Tag: Constitution

Day 995: Little Rivalry On The Prairie

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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.

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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…

Day 809: Crimea River

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This past weekend the citizens of Crimea voted to break up with Ukraine and run away with their old lover, Russia. What does this mean to you? Unless you have a personal stake in the matter – relatives in Simferopol or perhaps you’re reading this from your котедж in Alushta – probably not much. But it’s big news on the international scene, and there exists a genuine possibility that the fallout from this will one day make its presence felt in your life.

For a detailed analysis of how this re-sketching of the Eastern European map will impact US-Russian relations or the various branches of the region’s trade networks, have a look at a reputable news source. Those people know a lot more than I do on the topic, given that they follow it for a living, whereas 24 hours ago I was writing about garden gnomes.

I’m interested in the backstory. How little Crimea has been passed around from empire to empire like an unclaimed puppy or a mildly funny knock-knock joke. Crimea has always been a gorgeous little clump of land surrounded by hungry and greedy hordes. Maybe the new union with Russia will stick, but I might hold off on changing the stationary letterhead for a bit.

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That’s Crimea, dangling like a toddler into the Black Sea. Perhaps too conveniently, she’s precariously clinging to the southern tip of Ukraine with one hand, while reaching to the east where Russia is just out of reach. Her first inhabitants were the Cimmerians around the 8th century BC. They eventually became the Tauri, which is how the peninsula came to be known as Taurica by the Ancient Greeks. They were subservient to the Greeks, but only on paper. In fact the Tauricans were known for their bad-ass piracy and rigid backbone. Read more…

Day 748: Court Is Now In Session – 1964 Edition

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You might not be able to tell by the weather, the Ouija or whatever earthly vibrations to which you tether your chakras every morning, but we are seventeen days into a rather significant anniversary. 1964 was one of those game-changing trips around the sun in western culture, when society found a sufficiently snug toehold with which it could scoot a little further across the floor, away from antiquity and closer to modernity. We are fifty years out, and quite possibly hiking through another annum of note. We’ll see; history will let us know.

Next month you’ll hear fond reminiscences from silver-haired boomers, telling you how they remember watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and how it changed the very face (or at least the hat) of America, and so on and so on. And they won’t be wrong; the February 9 broadcast, which is still among the most-viewed episodes of any show in the history of the medium, set the culture train rolling through the greatest 5-year landscape of popular music in the century.

This June you’ll be swimming in articles applauding the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. History didn’t have to wait for perspective on that one – it was a national footstep forward that still echoes off the canyon walls. And amid all this change and progress sat the US Supreme Court – nine white guys whose gavel-hands flung some of the most important decisions of our time in 1964.

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Civil Rights was the theme song behind the opening credits of every news cycle in ’64, as the nation tried to catch up with common sense while tugging on the curtain in an attempt to cover up the backwards buffoonery of its deep-southern embarrassments. Mary Hamilton had been among a group arrested in Gadsden, Alabama during a civil rights protest. But Mary got in more trouble when she refused to address the court unless she herself was referred to as ‘Miss Hamilton’. It was customary to address white folks in that manner, but Mary was simply called ‘Mary’ on the stand. She zipped her lip and did five days for contempt. Read more…

Day 638: Break Out The Balloons (And Wash Your Hands) – It’s Almost October!

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By no means am I eager to scoot September out the door and usher in October, which is quite often the beginning of winter in this northern hellscape town I call home. But I’ve got a theme planned for next week’s articles, and I don’t want anyone to miss the wacky fun and wild party opportunities for October. This is a month full of festivities, so you’d best polish up your favorite drinking chalice and concoct at least two or three good excuses for missing work.

Sure, we have Thanksgiving to look forward to, or Columbus Day down south – everyone loves a day off. And yes, the little kids will be begging door-to-door for candy while their moms (and maybe dads!) try to rock the slutty nurse costume they bought at the closed-down Office Depot-turned-Halloween store. But those are too obvious.

Like any month, October is filled with important observances that too many of us let slip by without noticing, probably because the evil forces at the big calendar companies refuse to slap them between the moon phases on their precious annual offerings. Well we don’t subscribe to such biases here. Religious holidays? Entrenched secular celebrations? Forget that crap. Let’s talk about Global Handwashing Day.

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Don’t worry, you still have more than two weeks to buy your loved ones their Global Handwashing Day gifts. Back in 2008 at the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, the… well, the water-people, whoever would attend World Water Week (mermen perhaps) suggested a day of global handwashing awareness. The UN signed off and declared October 15 as the day everyone is supposed to pay attention to their bathroom habits and publicly shame those filthy souls who walk straight from the stall out the door. Read more…

Day 587: Describing My Beer Using 35 Figures Of Speech

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This is a fantastic beer. No, I mean it. This is the kind of beer you write home about, so you can tell the people living there to set fire to the place, collect the insurance money, and spend it all on this particular brand of beer. This beer is so good… well, to be honest with you I’m at a loss to describe it. 586,000 words under my project’s belt and I’ve finally uncovered the nectar that could stop my typing fingers in their plastic tracks.

I’m not going to specify which beer this is, but come on – it’s probably something by Big Rock. They brew pure liquid euphoria in that place.

I feel the need to employ some figure of speech, some linguistic trope that might properly convey precisely how luminously mellifluous this brew feels upon my virginal tongue. Perhaps if I took the lazy approach and leaned on our language’s myriad of figures of speech.

Oh Jesus. He's doing one of these again?

“Oh Jesus. He’s doing one of these again?”

Simile: This beer is as majestic as the Statue of Liberty wearing a crown of bald eagles while a giant replica of the Constitution billows behind her as a cape.

Hyperbole: A sip of this beer by our world’s leaders would no doubt bring about an era of peace and stability the likes of which we have never seen.

Inversion: Soooooo good this beer is. Read more…

Day 560: Pay No Attention To The White Conservative Behind The Curtain…

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I’ve never been one to buy in completely to a juicy conspiracy theory. I’ve listened to Jesse Ventura rant passionately and succinctly on Howard Stern’s satellite radio show about how the World Trade Center towers’ collapse on 9/11 was clearly the result of a vast government plot. I have watched videos detailing the obvious signs of a Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld set-up, and other videos debunking everything from the first videos.

Now when someone brings it up, I just nod my head and act as though my curiosity has been piqued. It hasn’t. The truth is, I don’t care.

That isn’t exactly true – I sincerely hope the truth is someday edged to the front of the stage, but until then I’ll simply plead ignorance and move on. I’m not going to be the guy who finds that magical thread to pull that somehow definitively exonerates or incriminates Bush, Cheney, the Galactic Empire, Scientology, or the agents of K.A.O.S. in that terrible tragedy, so I won’t lose sleep over it. Nor will I fret and fear any of these wacky conspiracy theories.

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According to a number of people you really wouldn’t want to get stuck talking to at a party, every president in the history of the United States has been related to royal European blood, and it’s the candidate with the most royal ties who wins every election. A financier and genealogy-lover named Harold Brooks-Baker – who had once been investigated by the FBI for an ‘are-you-secretly-related-to-a-billionaire’ scam – was a strong proponent of this theory, which naturally ends up with the entire government being run by the Illuminati. Read more…

Day 552: Her?

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This is, of course, the day after the day when Americans join together, partisan strangleholds aside, and revel in their love for their country and mutual enthrallment at watching things explode in the sky. And why shouldn’t they? America is a pretty fantastic concept, and despite some sloppy execution it remains a veritable symbol for liberty and opportunity in the world. I’m proud to have cholesterol-rich American blood in my veins, descended as I am from a hearty New York Jew who settled in Canada not because he wanted to leave his homeland, but for the love of a woman.

But to love America – or specifically the freedom which America provides in writing to all her citizens – is to love the wastewater that flows along with it. While the Constitution allows citizens to speak up with dissent (all of which will be written down in the NSA’s little notebook, but hey – you can still do it!), it also lends a free voice to the irredeemable nutjobs who speak up for the most hate-filled and rotten human beings in the land.

Which brings me to Ann Coulter.

Surprise! Not a natural blonde.

Surprise! Not a natural blonde.

I don’t write about politics very often, and when I do I make every effort to be respectful of both sides, except when one side is so deeply steeped in crap I fear they might drown. In Ann’s case, there is no need for such a fear – she has shown an almost amphibious ability to remain submerged beneath her fecal rhetoric for most of her career. I’m sure she’ll be fine. Read more…

Day 425: Screwing The Scoreboard – Worst Sports Teams

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Every month I take a look at some of the worst mistakes art has made, from misguided movies to terrible tunes to the rectum of the airwaves known as reality TV. But art is subjective. I’m sure there are tens, even dozens of people who found Manos: The Hands Of Fate to be inspiring, who think a reality show about people trying to keep their hands pressed against a truck to be riveting, or who dream of building their own city on rock ‘n roll.

But sports is a different bag of fish-parts. When you stink up the field, arena, pitch, court, park, stadium, or Light Cycle battledrome, everybody knows it. Maybe you’ve managed to secure a truly imperfect season, with no wins. Maybe you should have stuck with your original instincts to forego professional sports and become an accountant. Maybe you would have sucked at that also.

Every professional sports league has some team who claims the title of being the worst. Now they can receive the honor of having their shame thrown in their faces once again.

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Holding high the rancid wilted flag of Worst Season Ever is the 1906-1907 Liverpool City rugby club. A goose-egg in the Win column is bad enough, but to rack up 30 losses would make one ball-shatteringly morose. They scored 76 points in those thirty games, while allowing their opponents to pile up nearly 1400 points against them. These weren’t thirty narrow scrapes; the other teams in the league decimated them. Read more…

Day 423: Got To Keep The Devil, Keep Him On Down In The Hole

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Scientology. It’s a harmless religion, packed with goofy alien-oriented scripture, intriguing sci-fi technology and at worst, it makes Tom Cruise jump up and down on couches, claiming psychiatry to be crap. No big deal, right?

While answering this question with a resounding “NO” might land me on some crazy Enemies List, written in goat’s blood by lanky Gregorian chanters in charcoal robes, I’m sticking with that as my answer. To be clear, I mean no disrespect to anyone’s faith, but… well, I’ll let this story speak for itself.

And because it creeped me out while I was doing my research, I’ll pepper the text with the enigmatic, almost sentient grin of Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige.

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In 1978, a group calling themselves the Scottish Highland Quietude Club bought a slab of land in Southern California. This was a front for the Sea Org, the inner circle of the Church of Scientology, who converted the space into Gold Base – their headquarters. A number of Scientology’s higher-ups, including Smiles Miscavige up there, live and work on Gold Base. But he’s the one you don’t want to piss off.

Allegedly – and all of this comes from former members who have defected back to the real world, but since nothing is proven, this entire article will have a big ALLEGEDLY slapped around its neck – around 2002, Miscavige started getting a bit ornery when people pissed him off. He’d slap them, kick them, yell at them, and refer to them with terms like ‘CSMF’ (Cock-Sucking Mother Fucker) and ‘YSCOHB’ (You Suck Cock On Hollywood Boulevard – clearly Dave isn’t a fan of fellatio). Then the discipline got a little heavier. Read more…

Day 248: The Reds Are Coming! The Reds Are Coming!

Everyone knows that the worst research papers begin with the phrase “Webster’s Dictionary defines…”. That said, Webster’s Dictionary defines communism as “a theory advocating elimination of private property.”Post-WWII America defines communism as “the greatest threat to humans ever, including space-rapists and Supertuberculosis.”

Naturally the source of all this evil communist activity was show business, where they wildly flaunted such liberal ideas as singing, dancing, and looking like Edward G. Robinson.

They had no shame.

In the 1930s, before the realities of Josef Stalin’s assholishness came to light, the American Communist Party fought for the rights of the poor while supporting unions and welfare reform. A lot of artsy types bought in and signed up, because a lot of artists tend to land on the left side of the political spectrum, Clint Eastwood and his magical invisible friend notwithstanding.

As the Soviet communists fell out of public favor, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (known by the appropriately hork-ish sounding acronym, HUAC) started pointing at Hollywood people. They had the power to influence, so they were the ones HUAC went after.

When animators went on strike in 1941, Walt Disney called it the result of ‘communist agitation.’ In 1945 Mississippi congressman John E. Rankin stated that the Hollywood communists were at the heart of a sinister plot to overthrow the government. Much like the recent attempts to discredit gay marriage as a plot to destroy heterosexual marriage, millions of people actually believed this insanity.

The government responded to these accusations in the most sane, reasonable way they could. They brought dozens of Hollywood professionals to testify before HUAC in 1947, and pried into their personal politics and beliefs with a stabby resilience. Ten of those called before the committee refused to answer the questions, pointing out that the Constitution grants them freedom of speech and assembly. Witch-hunting politicians hate it when you throw that old document in their faces. Read more…