31 July, 2011

Stop the Gravy Train Before it Derails

Last Thursday into Friday, the right-leaning Mayor of Toronto ran a marathon committee meeting: twenty one hours and ten minutes. The purpose of the meeting was to gather public opinion on what services should be cut to make up a $774-million hole in the city budget. (Municipalities in Ontario are required, by law, to table balanced budgets.)

Predictably, Ford and his committee were told, over and over again, not to cut anything at all. Also predictably, the mayor was and continues to be a target for a CN Tower full of hatred, much of it irrational and visceral. Yes, Rob Ford and his brother Doug are right-wingers with little patience for things they don't use themselves. (Doug, a city councillor himself, made waves last week telling Margaret Atwood, of all people, to get herself elected or shut up. Atwood had leapt to the defence of Toronto libraries, which are possibly on the Ford chopping block.)

It remains to be seen what Ford will actually cut. He was handily elected last year promising to "stop the gravy train" at City Hall...and now people have figured out they like gravy...All that said, how many mayors facing similar budget shortfalls would actually seek public input to this degree? Damned few of them, I'm thinking. Dismiss the meeting as political theater if you must, but Ford doesn't strike me as the kind of person with much patience for theater, political or otherwise.
----------------

There's another entity facing a budget mess just across Lake Ontario from Ford's fiefdom. Its elected representatives are also working around the clock to avert default. That entity wields just a titch more clout in the world, mind you. If the United States actually defaults on its debt...well, truth is, nobody knows exactly what will happen, but it ranges from "not pretty" downwards.
I still think, or I'd like to think, that the United States will come to its senses at the last possible minute. Of course, it's a fair argument whether the Democrats and Republicans in Washington have any sense left between them. One side refuses to budge off its insistence there be no tax increases, while the other side is more interested, at least publicly, on heaping opprobrium on the opposition than in putting the country's interests first.

Raising the debt ceiling used to be a meaningless ritual. It's been done 74 times in the last 49 years, rarely with any fuss or muss whatsoever. This time, things are different: the government is virtually paralyzed. Which makes me wonder how they'd face a real crisis...

Now, don't get me wrong. The United States debt is a train rapidly getting out of control. You can call it a "gravy train" after Rob Ford if you want, but be aware that Americans define "gravy" differently from us Canucks. (For one thing, they look at you funny if you ask for it on your fries.)

WHAT'S DRIVING U.S. DEBT?

War.
It's really that simple. The Department of Defense budget for 2012 is well over a trillion dollars, and that's just the money that's explicitly allocated. Doubtless there are countless billions being thrown at the military from other accounts. Cuts to defense spending are a political third rail in a country embroiled in the amorphous 'war on terror'. Were I an American, I would be afraid to even mention the prospect in a blog, lest I land on some shadowy list somewhere: the idea of even reining in defense spending is nothing less than traitorous.
Yet the U.S. is currently engaged in combat (of a sort) not just in Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but also in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. These wars--every single one of them--are ultimately unwinnable. Every terrorist killed begets more terrorists; ten years in, Afghanistan is no closer to U.S. style democracy. Nor, truly, is Iraq.
The U.S. maintains over a thousand military bases in well over a hundred countries worldwide. Including over two hundred bases in Germany alone. Are these strictly speaking, necessary? Germany hasn't been a threat to anyone for nigh on seventy years.

So: cut the military back a bit. But they shouldn't bear the austerity alone. The U.S. is, contrary to popular citizen misconception, among the least taxed wealthy countries on earth. Many citizens like to think that their low taxes are the source of their wealth. It ain't true. Canada's standard of living is the same or higher, and our taxes would make citizens of many states (not all) blanch. And taxes in Scandinavia, which is not under the toxic Euro-cloud of debt to its south, are considerably higher than those in Canada.
A couple of years ago, General Electric paid no taxes to Washington on revenues of $10.3 billion. That was accomplish through sleight-of-hand accounting, which really should be made illegal. A law taxing overseas gains at the marginal rate when they are offset by U.S. losses should do the trick. Truth is, there are many corporations in U.S. avoiding taxes while reaping ridiculous profits (even now, when the real American economy is sputtering and guttering.)
Raise corporate taxes. Institute a VAT (the U.S. is the only wealthy country without a national value-added tax of some kind). Do all of this in combination--or even some of it--and you'll avert default. But most importantly, STOP THE GODDAMN BICKERING. It's childish, it's unseemly, and it doesn't accomplish anything at all.

Oh, and I do agree with the Tea Party on one thing (wonders never cease): a balanced-budget Constitutional amendment. Raise the debt ceiling just this once more...and never again. A city or a country can not be run the way a household is...but excessive debt is just as poisonous no matter if your nation is the Land of the Free, the Land of the Fords, or the Land of the Breadbin.

23 July, 2011

Utøya Horror

My heart grieves for the families affected by the atrocities in and around Oslo, Norway.

As with any terrible occurrence, be it a natural disaster or a cold-blooded murder spree, the meaning is up to those who survive and those who look on. In this case, I find it more than a little unsettling how quickly so many media sources assumed Islamic terrorists were behind what is turning out to be a politically motivated hate crime of the highest order.

We can deduce from social networking clues that Anders Behring Breivik, aka "Andrew Berwick", considered himself to be a force. Indeed, his one and only tweet, posted the day before the massacre, is a quote from John Stuart Mill: "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests."

What were Breivik's beliefs? Do you want the long version, which runs over FIFTEEN HUNDRED PAGES, impeccably organized and endnoted, a compendium astounding in its seeming respectability through very long stretches? Or do you want the short version, which can perhaps be summarized thus: Marxism is evil, Muslims are evil, multiculturalism is evil, and "armed resistance is the only rational option" (pp. 791 et seq.)?

Here's something in between the two...

What I find most terrifying about this compendium is how coherent it is. This isn't random gibberish. In fact, I have heard most of this argued before. It is something of a dark irony that many of the people I have run across on right-leaning forums--the ones who unfailingly blamed Islamic terrorists before the bullets had even stopped flying--would likely have embraced Breivik and his hateful ideology: he reads in many places for all the world like Mark Steyn.

There are, I fear, a great many American citizens who would empathize with Breivik's cause. I suspect you'll find quite a few in Arizona, given the outrage there over a perfectly ordinary Arabic word--haboob, the actual meteorological term for a dust storm. This, too, scares me. It's not near as far a road as you'd think from banning words to burning people. Especially in times of stress, like, say, what America's going through right now.

Now, granted, Islam is not exactly the religion of peace it claims to be. And anyone suggesting one crazed Christian/white supremacist somehow "makes up for" over 17,000 known Islamic terror attacks in the past decade is just being foolish. But people, whatever their faith or lack of it, are individuals and should be treated as such. We need to be vigilant against those of whatever religious or political stripe who would kill to advance their cause, while bearing in mind that such people represent a tiny minority. If we overreact, then, to borrow somebody's phrase, "the terrorists win".


20 July, 2011

Electronification

I've been thinking about getting an e-reader.

Most of the people I know who own one are rabid converts...including people who swore up and down that they'd never buy one. Some of the things I've heard:

"The printed page is so yesterday. It even smells musty!"
"I can carry an entire library around with me anywhere I go!"
"I used to read a book a year, now I'm reading all the time!"

Retailers are hyping the things to the high heavens. "Our latest model provides you with extra-long battery life, the ability to read in direct sunlight...and it has a 700 book capacity!"

Humph. My inner curmudgeon has a response at the ready for each selling point.

What if I LIKE the smell of books?
I typically read one book at a time. You know, since I only have the two eyes, and they work together.
I read considerably more than one book a year, my wife outreads me by a wide margin, and everything we read is printed on dead tree.
Battery life, eh? Well, my Eye-Book beats your iBook there. I doan NEED no steenkin' batteries. And I can read in direct sunlight all...I...want.

The e-reader craze is simply the latest attempt to force consumers to BUY AGAIN.

"Buy Again", I am convinced, is the Philosophy of the Age. It's the only reason we still have something resembling an economy...people have to keep making stuff to sell to other people whose stuff is...gasp...OLD. Cue Ron James, one of Canada's best comedian-wordsmiths:

"A Model T Ford is...old. Benjamin Franklin's printing press: old. The sandals of Jesus...OLD. Purchased five years ago for forty-five hundred bucks...fairly new!"

We're in the process of being made to buy our movies for a third time, our music for a fourth or fifth...now they've stumbled on a way to make us buy all our books again. That's aside from the planned obsolescence that characterizes the devices we play all this media on.
And really, is Blu-Ray THAT much superior to DVD? You could certainly make the argument for DVD over VHS, but c'mon, to really appreciate Blu-Ray, you have to invest in a home theater system and a high-definition television. More money. For those of us who just want to sit back and watch a movie...why bother?
Music is a teensy bit more defensible in that each iteration of playback device has large and inherent technological advantages over its predecessor. A cassette tape is much sturdier than an LP; a CD has only one side and much better sound quality than either, and digital music is infinitely more portable than anything that came before.
(And yet you can still buy vinyl. That's like going into a telegraph office instead of a Bell Mobility kiosk, but whatever.)
But I will maintain to the end of my days that Blu-Ray is pretty much indistinguishable from DVD. And even if it isn't, what happened to music is BOUND to happen to movies, sooner or later and probably sooner. It already seems like most people don't watch TV on their televisions any more, and a sizeable number of people download whatever they watch. It won't be long before shelves of DVDs or Blu-Rays belong in a museum, not a private dwelling.

Back to e-readers.

Books are fundamentally different from music or video, in that they require no playback device to enjoy. If you have functioning eyes, you can read a book. There's no need to shell out a couple of hundred bucks first. No batteries required.

There are two arguments I can make for e-readers over books. One is the ease with which you can purchase new product. The other is the backlight that would, I admit, make it easier to read where I do most of my reading: in bed.

Are these two arguments enough to convert me? Not even close, because of my biggest complaint....

My biggest complaint about these things, aside from the "batteries to read a book? Really?" is simply this: they're unitaskers. Eva has taught me to mistrust unitasker kitchen devices, and I don't need her to tell me that unitasker electronics are just as crappy. Sure, each device does one thing and does it well, but...I only have so many pockets. This is why the iPhone is such a success: it's also an iPod. Of course, unless you have the eyes of Superman, your iPhone will never make a decent e-reader, and unless you figure out a way to stuff a tablet in your jeans pocket, your e-reader will never be quite as portable as you're led to believe. True convergence is a ways off...if it ever happens at all.

But I reserve the right to be wrong. Should a device emerge that functions well as a telephone, a music/book/video storage machine, and a minicomputer, I'll be all over that thing like white on rice. Call it a PMC: a Personal Media Companion. In the meantime, though, leave me alone with my chunks of dead tree.


15 July, 2011

Harry Potter and the Daunting Plan

We went to see the final installment of Harry Potter last night. Eva had procured tickets through her work to a special showing at 6:30 p.m. (the movie technically opened at midnight). We were advised to be there by 5:30. Really? I thought. An hour before curtain drop? That seemed odd to me, given that we didn't have to worry about the theater selling out--our group had the only tickets.
We actually got there well before 5:30...and we were lucky we did, or we might not have managed to snag two adjacent seats. Any later than, say, 5:45 and it would have been impossible to get two seats in the same row.

I hesitate to even write this...I can hardly believe it...but there were at least sixty people lined up for the MIDNIGHT showings when we got there. Almost seven hours in line. There is nothing on this earth I would line up seven hours for. Nothing at all. Leaf Stanley Cup Final tickets? Screw it, I'll watch it on TV. Sexual favours from (insert fantasy-women here)? The real fantasy is not having to wait seven hours!

I've noticed that nearly everyone I know, upon entering a stadium style theater, makes a beeline up. We don't. We go for the front row. Not the front front row, mind you...the row you first stumble upon when you enter the theater and turn around. Lots and lots of legroom there. You're less conscious of the press of humanity. And sitting close immerses you in the movie.
I managed to get the two seats adjacent to the far aisle in that front row. Even better: Eva had to contend with one person sitting on her lap, and that person was me.

Concessions in movie theaters have gone from obscene to almost inconceivable in price. Two pops and two popcorns with extra butter: $25. (Extra butter because otherwise your popcorn might as well be plain. I don't know about you, but personally I have an aversion to eating little bits of styrofoam.)
Wouldn't have mattered, anyway. The popcorn was actually cold by the time I dug into it, and if that was "extra butter"...then I was actually eating styrofoam. Yum.

I don't know whether it was the styrofoam, the Coke Zero (dear Coke: can you please try and produce a diet cola that doesn't taste like goat-spit?) or the endless wait, but I was kind of soured on the movie before it even started.

Don't get me wrong, it was a fine and fitting spectacle and a worthy end to a great franchise. But the 3D was totally unnecessary...it's only a means to extract more money from us moviegoers. I found the audio mixing to be slightly off: for the first time over the course of eight films I occasionally had trouble deciphering dialogue. And the pacing is...unusual. Frantic action for thirty seconds or a minute, then everything jars to a halt for some drama, then back to the action. It's not the weakest of the set--Half Blood Prince takes that title by a landslide--but nor is it near the top of the heap. At least as far as I'm concerned.

Harry Potter is all grown up. As for me...

Acting on doctor's advice-cum-orders, I have joined a gym for the first time in my life. It's the same gym that Eva belongs to. Put it this way: I'd rather spare myself Dad's heart attacks if I can help it. (He's looking fitter than he has in many years, down a considerable amount of weight and several inches. Besides, he feels great, exercising four or five times a week.
Part of me--the childish part I still struggle to quiet--is skeptical. Exercise has never felt good to me. Exercise is that thing that makes you stiff and sore for hours afterwards. Then you do it again and you're even more stiff and more sore. I'm given to understand that after some unknown number of repetitions, you become less stiff and less sore...but I'm less stiff and less sore sitting here in my chair. Besides, I'm further told that if you don't "feel the burn", you're not doing it right. Well, doing it wrong doesn't HURT! "No pain, no...pain! Duh!"

And then, at the end of your hour, you've done...what, exactly? You haven't gone anywhere or experienced anything other than rapidly increasing stiffness and soreness.

Against all odds, I might enjoy myself and become this guy in a couple of years:



Okay....

I'm going to try, damnit. Whenever I feel my resolve faltering, I'm going to think of my dad coming very near to death in his hospital bed, victim of a leg cramp that suddenly and without warning became a heart-cramp. (And by the way, his son gets leg cramps, too. Entirely too many of them, almost always in the left leg, sometimes high, sometimes low, always excruciating.)

How I wish I could just wave a magic wand. On the other hand, maybe after enough of this rigamarole I might be able to do new things. Like stand in line for sev-- No, not that. Never that.



13 July, 2011

Not Funny

"I can pee clearly now, Lorena's gone..."

No, she's been reincarnated as Catherine Kieu Becker. Now, as then, the predominant reaction among both genders (after the males are done cringing) is some kind of dark hilarity. "She cut his weenie off, hahahahahaha."

Why is this funny?

Let's switch up the genders here: if a man mutilates a woman's genitals, is that funny? "He threw her itty bitty clitty in the garbage disposal, hahahahaha." No, that's not funny. That's monstrous. So why the double standard?

"Payback's a bitch", Eva said in response to that question. I'm pretty sure she was mostly joking herself. But statistics show women are pretty much just as likely to be perpetrators as victims Moreover, men are actually slightly more likely to be seriously injured or killed, probably because women tend to compensate for their lack of body strength by various means. Becker, for instance, used drugs to incapacitate her husband before the knife came out.

This is not something we're supposed to talk about. There's an interesting, if hideous dynamic in play here, similar to the common reaction that rape victims "had it coming" because of their prior sexual history or the manner in which they were dressed. Male victims of spousal assault "had it coming" because, well, obviously, they must have deserved it. Men are scum, right? If he wasn't abusing her himself, he was probably cheating on her, and every woman knows that aggravated assault is the only sane and just reaction to being cheated on...right?

And just as women often refrain from reporting rape because they're ashamed that they "let themselves be raped", men tend to avoid reporting being abused because men are supposed to be able to take care of themselves, physically. Which goes against the four-word dictum most of us guys learn in childhood (NEVER HIT A WOMAN). I still remember asking but what if she deserves it?
Doesn't matter, was the reply. Which is another way of saying she doesn't deserve it. And that's true. No matter what the provokation, it's never okay to assault a woman. Her miniskirt is not an invitation to rape.

But that knife cuts both ways, or at least it should. And nobody should laugh when that knife touches skin and starts sawing. It's just not funny.

12 July, 2011

Kai Nagata: I Respect This Man

You don't often see people quit their jobs voluntarily in this economy. Especially if they are high-paying jobs with prestige and perks. But Kai Nagata did quit his job as a Quebec City-based television journalists, and the reasons he gave are eloquent and compelling. His essay is very much worth the read. I have the same issues with news in general, which is a very big reason why I have never pursued a career in it.

"TV news is a curious medium", he writes. "You don't always know whose interests are being served--or ignored." We have come a long way from the days of Walter Cronkite...a long way downhill. Once upon a time, and it really does seem a fairytale to say so, TV news anchors were amongst the most trusted individuals in the country. Canadian TV has lost several such individuals to retirement recently, among them Kevin Newman and Lloyd Robertson. Peter Mansbridge at the CBC soldiers on, practising his craft in an atmosphere that has rapidly degenerated. The set of The National looks like nothing so much as a game show. A Canadian game show, where five-time winners get a camera.

Nagata writes he "felt a profound discomfort working in an industry that so casually sexualizes its workforce. Every hiring decision is scrutinized using a skewed, unspoken ratio of talent to attractiveness, where attractiveness often compensates for a glaring lack of other qualifications..The idea has taken root that if the people reporting the news look like your family and neighbours, instead of Barbie and Ken, the station will lose viewers."

Bingo. This even extends so far as to cover your voice. An example: NTV, in Newfoundland. None of their news anchors, to my knowledge, have any more than the barest hint of a Newfie accent. Almost every viewer has a Newfie accent. Rightly or wrongly, I'd trust the news a titch more coming from somebody that sounded like me, but what do I know?

And of course, this sexualization extends to the stories covered.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge just wrapped up their honeymoon here in Canada. They were, of course, beset by packs of slavering journos everywhere they went. Republicans--which up here means anti-monarchists--among us were quick to say "this is not news!". I disagree to an extent--Wills and Kate really did serve themselves and the monarchy very well here: ask anyone in Slave Lake. The town was gutted by a raging wildfire a few months ago. It was not on their itinerary, but they cancelled a day off to go there and raise morale. They were spectacularly successful. I admired both of them for that and a host of other gestures, large and small, that they made while in this country.
But who gives a flying fart in a windstorm what Catherine Middleton wears? Is that important? Is it necessary to know who designed each outfit, how much it costs, and where you can get something similar? Judging by the tone of the coverage, this fashion bullshit is absolutely crucial and must be reported. Every day, every outfit. Meanwhile, important news is happening all over the country and it's ignored by directorial fiat. "William is young and Kate is pretty, let's lead with that."

He gets into politics a little further on in his essay, and suggests that there, too, he felt stifled, unable to report what he saw as serious, even critical issues facing the country. It is his belief that there is a "war on science" in this country. Actually, that's not so much a belief as it is a fact, and every action of the Harper government bears witness to it: the hamstrung census, the massive cuts to Environment Canada, the bullheaded opposition to InSite in Vancouver despite numerous studies showing how many lives it saves. If you want to get Harper to do something, anything, all you need to is produce a study showing the opposite.
Regardless of your political beliefs, a government that ignores and ridicules research at every turn is news. Important news.

But Wills is young and Kate is pretty.

I would like to see TV news modeled on newspapers. Report the news, factually and as objectively as possible. Take as long as necessary to cover each side of the story. Then, after a commercial break, editorialize in a segment clearly marked "opinion". Have people square off in a debate...not a trash talk, an actual debate...on public policy. Done properly, that would actually be informative entertainment, not the fluff that currently dominates TV news.

Nagata closes with a statement I frankly find inspirational:

I’m broke, and yet I know I’m rich in love. I’m unemployed and homeless, but I’ve never been more free.
Everything is possible."


Indeed.

10 July, 2011

Debt debt debt dash dash dash debt debt debt

(or Save Our Solvency)

[...] iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli / uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses
(… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses) Juvenal, Satire 10.77-81, ca. 100 CE

------
August 2. On that date in 1776, the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed. (How many people think that happened on July 4th?)

On that date this year, unless they do something, the United States will be in default. Perhaps they'll sign a Declaration of Dependence. You think?

But don't worry, they're doing something. They're arguing. Endlessly. The sticking point seems to be...doing anything other than arguing endlessly. It's fun to argue...you can score lots of political points. Then, later, after you've gathered up a boatload of them, you can take your political points down to the food bank and try and exchange them. You won't get any food, but hey, the exercise is good for you.

Ordinary citizens are doing something, too, at least according to Google Trends. Go ahead, check it out. Odds are that no matter what date you read this listing of What Americans Care About Right Now, nothing of any consequence whatsoever will show up on it. Least of all the word "debt".

No surprises here--Neil MacDonald, in the link above, expresses disdain and, reading between the lines, some species of shock that the average American citizen doesn't appear to notice, or care, that his country is going down the toilet. The disdain is understandable; the shock, not so much. As the epigram at the top of this blog demonstrates, "bread and circuses" is not exactly a new concept, and America has taken things considerably further in the "circuses" department than your usual Christians eating lions. Meanwhile, the debt drum beats on. Boom, doom, boom, doom, boom... hey, it's got a catchy beat and you can dance to it!

So what happens before August 2nd? Something's got to. My guess is that they'll agree to raise the debt ceiling at the last minute, in exchange for a package of half-assed measures that will only postpone the problem until sometime after the 2012 elections. And the chief concern will (of course) be who gets to take the fall.

Well, I can save them some posturing on that. America's taking the fall, and at this late date I'm not sure the brakes even work, anymore. The edge of the cliff is within sight, now...economic driver Tim Geithner cites it as August 2nd.

August 2nd. Hang on out there.


Holidaze

I've been off since Canada Day and I go back to work tomorrow. Which is probably why it's 2:30 in the morning and I'm awake: I'm loth to lose overmuch of my last day of respite. Also, despite every effort made to eliminate work from the run of my thoughts, it has crept in. Being texted or called three times over the past week hasn't helped. C'mon, guys, do you really need me that badly? Apparently so.
I spent five days at Rose Point in Britt, with my rejuvenated father and ever-gracious stepmom. It may sound like a blasphemy even to suggest such a thing, but I have to say Dad's heart attack is one of the best things to ever happen to him. He's down 27 pounds and three inches around the waist and looks fitter than I can ever remember him looking. He goes to three organized workouts a week and does a lot more at home besides.
No fire calls...not unless you count this:

seen on our way up, south of MacTier. A police cruiser was passing us when Dad spotted the smoke a few klicks ahead: it was at least ten seconds before said cruiser suddenly took off towards what turned out to be a trailer full of "solar equipment" on fire. No injuries...apparently the driver just looked back to discover his trailer was merrily burning away...
I spent a good deal of time reading, and a goodlier deal of time trying to resist the pull of the Internet. Not even remotely successful there--I'm at least as addicted to online life as my wife has been to cigarettes--though it actually helps that their "high speed" connection...isn't. There's no point surfing too widely when YouTube videos buffer roughly forever and even Facebook pages won't load completely.
But, see, Ken, that's supposed to be the whole point of up north...to get away from all that.
I know, I know, and hey--I did manage to read something like seven hundred pages of A Storm Of Swords. Count me as yet another of George R.R. Martin's obsessive fans. This is fantasy for people who don't like fantasy. Characters so real you think you know them, situations so shocking you'll feel at times like pitching the book through a window...only to pick it up ten minutes later.

I stayed, for the most part, around house and dock this time....
Dad and I, with Jessie comfortably ensconced

...revelling once again in the peace and tranquility of the Magnetawan River. I try to edit out the houses to either side of Dad's and concentrate on the shoreline opposite, which looks as primeval as it would have a thousand years ago. Sheer bliss.
And I even got a wee dip in the river, dodging the possibly mythical Snapping Turtle That Lives Under The Dock and the definitely NOT mythical Water Snakes That ALSO Live Under The Dock. I'll admit to some misgivings sharing swimming space with such creatures. It's kind of like the way my wife feels about the ocean. That's the shark's house, says she. The shark doesn't bother me in my house, so I won't bother him in his house. But I was spared...this time.

Dad and Hez, thanks once again for having me. It's always a pleasure and a half to get up there.




02 July, 2011

Wasn't that a wedding?

Congratulations Jim and Ally Hopf. My wife's brother, or 'Dude' as he is affectionately known, tied himself in a big ol' knot yesterday, at his place out in the country between Stratford and Mitchell. Married in the front yard and party in the backyard, how cool is that?
Just cool enough, as it turned out. It was a good thing the ceremony didn't happen today: 42 degrees with the humidity and thunderstorms this evening. Yesterday was sunny and warm but not hot, and the extensive fireworks display put a fitting cap on a fantastic day. Even if one of the buggers did go sideways and light a hay bale on fire: Ally, if you didn't know it before, you now know your husband can flat-out MOVE when he needs to.
It was a day some people (most notably Jim himself) thought would never come. I'll spare the personal details...let's just say I can remember a conversation I had with him about a decade ago, soon after I had married myself. He swore up and down and sideways he'd never marry. Never, never, never. I told him repeatedly not to say that, because I was sure he would and who knows what the future holds? Turns out his future held Ally. It took her a while, but she wore him down through a deep abiding love and bullheaded stubbornness in equal measure. And Ally, from what I know of the family you've married into...those two qualities mean you've been a Hopf in all but name since you decided you were going to turn "never" into "forever".

The service was short, sweet and to the point. There was one prayer for the churchly folks, but that was it: from procession to registry in ten minutes flat. The rest of the day and night was one big party: food a-plenty with two BBQs going full out, lots of music, a roaring bonfire and the aforementioned fireworks/hay bale blaze. Ally looked radiant and Jim relieved, or is that the other way around? A good time was had by all, and I'm glad I got to share in the day.

Every wedding I attend, I make a point of noting the music. And let me tell you, Jim and Ally's first dance song really spoke to me..



"All that I'm after is a life full of laughter, as long as I'm laughin' with you..." That's what it's about. Congratulations again, you two. We're so happy for you.