The Alberta Solution


In the months leading up to the recent Alberta election, there were renewed calls from the fringes for Alberta to separate. Now Premier Jason Kennedy acknowledged they were extreme views but said (nudge, nudge) they reflected the real anger and alienation of Albertans and shouldn’t be disregarded out of hand (wink, wink). I’m sure now that their favorite Harperite is ensconced in the legislature ready at willing to tilt at windmills (I mean, literally given his wishy-washy position on climate change) and take on Ottawa – the fall-back approach for provincial leaders wanting power at any cost.

But I have to say, I was intrigued. To be frank, I thought of offering to help them pack.

Don’t get me wrong, I lived there for 11 years and have lots of friends and even family in Alberta. I encourage them to move to more civilized parts of the country. If they can find one after the results of recent elections.

Still, the logistics of it all are fascinating. If Alberta separated, where would they go? The USA wouldn’t take them – they already have Montana, Utah and the Dakotas, plus plenty of fracked oil and gas. What’s the added benefit of taking on a bunch of Yahoos from Canada?

And going it on their own where they are is hardly a solution. They would still have to try to ship their oil through BC and put up with folks from Saskatchewan dropping across the border to avoid the sales tax. And, as a separate country, they would get even less attention to their whining from central Canada (though it’s hard to imagine how Torontonians could care less about Alberta than they already do). Of course, the NWT would be happy—all that construction money to build a highway north of 60 to connect to BC would certainly make life easier, though winter driving might be unpleasant.

But we have the technology!

If we used all that heavy equipment sitting idle up in the tar sands (sorry, if I’m going to be brutal, I may as well call them what they are), we could dig down a mile or so and just airlift the whole province right out of there. Maybe Putin would loan us some of those heavy lift helicopters they’ve been developing. Finding a place to drop it off might be tricky—I mean we couldn’t just drop it in the ocean. Think of the mess.

But maybe we could balance it on a few of those empty islands way south in the Pacific. The climate there is lousy but Albertans are used to that and, besides, once they were free to unleash that bitumen on the world, it might heat up nicely.

As for the rest of Canada, we could get our inland sea back—even though the dinosaurs would now be living in the south Pacific. BC could expand their ferry service and Saskatchewan would get all that seafront property. It would almost be worth making a trip there.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a project manager, I’m easy enough to find.

And that’s 10 minutes in a light-hearted sort of way.



Resolutions 2018


Resolutions are made to be broken so there is little point in making ones that are easy to keep. With that in mind, here are my ten commitments for the New Year.

  1. I will buy no books.

    Seriously, I absolutely gorged on books in 2017 and now they sit on shelves and bedside piles or wink at me from the screen of my e-reader. I bought enough books in the last month alone to last me until August – not counting the literally hundreds of books I’ve promised myself to read eventually. Eventually means now.

    Estimated date of breaking this resolution: April 27 or the first really crappy day in March.

  2. I will write twice as much as I did last year.

    I wrote nearly 140,000 words of new fiction and about 15000 words of blogging last year. So I’ll need to produce 310,000 words total in 2018. Well, that’s merely 6000 words a week, every week without fail. Ha ha ha… head slams on desk.

    Estimated date of failure: January 7

  3. I will lose 50 pounds or if you prefer 23 kilograms

    Easy peasy. I’ll simply do what I’ve been doing all year. Gain five pounds – lose them – gain them back – and so on and so on. Ten cycles and I’m done.

    Oh, you mean, my weight should be fifty pounds less one year from today. No problem, I’ll get right on that.

    Estimated date of failure: Tomorrow

  4. I will walk briskly for an hour a day on average.

    This one could be tricky. I only need to walk for 365 hours for the whole year – though I don’t think I can count walks to the fridge or to restaurants or the LCBO. Probably not brisk enough. Still, it might be feasible.

    Though, given the current weather in Ottawa, I’ll already by 11 hours behind by the time we fly to Mexico on the 12th. I’ll quickly make that up on the beach. Then there is March to contend with and next December…

    Estimated date of failure: December 10th

  5. I will drink less.

    No problem here. I could hardly drink more and it would take too much planning to drink the exact same amount. But I do worry about eggnog.

    Estimated date of failure: December 24

  6. I will be less facetious.

    Estimated date of failure: Sometime later today.

  7. I will keep all my promises.

    Well, I promised ten resolutions and there are only seven, so…

    Estimated date of failure: Already accomplished.

And that’s ten minutes.

Knives at Gun Fights


It is often argued that, if people were denied possession of guns, they would simply resort to other means to commit murder or acts of terrorism. This is not untrue. Witness the recent attacks in London, and the stabbing in Michigan, which apparently occurred after the assailant couldn’t get a gun. The largest mass murders in China – where only soldiers and police have guns – was committed using a knife. The largest, of course, if you don’t count state sanctioned mass murders.

After the London Bridge incident, Donald Trump seemed to tweet (one can never be too sure about his meaning: Covfefe!) that it proves that America’s lack of gun control was completely justified by the stabbings. I don’t know if this is another version of the absurdist ‘good guy with guns’ joke the NRA keeps trying to tell (Well, I laugh!) or a suggestion that knifes are just as dangerous as guns. I’d invite Mr. Trump to bring a knife to a gun fight and see how that works out.

And, of course, those who oppose control over guns always suggest that the next thing we might do is make people register their kitchen knives. Which maybe is not as far-fetched as all that.

I’m currently in England and when you use the self-checkout lines to buy wine the computer demands that someone come over to authorize the purchase. We don’t want 12 year olds buying bourbon after all (it would really be wasted on them, don’t you think?). The other day I had to buy a replacement paring knife for the cottage we’re staying in – and guess what? Someone had to come over and determine I was a responsible adult before I could complete the purchase. Obviously the standards are low because they approved it and the two bottles of wine without question but it does seem to suggest they could refuse to sell me a knife if I looked like a gangbanger eager to take a knife to school or had crazy psychopathic eyes or something.

And why not? Shouldn’t we at least question people who want to buy swords or other weapons lethal from more than, say, two feet away? I know that most sword owners are sensible law-abiding people but it only takes one (or three) to wreak havoc in a crowded bar. Of course, not as much havoc as one guy with a revolver or a semi-automatic rifle.

Now, I know some of my friends are members of the SCA or like to collect blades from around the world but most of them, I’m sure, keep their weapons out of the hands of kids and their drunk or otherwise unstable friends. So that’s it. The next time a gun nut argues that registering or controlling guns is as stupid as registering kitchen knives, I’m going to stare at him with my best crazy eyes and snarl: Seems like a reasonable idea to me.

And that’s ten minutes.

Putting It Off


They say that nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of a hanging. Personally, I doubt I would be able to think anything if I knew they were going to put a noose around my neck – but that may just be me.

You would think that after 40 some years of working and having to meet deadlines, I’d be better at getting things started. Sadly, no. If they offered degrees in procrastination I’d almost certainly have a Ph.D – if I ever got around to applying for it. It’s not that I don’t work hard; it’s not even that I don’t want to work hard. I do. I enjoy work – whatever that work is – once I get stuck in.

But starting is always a challenge. Take today. I normally write my ten minutes when I first get up. But now it’s almost 10:30 and I’m just getting started. And I’m only doing it so I don’t have to begin the number one item on my list – which is to re-write the story my critique group commented on. Nearly two weeks ago.

I try every trick in the book – endless lists, arbitrary deadlines, self-loathing – but none of them seem to work. Maybe I should threaten to kill myself at the end of an unproductive day. Good night, Hayden. Good work. Most likely kill you in the morning.

It’s as if I thought that at my age, I really shouldn’t have to work anymore. Nonsense! As everyone on Facebook tells me, if you aren’t being continuously creative and productive, you’re not really living. Which makes me wonder why they spend so much time on Facebook telling me how to live my life.

Oh well, nothing to do but forge ahead. As soon as this is finished, polished and posted with any relevant links I can dream up, I’ll get right to those re-writes. It’s not that it will be so hard – I’ve already re-written the story six times in my head (mostly while lying in bed, urging myself to get up and start the day).

Of course, I’m a little grubby and need a shower – clearly you can’t work effectively if you don’t smell fresh and clean.

Okay, so I’ll admit it, I’m really only writing about procrastination so I can avoid the really tough ten minute diatribe I should be writing. If I was really determined I’d scrap this nonsense and do the really important work of making the world a better place.

Maybe tomorrow.

First I have to have a shower. Then my second cup of coffee (one can’t be brilliant on a single cup) and then maybe I should think about those edits again before I commit myself to electrons. Then, it will be lunch. But after that for sure.

Though I do have a date to go see Logan this afternoon. Oh, hell.

I guess there’s always later. Is it later now?

And that’s ten minutes.

Democracy in France


Every one of my acquaintance (and yes, I’m ignoring you right over there) is pretty pleased with the results of the French presidential election yesterday. The victory of youthful, energetic and centrist Macron over the darling of the far-right, Le Pen, has made us all sigh with relief. But, maybe we shouldn’t sigh too soon.

Quite apart from the fact that 11 million French voters – some perhaps taken in by Le Pen’s questionable pretence at temperance – wound up supporting the former and soon-to-be-again leader of the National Front is hardly cause for celebration. Macron still has a tough road ahead to try to forge some sort of government out of the congress that will be elected in a month’s time. His own fledgling En Marché party is unlikely to win a majority and, while the National Front is unlikely to turn its moderate (funny word that) success yesterday into a substantial block of seats, it will be tough to bring together deputies and senators of both the left and right into a cohesive government. And if Macron fails, Le Pen will be back again in 5 years and she just might win.

But what may be more troubling about the election is the underlying fault in western democracy that seems to grow more serious with each passing year. Large numbers of French voters simply stayed home, unwilling to vote for anyone who wasn’t their first choice. Some conservatives but many more on the left were clearly prepared for a Le Pen victory if they couldn’t have the candidate of their choice.

This was the exact same phenomenon that occurred in the last American election – which saw some Saunders supporters stay home (though in the end not that many) and some apparently vote for Trump.  While everyone has the right to vote or not vote as they see fit, it is an odd thing for people to vote for someone the polar opposite of who they originally supported as seems to be the case where some far left voters in France swung over to the far right.

This is a bit like people who say they like ice cream but only if it is butterscotch. No other ice cream will do. People! That is crazy. Even vanilla ice cream is better than on ice cream. I mean, ICE CREAM!

And democracy is a lot like that row of ice cream (and, heaven forbid, sherbet) containers. We all have our favorites – and some of us of course are lactose intolerant and hate ice cream – but we are usually willing to settle for our second or third choices. And democracy is much the same. If you only have two choices – surely there is one that is better than the other.

Of course, this is a bit facetious. Democracy doesn’t taste nearly as good as ice cream. After voting, I’ve often had a bitter taste in my mouth. And sometimes when I watch the necessary compromises that politicians have to make in a world where we all have different interests but we still have to get things done, I get an ice cream headache.

But a world without ice cream or democracy? Now that I wouldn’t want to imagine at all.

And that’s ten minutes

Keep It in Your Pants


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.




“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.