What’s Canada? Chopped liver?

January 28th, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

Once again, the American thrust on Afghanistan, as explicated in an article in today’s New York Times, completely ignores Canada.

. . . the Obama administration would work with provincial leaders as an alternative to the central government, and . . . would leave economic development and nation-building increasingly to European allies, so that American forces could focus on the fight against insurgents. (Emphasis mine)

“European allies?” Let’s do the math here: As of 23 January 2009, there have been 996 Coalition deaths directly related to the fighting in Afghanistan. Of these, USA casualties number 574, UK casualties 124, and Canada 107. The rest range from Germany with 30 casualties to Lithuania with a grand total of 1. It appears fairly clear that, yes indeed, the USA is carrying the load, with twice the casualty rate of the UK and five times Canada’s.

But not so fast: The Americans have 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, while the UK has less than 8,000 and Canada some 2,500. Which puts their respective casualty rates in a whole nuther light—Canada at 4.2%, while the US and UK rates are 1.8% and 1.6% respectively.

At least the Brits see fit to mention Canada’s contribution now and then but, as always, all the American media see when they look northward is Alaska. Which is probably why Canada got all girlish and giggly when it was announced that President Obama’s first foreign (or, as Missus Palin might say, “overseas”) trip would be to Canada. They like us, they really like us—even if they don’t know we exist! Gargh.

But we can now hazard a guess as to why Obama is making the trip. The Canadian government has committed to pulling out of Afghanistan by 2011, and maybe a little sweet-talking is in order to see if Canada can be charmed into extending the date. Perhaps someone should warn Obama — sweet-talking Stephen Harper will be like cuddling up to a dead mackerel.

Dear Zachary

January 25th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

I spent last evening watching this MSNBC documentary, which aired on tv here a few weeks ago and was recorded for me by #1 Son’s boyfriend. (I had tried to DVR it, and the damn’ thing was blank when I went to watch it … fairly typical of my experience with DVR, but I hope on, hope ever, and have so far resisted throwing the fracken machine out the window.)

In 2001, a Canadian-American GP, by the name of Shirley Turner, shot and killed her ex-boyfriend, Dr Andrew Bagby, in Pennsylvania and fled to Canada to escape justice. There she announced that she was four months pregnant by Andrew and, for the next few years, thumbed her nose at the US justice system, aided and abetted by various members of the Newfoundland judiciary who treated her with kid gloves, because she was a single mother. Shades of that hoary old joke about the criminal who murders his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan!

There are many good guys in this appalling and tragic story, including David Bagby’s friends and colleagues, and the Newfoundland lawyer who worked long and hard to try to bring Shirley Turner to justice. But the real heroes are Andrew’s parents, David and Kate Bagby. They gave up their lives in the States and moved to Newfoundland, where they attempted to gain custody of their grandchild. Frustrated at every turn by the courts—the film, made by their son’s friend, Kurt Kuenn, is a heart-scalding indictment of the Canadian justice system—they made numerous friends in Canada and bowed to the whims of their grandchild’s psycho mother, in order to maintain contact with Zachary. David Bagby has published a best-selling book about their experiences, entitled Dance with the Devil, and has become a passionate advocate for sweeping changes within the family law system in Canada

I won’t say how the film ends and, if you want to track down the DVD, which is due to be released on February 24th, I would advise that you not Google any of the protagonists because it’s a huge spoiler. Also, make sure you have a box of tissues close at hand as you watch. More info on the film can be found here.

NFB online. Yay.

January 22nd, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

The National Film Board of Canada has put its entire archive online … and it’s for free! Now that’s putting our tax dollars to work, in a good way for a change.

Remember this one?


Or this one?


And then there are all the fantastic documentaries, the live shorts, and the trailers. Pure heaven. I may never come up for air …

Newfoundland and Labrador

January 21st, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Wordless Wednesday

January 21st, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

The End of an Error

H/T San Jose Mercury News

Serves me right for volunteering

January 20th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

I had a brain fart the other day, when I read Janie’s post on Midlife Slices, and actually volunteered to be “interviewed” by her. You’d think an army brat would know better. “Never volunteer” … it’s drummed into us with our mother’s milk. Ah well. Here we go:

1. If you weren’t doing your current job, what else would you be doing?
Beats me. I fell into speechwriting by accident, after taking a year off work to complete a degree in Sociology. Just as I was contemplating my brand new degree (a month after my 50th birthday, I might add *preen*) and wondering “now what?” a friend of a friend mentioned to another friend of a friend that I was quite handy with the odd word here and there, and I received a call from Somebody Quite Important Who Shall Never Be Mentioned in a Blog — or rather from SQIWSNBMIAB’s secretary, because SQIWSNBMIABs don’t make their own phone calls, of course — asking me if I would consider drafting some speaking notes for an event that was coming up. And the rest, as they say, is history. Eleven years and two successors later, I’m still drafting speaking notes, and quite enjoying it all. What was the question again? Oh yes … I could do just about anything, really, except maybe chicken-sexing or working in a slaughterhouse. I’ve been a waitress, barmaid, chip packer, radio dispatcher, transformer winder, retail clerk, secretary, au pair, door to door encyclopaedia seller, hairdresser’s receptionist, press officer, customer services manager, project manager, marketing manager, and human resources consultant, so I could probably turn my hand to whatever comes up. If you are asking me what I would like to do, the answer is practice medicine (and maybe someday become competent … ta-da).

2. Other than meeting your husband, your wedding day or the birth of your children, what would you say has been the best day of your life and why?
Damn, these are really hard questions. What would you be in another life, Janie? A toenail-puller? Having taken a break and walked around the house a few times to think about this one: I think it was probably the day I drove home from the Dublin Gas Company, with a big fat redundancy cheque in my pocket and the knowledge that I would never again have to work for the worst arse of a boss I ever had in my life. As a single mother, I had forfeited the luxury of walking away from crappy bosses, so I had to stick it out with him for two years. And then a blessed redundancy package gave me back my freedom. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

3. How did you meet your husband and how did he propose?
I met The First Husband when he was sent to Ireland by his Canadian company to manage a huge consultancy project with Dublin Gas. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight — (a) he was married and (b) I was sick and tired of babysitting the damn’ consultants. And I have to admit that we all thought the Canadians were a bit of a joke, with their grey pants/navy blazers/beige trench coats uniform and their unflagging politeness. Worst of all, they smelled to high heaven of aftershave and cologne, which was pretty hard to stomach. My workmates and I used to gather in Mulligans of Poolbeg Street, near our office, to compare notes on these aliens and their funny ways and devise fresh ways to torment them. But then he and I became friends and, over a twelve month period, it morphed into something deeper. Twelve years, three children, and three thousand miles later, I proposed to him.

4. What is the one thing in your life you’d go back and change and why?
Not one damn’ thing. Because I am what I am, and my life is what it is, due to everything that has happened so far.

5. How would TFH describe you to a stranger.
With all due modesty, I know that he tells everyone he meets that I am the smartest person he knows. (Note that — person, not woman. What’s not to love?) It would be nice if he also described me as the sexiest, most gorgeous woman he knows, but he’s shortsighted, not blind.

That was an interesting experience … I see “therapeutic” being bandied around the blogosphere, and I think I agree … If you would like to volunteer for some “therapy” here’s what you have to do …

  1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

American Prayer 2009

January 19th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

John Mortimer RIP

January 16th, 2009 § 8 comments § permalink

Another good one has shuffled off this mortal coil. John Mortimer is probably best known for his Rumpole series of novels, which made a successful TV series for the Beeb starring the inimitable Leo McKern. But he was also a successful barrister, playwright, and writer of several wonderful autobiographies, of which A Voyage Round My Father is a particular favourite of mine. It, too, became a successful TV production—twice, the second starring Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, and Jane Asher. I’ve also read several of his non-Rumpole novels, but not even scratched the surface of his output.

Mortimer was also famously left-leaning in his politics, a fervent supporter of Labour for many years and all-round rabble-rouser. I will never forget reading an article by him in a long-defunct British glossy magazine for women, called Nova. It was the thinking woman’s magazine, a huge breakout from the cosy Woman’s Weekly genre, full of recipes, knitting patterns, and adulatory stories about the Royal Family, that had been the norm to that point. Unfortunately, Nova was killed off when the British version of Cosmopolitan came off the presses and hammered it in circulation numbers. As a matter of principle—not to mention sheer bloody-mindedness—I’ve never bought a single copy of Cosmo to this day and I have shunned it in waiting-rooms around the world. Besides, it’s absolute shite.

To get back to Mortimer. It was shortly after he had defended the young hellions who had published a very, very rude edition of Oz Magazine—you can read all about it here—which was also very funny, I might add. I kept a copy of it for years, but it must have got lost at some point during my travels, alas. The reason I remember the Nova article so vividly is that he used a quotation I had never heard before, and which affected me profoundly. It was from Voltaire: “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I’ve tried to keep to that maxim, even in my looniest of loony left days. And I would have to say that being open to a variety of opinions and ideas has enriched my life enormously.

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