2017 Promises to Be Spectacular

What a great end to the holidays, and what a great way to start the new year. My holidays were filled with so much cooking (two back-to-back Christmas dinners), eating, celebrating, sharing, love, and warmth, that I feel absolutely spoiled by the universe. There were two Christmas highlights, amidst the raucous meals and full household of four generations (from the top of my ninety-seven year-old grandmother’s silvered head, to the perfectly pink toes of my six week old nephew, and the rest of us in between).

My niece, Evie, is three and a half, and perfectly poised to understand the whole deal around Santa Claus. After the eighth course and before dessert, on Christmas Eve, we sent my brother and dad to put out all the Christmas presents under the tree. We had the door between the dining room and kitchen closed, so that Evie wouldn’t see any of the armfuls of brightly coloured boxes and bags being ferried from my dad’s office to the family room, where my mum had placed a very cheerful and aromatic fir tree. When the last gift was put down, I went into the kitchen and started jingling some bear bells (for those of you not acquainted with bear bells, these are small silver bells on a hand held strap that you walk with through bear country to let the bears know that dinner is being served).

“Evie, Evie, Santa’s here,” I shouted across the room. I could hear the little one scurrying off of someone’s lap, and running to the kitchen door, and scratching sounds as her little hands tried to open the door. I put away the bear bells as soon as I saw the door open a crack.

“Oh Evie, you just missed him but, look, he’s left us all these presents!”

I’ve never seen eyes open as wide as her’s did. She fell for the whole thing hook line and sinker, and was the most delighted little girl on the planet in that moment. She ran up to the colourful pile, and stood staring at it, not knowing where to start. The rest of the family piled into the family room, and plopped themselves about the various pieces of furniture, watching Evie’s excitement. We all had such enormous smiles on our faces. We all spoiled her rotten, you see, and couldn’t wait to see her open up the presents Santa had left for her at our respective homes.

Keeping the spirit of Santa alive and well, and here's to hoping it continues in her for many a year yet.

Keeping the spirit of Santa alive and well, and here’s to hoping it continues in her for many a year yet.

In the spirit of sharing, we had her pass around other people’s gifts at first, but as soon as her pile of presents was more than one, it was too much for her and she dove right in to tear open the careful wrapping.

Later that evening, as her and I lay in bed (she wanted to sleep with her Auntie Alex, you see), she whispered to me, “I love Santa so much!”

So perfect.

The second piece that was just so perfect for me also involves Evie. On Boxing Day Evie needed to take her afternoon nap, which is a bit of a fight with her each and every time apparently, so in the spirit of wanting to help out my brother and sister-in-law, I offered to lay down with Evie for the afternoon nap to make the whole process less painful for all parties involved. I lay down beside her on the bed, closed my eyes, and pretended to sleep. She tossed and turned and sat up then tried to arrange her toys, then put her hand in mine, then puttered about the bed again. Finally, seeing that I was fast asleep (or so she thought of course), she settled down next to me, and started to pet my hair then whispered so very softly: “I love you, Auntie Alex.” Then she kissed me lightly on the nose and fell asleep. My heart just about melted. It’s such an honour to have the love of a child.

So between these two wonderful moments, amidst so many others shared with my family and friends this season, the closure to 2016 was simply perfect. I can’t wait for 2017, armed with so much love and support in my life from my family and friends. It’s going to be a great year.

And the Oscar for Best Actor Goes to….Donald Trump

simpsonstrumpFor his stunning performance during the 2016 US presidential election. Trump’s mesmerizing performance stunned critics and kept audiences at the edge of their seats, not knowing what drama each consecutive scene would bring. Trump played the part candidly, reaching into the depths of his psyche and drawing on his life experience that showcases his der Wille zur Macht – his will to power. His co-star, Hillary Clinton, provided a perfect foil to Trump’s performance, providing ample opportunity for Trump to showcase his uncanny ability to play the buffoon, the bigot, the misogynist, the tycoon, the spoiled brat, the one-percent superhero, the brash loudmouth, the unscripted candidate, the Republican nominee, the bane of Hillary Clinton’s existence for the past year, and the media’s antichrist. Lon Chaney, the man of a thousand faces, could not have had more characters on the go than Trump 2016. Congratulations, Mr. Trump.

* * *

Or so we hope it was all just a performance.

I’ve had many a conversation with friends and strangers about the success of Donald Trump in winning the 2016 US presidential election. I predicted this outcome from the get-go, as the media sorely underestimated the disgruntlement of the American public with the established political system. Not only should have Brexit been a harbinger of things to come for the United States, but the rise in nationalist parties in Europe over the past decade. There is something terribly ill in society if a presidential candidate fuels their candidacy on populist rhetoric that belongs in the nineteenth century, not in the twenty-first. Both the Republican and Democrat parties should have a good long study of the current pulse of American society, and then regroup in four years, but that is for another blog.

The will of the people is shown, through a transparent and honest democratic process. Whatever one may think of Trump, those thoughts, should they be negative, should be put aside, and the man be given a chance to actually lead. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt that his deplorable campaign was run in the manner in which it had been, that is to say that every other day seemed to bring it and its candidate to a new low, purely to get votes. And that behind all the horrible statements made by, and revelations made about, Trump, there lies a rational and intelligent individual who does actually care for his country and all of its people. He needs to be given a chance.

I’ve had people argue with me that they owe him nothing, because his actions and words during the past year and a half have been so despicable. But then those individuals are as close-minded as the millions of “deplorables” who voted Trump in (please note that I do not actually think anyone who exercises their democratic right to vote is ‘deplorable;’ I use this word facetiously, as so many Clinton-anti-Trump supporters seem to actually think that Trump’s only supporters white supremacists).

I might not be Trump’s biggest fan, or a fan at all, but I do think he may yet prove himself. I have to hope this at least, because he’s in it for the long haul, whether you like it or not. Rather than moping about how terrible it is that Trump is going to be the next president of the United States of America, please keep an open mind and see what he’ll do in the first few months of his presidency. It already sounds like he’s back peddling on removing Obamacare and the great wall of Mexico, so lets hope that he back peddles on so many of his populist ideas that he spouted in recent months. You have to hope, and if he does end up being as horrible and ignorant as he was during the campaign, then the US can vote him out in the next election. Also, keep in mind that because he is such a polarizing figure at the moment, that the scrutiny under which he will be living the next four years will not just be at the microscopic level, but at the subatomic.

And there is one positive: hopefully four years of Alec Baldwin as Trump on SNL.

Stuck in the Middle with You

North Korea, Kim Jong-un, nuclear testing, nuclear test, missiles, DPRKThere is that great lyric from the Stealers Wheel’s song Stuck in the Middle with You, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” that makes me think it is Kim Jong-un’s favourite song to hum in the morning while his toadies judiciously part his hair down the middle. Neither China nor the United States have the gumption to do more than to vocally condemn North Korea’s continuous testing of its nascent nuclear capabilities.

The latest test by North Korea in early September, of a warhead capacity nuclear device with a 10kt capacity (that’s ‘kiloton’ not ‘karat’), raised the ire of the better part of the free world.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, condemned the test in the strongest possible language: “I am deeply, deeply concerned and sad about this kind of continuing situation.”

This was the fifth, and largest, test of its kind by North Korea.

US President Barack Obama issued this harsh statement on the situation: “The United States condemns North Korea’s September 9 nuclear test in the strongest possible terms as a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability.”

The test created a significant earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3. 5.3 on the Richter Scale is within the ‘moderate’ range for an earthquake, meaning that it is felt but no significant damage is done to the region in which it originates.

China, with its typical confucian stoicism, duly (dully) noted: “The DPRK’s persisting nuclear weapon development and nuclear tests run counter to the expectations of the international community, escalate tension on the peninsula and is not conducive to the peace and stability there.”

There is a great Aussie comedy, to which I was introduced some time ago, that satirizes government bureaucracy. One of my favourite take-aways from ‘The Hollowmen‘ is the great ability of government machinery to put forward strongly worded statements that have no foreseeable impact on a crisis situation.

Poli-speak (policy speak).

Until the UN, until the United States, until China, et al, actually develop more than just an appropriate statement to chastise Kim Jong-un, North Korea will eventually develop a fully operational nuclear warhead capable of reaching other continents.

Right now, things have died down again relative to North Korea, but another nuclear test, which will likely be stronger than the last one, will stir up the pot of poli-speak across the globe. And still nothing will actually be done about managing this rogue nation.

Is there even a solution to nipping North Korea’s nuclear dreams in the bud?

Why not actually enforce an embargo? Perhaps putting that country under siege might actually stem its missile and nuclear testing. After all, how is it that North Korea keeps obtaining the capabilities and materials to conduct these and other kinds of military tests?

We may be civilized, and embargoes affect countries like Russia (to a certain extent re: Crimea), but we have no such viable impact on North Korea, so perhaps it’s time to come up with a more effective management of the North Korean issue than empty words.

In the meantime, Kim Jong-un keeps humming his tune.



Babcia’s First Hockey Game”

Some of you may remember Babcia’s playoff hockey pool sheet, teams and players carefully noted, in pencil, on scrap paper, from last year. I won’t pretend to understand what is going on here but avid hockey fans are sure to recognize the tallies, players, and teams. Note the attractive grandmotherly tablecloth in the background. 

I was fortunate enough to obtain a pair of pre-season hockey tickets to watch the Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames on home turf. Babcia is an avid Canucks’ fan, though her favorite player is Sidney Crosby (and I secretly think she’d love to bear his children if she were much, much, much younger). Notwithstanding the attractive Mr. Crosby, I of course did the only possible thing one can do with a pair of tickets.

I took my gran to see the Canucks last night. Her first live game, in person, off the kitchen table, Canucks’ home, not her home. 

I contacted Roger’s Arena ahead of time to help with the logistics of getting my gran, who is mobile, albeit a 97 year-old kind of mobile, from the drop-off to out excellent seats in row 8, a bit behind the goalie’s net. Oscar, from the Canucks guest services, was amazing.  He not only helped to arrange a wheelchair escort directly from the gate to our section, but had a ‘my first game’ certificate drawn up for, met us at the gate, certificate in hand, foam finger ready to place on her hand, and presented Babcia with a complimentary hockey puck and Canucks’ stickers. Monica, one of the concierges, helped to wheel Babcia to our section, and Oscar and helped her to our seats. Joanna was the host in our section, made sure that we were comfortable, and helped me when I needed assistance with my gran. 

Oscar also arranged a great surprise to honour my gran, and just after the 10th minute of the first period, they put my gran on the jumbotron. 10, 000 people cheered for Babcia. 
She waved her foam hand, delighting in the attention. The Canucks promptly scored right after, and ended up winning 4-0. Just saying. 

During and after the game, people kept coming up to her, congratulating her on her age, her first game, the luck she was bringing to the Canucks. She sopped up every compliment. One fellow, at the end of the game, even came up to take a selfie with her, not that she knows what that is. So much happiness generated that evening.

This morning, she kept saying, “I feel as though I was in a dream last night, it was so fantastic. This was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life.” High praise, considering she lived through the second world war, was a postwar refugee, immigrated twice, has traveled to over 20 countries, seen over 1,000 musical and theatrical performances, been to hundreds of museums and galleries. Hockey is the highlight. 

Thank you so much to the Canucks fan team and staff for making her life!

Clinton Vs. Trump Round 1

2016 US presidential election, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump

Were it only this civil during the debate.

My snaps of the debate, in chronological order (he = Trump, she = Clinton):

Excellent debate, and he’s actually doing a decent job….he’s reigned back the populism finally.

Moderator can’t control either.

Now he’s spouting empty phrases and she’s speaking in generalities. They both really are terrible.

Now the IRS issue has come up. He’s still evading the issue of releasing his taxes. He’s saying that if she releases her 30,000 emails then he’ll release his income tax statements. He’s brought up the email issue.

He has brought up a good point about the US being a debtor nation.

She’s just retaliated with an attack on his business record, as he’s indicated that his main qualifier as president is his business record.

Trump: “I take advantage of the laws of the nation.”

Race is now being debated.

Trump: gang members are illegal immigrants.

Clinton: the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.

Both agree that there needs to be a better relationship between the community and police.

Trump is claims that the birth certificate issue was resolved by him. He’s avoiding the point that he still denied, for 5 years, the fact that Obama released his birth certificate and made the issue moot.

Now onto cyber warfare.

He just called Clinton a political hack. He’s insinuating that cyber warfare is the fault of the current administration. We need to do ‘cyber’ better, apparently.

He’s made a good point about NATO countries not putting enough money/resources into that organization. He’s now denying that he was against the Iraq invasion.

She is so strong on national security issues. This area is her strength and it must be her passion as well, as she’s just gone electric in speaking to this topic. Her knowledge and experience are beautifully showcased here.

Trump is saying that China should take care of the North Korea issue. He’s attacking the Iran nuclear deal. They both agree that nuclear weapons are the most pressing and dangerous issue of the day.

My 97 year-old grandmother interjects at this point: “It looks like she has more makeup on her right cheek than on her left.” “I think it’s the lighting, Babcia.” and that’s probably what most of the hoi polloi are thinking too, as they flip through the news channels airing the debate.

Trump: “We cannot be the policemen of the world.”

He seems to think that he is the one who would be negotiating trade deals and the like. President rarely does the actual negotiating. He really doesn’t know how government works.

Moderator really isn’t strong enough to reign the candidates back.

Trump did say that he’s support Clinton if she won.

And that’s all folks. Draw your own conclusions; I’ve tried to present mostly objective bits and a couple of personal insights. Who won the debate, you ask? If you are a Trump supporter, Trump won. If you are a Clinton supporter, Clinton won.

 Rocking the Stage at 60

I plunked out a whole day at the Pacific National Exhibition Monday night, with the goal of watching the Chris Issak concert that evening (penultimate goal being to devour a bag of still warm mini doughnuts). I dragged my friend with me, who eventually confessed through his second bad of mini doughnuts, that he rather go climb a mountain twice over than watch Chris Issak perform. No amount of cajoling (c’mon, he’s supposed to be great live), coaxing (good friends are supposed to support bad music choices even at risk of their own musical integrity), bribery (maple bacon ice cream?), sneaky maneuvers (let’s go watch the pig races, then a milking demonstration, oh look, there are your friends so let’s catch up with them, can I see your keys – they looked crooked….), or thinly veiled threats (if you don’t watch the show with me this may be a friendship deal breaker).

Nothing would budge the beast, so I was abandoned at the entrance of the marketplace. I consoled myself by purchasing miracle no- chemicals necessary cleaning cloths (removes all caked in stains, just add water), a knife sharpener (the tungsten will never wear out, it’s the hardest known material after diamonds), and Tupperware (what happened to the days of Tupperware parties?).

At some point I realized that I needed to make my way to the amphitheatre, slowly converted over the years from a demolition derby venue, to motocross, to monster truck rides, to a logging competition, to its present incarnation as a  concert venue. I passed dueling pianists in the beer garden, stopped for a root beer float (established in the early days of the PNE from the looks of it and its lovely proprietress), and gawker at the carnies in their gaming cubicles, surrounded by oversized cheap and cheerful stuffed toys. 

I was lucky to find a seat right in the centre of the freebie, open seats. Unfortunately the sky threatened to open up on all of us, so the gentleman next to me put on his rain pants in an attempt to avert the pending rain – it is usually the law of umbrellas and such things that the moment you bring an umbrella, it won’t rain. 

The crowd slowly gathered, sadly not the great number expected as the possibility of inclement weather had clearly scared off the public from celebrating that last day before school, and all that encompasses that hallowed institution, starts. I had a brief flutter that my friend was not the only one holding strong a strong opinion about Chris Isaak’s music, but by 8:30, when the show was to start, most seats were filled, umbrellas and ponchos at the ready, and then Chris Isaak came out.

Bejeweled, bedazzling, sporting a royal blue sequined suit, hair carefully combed back 15 times, a cheerful smile, and an eye for the blondes in the crowd, Isaak rocked the stage with a couple of hits to warm us up. I taped a short video of one song  to send to my friend “don’t leave me on my own.”

Then Isaak broke into a brilliant little stand up routine which got us all laughing, promising us state fair quality entertainment with the possibility of some Beyonce moments, introduced his band, and got right back into rocking the stage with more hits. He walked among his fans, made us feel like he really didn’t mind singing in the rain, and that he loved having the chance to perform for us.  We loved it, and cheered and clapped, swayed along to the music, and sang along to our favorites. 

Watching Chris Isaak perform was so much fun. He’s a true entertainer and a polished professional. He’s got an shtick that works, that some people might think passé, but it works and it’s great. 

The only sad part of the whole affair was that the un-jinxing of my rain-pant wearing neighbor didn’t work, and it began to rain…probably because I didn’t bring an umbrella. I had to leave a I was getting cold, just as the show was getting right into the swing of the night. I met up with my frien

d afterwards, to warm up and to show him snippets of the show. He grudgingly admitted that it might have been fun to stay and to have watched the Chris Isaak show.

And I’ll make sure I bring an umbrella next time. 

Unfortunate Choice of Words or Purposefully Punny?

In a fit of protest against Donald Trump, a statue of the Republican presidential candidate, in his best birthday suit, was placed in New York City’s Union Square, to which the New York City parks department spokesperson noted:

“NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.”

And here I thought the residents of the Big Apple were ardent Trump supporters. I just wish that they had kept the statue up longer so that the pigeons had a chance to roost on his shoulders and demonstrate their two cents. 

Another funny headline. …

This one from this morning’s Globe and Mail (one of Canada’s two national newspapers):

I got a bit of guff from over of my colleagues, who explained to me that the headline meant that the high jumper had surpassed expectations and had achieved the top of his field in winning the gold medal. 

Yes. I know. But if one has a saucy mind,  then this headline exposes a rather delicate turn of idiom suggesting success in the boudoir. 

Very appreciative of the G&M for the morning laugh, particularly in light of this subsequent headline from the BBC: “Olympic pole vault penis claim denied by Japan athlete Hiroki Ogita”.

You just can’t make this sort of thing up.