Monthly Archives: May 2013

It’s OK You Can ‘Dare to be Stupid’!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think there are far too many serious, uptight, unfunny people out there in the big, wide world. One of the hazards of being an adult is losing your sense of humour – to appreciate the funny and just plain wacky. Of course, what’s funny to one person might be considered as lame to another. For example, I never understood the comedy of Jerry Seinfeld. I was living in Japan when his television show appeared in North America. By the time I arrived back in Vancouver several years later, irony was all the rage. But I didn’t get it. On the flip side, I’m still a huge fan of Monty Python, which puts me squarely at odds with alot of people who don’t get English style humour.

One of my comedy touchstones is the parody music of Weird Al Yankovic. His ability to take popular songs and twist them into satire is really comic genius. I think it’s time to shake up this blog and deviate from some of the serious stuff I’ve posted during the month of May. Let’s all ‘Dare to be Stupid‘ !

Canadians work too hard. We really do. I think we need a new national holiday. Luckily, Weird Al has the perfect suggestion:

Alright, by this point you’re probably getting an idea of where my sense of humour lies. I admire Weird Al’s ability to craft satirical parody with popular music. It’s an art form that’s definitely an acquired taste, which is why I wash down copious amounts of my favourite alcoholic beverages when watching his videos. I’m going to warn you that from this point onwards, the content is going to start getting more graphic. Beam yourself out of cyberspace while you can!

I’m going to share some of my favourite animated Weird Al videos They’re politically incorrect, so if you get easily offended, this is your last warning.

You have been warned!

Another great video Weird Al did was in collaboration with the folks over at the JibJab website. Jibjab is famous for their interactive animations, so Al did a parody called ‘CNR’, which are the initials of the late TV actor Charles Nelson Reilly. I remember watching him as a child on shows like ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir‘, ‘Lidsville‘, and of course, the famous TV game shows ‘Hollywood Squares‘ and ‘Match Game‘.

When Lady Gaga released her album ‘Born This Way‘ in 2011, Weird Al produced a parody called ‘Perform This Way’. There was initial confusion about whether or not Lady Gaga’s managers granted permission for the parody, but Mother Monster gave Al her blessing. The parody was a major hit – I think it’s one of his most original works.

This final video is NOT by Weird Al, but I think it’s a terribly clever parody of the famous AC/DC song ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap‘. I’ll let ‘ewe’ be the judge 🙂

If any of these videos made you laugh, then my mission was accomplished!

As for me, I feel much better now 🙂

The Grumpy Ferret (So very very close, but no cigar!)

Why Should I Care?

Smartphone addict

Smartphone Addicts http://www.englishblog.com

I think about things too much. It’s a curse. I’ve always been in interested about current events around the world, because I believe it’s important to be aware of what’s happening. As I’ve said before in other posts, we all live together on this one planet, so I think you need to have some knowledge of what’s going on. But the difficult thing is trying to discern what really matters from what’s banal, trivial, and unimportant. You see it happening every day with people and their smartphones. It’s my anecdotal observation that a great many people are doing very unimportant things with these incredibly complex devices. Do you really need to watch television while standing on the sidewalk? Do you really need to surf the web while trying to navigate your way through a busy train station? Do you really need to sit down beside me on the bus and have a god awful conversation with someone on your smartphone about the fact that you’re on the bus (and I’m resisting the urge to grab your phone from you and hurl it out the window because I’m forced to hear about your terribly bland life?) The smartphone gives people freedom of choice, but are they really making good choices? I don’t think they are – but that’s a topic for another post.

Without further ado, here’s a list of recent events that made me start asking this question:  Why should I care?

Starts channelling his frothing, rabid,

inner news talk radio personality

Why should I care if Toronto mayor Rob Ford was caught on video smoking crack cocaine?

I mean, really. He’s some morbidly obese, bull necked, Canadian redneck pinup boy who lives 3000 miles away from Vancouver. He’s Toronto’s problem, not mine.  Should we care if an elected politician of a major Canadian city may have drug and personal issues that affect his ability to serve its citizens? Hey, the mayor’s brother Doug Ford says the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun newspaper reporters are all mindless jackals just looking to sell papers. They’re disgusting lowlifes who don’t have anything else to do. It’s all a spurious hatchet job with absolutely no basis in fact. I’m sure Doug Ford never really sold hashish in the 1980’s. Somebody is obviously lying. And the mayor’s former chief of staff was probably screwing up badly anyways – that’s why he was fired.

Why should I care?

Why should I care if Senator Mike Duffy’s $90,000 residential expense tab was paid off by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s now ex-chief of staff Nigel Wright?

I mean, who cares about politicians in Ottawa these days? Really. They get paid huge amounts of money to sit on their asses and congratulate themselves about how important they are to Canada. They don’t think about us, anyways. Why do we even bother electing MP’s to supposedly represent us? Isn’t that what most of us really think about federal politicians when we’re not trying to make a living so we can pay our bills, mortgages, and the kids’ education? What’s the big deal about some morbidly obese ex-TV news reporter with a greatly inflated sense of self who thought he deserved an extra $90,000 to cover his two homes? Does it really matter if ex-Chief of Staff Nigel Wright pitied the guy and generously cut him a cheque? After all, isn’t that what politicians do? Look after each other?  I’m sure Stephen Harper knew nothing about it at all – he’s just so darned busy micro-managing everything else in his government that I know he just couldn’t have known that his personally chosen right hand man was giving away money without his knowledge. It makes perfect sense – doesn’t it?

Why should I care?

Why should I care if 48% of BC voters didn’t cast a ballot in the May, 2013 provincial election?

Adrian Raeside Times Colonist

Adrian Raeside Times Colonist

I mean, come on! Why would anyone vote for those clowns? They don’t deserve our respect, do they? Just look at what they’ve done for BC in the last 12 years? Hey, did they do anything? They’re just businessmen who reward their friends with tax money because they can get away with it. And we all know the NDP are just a bunch of airy-fairy socialists who’ll spend us out of house and home. The Green Party are just tree hugging hipsters who haven’t a hope in hell of forming a government because global climate change is going to kill us all eventually. And the Conservatives are all closet American republicans in disguise who want to protect the wealthy and cut services from those people who are too lazy to go out there and become entrepreneurs. Besides, voting’s a pain. It takes too much time to vote. Voting Day is just a traffic jam. And advance voting days always happen when you’re doing other stuff. And you can’t be bothered to do an absentee ballot because it takes too much time. Besides, what difference does a vote make? Someone else will cover for me who thinks like I do. Not that any of these BC politicians will really represent my views, because they’re just in it for themselves.

Why should I care?

Why should I care if some mindless extremists hacked a guy to death in London, England?

UPI News Photo

UPI News Photo

Look. London is on the other side of the world from Vancouver. It’s not like someone is going to cut some guy’s head off at a Skytrain station. It couldn’t happen here, right? We don’t have Islamic extremists on the west coast. Those guys were just angry young men who got carried away. These things don’t happen all the time. Sure, they’re unnerving, and it’s too bad someone died, but that happens in Europe and Asia, where they’re closer to the Middle East. Besides, CSIS and the RCMP are on the case. They catch these fanatics before they act out. And that Boston bombing was all just Russian Chechen extremists. Al Qaeda’s dead as a terrorist organization, anyways. Canada hasn’t had bombings since the FLQ in the early 1970’s. And those were french separatist extremists.

Why should I care?

Yes, indeed. Why should we care – about what’s happening around us?

The Grumpy Ferret (Whose tongue was FIRMLY planted in cheek while writing this post!)

I’m Infamous Today (Well, I Sort of Feel Infamous)

Today was Election Day in British Columbia, the finale of the four week provincial three ring election circus. As I’m writing this post, the British Columbia Liberal Party (aka Stephen Harper Fan Club – BC Bluenose Chapter), pulled off a stunning upset and will form the next government for a fourth consecutive mandate, with Christy Clark possibly leading them, that is, if she wins her seat of Vancouver Point Grey, which is up in the air at this moment.

I live in the riding of Vancouver – Quilchena, a place of very well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives who historically have always elected similar well educated, wealthy, starchy conservatives to the provincial legislature. I’m very well educated, not at all wealthy, and I can’t stand conservative people. So I fit in like a triangular peg in an round hole. The starchy people elected their starchy candidate. I voted for the New Democratic candidate in my riding because I am more concerned about the environment than economic development (GASP! HERETIC!). He’s naturally organic, which is anathema to the wealthy, starchy people. Of course they wouldn’t elect him.

As a member of the Globe & Mail BC undecided voter panel, we were asked if we had made up our minds about who we would vote for today. They selected 15 answers that were printed on Election Day in their entirety. My post was published! I feel like it’s a dream come true, because one of my goals as a writer was to be published one day in a major national newspaper like the Globe and Mail.

Here’s my post that appeared today:

Who am I going to vote for? It all comes down to who do I think will best represent the riding of Vancouver-Quilchena. As I’ve said before, this riding has been solidly B.C. Liberal for a long time. It has always been a ‘safe’ seat for them. For me, the choice of who to vote for is pretty straightforward.

Do I want to vote for Andrew Wilkinson – former B.C. Liberal president, deputy minister, ‘establishment candidate’? No.

Do I want to vote for the Conservative candidate? No. Do I want to vote for the Green Party candidate? Wait – has ANYONE seen the Green party candidate? No.

That leaves me with the NDP candidate Nicholas Scapillatti. I’m going to vote for him. To put this in perspective, the last time I voted for the NDP was in 1991 in North Vancouver-Lonsdale. Why am I voting for Nicholas? He’s actively involved in salmonid enhancement programs. He’s involved in sustainability development. He’s a small businessman, as opposed to a corporate type. He co-authored an environmental dissertation with Dr. David Suzuki. He shares my concern for long-term environmental issues, which I personally feel outweigh economic development.

I’ll also say this. I haven’t forgotten how many children have died in foster care under the Ministry of Children and Families during the 12 years of B.C. Liberal government policy. Nobody wants to talk about dead children and the cutbacks to social policies that contributed to the Ministry letting this happen.

And everyone has forgotten the stellar work done by Children’s Commissioner Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and how the B.C. Liberals tried to silence her report on their failures. But she screamed bloody murder and publicly shamed Gordon Campbell and minister Mary Polak.

And you want the same B.C. Liberals back running the show after 12 years?

It seems they do. And I’m extremely unhappy about the result.

Winston Churchill once made this sly observation about elections:

“If you want to know why democracy is a bad idea,

just talk to the average voter for five minutes”

On the bright side, at least the Green Party landed a seat in the BC Legislature. I’ll take any small silver lining from this dismal electoral cloud.

The Grumpy Ferret

The Scales Have Tipped – And it’s Our Own Damn Fault

Copyright 2009 (c) Universal Press Syndicate

Copyright 2009 (c) Universal Press Syndicate

Growing up here on the west coast of British Columbia, I always felt that the Earth and the ocean were in my blood. That’s not surprising – biologists discovered years ago that the salinity levels of our bodies are approximately the same percentage as the ocean. We are mostly made of water, with iron, calcium, carbon, magnesium, phosphorous, nitrogen, and trace amounts of other elements present in all of us. The late astronomer and astro-physicist Dr. Carl Sagan once said that we are all made of ‘star stuff’ that was created by the exploding stars of the cosmos. We are all innately connected to this planet and the universe. It’s not some vague, ambiguous concept – it’s the truth of our existence.

By the way, the next time you want to blow someone’s mind at a party, ask them what percentage of the known universe is made up of matter. You, me, Earth, the stars, galaxies, everything. The answer is – FIVE PERCENT. You heard me right. That’s all there is, folks. Five lousy percent. The term is ‘baryonic matter’. I think that’s kind of important to know when you’re debating the fragility and uniqueness of life in the universe.

rebel_afp640It’s my opinion that the majority of Earth’s seven billion human beings  don’t really care about these sorts of big picture things. We’re not interested in our relationship with the cosmos. We’re far more absorbed in the events going on in our own personal everyday universe. I remember being in a bar ten years ago and talking to the bartender about some amazing astronomical discovery, when a drunk older patron sitting across the counter from me, said in a loud voice ‘Who the HELL cares about that? It doesn’t make my life any better!” Let’s be honest here – if you’re starving to death, or simply trying to stay alive in a war torn part of this world, or you’re trapped in a rigidly authoritarian regime, or you’re forced against your will to endure cruel circumstances, you’re absolutely right. I would be more concerned about just trying to survive as well. Contemplating the heavens isn’t going to save you from a famine, or a militia.

In hindsight, I wish I’d thought up some kind of witty response to the drunk old fellow, but I decided not to inflame him. Years later, I realized that what we discover out there has meaning for our existence down here. In the last 48 hours, two very important news articles came out that should be of concern to everyone. In the United States, the highly respected National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the average DAILY level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is now at 400 parts per billion. This level was recorded high atop the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. It’s an ominous milestone. The last time carbon levels in the atmosphere were this high was THREE MILLION YEARS AGO. That was during the Pliocene period of Earth’s geologic history.

How significant is this change? Before the industrial revolution of the 19th century, atmospheric carbon levels were 280 parts per billion. This rise is entirely caused by human beings. Not the sun. Not volcanoes. Not giant swamps. It’s our fault. We tipped the atmospheric scales. Even if we could stop the emissons tomorrow, the estimated time for dissipation of the excess atmospheric carbon would take – I hope you’re sitting down – a thousand years.

That’s right – one thousand years. Not a month, not a year, a decade, or a century. It would take one whole eon of time.

And you know what? It’s only going to get worse. If you think the extreme weather events that happened around the world in the last 12 years were bad, get ready for even nastier, devastating climate events of unimaginable scale. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a tragic situation entirely of our own making. There is no quick fix. No technological solution. When the level of atmospheric carbon reaches 450 parts per billion – which could happen in the next few decades – it’s going to be a climatic runaway freight train at that point. Not if – when.

If we look outwards into space, you can see what atmospheric carbon does to a planet. The dense atmosphere of Venus is 96.5% carbon. The average daily temperature is approximately 462 degrees celsius. The thin atmosphere of Mars is 95% carbon. The average daily temperature is -50 to -60 degrees celsius at mid latitude, but up to -225 degrees celsius at the poles. Mars is much colder than Venus because it’s further away from the Sun. Earth’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 20% oxygen, and carbon is 3 1/2 tenths of one percent.

So here’s the deal. Given our proximity to the Sun, the more carbon present in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet gets. A global shift of several degrees in temperature can completely throw off the thermostat that lets us exist on the Earth as we know it. For the last 11,000 years of the Holocene period, that thermostat was relatively stable. Our species Homo Sapiens flourished and evolved civilizations. But once we started pumping carbon into the atmosphere, we were putting our fingertips on the scale.

I haven’t talked about what happens when methane gas gets into the atmosphere.  Its impact is much more severe than the presence of carbon. Plenty of it lies frozen deep in the ocean and underneath the permafrost of the Northern hemisphere. As the planet warms, this gas blankets the atmosphere. And there are GIGATONNES of it lying dormant in a frozen state at the moment.

70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by the oceans. They absorb atmospheric carbon and form carbonic acid, which dissolves anything with calcium in it. Like coral reefs. Small creatures with calcium shells known as porifera form the basis of the aquatic food chain. They’re the food for fish here in the North Pacific.  As the oceans become more acidic, these tiny organisms that support the existing marine life right now start dying off. The phytoplankton in the ocean that produce most of the world’s lifegiving oxygen die off. No oxygen – and land based creatures die off.

Get the picture?

Toss me another climate change denier on the barbie mate!

The Grumpy Ferret

I’m Fed Up With the Wealthy People of This World

'Montana Max' from Tiny Toon Adventures

‘Montana Max’ from Tiny Toon Adventures

When I was very young, I was taught that if you applied yourself, worked hard, told the truth, kept your nose clean, you could make a life for yourself and everything would work out. I’ve worked hard all my life. I’ve never taken anything for granted. I was a newspaper boy at age 9. I dug rocks out of fields and did general labour as a ‘Saturday boy’ at age 12. I chopped firewood, built breakwaters, built fences, and learned how to garden large estates at age 14. I cleaned out gigantic toilet facilities BY HAND at the BC Ferry Terminal in Swartz Bay, BC, when I was a university student.

You have no idea how humbling it is to be on your knees every night scrubbing out several dozen men’s urinals, or removing shit from a clogged toilet with a bucket. Because of that, I have always treated anyone who works in a dirty, difficult job, with nothing but the greatest respect.

I painted houses, washed windows, moved people’s furnishings, earned a bachelor and master’s degree, plus a technical diploma. I speak English, French, and Japanese, I worked in Canada, the United States, and Japan. No matter how hard the work, I gave it my all. In the last 20 years, I’ve been laid off 5 times. And every time I battled back to try and start over again. I just found my position as a full time writer after suffering through a thankless sales job in a shopping mall for the last 3 1/2 years.

I sold over 3.7 MILLION DOLLARS of product for the APPLE STORE AT OAKRIDGE CENTRE during my time there. Did I get any bonuses or rewards from them? NO. When I was the first specialist there to sell ONE MILLION DOLLARS, what did I get? Two e-mails saying Congratulations. When I sold another million in the next fiscal year. I got – a hamburger.

Apple is making a big noise about awarding $10,000 to the person who buys their 50 billionth app. But this company with a cash reserve of $150 BILLION couldn’t give me – or any other hardworking specialist – a bonus for selling so much product.

It’s certainly a real slap in the face, I can tell you.

Meanwhile, it seems like there’s all this wealth and influence in the hands of selfish morons. Yes, morons. It’s all around us. Know nothing fools who are celebrities with huge commercial endorsements. Business people and politicians who pull in fat paycheques but are completely clueless. People getting rich through corruption, nepotism, and insider cliques. I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. All the places I would travel to I can’t afford. I don’t have the money for a home. I don’t have the money for a vehicle. I have no savings because of using up everything just to pay the rent amd keep going when I was laid off. Then I see someone showing off their hideously expensive car they bought, or the gigantically expensive house they own. Or some outrageous piece of jewellry. My God, I could do a HUNDRED more substantial and meaningful things than these braying, spoiled people.

I just wish life were more fair – but it isn’t.

The Grumpy Ferret

Oh My Goodness! Shirley Temple Black is 85!

Shirley Temple in a kimono given by the Japanese Envoy to the USA in 1937

Shirley Temple in a kimono given by the Japanese Envoy to the USA in 1937

I have a secret to confess. I like watching Shirley Temple movies. There, Internet – I said it. Alert Perez Hilton! Call in TMZ! Me, the guy who watches movies like Avatar, Prometheus, Lincoln, The Lord of the Rings, Lawrence of Arabia, Quiz Show, Skyfall, Thirteen Days, and The Tree of Life. I become a big, mushy lump when that curly haired moppet appears on screen, showing off her brave determination, irrepressible optimism, and those bright, sparkling eyes that made her such a global box office sensation during the 1930’s. I often find myself asking, ‘Why am I watching this? These films are really saccharine!’ I know why I watch her movies. Because they’re not cynical, dark, depressing, profane, overly realistic, overly suggestive, do not feature massive weapons arsenals, face sucking aliens, computer generated graphics up the wazoo, or pouty vampires and depressed, 20 something male werewolves!

Shirley’s movies are fairly straightforward stories about hope in the face of adversity, and finding the good in others, even if they don’t see it in themselves. Her films provided comfort and escapism for tens of millions of filmgoers around the world during the dark times of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “…as long as America has Shirley Temple, we’ll be alright…” Madame Chiang Kai Shek couldn’t get enough of her movies. J. Edgar Hoover adored her. Amelia Earhart was a great fan. Eight decades later, the world is suffering through great economic, environmental, political, and social turmoil. There’s a widening social gap between the wealthy and the rest of us. We’re bombarded relentlessly with information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the point where it can really drag down your spirits. When I’m watching a Shirley Temple movie, I forget about the troubles outside my door for a little while. It’s just me and Shirley, sharing another of her adventures. When it’s over, I feel a bit of that cheerful optimism has rubbed off on me so I can face the rigours of whatever comes my way.

Amid all the smartphone robots and ipod zombie commuters, sometimes I’ll hum a Shirley Temple tune on my way to work, and get another small jolt of optimism to keep my spirits up. I think it actually helps me to stay in a good mood!

Shirley Temple was born on April 23rd, 1928, in Santa Monica, California. One tidbit I learned about her was that Fox Studios changed her birth certificate in 1934 so she was one year younger! Another fact that once again proves how strangely Karma works – revenues from Shirley Temple’s movies saved Fox Studios from bankruptcy in 1935. In otherwords folks, without Shirley Temple, there would never have been a 20th Century Fox Studios. A little girl singlehandedly saves Hollywood! Now there’s a story. You’ll find that a mountain of information is available online about the life of Shirley Temple. The Shirley Temple Dolls website contains a trove of articles and stories from 1930’s Hollywood about her. The Miss Shirley Temple Tumblr website contains a wealth of anecdotes and photographs that spans her entire life. I actually made the effort to track down a copy of her 1988 autiobiography. Child Star: Shirley Temple Black – An Autobiography is a revealing look at Shirley’s life and the Hollywood film industry of the 1930’s. It’s a fascinating book, and a very substantial read.

Shirley Temple Black is 85. Wow. What an astounding journey her life has been. Actress, mother, diplomat. Well, let me add my own belated many happy returns of the day to you, Shirley! You continue to provide inspiration to everyone around the world across the generations. For that, we thank you very much!

And there you are – happy landings on a chocolate bar!

The Grumpy Ferret