Peace in the Middle East

originally appeared in The Cascade

Happy, Merry, holiday, Christmas, Tis the Season


English: The helper of Sinterklaas. Nederlands...
Image via Wikipedia

 Christmas, for millions, perhaps billions of people throughout the world is a time of cheer and good will. It is a time for friends and family to gather in celebration of joy, friendship, presents, candy, chocolate, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and for a very few, that whole birth of Jesus thing.

Christmas is celebrated through many different traditions. In Holland, Santa, St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas is always very popular. He wears Bishop’s robes and is always accompanied by his faithful servant, Black Peter. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, a white man in blackface wearing traditional Spanish clothing most often portrays Black Peter. As part of the holiday fun, children will paint their faces black and sing, “even if I’m black as coal I mean well.”

In Scotland, traditionalists celebrate Christmas by dancing around bonfires and eating oatmeal cakes. It is this sort of thing that makes one proud to be Scottish.

In France, Santa is called Père Noël. A traditional Christmas lunch may include such holiday fare as fois gras, lobster and oysters. Rumor has it that after the meal families gather together and practice the drafting of surrender documents for any anticipated military conflicts foreseen for the upcoming year.

Sad to say that despite all the happiness of the season for many it is also a time of great stress and impending doom and by many of course I mean men. For as long as Christmas has been Christmas, men have dreaded their significant other’s reaction to the gifts they have received. “Frankincense? What am I supposed to do with frankincense? Myrrh? Hey are you trying to say I smell?” Women, I hear you.

“Oh, I have everything I could possibly need. You don’t need to get me anything, but whatever you choose will be fine.”

In the name of all that is holy, please give us a list of what you really want. Just thinking about what we should buy for you makes us break out in a sweat and lose sleep. If you can do it for Santa you can do it for us. Honestly, it’s not that we intentionally buy you the wrong thing. We need guidance. Those gifts really did seem like the perfect gift and we were in fact thinking when we made the purchase. Now I appreciate that you think you’ve all been dropping hints for the last six months, but believe this if you believe nothing else we ever tell you, we weren’t aware that, “oh, isn’t that nice” meant you better get me that for Christmas. Honestly, we don’t understand subtle. It’s that kind of thinking that resulted in the Christmas we all want to forget. In our defense you did comment when we were at Sears that you’d like to get a new dishwasher.

“If you really loved me you’d know what I want.” Okay, I agree in principle that your statement might to a person of the female persuasion somehow make sense, but since you feel the need to explain to us how to properly brush our teeth do you really want to lay the responsibility for a tear free Christmas on our shoulders?

Contrary to what you may believe we do learn from our mistakes. We understand no weight loss books, no Victoria Secret lingerie, and no kitchen appliances. For the record though we don’t think it is totally fair when you tell us you like bears and then get upset when we buy you bear paw slippers with big claws. You often say we don’t notice how you look, but when we gave you the gift certificate for electrolysis you somehow twisted that around to be some sort of criticism. We’re just saying “mixed signals”. As to the year of the stripper pole, if you recall you did mention that you wanted to exercise more.

We do want to get you the perfect gift, but please consider the economy when making your list. We’re as romantic as the next guy, but the cost of the 12 days of Christmas gifts is now over $100,000. We could probably stretch the budget to cover a pear tree from Wal-Mart, but the lords-a-leaping are really out of our price range.

If we may, we would like to give you just a few pointers about our gifts this year. They may call it a man bag, but it’s really still a purse. As to “enhancer” underwear, do we really have to say anything? Please stay away from the “gifts for him” section of the store. Not all of us want sports themed gifts or power tools. We’re just saying.

 Originally appeared in The Cascade newspaper


What the 1% do with their money


English: John Lennon
Image via Wikipedia

 Have you ever wondered what you would do if you had more money than sense? Well, Alberta dentist Michael Zuk has been able to actually live out that fantasy experience. Dr. Zuk, the author of the fascinating tome, “Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist” recently purchased one of John Lennon’s molars, yes that John Lennon, for $31,000.  Zuk, the winner of the Red Deer Express Readers’ 2007 poll for “Best Dentist in Red Deer” collects animal teeth and celebrity memorabilia. By way of explanation Dr. Zuk told CTV News that he thought it was cool, “even though it’s a rotten tooth and it’s got tartar on it.”  I think I’m beginning to understand why going to the dentist always seems to cost so much. For the history buffs out there, Lennon gave the tooth to his housekeeper. I can’t help but think with all his money he should have just given her a raise.

Now of course, Dr. Zuk is not the only member of the “boy I have lots and lots of money to blow” club.  After undertaking exhaustive research requiring the use of more than one internet search engine I have discovered that true to the quote that was never uttered by P.T. Barnum, “there’s a sucker born every minute”, or at the very least there’s lots of kids with access to their parent’s credit cards.

What would you give to be the owner of hair that was cut from Elvis Presley’s head in 1958? Well, someone ponied up $15,000 for that privilege. How about French toast discarded by Justin Timberlake? $3,154. Who could forget the sale of Marilyn Monroe’s chest x-rays for $45,000? Okay so maybe that one makes sense, but what about a jar of Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie’s breath captured in a jar as they walked by? $530. Now, I don’t suggest any sort of mental deficiency in the buyer who paid $2,075 for a used tissue filled with Scarlett Johannason’s nasal secretions but seriously? Are there no needy people in your town?

Of course auctions have a long and distinguished history. The word auction is derived from the Latin word “auctio”. My Latin is a bit rough, but I believe a loose translation is “junk that you’ve been hiding in the slave quarters that you better get rid of before the sun sets or I swear to Jupiter that I’m going to my mother’s villa and I’m taking the kitchen slaves with me.” I could be slightly off on one or two of the words.

Rumor has it that Henry VIII often auctioned off items at Ye Olde Auction House. Understandable, I mean can you imagine how many duplicate wedding presents he received? Awkward.

A recent auction in Edinburgh featured the sale of Victoria’s secret. No not that one I’m talking Queen Victoria. A pair of her majesty’s underwear appeared in their ginormous splendor at auction and sold for $14,000. Comprised of yards of creamy silk fabric and bearing the initials VR for Victoria Regina. No word on what the buyer intends to do with the knee-length unmentionables. For some strange reason the buyer wishes to remain anonymous.

In my enthusiasm I seemed to have strayed from the original focus of my column. I bet you’re surprised I had one. Dr. Zuk’s purchase isn’t the first time that notable teeth have been sold at auction, oh no. A set of baseball great Ty Cobb’s dentures sold for $8,000 and some lucky person is the proud owner of Winston Churchill’s dentures having paid a mere $24,000.  Ouch, I have a bit of a toothache. Let’s I start the bidding at $2,000.



 Originally appeared in The Cascade newspaper


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Cardboard Tube Fighting

Image by Anna Fischer via Flickr

I’ve often wondered who invented the cardboard tube. Okay, honestly until about five minutes ago I’d never given it a thought, but if I had the chance to meet the person who did invent the cardboard tube I’d like to go o them and say, “Really? Of all the things that you could have invented that would have actually been of benefit to mankind you came up with a tube to wind gift-wrapping paper and toilet roll around? What were you thinking?”

At this point some of you may be saying, “don’t be so critical”. To which I respond, “who are you talking to? I’m not even in the same room with you. I can’t hear you.” However, I digress I know there really are many uses for cardboard tubes. There is a whole paper towel tube craft industry out there and who hasn’t made napkin holders out of cardboard tubing? Perhaps the most interesting use for the product was devised by the “Cardboard Tube Fighting League” or as those in the league like to call it the CTFL. The name sort of says what they use cardboard tubes for so I’ll just skip over that part.

Cardboard tube fighting is one of the world’s lesser-known sports and some say perhaps that’s for good reason. You may be thinking this is a sport enjoyed by similarly minded people destined to die virgins, who enjoy getting together to discuss comic books, Dr. Who, Steampunk and debating whether a weekly shower is really necessary. Let me assure you that okay, while some of that may be true, cardboard tube fighting is a legitimate sport.

The sport is tolerated in at least three continents that I’m aware of, North America, Europe and Australia. There are literally dozens and dozens of people that take up this sport despite what their families may say.

The creator of this sport is Seattleite, Robert Easley or Rob to his friends. As Mr. Easley told a news reporter who drew the short straw, “You are attempting to break your opponents tube without breaking your own.” This may be an appropriate moment to point out that Mr. Easly also is also actively involved in “Live Action Role Playing” games. Now what is a sport without rules? For cardboard tube fighting the rules are pretty straightforward. Rule number 1, never talk about cardboard tube fighting. Actually that isn’t a rule I just think it’s probably a good idea if you don’t want to have total strangers randomly beating you up.

The rules state combatants must not to break their tubes. If the tube is broken the holder is determined to be a loser. If both duelists break their tubes they are both considered losers. I’m thinking even if they don’t break their tubes — no never mind. Stabbing and lunging is not permitted. No face hitting. Combatants must only use official CTFL cardboard tubes. Tubes must be held near the end. If a combatant holds the tube in the middle it is cause for disqualification. There are a few more rules but at this point even I don’t care what they are.

Competitions can either be multi-stage tournaments or battles. Tournaments have one winner, while battles result in shared victories. Tournament bouts can last between 30 minutes to hours or even minutes that just seem like hours. As an added bonus battle participants are permitted to wear cardboard armor. If that is not enticement enough to get involved, battle participants are subjected to live bagpipe music. Bragging rights and handmade cardboard swords are awarded as prizes.

Currently, there are three active branches of the CTFL located in Seattle, San Francisco, USA and Sydney, Australia. Bristol in the United Kingdom also has a fledging group of cardboard tube fighting enthusiasts.  The strength of the sport can best be summed up in the CTFL’s three core beliefs. People need more ways to play and take themselves less seriously. Events can be fun without alcohol and cardboard sword fighting is fun. The CTFL is always looking for new recruits and if you want more information you can check out their Facebook page. Any day now they are going to break 100 likes.

Published in The Cascade newspaper