Back to Dr. Dreimer's Drivel   (See Index above)



               (December 30, 2011)

We have decided to provide a rather rough-and-ready index to some of the main topics covered in the Diary and Drivel Sections of the site. We are doing so in the absence of even the merest hint, the faintest breath of interest in such a feature. Below are only a few of the requests we have not received:


1. Dr. Dreimer:

Have noticed a few derogatory comments about Human Rights Commissions but am having difficulty wading through your site to find other entries on this topic. An index of some sort would enable us to complete our file more expeditiously. Do you have plans for such a useful addition?


Tin-Pot O’Brien
Chief Investigator,
Human Rights Commission,
Oceania East Division.


2. Hi, Dr. Dreimer:

Awesome Site! How can I find out more about Climate Change? An index would be really useful!

David Bullzuki
Apocalyptic Wizard. (Medium Size)



3. Dr. Dreimer:

Came across your article on fake medical data. Are there more things I should know about this? Your website is too crowded. How can I find out more about Healthcare? By the way, you are overdue for your annual checkup.

Dr. Nostrum Quack,
Phrenology Department,
St. Swithins-on-Mead Hospital


4. Dear Dr. Dreimer:

I have my black belt in Catholicism, but the Great God Murphy looks like he might be more my style. How can I find out more about him? Your site is baffling and almost completely unnavigable!

Pious Pete


5. Dr. Dreimer:

Quite frankly, I find your site depressing. You think people are stupid, governments are oppressive, the universe uncaring, and God a figment of the imagination. Isn’t there any comic relief on your site? Where can I find it?


Looking for a Tall Building.



The Index may be found by clicking on the "MAP/INDEX" box at the top of each page.



O Feet of Clay!

O where is Podiatry when we need it most?       (December 27, 2011)


We were shocked and dismayed last evening when we caught the last part of Ezra Levant’s program, The Source.

We have heretofore looked to Mr. Levant for a clear vision of matters, and a keen perception of the many ills of our society which, although it struggles to maintain flight, suffers an unfortunate deficiency of propulsion, and having only active use of the left wing, seems doomed to move in circular fashion, spiralling downwards towards an unhappy bump with reality.

But–behold–Mr. Levant was seen chatting with one of the Archangels of Irrationality–Father Raymond de Souza-- in a congenial and collegial fashion, and characterizing atheists as unfortunate childish, or child-like souls, moral, perhaps, but missing–by some extraordinary oversight–the "God" thing.

Well--this is one idol we did not expect to discover shuffling around in feet of play dough.

On the contrary, of course, atheists are those who have examined the "God" thing and concluded that there are a number of versions of it, and none of them seems much in accord with reality. A great pity, of course, because we would all like to believe in a benevolent deity rooting for our side and, more especially, us–with a nice afterlife thrown in when things seem to have gone horribly wrong. It is extraordinary how many otherwise intelligent people–we would include Father de Souza in this category, by the way–for he can write intelligently on matters which do not touch on religion–seem to have a complete mental breakdown when trying to assess the nonsense of religion.


We would add that we are much in favour of Christmas as a cultural custom, which should be preserved; many quaint and beloved customs are the colourful bits of glass that make up the intriguing kaleidoscope of culture.

We might even go so far as to say that there might be an "intelligent creator" behind this puzzling universe. The trouble with the religious is that they presume to know the mind of the creator, and get involved in all sorts of speculative nonsense about his likes and dislikes. From the evidence of the world which we experience, it would be presumptuous to assume any such intelligent creator is benevolent, or even much interested in a particularly precocious ape which seems so anxious to create a god in the likeness of one of its own tribe.

We will, in future, be more reserved in our choice of idols; indeed, it may be prudent to do a careful podiatric inspection of any seemingly likely candidates, before committing to an idolatrous–and hence potentially embarrassing--opinion.



Great Thoughts of Murphy*             December 26, 2011


             (Continued from December 24, below.)

1.There is always a gulf between the real world and the ideal one imagined by humankind. For most living creatures, survival is based on predation–the consumption of other living creatures–rather than benevolence and harmony. Although mankind would like to believe that his concerns are of central significance in the universe, the world is subject to malign events which occur without apparent regard for the human circumstance. This is a cause of annoyance, dissatisfaction, or despair.

2.Caught in a world of struggle, change, and uncertain or random events, man yearns for peace, certainty, rest and stasis. These yearnings are incompatible with sentience; yet they can never be extirpated, and hence constitute a continuing dissatisfaction at the heart of human experience.

3.Change is the constant verity: what is created contains the seeds of destruction; for something to be created, something must be destroyed.

4. Human emotions tend to overcome rational analysis.

5. In the contemplation of outcomes or interactions, it is often helpful to expect the best, but prudent to prepare for the worst.

6. A certain amount of doublethink is required in human society. The idea of the sanctity of human life is helpful in minimizing homicide. Yet wars, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and capital punishment may be considered as reasonable exceptions. The problems created by doublethink are essentially insoluble, since perceptions of what is reasonable vary with individuals, with time, and with circumstance.

7. Equality of opportunity is a desirable ideal. Equality of circumstance is not achievable in a world which has elements of chaos and a principle of hierarchy at its core. Hierarchy is an observable element among living creatures, and is based on inequalities of strength, speed, natural defences, and cunning.



8. Benevolence towards one’s neighbour is to be prized as a virtue, but in the circumstance that he is actually plotting to kill you, may be a less than practical approach to survival.

 9. Absolute, universal principles are difficult to determine in a world of significant variability. Even the "Golden Rule" may fail: the lover of classical music, by playing Mozart, may inadvertently offend his guest, who prefers punk rock; the sadist does not share the desires of the masochist.

10. Morality can not be encapsulated in a series of absolute commandments.

 11. Because man would like to believe in his centrality, in his individual importance, and in an ultimately benign organization of the universe, he imagines an all-powerful creator who will create for him an eternal life which will achieve a longed-for perfection. This idea provides much comfort, but lacks any evidence; thus the notions about the creator-- his character, his foibles and his preferences--are variable. Because of the perceived importance of these imagined beings, and the obvious vulnerability of any belief not based on evidence, believers of all kinds feel threatened by those of differing faiths and by atheists. The outcome is often dissension and antagonism.

12. From the foregoing, it should be apparent why Murphy’s Law–which suggests that things will usually end badly-- is of such universal application.


* Although these thoughts are carved in stone, they are subject, like everything else, to variability of circumstance, and hence, emendation and addition. Skilled carvers in stone are on twenty-four hour standby for insertion, deletion, and complete re-carving.



A Christmas Eve Fantasy ( December 24, 2011)


And being weary, we lay down, and yea, we slept. And in our dream, we saw, in the clouds, the great God Murphy, who beckoned to us. And lo, in an instant we were transported to his side, and he bade us look down upon the earth below.

And there we saw a multitude of our fellow beings, each going about his daily tasks or enjoying his respite from them, as the occasion did provide. But from the great height, our vision was strangely enhanced, and we were puzzled to observe that around the head of each citizen did gather a marvellous bubble, of extreme lightness and near transparency, washed over with most delicate tracings containing all the colours of the rainbow.

And we did beseech the great God Murphy to explain such marvellous bubbles, the like of which we had neither seen nor imagined before.

And the Great God Murphy, with just the hint of a sigh in his mellifluous voice, explained that the bubbles of airy delicacy were repositories of the false beliefs, vain imaginings, and impossible dreams of those around whose heads they did hover, and whose vision they did obscure and transform.


And then from a hidden pocket in his flowing robes, the great God Murphy did draw a small golden box, which he opened and did show us the prosaic items contained therein. On the left, was a common pin, and on the right was a needle.

"These," the great God Murphy said, "are the tools for your task. On the left, is the pin of common sense; on the right, the needle of ridicule. Your task, which is of extreme difficulty, and, indeed, Sisyphean in its nature, is to prick the bubbles of folly, the vain imaginings of false belief, and the fantastical conceptions of never-never land--wherever you may encounter them--with the pin of common sense and the needle of ridicule."

On the instant, we awoke from the dream, and were amazed to discover, beside us, a tablet of stone, cunningly inscribed with the following English text:

(To be continued...)


Paul Dewar, visionary extraordinaire.       (December 9, 2011)

Paul Dewar, a candidate for the NDP leadership, has indicated that if he were to head the government, he would bring back the $2-per-vote subsidy for federal parties –but the amount would be pro-rated depending on the number of female candidates in the Party. At least 50% of candidates should be women, if the full subsidy is to be obtained. (Kelly Mcparland in the National Post, December 9)

As Mr. Mcparland points out this is a wonderful piece of "left-wing social engineering" which, if carried to its logical conclusion, could see gender subsidies for large corporations with respect to boards and executive offices, –or extra subsidies given for female candidates representing other favoured groups.


Mr McParland suggests a female political candidate who is also an aboriginal lesbian in a wheelchair might be worth $5.00 per vote to the party. We wonder, idly, the effects that a Parliament consisting largely of this heavily subsidized but exquisitely tiny minority might have on our cultural landscape. We suspect that, in a society driven by fad and fashion, the bicycle, and perhaps some of the smaller automobiles, would give way to the wheelchair, Christmas would bow to the potlatch, and films with titles like "Cowgirl Brokeback" would be in the ascendant.

We are pleased to see Mr. Dewar make an appearance on Limerick Lane.



It would appear that, after the Arab Spring, religious fundamentalists are in the ascendant in Egypt. One of their main tasks will be to establish a viable economy, of which tourism is sure to be a significant part. In a spirit of giving, and with a desire to facilitate the transition to a modern, vibrant economy, we offer some ideas for a tourist brochure. (December 8, 2011) Welcome to Egyptistan!


The land of the Pharaohs, the ancient place of the pyramids welcomes you!

See the bustling markets and bazaars of the cities, and experience the unique, rich and colourful tapestry of the Egyptistan heritage!

Where else can you view, at very modest cost, the daily stoning of adulterers in Tahrir Square?

Where else the ritual whipping and severing of the hands of thieves in most of our populous centres?

Where else the execution by beheading of those who leave the faith?

These--the experiences of a Lifetime–await the curious traveller seeking adventure and insight into the marvellous blending of old and new which is modern Egyptistan!


Please note: alcohol not allowed; tourists must travel in segregated groups; unveiled women will deported after public whipping. Don’t mess with anything that is not your business.




David Bullzuki and the Apocalyptic Wizards            (December 3, 2011)

(Click here for audio)

Once upon a time, in the land of Adanac, between the great seas of Anticus and Paticus, there lived a medium-sized Wizard, called David Bullzuki. The Wizard Bullzuki was renowned for his magical manipulation of fruit flies, and it was not long before the fruit fly population was entirely in his control. When he said "jump," the fruit flies would jump, and when he said "sit," they would sit, and when he said "run," they would run -- and this made the Wizard mightily pleased with himself, indeed.

But it is the lot of Wizards that they are seldom content for long, and soon the Wizard Bullzuki became uncharacteristically anxious and depressed, as he had run out of new tricks that the fruit flies could realistically perform. Indeed, one day, when he asked the Magic Mirror on the wall his weekly question: "Who is the most powerful Wizard of them all?" the Mirror replied: "Fruit flies and the CBC won’t do it; there are new worlds for you to conquer."

Resisting his immediate impulse to smash the Magic Mirror to smithereens, the Wizard Bullzuki set about to improve his status. He had learned of certain Apocalyptic Wizards who were gaining fame and influence by collecting Deceptive Mushrooms, feeding them into Giant Scammers, then reading the results: the world was heating at an alarming rate, the oceans would soon boil, and fruit flies, hippopotami, spiders, Wizards, and all the people on earth would perish. But, as Wizards often do, they divined a solution to the difficulties they foresaw.

It was only necessary, they claimed, for people to rid themselves of half of their possessions, give up their pleasant but expensive houses, and return to the dark, chilly, and uncomfortable caves from which their ancestors had emerged many years before.

The Wizard Bullzuki, though he knew little of Deceptive Mushrooms, and even less of the operation of the Giant Scammers, could recognize an opportunity when it knocked. The solution proposed by the Wizards was not an easy one to sell, but Bullzuki was eminently qualified to promote it. Not only was he a medium-sized Wizard, with expertise in fruit fly manipulation, he had, for several years been a chief crank turning an important wheel at the largest Propaganda Apparatus in the land: the Cornucopian Bullshit Collective, the CBC.

At first, matters went very well indeed. Bullzuki’s was a familiar face on television: his head would pop through living room walls, urging people to repent, and return to the caves. He gathered many followers, who were extremely concerned about the boiling of the oceans, and they contributed generously to the Bullzuki Foundation, in the pious belief that doing so would alter the inexorable rising of temperatures.


But then, alas, things started to go wrong. A few Wizards, here and there, began to question the real nature of the Deceptive Mushrooms used by the Apocalyptic Wizards. When they examined the Deceptive Mushrooms more closely, they found them to be–well–deceptive. And that, of course led to a closer examination of the Giant Scammers, and that, in turn, led to the discovery that the Apocalyptic Wizards had been less than honest in operating them. And when, of course, it came to the reading of the results–well, it became quite clear that the Apocalyptic Wizards were hardly worthy of the name ‘Wizard,’ at all: they were merely charlatans wearing long flowing robes adorned with stars, crescent moons, and other magical symbols.

A final blow to Apocalyptic Wizardry came when some real Wizards determined that the boiling of the oceans–an unlikely event in the first place–would be caused by the variation of the magical waves of the sun, and had nothing to do with the possessions that people had, and whether they lived in the chilly darkness of caves or the more pleasant and comfortable abodes to which they had long grown accustomed.

One might have thought that the Wizard Bullzuki, becoming aware of these developments, would close his Foundation and move to a cave. But one would have been mistaken. Bullzuki was a Wizard of some skill; perhaps his experience in the manipulation of fruit flies, had given him a considerable insight into human nature. He knew that people’s fear of ocean boiling is mixed with a strange guilt, and a peculiar fascination. People are also flattered to think they have the power to avoid Armageddon. Most importantly, he knew that once people are committed to an opinion, once they are fervent in a belief, they can overlook and deny any inconvenient truths for a very long time. He may even have been aware of an old saying: "Rien n’est plus sacré qu’un abus ancien."

He also realized that what people learn as children, they are inclined to believe as adults. Aware that he might lose the opinion of many adults because of the facts, the Wizard Bullzuki began to focus his efforts on the young. Returning to his old skills, he turned the propaganda crank at high schools with film presentations and urged the children to return home and convince their parents that the Bullzuki Foundation was built, like the Church, upon rock, not upon apocalyptic sand. And, for the very young, he warned them that Santa Claus, along with all his toys and wonderful workshop at the North Pole, was threatened by boiling oceans. Santa could be saved, he suggested, through contributions to the Wizard Bullzuki Foundation.

And that is why, my children, the Wizard Bullzuki lived happily ever after.


We made a complaint to the President of the National bank about a twelve page Internet Banking Agreement which was suddenly presented to us without explanation. This document, which we found to be offensive in tone and content, had to be signed in the affirmative before we could gain access to our account.   We subsequently have received an airily dismissive reply from a representative of the bank. This was our response:     (November 24, 2011)

Mr. _______

Thank you for your reply.

I note that you give an explanation for the presentation of the twelve page document which I find so offensive. Did it not occur to anyone in your organization that it would be courteous to give such an explanation before presenting the document?

I must also note that you make no reference to the tone of the document. One has only to read the paragraph entitled "Instructions" to feel that one is being treated as an inferior. The term "you must" in English is one which might be used by a parent speaking to a child, a teacher addressing a pupil, or a master commanding his slave. Yet it is repeated twice in this paragraph. (I would note that there are some exceptions--in the sentence: You must understand that we had no intention to offend you--the peremptoriness disappears.)

It would be interesting to see the original French version; but surely, incompetence in translation is hardly a valid excuse.

Even if this phrase were somehow softened, these "instructions" are still arrogant. The Instructions will be conveyed in a variety of ways--but "in any other manner we may decide upon from time to time." The picture created is of an omnipotent monarch languorously reclining on his golden divan, deciding "from time to time" how he will communicate with his obedient subjects. And of course, just to keep those wretched subjects on their toes--"The instructions may change periodically." I will spare you further analysis--but believe me--this document is offensively arrogant--pretty much throughout.

Finally, I must refer to the sections which suggest that the National Bank intends to use personal data for the purpose of telemarketing, and plans to "collect your online activity information in our Website, the secure websites of our affiliated companies and their advertisements hosted on third-party sites through cookies and [ominously] other tracking technologies."


Did no one in your organization consider that customers might have some hesitation in agreeing to these things, and, at the very least, might want further information before consenting? But of course, this document is coercive--if a customer wishes to proceed and conduct his banking transactions--he must consent.

I hope I have shown that in this matter, the National Bank is being rude, arrogant and coercive. That, of course, may be the way in which you wish to deal with customers. Fortunately, I also have the choice not to be the obedient idiot you seem to take me for. I have already opened an account elsewhere, and hope, in the next couple of months, to sever entirely my relationship with an organization which seems unfriendly, incompetent, or both.

Just to let you know what I really think--I enclose the blog I posted yesterday:

In another matter, we complained yesterday about the Actions of the National Bank in blocking Access to our Internet Banking Account, requiring us first to sign, without Warning or Explanation, an arrogant, contemptuous, bullying, insensitive Agreement with respect to Internet Banking Matters.

We admit to having been extremely upset at the time, and to having personally spoken with our local Bank Manager. The Suggestion was made that much of the Arrogance in the Document was a result of poor Translation from the original French.

We have now had a full Day to reflect calmly and judiciously on the Matter.

After this calm and sober Reflection, it is our considered Opinion that the National Bank is run by arrogant, presumptuous, contemptuous, disdainful, bullying Blockheads, who, in Addition to possessing those Qualities, are too cheap to hire competent Translators. The Translation may be a part of the Problem, but the essential Arrogance in the Manner of Presenting the Document without Explanation, and the Tone throughout–this shines unmistakably through...





There are Windmills at the Bottom of our Garden

 (November 21, 2011)

The other day--yesterday, in fact--it struck us as amusing to imagine
the premier having an unfortunate encounter with the windmill which,
we assume, whirrs comfortingly at the bottom of his garden. (Diary) We
naturally thought of the poem below. Our version is at the right.

(Click here for Audio)

There are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden! (Rose Fyleman 1917)

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
It’s not so very, very far away;
You pass the gardner’s shed and you just keep straight ahead.
I do so hope they’ve really come to stay.
There’s a little wood, with moss in it and beetles,
And a little stream that quietly runs through;
You wouldn’t think they’d dare to come merrymaking there.
Well, they do.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
They often have a dance on summer nights;
The butterflies and bees make a lovely little breeze,
And the rabbits stand about and hold the lights.
Did you know that they could sit upon the moonbeams
And pick a little star to make a fan,
And dance away up there in the middle of the air?
Well, they can.

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
You cannot think how beautiful they are;
They all stand up and sing when the Fairy Queen and King
Come gently floating down upon their car.
The King is very proud and very handsome;
The Queen – now you can guess who that could be?
She’s a little girl all day, but at night she steals away.
Well, it’s Me!


There are windmills at the bottom of our garden!
How they got there – it’s really hard to say--
Perhaps the premier planted them by night--
Thinking we were deaf -- or simply moved away.
But there they stand in a little wood amid the creeping moss
Where they toss and turn all night, and grind throughout the day--
And when there’s really too much power–well--
The premier sheds a single tear
And sells it at a loss.
At other times, of course, the wind will die,
And we give a mighty cheer--
Then the lights go out, and everything is dark and drear.
And sometimes, wrapt in the turning magic thrall,
We stare and frown and think--
And when that begins to wear and pall
We simply turn--to drink.

There are windmills at the bottom of our garden!
You cannot think how beautiful they are;
They often blow on summer nights
And hypnotize with strange delights--
And when the premier floats by within his car.
They stand right up and sweetly sing--
And whirr and wave like everything;
But when he’s gone, they’re full of groans--
And the butterflies and all the bees
Complain and kvetch about the breeze--
And the rabbits take to throwing stones!

There are windmills at the bottom of our garden!
They’re awfully close, we have to say;
If you’re not too awfully tight, you can hear them whirring in the night;
And when morning comes, they can still be heard at play!
They loom like ghosts in darkness and give us all a scare;
The noise will trip a moonbeam, and keep a star at bay.
They are no shrinking violets, but big and bold and bare--
They have no qualms in making merry
In the middle of the air.
There are windmills at the bottom of our garden!
Do you think, perhaps, they’ve really come to stay?


Lying with Statistics            November 21, 2011

We are not surprised to read in today’s National Post an article by Joseph Brean about a report published in Psychological Science, entitled: False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant.

This article, as the long-winded title suggests, purports to show how easy it is to prove a false hypothesis with supposedly unassailable statistics.

While we admit to a bias towards science and the scientific method, we have learned to be suspicious about conclusions claiming a scientific basis. The recent revelations about the shenanigans of climate "scientists" have only added to our skepticism.

A few years ago, we were entirely naive about such matters, just like our neighbours, Bradley and Amanda, who recently encountered some surprising statistics. We are fortunate enough to have a direct video camera line into their living room. Here is what happened:

Bradley: (reading the paper--with enthusiasm) Hey, I see there’s a new study out from Deceptive Pharmaceuticals.

Amanda: (reading another section of the paper-- uninterested) Who’s Deceptive Pharmaceuticals?

Bradley: Well, it says here they’re a Division of the Nostrum, Quack, and Toxin Conglomerate–you know–they make Kitchen Swipes.

Amanda: Uh-huh.

Bradley: Anyway, it says here they’ve got a new pill that reduces deaths from conniption fits by 50% over a five year period.


Amanda: (perking up) Conniption fits! My grandmother and great aunt Edna both died of conniption fits! And –I haven’t told you, Bradley, but lately I’ve been feeling little niptions now and then–only in the mornings, and they only last a few seconds–but I’ve been thinking I should have them checked out.

Bradley: Holy Cow, Amanda, Why didn’t you tell me! Anyway, it says here that the new pill–it’s called Lunacy Mellow (reading)–you take it three times a day–always with grapefruit juice–and a double dose on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays...and in the study they found that the group taking Lunacy Mellow had only half the deaths from conniption fits as the control group!

Amanda: How much does it cost?

Bradley: $400 a month–or $500 a month for patients with niption symptoms.

Amanda: Well it seems like a lot–but when I think of Grandma dying that horrible death of a conniption fit at 95–well it makes you wonder!

We suspect that Amanda and Bradley will indeed sign up for a lifetime supply of Lunacy Mellow. But we wonder–what if they had they known that in the study by Deceptive Pharmaceuticals there were two groups of a thousand people each? In the control group, two people died of conniption fits. In the Lunacy Mellow group, only one. Somehow the 50% reduction in death rate doesn’t seem quite so terribly convincing.



Scientology and the Human Psyche             November 20, 2011


We happened to catch a portion of the program Scientology: The Ex Files last evening (November 19). We have always known Scientology–even in greater degree than other religions–to be an egregious scam–but were unaware of its truly oppressive nature. Young recruits are required to work long hours with less than minimal pay; abortions are coerced; punishments include being forced to scrub a dumpster with a toothbrush, or being sent to join a "Rehabilitation Project Force" which includes heavy labour, the purpose of which is, as one ex-member noted, to "break the spirit."

In some situations members are not allowed to leave, and in one segment of the program it was revealed that an ex-member was still being followed and spied upon by Scientology operatives some four years after his escape.

All in all, the "religion" appears to be little more than a form of slavery–both real and psychological-- in the modern era. In a sense, of course the slavery is, at least initially, "chosen" – but it soon becomes scarcely credible as a voluntary servitude, and seems to reflect an unfortunate circumstance of human psychology.

Upon seeing the program, we must conclude that, within the human psyche there is a certain receptacle for the ridiculous, a ready swamp for superstition, a sinkhole for suggestibility, an abyss for the absurd, and an eager maw for mumbo-jumbo.


What is worse, once this maw is fed with a juicy morsel of mumbo-jumbo, a cancerous reaction is set in motion: all the critical faculties are infected, and are turned, effectively, into mush. We see this not only with religion, but with left-wing ideology, political correctness, and faddishly uncritical beliefs in man-made climate change.

We would like to think that courses in skepticism in our educational system would be able to counteract this human vulnerability, but we are not hugely confident. More than a hundred years after Darwin, and despite the evidence of the fossil record, millions still cling to impossible explanations for the human circumstance.

Indeed, this vulnerability may well turn out to be the fatal flaw, the unkillable seed of destruction within the human psyche. A false belief in religion, coupled with the power to deploy nuclear bombs and irradiate the atmosphere may cause-- if not the final destruction of the human race--at least the radical alteration of civilization as we presently understand it.




Maria Duval and the Magic Talisman         November 16, 2011

We have received another six page letter from Maria Duval, who operates the Destiny Research Centre from her cozy Post Office Box Number (289) in Woodbridge, Ontario.

Alas! She is no longer offering her Golden Predictions for 2011, the Biomagnetic Bracelet, or the Moonlight Blue Sapphire Jewellery Set for $29. Perhaps the Occupy Movement has led her to re-evaluate the flamboyant lifestyle these items suggest. (See Drivel, December 30, 2010)

Instead, she is holding out the tantalizing prospect of $25,000–or an even larger sum if $25,000 is insufficient--for a very modest outlay. You see, November 25, 2011 is coming up–you know–the night of the "Black Moon"–and Maria has enclosed a special Talisman–a thin little gold-coloured coin. Here are the instructions for using the Talisman:

1. Rinse it in clear, running water and dry it with a clean white cloth.

2. Then put the Talisman against the middle of your chest and press on it for a few seconds.

3. While you are doing this, ensure your thoughts are positive. Imagine how your life could be if you receive all the money you need. Imagine yourself surrounded by friends, see great changes happening in your life...In 2 words, be EXTREMELY POSITIVE.

4. After a few seconds, take your Talisman in your hands, and with scissors cut it into 2 halves, with half of the crescent moon on each side.


5. When you have done this, return one of these two halves to me in the return envelope, along with your Special Form, keeping the second one with you.

6. Put the second half under your mattress, as close as possible to the spot where you rest your head.

So you see, what you have to do is not difficult but it’s something that I absolutely need you to do so that I can SUCCESSFULLY perform your "Grand Ritual of the Black Moon."

It is, we deduce, the performing of this ritual that will result in the $25,000. And best of all–the ritual costs only $10 which includes "$2.52 for special handling and first-class delivery fees and $0.48 tax."

We confess that we are pleased that the cost of dealing with Maria has dropped by 66%. But we are still nervous. There seem to be so many things that we might do wrong with the Talisman. Will Hamilton water be considered clear enough? How clean and how white must the cloth be? Where is the middle of the chest? Is it marked? Is it possible to press the Talisman to the chest for too long, so that the effect of the beneficial waves, or aura is compromised?

We are mobile sleepers; our head is quite likely to stray beyond the range of the halved Talisman. We’d like a lot more information on the range and the necessary time our head must remain within it.

The $25,000 does sound attractive; but we think the risks are too great.


The Man who was Equal                 November 15, 2011

Once upon a time, many years ago, in the pleasant land of Adanac–a land now dissolved-- the population long since broken up into disparate groups of warring cultural factions–there was a man called Equal.

His mischievous parents, the Equals from Fairsville, christened him "Absolutely Definitely Equal."

Adey, as we shall call him, first noticed something amiss when he attended school, and discovered that while he could run as fast as many of the other boys, he could not run as fast as some of them. When he complained to the faster boys that he was Absolutely Definitely Equal, they agreed with him quite cheerfully, and sped past him as if he were almost stationary.

It was the same thing with academics. His marks were better than some, but not nearly as good as others, and when he complained to the teacher that he was Absolutely Definitely Equal, she agreed, and gave him a "D" on his next assignment.


Things didn’t get much better when he went to university, and he found, in his mid-thirties that he had risen to a respectable level in the Behemoth Corporation, but others of the same age had considerably better positions and higher salaries. When he complained to his superior that he was Absolutely Definitely Equal, the boss agreed, and pointedly passed him over for the next promotion.

When he finally sought out a guru, high on a mountain top, who lived on roots and berries, he confronted the wise old man with the disparity between the much talked about equality which, it was generally agreed, was the norm for society, and his own actual experience of significant disparities.

The old man gave him a long hard look, and then pronounced: You are Equal, my son–but it’s in name only.



We Apologize                                    (November 4, 2011) 


It was reported recently that the University of Manitoba plans to issue an apology for its role in the Indian residential schools system. (National Post, October 27.)

It appears that the University did not directly act within that system, but it played a part in the education of clergy, teachers and politicians who did.

We think this to be a great advance in human sensitivity; indeed, it has led us to reflect, with some degree of horror, on our own degree of culpability. You see, we ourselves were responsible for teaching King Lear, Heart of Darkness, The Catcher in the Rye and a variety of other works in our mercifully brief high school teaching career, and must now give some thought to what terrors we may have wrought. Who knows whether that gap-toothed ignoramus, William Weakly went on to pursue a career of unauthorized bank withdrawals, or the enticing Myra Fumblefingers became a successful embezzler at a major brokerage firm?

We always suspected that Jimmy Snidely would come to no good end; perhaps he has, and possibly The Catcher in the Rye –or our interpretation of it-- was partly responsible.

Indeed, we confess we have endured many a sleepless night and many an anguish-filled day since learning of the University of Manitoba’s generous mea culpa. Our food remains largely untouched; we stare vacantly out the window for hours at a time; even the re-runs of Murder, She Wrote have, alas, lost their lustre.

 We think it only prudent–indeed we see it as the only avenue for assuaging our guilt--to issue this day an apology for any influence we may have had on the crimes, sins of commission and omission, traffic violations, dereliction of duty, indifference, tardiness, rudeness, or inappropriate language on the part of our any of our former students. Our only excuse is that we did not realize, at the time, the malign and pernicious effect we were having. We apologize for our failure of perception in this regard. In essence, our guilt is unmitigated, and we recognize that our failures may well become the stuff of legend, passed down from generation to generation until the last syllable of recorded time.



There! We feel much better.

Indeed, it appears that the Age of Apology–which we admit has crept up on us unawares-- has, at last, arrived. Surely it is time for our Parliament to consider declaring a National Day of Apology. This day–a holiday sometime in early January–would be used by guilt-ridden citizens throughout our fair land to make profuse and fulsome apologies to those whom they may have offended. But, in the new age of sensitivity, we fear that this alone will be inadequate. it would surely seem prudent, in addition, to establish the custom of pre-emptive apologies.

You see–now that we have warmed to the subject-- we feel that the University of Manitoba has been far too tardy in its expression of regret; Why, for all these years, has it remained guilty, but silent? An apology delayed is an apology belied. Would it not be prudent to make apologies in advance? Every action and decision should be made concomitant with an appropriate apology.

The University of Manitoba, for example, recently awarded a Ph.D. degree to a candidate who did not fulfill all the necessary requirements. ( See Drivel, September 1, 2011.) When the University–a few dozen years down the road–realizes its mistake–would it not be helpful to be able to point to an apology made at the very time of the stupidity?

We feel we have but scratched the surface of this important and timely topic.




News Flash!         (November 1, 2011)

Lumpenbangen Website Traffic hits Record!


Hamilton, Ontario. Special to Forward News. At a press conference called earlier today, Lumpenbangen Piano Institute President Dr. Idel Dreimer announced that visits to the little-known Website operated by the famed Lumpenbangen Institute had reached a new record in October, and that the total number of different user sites had more than doubled since January.

Wearing the traditional burka, which he customarily adopts to ensure privacy in venues accessible to the public, Dr. Dreimer refused to speculate on the reasons for the increased popularity of the site, which features Dr. Dreimer’s own diary written in ersatz 18th Century style, as well as pieces of Drivel which could hardly be published on any site aimed at a sensible audience.


It is widely known that the chief user of the site since its inception has been Dr. Dreimer’s Aunt Myalgia, currently residing at the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in Toronto. There is some suspicion that she has been able to attract other inmates to the site by means of a brisk trade at the Facility,  using her grape jelly as an incentive.

When asked directly to reveal the number of visits to the site in October, Dr. Dreimer declined, citing privacy concerns and the potential loss of competitive advantage.

"We value our privacy at the Institute very highly," he said. "We are not a public company and are under no obligation to reveal anything. Indeed, we call these press conferences several times each year, simply to reinforce the fact that we have important information about our operations, but will not reveal any of it. We have set a record–a very important record–but we have no intention of exposing ourselves to odious and unfair comparisons with other websites which have more general appeal. If you would seek further elucidation, may we suggest you consult the page on our website entitled 'Privacy Policy.'"

Declining to answer any further questions, Dr. Dreimer, moving somewhat awkwardly beneath the heavy folds of the burka, left the room.



Click here for audio.

Oh, We Love to do the Laundry after Midnight                     (October 30, 2011)

Oh, we love to do the laundry after midnight:
When the meter’s smart, it’s not so awfully dumb.
Oh, we find it calm and peaceful in the starlight--
And it’s cozy there beneath the Premier’s thumb.

Oh, we love to start the stove at seven-thirty--
Then we cook on "low" till nearly half-past eight;
Oh, we smile a lot, and no one gets too shirty–
And by candlelight, the ambience is great!

Oh, at nine o’clock we rinse in cold, and sally--
For our firewood, and our venture in the dark;
Oh, we gather twigs in every backstreet alley--
And then fell a tree–there's lots right in the park!

Oh, we love to have the windmill in the garden--
For the whirring soothes our sleep most ev’ry night;
And we’re glad our little Jimmy got the pardon
After climbing it and setting it alight.

Oh, we love the solar panels on our roof-top,
For they promised us a fancy hydro bid!
Oh, they say--one day--on Santa’s reindeer roof-hop,
He will hook us up–and we'll be on the grid!

Oh, we used to think our Premier was a wiener*--
But with candles lit–he’s in a different light;
Oh, we see him now as greener than a wiener
And we praise him with our washboards in the night.


*We never sausage a man so bereft of principle.


Hate Speech                      October 27, 2011

A couple of days ago, The Agenda (October 24) had a program entitled: When is free speech hate speech?-- the topic arising from the Whatcott Supreme Court Case. (See Drivel, October 16, below.) Two of the panellists would support Mr. Whatcott’s position, two were opposed, and the third had a more indeterminate position. Our bias is towards allowing speech of any kind, hateful though it may be, saving that which may rise to defamation.

One of the panellists was Marvin Kurz, a lawyer for B'nai B'rith; and we can understand his concern for denigration of an entire people or group, since such expressions have, in the past, been connected with real harm. We would argue that, in view of past experience, such an outcome is only likely where speech is not free. In a true atmosphere of free speech, unfounded hateful expressions can easily be exposed and ridiculed.

We would also point to the "Big Brother" element introduced in society by hate speech laws. What of a momentary hateful outburst–overheard by witnesses, or caught on camera-- such a moment of indiscretion could be used to settle old scores. Everyone becomes –as–indeed–is currently the case in Canada–terrified of making the politically incorrect remark. (See Drivel: The Impulse to Fascism, Canada and 1984, February 12, 2011)

Another panellist, Bruce Ryder, referred to the need for protection of certain "traditionally vulnerable" groups.

Once again, we find this troubling. Who decides which groups are deserving of special protection, and which are not? Or is there a hierarchy of protected groups? What is implied about a group that needs "special protection?" An article by Michael Ruse, a professor at Florida State University, published in the National Post (October 24) notes that "For many years, when teaching in Canada, as a protest against the laws, I strove unsuccessfully to get into trouble for being mean about the Scots..."


Precisely. You can say anything you want about the Scots–because they are not considered weak and vulnerable. We might also note a word like "nigger" can be used by people of a certain skin colour, but not by others of a different hue.

Finally, let us suppose we establish a hierarchy of vulnerable groups and words that can or cannot be uttered by certain groups–as we apparently have–is there any time limit proposed on these matters? Or are we satisfied that, ad infinitum, all groups are equal, but some are more equal than others?

Our position is, perhaps, uncharacteristically idealistic. But we feel the dangers of attempting to control hate speech–the fear that is introduced into society–the mechanisms for betraying one’s neighbour to the apparatus of the state–far outweigh the potential for harm when, in fact, there is freedom to expose folly to ridicule–or to employ the disdain of silence. Mr. Ruse remarks of Ernst Zundel–an infamous denier of the holocaust: "He’d have reached a far small[er] audience if he’d simply been ignored."

One of the panellists, Grant Huscroft, noted that "words do matter." Reluctantly, we must agree. But we would like to see the words linked to direct, observable harm–such as the false cry of "fire" in a crowded theatre. At the very least, such hate speech should be a matter for the courts and proper judicial procedures, rather than being matters for the frighteningly arbitrary powers of Human Rights Commissions.


Quien calla, otorga. (He who is silent, gives consent)

 October 26, 2011

We studied Spanish for three years in High School, but the Spanish proverb above is just about all that is left. However, we have found this remnant both powerful and useful; indeed, because of our natural tendency to protest those things we find foolish or inappropriate, we find ourselves quoting it with remarkable frequency.

Many battles–indeed, we must include the battle for our very existence–are losing ones. But we hold it as a principle that the likelihood–or even certainty of loss–should not keep us silent. One of our favourite observations–the one used as a heading to our “Observations” page reads thus:

Art is man’s challenge to Time, his rebuke to Chaos; the protest will survive neither the triumph of fire, nor the finality of ice -- but it is better than the silence of consent.

We have recently complained, and received the expected “FO” responses from Rogers Communications and Hydro One. Our quarrel with Rogers is that they insist we give our age before speaking with any of their representatives. We feel that this question is intrusive, and inappropriate, having no more to do with our business conversation than our weight, height, colour of eyes, or religious belief. There are many other security questions that could be asked which are not as personal and intrusive.

Letter to Rogers Communications:

Nadir Mohamed,
President, Rogers Communications,
855 York Mills Road,
Don Mills, Ontario.
M3B 1Z1


Dear Sir:

Please consider this a letter of condolence.

On September 13, 2011, I wrote to you complaining about the fact that before I am able to speak to one of your exalted representatives, I must tell him my age.

A short time later, I received a telephone call from a gentleman associated with the “President’s Office” (hey–what a really cool name for “Customer Relations Department”) who suggested that I could circumvent this necessity by obtaining a password. I pointed out that while this might address my personal reluctance, it did not deal with the general principle that it is inappropriate to require any customer to state his age prior to embarking on a conversation about a non-personal business matter.

I was about to claim the small victory offered, and consider how best to approach the more important matter–when your representative–before setting up the password–asked me for my age.

Now–let me be clear. Your representative called me at my telephone number. There was no name attached to the number on my call display–so I did not know who was calling.

The gentleman asked for me by name before embarking on the conversation, and we discussed the contents of a letter I had written.

Did your representative imagine that there were Rogers Communications Saboteurs lurking at my residence, waiting to pick up the telephone–prepared, I suppose, to knock me out should I discover their stratagem? Did he think that one of these saboteurs would be able to discuss the contents of my letter, with the evil intent of obtaining a password which he knew--what clever anticipation!-- would be offered?

And then, I imagine, your representative, ever mindful of security, had visions of the saboteur, armed with my password: what untold destruction could be wrought? Your entire organization a shambles! Weeks later, puffs of smoke still rising from the charred embers of a once mighty commercial behemoth! The prices of sackcloth and ashes at record highs!

No, Mr. Mohamed. I’m afraid that this is a clear case of Corporate Paranoia–that terrible affliction that is apt to creep in where common sense has been banished, where every loyal employee must assure himself of the birth date of any outsider–of anyone without the large “R” tattooed on his forehead.

Please accept my condolences. The path to mental health–and respectful treatment of customers–seems a long way off.

Yours truly,



Letter to Hydro One:

Our quarrel with Hydro One is that, although their bills threaten only an additional late payment charge, a missed bill immediately brings a barrage of threats. While we might be more sympathetic to such threats after a “reminder” notice had been ignored–we feel that the immediate threat of disconnection–with a variety of other threats detailed below–is inappropriate–a classic case of how not to treat customers.

Power has no need of civility; thus it is seen much in the company of arrogance, provocation, and insult.

Ms. ******

Thank you for your letter of September 30, 2011.

I am disappointed, but not really surprised that my complaint has been sent to the “Customer Relations Centre.” The rôle of such Departments is to mollify, while stoutly maintaining that the operation of the organization of which it is a part is without flaw, a standard for the industry, and, indeed, the envy of a large portion of humankind.

As might be expected, your letter is long on “spin” and justifying explanation, and rather short on dealing with the issue: what is the appropriate fashion in which a monopolistic organization such as Hydro One should communicate with its customers.

If you could, for a moment, step out of your role as paid apologist, I am pretty sure you would agree that the average person would feel mistreated upon receipt of the kind of communication that was sent to me. Indeed, the fact that you give a highly misleading and biased interpretation of the notices you send out is revelatory of that very fact.

For example–you say that “a disconnection notice is a reminder that there are outstanding balances due on an account.” This is–well–there is a term that springs to mind–but I will restrain myself and say–“nonsense.” The term “reminder” is euphemistic in the extreme. A notice with the bold heading DISCONNECTION NOTICE could hardly be considered a “reminder” of an overdue amount. The term “threat” would be more accurate. This is particularly true when the date of the DISCONNECTION is included in the text.

You also state that “the disconnection notice explains that ultimately failure to remit payment could result in disconnection of service.” Again this is complete nonsense. There is no hint of “ultimately” (the word suggests a long process) in the wording: the date of disconnection–about two weeks in the future-- is quite clearly stated. True, the disconnection “could” be avoided if payment is received by a certain date–but even this is fraught with uncertainty: the matter is so delicate, the trigger so balanced upon a hair, that the customer is advised to use a credit card, and to call the company!

If this is not threatening–well--I really can’t imagine what your definition would be!

Then--there is much further evidence of a bullying attitude, which refutes your disingenuous interpretation.

You state that the Distribution Code stipulates that customers being disconnected be warned of certain fire dangers potentially associated with the cessation of electric service, and that you “decided” to include it.

Hmm. I wonder why. Could it be that you wish, once again, to suggest that the disconnection is pretty much a foregone conclusion, and indicate, in yet another way the dire consequence of dereliction? The fact that you include this warning–required, as you yourself state when a customer is about to be DISCONNECTED-- by the Distribution Code-- is yet another means of conveying the fact that this is a DISCONNECTION NOTICE –not a “reminder.”

The penultimate straw, of course, is the little notice which supposes that payment has not made, and the electricity has been disconnected. The charge for disconnection may be as high as $415 with re-connection costing a “similar” amount.

But, you’re not done yet, are you? Presupposing that there has been disconnection, you state that Hydro One agents will attend the residence in order to make collection, charging $30 for the trip.

Whew! Some “reminder!” This is using a sledgehammer to install a thumbtack!

Let us be realistic: on the very first “reminder” notice you have deliberately chosen to use every possible stratagem to bully your customers.

By the way, there is no hint in the original bill of this barrage of insults, threats, and provocation. The bill says nothing of DISCONNECTION–only that there will be a late payment charge of 1.5% compounded monthly–or 19.56% per year.

So, yes, of course–your organization has the power to treat customers with arrogance and insult–they have no alternative source for your product. The question is-- should your organization behave so badly?

As I noted in my previous letter, effective but non-provocative communication with customers could be achieved with fewer threats, and a more reasonable tone. Indeed, I can hardly believe that anyone with any competence in “Customer Relations” could have come within fifty miles of such an inappropriate barrage.

Just as an obvious example–there is no need to send out a DISCONNECTION NOTICE because of one missed payment! You could easily include the reference to disconnection-- as a kind of regretted necessity– at the end of a more civilized communication. The reason I wrote initially to Laura Formusa was to alert her to the appalling manner in which her organization was treating its customers.

Your response, alas, speaks volumes.

If civility is, in general, on the decline, it would appear that Hydro One, with Laura Formusa at the helm, is leading the charge. I have encountered no other organization so gratuitously rude.

Yours truly,


c: Laura Formusa



Sex and the Scientific Method                  (October 16, 2011)


Oh, all right. So it’s not the Lumpenbangen Kama Sutra. And yes, we could have chosen the heading "Francis Bacon (1561-1623) and the Supreme Court of Canada." But then, you wouldn’t have read this far, would you?

This is actually about the case of William Whatcott presently before the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2005, Mr. Whatcott was fined $17,500 by a Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal for distributing anti-gay pamphlets, a ruling which was overturned by the Saskatchewan court of Appeal in 2010. The basic problem is the definition of hate speech–the problem of nailing jello to the wall. The present appeal to the Supreme Court is being brought by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, and is expected to result in some solidifying of jello so that it can be nailed more accurately, and walls everywhere may be made more aesthetically pleasing.

Now, let us be clear: Mr. Whatcott is a very silly man. He takes the Christian religion–something developed two millennia ago, the bedrock of which is a Bible–a book of uncertain authorship, the contents of which were chosen some 400 years after the event--and "urges homosexual people to change their behaviour and tells them that they will be welcome in the kingdom of God and the churches, and they will live a healthier life." (National Post quoting Mr. Whatcott’s lawyer, Thomas Schuck. October 13, 2011)

Mr Whatcott would have been just as silly in the 19th century, but would have appeared much less so. It has taken a long time for the "scientific" approach to phenomena to take hold. It was Francis Bacon (1561-1623) who started us on the path towards inductive reasoning–i.e. reasoning from specifics–especially specific observations--to general principles–and away from deductive reasoning–starting with a general idea and trying to fit the specifics into the theory.


Mr. Whatcott, of course, uses deductive reasoning: the Christian religion–or his version of it–is correct–and thus observable phenomena must be classified according to what he imagines its precepts to be. Francis Bacon’s advocacy of the scientific, or inductive method has led to better theories. And just as the discovery of the fact than men’s and women’s brains are different is an affront to those who espouse egalitarian principles, so the fact that sexual orientation is not chosen is an affront to Mr. Whatcott’s religious ones.

While the egalitarians are perfectly at liberty to beaver away towards the creation of a tsunami of female grandmasters in chess–Mr. Whatcott should be allowed to pursue his equally unlikely view of the changeability of sexual orientation–or of the advisability of suppressing some of its manifestations.

Freedom of speech, alas, is not all sweetness and light. It includes the freedom to offend and upset. We cannot allow only those expressions which are agreeable to the current fashion. Ezra Levant (on The Source) recently noted that Egale ("Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere") will be arguing against Mr Whatcott in the Supreme Court appeal, yet it was not so long ago they were fighting for the freedom of the Little Sisters Bookstore against the censorship of Canada Customs.

There may be some legitimate limitations on freedom of speech–falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre is the famous example used by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919. It would be preferable to err in the direction of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873):

If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one - if he had the power - would be justified in silencing mankind.


Two Canadian Follies             (October 13, 2011)

We are much given to lamenting the two major incomprehensible circumstances in the Canadian nation: the existence of a health care system which is coercive, unsatisfactory, and unsustainable, and the persistence of Human Rights Commissions which are unfair, arbitrary, and oppressive.

The Health Care System has acquired the status of religion, and the Victimhood Advocacy Commissions, despite pronouncements of various politicians, seem to be a large sleeping dog, of immovable bulk, bad breath and and uncertain temper. The recent move to repeal hate speech provisions of the human rights code appears, not as part of a party platform, but as a private member’s bill.

There are, we think, three underlying factors.

First, both these follies are linked to an idealistic view of the world. The universal Health Care system assumes that-- like Canute ordering the waves to retreat--the government can suspend the laws of Economics–and "free" unlimited care can be provided to an aging population in an era of increasingly complex treatments. It also assumes that–despite all evidence to the contrary–that central planning actually works.

The Human rights Commissions are based on the notions that equality is attainable, that freedom of choice can be infinitely suppressed, and that human beings can be turned into piano keys.

Another factor is the nature of Democracy. While, as Winston Churchill pointed out, it is the best of a bad lot of the forms of government which have been tried, it tends to produce Dukes of Plaza Toro--derivatives of the famous leader who "... led his regiment from behind (He found it less exciting). Politicians wish to get elected, and therefore are loathe to question what they perceive to be the wishes of the electorate. They are constantly polling the populace so that they may find out what pronouncements will be popular, and which will not. This, we think is what happened to Tim Hudak in the recent Ontario election.


Politicians are not inclined, like Steve Jobs, to come up with an idea and proceed to convince people that adopting it will be to their advantage; they wish to discover what will be least controversial, and be likely to meet with voter approval.

Finally, Canadian citizens–the voters–are not particularly interested in either truth or freedom. They actually prefer to be told pleasant lies than unpleasant truths. Lies often make people feel good about themselves, and, more generally, about the human circumstance. Out of many examples, we would mention Chretien’s unlikely–but evidently believed-- promise to scrap the G.S.T.

You would think freedom would be very important–but Canadians have long preferred security to freedom. The United States had the wild west; Canada had the R.C.M.P.

Canadians are notorious for buying insurance. Canada, like the U.S. has responded to the assaults of terrorists by spending billions, foregoing their bottles of shampoo, taking off their shoes, and submitting to invasive screening in the name of security. In general, human beings often prefer a quiet, apparently secure life, rather than becoming upset over some loss of freedom–especially if it is the freedom of somebody else. How else could the rise of Nazi Germany have taken place?

Thus it seems, the Big Rock Candy Mountain retains its place as a leading travel destination for unthinking Canadians, leadership is absent, inertia is maintained, and assaults on our freedom go unremarked. We suspect that we will be able to continue to complain about these extraordinary elements of Canadian Culture for the indefinite future.



It’s Oil in the Mind.           September 30, 2011

We stand somewhat in awe of the great differences in cultural perceptions. At the moment, such differences have become evident in recent news from Saudi Arabia. The kingdom appears to be a despotic wolf with an ill-fitting Little Red Riding Hood outfit kept for occasional public appearances. Doubtless it thinks it is performing for a world of senile grandmothers.

First, it has attempted to blackmail CTV News by hiring the firm of Norton, Rose to threaten a lawsuit over an Advertisement for Ethical Oil which details its indisputable misogyny. CTV has obediently cowered under the News Desk, while Sun News has run the advertisement and been strident in its denunciation.

Then we have had a token reaction: women will be allowed to vote in Saudia Arabia–in a few years’ time. Doubtless the polls will be in remote locations, accessible only by automobiles–which women are not allowed to drive.

Next we have the news: "A Saudi court has sentenced a woman to ten lashes for challenging a ban on women driving..." (National Post, September 28, 2011)

Now, we hear, that sentence has been overturned.


Finally, we learn of the textbook plot: school texts which describe Christians as "swine" and Jews as "apes" are "posted on the Saudi Education Ministry website and are shipped and distributed free by a vast Saudi-sponsored Sunni infrastructure to many Muslim schools, mosques and libraries throughout the world." (National Post, September 29, 2011)

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute for Religious freedom says that "four years ago the Saudis gave a ‘solemn promise’ to undertake a program of reform to ‘eliminate all passages that disparage or promote hatred toward any religion or religious groups’"

But no one holds them to account. We suspect that grandmotherly senility is an oil-related mental condition.


P.S. We admit to garbling the Red Riding Hood Story; we are allowed to do so under Poetic License # 3976 issued by the Humpty-Dumpty Division of the Ministry of Culture for Ontario. ( Humpty has a fine disregard for convention; his most famous quote may be found as our February 5, 2010 weekly quotation.)



Another Letter from Aunt Myalgia            (September 29, 2011)


(See also Drivel, December 23, 2010)

It is well-known that the Readership of this Site is embarrassingly small; indeed, we can be certain of only one consistent Reader–our Aunt Myalgia, currently languishing in the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in Downtown Toronto.

Thus, we hope that it is understandable that when our revered Aunt is sufficiently lucid to send us a Letter–which is not often–we feel impelled to record it here. We have this day received the following Missive:

Dear Boy:

I have been puzzled over your frequent references to an "FO Letter"–and just yesterday you referred to an "FO Call" from that delightful Rogers Organization. Although I took a number of excellent Business Courses at BSS, I do not recall encountering such terms.

One of the residents here at the facility–I believe you may have met her–Gladys Fumblefingers–she was married for many years to a terrible crude man-- has made the rather rude suggestion that "FO" stands for something quite unmentionable–a phrase that her late unlamented used almost every day of his life.


It troubles me greatly that you might put–on a public website–easily viewable by innocent children–Holden Caulfield comes to mind–a reference to such a low form of expression.

I am sure Gladys is mistaken. I await your elucidation of this mystery.

By the way, have you had a chance to try the grape jelly? I know that it can pack a real punch, a knockout punch, so to speak. I have been rather looking forward to your verdict.

                                             As always,


Here is our Response:

Hi, Myalgia:

We are glad to see you are still reading our musings and meanderings. Please give our regards to Gladys.

Gladys has obviously suffered from her long marriage to Stanley Kowalski–and we are a bit surprised that the business courses at Bishop Strachan’s were so deficient.

The "FO Letter" is simply a shorthand term for the "Focally Obtundent letter" employed by large corporations when they reply to letters of complaint. Maybe you missed it–but you can read more about our experiences with them in the Drivel Section April 16, 2010.

                                                                 Keep well.



The Rogers "FO Call."                 (September 28, 2011)


We have, at this time, (September 28) two outstanding letters of complaint–one to Hydro One with respect to their DISCONNECTION Notice, the other to Rogers Communications with respect to their policy of requiring customers to give birthdates in order to conduct a business communication with the company.

We have noted the acknowledgement of Laura Formusa of Hydro One (September 12) but have yet to receive their "FO Letter." Our imagined version appears below, dated September 12.

Last evening we received a call from Rogers Communications. We were not overly happy to speak to them. Our speciality is written expression. We think slowly, and perform badly–unless under the influence of alcohol–in most oral debate or discussion. We much prefer to receive a written reply, which represents an unalterable record –and potential target--of the thoughts of our adversary.

This call, then was the oral equivalent of the "FO Letter." (See our discussion in the Drivel Section, April 16, 2010) In the typical conciliatory gesture, the gentleman from Rogers offered to give us a password which could be used in lieu of our birthdate when approaching their Magnificences, the Rogers Customer Representatives. He noted that, should we forget the password, we would, of course, have to give our birthdate.

We pointed out that while this might counter our personal reluctance to use our birthdate as an initiating point of discussion, it did not address the general principle–that their current policy is inappropriate for all customers. Indeed, it is impossible to send an e-mail to Rogers without filling in the "required field" of one’s birthdate. The Rogers gentleman admitted that they had no immediate intention of changing their policy, but suggested –(this is typical of the FO Letter–the offer of a possible move in a particular direction, which might, hypothetically result in a discussion during which the customer’s concern would be resoundingly rejected in favour of current corporate practice)–that he might bring up the matter at a meeting.


We were overwhelmed with gratitude at this gesture, and decided we would get a password while continuing to make our point about the inappropriateness of the general policy.

The gentleman from Rogers said, he hoped we didn’t mind, but he would need our birthdate before setting up the password.

We laughed, said goodbye, and hung up.

Was this an example of corporate paranoia–or simply a test of wills? The gentleman had phoned the Dreimer number, and asked for us by name before any discussion took place. The discussion concerned a letter we had written over the matter of birthdates. Did Rogers imagine that there were numerous secret subversives lurking at the Lumpenbangen Studios, ready to answer the telephone, assume our identity, discuss our complaint, and then steal our password for the nefarious purpose of what?–complaining about the service? Asking for a refund? Cancelling the service to pursue a personal vendetta against Dr. Dreimer?


Had we complied, of course, it would have suggested that our complaint was frivolous and not a matter of principle. It would have also shown our weak and wimpish nature–something which we take great pains–not usually successfully–to conceal.

There is probably no winning strategy in this battle–except to find another service. We will write soon our letter to the imaginary ombudsman in the sky–which will explain the reasons for our objection to Rogers'* policy.


*Please note we are deliberately ignoring our own advice with respect to the apostrophe. We simply think Rogers's sounds awkward. So there.


September 12, 2011

We eagerly anticipate a response to our letter of complaint with respect to the Disconnection Notice received from Hydro One. (See Diary, August 26, 2011). We imagine it will go something like this:


Dear Dr. Dreimer:

Thank you for expressing your concerns about the Disconnection Notice mailed to you as soon as we realized you had failed to remit your payment of $309.65, due July 26. We began preparing the notice on July 27; we do hope it reached you before the Disconnection Date of September 7.

While it is true that the bill we sent you threatened only a late payment charge of 1.5% compounded monthly (an annual rate of 19.56% per year) you must understand that things are moving very quickly here at Hydro One, where we are at the cutting edge of the rapidly developing Green-Schemery Project authorized by the McGuinty-Green, Ontario-Bankrupt initiative.

What you must understand, Dr. Dreimer, is that there is simply not enough electricity to go around, and our new policy, developed on July 26, 2011, targets all households which have not adopted candlepower, washboards, and wood heat.





Our monitoring devices, installed surreptitiously with your new Smart Meter, indicate that you have-- rather conspicuously-- failed to make these necessary changes to your lifestyle. Frankly, Dr. Dreimer, the more Disconnections we can achieve at recalcitrant households such as your own–the more power will be available to those exemplary citizens with the Suzuki Logo tattooed on their foreheads.

With respect to your other complaint–that we charge Seasonal Residences at a higher rate than Primary Residences–even though these residences may be next door to one another–we are, frankly, dismayed that you would question such a policy: it adheres to the provisions of the l943 Ontario Screw-the-Cottagers Act, and is simply a reflection of the ongoing governmental effort to take money from those who have cottages, and write letters of complaint, and give it to those who do not have cottages and who do precisely as they are told.

We do hope, Dr. Dreimer, that this clarifies matters for you. Please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet: How to live safely without electricity.

We are always here for our customers; please let us know if we can be of further assistance.


                                                                       Yours truly,

                                                                        Ms. Jenkins,
                                                                        Chief Administrator,
                                                                         FO Department.



The Struggle for Equality                (September 1, 2011)

How low can the equality movement sink? Well, pretty low.

The National Post (August 27) reports that a Manitoba court has rejected a request by Gabor Lukacs, a professor at the University of Manitoba, to intervene and rescind a Ph.D. awarded by the University to a candidate who had twice failed his comprehensive exams, and was missing a graduate course.

Mr. Lukacs had correctly argued that the University had damaged its credibility, while the university had claimed that it was "legally required to accommodate a student’s disability, in this case, exam anxiety."

Mr. Lukacs response to the decision: "What it says is the university can do whatever it wants without following the proper procedure." He has pointed out that the student in question failed to mention his anxiety until after he had failed two exams, and the university failed to offer the alternative of therapy or a time extension.

This is merely another instance of a Canadian specialty: the triumph of ideals over reality. It will surely not be long before we see the following news items:

1. Neurosurgeon with Operating Room Anxiety hired at Seven Reeds General Hospital

Winnipeg, Manitoba. Special to Forward News. Dr. Ima Fakir, President of Seven Reeds General Hospital announced the appointment of Dr. Adam Trembler to the Neurology Department, where he will be responsible for Brain Surgery. The move was initially considered controversial, since Dr. Trembler has failed, on two occasions, to qualify for his license to practice medicine, and is known to suffer from extreme anxiety within fifty feet of any hospital operating room.

Dr. Trembler had applied to the Human Rights Commission, and adjudicator Melanie Dimwit had approved his application. In her decision, Ms. Dimwit noted: "This is not a question of competence. Dr. Trembler has longed to be a neurosurgeon from the age of six, when he had significant portions of his brain removed, and there is no reason why he–just like any other Canadian-- should be denied his dream.


Dr. Fakir, for his part, admitted that some increase in less than optimal outcomes might reasonably be anticipated, but said that Ms. Dimwit’s Judgement was legally binding. "At any event," he said, "patients have learned not to expect very much from our equality-based healthcare system, and we see no reason to surprise them with any exceptional degree of competence."

2. Homeless Man, struggling with Illiteracy, wins Giller Prize.

Toronto, Ontario. Special to Forward News. Dwayne Shoeless, a familiar sight on the streets of downtown Toronto, has been awarded this year’s prestigious $50,000 Giller Prize for his novella "How I spent my Summer Vaction."

The award breaks new ground, since the novella is only one page in length, and contains numerous spelling and grammatical Errors.

It is widely rumoured, but not confirmed, that the powerful Equality Society for Literature (ESL) exerted its influence on the judges, all of whom are members of the organization. Many of the judges are also known to have low rate mortgages with E.S.L.

Melanie Dimwit, speaking for the Giller Committee, said that the award was a bold new step towards Equality in the fiercely competitive Canadian Literary Community. "This is not a question of competence," she said. "Mr. Shoeless has longed to be an internationally recognized writer since the age of six, when significant parts of his brain were removed by Dr. Adam Trembler, head of Brain Surgery at Winnipeg’s renowned Seven Reeds Hospital. We see no reason why he–just like any other Canadian–should be denied his dream."

Asked about his plans for the $50,000, Mr. Shoeless said: "I’m going on Vaction and writing another book."




Of the Public Outpouring for Mr Layton             August 29, 2011

(Footless idols, crystal palaces, the oxymoronic miasma, the Catch-22 of Heart of Darkness–and the supremacy of the Great God Murphy.)


Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest.           
(Alexander Pope, 1688-1744)


While we feel we have written overmuch about Mr. Layton, we still feel impelled to comment on the extraordinary outpouring of emotion displayed by the Canadian public at his death. This show of grief obviously does not arise from a personal acquaintance with Mr. Layton–many of those affected have never met him--but from his function as a symbol.

First, we should note that Mr. Layton has benefited from the fact that symbols, unlike human beings who are personally known to the mourners, are unblemished by the personal flaws which might become evident with closer contact.

Next, Mr. Layton is a symbol of both the vulnerability of humankind to malign forces beyond its control–and its determined, noble, losing battle against them. Like Terry Fox, Mr. Layton expressed a determined optimism–a fighting spirit in the face of the insidious force of his disease.

In addition, Mr. Layton’s circumstance was lifted to a tragic level. The subjects of tragedy–despite Mr. Miller’s depiction of Willie Loman (Low Man) as a tragic figure–are those who have a great height from which to fall. Mr. Layton had achieved unprecedented success for his party in the May 2 elections, and his untimely death so soon after his triumph evokes exactly those emotions of awe, helplessness, and constrained sorrow–that great sense of fatalism which is the hallmark of tragedy.

Fourthly, Mr. Layton has long been a proponent of attractive, idealistic notions. Somewhere, over the rainbow, we are told, there is a Big Rock Candy Mountain, a Shangri-la where equality reigns, healthcare specialists hang ripely from conveniently low-branched trees, and there are two vehicles in every driveway, powered –not just by air–but by green air, painted by Santa’s elves in the off-season.

Next, we must consider that Mr. Layton was a charismatic individual. He was "personable." He was smiling, confident, enthusiastic, and idealistic. A pessimistic curmudgeon, we suspect, would attract considerably less sympathy.

Finally, we must consider the fact that Mr. Layton had the great fortune to be not merely an unblemished symbol, but also a footless idol.

Imagine, if you will, three great golden statues arising from the foggy swamps of human dissatisfaction. One is called Bob Rae, another is Barack Obama, and the last is named Jack Layton. Mr Rae rises, golden, glowing leftily from the swamp. Look! Up! Up! To be Premier of Ontario! Alas. Recession. Rae Days. Look at the feet! Look at the feet! Pure Playdough!


Similarly, Mr. Obama, rising golden, affirmatively egalitarian, hauled up on a hopeful chain of change to be President of the United States. Alas, Recession. Unemployment. Unprecedented Debt. Look at the feet! Look at the feet! Pure plasticine!

And now Mr. Layton. He, too, rises golden towards the rainbow, the glint of the Big Rock Candy Mountain in his eye. But, suddenly, tragically, his rise is stopped. He never gets to run anything. The feet are invisible, undelineated, still obscured by the mists, lost in the speculation of the what-might-be: those great Size Twelves, diamond encrusted, dripping with platinum and healthcare specialists.

Now–we hope we have explained the reasons for the emotional outpouring attending the death of Mr. Layton. The chief of these, we think is his appeal to the aspirational, idealistic side of human nature.

But--for a bit of gloomy generalization. The inconvenient truth (has someone used that phrase before?) is that human beings will never cease to be attracted by ideals. In order to change what we don’t like about our circumstances–we must have some idea, some notion of how things might be improved. At the same time, we must recognize that the crystal palace can never be built; what lies over the rainbow is yet another thunderstorm.

We are tempted to call for a reasonable idealism, but we suspect that this is like asking for rational religion, cautious optimism, effective universal healthcare, sensible Suzukiism, or a realistic illusion. The miasma, then, is of oxymoronic proportions.

It was Joseph Conrad who delineated this problem in Heart of Darkness. The darkness at the heart of the human condition is precisely the necessity of illusion– illusion which is both necessary, and corrupting in its obscuring of truth, in its denial of reality. It is the Catch-22 of human existence--why the Great God Murphy reigns supreme--why things will always turn out more badly than we hope.

Thus we must finally see Mr. Layton--and the grief which his death has inspired--as an illustration of the unstoppable power of hopeful fantasies, the persistent force of foolish illusions--the great sprung trap of the human condition.  



The Luxury of Options in On-ta-ri-o                 August 15, 2011

(Yahoos lie; Houyhnhnms have no words for the thing which is not.)


Can people be convinced of the thing which is not –merely by repetition?

It would appear that the duplicitous Government of Ontario believes so.

We refer to those silly ads which show a lady burning herself in the kitchen with a frying pan, and two men in the woods with rashes on their forearms.

What to do? What to do?

The ads suggest a plethora of options: doctor, emergency ward, clinic, nurse practitioner, faith healer, sweat lodge, local incantatory centre, and, we imagine, prayer. The viewer is urged to do research on what is available–presumably so that when the emergency strikes, an appropriate beeline may be made.

This is nonsense. People don’t do that sort of thing. Besides, they would have to try to find out what services are covered at each of these (imaginary?) locations, and keep a list nearby--in the kitchen attached with a handy fridge magnet, or fastened with thumbtacks to the canoe.


That is not the point of these ads at all. They are merely to suggest the thing which is not–that residents of Ontario have lots of options with respect to health care. Of course, everybody knows that this is nonsense: it is very difficult to find a doctor, and, if one is found-- it is unlikely he will be able to see you in less than three days. We are led to bask in the fanciful notion that we are surrounded by wonderful alternatives. The only danger–we are led to believe--is that, when that woodsy rash strikes, we will dither for hours, making lists of pros and cons of the wonderful options available, unable to make a meaningful commitment.

By the way– both the little dramas presented are completely unrealistic. When you burn yourself on a frying pan, you use ozonol. You don’t go traipsing off somewhere when dinner is just about to be served.

And that rash? If one of the guys has had that rash without realizing it, then it certainly isn’t poison ivy. And if it isn’t poison ivy, death is probably imminent. Prayer is probably best.


Interview with Dr. Dreimer                               August 13, 2010


Recently Dr. Dreimer was interviewed by the Blogs for Blobs Editor of Forward News. Here is a partial transcript of the interview.


Blogs for Blobs: In view of the existence of Human Rights Commissions, an unworkable Health Care System, and a Socialist Opposition Party in the Federal Government, it is estimated that the I.Q. of the average Canadian is approximately 35, plus or minus two points, nineteen times out of twenty on weekdays, and eighteen times out of twenty on holidays and weekends. In view of this low level of intelligence, Dr. Dreimer, why do you frequently use words such as "omphaloskepsis" – which no one has ever heard of ?

Dr. Dreimer: Well first of all, I think your estimate of the intelligence of the average Canadian is far too low. Extensive Research at the Lumpenbangen Piano Institue Facilities has indicated that the level is closer to 40 on holidays and weekends, rising to 42 on weekdays. There is some indication, that, apart from journalistic enterprises such as CTV News, dictionaries are well within the scope of discretionary budgets of the average working Canadian family. Having to look up words like "omphaloskepsis" in the dictionary is a fine way to improve digital dexterity, and a great test of knowledge of the alphabet. We feel that we are performing a great service to the average Canadian.

Blogs for Blobs: I see. We note that at least one page of your website is devoted to the matter of grammar and usage. Do you think anyone really cares about such things any more?

Dr. Dreimer. Probably not. The whole notion that some forms of expression are better than others is the relic of a bygone era. We suspect that the various languages will devolve into a series of expressive grunts, accompanied by hand signals. These grunts and motions will be universally understood, and so much misunderstanding based on linguistic barriers, the arduous learning of native and foreign languages, the need for translations– these will become things of the past. Indeed, life will be much simpler, much less demanding, and more focussed on the obtaining of necessities, and defending against marauding bands. Our concern for the grammatical niceties of an earlier era are recorded here simply on the off-chance of the arrival of intelligent beings on the earth at some point in the future–possibly by asteroid, or by spaceship from nearby galaxies. They may have some interest in tracing the decline of civilization as revealed in the erosion of articulate thought.



Blogs for Blobs: Would it be correct to say then, that your website makes no attempt to appeal to the general public?

Dr. Dreimer: Yes. The general public is far too general, and insufficiently private. We wish to have as little to do with it as possible.

Blogs for Blobs: That appears to be true, even with the music available on the site. It appears to be hopelessly old-fashioned and without any redeeming elements which might appeal to modern musical taste. Why would you not delete this awful stuff from your site?

Dr. Dreimer: We publish this music only for our dear Aunt Myalgia, who is currently confined to the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in Downtown Toronto. In spite of her rather pathetic attempts to poison us with a jar of her special jam–see her letter to us December 23, 2010-- we still have fond memories of her from her earlier, more lucid days. We know she would be upset were the music to disappear entirely.

Blogs for Blobs: Well, we do hope your aunt will see an early release, and that there are no–well– unfortunate genetic ramifications. Oops! I see I am being paged on an urgent matter. Many thanks for your time.

Dr. Dreimer: But you didn’t ask me about the burka!

Blogs for Blobs: So sorry–have to run.





O, Larceny! O, Touchstone of the Human Heart!         August 5, 2011

It was Jonathan Swift’s conceit-- in Gulliver’s Travels--to create the Houyhnhnms--equine creatures who could not understand lying–they had no word for the thing which was not. In this, as in many other things, they were superior to the Yahoos–the rather miserable race of human beings.

The more we learn, the more we are impressed with the dangerousness of Yahoos–despite all our supposed enlightenment and reliance on science.

Our cynicism with respect to the medical establishment began about five years ago, when we started to doubt the prevailing cholesterol theory of heart disease. It appeared that the theory owed its popularity to its promotion by drug manufacturers–who just happened to have drugs which are very effective in lowering cholesterol levels–rather than to convincing evidence.

Our cynicism deepened when we realized how drug trials were conducted–those tested are motivated primarily by money–and are under pressure not to report side effects. The drug companies are also easily able to "pre-select" subjects to create the best possible outcome. There is much opportunity for other chicanery–which doubtless accounts, in part, for the not-infrequent discoveries that "approved" drugs sold to the unsuspecting public are, in fact, dangerous. (See Five-Part Drivel Series November 22- Dec. 1, 2010.)

We were not hugely surprised, therefore, to see a segment on the August 2 edition of CTV news revealing that articles extolling the virtues of new drugs are signed by "reputable" scientists–but are actually written by the drug companies themselves.


We are sure that the drug companies, being completely without financial interest in such matters, are judicious and unbiased. They would hardly sell their honour for a few measly simoleons.

The question remains, of course–what are we to make of the "reputable" scientists who are saying the thing which is not?

Two professors at the University of Toronto, Trudo Lemmens, and Simon Stern, are, apparently, writing an article proposing that such doctors be charged with fraud.

This, we think, would be a good thing–at least a step in the right direction. Generally speaking, we are suspicious of government–it being not unsusceptible to larceny itself. But a next step might be to provide oversight–or some mechanism for oversight–of the way drug trials are conducted. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the creation of an official Devil’s Advocacy Commission–devoted to poking holes in the Claims of Drug Manufacturers?

We fear that larceny at the heart of the medical establishment-- mirroring that in the human heart--will not easily be extirpated.


Are Human Beings simply complex Machines?          July 27, 2011

The following musings derive from a Program on The Agenda, aired on Tuesday–which dealt with the findings of neuroscience in relation to the law.


"We know our will is free, and there’s an end on’t. "(Samuel Johnson 1709-1784)

In spite of Dr. Johnson–an a word, yes.

The world seems to operate according to principles of cause and effect. If a force of five units is applied to an object, "O," and the object moves ten units in distance, we would be greatly surprised, if the experiment were repeated, and the object moved three units–or twelve units--of distance under the same conditions, and with the same force applied.

If the world actually exhibited this kind of extreme variability, then nothing would actually work–you really couldn’t count on, or predict, anything. You couldn't build bridges, or stop automobiles.

It’s hard not to see the same sort of cause and effect working in living beings. Indeed, we are the first to ascribe causes and reasons to our actions. In answer to the question: Why did you watch that British spy thriller last night, we are inclined to say: "We are fond of British spy thrillers, and the lead actor, Sir Anthony Hayward-Jones is a particular favourite. A friend, Leighton Mugwump saw it recently and recommended it highly. Besides, it was raining, and the theatre where the film was showing was the closest to our residence."

The interactions of cause and effect, are of course, rather more complex than with the Force of Five Units and the object "O." At any given instant, we-- the object, if you like--are the sum total of all our experiences, and the forces acting upon us are the myriad of sensory inputs at that precise moment.

Like Dr. Johnson. we do not like to think of ourselves as automata. We are inclined–after giving the reasons for our decision to watch the British spy thriller–to say: "Of course, I could have seen the Harry Potter film–or the re-run of Dead Poets’ Society instead."

Hmm. We are not actually so sure. If you responded to all the sensory inputs of the moment in a reasonable fashion–the rainy evening--the sense of boredom–in conjunction with certain dispositions--you are fond of British spy thrillers, your friend’s earlier recommendation, and the knowledge of the proximity of the theatre–it seems a bit of a stretch to say that for that same complex of sensory inputs at that exact moment, you could have reacted in a completely DIFFERENT fashion–and gone to see the Harry Potter film.


This is a bit like saying that the object "O" sometimes moves a distance of five units, sometimes a distance of ten units in response to the same force of five. The thought that one COULD HAVE made a decision different from the one actually made seems somewhat unlikely.

So– is our very powerful perception of free will illusory?

Experiments have been done to stimulate the brain electrically in order to create a response. It is interesting that one area of stimulation might create a movement of the right hand. The patient might respond–"my hand moved, but I did not intend to move it." Another point of stimulation might also create a hand movement– but in this case the patient says: "I wanted to move my hand."

The fact that the movement of the hand is perceived as the exercise of free will, when in fact that perception of free will was caused by an external stimulus, should lead us to be somewhat sceptical of our belief in the "I" which we believe to be in charge of our thoughts and actions.

We have always been intrigued by the description of an experiment with turtle-shaped servo-mechanisms. These devices have very simple programming. They have a light sensing unit at the front, and are designed to move forward, in the direction of a light. At the back, each device has a light.

What happens when a hundred of these devices are set in motion on the floor of a gymnasium?

They move to form a circle. They are actually responding to very simple programming–but it appears as though they are "making decisions" and exercising free will.

Are we exactly equivalent to such servo-mechanisms? Pretty much–but perhaps not exactly. It is quite likely that there are random variations–the neuron that goes left, instead of right. Perhaps it is similar to the mutations which result in changes in the evolutionary process. Perhaps this is, in part, the source of our creativity.

Too many such variations–too much randomness–and everything falls apart. Predictable cause and effect most of the time seems to be how the world operates. We suspect that, despite our intuitive approval of Dr. Johnson’s remark, we are actually just rather complicated servo-mechanisms.

Does all this make much difference? Probably not a great deal. The complexity of the forces, and the labyrinthine complexity of the object–the human mind–which represents a lifetime of interactions with the environment-- mean that there are few really dull and "automatic" moments. The perception of free will seems pretty firmly entrenched; it is hard to imagine people claiming–except, perhaps, in court–that they are merely wayward automatons.

The mechanistic view might, however, lead us to downplay the idea of evil intent–although it should not prevent us from acting as we always have to alter behaviour, and protect the public from individuals with faulty circuitry.


The Ideal as a means of Social Control           July 26, 2011

I am not sure how old I was, when I started to become aware of the power of the unattainable ideal. I was quite young. I have the vague notion that it arose from seeing a film with a strong religious element. I’m not even sure what the religious ideal was–but–for the sake of argument–let’s say it was selflessness. Now, undoubtedly selflessness is a GOOD THING–but–of course, realistically it cannot be carried too far without the extirpation of the self that is supposed to exhibit selflessness.

Any living creature must have some element of selfishness in order to ensure survival. It struck me–as I am sure it was intended by the film-maker–that the demands of the Catholic religion were simply impossible of fulfilment–they were inconsistent with actual survival. This, of course, did not happen by chance. If the requirements are impossible to fulfill, then the individual will always be found wanting, and there will always be a handy stick of guilt to beat him with.

This same notion occurs repeatedly in different ways in human societies. One is tempted to think next of the requirements of Communism–especially the Chinese variety. There is required an unattainable degree of brotherhood and an irreproachable reverence for the system, or the leader. The individual will always fall short, and always be vulnerable to the re-education camp. Survival may depend on out-idealizing the idealizers.

George Orwell certainly made use of the concept in 1984. The society of Oceania requires no less of its citizens than the love of the oppressor–Big Brother. Since this is not actually possible, all citizens are guilty, and hence vulnerable. One reasonably secure tactic–to divert attention from oneself–is to denounce one’s neighbour. Children, whose capacity for idealism-- unfettered by actual experience-- is considerable, are especially good at denunciations.

We would be naive to think that oppressive elements of the ideal are not present in our own society. The City of Hamilton, we understand, has garbage police, who will rummage through one’s multitudinous weekly offerings to ensure the precise placement of specific types of detritus. The whole notion of climate change and our individual guilt for some future sinking of islands, flooding of cities, destruction of species–including our own– is another excellent example of the use of the ideal–the dutiful citizen living in a cave taking shallow breaths–to underscore our failures.


Yesterday we wrote of David Mamet’s experience in dealing with College students–and it struck us that, with political correctness–the same psychological forces are at play. The idealistic young are the first to assume that "correctness" of thinking is achievable. Not only are individuals equal, but so are all cultures. Thus, to write a play in which Arabs–or Pakistanis–are terrorists– is a grave social error. Australians or Danes might do--but only because they do not currently have victim status, and can be taken down a few notches.

The existence of Human Rights Commissions suggests the promulgation of the same sort of impossible ideals. Are you obese? Why, in order to assist you towards our ideal of equality–we will give you the parking spot that belongs to someone else. Are you Muslim? Dr. Chris Spence, of the Toronto Board of Education, has suggested that it is Human Rights legislation which has led us to abandon the principle of separation of Church and State and arrange for the Imam to come in and conduct prayers in our public schools. Was someone nasty or unkind? As long as you can claim membership in a victimhood group, we will assess penalties and levy fines.

And, should you wish to challenge the orthodoxy, and speak at a Canadian University, we will hear no criticisms of aboriginals or Palestinians, because they must be considered not merely equal–but more equal than others.

Thus, we would contend that the current most significant Ideal–the means of creating a sense of guilt, and hence sense of vulnerability amongst the citizenry–is that of Equality. Equality is a wonderful ideal, but, of course, it is as chimerical as perfect selflessness, perfect brotherhood, the perfect love of one’s oppressor, or the perfect surrender of self to the demands of the environmentalists.

Just don’t say so publicly. People will despise you. The Human Rights Commissions will attempt to re-educate you.


"On Thursday, Ontario Judge Howard Chisvin threw out the cases of everyone in his courtroom--a gesture of pique directed, he said at Crown prosecutor who arrived at the courtroom three minutes late." (National Post Editorial, July 23, 2011.)


Judge late for Operation, Surgeon Dismisses Case                     (July 23, 2011)

Hamilton, Ontario. Special to Forward News. Judge Howard Chisling, scheduled for a brain transplant at Hamilton’s Neurological Centre for the Judgementally Impaired, was returned to his Room today by Chief Surgeon Justin Tyme. Dr. Tyme cited an unacceptable delay in the presentation of his patient. "The operation was scheduled for 11 a.m., and Judge Chisling was 3.93 minutes late. Does Judge Chisling think we have nothing better to do than replace his brain? The potential outcome was not favourable in any case. He would be better off returning to a less stressful position, wherein his impairment would be virtually undetectable–possibly as an NDP member of Parliament."


Chief Gurney Operator, Lacka Dazeical, cited corridor traffic problems and a shortage of critical gurney staff for the delay. He said: " As with all government operated programs, inefficiency and delay are the indisputable hallmarks. If you encounter any circumstance in which services are provided adequately and on time, you may be sure that the steady and supporting hand of government is lamentably absent."

When Dr. Tyme was asked whether he would reconsider Judge Chisling’s case, and reschedule the operation, he snapped: "Certainly not. Three point nine three minutes–and you’re out. Those are the rules, and we will enforce them without fear or favour. And," he added darkly, "that will apply to the Premier whose operation is scheduled for next Thursday at 10: 00 a.m."





The Explanation of...Everything                       July 18, 2011

Click here for audio.

O pity Man in his parlous state!
We weep, we grieve for all his troubles great!

But while there's cause indeed
For tears and heartfelt groaning--
We'd like to pause and think--take heed,
And--for just a bit--suspend our direful moaning:

And so-instead, on man's fiendish fix and truly awful fate,
Let us briefly here reflect, and calmly, commiserate.

Man’s greatest gift is thirst for knowledge–
He seeks cap and gown--an advanced degree in life’s hard college.

He longs to know the why and wherefore,
And what on earth he’s really there for.

Alas! No matter how hard he tries and thinks,
His line of thought
Is beset and fraught
With twists and breaks and knots and kinks.

The future’s mum, and just won’t reveal
The shipwreck dire or the even keel.

And push far back into cosmic history,
We bump and stall
Against the unyielding wall
Of primal cause, and cosmic mystery.

Thus, Man’s desires at both ends are blocked–
His grandest dreams and highest aims-- are mocked!

And so it is that Man–that ambitious, thwarted smidgen–
So oft does turn to foolish, false religion.

He makes up stories to suit his needs–
Though facts be damned, or missing, or ill-at-ease–
And logic twists, and thoughts must bend like reeds.

When truth is hidden, and facts are shy--
Why--we'd just as soon believe a lie!

So–there you have it--our sorry state--
And the reasons why it won't abate:

The mankind child–the long-sought lolly–
But life quite stern–no uncle jolly–
And in the end–the rise and rule
(We cannot lie, though a king be fool)
Of purest, direst, desperate folly.