Newcomers to the city of Edmonton inevitably have questions regarding our perpetual rivals to the south, or what has come to be known as the Battle of Alberta. They don’t ask me – I purposely sport a fanny-pack and 20 pounds of camera gear when I wander about the city so that tourists don’t talk to me – but they’ll ask somebody. The answer they’ll probably get is “hockey”, which is blatantly misleading and 100% wrong.
Edmonton and Calgary have held a semi-snarly relationship for much longer than the history of professional hockey in either city. Far from a rivalry of mere convenience (we are the only two major cities in the province), the Battle of Alberta extends to fundamental belief systems, to political preferential treatment, to bigotry, inclusion, and of course… money.
Which is truly the greater city? As a lifelong resident of Edmonton, my honest answer is that I don’t care. Both cities are gorgeous: they have the Stampede, we have the continent’s most impressive Fringe Theatre Festival. They have proximity to the magnificent mountains, we have an exquisite river valley. They are the economic home-base of the province, we have a gigantic mall.
But enough of the niceness. Let’s see how this got ugly.
The Battle of Alberta extends for centuries before there was even an Alberta over which to battle. The Blackfoot Confederacy was the political union among the Blackfoot tribes who moseyed about southern Alberta and Montana, killing buffalo and living a northern version of the indigenous lifestyle of the American Indian. Up in the boreal forest that covered the northern half of the as-yet-undesignated province, the Cree and their allies (known as the Iron Confederacy, making the history of this region sound like a bad-ass Native version of Game of Thrones) lived a subarctic lifestyle, which involved trapping and fur-trading. Read more…
On the 27th episode of M*A*S*H, only three shows into its second season, Corporal Max Klinger made his most serious and likely push for his dismissal from the US Army. It was a running gag throughout the first seven years of the show that Klinger would wrap himself in dresses, stoles and boas in an effort to acquire a sacred Section 8 – a discharge from the army due to a psychiatrically diagnosed case of nuttiness. But the gag should have been quashed after the episode in question – “Radar’s Report.”
In this episode, psychiatrist Dr. Milton Freedman (he’d be assigned the first name ‘Sidney’ in all subsequent appearances) tells Klinger he’ll give him the Section 8, but only by putting down in the official record that Klinger is a transvestite and a homosexual. Outraged, Klinger insists he’s none of those things – just crazy.
Beneath the surface of this punchline lies the real truth about the Section 8. This method of discharge was a frequent tool for commanding officers who wished to rid their platoon of “subversive” gays. It was a cold and calculated bayonet to the career of anyone whose preference in a mate – or even whose skin color – offended the sensibilities of a bigoted officer. Klinger could have taken Dr. Freedman up on his offer, but it would have come at a cost.
In 1916 the US Army came up with a form of discharge that hovered in purgatory between “Honorable” and “Dishonorable”. It was printed on blue paper, and came to be known as the blue discharge or a blue ticket. It was originally used to send home kids who had enlisted to fight in World War I underage, though that act of teenage patriotism was eventually promoted to an honorable discharge. For gay troops though, the blue ticket was an easy get. Read more…
Unite a crowd of people under the frumpy awning of hate and it’s not hard for things to shimmy out of control. Provide those same people with a river of cheap beer and a charismatic leader to stoke their ire and you’d best check that you’re insured against a savage pandemonium. When the promotions team for the unimpressive 1979 Chicago White Sox were looking for ways to beef up fan attendance and amuse their loyal ticket-buyers with something that could counterbalance the Sox’s pitifully mediocre season, they’d have been wise to heed this advice.
Mike Veeck, the promotions director and son of team owner Bill Veeck (hooray for nepotism!), was determined to bring some fun into the stadium, maybe by catering to local music fans; Disco Night back in 1977 had been a huge hit. When Veeck heard that local loudmouth DJ Steve Dahl was thinking of blowing up a huge stack of disco records at a local shopping mall, the gimmick seemed somehow perfect to entertain the kids in the cheap seats at Comiskey Park.
And so was born Disco Demolition Night, a convoluted cocktail of bad ideas and pitiful execution. Anyone who brought a disco record to be blasted at the park was admitted to the July 12 doubleheader for 98 cents (Steve Dahl’s radio station broadcast on the 97.9 frequency, so this made sense). In between games, the batch of disco records would be hauled out to centerfield and blown apart in a ceremonious hurrah. Then, everyone could have a good laugh and settle back into their seats for the second game.
Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl had been fired from WDAI on Christmas Eve, 1978, when the station abandoned rock for the hugely successful disco format. He had a reason to hate the genre. Hired right away by rival station WLUP, which was still very committed to the thumping thrusts of top-notch rock music, Dahl proceeded to become Chicago’s preeminent anti-disco crusader. He rallied his fans into a mock-army known as the Insane Coho Lips, “dedicated to the eradication of the dread musical disease known as DISCO.” Read more…
For those who dance the steps of atheism, agnosticism, Jediism and so on, this world has always been a precarious place. It seems odd that one person’s lack of belief in an established monotheistic principle – even if that person is an otherwise caring, giving, deep-down good dude – can lead to such harsh hatred and judgment by the alleged “moral” majority.
It’s not a big deal these days to forsake the Biblical tenets held dear by so many of this country’s founders. We have lived through the 60’s, through new-age mysticism, through wacky spiritual hoodoo and comet-worshipping cults. To most everyone, a stranger’s religion is not a big deal anymore. But leap back in time to just over a century ago and you’ll find that the best a non-Christian could hope for in this part of the world was tolerance. Not acceptance, not a back-slapping welcome into the community, just tolerance.
One man decided to fight back. He created his own community, a land where atheism was to be the norm and where people could pontificate amid boundless intellectualism. John Lennon said, “Imagine no religion.” 91 years earlier, George Walser made it happen, cranking up the volume on atheism until it achieved the same intolerant, finger-pointing cacophony he had spent his entire life rallying against.
Welcome to Liberal, Missouri.
George Walser was a successful lawyer, a devoted agnostic, and by 1880 he had developed into a staunch anti-religionist. To George, it was offensive for those who do not follow the Christian faith to be branded as amoral, societally detrimental and the cause of all the world’s ills. He yearned for a utopian escape, a place where like-minded folk could go on about their lives without being persecuted by Christians. His solution? Persecute the Christians. Read more…
As a middle-class white North American shlub, blindly stumbling in the direction of forty, and choosing a day’s wardrobe based on wrinkle content, embedded bulldog hairs and whether or not I have to leave the house and (ugh) interact with people, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Coco Chanel.
I’m familiar with her brand, of course. I know all about the sharp, fashionable suits, the little black dress and the No. 5 perfume. I know about her humble beginnings in a convent to her yearning to be a nightclub performer. I like the lady, only because I watched her in that movie with Audrey Tautou, and Tautou could make anybody appear impishly cute and unquestionably huggable.
But Chanel had a dark side. A history streaked with a dark crimson stain of hate. A side that the people who continue to run her corporate empire don’t really want to talk about.
But soooooo huggable.
I don’t feel a lot of time needs to be spent on Coco Chanel’s love life. She never married, but instead had a number of lovers. Two things need to be kept in mind here: if Coco had been a guy, such an impressive slate of bed-sharers would be looked upon as a well-notched bedpost; with a woman there’s a tendency to call it a scandal. Also, most of Coco’s suitors were higher-ups, diners around the table of aristocracy. As such, her dalliances have become a thing of historical record.
Well screw that. Coco had herself some sex. I say we drop the outdated pretense of genderism and leave it in the historical record that she was a playa. And she wasn’t trying to skronk her way into someone else’s fortune; Coco was probably wealthier than a lot of the men she bedded. She simply had a type, that’s all. She dug guys who owned horses. And possibly counties in which horses would reside. Read more…
A warning to my more sensitive readers: today’s piece will be filled with some of the most vile, hateful, antagonistic writing my tap-dancing fingers have ever spewed. And none of it will be my fault.
As a sensitive and kind-hearted soul (or so I tell the ladies), I try not to offend anyone. There are certain words I won’t write. Words like that one that starts with ‘n’. Or the anti-Semitic one that starts with ‘k’. Or the one that puts down Bulgarians – you know, the one that starts with ‘v’. Ethnic slurs are lazy, hurtful, and indicative of a flatlined sense of creativity and/or empathy. They can also be downright weird.
Here’s a heap of them I’ve never heard of until now.
A coconut is white on the inside, and brown and thatchy on the outside. As an ethnic slur, a coconut refers to someone who is not white on the outside, but behaves in a traditionally Caucasian fashion, perhaps by watching a Blue Collar Comedy special, or by voting Republican. In most of the western world, this gets directed at black or Hispanic people, but in New Zealand a coconut is a Pacific Islander. In Canada, the slur is aimed specifically at Dravidian peoples from the southern slab of India. I live in Canada, and I’ve never heard of anyone called a coconut. I also had to look up where ‘Dravidian’ people come from, so I guess I’m way out of the loop. Read more…
Over the past week, a number of people have shared with me this video, in which Russell Brand speaks to (and mocks) a pair of religious zealots from the Westboro Baptist Church on his talk show. My first response was, “Russell Brand has a talk show? When the hell did this happen?” Then I settled in to the same response that most of my friends had expressed, them being of a generally rational frame of mind and not devoted to bigotry and judgment like those Westboro freaks.
I was saddened by the display of the unevolved mind, still dragging down the back-end of our species in close-minded rhetoric and unenlightened adherence to an utterly selective interpretation of their faith. Brand was amusing, but it was hard to tune out that vacuum of ignorance. Also, why the hell is he hosting a talk show? Seriously, don’t we have enough of those yet?
Ms. Wiki generously offered some research into the supposed ‘unnatural’ acts that inexplicably drive these people to such proud stupidity. Her ‘Random Article’ button dropped me into the vast, clearly God-approved world of homosexual behavior in animals.
I already had my suspicions about the peacock.
The first problem in this research is that scientists don’t really know all the reasons animals have sex. Yes, it propagates the species, but presumably it also feels good. With no such thing as social norms, why wouldn’t an animal simply do what feels good whenever it can? (This, by the way, will not work as a pick-up line. Trust me.)