Archive for June, 2008

Canadian Days: Canada Day

Since this is a blog on Canadian concerns, and tomorrow is Canada Day, I suppose I should make a post about something Canada day related. Something…

Hmm…

…uh…yeah…Canada Day…

Huzzah?

The thing is, I tend to shy away from nationally and spiritually sanctioned holidays. Not that there is anything wrong with them, but  I celebrate being a human everyday, and I live in Canada every day–lately– and all is good every day, and I celebrate that goodness.

Through my blog I try to celebrate all things Canadian in my own little way on a regular basis, so why put so much effort into one single day of celebration? Besides, the usual community celebrations are, typically, quite dull and a waste of time,and taxpayers money. Yes, that’s my opinion, and you should enjoy your time in whatever way you choose to spend it, which may include joining a community Canada Day celebration. I hope you have fun.

As for me, I’m going to spend it either cycling around Toronto, or sleeping most of the day before getting up and teasing my cat. Either way it’s going to be a good day.

What are you doing for Canada Day?

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June 30, 2008 at 9:36 pm 4 comments

Canadian Heroes: Storm Troopers

I recently read an article about the upcoming movie, Passchendaele, which discusses Canadian involvement in World War I. In this article Canadian troops were referred to as Storm Troopers. I thought this was pretty cool, but I had never heard of our soldiers being referred to in this way previously. Time for some research.

From Captain J.B. Paulin in a speech given at the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, on May 23, 1918.

“The officer to whom I previously referred said, “There seems to be a fear back here in Canada that the Germans are going to make a frontal attack upon the Canadians, but the Canadians at the Front are afraid they won’t (laughter) and,” he continued, “they will get the biggest reception they ever got and pay the biggest price”; and it is interesting to us to know that the only part of the line that the Canadians fought for so strenuously arid won which is still in the hands of the Allies, is that which is being held by the Canadians themselves. (Applause.) They are called “The storm troops of the British Empire” by the Kaiser, and his own “storm troops” are the biggest men of his various divisions; and when he speaks of the Canadians as being the “storm troops,” it means that in his estimation, they are the best troops of the British Empire. I think the Kaiser has come more nearly to the truth there than he has ever done in anything else.”

Very well, Mr. Kaiser. Take that!

Peaceful Canadians, pffff. Show us a Kaiser that needs some butt whooping and let us at him.

(I was going to post a picture of Star Wars Storm Troopers, but decided that a picture of Princess Leah would be more appropriate.)

June 25, 2008 at 11:20 pm 17 comments

Canadian Illustrated: Alpha Flight

This past weekend I went through some items I had put in storage in Toronto while I lived in the States. Included in the stash were my old comics. Yay. It is by no means an impressive collection, but it contains many great memories from childhood.

There were three main titles that I collected, all of them distributed by Marvel Comics. First was Iron Man, which makes it strange that I have yet to see the movie which is based on the comic. I’d like to see the movie, but Iron Man just isn’t a priority any more. He’ll have to make do without my support. I’m sure he’ll manage.

Second was Power Man and Iron Fist. This comic gave you two heroes for your money, which made it extra economical. This comic teamed a street-savvy, super-strong black hero with impenetrable skin, and a mystically trained martial arts expert who could channel super-amazing power into his fist and knock people silly. Power Man was one of the first – if not the first – black superhero to receive his own title. Iron Fist joined him later and they became a duo. I loved Iron Fist’s uniform – green and yellow.

The third was a super hero team consisting of Canadian heroes called Alpha Flight. Alpha Flight began their run late in my comic collecting life, and so I only have the first ten issues, plus, for reasons unknown, the 27th issue. Alpha Flight consisted of a diverse array of characters from across Canada who represented the major regions of the country: almost as if someone had planned it that way so that no area was left out and everyone felt included: a very Canadian ideal.

Here’s a list of the team as they appeared in the first edition:

(Back: Sasquatch. Middle from Left to Right: North Star, Snowbird, Shaman, Guardian, Aurora. Front: Puck, Marrina. Picture found on ComicsVF.com)

Guardian: The leader of the team. He wore a red and white suit. He himself didn’t have any superpowers but the suit gave him the ability to fly and shoot cool beams of death at enemies. He was also pretty smart. Eventually he died, and was replaced by his super-skinny wife. Super skinny? I believe that being that skinny must be a super power.

Snowbird: Part god, part human and all babe. The offspring of an Inuit god and a man, Considering that her mother was an Inuit god, Snowbird’s human guise was very blonde and caucasian looking. No matter, she was pretty cool, and one of my favourite characters.

Puck: The diminutive Puck didn’t let his size stop him from kicking ass. Fast and strong, Puck was also smart. Lots of good stuff was packed into this small package.

Sasquatch: What Canadian superhero team would be complete without a Sasquatch? Not Alpha Flight. Sasquatch was a man who could change into a giant, furry, killing machine, when needed. He was kind of like the Hulk, except he could control the beast within, at least at the beginning, and maintained his human consciousness while in beast form.

Aurora and Northstar: These two superheroes were twins that had been separated at birth–mutant twins. They were able to fly at great speed and were able to blind opponents with a burst of intense light when the joined hands. Aurora was a woman, while Northstar used his powers to become a skiing champion and eventually it was discovered that he was gay.

Marina: Born from an alien egg imprinted with human DNA, Marina was an aquatic creature who could fly through the air on a spout of water, if necessary.

Shaman: Doctor by day, shaman by…well, whenever he needed to be Shaman. A native-mystic, Shaman used arcane forces to subdue the enemies of Canada.

Interesting group. Having read a couple of the comics since re-finding my collection, I realize, though, that the group was missing some very important characters. Below I list superheroes who should have been a part of the Alpha Flight team if comic book writers had any sense.

The Moose: The Moose not only looks like a moose, but he is, actually, a moose. The Moose has no special abilities other than the fact that he is a moose, and moose are very large, aggressive animals. The rest of the team don’t really like working with The Moose because, being an animal, The Moose has difficulty distinguishing between friend and enemy. The Moose will often attack anything around him that moves, making life difficult on fellow Alpha Flight members. Unfortunately he is not potty trained.

Silver Blade: The Silver Blade wears hockey equipment and a special pair of skates. The skates are equipped with time-distorting, gravity-ignoring abilities (it’s not sure whether it is through technology or magic that the skates work), and allow The Silver Blade the ability to skate over any surface, including maple syrup. The Silver Blade’s goal as a superhero is to capture fifty criminals in a single season.

The Minister: The Minister is an atypical superhero, as she eschews the typical, sexy female hero suit and chooses to wear business attire and a sensible pair of pumps. The Minister spends most of her time skulking around hallways and culling favour from Canadian citizens, without actually putting much effort into making the nation ‘safe’ or ‘secure’ from evil. She talks a good game, though, and everyone believes that The Minister is at the forefront of the fight against super criminals, even though she hasn’t been personally responsible for the capture of a single one.

Captain Beer Store: Captain Beer Store hails from Ontario. He started out as a Beer Store worker, but through a freak accident when a bolt of lightning charged with radioactive particles from the planet Nucleokill hit a case of Lakeport Ale that Captain Beer Store was carrying which caused his genetic material to mutate into the superhero that he is today. Captain Beer Store sports a gigantic beer-belly, which he uses to subdue evil doers by belly-bumping them into submission. Captain Beer Store also has the ability to out drink anyone, and will often challenge his enemies to a beer drinking competition: he has yet to lose.

Miss Toronto: Miss Toronto wears whatever the latest fashion is, while using her natural “talents” to good effect. What are her natural talents? Haughty self-loathing covered up by an air of aggressive superiority. Miss Toronto hates everyone, but also wants to be seen as a good person, therefor she only engages criminals in battle when there are members of the press or a large number of citizens with camera phones around.

What other superheroes do you think should be a member of Alpha Flight?

June 24, 2008 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

Canadian Hero: The Bluenose has a Poop Deck

In the early part of the 1900’s Canada needed a hero.  We needed something amazing, fantastic, something the world would remember forever, or at least until something better came along.   Our wish was about to come true:  Enter the Bluenose.

bluenosestamp

(The Bluenose has been immortalized on this Canadian stamp, as well as on the Canadian dime.)

After an embarrassing defeat to the dastardly Americans in the 1920 International Fisherman’s Race a group of Nova Scotians screamed, “No more! Never again shall we lose to those dastardly Americans. Now bring us some whiskey.”

They drank that whiskey. Oh, yes, they drank it all. Then they put on blond wigs and dressed up as leprechauns.

(Why do Nova Scotians put on blond wigs and dress like leprechauns when they get drunk? Because they are Nova Scotians.)

After sobering-up they decided to build a new ship that would rival anything the world had to offer in terms of speed and coolness. The new ship would not only be fast, it would also be buoyant. This was a very good idea for a sailing vessel. Seriously, do you know how many ships end up not floating? It’s embarrassing.

(The Bluenose was able to float, unlike this Canadian cruise ship.)

They named this ship, a fishing schooner, the Bluenose, after a nickname for Nova Scotians. During the next 17 years no other ship was able to beat her in a race. Americans were so pissed-off they hired the grandson of John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the Bluenose. Luckily Booth Jr. went out drinking with a bunch of Nova Scotians dressed up as leprechauns the night before he made an attempt on the Bluenoses’ life, so the bullet missed.

The Bluenose wasn’t just used for races, it was also a working ship. She caught various sea creatures, such as scallops, fish, and mermaids.

(When the fishermen of the Bluenose caught mermaids, they didn’t throw them back. Photo from The Mertailor.)

As with all Canadian heroes the Bluenoses’ ending is rather anti-climatic. In 1938 she was sold out of country and became a tramp schooner in the Caribbean. In 1946 she wrecked off the coast of Haiti.

The Bluenose has left an amazing legacy behind her. In 1963 a replica, the Bluenose II was built. She is still sailing, and is currently a ward of Nova Scotia and serves as a goodwill ambassador. An image of the Bluenose is found on the Canadian dime, and some say that this enables the dime to float. The Bluenose and her captain, Angus J. Walters, are both in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Millions of people around the world still admire her and fondly remember her.

June 17, 2008 at 11:02 am 7 comments

I Love The World

Apart from the New Model Army song of the same name, I do love the world.

I love the coincidences and synchronicities that the world brings us, too.

I was browsing the archives over at Journey Into Original Wisdom, when I found this simple, to the point, but poignant post:

“If the very reference points used to describe reality are wrong, then every argument about reality after that is wrong.

Without looking at the foundations, you can’t see that it is cracked.”

I think this sums up what I was trying to say in Canadian Economy: When Is Enough, Enough.

Brevity? What’s that?

June 16, 2008 at 6:19 pm 2 comments

Canadian Economy: When Is Enough, Enough?

What is the best route for the future of our society; the intensification of urban centres by increasing  population density, or further development on land currently zoned for other uses, such as agricultural land?

A recent article in the Toronto Star discussed this situation as it is happening in Caledon Township near Bolton, Ontario. Caledon is a community north-west of Toronto with a population of around 60, 000 people. The debate is over whether or not a large chunk of land, 740 hectares, should be used for development or if it should remain as agricultural land.

On one side of the debate is the real estate speculator, Benny Marotta, who has purchased the land and wants to develop it into a community that will add, according to Marotta, 21,000 people and 11,000 jobs to the area. Marotta is supported by the local Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. On the other side are the town’s Mayor, Marolyn Morrison, as well as other citizens of the community who oppose the development. They support intensification of existing infrastructure without the further rezoning of non-urban land.

In the article the reporter writes the following:

The Bolton freeze outraged business owners like Greg Pannia, chair of the recently formed Coalition of Concerned Residents & Businesses of Bolton. His group has joined the chamber of commerce to launch a concerted campaign that has flooded council chambers with the message that stifling Bolton’s expansion will mean fewer new residents and businesses and lead to the town’s slow death.

First, let me state that I have only a basic understanding of economics. I would really like to know some things about the economy, especially with regards to human nature and purpose.

Such as, mentioned in the quote above, how does a status quo lead to a slow death? I’ve heard this argument before, that there needs to be continued influx of population in order for the economy to grow. I understand this: increased population means increased consumer-base, which means a potentially stronger economy. But, just because a population doesn’t grow, does this necessarily mean that the economy will face a ‘slow death’? Can’t economies remain healthy with a stable population?

I also have questions about what economic progress means. Where are we progressing to, exactly? Bigger and more profitable markets? For what purpose? Is there a maximum amount of progress we are shooting for, or does it just keep going indefinitely? When we reach a certain point of economic success do we win a prize, another moon for the Earth, perhaps? What is the goal?

Population growth is finite. The world will only be able to accommodate a certain maximum population: I don’t think anyone can argue this point. We can accentuate the maximum sustainable population with technology but there will always be a maximum possible population that the planet can support. Does this mean that there is a finite amount of growth that we can experience with regards to the economy. When we get there do we celebrate or commiserate?

Basically, what is the purpose of the economy? Economics seems to me to be like the Ouroborus, the snake that is eating its own tail. Economics exists to generate new and improved levels of economy.

Why are we so afraid of economic status quo? I understand that economics, as it is, drives research and discoveries, but can’t these things be accomplished without having to rely on corporations and economic concerns? Believing that economics is the only impetus behind intellectual advancement is naive.

If anyone can help me understand these issues, I’d appreciate it very much. The way society is structured today seems…well…useless and purposeless. I’m not talking about a god or religious purpose as a substitute either, at least not in the way that most organized religions approach things. Organized religions are so entwined with the economy that they have lost site of their true purpose. But there has to be a reason beyond economic manipulation that we exist. The world has to have more importance than to be a tool for corporate exploitation. What is it?

When will developers have enough land? Don’t you think that the traditional development philosophy of expansion and sprawl is a little archaic in today’s world, with today’s engineering technology?

June 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm 8 comments

Canadian Nationalism: United North America, Part 2

I recently made a post asking readers to share their opinion on Canada, within the framework of ‘Being Canadian mean not being American’. So far the responses have been excellent, and I want to thank everyone for the time and effort in making their comments. I recommend checking out the comments, and feel free to leave your own, I’d love to read what you have to say on the topic.

Without meaning to minimize the contributions, I think I can sum-up the entries by saying that the general consensus is that Canadians do define themselves to a large extent as not being American. As fellow Canadian, Paulmct from Bloggin’ Off, points out, much of this attitude stems from the Loyalists moving to the future Canadian territories after the American revolution, to avoid further persecution. This is a fair point, and I’ve written a little about it one of my early posts at Canadian Fermentation called United North America: Part 1.

Somehow, I had forgotten to write a Part 2. Typical.

In Part 1 I talk about the organization, United North America (see link in side bar). Basically this is a fringe organization which seeks to ‘repatriate’ Canada into the American fold. Now, personally, I’m all for dismantling borders while creating a greater sense of community between all peoples of the world, but I can’t support the idea that Canada should return to America, as if Canada is a sub-species of that country.

Daranee from The Implied Observer, a Seattlite, made this comment, “You are right that to a certain extent Canada is defined by what makes it different than America – at least to Americans, because that is what we will notice. I think of Canada as a quirky alternate universe to America”

Americans do see Canada as (thank you Homer Simpson) ‘America Junior’. Personally I don’t take offense to this, our cultures are very similar. Yet, at the same time, this also minimizes Canada’s contribution to the North American culture as it exists. I believe that for a country with a relatively low population that Canada has, we have contributed a great deal to North American culture.

I recently purchased the book, Why I Hate Canadians, by Will Ferguson. Ferguson is the same authour who wrote Canadian History for Dummies. The book is a collection of essays Ferguson wrote when he returned to Canada fafter living in Japan for five years. Although Ferguson has no problems explaining what he doesn’t like about Canada and Canadians, the title is mostly ironic, and Ferguson is a patriot of his country, and, I think, proudly so.

The chapter titled Loyalists and Other Losers discusses the American Revolution and how the aftermath of that war affected Canada. He takes a very scathing look at the Patriots, and makes some interesting points that the Loyalists were just as Loyal to the idea of freedom as the Patriots were, but they didn’t agree with the Patriot concept of freedom.

The Loyalists were the minority, and included minority groups, as well as farmers and craftsmen–basically normal people and not the aristocrats who are commonly associated with Loyalists– who didn’t see a good reason to violently rise up against one oppressor and replace it with another. When the war was over repercussions were severe. The Loyalists had no choice but to look for somewhere else to live. Many of them moved north to the territories that would eventually become Canada.

Canada is the land of second chances. We are people who have avoided conflict as much as possible and although we may be slow to change, we are in constant, resolute movement towards change. Canadians just like to do things in their own time and prefer not to make a big fuss about it. We search for consensus and try to please everyone – which Americans would say is a silly way to run a country, but it has worked, and it has worked well enough for long enough.

What Ferguson’s essay made clear to me is that the folks at United North American are wrong. They promote the theory that Canadians are Americans separated by a border because most of early Canadian settlement was by Loyalists from American territories. I found it hard to argue with this logic.

Now, though, I would argue that Canadians are actually the true inheritors of European settlement while Americans are the mutated offspring of violent revolution. Canada has developed naturally whereas American evolution was forced. Revolutionists are the insolent offspring from the true North Americans, and not the other way around.

For a long time I’ve been sitting on the fence, mulling over their proposition and have come to the conclusion that it is misguided and wrong. If anything, America should come back into the Canadian fold. Canada is the true inheritor of the North American, European legacy. As Ferguson states, “Americans are just Canadians in a hurry”.

Ferguson reasonably sums up major differences between American and Canadian philosophies, “As the heirs of the Loyalists, we are a society not founded on ideology, noble or otherwise, but on principles of fair play and on the notion that whatever the issue and whatever the problem, taking up arms should be the last resort, not the first. These two world views–one ideological and the other pragmatic, one American and the other Canadian–exist today as opposing sides of a border that is as subtle and profound as these distinctions.”

I think this is a fair place to begin as well as end.

June 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm 8 comments

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