Tuesday, December 14, 2010

They're Canadian?

Canadian flag outside the Maritime Museum of t...Image via Wikipedia
I've recently been thinking about that vast mass of frozen tundra that lays north of the U.S. border, sometimes called The Great White North, formally named Canada. The reason I have is because I've found myself interacting with several Canadians online as of late, and I've been impressed with their knowledge of American politics and culture. By contrast, I have to admit that I know practically nothing about Canada. I would go so far as to say that my woeful ignorance is embarrassing! I seem to remember from history lessons in my formative years about the French colonizing much of the Canadian territory during colonial times, that a war we gauche Americans refer to as The French and Indian War led to British control of the territory, and ...well...that's about it. Other than Canadian stereotypes - calling people hosers and drinking lots of beer – I had to admit my ignorance was quite profound. Therefore, I felt it prudent to scour the Googleverse for knowledge about Canada, you know, just in case I'm ever goaded into a discussion pertaining to our northern neighbors, in hopes that I won't sound like a complete idiot. So far, I have to admit...I'm a complete idiot.

Cover of Cover of Strange Brew
Before embarking on my studies, I asked myself if I knew any famous and important Canucks. Sadly, the first people that came to mind were Bob and Doug McKenzie, from the movie Strange Brew. They were played by Rick Moranis, before he became famous in the Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movies, and Dave Thomas, before...well, the only thing I can recall seeing him in is the recent movie Rat Race, which is hilarious despite the drubbing it took from movie critics. I then thought of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, the other Great One, John Candy, and the Inuit, of whom I've subsequently read do not like to be called Eskimos.

Do you think Inuit Pies would have been as popular as Eskimo Pies? Doesn't quite have the same ring, but I digress.

Soon a slew of Canadian actors and musicians filled my brain, and I had to admit that I didn't know any Canadians other than entertainers. That's sad. So, after reading up on some Canadian history and politics (Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy?), I endeavored to find some Canadians famous for something other than their contributions to celluloid and vinyl (or, whatever material a CD is made out of). I have to admit, I was surprised by some of the people I found that hail from The Great White North. Although not a comprehensive list, I thought I'd mention a few that I found interesting.

Alexander Graham BellImage via Wikipedia
Alexander Graham Bell

Though the inventor of the telephone was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Bell spent most of his adult life in Canada. He would have the telephone patented in the U.S., but all the inventing took place at his home in Ontario. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., and Scotland and the U.K. claim him as a citizen as well, but it would appear Mr. Bell's heart was in Canada.

I found it interesting that he wouldn't allow a telephone in his study, as he found it distracting. I wonder if I told my daughter that, she might be motivated not to spend every waking hour talking on her cell? Probably not.

Jack Warner

The Hollywood movie mogul and co-founder of Warner Bros. Studios was born in London, Ontario. Jack Warner was the main man at Warner Bros. Studios and is responsible for procuring the technology for the first “talkies”, or talking films.

By extension, one might blame him for the degradation of modern culture due to the immorality and depravity depicted in movies today. Not that I would! I'm just sayin'!

Peter Jennings informing viewers of World News...Image via Wikipedia
Peter Jennings

Born in Toronto, Peter Jennings cut his journalistic teeth on Canadian television before becoming the news anchor for ABC's World News Tonight in the U.S. Of the “big three” news anchors, with Tom Brokaw at NBC and Dan Rather at CBS, Jennings was the anchor I watched. You see, before the time of a billion cable channels and around-the-clock news coverage as we have it today, a person typically got their news from one of the big three anchors on one of the big three networks. My, how times have changed.

James Naismith

I grew up with a basketball in my hands. It was the sport I loved to play the most, and if my parents didn't know where I was, it was a safe bet they would find me at the basketball court down the street. Well, until I was in high school, then there was a 50/50 chance. I guess I have James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, to thank for all those twisted ankles and failed slam dunk attempts of my youth. Thanks, man!

Mr. Naismith was born in Almonte,Ontario, but it was in Massachusetts where he'd invent basketball. He would later move to Kansas where he was athletic director and head couch of the basketball team at the University of Kansas.

Leslie Nielson

I know, I know, he's an entertainer, but I didn't know he was Canadian until I did this research! I simply assumed someone that funny had to be American!

Leslie Nielson was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, a Canadian province I had to look for on a map in order to know where it is. I grew up with Airplane and The Naked Gun series, so imagine my surprise when I saw him in The Forbidden Planet. I didn't know the man that “would do anything for a laugh” made serious movies. He's one of my all time favorite funny men. I laugh just thinking about his work.

So, I guess Canada's number one export isn't actors and musicians after all. I don't know if you were surprised by the Canadians I've listed here, but I surely was, and pleasantly so. I think that we Americans can be a bit myopic when it comes to culture and country. We don't always see beyond our own proverbial noses at times, and miss out on a diverse panoply of interesting people, places and things that may lay just over the border. Perhaps the next time I chat with my Canadian friends I'll be a bit more appreciative and understanding. And maybe I won't sound like an idiot.

But, then again...

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Don't Mess With Me

Click here first, then read.

Popular names when I was a kid, when I was growing up, were names like Missy, Eric, Michelle, Laurie, and Jeff. I lived in Minnesota back then, so I guess you could say those names were popular in Minnesota during the 70’s and 80’s. Andrew, too. And Denise.

Now I’m 42 and teach college courses in Phoenix, Arizona. The names of female students become just a little edgier every year, a little weirder, more and more misspelled. A glance at recent online rosters reveal Kelsie, Mimi, Ariel, Chyna, Cadence, and Sunny. Thankfully for the young gentlemen, their parents have been more traditional: we have Michael, Adam, Phillip, Justin, and Paul.

There was, however, one young man in one of my on-campus classes a few years back whose name gave me pause. His name was Blair. He looked like a witch project coming straight for you, anybody would've agreed. He had one perfect feature—bright blue eyes—but other than that, he was all scary movie: acne, greasy hair slicked into a shark fin Mohawk, clothes right out of the dirty laundry, dumpy fat, just a Pigpen of a guy with fangs.

Blair never talked much, but one day he had to do some talking because when I passed back graded essays, I noticed that I didn’t have one for him. “Blair,” I said. “Do I have an essay from you?” He shook his head and said, “No, I didn’t do that one. I couldn’t think of a good topic.”

I looked at him like he’d just told me he had to change his last name because people didn’t like the sound of “Dahmer”.

“What?” I said. “You didn’t do it? You can’t just not do it. You can’t just skip a unit.” I spit out those last words: skip a unit. Skip a unit. Lick dirty feet. What the hell kind of a world did he think he lived in? Skip a unit. Eat dirty poop.

“Well you said we only have to complete three out of four units, and I didn’t like this one, so I didn’t do it.”

Didn’t like it? Didn’t do it? Smelly poopy pants.

At this point I’m sure I was looking at him like he was pissing on my feet. I was Linda Blair in a face-off with the Blair I Didn’t Do My Witch Project. Everything was fecal and rank and wrong, retarded and Siamese evil, evil.

“I didn’t say you could just skip a unit,” I said, measuring my words. “I said if you fail three units, you can’t pass the class. That doesn’t mean you can skip one.” Rotten smelly fart. Shit finger. “You’re going to have to speak with me after class!”

And I was going to have to go home and take a shower. Skip a unit my ass.