought them (and I told my kids not to call me that anymore.)
The fat guy I am referring to is, of course, Elvis, I mean Santa Claus.
Each year the big dude in red runs around delivering presents to kids and is the embodiment of the spirit of Christmas.
Sure he commits millions of break and enters in a single night, but he is a reverse burglar and will leave stuff instead of taking it.
I never did the Santa thing when I was a kid. My parents did not believe in it and I was one of the few kids I knew who did not celebrate the obese visitor on an annual basis.
But Santa has been a major part of Christmas since someone figured out a good way to use him for marketing purposes.
And in these modern times not even the Jolly Old Elf can escape political correctness.
You see, Santa has a nasty, unhealthy habit some people want banished from his mystical lore forever.
It is well documented that Santa smoked a pipe. It was never clear what was in the pipe – perhaps he might spend a little more time in Washington and Colorado states this year. Maybe that is why he is so jolly all the time.
Santa puffed on that pipe in the beloved and oft told T’was the Night Before Christmas.
The offending line reads: ‘The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.’
Some people are concerned this will encourage kids to start smoking. I know lots of people who believed in Santa as a kid and none of them started smoking because St. Nick had a nic fit in every single house he visited.
Now that I think about it, Santa must really be magic: he is grossly overweight, he eats way too many cookies and treats (got the munchies do we Mr. Claus?) and apparently he smokes like a chimney, but he is still able to put in a full day at the toy shop before pulling an all nighter and travelling around the world.
The jet lag alone would be enough to knock me for a loop, but not the Big Man, he just keeps on going.
Anyway, if political correctness won’t let him suck on a pipe, how long before other aspects of Santa come under fire.
What about the line ‘He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot.’
So Santa murders animals for clothing does he; not after those politically correct zealots get done with him.
While they want the smoking line removed altogether, they could change this one to ‘He was dressed in a synthetic, fur-like material produced at a fair trade factory in a developing country that opposes forced labour and demands better working conditions for everyone.’
The poem also states, ‘He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf; And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.’
There are so many things wrong with that line I don’t know where to begin. First of all, if the pipe will promote smoking in youth, does the ‘chubby and plump’ line mean Santa will make kids fat?
Better change that to ‘He was in good shape for his age from working out on a regular basis and eating a balanced diet that includes fruits, nuts and vegetables.’
There, much better.
And the laughing at a fat person line is absolutely unacceptable so that must be changed as well. Perhaps ‘I looked on in respect of this body type and offered no rude or judgmental comments based on appearance, age or religious beliefs.’
Call me old fashioned, but I think this is one thing political correctness should leave alone.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Parenting is not for wimps

No one said parenting is easy, and if they did they should have their head examined.
Parenting is the toughest gig going and even a trip to the grocery store can induce heart failure.
The other day I saw a young mom with two young children: a girl who was around four, the boy about two.
She was loading groceries into the trusty mini-van while the two blond-haired bundles of energy chatted and danced around next to her car because that is what kids do.
The term perpetual motion was coined by a parent with young children because they rarely stop running, jumping, vibrating or moving for more than a few seconds.
And that is exactly what these youngsters were doing.
Mom had loaded the groceries, and was putting the cart back when things went a little haywire.
The youngest of the two thought it would be great fun to run across the lane to the car, causing instant panic in mom who immediately called out her son’s name.
His older sister decided she would help by running across the lane to retrieve her brother – even more panic from mom who was now in full pursuit of both of them.
The little man decided it was a game and ran around to the front of the van, giggling the whole way, while big sister gave chase.
Mom was franticly trying to catch them both when the little man rounded the front of the van and was heading full speed back to the lane – still giggling his head off.
Big sister was close, but mom was powered by the energy of panic and leapt over big sister to grab the wee one before he reached back of the van. Despite the crazed look on her face, mom had saved the day and all was well, thus ending another brief adventure in the life of a mom.
Although I am obviously not a mom, I am a dad and I could relate to the entire incident – especially the feeling of panic when one of your flock is in possible danger.
The worst feeling I have ever had in my life was when Junior was three years old. I was in the livingroom with his little brother, who was only a few months old, when I looked in the back yard and could not see Junior.
It was a small, fenced backyard so I knew he had to be there. Maybe he was behind the shed. I handed little brother to my wife and stepped outside just to make sure my first born was where I thought he was.
He wasn’t, and that is where pure, stark-raving panic gripped my rapidly beating heart. It was a small backyard and I could see the entire thing from where I stood, but there was no Junior anywhere to be seen.
“OK, calm down. Relax and think. He must be out here. Just take another careful look around,” is what I tried to tell myself, but my brain was already thinking of every worst-case scenario I had ever heard of.
So, I did what any husband would do in such a situation: I yelled to my wife for help.
She came flying out the door and we both began calling for Junior with obvious concern in our voices.
Within minutes our neighbours came out of their townhouses to help us look.
It was then that I noticed movement behind a tree in the neighbour’s yard.
It would seem Junior had learned how to climb the fence and thought it would be great fun to hide under a bush in the next yard.
When I spotted him he came running out his hiding spot all full of smiles and giggles.
“I tricked you daddy.”
The relief I felt at seeing him was in direct proportion to the dread I felt when I thought he was gone and in a matter of minutes I experienced the worst and best feelings I have ever had, thus ending another moment in the life of a parent.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lots of muscles don't win arugments

When you have a significant other, it is inevitable there will be different views, ideas and opinions on a variety of topics.
And, on occasion, those differences will manifest in what can be described as a lively discussion full of spirited debate and the exchanging of ideas.
For some reason the man actually thinks he has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the um, er, exchange of ideas.
I have learned that winning an argument with your wife is like trying to outrun a dog: it’s just not going to happen. For the first few seconds you may think you are doing well, but it doesn’t take long before the dog is nipping at your heals and you realize the futility of you endeavor.
Women are just much better at expressing their thoughts and feelings than their male partners.
For me the problem is even worse because my wife is so much smarter than I am. She is also much more in tune with her inner self. I know I have an inner self, but we rarely communicate other than the occasional ‘What’s up?’ as we pass each other in the vacant expanse of the male emotional desert.
Part of the reason women are so much more adept at ‘discussing’ things is they have history on their side.
In ancient days of lore, the man did not have to be a strong orator. He just had to be strong. His job was to keep the clan safe from enemy attacks, marauding bears and the occasional Jehovah Witness who always showed up unannounced when he was busy doing something.
To do this he had to be physically strong. When it was the survival of the fittest, the big survive and the small wind up at the end of a spear or something.
There was not a lot of need for men to be in touch with their inner feelings back then. The only thing they needed to feel was their weapons as they vanquished their foes and kept the village safe from harm.
They did not have to talk their way out of a battle; they had to fight their way out. Men used steel, wood and their bare hands to get their point across.
While the men were out fighting each other for territory, riches, food or even bragging rights, the women were back in the cave or hut talking things out. They did not have to stomp on the bones of their opponent to claim victory.
They did not need brute force to get their point across.
Way back then, there was a need for men to be big and strong and being smart was not that important. The need to be in touch with one’s inner self and express their emotions in a clear and concise manner did not arise very often on the field of battle.
Being strong enough to bludgeon a buffalo with a rock, now that was important.
Over the millennia men have continued on with their muscular ways, but it is just not as important today, at least not in this culture.
There are not a lot of marauding bears in suburbia so what good do all those muscles do him?
Not much, and those bulging biceps mean absolutely nothing when it comes to having a ‘discussion’ with your significant other.
While men were working on their ability to go in to battle, women were busy broadening their minds, vocabulary and ability to communicate, which is why us husbands so rarely win an argument.
It may happen on occasion, but it is like a Sasquatch sighting; you hear of it but you don’t really believe it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Working for free for Ikea

I read a story recently where Ikea has officially announced it is against forced labour.
Well no duh.
The Swedish furniture company stated it regrets prisoners in East Germany were used to build furniture for them some 30 years ago.
An Ikea official stated “at the time we didn’t have the well-developed control system that we have today and we clearly did too little to prevent such production methods.”
At least they are admitting their error, but they are still in the business of making people work for free as anyone who has bought anything from Ikea already knows.
What a great system they have going: you give them your money and spend the rest of the day putting their product together yourself.
I have assembled my share of Ikea items and most of the time they go together with very little bad language being used – most of the time anyway.
Of the myriad of Ikea creations I have assembled, only twice did I run into problems. In one case, a piece was missing and in the other case the pieces simply would not fit together properly, no matter what kind of colourful language I sent its way.
My favourite is when there are several pieces that are almost identical, but each must go in their own exact place or the entire operation is a bust. They do come with instructions, but those are about as helpful as a blind cab driver.
I learned it is nearly impossible to put a large Ikea item together by yourself.
They have a method to their madness and often you need one person to hold a piece of that press board stuff everything Ikea sells is made of while you attach another piece with those weird screw-bolt-nut thingys the Swedes seem so fond of.
On a rather large entertainment centre, we had to attach three smaller boards to the main board before putting the other side on while juggling squirrels and singing a traditional Swedish folk song.
We did get it together, but only after a short break and couple glasses of wine to calm the nerves.
The problem for me is my wife loves Ikea. Every time we are in the Lower Mainland she has to stop at the store to see what forms of home-based construction torture she wants to take home.
After building everything from small tables to a very annoying bunkbed that required me to line up 437 dowels all at once, we have run out of room for Ikea items.
Whew – it's about time.
We still stop at the store – despite my protesting – to 'look around' and to 'just see what they have.'
My wife always gets this glazed look in her eyes as she wanders through row upon row of items that all have 'some assembly required.'
What they should say is 'complete assembly required.'
Anyway, I have spent more time walking through the Ikea maze than any man should have to.

Anyone who has been in an Ikea warehouse knows what I am talking about. The Swedes are organized if nothing else and the store is laid out so you can go from one ‘room’ to the next in an orderly fashion. They even provide you with a little map of where each room is so you know that when you are done browsing the bedroom you can tour the livingroom and so on.
I often expect there to be a big piece of cheese at the end of the store when I am done navigating through department after department as I search for the only thing I truly care about: the exit sign.
We still pick up a few small items on just about every visit, but none of them come with instructions or generate the desire to poke a Swede in the eye with my worn out finger.