Monday, August 31, 2009

The Country Preacher

One Sunday morning a perplexed southern preacher addressed his congregation.

"Someone in this congregation has been spreading a rumor that I belong to the Ku Klux Klan. This is a lie and one which a Christian community cannot tolerate. I'm embarrassed and do not intend to accept this. Now, I would like the person or persons who did this to stand and ask forgiveness from God and this Christian Family."

No one moved. The preacher continued.

"Can you stand and face me and admit this is a falsehood? You will be forgiven and in your heart you will feel glory. Now please stand and confess your transgression."

Again all was quiet.

Then slowly, a beautiful blonde rose from the third pew. Her head was bowed and her voice trembled as she spoke.

"Reverend there has been a terrible misunderstanding. I never said you were a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I simply told a couple of my friends that you were a wizard under the sheets."

"For Now"

Two Girls Fishing
John Singer Sargent

My friend Lucy and I grew up together in a small town on Vancouver Island. We lived on the banks of a river, and spent a lot of time swimming, fishing, paddling in boats and just having fun. Lucy had the world's best laugh, and she laughed often. I met her when she first came to Canada and didn't speak a word of English. Laughter is a great way to communicate, though, and we became fast friends. Most of my memories of high school involve Lucy and our little group of friends. When Lucy fell in love and got married, I was her maid of honor. She had two beautiful children, but sadly her marriage did not last.

Twelve years ago Lucy fell in love again, with a man who enthusiastically pursued her. She was head over heels -- smitten. He bought her wonderful gifts, jewelry, sent her flowers, promised her the world. Ten years ago they married, and again I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. They began a wonderful life together, and built a gorgeous home on the ocean front. It was spectacular, with large wooden beams and spacious rooms. They travelled the globe -- Asia, Africa, New Zealand, New York, Paris. *sigh* They owned their own airplane, they had a lovely get-away cabin on a private island, and the world was their oyster. Lucy was one of those people who was definitely inside the candy store. Her daughter was not crazy about this fellow because he's a big game hunter, and her daughter is the director of an ecological society. He had a large polar bear hide covering the floor of one of their guest rooms and Lucy's daughter was horrified about that. There was some butting of heads -- but over time they grudgingly accepted each other.

Last night I received a call no friend likes to receive -- Lucy and her husband are divorcing.

"What happened...!?"

"It just didn't work out."

I am sad for her, she had such hopes at the beginning of their relationship. Lucy says she has no regrets, and she had a good twelve years. Sometimes we never know what life has in store. We should enjoy the moment because it is really all we have. There are no guarantees, no matter how much we wish for them, and sometimes that's okay.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Warning ... Don't Try This At Home

Eyes are the windows of the soul. Our eyes frame us, and more importantly, our eyebrows frame our windows, and add expression to our faces. We can change a whole mood or feeling, or convey an idea or thought, just by flexing the muscles around our eyes, or around our eyebrows. In the quest for the eternal fountain of youth, people are carving up their eyes and disfiguring the windows to their souls. More than any other cosmetic surgery, "overdone" eyes rob a person of who they are. Would you believe these eyes belong to the same person? In both pictures they are attractive eyes, but the eyes on the right could only belong in the 21st Century. They are unnatural. The inside of the eyebrow that slopes towards the nose has been lifted too high, and the eye has been robbed of its expression, giving the wearer a perpetual look of surprise. They don't look particularly younger or older, just artificial -- generic. They look like eyes that a plastic surgeon has "fixed" to look like all the other eyes he has churned out of his office on a daily basis. I wonder what the owner of the eyes would look like, if she had allowed her eyes to age naturally. Instead of showing the workmanship of the plastic surgeon, would they show all the years of living she had done instead? And if so, is that really so bad?

Brigitte Bardot was once the most beautiful woman in the world, and I admire the fact that she allowed herself to grow old naturally. She didn't carve up her face in the quest for beauty and youth. She is 75 years old now, and to me she still looks as beautiful as she ever did. Every wrinkle, every laugh line, tells a story about her life -- and what a story. She has the confidence to say, "I was once the most beautiful woman in the world, and that was enough for me." She knows that no plastic surgeon is ever going to restore her youth, or even a facsimile of her beauty. To me, Brigitte Bardot is far more beautiful than Cher, who has become unrecognizable, or any of the hundreds of other celebrities who have lifted their eyebrows up to the stratosphere, or plumped their lips up to proportions not known in nature, or inflated their cheeks with fillers until they can no longer smile.

How sad that women are embarrassed about looking their age. Having lived a full, rich life has become a mark of shame, something to be erased. How will they ever know that perhaps they would have been even more beautiful if they hadn't had plastic surgery. The important thing is to look younger -- at all costs -- even if it is almost deforming.

We've come a long way, baby, but we still have a long way to go...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

English As She Is Spoke...

The Letter Writer Surprised
Gabriel Metsu

Languages change all the time, they morph into something different as new words become part of the lexicon, and old words are no longer used. Anyone reading Shakespeare requires a translation sheet to understand many of the things he is saying. Shakespeare wrote in English, but it's really a foreign language to the English used today. The world's greatest writer needs a translator for readers in the 21st Century. The same thing applies to the King James version of the Bible. It was published in 1611, in a language that became obscure in later centuries.

However, the composition of English has not changed all that much, and I always laugh when I read bad English. Oh, I know I shouldn't. I'm not a writer, so I am probably as guilty as anyone. But there are a few obvious things that can change the context completely. The other day I was reading our little local newspaper, and it reported how a man who had been guilty of a string of bank robberies had "...turned himself into the police." What a neat trick. Once he had turned himself into the police, did he arrest himself?

One grammatical mistake that everyone seems to make, and is like fingernails on a blackboard to my ears, is the misuse of "I" and "me". Hardly anyone ever gets it right. What were they doing during grade six grammar lessons, day-dreaming and gazing out the window?

Correct: "Charley and I took the book from the librarian."

Incorrect: "The Librarian gave the book to Charley and I."


Correct: "The librarian gave the book to Charley and me".

Another of my favorites, that grates on me so much, I can hardly type it -- "Would have went..." Have you noticed how many people use that now? I have heard TV newscasters use that expression.

Correct: "I went."

Incorrect: "I should have went."


Correct: "I should have gone."

My grandfather always used to say that people can fit into any society if their shoes are shined, their buttons are polished, and they speak well. No one polishes their buttons anymore, but everyone with a basic elementary school education should know the rules of grammar. Poor grammar will give you away faster than anything. Even in the age of instant texting, where a complete sentence would be something like, "How R U?" folks should still know how to speak properly.

Ain't that right...!?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Waiting For Winter

The novelist John O'Hara once wrote a collection of short stories called "Waiting for Winter". The title of the book was in reference to the fact that, during the summer months, he could only write short stories, and in the winter he wrote his serious books. I think that is sort of like my blogging. We haven't had any rain this summer -- darn -- and I am enjoying the gorgeous weather. This is a picure of where I live, taken yesterday. Well, no, I don't live under a bridge -- but this is where I live, and we have had such a spectacular summer, I have had a lot of things going on in my life, and I have been away from my computer for much of the time. So I haven't had an opportunity to visit all my wonderful blogging friends. You're probably wondering where have I gone... I'll be back.

This morning CTV news reported that thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker from the Netherlands wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, and her parents think that’s a great idea. But, the Dutch Council for Child Protection has stepped in and put a stop to it. Finally, someone with some sense. A thirteen-year old child does not have the emotional capacity to be alone on the world's oceans in a small boat, for two years. What are this child's parents thinking? Has the world gone mad? Children should be allowed to be children for as long as they can. They have plenty of time when they're older to do foolish stupid adventurous things. I once took sailing lessons, and to pass the exam, I had to sail a 27-foot boat solo across the bathtub bay in that picture at the top of the post. It was one of the most difficult, nerve-wracking things I ever did. Children don't belong strapped to the wings of an airplane, piloting an airplane, or sailing a small boat across a stormy ocean. It's perilous enough navigating the treacherous waters of junior high school. Kudos to the Dutch government for putting a stop to the nonsense.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again...

For some reason, at this time of year -- late summer -- I go through a stage of introspection and retrospection. I think it's because September feels like the beginning of a new year, and I assess my accomplishments -- and failures -- over the past. I was digging through some old photos the other day, and I found this picture of myself when I was about eight or nine years old. Oh, goodness, what a little pudding face. I remember at that age what my hopes and dreams for my life were. I was quite adamant about what I wanted, and number one on the list was a university education. Even at that age, I knew education was the key to all the good things in life. When I was in grade nine, I was in the academic class (9A) and we had an extra study block. The teacher asked us to vote on whether we wanted to keep the study block or take a typing class for five extra credits. I was the only one who voted against the typing class. I had a fear and dread of learning to type. When I look back at that now, I realize how foolish it was. But to me, typing was for "those other kids who weren't so smart..." What a silly idea.

My life has been interesting, to say the least. It has been nothing like I imagined it would be, when I was a little girl playing hopscotch and riding my bike. I have met some interesting people and been involved in some interesting situations. But I have had to struggle, too, and I learned that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was. Who knew!

Sometimes we look back at our childhoods, and our home towns with a sort of wistful longing. "Oh, gosh, if only I could wave a magic wand and go back and start again -- only knowing what I know now." But that is not possible. We can only hope to impart some of our knowledge on the younger folks in our lives. My mantra is, "Get an education...!" If my family has heard that once, they've heard it a thousand times. But my mother always used to say, "You can't put an old head on young shoulders," so people have to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. Two of the novels written by Thomas Wolfe -- "Look Homeward Angel" and "You Can't Go Home Again" have this theme running through them. I read both of the books when I was younger, and did not quite understand what he was saying.

Wolfe should have written a booked entitled "It's Never Too Late". Instead of regretting that I did not get a university education, I should just enroll in school and get one. It's not too late. Not getting an education is my only regret, and now with the beginning of another school year, that little voice inside me is saying, "It's not too late -- do it!" How about you. If you could change just one thing, what would it be?-

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teddy ... The End Of An Age

I have always liked the Kennedys. If they didn’t exist, someone would have had to invent them. They were larger than life in all aspects, and they demanded the best from everyone, including themselves. The balance sheet of their lives had equal entries on both the public service columns and the scandal columns. But, that’s what made them interesting. They truly were America’s royalty. After the deaths of JFK and RFK, Ted Kennedy became the last hope politically for that generation of the Kennedys, but he screwed it up – royally – with the Chappaquiddick incident in July 1969. How devastating that must have been for the Kennedy dynasty. But Ted Kennedy did go on to redeem himself, and became the "Lion of the Senate". It suited him, somehow. At the end of the day, he ended up contributing more towards the political community than anyone else in the family. His star didn’t shine as brightly as his dazzling two older brothers, but it burned slowly and steadily. He was once famously quoted as saying "I think about my brothers every day. They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don't."

I think the most interesting thing Ted Kennedy did during his career was writing the children’s book, “My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington”. It’s a children’s book, and it is meant to explain the process of government and how a bill becomes law -- from the point of view of Kennedy’s dog Splash. It’s also a brief biography of Kennedy and Splash. What an original idea.

He was greatly loved by his friends and family, and I know they will miss him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Does anyone remember this TV program from about a million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth? I loved this show, but my favorite thing about it was the theme song. I thought it was cool and jazzy, and even listening to it now, it doesn’t sound dated. Well, I don’t think it does, anyway... Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd had great chemistry, the show made Bruce Willis a major star, and the title song fit the premise of the show perfectly. Tomorrow night the singer of the theme song to “Moonlighting” – Al Jarreau – will be at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, and my friend Lesley (one) and I are going to see him.

The year "Moonlighting" first aired – 1985 --was full of major events. President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office; Mikhail Gorbachev became President of the Soviet Union; “Amadeus” won best picture at the Oscars; the Discovery Channel was launched; the first Live Aid concerts were held in Philadelphia and London; Robert Ballard located the wreck of R.M.S. Titanic; Microsoft Corporation released the first version of Windows, Windows 1.0; the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable were released for sale to the public; the Tommy Hilfiger brand was established; DNA was first used in a criminal case.

It was a busy year for pop culture as well, and the Queen of Pop Culture -- Princess Diana -- was at the height of her reign. 1985 was the first sighting of "the Full Nanaimo" also known as "the Full Cleveland" for men -- polyester, of course -- and big hair and linebacker shoulder pads for women. The comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" debuted in 35 newspapers; and "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" directed by Tim Burton was released (one of my favorite movies -- I love the scene where Pee-wee dances on the bar to "Tequila"). Somehow, the theme from “Moonlighting” was the perfect soundtrack for all the events that happened in 1985. I think I'll dig out my big hair and shoulder pads.

We’ll walk by night
We’ll fly by day
Moonlighting strangers
Who just met on the way
Who just met on the way
Who just met on the way

Monday, August 24, 2009

Scots Wha Hae...

Bagpipes are definitely an acquired taste, and people either love them ... or not. My father was a red-headed Scot, so I think the love of bagpipes is in my blood. I go to parades just to hear the pipe bands, and I can usually hear them two blocks away. A parade just isn't a parade without several pipe bands. We are fortunate to have the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band here in Vancouver, and on August 15th they won the Pipe Band World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, for the sixth time. Can you imagine -- winning this event in Scotland, the home of the bagpipes, in front of 40,000 people. The World Pipe Band Championships is a pipe band competition currently held in Glasgow, Scotland every August. The event has been operating regularly since 1930, when the Scottish Pipe Band Association (today known as the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association) was formed. For competitive bands, the title of World Champion is highly coveted, and this event is seen as the culmination of a year's worth of preparation, rehearsal and practice. ... Wikipedia

SFU Pipe Band is one of only three bands located outside of the United Kingdom that have won a World Pipe Band Championship. In addition, the band has placed second seven times -- finishing in the top two in the world in 12 of its 25 years. They have played for Queen Elizabeth, and they have opened for Rod Stewart.

The band wears the Fraser tartan, and when my daughter graduated, she wore a dress of the Fraser tartan under her robes. She didn't realize until the convocation ceremony that it was the same tartan, and it looked absolutely amazing. The convocation ceremony is very impressive with the wonderful bagpipes, in the beautiful setting at SFU. In this picture you can see the lone piper, piping the graduates as they get their degree. Simon Fraser University was designed by the famous architect Arthur Erickson, and it has been the scene of many sci-fi movies, including the TV series "The X-Files" and "Battlestar Galactica". So SFU is a mixture of ultra-modern and traditional, and the Simon Fraser Pipe Band is an integral part of the university. Here they are doing a medley at their winning performance in Glasgow, Scotland. Congratulations to them. Well done!

More Nonsense About Canadian Health Care

As I was cruising through some of the blogs yesterday, I was shocked to read a few of the "fear mongering" anti-health care reform blogs, that were once again referring to Canada. One of the things they said was that, "In Canada, people in the 20 to 45 age bracket pay the highest taxes, so therefore they receive the best medical care." I laughed so hard, I spritzed my coffee all over my computer monitor. Not a pretty sight...

Another person wrote, "Drugs are expensive in the United States because of all the research and development Americans put into them, so the rest of the world can take advantage of this and create generic knock offs." The fact is, of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world, only four are in the United States, and six are in other countries. Of the top 49 pharmaceutical companies in the world, only 19 of them are in the United States. Ten are in Japan, and the rest are in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Israel, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Pfizer -- U.S.
Johnson & Johnson -- U.S.
GlaxoSmithKline -- United Kingdom
Bayer -- Germany
Hoffmann–La Roche -- Switzerland
Sanofi-Aventis -- France
Novartis -- Switzerland
AstraZeneca -- United Kingdom/Sweden
Abbott Laboratories -- U.S.
Merck -- U.S.

Many of the drugs we use for hypertension, digestive problems, dermatology problems -- and more -- were invented in Germany. Aspirin, probably the most common drug in the world, was invented by a German chemist named Felix Hoffman. Drugs are expensive because the companies that make drugs spend billions of dollars on advertising in order to make a profit. In Canada, we see a lot of American advertisements for drugs on television. Canada does not advertise drugs on TV, and that's one of the reasons they are so inexpensive here. Drugs cost pennies to manufacture. In many countries in the world, drugs for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are given to the patients free. Free. TB and HIV/AIDS are two of the world's scourges, and must be wiped out.

Another person said, "People in Canada cannot choose which doctor they prefer, they cannot get a second opinion, and they cannot participate in their own care." In other words, we have no choices. That's so ridiculous, it's not worth speaking to. And, I'm not even going to mention what I read about "death panels". It's just more nonsense.

I certainly hope our wonderful American friends are not making important decisions, based on the crap misinformation that is being spread, particularly about Health Care in Canada and other countries.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Contest

I decided to do something a little different today, so I am conducting a contest. Well, it's a test of your knowledge, really. Here are some photographs that, if you can identify them, you will receive a completely useless very valuable souvenir of Vancouver. Many of you may have seen these before, since they were making the rounds of the internet via a PowerPoint presentation. Well, you guys are all so smart, I know it will take about -- oh -- ten minutes before someone gets it right. But it's fun to share them with folks who perhaps have not seen then before. If you're not familiar with them, you will surely be surprised when you find out what they are. I first saw them when Phinnaeus told me about them. He's very interested in architecture and urban planning. Needless to say, when I found out what they are -- and where they are located -- I was gobsmacked. So, here you are. You can click on them to enlarge them. Enjoy!

Well, that didn't take long. Jennifer at The New Victorians guessed correctly. These are pictures of the magnificent subway stations in the City of Moscow. I think often we have preconceived ideas about other countries, other cities, other places, and -- just as often -- our ideas are wrong. Many of us have imagined Russia, or at least the Soviet Union as it was called, to be utilitarian rather than aesthetically beautiful. Who knew!

And now I am off to tour our newly-opened
Canada Line on our rapid transit system. I'll take some pictures and videos to show you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

MMXII -- The Last Judgment?

When I was a little girl, I lived next door to a family who belonged to a particular religious sect who were always predicting the imminent end of the world. I lived in terror for years, and then finally I got angry. I'm not very patient with ignorance, and to me that prediction was the height of ignorance. And now -- once again -- the "buzz" is about the Mayan calender predicting 2012 as the end of the world. That may be true, but not in the sense that most people think.

"The Maya messengers, reknowned for their architectural, artistic, mathematical and scientific achievements, left a calling card as a series of super-human sized stone monuments and pyramids with precise calendrical computations. Planted with great intention, these dates were left to ensure that future generations would be alerted to the coming end point of this great 26,000 year cycle. A cycle which corresponds also to a 26,000 year relationship of our Sun orbiting Alcyone, the central star of the 7 Sisters Pleiades constellation. According to the Maya, the "future" which lies beyond this end date is literally "a new world age" - "a new creation." ... Pacal Votan, Mayan Prophet

I believe 2012 will actually be the beginning of a long-awaited new age, an age of intelligence, knowledge, enlightenment, awareness, and the end of ignorance. It is long overdue. In his famous speech in 1942, during the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said:

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

The population of the world is predicted to reach 7 billion people in October 2012. Our Earth cannot sustain this many people, if we do not learn to take care of our planet and each other. Our planet will shuck us off like an unwanted virus, and the Earth will begin to heal again.

The other day on our local TV newscast, a nutritionist was giving examples of which fish to eat that was the lowest in mercury, and which to eat only once a week because the mercury content was too high. Tuna is very high in mercury, and it is recommended we eat it only once a week. How sick is that. What have we done? But more importantly, what can we do to stop this runaway train before we are all destroyed by it? The environmental movement began in earnest during the 1970s. That was the beginning of awareness. We now have knowledge of the damage we have been doing to our planet Earth, and we have knowledge of what we can do to save it from any more damage. I'm pleased that the generation of Phinnaeus and Marigold is aware, and they live by a different environmental doctrine than my parents' generation.

"Oma...! Don't throw bottle that in the garbage...! Aren't you going to recycle that...?"

I need a gentle reminder every once in a while.

I don't think anyone should be afraid of the year 2012. I think it will be the end of the beginning.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tiger Brewer

By now most of you have probably heard of this little fellow. His name is Tiger Brewer, he's eight years old, and he's a wing-walker. He has broken a record for being the youngest wing-walker in the world. When Phinnaeus and Marigold were eight years old, they were just graduating to the adult rides at Playland. I may be wrong, but I don't think an eight-year old child belongs strapped to the wings of an airplane. The little fellow was very frightened, and he kept repeating "Fear go away, Fear go away..." Well, okay. I guess everyone will think this is amazing, and sure, I guess it's okay. We live in an age when we don't send our children outdoors without helmets and knee pads, which may be a bit over the top sometimes. But I believe there is something inherently wrong with allowing an eight-year old child to do this. An eight-year old child cannot make this decision, and children rely on the big people to use good judgment about these things. As it turned out, nothing bad happened, but what if...

Does this little face belong strapped to the top of an airplane, hundreds of feet in the air, going 120 miles an hour? Maybe I'm wrong, but there is something about this stunt that doesn't feel right to me. It feels as if this child's parents and his grandfather are trying to draw attention to themselves, and using the little boy to do it. His father has legally changed his name to Happy Birthday, so I guess they are not a conventional family. On the other hand, I am probably completely wrong -- which would not be the first time, believe me. I just hope nothing happens to him, but what a story he has to tell his friends at school.

"What I did on my summer vacation..."

And I can just hear their mothers, when the children ask if they can wing-walk like their friend Tiger.

"If your friend wanted to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?"

Does anyone remember seven year-old Jessica Dubroff? She was a little girl who was attempting to become the youngest person to fly an airplane across the United States. It ended tragically over Cheyenne, Wyoming. I would be interested to know how many parents would feel comfortable allowing their child to do this. I can't help feeling, somehow, that these children are being exploited. Shouldn't someone be protecting them? Oh, well...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poetry In Motion

Every once in a while an opportunity presents itself and we just can’t pass it up. Such an opportunity presented itself to me this morning. I am always polite and courteous to people, and I get along well with the people at work, and the people in my strata community. The incident with the head of the Strata Council sort of threw me for a loop. Yesterday I received an e-mail from the Property Manager apologizing for the misinformation from the head of the Strata Council, and signed “kindest personal regards”. She said she was not going to deposit my cheque for $50.00, since the situation had been handled so poorly, she had been misinformed by the head of the Strata Council, and I had acted I good faith. Wow! That made me feel good.

This morning my opportunity presented itself. The head of the Strata Council and I were in the elevator together.

Me: “Good morning.”

She: (slitty-eyed) “Good morning.”

Me: “Are you driving to work today?”

She: “Yes, why?”

Me: “Well, I thought since you are now the High Priestess of the Strata Coven, you would be flying on your broom today.”

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I was shocked. It was as if they had a life of their own. Was that really me? Did I say that? Well, apparently I did. And you know what? It felt good. It reminded me of a scene in “You’ve Got Mail”.

Kathleen Kelly: "I just had a breakthrough."

Joe Fox: "What is it?"

Kathleen Kelly: "I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it."

Joe Fox: "I think you have the gift for it. It was a perfect blend of poetry and meanness."

The elevator stopped on the ground floor, I got out and left her there, slack-jawed.

I'm glad I did it. I have zero respect for people like her. Well, I guess I know whom not to ask if and when I need my plants watered.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aw... Ya Gotta Laugh...

You know, here in Canada, we love Americans. We really do. Americans are sort of like our "cool" cousins. They're glamorous and wonderfully dazzling. They live in this big, huge country next door, and they have larger-than-life people who live there, such as -- oh, Donald Trump, Steven Spielberg, Bill Clinton, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears, any of the Kennedys -- these people could only be American. There's no mistaking any one of them for Canadian. And they have all these amazing things such as the Grand Canyon, the Empire State Building ... California. We don't have anything like that in Canada.

Here in Canada, we're happy with being Canadian, for all the reasons I have listed in my previous posts. We're a great little, unassuming country. We're clean, we're polite, we're quietly intelligent. And we're always thrilled when our Americans cousins visit our country, and discover how beautiful it is. We feel like Sally Fields when she won the Oscar for "Norma Rae".

"You like us ... you really like us ...!"

So, imagine our dismay when we were dragged -- kicking and screaming -- into the American Health Care reform debates. Our country was used as a *gasp* example of bad health care. Everywhere we looked -- on the internet, on TV, in the media, in Time Magazine, Canada was being pilloried. No...! How did that happen? We thought you liked us.

Well, it's easy. Whenever anything goes wrong, blame Canada. It's probably our fault anyway, so -- why not. Oh, goodness, everyone needs a scapegoat. But you know what? We still love our American cousins, no matter what...

Here's Robin Williams singing the Oscar nominated "Blame Canada" at the 2000 Academy Awards. I've posted the lyrics underneath the video so you can sing along. It's too much fun...!

Times have changed
Our kids are getting worse
They won't obey their parents
They just want to fart and curse!
Should we blame the government?
Or blame society?
Or should we blame the images on TV?
blame Canada
Blame Canada

With all their beady little eyes
And flapping heads so full of lies

Blame Canada
Blame Canada

We need to form a full assault
It's Canada's fault!
Don't blame me
For my son Stan
He saw the darn cartoon
And now he's off to join the Klan!
And my boy Eric once
Had my picture on his shelf
But now when I see him he tells me to f*ck myself!
blame Canada
Blame Canada

It seems that everything's gone wrong
Since Canada came along

Blame Canada
Blame Canada

They're not even a real country anyway
My son could've been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true,
Instead he burned up like a piggy on the barbecue
Should we blame the matches?
Should we blame the fire?
Or the doctors who allowed him to expire?
Heck no!
Blame Canada
Blame Canada

With all their hockey hullabaloo
And that bitch Anne Murray too

Blame Canada
Shame on Canada

The smut we must stop
The trash we must bash
The Laughter and fun
Must all be undone
We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before somebody thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everything You (N)ever Wanted To Know...

This will be the last in my completely useless totally boring series of posts about Canada. But, really, Canada is the world's best-kept secret. I think the rest of the world sees us as this funny little country to the north of that Other Big Country, and that we spend our time gazing longingly over the border. No, we're too busy having way too much fun up here. Didn't you know, all the best comedians come from Canada -- Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Catherine O'Hara, Russell Peters, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Lorne Michaels, Howie Mandel, Seth Rogan, John Candy, Dave Foley, Carolin Rhea, Tommy Chong, Norm MacDonald, Martin Short ... the list goes on.

So, here is my final list of completely useless information about Canada:

Canada has more automobiles, per person, than any other country, with at least one automobile for every two people.

Canada has the highest tertiary education (post-secondary, college, university) enrolment in the world.

Contrary to popular opinion, Canada does not own the North Pole. In fact, the North Pole is not owned by any country. It is believed, however, that Santa Claus is from Canada.

Canada has the fourth lowest population density in the world and yet it has the ninth biggest economy, is the world’s eighth biggest trader, and one of the wealthiest countries.

Canada has more than 30,000 lakes -- more than all of the rest of the world combined.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Canada has the highest quality of life in the world.

The 120-year-old Hospital for Sick Children located in Toronto is one of the world's largest pediatric research institutes.

Some of the things Americans love most were in fact created by Canadians -- including Superman, basketball, and Ginger Ale. Even more inventions that are used by many Americans were invented by Canadians -- including the walker -- used by the elderly or injured -- heart pacemakers, the common garbage bag, and the electric lightbulb (even though most people think it was invented by Thomas Edison), television, walkie-talkies and the telephone.

Canadians invented instant mashed potatoes (sorry...), kerosene, paint rollers, snow blowers, snowmobiles, the wireless radio, the electron microscope, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, the IMAX film system, the electric stove, the baseball glove and the zipper. (Yes, the zipper...).

A few other things invented by Canadians are, in no particular order, JAVA software programming language, lawn sprinklers, plexiglass, and the Jolly Jumper (you all know what that is...).

Okay, folks, that's it for everything you have never ever never wanted to know but were afraid to ask, and I promise now -- no more facts about Canada. I promise.

The Miracle Mile

In less than six months from now, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver, and yesterday the Vancouver Sun Newspaper reported that there will be a higher attendance here, and more media coverage, than for any previous Olympics. So, as of February 2010, the world will discover Vancouver. I think it will be fun, I'm probably one of the rare Vancouverites who is looking forward to it. Everyone wants to leave for two weeks, but I want to stay right here and be in the middle of all the excitement.

The really fun part of any sporting event is the drama. There is always someone who rises to the top and becomes the star of the show. And of course, there are always the upsets -- the underdogs whom no one expects to take home the glory. Those are the people and events of which legends are made. In one such event fifty-five years ago, on May 6, 1954, a British medical student named Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile by running a mile in Oxford, England, in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. For more than a century, athletes had dreamed about and aspired to running the four-minute mile, but many experts suggested it was physiologically impossible, but Roger Banniser did it and made history. The second man to break the four-minute mile was John Landy of Australia, in June 1954, one month after Roger Bannister had broken it.

In August 1954 the British Empire Games were held in Vancouver, and Roger Bannister and John Landy competed against each other. This meeting of the world's two fastest milers was called "The Miracle Mile". It was heard over the radio by 100 million people and seen on television by millions more. During that race, both runners broke the four-minute mile, the first time two competing athletes had done it during the same race. On the final turn of the last lap, as Landy looked over his left shoulder, Bannister passed him on the right. A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men at this moment was created by Vancouver sculptor Jack Harman in 1967 from a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner, and it stands at the entrance to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds.

The story of this race had everything -- history, drama, pathos. My father always used to say, "If only Landy had not looked over his shoulder, that race would have been a tie."

Now that would have been a story.

Here is a wonderful little video clip from 1954, set to the music from "Chariot's of Fire", showing Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile for the first time in history. It's quite amazing. Can you imagine being there and watching it happen. I hope the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will have something equally dramatic, and I would love to be there to watch it happen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Truth About Canadian Health Care

In my ongoing quest to stop the Americans from using Canada as an example of a country that has poor health care, I posted a comment on a blog the other day, and one of the commenters replied back to me, asking me the following question. "When was the last time a new lifesaving treatment was developed in Canada……?" I was happy to reply. Here, for your reading pleasure is a list of some of the new lifesaving treatments developed in Canada. The list would be three or four times as long, but I got tired...

Insulin for diabetes was discovered here in Canada by two Nobel prize winning physicians named Frederick Banting and Charles Best.

The first neurosurgery for cancer was performed in Canada.

The first diagnostic test for diagnosing cancer of the thyroid was performed in Canada.

The first surgeries on brain aneurysms were performed in Canada, saving the lives of people that would otherwise have died.

The first medical genetic screening of prenatal babies for heritary diseases was performed in Canada.

The first surgery to save the lives of “blue babies” was performed in Canada. Before that, it was an automatic death sentence.

The first artificial knee replacement was performend in Canada.

The first single lung transplant was performed in Canada.

The first aortic valve replacement in the world was performed in Canada, and the procedure is now used worldwide.

The world’s first successful liver/small bowel transplant was performed in Canada.

The drug lamivudine which is used for the treatment of Hepatitis B was discovered in Canada.

The connection between sleep apnea and fatal congestive heart failure was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of the gene that causes Lou Gehrig’s Disease was discovered in Canada.
The world’s first three-dimensional ultrasound therapy was done in Canada.

The first physical map of the human genome was created in Canada.

The first identification of a human blood cell that regenerates the entire blood system was discovered in Canada. This discovery enables the development of new treatments for blood diseases such as leukemia, thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.

Identification of a major gene that causes colon cancer was discovered in Canada.

One of the genes that causes epilepsy was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of the mechanism of formation of amyloid, the basis of Alzheimer’s and other diseases was done in Canada, and the subsequent development of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s.

Canada pioneered the use of Botulinum Toxin A to reduce upper limb spasticity in children with cerebral palsy.

Incidentally, BOTOX for plastic surgery was also discovered in Canada, right here in Vancouver, by a husband and wife team, ophthalmologist Jean Carruthers and dermatologist Alastair Carruthers. Look it up. Americans can’t live without botox now. It has become a mainstay for every aging Hollywood actress and housewife of Orange County. But, yup, its cosmetic function was discovered in Canada.

The discovery of a molecular marker to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, was made here in Canada.

A major clinical trial provided the first alternative treatment to taxol for preventing breast cancer recurrence in survivors five years post diagnosis, and it was done here in Canada — by Canadians.

A Canadian study makes it easier to identify patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), providing faster diagnosis and significant savings to the health care system — and lives.

Identification of a cancer stem cell responsible for brain tumors was made in Canada. This discovery may change how this deadly condition is studied and treated in the future.

Canada performed the world’s first hospital-to-hospital telerobotic assisted surgery on a patient more than 400 kilometres away. During the procedure, they completed a Nissen Fundoplication on a 66-year old patient located at North Bay General Hospital from St. Joseph’s telerobotics suite in Hamilton, Ontario.

Canada developed the first draft DNA sequence for coronavirus implicated as cause of SARS, which is deadlier than the swine flu. From this a vaccine for SARS was created. This was done in the building in which I work, incidentally.

Canadian doctors found that the vast majority of heart attacks can be predicted by nine easily measurable factors that are the same in virtually every region and ethnic group worldwide, thereby preventing them.

Canadians discovered over 70 novel human receptor genes; many of which, together with their chemical activators, mediate unique functions in the brain and are being targeted for drug design.

Canadians researchers, in the first large, multi-centre clinical trial of its kind, provided evidence to suggest that artery grafts from the forearm should be used in place of vein grafts from the leg in heart bypass surgery because radial arteries have significantly higher graft patency over one year.

A Canadian research team discovered magnetic resonance imaging detects more breast cancer tumors, earlier, compared with mammography, ultrasound or clinical examination in women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This finding offers hope to genetically at-risk women, and gives them an alternative to removing both breasts.

Canadians were the first in the world to use beads of palladium, a low-dose radioactive material, to treat women with breast cancer on an outpatient basis. This therapy holds the promise of eliminating anguishing side effects and considerably enhancing the women’s quality of life.

Canadian doctors were the first to demonstrate an association between pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) and the Epstein-Barr virus, indicating that exposure to the virus at a certain time in childhood may be an important environmental trigger for the development of MS.

Canadians developed a virtual instrument that allows children with physical disabilities to make music (both therapeutic and recreational applications of the software – which is licensed in 7 countries around the world).

Canadians were the first in the world to research and develop and begin treating prostate cancer using a 3-D image-guided radiation therapy device that was developed in Canada. This non-surgical technique allows oncologists to visualize the exact position of the target and deliver precise external beam radiation therapy.

A Canadian study determines that a specific enzyme, known as pro-protein convertase 4 (PC4) may be responsible for fetal growth restriction, the second leading cause of infant mortality in the developed world. Knowledge may lead to screening for the defective enzyme early in the pregnancy and provide the ability to monitor the pregnancy more closely.

Canadian scientists discovered that early surgical removal of the spleen combined with antiangiogenic therapy, which arrests the growth of tumour-feeding blood vessels, may stop the progression of leukemia.

Canadians discovered the precise molecular chain of events that initiates the wide-scale immune destruction of “super bug” infections such as flesh-eating disease, toxic shock syndrome and severe food poisoning.

Canadians were the first to implant an antibody-coated stent into the first human patient. The invention of the antibody-coated stent reduces restenosis and prevents blood clots from occurring.

Canadians live longer, they receive better health care than most Americans, there is no such thing here as a “pre-existing condition” which prevents them from getting medical care. And, Americans would be surprised to learn just how much of their medications and medical procedures are discovered in places like Germany, France (yes) even Great Britain.

I could go on, but I’m getting tired. Canada is not a medical backwater, and Americans need to come here and see the truth for themselves. All the horror stories about Canadians going to other countries for medical care is false. I work in the medical system, and I know. It is false. It’s fear mongering. In fact, it’s embarrassing it’s so untrue.

We are not saying our system is perfect. Far from it, but it's better than many others. However, we would really appreciate it if Americans would stop telling lies about our system in order to further their arguments in their debate about their own health care system. We really don't care what system you choose, but please -- stop trashing ours.

My Silly Experiment ... Part Two

Thank you to everyone who participated in my extremely serious very silly social experiment yesterday. It was all in fun. What was the point of the experiment, you ask. Well, there wasn't one really. I guess I wanted to prove that men and women see themselves differently, and specifically that men see women differently than women see themselves. Almost without fail the women chose the arms that were slightly masculine (numbers 2 and 4), and the men chose the arms that were more feminine (numbers 1 and 3).

"Well, so what?", you ask. Well, nothing, really. Women have come a long way since the decade of "Mad Men", and thank goodness for that. Women are brilliant; women run corporations, hospitals, governments, households. However, some women think that, in order to be taken seriously -- by both men and women -- they have to become masculine. But they don't, and vive la différence.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Important Sociological Experiment...

I am conducting an important sociological experiment here. Both men and women can participate. Don't think too hard about this, your answer should be on a visceral level. My first question in my experiment is -- purely on a gut level -- which arms do men think are more attractive in this picture, and which ones do the women think are more attractive. My second question is, can anyone identify these arms. Now, one of them is fairly obvious, but the others are not so obvious.

In a recent interview, January Jones, who plays Betty Draper on Mad Men, said the producers of the show told the women who play the lead roles not to go to the gym and work out. The producers said, "We don't want to see any biceps, because women of that era didn't have biceps." January Jones said, "Believe me, that won't be a problem." Why are girls and women in today's era held to such impossible standards? Women were created to have curves -- hips, breasts, thighs, even stomachs. Nature built women to have a natural amount of adipose tissue on their bodies, but they battle it constantly.

"A piece of chocolate? Oh, no, I can't -- I'm being good."

I think a lot of women have actually dieted themselves fat. They have screwed up their metabolisms so much in the pursuit of perfection, that their bodies became confused. Every calorie was stored on hips, breasts, thighs, stomachs.

The female body has always been the main subject of artists, and if you look at the paintings of the masters, the women in those paintings and sculptures do not have biceps. They're round and feminine.

Okay, everyone, I would be interested to know if you recogize the owner's of those arms, and which are -- truthfully -- more attractive. My prediction is the men and women's choices will be very different.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Canajun, Eh?

I have been reading so much misinformation about Canada lately, I thought I would share with you some of our best kept secrets. We are known for being very polite, and when we travel, we always wear a Canadian flag pin so people know we are Canadian. We have two official languages, and unless we are forced in school to learn the language from "the other side" we really only speak one language, depending upon where we live. We now have French immersion schools in British Columbia -- which I think is wonderful -- because we should be able to converse with people in our nation's capital. The things we treasure most are Tim Horton's Doughnuts, Hawkins Cheezies and Canadian Tire Stores. So here, in no particular order, are some of the ways to know you are Canadian.

●You have more Canadian Tire money than legal tender in your wallet
●You understand the sentence "Could you please pass me a serviette, I just spilled my bowl of poutine on the chesterfield."
●You know what it means to be "on the pogey".
●You know that a mickey and 2-4's mean "Party at the camp, eh?!"
●You can legally drink alcohol while still a teenager.
●When there is a social problem, you turn to your government to fix it, instead of telling them to stay out of it.
●You're not sure if the leader of your nation has ever had sex and you don't want to know if he has.
●You get milk in bags as well as cartons and plastic jugs.
●You know what a Robertson screwdriver is.
●You know that Mounties "don't always look like that."
●You dismiss all beers under 6% as "for children and the elderly."
●You wonder why there isn't a 5 dollar coin yet.
●Like any international assassin/terrorist/spy in the world, you possess a Canadian Passport.
●You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing 'u's from labor, honor, color, neighbor, etc.
●You know the French equivalents of "free", "prize", and "no sugar added", thanks to your extensive education in bilingual cereal packaging.
●You get excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada.
●You can do all the hand actions to Sharon, Lois and Bram's "Skin-a-ma-rinky-dinky-doo".
●You can eat more than one maple sugar candy without feeling nauseous.
●You were mad at the CBC when "The Beachcombers" was taken off the air.
●You know what a tuque is and you often wear one.
●You have heard of ... and have some cherished memento of Bob and Doug McKenzie.
●You know Toronto is not a province.
●You never miss "Coach's Corner" during Hockey Night in Canada.
●You only know three spices: salt, pepper and ketchup.
●You design your Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
●A Canadian Tire Store on any Saturday is busier than most toy stores at Christmas.
●You think sexy lingerie is tube-socks and a flannel nightie with only 8 buttons.
●You know which leaves make good toilet paper.
●You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest jewellery and your Sorels.
●You understand the Labatt Blue commercials.
●You perk up when you hear the theme from "Hockey Night in Canada".
●You pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "zed" instead of "zee."
●You end some sentences with "eh," ... eh?

We even have our own language:

Arsey Em Pee
A para-military police body combining the most distinctive features of the army [red coats], the secret service [Red hunting], and politics [red herrings]. Also known as 'The Moundies'.

Hugh Ess
The Mare Can nation. So convenient has the Hugh Ess been to the development of the Canajun ethos that if the Hugh Ess did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. By the same token, if the Hugh Ess did not exist neither would Canada, much as in physics anti-matter requires matter to sustain it. Perhaps the only generally accepted definition of Canajun is *Not Mare Can*.

Of or pertaining to Grade Bridden. Sometimes contracted to Brish, as in: Brish Commwealth. I live in Brish Columya.

Climb It
Canada has three kinds of weather - hot, cold, and wet. Hence the only permitted conversational gambits relating to climb it are: "Hottanuff furya?", "Coldanuff furya?", and "Wetanuff furya?" These may be abbreviated to "Hot, eh?", "Cold, eh?", and "Wet, eh?". It would be meaningless and also unidiomatic to ask anyone: "Nice anuff furya?" No such expression exists in Canajun.

Rhymes with hay. The great Canajun monosyllable and shibboleth, "eh?", is all things to all Canajuns. Some typical uses of "eh":

1. Statement of opinion -- "Nice day, eh?"

2. Statements of fact -- "It goes over here, eh?"

3. Commands -- "Open the window, eh?"

4. Exclamations -- "That's funny, eh?"

5. Questions -- "What are they trying to do, eh?"

6. To mean ‘pardon’ -- "Eh? What did you say?"

7. In fixed expressions -- "Thanks, eh?"

8. Insults -- "You’re a real snob, eh?"

9. Accusations -- "You took the last piece, eh?"

10. Telling a story -- "This guy is up on the 27th floor, eh? then he gets out on the ledge, eh . . . ?"

Welcome to Canada, eh?

Little Miss Sunshine

I have been feeling a bit cranky about the incident regarding the fine from the strata council. It really upset me -- a lot. In fact, it threw me for a loop. It's funny how unpleasant people like Su-Marie can have a domino effect. But you know the old saying, "Laugh and the world laughs with you ... " So, I'm going to smile until I don't feel so cranky anymore. I think I'll go for a long walk around the Stanley Park seawall, and perhaps pop into the Sylvia Hotel for a good, strong gin and tonic. And then maybe I will feel like a little ray of sunshine again. *heh*

Bear with me -- this too shall pass... I hope. :-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cowardice And Deception

There are some really strange people in this world. I always like to give other people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I just have to say -- what on earth...!? I have lived in my place for 11 years. It has always been a friendly, neighborly community. We're sort of like a family, and the people here look out for each other. I have spent a lot of time looking after other folks' cats, feeding them, emptying out poopy litter boxes, watering plants. I have even acted as a rental agent for one neighbor who lived overseas for many years. And it has made me feel safe as well, knowing my neighbors are close by and are looking out for me. Once a year we have a community garage sale, and we clean out all our unwanted items, pool the money and buy pizza. It's fun.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years there has been a change in many of the residents here, and the feeling of community has gone by the wayside somewhat. We have become a community of strangers. One of the "newbies" has become the high priestess head of the strata coven council, and it has literally gone to her head.

A few weeks ago I had a very pleasant conversation with this woman -- Su-Marie (not Sue-Marie, but Su-Marie, oh goodness...). Anyway, I was landscaping my terrace, and she was admiring a little bird house I have that my daughter gave me for Christmas a few years ago. We are not permitted to feed the birds here -- it is against the coven council by-laws, so it is decorative only, and I explained that to Su-Marie. It was obvious there was no bird seed in it, and no birds feeding from it. She thought it was very pretty, and she said my terrace "looked so nice" it inspired her to landscape hers as well. Su-Marie and I have had several pleasant conversations over the past few weeks, but my internal vibes always detected something strange. Beware of people who smile at you but their eyes stay dead.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Property Management Company as follows:

Your strata lot has been fined $50.00 for the bylaw violation as it relates to the bird feeder. Please issue the cheque payable to "The Owners of Strata Plan VR XXXX" in the amount of the fine and forward to the agent.

It was a three-page letter setting out the bylaws, yada, yada. I was shocked. A $50.00 fine over a decorative bird house? Su-Marie knows my phone number, my e-mail address, and where I live -- she lives on the same floor that I do. All she had to do was say, "Please remove the bird house." Five words. That would have been honest, straightforward and perhaps brave. It is not always easy to do something like that, but usually it works out for the best. And I would have said, "Okay, sure..." and offered her a cup of tea, or maybe a gin and tonic on the terrace. It's no big deal, and certainly nothing to get bent out of shape about.

Well, in any case, I am beginning to hear horror stories of things this witch woman is doing to other people in our building as well, in the form of harassment. What makes people behave that way to their neighbors? It boggles the mind. I see people behaving that way at work as well. Smiling and feigning friendliness, and all the while they're hiding behind their deception and cowardice. At 3:00 in the morning, how do they live with themselves?

I immediately sent a cheque for $50.00 to "the agent" with a brief letter stating that I am very disappointed, and it was not how I would have handled the situation. Maybe they can put the money towards fumigating the smell of cat urine out of the stairway carpets where the upstairs neighbor has let her cat relieve himself.

And you know something? I would rather be on the receiving end of nonsense like Su-Marie pulled, than to be the one dishing it out. When I smile, my eyes aren't dead.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That Mona Lisa Smile...

La Gioconda
Mona Lisa
1503 - 1506
Leonardo da Vinci

The other day a deranged Russian woman threw a cup at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but the painting was protected by bullet proof glass, and the woman wasn't able to do any damage. Why would anyone throw a cup at the Mona Lisa? Apparently the woman was frustrated because she had been denied French citizenship. Maybe she felt the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa was mocking her. Here was this woman, Mona Lisa Gioconda, permanently ensconced in the most famous museum in the world, in the most beautiful city in the world, and the Russian woman was not permitted to become a French national. People do strange things.

The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting done by the genius Leonardo da Vinci. I have seen the Mona Lisa, and I was surprised that it was smaller than I had imagined (30.2 × 20.9 in). It was painted on a panel of poplar wood, and it appears quite dark. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated by the Mona Lisa. I personally do not like the painting. Something about it disturbs me, and I'm not sure what it is. To me, the background looks as if it is sketched it -- sort of as some type of filler, to make the Mona Lisa appear closer to us. And I don't like the artificiality of the background. There is something a bit odd about the winding road leading off into the distance. It disturbs me. But the Mona Lisa's expression interests me. I wonder what she was thinking, and all these centuries later, to me she appears very much alive.

The thing that has always fascinated me about the Mona Lisa is this: If she were alive today, she would not be considered beautiful by today's standards. Plastic surgeons would probably have a field day with her. Her lips would be plumped up with some type of lip augmentation fillers. Her nose would be shortened and artificially turned up at the end. They would probably tattoo some sort of eyebrows on her, and her eyelashes would be extended with artificial extensions. Her hair would probably be highlighted to some copper color not known in the natural world. But then she would no longer be the Mona Lisa, would she? She would be someone else. So, I rather like her just the way she is -- natural. I'm glad her face and her mysterious gaze will live on for many more centuries to come.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Physician, Heal Thyself

The Four Doctors
John Singer Sargent

I have been reading the following piece of drivel all over the Internet, and I felt it was time I had to respond:

"Thirty thousand Canadians are passing up free medical care at home to go to some other country where they have to pay for it. People don't do that without a reason. But Canadians are better off than people in some other countries with government-controlled medical care, because they have the United States right next door, in case their medical problems get too serious to rely on their own system. But where are Americans to turn if we become like Canada? Where are we to go when we need better medical treatment than Washington bureaucrats will let us have? Mexico? The Caribbean?" ... Thomas Sowell

According to his biography, Mr. Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Sanford University. One of Mr. Sowell's favorite quotations is:
"The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." ... Joseph A. Schumpeter

Well, it would seem that Mr. Sowell is following Joseph Schumpeter's advice, because everything about his statement on Canadian health care is a lie. Thirty thousand Canadians are not passing up free medical care at home to go to some other country where they have to pay for it.

I appreciate that the health care debate in the United States is becoming emotional, to say the least. I have never seen such an issue divide a country. However, what I don't like to see is Canada's health care system being dragged into the debate. Canada has a population of 33,743,141 and a Human Development Index of 0.967 putting it third in the world behind Iceland and Norway. The United States has a population of 307,120,000 and its Human Develoment Index is 0.950, putting it at number 15 in the world, ranking behind Canada.

"So what?" ... you say. Well, plenty, that's what.

Canada has a health care system that works, and it has worked for over 50 years. In the United States, 47,000,000 Americans -- greater than the entire population of Canada -- have no form of medical insurance or coverage of any kind, and they have no hope of ever having any coverage. In the United States, people die because they cannot afford medical care. That does not happen in Canada. In the United States, 60% of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills. That does not happen in Canada.

In Canada, the doctor is god. If a doctor orders diagnostic tests, medication, surgery, treatment -- whatever -- the patient gets it. In Canada, the emphasis is on care, with the funding coming from the Provincial and Federal governments. In the United States, the emphasis is on the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and what they will or will not allow. The HMO is permitted to make medical decisions while controlling the financial aspect of providing care, and the HMO is often protected from malpractice lawsuits. In other words, the HMO tells the doctor what standard of care a patient can have. That would never happen in Canada.

The fact is, rather than 30,000 Canadians going to "other countries" for medical care, millions of Americans are coming to Canada through online pharmacies to buy prescription drugs for much lower prices than they pay to the pharmaceutical companies in the United States. Canada has $1 billion ($1,000,000,000) annual prescription-drug trade with Americans. The same medications cost up to 60 to 80% less here in Canada.

The United States of America spends more per capita (17%) on health care than Canada does (15%), and yet 16% of America's population has no medical coverage whatsoever and millions of others have inadequate coverage. This makes America's current system much more expensive than Canada's. In the U.S. underinsured or uninsured people wait until they are extremely ill before seeking medical help, and they end up going through hospital emergency rooms, which is a more expensive process than primary care services. What's wrong with this picture?

If I'm beginning to sound like a broken bell over this issue, it's because as a Canadian, I'm proud of our health care system. It's not perfect, but it's ours and it works. It may not work for the folks in the United States, they're in such a deep mess now. But I wish they would stop using our health care system as an example of "poor" health care. According to the World Health Organization, the life expectancy in Canada is longer than in the United States, the infant mortality rate in Canada is lower, and Canada is ahead of the United States in child well-being.

I know the debates will rage on, and Canada will continue to be used by some folks as an example of a poor health care system. Idiots...! They have no idea what they're talking about, and I wish they'd shut up already.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Barak Obama Is ... Canadian ... !!??

Have you heard the latest? Obama is Canadian -- in fact, he was born right here in Vancouver. Yes...! According to the supermarket rag birdcage liner magazine the "Globe", Obama’s alleged Hawaii Certification of Live Birth is forged. A Canadian Broadcaster, Brian Barron, believes Obama was born in Vancouver. Barron says that Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, gave birth to Obama in Vancouver shortly before she relocated to Seattle, Washington to attend classes at the University of Washington. "But when she found out Obama Sr. had another wife, she chose to conceal Barack's Canadian birth and registered him in Hawaii as a U.S. citizen to prevent Obama Sr. from possibly taking him away on his Kenyan passport," says Barron.

Okay, let me make this perfectly clear. We will take responsibility for Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, Glenn Ford, John Candy, Keanu Reeves, Martin Short, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Rachel McAdams, Howie Mandel, Donald and Keifer Sutherland, Dan Aykroyd, Brendan Fraser, Art Linkletter, Alex Trebek, Eugene Levy, and -- God help us, Celine Dion -- all of whom are Canadians. But I would prefer not to take responsibility for Mr. Obama. It is no secret that I really don't care for him. Now, don't get me wrong -- if I were an American, I would probably vote Democrat. I'm not sure I could adhere to the ideologies of the Republican party as it now stands. But since I am not an American, and I don't fully understand American politics, the subject is moot.


After all the emotional frenzy leading up to the election of the current American President, I continue to believe that in the long run, he is going to prove to be a bit of a disappointment. This is just my humble opinion from over here in Canada. And of course, as a Canadian I am really not entitled to an opinion -- except in the case where Mr. Obama may just turn out to be -- Canadian.

Oh, goodness, what next...