17
Jan 20

Weather 4Dear Climate,

I hate to bother you: I know you’re busy, what with all your “changing” and what not.   But this is important.

Folks talk about you incessantly these days.  Your ears must be burning, even if the planet is not.

We humans are in deep doo-doo because we’ve messed you up so badly, at least according to your best friends Greta, Al, Barack, Leonardo, David, AOC and Justin. (At least they claim to be your besties.  I doubt you pay them any attention as you quietly go about your business, but I’m just speculating).

According to the Saintly Seven we’re doomed either to drown in catastrophically rising seas or to fry to a crisp like overdone onion rings.  Whether we have eight years left, or twelve, or only five minutes, it’s Apocalypse Soon. Read the rest of this entry »

8
Jan 20

expertI wasn’t going to write about this.

I don’t know enough about it to offer anything close to a properly informed opinion.

But after wading through the umpteenth piece excoriating U.S. President Donald Trump for eliminating Quassem Soileimani - the murderous Iranian general who was second-in command to dictator Ayatollah Ali Khameini - I can’t suppress my irritation.

There aren’t enough armchairs on the planet to accommodate all the Monday morning quarterbacks that sprung up in the aftermath of Soilemani’s death - all of them “experts” on the political, sectarian quagmire of the Middle East, a region almost impossible to decipher.

Rarely have so many people claimed to know so much about something they can’t possibly know anything about. Read the rest of this entry »

4
Jan 20

poison ivy

Festive jingles brightened every nook and cranny of Calgary, it seemed, during the recent Yuletide stretch.

My house was no exception.

Practically vibrating with excitement and anticipation on Christmas Eve, my nine-year-old son belted out one carol after another.

His Christmas mix didn’t include restful, time-honoured melodies of yore. 911 Song, set to the tune of Jingle Bells, went something like this:

Dashing through the snow, on a pair of broken skis
Over the hills we go, crashing into trees!
The snow is turning red, I think I’m almost dead,
I woke up in the hospital with stitches in my head, oh!
9-1-1, 9-1-1, Santa Claus is dead!

That gem led on to a gleeful rendition of Deck the Halls With Poison Ivy, followed by Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, all delivered at 110 decibels.  A Silent Night was not in the cards, musically or literally.

My ears were still ringing as 2020, fresh and clear-eyed, took over from a worn-out 2019.

It struck me that Alberta’s pediatricians and family doctors might relate to poor old Grandma., seeing as they got run over by a health minister just before Christmas.  They were caught every bit as flat-footed as the old lady trampled by those reindeer.  After all, they’d had reason to feel secure: Premier Jason Kenney publicly guaranteed that his government would not cut access to care. Read the rest of this entry »

18
Dec 19

GuaranteeDecember 18, 2019

Attention:  Tyler Shandro, Alberta Minister of Health

 

Dear Minister Shandro,

I’ve writing to you today from my vantage point as a 15-year veteran of emergency medicine at Alberta Children’s Hospital.

When you were sworn in last spring as the new Minister of Health for Alberta, I was optimistic that this challenging and complex portfolio would be handled with skill and sensitivity.

You are an accomplished lawyer, not a physician.  But you are the scion of a medical family: I knew you would be endowed with insights beyond those displayed by many of your predecessors.

Hence I was dismayed by your ministry’s sudden broadside against doctors. Read the rest of this entry »

21
Nov 19

yesterday icon

Mere mention of the old Beatles classic sets my mental jukebox a-spinnin’:

Yesterday,

All my troubles seemed so far away

But now it seems as though they’re here to stay.

Oh, I believe… in yesterday...

Suddenly,

I'm not half the man I used to be

There's a shadow hanging over me

I keep it confined to my head, of course.  The last time I busted out in unbridled song all the small animals fled my neighbourhood and didn’t come back for weeks.

Yesterday is a meaningless ditty about shattered romance dreamt up whole-cloth by Paul McCartney one night in 1965,

For many, though, it’s an anthem for hard times. Read the rest of this entry »

15
Nov 19

 

Don Cherry

 

“Downtown Toronto, forget it. 

Downtown Toronto, nobody wears the poppy…

You people that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, love our milk and honey.

At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that.

These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.

These guys paid the biggest price.”

 

That’s not poetry, but vintage Coach’s Corner stuff on Hockey Night in Canada: another politically incorrect, non-hockey-related rant from 85-year-old Canadian icon Don “Grapes” Cherry.

This time it exploded like a bomb and ended his career. Read the rest of this entry »

3
Nov 19

Canadian bananas

Imagine if Alberta was famous not for its prodigious oil reserves, but for its banana plantations.

It’s a bit difficult to picture banana trees carpeting our northern prairie, but it might have been possible once.  Forty million years ago Alberta was a tropical paradise, rich in ferns and fauna.  Giant sequoia trees stood watch as dinosaurs roamed.

Then the climate changed.

Imagine, for the purposes of this essay, if it had not.  Imagine that modern-day enterprising Albertans took advantage of the fertile environment to grow bananas.  Not just ordinary bananas, but the most succulent and delicious of fruits, and organic to boot. Read the rest of this entry »

28
Oct 19

Black Swan

Everybody knows that snails don’t run.

But no one told Sam.

Sam arrived in our household along with Soda, a colourful betta fish we picked up from the local pet shop as replacement for Ollie.  (Ollie succumbed to fishy old age and was transitioned ceremoniously into compost in the garden, under the grand epitaph: “Here Lies A Good Fish”.)

The pet-store guy threw Sam, a finger-nail-sized “mystery snail, in for free.  Selecting companions for betta fish can be a bit tricky: otherwise known as Siamese fighting fish, they aren’t known for their affability.  But betta fish aren’t threatened by snails, we were assured.  Plus, snails keep the water clean.

All seemed well, at first.  Soda simply ignored the tiny striped mollusk meandering around his space.  The only thing he attacked was his food.  Until the night he drove Sam clean out of the bowl. Read the rest of this entry »

19
Oct 19

Behind bars“The truth shall set you free,” advises the old canon.

Unless you’re a criminal, that is.  Then the truth will land you in prison.  That’s how the justice system works, most of the time.

Roughly 40,000 convicts are presently locked away in the fifty-three federal and provincial prisons scattered across Canada. The vilest of the perps (the murderers, the rapists, and the pedophiles) are punished with lengthy consignments to the most secure of these institutions; eight federal maximum-security prisons are needed to house them all – and almost all of them are men.

Women commit crimes too, but at far lower rates and attended by much less violence and predation, a fact reflected by the lower security and gentler living conditions typical of female prisons (there’s not a single dedicated maximum-security institution for women in Canada).  The Institutional Mother-Child Program even allows incarcerated mothers to raise their children in prison until the age of four. Read the rest of this entry »

16
Oct 19

splintersWhen “hanging chad” popped up in the headlines in November of 2000 I assumed, at first, that a hardened criminal named Chad was about to be strung up for murder or some other heinous crime.

But the chad in question wasn’t a convict; it was an innocent circle of paper meant to be punched from ballot cards by Floridians voting in the 2000 presidential election.  Sun-baked citizens encountered some difficulty popping those bits of paper free, however: thousands of chads were left “hanging”.

Seniors were to blame, I’ll bet.  Retirees make up a higher percentage of Florida’s population than in any other state.  Imagine Mildred and Ernest, frail and bent, vision dimmed by cataracts, ballots clutched in arthritic, trembling hands, vainly stabbing at the paper circles. Read the rest of this entry »