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The Audio Readings Mailbag -- Part II     December 30, 2012

(See Part I -- December 19 below)


Ever since we drew attention to our Audio Readings, we have received a significant response from our readers. Here is a sampling:

Dear Dr. Dreimer:

I think you should stop calling The Valley of Hythlos (Drivel, March 9, 2011) a fairy tale. I listened to it with our little Samantha the other day, and she has gone into the silent zone. I can hardly get a word out of her.

While it is true that things are a lot more peaceful around here, I worry that she has suffered permanent psychological damage. Do you think Dr. Fluzenpuffer might be able to snap her out of it?

Yours truly,

(Big) Samantha Egglestone

P.S.: Shouldn’t you have an "Adults Only" Section on your website? That would be the best place for your Prayer to Murphy (Drivel, March 20, 2011)


The Lumpenbangen Institute:

Hey! Your Valley of Hythlos worked like a charm. Ever since I played it to my kids, Hap and Biff, and put on the Harmonious Equality T shirt for $12.95 plus shipping and handling, things have been soooo much quieter around here. I have recommended it to all my friends with obstreperous kids.


Bill Loman


Dr. Dreimer:

I received a copy of your fatuous piece, The Valley of Hythlos via e-mail.

As Chair of the Moribund Languages Department at Wawa U., I am well aware of the meaning of the word Hythlos, and see your piece for what it is – a pathetic attempt at commentary about serious issues in the creation of a modern, just, and caring society.

You seem completely oblivious to the delicacy of the subject, and the nuanced approach which is necessary to achieve a society in which all can feel valued, and all can go about the important task of getting on with their lives, one joyous step at a time, in an atmosphere free of anxiety, and in the absence of offensive remarks.



Indeed, I find the implications of this silly piece entirely offensive, clearly designed to bring the sterling efforts of Human Rights Commissions into disrepute, and expose the dedication of those of us who seek Nirvana to an unseemly ridicule.

I will consider my options after consultation with Melanie Grundy, of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Yours truly,

Professor E. Quail,
Chair, Moribund Languages Department,
The University of Wawa

P.S. I read your Prayer to Murphy, and my sex life didn’t improve the least little bit.


The Lumpenbangen Institute:

I enclose a Harmonious Equality T Shirt, size ‘L.’ It works, but I ordered an ‘XL.’ Could you please send me the correct size?


Big Dad Egglestone.


Dr. Dreimer:

Please remove the scurrilous piece, The Valley of Hythlos, from your website immediately.

We have received a number of reports about its offensive nature, not the least of which is a submission from the firm of Sweetness, Euphony, and Light, representing relatives of the late Harmonious Equality, and Professor E. Quail of the University of Wawa.

Not only is this piece offensive to all those who truly care about Nirvana, but its reference to a terrible surgical operation could only come from a sick, sick, mind. Apart from the legal issues involved, we recommend that you seek, for your own sanity, professional help.*

Yours truly,

Melanie Grundy, Pooh-Bah Elect,
The Canadian Human Rights Commission

*My brother-in-law, Dr. Rauschig Fluzenpuffer has expressed an interest in your case. He may be reached at the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in Toronto.

P.S.: I read your Prayer to Murphy, but all I got was the usual headache.



The Gordian Knot* of Aboriginal Affairs            (December 29, 2012)

Yesterday, in our Diary, we suggested that the plight of aboriginals could be attributed to the variety of socialism under which they endure. Government largesse, combined with the lack of basic economic freedoms results not in a socialist Utopia, but a dysfunctional collective in which the many live in poverty while an excessive bureaucracy controls and thrives.

That very evening, on The Source, Ezra Levant dealt with the same topic, and suggested that economic freedom, which would allow Indians to own land, take out mortgages, and sell their possessions to whomever they wished, would represent a path from the current morass.

In fact, regarded more closely, the morass is a kind of dystopia, a tiny universe suspended by a rope linked to the real world with a great and intricate knot of many interdependent strands. The poverty, the wealth, the bureaucracy, the mismanagement, the Indian Act, and the concept of nationhood based on race, are all strands inextricably bound together in the Gordian Knot of aboriginal affairs.

To cut the knot or disentangle the strands is of no interest to those who benefit from the current circumstances. While many might be freed to rise on their own merits, the bureaucracies, both Canadian and aboriginal would lose their raison d’être and plunge into the abyss.

But, above all the overriding dream – that of a racial nation within a nation – would fail.


The nation within a nation can only survive if it is a collective – if it restricts the freedoms of individuals to act in economic self interest, and forces them to act in the interest of the collective.

Thus, Mr. Levant’s suggestion – that aboriginals seize upon individual economic freedom, if not actually a sword, is a subversive and penetrating oil, a freeing lubricant which, over time, would allow the knot to be tugged apart. But if an aboriginal acts as an individual – for example – sells his land to the highest bidder, regardless of race or "status" – then the dream of a separate, racially based nation within the nation must also crumble.

One should not underestimate the power of dreams which lead to dysfunction and misery.

An exact analogy is provided by the Canadian Health Care System. Both efficacy and individual freedom are sacrificed to the cruel, jesting, and deceptive Gods of Universality and Equality.

We think that the Gordian Knot of aboriginal affairs will be with us for a very long time.


*According to legend, Alexander the Great could not untie the knot which fastened the ox-cart of Gordias – by which possession he had been decreed king of Phrygia– to a post. Alexander sliced the knot in half, exposing the ends which allowed him to untie it. (Wikipedia)


Audio Readings Mailbag         (December 19, 2012)


The other day, we drew attention to a little recognized feature of this website – a small number of audio readings of some of the postings. We are pleased that more people are becoming aware of these recordings made by Dr. Dreimer. As has been noted elsewhere (on the index Page), for security reasons, Dr. Dreimer wears the full burka when recording, and his hearty booming voice has been disguised to resemble that of a querulous retired professor of moribund languages. Despite these restrictions, it is becoming clear to us that our readers are taking increasing note of these little gems.

Here are some of the e-mails we have received:

Hey Dude!

I work in high steel construction projects in Toronto and recently I converted to Abracadabra.

Man, what a difference! With my old religion, I was always tired, grumpy, miserable, and out of sorts. My wife and I were always fighting to beat the band, and the even the kids were starting to get antsy and anxious.

My job is high steel and high pressure. Looking down when you’re up on some flimsy girder, and thinking about what you’d look like splashed on the pavement – man – that’s more than scary. But now, I got the Prayer to Murphy (Drivel, March 20, 2011) on my iPod, and any time I get the butterflies, I let her rip.

It calms me right down, when I think there’s a good chance – maybe– 50/50 that Murphy is on my side. Not like that other guy – you couldn’t count on him for anything.

By the way – my sex life has improved 100%.


High on Religion

Dear Dr. Dreimer:

I’m sending you this note just to let you know how appreciative we are for Abracadabra.

My husband, Everett and I are stuck in this facility – I won’t say where – and you have no idea how depressing it can get. Dr. Dreimer, they’re dropping like flies all around us. Last week it was Anna Marie Desponte, just this Monday it was Peter Mansfield. God only knows who will be next!


With our old religion, we were always on tenterhooks – frankly the prospect of meeting all our useless bickering relatives in heaven was wearing us down. What a relief to feel now, that Murphy makes no such threats; when we’re gone, we’re gone, and we won’t have to worry about anything ever again. We got our nephew, Danny, to put the Prayer to Murphy on a CD, so we can play it anytime we get edgy or constipated. It has been a great source of comfort to us, and we are very appreciative of your beautiful rendition of the prayer.

All the best.

Miranda Weatherfield

P.S.: Our sex life has improved 100%!


Dr. Dreimer:

We have taken note that several of your audio readings are concerned with our esteemed premier, Dalton McGuinty. We refer to How Green is my McGuinty (Drivel, March, 13, 2012) There are Windmills at the Bottom of our Garden (Drivel , November 21, 2011) and Oh, We love to do the Laundry after Midnight (Drivel, October 30, 2011)

Our Committee for the Consideration for Subversive Verse believes that these works show less respect for the premier than is currently mandated.

You must surely be aware of Mr. McGuinty’s fragile mental state, as he confronts baseless allegations of mismanagement of the Province. The added pressure of giving up the perks of office is also taking its toll. Finally, the windmill at the bottom of the premier's garden has been attacked by aphids.

Unless these recordings are removed from the Lumpenbangen site immediately, we will be forced to launch a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Please govern yourself accordingly.

Yours truly,

The Gliberal Party of Ontario.

P.S.: All the committee members who read your Prayer to Murphy report that their sex lives improved 100%. It is only the verses mentioning Mr. McGuinty which need to be removed.



The Lumpenbangen Commitment to Excellence and the Satisfaction of its Customers

(December 15, 2012)


We are currently engaged in sending out the 2012 Xmas compilation of new original melodies. These tunes are composed by Dr. Idel Dreimer, and are earnestly played by Rufus Allthumbs. In keeping with the need to reduce the enforced jollity and artificial optimism of the Christmas Season, the album consists of a number of mournful and depressing tunes. The title of this year’s collection is Moody Melodies.

We had planned to include, in addition to the usual program notes, a copy of the famed Lumpenbangen Piano Institute Warranty and Iron* Clad Guarantee.

However, in the spirit of conservation and frugality inspired by Dr. David Suzuki, we have decided to save paper, toner, and wear and tear on the El Cheapo printer, and simply publish the document on this website.

Of the hundreds of visitors to the site each month, very few are actually fortunate enough to be owners of Lumpenbangen discs, and so this general publication of our Warranty cannot help but add lustre to our already burnished reputation, suggesting as it does, our unwavering commitment to providing products of the highest quality to our valued customers.


The Lumpenbangen Warranty and Iron* Clad Guarantee

The Sleeve:

Sleeves are manufactured from high quality plastic according to the exacting standards of Chinese engineers. The plastic itself has been blessed by a wise man living a Suzuki - like lifestyle in a remote mountain cave, and the Chinese engineers are all graduates of accredited Chinese Engineering Institutes. The devices undergo rigorous testing for ease of opening and security of closure, and are hand-checked for splits, nicks and scuff marks.

As a matter of policy, we do not reveal our actual source of supply for these sleeves; we make a considerable margin of profit when we replace the sleeves. Revealing our own source would be a stupid business move.

If the sleeve for your disc is unsatisfactory, the following options may be considered:

(a) Learn to accept the fact that perfection is not achievable in this world, and simply soldier on with the fortitude and determination which has brought you to your current situation in life.

(b) The sleeve may be placed on a hard surface, and stomped on. High heels and construction-type work boots have both been proved quite effective.




(c) A medium-weight hammer may be used to smash the offending sleeve into smithereens.

(d) Drilling, scoring, and cutting the sleeve are also effective in relieving frustration. Cursing and boiling seem to bring little positive result.

(e) Despite the temptation, the burning of plastic is not advised. Sleeves destroyed as in (b), (c), and (d) above may be put out in the blue box. On no account should they be considered regular garbage unless they are wrapped in a new ($420) David Suzuki sweater.

(f) Application may be made to the Lumpenbangen Institute for a replacement sleeve. Submissions containing paper currency in the amount of $10 plus a copy of an RCMP background check will be favourably considered. We guarantee all such applications will be given careful consideration.

The Disc:

The discs have a pedigree very similar to that of the sleeve, except that the plastic, being of a different variety, is blessed by a Zoroastrian Priest.

If the disc is marked, scratched, or for some reason will not play, you are fully entitled to destroy it as indicated in (b), (c), and (d) above.

We would note that each disc does contain a sophisticated tracking device which identifies the owner, and sends information about the number of times it is played, the steadiness of the hands of the agent when placed into a machine, and of course, the time of destruction.


We guarantee that no recriminatory agents will call, and no legal action will be commenced by the Institute. Reports of mysterious thefts, broken windows, and the disappearance of automobiles in connection with the destruction of Lumpenbangen discs are simply the stuff of urban legend. You may destroy a Lumpenbangen disc with the complete confidence that it is a private matter between you and our Records Department.

Replacement discs may be obtained upon application together with a $25 fee. No background check is required. Replacement discs carry no guarantee of any kind whatsoever. Destruction of replacement discs is not advised. A small amount of tolerance, we think, is admirable; repeated rejection puts the Institute in a retaliatory mood.

The Music:

Every attempt has been made to ensure that the music is depressing, and is played to the capabilities of Rufus Allthumbs. Mr. Allthumbs generously donates his services in the time he has available after his shift at E-Z Clean Industrial Cleaners in Hamilton. If, for any reason, you are dissatisfied with the music or the degree of competence exhibited in its presentation, do not complain. You have one disc; we have hundreds.


*The exigencies of the modern industrial world have led us to replace the iron with a modern, light weight aluminum.

Of Comics, Comedians, and Humorists.    (December 14, 2012)

Would you hit a woman with a baby?
No, I’d use a brick, instead.

(An old joke.)

Few would admit to having no sense of humour at all, but there is no doubt that a humorous viewpoint, a comedic approach to life, is unevenly distributed. The humorist is one who, more frequently than most, takes note of incongruities and disparities which lie hidden in the humdrum of existence.

In the first line of the joke above, the conventional view conjures the image of someone hitting a woman holding a baby. An entirely logical, but less conventional interpretation of the first line suggests that a woman is being hit with a baby. To draw attention to that interpretation, the second line assumes that it is valid, and points out that, if one is hitting someone, a heavy unyielding brick is likely to be more effective than a soft and less manageable baby.

The notion of using a brick to hit a woman is startling and violent – but consider how much less effective the second line would be if it read:

No, I’d use a wet noodle instead.

Yes, the alternative interpretation is pointed out – but the outrageousness of the brick is what shows up the silliness of the interpretation – that a baby is being used to hit a woman.

We have no doubt that, somewhere, a feminist has seen or heard this joke, and had confirmed her entire view of the world. The history of the deprivation and denigration of women, the horror of domestic abuse, and the callous and unfeeling nature of men are all there: in the space of two lines, the essential inequity of the whole rotten human enterprise is exposed.

Our feminist friend is, of course, simply validating the famous remark of Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797):

This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.*

She (for we assume she is a she) is responding emotionally, not intellectually. The humorist – at the moment of the joke – gives not a whit for the status of women, man’s propensity for violence, or the rottenness of the human enterprise. He is simply pointing out that a sentence can be understood in two rather different ways, and uses the technique of surprise to show the potential absurdity of the initial statement.



The penchant in the humorist for finding inconsistency and incongruity suggests that it is rather unlikely that a humorist would be religious. We must, of course, admit to our own bias here. Our latest observation reads thus:

Religion is so naked an emperor, that it is a wonder it continues to parade its hypothetical finery without near-universal derision; one must conclude that the streets are lined with crowds of foolish or fearful adults, and that there is a regrettable paucity of clear-sighted and unintimidated children.

We find it extraordinary that anyone with an I.Q. above the average temperature designation for Toronto in July could take religion seriously. Of course, the facts contradict our opinion, for it is consistently shown that some very intelligent people are happy to suppress their intellects for the undeniable comforts of superstition.

However, if one googles atheist comedians it appears that many have noticed an apparent link between humour and atheism. Names of humorist atheists such as Mark Twain, George Carlin, Phyllis Diller, and Bill Maher come to mind. We have no direct evidence, but it seems unlikely that our favourite Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock, who called for his walking stick -- and his courage -- for his imminent confrontation with the unknown, was particularly devout.

If it seems likely that many humorists share a skepticism about religion, it must be noted that each humorist has his own particular angle of insight, and sees life’s absurdities through a unique and particular prism.

We have observed that it is unusual to view the performance of a stand-up comedian without knowing, at the conclusion, whether the performer is Canadian or American, whether single, married or gay, whether he or she has children, or lives in an apartment or a house. That a comedian would not reveal a Jewish or Italian background is unthinkable.

How often do we hear of the comedian’s personal experience on entering a supermarket, boarding a plane, or simply standing in line at the bank?

Why, indeed, does the humorist seem so self-absorbed?

It is precisely because, of course, of that particular angle, that unique prism. How can we understand the insights, without understanding the individual for whom they are part of the daily fabric of existence? We must go into his supermarket, board her plane, and stand in line in the humorist’s shoes at the bank. Only in that way can our angle of vision be transformed, our perspective shifted; only then can we perceive the absurdities which lurk, often unrecognized, in the universe which we share with those who see life as a comedy, rather than a tragedy.*

*Life is, in fact, of course, a tragedy. That's why it is so helpful to have a sense of humour.


La Bottine Souriante   (December 9, 2012)

We had occasion to see a performance of La Bottine Souriante at Koerner Hall in Toronto last evening. The music of this group from Quebec, which has become a Living Legend is described in the program as follows:

Their exceptionally tight, cohesive sound, with their unique flavour of celebratory music, is characterized by pulsating rhythm, breathtaking sound, and exuberant spirit.

The Hall appeared to be filled, and the Audience appreciative. The performers showed much talent, and joie de vivre.

We regret that our own sensibility in matters musical was scarcely at ease. We left the Hall with a resolution to do research with the aim of buying stocks in companies in the hearing aid business, and considered that a personal appointment with an audiologist to assess our own assaulted hearing capacities might not be amiss. Quite possibly the performers and those in attendance have already experienced, through repeated exposure, a considerable diminution in their auditory faculties, and so were unaware of the injurious levels of sound being produced.

We found the rhythms relentless, energetic, persistent, and subject to very little variation. A little bit of joie de vivre may be appropriate, but two hours of it seems slightly artificial.* Perhaps this reflects our own limited experience of the phenomenon; we have noted – indeed experienced -- quite a bit of vivre with a notable absence of joie, and it troubles us to see those for whom joie appears to be a persistent condition. We begin to suspect that those with a consistently positive outlook are slightly stupid, or suffer from some underlying hormonal imbalance.

Perfectly balanced hormones, in our view, predict a preference for quiet melodies, tinged with melancholy, and a suitably sombre and gloomy outlook on life.

We were also less than pleased that the performers, as a means of getting the audience into the spirit of the moment, requested them, on occasion, to stand. As a further means of discombobulation and intrusion, beams of light were, from time to time, flashed into the faces of those in attendance.

Joie was to be – like it or not --cajoled if not actually compelled.

We think these wonderfully talented performers would benefit by expanding their range; we concede, however, that this might not enhance their popularity.

*We would note that the Joie from two hours of comedy is a different matter, since comedy is essentially cerebral, and derives from an intellectual perception of disparities and incongruities. The Joie from lively rhythms is primarily emotional; the intellect is subordinated to a more primitive sense.


Post script: We could not help but reflect that their performance suggests an energetic and determined journey to Omaha, where Omaha is defined by this famous Poem by Carl Sandburg:


I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
answers: "Omaha."

(Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967)


The Decline of Civilization               (December 4, 2012)

The nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-slidin' away. (Paul Simon)

Civilizations, like the sentient beings of which they are composed, contain the seeds of their own destruction.
(Observation # 211 )

From time to time, we reach into the vast abyss of our ignorance, and pluck therefrom a speculative and untested idea which we are pleased to launch forth to see how well it may sail on the sea of general opinion.

We listened with interest to a recent conversation between Ezra Levant and Charles Krauthammer. Dr. Krauthammer observed that the Unites States was beginning an experiment with Social Democracy –the superficially attractive movement from capitalism to socialism – at the very time that we have evidence of the failure of that very concept in Europe.

We confess that we have speculated, of late, upon the decline of America. We have the idea – we know not how accurate it may be -- that the United States was founded upon the notions of freedom, self-reliance, ingenuity and industry, all combined with a deep distrust of government.

Today, Mr. Obama seems to reject all these notions. The right to make offensive videos is questioned; entrepreneurs "didn’t build that" —but were enabled by the benevolence of others, especially governmental benevolence. He has introduced Obamacare, which seems something akin to our own beloved system of health care. And even before Mr. Obama’s rise to power, one might argue that the economic tsunami of 2008 was a result of government policy attempting to make home ownership available to all – regardless of the ability to pay. It is not surprising that holders of questionable mortgages would wish to put them in a blender, and quickly sell the result as delicious cuplets of a healthful smoothie.

We have said elsewhere that we see civilized society in a constant battle between the underlying reality of the jungle –in which the fittest survive – and our perfectly understandable desire to refute that reality and create a utopian ideal.

No one would advocate a return to the jungle. Man’s capacity to co-operate, to imagine, and to create an existence in which jungle exigencies and deficiencies are mitigated, have made human life extraordinarily more comfortable than any existence in the jungle could be.

Our question is – is there a limit to this distancing from the underlying reality? Does civilization, in fact, contain within it the elements of its own destruction? Does goodness contain the seed of evil?

We have studied no history, but we would note the comment of Edward Gibbon on the decline of Athens:

In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.


Benjamin Franklin noted that those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserved neither liberty nor security. (See Weekly Quotation, October 10, 2012)

Yet we think that to desire security over liberty is a perfectly human, perfectly civilized predilection.

The desire for -- and the provision of --security may also be seen as an outcome of compassion. But is it possible that compassion can overwhelm justice, limit freedom, blunt the thrust of achievement, and dull the edge of vigilance?

We note that in advanced and complex societies, the impersonal and undiscriminating charity of government replaces the more careful and just charity of a local community. And why should not citizens be restricted in speech which might offend the delicate feelings of others? Universal Health Care, promising egalitarian and compassionate security, is the subversive wedge which gives government an increasing justification to control the lives of its citizens: for why should individual freedom not be restricted when all must bear the cost of an decision leading to ill-health?

Behind compassion is also the notion of equality. Surely all should be rewarded equally, and have lives equally blessed with material goods and comforts? Why should merit receive more reward than incompetence; is this not unfair? Is not every soul equal to every other?

In the world of compassionate equality, too, is an odd reluctance to admit the possibility of evil. If evil does exist, the notion of equality suggests that it must be distributed fairly evenly. How invidious to make a moral distinction between Palestine and Israel! The eighty-year-old grandmother is scrutinized as carefully at the airport as the bearded men speaking Arabic, who have no luggage.

We pose questions to which we have no answers, but we have an uneasy feeling that, as admirable as is our desire to create an ideal world, it runs the risk of fatal weakness, a debilitation which makes it easy prey for those who are not quite so advanced, who are a little closer to the jungle. And even without opportunistic predators, it seems entirely possible that the organism could succumb to a cancerous gnawing from within. 

We have always read King Lear as a commentary on the nature of reality and its potential for unanticipated evil. King Lear is really an Everyman living in a world of illusion. Surrounded by agreeable courtiers, and in a position of great power, his view of the world could be considered utopian. When his daughter, Cordelia, says that she loves him "according to her bond" – this is an element of realism Lear is simply unprepared to accept. Far better to reward the grand, flattering impossibilities of his self-serving offspring, Goneril and Regan -- for their protestations are in accord with his world-view.

Believing in grand impossibilities does not end well for the King; we do not think the message from 1606 is particularly out-of-date.


The sub-optimal President         (October 27, 2012)



...there was something wanting in him – some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence...he was hollow at the core...

                                                                        ( Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)

We confess that when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, we feared that he would be insufficiently tough-minded with respect to the threat posed by Iran. It has long been our contention that the idealism associated with those on the left can be a significant disadvantage in the real world: good will is assumed where none exists; all difficulties are perceived as superficial – and thus all disputes are capable of resolution: all that is required is that the opposing parties sit down together over a few beers on a sunny afternoon.

Indeed, Mr. Obama’s Speech in Cairo in 2009, entitled "A New Beginning" put forth an olive branch, suggesting "a new way forward based on mutual interest and mutual respect." This, of course, is a reasonable suggestion if ‘mutual’ respect actually exists. No mention was made of "terror" or "terrorism"-- both realities which call into question the validity of the assumption of mutual respect.

While it is true that Osama bin Laden was killed in May of 2011, it is claimed, by Richard Miniter in Leading from Behind, that the President had cancelled the operation on three earlier occasions at the urging of Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor, who is often characterized as exerting an inordinate power at the White House.*

In the matter of the September 11th attacks on the Consulate in Benghazi in Libya, much troubling information is coming forward. Some time before the attack, Ambassador Chris Stevens had apparently asked for additional security, but it was denied. More alarming still, Jennifer Griffin, of Fox News has reported that during the attack, three separate requests were made by a CIA annex to provide assistance, but were told to "stand down." Thus far, the President has refused to confirm or deny this accusation. (ABC News, October 26.)

It has also been claimed that the administration was well aware, almost immediately, that the attack was not the result of a spontaneous demonstration against the film Innocence of Muslims, but the responsibility of the group Ansar al-Sharia. (Larry Margasak, Associated Press; Politics in Polk, October 25.)


Yet it is well known to anyone who has watched the news since September 11th, that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Administration Officials have consistently claimed that the film Innocence of Muslims was the precipitating factor in the attack. Indeed Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods the Navy SEAL who was killed in the attack, has claimed that Hillary Clinton had told him: "We will make sure the person who made this film is arrested and prosecuted." (Glen Beck Interview October 26, therightscoop.com ) He has also characterized the official explanations as "a pack of lies." (Breitbart.com, October 26.)

We must add to this extraordinary story of conflicting explanations, a statement suggesting an odd detachment on the part of President Obama:

"Here is what I will say, if four Americans get killed it is not optimal."

The statement was made to Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; perhaps this underscores the dangers of taking "The President Act" to the world of late night television.

The final word on this matter has not, of course, been written. But, at this point, it would appear that the real story – that attack on Benghazi as a terrorist operation – conflicted with a preferable narrative. In that narrative -- Osama bin Laden having been despatched -- the new path – the new world order of rapprochement could proceed as hoped. Sub-optimal bumps in the road could be attributed, not to a persistent lack of mutual respect, but the failings of western society, which unaccountably and regrettably allowed for the freedom to make offensive films.

"The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam," said Mr. Obama in his speech to the United Nations on September 25.

On the contrary. The future should belong to those who have the freedom to offend, for only in such a society can good and bad ideas jostle in the marketplace, and have their true worth be assessed and proclaimed.

The future should not belong to sub-optimal politicians for whom truth and freedom of speech are strategic morsels to be cast, without stay of conscience or remorse, into the gaping maw of appeasement.

*It has been claimed that Ms. Jarrett was concerned about the damage to Mr. Obama’s reputation should the attack on Osama bin Laden fail, which suggests an interesting hierarchy of values. It is a hierarchy into which the rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline and presidency via television appearances may be seen to fit quite well: Ask not what you can do for your country, but consider rather what will gild, and what will burnish the reputational bubble.


God vs. The Other Guy, or Why the Flight to Utopia has been temporarily delayed


(October 21, 2012)

All right, everybody – hands up those who believe in Central Planning!

Aha – just as we suspected. On the left, Mr. McGuinty, a gaggle of socialist parliamentarians and a phalanx of government bureaucrats. On the other side, absolutely no one.

Perhaps too many have heard of the centrally planned shoe factory, which, because of a clerical error, continues to produce and stockpile size sevens, while a large proportion of the overwhelmingly size nine population waddle uncomfortably by, their feet wrapped in newspaper and old rags.

Or perhaps they have encountered Canada’s Health Care System.



This very morning we were struck with a mote in the eye which brought us sudden vision: as the eye responded to expel the mote, we marvelled at the wonderful mechanism by which we are so well adapted to our circumstance. For the religious, of course, the explanation is that God has planned things that way; for the Other Guy, it is a marvel of incremental improvement, the result of action and reaction over the millennia. We are so well adapted because – of course – we are the result of a long period of adaptation – of evolution trying things out, keeping what works, and throwing out what doesn’t. The process itself --neither kindly nor fair-- but the result -- a marvel of creation.

Further reflection led us to realize that such dichotomous explanations reveal the two entirely different ways of looking at things which are most commonly found in the workings of the human psyche.  Ideal notions battle the underlying reality. It is this conflict that suggests that those planning to board the flight to utopia would be unwise to pack their toothbrushes just yet.

Indeed, we have conceived of a handy table which pretty well explains Everything worth thinking about.


(See also, The Savannah and the Hive, Drivel, August 18, 2012)


                                                   Everything Worth Thinking About





God (the original central planner)

The other guy – Murphy, the Devil in the details, or the universe as it is

Religion – like booze – a private illusory comfort

Creation by central planning –quick, wonderful, and magic-wandish

Evolution: long, slow, grinding; competitive and unfair

99% evolution; 1% magic wand

Government by central planning, with the copious use of magic wands

The free Market

Maximize the market; magic wands subject to multiple malfunctions and unexpected recalls


Survival of the fittest


Security of the hive, the crystal palace, man as a piano key

Freedom of the savannah, the jungle, man as unpredictably self-determining

God (or the other guy) only knows!


Winners, losers

Improvement possible; equality achievable with magic wands only

Affirmative action



Health Care by central planning, magic wands

Health Care at market rates

Combination; private insurance

Harmony by fiat, enforced by Human Rights Commissions

"Harmony" out of struggle; "whatever is, is right."

Harmony like equality – see above; man not a piano key

Laws against blasphemy to achieve harmony

Free speech

Free speech

Laws against hate speech and being offensive -- to achieve harmony

Free speech

Free speech

Human Rights Commissions

Law of the jungle

Courts of law

Mercy for all

Penalty for error

Aim for justice – a bit like equality and harmony

Sweetness and light

Struggle and death

Do what you can; magic wands subject to multiple malfunctions and unexpected recalls.


                   There! We hope that there will now be no further questions.



Cereal Killers on the Loose!        (October 11, 2012)

Strange deeds are done in an October sun
Near a town that’s put on hold;
The cottage trails have their secret tales
That are perhaps best left untold.


In order for the reader to appreciate the extraordinary nature of the events described below, it is necessary to give some background information concerning Running Brook. Running Brook is the town nearest our cottage, Wind-in-the-Pines. It is about ten miles away.

The sign on the outskirts of Running Brook reads "Population 1100." The sign has been admirably consistent in this declaration for as long as we can remember. We do not claim that it has never changed in the last thirty-five years, but we doubt that it has in the last ten.

True, there has appeared a small subdivision of sorts, tucked away, out of sight of the main street, which might reasonably be considered a justification for the painting of a new sign; but perhaps an attitude of modest self-effacement, lack of funds, or both, have led to a significant understatement of the truth.

We know not. But let us simply say that Running Brook is a one-supermarket, two-gas-station town. In passing we might note that the two gas stations, which are nearly opposite one another on the main street, never compete in price. We assume that this is a testament to the gentlemanly nature of the respective operators, and no doubt benignly countenanced by the existing Competition Act.

We should also hasten to dissipate the notion that Running Brook is the bustling hub for a large recreational area in which million dollar homes are commonplace: the immediate surroundings have a rural rusticity, and the lakes beyond are smaller bodies of water lacking the cachet of the Muskoka Lakes, or Georgian Bay.

We hope we have succeeded in conveying the impression that our cottage, Wind-in-the-Pines, dozes sleepily in a cottage-country backwater.

For that very reason, it was a surprise to see yesterday, upon approaching the town, what can only be described as a traffic gufuffle. There were two police cars in attendance, and we first assumed that there had been a terrible accident ahead, and that we would be waved off to the left – the route of a not uncommon detour. But mysteriously, after a brief conversation, the driver of the vehicle ahead proceeded on the main road.


We pulled up, lowered the window.

"This is a spot check," said the officer.

Spot check? We thought spot checks were held in Toronto, after dark, during the "festive" season. It was four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in October. Just outside Running Brook.

We suffered such a discombobulation, such an intrusion of untameable, non-sequiturish thoughts, that we wondered whether the authorities, having long noted the unwashed condition of the Serviceable Six, were about to check it for spots. We hoped for a warning, or possibly even a good-will gesture – a voucher for the car wash at the Petro-Canada station on Main Street.

Then the officer, leaning in for a good whiff, speaking very rapidly, asked something about alcohol.

When asked such a question, it is always prudent to appear very sober, very calm, and very alert. Aware of this need to appear to be in full command of our faculties, and with great presence of mind, we asked, "What?"

He repeated the question. Had we been consuming alcohol at four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in October. Just outside Running Brook?

With all the scorn we could muster, we said "No."

Upon reflection, we thought that there must be more – far more to this bizarre incident. This was no spot check. No indeed. They were looking for cereal killers that are wont to plague the area. Why only the previous afternoon, on our walk along the Silver Lake Road, we had noticed a very large yellow sign warning that no garbage was to be placed at the location for pick up during the summer – but only during the winter season – after November the First. Doubtless a security camera had detected a vehicle just like the Serviceable Six, discarding cereal boxes in the forbidden place. When the Officer leaned in, he was actually reading our mind with the new Krypton-ray machine to determine whether we were, in fact the guilty party, a cereal killer who left the lifeless, empty, mutilated boxes under the big yellow warning sign surveyed by the remotely-controlled camera.

Oh, all right. But it makes just as much sense as a spot check at four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. In October. Just outside Running Brook.


Lumpenbangen Website Yanked; Myalgia on Hunger Strike

October 3, 2012. (Special to Forward News) The Lumpenbangenpiano Website was yanked from cyberspace on Monday, as the result of the failure of officials to update e-mail information. The mix-up occurred when the website server, Deep Discount Hosting sent a request for a domain registration fee to an outdated e-mail address. When no payment was made, the website was yanked.

Lumpenbangen officials protested that, when payment was not received, Deep Discount Hosting should have tried the website address dreimer@lumpenbangenpiano.com or even the old telephonic system to which Dr. Dreimer himself is still personally connected.

Ms. Rules R. Rules, a spokesperson for Deep Discount Hosting, and chairperson of the Yanking Department, was unapologetic. "Our procedure is to send such requests to the e-mail address on file. If the e-mail address has, through wanton neglect or sloppy oversight, not been updated, that’s tough bananas. The thought of sending our request to the website address hosted on our own computer system never occurred to us. And few in their right minds would wish to speak to Dr. Dreimer in person; he is reputed to be rude, grumpy, and given to tirades in the style of the18th Century. Forget it. We assume we are dealing with adults in such matters, not incompetents who need special treatment. If we don’t get the dough, we yank the site. And anyway, the Lumpenbangen site is so tiny, and so obscure, it’s more trouble than it is worth. Dr. Dreimer should try smoke signals."

Despite Ms. Rules’s contention regarding the obscurity of the site, world reaction was swift.

The Waterloo based Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics was quick to allay fears of a potential black hole in cyberspace. Dr. M. T. Spasce, director of Black Hole Studies, admitted that while there was a theoretical possibility that a sudden yanking could precipitate an inordinate aggregation of emptiness, the size of the Lumpenbangen site was such that its yanking posed no immediate threat. "Now if it were Google," he said, "that might be a different matter."

Melanie Grundy, Pooh- Bah of The Canadian Human Rights Commission, expressed her satisfaction at the news: "We are please to hear the Lumpenbangen site has been yanked; it should have been done a long time ago. Here at Human Rights, we work long hours in a spirit of selfless dedication to making Canadians think the way we know they should. Our aim is to promote peace, love, harmony, and correctness, and we will spare no effort in enforcing our views. We are expecting our license to burn and pillage shortly. In the meantime, the sort of ill-informed carping criticism from the Lumpenbangen website must be viewed as an outrage that must be stomped on, with peace, love, and harmony if possible, but with vicious, ruthless resolve if necessary."


Dr. Skypie Hythlos, Director of The World Council of Religions, was equally forthright. "The Lumpenbangen website, with its blatant atheism and mockery of all things holy, does not deserve even that smidgen of cyberspace which it was wont to occupy. Dr. Dreimer’s creation of his own religion, Abracadabra with its perverse worship of the Great God Murphy is an affront to all that is pure, pious, and decent in the world. We have of course, nothing but love and respect for Dr. Dreimer personally, but his sinful ideas must be stomped on with all the vicious ruthless resolve that established religions can muster. We are hopeful that blasphemy laws, together with approval of certain persuasive techniques, will soon be enacted world-wide. When that great day occurs, Dr. Dreimer will be a prime target of our loving and respectful considerations."

And again, Dr. Nostrum Quack, spokesperson for the Canadian Medical Establishment expressed approval of the yanking: "In the universal Health Care System, we work long hours in a spirit of selfless dedication to provide the health care that we think Canadians should have, and that we think they can afford. The kind of constant, carping criticism of the Lumpenbangen website, calling for private insurance and more choice for patients is an unwelcome distraction in our attempt to create a monolith. Where would the Pharaohs of Egypt have been – what Sphinxes would now grace the desert sands -- if they had listened to the voices of the governed? Just as slaves found themselves accidental grease to the moving of a large building block, so too must patients sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Let them wait. We are glad the Lumpenbangen site is yanked; it was a foolish, perverse, and discordant voice in a chorus dedicated to a grand and magnificent opus."

Closer to home, at the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in downtown Toronto, it was reported that the chief user of the site, Myalgia McBain, had commenced a hunger strike upon discovering that her favourite venue had been yanked. Dr. R. Chaic, chief of the Phrenology Department at the Facility commented: "Myalgia is what we call, in technical terms, a nut case. She goes on these 'hunger strikes' all the time. So – the Lumpenbangen site is yanked. So – she gives up ice cream. By the way – that guy Dreimer – he has lots of issues. Probably better he forget the site and give us a call."

Subsequent to these reactions, it has been reported that the yanking process has been reversed, and the site is once again accessible through the usual means.



Lumpenbangen Institute reports significant Rise in Website Visits.

Hamilton, Ontario. (Special to Forward News)

October 1, 2012. At a News Conference held today at the Hamilton, Ontario offices of the Lumpenbangen Insitute, it was revealed that visits to the obscure Lumpenbangenpiano website had more than doubled in September from those recorded a year earlier.

Dr. Idel Dreimer, President of the Institute, dressed in the heavy burka which he wears to assure absolute privacy during any public appearances, expressed concern bordering on alarm at the unexpected Result.

"We are at a loss," he said through the heavy folds of the garment, "to account for this added strain on the capabilities of our service provider. Previous small increases we had attributed to the unwelcome efforts of our Aunt Myalgia, who, we imagined, had introduced our Site to fellow inmates at the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in Downtown Toronto.

However, this significant year-over-year increase must surely have some other Cause. We are currently scheduling a visit with Myalgia in the immediate future to determine whether she has somehow managed to influence residents in similar institutions in other cities. The thought that she may be plotting to extend our readership among those with cognitive deficits across the country – or even – heaven forefend – globally – is a matter of grave concern.

As many in the Lumpenbangen Family may know, the site was originally intended to provide Aunt Myalgia with an entirely personal entertainment venue, to take her mind – or what is left of it – from her unfortunate incarceration.

To that end – of restricting readership to an audience of one -- no effort has been spared. The Diary entries have been couched in a sort of ersatz 18th Century style scarcely comprehensible to anyone who has not studied, as Aunt Myalgia did in her early years, the great writers of that wonderful era. The extensive commentary on grammar and usage was designed to be of interest only to one who had graduated with superior grades in English at Bishop Strachan School. The quotations used in the Weekly Quotation page are almost exclusively attributable to dead white males who are of no interest to anyone in the post-feminist era.

Indeed, our own Observations are couched in a high style which make them a puzzling incomprehensibility to virtually any graduate of any University during the last thirty years.

Thus, the extraordinary increase in our readership over the past year, must rank with the disappearance of socks in the laundry as one of the great unsolved mysteries of the modern era.

We could, perhaps, for a greater element of exclusivity, present our diary in the Greek language, but for the unfortunate circumstance that we know no Greek, and the cost of a translator would be prohibitive. We also wonder how much of that language Myalgia has retained through her unfortunate trials ands tribulations.

We would like to take this opportunity to call for any suggestions – particularly from those apparently new readers – as to how they might be discouraged,  be diverted from engaging in such trivial, time-wasting pursuits -- as perusing our obscure website must certainly be considered -- and hence be enabled to lead richer, fuller, and more productive lives."


What’s Up with those awful Shoppers Drug Mart Ads?   (September 23, 2012)

Retired weatherman Dave Devall has been appearing lately some cringe-worthy advertisements for Shoppers Drug Mart. We suppose we should give him credit for get-up-and-go at age 81, but unless he is in severe financial need, we question his decision to add to the world sum total of cringe, of which there already appears to be an adequate supply.

Wearing an old-guy cardigan-looking sweater, Mr. Devall is positioned awkwardly in the middle of a Shoppers Drug Mart Corridor. What on earth is he doing there? Not looking for aspirin, or band-aids. No – he is talking to you, the viewer, pushing drugs. He looks appropriately uncomfortable, gesturing at us as if someone is cranking a string somewhere near the ceiling.


More recently, he has switched to what appears to be an aggressively unstylish Houndstooth jacket, rescued from the back of our father’s closet. Frankly, we think they should throw caution to the winds, put Mr. Devall in a white coat behind the counter, where we can feel reassured that he is part of the government/medical monolith.

If you’re going to push drugs, you might as well wear the uniform.

The other actors – the "typical" customers – are somewhat more convincing – they convince us that they are dutiful, docile sheep, in the thrall of an arcane world which they accept without question. Their gratitude is palpable. They are on multiple medications, and convey a sense of benign bewilderment. One lady admits that she can’t pronounce the names of some of the drugs. Thank goodness Shoppers Drug Mart is there to explain things – hopefully in words of no more than one syllable – pat them on the head, and send them on their way.



Great Leap Forward in Edmonton High School.      (August 31, 2012)


Lynden Dorval, the high school teacher who insisted on awarding zeros for work not submitted, has been fired at the request of his principal, Ross Bradley. Mr. Bradley had established a school policy which regards failure to submit assignments a matter of discipline, rather than of academic inadequacy. We are pleased to see great advances in thinking made in an obscure Edmonton High School. A full implementation of the important distinction would, we suspect, play out something like this:

It is 2015. The scene is the Director’s Office at Consolidated Undertakings, Inc. The Director, I. M. Portly, a balding , rather plump man with rimless eyeglasses seems somewhat agitated. He is leafing through a pile of documents, but almost aimlessly, as if he has already checked the pile and knows what he is looking for isn’t there.

There is a knock at the door.

Portly: C’m in.

(Watkins, a man in his thirties – washed over with a vague air of nebbishness, which is, in turn overlain by a thin layer of lackadaisicality -- enters:)

Watkins: You wanted to see me?

Portly: Watkins, where in blazes is the report on the takeover of Marginal Muckrakers? I have a meeting at 2 p.m. with our lawyers.

Watkins: Oh, yeah. I was working on it last night at home, and it was 95% complete when I got a phone call. Skittles, our Irish Terrier, seized the opportunity, grabbed it off the table, and ran off with it into the night. She hasn’t been seen since.

Portly: You mean to say Skittles ran off with your homework?

Watkins: Yes sir.

Portly: (Leaning forward with an air of confidentiality): Watkins, in the bad old days, before the worldwide adoption of the Ross Bradley Protocol introduced by the United Nations Declaration, Nullity: a Nuanced View of Failure (2013), I would have fired you because your report is missing, and that report is needed for us to conduct our corporate business with due diligence.

Thank goodness those primitive days are behind us. No one doubts your capabilities, Watkins. You have shown an ability to craft accurate, balanced, and insightful reports on the most abstruse topics, occasionally with flashes of brilliance. I will not, of course, fire you for a report which has not been presented. The report is, no doubt, a masterpiece up to your usual standards. Instead, I am firing you strictly as a disciplinary matter: we asked for the report; you failed to deliver it. The penalty for insubordination is the unemployment line. Clean out your desk and Good Day to you.

Watkins: Whew! I sure am glad you are firing me for the right reasons. The Ross Bradley Protocol has been a godsend to us lackadaisical employees all over the world.


The Trouble with Blueprints            (August 26, 2012)

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Coren wrote an article in The Sun about Jack Layton, entitled Mr. Ordinary. It was written to note the start of Filming of Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story.

Mr. Coren’s view is that, rather than being a "Gifted musician, linguist, Olympic athlete, saint," Mr. Layton was "an extremely ordinary municipal politician and a man who was ever so briefly the leader of the federal opposition."

We concur with Mr. Coren’s view, but must note a considerable outpouring on the anniversary of Mr. Layton’s death on August 22. Many left messages in chalk on a wall in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.

If all the messages were put in a pot, and simmered overnight, the breakfast porridge would consist of hope, love, optimism, peace, joy, and vision.

We have written extensively on the reasons for Mr. Layton’s sainthood, and there is little point in repeating them here. (Please consult the Drivel for August 29, 2011)


Our more modest insight on this occasion is that Mr. Layton was just like a blueprint. He traced a blueprint for a dream house of proportions mystical and qualities grandly mysterious. Dream houses arise from dreams; the blueprint is an initial articulation of the dream.

There are two troubles with blueprints. The first is that they must pass scrutiny of the Buildings Department. The basement seems to be missing. Will frost heave the florid floors of fancy? Are the pillars of hope adequate support those heavy beams of boundless bounty? Is that kitchen of enterprise floating -- in unlikely fashion -- in the middle of the staircase, adequately anchored by those thin strands of peace and love? Where is the bathroom? Will those shingles of optimistic blather actually keep out the rain? Are the umbrella smiles an adequate substitute for thermopane? And what happens in winter? Are enthusiastic devotees conducting cheerleading exercises in the media room likely to generate the heat required for comfortable living?

The second trouble with blueprints is that they remain as ideas until the final, and most rigorous test: the house must, in fact, be built.

Mr. Layton was like an optimistic blueprint never put to the tests of proper scrutiny, or actual construction. It is an interesting aspect of humankind that people are more impressed by dream houses than those that must be developed, brick by common brick, into something functional, and real.



The Savannah and the Hive             (August 18, 2012)

(Why Nirvana isn't coming anytime soon)

Yesterday, in our diary, we took note of the mind-set of the health care central planner: the central planner is concerned with the "big picture" – the view from 30,000 feet which shows the forest, but not the individual trees of which the forest is composed.

Thus, with government-provided health care, policies are based on statistical averages which will, ideally, lead to "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" – while ignoring the individual unhappinesses which may result.

In contrast to central planning, is the free market. In the free market, the emphasis is on the individual who must make his way and his choices in competition with all other individuals. Individual unhappiness arises from bad luck, incompetence, or both. The view is not from 30,000 feet, but from the third tree on the left.

It is the mischief in us to show why utopia is unachievable, why inherent contradictions or conflicts in the nature of existence can never be satisfactorily resolved. In the most general terms, we suppose, the essential difficulty arises from those theoretical, perfectly round holes of the ideal – into which the lamentably square pegs of obdurate reality simply cannot be made to fit.


The closest we can come to Utopia is a wonderful balance of markets and planning. It is not possible to organize large numbers of people without some sort of central planning. What are we to do with those who insist on robbing banks, smashing windows, or poisoning their rich uncles? But the central planning mind-set is seductive, and with the best of intentions, we end up with universal health care systems, political correctness, and human rights commissions, all designed to show the superiority of perfectly round holes to lamentably square pegs.

The conflict may also be viewed as that between freedom and security. The market place is the savannah – where the cheetah and wild cat roam free, and live or die by their own decisions. The central planner longs for the well tended hive, where the mindless bees fit into their allotted cells, buzz contentedly, and don’t cause any trouble.

It was Dostoevsky who noted that there is something in the nature of man which will reject the "Crystal Palace" of perfection. No matter what "perfect" system may be devised, "a man is not a piano key" and he will reject it simply to express his freedom to do so.

On the other hand, it is true that the modern world seems much enchanted with the promise of security. We would not be surprised to see a proposal of laws requiring protective helmets for all citizens in public places. What is not clear is the price: what is to be paid in terms of loss of freedom, achievement, initiative, and self-reliance? What is the appropriate middle ground between the savannah and the hive?

See also: A reflection on the Hive, Drivel, February 24, 2012.

Our many Health Care Options         ( July 29, 2012)



We have written before about the television advertisements which tout the many options ostensibly open to the blessed residents of Ontario when they are struck with minor medical emergencies. (Drivel, August 15, 2011) Doubtless you may remember them – in one a lady burns her fingers on a hot frying pan, and in the other, two male campers discover themselves afflicted with red rashes on their forearms. In both advertisements, the victims are in a quandary – which of the myriad care-providing elements should they engage? Will it be the family doctor, the nurse practitioner, the local clinic, the hospital emergency room, the Indian Shaman, the witch doctor, or the local grandmother?

We assumed that these advertisements were merely attempts to suggest the thing which is not –that those blessed with Residency in Ontario have lots of Options in seeking Health Care. The lady with the Frying Pan, unprepared, could waste a goodly half hour in determining which Option she will choose. The two Campers might be overcome by the myriad of alternatives, and turn to drink as the only sensible course. In fact, of course – residents of Ontario are often without a family doctor, and will take whatever they can get. They are often forced to rely on prayer.

After a blessed absence, the ads have appeared once again. (It must be a midsummer thing.) Further reflection on these strange productions has led us to focus on the extreme unlikelihood that any normal individual in the viewing audience is likely to rush around, determining in advance what course of action he will take should a medical emergency arise. Most people assume that they are going to live forever; nobody plans for a medical emergency. The only people that we can think of who would be likely to take these advertisements seriously would be those already infected with a case of profound and terminal angst.

Indeed, we have come to suspect that these ads are based on a perception of Mr. McGuinty himself – a fanciful imagining of the typical Ontario family. We suspect the following scene is not at odds with the McGuinty world view:


                                                               Dinner at the Nelly Family

                                                       (As imagined by Premier McGuinty)

Scene: the Dining Area of a typical suburban bungalow. An unusual confluence of events has resulted in the Nelly Family all being present on this particular evening. The head of the household, Nervous, has been informed that his squash opponent has fallen off a ladder, injured his right foot, and is busily consulting his medical care options. His wife, Apprehensive, learned that rain would be expected, and has cancelled her trip to the Casino. Anticipatory, the eldest child, had a conniption fit earlier that afternoon, and has wisely decided not to tempt fate with a trip to the baseball park, while his younger sister, Doubtful, has read her horoscope – which suggested that leaving the house after 5 p.m. will result in several years of bad luck. The dog, Trembler, is in the basement, while the Cat, Scairdy, is hiding under the couch.


Nervous begins the meal – with the usual invocation:

Nervous: O Great and Gracious McGuinty, Protector of Ontarians and provider of all we need, Advocate of windmills and solar power, we thank Thee for all thy efforts, and for this bountiful meal of lentils and dried bread which Thy careful stewardship of our Province has made entirely, and perhaps inevitably, possible.

All: Amen

Nervous: I’m really glad we’re all here for a change. We have an important decision – as a family – to make.

Anticipatory: Oh yeah?

Nervous: Yes. The great McGuinty is running a new series of advertisements concerning our health care options. There are a lot of options, and it’s really important that we are on top of our game when an emergency strikes. You know, Anticipatory, so far your Conniption Fits have been of the mild variety, easily remedied with Grandma’s smelling Salts. But one day, Grandma may run out of salts, or she could slip on the sidewalk and break her ankle, and you may require the services of a nurse practitioner, or a real witch doctor instead.

And, Apprehensive, I am really troubled by your casual use of the frying pan. The lady in the ad burned her fingers in a single moment of inattention. You need to know where the nearest Burn Unit is, and whether they carry Ozonol at all times.

Finally, Doubtful, you are absolutely NOT going to Wild-a-Wee summer camp until you are thoroughly prepared for emergency care for forearm rashes in the vicinity of Coboconk.

I have drawn up a Plan of Action so that we can discover every doctor, specialist, emergency room, nanny, faith healer, Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Substitute Grandma, Warlock, Shaman, emergency psychologist, hypnotist, or Old Guy in a Cave on a Mountain -- within twenty miles.

We’re not taking any chances. McGuinty expects us to be prepared. Now here is a Copy of the Plan for each of you...



Squirm and Ho-hum          (July 24, 2012)

We said the other day (See Diary, July 23) that we dithered between "squirm and ho-hum" at the anti-climactic wooing of Catherine by Henry V in a performance of Shakespeare’s Play. We meant that the scene could be viewed as mildly embarrassing – it being so strained and unlikely as to be absurd – or as simply boring and irrelevant – something to be politely ignored, or possibly grudgingly accepted as an inevitable necessity because Shakespeare needed to show the political upshot of the military battle, and had very little time in which to do it.

A friend thought there might be other applications for the phrase. We thought our use was a bit of a contradictory stretch to begin with. But we enjoy a challenge. These are the best we can come up with.

1. It was settled, then. Aunt Maisie would be arriving from Chicago on the fifteenth, and would be staying for three whole days – just as she always did. Amanda was caught between squirm and ho-hum at the prospect.



2. "Jack," the letter said, "has been on the wagon for three months, and says he will never touch another drop. Mitzie has agreed to take him back. We are between squirm and ho-hum. Mitzie must be an idiot; she will probably want to throw a party to celebrate."

3. Sex with Charles! Her emotions ran the gamut from squirm to ho-hum.

4. Sex with Charles! Her emotions ran the gamut from squirm to ho-hum. It was not a good sign.

5. Sex with Charles! Her emotions ran the gamut from squirm to ho-hum. It was not a good sign for their marriage.

6. Sex with Charles! Her emotions ran the gamut from squirm to ho-hum. It was not a good sign for their marriage at St. Swithins next Saturday.  

7. The war was over! The round of parties and giddy nights with Jonathan would be at an end. Charles would be back within a fortnight. Once again, she would be caught between a squirm and ho-hum she was not sure she could bear. Why couldn’t the war have lasted longer?