Saturday, December 23, 2006
I'll see you back here on Jan.2/07.
While you're waiting, why not go back and scan through my classic "Twelve Gags of Christmas" in the Dec. 13-24, 2005 archives.
There's some good material there. I'm starting to miss the fake-news schtick. I'll have to cure myself of that by trying out one or two new fake news gags in the new year.
How about you guys? Any New Year's resolutions? I quit smoking this past year, so I figure I'm good for resolutions or any other sort of self improvement for awhile. Any funny Christmas stories to tell, this year or past ones?
Thanks to all of you for your blogger support and e-friendship over the past year. Look forward to more original Mentok the Mindtaker in about 10 days.
posted by Mentok @ 12:05 PM, ,
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
It's a little belated, but I wanted to take note of Fil's birthday on Sunday. Fil is a first-rate music blogger, a good e-friend and an all around gentlemen. If you haven't done so already, please drop by his site and send your birthday wishes.
In honour of Fil's birthday, since he's a music blogger, here's a few (tongue in cheek) tunes:
The Pogues - Worms
The Who - My Generation
Elvis Costello - Big Boys
Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime
Iggy Pop - Lust for Life
So, those are pretty weird as birthday songs go. The discussion question for today is: what's the weirdest thing you've seen at a birthday party?
posted by Mentok @ 10:22 AM, ,
Friday, December 15, 2006
Like most people, I enjoy reading horoscopes from time to time but I've never had any faith in that particular sort of superstition.
However, I recently learned a curious fact about my own horoscopic profile. Apparently, my "key planet" is Uranus. Wow, how accurate is that, eh?
The other day, I read a particularly alarming horoscope. It said, "Your love life will take off today as Venus crosses Uranus."
First, that didn't come true at all, and second, that's really too much detail to read in horoscope if you ask me.
How about you guys? Ever read anything freaky, funny or bizarre, incredibly accurate or wildly inaccurate in a daily horoscope?
posted by Mentok @ 11:44 AM, ,
Monday, December 11, 2006
Last weekend, my family and I travelled to take in one of our favourite new Christmas traditions. For the past five years, the teeny town where I was born plays host to an annual Dickens festival. Although my feeings about my home town have always been mixed, I have to admit that my paisans are experts in the tourist trade and know how to stage a good event.
The fesitval features strolling singers dressed in period costumes, local children dressed as beggars (proceeds to charity, allegedly), street vendors (serving such things as authentic, old English-style chilli-in-a-bread-bowl) and some cheesy yet charming excuses for street decoration (e.g. the local drugstore transformed into "Ye Olde Apothecary").
The pinnacle of the fesitival is the nightly performance of the Dickens play. Local amateur actors, singers and musicians rehearse for months to put on musical versions of the Christmas Carol which, some years, are not half bad.
This year the performance was, well, quite odd. The festival organizers like to vary the scripts for the play and this year they chose Christmas Is Comin' Uptown. The twist to this version of the Christmas Carol is that Scrooge is depicted as a Harlem slumlord. The play, originally performed on Broadway by the late Gregory Hines, is intended to be performed by an all-black cast.
Now, at this point, you may be asking yourself: How many black people are there in small-town Western Canada? The answer of course is none. In fact, the people in my home town are probably, physically and culturally, among the whitest people you will ever see, owing to the fact that their skin only sees the sun for maybe four months of the year.
The local drama hippies who put on the play were very careful to make sure that the production wasn't offensive in any way. The play of course wasn't done in black face and the actors were careful to avoid any "Ebonic" accents. But this only made the production that much more peculiar, because the script was clearly meant to delivered in a colourful, yellin'-and-screamin', "Lord help me!"-style. Watching these whitest of white people trying to bring life to this script was rather like watching zombies trying to disco dance. Hilarious!
Meanwhile, downstairs an hour before the play started, a much more subtle yet more compelling drama had played itself out as some special guests from the neighbouring reserve failed to appear. My home town, you see, is basically a conjoined twin of a town. A few miles down the road is an Indian reserve - or "First Nations community", as the current euphemism goes. Ghetto is what it should be called, if we were all speaking the truth.
The two communities have existed side-by-side for over a century. They are intimately connected to one another and yet they are not. Whenever they can help it, the two communities, by mutual consent, have little to do with one another.
Growing up, I was witness to some of the worst forms of racism imaginable, things many people wouldn't believe would still be going on in the latter 20th century. At that time, back in the 70s and 80s, there was informal yet strict segregation. White bar, Indian bar, white coffee shop, Indian coffee shop. Woe to he who forgot the dividing lines...woe which sometimes took the form of brutal beatings by gangs of rednecks.
For this among other reasons, I was quite happy to leave that town.
That was then and this is now. There has been quite a lot of rapprochement between the town and the reserve these days, thanks to that great salve called money. The people in my home town love, above all things, tourism money. In our province, only First Nations are allowed to operate casinos and the reserve back home now has a nice fancy gambling den. They also have piles of new oil money filling their coffers. Now the townsfolk are only too eager to court the reserve folk.
But, after generations of truly brutal oppression, the reserve folk are not about to be turned so quickly. A local native dance troupe had been invited to perform at the Dickens festival, but at the last minute they decided they had no taste for such a "European" event. The townspeople were miffed, but they had it coming.
Over the entire weekend, I don't think I saw even six native faces in the crowd. I remembered that, as a child, I never ever went to the traditional pow-wows or other festivals on the reserve, even though they were just a few miles down the road and said to be very spectacular. The whole situation, the "two solitudes" of the communities is very sad.
Part of the cause of the natives' lingering anger against the townies is the poverty that continues to consume life on the reserve. This, it must be said, is very strange. The place is awash in gambling and oil money, yet many residents live in Third World conditions.
The reasons for this are many and complicated, but to my mind one of the major reasons for native poverty is the blatant corruption of First Nations' political and economic elites. A few natives (and the non-native lawyers who back them) are growing very rich while the majority of the native population lives wretchedly.
Now, it seems to me that I once heard an adjective to describe such a situation...where some people are very rich and others very poor...now what was that word...oh yeah: Dickensian!
So, while the townsfolk were busy pathetically trying to capture the culture of Harlem - a place so far removed from their experience that it might as well be another planet - right outside their doors stories were going on exactly like the ones Dickens had tried to tell.
Wouldn't it be fantastic, absolutely mind-boggling, if one year the townsfolk screwed up their courage, joined with the reserve and wrote themselves their very own all-singing, all-dancing, all-native version of the Christmas Carol? Just imagine the message that would send across the country. Just imagine the tourist traffic the controversy would generate!
Heavy thoughts about a little town festival, I know. Maybe too heavy. But on the other hand what is Christmas - and Dickens - for if not to make us think about how we can be better to one another through the year?
posted by Mentok @ 5:06 PM, ,
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Forgive me, dear readers, if I appear incoherrent. I've been breathing paint-stripper fumes for the last two days, so I'm a bit loopy.
In the latest episode of our home reno orgy, I'm stripping paint off of a half-height room divider. It's been an ugly eyesore of thick white (easily stained) latex since the day we got the place. As it turns out, underneath the paint is beautiful, high quality cherry wood.
How often have we all heard stories of 70s decorating horrors? I'm sure I've heard at least a dozen people tell identical stories of yanking up old shag carpet to reveal gleaming, beautiful, perfectly preserved hardwood floors.
So what were those dumb fuckers in the '70s thinking? What sort of perverted aesthetic would lead a person to hide the natural beauty of wood? I suppose the same sort of perverted aesthetic that thought orange and purple plaid looked good as colours on a sport jacket.
Stipping the paint off has turned into a gigantic chore. Whoever committed this atocity had to put 10 coats of white in order to drown out the cherry wood. Further, the divider has a raised grain on the side, so the paint has sunk down into the grooves, requiring detailed toothbrush-type cleaning.
So, last night I sat my sons down and told them to tell their children, and tell them to tell their children's children: Never paint or cover over natural wood!
How about you, dear readers? Have you encountered any atrocities of 70s home decorating? Any home reno anecdotes to share?
posted by Mentok @ 4:11 PM, ,
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Winter has hit with a vengeance in our neck of the woods. The great love-hate season has arrived. I can't help but think of the classic Gilles Vigneault song Mon Pays. Some call it a Quebecois anthem, but has there ever been a song that has said so much about Canada as a whole? I get teary-eyed just thinking of the lyrics.
Gilles Vigneault - Mon Pays
Mon pays [My Country]
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
Mon jardin ce n'est pas un jardin, c'est la plaine
Mon chemin ce n'est pas un chemin, c'est la neige
Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver
[My country is not a country, it's winter
My garden is not a garden, it's a plain
My road is not a road, it's snow
My country is not a country, it's winter]
Ou la neige au vent se marie
Dans ce pays de poudrerie
Mon pere a fait batir maison
Et je m'en vais etre fidele
A sa maniere, a son modele
La chambre d'amis sera telle
Qu'on viendra des autres saisons
Pour se batir a cote d'elle
[In the white ceremony
In which the wind to snow marries
In this country of powdery
My father had his house built
And I am going to be faithful
To his way, to his model
The guest room will be such
That we will bring the other seasons
To build next to it.]
posted by Mentok @ 9:56 PM, ,