Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween History In the Faking

It’s already a fact that I hate the Halloween season. The only redeeming feature I find in the Halloween holiday these days is the influx of late night horror movie marathons; and sadly, the scariest thing I’ve seen this season so far was ‘Man on the Moon’ with Jim Carrey. And if that’s not the most pitifully frightful thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. I've even been known to dig out an old Bauhaus album on the Halloween weekend as well - but that hardly makes me a Halloween fanatic.

To me, Halloween blows vampires. Take it from an old bartender, the only thing more loathsome than a barroom full of obnoxious drunks, is a barroom full of obnoxious drunks in costume. This is where my distaste for Halloween originated for me. And even though my life has changed since those long ago days in that I no longer have to serve and clean up after these masked morons, my intense hatred for Halloween has not. These costumed jackasses simply do not go away that easily. Even worse than dealing with the throngs of dutiful costumed retards in public places, is the fact that I also have to endure them at the workplace as well. So, besides the usual headache of having to deal with the hordes of brainless zombies, whether it be over a pine counter or a telephone headset, I have to endure it all while working alongside some dipshit dressed in a cow suit and a woman whose costume can only be described as someone having one fuck of a bad hair day and a green painted face that looks as if she has just eaten some bad schnitzel - and it does nothing to improve my healthy disposition over the day.

I don’t mind the whole kids getting dressed up to go ‘Trick or Treating’* thing, but grown adults should have grown out of this childish nonsense a long time ago. Sure everybody has a weird uncle who enjoyed dressing up in women’s clothes, but we don’t declare a holiday around him and go parading door-to-door begging for treats, now do we?

On a sidebar, considering it’s still early in the day and I haven’t had my mandatory dozen cups of milky tea yet, there is still the chance that I could inadvertently mule kick someone in the Charlie Brown’s in a blind ‘fight or flight’ panic should they suddenly come around the corner too quickly and bump into me accidentally. This risk of inflicted injury will increase exponentially with each passing day after Halloween, as the sugar-induced dementia begins to kick in after all the discounted Halloween candy I pick up from store shelves beginning November 1st. For the next week or so I’m going to be wound tighter than an ADS child after a Snickers Bar smorgasbord.

But anyways, where even did this damnable tradition come from exactly? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual? Or is just a day for idiots such as those seated beside me to dress up like imbeciles without fear of reprieve?

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church (quel surprise there). It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. This holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New Year.

On that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle freely with the living. Naturally, the still living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes, drink to the point of intoxicated inebriation, and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops**, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter to come. After all, they didn’t have any ESPN or Dominoes Pizza back then.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. Sounds like Alice Cooper’s bar mitzvah. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

So, if I’m interpreting this correctly, Halloween was started by a bunch of drunken paranoid vandals. Hmm. I suspect that the same holds true for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston every year as well as the production meetings for Jo-Jo’s Psychic Hotline. But I digress…
As European immigrants came to America by the rowboat-load, they brought their varied ridiculous Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid Protestant belief systems that characterized early New England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times was extremely limited. Shit, if you so much as ever farted in the wrong direction, it could easily end up with you being fricasseed in the town square as a concubine of the devil.

It was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included "play parties”,** public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief making of all kinds****. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country. General level entry into complete Assholedom had not yet reigned supreme.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house-to-house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. In any other rational-minded civilization that may have ever existed elsewhere in the universe this would only get you boiled alive.

This odd custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called “souling”. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. Mmmm, bread with currents – I still fail to see the big whoop. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors. And once again speaking only as an ex-seasoned bartender, they now just get skanked up, strap on a pair of fairy wings, and go bobbing for cock in the alleyway behind the bar. What is it with girls and this fairy wing fetish lately anyways? Someboy's making a fortune selling these friggin' things. But lets face it: putting on your best fuck-me dress and donning a pair of nylon wings does not make you a fairy princess - it makes you a whore with wings. But again, I digress...

The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack, being the sneaky dick he was, made a deal with the devil that if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Talk about being screwed! Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer. The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember. I wonder how much Guinness one needs to consume before the idea of boring out a gourd and setting it on fire becomes a good idea?

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, out of medieval prayer rituals of Europeans, and from drunken bimsters begging door-to-door.

Unfortunately, this all does very little to make me feel any better about being here working today beside a cow and the Wicked Witch of the West, or whatever it is that she’s supposed to be. But at least bitching about it passes the day a little quicker until we can all get off work and I can meet them out in the car and introduce their craniums to my tire iron.

* Apart from those too-cool teenaged bastards who come around begging after hours for whatever is leftover afterwards. I prefer to hand them specially wrapped cat turds instead.

** Wait, who’s damaging what here?

*** Which has since evolved into a decidedly different adult variation of begging for tricks and treats

**** At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates. Just one more head-scratcher over why and how this holiday ever got so popularized in the first place. Sure it was funny back then, but do we have to continue celebrating that fact now?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hippocratic Oaf

Going to your family physician may not be the most thrilling or enjoyable adventures that you will ever have to endure during your life, but I tell you here and now - it’s the trip to the pharmacy afterwards that is the REAL humbling experience! What happens in the doctor’s office STAYS in the doctor’s office; but what happens in the lobby of your local drug store is public bidness. Doctors are bound to a degree of confidentiality – pharmacists, however, observe no such code.

Maybe they have a superiority complex since they work a foot higher than everybody else in the store and they get to look down at their customers, or maybe it's just because they honestly enjoy making you skirm as they loudly describe, in great detail, the proper application techniques and/or possible experienced side effects to your condition so that everybody in the store can hear. Gone are the days of salons and nail boutiques - I bet nowadays, lonely women hang out in the waiting lobby of the local pharmacists to catch up on their gossip and to hear how your case of crotch rot is progressing.

But I digress...

Not only does my doctor require that you get past his megabitch receptionist unscathed when you arrive, but I’m now sure that he also sets me up after each and every one of my physical checkups as well. It's like his own personal private joke. This time, besides refilling my normal prescription for my beloved anti-fungal cream, I was also instructed to pick up a bottle of baby oil and a sterile eyedropper; which he assured me was available upon request from the pharmacist*.

Oh goodie. Just the kind of thing that a single heterosexual male loves to ask for from a complete stranger, much less seen purchasing at the front of store checkout! It reads like George Michael's shopping list. Good lord – why not just strip me naked, strap a saddle to my back and ride me around the parking lot?

I think if I were a checkout cashier ringing through anti-fungal cream, a bottle of baby oil, and an eyedropper for some anxious, twitchy guy who keeps periodically scratching at his shiznits; I might just be slightly, shall we say, unnerved. Of course, I’m not going to automatically consider that this poor sweaty bastard is only dealing with a case of blocked ear canals and a lingering case of joggers rash and is only rightfully embarrassed about the disparaging looks being cast his way from the other curious shoppers peering into his shopping basket. Noooo, I’m going to assume that this guy is some kind of fucking pervert for whose the heights of profound unabashed kinkiness are the direct root cause for the severe degradation in the moral fabric of society. I may even be drawn to put up his picture behind the counter afterwards under the bold caption: “BEWARE OF THIS MAN: HE MAY BE LUBED AND DANGEROUS!”

As I said before, I’m sure that my doctor gives me these awkward remedies as some kind of cruel punishment as I doubt there is, was, or ever shall be such a thing as “Embarrassment Therapy”. And if there is, I just simply can’t endorse this health-through-public-embarrassment school of medicine. I’d rather have holes bored into my skull with blunt sticks to release the demonic spirits therein rather than continually suffer the shame of being ordered to pick up a measured funnel, a tub of cocoa butter, and a pack of pink rubber pencil erasers from the local pharmacy by some sadistic physician bent on ruining my street cred.

Here's the best part: all this is just a prelude to the follow-up appointment this coming Friday afternoon in which, somehow, I’m going to miraculously have all the obstructing wax removed from my inner ear.

Sounds like fun, huh? Perfect way to begin the weekend - if your the Marquis de Sade maybe!

I also have to say, if I didn’t feel totally comfortable purchasing baby oil and an eyedropper from my local pharmacy, I’m sure not relishing this next appointment at the doctor's office! I fail to see how either baby oil or an eyedropper is ever going to assist in this procedure. I’m more afraid more that this is the doctor’s idea of foreplay and that I’m going to end up playing ‘Hide the Sausage’ on a cold examining table**. My instructions until then are to lube my ears with baby oil four times a day up until that fateful appointment at the end of the week.

Great. All I ever wanted was to hear properly again and now here I am fearing that there's a chance that this quack sadist is going to slip some roofies in my medication before spending the afternoon banging the side of my head like a horny terrier.

Let's review the first two rules to the Hippocratic Oath, shall we?

1) treat the sick to the best of your ability
2) preseve patient patient

Nowhere, does it say: "make your patients look like deviant ass hats in public buildings". Surely my rights as a needy patient have been violated in some way here and that my mistreatment and public embarrassment are not what Hippocrates intended!

I think my doctor, my phamacist and the devil all must sit around on Saturday night and have a good laugh at my expense over a game of cards. Somebody just shoot me.

* Since when did pharmacists aquire the monopoly on eyedroppers?

** Review Rule #1 of 'Rules to Live By'

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Adventures in Drunken Boobery

Try as I might – I just don’t quite get my landlord.

No sooner than he pops the cork (or in his case; breaks the seal) on a bottle of Cabaret and he turns into a complete Dickus Maximus. You may remember me bitching about him from past, shall we say, failed socio-experiments; where I unsuccessfully attempted to introduce him to a more refined sense of musical taste. Sadly, the situation has not improved any. The man is as resistant to change as a pogonophobic* at a ZZ Top concert.

Honestly, sometimes it’s like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Drunken Dipshit. During the day he’s just your average, good-natured, smart guy who enjoys his wine, knitted caps, and clam diggers. But by night, he’s a non-stop raging karaoke machine. You may recall how I have, on occasion, been woken up in the wee hours of the morning by his loud inebriation. Believe you me; I’d rather take a belt sander to my ball sac than have to be rudely awakened at 4:30AM to Neil Diamond loud enough to shake the neighbors from their beds.

No matter how many juicy bootlegs I throw his way, I’m still going to have to live with the fact that I will still be awoken by cheese pop and limp-dick radio crap in the night. I’ve been fighting a loosing battle.

Consider what I’ve given him already: Ray Charles at the Palais de Sport, Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin at the Symphony Hall, Aretha Franklin at the Fillmore West, Thelonius Monk at the Maison de la Radio, Dizzy Gillespie at the Royal Festival Hall, Curtis Mayfield at the Montreux Music Festival, Yes at Yale University, Louis Armstrong at Memorial Hall, and David Byrne at the Church of St. Anne and the Holy Trinity – just to name a few. And just look at the selection of crap that I have to endure once he decides to get his buzz on: Darkness, Tony Orlando, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys, Bryan Adams, Culture Club, Queen, K.D. Lang, Melissa Etheridge; and for some reason – Ozzy Osborne. As my landlord likes to refer to it: “It’s killer stuff, man”. He may be the only person on the planet that owns more than three Kenny G albums and who can actually name more one other song by Sade aside from ‘Smooth Operator’.

Well, BFD fella’ – that’s not really anything to fucking brag about!

Being the snobby music aficionado that I am, I struggle to grasp his desire for shitty music. I mean, I give him Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat and I get Kiki Dee and Elton-fucking-John! Where’s the justice in that? I’m sure that he did possess some quantity of culture at some point or other**. He still rolls his joints on an old Genesis ‘Trick of the Tail’ vinyl album cover and he can play the opening cords to Supertramp’s ‘Fools Overture’ on the keyboard, so he MUST have had some degree of significant coolness to him at some point. But why then is he still so obsessive about his shit music?

Personally, judging solely on his nocturnal DJ habits, I think he’s a closet homosexual.

Just look at the above play list***; as his inebriation progresses throughout the evening, the incessant crap pop gives way to ‘Frankie Goes to Hollywood’, and eventually to popular show tunes as the morning begins to break on dawns horizon. His loud transition of musical gayness is so in-tune and psychically complete that I’m afraid that I too may wake up and suddenly find Orlando Bloom hot. Right down to the final chords of 'Hello Dolly!', its a total sexual metamorphosis.

C’mon, the guy is queerer than a $3 dollar bill! What kind of grown man sits up at all hours of the morning on living room floor sipping merlot from a goldfish bowl like some kind of Buddhist sommelier and popping CD’s in and out of the stereo and flinging the discarded discs across the room like discusses? Recently, when I happened to be in his company during one of these particularly dangerous episodes in his drunken knobness, I was almost decapitated by a Duke Ellington CD; but thankfully I was bent over at the time in order to retrieve a Jazz Mandolin Project CD from the floor from one of his previous pitches.

But some drunks are just incorrigible. Personally, I wouldn’t bother drinking anymore if I know ahead of time that after four bottles of wine, I turn into a complete sexually confused ass hat who likes to swoon in front of my speakers to ‘The Power of Love’ being played at maximum volume. That’s not something that I would want to advertise to the neighborhood in the middle of the night. I think I would prefer to exhibit and embrace my homosexuality with a hobby somewhat less obvious and intrusive to the neighbors like 30’s cabaret or French cuisine. It’s easier to explain and less likely to keep them up at night. Because you can bet your sweet Anal Eaze that they aren’t sharing your deep midi-amour for Yanni at 3:30AM.

* The fear of beards. Hey, you’re expecting A-material %100 of the time?

** Which, by my humble standards, equates to sitting on the couch in a stained t-shirt and farting out the theme to Transformers.

*** Okay, I can’t explain the Ozzy Osborne apart from a possible fetish for men in tight black leather and an appetite for pigeons.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Digging Up the Dirt on Swiss Chalet

For the third friggin’ year in a row, I have had the unfortunate luck of having to work on the Thanksgiving Holiday. It blows that I work directly with American clients so that I am not really able to enjoy my own national holidays like every other Canadian, and it blows even harder that in return I get to have a forced day off in November as a trade off. Of course, the money is good so I can’t really complain too much.

But that’s not my style, is it?

This year however, things were looking up. This year our corporate powers-that-be, in the true spirit of giving, gave us all complimentary Quarter Chicken dinners delivered straight from Swiss Chalet as a token of their appreciation for our Thanksgiving labors. Awww…isn’t that nice?

It sure beats scooping jellybeans out of a bowl with a plastic fucking spoon anyhow!

In all honesty, it was the best Thanksgiving feast that I can remember in recent years. Not because the chicken was tender and juicy, or that they offered the infamous Swiss Chalet BBQ dipping sauce in an IV drip*, but because I didn’t actually have to go to Swiss Chalet to actually eat it. Actually going to and eating in any Swiss Chalet restaurant is not exactly a happy affair for me. In fact, it’s about as much fun as shoving a prickly pear up your ass.

Simply put, it is my opinion that Swiss Chalet is where old people go to die. It’s literally the ‘Land that Time Forgot’. From the moment you walk through those front doors, all you hear is the gnashing of denture plates and the shuffle of orthopedic rubber soles on linoleum tile. Lets just say that it’s not what I would call a comfortable setting in which to dine. Likewise, after spending only a few minutes in the restaurant lobby, your Olfactory senses begin to depreciate due to the thick stench of Bengay that the majority of the diners have been marinating in for the last quarter century.

I think senior citizens are drawn to Swiss Chalet in the same way that dinosaurs were drawn to tar pits. During the evenings dinner hours, you can atually see a long line of shuffling seniors making their way slowly down the street from their Retirement home with meal vouchers and coupons in hand, like a column of ants raiding a family picnic. In a million years from now, I expect that future archaeologists will find the hunched over remains of hundreds of homosapiens, all miraculous preserved thanks to the greasy chicken preservatives they’ve existed on for the past three decades. Those same future studies will probably also entail detailed migratory patterns for hungry seniors based on the uncovered fossils in direct correlation to the proximity from the ruins of their local Retirement Village.

How in the fuck did the Swiss ever become synonymous with chicken anyways? These are the kind of deep questions I pondered over this holiday as I chewed on my complimentary chicken. What is a Swiss chicken anyways - a neutral, well-prepared foul with a penchant for the correct time?

Chocolate and cheese I can understand maybe. Blonde, buxom, pin-up calender girls - sure. But chicken?!

* Not that I have the right to criticize about their cuisine since I personally consider it a culinary coup-de-tat whenever I just manage to achieve those little plumes of steam whenever I boil spaghetti sauce.

Hurricane Holy Rollers

It seems to me lately that just about anyone who’s anyone in this crazy world has a specific reason to explain the recent destruction of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. You can’t wave a microphone in the air without having some self-righteous political opportunist leaping at it like a fresh water salmon.

U.S. Republican Senator Hank Erwin believes the hurricane ravaged areas was punishment for it’s “gambling, sin, and wickedness”, and added that this is just “the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God.” Pat Robertson has directly linked ‘ol Hurkat to God’s anger over legalized abortion, while some rabbis have suggested that Katrina is what comes when the U.S. supports Israel’s withdrawl from Gaza. Other more paranoid types have even suggested that the recent hurricanes are the result of some secret Russian designed weather-controlling device that has somehow fallen into the hands of the Japanese Yakuza in order to make a fortune in the futures market and to get even with the U.S. for the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. Wow. That must really be a popular topic of conversation around the water cooler in the meteorologist’s dressing room!

Shit, it seems like every time Mother Nature rears her ugly head or something bad happens, there are a whole slew of folks that come out of the woodwork ready to point out that ‘The Big G’ upstairs is pissed. However, no one would ever dare point an accusatory finger at himself or herself as we should be doing. Did God put the holes in the O-Zone causing dramatic global temperature fluctuations? NO! Mankind did, of course! Did God chop down all the trees and thereby depleting a continuing renewable, breathable atmosphere? FUCK NO! Guess who?

Wise up!

We have nothing to blame these natural disasters on but our own senseless consumption and misuse of our natural resources. How come when the shit hits the fan we are so quick to just blame it on some intangible all-powerful figment of mass imagination as opposed to looking at things more practically and then evaluating the impact on our liveable environment? You don’t have to have a mind that will bend spoons to realize that man is not exactly treading lightly on this planet and as a result are beginning to experience the negative repercussions of our careless actions on this earth. At the rate we’re going we’ll all have been swept away into the ocean by the year 2025. God doesn't give a shit. He'll just twitch his nose and magically create another race of beings to inherit his garden. We're just a different variety of Reality Television to him!

Just look at all the recent environmental anomalies: deadly tsunami’s, not one, but TWO monster hurricanes (this year alone), massive landslides and flooding in Guatemala, frogs exploding in public parks, devastating earthquakes in Pakistan, over a foot of rain in the U.K., and an avian influenza ready to bitch slap us back to the Stone Age. Mother Nature is absolutely livid! And rightly so since we’ve all been taking a collective dump on her for the past three hundred years or so since we got all clever and developed mechanized industry. Now it’s time for a little pay back, baby!

Forget praying to your god and begging for forgiveness – recycle your waste, begin adopting renewable energy sources, and stop releasing all those CFC’s into the atmosphere. Forget gambling and legalized abortion – start giving a shit about the overharvesting of earths species and the needless polluting of our global waterways. Quit shaking the Bible before the camera and plant a fucking tree, you morons! And then maybe, just maybe, God may give enough of a shit to actually call off Mother Nature from her current rampages and treating us as her own personal chew toy.

Until then, I suspect we’re just going to continue experiencing these natural disasters in the coming years – probably with even graver results. Not because God is upset over our moral and ethical failings, but because we’re too fucking stupid to realize the consequences of our own actions.

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn - world serves its own needs, don't misserve your own needs."


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Rules To Live By

Everyone has a formula for success.

Whether it is to eat more raw fruits and vegetables or to avoid taking craps in the handicapped stalls in public bathrooms* – everyone has a set list of rules that they try and abide by in order to be as successful and as happy as possible in their lives. I’m no different.

The following are only ten examples from such a list that I have been making for myself to live in accordance to:

1) NEVER skimp on the toilet paper. The thicker and cottonier soft the fucking better! For me, each sheet should be as cushiony as large marshmallow and be about as pleasurable an experience as wiping your ass on a cloud. Be kind to your ass and your ass will be kind to you. There is nothing worse than having to use someone else’s bathroom or heavens forbid, a public restaurants bathroom, and are reduced into using one of those evil single-ply rolls of toilet paper. I’d rather wipe my ass with fine grit sandpaper.

2) NEVER be late on your payments to your proctologist. Considering the infinite power that this particular person holds over you while you’re bent over in a vulnerable position with your pants down around your ankles – this is NOT someone you want to piss off my making tardy payments! During your follow-up appointment, he’s inwvitably going to make the whole experience as uncomfortable as possible and leave you feeling like the Lincoln Tunnel.

3) AVOID New Country like you would avoid the plague. It’s evil incarnate in a plaid shirt and riding a motor cross motorcycle. The sooner you realize this and accept it, the better it will be for you in the end. Unless of course, you really want to strap on a 10-gallon hat and line dance your ass straight into Hell’s Cauldron.

4) If New Country is the source of pure evil, then the Dixie Chicks are the concubines of the Devil himself. Similarly, anyone who should ever decide to cover any Stevie Nicks song should be drawn and quartered**.

5) You can NEVER have too much peanut butter on hand in your cupboards. It is the true nectar of the gods. Peanut butter is the frosting on your little slice of bleached life. If it weren’t for George Washington Carver’s invention of peanut-buttery goodness, I would have jumped from a tall building long ago. Peanut butter is the sweet lubricant that makes my body function adequately on a daily basis. Without it, I would seize up like the tin man in a Level Four hurricane.

6) NEVER play poker or bet with someone that has the same first name as a city, like Dallas, Vegas, Hollywood, or Minnesota. You may as well place all your worldly savings in one big pile on the floor and set it ablaze for all the success it will bring you.

7) NEVER date a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. I’ve seen enough James Bond films to know that this is an extremely bad idea. Conversely, the same can be said for tattoos of spiders or octopuses for that matter too.

8) ALWAYS look to Bono for all of life’s answers. Bono will show us the way. He’s political, he’s a diplomat, he’s environmentally conscious, he’s globally aware, he was a candidate for the President of the World Bank, and he moves in mysterious ways. Bono will lead us all to the Promised Land***. Whenever in doubt, just put your blind faith in the slick-looking dude in the bug glasses and breath easy.

9) There’s ALWAYS room for Jell-o!

10) Avoid bad cheese. ‘Nuff said.

* A shameless habit of mine that provides me with a rich sense of spoiled self-satisfaction. Nothing beats having enough space to kick back properly, as well as a secure handrail to grip and hold onto as you pass your enormous dinoturd.

** Smashing Pumpkins exempt.

*** That is, if we don’t first allow Bob Geldof to temporarily distract us and lead us all into Darkest Africa first.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blame FedEx

Within minutes of its take off, a small Cessna 208 Caravan cargo plane for FedEx Corp – including six vials of research virus – tragically crashed in downtown Winnipeg this past Thursday. Shit, that particular news item reads like the opening lines of a Richard Preston novel. It makes me want to take a decontamination shower and scrub my body with steel wool just thinking about it.

I know, I know, it’s a very tragic accident indeed and thankfully there was no further significant body count apart from the unfortunate Morningstar Air Express pilot. It was a real-life Tom Hanks movie plotline. But the real curious thing to me, apart from the crash itself, is that among the 2,200 pounds of cargo aboard the Federal Express cargo flight bound for Thunder Bay that fateful evening were four frozen vials of herpes and two vials of Influenza ‘A’.


Ummm, winter storm or no winter storm, does anybody want to speculate as to why anybody would ever want, or need for that matter, to Express ship frozen samples of herpes and Influenza to Thunder Bay of all fucking places? I find that down right disturbing as a Canadian! Something is rotten in the province of Manitoba. So, besides the fact that I can also scratch Thunder Bay off my list of “Possible Future Vacation Destinations”, I am becoming increasingly concerned that our Big Brother south of the 49th parallel is going to build an enormous wall separating us completely from the rest of North America.

Luckily, all the samples were reported to be completely destroyed in the ensuing fire once the plane slammed into the icy ground. However, the substances were not actually considered dangerous in the first place, according to health and safety regulations issued by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, but are only considered dangerous goods for air transport purposes simply because they have to be handled in a different way. Different way? You mean transporters are required to wear condoms or something?

And pardon me for asking, but didn’t Influenza ‘A’ also just happen to cause a lesser-known event in history known as the “Spanish Flu”? That little pandemic only managed to kill more people than in the Great War, at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people? More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. Known as "Spanish Flu" or "La Grippe" the influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster. Helloooooo? Anyone?

Local Federal Member of Parliament, Pat Martin expressed concern with current procedures, saying: "There are weak links here, and we won't tolerate it in our community." Ahhh, aren’t we downplaying this just a wee bit Pat? This practically sounds like Sadam Hussein’s mysterious cache of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ we’re talking about here! What goes on in Winnipeg that they have so many viruses? Christ, had I know this a little over a year ago; I would NEVER have eaten that order of fried rice w/ garlic chicken from the ‘Fork Market’. And considering that only last March, another FedEx van carrying anthrax, Ebola, tuberculosis, hepatitis bacilli, and other biological agents collided with a car on its way to the Arlington Street lab, we might want to reconsider the methods in which we choose to mail our seemingly endless stores of deadly viruses and toxins. Apparently, FedEx isn’t exactly the preferred choice of couriers when shipping Level 4 bio-containments. Well, duh!

Now maybe this is a moot point, but you just fucking know that the US 'Food and Drug Administration' would never allow something like this! They've probably already assigned an entire covert containment team of scientists to the Manitoba border to prevent the possible outbreak of yet another plight of contagious infection.

The fear has now been raised that these kinds of careless transportation methods could expose Winnipeggers, not to mention us schleps 2000 km’s away in St. Catharines, Ontario, to fatal viruses or unwelcome attacks from terrorists. Isn’t is bad enough that we get blamed for every little fucking thing fucking thing that goes wrong in North America as it is, that we also have to give our nosy neighbors to the south a further validated reasons for concern as well? That’s just what we need.

Just in the last few years: the Ohio Blackout; SARS; Monkey Pox*; Mad Cow Disease; providing easy access and staging grounds for terrorists and terrorist attacks; and now biohazards are falling from the sky. It's like whenever the shit hits the fan everyone's first response it to point the finger in our direction (until further investigation realizes different that is). Robin Williams was even nominated for an Oscar for singing a song based on this misguided American accusatory reflex. Shit, ever since the Toronto Blue Jays won baseballs for two consecutive years in 1992 and 1993 (during which a U.S. Marine color guard accidentally carried a Canadian flag upside-down at a pre-game ceremony), Americans' have had a hard-on for beating down us Canadians in the media. Their overall tolerance for cute and cuddly Canada has fallen considerably, the relationship now having chilled to a temperature slightly frostier than a March midnight in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. They’re practically begging for an opportunity to invade us!

Wise up, Canada! Americans have already secretly labeled us as being part of their precious ‘Axis of Evil’ and they’ve had their weary eye on us for a LONG time now! The American colonial concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ is not dead my fellow Canucks, it’s only hibernating like a coiled dragon ready to rise up and take a severe bite out of our bacon sammich if we’re not careful. Consider the following past tensions we’ve had cast on us already:

1. Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act -- sponsored by America's No. 1 loon, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. -- not only gives Americans the right to sue foreign companies that own property in Cuba seized from Americans during Fidel Castro's revolution but also prevents executives of such companies and their family members from entering the United States. (This law has kept many Canadians from gaining entry to the States, and Canada officially complained that the law violated the North American Free Trade Agreement.)

2. An additional piece of legislation, a 1996 bill known as "IRA IRA" (a nickname for the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act), contains a hotly disputed passage, Section 110, that would subject all foreigners -- including Canadians -- to odious border checks before entering the United States. Presently, most Canadians are simply waved through, but if Section 110 passes, officials in both countries are predicting up to 20-hour traffic tie-ups at border crossings, which could cause irreparable damage to the $1 billion worth of business that Americans do with their No. 1 trading partner, Canada, every day. (The act was to go into effect in 1998 but was postponed until the end of 2001.)

3. In 1997, a concerned shopper in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wal-Mart noticed that some of the pajamas on the shelves were made in (gasp!) Cuba. Again with Winnipeg! Is this province capital the staging ground for American “Anti-Canadian” propaganda or something? Amazingly, tensions between Washington and Ottawa rose over this incident, and anti-Canadian sentiments on the other side of the border stirred as Wal-Mart vowed to continue selling the pj's in its 136 Canadian stores. The pajamas were actually on the agenda when Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien visited the White House that year. Thumbing his nose at Washington, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy later paid a state visit to Cuba, in further bold defiance of the American-led boycott and isolation policy. So he had a few cigars and worked on his tan – so what?

4. The Malaspina incident also strained U.S.-Canadian relations over the summer of 1997, and things got even worse in December of that year, when Canada attempted to take center stage in the international political arena by hosting a landmark convention intent on banning land mines the world over.

The United States snubbed the Ottawa Treaty, denying Canada its moment in the sun and embarrassing the Chrétien government. More than 120 countries signed the treaty, while the United States joined Yugoslavia, Libya, Iran and Albania (a regular terrorist dorm party in the coming years) of among the 30 or so countries that did not.

5. President Dubya travels to the nations capital of Ottawa and then on to Halifax in December 2004 to discuss, among other things, Canada's liberal stance on marijuana usage. While still not being legal in Canada, 'ol Dubya was concerned enough that we're all a nation of evil reefers that he felt the need to come and lecture us on enjoying a little pot before 'Hokey Night In Canada'. So concerned was he, that he assigned an advance security team to secure the Parliament buildings and plan out his travel arrangements with military precision prior to his arrival. Unfortunately, all that really turned out to gawk at the presidential Idiot Child from behind the placed military barricades were a few old ladies with placards and shoppers who had strayed from the Rideaux Shopping Center looking for cinnamon 'Beaver Tails'.

It just goes on and on. So we’d all better start watching our collective asses and stop shipping our viruses by carrier pigeon like irresponsible retards; lest we should wake up one morning to find American paratroopers parachuting into our backyards and stomping all over our proverbial patio lanterns. Sure we could kick the pasty asses of any Danish sweetarts or starving Africans that may ever dare threaten us, but the Yanks would utterly and completely piss in our maple syrup - make no mistake about it! These are people who riot for used computers for god sakes!

But thankfully, if that ever does happen, we can take comfort in the fact that none of the invading American forces will ever want anything to do with us physically since, to them, we’re all a bunch of walking germ laboratories. We have the same charm and appeal as a roastbeef sandwich that has been left out in the hot sun for over a week.

* Which, in a miraclulous act of natural predisposition, was first blamed on migratring prairie dogs journeying thousands of miles down from the Canadian prairies.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Class Unto My Own

It seems that my otherwise lacking career as a disgruntled wage donkey slaving away in the heart of Corporate Hell may have taken a turn for the better and definitely for the welcome lately. I have been recruited recently by my infinite-powers-that-be in the office to serve instead among the ranks in the Training Department. Now, I know immediately what you’re all probably thinking: “They’re really going to put this opinionated, embittered, and possibly homicidal jackass in front of new employees”?

Yup! They sure is! And I for one couldn’t be more thrilled.

After nearly three years of indentured servitude in Ground Zero, tethered to a headset on three-and-a-half ft of stretchy cord - I’m finally movin’ on up the corporate ladder. And the best part is, I didn’t even have to get down on my knees once! Now if somebody had told me three weeks ago that not only would I be having fun, but actually looking forward to going to work in the morning as well, I would have bashed in their skull with a soup ladle and be serving a life sentence at Sing-Sing by now. But thankfully, it’s all true and this is not just another daytime hallucination of mine.

So things have progressed nicely in my new temporary position until the other day when I was actually given the open floor for the first time to deliver one of the simple drafted-out lesson plans to the class. I had initially figured that with my total acquired two decades of customer service and dealing directly with your average John Q. Dipshit, that I would have lots – scads – oodles – shitloads even – of useful and helpful experience to pass on to these new recruits in order to help them survive once dropped in the eye of the corporate hurricane. There just isn’t enough time in the day to allow my boisterous nature to spew forth with all its biased opinions and barbed sarcasms. If you're going to shape impressionable minds and shamelessly distort them in your own twisted likeness - then do it RIGHT! But surely, even if only just being professional, I could manage to eat up more than a just a few minutes of the morning class time before the first bathroom break - working them over like Demi Moore with wet clay. I mean, who wouldn't want to listen to me?

However, I was wrong. Dead wrong!

Not only did they not particularly give a shit about what I had to say, but when the opportunity came, I discovered the horrible realization that standing and speaking at the front of a classroom is, apparently, about as natural to me as platform high diving to a Bedouin sheepherder. Suddenly, I’m standing there in front of two-dozen expectant faces and I’m instantly transformed back into that terrified little Grade Three schoolboy trying to get through his homework assignment at the front of the class without pissing his corduroys. My cheeks became enflamed as if I had stuck my entire head in an oven; my mouth felt like I had been chewing cotton balls; and my mind went as blank as a newly hatched sea turtle. The only thing running through my mind at the time was this desperate instinct to crawl for my very life and seek out any nearby cover. Had any of the students present had an available briefcase or knapsack conveniently located anywhere nearby, I may have inadvertently attempted to stuff myself into it to escape further torture in front of my mute audience.

I think you must have a really sadistic nature to actually want to teach. Someone who might think nothing of base-jumping off remote Alpine mountain cliffs or leaping out of a plane at 30,000 ft, would still be reduced to a warm sack of pink jelly if ever they were required to deliver an entertaining lecture to new employees on proper dress code and professional office etiquette. It didn't come naturally to James Belushi in the 'Principal' either at first until he armed himself with a Lousiville Slugger.

I’m just going to have to step it up a bit if I’m ever to survive this classroom experience and prevent myself from being banished back to the office killing floor with the other broken wage donkeys. Perhaps I’ll take the edge off the stress of having to be consistently funny, likeable and entertaining by just being the normal, everyday, common schmuck that I am. The same doofus that somehow managed to eke his way into this lofty position in the first place. I'm no Anne Sullivan - I admit. But I do have the same out-dated fashion sense of Gabe Kotter. So I can't be altogether that bad, can I?

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll simply bring down a reign of terror the likes of which haven’t been seen on this planet since Genghis Khan came down with a severe case of jock itch. Speak out of turn, or dare flunk any of my pop quizzes, and I’ll take their ass out with a stapler from the front of the classroom like a modern day, pleated William Tell. I'll go all 'Lean On Me' on their newbie asses!