St. Andrew’s Day – 2017

st andrew'sThursday, November 30th is the feast day of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.  It’s a day when Scotsmen (and women) all over the world … do nothing by way of celebration!  Of course, in Scotland, it’s a Bank Holiday, except the Scots, being a pragmatic people, don’t necessarily close all the banks or give people a day off.  (“Ya’ll no waste an honest da’s work fer the likes a tha’ muck!”)  St. Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Prussia, the Ukraine and parts of Italy and Malta.  Busy boy, our Andrew!  He is also the brother of St. Peter, the keeper of the Gates of Heaven.  My great uncles used to say that just as St. Peter greets the dead at the Pearly Gates, his brother is right there beside him, collecting the pennies.  (“Ya’ll no be needin’ tha’ where yar goin,’ laddie!”) And if you don’t get that joke, you’re not a true Scotsman (or woman.)

We Scots have always been proud of our heritage, and unlike the Irish with their overblown St. Paddy’s Day (more booze and less brag, say I) keep a low profile.  It took an American Swede, Arthur L. Herman, to tell everybody that the Scots actually invented the modern world – which we did.  In that same vein, here are a list of prominent Scots and their contribution to civilization.

John Dunlop – who invented the rubber tire, although for years he spelled it with a y, as in “tyre.”  The Scottish grasp of the English language has always been a bit suspect.

Sir Walter Scott – who invented chivalry with his novel Ivanhoe.  Before that, knights were just smelly old men with swords — who dressed up in tin cans.

James Dewar (not Jimmy Dewar, the bass player) – who invented the thermos.  At one time, people used a thermos over and over again to keep hot coffee hot.  Then Starbucks came along, and now we just throw the containers in the streets.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell – who invented the Stockholm Syndrome when he kidnapped Mary Queen of Scots (see below)  She eventually got to like the idea and married him.

Alexander Graham Bell – who invented the telephone, although wouldn’t you know it, every time a Scotsman gets something,  there’s an Englishman hiding in the bushes, waiting to take it away from him.  (I’m looking at you, Elisha Gray.)

Robert Louis Stevenson – who invented adventure stories which were great for kids until the Baby Boomers came along with their “politically correct” crap and spoiled everybody’s fun.

James Watt – who invented “spin doctors” when he didn’t actually invent the steam engine but made it look like he did.

John Knox – who didn’t invent religious intolerance but certainly practiced it with a vengeance.

Adam Smith – who invented “Every man for himself” economics.

Sean Connery – who invented the derogatory cinematic comparison.  After he played James Bond, no other actor has ever been able to measure up.

John Baird – who invented television and is currently burning in Hell.

Arthur Conan Doyle – who invented the smug, know-it-all detective — Sherlock Holmes — and became very famous.  This pissed off his brother-in-law, E.W. Hornung, and he invented the smug, know-it-all thief — Raffles.

Mary, Queen of Scots – who invented the stupid political leader by continually getting out-manoeuvred by Elizabeth I.

Bonnie Prince Charlie – who continued the incompetent tradition of his great-great-great grandmother (Mary, Queen of Scots) by sending his Highland followers charging into Lord Cumberland’s cannons with nothing to protect them but their tartans.

Rob Roy MacGregor – who invented the heroic outlaw and did it way better than that flighty Englishman, Robin Hood.  Here’s proof.  Kevin Costner, who portrayed Robin Hood in the movies, was also a baseball player, a corn farmer, a postal worker and a fish: Liam Neeson, who played Rob Roy, was Zeus, Aslan and Michael Collins, all gods in their respective kingdoms.  He also trained Batman, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.  Plus, he single-handedly wiped out an international gang of kidnappers (3 times) and kicked the crap out of a pack of wolves. (You do the math.)

Joseph Lister – who didn’t invent Listerine but was such a psychotic- clean-freak that the guy who did named it after him.

David Livingstone – who invented converting the heathen — whether they liked it or not — but is much more famous for getting lost.

Alan Pinkerton – who invented the private detective which accounts for over half of America’s cultural legacy.

Robbie Burns – who wrote the quintessential New Year ’s Eve song, but unfortunately none of his other works has ever been translated into any recognizable language.

James Barrie – who invented Peter Pan, “the boy who never grew up.”  Unfortunately, Peter, Wendy, Hook and the whole gang are currently under siege from the same people who killed Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure stories.  Don’t let the bastards grind you down, Peter!

William McGonagall – who invented bad poetry and is still considered the worst poet ever to touch pen to paper.  Don’t believe me?  Read “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

And finally

Billy Connolly – who invent Scottish humour and cashed in, big time, on the Scots’ inherent ability to laugh at themselves.

Happy St Andrew’s Day!

(Originally from 2012– with a few minor changes.)

The War On Plaid

tartan ribbonNovember 30th was St. Andrew’s Day* and I’m declaring war on plaid.  Why?  Last week, after seven unoffending years, a free yoga class at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, was cancelled because of “cultural issues.” (Call it “cultural appropriation.”)  WTF?  Apparently, Downward Dog is a symbol of oppression.  Too bad, so sad — you’re probably better off doing Tai Chi, anyway.  (Ooops!)  But that’s not my point.

If the progressive world wishes to fight for the rights of an oppressed minority, they need look no further than the mean streets and heathery footpaths of Scotland.  Trapped on an island with the great bogeyman of European cultural tyranny, the English — and their minions, the Welsh — we Scots have been getting oppressed for so long it looks like normal to the rest of the world.  And the litany of shame is long.

For centuries, Scots have smiled through the tears as we’ve endured offensive and degrading nicknames like Mac, Jock and Plaidie.  We’ve been objectified in the media — from Brigadoon and Scrooge McDuck to Groundskeeper Willie (I’m not even going to mention Fat Bastard.) and repeatedly portrayed as stupid, cheap and brutal alcoholics who can hardly speak English.  I’m looking at you, Robin Williams.

Our national symbol, the thistle, has been belittled as a weed.  Our music has been lampooned as the missing link between sound and noise.  Our food has been ridiculed as the worst in the world (by the World Health Organization, no less.)  Our underwear (or lack of it) is the subject of mocking public speculation.  Our very name has been appropriated across the planet for a child’s game, hopscotch; a candy flavour, butterscotch; and a transparent adhesive, Scotch tape.  When Mel Gibson turned our national hero William Wallace, into a paint-stained, historically inaccurate, shouting Australian, the world cheered and gave him 5 (FIVE!) Academy Awards — and no voice was raised in Scotland’s defence.

Our national game, golf, an ancient, pastoral activity of poor shepherds, was stolen from us.  Appropriated by the world, it has been transformed into a highly competitive, pay-to-play commercial sport.  It is now the hobby of the very rich — an icon of capitalist success that represents the in-your-face power of the 1%.

However, it is for the tartan that we must weep.  The very symbol of the Scottish family, the intricate, hand-woven patterns were passed down, mother to daughter, for untold generations.  The tartan is a visual reminder of that strongest bond of Scottish familial culture — the clan.  No croft was too humble, no laird was too bold, no Scot or her children were too far from home not to honour the tartan and wear it with pride.  And what did the world do?  PLAID — that’s what!

Ripped from the humble looms of Scottish cottages, PLAID is now synonymous with bad taste all over the world, from those ugly Burberry umbrellas to the ratty, little shirts hipsters wear.  Cheap hotels, discount furniture stores, bargain clothing outlets are all awash in godawful, hideous PLAID.  There’s no end to it, but it must end.

So I’m declaring war on PLAID.  I call on all colleges and universities to ban PLAID from their campuses, and I call on all thinking people everywhere to go to their closets, their linen cupboards, their basements and recreation rooms, and pull the PLAID from your homes.  Pile your PLAID in the streets, and on December 31st, the great Scottish celebration — Hogmanay — burn it.  Burn it so the light from a million fires might reach into the dark night of ignorance and free the Scottish soul from this horrible ordeal.  We must end this cultural nightmare — now!

*FYI, St Andrew’s Day is the Scottish equivalent of St Patrick’s Day — with more booze and less brag.

St. Andrew’s Day

Today is St. Andrew’s Day.  For those of you who suffer under the handicap of not being Scottish this is Scotland’s national day.  Basically, it’s St. Patrick’s Day with more booze and less brag.  The Scots are a hardy northern people known for thrift and ingenuity.  Whereas it can be said that the Irish built America, it’s not as widely known that the Scots already owned the place when Paddy and Liam got off the boat.  That’s the gist of it, really.  Although the Scots basically shaped our modern world, they don’t get much credit for it – simply because they are who they are.  So just who are these Scottish people?

The Scots obviously come from Scotland, a windy, cold, rainy pile of rocks, stuck out in the North Sea.  Since nothing grows in that harsh environment, the economy, from the dawn of time, has been based on theft.  Any agriculture that ever did exist is an odd combination of barley, oats, sheep and large stones.  The barley was grown for whiskey, a number one Scottish priority.  The oats was for porridge, which in Scotland, even today, is eaten with a knife and fork.  The sheep were raised for wool, woven into the Scottish national dress (which actually is one) and the stones were provided by God to throw at the English.  That’s about it for agriculture except for Scottish cattle — which are strange, squat, hairy and orange.

Geographically, Scotland is divided into the Highlands and the Lowlands.  The only noticeable difference between the two is the Lowlands have less wind and the Highlands have more rocks.

Politically, the Scots, since the time of the Picts, have separated themselves into clans.  In other words, they are a clannish people, wary and suspicious.  For most of Scotland’s history, individual clans fought each other in ruthless battles for possession of their worthless stony soil.  However, on occasion, the clans would forget their petty squabbling, join together and rise as one man to get beaten up by the English.  This happened with such frequency that finally in 1603, the Scottish King James VI reluctantly agreed to be England’s king, as well — probably just to keep peace on the island.

For recreation, the Scots enjoy all sports that allow time for smoking and drinking.  These include golf (a good walk spoiled) curling, darts and snooker.  However, when pressed, the Scots play rugby, a primitive form of American football where the object of the game seems to be murder.  They also play soccer, that dull game that yuppies watch every four years, and something called hurling (which is nothing like it sounds.)  The strangest of the Scottish sports, however, is the caber toss, which can only be described as bulky men throwing telephone poles at each other.  Curiously enough, this game has nothing to do with Alexander Graham Bell, the Scotsman who invented the telephone.

Over the years, the Scots have made major contributions to the evolution of Western society.  In prêt a porter fashion, they’ve given us plaid — a severe, regimented, itchy woollen, best suited to private girls’ school uniforms and ugly sofas.  In the world of cuisine, they are the masters of the haggis, a sheep’s stomach stuffed with oats and an assortment of other evil ingredients that normal people throw away.  This mess is boiled until everybody loses interest, securely stored until it rots, and served on high holidays.  Musically, their instrument of choice is the bagpipes (which have been called the missing link between sound and noise.)  The pipes, as they are affectionately called, are normally played outside because their cacophony can fill an auditorium and people have been known to leave just to make room for them.  Unfortunately, in the realm of the arts, Scotland’s greatest poet, Robbie Burns, has never been translated into English.  Even his best known work, Auld Lang Syne, is only trotted out on New Year’s Eve because nobody has a clue what it means.  Of course, the Scots’ greatest contribution to the modern world is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  This long-winded dissertation is said to be the first modern work of tedious prose.  Although it is referred to with stunning regularity, no living human being has read it cover to cover, and most contemporary economists would just as soon read the Glasgow phone book.  In essence, Smith’s message can be summed up in two heavily accented sentences (Try it!) “It’s every man for himself, pal.  You’re on your own.”

These days, the Scots are easily overlooked in the family of nations because they speak a language only they understand.  Linguistically, it is related to English, Scots Gaelic and gibberish and has a close sliding scale connect with Scotch whiskey: more whiskey, less English.  As contemporary philosopher, Robin Williams observed, the Scots are the only people in the world who answer questions with the intonation of another question.

Despite all these disadvantages, the Scots have a lot to be proud of.  This is embodied in their national symbol, the thistle, a tenacious prickly weed that can survive anywhere on the planet.  And there is no place on this planet where Scotsmen and women haven’t gone.  They left their country in droves.  Who wouldn’t?

So today, St Andrew’s Day, as you go about your business (just like you didn’t on St. Patrick’s Day) remember the Scots have a day, too, and a fine tradition.  It stretches across time from James Watt, James Chalmers and James Dewar, to John Shepard Barron, Billy Connolly and Craig Ferguson.  And above all else, remember: Sean Connery, a Scotsman, is still the best James Bond.

Oh! And, by the way, I’m first generation Scots.  You can knock your own gang!