29 June, 2006

Ripples

As longtime readers of this space know, Eva and I fully intended to have children. We were going to have one "naturally" and adopt one; when that failed, we tried to adopt both, and were turned down. Now we have a dog in lieu of a child, and another dog on the way come fall.
When Family and Children's Services turned us down, it was as if somebody had thrown a huge boulder into a pond from a height. At first, there's a crater effect: it feels like your soul's been scooped out and shredded. Soon after, as you get used to the idea that you've been judged and found wanting, calmness seems to settle where the boulder hit. You can dig the boulder up off the bottom, examine it, and feel a faint echo of the pain you felt when it shattered the surface tension of your life, but by and large it rests deep in the murk, not forgotten, maybe, but minimized.
But there are ripples.
They spread out and touch corners of your existence you'd never expect. They continue to change your life and your attitudes long after the initial impact.

As I said above, we're going to get another dog in the fall, a companion for our Tux. All we know about this dog right now is his name: George. He (or she--didn't The Seekers have a big hit with "Georgy Girl"?--will, ideally, be your quintessential big dumb George..."c'mere, George. Okay, George. Lick yourself, George."
Eva was talking about George at work, or more specifically, the added expense of George. The new dog will cost something like $200 from the pound (Tux would have been put down if we hadn't come along, and that felt so good I'd like to do it again). He or she willl have to eat the same food Tux does, because Tux has a food allergy and it's bitchly hard to train one dog to eat from a certain dish and not another, let alone two. Then there's the annual shots mandated by the city: two sets of those will set us back more than $600.
One of her colleagues spoke up at this point. "Two kids--one week at camp--twelve hundred dollars. Shut up."
Well, I guess we've been told, eh?
I remember reading somewhere that it costs $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. I panicked mightily when I first came across that figure: $38.05 a day? That's insane! Eva, who is a consummate tightwad when it suits her--and whose parents actually charged her rent from the date she got her first job!--scoffed at the notion of a kid costing a quarter of a million bucks. "That's what Value Village is for", was one of the milder things she said.
Nevertheless, childrearing was bound to be a pricey proposition. Gradually, I got with the program, or at least succeeded in getting it out of my mind.
Now, with the prospect of actually having kids dashed, I hear that it costs $85.71 a day to send a child to summer camp and recoil in horror.
Then I think to myself, maybe they were right. Here you are fretting about money to send your entirely fictitious kids off to Camp Hypothetimaginary. Obviously you're not built for children.
Then I think I'm a selfish bastard.
Before the concept of KIDS entered my life, I had never thought of myself as a selfish bastard. Not once.

While we're on the subject of camp, one of the cashiers at work is counting down the days (I think she'll be counting hours, soon) until her kids go off to camp. She's talking about spending time with her husband in wistful tones as if it's something she's often dreamed of but never had the opportunity to do. Never mind $85.71 a day: the idea of time with Eva is priceless. She gets antsy if I don't come to bed when she does four nights running. Not in any possessive way: she just sleeps better with me there, the same way I sleep better when I know she's just over the doggy butt.
I admire you married folks with kids. From my perspective, it's like both of you are carrying on a torrid affair that takes up most of your waking hours, day after day, for years on end. How do you manage to stay married in the face of that? It's a mystery to me. I figured I'd adapt once the children came--even though I'm not a big fan of change, I'm nothing if not adaptable. But I don't think I ever really understood what I'd be adapting to. They say you make time for your spouse. Oh, sure. One family I know had to deal with a colicky infant for months. Not only would there have been no time to make, I doubt either Mommy or Daddy felt even remotely interested in looking for it. That these people are still together, still in love, is a testment to their strength and commitment. I'd like to think Eva and I have that kind of strength and commitment, but I don't know for sure.
Then I think I'm a lousy husband for even thinking this.
Before the concept of KIDS entered my life, I never once questioned any aspect of the strength and commitment of my marriage...much less felt any species of gratitude at a test I wouldn't have to take.

Once we got over the injustice of not being granted children, we rearranged our heads and became a CBC couple: Childless By Choice. (True, the Children's Aid rejection represented a real narrowing of our choices, but if we were absolutely wedded to the idea of kids, it could have been done.) Instead, we chose again. Now we're at the point where Children's Aid could call us and say there's been a terrible mistake, and we'd hang up on them; where if by some miracle a little baby shot out of my wife tomorrow morning, I believe we'd actually consider putting it up for adoption.

That we consider ourselves childless by choice has actually all but destroyed a friendship of many, many years standing.

There's a general belief that once you get married, you leave your single friends behind, at least until they marry themselves. In our case, that seems to be the case: most of our friends (not all, but most) are married or partnered. The corollary is that childless couples chum with other childless couples, and people with kids naturally hang with other fully stocked families. For us, that hasn't held true entirely: we have several friends with children, and others who plan to have them. But at least one friend--who has a child--has evidently decided that we're not worthy of her friendship anymore. Saddest of all, she'll never tell us in words that we've fallen short of her kidful standard. I had a very close friend who just drifted himself right out of my life once, for no discernable reason, certainly not one I was privy to. I wasn't sure what hurt worse: the abandonment, or the sense that I wasn't even worth being told why I was being abandoned.

You can tell yourself all you want that this behaviour says more about her than it does about us. You can try choosing to see this as the closing of one chapter in life's book, with another chapter waiting, Why cry over the end of a chapter? you ask, through tears.

Ripples. I wish to Christ they'd stop their ripping rippling.

28 June, 2006

Think for yourself!

I like being exposed to a wide variety of opinions. I'll freely admit my mind is not often changed, but I like there to be the opportunity for a changed mind. So I tend to read stuff from all over the political spectrum. I even go out of my way to read things I know are going to piss me off: how's that for masochistic? Like the little free local weeklies that are geared primarily for university students. Ours here in the Tri-Cities is called Echo: doubtless you have one in your hometown.
Echo magazine is so called, I've figured out, because when you knock on the heads of nearly every one of their writers, that's what you get. Their world is full of doom and gloom, seeping out of corporations (you know, those things that provide all the jobs), government (which, according to them, should be taxing the wealthy--by which they mean, "anyone who is not a student"--at about 110%). and anybody foolish enough to eat meat, drive anything with an engine, or consort with those damned Yankee bastards.

Then I'll turn around and read Michael Coren. His column appears every Saturday in the Toronto Sun, and no matter what the topic, he'll find some way to get gay marriage and his opposition to same into it. Global warming: isn't it obvious? Satan's creating hell right here on earth because homosexuals are allowed to usurp the sacred. Tooth decay? In a world where parents shut their kids up with an endless supply of sugar (rather than that good old leather belt) and where, incidentally, gay people are allowed to believe they're "married"...the tooth decay we see in our children is merely a symbol of the social and moral decay rampant in our civilization.
(Okay, I better mention that Coren has not, to my knowledge, written the statements above. But I sure as hell wouldn't put it past him.)
Fiscal liberals--so eager to take my money for my own good. Social conservatives--so eager to save my soul for my own good. All I want is a world where I'm allowed to determine just what my own good is, and work towards that.

But this is a pipe-dream. Just look at the way our society is built. Most parents don't bother to cultivate their childrens' independence, probably out of fear that their kids might grow up to think different thoughts. Instead, the cultural norm is for children to take their first steps towards independence as teenagers. But don't let them be too independent! They must conform to the accepted standards of whatever group they join (and not to join a group, to have the sheer gall to think they can make their own group, is a terrible sin punished by ostracization and bullying.) So they must say the correct things, do the correct things, and above all, wear the correct clothes. Some independence THAT is.

When these teens get to be adults, many of them will still refuse to think for themselves. They'll go along with the crowd, take the path of least resistance, and live their lives asleep.

To me, that's just sad.


25 June, 2006

The 60th, off 69

I told myself I wouldn't act like a kid, like the kid I once was. I'd get some freakin' SLEEP the night before I went up north to my Dad and Heather's place. I'd wake up refreshed and ready to keep Eva awake for the longish (4-hour) drive up.
I lied. As usual.
You know that commercial for Disneyland, the one where the kids (and their father) can't sleep the night before? That's me the night before a trip north. I keep waking up: time to go yet?...Can we go now?...Hey, if we leave now we can be there by sunrise!...Damn, it is sunrise. We're late. And I'm tired.
Thank God for Tim Horton's....
We dropped Tux off at our friend Sue's place, where he could frolic all day (and all night) long with her Greater Swiss Mountain dog, Abbey, and her huge Irish Wolfhound cross, Bear, not to mention Sue herself, who is a dog lover of the highest order. Then the road was hit.
We took 'the back way' up: through Listowel, Mount Forest, Shelburne, and Alliston. This route may take as much as half an hour longer then the usual mad dash through Toronto (and then again, with traffic what it is in Toronto 24/7 these days, it just might save half an hour or more). Regardless, it's a much prettier drive than the drab old 401, and there is a marked reduction in the number of homicidal maniacs.
Between Mount Forest and Shelburne there's a remarkable sight: a large cluster of windmills. We've taken this route westbound several times before, and while we've always noticed the windmills, but somehow the topography of the area prevented us from seeing just how extensive this wind farm is: it turns out there are 35 windmills, each 80 metres tall.
I love these things. I find them much nicer looking than hydro transmission corridors and power lines.
Anyway, we made it up to Britt for a little before noon. The occasion was, as I have said, my dad's 60th birthday, a real milestone of a day. Despite every attempt made to keep the invitations down, there were more than thirty people there, not counting all the kids. Some of them I haven't seen for years, and most of them fall into the category of people I just don't see often enough.
This was the kind of party I enjoy, mostly one big gabfest. Everybody splintered off into little groups and just soaked up the atmosphere, which was four parts relaxation to six parts Britt hospitality. Paul started cranking out burgers and dogs on the 'que, mixed and matched with an array of delicious salads (including Eva's classic potato, bacon, and egg salad) and wrapped up with a delicious cake. You could eat until you exploded without making a dent in the food supply. It came time to open up the gifts. Before that could get going in earnest, Dad was presented with a sixteen minute photo montage of his life, set to music, on DVD. Talk about a tear-jerker...I was fighting back tears, and it wasn't even my party!
I made my dad a little shadowbox, with a picture of him and I from my wedding and a poem that went like this:

All you've seen and all you've done
The service, duty, love, and fun
You've shown me! How can I express
It all in words? I must confess
I have no words--well, maybe one
That shows the world I am your son
Three letters in this little word
A bigger word you've never heard:

DAD.

I think he liked it.

My half-sister Shonna and her common-law partner Paul presented a hand-crafted little incidental table that took my breath away. Shonna is easily the best photographer I've ever seen, and Paul is an accomplished woodworker. They combined their talents on this.
Shonna's just starting a photography business. We bought a few of her coasters and given unlimited funds would have bought up her entire library of landscapes and nature shots. Believe me, you haven't heard the last of her from here: as soon as her website's up and running, you'll know it.

This table was marble over reclaimed wood from the Magnetawan River, with an inlaid photo of Heather (the four-legged border collie, not the two-legged wife; or, as Dad calls her, "the Heather who can lick herself") back when she was a puppy. It was absolutely gorgeous.

There were many other gifts, and at some point I'm sure Dad's in for a bender at Bass Pro Outdoor World. But mostly there was a whole lot of love.

Dad went out as darkness fell and set off some firecrackers as darkness fell, and reminded me of the one flaw in the ointment that is Britt and area. A giant, bristling carpet of mosquitoes was there to greet us, and they set on us with a will. I was driven back inside in short order: even now I feel like they're still crawling all over me.

This morning our departure was delayed by one of those things that can only happen in Britt: the appearance of a fox brought Shonna and her camera out in a flash. (Well, no flash: it was full sunlight.) In any case, Shonna managed to get to within arm's reach of the fox, taking pictures the whole way. Amazing.

And now I'm home, and boy am I bushed.

Happy birthday, Dad.

22 June, 2006

On Happiness

Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased. --Spider Robinson


A friend who (I think) happens to share my initials (if the 'kb' in 'flameskb' happens to denote her initials) was musing on happiness and whatever it is you have to do to be happy. Being as I have been a tad unhappy myself of late and "you teach what you have to learn", I figured it's about time I put my thoughts to screen on happiness.
(Incidentally, the Internet is a strange and happy-making place, wherein you can count someone a friend without necessarily knowing something so basic about her as her name.)

Well, let's get the obvious out of the way, first: happiness doesn't lie in any material thing. Too many people seem to make that mistake: "if only I had thus-and-such, I'd be happy." Of course, should they ever manage to obtain thus-and-such, they soon find the focus of their material obsession shifting to that-and-t'other. If things made you happy, there wouldn't be so many depressed celebrities--not to mention so many people in the Third World who are--unbelieveably, from our perspective--happy with their lives.

This next is counterintuitive, in this society: nor does happiness come from other people, at least not primarily. Oh, there's no doubt you can pick up echoes of others' joy and elevate your mood...if you're receptive to it. But people who are depressed can actually be driven lower by free-ranging joy. All that love around...and none for me. Those people are happy--they obviously don't understand the situation.
There's this wrongheaded sentiment that floats around, the notion that if you could just find Mr. or Mrs. Right, happiness would inevitably follow. This belief, which pops up in all sorts of guises and can be very persuasive, is akin to treating people as things. "If only I had so-and-so..." Plus, then you're cultivating expectations...really big bruising expectations: "I expect you to make me happy." Anybody ever says that to me, I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, and I'll get to this, spreading joy is the fastest way to feel joy yourself. You can't truly experience having something until you give it away...and joy is one of those strange things, like love, that seems to reproduce as fast as--no, faster than--you can throw it around.

So if happiness doesn't come from things and it doesn't come from other people, where in blazes does it come from? The answer is simple, really, there being no other possible source:

From within. From yourself.

Oh, cut the bullshit, Ken. The more I look inside myself, the more unhappy I get.
It's not bullshit. Really, it's not. When you "look inside yourself", are you actually seeing all that stuff you don't have that everyone else seems to? You know, like love, money, peace, stuff? Is that what's making you unhappy?
Umm...
Yes, umm. That's one way to manufacture unhappiness, by the way, and it almost never fails: compare yourself to somebody else. Most people come out with the short end of the stick when they do this. The funniest thing (or the saddest, depending on your point of view) is that I can look at you and feel worthless...and you can look at me and feel just as worthless.
But according to you, everything comes from within. Isn't that too easy?
Well, everything does. And I never said it was easy. I said it was simple. Simple is what becomes of difficult when you don't think about it too much. You think too much about being happy, you won't be. Ever notice that mentally challenged people--"simple" people--tend to be pretty happy most of the time?
So how do you just "be happy", huh? My life's one big central vac, mercilessly sucking. Nobody loves me. I'm totally alone. I'm drowning in shit. You'll forgive me if "don't worry, be happy" sounds a little too...fucking...childish.
Doesn't it, though? There's another group of people who are happy a lot more often than they're not: children. "Being childish" isn't necessarily bad advice.
Well, I'm not a kid. Isn't there anything I can do to be happy?
No.
I knew it.
I mean, no, there's nothing you can do to be happy. You can't do happy. You can only be happy.
We're going around in circles here. "Be" happy....HOW?
Now we're getting somewhere.

Much of my thought here is reflected in Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series. I highly recommend this set of books, not least because Walsch repeatedly makes the point that you need not believe he's talking to God to get a world of good out of the dialogue. Indeed, his concept of God has no requirement whatsoever that you believe in God. (How refreshing is that?)

Here is an excerpt:

...think of a person who just knows that if only he could have a little more time, a little more money, or a little more love, he'd be truly happy.

He does not get the connection between his "not being very happy" right now and his not having the time, money, or love he wants.

That's right. On the other hand, the person who is "being" happy seems to have time to do everything that's important, all the money that's needed, and enough love to last a lifetime.

He finds he has everything he needs to "be happy"...by "being happy" to begin with!

Exactly. Deciding ahead of time what you choose to be produces that in your experience.

The surest way to be happy, as I have said, is to make someone else happy. By doing that you discover that you were happy all along and just didn't know it: where else did this happiness come from?

The most amazing thing is that you can substitute just about anything for "happy" and the principle holds.

The surest way to be angry is to make someone else angry.
The surest way to experience being rich is to enrich someone else.
The surest way to be loved is to love someone else. (The funny thing here is, the person who ends up loving you may not be the person you set out to love...but somebody will love you. Love attracts love...just as happiness attracts happiness.

Amd that's about all I can think of, at the moment. Oddly enough, I feel better.

*smile*






21 June, 2006

Snark!

I'm having a bad week.
Absolutely everything anybody says to me seems calculated to offend me, for one thing. It's the nature of the mood I'm in that makes me think the problem isn't mine...when it probably is, at least in part.
Work isn't helping matters much. I'll detail just one of the snafus that has stained my week:
On Monday, early, a Nestle truck showed up with one skid of sale product. The regular shelf order--some 180 cases of it--was nowhere to be found. I was told it would arrive on another truck later in the day.
Around 3:30, I called Nestle looking for my order.
"What order?"
"The order I placed on Thursday, for today, 181 cases as I recall."
After a few minutes on hold, I was cheerfully informed my order had been 'dropped from the system'.
"Okay...so when can you ship me my ice cream?"
"We won't have a truck in your area until Thursday."
Wrong answer.
"Do you have any trucks leaving your plant between now and Thursday?"
"...."
"Just put my ice cream on one of those."
"..."
I thought about smashing the phone against the desk and saying hello? does this thing work?"
"We'll get back to you."
Needless to say, they didn't. I talked to seven or eight different people at Nestle all through Tuesday, and one of them finally committed to get me Monday's order today, on Wednesday.
My ice cream shelves have been wiped out. They were wiped out Monday morning...which is why I'd ordered 181 cases to come on on...Monday morning.
So anyway, my truck shows up first thing this morning...before the store even opened. I thanked the driver for coming out of his way to get me my ice cream and he said "what do you mean?"
"Well, they told me there were no trucks in my area until tomorrow."
"Now why would they tell you that?" he asked me. "I'm in the tri-cities every weekday."
Oh, really?
If there's anything I hate more than being lied to, I don't know what it is. Being lied to in a condescending tone, maybe. You gotta love it...what kind of thought processes go through the minds of the honchos at Nestle? Okay, we've made lots of profit selling ice cream over the years. This year, we're going to try something new: NOT selling ice cream. See where that gets us.
Luckily, at the end of this week, I'm headed up to see my dad and stepmom...it's a milestone birthday for the old man. The end of the week can't get here soon enough.

19 June, 2006

Welfare rambles

I once spent a few months on welfare.
My hours at work had been slashed to--sometimes--as little as three a week, for no reason I could fathom. My girlfriend at the time got no hours at all: she was unemployed.. Rent had to be paid; we had to eat. Very grudgingly, I applied, and was accepted.
Because I was deemed to be living common-law (I can't remember, but it must have been around that time I got engaged...a horrible mistake), I was--we were--entitled to a little over $900 a month. (Bob Rae was in power then: welfare paid better than many part-time jobs.) Rent was $320, all utililities included; we had very few other living expenses.
In other words, by the standards I had been subsisting on, I was suddenly rich.
And guilty.
To collect my monthly windfall, all I had to do was give proof that I had applied for employment at...I think it was fifteen...different places. No sweat. That took all of half a day every month.
The day after the first cheque came through, we went to Canada's Wonderland. I'm sure a good chunk of that cheque and the two or three after it went to various movie theatres around town, also more than a few restaurants. Livin' high off the public teat, we were, and enjoying every minute of it.
Well, mostly. Actually, I couldn't shut up the voices in my head, the ones that screamed at me for taking money I had no right to. I was raised to think of welfare as a "hand up, not a handout"--but that wasn't the half of it; I was also raised to shun handouts, even if I need them. You didn't take charity: it meant you were visibly poor. To be poor was one thing--tentatively forgiveable. To appear poor was a venial sin; to willingly appear poor was a sin of the mortal variety.
For example, to this day I don't eat the crusts out of loaves of bread. My mother absolutely refused to send her child off to school with bread crusts in his lunch, lest he bring shame and disgrace on the family. Every loaf of bread I've ever seen has a crust at each end, and logically it seems wasteful to throw away perfectly edible bread, but the Voice Of Childhood has spoken. Bread crusts taint you with poverty...if anybody happens to see them. Case closed.
The thought that my mother might discover her son had become a welfare bum tormented me. It wasn't the first thing I hid from my parents--I'd tried to hide the engagement, knowing they wouldn't approve of it; I later attempted to hide the fact I never fully earned the English degree they were in such an all-fired hurry to send me off in pursuit of. This behaviour--the skipping out of school a few credits shy, the getting engaged to a girl all wrong for me, and the trying to cover it up--is a hell of a lot more illogical than throwing out crusts of bread, granted, but the logic spoke quite clearly to me at the time. It said things like it's my life and the longer I hide this, the longer I don't have to deal with their anger and pity (damn ingrate's gonna amount to all of nothing). As for the girl, well, wasn't that obvious? If I buy her a ring, it's bound to shut up that voice I hear in my head telling me she's all wrong for me.

(It didn't, by the way. Don't ever think of engagement, marriage, or childbearing as a big attitude adjuster, because believe you me, all three things will take every flaw you see and amplify them exponentially. If you can live with the amplified flaws--that "gentle sleep-music" your girlfriend once serenaded you with becomes hellaciously loud snoring after the wedding--
then you're okay. If you have trouble living with the little flaws, forget it.)

Meanwhile, here's Ken on welfare. Short of smoking a cigarette, I couldn't think of anything more self-demeaning. Eventually the voices got loud enough that I stopped applying at places I had no hope of working at. I went out and damned well got a job. Relief, sheer relief.

Not long after, Mike Harris came to power in Ontario and completely overhauled the welfare system, cutting benefits for some demographic categories (like mine) nearly in half and instituting "workfare". Squeals of outrage greeted Harris's every move, but none of them came from me. At least half of the money I'd been filching was wasted.

It amazes me the things that people consider necessities, these days. Take, for example, my own twin scapegoats for All That Is Wrong With Society: television and cell phones. To ask somebody to live a day, let alone a life, without either of them is to invite a kick in the privates. It won't surprise me much come the day a judge rules the removal of a prisoner's television an infringement of his rights. And of course, the television has to come with a bunch of acronyms: PVR. DVD. VCR, HD. All of which cost $$$.
Would life be a little more boring without your TV? Sure it would. Would you suffer? I sure hope not. If watching other people's lives is more exciting to you than living your own, it's time for a jolt of excitement. Or a funeral shroud.
Cell phones. Remember back when important people carried them? Now everybody can feel important...for a price. That price, often enough, seems to be "$0"...a flimflammery if ever I saw one: zero dollars, but how much of your sense? You're being dinged in more ways than one everytime your little Razr rings. You're also being irradiated every time you hold the thing to your ear. And you're (willingly! cheerfully!) inviting the world with you everywhere you go. If you need a gadget to make you feel important or connected, you need a jolt of self-esteem.

Do you need a car? If you live and work in a city, you don't. It's admittedly sorely tempting to think of your automobile as a necessity, but truly, in a world of ever-so-much-cheaper bicycles and busses, going carless just takes an adjustment. If you absolutely need a car for an hour, a day, or a weekend, there are co-ops. You can take all that money you're not spending on gas, insurance, and wear-and-tear and use it somewhere else. And talk about meeting your one-tonne challenge in one swell foop.

Am I advocating this kind of Spartan existence? No, I'm not. But if push came to shove and poor came to broke, you can be sure I would then. And I have, at least, practiced this preachery: I lived for nearly five years without a television, considerably longer without access to a car, and I still don't have a cellphone. Odds are I won't get one until they abolish landlines and I have no choice...I figure about twenty years.

No, none of these things are needs, and they certainly shouldn't be paid for out of the public purse. I believe that everyone is entitled to decent food, clean water, and a basic education: give people much beyond that, and what's the point of initiative? You're stuck relying on people's pride to wean them off handouts, and alas, this isn't the proudest of worlds.

18 June, 2006

Wedding Bliss

We had started to pay attention to the weather forecast two weeks ago.
SATURDAY, JUNE 17: Partly cloudy, high 23.
SATURDAY, JUNE 17: Thunderstorms, widely scattered tornadoes, high 28.
SATURDAY, JUNE 17: Light snow grains, freezing fog, high minus 55. (Oh, wait, that's for Amundsen-Scott Station in Antarctica.)
And then SATURDAY, JUNE 17 arrived, and the weather was HOT, high how are you? I'm Sir Sweatpuddle, myself.
Lovely day for a wedding, isn't it? And outdoors, too!
Actually, searing heat aside, it was a lovely day for the wedding of our friends Mindy and Jamie. Their ceremony took place at the 'Kissing Bridge' in West Montrose, a short drive northeast of here. This is the last remaining covered bridge in Ontario, and it's called the Kissing Bridge because the traditional toll to get across was a kiss. Aww, how mushy.
We arrived just in the nick of time and settled ourselves in the shade down by the riverside. The wedding couple crafted the wedding service themselves, and it showed. No cookie-cutter wedding here: everything from the wedding music to the vows was original, unique, and special. Mindy, who is easily one of the prettiest women it's ever been my pleasure to meet, looked positively radiant in her wedding dress, and Jamie, who looks startlingly like a young John McDermott, radiated gravitas and good cheer in equal measure.
It occurs to me that here would have been an excellent point to introduce some pictures. Alas, we have not joined the current century yet as far as photography is concerned. We brought a camera--if you can still call those old, handheld 35 mm things 'cameras'--and we took some pictures, and they'll need to be nurtured in a darkroom somewhere before they may see the light of day. *sigh* You'll just have to take my words for it: the surroundings were pastoral, the ceremony beautiful.
As was the reception, held at the Black Forest Inn in Conestogo. There were yummy hors d'oeuvres (which my wife insists on calling "Hoovers-Doovers"), followed by a sumptuous four course meal capped off with some sort of delicious vanilla mousse served in a chocolate 'bowl' and covered in berries.
Eva, incidentally, created the wedding favours--chocolate truffles--a specialty of hers. It was quite flattering to see staff at the Inn surreptitiously making off with the spares, after one waitress had split a truffle amongst her colleagues.
Rather than clank glasses to get the bride and groom to kiss, we had to grab a hula-hoop and successfully manage ten rotations. I didn't even try...I doubt I've ever done three. But Andrew from our table did something I wish I'd thought of: he went up, donned the hoop, placed it around himself, and...holding it stationary...turned himself around in it, ten times. They rewarded him.
We had a ball--only wish we could have stayed for the ball. Mindy and Jamie leave for their honeymoon on Wednesday, and Mindy doesn't know where she's going, yet...

Jamie and Mindy Janzen, we wish you a marriage that reflects that wonderful wedding, a marriage full of joy and love and camaraderie. Rarely have we seen two people so loving and in love, so obviously happy to be together. May it ever be thus.


14 June, 2006

Terrorism, Multiculturalism, and how they're NOT linked

Now that all the foofarow has died down over those 17 alleged terrorists, I'd like to put my two dollars in and maybe stir up a little foofarow of my own.
The reaction to this whole circus was soooooo predictable. The Toronto Star and CBC were taking great pains to remind us at every opportunity that a rock thrown through a mosque window was at least as horrible to contemplate as the beheading of the Prime Minister or the blowing up of the Toronto Stock Exchange. The headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was on the target list, but from the reaction at the Mother Corp, that just had to be a typo. They obviously meant the headquarters of the CPC...the Conservative Party of Canada...didn't they?
The Chief of Police in Toronto took one look at the giant elephant and elected to ignore it. He later expressed pride at his willful ignorance, bragging that "not once" did he mention the words Muslim or Islam in his speech. The media has by and large followed his lead. Those who have dared to speak out have been shushed and tsk-tsked.
This idea that acknowledging the common Wahhabi beliefs of the seventeen somehow impugnes Islam in all its forms is insulting. Does a United Church member feel threatened when somebody dares to connect pedophilia and the Catholic Church? Does a Lutheran consider herself under attack when someone speaks ill of Pentecostals? Of course not. Just as Catholicism has had issues with pedophile priests and its lax attitudes towards same, and just as there exist within the ranks of Pentecostals some who feel it perfectly okay to bomb abortion clinics, Islam currently has a problem with extremists. This is a problem it must look within to solve.

"There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. At most there is a difference of degree but not of kind." -- Ibn Warraq, executive director of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society

Here is a site that shows many versus from the Koran exhorting believers to kill unbelievers. Such verses are sprinkled literally throughout the holy text, and many are written in the imperative, as commands. I suppose it's possible to interpret these things in a mild, peaceable way, if you are some sort of linguistic contortionist.
Go ahead, tell me the Christian Bible is replete with similar verses. If you're referring to the Old Testament, you'd be correct. But there is very little call to violence in the New Testament--which is, after all, the "Christ" part of the Bible, the part every Christian pays attention to. (When's the last time you attended a live stoning? Deuteronomy's full of offenses that call for it!)
Meanwhile, did Mohammed ever command his followers to "love thy enemy"?

This is not to play "my God is better than your God"--especially since I don't believe in the God commonly inferred from the Christian Bible. But it is to say that Islam is at best a religion easily perverted, and there exist many perverters of Islam out there who mean to do us harm...we who do not believe. And there's no arguing with them: their holy text commands them.

The Toronto Seventeen, if their particulars are to be believed, were at once frighteningly ambitious and thankfully naive. Take over and/or blow up the CBC, the Toronto Stock Exchange, CSIS headquarters, and Parliament. Stand in ambush to shoot survivors. Decapitate Stephen Harper. And do all this under surveillance: according to the coverage in Macleans magazine this week, many people in the alleged cell were fully aware they were being tracked. That buggers my mind...

Why were they doing this? We'll likely never find out for sure, being as the court has slapped an entirely unncessary publication ban on its proceedings, and convicted criminals are rarely asked why they did it. But the words of convicted terrorists are telling.
In the aftermath of September 11th, you'll recall, there was a brief interlude when people worldwide sympathized with America and Americans. In France, this period lasted about a day and a half, and then they went back to their standard anti-Yankee behaviours. And yet France's oil tankers were blown up. Was this a case of mistaken identity? Apparently not, according to a spokeman for the "Islamic Army of Aden": ‘We would have preferred to hit a US frigate, but no problem because they are all infidels.’

Here's Hussein Massawi, a former leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah--a group which shares ideals with al-Qaeda--on the reason for terrorist attack: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."

But all is not lost. Us infidels don't have to be slain wherever we are found. We are invited to convert to Islam--the TRUE religion, the "corrective" for Judaism and Christianity--instead. But if we don't do that, and fervently, all bets are off. We might get lucky and merely be forced to pay the jizya, a tax on unbelievers which would grant us certain rights and make us second-class citizens. Or we might be decapitated. It wouldn't even be our choice.

There has been much chatter since this particular plot was unmasked concerning what might be done to prevent future terrorist attacks. Some seem to think if we give enough money and take every care not to step on anybody's toes, we'll be safe. I'm afraid that view is naive in the extreme. Others, by contrast, talk about clamping down on our "lax" immigration and refugee policies and rethinking multiculturalism, which is one of the legs of the Canadian stool.

An emphatic YES to the first part, and don't you dare call me a racist bigot for saying so. There is nothing bigoted in making sure that any individual granted entrance to Canada does not have a criminal record, has not engaged in terrorist activities, means to make a genuine effort to succeed in Canada. Isn't that what we who were born here are expected to do? Should we demand any less of those who choose to come here?

I would, however, argue that scrapping the multiculturalist bedrock on which our society is based would be throwing out the baby with the dirty bathwater.

Multiculturalism has been, and continues to be, a great boon to Canada. Our society, by and large, "works" because we are aware of and welcome difference. Sometimes I think we focus a little too much on what makes us different as opposed to what unites us, but that's just me. The fact remains that, despite random acts of insanity, we have a functional and harmonious cultural fabric in this country.

My thanks to Mark Steyn for crystallizing my thoughts on this matter. Multiculturalism is by nature a pluralist concept. It gives us room to "be" many different things. You might be a handicapped atheist lesbian single mother of East Indian descent, and none of those things conflict with each other, with your sense of who you are, or with society's acceptance of you--ideally, anyway.
The creed of multiculturalism fails...with a resounding thud...when confronted with somebody who insists on one identity and one identity only. Fundamentalists of any persuasion despise pluralist society, because it allows, encourages, almost demands multiple facets of identity...and a fundamentalist, say, a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam, has room for only one thing--Islam--in his world. And more importantly, the world of everyone around him.

There is no need to radically alter our approach to multiculturalism. There is every need to confront the one-track minds among us before they derail our multi-track society. The first step might be to recognize that derailment of our society is exactly what they're seeking.

12 June, 2006

Morals

Interesting poll on morality in today's paper. Respondents were asked if various behaviours were "immoral". Some of the results are surprising.

  • Pedophilia was considered immoral by 78% of men and 84% of women.

You're kidding, right? I looked at that 78% figure several times, trying to will the seven into a nine. It wouldn't happen, and I was left with the disquieting idea that almost one in four men is a potential child molester. Hey, I'm all for each individual charting his or her moral course, but I thought pedophilia was one of those universal things, like incest, that everybody just automatically went "yecccch" at the mere thought of. Apparently not. Maybe that's why it seems like every other day we hear about the teacher/Boy Scout Leader/doctor/janitor with a vast collection of child porn on his computer.

Extra-marital affairs are thought to be immoral by 68% of men and 81% of women.

This sounds about right: sifting through all the stats on infidelity, applying all manner of guesstimation, you could say that 32% of men and 19% of women cheat at some point in their married lives. My thought is that affairs are not always immoral--witness Prince of Tides for an example of an affair that saved a marriage, and don't think that hasn't happened in real life--but they're certainly unethical.

  • 59% of men and 76% of women find prostitution immoral.

Most people don't think of male prostitutes when they consider the sex trade. I'd be curious what the women would say if they were specially asked about gigolos. My guess is that the majority of women don't understand prostitution. They link it with pimping (which to my mind is despicable) when it need not involve a pimp at all. Believe it or not, some women actually choose to be prostitutes, and still manage to have self-respect.

  • 59% of men and 70% of women believe alcohol abuse is immoral.

I never thought about this one. Stupid, yes. Harbinger of a whole lot of immoral behaviours like beating the shit out of your wife, certanly. But immoral in and of itself? Sorry, don't buy it. I think alcohol abuse is a disease, and people living with disease have a hard enough time as it is without being labelled immoral.

  • Sexual relations before age 16: men, 61%, women 68%.

I lost my virginity three weeks before my 19th birthday--way late, by the lights of most of my fellow men, some of whom were having sex at 14. These days, of course, it seems like teens are engaging in sex earlier and earlier...before they even become teens, in many cases. I don't consider this immoral, either. Stupid, yes, potentially very harmful, yes. But most people younger than 16 haven't even started to think about morality in any serious way. You can't violate something you don't have.

  • Pornographic films are immoral, according to 46% of men and 68% of women.

Again I wonder if women would consider gay porn immoral. Or lesbian porn. If it's done by women for women, where's the immorality, I wonder? I'm not completely up on my porn, but as far as I know, nobody puts a gun to your hard and forces you into double penetration. If they do, that's a form of rape, and rape is worse than murder on my personal moral scale. Some murders are defensible. I've yet to hear any justification of rape.

  • 45% of men and 57% of women think blasphemy is immoral.

From Dictionary.com: Blasphemy, n. A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity. The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God. An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

My fucking God--I mean, um, goodness gracious--this is immoral? Claiming the attributes of God--when, according to at least one Holy Bible, we were made in the image and likeness of God? Rights of God? What fresh bullshit is this? Even if you believe in a god or gods (and, as it happens, I do), what kind of all-powerful being needs "rights"? God, you are hereby placed under arrest for the murder of sixteen nuns when the cathedral collaped. You have the right to remain silent....

As for irreverant or impious acts/attitudes/utterances in regard to something considered sacrosanct, I spend most of my waking life being a blasphemer. And I think that by and large I'm a pretty moral person.

  • Abortion is considered immoral by 33% of women and 35% of men.

Amazing how men think they have a right to an opinion. Input, for sure--they put the thing in there, but I for one believe the final decision belongs to the woman, and she shouldn't be judged either way.

  • Homosexuality: 37% of men, 26% of women.

Some studies claim up to 80% of men have had at least one homosexual experience, and if you believe Kinsey, almost everybody has at least had thoughts of one. The gender divide is predictable here. It would be very good for gays if more buff bodybuilding athlete types would get the hell out of the closet, so straight men would be given to understand that being gay doesn't mean being a simpering, lisping girly-boy.

  • Divorce: 19% men and 16% women.

Only the Catholic Church--deluded as it is on almost every issue--could consider divorce immoral. There are many instances where divorce literally saves lives. I know people who have chosen to stay in horrible domestic situations because their God told them leaving was a sin. Well, fuck that God. Oops, blasphemy again.

10 June, 2006

Lesson learned...

Absolutely NOTHING happening in my world lately. So it's time to delve into my old diary and see if I haven't completely exhausted its topics already.
Women.
You can't read much more than a page of my diary, in any of its incarnations, without reading a woman's name. You'd think I was obsessed with them.
I was.
Most damning, I was usually fixated on entirely the wrong woman: the one down the hall, down the street, down the wire, rather than the one perfectly good specimen standing in front of me.

Cheaters are experts at rationalizing. There's no flaw in their mates they can't magnify; no circumstance in their lives they can't exploit. Everything becomes an excuse to cheat. Excuse? Hell, a reason. A good and just reason. Your girlfriend sucks in bad. Or more to the point, she doesn't. Your mate suffers from chronic depression, and hey, you can't leave her in that condition, or you might have a suicide on your conscience, but betray her by bedding that girl who hit on you online? Yeah, no problem there. After all, if you play your cards right, she'll never find out.


Except she will. She always does, no matter how good an actor you might be. Because--and it's amazing how many guys, especially, never consider this--eventually your mistress is going to get pissed at you about something. It doesn't even have to be about your relationship, and how you never have enough time for her, and how tired she is of waiting. No, it could be something completely mundane, an everyday thing, meaningless in and of itself. And before you know it, your mistress is holding you at metaphorical knifepoint.
I'll tell her.
You wouldn't dare.
Just watch me.
This is one of several reasons I don't cheat anymore. They say that once a cheater, always a cheater. I bet that'd go double for two-time-two-timers like me. But I'm the exception that proves the rule. I learned a few things after that second experience, see, the above being just one.
Another thing I learned--only recognized it in hindsight, of course--was that the people I chose to cheat with were at best poor copies of the people I was cheating on. Or that they were a dream in bed and a nightmare out of it--and since I really couldn't spend the majority of my time copulated, it worked out to a pretty poor bargain.
The first time I strayed, it seemed like an instant decision on my part: an opportunity came up and I grabbed it. Only later did I realize I'd been spending a good deal of my time orchestrating opportunities, because--I'll call her Lori--was increasingly boring the hell out of me.
Notice that? I, my, I, I, I, my, me.
I can't remember how I came to be in Trudi's rec room playing video games, but I do recall leaning back onto her bed and being attacked. Did I rebuff Trudi, remind her I was living with another woman, ask her what the hell she was doing? Hell, no, I did not. I simply enjoyed the moment, and let it go. And having enjoyed that moment--because, let's face it, Lori was the very model of prudery--why not make another few moments of it? And another?
Eventually, Trudi did indeed get angry with me, and threaten to tell Lori about her existence, and wracked with self-preservation and consumed by worry, I decided I'd tell Lori myself. I went home, unlocked the front door, and heard...sounds...like...LORI?
Lori makes SOUNDS?
I knew Glen's sounds, had heard them often enough mixed with those of anonymous flings, but...Lori?
I went up to my (our) room and thought about this for a while. So, as it happened, I never actually saw Lori leave Glen's room. So I suppose it could have been her twin sister moaning in there, if she had one I'd never met, that was. She never admitted anything. But she emitted only token bursts of upset when I told of my indiscretions. Knowing her, that was its own admission: on some level I had expected to be castrated.
_________________________________
I'm not your typical guy--any cursory reading of this blog ought to convince you of that much. One of the ways in which I am atypical is that I've never been attracted to sex for the sake of sex. Even in my extracurricular dalliances, it was necessary to conduct a thorough brainwashing beforehand, to convince myself I was in love. Unfortunately, this was never a difficult thing to do, not for somebody as naturally loving as I am. I've always harboured a conviction that sex ought to be an expression of love, and in a sane world there'd be a lot more of it. Imagine that world for a second...
Damnit, George, I didn't get that promotion. They passed me over.
Hey, that sucks, man. C'mere, let me blow ya.
Wait a minute, you PERVERT! What kind of SICK imagination have you got?
Seriously, though. For a long time that was the ideal I strove to attain. I worked hard to imagine myself capable of loving more than one person at once...not necessarily sexually, but sexually if necessary, you know? It became just one more justification...yes, Anne, I love you, and I love Colleen, too. I don't love you any less for loving her.
That all stood exposed as the house of cards it was when I had an opportunity to demonstrate it. Colleen came to town, knowing she was assuming one side of a triangle. I had her here knowing the same. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I found that concentrating my attention on one person inevitably meant I would ignore another. I hurt Anne so very badly, all the more so because I had spent literally years convincing her I would never do what I had in fact just done. When the nature of my error became clear to me, I made every effort at atonement I could conceive, all in vain. That might have been my first lesson as an adult: some things can't be fixed, no matter what.
I'm really grateful Eva took a chance on me, knowing my history. Most women would probably assume I'd betray them--all the more so if I said I wouldn't. The difference with Eva--aside from loving her as I'd loved no one else before--was that I'd learned. I'd actually learned.

08 June, 2006

WARNING: READERS MAY VOMIT

DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH


Uck. Just uck.
On Tuesday morning, I awoke and stumbled downstairs post-shower and pre-coffee, still mostly asleep. One rather alarming thing I've noticed since I invited coffee into my life is that it's hard to wake up without it...I can do it at the price of a pounding headache later in the day.
There was...stuff... scattered all over the living room.
Tux, what have you gotten into?
Nothing, Daddy, if you look real close and maybe...sniff...a bit, you'll find that all I did was shit. Copiously. Prodigiously.
Tux hasn't broken housetraining since very early in his tenure with us, and he chose this night to do it in a most spectacular way. I counted thirty-seven separate turds. All but two of them were, how shall we say, remisicent of those Wendy's commercials. You know, 'the only soquid you eat with a fpoon'.
Check that, a Frosty has considerably more solidity to it.
Good morning, Ken. Up and at 'em!
After...blotting...with most of a roll of Bounty, I got out our Bissell Quicksteamer Plus--an item we bought anticipating all manner of kid-related accidents, and which I highly recommend--and we put it into action. Tux, who like most animals detests any sort of vacuum device, sat quietly by and looked guilty. Mommy, I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. I was simply on patrol, guarding you against those cats, and my ass exploded. No warning.
The only thing that upset me was that Tux hadn't tried to wake us up. Mommy, Daddy, my ass is going to explode. Then again, as Eva noted, how would we know? We've grown used to the puppy gallivanting all over the bed every night. It's gotten so he can step on an eye and we won't even bat the other one. He's not the most demonstrative of dogs when he has to go outside. In fact, all we have to, um, go on most times is what we term 'winkin' bum'. (Which is why our next dog should not be any shade of feces...) That and a propensity to sit and stare at you means Daddy, I must excrete.
We got home Tuesday and Tux seemed to be in a better frame of mind. No pooping, but I wasn't overly surprised at that. since he'd (a) not eaten much and (b) stored up about a week's worth of poop to add accents to our living room the night before. He ran and played and did all the puppy things he always does, and then went to bed.
Around two in the morning I awoke with a premonition. I went downstairs...
...and just about keeled over.
Only a few nougats this time, still quite gelatinous...What Tux lacked in quantity he more than made up for in quality. My expert, kennel-trained nose deconstructed this crime scene like a forensic tech. This shipment was between seventeen and nineteen minutes old, in my estimation. Contents were indeterminate, but it smelled like a skunk had eaten the asshole out of another skunk. My supper did the hokey-pokey and tried mightly to escape. I held it down by iron force of will. Tux regarded me, if anything, more woebegone than the night before. Daddy, what the hell? I know that belongs outside. I'm so very sorry...
Yeah, dog, so'm I.
Eva came downstairs. I shooed her off, saying I'd cleaned it up and we could Bissell it in the morning...later in the morning, that was. After another half-roll of Bounty was sacrificed, I toddled off to bed. Barely slept a wink, after that. I think I was afraid that if I closed my eyes, Tux would squat over me.
Extra coffee was required yesterday.
Last night I went to bed shortly after seven...and of course I woke up at quarter past midnight. Downstairs I trudged, nose working overtime.
Nothing.
I took Tux outside just in case, but his insides had nothing to report. Now I'm wide awake.
Extra coffee will no doubt be required tomorrow.
Sigh.

04 June, 2006

Not "if" but "when"

"And history seems to agree
That I would fight you for me
That us would fight them for we
Is that how it always will be?"
--Moxy Fruvous, "The Gulf War Song"

Seventeen people, alleged would-be terrorists, arrested in and around Toronto. Three tonnes of ammonium nitrate seized, along with a variety of paraphernalia meant to turn that common fertilizer into a close approximation of hell.
Brush the sleep out of your eyes, Canada. I know, you've had a nice pleasant nap since that awful dream we all had five Septembers ago, but you might want to get up and rejoin the rest of the Western world.
To summarize, then: a radical strain of Islam is at war with everyone and everything that doesn't fit their perverted vision. Then again, maybe not so perverted: "Islam", often translated as "peace", really means "surrender". To God, it's true, but people have such a nasty habit of putting themselves in God's place.

For those who have been asleep in their smug and snug little beddies, here's the toll in the major incidents so far. The two columns of numbers represent deaths on "our" side and deaths on "theirs".

9/11/2001 (New York): 3000+, 19
10/12/2002 (Bali): 201, 1
3/11/2004 (Madrid): 192, 0
7/7/2005 (London): 52, 4

A quick look at these numbers will confirm that "they" are winning. Quite resoundingly.

Now, it's alleged that at least one terror attack was planned for Toronto. Terrorists! With bombs! In our cities! In Canada! Who would have ever thought it?

Many, as it turns out. Including our own intelligence service, CSIS, which was instrumental in smashing this cell but has stated there are at least fifty more here. Oh, yes, and I thought it up, too.

All but one of these detainees is younger than I am. Five of them are too young to be named under our joke of a justice system. Yup, you read that right: they're old enough to stand trial for their part in a potential atrocity, but not old enough to be publically accountable for it.

So what foreign shore do these people hail from? Uh, Scarborough. Mississauga. A couple are from as far away as Kingston, Ontario. Good ol' Canadian boys, all. Most of them are citizens.

This isn't as shocking as it probably seems. The bombers in London were British-born and raised. As recently as last week, the head of CSIS warned that "white, Anglo-Saxon male Protestants" were being recruited to terrorist causes. Indeed, the foe puts a high price on such recruits because of their ability to blend into Canadian society. This recruitment is happening at various mosques under our very noses.

This is what happens in polite, tolerant Canada when we allow just about anyone free and easy access to the country; when we insist, not that they conform to our ideals, but that they don't; when we remain complacent to the idea that nobody could possibly want to hurt us. Memo: people do want to hurt us. To kill us. Simply because we're not them. And if they can use some of our own to effect the carnage, so much the better.

We all should pause a moment to thank the more than 400 members of

*the RCMP
*CSIS-

*Toronto Police
*Peel Region Police
*Durham Region Police
*INSET - Integrated National Security Enforcement Team


who have slain one head of the Hydra. Perhaps the best way we can thank them is to be aware that this is what they've done.

01 June, 2006

Go Oilers Go!

So once again I find myself cheering for a Cinderella team from Alberta. Like Calgary two years ago, Edmonton was given little chance this year of making the playoffs, let alone playing for the Cup. Yet here they are, riding a wave of heart, speed and solid goaltending.
And in this corner, the Carolina Hurricanes--also given long odds on getting here despite winning their division--riding a wave of whinery, bellyaching, and shit luck.
Okay (he conceded), there's talent on the 'Canes, quite a bit of it. Also speed and at least respectable goaltending. But I have never seen a team complain so much in all my years watching hockey. They bitch when they get a penalty, no matter what. They bitch when the other team doesn't get a penalty, no matter what. I get the feeling they expect the referee to simply hand them the game. A team this prone to complaint, getting this far, is not a good thing. Should they beat Edmonton and hoist the Cup, it'll be open season on refs next year.
This is the biggest incentive to cheer for the Oilers, not the mere fact that Edmonton is a Canadian team and Carolina isn't. (Although in this case, the Oil do have twenty Canadian players on their roster, double what Carolina's got.)
Another good reason to cheer for Edmonton is that they were an eighth seed. No other team in recent memory has so barely snuck in only to advance this far. Ya gotta cheer for the underdog.

As a lifelong fan of a team that simply can't do anything right--more on this later--I look at Edmonton with respect and more than a little envy. Here's a squad that finished the regular season five points ahead of my Leafs. Over an 82-game schedule, that's nearly a statistical dead heat. But there's no comparing the management of these two teams. Edmonton's execs are wise in the ways of wringing a lot from a little. They have a coach who has tailored his team to the "new NHL". Toronto has no management worthy of the name and a (thankfully ex-) coach who let the "new NHL" pass him by.
At the trade deadline, Edmonton noticed its glaring weakness in net. Ty Conklin may be a fine person, but an NHL #1 goalie he's not. So they went out and procured Dwayne Roloson out of Minnesota. After a few baubles as this longtime backup adjusted to being the main guy, all Roloson has done is carry his team.
At the trade deadline, Toronto recognized its glaring weakness in net and said "who cares? We sell out every game anyway and there are condos to build and teachers' pension funds to augment. Stanley Cup? Who dat?"
Also at the deadline, Edmonton felt a need for more scoring. So they acquired Sergei Samsonov, and he has scored nearly a point a game in this post-season.
The Leafs traded Ken Klee for Luke Richardson. Yee-haw!

The Oilers are such a slick team. (Get it? Oil? Slick? Hey, that's nothing. If Carolina shuts out Edmonton in a game this round, watch for the papers to say 'Hurricanes shut down Oil production'...)
Anyway...
As I was saying before the Mad Punster interrupted, Edmonton oozes leadership off every line. You have Peca and Pronger anchoring the back end, Hemsky and Horcoff potting points like nobody's business, and captain Jason Smith keeping his room together. Smith was, of course, a Pat Quinn reject. I'm cheering especially for Jason...if he wins the Cup this year as I rather think he will, it'll be Jason Smith-1 Cup, Pat Quinn-0 Cups. And Quinn played for nine years and coached for nineteen. Ha.

Go Oilers Go!