Wine by Radio

I was listening to the AM dial yesterday as summer’s close leads [as you all say with one voice] to improved amplitude modulation broadcast propagation and caught the oddest show on WHAM 1180 Rochester, New York: The WHAM wine show. I thought I was listening to good college radio. It was unstructured, amateur and funny. During the show the host and guest were popping corks, comparing wines, comparing glassware and talking over music they liked. It must have been live as they were also giving running scores for the Buffalo Bills game being played on rival radio stations, perhaps to a 95% market share, given western NY tastes.

Given the medium, the show could not rely on long pans of vinyard vistas or uncious hosts puckering their lips approvingly. They actually had to describe what was happening in their noses and mouth.

Oor Wullie

Sae Help Ma Bob!Being a Scots immigrants’ kid in Canada who grew up in the Maritimes was in part about being unacknowledged. Folk assume you are some sort of cousins to the local Mcs or Macs. My buddy Mark of the Beeb told me after he came back to Canada engaged that he finally figured me and my family out after watching his to-be in-laws spend a day together in a room reading papers and not talking. I would think of my friends as Canadians – their families eating cornflakes or jam and toast while drinking coffee, while we would have Wheetabix, marmalade with tea. When you found someone whose family actually also came from Scotland, like my law school pals Neil or Graham, talk devolved into food: baps and square slice (or is it sliced square); mince and tatties; stovies; chip butty; Iron Brew.

After the comfort food and before the dissension caused by asking about your favorite fitba team, there was Oor Wullie, a comic strip from my Dad’s childhood before WWII which focused on Wullie and his pals, including Fat Bob, the smoker above. Comics often ended with kids with black eyes, spanked arses or, like the one you can find by clicking on the drawing above, Wullie barfing after smoking. Sort of a smarter Bart Simpson raised by sensible presbyterians which would likely put a greater fear into the “Zero Tolerance” set. Given the presence, however, of the utterly bastardly version of Dennis the Menace in the UK comic scene, Oor Wullie as your child’s choice would be welcome relief.


BeautyI have only read two books by Douglas Coupland, Generation X (1991) and Souvenir of Canada (2002), the cover of the latter shown, and only read them in the last couple of years. I am more impressed by his observation than his storytelling which makes Souvenir of Canada perfect as it is a personal encyclopedia of things noticed about our mutual homeland. Under the entry “Stubbies” he writes

In order to get stubbies to photograph, I put an ad in the local community paper and was besieged by calls from fiftysomething men with a nostalgic lilt in their voices. They all wish that stubbies would return, but young people would probably look at a stubbie and say, “What’s that thing supposed to hold – molasses?” So I think the stubbie’s fate is sealed.

Today, in the bewilderingly diverse selection at the amazingly well named The Beer Store, I picked up a 12 of Waterloo Dark. It came in stubbies – despite the web image. While it was not the useful 6×2 packaging of yore, cracking open the corrugated cardboard box to see 12 cheery stout little pints was an undeniably happy moment. Holding one immediately reminded me of the feeling of holding a beer in a mitten, something you would likely have only done if you were underage in winter in Canada.

Coupland also tells the story of how he went some way to reinstating the brand Extra Old Stock during a grade 12 work experience day spent at an ad agency. The role of beer in being Canadian is particular. In his 1977 edition of The World Guide to Beer, Micahel Jackson (the other one) spends four pages describing product lines which largely no longer exists. Unlike the UK, brands do not necessarily survive (think James Ready or the elaborately but pointlessly marketed Labatt Copper). Unlike the US, what ever the label, our beers are stronger, bigger and a bit sweeter – something of more sustenance than a cause for unzipping and unwrapping the layers under the ski-doo suit while doing the gotta pee dance at 15 below. Whatever the label, it is that generic taste that maybe we collectively recall. And the feel of the stubby in your mitt.

Hate Crime

Discount Blogger, a New Brunswicker in Atlanta, is speaking and entertaining comment on the new criminal code provisions on same-sex hate crimes. I must say, I am flabbergasted by the failure of this vote in the House to be unanimous. In case you are interested, here is the record from Hansard of who voted yea and nay just in case you want a word with your local MP next election. [Hey, there is Elsie Wayne against it and Peter MacKay for it. Troubles in Tory land continue.]

Just to be clear, here is the Bill as passed by the House of Commons. Bill 250 adds sexual orientation to an existing list of subjects of prohibited hate speech – the others being “colour, race, religion or ethnic origin” – under both sections 318 and section 319:

318. (1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

(2) In this section, “genocide” means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely,

(a) killing members of the group; or

(b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.

So, the class of speech is limited to advocating killing and physical destruction of a group. These are activities which I usually class in the class “Generally Bad”.

The provisions of Bill 250, now passed, deal with a second set of crimes under section 319, hate speech against “any identifiable group” which leads to “hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” and “communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group”. I also include these acts in “Pretty Much Bad, Too”.

Others do not believe this bad is so general. The wackos Certain of the faithful have weasled required an exception to be worked into section 319 – the “Pretty Much Bad, Too” crimes – in our Criminal Code:

if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text.

So now we can sing “Jesus hates you this I know. For the Bible tells me so…” And hates you, and you, and you and especially you.

And it would also be possible for me to say Jesus hates those who supported the section 319 exceptions as hypocritical, soul-scoured falsifiers…if, that is, I thought it was possible for the good Lord to hate.

A Cry for Help

I have a need. There is not much that my employ, family, friends and wit cannot provide me. I have eaten my onions through a winter and drank my ale for years. I cannot, however, make a flag of Norway.

Proud NorwayMy kin were kicked out of Norway in 1250 for not giving up the pagan way. Since that awareness dawned upon my brain, I have had a soft spot for the place and gladly eat pickled fish products. Mighty Norway!I could buy one but it would be a new nylon thing which, beautiful in itself, not as beautiful as a old cloth thing that looks like it spent years on a tramp steamer lashed by the North Atlantic west of Stavenger or Narvik – as shown below left. If anyone has a spare, please advise. We can work it out on Al-Bay. What else would you need to do a proper Norwegian event?

Happy NorwayMad Norway!Drunk Norway!!

Help Celebrate Norway in Our Way…Some Day!

Canada Wins

Watched with my Dad as Canada beat Australia 2-0 in women’s soccer this afternoon with 10,066 others here in Kingston. Packed stadium. Sunny Day. Fast, heavy but clean game. The Aussie sweeper, Cheryl Salisbury, was one of the best I have seen but they had no one up-front to make plays like Canada’s Lang or Sinclair. Canadian captain Charmaine Hooper’s header from a corner for the first goal at 71 minutes was pretty good – from the other end of the field it looked like she was a foot over the defender. The second goal for Canada two minutes later looked a lot like a break-away after a foul to me…but “we” won. The “we” is a lot less problematic when it is the women’s soccer team as opposed to the men’s Olympic hockey team for some reason. I wonder when last ten thousand went to a soccer game in Canada?

Warsaw Voice

In the good old days of 1996 before needy ernest blogs, e-mail clogging spam, Lord Google, when flaming and cross-posting was killing off Usenet, when you used to surf the net to find stuff knowing it was all entirely unreliable gossip, I used to copy the weekly quotes from the web version of the English language paper The Warsaw Voice to mail to my buddy Gary, then in Vancouver.

I lived in Poland in 1991 and would, when on the trains to some end of the country, at stations with unpronouncable names, grab any copy of the tissue paper printed rag I could find. The life of an English as a Second Language teacher in a coastal city in Poland was pretty pleasantly self-defined and small. Having little access to TV or local chit-chat (only 8 people in the City seemed to have any grasp of English, others preferring to curse at us behind our backsNeimieck! which means both German and something like “not human” – to which my retort of being Canadian and therefore an ally against the Nazis often brought great wailings of apology and hugs from stinky drunk pensioners), The Warsaw Voice told us that life in Poland was not all cream cakes, tinned boar or elk and Russian champaign: we lived in a still-subsidized Baltic resort fairly oblivious even of the Balkin wars starting a few hundred kilometres to the south.

The newspaper at least let us in on the very grim Polish humour in relation to news of the day, government officials and Germans, which grimness I suppose is natural when your country has been a playground for other’s generals for centuries. Here are some I saved from then:

“He was very, very handsome.”

A Polish woman at the Polish consulate in Paris, in enlisting help to find the French father of her baby.

“The Germans approach these mementos with a sense of humor and sometimes buy them; for them they are funny souvenirs from Poland.”

A shop assistant in an Old Town store selling original Nazi medals from World War II and photographs from Hitler’s occupation of Warsaw

“My sports results depend mostly on what time my buddies drag me out of the bar.”

-S³awomir Drabik, Poland’s speedway champ, about his career

“We have many regular customers. The record holder was someone we discharged at 7 a.m.-he was back at 3 p.m.”

Doctor at a Warsaw drunk tank, commenting on its recent increase in “visitors”

“Germans pay more, because they are more cultured.”

A mobile restroom agent at the beach in Gi¿ycko, explaining why the price is listed as gr.50 in Polish but zl.1 in German

“His lively movements assured me that everything was all right.”

Henryk Wojciechowski, newly appointed Gdañsk province administrator, telling reporters about the accident when, driving in the heart of the city, his driver ran over a boy who got up off the road and ran away.

“It’s not a sacrifice but a sensible act of civic duty.”

Zinaida Bolieva, a 46-year-old resident of Northern Ossetia, who offered to be a donor if Boris Yeltsin needed a heart transplant.

“Today, not having regained consciousness after a long illness, the secretary general resumed his office.”

A Soviet joke from Brezhnev’s times, recalled by General Aleksandr Lebed in an interview for Stern magazine. Lebed said that with Boris Yeltsin’s illness, the Kremlin situation is reminiscent of the Brezhnev joke.