The Day That Dare Not Speak Its Name!

Warning: This blog contains information about events that happened over 500 years ago.  It acknowledges their existence and does not apologize.  This blog contains humour, satire and ideas that could provoke thought and is intended for a sophisticated audience.  Therefore, it may not be suitable for university sophomores or adults who act like them.  Reader discretion is advised.

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Shhh!  (I wish my computer had a whisper font, but anyway…)

Yesterday was Columbus Day.

[Serious Silence!]

I know, I know: I’m pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, but that’s just the way I roll.  Besides, I have a burning need to set the record straight before Chris disappears from the North American landscape.  (I’m lookin’ at you, Columbus, Ohio!)  Here’s the deal.  In my lifetime, Christopher Columbus has gone from being a determined, visionary explorer, willing to put his life on the line to expand the collective knowledge of the world to being – uh – an asshole.  It’s a spectacular fall from grace.  Unfortunately, the social justice lynch mob who dragged the guy off his pedestal and put the boots to him got the wrong man.  Saying Columbus is responsible for the last 5 centuries of Western Hemisphere history is like saying a person who bought a ticket to get into the stadium is responsible for the football game.  That’s idiotic!

First of all, Columbus only crossed the Atlantic four times, he probably never set foot on South America and sure as hell never get north of the Rio Grande.  Secondly, the boy was basically lost.  He always insisted that India was just over the horizon and had no idea there were two gigantic continents in the way.  (It’s a good trick to be a total dick to millions of people when you don’t even know they exist!)  And finally — and here’s where the vegan ate the liverwurst — the guy died in 1506.  That was 10 years before Cortez showed up in Mexico, over 20 before Pizarro and his band of cutthroats visited the Andes and over 100 (that’s an entire century!) before Powhatan turned to Pocahontas and said, “You stay away from those Europeans!  Mark my words, young lady: they’re going to be nothing but trouble!”  The truth is Columbus was out of the rape and pillage business before it ever even got started.

So, how did Columbus become the supervillain of America history?  One simple reason — convenience!

Deny it or not, in the 21st century, we’re wading in the shallow end of the intellectual swimming pool.  Most people don’t know enough history to fill a mouse’s ear.  Names like Coronado, De Soto and Mendoza mean nothing, and people are perfectly content to live with that ignorance.  (After all, it’s a lot more fun to take a Facebook quiz about Disney Princesses than read a boring essay on dead Europeans!)  However, there is one dead European everybody knows: Christopher Columbus.  Meanwhile, when the good folks of North America recently found out that the indigenous people of this hemisphere have spent the last few centuries getting screwed, they started looking around for someone to blame.  (In our video culture, the villains are clearly marked.)  And take one guess who they looked at first?  The only one they knew: Christopher Columbus.  Ipso facto, he must be the bad guy.

So, so long Christopher Columbus; it’s been nice knowing you.  In a few years, you’re going to be as forgotten as Olaf the Ugly, that unknown Norseman who actually got to North America.

Canada Is Weird!

Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving.  It’s just the same as American Thanksgiving (turkey and everything) except we don’t celebrate it on the same day because – uh – we don’t have to.  So there!  And that kinda sums up Canada.  In the great scheme of things, we’re a nation like everybody else: we sit in the halls of power, we make treaties, run a decent international economy, send athletes to the Olympics, bitch about China and all the other stuff normal countries do, but … back home, we’re weird.  Here are just a few examples.

Canada is a bilingual country which means people here speak both French and English.  We don’t! The truth is, way back when (just so people would quit yipping about it) English-speaking Canadians promised to learn French in school and never think about it again (kinda like algebra) and French-speaking Canadians promised to continue speaking French.  As a result, the only truly bilingual Canadians are flight attendants and the woman who answers the phone for the federal government.   

For 30 years the CFL (Canadian Football League) had two teams with the same name – the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  When they played against each other it was practically impossible to tell who was winning.

We have this huge area that is still called the Northwest Territories.  It’s as if we showed up there sometime in the Age of Discovery, couldn’t think up a decent name and then just forgot about it for 200 years.

Canadians hold their hockey commentators to a higher standard than their politicians.  Last year, a hockey commentator, Don Cherry, was filmed pointing his finger and saying “you people.”  He was fired within 24 hours.  Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was photographed in “blackface” — not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions.  He was not fired; he was not even asked to resign; in fact, he was re-elected!

Canadians are politeWe’re not!  Yeah, we say “sorry” all the time, but all that actually means is we haven’t got time for your bullshit, so we’ll just give you this fake apology and move on.  Plus it’s a sneaky way to get a high ranking on all those idiot “Best Places on the Planet to Live” surveys.

You can buy marijuana pretty much anywhere in the country, but you can’t buy a bottle of wine anyplace but a designated liquor store.

Canada, like 99% of the world (I’m lookin’ at you, America) uses the metric system.  However, our athletes are still measured in feet and inches, our golf courses are measured in yards, and there isn’t a soul in this country who knows what a hectare is.  On the bright side, for six months of the year, it’s so cold it doesn’t matter whether we give the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Our currency is called the loonie because our dollar coin has a loon on it.  (Oddly enough, our two-dollar coin, which has a bear on it, is not called a bearie.)  Anyway, international money managers must laugh themselves stupid whenever they’re told the Canadian Loonie is “unstable” or “fluctuating wildly.”

All time zones in the world are based on the hour — except for one: the Canadian province of Newfoundland which runs on the half hour.  And, BTW, it’s pronounced “Nufenland” – all one word, as if you’re in a hurry.

Since 1973 (47 years!) Canada has been in a border dispute with Denmark.  Both countries claim sovereignty over Hans Island in the Arctic Ocean.  However, rather than dig in and start shooting, whenever the Canadian military shows up on the island (Rumour has it they phone ahead) they take down the Danish flag, fold it neatly at the base of the pole and raise the Canadian flag.  They also leave a “Welcome to Canada” sign and a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey.  The Danish military does the same, except they leave a bottle of Schnapps.  When you’ve got civilized countries, who needs the United Nations?

But the weirdest thing about Canada is our schizophrenic attitude towards the United States.  On the one hand, we think of them as our best friends.  For example, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Canada was the first country to declare war on Japan — even before America itself!  There’s also the Iranian hostage crisis (Ben Affleck got that seriously wrong) and the Canadian response to 9/11 (They even wrote a musical about that!) and a ton of other stuff.  We vacation in America, we work there and thousands of us live there (including me, for a while.)  We’re basically North American siblings (English mother/father unknown.)  However, ask any Canadian about America and we come totally unglued: “OMG!  It’s like livin’ above a crack house, a biker bar, Westboro Church and a redneck trailer park — all at the same time.”  Then we’ll recite a litany of advantages to being Canadian — starting with the War of 1812 and ending with gun control and Universal Health Care — and the only reason we ever stop is we gotta pack cuz we’re taking the kids to Disneyland.

The Wheel — A History

wheel

Everybody yips about The Wheel as the greatest invention of all time.  What a media whore!  Think about it!  What can you actually do with a wheel?  Not much!  Try it!  Look around for something round, (pie plate, saucer, jar lid, even one of those ancient DVD discs — it doesn’t matter.)  Now, try and find a use for it.  Frankly, once you’ve done Frisbee, you’re pretty much finished.  The fact is, despite the hype, a wheel, by itself, is absolutely useless.  And whoever invented it must have been a dumbass.  Imagine the caveman conversation.

“Hey, Marvin!  What you got there?”
“I call it a wheel.”
“Cool!  What does it do?”
“Watch this!  I just give it a push, and look, it rolls all the way down the hill.”
“Cool!  And — uh?”
“And nothing.  I go down, carry it back up the hill and do it again.”
Serious silence.
“Dude!  We’re like friends and everything, but that is totally stupid.”
“That’s all you know.  The wheel is going to be a big thing, someday.  It’s goin’ be as big as like fire, probably.”
“Man, you gotta stop lickin’ those shiny frogs.”

Here’s the deal.  In order to do anything except roll away, wheels need other wheels.  Plus, they need something to control the spin and some way to attach the spin to something else (i.e. transfer the energy.)  In other words, they need an axle, and that concept it very complicated.  It took prehistoric humans 10,000 years of circular hit and miss just to figure out they could use tree trunks as rollers to move heavy stuff like stones.  And it was another millennium plus before Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II’s two-wheeled chariots kicked the crap out of the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C.  However, it was actually a Roman genius, Vitruvius (who most people have never heard of, BTW) who unleashed the tireless potential of the wheel axle, when he built and used the first vertical waterwheel around the time of Christ.  Eighteen hundred years later, steam turned the wheels axles of the Industrial Revolution, and from there, it didn’t take very long (less than 200 years) for NASA’s Planetary Surface Exploration Device to be doing wheelies on Mars.

So even though the wheel gets all the credit, it’s really the tireless work of the axle that is one of the greatest human achievements of all history.