Arrogance or ignorance?

Recently I’ve been watching a television show called “Border Security”, which details the daily lives of the Canadian Border Services.  The show covers mainly some of the ports of entry in and around Vancouver – the airport; the harbour, and some of the road crossings between Washington and British Columbia as well as the international postal station.

I spend much of my time watching this show shaking my head at some of the things – and excuses – I see people trying at Canada Customs.  From watching this show now for several weeks, it appears some people, especially from the Orient, insist upon trying to bring in suitcases filled with foodstuffs, foodstuffs they didn’t bother declaring.  Minimum penalty for this is confiscation of the goods and an $800 fine.  Another tactic that students from the Orient appear to use is flying into Canada to study without bothering to get the proper paperwork before leaving home (this is a real case of “don’t leave home without it”), expecting to apply for it once they arrive on Canadian soil.  Every single one of these “students” has been on the next flight home.  Point of interest: If you’ve been convicted of an offence in the US, and there is a comparable offence in Canadian law, you will not be admissible to Canada.

I’m not certain whether this next lady truly didn’t know the requirements for visitors to Canada, or just thought she could live off the system.  She flew from Paris to Vancouver to meet her boyfriend.  She had no funds available to her and planned on staying in a hostel.  It turned out her boyfriend was homeless and living in a shelter.  After some investigation – and being cursed out in French – the lady was put on the next flight back to Paris.

The land crossings are where I really ask myself whether some of the things are done from ignorance of Canadian law, or simple arrogance that because they are American, they can do what they want.  I don’t know how many people I’ve seen arrested for smuggling drugs into Canada because they have a medical use marijuana card from California.  That card has no legal effect in Canada and bringing your own supply into Canada is illegal.

The one that I really have to consider arrogance was on one of last night’s shows.  A man was at one of the border crossings and was pulled aside for secondary inspection.  When he entered the office, he appeared quite upset.  When questioned he said “I expected to just drive through.”  He seemed even more upset when the Customs Agent told him that he was a foreign national and subject to inspection. The officer later further added that entry to Canada was a privilege, not a right and subject to certain criteria.  He was eventually cleared for entry, but not until after a thorough search of his vehicle.

One thing Americans do seem to be very conscientious about is declaring their firearms.  Considering the great differences between American and Canadian gun laws, I’m impressed by that fact.

Mail arriving from certain countries is automatically subject to examination.  Drugs have been found in everything from picture frames to wedding invitations.  Such discoveries are turned over to the RCMP for further investigation.

Another time where people feel they won’t get caught is bringing money into the country.  People can bring in all they like, but if it’s over $10,000, it must be declared to Customs.  Failure to declare excess funds will result in Customs taking the money and issuing a fine as well.

Canadian travellers returning from other countries don’t get an easier ride than visitors.  They are subject to the same stringent examinations as every other arriving person.  One of the more interesting (and weird) cases here was the Canadian citizen returning after two years in Thailand.  Among the things he brought back was a toilet.  Can’t remember what reason he gave Customs, but after an examination of his unusual souvenir, he was welcomed home.

As I said, I’m not sure if some of the things portrayed on this show are the product of people’s ignorance or their arrogance.


Robbie, you’re old news

Rob Ford has never been one to let facts get in the way of his version of events.  How long did it take him to finally admit that he had smoked crack?   Here’s another example of Robbie ignoring evidence in an attempt to smear a Toronto Star reporter.  The following section has been extracted from a CBC News report on an interview between Conrad Black and Toronto’s titular mayor Rob Ford:

At one point in the interview, Black asked Ford about media intrusion on his family’s privacy, and Ford singled out Dale for an incident that happened in May 2012.

Ford had confronted Dale outside the mayor’s west-end home in an adjacent park — a section of which the mayor was looking to buy.

“Daniel Dale is in my backyard taking pictures. I have little kids. He’s taking pictures of little kids,” Ford said. “I don’t want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about.”

Dale said that at no time did he ever take any photographs of the mayor’s family, house or even his property — and a police investigation bore that out.

When asked directly about the Dale comments, Mayor Ford said at a press conference that he stood by his words in the interview.

“I stand by every word.”

Robbie, the whole city knows you don’t like The Toronto Star, but to suggest one of their reporters is a paedophile is low even for you.  Despite the existence of a police report (see bolded section above) you stand by your comments.  Then again, even though you knew of the existence of a certain tape, until the police announced they had retrieved a copy of it from a hard drive, you denied there was such a tape.  So what’s it going to take this time before you retract your accusations?

News flash Robbie: You’re mayor in name only and no matter how much huffing and puffing you and your brother do, that ain’t gonna change.  You’re old news.  Stop trying to draw attention to yourself.


“Those were the days”

A friend and I were talking earlier this week, following the death of actress Jean Stapleton, and we both agreed that television pushed the limits more in the 1970s than today.  Let me clarify that – network television pushed the limits, cable being virtually non-existent.  With the wealth of cable channels available now, no matter what you want to watch, you can probably find it somewhere on the dial.  But back then you were pretty much stuck with the three major networks, plus PBS if you were lucky.  Of course, living in southern Ontario as I do, in addition to those, I also had access to the two major Canadian networks, CBC and CTV.  There was also CITY-TV in Toronto which, very late on Friday nights, would run what they called the “Baby Blue” movies – basically soft-core porn.

Interesting sidebar to the “Baby Blues”. I recall reading an article in one of the Toronto papers at the time that said on Friday nights it was common for people (read “men”) to drive to a place near the border with their television sets they could plug into the lighter socket in the car, and hope they could catch CITY’s signal across the lake. But, enough of CITY – they’ve become civilized now.

I said the major networks, and by that I mean the American networks.  Jean Stapleton, for those too young to remember, was one of the stars of “All in the Family”. The other star was Carroll O’Connor, who played Archie Bunker, a dyed-in-the-wool bigot.  Keep in mind this was the early ‘70s, therefore the show was quite controversial.  I won’t use any of the words he used, but think of all the derogatory and racist names used for other races, religions and nationalities and you’ve pretty much got Archie’s world view.  Can you honestly see any network trying to get a show like that on the air in today’s politically correct times?  Not a chance.

Then we had “The Jeffersons”.  George Jefferson can best be described as a black Archie Bunker, only living in a better part of town.  Again, I doubt there is a network that would even consider a show like that today.

One more show that caused quite a stir was “Soap”.  It was situation comedy  about the Tate family, but what ruffled the public’s feathers was the character played by Billy Crystal – an openly gay man.  As I wrote above – this was the ‘70s, and things like that weren’t part of the normal viewing schedule.  Now it is common to see gay or lesbian characters.  I must admit though that I’m waiting for the day a show has an openly trans person as a main character.

Today it is also quite common to see people jumping into bed with each other on network television – just watch the soap operas.   Back in the ‘70s though, such things just weren’t shown on television (CITY’s “Baby Blue” movies excepted). I can’t recall where I read this, but apparently the first network series to actually show a married couple in bed together wasn’t one of the more mature dramas, but that most apple pie of shows “The Brady Bunch”.  Again, a case of 1970s television pushing limits.

There are no doubt some will read this and think “yeah, but the world has progressed since then. Attitudes have changed”.  True, the world has progressed.. But it’s also become much tamer; much more afraid of causing offence and much less willing to take a chance.  As for attitudes, if they’ve changed so much, why is there such a furor in the US over equal marriage?

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Since Pickering Village is holding its annual jazzfest this weekend, and I can hear it all from my window, I guess it would be appropriate for me to sign on with:

Hep Cat.

Parental guidance?

As parents, we constantly told, or still tell, our children not to put things they find on the ground in their mouth.  You know – “don’t eat that, you don’t know where it’s been”.  It is that instruction drummed into us as children and repeated to our own children that makes a current commercial for Ensure that much more unbelievable.  Here’s the scene: a man is playing soccer with his son.  At one point junior kicks the ball over the net and dad goes to retrieve it.  While he is behind the net a bottle of Ensure rolls down the hill and hits his foot.  What does dad do?  Ignore it?  Don’t be silly.  He picks it up, opens it and drinks it!  I can only suggest dad ascribes to the “do as I say, not as I do” school in dealings with his son.  Once again advertisers are asking us to accept illogical commercials.

One of my pet peeves is people who don’t pick up their feet when they walk.  What prompts this part of the posting is that I was out today and there was a lady on the other side of the street and I could clearly her scuffing her feet as she walked.  Are these people afraid that if they lose contact with the earth they will float away?  Ain’t gonna happen people.  Shoe retailers and shoe repair shops must love people like that because they destroy the soles of their footwear so quickly. When I was young, I was always told to pick up my feet when I walked, so I can’t envision any parent telling their children to do otherwise.  I know we all develop bad habits as we age – I have some and resist attempts to get me to change them – but shuffling rather than walking seems more like laziness than anything else.  But then again, laziness is a bad habit too.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.


Changes – real and fictional

I had to take a bus ride to a place a couple of towns over today.  Nice thing about being a passenger is that you get to see things you might otherwise miss and you can let your mind wander, which couldn’t be done while driving.

First I noticed the Hooter’s in Whitby is closed.  How many times do you hear of a place like that closing?   Not sure exactly what that means.  Should it be construed as a statement on the young women of Whitby?  Is it just a result of the state of the economy?  Or is it perhaps more a commentary on the male population of that town?

A little further west, I passed the local Ford dealer and noticed a row of bright shiny new Mustangs on display (dang- that new Shelby is really something.)  Seeing all the Mustangs, my mind jumped to “Spenser: For Hire”, the TV series with Robert Urich. (You don’t remember it?  You don’t? Just how old am I?)  In the series, the character drove a Mustang, wrecked it and got another ‘stang.  If you read the Robert B Parker stories, especially the older ones, Spenser doesn’t drive a Mustang – he drives a Subaru.  Makes sense when you think about it.  Being a private detective, at least as shown on television, sometimes involves surveillance.  What is going to blend into the scenery easier – a non-descript Subaru, or a flashy sports car?

From there, my mind made the leap to Bond, James Bond.  007 has become synonymous with Aston Martin.  Well, there was that brief excursion into BMW, but we’ll forget about that. In the novels, James didn’t drive an Aston Martin.  The first vehicle I can recall reading as James’s ride was a “Blower Bentley”, that is a Bentley with a supercharged engine.  I don’t know if Bentley has a supercharged model in their current lineup, but the cars themselves are beautiful and, from what I’ve read, fast and powerful.  Given that, isn’t it about time the movies considered putting James back in his proper set of wheels, perhaps a Continental GT or a Mulsanne?

Since it’s Easter, enjoy your long weekend, and remember to hug an artist – we need love  too (and a Bentley wouldn’t hurt either).


Too much reality?

I don’t know about you, but when I watch television, I’m looking for some temporary escape.  Yet I notice that current programming seems to consist mainly of reality shows.  If I want reality, I’ll watch the news.  It isn’t my intention to pan these reality shows for there are a couple I like to watch, namely “Ghost Hunters” and “Pawn Stars”.  “Ghost Hunters” feeds my interest in the paranormal, which is why I enjoy it.  “Pawn Stars”, especially when they call in the experts, can be educational.  I’ve learned some interesting things from these experts.

I also understand why reality shows are so popular with the networks and the cable channels.  They’re cheaper to produce than shows such as “Castle” or the “CSI” franchise.  But do people watch these reality shows because they find them amusing, or is it a case of hoping it’s gonna get better?

While on the topic of reality, I note there appears to be a trend toward using sports figures to shill for various products.  There is a commercial for Head and Shoulders shampoo that apparently uses some football player sitting at a piano.  I say “apparently” for there are goalposts visible in the background.  I have no idea who the hell he is, other than he didn’t play for the Toronto Argonauts.

The other one that comes to mind, mainly because I just watched it, is for one of the poker sites.  The person in this case is someone named Georges St Pierre.  Okay, and what is this man’s claim to fame?  According to Google, Georges St Pierre is a mixed martial arts fighter and in fact is the current welterweight champion.  I also discovered he’s Canadian.

I can see using an actor or singer as a spokesperson, for they would be well-known and would (or should) appeal to a wide audience.  But using a sports figure who may not be known outside his team’s home town; or a mixed martial artist would seem to restrict the appeal to a niche audience.  What kind of response would some relative unknown get? Just sayin’.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too (some product endorsements wouldn’t hurt either). 🙂


I don’t find it cute

Brangelina; Bennifer; J Lo; LiLo.  And after Sunday’s Oscar broadcast, apparently we can add J Law to the list.

What’s with all this shortening or combining celebrities’ names?  Is it laziness on the part of the entertainment reporters?  Is it an attempt to be cute?  Or should we consider that these abbreviations an insult – that we, as readers or viewers, are seen as lacking either the attention span or intelligence to understand the complete name.  I’ll admit there are times I have no idea who the hell they’re talking about sometimes.

In my bookcase is a book titled “Dumbing down of America”.  This is a collection of essays on the theme that everything is being reduced to the lowest common denominator.  This spoon-feeding of bite-sized bits of information rather than details, according to these essays will have (and has had) the effect of lowering the average intelligence of America.  With everything digested for us there is no longer any need for the public to think.  Others have done that for us and decided what we need to know – which is very little.  Consider this: how many times have we as parents commented that our kids don’t seem to be learning anything in school, or heard or friends or neighbours utter the same comment?   Should we look upon this butchering of names as part of this dumbing down process?  Or is it, as I wrote above, laziness or cuteness?  You decide.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and details) too.

Cat.   (And there ain’t much anyone could do to butcher that)

News, views and opinions

1 – Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, as you are aware if you were anywhere near any form of news media. I’m not Roman Catholic, so that act doesn’t affect me personally from a religious standpoint.  Granted he is the head of the Roman Catholic Church world-wide, but did we really need wall-to-wall coverage of his resignation?  Surely something else of import happened in the world besides Ratzenberger deciding he is too ill to continue to occupy the Throne of Peter.  There may have been, but after CTV News devoted the first 15 minutes of the late news to the announcement, I turned it off.

I have read articles that state he did more to drag the Church back to the 18th century than any previous pope.  This honestly doesn’t surprise me, for before being elected pope, Cardinal Ratzenberger was in charge of the Office of whatever they call the Inquisition these days (something like the Office of Preservation of the Faith, or something equally innocuous).  You weren’t expecting it?   How else is the Church going to keep the faithful in line?

In his pronouncements over the eight years of his Papacy, he has done more to undo social advances for the LGBT communities in many countries, calling trans people “abominations” and gays and lesbians by other equally endearing terms. Another pronouncement from the Vatican indicated condoms increase the risk of HIV, which view has been scientifically and medically disproved.  But you must also consider the official Roman Catholic view on condoms.  I’m a member of the Church of England, which the Vatican considers heretics because they don’t follow Roman Catholic doctrine.  I’m also trans, so I get hit with a double whammy – both an abomination and a heretic.  Oh well, I’ve been called worse by better people.

I’ve always had a problem (and I’ve written on this before)  with whoever  is pope when they are commenting on actions taken by the governments of other countries.  If those comments are made as pope, that’s fine because he is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and has to protect the faithful of whatever country he is visiting.  But, keep in mind Vatican City is also an independent city-state, in other words, a nation unto itself, and the pope is the head of state of that nation. Therefore, comments by the pope on legislation passed by other governments could also be construed as the head of one government attempting to meddle in the affairs of another nation.

Enough of Benedict.  May he enjoy his retirement.  One question: Since popes usually die in office, is there any provision for a pension?   Just asking.

2 – Time to pick on some commercials.  Hyundai Canada is currently running ads for the Elantra, which was chosen as Canada’s car of the year by the automotive journalists.  This ad is interesting, but logically it makes no sense.  It uses the analogy of athletes from different disciplines all competing for one gold medal. Then it goes on to state that the Elantra competed against cars from different classes and came out on top.  Where the logic falls apart is here: athletes are judged by different standards depending upon their sport.  In some cases it’s first to the tape wins; in some cases the performance is judged, or most goals win.  With automobiles, it doesn’t matter if the vehicle is a Kia Soul or a Bentley Mulsanne, they are all judged by the same criteria.

3 – Finally, I saw a commercial on one of the cable stations for something called (I think) “Sunset Awnings” which I feel may be deceptive.  The voiceover does the usual job of extolling the benefits of having an awning over your patio, then states “assembled in America”.  Not “made in America”, but “assembled in America”.  From this statement, which I doubt many people would catch, or would hear as “made in America”, I conclude that while these awnings are assembled in an American factory somewhere, the individual components are actually imported from somewhere else.  Anyone agree with my interpretation?  Just asking.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.


Sometimes they are real

One of the shows I like to watch is “Ghost Hunters”, about TAPS – The Atlantic Paranormal Society. Despite the name, the two people who founded TAPS are plumbers by trade so are well-grounded in reality.  I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal and one thing I like about this show in particular is that as far as they are concerned, everything that goes bump in the night is not paranormal. Being plumbers and accustomed to figuring out why that tap turns on by itself, they look for logical reasons for the noises or events with paranormal activity being far down the list of possibilities.

But of course there are times when things genuinely can’t be explained away by everyday reasons.  On this show, it is common for the homeowner or the person who invited TAPS to investigate to ask if the place is indeed haunted.  In all the episodes I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve seen the founder, Jason, go any farther than to state there are definite signs of paranormal activity.

As we sit in the safety of our living rooms, or dens, watching these people investigate possible hauntings, it is easy for us to forget that in some cases, there is the possibility that these people could really be putting themselves at risk.  TAPS uses production crews to tape the investigations, rather than handheld cameras.  That there is indeed physical risk involved was brought home during a recent show when one of the production crew, a young woman, was physically attacked by some unseen entity.  This particular investigation was taking place at a location where female visitors have reported various attacks in the past.  In this case, the young lady had her forearms scratched badly enough the camera had no problem picking up the injuries.  She went outside to where they were monitoring everything, but later returned to the building.  Once again, she was scratched by this whatever it was. Her back, neck and abdomen all bore visible scratch marks.  One of the male investigators also suffered a scratch from unseen hands on his neck.

As I wrote above, we may consider the possibility that the investigators themselves may be at risk from unseen entities, but how often do we consider the film crews?  I know I hadn’t.

The point of this posting?  First, it’s a good show, and second,  sometimes those things we think we see out of the corner of our eye really are there.  Sometimes those things that going bump in the night aren’t just the cat playing around, or like my cat, beating up one of his stuffed toys. Sometimes they are real.

You may scoff and say “there’s no such thing as ghosts” but I’m not going to believe you.  I’ve had too many personal experiences that prove otherwise.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and if, like me, you’re caught in this massive snow storm, be careful if you have to drive and don’t overdo the shovelling. Oh yes, remember to hug an artist – we need love too.


Numbers don’t lie, but they can be manipulated

Have you noticed how advertisers manipulate figures in attempts to make products more appealing to us?  We’re all familiar with the “ninety-nine cent’ phenomenon, where a price  ending in .99 is seen as being a better bargain than something rounded up to the dollar, but I’m not talking about that.  Hey, something priced at 99  is still a buck.

No, I’m talking about perhaps more subtle manipulation.  What prompts this piece is a commercial I heard on the radio this morning.  Can’t recall the product or service, but it was probably something I wouldn’t consider.  I presume it was for some furniture outlet, for what caught my attention was the statement near the end of the spot that “you don’t pay for 540 days”.  540 days sounds great, doesn’t it?  It sounds as if it would be so much longer than 18 months, which is roughly 540 days, yet not as long as “a year-and-a-half”.  That sounds far too long.  They are approximately the same span of time, yet something about the 540 days, advertisers believe, sounds just fantastic.

I haven’t seen any for a while, but do you remember when car manufacturers and dealers were offering financing over 72 months? Seventy-two months – fantastic term.  Now, ask yourself this: Are you still going to have that vehicle in 6 years?  Because that’s how long 72 months is.   Again, the advertisers are giving us the full term of the loan, but stating it in a manner to make it sound more appealing. If they stated “You can finance this vehicle over 6 years”, most people are going to say “Forget it – that’s far too long”.  But 72 months – that isn’t all that long.

I’ve recently noticed some adverts from (usually) used car lots and dealers in which payments are expressed as, for example, “$200 bi-weekly”.  Again, this is someone having fun with figures.  Two hundred bucks every two weeks sounds manageable for most of us, especially if we’re fortunate enough to have a job.  But, when you do the math on it, well, things look a little different. $200 bi-weekly is a hundred bucks a week, or $14.28 a day. Figuring on a 30 day month, you’re looking at $428.40 a month.  Is that still in your budget?

All the instances I’ve mentioned above sound good on the surface.  It’s only when you do some calculations of your own that the true nature of the beast is revealed.  Don’t just accept anyone’s word for it when faced with this kind of offer.  It isn’t that difficult to work out exactly how long that term really is nor is it hard to expand a bi-weekly quote into the actual monthly payment.

Enjoy the rest of your week.  Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.  And don’t forget – we’ll all still be here to see the sun rise on December 22.