Monthly Archives: December 2006

A New Year’s guide to self-improvement

Hello! Congratulations on your purchase of Robson’s Kith and Kin Kleanser, the exciting New Year’s Eve game for the whole family to make sure there’s no whole family this time next year. Works great on acquaintances, too. Horrible truths can be yours.

The rules are simple, and all four fun variants start the same way. Assemble the players in a vicious circle at least 90 minutes before midnight so no goodwill, off-key singing or chanting countdowns can spoil the fun. Write everyone’s name on a slip of paper, fold and place in a cocked hat or other suitable container such as a can of worms or pretty kettle of fish.

Next, everyone draws out one name that’s not their own. Then after a brief pause for people to refresh their drinks, and give their claws a quick sharpen, each participant formulates a New Year’s resolution for whomever they have drawn. It can’t be physically impossible like flap your arms and fly to the moon or financially impossible or ludicrous like buy a Caribbean island or give away everything you own. No. We’re serious, folks. As serious as disinheritance. It has to be something they could and should do but almost certainly won’t and will probably resent. Fun? Wait, we’ve hardly begun. Continue reading

Learning life’s lessons from Moby-Dick

Well, it’s Dec. 22 and I’m dreeeeaming of a white whale. Not, I hasten to add, because I hope for blubber in my stocking Christmas morning. Rather, certain news stories about the fragility of life remind me of a strangely encouraging passage from Moby-Dick.

OK, so I won’t need any pretentiousness under the tree. Nor, please, any works of Herman Melville. I love the scene in the musical Wonderful Town where the hostess’s attempts to spark cultured conversation at her party with references to his magnum opus fizzle out with “It’s about this … whale.” Indeed. And from my youth I dimly recall descriptions of the skin of whales as tedious as they were unreliable. As to the moral of the story, I think it was something to the effect that if ever you are on a ship whose captain is totally insane in ways that are going to get everyone killed, you should, on some dark and stormy night, sneak up behind him, wallop his noggin with a sock full of sand, pitch him over the railing and the next morning feign astonishment that he is nowhere to be seen. But I digress.

Enduring Moby-Dick in some otherwise long-forgotten class, I was powerfully impressed by one passage in which Melville describes how a great length of harpoon rope is laid out in a fragile whaling boat “in its complicated coils, twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction. All the oarsmen are involved in its perilous contortions …” Yet, he says, “Gayer sallies, more merry mirth, better jokes, and brighter repartees, you never heard over your mahogany, than you will hear over the half-inch white cedar of the whale-boat,” even though when the harpoon is thrown and the line begins to run there is an appalling danger of it wrapping itself round an arm or leg and dismembering you or dragging you to a bleak watery death. Continue reading

The Canucks in Canuckville

The Canucks in Canuckville liked freedom a lot,
But the Grinches who ruled from above them did not.
What Canucks called tradition they deemed mere delusion,
What Canucks thought was freedom they renamed confusion.

Where buyers and sellers in markets were free,
They cried exploitation and not liberty.
Where people had lives not controlled by the state,
It offended the gaze of the good and the great.

Where ageism, sexism, and lookism reigned,
High brows got all furrowed, expressions got pained.
Our subjects are merry, chaotic and loud,
A huge vulgar mixup. How can we be proud? Continue reading

Time to cross the Rubicon and break Iraq in three

What would Caesar do in Iraq? I ask not only because it was in that region that Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered. I ask because Imperial Romans habitually thought clearly and acted decisively on geopolitical questions.

As democratic politicians too often do the opposite, let me offer a simple, Caesarean solution to cut through the trouble and deliver Western security interests alive and well.

Start by facing unpleasant truths. Hawks need to abandon the Airplane II solution (“Pretend nothing has happened and hope everything turns out all right in the morning”). If nothing else, the 2006 elections should persuade U. S. Republicans of the folly of staying put while Iraqis slaughter one another and kill coalition troops, costs mount, and popular support in the United States falls. Continue reading

Sadly, the Liberals know not what they do

Based on the record, Stéphane Dion’s victory at the Liberal convention is not surprising. But it is troubling. And yes, I predicted it on the radio beforehand; any fool can be wise after the fact.

First, the federal Liberals have not won an electoral majority with an anglophone leader since 1945: before steel-belted radials, TVs in homes, or the birth of any of the eight convention leadership contenders. Liberals’ blithe selfimage as the Natural Governing Party may obscure their vision of this awkward reality. But they must feel it in their guts. And Mr. Dion was the only francophone.

Second, the party leadership alternates between francophone winners and anglophone chumps. Yes, Paul Martin represented a Montreal riding and spoke very good French. But he was as anglo as white socks on a first date. Again, advantage, Mr. Dion. Continue reading

Memo to the liberals: ditch activist government

MONTREAL – As the Liberals gather here to choose a new leader, I hope they’ll also consider having a policy agenda. I don’t mean a public-relations agenda with positions in place of policies. I mean some really substantive thinking about how to do things differently. I modestly suggest “Making Government Work.”

Some may doubt the sincerity of such advice from a reactionary who, the cliché has it, doesn’t want government to work. Actually, I want government to do the things it should a lot better than it has lately, in part by attempting fewer things for which it is spectacularly ill-suited. But I’m not here to write about that.

I’m here to give the Liberals some serious advice on a progressive agenda for the early 21st century. And while it is a drawback that my advice is unsympathetic (like Chesterton, I find their descriptions of future happiness don’t resemble any actual happiness I ever had), by the same token it is also dispassionate. Continue reading