It’s Good to Be Queen

I normally don’t write about politics, specifically local politics, as many of the people who read this blog don’t live in my neighbourhood, and for the most part local politics is not exactly the most stimulating topic. But due to the rather silly and sad conduct of the former premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, I thought I’d post a little blurb on the latest (and hopefully the last) chapter of this saga.

Alison Redford was the premier of the province of Alberta. I’ve previously commented, in a post titled “Oh Alison,” on her abuse of government planes and how this was the beginning of the end.

Redford resigned as premier in March but did hold on to her seat in the Alberta Legislature representing her constituency in Calgary (lucky people). If she thought that resigning as premier would alleviate the scrutiny she was under, then she was mistaken. It was revealed that the premier had ordered a luxury penthouse suite to be built on the top of a Government of Alberta building that was under construction. According to Global News, “There would bedrooms for Redford and her pre-teen daughter . . . , a shared bathroom, a powder room, a walk-in closet, a butler’s pantry and areas for dining, studying and lounging. There would be grooming and changing areas, a fireplace and room-by-room temperature controls.”  This was unnecessary and extravagant. The consulting alone was $173 000. The project has since been nicknamed the Sky Palace, which is fitting as Redford and her daughter seemed to be confusing themselves with the Saudi royal family. Once these plans were made public, everyone collectively groaned, “Not again.”

Redford and Daughter

Don’t you pay any attention to these rubes, honey. They have no idea how to treat a princess.

Before she resigned as premier, she ordered an investigation by the Auditor General into the use of government aircraft. I guess this was an attempt to demonstrate that she had nothing to hide, that she was serious about getting to the bottom of mishandling of government funds. She wanted to know who was responsible for defrauding the Alberta taxpayer. At that point everyone in the province said, “Uhhh yeah, you know that’s you, right, Alison?” Her ordering of the audit doesn’t demonstrate a lack of intelligence but a surplus of disdain. She simply didn’t seem to care what anyone thought and was generally annoyed if she was  questioned.

The day before the Auditor General’s report was released, Redford resigned her seat in Calgary. These are a couple of highlights from the report–and by highlights I mean examples of entitlement and abuse of power and trust:

Whenever a delegation of Alberta politicians and staff had to fly somewhere for whatever reason, Redford’s staff would book the plane and fill the passenger manifest with people who weren’t actually going to fly on the plane. Just before the flight was to leave, staff would cancel these passengers and leave just Redford herself and the few people she wished to fly with, basically so she and her besties could have the plane all to themselves. As a result two planes were often used when only one was needed–Redford and her entourage on one plane and the unwashed rabble on the other. Wow, she must have made a lot friends with a strategy like that.

Empty Plane

I once rode a bus that was empty but never a plane.

Perhaps the lowlight of the report was the revelation that Redford had employed a travel scout, a woman who was paid $127 872 to go places the premier was planning to visit in order to suss out the best hotels, restaurants, and local sights, even giving weather reports (she e-mailed the premier that she  may need a jacket on some mornings in New Delhi). On top of the travel scout’s ridiculous salary, she racked up $330 000 in expenses in just twenty months. This was a position that didn’t exist until Alison Redford created it.

How does someone get a job like this? What would the qualifications be? I will conclude this post with how I imagine the job interview for this position:

Premier: Hello, John. Thank you for coming in today for this interview.

Me: No problem.

Premier: Do you like to travel?

Me: Sure do.

Premier: Do you like to spend other people’s money on luxury hotels and the finest restaurants?

Me: Oh, for sure.

Premier: Well then, John, welcome to the team. The job is yours. And might I say you had a fantastic interview. You just blew me out of the water.

Me: Oh, stop.

Then we both laugh and put our feet up on some Alberta taxpayers as we sit in leather chairs and light cigars with hundred dollar bills.

The premier announces to no one in particular: It’s good to be Queen!

Robin Williams, Palestinians, and Proximity

How can anyone possibly spend any time and attention fretting over the death of Robin Williams while children are dying in Palestine?

We hear this kind of indictment every time a celebrity dies when children somewhere in the world are suffering and dying. And to a certain extent I understand the reasoning behind the question; everyone understands that the suffering of children should be more important, or at least occupy more space in the collective culture, than the life and death of a celebrity. But this almost never happens, so indictments are made and proclamations of the demise and fall of the western world are shouted from soapboxes, or keyboards, and we all take a moment to feel ashamed.

So allow me a moment to explain why the death of Robin Williams occupies in my mind the same amount of space as, if not more than, that of children killed in Gaza. And that is proximity. I am closer to Robin Williams than I am to any one person in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this has as much to do with the randomness of where I was born as anything else.

I never found Robin Williams terribly funny (gasp!), but I did find him to be a talented dramatic actor. Throughout my lifetime, I watched stories in pictures acted out by Robin Williams in such films as The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Good Will Hunting, and The Night Listener. Much of how I learn about the world is through story, whether read, watched, or listened to. Robin Williams was someone whom I had seen in movies, and I grew to appreciate the way in which he chose to act out the story someone else had written him. His face was familiar to me; and his face, his body, his physicality, is linked to stories that I ingested, and as with almost all stories of any quality, helped me to form my perceptions of the world. Sometimes the ideas I had in my developing brain were not yet articulated clearly until I saw or read the scenarios of conflict and resolution, or lack thereof. Some of these ideas were developed in and linked to Robin Williams’s work, so I naturally make a myriad of links and associations between my development and the stories that contributed to that development. Some of these fence posts are more important than others, some are downright frivolous and silly, but I believe that all of them are contributing to my identity and how I see myself fitting into the world.

Robin Williams

Of course I find the death and suffering of children horrible. But due to a geographic gulf and a cultural distance, the abhorrence I feel is more abstract than visceral. I can watch the news and, by simply being a human capable of compassion, I can sympathize with the plight of anyone in a war zone. I am not necessarily going to react the same way emotionally as I would if, for instance, it were my family and friends in an armed conflict three provinces east of Alberta. Nor should I. If I did I’d be an emotional wreck and a blubbering idiot for most of every day. When 9/11 happened my reaction was strong, and later it dawned on me that one of the reasons may have been because many of those killed and injured were people who lived in close proximity to me and had a shared culture. These were people who looked like me and thought like me, and we had many shared collective cultural experiences. To a certain extent these people were me.

The fact that Robin Williams committed suicide is also a reason his death occupies a bit more real estate in my mind than it would otherwise. Suicide is something that has been a dominating shadow in my family. Three of my uncles committed suicide. These were men who were raised in the Catholic Church when church was a defining element in the growth and development of an individual. The stories that helped them develop their identity were from the Bible. A dominating theme of sin is repentance and forgiveness. Except with suicide. With suicide there is no repentance, no forgiveness. You will go to hell. Yet despite this, they chose to kill themselves. Fear as a motivator did not prevent them from leaving this world.

Church

Robin Williams had achieved, by every metric in the western world, fantastic success–money, fame, adulation, all of it. Yet success as a motivator did not prevent him from taking his life.

Another link that I make is that perhaps these men suffered from defective brain chemistry, or some other physical debilitation we have not yet been able to identify or completely understand. I’m thinking of Robin Williams in the context of the suicide of my uncles, and I wonder if I have inherited some of that genetic material.

When I think of the life and death of Robin Williams, I guess I’m really thinking of all the links and associations he is a part of in my life, and this is at some level automatic simply because of how I consume text in Canada at this time in history. The fact that I have more associations with Robin Williams than I do with a conflict in the Middle East does not make me a bad person but a person who has a healthy, functioning mind that can only do what it can do, and to expect more might be something that only happens in the movies.

Palastinian Conflict

 

American Graffiti

Montana was every cowboy movie he’d ever seen. This was first time he’d been outside the forest of Ontario and he had no idea that space like this existed, with yawning parcels of seemingly infinite land and a sky that was as large as outer space, with a blue so bright it seemed to be shouting. Then the suddenness of the mountains that seemed to appear out of nowhere like a magician’s trick. He loved these sharp pieces of infant formations that jutted from the ground proud and confident. And stored within the small valleys were isolated storms that were small enough that a person could drive through them like nature’s car wash.

He pulled his car over to the shoulder to stretch and maybe take a few pictures with the cheap disposable camera he bought at a gas station. The store was full of families buying slurpees and overpriced t-shirts; the lights were harsh and felt soul depleting. The noise from the makeshift arcade in a half-closed-off room at the back was almost annoying enough to induce some nervous twitching. He felt panicked as he ran the gauntlet of parents and kiddies decked out in fanny packs and wraparound sunglasses.

He took a few pictures of the rolling hills that were set ablaze by the dipping sun. Here and there smoother, reddish rocks peeked out from the earth like the callouses on a farmer’s hand. He wanted the pictures to be the tangible evidence that he was actually right here, at this place, in this time. He could believe that none of this was real, but if he had some sort of record then maybe he could come to terms with the part of him in denial.

That’s when he saw the man on a horse. He was riding fast, kicking up a trail of dust, and the stiff rope attached to his saddle jerked up and down in time with the horse’s gallop. His face was lean and symmetrical and he wore a leather work coat and a denim shirt accented with a red bandana that hung loose around his neck. The traveller knew that this was the Marlboro Man. He was every billboard and magazine ad he’d ever seen.

Marlboro Man drew up close to him. Each man was silent for a while staring at the other, neither sure who was the anthropologist and who was the untouched tribe. Finally the cowboy spoke. “Hey there.”

“Hey,” Traveller replied. “Nice horse.”

“Thanks.” Traveller reached out and petted the horse, and the cowboy smiled as he rubbed the steed’s neck. The horse was a beautiful shade of chestnut.

“What’s its name?” asked Traveller.

“Her name is Chestnut.” He shrugged. “I was going to name her something like Diaspora or Simulacra, thinking I was clever, but I was just drunk and when I sobered up I thought Chestnut was a far less pretentious name to give the best friend I ever had. The only friend really.” The reflection of the sun winked off the gun in his holster as Chestnut shuffled a bit.

“You don’t have any friends? Human friends? Why?” Traveller held up his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.

The cowboy smiled sadly. “You’re passing through here, right?”

“Yeah. I’m not too sure where I’m going but I sure as shit know I ain’t going back.”

“Then you’re a lucky son-of-a-bitch.” He looked off into that endless horizon. “I have to go now. You drive ten more miles west and you’ll come to shitty little roadside dive called The Rhizome. Go take a piss and you’ll learn everything about me you need to know.” He turned Chestnut around and rode off into the sunset.

Traveller did as he was told. The parking lot of the bar was filled with Harley Davidsons and pickup trucks with gun racks in the cab and animal horns mounted on the hoods. He could hear ZZ Top pounding out through the door. Traveller thought to himself: Jesus, I’m in shit-kicker heaven. I hope I leave this place with my pecker intact.

But as he made his way to the bathroom he was greeted with friendly nods and a few smiles. Traveller took a piss and as he was washing his hands he saw written on the side of bathroom mirror in black marker:

I Hate This Part of Texas.

This struck Traveller as funny. He laughed. He felt good. He dried his hands and took out his camera from his back pocket and laid it gently on the sink, leaving it behind. He walked lightly back to his car and drove west. All the way to the ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

Bear Attack or Self Defense?

Man Attacked by Bear Near Smoky Lake.

That was the headline I read yesterday. Wow. That sounds very scary for the man and also for the people who live in the area.

But then I read the whole story and found myself once again saying WTF!

The bear was minding his business, being a bear, in his home, which is in the woods. And a hunter went to the bear’s home and shot him with a gun. The wounded bear ran away and the hunter ran after him. At this point the bear turned around and IN SELF DEFENSE struck back at the man and likely said something in bear like: “I’m going to fuck you up, you meddlesome bitch!” The bear got on top of the hunter and was winning the fight, biting Elmer Fudd on the head and arms, before the hunter unfortunately got hold of his gun and shot the bear again.

First I'm going to make you my bitch, then I'm going to eat you.

First I’m going to make you my bitch, then I’m going to eat you.

If you hunt legally, then good for you. I guess? But if the animal you’re trying to kill fights back and tries to kill you, then I say good for the animal. This isn’t an attack–it’s self defense. I found it so strange that the media framed the encounter in those terms, like the bear did something wrong. If you’re killed trying to kill an animal in its home, then I say, to a great extent, you went looking for trouble and you found it. Don’t cry. Take your lumps. But to frame this as a “Bear Attack” is really unfair to the bear.

Not such a tough guy without your boom boom stick are you? Asshole.

Not such a tough guy without your boom boom stick are you? Asshole.

I wish bears could learn how to shoot a gun. Then, at least, I would consider this kind of hunting more “sport” than “slaughter.”

 

 

Nomination

One Lovely Blog Award

I have very kindly been nominated for the “One Lovely Blog Award” by SouthernGal at Life Is a Damn Circus. This was a pleasant surprise and I would like to say thank you.

Rules for Nomination:

  • Nominated blogger must link back to the person who nominated them.
  • List rules of nomination.
  • Upload award pic as featured image.
  • List 7 random but awesome facts about yourself.
  • Choose an unspecified number of blogs to nominate.

Seven facts about me:

  1. Sometimes I enjoy talking to my wife through an empty paper towel roll. It gives my voice weight and authority. She remains unimpressed.
  2. I failed grade three.
  3. I won the ‘Best First-Year Essay’ contest at the University of Alberta. The prize was a massive art history book called Art Through the Ages. It was a shining moment.
  4. I keep my wisdom teeth on my desk in a clear plastic container and look at them often. I had them extracted about 15 years after they should have been and they are gnarled and big and nasty looking, but I love them. I sat in the dentist’s chair for 4 hours.
  5. I had laser eye surgery a few years ago and it has been the best money I have ever spent.
  6. When I lived in Vancouver, I did a bunch of extra work for television. The pay was terrible but the work was easy and they fed you three squares a day. Sometimes I will see myself walking down a school hallway during repeats of 21 Jump Street.
  7. When I was a child I would stand under power lines hoping one would fall on me and I’d be turned into a superhero of some kind.

Blogs I would like to nominate:

I chose these blogs specifically for their insight, entertainment, and humour. These are some funny cats. If nothing else, this has been a great motivation to figure out this linking thing and acknowledge some pretty great people that I’ve had the good fortune to interact with on an almost daily basis. They’ve made blogging far more fun than I thought it was going to be. Thank you.

I Am Ready Ebola

There is something so spectacularly indulgent about going to the mall with a friend, eating my weight in A+W, and then seing Gaurdians of the Galaxy. Stomach gluttony and eye gluttony. But, when ebola gets here and wipes most of out, I will pass away relatively content. Gaurdians of the Galaxy: Excellent. A+W: I am sad that you no longer feed your cattle steroids. I don’t feel nearly as strong after eating a teen burger. Please put the chemicals back in your food.

Cigarettes Don’t Just Cause Cancer – They Also Ruin Vacations

It’s been a while since I posted. Things have been a little crazy so far this summer but now things have settled down, more or less, and I can get back to posting regularly. And once again I realize how fortunate and grateful I am to have the people I do in my life.

And speaking of grateful, my first post back is going to be about a young man who expresses entitlement and ingratitude to an such an extent he caused a whole plane to turn around 45 minutes into its flight and land back where it took off.

 

If you don't knock it off we'll turn this plane around and head straight back home.

If you don’t knock it off we’ll turn this plane around and head straight back home.

Ali Shahi was on a Sunwing flight leaving Toronto for a vacation in Panama. He asked the flight attendant how much a pack of cigarettes was, and when she informed him of the price and he realized they were twenty-five cents cheaper on the plane than they were where he bought them at the airport, he demanded to be reimbursed. That’s right, he demanded to be reimbursed twenty-five whole cents. Of course this was not going to happen, and the fact that he’d demand something so ridiculous gives a sense of this young man’s (he’s 25) attitude of entitlement.

So he does what any spoiled, badly behaved young man would do: He curses Canada, and becomes more and more animated, destroying things around him, and threatens to blow up the plane. This you cannot do. The plane turned around, and was escorted back to the Toronto airport by two American fighter jets. The SWAT team was called and they stormed the plane, taking Shahi and his girlfriend into custody.

I take the price of cigarettes very seriously.

I take the price of cigarettes very seriously.

As soon as I heard about this story I waited only a few beats before I heard what I KNEW was coming. Shahi’s family let all of us know that none of this was his fault. He is mentally ill. He suffers from depression. This is the fault of the police and the health system. They did not give him the proper help–even though he had been seen by mental health professionals, and given medication he refused to take. And in the past the police have been called to deal with Shahi but they can’t lock him up for being an asshole (God, how I wish this were possible). And of course we also have the obligatory claims of this young man being bullied for being chubby when he was younger.

Thus completing the Get Out of Jail Free Card, having now touched on all the modern nerve centres of sympathy.

So once again the claim of mental illness is used to excuse really bad behavior. This of course erodes the real and serious consequences for those who have a legitimate diagnosis of a mental illness that can result in seemingly erratic behaviour. I also see this trend developing with silly claims of PTSD made by anyone who just happened to have a bad day. Off the charts rage at being told “no” is not a mental illness–it is a character flaw that frankly I have no time for, especially if it has evolved from the person being indulged and never having to suffer any real consequences for their actions.

So instead of apologizing for his son’s ass-hattery and expressing sympathy for the poor people on the plane who had the shit scared out of them, and had a chunk of their vacation ruined, daddy lays the blame on everyone else. Hmmmm, maybe here is where the roots of junior’s issues lie.

Another tidbit the family divulged is that Shahi had recently lost $6000 of student loan money from gambling. What?! So why is the little prince taking a vacation to Panama? Why is he not working to pay back the money he threw away? It sounds like there have been very few consequences for this man’s behaviour.

And lastly, what I find almost more distasteful than anything else are Shahi’s loud proclamations of how horrible Canada is. This type of ingratitude is something I find infuriating. I’m not a Canadian who is polite to the point of happily indulging the criticism and condemnation of people who have been here for about ten minutes. If you don’t like my home and all that has been given to you, and you don’t want to initiate constructive change through proper channels, then GET THE FUCK OUT.

One thing is for sure: A far too tolerant Canadian justice system will give Shahi nothing more than a slap on the wrist, he will undoubtedly be ungrateful and say horrible things about Canada, he will be indulged, and a law suit will be filed claiming the little prince was traumatized and persecuted.

What could possibly happen: An inquiry will be ordered. The pilots of the plane, and the police, and fellow passengers will be painted by the CBC as mildly racist. A professor of fine arts will write, and have performed, an opera decrying the persecution suffered by young men who only wish to blow up an airplane, and somehow Canadians will feel collectively guilty for even daring to question anything this little prince has done.

O Canada!

Happy Fourth of July

Fourth of July 1

Happy Birthday, America. You gave us rock ‘n’ roll, baseball, and jazz music (though I don’t care for jazz personally), and if Canada ever finds itself in a fight we know you’ll help us. We couldn’t ask for better neighbours. I mean,  just look at poor South Korea and the Ukraine. I’d like to take a moment to say thanks for all you do. Except Florida.

Florida, you need to get your shit together.

 

Fourth of July 2

 

 

 

 

O Canada

Today is Canada’s birthday so we made our way across the High Level Bridge to the Alberta Legislature to take in some festivities.

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A view from the bridge about half way across.

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On the grounds of the Legislature, stopping to have some lunch.

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This is the bridge we took walking home. Trains on the top, people on the bottom.

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The Leg. or as I like to call it: The house that oil built.

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A big fountain pool in front of the Legislature.

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It seems that in Canada as soon as we get a day without snow and ice we’ll strip down and swim just about anywhere.

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Sometimes, after I go pee, I like to wave a Canadian flag. I don’t know why.

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And a walk through the forest on our way home. What? A forest? Yes, we have a forest in the middle of Edmonton. The best of both worlds.

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour. We are so fortunate to live in such an amazing country, and a great city. We are also lucky enough to be able to watch the fireworks tonight from our 19th-story balcony. Oh, I have to go pee. Now where did I put that flag?