Archive for December 2009

Friar’s Predictions for 2010

December 29, 2009

The film industry, once again at a loss to come up with new ideas, will make yet another feature movie based on a comic-book superhero. 

There will be a  next “latest thing”, that will be even cooler than Facebook or Twitter.   All the bloggers and Social Media knobs will come running to it, like flies on shit, because it will considered the greatest thing since sliced bread.

One of the Cool Kid bloggers will screw up, big time.  But their disciples will forgive them, and their blog will be more popular than ever.

A celebrity will screw up and fall from grace.

A fallen celebrity will redeem themself, and make a comeback.

 There will be another “Flavor-of-the-Month” cause, and people on Twitter will color their Avatars accordingly.

The earth will continue to cool.   The Global Warming proponents will ignore this, and dismiss it as “Climate Change”. 

There will be a new Gizmo sold on TV, that will be guaranteed to give you washboard abs in only minutes a day.

The word “Douche” will continue to gain popularity and acceptance into the mainstream vocabulary.

Due to poor quality control, China will be forced to recall a product that would otherwise poison the consumers.

Another crappy Japanese cartoon will makes its way onto the Cartoon Channel.

There will be a big demonstration in a Middle-Eastern country.   News footage will show thousands of angry young men, punching their fists into the air and shouting.

There will be a latest version of the I-phone that will cost $1000, that will make other I-phones look like junk.   People will line up at 4:00 AM to buy it.    6 months later, there will be a surplus and  price will be reduced to $197.

A Hip-Hop star will be charged with a firearms-related crime.

A Congressman will be charged with a sex-related crime.

Simon Cowell will make someone cry on American Idol.

Sponge-Bob will move in with Patrick.

Oprah will Ascend into Heaven, and be seated at the Right Hand of the Father.

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Viking Solstice

December 23, 2009

“Behold!”, said Clöst Aerfrök, the Village Elder.   “It is the Midwinter Solstice.    The shortest day of the year.”

“It is a time for reflection and thankfulness, for having survived another year”.

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Indeed, winter was a quiet time in the village of SmelBaäd.   The Invading Season was over.   The drakkars were battened down,  and docked until spring.
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Food was stocked from the previous summer.   Warriors got to sleep in.   Children amused themselves playing their Viking games.

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Even Ursaäl was down, for his long winter nap.

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There was little to do…and Vikings, being what they are, grew restless and short-tempered with their all inactivity.    The men were sent outside to cool off to prevent themselves from slaying each other (or possibly their wives from slaying them).

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With energy to spare, they started to pile snow.   Soon, it grew into a wall, and the wall grew into fortifications…
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At the end of it all, they had created a magnficient snow-castle, the likes of which had never been seen.

“It’s beautiful!”, they exclaimed.   “It’s stupdendous!”

“But what shall we do with it?”

“I know…!”  said Bjorgolf the Berserker.   “Let’s burn and pillage it!”

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And so the Vikings did.

They picked sides and staged a mock battle that the entire village participated in.

With mighty battle cries of “NYARRRGH!!!” ringing throughout the day, the snow-castle was pillaged and (somehow) burned to its very foundations.
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The ruins burned well into the night, around which the village gathered to celebrate the Feast of Yule, beneath the dancing Northern lights.

And a good time was had by all.

THE END.

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Christmas Penance

December 20, 2009

They say karma is a bitch.    That what goes around, comes around.

And based on what happened to me this weekend,   I must have done some really bad things, and I ended up paying for it.  

You see, I was visiting the Big City to get some cross-country skiing in, and I was staying with Friar’s Mom’s.    She mentionned that there was a Choral Group performing that night at Church, and would I like to see it with her?  

It’s not church,  there’s no Mass, she reassured  me.   They’re just putting on a Christmas Concert.

“Are these serious professional singers?”,  I asked.

“They’re volunteers…but they’re quite good.”, she answered.

“I mean…this is a serious singing group, right?   Not just the regular-Sunday-Mass choir, where anybody can join, and they play the stupid chimes, and everyone sings off-key?”

“No..no.  You actually have to audition to join this group.”

“…so…it’s NOT going  to be like that amateur musical in Splat Creek that I just attended, where I wanted to gouge my eyes out….this is actually going to be GOOD?”

“Yes…I think it will be quite good…and it might help put you in the Christmas spirit”.

Seeing how I was tired form skiing, and I was just going to watch TV anyway, I thought, what the heck, why not?

Little did I know what I was  in for.

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ACT ONE

The church was packed, and the average age was 72.    Then the choir,  director and pianist  walked in…and THEIR average age was 75.    

This did  not bode well.

First warning sign: whenever there’s a white-haired lady sitting at a piano, in front of a bunch of other white-haired seniors,  you know you’re in for a loooonng evening.  

The men were in bow-ties.   The matronly women were dressed in red velvet, wrapped from shoulder-to-waist with a stringy silver shawl thing.     God help me,  but the first thing that came to my mind was they looked like plump Christmas  hams wrapped up in string.

The Lead  Senior  introduced the first  song,  making cute Old-Lady jokes….and everyone in the audience went “Ahhhh” and chuckled politely.

Wonderful. 

And they started singing.   

Picture 2 dozen grandmas facing you…the type of soft-spoken grandmas that  normally sit their grandkids on their lap and give you cookies. 

But suddenly these grandmas have transformed, and they’re staring at you,  with there with their mouths gaping open,  grimacing and bobbing their heads,  screeching out their high-pitched siren songs.  

It’s actually quite frightening.  

I hope you never have to experience that.

I swear, one of them was one of the original Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.    Four foot nothing.   Her eyes were so crinkled up…seriously, I don’t think she had any pupils.

One man had an extremely large head…Good lord,  how did he walk with that on his shoulders?

Another  woman sat there a cane, appearing to be half-asleep.  Poor thing, she didn’t look like she had long for this world.

Still, the choir sang reasonably well.    Heck…this was free.    They were volunteers.   I just had to sit there and listen.   

 This wasn’t so bad, really.    I could take this…

But little did I know…

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ACT TWO

Suddenly,  there was a change in the program.   The conductor (who looked like Liza Minelli plus 20 years)  informed us that now WE will be having to work.    WE will be doing all the singing now…and the choir disbanded,  and sat among us.

A spherical woman squished past  me to  sit next to Friar’s  Mom.  A septuagenarian Librarian-type sat to my right.    Another baritone set behind me.

I was surrounded.

And now we were given song booklets, and we were to call out requests, and the whole church would sing.

I glared at Friar’s Mom.   My unspoken words were quite clear:  

This is exactly what I did NOT want to come hear.    You promised.   You TOLD me it wouldn’t be like this. 

Friar’s Mom just smiled at me, egging me on.    

And thus, we spent the next half hour listening the  Lowest-Common-Denominator Catholic Choir Sing-Song.

They sang  “Frosty the Snow Man”.   They sang  “Silver Bells”.  They sang EVERYTHING.

They even sang the “Little Drummer Boy”.

Nothing like hearing 200 people go “Pah-rum-pa-pum-pum”  off- key.  

Where’s someone’s hat-pin?  Maybe I can pierce my eardrums.

Of course, Friar’s Mom didn’t help.     

She kept looking over to me seeing, and delighted to see my distress,  she kept cackling with glee.   Then she deliberately raised her tone-deaf voice and sang like Edith Bunker.  And laughed at me again.

In perfect stereo, the Librarian sitting next to me  wailed in that reedy soprano-tremolo that only ladies of a certain age can (and like) to sing in.   The baritone behind me was trying to harmonize. 

Liza Minelli  got “into the groove”, and started to waddle-dance to the songs, quite pleased with herself at how “cool” she was.   

(Please stop doing that.   Please.)

Which everyone in the audience, of  course, thought was hilarious. 

Seniors everywhere were tapping their feet,   humming along.   Mommies tried to coax their toddlers children to participate.    The choir were bobbing their old-lady brush-cuts to the beat.  

A splendid time guaranteed for all. 

And truly I had entered the Seventh Circle of Hell.

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ACT THREE

Then,  in an attempt to be send us into a diabetic coma, they had the children to come  up and sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.

Awesome.

Because there is NOTHING I’d rather do,  than to hear some rug-rats sing,   especially rug-rats I’m not even remotely related to.

Of course, the kids stood there goofy and shy, and mumbled incoherently.

And of course,  everyone in the audience thought this was the bees’ knees.     You’d swear they just heard a performance of St. Michael’s Freaking Boys Choir, or something.

And I’m sitting there,  and it dawned  on me:

I”m single.  I’m 45.   

And THIS is how I’m spending my Saturday evening.

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ACT FOUR

Just when you think it couldn’t have gotten worse,  it did.

It was the public singing of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.    

With (Oh, joy) even MORE audience participation.

We were broken up into twelve groups, each one with a designated person holding a sign.   Everything time your number came up (i.e. “four calling birds”), you were supposed to stand, sing your part and  then sit down again. 

Oh, and EVERVYONE was supposed to stand up for “Partridge in a Pair Tree”.

Thus began the Simon-Sez Song of the Damned.

Partridge  in a pear  tree.    Two turlte doves… etc.

Stand up…sit down.   Stand up…sit down.

Just like Mass…only sped up.

As an added bonus,  the group singing “Five  Golden Rings”  had quite a  few ringers wrom the Choir.  

 These Senior-Bats sang their loudest.    Successively wailing louder and longer, each time, almost shattering the stained-glass widows.   

 The eight maids milking pretended to squeeze udders.

Good Lord.

Patridge in a Pear Tree.

Stand up.   Sit down.

The Five Golden Ring Ladies wailed louder.   “Five Golden RINNNNNNGS!”

One geezer pretended to hit them with his cane.   (At this point, I’m not sure if it was part of the act.)

Simon says stand up.     Sit down.

Lords leapt.

Five Golden RINNNNNNGS!”  (this time, almost knocking Sweet Jesus off the stations of the cross). 

Stand up.    Sit down.

Would this song EVER end….? .

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AFTERMATH

It finally DID end.    

To get through the whole twelve days of the song, there were  

12 + 11 + 10 + 9 +  8 + 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 =  (what felt like) 10,317 repetitions.

There was coffee and snacks in the reception hall later.    I got to watch Friar’s Mom make conversation with peole we never met and will never meet again.

But I survived.

 I did my penance.

I sat through this whole thing, without killing myself  (or someone else).

Whatever it was that I did that’s so bad, I feel I’ve  more than made up for it.

And not that I’m a terribly religous man…

…but if this  doesn’t get me into the Gates of Heaven,  NOTHING will.

The Special Cold

December 17, 2009

So we’re having our first cold snap.

Sort of.

Because it’s just going down to minus 24C tonight.    That’s hardly a record-breaking temperature there I live.

But it’s the first noticeable cold of the season.

We’ve had freezing temperatures since late October.  But minus single-digits are par for the course.

Minus teens are tolerable, just mildly annoying.

But minus 20’s are the point at which it starts to become obnoxious outside.

Starts to.

Because it can easily go down to the minus 30’s, and (somewhat rarer) it even pushes minus 40.    And I’m sorry, that’s cold by anyone’s standards, even for Nanook of the North.

And it’s a Special kind of Cold, that you have to experience first-hand to understand.

Sorry, Chicago, Seattle, or Buffalo, you just don’t get it.

But Rugby, North Dakota, North Bay, Saskatoon and St. Jovite, you probably do.

It’s that Special Cold that gets into your house, into all the nooks and crannies and chills your marrow.  Even though the thermostat says 70F, and you’re wearing a sweater

It’s that Special Cold that slams you like a brick wall the instant you leave the house.   Where you pray that your engine starts.  Where the steering wheel burns to the touch, and feels like it’s lubricated with molasses, it’s so sluggish to move.

Where you turn the heater on full-blast, but it’s not until you arrive at your destination that the car’s finally warmed to a civilized temperature.   And then (dammit) it’s time to go outside eand you’re instantly chilled all over again.

It’s that Special Cold where your cheeks and nose feel like they’re on fire.   Where your nostrils stick together, your eyes water and the tears freeze to your cheeks.   Where your beard or mustache (if you have one) ices up within seconds.

Where you get an ice-cream headache from your bare forehead, and it hurts your lungs to breathe deeply.   Where you can’t feel the surface-skin of your legs, and your toes start to get that dull ache, that will really start to hurt if you don’t get inside soon.

But the Special Cold is also beautiful, in its own way.

The air is perfectly calm and still,  as if Mother Nature herself is hunkering down.  Everything seems to grinds to a halt.

Whitish smoke rises perfectly vertically from everyone’s chimney, forming low-level clouds that drift on for miles.    The snow has that extra squeaky sound as you walk on it.    Ice crystals dance suspended in the air, reflecting whitish-yellow against an azure sky. Everything sparkles.

Sound travels farther.  Jet aircraft WHOOSH though the crackling air much louder than usual.    You can take a cup of hot water, flick it into the air, and it will turn to ice vapor before it hits the ground.   (It’s not a myth, I’ve actually done this)

And if you dress warmly enough, with enough layers, and keep moving, you can actually go out in the Special Cold and enjoy it for short periods.

Skiing, skating, ice-fishing, snow-mobiling.   We Canadians are kind of nuts, that way.

(After all, what are we supposed to do?  Stay INDOORS all winter?)

And besides, the Special Cold is short-lived.

By March, the minus 20-30’s are pretty much done.

April is mostly rain and slush.   By the end of the month, there might even be a short heat wave where you can go out in shorts.

By May, we can easily hit plus 30C….

And then, we’ll start complaining about the heat…

Never a dull moment here, in the Great White North.

Christmas Cartoon Haiku

December 16, 2009

(*Thanks to Barbara, who got me thinking in Haikus today)

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Little Drummer Boy
God, what a lame-ass cartoon.
Pa Rum Pa Pum DUMB.

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Poor Bumble Snow-man
Herbie ripped out all your teeth
Now how will you eat?

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Charlie Brown, your friends:
Frieda, Shermy, Violet.
What happened to them?

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Kris Kringle’s girl friend.
I know she’s just a puppet
But isn’t she hot?

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Dumb-ass Frosty kids
It’s freezing outside right now.
Is this how you dress?

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You repented, good.
But how to return the gifts?
They’re all mixed up now

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The best poo ever.
I love you Mr. Hanky
(Typical South Park)

Monday Night Painting

December 14, 2009

Some people ask me :  What’s the point of painting something?  Why don’t you just take a photo?

Good question.

Here’s a photo.  (Might have been taken by me or my girlfriend at the time, I don’t remember).  It’s Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, in Jasper National Park.

And here’s the painting:

As you can see, it’s not always about reproducing something 100% accurately.

It’s creating your own version of the world, as you chose to see it and edit it.

All while trying to coax finicky pigments to spread on a damp piece of paper.

With colors that are more subtle than the real thing,  giving the scene an entirely different, softer look.

And THAT….is what half the fun is.

Something that you can’t get from a photo.

The Vikings Versus the Eldâr KrΦnes, Part II.

December 10, 2009

When we last left our Viking friends in Part I,  the Eldâr-KrΦnes had taken over the village of SmelBaäd, and the villagers were quite upset.   They had demanded Olaf Thunderfröck, their Chieftain, do something about it.

Olaf knew this was a delicate matter, as the Viking Code forbade them to use force against the frail, doddering old KrΦnes.   He knew he must first seek counsel with Clöst Aerfrök, the Village Elder.

“O, Worthy Clöst!  You who are so wise such matters.  How are we to rid the village of these cursed Eldâr-KrΦnes?”

“By Odin!  That is a not an easy question to answer”, said Clöst.    “Let me search through the tribal records of Viking Knowledge, and I shall have a solution by morning”.

And well into the early ours of the morning, did Clöst pore over pages and pages of old sagas, records, spells and charms.

“Let’s see….I think I’ve found something…Eldar KrΦnes…also known as Oöld Phårtes…related to the bat family.   From the old legends, miserable in their youth, never knew laughter….doomed by the Gods to walk the Earth as older versions of the same….. Can only be controlled by….yes..yes!   I think I see know!   Fenrir be praised! I’ve GOT IT!!!”

At dawn, Clöst came to the village square and excitedly started giving instructions.

“You!  Young lad!  Gather your friends!  I want you all to behave as jackasses.   Be loud. Be obnoxious.  Pull your pants down.   Curse as much as you want, using the worst language possible.

“But my Mother told me a Viking should never curse, until at least after breakfast”, the young man said.

“Never mind.   Tell your Mother you have my permission.   Just DO IT!”

“…And you, women!”, Clöst continued.   ” Assemble as much pungent lutefisk, pickled eggs, and ale you can.   Men!  I want you FEAST! ”

“But this hardly seems like a time to celebrate and get drunk”, exclaimed one of the wives.

“No time to explain…”, said Clöst.   “You shall have to trust me..just DO IT”.

Soon, the children were following Clöst’s instruction to a tee, parading around the square, and indeed behaving like jackasses.

Young Gunnar started crying “Yo! Yo! Yo!” with a pot on his head, with his pants pulled down.   His friends started following suit.

And this did not please the Eldâr-KrΦnes.

“Shocking!”, scolded one.

“Such lack of respect”, hissed the other.

Then, the children started their swearing.

“Fjörk you!”  “Kyúnge!”  “Eat my Skyärthang!”s

“My word”, exclaimed the first KrΦne.    “Such filth!”

“Children today”, said the second.   “What shall become of us?”

Meanwhile, the men were actively involved in their feast, enjoying their food and drink as Vikings normally do.

And soon the pickled eggs and lutefisk began to take its effect.

“Pull my finger”, said Läars.

“No, pull MINE”, said Kyevin.

“Let as ALL pull our fingers!”

And soon the air was clapping with Viking Thunder.

“Such manners!”,  seethed a KrΦne

“Atrocious!”, fumed another.  “My word, I don’t know how much more I can stand of this!”

Suddenly,  Bjorgolf the Berserker looked pale, and said “I do not feel so good.   Perhaps I had too much ale”.

“Hmph, serves you right.”  the lead KrΦne said.

“No, seriously, I do not feel so good.  You better stand back”

“Land sakes.   I will do no such thing”

But before anyone could say anything, The Berserker let loose an rip-roaring, earth-shattering, sky-rendering Viking BURP…the likes of which would be worthy of Thor himself!

This was the final straw, too much for even the Eldâr-KrΦnes to bear.    And how could they?   Not being Vikings, they had no idea of how to deal with Berserkers.

“Well, I NEVER!”, screeched one.

“Me, neither!”, chimed another.

“I will have no part of such vulgarity!”, seethed a third.

And suddenly, the Eldâr-KrΦnes returned to the cold, north sea, from whence they came, cursing and grumbling the whole time.

“Tell all your friends about us….if you have any.” taunted the villagers.   “And don’t come back!”

Later that night, at the celebration bonfire,  Olaf asked Clöst:  “How did you know?”.

“Once I found the answer, it was easy”, Clöst laughed.   “According to the Legend, Eldâr-KrΦnes despise youth,  vulgar behaviour, and rude table manners”.   And being Vikings, our village has an abundance of all three.   It was a just matter of letting our true nature show, and the problem solved itself.”

And the rejoicing, pillaging and burning went well into the night.

And life was good again, in the Village of SmelBaäd.

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