Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Reasons To Fear Canada (Via Faust)

...Excessive politeness only makes sense as cover for something truly sinister. But what?

Citizens seem strangely impervious to cold.

Decriminalization of marijuana and acceptance of gay marriage without corresponding collapse of social institutions indicate Canada may, in fact, be indestructible.

Has infiltrated entertainment industry with singers, actors, and comedians practically indistinguishable from their American counterparts.

Read More of Sean Carman's List at McSweeney's

Monday, April 25, 2005

Why I No Longer Familiarize Myself With Baboons

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On a Friday night in 1994, seven foreign volunteers working in Nigeria crossed the border into Yankari National Park, a 2,224 acre wildlife preserve on the central plateau of Africa's most populous nation.

Yankari's base camp consisted of about thirty round, thatched-roof huts that served as guest cabins and homes for the park's rangers and their families. It was situated in the heart of the sanctuary at the edge of a tremendous volcanic crater surrounded by a baobab and tamarind forest. As we unpacked inside the gated compound, we marvelled at the night sky...It was a cloudless starry night, and I've never seen the contrast between darkness and light illustrated so well. Two guards helped us carry our bags inside while two others shined flashlights around the perimeter of the rondel. As they left, we were sternly informed that were not to open the doors until morning for our own safety. Point taken.

The next day, our two hour safari became a four hour tourist bake due to a broken axle. The lorry driver refused to let us out of the flatbed truck for fear of the park's resident lion pride, so we blistered in the midday sun while the poor bastard risked his life running through the bush back to the bush camp five miles away. His running stride was punctuated by regular glances over his shoulder that reminded me a swimmer taking breaths of air...It was disconcerting that his rifle didn't inspire more confidence.

After disembarking from our rescue jeeps, we'd worked up a powerful thirst, and fortunately, the camp was well-stocked for tourists with Gulder, Nigeria's excellent lager beer. Afterwards, my Danish and Nigerian friends walked down to the Wikki Warm Springs, Yankari's most famous attraction. For the next few hours, I sat under a flame tree talking wildlife with our driver, Paul, making double-sure we both were properly hydrated, of course.

It was a half mile from the edge of the compound to the warm springs following a steep, rocky path. As I descended, I felt as though I was entering the Africa of my Disney-tainted imagination. I was no longer in the forest, but rather a jungle with creeping vines and mossy treetrunks. Beneath the lush canopy my friends frolicked in a geothermally heated natural pond. By the time I hit the water, my friends were already towelling off, and as the sun began to go down behind the rim of the crater, I was floating on my back watching it set...A beatiful, surreal sunset. From my vantagepoint, it was like watching a partial eclipse. The rim of the crater formed a perfect circle, and I was floating in the center, looking up from the base of a giant cone.

Suddenly the edges of the rim seemed to go out of focus. I squinted, and realized that what I was seeing was actually movement at the top of the ravine's edge. This woke me from my reverie, and it occurred to me it might be a good idea to get back to camp. As I towelled off, I realized the movement I had seen at the top of the crater was actually a large baboon troop descending to their watering hole. There were at least fourty of them, and to my horror, I realized was encircled with nothing to defend myself but a beach towel.

Fortunately, years of torment at the hands of public school bullies had prepared me for just such an occasion. My initial reaction was instinctual. I dipped the end of my bathtowel in the water, twisted it into a coil, and snapped it at the baboons while spinning clockwise and walking backwards up the hillside.

The baboons shrieked and hissed. They kept their distance for a while, but then a bold male caught hold of the towel and yanked it out of my hand.

At that point, I assumed I was a goner. I tripped over a treeroot and fell on my ass. Like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, my moment of despair abutted my moment of salvation. Instead of clutching a magic ring, I instinctively clutched a rock. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before--perhaps years of social conditioning had prevented me from considering a rock as a weapon. I let loose with a lifetime of suppressed midwestern hostility. Not since St. Stephen has there ever been such a stoning. I unloaded on those buggers with a counterclockwise rat-a-tat-tat of stones that sent thew scurrying back into the undergrowth.

That, my friends, is why I no longer familiarize myself with baboons, and why I love my opposable thumbs with a love pure and true.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In Praise of the Opposable Thumb

What makes humanity so special? Philosophers, anthropologists, and Jeopardy contestants have pondered this question since the first year of the Discovery channel on basic cable, and every time they think they have it nailed down, someone teaches a baboon sign language or a dolphin saves a drowning child, forcing humanity to search anew for something to justify our innate sense of superiority.

I'm not convinced we are superior to our fellow living creatures, but if I had to choose one thing that sets humanity apart, I would have to go with the mighty opposable thumb. We have them, and we use them well.

Because of an incident in Nigeria's Yankari National Park, I've grown particularly fond of my prehensile digit, and if you ask me nicely, I'll be happy to tell you the story behind this sign tomorrow:

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Friday, April 22, 2005

My Dream Pope

Maybe I'm just bitter because I didn't receive my invitation to the conclave on time, but I find the elevation of Ratzinger to Pope a hard pill to swallow.

I'm not a big fan of religious authority, or hierarchal leadership in general, but if, hypothetically speaking, I had to choose a celebate octegenarian with a combover to guide my spiritual life, I'd choose one with a penchant for liberation theology. I think it was Archbishop Romero of El Salvador who once remarked, "When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they're poor, they call me a communist".

My dream pope would focus the efforts of the church on healing the sick, feeding the hungry, lifting up the poor, and comforting those who suffer...But hey, that's just me. If you'd prefer some guy who seems fixated on marginalizing women and telling you what you can and cannot do with your own weenie, that's your business, I guess.

If you were designing the cover for the latest edition of Pope Beat Magazine, what would your Dream Pope look like?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Good News From Iraq Via Fox News

I don't usually post U.S. political stuff on this blog, but I brought this post over from my other blog, The Shameless Antagonist, because I'd like to see a Canadian reaction. Tomorrow we'll return to the usual format, but as for today, I'm especially cantankerous.

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Sean Hannity of Fox News interviewed Condi Rice yesterday, painting a pretty picture of the war.

Let's talk about, you know, earlier this week, there had been so much good news coming out of Iraq. The insurgency, especially after the elections, had almost dropped off the map. There was talk earlier this week also of the possibility our troops can come home much earlier.

Things look pretty good from the plush chairs in the news studio, but how does Peter Cockburn see it from Mosul?

At least 17 Iraqis were killed during the day and two US soldiers were reported dead after a series of attacks.

Ironically, one reason why Washington can persuade the outside world that its venture in Iraq is finally coming right is that it is too dangerous for reporters to travel outside Baghdad or stray far from their hotels in the capital. The threat to all foreigners was underlined last week when an American contractor was snatched by kidnappers.

When I was travelling in the northern city of Mosul this week, my guards ­ Kurdish members of the Iraqi National Guard ­ said it was too dangerous for them to travel with me in uniform in official vehicles. They donned Arab gowns, hid their weapons and drove through the city in a civilian car.

Read It:

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rick's 80's Trivia Quiz

For two years, Rick was the heart and soul of the Sunshine Committee at SIS. His master-of-ceremonies prowess is unsurpassed.

Thankfully, Rick has found a forum for his talents online. I was so impressed with his 80's trivia quiz that I took my wife and daughter out to the barbershop for a full-on family mullet tribute to the decade:

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Take Rick's Quiz Here:

If you beat my score, I'll buy a round at Paddy O'Neil's

The Wind Farmer

My wife's cousin, Dan Hayden, has a great job.

A few years ago, the Danish wind company, Vestas installed a 660 KW Wind Turbine on the Hayden family farm. The company soon realized Dan's mechanical aptitude, people skills, and work ethic, and wisely chose to employ him as a wind turbine technician. Now, in addition to working on the farm, Dan travels from one end of North America to the other fixing wind turbines.

In the years to come, Dan told me, the western shore of Lake Huron will undergo a transformation. Where one wind turbine now stands, hundreds more will spring up in the next twenty years. In 2005 alone, the wind company EPCOR will build a 40MW facility in Kingsbridge that will produce 109,000 megawats of power annually; enough power for 12,000 homes. This one project alone will increase the amount of wind power generated in Ontario by 150 percent. The next time I go out on the lake, I'm taking a "before" picture for Dan. The shoreline will never be the same, and from my perspective, that's a good thing.

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In the United States, there are also thousands of wind farms, but when Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that "conservation isn't part of our lifestyle", he furthered the conventional wisdom that wind power is a pipe dream conjured up by tofu-munching treehuggers in California.

The wind farmers I know don't wear birkenstocks or much granola bars; they're simply shrewd farmers who know a good deal when they see it. They care about their communities and the land, and they want a better future for their children.

For Dan, the booming wind power industry could mean a lifetime of job security and stories of high-altitude adventure. For the rest of us, it could mean cleaner air, cleaner water, more local jobs, and greater energy independence.

Read About The Kingsbridge Project Here:

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Canadian Blog 138th Post Spectacular

Little do you know it, but there's a Russian bear on a unicycle and a chorusline of showgirls behind me. As the fireworks erupt, let me introduce you to four of my favorite Canadian blogs.

For a broad overview of Canadian blogging and an introduction to the exotic people that inhabit the country of the majestic beaver and the mighty poutine, I highly recommend MyBlagh's Cavalcade of Canucks.

Read It:

Because Canada is a land renowned for its comedians, I have to mention Mark A. Rayner's website, The Skwib. Mark would make a great staff writer or senior analyst for a Canadian version of the Daily Show, and I now view his site daily. He calls it "an irregular and explosive blog". I call it good irreverent fun.

Read It:

Carmi Levy shares his thoughts in the excellent blog Written Inc. In addition to blogging, Carmi writes a column for the London Free Press. Like my friend Sam, Carmi is a keen obeserver of the world around him. My innate cynicism is no match for his relentless idealism.

Trillian is the nom de plume of an aspiring novelist in London, Ontario. Trillian's thoughtful and often quirky take on life, the universe, and everything is refreshing for its candor and broad-mindedness. Her blog, Paperback Writers, has long been a favorite. Trillian's husband Arthur also posts occasionally on his entertaining blog andtheansweris.

My wife recently started a blog called the Regina Monologues, but has yet to post anything other than an introduction. A title that good deserves futher development. Maybe she just needs a little encouragement.

What Canadian blogs do you frequent? ...Do tell.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I Understand Women: Part One

Now that I'm a happily married man, allow me to slip into my red satin velvet-collared smoking jacket, don my slippers, pull out a pipe, and explain women to you, young man. If you follow my advice, you're practically guaranteed a lifetime of connubial bliss.

Draw close and absorb my wisdom. You shall learn the secrets of womanhood from one of the few men to unravel the gordian knot of the female psyche.

-puff- a perfectly-formed smoke ring wafts toward the ceiling in my study.

In the months to come, I shall elucidate the byzantine complexities of the fairer sex. I won't insult you with Dr. Phil-inspired pablum, but rather immerse you in the gnostic mysteries of matrimony.

Today's Lesson: Having An Opinion.

First of all, young man, conventional psychologists today would have you believe that the typical male is stuffed to the gills with strong opinions of every kind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us live lives of quiet indifference, and this leads to considerable consternation on the part of our spouses. It's possible, and likely, that you're easygoing to a fault.


While all women eventually date a boorish loundmouth with all the answers, women secretly desire a man with both the courage of his convictions and the convictions to match his courage. If you contantly defer to her opinion and judgement, she'll lose respect for you, and over time, you'll become resentful of her leadership on the very decisions you declined to weigh in on.

Let me give you an example from an actual conversation:

Lauren*: "So where do you want to go to eat?"
Fabio*: "I don't care. Wherever you want."
Lauren*: "No really. Where do you want to eat?"
Fabio*: "It really doesn't matter. I like everything. Especially I Can't Believe It's Not Butter"
Lauren*: "O.K. Let's go to the Park House."

* Names changed to protect the innocent

If you see nothing wrong with this conversation you're in trouble, my naive young friend.

The woman in the above dialogue didn't want a decision, she wanted a conversation; a give-and-take interaction. The dialogue would have been more satisfying to her if the man had expressed a preference, thereby opening the door for a counter-proposal, which would then culminate in a mutual compromise.

-dramatic pause, -puff-

In all likelihood, the man was being cluelessly honest. He really didn't care (most men don't) whether he ate pizza, a hamburger, or something out of a dumpster--as long as the dumpster served beer.


What he didn't realize is an essential rule of marital conversations--

Rule #1:
Always have an opinion, whether you care or not.

Next week, I'll share with you another secret to marital bliss. In the meantime, practice your new manly opinion-generating prowess. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my pedicure appointment.

If you have any questions, please comment below, and I'll provide a reply posthaste.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Four People Who Can Do No Wrong

I'm starting a new tradition. Every Tuesday, I'm going to introduce you to some blogs I think you'll enjoy.

Next week, I'll pay tribute to my favorite Canadian blogs, this week, I'm calling attention to websites created by some of my close personal friends who recently took up blogging and web design.

What qualities do you look for in a friend?

For me, friendship is like art; I don't know what it is, but I know what I like. When I consider relationships that have stood the test of time, I find that most of my closest friends and I have chosen divergent paths; different cities, different jobs, different hobbies, and so forth.

Whatever causes bonds to form, it isn't homogeneity.

For what it's worth, here are the websites of four friends that can do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned:

Amalia, the Washington lobbyist turned anatomical muse:

Read her weblog, The Journal of Genki

Rick Fawcett, the funniest man I've ever met, keeps us up-to-date on his jetset lifestyle via his high-quality personal webpage

Sam Teigen: The poet, artist, cultural guru, and man of a thousand nuances has launched his long-awaited blog.

Read 917 Press

And Brian Juchems, America's favorite GLBT youth mentor and role model, who lives the Madison life vicariously for the rest of us.

Read his blog, Kick. Ball. Action:

Friday, April 01, 2005

Shakespeare Hates You!

My first-year college roommate, Tony Fuc*ing Rodgers*, was famous for his wide-ranging use of profanity. The versatility of the F-Bomb is well documented; it functions as an exclamation, a verb, a noun, and even a prefix or suffix. While it's not uncommon for people to use the word fuc*ing as an adjective, Tony had a singular talent with the word. One particular incident comes to mind.

In the early spring of 1993, Tony and I were studying in our dorm room. I took a study break, and returned munching on a chocolate bar. Tony was apoplectic when he saw what I was eating.

"Get the f-outta here! Take it F-ing out of here F-head!", shouted my volatile roommate.

Despite his prominent brow and intimidating physique, Tony is an intelligent, sensitive guy, and I knew not to take his words personally. I simply munched away in the hallway, tossed the wrapper in the trash, and came into the room a moment later.

"What was that about, Tony?", I queried.

"Yeah, sorry about that", Tony said. He set down his pencil on his desk and leaned back in his chair. "I guess I'm just a little high-strung right now, Steve. I've given up beer, sex and chocolate for lent".

Knowing how much Tony loved all three things (especially in concert with one another), I told him I was impressed by his willpower.

He smiled, and with a faraway, philosophical look on his face, replied:

"The way I see it, Jesus Fuc*in' died for me, man...I'm not gonna mess with him".

* Disclaimer: My Freshman roommate was not Tony Rodgers. His name was changed to Tony Rodgers for the sake of my amusing my friends who know the real Tony Fuc*ing Rodgers, who would never say anything of the sort.

I have no problems with profanity, when used sparingly. However, those who use it all the time display a certain lack of creativity--except for those who use it as a prefix or suffix in some unique obscenity. I also have no objections to the use of insults, if they're deserved.

I would happily insult my dear sweet mother if I could be guaranteed that the insult would live on in literature for the next 500 years. That's the way writers are: anything for immortality.

There is at least one writer whose insults have stood the test of time: The Bard himself. Shakespeare hates you, you rump fed runion!

If your insults and profanity are in a rut, I recommend visiting the Shakespeare Insult generator. Have fun, you cream-faced loon.

Get Your Random Shakespeare Insult Of The Day By Clicking Here:

On the righthand column on my other blog, The Shameless Antagonist, you can find out more about The Little Theatre's upcoming MacBeth production, and find a link to a MacBeth summary written and illustrated by a 4th grader.

Aroint thee, Rapscallion!
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