Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category

Guns, Mental Illness and Infamy…

Innocence LostNothing but tears for the unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations of all the victims of yet another senseless act of violence. Condolences and wishes for peace to all those parents, families and a community tragically ripped apart by yet another unfathomable and inexplicable event…

The fourth US mass shooting in the past year with a total of 54 men, women and children dead.   Over the past few decades, there have been mass shootings in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Norway, and the UK.  And not even China has been immune – though their issue is mass knifing instead of shootings.

The airwaves, television screens and internet are all abuzz with stories and theories and recriminations and calls for action. Hasty exploitive interviews with family and children and neighbours and academics and psychologists and sociologists and criminologists are everywhere – each with their own agenda to provide meaningful insight, analysis and coverage. Special theme music, a CNN phenomenon in the post-Gulf War I era, litter the media landscape – as if this sad event needed any more to stress the poignancy.

And as always in the aftermath, the pundits offer their solutions to forever end these debacles. Whatever the discussion, we need to discuss the issues in the right frame – not misappropriate them for purpose of unrelated arguments on whatever topic we champion.

The biggest argument is the persistent criticism of the US gun culture and their Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The sticking point is whether the person subscribes to the Individual Rights Theory or the Collective Rights Theory. Does it refer to the e individual’s right to own guns, or the State’s obligation to protect its citizens? There is no consensus.

Regardless, CNN reports that in 2009 there were over 310 million American non-military firearms for  305 million people – and shockingly, there were 11,500 “homicides by firearm” in the same year.

Using the 2009 ratios, proportionally Canada’s 33.7 million citizens would own 34.2 million firearms and commit 1270 firearm homicides.  But for some reason we didn’t… in 2011 there were 7.9 million firearms, and in 2009 we had 179 deaths by shooting. The numbers are much less, but sadly they are not zero.

more-guns-more-mass-shootings

I do not believe that today’s society, one that makes money – legally and illegally – from handguns and long barrel guns, will ever cut shooting deaths to zero.

For the record, I am not a gun owner – never have been one, never want to be one. But,  I do enjoy target shooting on occasion. I also understand that hunters love to hunt and do not begrudge them that. I am not against recreational shooting.

But I do believe that if you only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail.  If you carry a gun, you probably view everyone as a potential target. And if by chance an intruder into my house has a gun, I’d bet the chance of someone dying probably escalates exponentially if I introduced a second gun into the equation. I am not arguing whether the intruder “deserves” to face a gun…I am talkng about potential outcomes. I can only conclude that if I put “his already-morally-compromised back” against the wall,  I just become a nail to be hammered.  I know lots will disagree – but that’s just me; I simply poin to the Trayvor Martin/George Zimmerman episode in Florida this past summer.

Anyway, it’s a moot point: the US of A will never give up its guns. I acknowledge that.

But as offered by Nick Kristof in the New York Times, “…shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?” Maybe that will be enough.

Enough about guns.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the mental illness piece. There are so many viewpoints on this topic, too.

Here in Canada we have been trying hard to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is an uphill battle. And rightly or wrongly, we all jump to the issue of mental illness as “rationalisation” for the atrocity –  as if all mentally ill people will inevitably take up arms and slaughter innocents. That is not true.  But, if that is how we brand them, it is no wonder that no one wants to admit to mental issues. But even if we identify the issue, finding help  in this resource-constrained world is difficult.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom takes the issue head-on when she describes her son Michael. “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.”

She then goes on to discuss how her options are now limited after pharmaceuticals, therapy, psychiatry and law enforcement have been unable to control the problem effectively.  Her fear is that he is on the same awful trajectory as all those who have killed others.

Her story offers a new perspective. It is not just about guns – though I am sure that we all agree that a person with mental illness without a gun, or a knife for that matter, is unlikely to commit such a crime of the same proportion.

It is time for a serious look at how we educate ourselves about mental illnes, and how we diagnose, respond, and treat those affected. It should be a high public health priority…

And lastly… I ask what is the media’s role in all this?

In a strange internet hoax, Morgan Freeman, is wrongly attributed for a pointed citicism against the media. It wasn’t him. But I wish the anonymous author would come forward. Their is merit in their words. Sensationalization, voyeurism, instant fame. Anonymous writes on why the shootings continue:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours.

Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Three different viewpoints on the same issue – all trying to learn from the Newtown shooting and to prevent the next one.

Just like we did after the Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting, Colorado’s Batman Cinema Shooting, the École Polytechqnique Shooting in Montréal, the Gifford Shooting Spree in Tucson, the Shooting at Fort Hood, the Virginia Tech Shooting, or the Columbine Massacre…and on and on.

Dozens killed or injured in mass shooting at Colorado cinema

Gun control? Mental Illness? The Media?

I don’t know which is to blame. And evidently people with a lot bigger brains are just as confused, otherwise this would be sorted. All I know is that we need to talk about all of them, how they interact, and then we need to sort it. Hearing and seeing adults, teenagers, children – male and female –  die needlessly at the hands of executioners armed to the teeth is not an acceptable option.  And I hope that our egos and our priorities can be altered to appropriately restrict a troubled person’s access to instruments that can kill – guns, knives, or whatever.

Some say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Okay, I can’t refute that. But surely we can also add a qualifier…”People with guns kill people.” A gun definitely makes it easier…

We have to take away the means (unregulated weapons), address the causes (mental illness, poverty…) and remove the incentive (infamy, notoriety, exposure…) for those who might be inclined to kill the innocent.  If not, we will just continue the same superficial conversations – gnashing our teeth and crying our tears – over another series of senseless deaths.

And while I hope we can all take a moment to think of all those who have been gunned down during the simple act of living their lives innocently, please take an extra moment to remember the little children lost forever, and their protectors who died trying to save them. Offer what strength you can to their families and friends as they deal with indescribable pain and a despair that no one should ever have to deal with…

  • Charlotte Bacon, 6;
  • Daniel Barden, 7;
  • Rachel Davino, 29;
  • Olivia Engel, 6;
  • Josephine Gay, 7;
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6;
  • Dylan Hockley, 6;
  • Dawn Hochsprung, 47;
  • Madeleine Hsu, 6;
  • Catherine Hubbard, 6;
  • Chase Kowalski, 7;
  • Jesse Lewis, 6;
  • James Mattioli, 6;
  • Grace McDonnell, 7;
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52;
  • Emilie Parker, 6;
  • Jack Pinto, 6;
  • Noah Pozner, 6;
  • Caroline Previdi, 6;
  • Jessica Rekos, 6;
  • Avielle Richman, 6;
  • Lauren Rousseau, 30;
  • Mary Sherlach, 56;
  • Victoria Soto, 27;
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
  • Allison Wyatt, 6

Later,

ASF

The No Hockey League. Give it up – the game is bigger than you…

The Glory Days...Probably gone forever...

The Glory Days…Probably gone forever…

Day 87 of millionaires squabbling with billionaires.  All the National Hockey League (NHL) games up to 30 December have been cancelled.  Other than shopkeepers and restaurateurs and the hundreds of other fringe businesses that have lost income for their livelihoods, who gives a hoot?

Not me.

Once upon a time I would have cared tremendously that the NHL was not playing. Not today. Save for the fact that a winter morning’s Sports Centre just isn’t the same when limited to only the latest Dog Show or Equestrian event highlights, I wouldn’t care at all.

I have fallen out of love with the NHL.

Why and When? Who knows?

ICheap Shot Torrest is not like it was a tragic “fall-of-the-cliff” event.  Nope, it has been a “death of a thousand cuts”.  It has been seasons of diluted talent, of absurdly high ticket prices, of mediocre hockey played by commercialised teams more worried about Third Jersey sales than hockey perfection. It was bringing in The Dump and Chase and The Trap, and how the size of the players has grown out of all proportion to the size of the ice surface and has suffocated the entertaining free flow game. Add to that the concussions and the cheap shots and the clutching and the grabbing, and this is not the game that I grew up watching. Add to that, this is the fourth lockout/strike in the last 20 years, and my patience is gone. And though I would be lying to say that I haven’t been entertained by the odd game over the past few years, the NHL does not mean the World to me like it did when I was younger.

1973...Leafs v Bruins...did it get any better for a 9 year old Canadian boy?

1973…Leafs v Bruins…did it get any better for a 9 year old Canadian boy?

My brother and I still reminisce about the “good old days” when we bled Maple Leaf blue and white and followed the League like a religion. It was a simpler time when the first two periods of the Wednesday night game on CHCH Tv11, and if we were lucky, the full Saturday HNIC game on CBC were the highlights of our week. It was a time when we sat in our pyjamas, glued to our 14-inch black and white television, fiddling with the rabbit ears, watching the double-ghost images of the players at Maple Leaf Gardens on a snowy screen, hoping (usually against hope) that the Hometown Heroes would win.

kendrydenI remember all the players…Sittler and McDonald, Turnbull and Salming, Ellis and Thompson. And I remembered their arch rivals like Cournoyer and Lafleur and Dryden and Park and Esposito and Cheevers and Vachon and Dionne and many others.

But if I recall correctly, none of these players, though heroes, were ever greater than the crest on their jerseys. “Franchise players” did not exist back then. Multi-million, multi-year contracts did not exist either.  Rosters changed and players moved – but the very sight of Les Habitants versus the Blue and White, the Red and White versus the Black and Gold, the Blackhawk versus the Ranger, the Broad Street Bully at the Igloo…that was the essence of hockey…it wasn’t Ovechkin versus Crosby, or Gretzky versus Lemieux…it was team versus team. Loyalty to the team was much more important than idolizing a player.

Like most of my generation, so much of my childhood revolved around by major hockey events.  I recall mike_palmateerDarryl Sittler’s 10 point night (7 Feb 1976) – against the Bruins. I remember watching Brad Park, and Bobby Orr, and

Sittler's 10 point night Box Score

Sittler’s 10 point night Box Score

feeling sad watching Jacques Plante’s final NHL game with the Bruins in ’73. (He played for the Oilers in the WHA after that!).  I remember Hockey Night in Canada with the baby blue blazers.  I remember being able to draw every NHL goalies’ mask and name who was who.  And I remember the disagreements during the street hockey games as we all called out who we were – Mahavolich or Ellis…Dryden or Palmateer (which I modified to “PalMann”teer). It was magic.

Goaliemasks

It is just not the same on the Xbox or Playstation with EA’s NHL2013 video game.

edwards california golden sealsAnd I remember collecting the Loblaws stickers for my NHL scrapbooks. I remember the myriad of teams that

Every year we tried to fill in all the stickers....

Every year we tried to fill in all the stickers….

changed cities and names like The Atlanta Flames, or the California Golden Seals (to the Cleveland Barons), or the Kansas City scouts (first the Colorado Rockies and then the New Jersey Devils)…

And I remember the 1978 Playoffs.

The Leafs had a good start that year, knocking off the Los Angeles Kings in two games…back in the day when the first series was  best of three. We were chuffed.  Until we learned that the next team was the New York Islanders, an “up and coming” dynasty – Billy Smith, Resch, Trottier, Potvin, Gillies, Bossy…dammit…the Leafs would never take it. We were crestfallen.

But we held on to the dream, and the series did not disappoint. Game One to the Islanders 4-1; Game Two to the Islanders again, this time 3-2 in a crushing OT period.  You could not imagine the tears on our pillows…the dream was slipping away. But the next two games were at the Gardens! Two wins on home ice and the Blue and White evened the series at 2-2. Back to back games at Nassau Coliseum and the Gardens evened the series at 3-a-piece, which took us to the seventh and deciding game in the Dragon’s den. It was a nail biter…tied 1-1 after 60 minutes of hockey. And then lo and behold, against all odds – in an away game – Lanny Mcdonald scored the winner to take it 2-1 (6’43” mark)

It wasn’t quite a Game 7 overtime goal during the Stanley Cup Final, but to a City that had not experienced hockey glory since 1967, it was a big deal.

Lanny Scores!!!

But as good as that was, no season has lived in my memory as much as the 1978-79 season – the Season we saw out first live NHL game. My little brother and I were 12 and 14.  And as I said, we lived for the NHL.  Pooling our paper-route money together, we managed to scrimp and save up $37 dollars –a 1979 treasure trove. And with our parents’ permission we headed to the Gardens immediately after the last regular season game to try to get playoff tickets. Jumping on the subway immediately after school – remember that this was an era when parents were not fazed to send their kids by themselves into the core of Toronto – we joined a disappointingly long line for Maple Leaf Tickets. Two and half hours later, we made it to the ticket booth, only to be told that all that was left was “nose-bleed” Grey section seats for the second playoff SERIES.

What? The Leafs had to make it to the SECOND round in order for us to see a game?  We were stunned. Yet, after much gnashing of teeth, for the princely sum of $35.50, we managed to get two Greys, side by side, in row QQ, for the second playoff home game of the second series …we had a whole $1.50 to spare and we had two promissory notes for a live playoff game.

So with our pseudo-tickets in hand, we watched the ’78-’79 playoffs begin.  First round – the Flames (of Atlanta, not Calgary!)

Oh! And the joy on 12 April 1979! The jumping, the yelling, the hugging in our living room when the Leafs knocked out the Flames in two games.

And so, it came to pass that Montreal and Toronto would meet in the Quarter Final Series – Montreal with home ice advantage.  The continuation of an age-old rivalry! Game 3 of the Quarters was a Leafs home game – and we were a lock to go and watch it because there was no way that Leafs would not make it to Game Three in a Best-of-Seven series! No one really expected Toronto to take the series from Les Habs…but who cared. Watching this rivalry was a dream come true. Watching a game live was unbelievable. And even after the Leafs went down 2-0 in the series, we knew that April 21, 1979 was going to be a day to remember.

Mtl_Tor_1960_1969

We went to the Gardens early, watching the pre-game warm up, hoping for a stick or a puck.  No luck. And as we made our way up and up and up and up to our seats, I remember the formality of the 1979 Saturday night NHL game. Men in suits, women all dressed up and Ushers stopping movement until  an appropriate break in the action before letting you up.  I remember walking out of the corridors and into the seating – my breath taken away by the sight of the blue maple leaf at centre ice, the crisp, pristine and shiny ice, the monolithic scoreboard suspended above centre ice like the Star Wars Death Star…and all around the ice the colourful ribbons of seats – gold, red, green, blue, grey.  It was so different than our black and white TV…it was unbelievable.

Maple Leaf Gardens...unfortunately the Death Star Scoreboard did not last forever...

Maple Leaf Gardens…unfortunately the Death Star Scoreboard did not last forever…

And the game…oh my… what a topsy-turvy affair. To quote Danny Gallivan, it was “dipsy-doodling” and full of “Savardian spineramas”. After falling behind, the Leafs finally forced it to OT. The first OT ended and it was time for a second OT.  The Gardens was abuzz, and though we were excited, remember we were only youngsters and as midnight loomed closer, we worried if perchance we should go home before we got in trouble!!  But we stayed and “Oooohed” and “Aaaaahed” at every shot and two-on-one and every hit. It was truly magical. But the dream ended when Cam Connor …who you ask?…fanned on his breakaway, fooling Palmateer, and as if in slow motion, we watched Palmateer’s arm sweep backwards frantically, missing the puck as it slid in to the net…Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge! (or some other Queen Mother of a swear word…) It ended, disappointingly for the Leafs Nation.

And so it ended.  The first game we ever saw live. What a game, what an era of hockey!

I moved from Toronto a couple of years later to go to University, and while always a Leafs fan (mock me now), I have  only had a few moments of delight since the late 70s…like the Gilmore years and the Second Swedish Era (Sundin).

But it is over now – just like my childhood with its naivety and innocence.

Severe Weather Edmonton 20110901

If I  watch hockey I watch it with heavy  disinterest – occasionally marvelling at a hockey highlight, but overall despising the League. Watching the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup in June is just not hockey the way I want to enjoy it – and definitely not the way I remember it.

I doubt that they will ever get my loyalty back – not unless “pigs fly” or “hell freezes over” and the Leafs have a good run. And if that happens, I could care less about who is on the team roster.

I say scrap the League. Fire all the millionaires and save millions by putting the Toronto Marlies or the Brampton Battalion or the Peterborough Petes or the Oshawa Generals or the Hershey Bears in the major league uniforms. It would rekindle the spirit and the joy – just like the Boxing Day fever when the World Juniors start. That is hockey with passion…not hockey for profit.

But that will not happen, and we will still see millionaires squabbling with billionaires. A travesty when you consider that some Canadians can’t even afford housing or food and that hockey players make more in a day than the normal Canadian makes in a month – that the average Canadian will be lucky to earn $1 million in their entire working life.

And the owners? Their earnings are “private”.  What cost me $17.75 in 1979 would set me back $300 in 2012.  WTF?  Who but the corporations and over-privileged can afford to go to a game.

And still…

The average annual salary for a Canadian teacher is about $55K; a policeman’s is $65K; an infantry Sergeant makes about $70K a year.  The average NHL salary in 1978 was $90K or about $250K in today’s dollars; the 2012 average salary is $1.6 MILLION!!  All that money for an 82+ game season.  Yet still, the owners and the players are fighting over a bigger piece of the pie.  The only losers are us..

All I have is one word:

Bullsh*t.

End the NHL now. Start a new league with a new, realistic pay structure and affordable tickets. A game based on passion and honour.

Bring back the game I loved as a kid…

Later,

ASF

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

Cropped NY Post Cover , Tuesday 4 December 2012

The furor over the despicable photos published by the New York Post continues.  It is even topping the acute morning sickness of the Duchess – though the subway story may be edged out by the prankster DJs from Australia pretending to be HRH EIIR and Prince Charles.

(Tangent…What is with the totally asinine skew on the news these days – I mean aren’t the Civil War in Syria or Egypt Uprising 2 or the Philippines Typhoon or the Palestinian UN Membership issue more compelling?)

I am sure that I am not the only one dismayed about the tragic demise of Mr Ki-Suck Han – and the complete indignity he and his family suffer through in the name of “news”.

Debate swirls over the actions of the freelance photographer who “inadvertently” snapped several photos of Mr Han’s tragedy, all while he was “frantically” trying to signal the train driver with his camera flash.

He tells his side…you can make up your own mind. So many unanswered questions. Could he have helped? Could anyone have helped?  Would you have?

I like to think I would have tried if I could have done anything about it. One thing I do know…I am sure that I wouldn’t be photographing it or phone-recording it.  I like to think that I would have been running down the platform waving my arms and yelling like a madman hoping to alert the driver. I would have tried to reach the man and pull the man up with all my might…hoping I was strong enough to do the job, rather than justifying after the fact that I didn’t try because I knew I was not strong enough to do it. I would like to think I would be like this guy…  man at railroad crossing (video)

But apparently that is not the norm…the chances of no one helping is greater than that of some stepping up.

Sociologists call it the Genovese Syndrome or Bystander Effect (video)… people do not offer any means of help in an emergency to the victim when other people are present…in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.

I have to admit, I don’t like that such a syndrome exists. Perhaps it is my upbringing as a soldier.  I can’t stand by and watch. I must act. I know all my friends are the same.

I acknowledge that inaction is sometimes inevitable. Sometimes it is beyond one’s ability to rescue someone – ie the risk to your own life is too large. That is why we look at some who have sprung into action with complete awe, they are true heroes. In such cases, recording an event to hand over the pictures to the investigators as evidence is a worthy act.

But that does not always happen.

In my opinion, the Bystander Effect is not the most disturbing thing out there. There is what I call the Tragedy Vulture. The Tragedy Vulture is the bystander who exploits the situation. The person who stands by and records the sadness, when the situation really calls for a reaction that is within the recorder’s ability. Inevitably the Vulture posts the recording on social media or sells it to the media. This is inexcusable.

Sadly, though, it seems to be a recurring theme these days: to stand by and record preventable tragedies and then publicise them.

What’s the motivation? Fleeting notoriety? Greed?

Both of these seem to be the New York Post’s motivation.

To be honest, I hope that it is that simple. I can understand two of the Deadly Sins. And though it is distressing, it is a better option than believing that these Vultures do not care about the dignity and lives of their fellow beings.

That is too depressing.

But, whatever the reason, it is a sad trend.  I hope it stops.

Later,

ASF

Happy 33rd Birthday to The Wall

pink-floyd-the-wall-movie-poster-art

On 30 November 1979, Pink Floyd released The Wall.  At that time, I was 15 and I didn’t know much about Roger Waters’ life…or life in general, for that matter.  When I first heard it, I just thought it had some catchy tunes, like Another Brick in the Wall…plus they used risqué lyrics like “…do you think they’ll try to break my balls?…”  People said it was deep. I just liked the fact that the album told everyone that “we don’t need no education.”

The Wall VinylMy brother bought that album soon after it came out – he was the family music freak.  And yes, the first version I listened to was the vinyl LP (you remember, a Long Play, a 33rpm… or what the kids would now think of as the grandfather of the MP3 – the son being the CD.  Oh, wait – your younger ones probably won’t even remember what those were.)

The album was fantastic. We had no clue what it meant, but we listened to it, and listened to it and listened to it.

Four years later, in 1983, I went to University. Soon after arriving, I bought a tape deck and one of the first cassette tapes I bought – yes, I said cassette tape – was The Wall.  And I continued my obsession with the album.  In my four years of university I went through four or five cassettes- finally having to replace the older one when I could no longer rewind the spools with a pencil, or the tape ripped.  I must have had about six empty The Wall cassette cases – cracked, misaligned,The Wall cassette scratched and with stained liner notes – when I graduated.  I just couldn’t bear to throw them out.

I guess I have listened to the Album over 5000 times in the past 33 years.  The playlist is etched in my brain.  So are the lyrics.  And as I grew older, I started to appreciate what Roger Waters was trying to convey.  One of my University buds could not figure out the hold the album had on me, calling it “slit your wrist” music.  “Depressing”, he used to say.

I couldn’t disagree more vehemently.

Yes, I will admit that it starts off with a spiral into depression and addiction with a generous splash and violence and racism to sharpen the softer edges.  But through the anger and confusion and isolation, the protagonist (aptly named Pink) manages to put himself on trial by inner judge, and sentences himself to try and face the world.

Does it work?  Who knows.The Wall CD

For those who have not noticed, the album actually ends off where it started. If you listen to the final words, they are the opening words to the incomplete sentence that introduce the album.  I guess it means that the battle never ends, it just keeps going on.

To cap it off, I was very 0fortunate last year. Just like in 1979,  my brother came through as when he bought the first album.  In May 2012, he took me to The Wall Live at O2 in London. There is still only one word to describe the experience…Amazing.

Over twenty-thousand people, singing along…and I am sure that with each song, they could not help but think of all the times, all the places and all the people that are intertwined with their personal memories of the album.

The Wall Concert O2 London May 2015

For me, each time I hear it, I feel a flood of memories: studying for exams, driving on the Trans-Canada, watching the campfire while sipping a beer, enjoying a cup of tea in my favourite chair, dozing on the couch on a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to it on my Walkman while flying across the Atlantic, or falling asleep after just a few bars of Goodbye Blue Sky …

Good times…and great memories.  Thanks Mr Waters and Mr Gilmore.  And to your album, Happy Birthday!

Later,

ASF

The 11th hour of 11 November

And still the dark stain spreads between
His shoulder blades.
A mute reminder of the poppy fields and graves.
And when the fight was over
We spent what they had made.
But in the bottom of our hearts
We felt the final cut.

                                                                      –  Pink Floyd, The Final Cut

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918.  Armistice of The Great War, the War to end all Wars.

And now, a moment of eternal remembrance. A moment to reflect, to mourn, to honour, to celebrate those who have paid the ultimate price in the service of their Country.

Remembrance Day does not glorify war.

It does not glorify death.

It does not discriminate against race, colour, creed, sex, nationality or age – just as Death does not.

And just as Death does not rest,  neither can we.

We must take the time, even if all you can spare is one short moment once a year,  to remember those who were willing to step into harm’s way – choosing to fulfill their duty by honouring the oaths they swore to their Sovereigns and Nations and fellow citizens. Whether they perished in the corner of some foreign land, or peacefully in their beds many decades after defending our way of life, they merit our reflection.

No one is pro-war, not even the soldiers.

Remembrance Day is not about War. It is about those who served – people who lived, who laughed, who loved. Remember them for who they were and honour them for the courage, duty, loyalty and integrity they showed.

Take a moment on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Given what they have done, it is the least we can do.

We will remember them…

ASF

Where did all the kids’ costumes go?

Now, admittedly I have lived in the UK for the past three years, where 31 October just means it is the last day before November – so maybe my Hallowe’en rant  has already been aired (and I do not mean I am upset over the supposed “celebration of evil” thing). Maybe living in a country that considers Hallowe’en an “American Scourge” has insulated me from the furor. If so, I appear to not only have missed the start of the debate, but I also think I have missed the “tween” sexual revolution that seems to be the cause of the latest angst…

What am I talking about? I guess if you are one of those people who closes the curtains, turns off the porch light and ignores the doorbell and high-pitched chorus of “Trick or Treat, smell my feet”, or does not parent a twelve year-old girl, you probably have no clue of what I am talking about.

For sure, I am not talking about the home-made costumes that I recall my friends wearing when I was a kid…you remember the ghosts and cowboys and ladybugs and cats and mummies. No, they were cute and age-appropriate.

Time has been kind to the boys – but what about the girls?? How many news stories and blogs have I seen on the subject of costumes for young girls?  It seems that Cinderellas and Faeries and Raggedy Anns have been replaced by Pseudo-Stripper costumes that look more at home in an Adult ‘marital aids” store than the girls’ costume department at Wal-Mart.

If you are not sure what I mean, how about this for a visual…

If everyone’s complaining about them, who is buying them?

Time for one of my tangents….

What’s happening?  Is it something as simple as believing that young girls want to – or should – emulate the options available to grown women? As one of my Facebook friends commented cynically, the Hallowe’en Party at the local watering hole was shaping up to be a “Slutty Policewomen Convention”…I am sure there were a few skanky nurses to be seen, too.

Is that we want to our daughters to use as role models?

Now I am all about hearing the other side…debate should invite discussion and growth comes through entertaining differing views. But despite several blogs on the issue, include Dan Savage’s commentary that Hallowe’en should be celebrated as Heterosexual Pride Day or Heterowe’en (WARNING: some good old-fashioned “adult” language in the last hyperlink…), I am still unconvinced that we need to “slut”-ify the costumes. I think some of the comments in his article may ring true – and perhaps some have been explored while lying on the psychotherapists couch –  but there are also a few comments I oppose (like seriously, isn’t the term “ass-less chaps” an oxymoron – aren’t all chaps “ass-less”?).

Anyway, he is talking about adults and I agree that adults are entitled to dress any way they wish – as long as they abide by popular (and legal) conventions… and if they wish to play a game of Doctor and Nurse in the privacy of their house, who am I to disagree. (I don’t care, but it is not for me… I look horrible in a nurse’s outfit…)

But…

Shouldn’t such attire stay in the adult realm?  Selling that sexualised notion to “tween” and “teenage” girls is just plain wrong.  Perhaps it is a result of mainstream media or women’s magazines or popular film or music videos. Or maybe it is just a sad second-order effect of depressingly disturbing shows like Toddlers and Tiaras or Honey-Boo-Boo (no pictures…it is just too disturbing).

Whatever it is, I am not a fan. And I guess that I will just leave it at that…

Later,

ASF

The tragic aftermath of cyber-bullies…

Like most of the connected world, I was saddened by the new story out of British Columbia – the girl who committed suicide, evidently to stop the bullying and to end the cruelty of youth.

What a waste.

For those that have not seen the You Tube video (link here – Amanda Todd’s Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, Self Harm – YouTube), it is disheartening. And it speaks volumes about the evil side of the internet and connectivity.

I have commented before that the internet is whatever you want to make of it. It can highlight beauty and achievement and creativity and humour and wonderment; but then again, the internet provides opportunities for deviants and criminals and trolls and the mean.

It is incomprehensible to what depths that some people can descend; especially the bullies and the trolls.  Hiding behind their keyboards, cozy in their anonymity, they dispense vitriol and venom with reckless abandon – content that they have made someone’s life a misery.

Why? I don’t know…I am sure that no one really does.

Now, when it comes to the poor girl in the video, I am sure everyone will admit that it is true she made mistakes.  But seriously, were they life-ending ones? Yes, she was stupid and careless and ignorant of what the internet could be used for – and as a result she suffered fear, shame, pain and depression.  But why was she driven to such desperation? News reports allude to a stalker – while others report of  bullying from peers.

And though she tried to cope, in the end, it was too much. She killed herself.

Now if there was a predator involved, I hope that they find him and punish him to the greatest extent possible.

As for the kids…it is a sad truth that kids can be cruel to each other. And when the cruelness starts, the only options seems to be binary…hunt or be hunted.  And because most of the “hunted” kids are not mentally resilient enough to “let it go”, the effects can be devastating.  The statistics are mounting.

I often wonder why kids are so cruel.  Unfortunately, there could be many reason and contributing factors.  But without benefit of a Master’s degree in childhood development, or child psychology, I would probably blame it on two possible causes: bored kids or disconnected parents.

The results?

Kids who use the internet to amuse and entertain themselves, trying hard to fill whatever emotional vacuums they suffer, in whatever way they can. Maybe they are desensitized – their own emotions stunted through a lack of healthy stimulation; or maybe they are damaged, and want to spread their own pain to as many people they can because misery loves company.

I don’t know.  I don’t think anybody does.

All I know is that every once in a while, we are shocked that some young person tips over the edge and because of bullying – cyber, physical, mental or whatever – is either killed or takes their own life. And then, in the aftermath, we gnash our teeth and beat our chests and say that those responsible must be punished and that we need new laws to deal with the delinquent and the disturbed.

Close the gate – the horses have bolted.

General deterrence might address the issue – but I doubt it.  Bullying has been around for ever. Why not close the gate before the horses bolt? Why not talk to your kids and learn about their lives? Why not get to know their friends and learn about their “un-friends”? Why not share some affection, so that they don’t have to look for it elsewhere?  The shoulder to cry on should be at home…not on the ‘net.

It is too late to help Amanda Todd, just like it was too late to help Reena Virk.

You know, I hope that we do make laws harder on those that stalk or bully others on the internet. But more importantly, I hope that those of us charged with raising emotionally healthy, secure and confident human beings work very hard at it. We can’t protect against everything – some battles belong to our children alone. But, if we do a good job, maybe whatever these ignoramuses write or post on the net will be irrelevant.  No one will care.

And that, in my opinion, would work better than any new laws…

To learn more about the issue, you can check out the following sites:

STOP cyberbullying: Cyberbullying – what it is, how it works and how to understand and deal with cyberbullies

www.cyberbullying.ca

Later,

ASF

The Canadian Army Run – way more than just a run….

This past weekend I participated in the Canadian Army Run.  Now, way back in February when I signed up for the run, I was full of good intentions to train hard and hopefully come close to meeting my personal best.  At least that it what I thought 7 months ago…that I could match a time that was achieved when I was eight years younger, 20lbs lighter and whole lot less arthritic.  (Roll eyes now…)

I started training and for three months I was doing really well. Speed work, hill work, endurance runs… I did everything that John Stanton recommended and I was feeling powerful.

But then life got in the way.

First the debilitating pinched nerve – the one I blogged about in May – then a house hunting trip from UK to Canada, and then a full-fledged move which included 30+ days in a hotel.  The latter was the killer: restaurants and beer and fried eggs and the occasional work out.  Any half-marathon discipline was wiped out by waves of stress-related hedonism! Time ticked away and I consoled myself that I had two months, then a month, then three weeks…blah blah blah.

And as 23 September loomed closer, the sinking feeling of “Man…this is gonna hurt. Hurt real bad!” started growing momentum. And while I wore the badge of “I am running the 21.3km Army Run”, I was a bit worried that I was going to embarrass myself and not finish. Instead of eagerness and impatience, there was a bit of unease and anxiety. And occasionally, I would think that the easy thing to do was to forgo the whole experience and take a “pass”. Everybody would understand that I was “not ready”.

But I couldn’t.  And with the exact same logic, neither could my wife. We said we would, so we had to.

So Sue and I sucked it up and headed off to Ottawa to do our bit.  To finish what we set out to do and to complete our respective 5k and 21k.

And during, and after, our respective runs, we both wondered what the heck we were worried about.  For among the 17,000 runners in both events, there was no thought of failure, no thoughts of poor performances, no winners and no losers.  It was a celebration: a celebration of an institution and its values.  Of taking on a challenge and sharing in everyone’s victory. Of cheering on everyone and applauding their commitment – whether they were Olympic calibre athletes or novices who wanted to show their support by taking on a huge challenge.

And mostly, it was humbling.  It was humbling to watch the disabled and the injured soldiers and fellow citizens take on the same challenge as us.  And honestly, nobody cared how fast they were. It was simply sobering to watch a triple amputee, injured in an IED attack, walking on two prosthetic legs holding a cane in his good hand. I can only describe it as awe-inspiring. It talks to the human condition – the drive and spirit that make us do things that we thought we could never do.  It put all of our challenges and worries into perspective.

And alongside this multitude of marvellous, amazing individuals, ordinary Canadians of all

His Excllency the Governor General particpates in the Canadian Army Run 5k

shapes and sizes, colours and creeds, ran, or jogged, or walked, defeating their own internal demons to make it across the finish line. And while their challenges may not have been as mountainous as the disabled and hurt, their victories are no less significant.

And after it all, the array of emotions that faces displayed were incredible.  Happiness, relief, tears, incredulity…the full gamut.  And why not?  It was a wonderful day full of personal bests and personal victories – of completing what you may not have thought was possible. And as I look at the pictures friends have posted, and the comments that they and all the people who care for them have made, I know that everyone feels the same.  It was so worth it!

And I feel a wisp of shame that I thought about avoiding it because I was not “ready”.  Because if I had not done it, I would not have been rejuvenated by the remarkable role models and spectrum of positive emotions throughout the course, and the valuable lessons it taught me.

No one cared if I ran slowly. No one mocked me for my slower finishing time. It was simply a celebration of what I, and We, achieved.  How we achieved the “objective”.  That we were a team focused on the same goal.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I would describe the Army and the Canadian Forces. How perfect is that?

So, if you have not attempted the Army run – 5k or 21k – join the thousands that have done it and will return for another year. It is a reawakening and a nice demonstration of what is right about sport and personal endeavour. Despite your fears and worries, you can do it just like others did.

See you on the course next year!

Go Army!

Later,

ASF

Nil carborundum ab illegitimate!

My wife and I have just moved back to Canada. And the kicking and screaming – at least about moving West of the Atlantic-  has ended.

Once we made our peace with leaving the UK and heading home (going through the full grieving process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), we got excited and starting looking forward to our new life back in Ontario: a new job, a new home, new neighbours – all in a lovely, vibrant, lakeside town close to several dozen people we care for.

And I wished I could leave it at that.  But I can’t.  As I started the process to receive overseas shipments and change licences and register cars and ship cats, I started the paperwork associated with returning to my Native land.

And I naively began to negotiate the corkscrews and Immelman turns of the roller-coaster called BUREAUCRACY.  As I delved into the documentation, the processes, the organisation, the departments, the forms, the websites, the personalities and the money, I started the long, dismal, frustrating and worrisome spiral into the government’s “adminosphere”.

I felt like Alice dropping into the rabbit hole.  

And here I am, five weeks after leaving the UK, still dealing with the aftershocks of several counter-intuitive processes that have affected every aspect of my move.

Why can’t things be simple – and if they can’t be simple – then why can’t they be explained in a simple fashion? Websites were confusing and the staff who should answer questions could only parrot what was in the website.  I could not find out what forms to fill and who to give them to.  But, I was warned several times by several people that  “It is your responsibility to ensure the documentation is fully completed and accurate. It is also your responsibility to pay any additional storage charges, processing fees or other related service charges incurred due to incomplete or inaccurate documentation.”

And then I think about the zany, crazy, unbelievable hoops that the multitude of faceless mandarins and pogues sitting at their computers have made me jump through. I only have one thing to say…”What the eff?”

It all started with the several requests from a myriad of third parties to provide numbers, numbers, numbers…serial numbers, vehicle identification numbers, passport numbers, telephone numbers, service numbers, social insurance numbers, shipping numbers, tax identification numbers…sometimes I feel I should just refer to myself as 132657 – it is easier to find my dossier and everything that is linked to it that way.

Using my 13-letter first name just confuses people.  “I am sorry, Sir…is that your surname or given name?”  Just pretending that I am an account named “one-three-two-six-five-seven”, vice a real person with a name, seems to get faster results.

It did not stop there.  It carried on to a number of phone calls to various companies to cease accounts, open accounts, transfer accounts, to pay off outstanding balances, to provide meter readings and so on.  All I can say is that I would really like to know what “training and quality control” purposes my various expletives and curses served as I stumbled through eight automated menus, trying to decide if my request fit better into Option Three – “residential customer” – or Option Nine – “household services”.  All I ever want to do is talk to a real live agent who will answer my question.  And typically, after finally weaving my way through the Orwellian labyrinth of options and making it to “please dial zero or stay on the line to talk to one of our customer service representatives”, I abandon all hope when I hear the dreaded:

“All our agents are currently busy serving other clients. We appreciate your patience. Our wait time is…”

Aaaargh!

And then, the coup de grace?  Finally talking to real person, but then being told that unfortunately they are in the wrong department; they must transfer you to another department; then bouncing between departments, as they all deny culpability; and then inevitably having someone drop the call, as they hit the “This-question-is-too-hard-button” on their console.  I can just see them giggling uncontrollably as they determine which customer representative wins the money pool for frustrating a customer the longest (probably using the “quality control” recording as evidence of their prowess !)

After a full month of such frustration, and for you math-heads, I propose that the two pertinent telephone proportions are:

Probability of talking to someone real    1 / ($ value of the transaction to be discussed)

and

Probability dropped call Time spent on hold

I wished that was the end of the “frustocracy”, but it was simply an introduction.

The next joy came with the return of all our worldly possessions to my home country.  Yes, I had just spent three years on Her Canadian Majesty’s service, with orders issued by a Governmental department, looking after Canada’s international interests and upholding her reputation. You would think it would be simple for a servant of the state to come home and collect his goods…especially if he listed all his goods in quadruplicate and handed it to several sister organisations that protect Canada and her borders.

But no…it was not.

I still had to answer to several agencies – all who have a common purpose and objectives, but no collaborative synergy (virtual or physical) to make that task easier.  No less than seven times I had to explain who I was, what I needed, again providing several numbers (usually 123657) before they each asked me questions I had already answered to someone else – verbally and in writing – even when the previous interrogator confirmed they would add explanatory notes to your electronic file.

My response? You guessed it….aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh!

And I went through this with my suitcases, my cats, my furniture shipment, my car…quadruple the pleasure! First I talked to those who protect our borders, then those who regulate our alcohol, followed by those who licence our foodstuffs and livestock, finally succeeded by those who control our roads.  And how did they wish to communicate? E-mails and scanned document that I could sort out on my hand-held smartphone, even without  home phone and internet? Nope. By facsimile.

Seriously, facsimile?  Who owns one of those? Can we create more of an embuggerance?

And that inconvenience leads me to another one of those moving pleasures – dealing with the new utility companies.

Funny how in this global village of instant connections, of immediate pictures of tsunamis in South Eastern Asia or earthquakes in the Middle East, of techno-savvy agencies discovering clandestine illegal e-commerce rings, of e-spam infiltrating every e-mail account that I own, that the gas company or the phone company cannot determine if I am a credit risk or if I am good to honour my monthly gas bill, or phone bill. That really, they do not need a deposit from me.

That these multi-million dollar oligopolies can’t access a credit check to find out the Bank trusts me, the Mortgage company trusts me, the car dealership trusts me, Leon’s and The Brick and Future Shop and Best Buy all trust me. I am not a flight risk.  I can honour  the $69.99 fee charged to simply flick a switch at the cable box, or telephone junction, or to execute a few key strokes on the computer to grant me a new alphanumeric identity on their databases – reinforcing my status as just another permutation of “132657”.

And for the pleasure of lending them my money interest free, they will honour me with their presence and grant me service: hooking up my cable or phone, confirming my meter reading, or completing another 20-minute house call service, conveniently on a workday some time  between 0800 and 1700 hours (with no guess as to if it will be morning or afternoon!), during which a responsible adult must be available to allow access or the appointment will be rescheduled for another day some time in the next two weeks.

Somewhere in all this confusion and edicts, I seem to have lost the bubble on who is the customer and who is the service provider.  And by the way, when I ask for high speed internet, I am sure, as most of us in Canada are, that I mean wireless internet…how can you come to install internet and cable NINE days after the initial service request  without a wireless router in your truck?  At least The Cable Guy offered a solution to “132657”– tether your laptop to the DSL cable, initiate another request with the Command Centre, and a new Cable Guy could probably return in less than two weeks with a router – for a nominal fee!

Again, all I can say is, “Seriously!!”

And my favourite…wait for it…goes to the Private Contractors who look after Ontario’s driver licence conversions.  My wife – who has reverted to her maiden name – used to have a drivers licence in Ontario under her former married name. In order to prove she is the same person who was entered in the Ontario Ministry of Transport 1990 data base, she must now apply and pay for a duplicate replacement copy of her obsolete marriage certificate before she can be issued a new Ontario drivers’ licence.  That folks, is my winner in the Office Pogue Request of the Year….

And while almost all the nausea has passed – to quote my moving blog of March 2012, while I now “find that I have been…transported into my new house – sitting in my favorite chair watching the game on my high-definition flat screen, while drinking  a cold micro-brewed beer”, the pain has not passed.

I still must gird my loins and submit 45 days of receipts for my moving expenses, all the while waiting for a nameless bureaucrat  – who has likely not moved in decades (if ever) – to approve the expenditures and ease the tension on stressed credit cards and depleted bank accounts.

As I said, I hate moving.  We continue to jam “50 kilograms of furniture and stuff” into our “one kilogram bag” of a house; but we are approaching the point where this house is almost our home. 

And once that is done, it will take a heck of an offer to dislodge us again. I am sure that we wont be considering any changes too soon – it’ll take at least a year or two until we develop “moving amnesia”.  By then I will have forgotten the pain of the “adminosphere”, and foolishly, I will challenge the pogues and mandarins…reciting over and over again, “Nil carborundum ab illegitimate!”  Maybe this time it works. Wish me luck!

I know that many of you may have moved this year….any of you have an entertaining nugget or two that will console me and let me know that I am not alone in trying to climb the “Computer Says No” Wall?

Later,

ASF

Oh oh….when is Father’s Day?

It will be Father’s Day this Sunday.  Or, for most dads, it will just be another Sunday. But do not fret; men are stoic, and strong, and stony, so whether our kids will remember Father’s Day or not will not matter to us. We know its Fathers’ Day, and having a day named after us is good enough.

It is funny how we all get weepy and maudlin over Mothers’ Day. Maybe it is because we know that moms spent hours heaving and groaning, sucking on ice chips, breathing like locomotives and finally screaming for an epidural, before We, as children, entered the world.  I guess that after someone goes through that much pain for you, you owe them – forever – because that is a lot of pain to pay back. And, yes, as always when it comes to mothers, there is always guilt.  Like, how I feel guilty that I did not  write an Ode to My Mother on my blog – or make a popsicle stick planter for her (again). But I did send a card, and it Is too late to write that blog now, so I will move on.

But, seriously, I will whine a little. With all that fuss and bother and concern about Moms, is it fair to just pay lip service to us Dads?  I mean, we can’t help it that we can’t share the physical pain of childbirth. It is an undeniable truth that every father would trade places if he could.  (Without a doubt, right lads?)  And do not underestimate the spiritual and emotional agony a father feels as he witnesses child-birth. He is an outsider and on top of that, his beloved is probably cussing him out with the vocabulary of a salty, sea-hardened buccaneer.  How do you respond to a statement like, “You are NEVER touching me again!!!!”  Really, if it wasn’t for daddy’s swimmers, mothers could not make that kind of sacrifice.  Shouldn’t fathers be showered with some kind of “collateral glory”?

Evidently not. Society does not hold that kind of reverence for Dads.  We have a love-hate thing for dads. We admire them, we mostly respect them, but we always mock them – though always with love.  I mean, my Dad has earned the nickname, “Chipsy.”  Why?  I can’t remember – I think it included a bag of Lays and his ability to always score the last ones.

And while we will all think of the stereotypical Mom as caring, and nurturing, and dependable, all the Dads I can remember from popular culture are all caricatures. Don’t buy it? Follow me…I will show you what I mean:

The lovable grumpy, bigoted, rude, blustery Dad – Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford. Now Archie and Fred are the salt-n-pepper of the 1970s hey-days of racial jokes and verbal abuse. Not an episode went by where the son or son-in-law was not yelled at or insulted.  “You dummy…”, or “Hey, Meathead…” were the usual refrains. Though constantly complaining and criticising, always inflexible and dogmatic, usually cutting and ribald, they still managed to find a soft spot. Unbelievable in hindsight, we sort of loved them, faults and all. I guess deep down, despite their flaws, they cared and did right.  Sort of like our Dads.

The Cartoon Buffoon Dad.  Now in early cartoons, the fathers were just honest, simple nincompoops: Fred Flintstone and George  Jetson come to mind easily, but I am sure there are more.  Honestly, I would throw Herman Munster into that mix, though – as someone will undoubtedly highlight –  he was not a cartoon. These dads were fun-loving, hen-pecked, but basically hard-working Joes. And we were content to giggle at their Water Buffalo Lodge hi-jinks or marital faux-pas. But then Matt Groening went and introduced Mr. H. Simpson to the world, changing everything.  All of a sudden, loafing, and gluttony, and ignorance and stupidity became fatherly attributes. He was a cartoon version of Al Bundy.  And if that was not enough, The Family Guy just bumped it up a few levels.  Peter Abbot moved fatherhood into a whole new zone as he took parental advice from a dog; and while some say that it is “rude, crude and deliciously wrong”, but I must admit that sometimes I just miss the point.  Maybe it is the Dad in me who shudders instead of seeing the satire – or maybe I am just getting old.

The Tragic But Heroic Figure of a Dad.  Now we have to go a little ways back for this, back to the responsible days of the late 60s, and early 70s – before the Love Generation, back when men wore ties to a weeknight family dinner. Who did not want Eddie to find his widowed father Tom a new wife in the “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.  And, carrying on with the single father theme, I will add, “Whatcha talking about Willis?”  In Different Strokes, a rich widower adopts orphaned black kids. What noble patriarchal sacrifice.  And lastly, what about Fred McMurray, as the hapless Dad who was busy raising three boys on his own.  Wait a minute.  What an outstanding great segue to the next category…

The Calm – sometimes fashionable – Sensible and Reliable Dad. Mike Brady – period.  Whether it was Greg or Marcia or Peter or Jan or Bobby or Cindy, Mike was always there in his fashionable jacket and tie, or bell bottoms and sideburns, to dispense wise words and sage advice as he cleaned up the family crisis in the mandated 23 minutes (7 minutes for commercials). And following in his footsteps were Steven Keaton, doling out loving left-wing values to his money-driven son played by a young, young, young Michael J Fox, and the mugging, sweater-wearing, jello-pudding eating Cliff Huxtable. There were very few houses that did not tune into the weekly antics of the Huxtables…I think it was really Lisa Bonet who drew the crowds (before she went all Bohemian in that crazy movie with Mickey Rourke).  And again, in the honoured “calm-sometimes-fashionable-sensible- and-reliable-Dad” template, a fable of Aesopic magnitude would emerge from the 23 minute dilemma, and a heart-warming and amusing ending would leave all chuckling and hugging each other. Just like life – right?

The Multiple Dads.  Recently there has been the emergence of the two Dads.  Originally the concept was the cinematic by-product of the women who ”loved” two men (with exact opposite peronalities and lifestyles), had a baby, and never divulged the identity of the real father to anyone.  The theme has now morphed in the 21st century with homosexual fathers doing admirable jobs in raising well-adjusted normal kids.  Just look at Glee and Modern Families.

So many role models to guide us – some good, some bad. And I am sure you will ask, with all the examples to follow, which kind of Dad did I become?  All I can say is, “Hopefully a good one.” One who found the right blend of authoritarian and mentor and provider and playmate and teacher and coach and comedian and the million other things that a Dad should be.

I hope that is what I did, because I had a great “real-life” role model – my Dad.

Just thinking about his life experiences and challenges have always provided me inspiration when I needed it. As a boy, he lost his father, and raised his younger brother. As a young man in India, he worked as a farmer, then a policeman, then a teacher, before packing up and moving to the UK to start a family – one that he supported through a variety of blue-collar jobs. He then decided to seek a better life by packing up again and going to Canada – on his own for three years – working and scrimping to save enough money to give his children a better future.  He raised a family in Toronto as he upgraded his education, part-time over 7 years.  He finally earned a Commerce Degree from University, concurrently working a series jobs as a lathe operator, a cab-driver, a financial clerk, and finally as an accountant. And it all paid off as he ended his career as a senior financial officer for the Government of Ontario several years ago.

And in between, he took the time to teach me to skate, to dribble a soccer ball, to toboggan, to hammer a nail, and to grow tomatoes; he taught me the value of fruit and fibre and daily walks. He taught me to study hard and to write effectively and to be confident when speaking to groups. He taught me to be respectful, and hard-working, and caring.  He taught me how to play games and forced me to lose gracefully and patiently – the latter as he sang his ridiculous victory song after a game of chess or Monopoly or Risk…”Loser the Packer, Loser the Packer…”.  He even gave me a sense of humour – the finest gift ever.

And he has given me so many memories…stupid hats at birthday parties, fantastic days at Sandbanks Beach as we swam and barbecued and played, impromptu ukulele songs (he does not know how to play the ukulele), our walks together, our constant debates over homeopathy and the healing power of garlic and ginger; and when I was a teenager, his amusing, but constant surveillance for the evil after-effects of Chinese herbs and drink. (Chinese herbs were his euphemism for marijuana – it took me a little while to figure that one out).

But it was not all happiness and glee….

When I was little, I can remember quivering when hearing the refrain, “wait until your Father comes home.” I can also recall the many times that I sat in my room during my teens – furious, frustrated, and stymied.  At those times, I thought to myself, “How can a grown man know so little about the world?” Ironically, it was only a mere four or five years later, after I graduated from university – no longer a boy but a young man – that I remember thinking, “Wow, has my Dad ever learned a lot in 5 years.”  Perspective is a funny thing, eh?  It is remarkable, in retrospect, just how much Dads know.  I wish I had realised that earlier. It would have saved a lot of painful “trial and error”.

So as I think of my Dad, and reflect on my Dad-ness, I will also think of all the fathers out there.  I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day: one full of children’s love and care, and a BBQ and a beer or two, a tie or a bottle or Old Spice or whatever else floats your father’s day boat.  I hope you enjoy the short 24 hours of parental royalty. Relish it; revel in it.

Because on 18 July, Mom ascends back onto the throne for the next 365 days – unless you can learn how to give birth.

Happy Father’s Day.

Later,

ASF