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.

Nerd Stuff You Didn’t Know

trivia

I love trivia, and if it’s nerd trivia, I love it even more.  And if it’s nerd trivia that nerds don’t know, I love it even more than that.  For example, it’s a common nerd “fact” that the only animal not mentioned in the Bible is the cat.  Sorry!  There are tons of animals not mentioned in the Bible — including kangaroos, California Condors, Komodo Dragons and polar bears.  So with that in mind, here are three extraordinary nerd facts to astound your friends, win Pub Night Quizzes and generally make you smarter than your know-it-all brother-in-law.

If you’re over 30, you’ve probably read the legend of King Arthur.  If you’re under 30. you’ve seen the one of the crap movies.  Either way, you kinda know the story.  Somewhere in Britain, there was a sword stuck in a stone (no idea how it got there) and anybody who pulled it out became the King of Britain.  Simple — except nobody could.  Then one day a regular guy — sometimes an oaf, sometimes a churl, but usually a squire — accidently gives it a yank and OMG! out it comes.  He is proclaimed King Arthur, and with the sword, Excalibur, rules Britain wisely for many years.  (Until he screws up, but that’s a different story.)  The problem is the sword Arthur pulled out of the stone was not Excalibur.  Excalibur was actually given to Arthur by The Lady of the Lake after Arthur broke the original sword, Caliburn.  We’ve streamlined the legend because contemporary audiences don’t have a great attention span – hence all the crap movies.  Plus, in some versions of the original story, King Arthur also has a spear called Ron.

In Nepal, it’s legal to hunt the Yeti, (Abominable Snowman.)  All you have to do is apply for a permit, pay the fee (about $1,200) and you’re good to go.  However, you can’t kill the Yeti, and if you do manage to capture one, you have to turn it over to the Nepalese government.  So it’s not like you can come home and put on the brag about the head mounted on your wall.  (Ewwww!)  Apparently, however, there are official bumper stickers.

And my favourite:

Everything is this world has a regular name and a scientific name.  For example, humans are Homo sapiens, wolves are Canis lupus, apples are Malus domestica — and so on and so on.  Scientific names are usually Latin, mostly boring, sometimes fun (like Gaga germanotta – a fern named for Lady Gaga) and sometimes they’re just lazy like Gorilla gorilla, the scientific name for … gorillas.  Normally, when a new species is discovered, the scientific community goes into warp speed to name it.  (These days, it takes less than a year.)  However, there is one species that baffled science nerds for nearly 300 years – the giant tortoise.  These huge creatures were discovered by the Spanish in the early 1500s, but they didn’t get a scientific name until 1812 when August Friedrich Schweigger named them Testudo gigantean.  So why the three century delay?  Everybody knew they existed.  Well, it seems, giant tortoises are such good eatin’ that none of them ever survived the journey back to the universities of Europe.  They all became lunch!  According to every account, the giant tortoise was so delicious that even the most dedicated botanists and biologists couldn’t resist them.  Ships would literally stop in mid ocean so the sailors could finish eating their tortoises before they made harbour and had to share.  For generations, scientific expeditions would sail out to far-flung parts of the world and return with all manner of exotic species and … a bunch of empty giant tortoise shells … having consumed the contents.  I’m not making this up!  Even the mighty Charles Darwin, Lord High Poobah of animal studies, dined on giant tortoise on the way home from the Galapagos.  Thus, it took nearly 300 years for a few of them to avoid the frying pan long enough to get a scientific name.

These days, there are international laws that protect the giant tortoise from becoming an extinct item on the menu.  However, there is a heavy illegal trade for the tables of rich culinary connoisseurs with no conscience.  Meanwhile, if you want to taste the most delicious meat in the world, apparently, you can — there’s a very expensive synthetic version.  But be warned: you might like it a little too much.

Neglected Spy Movies

spies

I love spy movies.  Everything from the dirt-under-your-fingernails realism of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to the “Oh, c’mon!  Plastic masks don’t work that way!” un-believability of the Mission Impossible franchise.  It all started when I was a kid and saw Dr. No.  (I was just an eyelash too young to fully grasp what Sylvia Trench was doing in Bond’s apartment, but I instinctively knew it had to be something cool.)  I went home and — in one long, grueling, dark, freezing Canadian winter — read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, in order, cover to cover to cover to cover.  By Christmas and From Russia, With Love, I’d figured out the Trench/Bond dynamic.  Spies get the girl – all the girls.  I was hooked.  However, after all these years and literally hundreds of movies, I find there’s one subgenre of the spy movie that’s been woefully neglected – the Espionage Rom-Com.  There just aren’t that many of them.  Here are some of the good ones that immediately come to mind.  (Feel free to add to the list.)

Get Smart (2008) – One of the few made-from-TV movies that actually works.  Why?  Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.  They are the natural evolution of Maxwell Smart and (they still didn’t give her a name) Agent 86.  He’s no longer Gilligan’s Island incompetent, and she isn’t hiding behind Max’s propped up ego.  And, they’re not heavy-handed with the 60s catch phrases, either.

Knight and Day (2010) – Ethan Hunt meets I Love Lucy.  Think about it!

True Lies (1994) – Seriously dated (It’s so old Arabs are still the villains!  Awkward!)  But Schwarzenegger gives it just enough Arnie to make it an action movie, and Jamie Lee Curtis gives it just enough Jamie Lee to make it a comedy.  Plus there’s a terrific tango scene at the beginning, Bill Paxton plays himself and, of the roughly 8 million bad movies Tom Arnold has appeared in, this is his best.

The Tourist (2010) – I’ve included this because, even though it’s not technically a com (Depp has his moments but …) it’s definitely a rom.  The critics panned it because critics are pompous asses.  It’s actually a good movie.  Trivia Time.  The movie was shot in less than 2 months because Johnny Depp was between pirate movies.  It features an ex-James Bond, Timothy Dalton.  And rumour has it that it was originally written by Julian Fellowes, the guy who wrote Downton Abbey.

The next four are not actually spy movies but hired assassins are part of the greater international intrigue genre

Mr. Right (2015) – Okay, Okay Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick have made some schlock, but they’ve made some really good movies, too, and together they make this one work.  Francis and Martha are the quirky lovers everybody wants to be – going about their business, together alone – while the rest of the world just doesn’t get it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) – Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds.  Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson.  And Gary Oldman can convincingly play anything on this planet (including Boris Johnson’s comb.)  This film features not one but three romances – Ryan Reynolds and Elodie Yung, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.

Grosse Point Blank (1997) – International assassins have to come from somewhere.  This movie answers the question – whatever happened to that stand-alone, moody-cool guy from 12th grade?  Plus, it’s got John Cusack in uniform (Does he even own a different tie?) and a kick-ass soundtrack.

And finally:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) – This is the Espionage Rom-Com by which all other Espionage Rom-Coms must be measured.  You can actually see Angelina Jolie lusting after Brad and Brad slowly, unconsciously, then consciously, then willingly, leaving Jennifer Aniston.  There are several mere “glances” between the two stars that are hug-your-knees sexy and it looks as if they’re doing the fight scene/love scene for real because — OMG! — they are!  Plus, two dance scenes and Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros.