Archive for June 2008

Discussing Popular Culture with a Nine-Year-Old

June 28, 2008

NYO:   Uncle Friar, what do you think of the Berenstain Bears?

Friar:   Oh!  Don’t get me STARTED!   I HATE THAT SHOW!  

NYO  (egging me on, singing):  Momma Bear, Sister Bear, and Brother Bear too…

Friar:   ARGH!  That show is so GOODY-GOODY.   If you watch it, check out how long it takes before they start preaching to you, and telling you to do your homework and share.  You’ll be lucky if ONE MINUTE goes by where they don’t try to teach you a lesson. 

Plus the Mother and Sister are always the smart ones…the Dad is always the idiot.  It’s a feminist conspiracy!   I hate that show.   The Berenstain Bears NEED TO DIE!

NYO:    What about Caillou?

Friar (singing sarcastically):    I’m just a little brat, I shaved the neighbours cat, Mommy please smack me, I’m Caiiii-You.

NYO:   (Giggling).

Friar:   Whiny little kid.   I cant’ stand him.   Plus his head is spherical, like a light bulb.  They should make a hot-air balloon out of his head.   Caillou also NEEDS TO DIE!

NYO:  Who else needs to die, Uncle Friar?

Friar:  Little Bear.   

NYO  (now totally amused):   What about Max and Ruby?

Friar:   ESPECIALLY Max and Ruby!!   They need to DIE!  DIE!  DIE!

NYO:   What about Arthur?

Friar:   I’m on the fence with that one.   I don’t like him.  But he doesn’t necessarily eed to DIE.   I’d let him live.  I just wish he’d go away.   

NYO (laughing):   What about Dora the Explorer?

Friar:  Oh, Geez.  That….that is SO GAY, that’s in a category by itself.   I can’t even comment on that!   ARGHH!

NYO (pleased with herself for getting the Friar all riled up):  What about Strawberry Shortcake?

Friar:   Wow…they still have that on the air?  That’s basically a toy commercial from the 1980’s.  Dumb.

NYO:  What about Pokemon ?

Friar:  I don’t even watch that.  That’s just plain STUPID.  Pika, Pika…SPEAK ENGLISH, for crying out loud!

NYO (giggling again):  What about Tweety and Sylvester ?

Friar:  Now, THAT I like.  Bugs Bunny Cartoons are the best.  But I’ve always felt sorry for Sylvester, though.  He’s a cat, he’s hungry, he wants to eat Tweety.  That’s what cats do.   

And by the way, what’s up with Tweety’s head?   It’s so big.  Why would Sylvester want to eat that ANYWAY?  There wouldn’t be any meat.  It would be all brain and skull.

 NYO: What about Batman?

Friar:  Batman‘s all right.  At least he’s not a goody-goody wimp!

NYO  (deliberately stirring up the pot):  Uncle Friar, what about BARNEY?

Friar:   Barney is the WORST!   If anyone deserves to DIE it’s HIM!  

NYO’s Dad  (overhearing):  Come on, Uncle Friar.   Barney has been around for 20 years, he’s a cultural icon.

Friar  (singing the Barney Song):  

I hate you
You hate me
Let’s gang up and kill Barney
With a great big knife we’ll slit his purple throat
They we’ll watch him rot and bloat.

NYO:  (delighted, and chiming in with her own version)

I hate you
You hate me
Let’s gang up and kill Barney
With a big shot gun we’ll shoot him in the head
Sorry kids, Barney’s dead.


So we finally reached a mutual understanding.    

With a Purple Dinosaur, of all things. 

Isn’t it GREAT when the two generations can agree on something?

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How come?

June 28, 2008

So how come the general public 

including five-year-old kids,

Moms pushing infants in strollers, 

wheelchair-bound seniors,  

immigrants who can’t speak English,

even the blind and mentally handicapped

are allowed to go into crowded public places

like shopping malls, baseball stadiums, movie theaters

libraries, restaurants

and nobody lectures them on safety 

or tells them how to exit the building

in case of an emergency?

 

How come these people can enter and exit these buildings 

every single day

by the millions

and miraculously

everyone somehow manages to survive?

 

Yet how come in some work places  

before even STARTING a simple meeting 

with 5 people in a room

there is an apparent need 

to inform the staff    

where the fire exits are

even though everyone

might already work in that exact same building

5 days a week,  49 weeks a year

and they probably already know where the door is to get out

after all

they leave to go home every night

don’t they?

 

Is it because the management

truly believes it is educating their staff be more safe?

 

Or is it because it management

wants to cover its ass

because it assumes its employees

despite all their degrees and training

are still total dick-tards

who, unlike the millions of public,

are incapable of thinking for themselves

and need to be taught 

the most basic of life skills

like reading exit signs?

 

I’m just askin’….is all…

 

Watercolors: Fresh Tracks

June 27, 2008

In oil paints, if you want to make something appear white,  you can apply white paint to the canvas any time you want.   The white pigment covers up anything underneath.  It can even be used to erase mistakes.  

In watercolors, you dont’ have this option.    Once the pigment is down on the paper, it’s down.  You can’t cover it up, and there’s no turning back.

If something needs to be white, you just don’t paint that area.  The white color you create on watercolor paintings is the white of the blank paper itself showing through. 

That’s what I find so interesting about painting winter scenes.   The trick is not so much knowing where to put the paint down…the key is knowing where NOT TO PAINT…

This is one of my favorite scenes of a cross-country ski trail in Quebec.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gitchiest Christmas Ever

June 25, 2008

It was a typical Christmas Eve Mass.    Everyone was there:  Mom, Dad, Sis, me, and my brother Spalpeen.  Like all the other families there, it was our mandatory “must-attend” church session of the year.  

It started out as a typical Catholic Mass.  Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down.  A letter of St. Paul to the Emphysemans.   Stand up, sit down.   Lord I am not worthy to receive you, etc. etc.  

We knew the routine.   You can set your watch to a Catholic Mass. 

My brother and I kept glancing at each other, bored.  He had that gleam in his eye, like he was up to mischief.   I started to smile.  My Dad sensed this and “shushed” us.

More standing up.  Sitting down.   Another reading, this time from St. Peter to the Crustaceans or something.    I was bored.  Was it time to go home yet?

But since this was Christmas Eve, a Very Special Day, the Mass was slightly different.   The priest asked all the young children to come up to the altar, next to the creche, and he invited them to sing Christmas Carols to the Little Baby Jesus.

My brother and I were fortunately far too old for this, and we were spared this ordeal.   But all the little magotty toddlers and five-year olds started to shuffle up to the front, where the priest welcomed them.

My God.  Were they SERIOUS?   Were they actually going to make us listen to the kids SING?   

Picture the scenario.   Me and my brother, both bored to tears. With everyone else so serious and holy (after all, it was Christ’s birth).   

And now, they take a bunch of snot-nosed kids we don’t even know…who were going to act cute and start singing to the congregation.

If they were trying to deliberately set us up for the Mother of All Giggle Fits…they couldn’t have planned it any better..

I was already starting to laugh.  I glanced sideways, and saw my brother staring at me.  He lifted his eyebrow ever so slightly.    He knew that would get me going.

(Shut up, Spalpeen, you’re going to make me laugh..shut up..shut up…SHUT UP!)

“SHHH!!!”  warmed my Dad.

“Pffffffft…!”, I snickered into my sleeve.   I refused to look at Spalpeen.  

I knew it was a matter of time before I made a complete jack-ass of myself.  But like a run-away train ready to jump the tracks, it was inevitable.  I couldn’t help  it. 

Now the overhead projector was turned on, displaying the lyrics of the song that would be sung.  It was the Huron Christmas Carol:  some dumb story about the Indians in the forest meeting baby Jesus.

(Which, by the way, I didn’t think would have ever ACTUALLY happened, but that was besides the point). 

The rug-rats then started to sing:

Twas in the moon of winter-time,
When all the birds had fled,

(Pfft!  Snicker!) 

Oh.  My.  God. 

Can this be any more LAME?

I’m laughing through my nose…making snorting sounds, trying to keep it inside.   I look over at Spalpeen, and he’s not doing much better.   Then the kids start singing the 2nd verse:

That mighty Gitchi-Manitou
Sent angel-choirs instead
   

Okay. 

This is were I totally lost it.

I mean, COME ON!!!

GITCHI MANITOU?

GITCHI MANITOU?

What the HELL is a GITCHI MANITOU?  

That had to be the STUPIDEST thing I’d ever heard!    

(Snort..Hmmph!  Hahahah!..Giggle!)

And the kids…the kids (hee! hee! hee!  My God!…)  They were so EARNEST as they were singing this…!  And the adults are eating this all up…look at them…they’re actually ENJOYING this!  

(HAHAHAH!).  At this point, I was shaking and shuddering with convulsions of laughter….while still trying to hold it in and keep my brain from exploding.  Tears streamed down my face.     My brother was doing exactly the same.    

Every other parishioners within 20 feet of us looked at us, puzzled. Sis pretended we didn’t exist.   Mom rolled her eyes, and seemed resigned to accept the fact that her two sons were retarded.

But Dad.

Oh, poor Dad.  

He was LIVID.   He was trembling with rage, he was so embarrassed.  His lips were clenched so tight, they were turning purple. 

You know how in cartoons how someone literally blows their top?   (…where the scalp detaches itself from the head and does flips before it lands back, intact?)

Well, Dad came THAT close to doing that, in real life. 

“SSHHHH!”  he glared at us.  

His blazing eyes and his body language made it clear…we were to stop misbehaving.   And…RIGHT NOW…!!!

Which, as you can guess, only made us laugh harder. 

No disrespect to Dad, but we were beyond help, at this point.   

Forbidden Laughter is the best kind.  This is the laughter you just want to let out when you’re not supposed to.   Like in public places, job interview, funerals, …and, in this case, CHURCH.  

And forbidden laughter can’t be stopped…it has to be allowed to run its course.

I don’t know how long my conniption fit went on.   I totally forgot the stupid Christmas Carol (and any of the other Carols they sung after that).   

Every time I though I was done, all I had to do was look at my brother and (PPPPFFF! MMMPPH!!) we’d both get hysterical again.   We tag-teamed.  One would stop…and the other one would start. 

Finally, after what seemed like the longest time…we regained a semblance of self-control.   The occasional giggle would still escape, but we were done.   Thank God it was over.  And a good thing, too, as we were approaching the serious part of the mass.

And then, that’s when Spalpeen looked at me….

(Shut up…shut up…shut up….Don’t say anything…shut UP…HMmm  PFfff…on no…he’s going to say something…!)

“The Gitchi Manitou’s gonna get you”.

Oh, no.  You bastard…!  You DIDN’T JUST SAY THAT    (Snicker..giggle..PFFFFT…SNORT!  HHMMPH!! HAHAHAH!)

Right back to square one.  I’m a basket case again, in a matter of seconds. 

And it took even longer for me to calm down this 2nd time around.  

Dad had burst several blood vessels at this point.   And I was probalby going to Hell for behaving this way.  But I was unstoppable.

Forbidden Laughter is a harsh mistress.   She will not let you go until she decides you’re done.   

You’d think Spalpeens’ last attempt at shit-disturbing would have been enough. 

But NOOOoooooooo.

He spent the entire mass  doing just this…whispering quietly to me, setting me off again and again.  Each time by merely uttering “Gitchi Manitou…”.

Longest.

Mass.

Ever.

Not to mention: 

Best

Mass

Ever.

When it was FINALLY over, and we walked home, suffice to say Spalpeen and I both got an earful from Dad.

We still talk about it today, 16 years later.

You see, kids will be kids.

Even if the “kids” were into their early/mid twenties at the time.

 

 

Plantain Wars

June 24, 2008

See this plant?

Until last year, I barely realized it existed.  But now I know it intimately by name: PLANTAIN.

Of course, I’d seen it before, but I never really noticed or cared much.  Not until I had bought my first house, which included my first very own lawn, and this nasty weed threatened to TAKE OVER MY YARD. 

Not that I’m one of those Cardigan-wearing Lawn Nazis who insists on perfectly-manicured grass and who hoses down their driveway every morning.  

No.  Far from it.

My lawn is a mix-and-match of all kinds of flora, including some actual grass.  I don’t mind a few weeds…my yard doesn’t have to be perfect. 

But it WOULD BE NICE if it looked slightly better than a weedy soccer field (which is what I would have had last summer, if I had let these Bastard-Plants win).

I wasn’t thrilled about using herbicide chemicals (Splat Creek has a by-law against it, plus there were little magotty kids running around next door).  I’d have felt just awful if they’d have gotten toe-cancer or leprosy 30 years from now.   

So the only other choice was to remove the weeds manually.  

But Ugh.  What a daunting task.  There was plantain by the HUNDREDS.   

This infestation also happened to coincide with a really bad phase at work I was going through at the time.   I was in a really toxic environment, working with a Quintessential Fuck-Wit who made my job so miserable it started affecting my health. 

So when I came home totally stressed out, I actually found it fun to rip out the plantain.  Suddenly, this wasn’t just a weed problem anymore.  It became my LIFE MISSION. 

So that’s what I did.  I ripped out the plants.  One by one.

I didn’t go nuts.  I did it maybe 20-30 minutes a day, and then I’d go fishing or do something else.   But it was surprisingly therapeutic.   Rip out the Bad…leave the Good behind.  Rip out the Bad….etc.   

And sure enough, my nice lawn started to re-appear.  Every day, a few more feet of territory gained.   Within 3 weeks, the plantain was gone. 

Veni, Vidi, Vici….I had defeated the Vile Weed!   It was immensely satisfying, much more so than anything I had accomplished at the office.     

But this year, I’m dismayed to report that the plantain is baaa-aack.     

There’s thankfully almost none on the Western Front where I waged battle last year.   But the troops are starting to gain a stronghold on the North-Eastern Quadrant (The Disputed Territories of the Back Yard). 

Of course you know, this means WAR.

So this year I tried something Different:  CHEMICAL WARFARE.

(Now, don’t worry, I’m still being a good little green Friar, I just used vinegar).  I sprayed it on the weeds, and was delighted to see the leaves shrivel up and turn brown after a day or so.   

YESSSSSS!!!!  I had disrupted their photosynthesis process!   There was a delightful patch of brown death there the plants used to thrive.  It was my cheap version of Agent Orange.   I thought I had defeated the invader, once again.

Though it appears to be just temporary.  New green leaves are re-appearing as we speak, amid the acid-burnt carnage.    

It’s not dead..it’s resting.  I’ve just stunned it.

So now it’s back to manually ripping the little bastards out by the roots.   To help me, I bought one of those forked garden weeders, and it’s doubled my weed-killing efficiency.

I’ve also changed my tactics slightly.  Instead of composting the dead weeds as yard-waste,  I just let their uprooted corpses slowly dry out in the sun. Over the next day or two, I take the satisfaction of watching them DIE!  DIE!  DIE! 

Then the lawnmower mulches them up, and returns their souls to the soil, from whence they came.

So I think I’m winning the battle again.

I never realized how caring for a lawn had such CONFLICT and DRAMA.   

But part of me wonders maybe, just maybe….I also need to get a life. 🙂

 

Now Popeye’s gone P.C. on us, too.

June 21, 2008

Remember those Popeye Cigarettes you used to eat as a kid?    They came in a red package with Popeye on the cover.   Inside were a bunch of white cylindrical-shaped sticks made out of corn starch.

You had to admit, even the most Special-Ed kid would realize that these were pretty lame renditions of cigarettes.   Especially with that blob of red dye that was on the end of each piece of candy.     Gee….do you really think it’s lit?

Cigarettes or not, I didn’t care.  I just liked the taste of the candy.  I still do.    

And you can still buy Popeye Cigarettes….SORT OF.

Because look at what Popeye is up to now…

 

It’s now been changed to ” Tasty CANDY STICKS”….!   

Whiskey. 

Tango. 

Foxtrot.  

(To those of you unfamiliar with the phonetic alphabet, that’s WTF.)

Sigh.  So now Popeye has also gone soft and P.C. on us, joining the ranks of Cracker Jack and Cap’n Crunch.

Because GOD FORBID should ANY REFERENCE be made to cigarettes.   Lest our precious darling kids get influenced by the glamour of smoking, take up this filthy habit,  get lung cancer and DIE!

Oh, no.  The Children!   Save the Children!   Our precious cargo of humanity MUST be protected against such EVILS of SOCIETY. 

And just to make sure everything is perfectly risk-free, sanitized, sterilized, and devoid of any possible trace of imagination, they’ve also removed the little spot of red-dye on the end.      

So now we’re just eating white pencils.

And I dont’ wanna hear any granola-Moms writing in and saying  “Oh…I think this is a good thing.  We don’t need to expose kids to cigarettes at such a young age,  I’m glad they changed the candy“.

‘Cause that is a load of crap.   Hey, we all grew up with Popeye cigarettes.  Not only that, but there were also other chocolate and bubble gum cigarettes, that went out of their way to resemble ACTUAL cigarette packages.   Our parents let us buy those all the time, and they didn’t see a problem with it.  

Because they knew we were just playing and using our imaginations.  We also liked it because it was a different way to eat candy.

And despite all this horrible influence, I managed to grow up without ever wanting to take up smoking (Never have, never will).  That pretty much goes for all my friends, too.

So Popeye, mabye you should just LIGHTEN UP.

In the mean time, we’re still stuck with his lame-ass CANDY STICKS.

Sigh.

Kinda sucks all the fun out of it, dosen’t it?

Travels with the Bear: Denali National Park

June 21, 2008

If you’re ever in the town of Talkeetna, Alaska, for a few hundred bucks a pilot will take you on a scenic flight around Denali.  

It’s well-worth the cost.  You’ll soar over endless icefields,  and circle around towering spires of ice and rock that seem to pierce the very fabric of the sky…

 

 

They’ll even land you on a glacier, where you can get out and walk around in your shorts and T-Shirt.

Sure, it’s touristy, but so what?  Unless you’re a serious moutaineer, when else would you ever get to do something like this?  

This had to be one of the most beautiful days of my life. 

 The Bear tends to agree.