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8 Things That Probably Mean You’re Not Canadian … Sorry, Eh?

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Mountie moose

O CANADA our home and native land ….

Wait a minute… I can’t hear you singing!!

OK… perhaps you prefer O say can you see … or… Allons enfants de la Patrie, perhaps God save our gracious Queen … all are uplifting.

A few days before the Trump’ster blurts something bombastic and self-serving and frankly stupid in front of the Lincoln Memorial next Thursday … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will stand before the citizens of the True North of North America and remind us with some eloquence of what makes a Canadian… well… Canadian.

Yes, Monday is Canada’s 152nd Birthday. A baby in global terms…

What Trudeau says won’t please every citizen of the land, because the nature of a diverse country shaped in a multicultural kaleidoscope of skin tones and religious and gender leanings, is that there will be disagreements and philosophical variations …

… but for the most part, Justin will speak in terms and pictures that will make most of us proud to carry the Maple Leaf passport.

Sure, there are things that annoy and anger me about my homeland. As a country we’ve committed our fair share of sins, just ask the Indigenous folks who have lived here for millennia …

And to be clear I’m not a raging fan of nationalistic pride… I am a greater fan of a global community where the goal is to achieve a more or less equivalency of living standard for all folks.

It’s kind of corny and in some ways naive, but I’d rather live a positive dream, than wall off others in fear of what I might lose by their prospering.

Nonetheless, I’m greatly fortunate and appreciative of the hand-up I was given at my birth to springboard out into a huge country of great wealth and freedom to shape my own destiny.

So, are you ready to find out if YOU are…

CANADIAN? YES or NO?

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Just to be clear, not everyone can be a Canadian.

But if you think YOU might be a Canadian, read through the following list of 8 for either confirmation or denial.

 

  1. If you haven’t said “sorry” at least 3-4 times in the past 24 hours, you’re definitely NOT a Canadian. Canadians apologize for talking, for walking, for breathing… we say “sorry” instead of prayers when we go to bed at night … it’s in our DNA … I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is.
  2. If you say “Aboot” instead of “Abowt”, you are NOT Canadian. I know this bucks the accepted norm that others outside of Canada believe. To be fair, the occasional stand-up Newfoundlander might be heard uttering ABOOT, but it gets lost in the mist of the Atlantic Ocean. To be clear, this pronunciation guide does not carry over to the word “route” which may be spoken as “ROOT” or “ROWT”, either can be accepted within the Canadian vernacular.
  3. If you popped a beautiful bouncing bundle of new life in recent memory and reluctantly went back to the salt mines to pay for your groceries after a mere 3 weeks or 3 months, you’re NOT Canadian. Canadian maternity leave is a year long for those who can manage it … Employment Insurance pays Mommies and Daddies to look after their little Sweeties (for a while anyways).
  4. If you can’t recognize a flag with a red maple leaf as its emblem, you’re NOT Canadian. Canada has the coolest, most recognizable flag… who the heck couldn’t know that a big red Maple Leaf represents Canada? OK, I’d have preferred blue bars (instead of red) on either side and a blue stripe across the top to represent the 3 oceans on our borders, but Canada is about compromise, I can happily live with all red.
  5. If you pay a monthly premium for health coverage with co-pays and deductibles, or struggle to buy expensive drug treatments, you’re NOT Canadian. It’s cliched, but as I listen to Democratic debates south of the border, I appreciate all the more that even without a perfect health care system in this country, there aren’t multitudes of bankruptcies and families destroyed by lack of adequate health care.
  6. If you reject the notion of helping the world’s desperate and downtrodden, you’re NOT Canadian. Canada accepted the most refugees of any country last year … The UNHCR’s annual global trends report shows that Canada took in 28,100 of the 92,400 refugees who were resettled in 25 countries during 2018. This is very meaningful to me in my role as a tutor to a young Syrian refugee brought to this country in 2016.
  7. If you detest the notion of same-sex marriage or the freedom of choice for women to decide what can or can’t be done to their own bodies, then perhaps you’re NOT Canadian. Yes, and even marijuana is legal now… the True North is strongly high and free…
  8. If you don’t like the taste of clam juice mixed with tomato juice and vodka, then you are likely NOT Canadian. We drink this strange mixture in abundance and think it tastes good, also… we put “u” in the middle of words for no good reason, we say “eh” all the time, pronounce “z” as “ZED” and lieutenant as “leftenant”, sometimes we wear shorts in the dead of winter, we don’t own handguns or assault weapons, we call our money “loonie” and “toonie”, we eat Kraft Dinner like it’s the National dish, and we pick up our morning coffee at “Timmies” like it’s a citizenship requirement.

So, did you qualify to be Canadian?

If not, I’m SORRY, but don’t fret.

And don’t give up.

Work hard and try again next year. Canadians believe in second chances, eh ? …

Happy Birthday Canada

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Childhood Solstice

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kids play at sunset.jpg

This week’s song lyric is a reflection on summer and youth …

… we all carry within us a trunk filled with sunny memories of long, warm, (hopefully) carefree summer days.

My early boyhood in Hamilton, Ontario was a mix of outdoor sports (football, baseball, tennis), mischief with friends, occasional flirting with a young crush, delivering newspapers, family meals … all within the milieu of a hot, humidity-soaked summer day next to Lake Ontario.

And of course, the bittersweet notion of summer solstice… that moment when the procession of long…  longer … longest days … comes to a halt and the slow slide towards fall and winter begins…

This 6-verse song – like summer wear – is going semi-naked … chorus-less and bridge-less. The rhyme pattern is a bit ragged but I’m OK with this… just because!

Most current songs you hear have a chorus with a distinct “hook” that makes the song memorable and humm-able – think of your favourite songs and how you often remember the words to the chorus but not the verse …

… which means that when I get to setting these words to music, each verse will need to have a catchy melody line with a sense of a “hook”.

music hook

OK, let’s go…

Here is this week’s song lyric:

CHILDHOOD SOLSTICE

First summerday breeze so stifling and damp
I have sunburns from the beach
grassy field stains on my pants
I have a laugh and a lust of playground flirting
Wallowing in my head, barely within reach

Lugging “The Spec’ from doorstep to door
I have the weight of canvas bag
black newsprint on my arms I abhor
I have the Scot’s brogue of Ogilvie sisters
Apartmentized pair of old tea-sipping crags

Then breath-sucking afternoon swelter
I have the sound of the truck chime
strawberry shortcake for a nickel or dime
I have Good Humour icy popsicle that melts
Syrupy orange on my face and sugary grime

The sun still high but here it is suppertime
I have Friday night eggs from the pan
Monday night chili made by Dad’s old hand
I have Sunday roast beef with everyone there
Tomato juice and steamed corn we eat with our hands

Nighttime flickering moths on streetlamps
I have chords of Paul and Carole and James
bouncing beats of Mungo Jerry
I have harmonic strains of Brian and brothers
Black and white Dick Van Dyke and The Dating Game

My head weighs down on this soft downy bed
I have baseballs and footballs thrown in my head
Mom’s amen kiss on my cheek cheeky-red
I have water sucked hard from a sprinkler
Glazed-over eyes playing hopscotch with stars

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Elton vs Freddie

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freddy vs jason.jpg

I know the title sounds gruesome, like the name of a horror pic… weird white masks, long claws and blood-dripping knives … but … no.

Horror ain’t my genre (CNN is close enough!) …

But music is.

This past year has brought us two highly-hailed musical icon biopics, although inexplicably neither the (Failing) New York Times nor The Globe and Mail contacted me for my reviews.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

Elton and Freddie

By modern musical standards, both Brits are brilliant at the craft of songwriting and music production.

Interesting similarities … British, gay (or bi-sexual), piano players, ultra-flamboyant performers, the same manager for a period of time.

There are a lot of reviews of each of the flicks that dispute the honesty and full-disclosure and timelines of the stories – but you know what? I don’t really care.

Every life is a sh*tshow of interpretation and false-memory and all the bad and good put into a blender of individual perspective (kinda like history in general).

Besides, books do a far better job of relating the nitty-gritty details of a life… movies capture highlights, usually entertain … and in these particular cases, highlight the discography of the musicians. And that’s enough.

I knew of these two artists in the 70’s, and in looking back over time to my formative years … I was all agog over Elton … his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was a masterpiece encompassing many musical genres.

At the same time, I knew and enjoyed some Queen tunes but Mercury never quite caught me in the same way that John did.

I was Elton’s slave where pop and rock music was concerned. Just to be clear, we never had sex (it never occurred to either of us, go figure).

That was then. This is now.

Today, I’ve switched allegiances somewhat. I haven’t lost my sense of awe in the songwriting of John … but …

… years of listening to the complex orchestral and harmonic brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody (and to a slightly lesser extent, the larger Queen repertoire) has elevated and shifted my joy of their songs.

But back to the movies themselves.

The flicks took a different approach to the era from which they both emerged… the in-your-face sex and drugs of Rocketman contrasted against the more scratch-the-artist-surface storytelling of Bohemian Rhapsody.

None of us is so naive to believe these were musical angels in disguise … no doubt the sexual encounters and hazy miasma of drugs were large parts of the life and creative existence of both, but brought to the screen far more graphically in the telling of John’s life.

Fantasy scenarios and telling his story through the medium of his songs was a cool and innovative approach for the Elton movie, but somehow it couldn’t draw me in to its narrative in the same way the Mercury one did.

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Ultimately, I think the reason I came away enthralled from Bohemian Rhapsody and not from Rocketman comes down to the main actors.

Elton John’s portrayer, Taron Egerton was always a person, an actor, playing Elton John … he never inhabited the role of Elton. He was Taron singing Elton.

But when I watched Rami Malek … I was taken in, absorbed … and believed that he WAS Freddie Mercury … from his actions, to his voice, to his vulnerabilities.

The movie battle of the musical icons is over in my mind …  Elton vs Freddie brought Freddie as the clear and easy winner. Hail Freddie and Bohemian Rhapsody.

… but …

Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies … in going back to my (long gone) vinyl collection and enjoying the REAL Rocketman, Elton John.

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Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

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beatle bananas

Remember a couple of weeks back when I said I’d be using you to help me work on songwriting? You do?

Fabulous!

‘Cause this is where we are today and I’ve got a few lyrical lines to share.

They’re pretty simple ones… nothing too flowery or poetically profound … but heartfelt and melancholy for me … and for others in my family.

I confuse myself. There must be a fatal flaw inside me because when I sit to write lyrics I almost always begin with the thought that … “this one I want to be light and fun and maybe even silly”

… and then this shade of darkness bubbles to the surface out of nowhere… maybe I’m the Nowhere Man I mention in the song … maybe …

Anyway… here are some song lyrics I’ve written about my older brother – diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 7 years ago.

He rides the amusement park rollercoaster where he’s stuck on the downhill slope with no chance for an uphill boost.

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Today he’s far removed from the erudite, quirky intellectual – a PhD chemist, Monty Python lover – his family and friends knew for many decades. He lives in a care facility where he slowly dwindles but retains his easy smile and gentle demeanour.

It’s such a common scenario for so many …

If you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement, fire them at me.

Let’s go my friends:

Let’s Bake You A Banana Cake

VERSE
I called my brother the other day
when he answered I knew he wasn’t there
his voice held up strong but
the same world we didn’t share
at least not anymore.

VERSE
It’s funny that you can hear a smile
though the sound travels a thousand miles
the words are a salad, they even sound sane
Do you think you can remember my name?
No, not anymore

VERSE
Books linger hushed on your shelf
framed photos pretty your little room’s walls
with blue summer skies and childhood smiles
are prairie breezes sharing your favourite waltz?
I don’t think so anymore

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing

VERSE
So let’s chat lightly for a bit mon frère
I’ll ask the questions, make the chatter
You’re pretty cheery so does it really matter?
We’ve sipped some wine, skied some trails
but, perhaps, not anymore

BRIDGE
There’s a thief in the house
taken the marbles and flown
the halls echo empty where you once roamed

CHORUS


Maybe you’re Lennon’s Nowhere Man
so let’s bake you a banana cake
’cause you’re kind of already there
there’s a batter of sorts
all mixed up of course
And you don’t know what you’re missing.

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The Horrible Shame of Being Human…

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terrible children.jpg

Let’s face it… YOU are terrible. I am terrible.

Humans are horrible.

Modern North American life is a life of shame…

Every action I take makes me a bad person.

I don’t want to be a bad person.

I try to remember all my family’s and friends’ birthdays. I even bake them cakes.

But then I don’t think and eat an almond. Damn, uses too much California water. Spit out the almond.

Try a bowl of raisin bran with milk and banana. Healthy. Good. Can’t go wrong there. But…

Raisins = sulfite preservative = sugar-coated = Bad…

Milk = cows = too much land required to raise and treated poorly = Bad…

Bananas = monoculture = Bad

Spit out the cereal Larry.

Don’t even get started on eating meat products. Killing + Fat + Land Use = Bad.

Right … so I’ll try Beyond Meat … no animal product consumption there … lots of good pea protein… WHEW I’m good …. except … Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers have more saturated fat and sodium content than a comparable beef burger… OMG! And just wait for the next scientific study that proves vegetables are truly able to feel pain … yes, carrot juice IS murder!

green pepper

I’ve gotta do something to redeem my hellish sins…

Drive my car to help out at the soup kitchen. Good? Nope, bad.

Driving uses non-renewable fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. Drive a battery-powered Tesla? Hmmm… uses a ton or two of energy consuming metals and the battery has to be landfilled after 10 years.

I’ve got to escape for a few from the guilt of my feckless faulty footprint … I won’t read a book because that has paper … the destruction of forests on my head? No thanks. I’ll just read some Stephen King on my Kobo (e-reader) … breathe deeply and relax.

Wait… that e-reader consumes electrical power from a hydroelectric dam (on First Nations territory) in northern BC that wiped out hundreds of square kilometres of animal habitat and besides…

… the electronic reader I’m holding was shipped from China on a freighter that drank a gazillion gallons of fuel and dumped plastic into the ocean … and …

… the wifi electromagnetic waves that it receives invisibly through the atmosphere cause brain cancer. Oh good grief…

Forget vacations that involve airplane travel… jets devour gas like it’s icy-cold cerveza on a hot Mexican playa. Too much noise pollution too.

Recycle? Follow Canada’s lead and send your plastic to Malaysia or the Philippines for them to hold for a few years before shipping your shit back to you …

Speaking of …

SHIT? Do you know how much human excrement is sent into our rivers and oceans?  One extreme example … the Ganges River in India absorbs more than a billion gallons of raw sewage and industrial waste every single day. Enjoy your swim.

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Everything I do … you do … comes at a cost… because every stone we throw hits the ocean, and ripples of the water hit every shore … which leads to the question…

I try to be a good person, so what are the rules that can lessen my shame?

Let’s face it, the guilt and shame are the stink that can never be fully washed away… no tomato juice baths will make any of us squeaky clean. Ever.

It’s old and it’s hackneyed and it’s cliche.

Think globally. Act locally. Vote for the politician who thinks not like a narcissistic buffoon but like a chess player … 8 moves ahead … 8 generations into the future, considering the consequences of our actions on the world.

And as much as I hate the word for its lack of clear meaning… be moderate … and in the end… forgiving of yourself. The world is complex and terrible and homely, but also kind and beautiful and enthralling.

I know I’m very lucky. I try to be healthy. And generous … when I help others, my own happiness increases.

Clint Eastwood, the wise old cowboy Yoda, described us as we are …  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

the good bad and ugly