February 5th 2001
If anyone out there feels that their pet fanaticism hasn't been given the right attention of late then you should pay particular attention to immigrating to Canada. As a result of many years of stability and peace about the only action given to raising the collective temperature is “the cause”!!!!!. I have deliberately added many exclamation marks as you never, and let me repeat never, ever lower the worth of “ the cause”. This is heresy of the first water. Something akin to pointing out that the main Lahnee is naked.
Humour is a total anathema as well. The slightest acknowledgement that you may find some tiny speck of humour within a thousand miles of “the cause” will have you banished from the hallowed halls. Destined forever to be lumped in with those disgusting creatures that make up the reactionary “ism” forces. When it comes to “the cause” laughter and enjoyment are Streng Verboten! Thou shalt be pious and serious. For ever and ever. Amen.
Well it would be amen except that religion appears to be one of the few causes that has fallen out of favour. What is it with the seriously devout and slavish follower of “the cause” that they invariably lay claim to being left wing. My theory is that misery loves company and until I find a comic communist. I rest my case. As an equal opportunity insulter may I take this chance to add that while the right wing may have clasped religion to their collective bosom they are as dour as the other bunch. With visible weapons and only one cause.
There are a few causes here at the moment. Probably the most visible and vitriolic revolves around smoking. During the last few months two events occurred that bring out the single-minded myopic stance of the anti-smoking lobby.
Aside from the fact that more poor people smoke than rich, raising taxes has never stopped people smoking. It has merely provided the Government with a more lucrative way to rob the average Joe Citizen. An MP has proposed an additional small tax on cigarettes, which instead of swelling the tax coffers would go directly to an education program for the youth. Apparently where this has taken place the percentage of smokers among teenagers has halved. Quite a dramatic and convincing result and one which you would expect to be implemented. Please note that this money wasn't supposed to come out of current taxes but to be in addition to them, so there was no chance of the Government actually missing out at the trough.
You guessed it. It has been shelved twice. More importantly the increase in taxes on cigarettes was used elsewhere and the only attempt to appease the anti-smoking lobby was a law forcing manufacturers to put revolting pictures of diseased lungs and hearts on their packs. In place of the old verbal warnings. For some reason the anti-smoking lobby felt that this was “the way” for “the cause”. Much applause and showing off all round. Except that the very people they are aimed at, the teenagers, are now collecting and swapping them. As virtually anyone who actually remembers their teenage years will tell you, this was one of the best ways to actually make smoking “cool”. Well aside from the normal rebellious action of smoking to annoy adults. As for correctly instituted education? Well we wait for the third tabling of the bill. But not with eager anticipation given the other little bit of genius in the name of “the cause”.
In case there is anyone out there that is not aware of what the Oktoberfest is let me sum up in a nutshell. Drink, party, drink, smoke, drink, dance, drink, sing, drink, fall down, get up, drink, invade Poland and so it goes. It's a staggering piece of debauchery that takes place in Germany each year in, when else, October. Except for the last part. Which has been discouraged since 1945. An institution you might say. Over many years it has followed German émigrés out into the world. Many countries have their own version of Oktoberfest now. Down the road from us the towns of Kitchener and Waterloo have an annual Fest. I know that one used to be known as Bismark due to the large German population they had there but was changed to appease the followers of “the cause” just after the last invasion of Poland.
Last year the anti-smoking lobby managed to have the whole festival declared a non-smoking zone! Not content with this action the Mother Grundies then started an anti drinking campaign. Again please note that this wasn't a campaign aimed at drinking and driving but at drinking! Maybe I am missing something but isn't that rather like
legalizing brothels and banning prostitution. Actually, that's probably their next big project.
As a result the Oktoberfest last year lost $100,000. Did any of these sour prunes for the moment even entertain the notion that may have had a hand in this? Not a chance. According to the official tasked with explaining why a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-partying (did I mention that after midnight….?) so-called civic attraction was deep in the red the answer was simple: the sale of Beanie Babies was down this year!
The mind boggles at such a pathetic excuse. More importantly just why was it that hordes of drinking, smoking, partying animals need a Beanie Baby? What does it say about the quality and attractiveness of the product that in the harsh light of nicotine reduced sobriety they are so unattractive that a whole city suffers! As most Beanie Babies are aimed at children are we to assume that droves of drunk kiddies have been responsible for the millions that have been sold so far? I am also puzzled as to what type of Beanie Baby is sold at an Oktoberfest. Percy the Pissed Pig? Suzie the Sozzled Sow ? Eva the Pink Elephant?
What worries me though is what will they think of to change this year? Ban smiling? Ban dancing? Ban music? And why not? After all none of these defenders of the public good would be seen at this festival. Unless there was a photo opportunity and even then it would only be long enough to get in and out of the limousine.
Doesn't this sound ever so slightly familiar?
It's enough to make me want to take up smoking again just to urinate against the collective leg of “the cause” and it's followers.
After that little episode of total political incorrectness I will leave you with one of my favourite lines. Much as I wish I had made it up I believe the author was a Parisian during the 67 riots.
“Je suis Marxiste! Tendence Groucho.”
Smart fellow. I bet he or she is sitting on the Left Bank smoking Gauloises and drinking Absinthe at this very moment, still chuckling.
February 12th 2001
It must have been a worse winter than we thought originally. The coyote's have been coming closer into the urban areas. The other night they woke us up with their howling and general noise as they went around the different houses knocking over dustbins. This is how we knew that it was coyote's rather than the little foxes that run around the green space nearby. Foxes tend to be a lot more shy when it comes to human area's and while still inquisitive they will not get to close to the danger zone.
The coyote has a distinct howl as well while the fox has that sound that can only really be described as `yipping”. After years of reading American comics I can now understand where the word comes from and why. The book I used to read up on them states that it is a “sharp bark” which having now heard it a few times I think does injustice to the beauty of the yip.
When I first landed here in Toronto I stayed down on the “strip”. This is a series of motels downtown on Lakeshore Boulevard. I believe that the only people who stayed there were the immigrants and short-term ladies of the night. I was classed in the immigrant category thank you very much!
Anyway down at the front of the motel I stayed at was the edge of Lake Ontario. A short walk led along the road toward the Humber River estuary and surrounding parkland. At night it was very peaceful taking a stroll along the river, out to mouth and then just sitting there looking out over the lake. One night I had been sitting quietly when I noticed that one of the rocks was eyeing me. Sitting there was a Red Fox. Not more than five feet away. I `m not quite sure who was the more startled and I am also not quite sure why neither of us decided to move either. So there we sat looking at each other. I've since been told that this was a strong omen of my totem and had all sorts of mystic symbolism in my new land but at the time I was far more interested in trying to see everything I could about the first wild fox I had ever seen. After a long time the fox ambled away and only gave one look back just before it disappeared into the bush. Ever since then I have been more than interested in these little dog like creatures.
Funnily enough I now keep bumping into them all over the place. While walking on the river trail near the house, down at the beach and once in an almost carbon copy of the earlier incident but this time during the day and down at the Oakville Harbour entrance.
Once I had been advised that I should pay more attention to what was obviously a totem of sorts I did what all good bibliophiles do. I delved into various reference books to learn more. They are fascinating little creatures.
They belong to the same family as dogs and coyotes for that matter. In fact wolves as well. The Red Fox, my little pal, belongs to the species Vulpes vulpes which is the same as the European Fox. Larger than their overseas cousins though, if I remember correctly. Amazingly it is one of the few animals that has increased in numbers since the arrival of the settlers. Because the settlers killed off wolves the fox wasn't kept in check and so they have proliferated.
What I did notice though was that foxes are supposed to be shy, secretive and nervous. Remember I said that earlier? Well I have been wondering why it is that they seem more interested than scared when it comes to me. I really must find myself a proper Shaman who is into the animal spirits to have a chat one of these days.
I also wonder what will happen when I manage to make it into the wild. With this type of affinity I suppose a pack of wolves will toddle over for a chat. And why not? They have had a really bad press for too long. In fact why is it that all these members of the same family have such bad reputations, while we take those dumb, tongue wagging, spit slobbering cousins of theirs into our house and call them “mans best friend'?
Give me Wiley over Dogbert any day. Which brings me on to the Coyotes that decided to have a fight outside the complex the other night. We live slightly out of Oakville almost in the farmlands. It's rapidly filling up with the Canadian equivalent of RDP housing (same concept muuuuch bigger!) but there is still a very nice trail along the nearby river. It is also a very short walk to be out in the pastures as well. I suppose that wherever these guys's came from may have been some distance.
Even the coyote is increasing in numbers apparently. This may be because it is a very intelligent animal. Despite the general belief that they are like Wiley Coyote from the Saturday cartoons. More bad press!
For your information the name Coyote comes from a Spanish misunderstanding of the original Aztec name, which was Coyotl. The Latin name, which is Canis Latrans, means, “barking Dog”. At three or four in the morning this distinction is not appreciated! According to my trusty guide the coyote is best known for it's yelping and howling cry. As they put it, a series of high pitched, ear-piercing bayings. Boy have they got that one right!
The interesting part of this is that the howl appears to be a means of communication, as it appears to be a call and answer session almost always.
Another fact that is eye-opening speed of these animals. A coyote will gallop along at 40km per hour and is capable of reaching 64km per hour when needed. That isn't far short of the cheetah.
While I am on the “useless facts” department here is another one. The coyote only has two weaknesses. On is that it sleeps heavily. The other is that it looks back while running away. I can't fault the sleeping heavily part, especially at three or four in the morning when I wish they had been! I find it odd though that the coyote will stop to look back at how much headway it has. Apparently hunters very often use this as the vital time to kill them. Sad really. At least the realization of how useful they can be in the life cycle is starting to dawn on people at last.
So I suppose that despite my need to get good nights sleep I am really secretly pleased that these animals are around. Now I really must drive out to one of the First Nations areas to find the help I need with my totems.
February 19th 2001
Sometimes it is nice to be right. I have voiced the opinion that, for some reason, Canadian History seems to be a subject that is totally ignored by all and sundry. I am told that it is “sort of” taught in the formative years. If so then the education system must be in even more of a tangle than I thought. Whenever I talk to friends about the history of this country I am generally told that they are either not interested or that they never learnt anything that was memorable. Seduction by the great God Dollar starts early it seems.
All right I must admit that history can be boring. I went through the old school system when dates were more important than understanding. However given the right telling it can also be fascinating as well.
The reason I bring this up is the sudden attention being paid to history both in print and on CBC television channel. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or His Masters Voice for the curious, is pretty much a sadder version of the old SABC. Anyway for a change they have decided to forego using the Government grant to produce documentaries on the politically correct left wing feminist flavour of the month.
Instead they have produced a superb weekly series on Canadian history. It documents the history from the first immigration wave over the original land bridge at the Bering Straits and has over the last few months moved through all the various political, cultural and warring aspects that have moved Canada closer to a nation state. The first part of the series ended recently and hasn't quite taken us into all the problems of the twentieth century yet.
For myself it has given me a very quick summary and understanding of a lot of the issues surrounding Canada. Why Quebec is the Natal of Canada. What the different First Nations tribes are and where the Inuit came from. Why people from Newfoundland speak differently.
The nice part about all this is that a bibliophile such as myself now has a good choice of books to provide the necessary information to delve into this countries background. Not only did CBC make a documentary but they put it all down on paper. Expensive at $60 for the first volume but it goes past the normal coffee table glitz for a change. At which stage not one but two “dummies” books came onto the market. At $20 each I'm no longer starved for choice and I even have a few Canadians who are interested in their own history enough to want to talk to me. I suspect that one or two do it to learn but that is another story.
Driving to a meeting the other day I passed a comment to the effect that I was really enjoying reading up on the history and how sad it was that it wasn't taught. This seemed to touch a nerve with one of my colleagues who attempted to shoot me down and, on being told that this was a perception gained from my Sons who are in school here, led to a pretty interesting show of xenophobia. The driver stating that he knew nothing about history, wasn't taught it and didn't care didn't help this. I didn't realise that adult women sulked. But it did stop the nationalist tirade for the rest of the ride.
Interestingly this type of reaction will also come from those Canadians who refuse to accept that they are Canadian despite being fifth, sixth or even seventh generation born. I am not sure where this “we are all Immigrants” mantra came from but it seems that brainwashing works well here. I have on many occasions now been told, “ I'm fifth generation, BUT we are all still immigrants!” or similar words to that effect. When pressed it turns out that what they have been led to believe is that everyone after the First Nations are immigrants and that to consider yourself Canadian is some sort of insult to all the new immigrants who are from the “visible minority” category.
Considering that it is fairly well documented that the forefathers of the First Nations crossed over at what was the Beringia land bridge I question why it is that anyone should bother with such tripe. I always believed that if you were born in a country you had a pretty good reason to call yourself a citizen. Learning about its history may just change this attitude, which is probably why the social engineers frown upon teaching it.
I think that over the year as I delve more into the past I will bring aspects of the Canadian background to you. Perhaps not quite as bloody as South Africa it is still charged with all the elements of glory that make up so much of what constitutes a country. Canada being one of the few countries that has bloodied the good `ole US of A's nose. Not once but twice I believe!
It is taking me some time to get all the facts into some sort of order. So stand by for the odd snippet as we plow through the books again. Lots more history to learn again.
Of course the most telling reason why this is so can be summed up by the comment my son made when queried about a slip in marks for history:
“But Dad there is so much more history than when you were at school”
He'll go far that one. Far quicker than he thinks possible too!
February 26th 2001
Officially you can now drink with impunity in Ontario. If anything happens it isn't your fault. With a bit of luck and, of course, a good lawyer, you can even get a hefty chunk of money awarded to you for being in a condition that until fairly recently was distinctly frowned upon.
It seems that no sooner have I written about the weird goings on of the legal profession in this country than a whole new bunch of stupid court cases crop up that make the last lot look fairly tame. At the moment there is a huge amount of outrage at a case that basically states that you no longer need to take responsibility for your actions.
Two years ago during Christmas an Estate Agency held the customary party. Drinks were supplied and one of the ladies partook of the proverbial one too many. Maybe that should be one, two, many? The party by the sounds of it wasn't terribly like some of the sodden debauches that I have attended but it would still appear that there was a good few bottles of wine that were uncorked.
The local Manager asked if he could get a taxi for the lady. It was refused. He asked if he could get her husband to pick her up, as he was a bit worried about her driving in an approaching snowstorm. This too was turned down. At the close of proceedings the lady in question and a few friends then proceeded to a local bar and carried on the merrymaking of earlier. Later that night she again refused an offer to stay over for the night and drove home. The result being that she had a serious accident and was hospitalized.
Fine and well you might say. A nasty lesson learned. Well no. According to the lady in question it was the responsibility of everyone else but herself to get herself home sober!
So she went to court and sued her old company as well as the bar for recompense. The most sobering part of the whole story is that she won! Despite all the attempts to help her and her strong determination to commit unwitting suicide it was decided that some of the responsibility was on the part of the people who supplied the alcohol and she was awarded $300,000. At least most of the people here were as astonished as I was and the papers have been filled with irate letters.
No doubt every barfly has taken heart at this news. Any alcoholic lawyer must be out there looking for business as we speak.
Actually the most puzzling aspect to me is what would have happened had the lady fallen pregnant. Would she have sued for child maintenance?
If that wasn't enough, twice this week while listening to the radio on my way to work I have had to endure the dulcet tones of what I at first thought were raving lunatics and later learnt were in fact lawyers. I will let you make your own connection.
The first was a fairly long-winded explanation about the Airlines being sued if Pilots didn't lock the cockpit door. It seems that there is a law being looked at that would require the crew on a plane to keep the cockpit door locked. At the very least the law would require that at the first sign of anything untoward the door would be locked. Now comes the interesting part. At no stage did I hear any comment about the safety of the pilots or passengers being the prime cause for this concern. There was no mention that this was in an effort to ensure a safe and pleasant journey. No! The major reason was that if anything should happen that caused harm to anyone then there was a strong possibility that litigation would follow.
So in the spirit of good customer service the airlines have a bevy of lawyers looking into all the ways the airlines could be sued. Once these have been identified then steps will be taken to rectify them. Never mind the passengers and the crew. Let's ensure we don't have to dip into the obscene profits. I guess that will keep the executives happy in their first class jaunts.
Mind you I have the sneaking suspicion that what they are really worried about is if a potential hijacker or air rage candidate hurts themselves in their mission and then sues. Given the above judgement in Ontario I can see millions being dished out. Imagine how much that chap on the BA flight to Nairobi would get here. After all he was actually injured by an airline representative wasn't he? Surely the Airline should have realized he was a danger? Enough to make an executive choke on their free booze in First-Class.
If that wasn't enough the next morning we had a representative (legal of course) of the local restaurant industry complaining that the new laws classifying eating establishments was unfair. Of course they were going to court to overturn a local Government ruling because of this.
This is how it goes. Toronto had a blitz about a year ago on various eating establishments.
Health Inspectors went around and discovered that many of the places were in violation of the health laws. Simple things like cleanliness, mice, cockroaches and general bad hygiene.
New laws were drafted that stated that once the Health Inspectors had been around the restaurant would be given a card that had to be placed in the window. Green for pass. Red for fail and yellow for a “conditional pass”. Yellow meaning that there was some minor infraction that needed to be corrected within 48 hours. After which you would be given the Green card. As eating out is almost a duty in this city this was welcomed by most of the people here. After all it is rather helpful to know that botulism is not a side plate.
Enter the lawyers. Their angle is that putting up a green card is fine. Putting up a red card is almost fine but of course could be seen as infringing on certain rights. What these rights were is not spelt out but obviously poisoning the clientele is one of them.
What really seems to be creating problems though is the Yellow Card. It seems that the industry is upset with having to let the patrons know that there may be a minor infraction. The patrons may think that the place is really unhygienic rather than they have no sneeze guards or one mouse dropping more than normal. So lets go to court and get this overturned. What they want is for the Yellow Card not to be displayed at all. Playing Russian Roulette with food as it were.
Once again it is a case of the man in the street being ignored in favour of selfish interests. My question is; why shouldn't I know that the place I was preparing to eat at is not up to scratch? Surely my need to be healthy is more important than some owners need to be rich. I am sorry! I don't know what came over me then. I apologise to the great almighty dollar for saying that.
Actually in my “lets teach an old dog new tricks” way I am rather hoping that they do manage to do away with the Yellow Cards. It should be really good fun to watch what happens when a client gets sick and then sues the Association and it's lawyers for not properly informing them of the infraction. That would almost make me believe in the justice system again.