Keep It in Your Pants

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Crudity and political incorrectness ahead. Don’t blame me; blame the Republicans. They started it.

So it comes to this. Four guys standing in a row – like men at the urinal – talking about the size of their dicks. Do you think it’s a coincidence that they waited until the black guy dropped out before ‘raising’ the subject?

True, it was only a single reference but, let’s be clear – the Republican race has always been about who had the largest cojones. Even Carly Fiorina was trying to show she could out-muscle the guys. All this talk about who was going to drop the bigger bombs on ISIL, who would be tougher on immigrants, who could stand up like a stand-up guy to Russia and China.

Not surprisingly they mostly sounded like bad stand-up comedians.

But hey, if they want to go there, let’s go there.

I can’t tell you who has the biggest prick and about that I am eternally grateful. But as they say, it isn’t the size of the engine, it’s the skill of the driver and based on past performance, that has to be Donald Trump. This guy has been successfully screwing people his entire life. Whether it’s the students at Trump University (Donald is being investigated for fraud on that one) or the investors in the four companies that Trump drove into bankruptcy – while walking away with billions in his own pockets – or the workers he cheated out of jobs by moving his factories to Mexico and China. And let’s not even start on his ex-wives or poor Hillary, to whom he gave so much money, but whom he now reviles. No, Donald definitely has the moves – pretty good for an old guy.

Ted Cruz on the other hand often gives the impression that he was the body model for the Ken doll. Poor old Ken, as sexless and plastic as, well, Ted Cruz. Although perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge – after all his wife swears he is the second coming of Jesus and I guess she would know. Imagine for a moment what holy prayers issue from their bedroom in the middle of the night. Now imagine if you’ll ever be able to have sex again. In any case, I doubt if Ted ever let his little head think for his big head. Unless the two are one and the same. Might explain why he has no friends among his colleagues.

Then there is Marco Rubio, who sometimes reminds me of the over anxious teenager reciting baseball stats over and over again so he can get through his first date. Rubio is Hispanic and I always thought they were more self-assured but a lot of the times he seems insecure to me. As as the young guy, maybe his run is a little premature.

As for Kasich? Well, who can say? He seems like a nice balanced guy though that may only be because of the company he keeps. Even a sociopath looks normal when he’s hanging with a bunch of psychopaths.

Still, it was nice to see them all swear to support whoever wins, to promise to be buddies in the end. Because that’s what men do in the locker room when they let it all hang out. The alternative – for guys like that – is too frightening to think about. In fact, for macho, misogynistic, homophobic, racist men like that, the alternative is as dick-shrivelling as an ice bucket over the head.

And that’s ten cruder than normal minutes.

 

Comedy

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“Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” This death bed quote attributed to British actor, Edmund Kean, encapsulates the nature of humour in six short words. Comedy is all about death.

My friend, Hamlet the Clown, tells a story about doing a gig in a Northern Alberta school in late spring. The kids were eager to be outside playing and, on top of everything else, were hyped on sugar treats as 250 were gathered in a gym to watch his show. Things started out shaky but got worse when some 12 year old yelled, Kill the Clown! Pretty soon the entire auditorium was chanting “Kill the Clown!” as the teachers watched in horror.

“Kill the Clown!” It was a wise king who understood the value of the court jester and didn’t fall into the trap of following the advice of his ministers to end his sharp-tongued bantering. Self-important and self-righteous people hate any humour that they don’t create themselves; they especially hate to have their own pompous balloons punctured by wit.

Not everything is funny. Not everything that is funny is funny to everyone. It all depends on what you fear. Four year olds find fart jokes enormously funny – because the horror of toilet training still weighs on their minds. To fart is to exercise control over a wilful body. A fart is not a pant’s full of shit and so it is funny.

Most jokes suffer from over analysis.

But here’s one I find hilarious. A wealthy man – one who made his money honestly, treated his employees and family well and was generous to his community – is dying. An angel appears to tell him his time has come. The man, who lived a modest life, is still proud of his accomplishments – accomplishments that he and others measure by the wealth he has amassed. He begs to be allowed to take some of it to heaven and the angel grants him one suitcase. When he arrives at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter, the archangel, asks to look inside the bag and discovers it filled with gold bars. He asks incredulously, “That’s it? You brought paving stones?”

It sends up the foolishness of wealth and the hypocrisy of religion in a single paragraph.

Comedy is dangerous. Indeed that is why it is so often used as a weapon to attack people of other races, religions, genders. Racism or homophobia or misogyny excused with – hey, it’s just a joke. But it’s not, even if you have a perverse sense of humour. Nothing is just a joke – it is all meant to do something, to say something, to attack something.

Yet, would the world be better if there were no jokers, no jesters? The people who killed the satirists at Charlie Hebdo (and their progressive detractors who suggest that maybe they brought it on themselves) might have us think so. But they are wrong.

Comedy is what we use to laugh in the face of power, to assert our dominance over our fear of death and over those who would use that fear for their own ends. Sometimes, in the darkest of moments, comedy is all we have to say: I’m here. I’m still alive. I’m still laughing.

So go put on your red nose. Because that’s ten minutes.

I Love Work

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I love work. I must – I never seem to turn down the opportunity to do more of it.

Then there are the days when I want to get a big bag and sweep everything off my desk and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s not as if the publishing business will fail if I don’t take care of all the details, right? And who needs detailed notes of future stories when we have NaNoWriMo?

As for the daily grind, why should I keep the household accounts up to date? As long as there is money in the bank, it must be okay, right?  Housework is also overrated. Personally I think that dust bunnies make great pets. You don’t have to do anything and they just keep on growing and growing. As for the drifts of detritus that eventually gather in the corners of your apartment – well it is a bit reminiscent of autumn leaves and sand dunes, isn’t it? Who needs to go outside when you live in a virtual wilderness?

Of course, that isn’t really ‘work’ work. Real work involves productivity – not merely moving dirt from one place to another. It involves cooking good meals for example – which inevitably leads to more housework. Those bathrooms don’t clean themselves, you know.

No – I get it – you think of work as the stuff you get paid for. Which pretty much eliminates writing and publishing. Oh, money flows through my hands alright but you wouldn’t want to calculate the hourly rate.

So there is the day job where I produce endless amounts of advice that no-one pays attention to and write countless speeches that no one listens to. It would be a full rich life if it weren’t so empty and soul-destroying.

Seriously though, we all have to work, right? Put our nose to the grindstone, our shoulders to the wheel, with our asses in gear. Which reminds me – it’s time for another visit to the physiotherapist. All those contortions are hard on an aging body.

People always say to me: what do you think you’ll do when you retire? As if the whole point of quitting your job is so you can start a new career. Nobody accepts the truth. When I retire, I will do nothing. I will simply sit in my chair and stare at the wall.

You know what they say – first of all, do no harm. You can hardly harm anyone if you do nothing. And it will be good practice for when they put me in ‘The Home.’

They also say do what you love. I suppose, but really, after 60, your libido isn’t up to doing that all day. And drinking is hardly a fit occupation for an old man. But I’d be willing to give it a go.

The real trouble with retirement is that it is just so damn expensive. Wine, women and song get pricier with every passing day – especially if it comes from America, what with the exchange rate and all. And who can afford to travel – the medical insurance alone could bankrupt you.

Oh, well, might as well keep working.

And that’s ten minutes.

Trump-lite

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There is nothing better on a cold winter day than a good belly laugh. That’s why I was so happy to hear the news: Kevin O’Leary wants to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party. For my American readers, Mr. O’Leary is a kind of Trump-like figure – Canadian style. Or is that Trump-lite?

I should explain that some Canadians want nothing more than to be Americans but they are not very good at it. Oh, some of them manage to pass – mostly comedians and other entertainment figures. A few baseball players manage to get by too, once they remember not to say they’re sorry for tagging someone out at second.

Mr. O’Leary is a pale version of Donald Trump – if it is possible to be paler than The Donald already is. He isn’t actually a billionaire – he just plays one on TV. And, unlike Trump, he isn’t burdened with bad hair. In fact, he has no hair at all. And I haven’t heard him make overtly racist statements – though I wouldn’t put it past him.

But there the dissimilarities end. Mr. O’Leary loves the limelight. He was one of the first members of CBC’s The Dragon Den, a reality show where rich people decide whether to fund business ideas of start-up entrepreneurs. Turns out that show was mostly, well, a show, a lot of the deals promised on air don’t actually get made when the cameras are turned off. Mr. O. is famously known for ducking one commitment to a venture that eventually made a lot of money. The entrepreneur says Kevin probably missed out on making $500,000 a year. Oh, well. Donald Trump has had his share of failures, too. Four bankrupt companies and counting.

Turns out that is something else Mr. O. has in common with The Donald. They are both successful business men, just not quite as successful as their claim to be. Donald has been claiming to have twice as much cash as most analysts say is true; Kevin seems to suffer from the same desire to overinflate his importance.

Then there is the mouth. Kevin O’Leary likes to say the most outrageous things. And he does it with gusto. It hardly matters that he is frequently proven wrong. The facts are a mere inconvenience and can be brushed aside simply by saying it louder. Never mind that some of the things he says border on illegal (sound familiar Trump fans) such as offering money to a politician if they will quit politics. Well, he didn’t actually say that – since it would be considered an attempt at bribery – he said he would invest it in the oil industry in Alberta if the Premier would quit.

That’s right. He offered… wait for it… ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Who would have thought of it? A self-important bald guy thinking a million dollars was real money. I just want to know when mini-Kevin will show up.

A million dollars in the oil patch won’t even pay for a single job to be created. Hell, it barely covers the budget for most companies’ Stampede pavilion (well, during the boom years anyway).

Chump change from a chump. I can hardly see what he rolls out for his leadership campaign.

And that’s ten minutes.

Being Bundy

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If you google: Is Cliven Bundy related to…, Google will autocomplete with ‘Ted Bundy.’ Clearly enough people are doing it to set the algorithms atwitter. The answer, by the way, is no; ted Bundy assumed the name of his mother’s husband when he was twelve.

A better question might be: is he related to Al Bundy? It certainly seems plausible. Al spent most of his time not on the job but occupying the sofa of his living room while other people brought him snacks.

I suppose it is wrong to make fun of these folks – the endlessly procreative elder Bundy and his wayward sons who seem to have all the time in the world to takeover a wildlife refuge. Most of the ranchers I know – and I know a few in Alberta – are too busy working their land to take extended leave elsewhere. Half of them are lucky to get away for a couple of days to visit neighbours in the next town over.

But the Bundy’s seem to beg for ridicule. They asked to have snacks and socks sent to them through the mail – an institution of the federal government that goes back to the time of Ben Franklin. I doubt if they are capable of seeing the irony of it all. In fact, viewing the video a young Muslim woman made of the occupiers, they don’t come across as malicious or dangerous or even all that stupid. They come across as naive and confused, defensive and maybe a little bit uninformed.

They certainly don’t seem to understand that public land set aside as a refuge in the time Teddy Roosevelt already belongs to the people. Of course, they don’t mean the actual People writ large when they claim to be taking back land from the government for ‘the people.’ They mean them.

It is equally easy to laugh at Ammon Bundy’s claim to despise the federal government when he has benefited from numerous federally funded programs to support his ranching business. I suppose when they talk about using their own personal money they feel the same way about it that they do about the nature reserve. It’s all mine anyway. Federal grants are just my way of taking back money the government took from ‘the people’.

I get that – I feel the same way about arts grants.

And of course, the allegations of fake marine qualifications, fistfights over misappropriated money (apparently used for a booze up) and all the rest – really makes us wonder if this isn’t all a distraction to keep people thinking too deeply about the other things wrong in America. I get a feeling that one of Trump’s campaign officials is in Oregon for a reason. What it is one can only guess. When it comes to Trump – it’s all a mystery, my friends.

So the Bundy’s manage to drift in and out of our consciousness – pissing off progressives and birders (and there are more of those than belong to the NRA) but, in the end, who cares? Let them stay in those poorly insulated shelters. The winter is long – even in Oregon – and I’m sure that what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger. After all, many are cold but few are frozen.

And that’s ten minutes.

New Year

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Calvin and Hobbes have a lot to answer for.

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Not that Calvin and Hobbes — the other ones. Luther and Marx aren’t far behind. Calvin and Luther of course gave us the Protestant work ethic – an insistence that we are known by our success in life. The more successful you are the more likely are you to be favoured in the eyes of God. That was Calvin’s shtick at least; Luther was mostly a cheerleader.

As for Hobbes he warned us that life was nasty, brutish and short and the world was a terrible place where the war of all against all was inevitable. Only firm resolve and obedience to order would get us through. And Marx? He might seem like a jolly fellow, promising a workers’ paradise after the last vestiges of capitalism were torn down, but his central aphorism was: From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. In other words if you had ability, you had a duty to achieve, a duty to produce a surplus to be lapped up by those less able to contribute.

So there it is: All of western philosophy and religion conspire to make us all feel inadequate and never so much as at this time of the rolling year.

So this is New Year’s and what have you done? Another year older and nothing much begun.

The reason we make resolutions is because we feel like we were such failures in the previous year, right? And we feel like failures strictly because of philosophy. I say, first thing we do is kill all the philosophers; they are even more trouble than lawyers. Does that count as a resolution?

In any case, I refuse to play along any longer. I resolve to do nothing next year. That’s not a decision to make no resolutions. You should take it literally. I plan to accomplish absolutely nothing of value in 2016. I will not write a novel or even a short story. I’ll be completely unproductive at work. I will let the books at Bundoran Press publish themselves – I’m sure there is an app for that.

I’m going to stay away from the gym, drink exactly as much as I do now, stay fat. And I’m going to completely ignore my family and friends. Who needs them anyway?

And I’ll probably fail to achieve any of those goals either.

Doesn’t matter. As a friend of mine used to say, goals are for hockey players. (She could have said soccer players but they hardly ever seem to score goals.)

Hell, to get the year off to the right start, I won’t even finish this blog.

And that’s nine and a half minutes.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Winter

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Winter has arrived and once again it appears that no one was expecting it. The City of Ottawa, having saved a million dollars in snow removal charges by our mild December, seemed reluctant to spend a little of the savings to get all the plows on the road in a timely manner. Maybe they had hoped no-one would notice. I believe they noticed.

There were over 80 traffic accidents in the last 24 hours – after a month of one or two a day. Once again, drivers have suffered from seasonally affected amnesia and forgotten that snow and ice are slippery and you can’t travel so fast or follow so close. Well, actually you can but there are consequences.

My wife’s office declared a snow day and sent all the workers home at 2 pm. The snow stopped falling about 15 minutes later – but it is the thought that counts. Most people probably didn’t get home until well after their usual commute. Liz wasn’t affected; her bus – several of them in fact – didn’t bother to come by so she worked from home. I can attest she really did work, too, despite my best efforts to distract her. Some people are way too dedicated.

It was pretty though – all that falling white stuff and the light glinting off the ice. I particularly like it when the big fluffy flakes get blown sideways. Of course, I haven’t been outside since Tuesday so it is easy for me to talk.

Winter is a lovely season of the year, especially if you know you are going to get to Mexico for a week or so in the middle of it. Not that this matters a lot – there will be plenty of winter left over when we come back –probably two months. Winter is a great time for sitting inside and drinking mulled wine, listening to music by candle light, drawing the drapes and pretending you are living in a bio-dome. Now that one can get groceries (and wine) delivered to your condo door, winter is perfectly fine.

Go out? Why would anyone do that? Skiing? Skating? Well, sure I’ve heard of those – even watched them on TV from time to time but actually do them – you must be joking.

I might have to go out this afternoon though. I need a haircut – my semi-annual trim is overdue. I’d do it myself but I’m already starting to sound like Howard Hughes (he didn’t go out in winter – nor any other season of the year either) and I wouldn’t want to start to look like him, too. Well, there must be a parka and boots in here somewhere. And I wonder where I put my glove warmers, five foot long scarf and insulated toque.

Well, I better go look because that’s ten minutes.